| A primitive keening split the air somewhere off to Kate’s left, sending tingling chills down her back. She hugged her notebook tight against her and peered anxiously into the darkness. She could see nothing but the branches of shrubs and tangled weeds that marked the undeveloped area at the foot of the hill. After a long minute of seeing and hearing nothing, Kate continued up the hill more rapidly than before.
The road was newly paved with broad sidewalks running its length. The houses on the crest were recently inhabited. Kate’s house, one of the few two-stories, loomed over its neighbors. During the day it was cheerful and bright, but at night a trick of the lighting gave it a sinister air. Fortunately, that odd fact had never bothered Kate.
The hill was really the latest conquest in a housing development separated by a large tract of land destined to become a shopping mall. The homes at the foot sold first and now housed a number of families with young children, a lucky thing for Kate, who made extra money baby-sitting. She was returning home from her latest job, having been paid extra for staying late. Though now, twenty extra bucks didn’t seem like much compensation.
Again, Kate heard the high pitched wailing and without stopping this time nearly fled up the road. Almost at the top, she became aware of footsteps behind her. Whirling around she discovered the new boy. He’d moved in a month ago and made friends quickly. His good looks ensured a number of crushes, and predictably Kate had developed one. He was several years older though, and his prominent self-confidence was a bit intimidating. Kate was frozen to the sidewalk.
“Sorry,” he murmured, “I didn’t mean to scare you.”
“It’s okay,” Kate smiled, thawing. “I’m a little jumpy. I was supposed to be home hours ago.”
“Really, are you gonna be in trouble?” He caught up to her and they ambled on toward the houses.
“I don’t think so,” Kate replied. “Not if I get home before my Dad does.”
“I get it. Dad doesn’t like you out late.”
“Well,” Kate grinned, “he thinks it dangerous.”
“Oh, he’s absolutely right about that. Anything could happen. Don’t you watch scary movies? There’s always someone out late at night, usually a girl. Then some maniac comes along and cuts her head off with a chainsaw, or some such thing.”
Kate laughed. “I don’t think he’s worried about chainsaws.”
“Well, maybe he’s worried about wild animals. Did you hear all that howling a minute ago?”
Kate turned her head to get a good look at him. He was looking at her intently and waiting for an answer. Smiling encouragingly, he licked his lips slowly. A vague sense of disquiet started to settle over her. “So, there are stray dogs in the neighborhood.”
“These aren’t dogs,” he insisted. “They’re much too big for that. They’re mean too. One of them bit me a couple of days ago while I was taking the shortcut home.” He leaned over and confided, “I was afraid it might have rabies, but it didn’t.”
Kate’s heart began to pound. She slid her eyes sideways to glance at him. He was grinning widely now, showing off a row of very white teeth. Another howl broke out much closer than before causing Kate to jump. The boy turned his head in the direction of the sound and took a deep breath. “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of you.”
“I’m sure you will,” Kate gasped out, feeling the hair on the nape of her neck start to rise.
“The one that bit me was black,” he pulled the collar of his shirt aside to show a puffy red area with puncture marks just below his clavicle. “Looks pretty nasty, but it doesn’t hurt at all.”
“I’m glad to hear it.” Kate sped up considerably. The boy chuckled to himself and kept pace with her easily. Kate refused to look at him keeping her eyes straight ahead and fighting the urge to run. She could feel him staring at her profile.
“This doesn’t impress you? I’m deeply hurt.” He waited for her response and when she ignored him he lowered his voice to a seductive whisper. “I thought it had ripped me apart, but after I got home and looked at it, it wasn’t near as bad as I thought. That night the moon was really full.” He kicked a bit of dirt that was in his way. “Actually, it’s pretty full tonight, isn’t it.”
“I hadn’t noticed,” Kate snapped with relief as she paused at the walk to her front door. “Thanks for walking with me.”
“I’ll walk you to the door.”
“That’s okay, I’ll be fine.”
“No problem, I'm really glad I ran into you, Kate. I feel like it's my duty.” He shot her a glance under his lashes gauging her reaction.
Kate was too afraid to argue. She simply started walking, but she was tense, ready to run at the first sign of trouble. As they reached the porch, he laid a hand on her arm causing her to jump violently.
“There’s something I want to show you before you go in.” His voice thickened and became hoarse. Right before Kate’s eyes his body began to shimmer and lengthen. His nose flattened and extended. Hair burst out from his bare skin and the sound of tearing cloth was shockingly loud.
Kate screamed and wrenched herself away from the thing that was pawing at her. Throwing herself desperately at the steps and stumbling across the porch, she attempted to insert the key in the lock. Glancing back, she realized the creature had torn off its constricting garments and was now more wolf than human. It turned its head toward her measuring the distance, and slowly sank to the ground, planting all four feet firmly for the leap that would carry it onto the porch. Gasping hysterically, Kate felt the key turn and the door yield. Once inside, she spun to slam the door and found the wolf blocking the way. She screamed again. There was a brief struggle. Then its weight forced her to the floor and it thrust its mouth, still growing teeth, against her ear. “What will your father think when he finds what’s left of you?” He pulled back slightly, pausing one last second until his canines were fully formed.
A loud crashing of glass drew his attention and he moved to meet a new challenge. A man in the midst of a like transformation advanced across the dining room. Shards of the window clung to his quickly growing black hair. His face was unrecognizable and his teeth were almost completely hardened. Hunched over, gripped by the involuntary stretching of his body, he shook his head throwing off strings of saliva. “Too late,” he slobbered. “I’m home.”