I do not own "On Writing". Stephan King owns it... I'm only trying to do as he asked :)
I wrote this after I read Stephan King's "On Writing" book. This is the exercise in Part 5 of the On Writing Chapter.
Summary: Magic runs wild. Teeth burry deep. Souls moan. Terror screams. Nothing is as it seems. - A journey of a virus. A tale of imagination. An old school rendition of what I want to hear. - Don't look at the moon... RUN!
"The Charmed Beast"
Her nose traced his face.
His green uniform blended with the canvas tent atop the ruined city.
This used to be her home not too long ago, but long enough for it to turn to rubble by the hands of man.
"You look just like him." A woman's voice filled the area in a native tongue the man could not speak.
Her eyes were playing tricks on her. She did not see a sea of green but a man in a coat and tie.
"I've searched the country for you, liebling."
"Please." His war paint streaked down his cheeks.
Opening her mouth her flat tongue traced the greased column of his neck.
"It's been so long." He should have been fluent in this language by now.
Lips curled back to reveal black gums and white teeth.
"Too long." She whispered. "Far too long."
*Abby sat at the kitchen table. Sylva, her three year old daughter was washing up for bed. The moon hung high in the sky. Tonight was a perfect night to collect the eggs.
Abby grew up with parents from the old country. Their beliefs differed from Mother and Father America. Her family hung spoons from trees to frighten away bad spirits. The beds always faced in the direction of the sea for luck. And eggs were always gathered at dark.
Full moon eggs were special. They were blessed by the Mother and kissed by the moon.
*Tucking Sylva into bed, Abby kissed her head three times and wished her pleasant dreams. Reed was still at work in the factory, punching out hubcaps for cars. He wouldn't be home till the moon was on the other side of the farmhouse.
Sylva brought her tiny pink fists out from under her quilt; fishing for the chain of silver cross that Reed's mother gave her. Reciting the prayer that Reed taught her Sylva held the charm tightly in her hand.
"Good night, Mama."
"Good night, A Stóirín."
*Chickens always make noise, even when sleeping a hum of clucking can always be heard.
Duke, Reed's dog circled his dog house. Pulling at the chain connected to his collar he whimpered and whined at the hen house.
"Not tonight Duke." He would only stir the girls up.
His eyes glowed under the light of the moon. His fur stood on edge. Full moons do funny things to animals.
*White feathers littered the floor. Abby took the basket she used for gathering off the nail that held it to the wall. It was dark inside the one room. The soft clucking snores that were to be expected on any night were replaced with clucks as wild as erratic heartbeats.
There hasn't been a wolf around for years.
Shaking the idea of boogies in the closet the woman set out to the chore at hand. Putting a hand under each bird she gathered their children for breakfast. Everything was all in order till she turned around and dropped the basket.
The eggs cracked and the yolks seeped across the floor.
Before her stood a man in fur. A man with pointed ears. A man wearing clothes from her parents' war. A man who was unmistakably ... a wolf.
"I thought that I would never find you, Mary." His voice was raspy with phlegm.
"It took me so long to get home."
Abby and Reed bought the farm from a widow. She said her husband had died in the war and after seven years decided she wasn't able to run the farm by herself.
What did she say his name was? Jim, Joe,
The wolf stepped closer. His hind legs moved like a bow legged man. His clawed hands held her tight. Pressing his lips to her ear she shook with fear waiting for the world to go black.
"Why don't you give your husband a kiss, Mary?"
"That's not my name."
"You sure do look like her."
He opened his muzzle wider and slid it down to her shoulder. Resting his head against her neck, the wolf ran his tongue lazily over her flesh.
"You taste like a memory."
This felt like a dream.
Wake up! Wake up!
"How many years has it been?" Jerry panted like a dog in heat. "How long have we been apart?"
They had never met.
Taking in a shuddering breath the wolf's licks became quicker. Lapping at her skin like an itch he could not sooth. Nipping at her throat. Gripping both her arms. Pushing his legs between her skirt.
"Duke!" Abby screamed.
He stood in the doorway with a long metal chain hanging from his neck.
The old dog rushed the unknown soldier with dark deadly growls. Biting and tugging at his arms and legs.
The wolf howled, the dog barked, the woman screamed into the night.
Collapsing, Abby put her hands around her husband's dog. Duke was her dog now. The wolf ran out like the howling wind. Her neck bled like a muddy creek.
Maybe it's not as bad as it feels.
Three years had passed and a new life had entered world while an old one was taken away.
"Do you think Duke is up in Heaven, Daddy?" Sylva held Reed's hand as they stood in front of the church congregation.
"I'm sure he is, Sweetheart. Now, be as quiet as a mouse while your brother gets baptized."
Benjamin, at three months old, dressed in a white gown lay safely in his mother's arms. Abby remained the same. Flesh and bone - not fang and fur as she had feared.
*The babe screamed as the holy water was cupped over his head. His mother cooed as her son's face turned red. A clergy standing by the robed man gasped when he saw a demon's kiss upon the women's neck.
The wound never healed completely where the wolf fang's snagged against her skin. It left a wound in the shape of a spiral, a snaggletooth, a coiled snake. Reed thought that Duke had scratched her. Abby went along with his thoughts and called it an accident. Now, Arthur saw it for what it really was. A beast that lay sleeping inside a young woman. A hidden secret for the past three years. There's not much time before the woman becomes a threat to the masses. But perhaps, with time, the girl could be exorcised.
It was a thought.
Arthur was a quiet man. He had never once strayed from the flock. But the urge to protect the town from an evil beast ate at him day in and day out. He had to get to Abby. He had to rid her of the evil that lay inside.
How long had she been marked like that?
It took a year to learn her routines, build the nerve, and prepare the room. Arthur's house sat above an Underground Railroad stop. Secret passages aligned his walls, all leading to a small room with a dirt floor. It was the perfect cell to contain the beast. Abby would thank him later.
*Abby's car was found without the body. A twisted metal heap that fell off the bridge. The river could have taken her anywhere. Dogs combed the area. Search parties were formed and disappeared into the night with torches. Bake sales were held to keep the investigation running. But hope can only last for so long. Four weeks to the day after the car was lifted from the water, Reed was told the money from the last bake sale would go towards a marker to be placed in his family plot.
Heartbroken and abandoned he let the church honor his wife's memory with a grave-less tomb.
*The chains rattled above her head like the one from Duke's old collar.
"Where am I?" Abby couldn't remember a thing after answering the door.
How long had she been out? Where were the windows? Where was the light? Why was she chained like a wild beast?
Arthur came down the steps trying to explain the situation. Abby screamed he was mad. Arthur prayed she would be released.
"The mark of the beast is on your neck, my dear."
"That happened years ago! I'm fine!"
"Yes, for now. In time that may change. I'm here to help. Please believe me."
Abby didn't believe him for one minute. She had heard rumors about Arthur's obsessions. She never once thought she would be involved.
For six years the clergy prayed for the chained woman's soul. Stigmata-ing her hands. Feeding her the body and blood of Christ. Trying to rid her body of the demon that lived inside.
This only weakened the woman and annoyed the beast's slumber.
Abby was starting to change.
It was slow at first. Like a light wind ruffling your hair. Upon completion it was a typhoon of terror, rage, and blood.
"Reed, your wife is alive. Run." The phone went dead.
*Reed hung up the phone in irritation. Someone had called giving him a message of hope then telling him to flee? What was wrong with the world? The screams at the end could have been done without.
"Who called?" Sylva was now thirteen. The same age as her mother when Reed met her.
"Wrong number." No need in trying to explain a lie.
Reed raised his children the best he could. Ben was a seven year old short-stop in his year's league. Sylva was a blossoming girl becoming a woman.
"Are you getting the eggs tonight, Daddy?" Reed kept up with Abby's superstitions.
"After you're in bed." It was a private time he didn't want to share.
*The wolf made her way through town undetected. Keeping to the trees, flanking the backyards, the instinct inside her led her home. The need to see her mate was so intense her eyes glowed a supernatural gleam.
"Reed," her voice sounded raspy. Exactly like the one that bit her. Comforting.
City turned into country, country turned into dirt roads, dirt roads led to farms. The silos towered. The hex signs faded. The barn was just in sight. With its chipped paint and cattle now stained in blood, she tucked herself into a stall.
She could scent him. The aftershave she bought him each Christmas was faintly in the air.
The hen house.
Creeping with her body hunched over the wolf made her way like a sneaking fox. Quietly, cunningly, stepping lightly over dried leaves.
A dog started to bark.
Louder and louder until the dog can no longer breathe. Blood stains the wolf's teeth without the man noticing something was off.
*Reed collected the eggs in the hen house. The birds were on edge from the dog. He must be hungry, Reed thought.
Making his way down the ramp, Leroy had fallen to the ground, asleep. "I'll never understand how a dog can be so riled up one minute then dead to the world the next."
*Abby stalked her mate as he went into the house. Through the window she watched him set a basket on the table. He went to the stove and poured hot water into a cup.
When did he start drinking tea? The human side of Abby wondered.
Leave me human, thought the wolf.
With his back turned Reed leaned against the sink.
What are his thoughts?
I told you to leave!
The wolf tapped her claw on the window.
Come outside so I can see you.
Reed ignored her invitation passing it as the wind.
Again she tapped then banged.
That got his attention.
Slipping to the ground she waited at the side of the porch.
The front door opened as though letting a neighbor in.
His feet thumped across the wooden planks. His heavy boots echoing into the night.
"Who's there?" Reed called into the darkness.
He was older than remembered. His hair was peppered, his body a bit softer. But this was her mate. She could feel it.
Abby rumbled inside her throat.
The dog still lay in the dirt.
"Leroy!" Reed called out to deaf ears.
"R-E-E-D" a rattled whisper came from the side near the bushes. "R-E-E-D," drawn out like a ghost.
The voice sounded vaguely familiar. The pitch, the tone, the key were off.
"Who's there?" Reed called out.
He was starting to wish he carried a gun not a mug.
The bushes shook as though birds were nesting.
Rising, the beast stood on her hind legs, dressed in the gown Arthur kept her in, she rounded the porch to the steps.
"I've waited so long to find you," the wolf spoke out.
Reed dropped the mug. His blood chilled, his heart pounded, his breaths didn't end from one to the next.
Backing slowly into the doorframe, he slammed the door from the inside.
The wolf's feet crumpled the shattered glass, her mighty head peering into the front window at the man who gave her two cubs.
"R-E-E-D" she drew his name out again.
Her breath fogged, her teeth shone, her nose pressed against the glass.
The pane smashed. A large clawed hand swiped into the house, and with the clicking of nails managed to unlock the door like a human. Reed was too stunned to scream.
The doorknob was tested. Left then right. Left then right. Left, click, the door opened.
RUN, the voice inside screamed.
The wolf threw the man against the wall.
Reed gazed into the yellow eyes, took in the dark muzzle, the muzzle that was the same color as his wife's hair.
"Abby, no, it can't be." He choked out.
"Oh but it is, my love," Her voice crackled like an old record.
She put her mouth against his neck like the one had done before her. Taking in his clean scent. Lapping her tongue over his aftershave stubble. Fisting her claws into his plaid shirt.
I've waited so long," her voice creaked into his ear.
"I thought you were dead," Reed stuttered.
"Daddy?" Sylva stood at the top of the stairs.
Abby and the wolf looked up.
"No," Reed's voice was soft like a child's.
Unhanding her mate the wolf followed her cub up the stairs to an old memory of a bedroom door.
Locked, the wolf pressed her body until the door gave, splintering at the frame.
"Cub" she called.
Slowly the wolf made her way around the bed. She stumbled at the corner, tearing the mattress from the frame... nothing.
A thump made her turn to the closet.
"Cub, I can smell you."
Sylva hid underneath fallen clothes. Her bare feet stuck out like sore thumbs.
Gripping her silver cross Sylva recited the Lord's Prayer. Over and over until the wolf grabbed her arms and pulled her into the room.
Sliding her claws down the girl's arms, Sylva held tightly onto her silver charm.
"Please." The girl wept as the wolf's fur brushed her face.
With curled claws the wolf released the child's hands. The silver brushing against the pad of her paw.
It burned hell fires into her blood. A cross branded into a human hand. It wasn't religion but mineral. Not animal but man.
Breaking the curse, Sylva's mother fell to the floorboards. Her daughter unable to make her stand. Abby's body grew cool with skin. Her face sunk back into shape. Claws became fingers. The tail disappeared. She lay on the wood near Sylva's feet.
"Daddy, no!" Sylva looked up as the shotgun was pointed at her mother.
Abby's unmarked grave got an occupant.
A/N: Special Thanks to my friend AH for pre-reading and catching ferrets!