By Chris McAuley
“Come young one and sit with me, I have a story to tell you. It is painful and true”. Old Jack’s throaty intonations drew Lucille towards him and the warmth of the trashcan fire. They had found each other as the young girl had experienced the first pains of the change. She had been walking home with her boyfriend as the transformation began. Her insides felt twisted and her skin felt unbearably warm, as she doubled over in pain, she heard her boyfriend asking her if “she was on her moons?”.
She certainly was, although not in a way that he had meant. Her head ached and her teeth felt too large for her mouth. The agony eventually became to much for her and she blacked out. When she next opened her eyes, she was semi naked, covered in blood and she had pieces of meat stuck in her teeth. Looking down upon this sorry sight had been the heavily lined face of Jack. He wore a weary smile and although patient with her questions, quickly draped a jacket over her shoulders and lead her out of the alley. The first change was always bloody and dangerous. It would take many lunar cycles before she could control the beast which only wore her human face.
Jack produced a skewer and some marshmallows from the bag beside him. Winking as he began to hold the treats over the flames he proclaimed, “I believe its best to snack on stories while they are being told”. Taking his eyes off his young wards face and looking upwards past the crooked concrete building towards the blue azure of the night sky, Jack told his tale.
“We wolves were born of the Earth, we feel her under our paws, our snouts can detect the shifts in her spirit and when we hunt, we take her bounty. In time, I will teach you the rites and rituals of our kind. You will need to know these things before joining a tribe. I left my pack a few years ago because of a great shame which hangs over me today. I was deeply in love with our ways, the preservation of the forests and in my two-legged form fought against the polluting nature of the humans. I protested and sabotaged, that kind of thing. I didn’t participate in any riots or acts of serious violence; it is important that we aren’t noticed. Certainly, it wouldn’t be wise to get arrested or imprisoned. Imagine changing form while in a jail cell. My tribe were peaceful and we lived in harmony with one another. Any mating jealousies were settled through honorable combat and we only hunted that which we would eat.
The chief’s son was the only member of the clan who was discontent. It’s a story as old as time Lucille. He was not prepared to wait until his father died to gain authority and respect. So, he betrayed us and sided with the human corporations. You have heard of Genoria? Yeah, well he went there and showed them proof of our existence. That led to government contracts and the inevitable interest from the military. He came back to the tribe, wearing a fancy suit and shades. He didn’t even smell like one of us anymore, his skin full of perfumes and chemicals. We were offered a contract, a way of serving our ‘country’. He didn’t understand that words like that mean shit to our kind. We don’t pledge allegiance to a man-made flag. We are loyal to the Earth, Gaia herself.
Well, we gave him our answer and he came back twenty minutes later with troopers armed to the teeth. Some wore bulky mechanical suits firing liquid flame at the trees when we tried to escape into the forest. Others used drones to tag us and shock us, causing our bodies to collapse and twitch uncontrollably. Most just used old fashioned machine guns to bring us to heel. They didn’t use silver as they wanted us alive.
It didn’t take long after that for most of my brothers and sisters to just give in. I see that look missy and you weren’t there. We got bombarded with all sorts of subliminal messages, promises and cold hard cash. That’s the joke of capitalism, those with the money eventually get you to pay for the things which you had for free anyway. I still refused to go along with the program, I tore the arms and legs off the guards who brought food in. I remember crunching down on the head of a scientist who got too close which attempting to take a sperm sample. Yeah, don’t ask about their technique when it came to that.
Anyway, eventually I escaped. I tried to reason with those I was closest to and they still wouldn’t come with me. Apparently, they had found a purpose but all I could see was a vacant stoned expression in their eyes. As for the chief’s son? I tore his heart and lungs out and ate them. I did that right in front of his old man. I broke the biggest rule in the book, not to kill your own kind.”
Jack’s voice trailed off and Lucille rested her head on his arm. Her auburn hair scattered in his pale green coat. The old man gently stroked her head and offered her a slightly burnt marshmallow.
“That’s why they are after me kid. Genoria, the government. Hell, even the library service has probably a few warrants out for my overdue books from the ‘70s. I gotta get you someplace safe. Trouble is, I think events are starting, wheels in motion so to speak. I think there’s a goddamn war on the horizon and you will have to pick a side”.
[art kindly supplied by Ulfhednar]
Chris McAuley is a writer who specializes in the Horror, Science Fiction and crime genre. Chris has been the lead writer in novels, comics, audio dramas and games. He is the co-creator of the popular StokerVerse, along with Bram Stoker’s great-grand nephew Dacre Stoker. He has also created a science fiction and fantasy franchise with Babylon 5’s Claudia Christian. Chris has worked with some of the top names in Star Wars, Star Trek and Doctor Who.
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