Magda walked to the pot of boiling water bubbling on the fireplace and removed a steaming cloth using a long wooden spoon.
“This will hurt, Yohan, but it will draw out some of the infection from the bite. We can go into the village tomorrow and get the Doctor to use leeches on the rest.”
Yohan grunted and rolled onto his side, presenting the wound to his wife. It looked worse than it had that morning – the puncture wounds inflamed and oozing with foul smelling pus. He groaned in pain as the scalding cloth was placed onto his skin. Red blossoms of blood spread across the white surface of the fabric. Magda squeezed the dirty liquid into a bowl and reapplied the dressing.
Michael began to cry in his crib and Magda picked up the child in his blue blanket, singing to him, rocking him back and forth in her arms.
“Do you think it will come back tonight?”
Yohan coughed and wiped his forehead with his arm.
“It probably crawled off to the woods to die. I managed to get a shot off when it got me, and it ran away. Biggest damn wolf I ever saw, but a bullet doesn’t care how big something is, it kills it anyway.”
She walked to the window and pushed back the curtains, peering into the inky shroud that had settled.
“I hope you’re right, Yohan, we can’t afford to lose any more animals. The winter will be hard enough, especially with the baby to take care of.”
“Everything will be alright. I won’t let anything happen to you or Michael. Can you see anything out there?”
“Not yet, but the moon is rising. Soon it will be as bright as day.”
Yohan cried out and Magda put the baby back in his crib, then hurried to her husband’s side. The bed sheets beneath him were soaked with sweat and his face contorted into a mask of agony. He gave a long guttural groan.
“Oh God, Yohan, I’ll get Doctor Schmidt. He will know what to do!”
Magda grabbed her coat and Yohan’s rifle then rushed from the cottage, into the night. The full moon bathed the clearing in cool light, casting deep shadows and Magda ran towards the forest lane that led to the village.
As she reached the lane, a long shrieking howl echoed across the clearing, seeming to come from everywhere at once. Magda stopped and looked around, her eyes darting back and forth, the rifle held tight against her shoulder, but could only see the darkness of the woods surrounding her, could only hear her pounding heart and the ragged gasps of her breath. The forest was silent.
A deep growl came from behind, she span around, the rifle raised before her.
Something from the undergrowth into the clearing. In silhouette it could almost have been mistaken for a man, for it stood on two legs. There the similarities ended. The creature was easily seven feet tall, with elongated ears, snout and hands – each finger tipped with a curving talon. Its eyes reflected green disks under the silver moonlight as it moved forward.
Magda raised the rifle, snapping off a single shot before bolting to the relative safety of the cabin. The creature snarled in pain behind her, but she barely registered the sound over the pounding of her own heart – just focused on putting one leaden leg in front of the other.
The cabin drew close, barely twenty yards more to cover. I can make it; she thought and redoubled her efforts despite the burning in her lungs from the cold night air.
She heard a snarl from behind and knew that the monster must be gaining on her, but she could not – dare not turn to look. She had almost reached the door of the cabin, when it burst open and another creature stood in the threshold, snarling at the terrified woman. Magda fell to her knees, ready to accept the inevitable.
The creature that had emerged from the cabin looked at her once, sniffed the air and then howled in defiance at the pursuing werewolf. The two monsters began circling each other, snarling and spraying flecks of blood stained foam from their maws.
Magda watched in terror as the new creature flew at the other, lashing out with razor claws – raking deep grooves across its chest. The new creature was easily as large as the first and attacked with astonishing brutality, carving chunks of flesh from the other. Magda realised it was wearing trousers.
“Oh my God – Yohan!”
The other creature began to fight back and snapped at Yohan’s throat. He darted his head aside at the last moment and the werewolf’s fangs buried themselves deep in his shoulder, tearing out a fist sized piece of muscle and sinew. Yohan howled in agony, and then rammed his claws into the other creature’s chest. Blood sprayed from the wound and the monster fell away to the left, attempting to flank its assailant.
Magda backed away from the battling monsters, edging her way to the cabin door. Despite her terror she felt pride in her husband – regardless of what he had become, he was still fighting to protect his family.
He would keep them safe.
Yohan lunged at the werewolf and fastened his jaws around its throat. The creature thrashed, its claws raking across Yohan’s face, ruining his left eye. Yohan bit down harder, snapping the werewolf’s neck with a wet snap and tearing its head free. The severed head of the monster rolled across the floor to Magda, and she kicked the gory object away. Yohan turned to face her.
“You did it Yohan – you saved us,” she said, her voice trembling as she backed away from her husband, into the open doorway.
Her feet slipped on the wooden floor and she looked down to see a trail of blood leading back into the house. She followed the trail with her eyes, to the gore stained crib and the small pieces of meat hanging from it.
He’s not defending his family – its protecting its food!
A shadow fell across her and she turned to face the monster that used to be her husband. There was no recognition in its eyes – just hunger and rage. Magda cried out as the beast lunged forward and sank its fangs into her arm. She heard the muffled sound of a rifle shot, before she passed into oblivion.
Magda awoke as the first shards of sunlight pierced the trees. She pushed Yohan’s cold corpse away and regarded the man she had loved. Scraps of pink flesh and fragments of blue cloth were caught between his teeth. A bullet had torn out most of his throat, the edges of the wound burned black from the rifle’s discharge.
She knew what had happened, to Yohan, to their baby, and, looking at the bite in her shoulder, what would happen to herself. She fell to her knees, sobbing.
She looked up to the sky as she placed the rifle’s barrel under her chin. The cold metal was soothing somehow.
“I will be with you both” she said, and pulled the trigger.
©2010 Graeme Reynolds
Graeme Reynolds is a 38 year old author of horror tales, member of the Horror Writers Association and freelance destroyer of computer programs. He lives in the South West of England with 2 cats, 3 delinquent chickens and a long suffering girlfriend. You can read his other works on his homepage: