by Josh Curtiss
Things change drastically when a werewolf hunter becomes the very thing he hunts.
| Above Kalum the full moon shone brightly, basking his surroundings in its silver luminescence. The trees around him bent slightly with the strong gust of wind sweeping through the forest. Glancing toward the brooding sky, he noticed that the grey storm clouds had drifted in front of the moon, diminishing the light it provided. A slight drizzle of rain began to fall. The sound of a wolf howling resonated throughout the dense forest; though it was difficult to decipher precisely which direction it had come from, Kalum knew he was close. By now the rain was pouring down in torrents. Kalum drew up the collar of his brown leather trenchcoat and shuddered against the cold sting of the wind. He held his crossbow at the ready, the silver tip of the bolt loaded in it reflecting what little moonlight shone through the clouds obscuring its source. Taking a guess, he started off toward the west. Even through the canopy of branches and leaves above him, the unrelenting rain had already soaked Kalum all the way through. The white cotton long sleeve shirt he wore underneath his trenchcoat clung to his skin. Pushing through the dense foliage of the forest, he continued in pursuit of the beast that had howled.
All of a sudden he heard a rippling growl off to his left. He whirled around and raised his crossbow, but to no avail; the beast was already upon him. It lashed out with its razor sharp claws, knocking the crossbow effortlessly from Kalum’s grip, and then lunged, taking Kalum to the ground. The beast dug its claws into Kalum’s chest, pinning him down, and sank its teeth deep into Kalum’s shoulder blade. Its eyes bore into Kalum’s as he cried out in agony. They were yellow, but still held something human about them. Through the intense pain Kalum managed to raise his left arm and brought his fist down hard onto the beast’s muzzle. Bewildered, the beast released its grip on Kalum, allowing him a split second to react. He rolled to the side and swooped up his crossbow. As the beast regained focus and pounced at Kalum once more, he pulled the trigger and sent the silver-tipped bolt soaring straight into its heart. The beast toppled to the ground and Kalum watched as it reverted back to the form of a regular man and died. Kalum had slain the beast, but in the process he had become the very thing he hunted. A werewolf.
Kalum tugged on the iron chains, making certain they were properly secured to the wall. Everything was now in place. This was to be his first transformation, so he had to be sure he was restrained the entire night. He was disgusted with himself, the abomination he had become; the least he could do was make sure he was contained so he wouldn’t harm anyone. Even now he could feel the moon’s hold on him. Confident that everything was ready, he exited the chamber. The chamber he was using for the transformation was located beneath an old abandoned country house he had stumbled upon in the middle of the woods. It was the most secluded spot he could find, being four miles away from the nearest inhabitants.
He stood outside, inhaling the forest air. Since becoming a werewolf, all of his senses had been heightened, even while in human form. He could smell all the different scents lingering in the air: the smell of pine, the aromas of the many species of flowers, everything had its own distinct scent now. He glanced up at the darkening sky. Though it was dark, he could see his surroundings as clearly as if it were day. It was almost time now; the moon would soon be at its highest point. As he was walking to the cellar door that lead to the chamber, he heard the sound of footsteps. Not now. He thought. Any time but now. He inhaled sharply. By the scent he concluded that it was a female, and judging by the distance of the footfall, which had turned into a run, she was approaching closer and closer to him. He quickened his pace, but it was too late. The woman burst into the clearing, and he could believe his eyes; it was Moya. The sight of her a twinge of pain to his heart.
“Kalum!” she called out. “Thank God I’ve found you. The Brotherhood has been searching for you. We were afraid you had perished in your last hunt. Why did you not return?”
Kalum knew if he couldn’t separate himself from Moya soon, he would surely kill her.
“You need to leave Moya!” he cried. “Just go! I don’t want you here!”
The look of hurt that crossed her beautiful face was almost unbearable. A shock of pain jolted through his body, and he cried out in agony. It was beginning. Kalum knew that if the tried to lock himself in the chamber Moya would just follow, she was persistent, so he did the only thing he could to keep from harming her. He turned around and sprinted off into the depths of the forest. He knew that with his newly enhanced speed, Moya didn’t stand a chance of catching up to him. He ran as fast as his body would allow, until the pain was too unbearable. He leaned against the closest tree as pain coursed through his body, then fell to the ground writhing in misery. He could feel his bones breaking, snapping, and shifting and his face stretched into a wolf-like snout. His teeth fell out one by one only to be replaced by fangs, while his fingernails grew into razor sharp claws. Fur sprouted out of his skin, and as his form enlarged in size, his clothes tore and fell away from his body in shreds. His arms and legs elongated and with a final cracking his spine realigned. Rising and peering up at the full moon, he let out a powerful, echoing howl. He was now fully the beast.
Kalum’s eyes fluttered open and he glance around at his surroundings. He had awoken on his back in the midst of the forest. He was completely nude and his naked body was covered with blood; what, or whose, he did not know. Kalum couldn’t remember anything of the previous night after the moon had reached its peak, aside from the excruciating pain and agony of the transformation; after that, everything was blank. The night had not gone as he had planned and hoped; with the sudden arrival of Moya he had been forced to undergo the transformation in the forest, free to roam and kill once the transformation into the werewolf was complete. At the thought of Moya, a flood of terror washed over him. He could bear through it if he had harmed almost anyone else, albeit it would be difficult, but if he had harmed her in any way he would not be able to live with himself. He knew it wasn’t safe, but he had to check; whether she was alive or dead, he had to know.
Using the trunk of a nearby Evergreen tree for support, he tenderly rose to his feet and started off toward the abandoned country house where he had taken residence; knowing Moya, if she was still alive she would most likely be waiting there for him to return. His speed still astounded him; as he sprinted through the forest, the trees on either side of him were a blur of shades of green and brown. Even accounting for his superhuman speed, it took Kalum well over an hour to reach the country house. Knowing that he had ended up at least twenty or thirty miles away instilled confidence in him that perhaps Moya was alright. Stopping at the perimeter of the country house, he inhaled sharply and relief washed over him. He could smell Moya’s distinct scent, which he had picked up the previous night, and straining his ears he cold hear the soft thumping of her heartbeat, meaning she was alive and well. He was aware that it was an unwise idea to speak with her, but even if she despised him for the monster he now was, he owed her an explanation. He approached the country house, and easing the large wooden double doors open he stepped inside. He grabbed the fresh pair of clothes he had set aside in the entryway for after the transformation and slipped them on. The smell of tea wafted through the air, and Kalum followed it to the living quarters. As he entered, he spotted Moya’s slim figure seated in the upholstered rocking chair located next to the blazing fireplace, gingerly sipping her tea from a porcelain teacup.
“Hello, Moya.” Kalum mumbled.
Startled, Moya turned, her blonde curls bouncing as she did so. Her bright blue eyes met with his deep green ones, and a look of relief crossed her pale, beautiful face.
“Kalum.” She breathed.
Setting her teacup on its matching porcelain plate, she stood and approached Kalum.
“I was so worried about you.” She sighed. “Why did you run from me?”
The moment she came within three feet of Kalum, something triggered inside of him. His eyes turning yellow and feral, and his teeth sharpening, an animalistic growl rippled from his throat and he instinctively stumbled backwards a few steps. With as small shriek, Moya withdrew a few steps as well. Once she was out of arm’s length from Kalum, his face reverted back to normal and he averted his gaze from Moya, ashamed. Understanding dawned on Moya and she glanced down at the silver locket dangling from a chain around her neck. It had been a gift from her grandfather, the leader of the Brotherhood, on the day she had been initiated into their ranks. The locket contained a small dosage of the herb Wolfsbane, a strong repellent against lycanthropes, which had sparked the strong reaction Kalum had suffered, as he was a werewolf now himself.
“Oh Kalum,” Moya sighed sympathetically, her expression softening. “I am so sorry.”
Kalum still couldn’t look at her directly; the shame was too overwhelming. He was disgusted with what he was now, and a small part of him actually longed for her to inform the Brotherhood of his current situation. If the Brotherhood was aware that he was inflicted with the curse of Lycanthropy, that he had become the very being they had deemed their sole purpose to destroy, they would hunt and dispatch him immediately. For one of their own, one of their elite hunters nonetheless, to have become a werewolf would be considered the utmost disgrace.
“Kalum, look at me.” Moya insisted, snapping Kalum out of his reverie.
He reluctantly looked up.
“If you wish to report this to the Brotherhood, I won’t stop you.”
He stepped to the left, granting her a clear path toward the open door. When she neglected to move he continued.
“You know to defy your grandfather will brand he a heretic, a traitor to the Brotherhood?”
Remaining silent, she simply nodded her head. Then, her loving gaze never leaving Kalum’s, she reached up and yanked the silver Wolfsbane locket from around her neck, discarding it aside on the floor. She ran to Kalum and threw her arms around him, burying her face in his muscled chest. Kalum reciprocated the embrace, drawing her in closer. As they finally broke away from each other, tears were welling up in Moya’s eyes and starting to run down her face. Kalum reached up caressed her cheek lightly with his fingers, gently wiping away a tear.
“We’ll find a cure.” Moya blatantly stated her normally soft, melodic voice thick from the failed efforts to hold back the tears. Kalum sighed deeply.
“You know as well as I do that there is no cure.
“But we can’t assume that the Brotherhood knows everything.” Moya insisted. “We’ll search, together.”
The aching in Kalum’s heart intensified.
“You can’t stay with me Moya.” He said painfully. “It’s too dangerous. If your grandfather were to discover you had abandoned the Brotherhood to aid a werewolf, he’d have you killed as surely as he would me. You need to return to the Brotherhood. You can help me from there, as well as stay safe.”
A look of hurt contorted Moya’s lovely face. She knew what he spoke was true, even if she didn’t want to accept it.
“Very well.” she sighed.
She rose to her tiptoes and planted a light kiss on Kalum’s lips, lingering for a moment as they both knew that this was goodbye, and then with a final look into Kalum’s eyes, she rushed out the door.
Kalum stood, rooted in place, listening intently. Once he could no longer hear the steady gallop of Moya’s steed and was certain she was long gone, he let the tears spill forth unhindered. He buried his face in his large, callused hands and sobbed. He wished with his whole heart that Moya hadn’t seen him like this; he was a monster, a danger to her and everyone around him. As he pulled his hands away from his face, he noticed the blood still smeared on them, and glancing down noticed it smeared along his arms and legs as well, staining the skin scarlet. A wave of nasuea passed over him. Judging by the amount of blood, Kalum was almost certain that he had killed the previous night, possibly more than one victim. He'd have to head into town, visit the villages on the outskirts. Word was likely already spreading among the locals if there were any missing people. He couldn’t venture out in his current state, however. His appearance would certainly arouse suspicion. Heading outside to wash clean the dirt and blood that covered his body in the small, clear turquoise lake behind the country house, Kalum’s mind couldn’t help but conjure up horrifying images of the atrocious thing he might have committed.