Wolfbane

My annual Halloween post.

The kids would tease and mock him, call him Woofy, or Captain Wolfbane, even though it was unconscionably mean given what had happened. Some still call him that to this day, behind his back. It was because of his story about the attack.

He’d always insisted that what he saw that night was not a pack of dogs or any kind of ordinary wild animal. His parents, the authorities, the school counselors, his friends, no one could convince him otherwise. Gradually, as he grew up, he recovered some sense of normalcy in his life, but the memory of his little brother’s death simply would not fade. He was hobbled by the burden of a truth none would accept and that he could not deny.

Now a grown man in the same little town, nestled in the mountain’s afternoon shadow, he works and lives just outside the stream of everyday life. Polite relations with the townsfolk, always, but distant, and dwelling alone. He works the yard down at the mill and is tolerated as a harmless oddball. Some of the women quietly look out for him in a protective, motherly way. They see in him the traumatized child and think dear God, that poor boy.

But after returning from his last trip to the Balkans this once quiet borough was thrown into a panic. Brutal animal attacks began occurring. No survivors, bodies mutilated, often beyond recognition. The malignancy swept through the valley on a cycle linked to the moon’s full appearance and soon the connection began to be made. Captain Wolfbane was called in for questioning by the police chief. It was becoming impossible to ignore the story he’d insisted was true so many years before.

What do you know about these attacks, they ask him. He has a rising sense of indignation, that people should have listened to him before. His story had never changed, even in the face of the kinds of pressure that authority and popular opinion can bring to bear. And he was still just a child at the time. These horrible deaths were shaking the town to its foundations, but it was nothing new to him. He would help if he could. There remained a sense of decency and kindness in his makeup, even if his outward behavior seemed aloof. What could he do though, he’d made some progress in his research, but there was nothing conclusive, and plenty better left unsaid.

Why do you travel to Romania? What do you do there? Are you still convinced of the existence of werewolves? His absences during these trips did not go unnoticed. He had let on as little as possible but this is a small town. Folks stick their noses in, and they like to talk. They knew where he’d gone, had nothing more than ideas as to why. “He thinks he’s a werewolf hunter,” they’d snicker. “He scours the news for hints of unusual animal attacks. He thinks he’s going to find this mythical beast and avenge his brother.”

With nothing to fear he answered their questions forthright. He was convinced of nothing, but that his experience from before lurked within his memory like an autonomous entity, like something hunting. Similar attacks had occurred in Eastern Europe and that is what compelled his interest. He’d traveled there three times now, and otherwise stayed alone in his little shack with no alibi to offer. His deposition only intensified the cop’s suspicions. Now, whatever it was, was right here in his back yard. No need to travel anymore, correct? He thought a moment, then simply agreed.

The chief and her deputy questioned him late into the evening as the moon, near full this night, stabbed shafts of silver-blue light through the station house window and into his unaverted, aching eyes. And then he remembered. He remembered what had gotten so thoroughly erased from his mind each time it happened. He felt his blood heating and expanding, his bones warping into unnatural shapes with agonizing surety, the intoxicating whiff of warm, salty flesh igniting within him a power he knew nothing could control. He watched the officers, their faces, as it dawned on them. The impossibility of it right before their eyes. You believe me now, he thought.

In that fleeting moonlit portal that rises so briefly between his two worlds stands the shock of recognition. Each side suddenly knows the other. Each side seeing itself as a blighted image of the other, like two clouded mirrors chained face to face. The light and the darkness, the purity of each contaminated by the other. Unbearable, this knowledge, that he himself could do what so horribly was done to his own kid brother, but the segue is mercifully short. And he would awaken numb to recollection come morning, innocent as a bloody ax which knows nothing of who had wielded it, or why.

Last year’s Halloween post can be found haunting this link.