The Howl of the Wolf
It was a day like any other in the town of Hillcrest, Virginia. The fall season had come at last, and the leaves had started to turn from the monotony of green to a multitude of red, brown, and gold. This illusion of tranquility was far from the reality of the current state the town was in, however. If one were to ask any inhabitant of the town, they would have been informed of the true nature of the town. Until a few months previously, the town had indeed been peaceful. Then the situation took an abrupt turn. A traveler that had stopped through the town on his way to another city had apparently strolled into the forest late in the night, and was found near the river the next morning, torn nearly apart. The investigators couldn’t find any evidence that a human had killed him. A few weeks later, another traveler was found dead in the forest. It kept happening again and again over the next few months, and every inhabitant of the town was now too afraid to enter the forest, for fear of being the next victim. However, some believed that it was some kind of monster, because of one constant detail. It was always the same, the night before each victim was found, all of the townspeople claimed to have heard the same sound resonating over the trees: the howling of a wolf.
As it happened, another traveler was heading towards the town. Her name was Sarah Williams, and she was a journalist as well as a self-taught investigator from New York City. She had come to Hillcrest hoping to discover who or what was causing these deaths and-if she was very lucky-put a stop to it. As she walked down the road to the town’s entrance, she passed next to a small part of the very forest that so terrified the locals. She stopped for a moment to gaze at the trees, which in the day looked like they would be great for just sitting down and relaxing. However, she had a feeling that at night, they would look much different, at least until everyone could be sure that the “beast” or whatever it was that lived in those woods was no longer a concern.
When she arrived at the town, she decided to head to the local inn. She looked around, hoping to get directions from someone, but they all seemed busy and eager to get where they were going. Then, she heard a voice behind her.
“I haven’t seen your face around here. Looking for the inn?” it said. She whipped around to see a man dressed in a long brown coat wearing round spectacles. He looked to be in his mid-twenties, and appeared to be the local doctor. Sarah smiled at him and nodded.
“Yes. I’m here trying to get an understanding of what’s been happening here,” she explained to the doctor. When he heard that, his face turned grim. He looked around to see if anyone was watching-which they weren’t-and turned back to Sarah. His voice took on a strange quality as he said, “Listen closely to me miss. The inn is only five minutes’ walk straight east of here, but if you take my advice, you’ll get out of here before nightfall. If you’re smart, you’ll leave right this minute.” And so saying, he turned and headed off as fast as he could without running or appearing to be up to anything suspicious. She wondered for a minute what he was referring to, but then decided that it was the air of fear and paranoia in the air. The murders had terrified everyone-as she knew full well, but she didn’t think it was this bad. Nevertheless, she followed the doctor’s directions, and sure enough found herself at the inn in five minutes.
She entered and was immediately hit with a wave of warm air. After the chill of the autumn weather all over her for thirty minutes down an old dirt road, any amount of warmth was welcome. She walked inside, and shut the door behind her. She looked around, seeing rickety tables and chairs all around. More than one of such tables was currently playing host to a passed out tenant. She went to the bar and sat down. She asked the bartender for a coffee, and he just nodded. The bartender was a big man with filthy brown hair. He was barrel-chested and looked slightly intimidating. He asked why she was in town, and she gave the same explanation to him as she had the doctor. When he heard that she was investigating what was causing the murders, he got a strange, knowing look in his eye. He set down his glass, and fixed his gaze at Sarah.
“If ye need answers abou’ it,” he began, his deep, slightly grunting voice becoming rather sage-like, “ye can get them from me. I know full well what’s killin’ them travelers that come through here.” She stared at him for a few moments, and then decided to take his bait.
“All right then. What do you believe is killing every traveler that comes here?” she asked. The bartender, who introduced himself as Mister Zachary Dale, gave a grin. Then he began, “It definitely ain’t a man, but it ain’t no animal neither. I seen it, ya see, right before the firs’ murder. It was black as the night itself, it was. Its eyes were red as blood, an’ it looked a’ me as if I were its next meal. Tha’s why it’s killin’ ‘em: food.” Sarah was definitely interested now. She had already pulled out a notepad and was writing down everything he said. She got all of the details, including his description of the beast, and left, after paying for the coffee, of course.
She decided to go through the forest the next day, and she got out of bed just after sunrise to do so. She threw on the thickest coat she had, since it had gotten even colder through the night, and wrapped her scarf twice around her neck. As she headed off, she saw the doctor-Jonathan Niles was his name-and decided to get more information as to the murder victims. She got his attention, and when he saw that she hadn’t heeded his advice, he frowned but said nothing. It wasn’t until she was right in front of him that she asked to see the bodies. He just nodded, and led her in.
“They’re all in the same condition: scarred, torn, and shredded. I just can’t understand it,” he explained, muttering the last part to himself in the hopes that she wouldn’t hear. She did though, and asked, “What exactly don’t you understand?” He sighed, and explained, “All of the evidence suggests a wolf attack, but it was one wolf, and the teeth and claw marks are much too large. I don’t believe a word of old Dale’s stories, but I’m starting to think he’s right.”
After that little interview, she bid the doctor good-day, and left for the forest once again. When she finally got there, the sun was setting, so she headed off to find the spot where the first victim was found, the river. When she got there, she saw a young man there. He was of average height, and rather skinny, wearing only a long pair of green plaid pants and a white shirt with four or five patches in it. He looked up at her, and his gaze held hints of fear, to her confusion.
“You shouldn’t be here. You must leave quickly, or you’ll end up like the rest of those poor travelers.” She was surprised at first, but shook it off. Then she said to him, “I need to ask you some questions first. What’s your name?” He hesitated for a moment, and then answered, “Herrick.” Herrick then looked up at the sky, and looked horrified. Then he turned back to Sarah, and his eyes screamed one word to her, “Run!” Then, the moon shone down on them, and Herrick started to scream. He screamed so loud that the sound could only be rivaled by someone in the worst pain possible.
When he stopped screaming, he looked up at her, and she gasped. His eyes were blood red! He opened his mouth to reveal all of his teeth had become pointed, and his canines had grown into two-inch long fangs. He groaned out, “Run, now!” but she couldn’t move. Then, she heard it: the creaking, and snapping, of bones. Herrick’s screams started again, but they had become deeper, less human. He continued to scream, and his bones started to rearrange themselves, becoming bigger and longer. His hands had doubled in size, and his fingernails had become long, black claws. His legs gained an extra joint, right below the knees, and the heels of his feet moved up so that when he stood, he was on the balls of his feet. Now they resembled the hind legs of a wolf, only much larger. In contrast to his now lean lower body, his upper body was bulging with muscle. Then, dark hair began to sprout all over his body, and he tore his clothes off with his claws. He was now completely covered in a layer of black fur. As for Sarah, she tried to run, but her legs wouldn’t move. She was too terrified to do anything but watch as the base of Herrick’s spine grew, and a foot long, bushy tail sprang into existence.
The most terrifying part of all was what was happening to his head. Herrick’s screams continued to become less like a human, and more like the growls and snarls of a wolf. This was no doubt due to the fact that his jaws had stretched out from his face, and formed into a muzzle, with a black snout at the end. His head then became covered in the same layer of fur, only more sleek. His ears then became pointed, and moved upwards on his head. It ended with a final snarl, and snapping of his blood coated fangs.
The werewolf was now on all fours. It was looking right at Sarah, and she stared back at it. Then, it rose up on its powerful legs, and stared up at the source of its transformation: the bright, silver moon. Then, opening its jaws wide, it let out a sound that echoed over the trees for miles around; a sound that shook Sarah to the core with fear; the sound that the townspeople had heard before, and associated with death: a long, loud howl.