Morning brought a new day, complete with the bright sun rising over the eastern hillside casting its warm glow across the acres of a cornfield as the cool, moist evening dew clung desperately to the tall blades of grass along the sloping ridge. Birds chirped their good morning songs while in the distance, you could hear the sounds of people waking to greet another day from the nearby housing subdivision.
In the tall grass atop the hill, a man rustled groggily, awakening from his night’s sleep. One eye fluttered open, and he saw the sunny morning through long bunches of weedy grass growing wild around his face. A young grasshopper clung on the side of one particular long weed, seeming to stare curiously at the man.
A chill ran through his body, and he became aware he was lying in the wet dewy grass completely naked. Remaining perfectly still, not daring to get up from his prone position, Lonnie Talbert tried to analyze the situation and determine where he might be and just how bad things were this time.
As he lay quietly, he heard several birds’ cawing and listened more intently; he could hear the buzzing of insects, perhaps bees, no flies, hundreds of them. His stomach lurched with the realization of the implications of what he was hearing. Slowly he lifted his head ever so slightly, and over the tops of the tall weeds, he could see several large black birds, perhaps ten of them all busy picking and pulling at something in the grass a few feet away. His heart skipped a beat at the comprehension of what had likely happened yet again. It was just as it had happened for the first time a month ago.
Rising on two hands supporting himself with his arms, he looked uncertainly across the top of the tall grass and saw what he feared most. Two of the blackbirds were fighting over a long stringy morsel of pinkish-gray food. They each had their beaks clamped on a piece of intestine and were having a ghastly tug-of-war with it.
Within one second, Lonnie saw the complete picture. On a blanket not five feet from him lay the body of a naked woman, her stomach ripped open; her entrails spilled onto the blanket, blood splattered everywhere. Her body was a brutal landscape of gashes and rips, leaving her scarcely recognizable as human.
Her mouth hung agape, her dark blue tongue hanging loosely from an opening enlarged by a long deep red gouge leading down to her neck where muscle hung loosely like strands of thick spaghetti. Flies swarmed around her face, and several crawled across her lolling tongue. One of her eyes stared sightlessly upward through a film of death while the other dangled by thin bloody filaments down along the side of her cheek. One of the blackbirds had perched on her forehead and started pecking at the filaments with the hopes of snagging the soft juicy prize.
Large clumps of the woman’s hair with pieces of scalp still attached lay strewn about the blanket, her skull nothing more than a revolting patchwork of blood-covered white spaces where the scalp had once resided. Scores of blue and green flies walked freely along the bloody areas drinking, laying eggs, and doing whatever the vile insects did in such a situation.
Her right arm lay stretched back alongside her battered head; the left arm was ripped off at the shoulder and lay in the grass perhaps ten or twenty feet away from the body. Another cluster of birds was pecking and feasting on it off in the distance. From the torn flesh of the place where the arm had been, white bone jutted obtrusively.
Above the mangled abdominal area was a flat patch of blood and muscles where her breasts should have been. Lonnie didn’t even want to venture a guess what might have happened to them. Oddly, her legs remained intact and strangely still quite beautiful. The contrast between her legs and the horrifically bloody remains was startling.
“What was her name?” he thought to himself, unable to recall.
Lonnie looked down at his own body and saw blood covered him; what seemed like gallons of gore.
“Not again!” Lonnie cried. “Not again! Why does this keep happening to me?”
Staying as low to the ground as possible, he searched through the tall grass for his clothing and found them on a pile mixed up with the girl’s clothes, all damp from the chilly evening but at least still intact. He took the girl’s white printed dress and, with the wetness still lingering on the grass, washed as much of the blood off his body as possible, then tossed the garment aside. Still incredibly chilled from the cold, he put on his damp clothing and ran stooped over toward the nearby road where he saw a car parked.
He recalled it was the girl’s car. “Thank goodness.” Lonnie thought. He was lucky no one had driven by and checked on the vehicle or had seen him lying there naked as the day he was born covered in blood. Lonnie climbed into the car seeing she had left the keys in the ignition. He started the engine and turned on the heater. Cold air came flooding from the vents, chilling him further. He turned down the fan giving the heater a chance to warm up. Looking back toward the place where the body lay, he was satisfied to see from the road that nothing looked out of the ordinary, the body well hidden in the tall grass. It might be several days or weeks until someone discovered her, and by then, he would be long gone again.
As he drove away, he tried to remember the events of the previous evening before he had blacked out. He recalled his cousin Ron dropping him off at a local bar on his way to work. Ron worked third-shift at a local factory. His cousin’s schedule worked out well for Lonnie since he was a night owl by nature. Lonnie said he’d take a cab home. He’d met the girl (What was her name, Sarah? Sally? Sandy?), and they had hit it off immediately. Then after a few drinks and a little slow dancing, they headed out to her car.
She had brought him out to the rural hilltop site, pulled over, and took a thick blanket from the trunk. Walking down into the tall grass overlooking the cornfield, they had lain down on the blanket and gotten to know each other much better. The last thing he recalled was lying on his back in the grass afterward and looking up at the beautiful full moon. Then he must have blacked out just like had happened the previous month. That led him to think about the events of the last month.
Although that had been a completely different situation, the results were no less horrific. Lonnie remembered how he had been walking home to his apartment after another late night at a local New York City bar. He had been laid off from his job several months earlier and didn’t have a set schedule or any reason to get up in the morning, so he tended to stay out late and then slept most of the day.
As he turned a corner to take a shortcut down an alley, several thugs dressed in gang colors stopped him encircling him. Once they surrounded him, each of them brandishing knives, they told him to give them his wallet or they would cut him and cut him good. He saw their deadly blades gleaming in the light of the full moon. Then the first blackout came.
When he awoke the following day, he was in the same alley with his clothing shredded, soaked in blood, and with barely enough material remaining to keep the clothes on his body. At first, based on the condition of his clothing, he thought perhaps the gang had actually cut him, and somehow he had survived. Yet he felt no pain and none of the blood appeared to be his. Standing and looking around as the sun slowly climbed in the sky, its beams entering the alley from between the tall city buildings, he saw the carnage laid out before him.
The alley looked as though it had been the scene of a jet airliner crash. Severed limbs and body parts littered the blood-soaked street. Lonnie saw several headless torsos with their slick entrails piled next to them. Not four feet from where he stood, the head of the gang member who had threatened him stared lifelessly at him through gray-filmed eyes. Sewer rats the size of small cats wandered from one body to another, sampling bits of flesh and innards. Some were eating the eyeballs from other severed heads. Lonnie turned his head bent and vomited onto the street. He looked at the regurgitated mess and saw it was blood-red in color. Upon closer inspection, he thought he saw a piece of a human ear floating among the filth.
He staggered down the alley, making it back to his apartment just a few blocks away without being seen. Once there, he showered and disposed of the bloody rags that were once his clothing, then took another long hot shower. Afterward, he realized just how exhausted he was and collapsed in bed, where he fell fast asleep. Horrible images he couldn’t begin to explain riddled his dreams. He saw the gang members screaming and torn to pieces. He saw all of this as if through his own eyes. Throughout the scattered flashing images, he heard the growling of a wild animal. He woke up later that morning hearing police sirens approaching. Staggering to the window, he saw several patrol cars converging on the alley several blocks away. He knew what they had found.
The only thing he could think to do was to get out of the city for a while. He got dressed and packed a duffle bag with essentials. He had no idea what had happened or why he had blacked out, but after seeing what he had vomited, he knew somehow the carnage he saw was of his own making.
He called his cousin Ron in Pennsylvania and asked if he could visit for a few weeks. Ron lived in an apartment a few miles west of the city of Reading. Ron knew Lonnie was a night owl, and they would both be sleeping during the day, which wouldn’t cause any interruption of his third-shift lifestyle. So he agreed for Lonnie to visit for a short while.
Lonnie caught the next Amtrak train to Philadelphia, then he took a bus to Reading and finally took a cab to Ron’s apartment. After the first two weeks, Ron agreed Lonnie could stay for a few extra weeks longer since things had been going so smoothly. That was until the previous evening.
Now Lonnie was back where he started a month earlier, confused, frustrated, and suffering from guilt over yet another death, and this time it wasn’t a group of thugs bent on hurting him but a defenseless woman. He drove away in the dead girl’s car from the latest unspeakable scene and contemplated what he should do next. He had to figure out what was wrong with him, and there was something very wrong. Until two months earlier, his life had been nothing special. That was no longer the case. Because if he indeed were responsible for the savagery he had witnessed at each of those horrible events, Lonnie would have to do something.
He turned up the fan on the car heater enjoying the warm air surrounding him taking away the chill, and helping to dry his clothing. When he got to Ron’s apartment, he crept inside, careful not to wake him, and gathered all his belongings. Then he wrote a note thanking Ron but saying he needed to get back to the city, start looking for another job and get his life back on track.
Then Lonnie took his meager belongings and climbed back into the girl’s car, pointing it in the direction of New York City. As he drove, he thought more about when all the strangeness had started trying to pinpoint an incident, which might have been responsible for the horrific events. The only weird thing he could recall was the incident three months earlier with that weird Goth chick at the nightclub.
Lonnie had stopped by one of the city’s slightly freaky nightclubs after hearing a number of his buddies bragging about the quality of the girls frequenting the place. He hadn’t been disappointed. The place was crawling with some of the hottest women he had seen in a long time. Lonnie was standing by the bar waiting for his drink when a beautiful Goth-looking girl approached him and, without preamble, kissed him smack on the lips prying his lips open with her tongue then sending said tongue halfway down his throat.
He stood looking at her in shock, then introduced himself and offered to buy her a drink, learning her name was Cassandra. The next thing he knew, they were in an alley behind the bar, and he had her pressed up against a brick wall. He recalled she was like a wild animal, and things were going great until she bit him hard on the shoulder. It wasn’t a love bite or anything of that nature, but a full-on sink your teeth in and draw blood type of bite.
That act alone put a damper on what might have proven to be a pleasant event. Lonnie had pushed her away, fighting back the urge to haul off and punch her in the face. However, his mother had raised him never to hit a woman, even a psycho bitch like that one. He recalled she had backed down the alley laughing at him.
As she walked away, she said something like, “I’ll be seeing you again, Lonnie. I chose you. You’re one of us now.”
He had no idea what she meant by the remark and, at the time, passed it off as a wacky comment from a crazy chick.
Now, driving up I-95 toward New York, Lonnie started to wonder what she had meant. He certainly had changed since that event.
“I chose you. You’re one of us now.” Lonnie heard the strange girl say in his mind again.
He looked over at the passenger’s seat, and for a second, he saw the Goth chick sitting there smiling at him with blood running down her chin and her eyes glowing yellow-red like a wild animal’s. For a moment, he almost lost control of the car but managed to regain his composure. Then the girl was gone. The last thing he needed was to be pulled over by a cop in a dead girl’s car.
Speaking of the car, Lonnie had formulated a plan to take the vehicle to any one of several choice neighborhoods in the city. He would wipe off all of his fingerprints and then leave it there with the windows open and the keys in the ignition. Lonnie then planned to take the subway back to his hotel. He figured it might take all of a half-hour for the thing to disappear, and no one would ever see it again.
Lonnie arrived back in the Big Apple shortly afternoon. Then after dumping the car, he returned home, walking up the stairs to his apartment exhausted. As he entered the apartment, Lonnie noticed something strange. He couldn’t explain it, but the hair seemed to rise on the back of his neck, and his senses tingled; he somehow knew he wasn’t alone. He walked into his living room and found the Goth chick, Cassandra, relaxing in his favorite chair three months earlier.
“Hi, Lonnie,” she said with a relaxed attitude suggesting they were old friends and her being in his apartment was normal.
“What are you doing here?” he asked, still a bit shocked to see her.
“Why, silly, I’ve been waiting for you to come home.” She slowly rose from the chair and walked toward him. She ran her fingers up along the buttons of his shirt sensually. “I was starting to think you might never come back to me.”
Lonnie pushed her hands down and said sternly, “Look, Cassandra. I don’t know what you think you’re doing here, but this isn’t your home, and you’ve got no business being here.”
“Oh, Lonnie,” she said with a smile, “you don’t seem to understand. I like you. I mean, I like you a lot. That’s why I chose you and why we’ll be together from now on.”
Lonnie thought aloud, “That’s what you said the night we met. You said you’d chosen me. What did it mean? What are you talking about?”
Cassandra asked with a quizzical expression, “Tell me, Lonnie. Has anything strange happened to you lately you can’t seem to explain? Maybe something you did or think you might have done, which might seem out of character for you.”
Lonnie saw the dead gang members and the dead girl flash across his mind. Then he saw Cassandra looking at him with recognition as if she could read his thoughts.
She said coyly, “Oh my, Lonnie. Have you been a bad boy? Did you maybe have a nasty run in a month or so ago with some bad gang members?”
“How did you know about . . .” Lonnie stopped himself before saying more than he wanted to.
Cassandra continued, “How did I know about that; you wanted to ask? Well, I knew about it because I was there. Yes, I was right there with you.”
“Y . . . y . . . you . . . w . . . w . . . were . . . th . . . th . . . there?” he stammered.
“Yes, sir-ee! I was right there by your side,” she informed him, “and I planned on being with you last night as well, but for some reason, you weren’t around. Which means you likely got yourself into some trouble all by our lonesome, I suppose.”
Lonnie’s head was spinning, “What’s going on, Casandra? What’s wrong with me? Why is all this happening to me?” He wanted to bolt from the room and leave this strange woman behind. But he had to get to the bottom of this.
“I’d better explain this all to you, Lonnie,” she replied. “You see that night at the club in the alley, remember? Well, it was time for me to choose a mate, and there was something about you I found so irresistible I couldn’t help myself. So I decided right then and there to choose you to be my mate.”
“Choose a mate?” Lonnie said, questioning. “You bit me on the shoulder, and you, you drew blood.”
“Oh, I did a lot more than, Lonnie, my sweet,” she said. “Do you know what a lycanthrope is?”
Lonnie thought for a moment, then replied, “A lycanthrope? No, is it some sort of plant or something?”
Cassandra chuckled, “No, Lonnie. A lycanthrope is a shapeshifter, what you know as a werewolf. I’m a werewolf, and now thanks to me, you’re one too.”
“That’s ridiculous!” Lonnie argued. “It’s all nonsense and old wives’ tales. You know, it’s nothing but a legend. It isn’t real.”
“Lonnie. I want you to think real hard about what happened in the alley last month and what probably happened to you last night. Those were both nights of full moons. That’s why you changed. It was so you could hunt. I was there for your first kill in the alley. I was there to help you, although to be honest, you really didn’t need much help. I just had to take care of one or two of them who almost got away. But you were a natural.”
Lonnie stood staring in shock, “But I don’t recall much of any of what happened.”
“That’s typical. But soon, you’ll become more aware, and then you’ll look forward to the change with great anticipation. Eventually, when you become more experienced, you’ll be able to change at will and won’t need the help of the full moon. Then you’ll know you’ve become complete.”
Lonnie contemplated, “And I’m supposed to be your mate?”
“Yes. I’ve marked you so none of the others will try to claim you. “
“Others?” He questioned.
Cassandra explained, “Yes, others. We’re a pack. We live together, hunt together, and take care of each other. You won’t need to worry about your old life any longer: your job, your friends, your family, or this apartment. You’ll come to live with the pack, and we’ll show you the way of the wolf. We’ll teach you to use your new powers. We’ll turn you into a great hunter, and perhaps someday you might be king of the pack, and when that happens, I’ll be your queen.”
“But I don’t want to hunt and kill people. It’s not who I am.”
“It may not be who you were,” she said, “but it’s who you are now. Here let me prove it to you.”
Cassandra walked to the door leading to Lonnie’s bedroom. She slowly opened the door, and Lonnie was shocked to see a beautiful young woman tied and gagged, spread out naked on his bed, her arms and legs bound to the four posts. The bound woman looked at him with fear of anticipation at what was to come. There were cuts at various locations across her body, and blood stained the bedsheets.
“Now, Lonnie,” Cassandra said, “you need to accept who you are. You need to embrace the wolf within you. You need to hunt. You need to kill.”
Lonnie’s sense of smell reached a level he never believed possible. He could smell the girl’s blood. He could smell her sweat. He could smell her fear. His sight could see beyond her physical presence, a type of reddish orange glow surrounding her, obviously brought on by her fear. He could hear her heart thumping hard inside her chest and could feel his own heart begin to pound harder in anticipation.
“That’s it, Lonnie,” Cassandra prodded. “Smell her blood, Lonnie. Let the fever grow inside you. You want to feast on her flesh, Lonnie. Change, Lonnie, change!” Cassandra’s voice grew louder with each shout of encouragement.
Lonnie could feel the change starting. He looked down at his hands and saw his fingers lengthening, darkening in color, and becoming leathery in appearance as his nails grew out into long yellowed razor-sharp claws. Turning his hands over, Lonnie saw coarse animal hair sprouting from the backs of them. He felt his canine teeth getting longer, the bottom ones protruding upward from his salivating lower jaw. Lonnie kicked off his shoes to stop the pain he felt in his feet as they enlarged in size, their nails growing to mirror the claws on his hands. He felt the urge to kill, rip apart, and savage the helpless girl now tied to his bed. The smell of her blood was driving him into an uncontrollable frenzy.
With the roar of a wild beast he had become, Lonnie jumped up onto the bed, eager to begin feasting on the entrails of the powerless victim. He stood over her body, looking down into her pleading eyes. Then in an instant, the night before came back to him, and in his mind’s eye, Lonnie saw what he had done to the woman in Pennsylvania and was sickened by what he recalled. He understood this is what he had become. This creature is what Cassandra had turned him into; a savage grunting slobbering beast bent on slaughtering anyone and anything in his path. Standing over the naked woman, he raised his clawed hand high above his head, bringing it down quickly and slicing through the bonds, securing her to the bed.
Then in one rapid motion, he turned and lunged at Cassandra, slashing and tearing at her with a fury he had never known before. He savagely gouged and cut her as blood and flaps of skin flew in every direction. He noticed she had begun to transform to her wolf form. As she changed, the wounds he had inflicted began to close up and miraculously heal right before his eyes. Lonnie understood if he didn’t act quickly before the transformation was complete, she would likely kill him, as she had much more experience as a werewolf than he had.
Lonnie did the only thing he could think to do. He buried his claws deep into her still human chest shattering her ribs; then, he ripped her heart from its cavity, brought it to his mouth, and devoured it before her dying eyes. Cassandra collapsed to the floor in a heap as the transformation reversed itself, and she returned to her human appearance, blood pooling on the floor next to her tattered remains.
Lonnie was suddenly aware of the other woman screaming. He turned to see her cowering in the corner in shock with tears streaming down her face. The urge to fall on her and rip her to shreds was almost more than Lonnie could suppress, but he was determined to keep hold of this remaining bit of his humanity. He began slowly transforming back to his human self as he gathered shoes and clothing and raced from the apartment.
Lonnie understood the life he once enjoyed was over forever. When the police found Cassandra’s body in his apartment, the authorities would be after him. When the “pack” of werewolves found out what he had done to Cassandra, they would also try to hunt him down. He’d have to get out of town and away from any friends, relatives, or ties to his previous life. He’d be on the run, “a lone wolf,” he thought to himself with a self-deprecating laugh. He had no idea, what his life would be like from then on, but he was determined to find a way to keep the wolf inside him at bay and never hurt another human again. He could only hope he would be successful.
About Author Thomas M. Malafarina
Thomas M. Malafarina (www.ThomasMMalafarina.com) is an author of horror fiction from Berks County, Pennsylvania. He was born in Ashland, Schuylkill County where he lived until moving to Berks County in 1979. Many of Thomas’s stories take place in his native Schuylkill County as well as Berks County settings. Thomas’s books are published by Hellbender Books, an imprint of Sunbury Press of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania.
To date, he has published eight horror novels What Waits Beneath, Burner, From The Dark, Circle Of Blood, Dead Kill Book 1: The Ridge of Death, Dead Kill Book 2: The Ridge Of Change, Dead Kill Book 3: The Ridge Of War and Death Bringer Jones, Zombie Slayer Volume 1. He has published seven collections of horror short stories; Thirteen Deadly Endings, Ghost Shadows, Horror Classics, Undead Living, Malaformed Realities Vol. 1, Vol. 2, Vol. 3, Vol. 4, and most recently Vol. 5. Volumes 6 and 7 are to be released in the near future. He has also published a book of often-strange single-panel cartoons called Yes I Smelled It Too; Cartoons For The Slightly Off Center and will soon publish Yes I Smelled It 2: More Cartoons For The Slightly Off Center. All of his books are published through Hellbender Books, an imprint of Sunbury Press.(www.Sunburypress.com).
In addition, many of Thomas’ stories have appeared in more than 170 anthologies and e-magazines. Some have been produced and presented for internet podcasts and radio plays as well. Thomas has shared anthology pages with some of the biggest names in horror fiction such as Jack Ketchum, Joe Lansdale, Jonathan Maberry, and Lucky McKee to name a few.
Thomas is best known for the ironic twists and surprises in his stories as well as his descriptive, often gory passages. Thomas is also an artist, musician, singer, and songwriter.