by JAMES MORRIS
Night had barely fallen when two hikers spotted a teenage boy running naked through the woods. He thrashed wildly, tumbling down the trails of Griffith Park, all limbs and urgency. Moments later, the angry spotlight of a police chopper circled the area until the teen fell in its cross hairs. He wasn’t more than twelve or thirteen, the hair around his sex a mere shadow of what it would become. The teen cut right, then left, trying to evade the light, but it was no use. Instead, he lost his footing and plunged down the hill, falling headfirst and rolling like the agony of defeat until he landed near a rotting stump. Scraped and dazed, the boy stood up only to find himself bathed in light from two squad cars.
He shivered like a frightened animal as flashlights blinded him from two silhouetted figures. They asked him questions he had trouble understanding. The boy refused to give his name, age or location of his parents. Not because he was streetwise and trying to stay out of trouble – just the opposite. The boy simply didn’t know his own name. Or, more exactly, couldn’t remember. But the boy’s obstinacy frustrated the officers and they ribbed him about his acne, lanky frame and exposed manhood, such as it was.
At the Wilcox police station, they shoved a small tube in his mouth and told him to blow on it. The Breathalyser came up negative. One Officer figured the kid had mental problems. Kids today were like monsters, running amok, their scheduled play dates and coddling, coming home to roost once they crossed into double-digits. Spending the night in the pen might scare him straight.
The Officer took the boy’s finger and rubbed it in ink, but his finger left no imprint. He repeated the procedure with the same result. On closer inspection, the Officer saw that the boy’s fingers were as smooth as a baby’s bottom. Milky white and empty.
The Officer approached the bars of the cell. “You on any medication, son?”
The boy looked up, now clothed in a jumpsuit too large for his size. The pant bottoms touched the floor. His eyes like saucers. The words people spoke started to make sense. “No, sir.”
At least the kid had some manners. The Officer continued, “What were you running from out there?”
“Some kinda animals. They were chasing me. Like they were trying to trap me.”
“What kind of animals?”
“It was dark. They were growling. I didn’t get a good look.” The boy seemed genuinely scared. Maybe the Officer had pegged him wrong.
“If they were chasing you, why didn’t you stop for the police?”
“I wasn’t thinking that far ahead. I just wanted to get away.”
“Why were you running in your birthday suit?” The Officer snickered. “Or did they eat your clothes?”
“Wish I knew.” He felt extremely embarrassed. Puberty was a minefield of confusion, drop-of-a-hat erections, and strange mating rituals to comprehend, but to share his privates in front of God and everyone? It was almost criminal.
“Any reason why you don’t have any fingerprints?”
“And if I remember my eighth-grade biology, that ain’t right.”
“What’s gonna to happen to me?”
The Officer softened. “Honestly, kid. I don’t know.”
An hour later, the Officer came back with an older man who had come looking for the boy. From the head up, he was distinguished; long hair with a stripe of grey down the middle. But from the head down, he looked the part of a rushed shopper at the Salvation Army with clothes out-dated by a couple of decades. The Officer opened the cell. “Eh, kid. You’re free to go.”
“Thank you for your gratitude,” the older man said as he tipped his hat.
“Kids these days, huh?” And the Officer left them alone.
The older man knelt by the boy, meeting his eyes. “I’m sorry, Kevin. This wasn’t how the night was supposed to be. I promise to make it up to you.”
“Kevin? My name is Kevin?”
“There’s a lot to explain. I meant to prepare you better for your initiation. I should have given you this before. Here.”
And the man slipped Kevin a piece of paper. Kevin looked it over, confused. “It’s just an address.”
“It’s a safe house where we meet. Keep it from now on. You’ll need it.” And the man began to escort Kevin down the hall.
“How do you know my name?”
The older man laughed. “Because I gave it to you. I’m your father.”
But Kevin felt he had never seen the man before in his life. And who knew if “Kevin” was his real name, anyway? Then again, the police wouldn’t have released him into the custody of this stranger unless there was some proof, right? But if he had a home, why would they need to go to a safe house? Real families had real homes. Kevin’s mind was filled with questions and everything boiled down to whether he trusted this man or not. Given his spare choices, he opted for trust. For now.
They exited the station, illuminated by the full moon, and walked towards a parked car. As they did, the older man affectionately placed his arm around Kevin. The sensation sent him reeling: who was this man and what did he want? Maybe the whole “father” thing was a ruse to get Kevin into the car where the older man could take advantage of him.
They were near the car now. The older man leaned in to open the door. “Don’t worry. This is a special time in your life. It’ll all make sense in a little while.”
“Kevin, what’s wrong?”
Kevin looked at the older gentlemen and the empty car seat. His instinct sent up alarm bells. This wasn’t right. This is how people got themselves killed.
“Kevin, there’s things you don’t yet understand. But I’m still your father. You need to do as I say.” And the older man tried to guide Kevin into the car.
“You’re not my father!” And Kevin tried to make a break for it, but the older man hung onto him, his grip surprisingly strong.
Kevin resisted, as they tangled on the street. “Help! Somebody help me!”
“Kevin, you don’t understand!” And the older man dragged Kevin towards the car.
“Get off me!” And with a burst of energy, Kevin broke free and pushed the older man away from him and into the street –
A screeching of tires and a sickening thud.
A van stopped in the middle of the road. A musician channelling the 80’s got out of the car in a panic. He made his way towards the front of the van and stopped, dumbfounded. He turned to Kevin, scratching his head. “Man, I am too stoned for this.”
In front of the van, lying on the street next to some mismatched clothes was a dead wolf, the striking patch of grey turning red with blood.
None of this is real. It can’t be.
A car stopped in front of him. A teenage girl called out from the driver’s seat. “Get in.” Cops were starting to spill out of the station. The boy took one look at the girl, and void of any other escape, jumped in, slamming the door. She hit the gas and sped off, just another car on Sunset Blvd.
“Why are you helping me?” he asked.
“Let’s just say I’ve been where you are.” Her voice was soothing, but had a raspy, purring quality.
“I doubt it.” She was a bad driver but he didn’t care. He paid the road no attention, instead lost in her, the way her mouth moved, her tongue occasionally licking her lips, the way her breath made her chest swell. She turned to him. “Did you hear a thing I said?”
He quickly looked away. “Yeah. Of course.”
She shook her head, not buying his lie. “I said there’s a party I know of.”
He scoffed. “A party.”
“Well, where do you want to go?”
His mind drew a blank. He realized he had nowhere to go. “Forget it, let’s hit that party.”
Kevin wanted to ask any number of questions, but considering his experience with the opposite sex was just under nil, he figured it better to simply shut up.
He didn’t count the minutes it took to get to their destination. Time lost its meaning, as if he spent the ride in limbo; but even with its discomfort, he didn’t want it to end. He found it hard to relax in the presence of this girl, mentally starting and stopping conversations, but everything he contemplated sounded stupid. He wanted to tell her about tonight. As if she’d even believe it or worse – what if she did? What kind of freak will she think I am?
Instead, he blurted, “What’s your name?”
“Caitlyn. What about yours?”
“Kevin. I think.” Idiot! He felt like banging his head against the windshield.
“You don’t know?” And she smiled.
“It’s a long story. How old are you, anyway?”
“Old enough to know how to drive, but young enough that it’s not legal.”
“What? Then whose car is this?”
She gently placed a finger on his lips, shushing him. “Curiosity killed the cat. Here we are.”
They pulled up to a warehouse in the Fashion District. Not many cars parked out front and there wasn’t any music coming from inside. Metal bars covered the windows like steel spider webs. Didn’t look like any party house he’d ever heard of. He was startled when Caitlyn grabbed his hand and escorted him up the walkway.
As he got closer to the door, the numbers of the address seemed familiar. He pulled out the piece of paper the older man had given him.
It was the same address.
He turned to Caitlyn. “Oh my God, you’re in on it.” He started hyperventilating. He wanted to run, but he was in the middle of nowhere, near an abandoned warehouse with the most beautiful creature in the world–
“Kevin, you need to relax.”
He felt his heart beating faster, the breaths growing shallower. He watched as Caitlyn moved towards him, her face appearing closer and closer, her lips zeroing in on his until they touched, her tongue like sandpaper. Her eyes – where had he seen them before? They were the last things he saw before passing out.
He awoke on a bed to the sounds of eating. Banners stencilled with “Happy Birthday, Kevin!” were strewn across the room, along with colourful balloons and lit candles. About twenty people sat down eating and drinking family-style around a long, wooden picnic bench. They were mostly middle-aged with the exception of one or two elders, gumming their food. It certainly wasn’t a festive mood. Instead, a pallor of moroseness hung in the air.
Kevin moved, surprised that he wasn’t shackled or tied, which caused the bed to squeak underneath him. When it did, everyone looked his way – a mix of sadness and accusation. Then they turned back to eating.
He tried to piece together how he got inside; he thought briefly that he’d been poisoned or dosed, but realized, stupidly, he had been felled by a simple kiss. Sad, indeed.
Caitlyn sat among them and waved him over. “Come over, you must be starving.” Not wanting to irritate his kidnappers and secretly admitting that he was hungry, he stumbled over to the picnic table. The group made room for him and Kevin sat between two hairy men who slurped meat off the bone.
A bowl of he-knew-not-what sat in the middle of the bench. It looked like slop, a kind of giant proportioned steak tartar. He spooned a glob onto his paper plate. It stood unwavering, a mound of meat, festooned with sprinkles of pepper.
He took one bite and found it too gelatinous and fatty for his taste. But his tablemates seemed to suck it up like manna. A man with two different colours for eyes sat across from him, staring. “Don’t waste it,” he growled. “We honour the animal we eat.” Under such scrutiny, Kevin obeyed, shovelling the food into his mouth and swallowing quickly so as to reduce its taste. It was vile, filling his nose with a pungent iron scent. Where had he smelled this before? As he chewed, he nearly cracked a tooth as he bit down on something hard.
Reaching into his mouth, he pulled out a finger: a human finger, its dirty fingernail still intact. He spit it out and looked across the table. Everyone stopped and gaped at his ill manners. He scanned everyone’s food. He hadn’t noticed them before – hell, who would have? Pieces of ear, tooth and toe littered his tablemate’s plates. He stood up and retched. When he looked at his tablemates, they were laughing – banging fists on the table, kneeling over with tears laughing. One of them picked up the finger he had spit out, put it in his mouth and sucked the marrow deliciously clean.
“…what’s wrong with you?” Kevin stammered.
Caitlyn rose, “Kevin, don’t be frightened. We’re not here to hurt you.”
“What is this? What kind of people are you?” He moved backwards, only to find his escape blocked by a wall.
“It’s just that. We’re not people.” She spoke calmly and without malice. “We’re werewolves. And so are you.”
Kevin was clearly no werewolf. And neither were these humans. Killers, maybe. Insane, certainly. But --
“Werewolves?” Just hearing the word roll off his tongue sounded ridiculous.
“I can understand why you don’t believe us. No one does during his or her first change. When you change into a human, you forget what it’s like to be normal.”
Kevin looked to escape. The windows were barred. The door was locked. There were too many of them.
“Kevin, you can’t leave. It’s too dangerous out there.”
“Do I look like a werewolf to you?!”
Caitlyn ran in front of him, trying to comfort him. “Kevin, look at me. You know who I am. Maybe not in this form, but you know me. I’m part of your pack. We all are.”
Is that where he had recognized her eyes?
The man with the two distinct eyes spoke again, “I’m your cousin. I taught you how to kill a calf.” The elder who gummed his food, wiped his mouth. “I’m your great-grandfather. I watched you when you was a youngling.” All around the table, they each had quips on how they were related and their importance in his life. A woman, “You suckled at my breast” to a young man, “We chased cats and sang under the moon.”
“No…I’m human…” was all Kevin could reply.
Caitlyn explained, “Only for the night.”
“But the stories…”
She continued: “The stories are all wrong. People don’t turn into werewolves during a full moon. Werewolves turn into people during a full moon. Just for one night. That’s why we have a safe house. Over the years, we’ve even acquired IDs, false birth records, things we need to survive in the outside world for the night.”
“It’s why you don’t remember anything before tonight. You’re thirteen. An adult now. This was your first time making the change.”
Kevin looked at the birthday banners. “This was a…birthday party?”
Caitlyn nodded. “It was supposed to be.”
“And the man who said he was my father?”
Caitlyn looked to the other members at the table. They couldn’t meet Kevin’s eyes.
Kevin prodded, “Was he..?”
She nodded. That explained why the party wasn’t festive; they were grieving.
Caitlyn spoke again, breaking his attention. “Come back, Kevin and blow out your candles.” She motioned toward the table where thirteen candles encircled a bloody organ he was glad he couldn’t identify: a werewolf birthday cake. “It’s your favourite.”
He believed not a word. This was the work of a cult or conspiracy, his role still a mystery. He had no intention of staying to figure it out. Whatever the risks, he couldn’t just escape; he had to destroy them lest they kidnap or kill others like him. And if these things really considered themselves something other than human, then he would kill them like the dogs they were. He saw the alcohol, burning candles and flammable streamers crisscrossing the ceiling and knew what he had to do.
His escape had been easier than expected. They didn’t try to hurt him; they focused only on putting out the fire. And in the chaos that followed, he slipped out the front door. For good measure, he took a metal pipe and bashed the doorknob, sealing them inside.
And then he ran.
He looked back at the burning warehouse -- the fire engulfing the roof, the flames seeming to lick the sky, the sounds of howling and shrill animal cries piercing the night –
It’s just your imagination.
As the sun rose from the east, he felt the strangest sensation, as if his whole body were undergoing a primal vibration. The vibration intensified. His senses seemed alive; smells from near and far flooded his nostrils; his eyesight seemed more acute, colours and figures became sharper; and he had a sense of limberness and quickness on his feet. He lifted up his shirt, only to see thick swaths of hair emerging from under his pale skin.
He saw a large puddle on the ground, but thought better of seeing his reflection, too scared of what he might find.
James Morris is a television writer in Los Angeles. He has written for such shows as “The Dead Zone”, “The 4400” and “Smallville.” James’ story, “Initiation”, appears in the June, 2013 issue of HelloHorror.
The authors published at HelloHorror retain all rights to their work. For permission to quote from a particular piece, or to reprint, contact the editors who will forward the request. All content on the web site is protected under copyright law.