19 Aug The Fog Has Eyes
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"The Fog Has Eyes"Written by K.B. Hurst
Estimated reading time — 55 minutes
A man sees his son as a reflection of himself. Creating his son is a way to validate what kind of man the father is and what he has passed down. It is a father’s hope that his son will become not just a man but a noble, trustworthy man of honor and kindness. Especially if he is lucky enough to be raised with conviction and love. I always knew my son, Jamie, was that for me, and I took pride in bringing him up in this world, as rough as it can be.
It was a typical Saturday morning. My wife, Sarah, was making breakfast, while I was on my computer analyzing the stock market, something I did a lot lately given the state of our ever-changing economy. My daughter, Amelia, now fifteen (going on 30) was sitting in our breakfast nook playing on Snapchat with a boy I’m pretty sure I had told her she was no longer allowed to talk to.
Upon clearing my throat as I walked by looking over her shoulder, she quickly turned off Snapchat and went about texting her best friend, Sidney. Her face as red as the toenail polish she was wearing this week. My son, Jaimie, was playing with his new PS4 game I had bought and conveniently forgot to tell my wife. She was a bit old-fashioned and liked to take our kids on hikes outside rather than allow them to live vicariously through video games and their phones. Jaimie was ten now, and adept at learning how to manipulate his mom.
“Amelia, go get dressed. It’s almost time to leave.” Sarah put a plate of sausages and eggs in front of me and then walked over to Jaimie and kissed his head. “Aren’t you going to miss your ma? I’m going away for such a long time!”
“Mom, it’s only four days. You and Emelia will FaceTime me.” He moved his head to try and see his game, but my wife purposely followed his head, blocking his view.
“Perhaps I should superimpose myself inside this video game.” She stood shaking her head.
“That would be cool, mom.”
“I bet,” Sarah said, rolling her eyes and turning towards Amelia once again. “Amelia, what did I tell you?”
“I’m going. I don’t understand why I have to go, though. Sidney and I were going to get our nails done at the mall.” She stomped across the family room towards the stairs as loudly as she possibly could, so that we knew the full extent of her teenage angst.
“Because it’s important that we keep some of our Cherokee traditions, at least on my side of the family. It’s what your grandmother wanted.”
“Learning how to bead things and cook isn’t my idea of a fun weekend,” Amelia quipped at her mother. My wife ignored her remarks and went about packing the last of her things for her trip, from which she planned to return by late Tuesday evening.
My wife had been trying for years to hold the traditions of where she came from and I admired her for it. She was an artist and worked at the museum in town, and over the years I watched her make things like beautiful dreamcatchers. We weren’t allowed to throw things away because everything could be recycled for art. She would create her art out of things around the house. In other words, garbage. We had chimes on our back porch made of forks and spoons that she had collected from around the woods surrounding our house. Sarah tried hard to teach our daughter the importance of family traditions, especially those of Native American origin. This weekend was mother and daughter weekend, where most of the older women on the nearby reservation spent the long weekend teaching the younger generation the traditions that had been passed down.
My son and I were none too dismayed to see them go. We had an entire weekend of horror movies, video games, and junk food planned. We planned to eat everything my wife forbid us to eat when she was around. She was health-conscious, and everything she made was either heart-smart or organic. Those were all admirable things. However, you needed variety.
Amelia stomped down the stairs, her long dark hair draped under a snow cap, and I laughed when I saw the sour look on her face.
“Amelia, perhaps you could try to be a little more interested in what your mom has planned. If anything, do it for her.”
“Dad, there isn’t even reception where she is taking me, which means I can’t even text Sidney.”
I laughed, glad that Sidney wasn’t the only one she wouldn’t be texting this weekend. “Just try to have a good time, okay?”
Amelia rolled her eyes and stomped into the snow towards our SUV, where she and I helped load the car with their suitcases and supplies in the event something happened on the six-hour drive. I kissed my wife goodbye and watched them pull out of the long, wooded drive and out into the road. Three recently-fallen feet of snow was now melting under a light drizzle of rain. The cold air and rain began to dampen my shoulders, and I felt a sudden chill as I hurried back into the house. The fork and spoon chimes blew in the wind and made a weird clanking sound that my wife had called “pleasing.”
I stepped back inside the house and looked at my son, who was grinning ear to ear. “Party time, dad!” he laughed. “The girls are away, so the boys will play!” We took out the new Friday the 13th video game and started it.
We played for a few hours and then both of our stomachs began to rumble. I ordered a couple of pizzas from my phone, which had conveniently saved my last ten orders. With the press of a button and the processing of my credit card on file, our pizza was on its way. The app said that our food would take approximately thirty minutes or so to arrive, so I stood up and began to get plates ready. I pulled out a beer for myself and a root beer for my son. I happened to look outside, noticing there was a fog so thick outside that I couldn’t even see to the end of my back porch. I turned on our outdoor lights and noticed it didn’t seem to make any difference. The fog was so thick it loomed outside our door like a cloud of smoke.
I cleaned up some of the mess we made and by now my son had grown bored of his video games and had moved on to some Disney show he liked to watch. The television was at full blast and I stepped into the family room to tell my son to turn down the tv, only when I stepped in there he was nowhere to be found. I figured he was in the bathroom and as I walked over to turn the television off I saw something out of the corner of my eye giving me pause. There was a flash of red coming from the big window of the family room that overlooked our back deck and sliding glass doors. It was strange but I gave it no more thought and went about checking my phone which now showed the pizza was approximately twelve minutes away now.
“Jamie! You okay in there? Did you fall in?” I yelled laughing to myself. “Make sure you wash your hands!”
I saw lights coming up the driveway and Jaimie ran into the kitchen. “Hey son, want to go grab the pizza for me?”
“Yeah, do we tip him?”
“Yes.” I sighed handing him a ten and went back to cleaning off the counter. Trying to find a clean spot was a bit of a challenge. My wife had art projects all over the house while my daughter had nail polish, books and sweatshirts laying about. The door was left open and it seemed like he had been out there too long. I figured he was giving the poor man the third degree as he sometimes got to talking to people and would ask them everything under the sun. I didn’t want our food to get cold so I went to look out the door. The damned fog kept everything cloaked in its cover and I could only see dim lights from our driveway. I walked towards the light and when I reached the delivery driver’s vehicle, neon sign adorning the top of the little ford focus, the driver’s side door was wide open but both the driver and my son were not there.
Confused I tried my best at searching for them but both were now gone. “Jamie!” I was beginning to panic as the fog seemed to swallow everything within a foot of where I was standing.
The fog broke as I walked through it and it reminded me of the tall grasses surrounding the marsh I grew up around as a boy. I cut in and searched with my eyes using the dim light from the delivery driver’s car. Then I heard it “Dad come look!”
I walked toward my son who was standing by the delivery driver and I was perplexed as I looked at them. The driver was still holding the pizzas in the warmer bag when I approached them. They appeared to be watching something as I came up behind the two of them. I looked over my son’s head and saw what the fuss was about. There was some sort of goo that was draped over the snow and hung on the trees. An opening appeared above us in the fog as a full moon popped out as if gazing down at us, causing the mysterious goo to glow brighter. The fog slowly rolled back over our heads covering the moon again and the brightness of the goo dimmed.
“This is weird, man, but I have to go finish my deliveries.” The driver mused thanking us for the tip and drove off.
My son stood watching it for a while longer and I now stood holding hot boxes with pizza inside of them. I figured it had something to do with the snow melting and perhaps a chemical from the recent rain that was now turning back into snow.
I led my son back into our house and we sat down to watch a movie shoveling food in our faces. An hour into our second movie, my son falling fast asleep on the sofa, I smiled as I watched him. I stood up to turn down the television and covered him with a blanket. I crept into the kitchen and started to clean yet another mess of candy wrappers, pizza boxes, and soda bottles. If my wife saw all this evidence I’d never hear the end of it.
I looked at the clock realizing it was nearly midnight and I had yet to hear from my wife. Picking up my cellular I made a call and immediately got her voicemail so left a brief message to let her know I was checking in on her. I went to set my phone down but held it in a tight grip instead as something outside caught my attention. Startled by what I was looking at, I dropped my phone to the kitchen floor and stood looking at the deck. The fog seemed thicker than it was a few hours ago except for one thing, red eyes. They met mine and it was made only worse by the fog illuminating their glow into the night and into my own gaze. I took a deep breath it had to be a wolf or some other wild animal. I turned off the kitchen light and as I did the eyes melted back into the fog.
I reasoned with myself that it was nothing, but even I had to admit to myself that there was something about those eyes. I didn’t feel comfortable leaving my son on the sofa for the night and I budged him to get him to come upstairs to his own bed. He wandered half asleep up to his room and me into my own.
My head hit the pillow but I spent a restless two hours half in and out of sleep that wouldn’t come. I kept seeing those eyes staring back at me.
A loud bang at my back door had me sitting up out of a dead sleep. I took a moment and then got out of my bed and went towards my son’s room. He too had heard the loud bang and was standing in his room.
“Dad, what is it?”
“I don’t know, son, stay here.”
As usual, Jamie didn’t listen and was slowly following me down the stairs. I crept into the kitchen and motioned to Jamie to stay where he was. This time he did as told and I looked at the back door to which I noticed blood smeared down the sliding glass doors. I heard Jamie again behind me and this time I had had enough. “STAY BACK FOR GOD SAKE! Can’t you listen to me for once?”
He stepped back realizing how angry I now was. “Sorry, dad.”
I walked towards the door and could see there was some sort of dead animal laying on my deck. It appeared to have been thrown against the glass. I wasn’t sure if it was still alive. Although my instincts told me this was a bad idea, I opened the sliding glass door and looked around. I couldn’t see anything from the fog. Looking over at the creature I realized it was a dead bobcat. It looked as though something had bit into its neck nearly severing the poor creature’s head clean off its body. How did it end up against my door?
I felt it then, a rush of fear and so I went back into my house and locked the door. My son was looking at me. “Dad, what was it?”
“A dead animal is all. I’ll get it in the morning go back to bed.”
We were walking towards the family room to go upstairs when all the lights in my house went off. With the electric out that also meant the heater was out as it was also powered by electric.
“Shit!” I muttered and grabbed a flashlight from the junk drawer in the kitchen.
My son stood behind me and I put on my coat and boots walking towards the back door again, only this time to go outside and turn on the back-up generator. Because of safety, it had to be a fair distance from our home and so I slowly slid open the glass door again and walked onto our deck. I turned and once again my son was standing behind me. “Jamie go back inside.”
“No dad, I’m scared I don’t want to be in here alone.”
“Get your coat then,” I said walking back into the kitchen.
Jamie quickly dressed and together we walked back onto the deck. He didn’t seem to even notice the dead animal and I looked back a few times to ensure he was behind me. I think his fear made him too scared to care about it.
We got to the generator which was held up in an old shed that was more of a standing cover than anything. Holding up the flashlight to look for the switch I turned towards Jamie. “Son, stay back a few feet. This can be dangerous.” For once my son listened to me and for once I wish he had not.
I looked back and noticed I couldn’t see him because of the fog. “Jamie maybe you should come over here so I can show you how this thing works in case you ever need to know.” When he didn’t respond, I figured he was just pouting because I wouldn’t let him help me at first. I turned on the switch and the sound encompassed my ears. I saw lights in the distance so I knew the kitchen lights were now back on. I stepped out of the open shed and walked in the direction of where my child was.
I didn’t hear anything from Jamie just the mechanics of the generator. I walked back towards where we had just been and yelled. “Jamie come here!” I yelled again but I heard no response. I began to panic and even though it was cold outside I felt sweat on my brow from frustration.
I walked towards the light of my house, my flashlight shaking in my hands. I was growing worried shivering at the wet cold that seemed to bury itself into my neck. Light bounced off the trees of the snow-covered meadow near our home as I walked onward.
I felt it. I stopped abruptly as a warm gust of air hit the back of my neck. I was shaking harder and this time it wasn’t the cold as I could hear something come up behind me, sniffing. I closed my eyes and stood as still as I could manage and then I felt it something rubbing up against the thick of my coat and then into my hair. It licked the back of my head. My first fear was that it was a bear. I only wish it had been a bear.
I turned to look at this creature, who stood nearly eight feet tall, with a head like a large dog or wolf, and eyes so red they glowed. My fear worsened as the fog above us obstructed the view of a full moon, and then the creature seemed to separate its large jaw from inside its mouth, shaking its head from side to side like a dog, and it howled. Then I heard more howling coming from all around me. I bolted from my place thinking only of my safety nearly all at once forgetting Jamie. I tripped and fell over something that felt human. Dear God, no please don’t let it be.
Horror subsiding but only momentarily, it wasn’t Jamie. It was the leg of a large man that when I looked again I recognized as our pizza delivery guy. His throat had been torn out of his neck much like the bobcat on my deck. Some ways from him I saw his car mangled after sliding into a ditch near the end of our driveway. The moon began to disappear and once again the fog grew thick torturing my mind. I had to find my son!
I stood up to run, thinking only for a second of the poor man whose body I was leaving behind, when I saw more eyes greeting me from the forest. They were getting closer. I had to get to my house, I had to run for my life, I had to find Jamie.
I heard them all gaining on me from their hiding places in the woods, but I was determined to get to my house. I hoped that perhaps Jamie had gone back to the house when I was fixing the generator.
I heard it first the ripping of my pant leg. I was only a few feet from the steps of my deck when I felt the pain. It caught on to my leg. Sharp things like steak knives were cutting into me. Only when I stood up long enough to peer over my shoulder did I see fur and claws. Tripping I fell onto the dead bobcat from earlier. Blood smearing onto my face and chest. I managed to crawl into my house and stood up as fast as I could manage.
Shutting the glass door so hard it began to crack I quickly locked it and began to run towards my son’s bedroom hoping that I would find him there. I was bleeding and with each step leaving a puddle of bloody footprints behind me.
When I didn’t see my son, I knew that I had to find him even if it meant leaving the confines of my safety.
I went into the bathroom and wrapped my leg in bandages as quickly as I could. Tears fell from my eyes but I didn’t have time to think of my pain, Jamie was out there alone with those dog men.
I moved slowly towards my bedroom and inside I rummaged through my closet until I found an old pistol. I had never felt the need to use a gun, I wasn’t even a gun type of guy, but my child was out there. I looked as quickly as I possibly could but realizing to my unending horror the bullets were nowhere to be found. I put my head in my hands tears falling down my face. Then I thought hard as to what I was going to do. I recalled there was an old ax in my basement I used for chopping wood. It wasn’t much but it was something.
I stood in my closet and then I heard something. Just above my head was the attic and there was a sound coming from it. Footsteps walking around above my head causing dust and pieces of the ceiling to crumble and fall upon my head.
I walked slowly towards my bedroom door and shut it. I moved throughout the upstairs as quietly as I could, but those damned creaky stairs betrayed my location each time I stepped down them. I could hear this thing above me and it was following me with each creak of the steps moving closer to where I was on the ground floor. I heard a loud crash and I ran towards the basement stairs. I knew the ax was in the corner of the basement.
The dark basement.
When I tell you I prayed, I asked God to get my son to safety and I didn’t care how. I crept into the dark basement and was slow but I was able to find my ax and being the only weapon, I could think of right now, it was better than nothing. Moving quickly, I thought of the only other place my son could be. Just behind the house, there was a little treehouse he and I built together. Perhaps he was hiding inside of it. It was worth a shot and so I moved towards the kitchen to turn off the light so they couldn’t see me moving about the house.
Sound. What was that? Something was coming down the steps.
A basketball bounced down the stairs and landed near my feet. I looked up into the darkness that was where the ball had come. Then another object was thrown down and then another. Finally, I heard it.
Laughter? The sound of someone laughing came out of the darkness only it was as though a human being was laughing. Then I saw red glowing eyes slither above me at the top of the stairs and they were laughing, taunting me. The creature threw a doll at me that had been my daughter’s when she was a little girl and then stood up and walked slowly in my direction.
With each step, the stairs broke beneath them one, two, three, four. I knew one more stair and it would be directly in front of me. It laughed like a hyena and then it crouched down with a roar jumping directly on top of me. Something made a noise and then blood covered me splashing into my eyes and dripping over my chest. Its weight was heavy and I could barely breathe from the crushingly enormous size. I was on my back staring into its cold dead eyes as light trickled in from the television in the family room. It landed directly upon the ax I held in my hand and it went straight through its heart.
Pushing it off me I at least knew they could be killed.
Dad! I heard it. Jamie? Could it be?
It was coming from outside. When I looked out of the window I saw them, hundreds of them watching, waiting. I found the strength to keep moving but I was already failing. My leg was badly injured. I could hardly walk and running wasn’t an option.
What did they want?
Just then a miracle arose, the fog began to lift moving up and away from my yard and these dog men seemed to move with it. Their eyes disappearing into the woods following the dissipating fog. Red to pink to nothing.
I opened the front door watching them scatter as I noticed the moon fading into a morning sky. The sun was coming up just beyond the horizon and I looked towards the meadow where one single tree stood. I was right. My son had escaped to his treehouse. I ran to him and he met me halfway into the meadow. Tears of joy stained my face as I held on to my son.
I looked at his face and I took a deep breath. “We need to call the police.”
I had to get back to my phone and it was in the kitchen still laying on the floor where I dropped it. I had forgotten it when I went to bed. I walked into the house with my son and when I saw it he and I didn’t even flinch.
The creature was gone, in its place lay a man naked as the day he came into the world.
“You should get that leg looked at, Dad,” Jamie said pointing to my injured calf. The bandages were put on so quickly that coagulated blood covered my leg and ankle.
I looked at it and noticed something strange. A patch of gray and white hair covered the wounds and I stood up to go look at it in the bathroom. I pulled off the bandages and tried cleaning my wound but oddly enough there was no wound. Around where the wound used to be was the same goo-like substance I had seen only last night outside my house. I washed it off as best I could and then when I looked in the mirror I noticed my eyes. They had an odd reddish tint to them now.
My heart broke realizing what this meant. My son was standing next to me watching the pained look upon my face now looking into my eyes.
“You’re one of them now that it hurt you.”
I looked at my son’s wise eyes, tears welling up in mine. Unsure what I should do or what I should even say. I only knew I could not remain here, not now. I couldn’t take a chance on turning into one of those things and hurting my family.
A depression fell over me as I stood up. A dark cloud hung its ugly head over me now.
“Dad, I’ll tell the police I don’t know where you are. I’ll tell them these people broke in and you tried to save me but were gone when I got back from hiding in the treehouse.”
I nodded not sure where I was going to go.
“Don’t worry, dad. It’ll be okay. We will figure it out.” Jamie ran to hug me.
“What a man you have become. I’ve raised a very smart young man.”
“I am the man of the house now. I say we will figure it out.”
Jamie helped me put some supplies together for a week-long trip. He placed them in his boy scout bag and some food handing it to me like a soldier acting on duty.
I hid outside and watched the cops come and I saw my wife finally arrive, then they all left again, I guessed to be questioned by the police. When it looked like the coast was clear, I put on the backpack my son helped me put together and I began my hike into the woods. Someday, I hope to be able to return to my family.
I was only a few yards into the forest when I heard a whistle. I turned my head to see an officer walking towards me. Part of me wanted to run but then he did something I didn’t expect. He stopped and winked at me. Coming closer I noticed his eyes they too were reddish in color when the sun hit them a certain way.
“You’re one of us now. Welcome to the sons of God.” He dropped a business card on the ground.
With that, he walked away from me with a cocky sort of look and I picked up the card. There was nothing on it except for a symbol of the sun and moon and a canine creature. I’m not sure what any of this means, and I have yet to find more information about it.
Since all this happened, I have researched and struggled to find answers. I tried finding others that may know more. It’s been nearly a month since I have seen my family.
I still can’t locate the officer that I met in the woods that day, but there is a full moon coming in a few days. Maybe I’ll know more after that. So, wish me luck and say a prayer.
I’m going to need it.
I could feel it following me again. Another just like me and at each transformation into this beast I had now become, it lingered a short distance from me. I could never see it physically but could smell its scent as it tended to remain around me for a long time after. It didn’t appear threatening, and sometimes it left me animal carcasses as gifts. It was nowhere around me because tonight I was on my own for the change.
The transformation always began the same, it triggered by a sound, environmental or emotional stimulus such as bright light, like the moon.
I feel an itch in my nose, and it twitches. It’s not just an itch; it’s a sign of something more. I’m painfully aware of what is about to happen. My nose swells and slowly expands like a sinusitis infection erupting. The severe pain is worsening by the second. Suddenly even breathing in air hurts and stings. Every smell is penetrating my nostrils with a force of sensory overload.
Chills turn to a nervous panic inside my gut as I know the pain I’m about to endure. The hairs on the back of my neck begin to stand up on end elongating and growing outward. My head and neck stretch out painfully as though made from a rubber band. My ears morph outward and upward, and my skull feels like it is going to crack wide open.
I feel the wind at my back, and it’s so cold as the air begins to rip at my sensitive skin in a sharp sensation. Every part of me is transforming into something barely recognizable.
Skin is peeling from my body, and it burns like a deep scab that has only just begun to heal. It regrows thick and impenetrable.
Eyes itch but I cannot scratch them, for to do so would gouge my eyes out if I tried. They sting and suddenly I can see everything so perfectly. Every heartbeat and I can almost, with x-ray vision see the blood pumping inside of me prays body.
On my back, I lay twisting and tortured by the bones in my neck pulsing.
My spine is erupting outwardly.
My arms feel heavy are they growing?
My face ripping apart like something inside of me is trying to get out.
The moon is so fucking bright.
Everything is on fire.
The light of the moon seems to have a heart beating inside of it. Is it getting closer to the earth?
All color is gone, I can only see red.
Smell what it is?
I scream, but the only thing that escapes my snout is a deep moaning and a growl. I’m afraid of it till I realize it’s me.
The pain is god awful, and I’d give anything to make it stop, but it doesn’t linger for long. Soon, the pain is subsiding.
Touching the ground, it feels cold to the touch.
It feels, good.
There is a sound.
Someone is there.
Something behind those soft grasses.
What if they see me?
Like any animal, my first instinct is to hide.
I move fast, but instead of heaviness, all I feel is the wind blowing through my ears as they move from side to side. I hear every drip of snow and ice melting magnified times ten. I can listen to every car in the distance, every piece of music, television, and radio from nearby homes blanketed along the forest I now call home.
I must move, but the adrenaline feels delicious and all at once, unexpected.
The moon is breathing and beckoning me to come closer.
I am howling in ecstasy.
I’m the one howling.
I hear another in the distance answering my call of the wild.
It’s there again, my guardian angel. I feel at peace even though when I’m human I’m scared to death of turning into this beast. Once it takes over, I am one with the earth and God in heaven if there is one.
I feel like I am undergoing a religious experience. At that moment, I’ve never felt so free!
I see a cave. But first I must eat and there it is, just in the distance, not too far not to close. I leap before it has a chance to move and snap the rabbit’s neck in my new razor sharp jaws. It never takes long to swallow fur, tooth, and meat. It’s down my throat in seconds, whole.
I retreat to safety, my shelter a shallow cave in the ground. The cave is dark, and my body is tired from the transformation and the freshly caught meal.
I’m on all fours.
I feel cold rock beneath my hot paws, sticks, and dry ivy.
My new home.
I spent that first full moon in the cave down by an old stream. I made sure to move tree branches in front of it the next day so I could avoid being found out.
The change hurt like hell, but before I could feel myself change back and endure more pain, I passed out from the stress it did on my body.
The strangest part about all of it I heard another out there answering my call. It was there every time I went through the change. Like I was being monitored. I wondered if whoever was following me would come and try to find me. Part of me dreaded this transformation at every trigger, but the other part wanted answers.
It was like they all vanished after that night of Hell I had endured with my son, Jaimie. The only proof I had there was anyone else out there just like me was the day that cop dropped me his card. I was glad I at least knew I wasn’t crazy. I hadn’t seen him, nor was I able to track him down. He gave me no real answers, and he left me out here on my own. Granted I wasn’t far from home.
I left the area many times, hitching rides from strangers, but I always came back. I wanted to know my family was okay, even if that stupidly meant I was putting them in harm’s way by default.
I was able to use my animalistic instincts to hide when I needed to. I mostly went out at night, so if anyone was looking for me in the day time; which most detectives did during their nine to five hours. No one was looking for me long. I guessed after those first few days of the incident with the monsters they were assuming I was long gone. I hoped that was the case. It had been nearly five months since I had vanished. Granted it hurts like hell knowing what I must be doing to my family. The human side of me wanted to leave and protect them from what I may do, yet the other part, the starved one, wanted to stay to make sure no more of those creatures came back to hurt my family. I was one of them now, so I felt like I was better equipped to deal with them if they came back.
So, I survived on food scraps mostly, or I hunted at night. I wasn’t the best outdoorsmen, but I found I was resourceful. I filled up my water bottle using the outdoor hose off to the side of my house, and sometimes I ate out of the garbage that neighbors would throw away. I raided the trash outside my house stealing discarded food from my family during the day when they were all at work and school. I made sure none of the neighbors saw me. It was amazing what they tossed out. Week old lunch meat, stale bread that was far from outdated. It made me want to tell my wife that for all her recycling mindset, she should have a better attitude towards the food she consumed.
There were days I had no idea what I was doing. I felt a bit silly hanging outside of my house, where I should be living with my wife and children. I thought numerous times over the last few weeks that I should go home and tell my wife everything.
I needed a shave and a real shower. I had snuck in the local truck stop just up the road a few times since to wash as best as I could. I even found that sometimes one of the truck drivers would take pity upon me thinking I was homeless and buy me a hot meal if I hung out long enough. The hiding was becoming crazy, and I knew something had to give.
It was one of those early evenings just before dusk that I decided to go by my home and check on things. I made sure I waited till I didn’t see any cars in the driveway. I didn’t feel like anyone, or anything was trailing me any longer. If I was tracked, I would have never come back that afternoon. My last change was a few days ago. I had not seen footprints or smelled anything out of the ordinary, except for my stink.
My wife’s truck wasn’t in the driveway, so I knew the coast was clear. I ducked down avoiding being out in the open crouching down by the hedges off to the side of the house. I always made sure I evaded watchful eyes.
I was kneeling close to the hose, and I was thirsty as hell this evening. The last morph went well, but it left you feeling like you had the worst hangover of your life for days after. Your body craved liquid. Anything to quench the thirst that came with your body ripping itself in two. I stopped in my tracks. I heard playful laughing. I was filling my bottle with fresh water when I heard her.
What? I slowly turned my head to face my now 16-year-old daughter Amelia. I had been gone for nearly six months and had missed her birthday. I wanted to run, but something made me stay. Perhaps it was that boy that held her in an overly comfortable embrace.
“Oh my god, it’s my dad.” She said to him standing next to that boy I couldn’t recall his name but that she was forbidden to see him.
I watched them both unsure what to say. Their mouths were a wide-open full-on shock, and dismay obscured their ability to realize what it must have looked like to me, Amelia’s dad.
“Well, I’m outta here. I’ll text you later.” The teenage boy said. His hair was down past his shoulders his thick pointy eyebrows made an overly expressive eye-roll as my 16-year-old daughter grabbed his hand in protest.
“Paul, you just got here!” Amelia looked at him crushed.
“Yeah…, but dude so did your dad. Text ya later babe.” Paul said eyeing me with an annoyance and then walking hastily off to his – was that a motorcycle?
Jesus, I had been gone far too long.
“Thought I told you, you weren’t to see that boy anymore,” I said forgetting who and where I was for a moment.
“Yeah, dad. A lot has changed since you left.” She rolled her eyes and began walking in my direction. She came towards me tears welling up in her big green eyes, and she wrapped her arms around me. It felt nice to feel loved and feel that touch of humanity. It had been so long. I heard her begin to cry. She was sighing with relief; I wrapped my arms around her tightly. Now what? I thought to myself. What was I going to say?
“Oh my god!” she pushed me away suddenly. “Jesus Christ dad you smell so bad!” She looked up at me wrinkling her nose. “You need a fucking shower!”
“Nice potty mouth young lady.”
“You look terrible; where have you been?”
“It’s a long story.”
“I have time. Mom isn’t here in case you were wondering.”
“I was actually.” I sighed in relief that I was spared that Spanish Inquisition for now.
“She won’t be back till Sunday. She left me here by myself. Sidney is coming over to stay with me so I won’t be alone, but I guess I’m not alone after all.”
“Since when does your mother leave you alone all weekend?”
“Since she lost her shit when you disappeared. There is a lot she doesn’t care about these days. It’s been only about you since you vanished. She never goes to the reservation anymore. Granddad and Aunty Maw keep begging her to stay with them but she won’t. She went to meet with a private detective to find out if they had any leads on where you were. If they only knew.” She stood shaking her head at me.
“He’s with mom. He never leaves her side anymore except to go to school. Mom thinks it is because
he’s scared she’s going to leave too.”
“I see..” my voice trailed off in deep thought. I knew I couldn’t stay.
“I’m glad you’re here. I feel like I should be mad at you, but I don’t feel like cooking for myself. You hungry?”
“How about I order a pizza?”
The last thing I wanted was a pizza. All I saw was that poor pizza guy mutilated in our driveway the night those things came. “Yeah, sure. Sounds good. Mind if I come in and shower and shave?”
Amelia laughed. “Your house dad; do what you want.”
That was my daughter the wise ass. I followed her inside, and that is when my nose went in the direction of her bedroom. I could smell that boy. One of the things I missed about being human was I didn’t know certain things. My new superpower was sniffing out where Paul had been in my house.
It was strange being in the upstairs of my house. Newly repaired stairs awaited me from that night when that dog man jumped down them. I walked into the master bedroom where I used to share a bed with my wife.
I expected utter chaos, but I did not find it. The bedroom was immaculate, and the bed looked as though it was not touched in weeks. I peeked down the hallway into my son’s room. I saw my wife’s robe over one of his chairs and a blowup mattress on the floor.
I felt like I had been punched in the gut. The chaos was in front of my face. My wife had been staying in Jamie’s room to comfort our son. I closed the door and went back to the master suite and showered.
I managed to shave and clean myself up enough to look respectable. I put a few things of clothing in my duffle bag and then walked downstairs into the kitchen to find my daughter sitting helplessly at the counter twirling her long black hair. My neglected princess, I thought laughing to myself.
“Did you order the pizza?”
“That is fine; I can cook us something. Your favorite maybe like a cheeseburger?”
She was staring at her cell phone with a sour look on her face. “Sidney isn’t coming over. I lied to you. Truth is she, and I fought after you left. We haven’t spoken since.” Amelia said sadly.
“You two have always been inseparable. Was it such a bad fight?”
“She said you probably ran off with your secretary at work. I told her that just because that is what her dad did doesn’t mean you’re like that. You are one of the good ones and that something had to be wrong! I can’t understand why you left.” She began to tear up.
Looking at Amelia, I walked toward her and sat at the counter across from her. “The men that came here that night were evil men. I only came back to make sure you were okay. Even my being here is dangerous.”
“You’re leaving again. Don’t worry your secret is safe with me.”
I looked down at my crippled hands. They had aged overnight from the brittle bones breaking and moving from the change into the beast that now lived inside me.
There was a sound suddenly that only I heard. I stood up and walked toward the back of the kitchen. The sun had begun to go down, and I felt sweat suddenly appear on my brow. I looked back at my daughter, and then I realized there was another one outside my house.
“Should I order that pizza?”
I ignored her as I looked out the back door. I saw movement in the grass. A dear raised its head, and I took a sigh of relief.
“Dad, you okay? You hear me?”
“Mmhmm yeah sure go ahead. Anything you want.” I watched eyeing the yard still. The hair stood up on the back of my neck.
“Pepperoni and sausage it is. Hi yes, I’d like to order a large..” Amelia’s voice changed drifted away suddenly as I drowned out every sound to concentrate on the other sounds and now smells. Something was coming up our driveway.
The front door opened suddenly nearly coming off the hinges. A tall man stood before us and just behind him a woman and another man. They weren’t human; they were like me. The woman eyed Amelia immediately. I could barely stop what was about to happen next. The man’s eyes were red and glowing. I could sense the change overcoming him. I could sense it in me. I was preoccupied with my daughter screaming.
“Dad!” She fell trying to back away from them.
I grabbed her and nearly hurt her trying to fling her behind me. She crouched under our counter shivering as she watched the alien-looking strangers. They were shifting slowly but trying to control it.
“You killed my brother. By God’s law, I must make you pay. Only the one who turned you was part of my family. So I can’t kill you, but I plan to have fun making you wish you were dead.”
I turned away from him for a split second, and after I knew for sure, Amelia was away from them I ran towards him. Something in me wanted to tear his flesh from his body, and there was a part of me that loved it.
My daughter screamed again, and I noticed the female had vanished. She popped up behind me and had my daughter by the hair. I turned from the man for a moment to snatch the woman from my daughter. She growled like a rabid dog, and her eyes went black. I turned and then I felt it go through me.
Something sharp was in my side, and I looked up to realize the other male had full-on shifted into a dog man. I held on as long as I could, but it hurt like hell making it nearly impossible to fight back. He began to rip at my skin until I felt myself shift. I looked at my daughter helplessly as she cried hysterically in the corner of our kitchen floor made immobilized by fear.
“I’m so sorry baby girl,” I said as I felt myself fall to the ground.
I heard it, but I couldn’t see it.
The tall man had grabbed Amelia bending her over our counter. With a wicked laugh, he leaned over her obscenely. “She smells nice. You ever consider giving her over, and maybe we call it even? A life for a life?” Before I could stop him, he clawed at Amelia’s neck ripping her flesh as a blood-curdling scream erupted from her mouth. Blood went in every direction, and my daughter fell to the kitchen floor.
I didn’t even pause. I went for the man’s throat and bit into him. Then we were on the ground outside after bursting through the sliding glass doors. We toppled down the back deck stairs and into the yard we were just as the moon burst through the trees. The other two were now running away into the woods, and I saw this evil dog man stop in his tracks. He shifted back to human form.
“Sorry we have to run.” he laughed wickedly. “But I think you have bigger problems than us.” I watched him, and his henchmen walk back towards the driveway.
I dismissed them and ran back towards my house. I had to care for my daughter and get her medical attention. However, when I got inside the kitchen, my daughter was gone. I ran towards the front of the house, and that is when I saw her.
Being carried in the female’s arms was Amelia, and then the woman smiled coyly at me. Before I could stop them, a car appeared, and they jumped inside speeding off.
Nature never repeats herself, and the possibilities of
one human soul will never be found in another.
– Elizabeth Cady Stanton
I stood there watching them as they sped off in an older vehicle. I was rendered helpless as I watched my baby girl, well not so much of a baby now, stolen from me.
I called 9-1-1 immediately, and before I knew it, squad cars and sirens had surrounded my house. One of the detectives met with me and saw I was bleeding.
“I’m sorry about this, Mr. Harmer, can you run me by what happened one more time?”
I looked at him through eyes covered in coagulated blood. My side ached but was healing quickly.
“I arrived home shortly after six or so. I found my daughter in the driveway, and we went in. I showered, she was ordering pizza when I came downstairs. Then three strangers burst through my front door and assaulted both myself and my daughter.”
I was trying to be patient, but I was at a losing battle with my head and my heart. I just wanted someone to help me find Amelia. She was in danger and the longer it was taking, the harder it was to stave off my sudden burst into a dog man.
“Thank you. So, you had never seen these people before?” he asked me suspiciously.
“Can you tell me where you have been Mr. Harmer? You were missing for nearly six months. Perhaps given recent events, you aren’t telling us something important. Maybe it has to do with your daughter going missing?”
I looked at him and then looked away to balance out my emotions. If I stare too long at this goon, I was going to shift and tear his throat out. So, I looked away and deterred them as best as I could. I could see him out of the corner of my eye.
That is when I saw her. She came up to me quickly and furiously. I stood to face my wife who stood five feet two weighed approximately a hundred and twenty-five pounds soaking wet walk up to me and smack me in the face. I took a deep breath and looked down at her. She was so much like my daughter the eyes, the long black hair and all I could do is begin to sob.
She took me into her chest and sobbed with me. I couldn’t find the word, but she had no issue.
“My husband is done here unless you are arresting him; let’s go, Eric.” She said pulling me upstairs to our bedroom.
I watched her unsure what to do or even say. She, on the other hand, had a lot to say to me.
“What the hell, Eric?”
“I know what you must think of me. I don’t blame you for being angry, but that is why I left.”
“Help me understand because right now I want to smash your face in.” she began to tear up again.
I had no idea what to say to her, and before I could even try, I saw my son Jaimie standing in the doorway. We both stood and looked at him.
“Jaimie,” I said looking at his small frame and his dark eyes and hair that had the air of someone older than their years.
“Dad?” he asked.
I walked toward him, and I saw him back away. To my disappointment and shame, my son was afraid of me. I stopped and smiled at him to reassure I wasn’t the boogie man.
“Jaimie go downstairs until your father, and I have had a chat,” Sarah said to my son sternly. Her voice shook, and I could tell she was nearing a tearful breakdown.
He left and didn’t seem to pause even for a second. I looked at him walking hastily away, and then I turned to my wife and grabbed her by the shoulders as if I was trying to reassure myself of what I was about to say.
“Sarah, I love you. Please understand this has nothing to do with me and you. I was afraid something like this would happen. That is why I went away. There are bad people out there, and they want to hurt me. I don’t understand why but I want you to know I will find out who these people are and I will find our daughter. No matter what.”
“Why did you come back? Why didn’t you stay away if you thought that they would come for you?”
“I wanted to make sure you were okay. I couldn’t stay away. I love you. I don’t think you understand how hard this has been on me.”
“On you. What about us?” she walked away angrily.
“No! You don’t get to do that! Not now, you have no idea what your children have been through. What I have been through.”
I took a step back analyzing her pain and while I completely understood how she felt she still had no idea what I had become. I was a monster and not just because I could change into a beast at will and howl at the moon. I was a bonafide jerk.
I knew that anything else I said was going to sound insincere, so I left her to her anger. She had a right to her feelings. I worried about our daughter, and I knew she did too. We were now in this together. In a way, I was glad that I had developed a bond, but I just wished it was for different reasons.
She stopped being angry, and she just leaned in and hugged me.
It was not too much longer; we both were back to being questioned by the same detective at the police station. Jaimie went to stay with Sarah’s father for the time being until we could pick him up the next day. They questioned both my wife and me separately to try and obtain as much helpful information as they could come up with to find my daughter. Then we both were placed in an interrogation room together. Law enforcement told my wife and me non-stop we were not suspects. I suspected they were lying. I had to keep remembering I was never going to help my daughter if I acted like I was guilty of something.
It seemed like we were there in the police station for what seemed like hours. I tried to remain as calm as I could and help keep Sarah calm as well. She was growing more hysterical by the second.
That is when I smelled it. There was someone there, and I recognized its scent. I had felt it before. Only this time I was in the presence of whatever that thing was, and it was a few feet away. I stood up releasing Sarah from my secure grip. She looked at me, and I smiled as best as I could.
“I need to step out for just a few minutes to use the restroom.”
Just as I was saying this, a man entered the doorway staring directly at me with a kind of sheepish grin on his face. He was taller than me, and he appeared too young to work here. Then again being a man in my mid-forties adorning salt and pepper hair, everyone seemed too young to me. I noticed he wore a dirty green jacket, but the rest of his outfit was clean. His tan pants and shirt looked freshly pressed. He had shaggy reddish hair and in his arms were three cups of coffee.
“Mr. and Mrs. Harmer sorry to bother you but I thought you could use a cup of Joe.” He handed my wife a cup and then gave me the other. He held it for a moment and looked into my eyes before releasing it.
I had to have a look of confusion as he slowly handed it to me all the while still looking me directly in the eyes. It took me a moment to recognize him. Although it wasn’t his face, I realized it was his smell.
“I’m Christopher. I am one of the detectives here. I came because I think we may have a lead on the information you provided us.”
“You?” I looked at him questioning, as he was in no way a day over twenty years of age at least.
“It’s okay. I get that a lot. I have the good luck of having great genes.” He laughed lightly.
“What is the lead?” I asked still trying to understand why he smelled so familiar.
“Well, it isn’t so much a lead as much as it is your-”
“DAD!” Running into the room was Amelia. She nearly knocked me down as she came into the interrogation room.
Sarah was bawling her eyes out and grabbed Amelia as tight as she could. Tears fell from my eyes in pure happiness. It took a while for all three of us to compose ourselves.
When we did, I realized that there was something rather strange about my daughter. While she had blood on her from hours before, she had no visible marks there was any trauma done to her neck. I was sure she would die from the bleeding. Instead, here she was looking at me as though everything was fine, a bit dazed and confused, but physically not a scratch on her. I guessed perhaps it was my blood from when one of those guys attacked me.
“How did you get here?”
“Mind if I have a word with you, Eric?” Christopher interjected.
I looked at him and nodded. I just needed a moment with my child. I held Amelia again, and I put my head into her long dark hair. Something was off about her scent. I couldn’t place it except that she had spent the last few hours with dog men or werewolves or whatever we wanted to call ourselves now. Perhaps their scent rubbed off on her.
I reluctantly let go of Amelia.
“It’s okay, dad. I’m just really starving. I could literally smell the vending machine burritos before I got halfway down the hallway.”
I chuckled as Sarah reached into her purse to find her some money to hand to Amelia.
I then followed Eric into the hallway and left Amelia alone with Sarah.
“You don’t know who I am, do you?”
I looked at him and shook my head.
“I see, what if I did this?” he shifted slightly revealing his red eyes.
I took a step back, and he grabbed me by the shoulder of which I quickly pulled away ready for a fight if I had to again.
“It’s okay, man! I’m the one who found Amelia. I’ve been watching you, you know.”
“Yeah,” he chuckled. “You were pathetic at times trying to hunt on your own. The mere fact you weren’t able to leave your family told me you were one of the good ones.”
“You were watching me. Why did you never introduce yourself? Man, I have so many questions for you.”
“Actually, I did introduce myself it was just in dog man form.”
“Why are you helping me?” I asked, perplexed.
“Everyone that goes through the change is assigned a mentor. Only you didn’t get assigned one, so after the attack on your family my sister and I decided you needed someone.”
“You look young enough to be my son,” I laughed at him.
“I’m older than you. It’s because of the supernatural power of the transformation. Once you get a hold on it, and it no longer has a hold on you that is when you truly become one with the spirit of the beast.”
“Those men that took Amelia, they said I killed their brother, the same one that turned me.”
“That was Snake and his gang. If it weren’t for him, there wouldn’t be a lot of bad things. It is one of the reasons I joined the police force and became a detective. I had to be able to keep a watch on them. Every bad thing that happens and our name comes up, or we are sighted somewhere we shouldn’t be it is him and his gang. They are bad news. I’m glad Amelia is okay- “
“Dad, I want to go home.” Amelia had walked out into the hallway interrupting my conversation with Christopher.
“A few more moments, okay?”
She stomped off, and away she went back to the room with her mother.
“How did you get her back to safety?”
“I found her in one of Snake’s warehouses they were gone and I found Amelia escaping. I showed her my badge, and she came with me willingly.”
“Did they hurt her?”
“No, it doesn’t seem like it, and she doesn’t seem to recall much about what happened to her. There is one thing though.”
I knew before he said it out loud and I didn’t want him to say it at all.
“Amelia’s wounds healed, Eric.”
“Fuck,” I said, and I crumbled to the floor. The thought of my daughter having to go through what I did made me sick to my stomach.
“It’s going to be okay, Eric.”
“Fuck you! How can you say that? You know what happens.”
“I do. But it isn’t all bad, is it?”
“That isn’t the point. How can Amelia have a normal life? She must go to college and do all the normal things girls like her age do. For instance, go to her Senior prom like other girls her age. Although, the thought of who she may go to the prom with might be a good enough reason not to let her go.”
“She can still do those things.”
“Christopher I don’t want this for my child. There has to be a cure or something.”
“Look, my sister dabbles with what you might call arts and crafts. She may be able to help your daughter, but if not then together we will help her through it. I promise you.”
“Where is this sister of yours?”
“She lives in the middle of nowhere. I can take you to her, but it is about a days drive. We own a nice little cabin in the woods not far from her house. We can hike to her house from the cabin; it will give you and Amelia a chance to bond and help her understand what is going on with her body.”
“As if being a teenager wasn’t bad enough,” I smirked.
I took Amelia and Sarah home and, once we were there, I spoke to Sarah about maybe taking Amelia on a little getaway to get her mind off her ordeal. Sarah was reluctant at first but once I explained it to her that Amelia needed a break after something so traumatic she agreed. In the meantime, she would go to her father’s house with Jaimie and stay until I got back.
I didn’t want to tell Amelia the real reason why we were going at first. I wanted to wait to explain it to her after we arrived. We would meet with Christopher after I explained to her why he was there.
The drive to the cabin was long but we stopped at a little diner, and as we sat there a waitress came over and took our orders. She was polite with red hair and thick dark eyebrows there was something about her overly kind demeanor that I didn’t at first even think was weird until she stood staring at us.
“You two just look so lost. You ain’t from around here are ya?”
“No, we are just passing through. We are heading to a friend’s house north of here.”
“Well, I’m Beatrice if you need anything just holler, honey.”
With that, she went away. I looked at my daughter and tried to find the right words to explain.
“Amelia, there is something I need to talk to you about.”
“What?” she asked, playing with her phone.
“That day that guy took you. What do you remember?”
“You almost pissing yourself.” She said matter of fact. She was being rude which was her way of deflecting.
“Amelia, you know what I mean. Did you see anything out of the ordinary? Like with me?”
She looked up at me then and then looked away.
“No,” she said, and then the tears started.
“Did you see me change in any way?”
“So, you’re like a werewolf or something?”
“I guess, I don’t know honestly. It’s why I left.”
“I gather that, is that why I’m here?”
“Not exactly. I wanted to know what you knew so I could explain it.”
“I’m starving. Where is Beatrice?”
She stood up and walked over to the counter. “Hey, Beatrice! I’m starving over here. Gotta appetizer ready for me?”
“AMELIA! Sit down!” I was getting angry at her embarrassing outburst.
She came over and sat in front of me with a smirk. “Why? You pissed you have to spend time with your least favorite child?”
“To be honest, young lady, I’m not that sad that I don’t spend time with you often. You’re acting like a brat!”
I looked at her and could see her fury, and I recognized it in the days before my first transformation. There was no doubt now that she was just like me.
“Amelia, you’re going to turn into what I am also,” I said softly.
“ I’m so sorry you had to wait for your appetizers honey,” Beatrice said running over with a plate of French fries and a milkshake.
“Can I have an order of onion rings, some pancakes with extra syrup and that cheese sauce you advertised with nachos?”
“Oh, um… sure, honey. Whatever you like. Just as long as dad is okay with it,” she laughed awkwardly, looking at me.
I nodded, and when she walked away, I watched Amelia scarf down the French fries shoving him in handfuls into her face.
“Mmm, these are so good, dad. You want to try some?”
I shook my head, and then about ten minutes later Beatrice brought over the other food, and again I watched Amelia scarf down every single ounce without even blinking.
When the last plate was licked dry, I paid the bill, and we left.
We got to the cabin and when we got inside Amelia through her duffle bag onto the sofa in the living room of the cabin and laid on the couch.
“I’m stuffed and beat.”
“That happens when you scarf down an entire café,” I said, laughing at her.
I made my way to one of the bedrooms in the back, and I let Amelia get settled in another room.
I sat down on the sofa and turned on the television. It was probably the first time in months that I had seen any tv. Not much had changed the same news programs complaining about the same things. More about politics and as I was about to doze off I felt a light tap on my shoulder. Turning around I saw it was Amelia.
“Hey, honey. Are you okay?”
She shook her head as she stood in her pajamas some bunny print things. It reminded me of when she was a little girl.
“Is it going to hurt?”
I looked at her, and as sincerely as I could, I shook my head no. “That is why we are here. We are here to find a cure or someone that can put a stop to it.”
“When did you know I was like you?”
“The moment you came back.”
“Does it ever stop driving you crazy for instance the smells? I can barely sleep. I can smell every animal carcasses hanging on the walls in this creepy old cabin.”
“Yes, it will take some getting used to.”
“I get why you left, but why couldn’t you just talk to us?”
“Jaimie was there that night he saw everything. He knows everything.”
Amelia looked struck down. “Why does he always get all your attention?”
“He doesn’t. He just happened to be there.”
“He has these terrible nightmares sometimes. Mom started sleeping in his room. I think I can see why.”
“I’m going to try and find a way to fix this,” I said, looking at her face which looked mature beyond her years as opposed to the bunny PJs which were proof of her age.
“Paul is going to love this!”
“I thought I asked you to stop seeing that boy.”
“He isn’t like what you think, dad. Paul is a great guy once you get to know him. After you left, he came by every day to check up on me. He even started helping with stuff with Jaimie. He would pick him up after school for mom.”
“Not on that motorcycle!”
“No, dad. He has his dad’s car. I do love the motorcycle, though.” She grinned.
I eyed her very thoughtfully. “They can be dangerous.”
“Everything can be dangerous,” she laughed. “I haven’t ridden on his bike. But I loved that look on your face! Serves you right for leaving us for the last six months.”
“Time for bed,” I said, shaking my head.
“Night dad,” she said and kissed my cheek, still giggling.
The next morning Christopher came by, and we set out on foot to begin the two-hour hike to his sister’s home. The walk was long but uneventful. We finally reached a rather dark part of the forest that seemed to harbor things you couldn’t explain. It was like eyes were watching us at every turn. I got an uneasy feeling the closer we got to Christopher’s sister’s home.
I kept hearing things in the woods, and I looked at Christopher who knew what I was thinking. He nodded acknowledging my fears. “I hear it too.” He said. Something was following us, and I wasn’t sure what but I didn’t want to think who or what it was.
The woods cast a shadow over us, and it seemed to get darker the further along we went. Deeper and deeper the forest seemed to go. The strangest thing was that there didn’t seem to be a sign of life anywhere.
Amelia didn’t seem to mind the hiking and didn’t protest once about not getting reception on her phone. That changed when we got to Christopher’s sister’s home Amelia, or I wanted to go anywhere near the woman’s house. Onward we braved the wooded trail towards the clearing where her cottage was.
Upon first entering the little clearing we saw a stone cottage, but unlike one of those fairytale cottages you read about in fantasy novels, this one had a slightly sinister outside. There was broken fencing around it, and it had a black door that looked in need of repair. The outside had boxes and other sources of garbage which a field full of goats seemed to be devouring.
When we got to the door the smell of cat piss lingered well into the area of the front yard, and I had to cover my mouth for fear of puking.
“Cecily! It’s Chris!”He knocked twice for good measure.
There was no answer, and we stood there for around ten minutes, or so Christopher knocked on the windows and looked in the barn, which also looked like it needed repair. It tilted slightly and when the wind blew it nearly toppled over. You could hear the metal roofing rattling as the wind rattled it.
“Shut up you vermin!” yelled an older woman’s voice as it seemed to be approaching the front door.
When she opened the door, she squinted looking at Christopher and then at me and completely disregarding Amelia.
“Cecily!” Christopher said, hugging the old woman tightly.
“Stop all that,” she said, smiling big as she showed she was missing several of her front teeth. She had gray hair in a clip on top of her head, and she wore a black silk nightgown which she held a shawl over. “Get out of my way Gloria! Stupid dog.” She said kicking at it to get by it.
I was appalled at how she was treating the animals, and there seemed to be a large amount of them. The dog, who she called Gloria was lingering by a water dish and began barking at her in earnest. The old woman threw her a large bone from inside the freezer.
“Aren’t you a pretty baby? You stupid girl.” I looked at Christopher, then a giant Iguana ran by us.
“Don’t judge me. I see your head. You think I’m a cruel old bitty. Let me tell you this, Gloria was my husband’s mistress until I made use of her. She was no better than a dirty dog. You see Miss Gloria used to be my best friend. Isn’t that right you old bitch you!” she said lovingly petting the dogs head as she stepped over her. We followed Christopher as he seemed to follow her around her house. “This is Petey,” said pointing to the iguana as it ran past us. “He used to be my gardener until I caught him stealing from me. So, he stays here with the rest. My menagerie of assholes.” She laughed. “Some of them are in the freezer.”
I looked at Amelia, and then we both looked at Christopher. He seemed to look apologetic at us and changed the subject with his sister. “These are the two we spoke about over the phone, sis.”
She grabbed a can of Pringles and popped the lid shoving a handful of them in her mouth. “Want any?” she held out the can of chips to us.
We all shook our head no.
Cecily shoved more of them in her mouth and mumbled, “Good. More for me.”
“Sis, we need to do something to help these nice people. They didn’t sign the book of the law. They didn’t get that option. Snake made them.”
“That dirty bastard.” She looked at me and then shook her head. “He is our other brother, different fathers; he uses his gifts for evil. Purest I ever knew.” She shook her head solemnly before turning back around to us. “I can help you,” she said, walking away. “Christopher, did you bring it?” she asked throwing off her shawl and then walking into a small room that led off to the back of her tiny house.
Once inside the room, everything seemed to change, and she relaxed. Christopher walked over with a small rectangle box and handed it over to her. She ripped off the top of it and inside was a rather large bottle of wine in a language I didn’t recognize. She uncorked it with her homemade wine opener fastened out of a large nail most likely used on building barns. “Ahh, the magic we do maketh. All spells work better with this.”
She poured half of the bottle in a giant goblet and drank the entire glass in seconds.
“Or maybe they are just drunk,” Amelia mumbled under her breath.
At that moment Cecily, whose eyes were closed in the ecstasy of her wine until now, opened her eyes and looked directly at my daughter. She walked over to her and cupped her cheeks in her old hands and smiled. “Green eyes you are the Phoenix. I didn’t recognize you at first. They say I’ll meet you, but until this moment I knew not of who they were speaking of because you are so young.”
“Please tell me you can help my daughter.”
“It will require a death made of sacrifice,” she said, still holding my daughter’s face in her hands.
“Yes. Did you think this was going to be easy? All dark magic requires a sacrifice, and this one requires a beating heart. So, who’s heart is it going to be?”
As I stood looking at this old woman, I noticed her eyes. One was green, and the other was almost cat-like with a piercing yellow to it. It was otherworldly, and at that moment I began wondering why in God’s name we had come here.
I looked at Christopher, and he seemed calm as ever. Not that anything ever seemed to ruffle his feathers.
“I thought you could help us,” I said with pure annoyance in my tone.
“Did I ever tell you I hate your new friends?” Amelia sighed crossing her arms and pacing around the room.
The old woman ignored Amelia and kept on talking to me. “That is what I am doing; you think stopping a thousand-year curse built around Gods is going to be easy? Go back to Mayberry.” She shifted her demeanor and walked away from me and then stood in front of my daughter. “I’m sorry I can’t help you.”
“If you take my heart, will that help my dad?”
The old woman ignored me. “Yes, I can take away the curse that makes him turn into a beast. He never gave his soul willingly. So he can go back. The Gods will let him go, but you must give them a heart as pure as yours.”
Amelia nodded and looked down at the ground as if deep in thought. “I’m willing to, for my family.”
“No!” I yelled. “If you must take anyone’s heart you will take mine. My family is already used to living without me, and Amelia has too much life left in her.”
“Then it is done,” the witch said, picking up a small bag and heading towards the back of the house motioning for us to follow her.
Before it, we could even take in what was going to happen Cecily had already begun the ritual. She had a small brown bag and in it red salt. She poured the red salt in a large circle around the room and then lit two black candles and two white. “Two for before and two for after, salt is for making the labor of the spell more aggressive.” I looked at her bewildered as to what was happening and trying to figure out a way to get out of here before it had begun. There had to be another way.
She grabbed Amelia’s hand and cut her palm. Amelia winced in pain, and she dragged Amelia to the center of the circle and made her sit down. She drained the bit of blood and put it onto an old cloth. She then cut Amelia’s hair and then sliced her hand and added her blood to the fabric and threw it into a glass jar. I watched her add dirt and a scarab beetle. She then took agave and poured it inside as well. She made what looked like more blood and drew a circle and wrote in two letters and what I realized was some sigil in blood. I walked a bit closer but felt knees weaken. All I could do is watch.
She then began to chant something in a language I had never heard before. “Mee shoo, mee shoo,” she began to chant. I had no idea what she was saying. I did start to feel a bit odd. I was angry, and I had had enough of Cecily’s craziness. I stood to grab my daughter and then I nearly fainted. Something she was doing was making me feel lightheaded. I stood again to grab Amelia because if anyone was getting their heart taken, it was me. This crazy old woman had stuck my daughter in her sacred circle, and I was supposed to be the one. I had said it. Again I stood, and yet the room seemed to shake all around me causing me to fall over. When I looked at Amelia, she was now lying down in the circle with her eyes closed.
Christopher watched me without offering any help to me.
“Oh, gods of the moon, and gods of the stars and sun above, give this soul back to her body. Take what you need.” She seemed to be yelling at the ceiling, not the sky.
Again I stood, and I managed to walk over to the circle and before I could stand inside of it the lights in the room went out. A strong wind blew out the candles, and then something shook the cabin. I was unable to continue walking towards Amelia.
There was a loud crash on top of the roof of the tiny cottage. Amelia slowly sat up. “What’s going on?” she asked, slowly standing up.
Cecily, the old witch, took a deep breath. “Bastards!”
“What? Who is it?” I asked, panicking more for my daughter than myself. If it were just me, I could change and protect Amelia, but someone needed to protect her now.
“I can take a guess,” Christopher said, making a motion with his finger to his mouth to shush us.
The darkness seemed magnified by the fear that gripped even Cecily. Seeing the old witch scared now made it even worse. It had grown so dark outside before I realized it and it must have now been dusk as the moon was a crescent in the sky above us.
I didn’t see it happening only the screaming that followed. Amelia was on the floor writhing in pain twisting back and forth until her body began to rip in two.
I couldn’t stop it no matter how hard I wanted to; it was too late; Amelia was changing. Her transformation was brought on quickly through intense fear.
When it started, I held back my desire to shift, while Christopher transformed already and had gone out the door to rid the cottage of whoever was out there.
I watched her crawling towards my feet while still in the grips of murderous pain. I bent down and placed my hand upon her head.
“Daddy, help me… please,” she groaned, until her pained vocalizations turned into a low growling.
I couldn’t do anything except watch helplessly. I still held my hand on Amelia’s head until I felt her head split in two stretching her skull outwardly.
Cecily ran out the back door causing the light of one of the candles that had dimmed to flicker a bit and now the flame was in full force. I wished I had not been able to see it. I thought perhaps Cecily would be right back but instead, she disappeared, and now I was left alone with the teen wolf. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to keep her from hurting me.
Just as I held the thought her shift began to change back and as her scalp began to close and she appeared to be going back to human form something else was now happening to her.
Her eyes changed from red to piercing yellow, and her body did strange movements. The way she bent down resembled stop-motion animation, and then she stood straight up. She moved from side to side as did the fire flame on the candle. It made strange shadows dance along the walls of the tiny cottage. To my fear, she jumped up upon the ceiling sticking to it like an insect.
There was no sight of a dog or wolf in her; instead, she had shifted into something else entirely. She seemed to waver in limbo between shifting and remaining human. I knew then there was a real possibility my daughter was already gone. It scared me, and I was afraid to move from my spot as I looked up at her. Her mouth opened wide to reveal two sets of pointed sharp teeth. Her tongue was in a point, and it was almost serpent-like. She held her yellow eyes on me as I began to walk back towards the front door practically unconsciously.
The front door opened suddenly revealing who was the real evil. It was Snake who preceded to grab me and drag me outside using only one of my arms. As he did Amelia followed us escaping out the back into nearby woods.
Then Snake had me on the ground using his fists hitting me one hit after another. Christopher appeared and jumped on him wrestling him to the ground. They fought as Snake shifted into one of the most massive red-eyed wolf creatures I had ever seen. He had razor-sharp yellow teeth ready to sharpen bones like the finest cutlery.
Then I looked around and saw them just beyond the treeline. There was a fog that had begun to appear, and red eyes surrounded me. This time I was no shrinking violet. I allowed myself to transform. It was amazing how easy it was when you had a purpose and right now anger fueled me. I had enough of this shit. I geared up for a fight and one by one they came at me. I had no idea where I found the strength to continue but I found it, and I slew them one by one.
Snake and his henchmen were still out there, and I noticed they had all gained up on Christopher as he ran from the woods on all fours. I ran at them as they chased my new friend I bit at the female’s leg and nearly tore it off. She crawled back into the forest whimpering which is where she belonged far away from my child and me. I had stopped caring about what or who I ate in my fury. These were monsters, and they were predators who hunted and killed for fun. Like they had done that night they hunted my son and me down. Tonight I was going to have my revenge.
They had gained all around Christopher who was now being torn apart by both Snake and one of the others that had joined Snake in his reaping of horrors.
I leaped onto Snake’s back and bit into his shoulder. It wasn’t long before he threw me off. The man was six foot five standing, and when you add beast to the equation, it made him double in size. I fought as long as I could and Christopher, and I managed to get Snake off both of us long enough to gang up on the other beast ripping him apart. I tore into his chest and bit off his arm while Christopher bit into his thigh and I watched as this beast fell to the grass melting back into his human form. When he did, I was amazed to see it was the man who had given me the card that morning. I shifted back and as I did so did Christopher so we could take stock of what had just happened.
I wiped sweat from my brow as I looked upon my freshly mutilated human being. I felt no remorse, but I did feel curiosity. That alone made me wish I could have had a chance to ask him more questions. Like why didn’t he kill me that day in the woods when he had the opportunity? I backed away, and Christopher held me by the shoulder. I looked at him, and then he looked down at me and laughed.
“Don’t be embarrassed! I mean, didn’t you ever play football in the locker room?”
I smiled for a second, but right now all I cared about was finding my daughter, and If I had to guess, I knew who had her on his radar. “I need to find my daughter.”
“Let’s go.” At this point, I smelled it, and I knew Snake’s scent as well as anyone in my own family. We went into the woods after shifting back and traveled for some time before I sensed her. It was Cecily she was burning something in the forest. That crazy witch was burning things and dancing around a fire chanting all by herself.
“I knew you would find me,” she swayed back and forth. “He is here too watching you. My brother is a smart hunter, and you have walked right into his trap.” she continued to dance.
Christopher could sense my annoyance, and he walked over to her. “Sis where is the girl?”
“She is here.” She closed her eyes and continued to sway around the fire as though she were practicing ballroom dancing.
Then I heard a growl and I saw something swing down from the trees in the distance. Strange yellow eyes met mine and then just behind those were red eyes.
I knew what was about to happen even before he grabbed her. I shifted, running as fast as I could, but it was too late. His hand around Amelia’s neck also before I could stop him. He hung her above his head smiling with his large yellow teeth hanging over his mouth. He sniffed her crooked body as it writhed back and forth. It was like she were a tiny insect, a little mealworm, moving back and forth while holding onto it so it couldn’t find it’s grounding. Her eyes were darting, and I recognized fear in them even though they looked nothing like Amelia’s green eyes.
Saliva fell from her mouth dripping down her neck as the fiend licked her neck and that is when I had enough. Christopher had beat me to it as he already had Snake by the jugular sinking his teeth into his neck. I had managed to get a hold of his arm that held my daughter, and as he bled out, he smirked at me snapping Amelia’s neck.
My child’s eyes became lifeless, and he fell to the forest floor dropping her with him. Christopher let out a sound of satisfaction and shook himself back into human form, and that is when he found me holding onto her. She had shifted back to human form as well.
My baby girl’s eyes were wide open staring into the sky. The only life in them now was the stars reflecting in them. Christopher bent over me realizing what had just happened. “NO.” he exclaimed in defeat. “Cecily there has to be something you can do!” He turned to me. “I am so sorry I let you down.”
“Life is but a dream. Eventually, we all go. Even I will go,” Cecily said in a sing-song voice.
“How can you be like this?” he screamed walking towards his sister.
I beat him to it having shifted before he stood up. I am not proud of what I did, but I had the old woman’s neck in my throat pinning her to the ground my claws inside her still-beating heart.
I was angry, and she was the reason we were here now. There would be no more meddling with magic potions. There would be no more patience, and I had enough of these people! Dropping her to the ground, I heard her speak in a preternatural voice. “The Phoenix rises.” she was choking on blood as it gurgled inside her throat as she died right then and there. I was glad she was dead, the stupid bitch.
I shifted back and began to cry as my entire body shook. My hands shook so badly my whole body fell to the ground, and I felt Christopher’s hand touch me on the shoulder, and I smacked his hand off me and wandered away from where we were.
I looked up at the sky and screamed with all my might. How would I tell Sarah? How would I tell Sarah her daughter was dead? I fell to the ground and puked up the blood I had swallowed earlier. I sat there looking around me trying to figure out how I had plunged into such a nightmare.
I walked back over to the old woman who was now strangely drained of all of her blood. She had faded quickly and all that was left of her were ashes. The wind seemed to carry her up into the treetops. The blood seemed to travel all on its own on the ground towards Snake and where Amelia lay. I was afraid it was for Snake’s benefit somehow and even though I needed to get the hell out of here before something supernatural happened and he came back to life. I walked away again but found myself sitting down on one of the dead tree logs, trying to understand what had just happened. I wanted to run in case of more danger but I was in shock, rocking back and forth slowly. I didn’t know how to respond when I heard Christopher scream my name. I was frozen, unbending, and immobilized by trauma. It was as though I were in a fog. I could hear Christopher’s voice, but it was so far away.
“Did I ever tell you I hate your new friends, dad?”
I had to be hallucinating. So soon? I had just watched my daughter die, and now she was talking to me.
“Dad.” I felt a gentle hand touch my shoulder.
I turned around to see my daughter smiling at me. “Amelia?”
“It worked. Whatever that crazy witch did, it worked. I’m here, dad.”
I grabbed her up in my arms and hugged her. Christopher walked over to me and nodded, smiling slightly.
That night we said goodbye to Christopher, whom I never saw again after that night. I never shifted into a dog man after that night.
For now, I won’t worry about it. Cecily was right about one thing my daughter was a phoenix she had risen from the dead. If that was because of the blood ritual she had done then so be it. At least I can thank Cecily for our lives. My Amelia, damaged as she has been, was alive. I wasn’t sure if it was due to the blood she now shared with the witch or if it meant she had taken the old woman’s place. One thing I knew Cecily had known it required a heart, a pure one. I didn’t want to think about that all now.
If you are wondering, we never did tell Sarah about the events that occurred because they were now over. Everything was fine why drudge up something painful if it didn’t need to be.
We are all going skiing this weekend in Colorado with family friends. I hope the only thing that goes wrong is the lack of marsh mellows for the hot chocolate.
Life went on normally. Amelia went back to her usual self, but she and I now had a bond. Where before we weren’t anything except a strict dad and his rebellious daughter.
There was one strange thing though. Amelia’s green eyes had changed slightly. She now had one green eye, but the other was half green and half cat-like. Very much like that old witch’s eye had been.