…and for a good cause. I just purchased my copy of Death By Drive-In, this year’s CoffinHop offering. It’s a collection of short stories for the Halloween season put together by a group of indie horror writers. Proceeds from sales go to support LitWorld, a non-profit literacy organization. The ebook is only $3.99. Good, gruesome, philanthropic. I recommend it.
What I’m Currently Reading…
…is the delightfully clever Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, by Seth Grahame-Smith. I cringed when I saw the title of the recently released movie, and heard very little good about the film. But the book was recommended by a friend, so I took the plunge. I’m diggin’ it. Grahame-Smith exhibits an amazing versatility in his writing style.
I was reading a passage on the bus the other day and laughed out loud. I paused to wipe the tears from my eyes, and found everyone was looking at me. When I tried to explain, everyone quickly looked away, pretending not to notice.
Whatever. Y’all should check it out…
Clifford and Claire, Scene 9…
Okay, here we are. Claire is making a second attempt to reveal her dual nature to Clifford, having waylaid him in the park in wolf form…
The side trail ended abruptly at an eight-foot chain link fence. It had been erected around an apartment complex adjacent to the greenway to prevent cut-through foot traffic. Clifford chuckled to himself. That never worked. Sure enough, the fence had been pulled down where it crossed the path, and he could tell it was well-used. The wolf slipped through without breaking stride and he followed her.
They found themselves at the edge of the woods. A narrow grassy area separated them from the rear of a block of apartments. Here, the wolf stopped, looked around, then lifted her nose to the air.
She’s being cautious, he thought. She doesn’t want to be seen. The thing he wanted to believe, that this was the pet of someone who maybe lived in these apartments, was becoming harder to rationalize with each passing second. His heart was thumping against his ribs again, and not from exertion.
The wolf crouched, checked in each direction, and slunk quickly across the open space and into a row of bushes at the back of the building. She poked her head out from her hiding place. A paw extended from the shadows, too. It turned over, palm up – it shouldn’t have been able to rotate its forearm like that – and motioned him to come.
He stepped out of the woods and into the clearing. Crouching, he tiptoed towards her until she held up her paw to stop – another gesture no dog or wolf would have been able to perform – and waved him towards the end of the building.
He followed her directions. This can’t be happening. They moved in concert, him moving as quietly as he could across the grass and her keeping hidden between the bushes and the back of the building. They reached the end, and he followed her around the side, where she stopped.
They faced a parking lot. He’d been here before. Oh god, oh god. She told me. She told me, and I didn’t believe her. I didn’t believe her because it’s… it’s impossible.
There was no cover out here. They’d left the darkness of the woods. There were streetlamps lighting the parking lot and dawn was beginning to brighten the sky. The wolf sniffed and looked, made her decision, and darted silently down the sidewalk. She paused at the bottom of the stairway to make sure he would follow before vaulting gracefully up the steps.
He stumbled after her. He tried to stay calm and silent as he slowly climbed the stairs. But his feet seemed to weigh fifty pounds each, and the reinforced concrete steps clanged as he clomped his way up three flights. He didn’t check where the wolf had gone. He simply marched up to the third floor and turned in the direction he’d gone several weeks before.
No surprise, the wolf sat in front of Claire Deerfoot’s apartment.
His pulse was pounding in his ears. He felt dizzy, and he grabbed the handrail to steady himself as he walked towards her. She sat, shifting her weight from paw to paw, glancing nervously in all directions. He was afraid to hurry, lest he stumble and fall. He’d lost confidence in any of the neural connections from his brain to the muscles in his body.
She wedged a claw under the mat in front of the door and lifted the end to reveal a key. At this point, he wouldn’t have been surprised if she grabbed it and unlocked the door herself, but instead she motioned with her head for him to pick it up.
When he hesitated, she whined in frustration and dug at the key with her snout until she came up with it in her teeth. He managed to extend his hand, and she dropped the key into his open palm. He stared at it.
She chuffed, and he tore his eyes from the key to look at her. She made another one of those impossible paw-waving motions for him to go ahead. He still couldn’t move.
Finally, she stood, scratched at the door, and whined.
“Do you know Claire? It’s okay to go in?” That sounded really stupid…but sane.
She whined and scratched with more urgency. He fumbled the key into the keyhole and unlocked the door. He turned the knob and she pushed the door open with her snout and slipped inside. He followed and shut the door softly behind him.
It was dark inside the apartment. It took his eyes a few moments to adjust, but presently he could make out the form of the white wolf sitting in the middle of the living room. She whined. He shrugged.
She whined again, then padded forward to sit in front of him. She reached past his right shoulder and slid her paw along the wall. Suddenly, there was light. “Oh,” he mumbled, “you wanted me to turn on the lights.” She sighed and trotted back into the living room, circled in place a few times, stretched out on the floor…
…and began to change.
“Oh, god,” he murmured. Oh god, oh god, oh God! He stood transfixed as the joints in her legs and arms re-aligned, as her hips, shoulders, and spine re-formed. The wet crackling sounds weren’t doing his stomach any good. He felt light headed, dizzy… nauseous.
He reached out to steady himself against the wall, but it wasn’t there. He’d followed her into the living room without realizing it, drawn to the spectacle of her transformation. He sank to his knees to keep from falling. That’s better. But he had to pitch forward on all fours before the vertigo completely dissipated.
He stayed in that position, taking slow, deep breaths. The sounds of the wolf’s transformation stopped, and two bare feet stepped into the periphery of his vision. He looked up.
“Are you okay?” she asked. It was Claire’s voice. He knew it would be, but…
He sat back on his heels and took another deep breath. “Uh,” he tried. Then again, “Uhhhhhh…”
She placed a cool hand on his forehead. “You’re sweating.”
“Yeah,” he nodded. He shook his head to tear his gaze from her pubis, the hair of which was white and less curly than most, almost furry. He was rewarded with a salty drop of sweat in his eye. It burned. “Christ,” he muttered.
“I’ll get you a towel,” she said.
He wiped a hand over his eyes as she walked away. He got a glimpse of long shapely leg and firm buttocks before she disappeared from view into the next room. She reappeared a moment later to toss him a towel. “Here,” she called.
He couldn’t get his hands up in time to catch it, and it settled over his face in time to save him further embarrassment from staring at her naked form. He’d thought she’d looked good in her jogging shorts the last time he’d visited. She looked even better without clothes. He shook his head into the towel as he wiped the sweat away. How could he think about sex at a time like this?
When he pulled the towel from his face, she’d disappeared again. What now? He pushed himself shakily to his feet. He took in his surroundings. His gaze settled on the front door.
“You’re not thinking of leaving, are you?” she called from the other room.
He swallowed. “N-no,” he lied. What would happen if I did? Would she come after him? Would the wolf come after him?
“Please don’t go,” she said. “I’d like to talk to you, if you have time. I just want to get some clothes on.”
“S-sure,” he said. God, my voice is shaky. He cleared his throat. “No hurry,” he added. “Take your time.” That sounded better. But there was no use pretending. He was scared.
He shuffled across the room and flopped down on a couch. Maybe he wasn’t in any immediate physical danger. But he was certain his life had taken a dangerous turn.
And it would never be the same again.
That’s it for now. More to come. Until then, Happy Halloween and… Happy Reading!
My BooksThe Draculata Nest -----------------------------------------------------------------------
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The Dragon of Doughton Park ----------------------------------------------------------