(Author's Note) This is the third of my ongoing Interview with a Monster series from the May 2013 issue of Suspense Magazine.
Interview with a Monster: The Werewolf File
By Thomas Scopel
What I’m about to tell you is a true story. And, I might add that after initially hearing the tale, there was some cause for alarm and debate as to whether I wanted to remain or leave. I was conflicted. However, now armed with previously unknown information, I’ve since decided to stay put, which, in all reality is probably much safer than venturing into the unknown.
For over twenty years I’ve known my next door neighbor, who I’ll call Jim. He’s a kindly, somewhat inspiring old man; built like a tugboat, strong and stocky, always doing something in his yard. Whether it is chopping firewood, lugging a stump or digging a hole for a latest planting, all would probably be considered far too strenuous for a man beyond the age of sixty. However, his age is personal knowledge and for someone not as privy to that information, they probably wouldn’t guess he was beyond what is considered to be the twilight years. Of course, he does harbor subtle hints, wrinkles and such, but his long sleek hair isn’t all that gray and it makes him look no more than fifty-five or sixty tops.
Regardless, while we never were what you would call close, we were decent and aware and on occasion met at the fence for an impromptu chat, usually when each of us was busy tinkering away in our respective backyards. While the conversations never held much depth, quite mundane actually with me asking how his day was going and him inquiring how the writing world was, it was always I who initiated. Until yesterday, I would have said that this was probably due to some deep-rooted sense of compassion for a perceived lonely old man. But, this was a misinterpreted mistake and nearly brought about change. Like I said, I was conflicted.
Yesterday, like most any other day, was basic and normal. Having just received the latest electronic issue of Suspense Magazine, I was relaxed, lounging on our back patio, Kindle in hand, proudly reading over my latest piece. It was the Dracula installment of my Interview with a Monster series, a rather odd series in which I had been taking the time to sit down and discuss with some of horror’s finest. Anyways, half of me was comprehensively reading, while the other half was contemplating how to track down a werewolf for the next installment and pondering how any potential interview laced with aggressive growls and vicious snarls would turn out.
Jim was busy digging a hole at the rear of his meticulously decorated, plant-laced lawn. He does this often enough; at least once a month, and if my assumption proved true, I would again spy him that night rooting some type of shrub or flowery plant by the light of the moon, just as the almanac advises.
Nonetheless we found ourselves leaning against the fence, looking across from one another and conversing about this monster series. I made mention of seeking a werewolf, and he chuckled heartily before offering to be interviewed. I couldn’t help but find humor in this and laughed out loud myself. His rigid face became emotionless and thinking that maybe he didn’t hear me properly when I said werewolf, I reiterated. He said he heard me just fine and I didn’t know what to think, leaning to wondering whether this old man was on the verge of senile. Obviously noticing my perplexity, he looked me deep in the eyes and said he was going to let me in on a secret, and an anticipating shiver cascaded down my spine.
His eyes fell to the cross necklace I hadn’t bothered to remove after the Dracula encounter, and he inquired if it was actually silver. I said it was and he raised his hand, palm up, over the top of the fence, asked me to remove it and drop it into his hand. I wasn’t sure what to think, having visions of this old man giddily running off with what had recently become one of my prized possessions tightly clutched. But, after all, I did know where he lived and simply to appease, I did as he asked.
The necklace made contact and instantly sizzled, generating smoke around it that floated into the air and found its way to my nostrils. I cringed at the horrendous smell, and while I’ve never experienced an actual odor such as that, the distinct impression was that of a thousand dead and rotted bodies burning in a pile. Looking up at his face, a powerful grimace fully implied tremendous pain.
A few seconds later, he abruptly flipped his palm over and the necklace fell to the ground at my feet. Holding up his palm for me to see, there was a burnt impression where the necklace made contact. He winked and I watched as the scar quickly faded into oblivion, vanishing completely, leaving not a trace.
To say I was stunned would be an understatement.
Jim: Do you believe me now?
At a loss for words, I bent down, picked up the necklace and put it back on. But, that previous security it offered seemed lost.
Jim: Go get your note pad and to meet me at the picnic table in fifteen minutes. Before turning away, with a sly grin he added, and be prepared for what your about to hear.
Rooted, I watched him walk away, half of me terrified and half enthralled, debating whether this was either the best or worse stroke of luck I ever had. A few moments later, he having disappeared inside his home, I came to my senses and went to fetch pen and paper.
Sitting at the table in the rear of his yard, shaded by a large maple tree, I waited and wondered whether this was a good idea or not. Before I could answer the question, he came out of the house and took a seat across from me.
Jim: Are you ready for this? I hesitantly nodded. As far as the interview is concerned, feel free to ask questions along the way. You’re a good chap and a wonderful neighbor and I’d like to remain that way, but know that I will deny all of this, out of personal safety of course. I’m sure afterward you’ll understand. You’re the first person I’ve disclosed any of this to, so please do not force drastic measures.
While I had no idea what drastic measures meant, I did have typical visions and suspected it involved vicious biting teeth, clawing nails, gushing blood and death. A horror version of a mafia hit.
“Of course,” I sincerely agreed through quivering voice.
And so he began…
It all started back during the first Great War. I was a soldier of seventeen, knee deep in a cold hardened trench in western Germany. There were three of us that night, scouts they called us, keeping track of enemy movements. The moon was full and bright and as the three of us separately huddled in the bitter cold keeping vigil, were heard the howling. It was a typical sound, much like those heard in movies and we didn’t think much of it, being more concerned with German soldiers trying to sneak by. An occasional explosion would go off in the distance and the howling would stop, becoming deathly quiet except for the hissing wind.
While I thought I’d saw something peering back from the trench’s shadows, I wrote it off as hallucinatory fear and went back to glancing up over the edge and across a barren field. Suddenly, there was a growl like I’d never heard before. We all turned to look just as the monster attacked. Billy was the closest and I watched in horror as vicious teeth bit into his midsection, gnawing and pulling away a cluster of intestines.
Johnny seemed to still have some wits about him, which was more than I could say for myself, and quickly fired off four shots at the creature. The creature jerked with each round, so I know Johnny hit it, being the platoon’s champion shooter, probably all four times. But, the creature kept coming, tearing into Johnny’s neck. Although we were six feet apart, the blood spray covered my face with warm stickiness.
As the creature chewed, I shifted and defensively aimed my bayonet. Like a dart flying through the air, the creature pounced toward and bit hard into the shoulder. The pain was intense, having a burning sensation like a thousand acetylene torches flickering through my body. I dropped my weapon and collapsed. When I opened my eyes, I was looking up into a medical tent’s bright lights. My shoulder was fully bandaged, but oddly no longer hurt. Inquiring to a nearby nurse about my fellow pals, she replied that I was the only one and I found myself questioning whether or not all this actually occurred. It would be a good two weeks before, vaguely at first, recalling small details, but I never mentioned any of it...until now.
According to the doctors, my wound healed at record pace and before long I found myself in that trench again, this time alone at the far end. Now, one would think that going back to the scene of the crime would be detrimental, but it truly wasn’t. There was a completely different feel churning inside me. No longer was I a boy of seventeen, terrified at the prospect of war. On the contrary, I leaned toward relishing, even encouraging the drawing of blood.
Well, it would be another twenty days before the moon was again full and having already put the gruesome incident into the back of my mind I concentrated on matters at hand. All was quiet and dark and just as I saw it start to rise, the burning sensation took over and before blacking out, I saw my hands change into furious, hairy, long nailed weapons.
The next morning I awoke nude and cold, huddled under a fallen tree, a pile of bones with some still harboring dripping flesh nearby and my stomach having a feeling of over-fullness. A shredded German soldiers’ uniform lay, not far away and I gathered up what was left of it and wrapped it around my shivering body. While the black boots didn’t exactly fit, they were certainly more comfortable than the hard ground and a welcomed relief. Needless to say, I had no idea which direction was which and recalling, while in the trench, that the sun came up from behind us, I headed east.
A couple of hours later, the landscape became more familiar and I stumbled upon a gun post at the opposite end of the trench I had been in. Wearing the wrong uniform almost got me shot, but since I wasn’t carrying a weapon, this gave the scouts reason to hesitate and lucky for me, one recognized my bloody face.
A mad few days of extensive psychological testing followed in which I couldn’t remember a thing (he winked). They were under the impression that I had somehow survived a fight of my life with the enemy. Oh, I was fighting something alright, that’s for sure, but it wasn’t the enemy. Regardless, they deemed me no longer fit for combat and sent me home with a medal. That was 1918.
T.S.: That was ninety two years ago, how old are you?
Jim: Well, I was seventeen when I left for the war, so that would make somewhere around (he counted on his fingers, one at a time) one hundred and eleven...but who’s counting?
T.S.: But you don’t look a day past sixty?
Jim: I know, but don’t let it fool you. I do age, just not as fast as a typical human. And the strength let me tell you. (This explained how this guy constantly worked circles around me).
T.S.: When did you first realize what you became?
Jim: Oh, after waking up under that tree the first time, I had a good idea, but I wouldn’t be positive until after I was back at home and the next full moon phase once again brought that burning. I didn’t have to, nor did I look at my hands this time. I didn’t need to.
T.S.: Do you still prowl and hunt?
Jim: A wolf’s gotta eat right. (He chuckled lightly and the overall thought sickened me). In the beginning I was what one might say rogue. But, over the years I’ve learned to control the desire and am now able to plan and focus my attacks, strictly limiting to arbitrary dregs to society.
T.S.: Dregs? What dictates who are dregs and who are not?
Jim: By reading the newspaper and watching the evening news. Plenty of lowlifes out there that most would be happy to see go. You know that Marvin guy? The guy who raped that poor little girl?
T.S.: I’ve seen a number of newscasts surrounding the sicko. Wasn’t he found mutilated?
Jim: Exactly! His mug was all over the news and so it wasn’t all that hard to recall his face, even after the transformation. He had been released on bail. Why? Don’t ask me, but with the news coverage chasing him everywhere, it wasn’t hard to learn that he was staying with his mother. However, there was a dilemma. Being more than a few states over, I couldn’t very well travel while transformed. So, as normal, carefully coinciding with the next full moon phase, I traveled a few days prior.
The town was a madhouse, full of news trucks and such, and I started thinking I would be unable to get all that close to him, especially without being seen. His mother had already barred any newscasters or cameras on her two acre property and that kept them at bay, down the dirt driveway and far from the house. Fortunately for me, the wooded area directly behind her home provided adequate seclusion and, hidden in the thicket, I waited and watched. Like clockwork, every hour he would step out onto the rear porch to smoke cigarettes, sometimes moseying throughout the yard, but mainly sitting on an old swing.
The day of the full moon came and I started wondering whether or not my plan would work. After all, I didn’t want to harm his mother, but I didn’t want any witnesses either. Well, as luck would have it, with the evening drawing near and nearly convinced that his mother would probably succumb in the fray too, while he was yet again out there smoking, the frail looking woman called through the screen door, mentioning that she was heading out to a bingo game at the town fire hall. Talk about jumping for joy. And so, needless to say, no one was around when the deed went down. And, with exception of the heart, to ensure that he wouldn’t become one of us, that’s one I refused to eat or dispose of…
T.S.: Dispose of?
Jim: Well yeah! You don’t think I typically leave evidence lie around do you? That would open doors for the authorities. If they can’t find a body, then they basically have no case.
T.S.: What do you do with the remains?
Jim: I’m not so sure if I should tell you. Don’t get me wrong, I consider you a good friend and one of the best neighbor’s I’ve ever had, otherwise, I wouldn’t have confided any of this. Nonetheless, I think I’ll leave your well-educated mind to figuring out that enigma.
Back to what I was saying earlier, I left Marvin lying in a tattered mess. I had too. Otherwise everyone would assume he had skipped off somewhere, evading judgment and punishment. Anyways, to make a long story short, I woke up four miles away, hungry as hell, but somehow feeling oddly satisfied. The media subsequently reported that his death was thought to come from the hands of an unknown assailant. Let’s be blunt, most were happy to see him go, and since the general public didn’t cause an uproar, seemingly satisfied with the outcome, the authorities didn’t fully pursue and eventually the case floated into oblivion. I had read somewhere, after the fact, that even his mother accepted the whole sordid affair. Nonetheless, while I’ve long given up trying to understand the concept of my distinct situation, I’ve somehow justified it into something useful and needed…at least in my eyes. Of course, some may call this homicide and I suppose I can’t really argue that fact because, after all, it truly is. But, can the world do without and continue on without the appalling riff raff? Fortunately for me, and I’m not sure whether the others are able to do the same, but by concentrating on a certain individual while I’m in human form, and you can call it the next victim if you like, after the transformation it all seems to stick.
T.S.: So, you mean to tell me that you choose specific victims?
Jim: Yep, but, only the lowest of the low; murderers, rapists and the like; bad, terrible people that the world can do without. It’s almost superhero-like, wouldn’t you agree? (While I was conflicted with his macabre philosophy, I couldn’t deny his motivation. It was inevitable that he was going to kill for the monthly feast, and I’d much rather him remove a so-called dreg than some innocent and so I simply shrugged my shoulders, not wanting to agree or disagree.)
T.S.: You mentioned the others? How many would you say there are?
Jim: Well, I can’t speak for the world, (he thought for a moment) but let’s just say we’re similar to spiders; that at any given time, there’s more around you than you think. Of course, none harbor my conservative attitude and usually go after the first potential feast they find. And, I now understand why I was only bitten that night instead of being devoured; it’s was to maintain the species. Just like everything, there is death and if we don’t bring more into the fold from time to time, eventually we’ll become extinct.
T.S.: So you maintain a bloodline?
Jim: Yes, but it’s a careful order which must be first approved.
Jim: Well, yeah. You wouldn’t want our kind taking over, and neither would we. If that was to occur, food would get scarce quick and it would eventually turn into a civil war with nothing to fight for other than survival. While I won’t go into specifics, we have a leader and a cabinet that dictates when and where population can sprout. Each death is carefully documented and consideration toward whether the locale can infuse another. If so, the order is given and it is then the local chapter’s responsibility to dictate who will provide. That Marvin guy nearly caused my demise since I left him in the open. That’s a big no, no and usually includes a death sentence. However, after careful explanation and understanding, I was pardoned, with the explicit instructions to not let it occur again.
T.S.: Is it too bold of me to ask how one executes one of their own?
Jim: Yes, probably, and I’d rather not go into the subject other than saying that the spiteful, despicable act involves pure silver and excessive, deliberate pain. Quite intense, chilling and belligerent…actually.
He looked up at the sky and I followed his gaze. Dusk had just begun to settle in and I wondered whether there would be a full moon. When he looked back at me, not an inkling of worry was upon his face and this gave me reason to believe that there wouldn’t be. We sat quietly for a few minutes, looking at one another, and my mind scrambled for more questions. But, for the life of me I was drawing a blank. He seemed to sense this and mentioned that it was getting late and that he needed to put the shovel away.
Looking down at my notepad, I wasn’t surprised that I hadn’t written a thing and with a shrug, flipped the cover closed. I wouldn’t need notes this time. He grinned and nodded before rising and excusing himself.
A moment later I also rose and my legs quivered, wavering so hard that I nearly tumbled backwards over the bench seat. Dropping my notepad while gripping the table’s edge, I steadied and bent down to pick it up. An eerie feeling invaded, pondering the fact that I had been unknowingly living beside a werewolf all this years. But, after deeper thought including the realization that many existing opportunities had already passed, and compiling this with the recent insight into his preying mindset, the thought relaxed and faded. Yet confliction lingered.
Following the fence line toward the rear of the yard, I passed him carrying the shovel. He winked again, I nodded, and we continued on our separate ways. Before rounding the last post, I passed the hole he had been digging and saw the depth, far exceeding what was considered normal for planting simply a shrub. This triggered a forced, recalling thought of where I had read that bone calcium made a top notch fertilizer. I offered a quick glance back and was surprised to see him standing in the doorway watching. A grin grew wide across his face as he closed the door. Obviously he knew me well.
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