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Characters and concepts are copyright 2006 to James Coughtrey; the world belongs to White Wolf.

The Boy and The Wolf

Werewolves. What do you see when I say that word?  The Hollywood image of a giant salivating beast? Most would say that werewolves are men who can change into monsters, but everyone knows they don’t exist. People who know real werewolves say they’re monsters who can turn into men, but never to our faces.

They’re both wrong.  Werewolves are the shepherds of both worlds, the hunters of humanity, the ultimate predator. You are weak, you are prey and you know it; how do I know you feel like that? I am one. I’ve seen the looks you give me, how you skirt round me in corridors and I know what’s in your heart.

The werewolf is the ultimate expression of rage beyond anything you can imagine, but what if you can’t let it out, could you hold on if centuries of rage were urging you to kill and destroy?

I can’t hold on, but I can’t let it out…

***

I’m Mathew or Matt, fourteen years old and gifted, or cursed with lycanthropy.  I’m a werewolf you moron, so get that blank look off your face or I will. I have black hair and everything else about me is average, average height, weight and build. If you saw me, the only thing you would notice would be my general disregard for anything you say, and the large muscles on my arms that come from punching a punching bag for two hours a day.

My day started, like every other, with the alarm at seven, waking me from dreams of running, hunting and killing. I turned the alarm off or at least tried to; my arm wouldn’t bend back and couldn’t reach. I opened my eyes, saw everything in shades of grey and closed them. I’d shifted in my sleep again, some day my mum would come in here and find a wolf in the bed or hairs all over the sheet; well, as soon as she found a bio-hazard suit.

Unless you hadn’t guessed my room was a tip. Festering piles of what ever had been on the floor at the time, filled the room giving it a smell which was sort of a cross between rotting meat and mouldy carpet. The wolf loved it; the rest of the house said I needed to get an air lock for my door to stop the smell getting out.

I shifted back to human and turned off the alarm, then tried to get back to sleep. But the wolf was already wide awake and howling that it wanted to get up. I rolled over and grumbled ‘just five more minutes’, but the wolf started jumping around my head like an untrained puppy, barking that it smelt sausages. When it briefly stole my voice and I let out a little yip, I decided to get up; there was never any hope of sleep after the wolf was up.

Getting out of my room is difficult, however unlikely it seems you can get lost, you head towards the door and you find your way blocked by a mound of something; trust me you don’t want to look. After wandering for a while you’ll come across a gap between the piles and go through, only to find it’s a dead end. So you keep searching until eventually, I find you and lead you out.

I however never get lost; I just followed the scent of my passing from yesterday, a perk of my condition. I picked up my bound set of clothes, a pair of jeans and a black T-shirt, a towel and go and have a cold shower which really annoys the wolf. Down stairs mum is cooking sausages in the kitchen; I hate it when he’s right. And I wolf them down steadfastly ignoring the little voice in my mind saying they would have been better raw. I have considered going to the school psychiatrist to get rid of him but some how I couldn’t quite imagine me saying to her “I’m a werewolf, how do I stop?”

“Have you done your homework dear?” my mum asked sitting down at the table sipping a cup of coffee.

“What do you think,” I snapped back thinking about the English essay that was now serving as part of the jury rigging for my punch bag. She sighed, I felt sorry for her for having such a horrible son, briefly, and then the wolf reared its head. ‘How can you feel sorry for her, she is weak, she is soft, she is pray’. No! I cried in the dark recesses of my mind, as I felt my teeth lengthen and fur pressing on the inside of my skin desperate to get out.

I fled from the table leaving my surprised mother behind, back into my room, back to my beloved punching bag; probably the only reason I hadn’t gone insane by now. I pulled back to hit it focusing all my inhuman rage on it. Wham. It flew back hitting the wall, hard. Wham, I hit it again as it came swinging back. There was a shout from the next room, my father being woken as the plaster from the ceiling came down in showers.

“Matt, stop hitting that bloody punching bag!” I paused then attached a cinder block to the bottom of the bag with my home made hook. Wham, the bag hit the wall again but not as hard.

“Matt, this is your last warning!”  I put the second cinder block on the bag, this time it didn’t quite reach the wall. Good. I kept punching for the next half hour hitting the bag until my rage was spent, finally, after covering up the scratch marks from my suddenly very sharp nails I went back downstairs grabbed my bag and an orange, ‘an orange!‘ cried the wolf, and left the house just in time to catch the bus.

***

And in the shadows of a dark alley two pairs of eyes watched. Two wolves were sitting there watching, they didn’t speak, wolves can’t speak but there was a conversation.

“That’s him then.” Said the one with bone white fur

“Yes, a rahu, I think.” Replied the other with black fur doted with brown.

“I wonder how we mist him.”

“It is strange, usually they have lost control by now, but you can tell he’s cracking.”

“Still it’s odd we mist him.”

“Never mind, it’s been hard controlling the territory, since we lost the others.”

“When should we tell him?”

“Soon after the rage has subsided, we can’t risk losing anyone else.”

***

The bus was crowded as usual, people filling every seat; but not my seat.   It alone was unoccupied, no new kids, not knowing the etiquette of the bus to intrude into my space today. They always realised what they had done though, when I just stared at them, challenging them for invading my space. No one had argued the point, even sixteen year olds backed down before facing me.

I sat down, into the comforting piece of my own on the bus, feeling the thin cushion beneath me, my hands automatically moving to find the groves from when someone had annoyed me. People wondered why I took two seats, I didn’t have a friend to sit with so I wasn’t saving it for anyone, in reality it was a way of expressing my dominance over everyone by taking twice as much territory as them even thought I didn’t see it that way at the time.

Now at least I could relax; I let the wolf in a bit, heightening my hearing and smell. I sat still and listened, the girls five rows back were talking about shopping as usual, the football players at the front were discussing tactics, one had skipped his shower that morning.  I wrinkled my nose in disgust.

Are here was something interesting.  One of the year sevens was daring his friend to sit next to me. Not smart. The poor kid was either very stupid or hadn’t been here very long, I decided on the former, the fear was falling off him; so he had heard of me. He stopped next to me, the entire bus fell silent, he opened his mouth to speak but the words caught in his throat when he caught my eye. Everyone was watching now even the driver squinting in the rear-view mirror; you could see the cogs whirring as the kid looked into my eyes.  The cold eyes of a hunter; he was the prey, the deer caught in the head lights.  Nobody moved. Finally I spoke.

“You’ve been had kid.  You may have been double dared,” there was a gasp from the people surrounding the kid’s seat. “But walk away now and no one will hold it against you. Or…” I left it open for him to fill in himself. He made up his mind and left walking almost regally back to his seat.  If I hadn’t smelt how much he was afraid I wouldn’t have known it. Brave kid, an idiot, but still brave. He would go far in this school, most people crack after the first few seconds of ‘the stare’.

After all the excitement on the bus, school came as a bit of a shock.  The playground was packed full of screaming little kids swarming round the taller older boys; they were forced to wade through the shoals of lower school students to get to the doors. I didn’t wade through the teaming masses.  I just walked, and expected people to get out of my way, they always did.

I got to my locker.  It had been searched again and I could smell the deputy head all over it. It often came as a shock when, contrary to all common belief, people found out I did not take drugs, though that didn’t stop them trying to find them. One time my biology teacher jumped out from behind the big bins and grabbed the sausage I was eating thinking it was I cigarette.  He was lucky I was having a good day, otherwise he would have found out what colour his liver was at first hand.

School was always a drag, it started at nine. We have lunch at twelve for an hour then lessons again until four.  For those of you who can’t do the maths, that’s six hour long periods; a nightmare. The first two aren’t too bad.  The wolf is pretty occupied just with just listening to what’s going on, which probably explains my passing grades. By the third, it’s literally howling to do something more interesting; and people wonder why I can’t concentrate, though I did agree with it around the end of the third period when I started eyeing up the teacher for lunch.

Somehow I, no they, managed to survive the lesson and I dashed to lunch and got in first.  There was a big queue, but I still got in first. It said burgers outside the dining hall but when I got in there like always, they were veggie burgers. The wolf started looking for something more edible, like a student, and I ate the veggie burger knowing full well what would happen if I skipped lunch.

Then the wolf for some reason or another decided a plump looking year four was a good choice for lunch, and started to force its way into my mind eager for the hunt. I clenched my fist and fought it with all my strength, which is hard when one half of you is trying to take over the other. My teeth grew, fingernails lengthened into claws, fur pressed on the inside of my skin, giving me pins and needles. The growing claws cut into my hand forcing their way through the muscle and pressing against bone.  I focused on the pain; I focused on humanity; and I focused on the veggie burger lying on the plate in front of me. I fought the wolf off and it retreated, saying something about not liking to eat humans anyway.

I looked at my hands.  There were four identical puncture wounds on each hand, and they were filling with blood. I watched as the skin slowly reformed to become smooth, normal, uninjured. One of the other perks of being a werewolf, if only fighting not to become a monster every day of your life was worth it.

***

Outside the dinning hall a man walked by with his dog, a very large dog.  You could say a wolf, but everyone knows you don’t get wolves in towns.

“He an alpha,” commented the man seemingly to the dog.

The dog only growled, and then indicated quite rudely that it didn’t like the collar idea.

“We need a fighter sister; the spirits are restless and won’t cooperate for much longer.”

The dog growled louder and tried to shake off the collar.

“Stop that, it’s just for a few minuets, besides what would people say if I walked around with an un-tethered wolf.”

The dog barked once then wined.

“Fine I’ll where it next time if it makes you happy.” No one saw this conversation, even if they had they would have just thought the man was mad, people can’t talk to dogs.

***

Sitting in the biology lab was a boy who could full well talk to dogs, though the term boy was probably pushing it.

***

I was bored.   The wolf had gone off in a sulk after lunch and my biology teacher was droning on about dangerous chemicals and their affects on the body.  Since I had recently drunk a bottle of bleach, I wasn’t paying much attention, and nodded off.

In my dream, I was sitting on the crown a hill with the wolf, starring at an impossibly large full moon. The wolf was just sitting there as if waiting for something; then by some unseen command it started howling, then I joined in, joining in the song of the moon. More wolves joined in the song all singing of their sorrows and joys; I felt the weight of months of suppression fall off me as I sang out my soul to the Luna Choir.

Matt! A discord shattering the song as it went.

Matt! It rang out shattering my dream.

Matt! I woke in the classroom, the entire class staring at me; everything seemed to have had the colour leached out of it. I realised what had happened, I had started shifting in my sleep. I fought the wolf out and changed back to human, hoping like hell no one had noticed.

“Matt, you were asleep again,” said my aggravated biology teacher who didn’t seem to have noticed my change. “You are missing vital information on human anatomy.”

I could teach him something about human anatomy first hand, I thought angrily. I wasn’t happy, in case you hadn’t guessed, about being wakened from my dream. The fact that my fingernails were itching to try out some new things they had discovered called claws and the wolf was back, describing the tastier bits of the human anatomy didn’t help my mood.

Somehow I struggled through that lesson, I wanted to get back to the dream but my teacher kept looking around to see if I was awake. The colours were all wrong.  It was all too bright; too red; sound was messed up as well, the squeak of the chalk was piercing, the boy with the cough in the back row sounded like he was right next to me. It was stifling, the wolf yearned to get out, to hunt and kill these human sheep. I wanted to join it but couldn’t.  It had already destroyed my life, I couldn’t let it take the lives of these children.

Finally school ended. I dashed out, getting away from the living tomb pausing only to bin my homework. My teachers had long ago accepted that they were never getting any homework back and had stopped asking. People often wondered why I didn’t drop out when I obviously wanted to. I actually couldn’t look at my mothers disappointed face when I got a D, I couldn’t imagine what would happen if I left.

I got to the bus, storming past the driver and sitting down in my seat. Safe. Calm. I looked at my reflection in the window and recoiled.  Was that me? It looked too primal, my hair was thick and matted, my face pointed and angular, my ears were soft to the touch and definitely pointed; I bared my teeth showing small but prominent fangs.  Even my molars were sharp; but it was still me. I looked down at my hands. The nails were dark and pointed. I was losing control, and the wolf was taking over one part at a time.

People started filing onto the bus.  I couldn’t see them as I stared at my reflection but I could smell them; ‘please God don’t let one sit next to me, I’ll lose it for sure.’ People walked past my row without pausing, going to their own usual seats. Then the kid from this morning stepped onto the bus. ‘Don’t try it, Don’t try it, Don’t try it.’ I thought desperately as he reached my row, but he walked on taking a seat at the back.

I relaxed, my fingers stopped gripping the seat, I looked down and saw the fabric ripped and ragged, the thin cushion peeking through the hole. My senses were going haywire, sound fluctuated between deafening noise and a crushing silence, colour clouded then came back, painting everything a deep red; my sense of smell skyrocketed. I could guess what everyone’s shampoo was, what they had for breakfast and whether they had a lot of homework that night. I kept glancing in the window watching in fascination as my features slid down the evolutionary scale, the wolf was howling with the release, urging me to join in.

The bus slowed and stopped, and I fled, desperate to get away from the sensory overload, reminding my self to keep running on two legs as I raced down the aisle. My house would be safe, one of the few rational thoughts I had, in my desperate dash home.  Two legs felt clumsy, slow.  Much faster on four. ‘No! Think bipedal.’ I got to the door but couldn’t turn the knob.  My thumb felt like it was glued to my hand.  I pulled, wrenched the door out of the frame and flung it away, running upstairs to the promised safety of my den. ‘Room!’ I opened the door with a kick and ran inside before the smell hit me. Horrible as a human, it was totally overwhelming to my unprepared nose. I collapsed in shock and the wolf took over.  With nothing to resist the changes, it moved me straight into its form, and started to run away from my house, answering to the irresistible lure of the wild.

***

A man and a woman looked mournfully down at the wreckage of the door, they were obviously related.  The same nose, eyes, the same sharp pointed jaw, the only difference was between the mans dark brown hair, and his sisters, which was bone white.

“We should have gotten to him sooner.” The girl said.

“When?” The man replied.

“Any time.  The school, this morning.”

“It was too risky.  What if he had lost it when he saw us?”

“Worse than now?”

“Fair point,” the man replied.  There was a pause. “We need to go after him; can you ask the spirits to look after the territory for awhile.”

“They are pushed to the limit and I’m running out of favours.”

“Doesn’t matter, if this works we won’t need them anymore.”

***

Waking up early is always bad. Waking up early in a forest with no idea how you got there with blood on your lips and in the body of a wolf, is worse.  We’re talking not even on the same scale here.  Right, deal with the situation.  First, look sternly at the wolf and stop him trying anything else.  Good.  Second find out whose blood it is.  Deer, could be worse. Finally find out where the hell I am and how to get home.  Now that could be difficult.

I shifted back to human and the darkness leapt in at me, I couldn’t hear, I couldn’t smell, the full moon shining above did nothing to illuminate the forest, only define the shadows. I panicked, leapt to my feat and banged my head on an unseen branch.

“Ow!” The cry echoed through the forest, reverberating through the night. Then came a howl from far off to my left but too close for comfort. Then another came from my right, seemingly in answer. In the howls I heard words.

“Did you hear that?”

“Yes, between us. Meet there.”

I started running, desperate to get away from the voices in the night, crashing through the undergrowth and stumbling into trees in my haste. The wolf berated me for making all the noise, for leaving such an easy trail.  Eventually when I heard footfalls behind me I surrendered, and let him in.

I shifted back into a wolf, dropping on to all four as my hair and teeth grew.  My head span as all my senses quadrupled. There were two wolves were following me, but by some miracle I had run downwind of them so I could smell them, but they couldn’t smell me. The wolf started running whilst I was marvelling at the wolf’s nasal abilities, padding softly as the thick fall of autumn of leaves would allow.

From behind me came the sound of two human voices echoing through the trees.

“Look here sister, he has run in Hisau until now and has only just changed to Urhan.”

These were human voices not wolves, I paused, ignoring the wolf’s cries to continue.

‘No,’ I whispered to it, ‘I need to see them’. I swapped back to human and climbed a nearby tree.  I waited in the lofty branches hoping to catch a glimpse of my pursuers who both howled and talked. In case you hadn’t guessed I had a hunch what was following me.

Two people, a man and a woman walked under my tree, both looked strange in the half-light of the moon; their faces were too sharp, more primal than you would expect. The man looked down sniffed the air then looked straight at me; I saw his teeth bared, sharp and most importantly with fangs.

Werewolves.

A great feeling of relief washed over me; I no longer had to face this alone. The wolf reacted differently.  Seeing them as a potential threat it barged its way in adding teeth, claws and about thirty pounds of muscle.  No one ever said wolves were smart. The branch creaked ominously, and then snapped, flinging me down onto the two werewolves; I thought ‘at least they’ll break my fall’ as I plummeted through the tree, branches whipping my face. They didn’t, I missed them by about three feet and hit the ground hard, cracking a rib; I mentioned before that we are hyper regenerative, ‘fast healing’, so cracking a rib is not too bad, but that doesn’t stop it hurting, a lot.

My pressing medical problem wasn’t helped when the man put his foot on my back.

“Lad, we don’t want to hurt you.  Just change to Hisau and we can talk about this like men.” For some reason he found this joke funny and let out a little snigger that looked very much like a snarl.

“Change to what?” I replied raising my head out of the leaf mulch.

“Turn into a human dear boy,” he said, looking disappointed that no one had got his joke. I changed back slowly losing first my claws, then hair; de-pointing my teeth and loosing the extra muscle.

“Thank you,” said the man after taking his foot off my back.

“Who are you?” I asked as I got up from the dirt, brushing dead leaves from my clothes.

“First things first, take a seat,” he gestured at two logs set opposite each other. We sat down facing each other, the woman sat down next to him.

“Right, now we are seated we can get on with the introductions. We know your name Matt so no need to tell us that. I am Eldalo the balancer, and this is my sister, Lucy the spirit stalker.”

“Okay Ed, Loo, I just have one question. What the hell is happening to me!”

“Please, Matt relax,” he replied. “You are a warrior and we understand, but first and this is important how long is it since your first change?”

“About five months,” there was a sharp intake of breath from Lucy. “Why?”

“It’s unusual to say the least,” Lucy chimed in. “Most werewolves go mad with rage in two weeks.” He voice had a musical quality which somehow reminded me of a wind chime.

“I credit all success to my punching bag.” I snapped back with a click from my growing teeth.

“Indeed,” Ed said patiently. “Anyway I have a proposition for you, we would like you to join our pack.”

“Gang?”

“Pack. We are The Lost Mysteries, made up of mostly Ithaeurs, or at least we were, but recently we have fallen on hard times.” A tear fell out of the corner of his eye.

“Ithaeur who are they? What is this gang ‘The Lost Mysteries’? Why have I never heard of it?”

“Matt please, come with us to the next meet and all your questions will be answered. If you do want to come we’ll take you, or you could stay and try and figure it out on your own.” He rose to go.

“Ok,” I said. “I’ll come. Maybe someone there can help me deal with the wolf.”

“Who?”

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