By Christopher Hivner
Illustration by Chris de Souza Jensen
“I can’t believe I did it,” Evan Tanner whispered to the walls as he sat at his kitchen table, his lanky body wrapped in a thick, green robe. “This is a nightmare.” With shaking fingers, he traced the words on the newspaper lying in front of him. The front page blared his attack like a siren. His victim was in the hospital with too many cuts and bites to count.
Evan wanted to cry for the injured man, but he could still feel the exhilaration as well. The sensation of his fangs plunging into the man’s warm flesh tingled under his tongue, and at the back of his throat, the taste of blood lingered like a woman’s perfume. It had been twelve hours, but his muscles remained powerful. He had hated it and loved it at the same time. Pulling the robe tighter around him, Evan silently wished for the hundredth time that he could change that night a month ago when he had still been normal.
After work on a Friday, he had gone to play video games at a co-worker’s apartment, in the process drinking fourteen pale ales. Walking home, he took the shortcut through the woods and passed out halfway there. When he woke up, he felt something sniffing him. He opened his eyes and it attacked. In a whirl of motion, he was bitten on the arm, the cheek and shoulder. With Evan’s blurred vision and the speed of the assault, he couldn’t be sure what kind of animal it was.
Over the next few weeks, he changed inside. A yearning rose in him that he couldn’t explain, and he spent hours outside at night sniffing the air, staring at the moon each night as it grew fuller. He knew what was happening but couldn’t admit it to himself. They only existed in fairy tales and bad midnight movies. What he was becoming couldn’t be real.
Then last night, with his friends Dave and Leech watching, Evan Tanner stood in his back yard under a bulbous moon, hoping he was wrong. But the pain of the changes, the wildness inside of him, and the looks on his friends’ faces were too great to ignore. He was a werewolf.
“Hey, can I come in?” Evan jumped and turned quickly to see Dave at the back door, staring in through the screen.
“Yeah, it’s all right,” Evan said, waving him in.
Dave ate up the doorway as he worked his nearly three hundred pound body into the room. He sat down across the table, his sheer size making Evan feel like a little kid. They looked at each other expectantly, neither one sure what to say. Evan turned the paper around and pushed it in front of Dave.
“That’s me. I did that.”
Dave read the article quickly. He looked at a photo of the man’s cut up face and then back to Evan.
“How do you feel?”
“Physically I’m exhausted. Mentally I’m torn up. That man never did anything to me, but I couldn’t control myself.”
“It was bad, huh?”
“I had to attack something; there was no way out of it. The feeling grabbed hold of my nuts and wouldn’t let go until I gave it what it wanted.”
“Funny you should mention nuts,” Dave said, raising his eyebrows.
“What does that mean?”
“When you changed . . . you still believe you’re a werewolf, right?”
“Of course. It was a full moon last night and you were there, you saw what I went through. My whole body reshaped itself. My eyesight and sense of smell, they were all heightened. I had instincts I’ve never felt before.”
“Oh, you changed, I’m not disputing that,” Dave said, trying to contain a smile.
Evan stared at him, shrugged his shoulders and sighed. “I’m too wiped out for games. What’s the matter with you?”
“You didn’t change into a werewolf last night, dude.”
“You were there!” Evan shouted. “My body . . .”
“It was more like a squirrel.”
Evan’s mouth hung open. He tried to speak, but nothing came out.
“You had a lot of fur . . . and sideburns, sort of, like Elvis, if Elvis had been a squirrel. And your teeth were bared the whole time. They were little teeth, but you were displaying them.”
“Are you out of your mind?” Evan finally bellowed.
“And didn’t you notice that . . . you got smaller? A lot smaller?”
“What? No, everything was just distorted. It was my first time. Damn it, Dave, no one changes into a . . . a . . . weresquirrel.”
“Photographic evidence,” Dave said sheepishly, handing his digital camera to Evan. “I got the whole thing.”
Evan scrolled through twenty-three shots of himself transforming from Evan Tanner into a bulky, hirsute squirrel with a toothy overbite.
“This can’t be. I didn’t even wanna be a werewolf, but who wants to be a weresquirrel? I mean, at least wolves are cool.”
“Calm down, Rocky,” Dave said, smiling.
“I need you to help me, not make jokes.”
“You’re right,” Dave agreed. “So now here’s something I hope you’ll really like.” Dave barely got the words out before he almost fell out of his chair.
“Come on!” Evan shouted, looking for something to throw.
“Ok, ok,” Dave said, holding his hands up in surrender. “I’ll stop.” The two friends sat in silence for a while. Evan kept going through the pictures, shaking his head. Finally he turned the camera off, leaned back in his chair and stared at the ceiling.
“How could this happen? A squirrel?”
Dave shrugged his shoulders. “It must be an evolution thing. First it was wolves, but obviously other animals have adapted. I wonder how many have this ability now?”
“How could I be attacked by a glorified rat?”
“You were drunk, remember? Taking a nap on a bed of pine needles and poison ivy.”
“Ahh, this can’t be happening.”
There was another knock on the back door. When Evan turned, his friend Leech, messy black hair and black eyeshade highlighting his face, was already letting himself in.
“Hey,” he said quietly to Evan. He looked at Dave and started, “Did you . . .?”
“Yes, he just told me,” Evan answered sharply. “And it’s not as funny as you might think.”
“Ok, well, what happened after you ran off?”
“I went after some guy down on Starlight Avenue. He’s in the hospital.”
“So you couldn’t control it?”
“No. Are you all right?” Evan watched as Leech paced around the kitchen while asking his questions, hands pressed into his lower back, head bobbing in affirmation of everything Evan told him.
“Yeah,” Dave added, “you’re not normally this fidgety.”
“I have to go,” Leech said, scuffling for the door.
“You just got here,” Dave laughed. Leech stopped with his hand on the latch. He half turned to Evan. “On the next full moon, stay away from the east side of town.”
“Why? What’s going on?”
Leech hesitated. He stared at the wall. “I was bitten last night on my way home.”
“By what?” Evan asked excitedly.
“It doesn’t matter, just stay out of my neighborhood on the full moon.”
“Leech, what bit you?”
“Wait a minute,” Dave said, interrupting. “How do you know . . . you know, that you’ll transform?”
“I can feel it, just like Evan did. You knew even before last night, didn’t you?”
“Yes, I did.”
Again, Leech started to leave, but Evan stood up, ready to follow him.
“Leech,” he said forcefully, “what bit you?”
“Mrs. Wilke’s schnauzer! All right? You stay away from the east side. If I see you, I’ll chase your ass up a tree.”
“This just gets better and better,” Dave said between guffaws, unable to control himself.
Evan stared at the blocks on the calendar, each one rendered obsolete by a black “x” going from corner to corner. He felt those lines inside. His life was being x’d out day by day, the anxiety churning in his stomach, making it impossible to concentrate on anything. He had spent the last twenty-eight days searching books and the internet for an answer, some way to reverse this curse, but found none. Now, as the sun went down and the full moon appeared like a specter, he felt the pull inside. There was no fighting it.
He undressed and stood in front of his bedroom mirror. Taking a deep breath, Evan stared hard at his slight frame. He stood up straight, jutting his chest out proudly, and said, “I am Evan Tanner. I am a weresquirrel.” He held his pose for three seconds, four seconds . . . then dropped to his knees. “No, no, no. It just doesn’t work. I’m not going to scare anyone; I won’t be able to pick up women, what’s the point?”
Then Evan growled. It came from deep in his chest, a well in his body that shouldn’t be there. His arms and legs shortened, the skin bubbling, gray hairs sprouting from the protrusions. Evan’s face contorted, his jaw snapping out of place, hanging limply while the muscles reformed around its new position.
Evan felt his bones breaking and reshaping. He was on all fours now, covered in a coat of coarse brownish-gray fur. Then he felt his nascent tail swaying back and forth behind him. He stood on his hind legs, chattering gutturally. The transformation complete, he climbed through the open window and leapt into the adjacent maple tree. Peering through the darkness, he realized he could see clearly. It was more than abstract shapes and shades. His vision was precise even in the black. And he could smell other animals. They were all around him, hiding in the trees, under his house, in dens in the woods.
Finally, there was the feralness, the urge to attack. It started as an itch and expanded through his entire body until he was shuddering with rage. His mouth opened, baring sharp, yellowed teeth. Evan stood on his back legs, roared, and ran off between the trees. He bounded with speed and agility through bushes and copses of weeds. Everything around him raced through his bloodstream: the crisp night air, the decaying leaves, and every animal’s musk.
Suddenly, without thinking, he raced halfway up the bole of a tree, all the muscles in his body rigid, tail flicking wildly. Then he saw it: Peering out from inside of a rotted log, a werepossum. They stared at each other warily, neither flinching, each emitting a high-pitched snarl. Finally the possum retreated, sneaking out the far end of his cave, disappearing into the brush. Evan waited several minutes before relaxing, jumping to the ground and continuing.
Evan exited the woods on the cul de sac of Bluejay Lane and ran through the grass looking for a way to sate the vicious lust that was inside of him. Houses were locked up for the evening, families inside where he couldn’t get to them. He came to the crossroads of Wren Avenue and Finch Street. His breathing was deep, roaring in his ears like a locomotive engine. The full moon stared down with disapproval. Evan’s eyes darted up and down the streets. But it was a sound that alerted him, a dog’s bark.
Turning to the left, Evan ran down Wren Avenue toward the hound’s voice. Three houses from the end of the road he found a chocolate lab barking playfully at its owner who was trying to put out the garbage.
“For God’s sake, Hambone, shut up,” the man tried not to shout, grabbing the dog by the scruff of its neck. “Its 10:30, people are trying to sleep.” Hambone licked his owner’s face with an enormous tongue. “Thank you,” the man said wearily, slobber dripping from his nose.
Evan watched from behind a bush as the man led the dog into the house but came back out with another two bags of garbage. After dropping the bags at the curb, the man pressed his hands into his lower back before turning around. Evan had run up behind him and now leapt at the man’s face.
“What the hell?” the man got out before the crazed squirrel dug its claws in to his chest.
The man stumbled back a few steps, then swiped an enormous hand and swatted Evan away. Evan recovered quickly, sinking his fangs into the man’s lower leg.
“Ahhh!” he yelled, falling to the ground in pain. Evan took advantage, pouncing on the giant’s head, scratching and clawing with all his strength. He had never experienced anything like it–the pure energy and need he had to attack. The man rolled on the ground, blood spraying from deep wounds. As the hands reached for him, Evan bit and clawed until his victim passed out. Evan sat over the body as the blood lust finally drained from him. Then he began to change back, throwing up over and over again as his body became human. Naked and exhausted, he ran for home.
“This whole town has gone mad,” Dave blurted out. “I’m afraid to leave my apartment.”
“I know,” Evan answered his friend as he switched his cell phone to his right hand. “Did you see the paper?”
“Yeah, twelve different attacks last night. I assume one of them was you.”
“I’m also assuming the rabid dog they’re looking for is Leech.”
“That’d be my guess. I haven’t spoken to him.”
“Dude, what the hell is going on outside during the full moon? How many of you are there?”
“I’m not sure, but it gets worse every month. I’ve seen possums, raccoons, a fat housecat, and a chipmunk.”
“A chipmunk? And you thought you had problems.”
“I know, it’s crazy.”
“I have to go. My grandmother needs me. Talk to you later.”
Evan laid his phone down on the kitchen counter and looked out the window over the sink. It was an overcast day with a possibility of snow to come. He watched the two pine trees at the back of his property sway in the wind.
The past six months had been a nightmare. Every twenty-eight days the change came over Evan, and he had no choice but to feed the monster inside of him. He had tried to exert some control over himself, to stop the transformation or at least stop attacking people. But the lycan blood in him was too strong. He couldn’t stop the painful metamorphosis, and he couldn’t control the urge for violence.
Strangely enough, the problem had overtaken the whole town. Every full moon more people were getting bitten by all sorts of animals. The evolution his friend Dave talked about was happening in leaps. It seemed that there wasn’t a species in the area that wasn’t a potential lycanthrope.
Last night Evan had run around town, frothing at the mouth, looking desperately for a way to expend his ferocious energy. Every person he saw was already being attacked by an animal of some kind. Evan tried to come back home, but the urge inside wouldn’t let him. He ran and ran, exhausting his legs, but it was chaos.
Finally he had been on the opposite end of town in the yard of a secluded house. He scratched at the back door until someone came out to investigate. Then he released all of his relentless venom on a defenseless elderly man leaving him shaken and bleeding on his patio.
Evan was beginning to wonder how many people in his town were still normal. The authorities were bringing in animal control experts from the federal government, but they were getting bitten as well. The fact that it was only happening on the full moon hadn’t escaped notice either. The police and animal control were trying to downplay it as a big coincidence. Then last month one of their men, while out on patrol, changed into a tabby cat and ripped up his partner. They were still publicly denying a connection, but no one was listening.
There were twenty-seven days until the next full moon, and people were scared. They were looking sideways at their house pets wondering if it’s safe to keep them, then glancing at their wives, husbands and children and deciding about them as well. Evan Tanner knew what he was. He could feel the coming storm and just wanted to survive.
The trees by his house had been quiet. After changing, Evan had sat on a branch sniffing the air, trying to decide which direction to go in. The wind was carrying so many different musks that he couldn’t distinguish were-animal from normal. He had seen a cat and a fox pass by below him. They gave him only a cursory glance before moving on. The urge was rising from the pit of his stomach into his throat. He had to go. Scrambling down the tree, he headed for the Bird-in-Hand development at the bottom of the hill.
Reaching the entrance to the housing complex, Evan was shocked to see the streets already enveloped in chaos. On one lawn a weredeer was stomping on a middle aged man while a were-German shepherd had the man’s wife cornered in the driveway. Across the street a weredachshund ran after a teenage girl as she tried to escape into her house.
Evan ran down the middle of the road, scanning both sides. There were growls and screams coming from all directions. A wereraccoon had dropped himself down the chimney into a house causing the entire family to run to their car for safety. At another house the werefox he had seen earlier had pounced onto a young man, and they were now rolling down the sidewalk together.
A siren suddenly shrieked to life. Evan ran under an SUV, peering out from behind a giant tire. One of the animal control trucks turned onto the street and screeched to a halt. Three teams of two jumped out to attempt to corral the attacking animals. The first two ran to the deer who immediately turned on them. Another team made a move towards the German shepherd, but he took off between the houses. The third team had the raccoon trapped until the female animal control officer transformed into a Shih Tzu and bit her partner on the ankle repeatedly.
Evan ran out from under the SUV, making a beeline for the next street over. Before he made it to the front yard of a two-story brick house, he saw another truck full of control officers desperately trying to round up a herd of were-animals. Confusion spun Evan around. He didn’t know which direction to turn. The urge inside of him was building to its apex as the desire to attack someone was driving him mad. His muscles ached from the strain on his body. But the entire town was in turmoil. Sirens blared from police cars, ambulances, and fire trucks. The night sky glowed with enough colored lights to land the space shuttle. And it seemed as if half the people had been turned into lycanthropes.
The pain was tremendous inside Evan. He needed to let the violence out, or he would explode. Evan ran and ran, down the smallest side streets and onto the main drag, searching for easy prey. He just wanted to get it over with and go home. Then he noticed he wasn’t the only one. Other squirrels, a possum, a skunk and several domestic dogs and cats that had been changed were also on the prowl. As they passed one another, they stared hard, giving each other a wide berth.
Evan was about to run up a tree and let the moon punish him for disobedience when he heard the shrill bark of a sheltie. He turned to look along with a dozen other were-creatures. They all saw the sheltie run down a street next to the elementary school and instinctively followed.
The band of housecats, a Labrador retriever, a skunk, three squirrels, a possum and a Guernsey milk cow that had wandered in from the outskirts of town raced down the road following the continued barking of the Shetland sheepdog. When they reached the back lot of a small apartment complex, Evan felt his stomach drop.
Backed against his Chevy Cavalier, throwing food from a grocery bag at the sheltie was Evan’s best friend Dave.
“Come on, dude,” Dave pleaded. “I just wanted to get some Cheetos.” The little dog advanced as did the others. Evan didn’t want to but was compelled. He felt the excitement overtake him, bloodlust washing away his compassion. Dave threw a Snicker’s bar and ran.
The pack of were-animals took the big man down after only a few steps. Dave was bitten nearly a hundred times, his clothes ripped from his body. Scratches covered his back and arms as he tried to protect his face. Evan’s appetite was sated quickly, turning him into a defender.
Some of the bigger animals would have kept at Dave until he was dead, but Evan began making fast, strategic strikes on the Labrador and cow. A few times they almost caught him, but his small size and quickness allowed him to be a painful annoyance. Eventually the dog and bovine tired, trotting away frustrated. Evan lay down next to his friend, exhausted himself, and kept watch until morning.
From the January, 15, 2012 edition of the Norristown Times:
Authorities Baffled by Latest Hybrid Animal Terrorizing County
For nearly a year now Norristown and neighboring New Columbia have been under attack from new strains of wild animals. Breeds of squirrels, raccoons, foxes, domestic dogs and cats and even cattle have evolved into aggressive and violent predators that go on the prowl approximately every four weeks. Fourteen deaths have been attributed to these feral creatures since last April and too many injuries to accurately count. What started as a few nuisance bites has become an all-out war between these new strains of animal and federal animal control officers, several of whom have been severely injured in the line of duty.
No satisfactory explanation for the sudden appearance of these animals has been found. The locals are convinced it is a form of lycanthropy, or wolf man syndrome, however, federal officials dismiss these claims as inflammatory.
The past ninety days has seen the sighting of yet another new species. This one, though, can only be described as bizarre. Five people have been attacked (one of them later died) by a beast that walks on two sets of legs. The rear set are bovine, the front set canine and covered in golden-colored fur. The animal’s body is sleek and muscled, covered in gray fur with a white stripe down the back. It has a six-foot long feline tail. The head is small with tufted ears and a long snout. It occasionally grunts and hisses, but its normal vocalization is a high-pitched, incessant bark.
While one Norristown resident claims his wife gave the beast a bag of extra cheesy Cheetos, and he happily went away, authorities do not recommend trying this. If you see the animal, please call your local police barracks, and they will be in touch with animal control.
Chris Hivner writes from a small town in Pennsylvania surrounded by books and the echoes of music. He has recently been published in Thrillers, Killers ‘n’ Chillers and The Carnage Conservatory. A collection of short stories, “The Spaces Between Your Screams” was published in 2008. He can be visited at www.chrishivner.com.
Chris de Souza Jensen originally graduated in 2D animation and fine arts in Dublin, Ireland. After this, he jumped straight into storyboarding in pre-production for video production companies. Increasingly finding it frustrating at the fact that storyboards were not really seen by a larger audience, he would eventually cross-fade more and more into illustration. At the present, his illustrative works have mixed with an older secret past-time… of graffiti.