For as long as I could remember, I've been hearing stories about Werewolves. They are, and always have been, a big part of our towns History.
When I was little, my grandmother would sit on our porch, with my head in her lap and my hair in her hands. As the evening light gave way to dusk, she would braid my hair and tell me wonderful legends and wild tales of the strange and magical wolves.
Of course, many people hear these stories, and they don't care. But they matter to my people very much.
The Werewolves in my grandmothers stories are no mere figments of imagination. They were real.
Indeed, we live with the knowledge that that these creatures are not far from us.
They live in the woods.
They never come out, except for one day a year, when they gather at the edge of our town and take their human mates home to their packs.
No one knows how to tell a mate from a normal human. But the Werewolves do. Every year, on the fifth of November, they will find their mate, and the girl shall accompany her wolf with little or no struggle.
It was, for a long time, considered an honor.
When a family lost their daughter to the Wolves, they wouldn't dress in black mourning or isolate themselves in their houses, they would strut around town, heads held high, boasting that it was their daughter who was taken as the mate to the mighty creatures of the forest. Never mind that they might never see their child again. The honor was like none other.
For a very long time, when the fifth of November came, parents would dress their daughters up in fancy clothing and make them as pretty and as desirable as possible in the hopes that she would be chosen as the mate of one of the Wolves.
Sometimes, it would be one of those girls. Other times, it could be anyone else.
A homeless girl who hadn't brushed her teeth in months.
An orphan girl with no family and no status.
A school girl.
A shop girl.
The choices almost seemed to be made at random. But the Wolves knew the girl was his, and when he looked into her eyes, the girl knew he was hers.
For a long time the forest was thought to be a place of magic, true love, mystery and wonder.
Until a few years ago, three men were found on the outskirts of the trees. All three of them dead, and all three of their bodies carried the same message, carved deep into their flesh.
It was concluded that the men had wandered into the forest, drunk no doubt, and found themselves surrounded by a Werewolf pack.
Ever since then, the people of my town began to wonder, if those men were so brutally murdered, over a mere accidental trespass, what happened to the girls who the Wolves claimed as mates?
Though there was no solid proof that these girls were murdered as well, parents began to get more squeamish about letting go of their daughters.
So much so, in fact that when the Fifth of November after the murders were discovered came, the people would not line their children outside. The refused to let the Wolves take them.
This made it worse.
The Wolves were angry.
The townsfolk had no right to prevent the Werewolf from collecting his mate, they insisted.
The two were not to be separated by anything, for anyone.
Still, the townsfolk were stubborn, and refused.
The Wolves left and everyone thought that the girls were safe.
Until it became clear that they weren't.
A strange sickness took hold of the girls, showing up at first in simple cold symptoms.
A cough, sneezing, chills, runny noses.
Then it began to get worse.
Fevers. Temperatures soaring far over any ever seen before. Body pain, weakness, and fainting spells.
This was the Werewolves revenge.
They would not let go of their mates without a price. If they could not have the girls, no one could.
A month ago, the first death occurred.
The others are expected to follow suit.
Everyone was, at first relieved that the sickness seemed to be staying inside the chosen girls.
But now, everyone was terrified.
The Fifth of November would be with us very soon, and with that, it was either give the new girls over to what we were sure to be certain death, or refuse the Werewolves once again and have the sickness affect many more innocent girls.
It was a no win situation.
Today was October twenty third.
I lay my head against my Grandmothers knee and closed my eyes as I felt her old but soft hands work the tangles and knots out of my long dirty blond hair.
"What do you think they will do Nona?" I asked, tilting my head up to look at her.
Her silvery white hair seemed to be made up of several different colors in the fading light. Her wrinkled face creased into a frown as she contemplated the answer to my question.
"They shall be fools" she said after a moment.
"They shall refuse the Werewolves the girls once again, and we shall have more deaths upon us."
It was my turn to frown.
"But they'll die any way, if the Werewolves take them. Isn't it better to die of a sickness inside your own home, surrounded by family rather than die alone, murdered and left to rot in the forest?"
My grandmother, Nona, shook her head.
"What proof is there that the girls are actually murdered? Who knows what those men, drunk as they were could have done to provoke the wolves. The Werewolves have never tried to trespass in our town, and in return they expect the same from us, not to trespass into their forest."
I considered this for a moment, then said, "But the sickness. Surely that proves that the Wolves are evil. Killing all those girls just because they themselves can't have them."
Nona shook her head once again.
"None of us really know where this sickness comes from. It could be a curse for all we know. Werewolves have been taking mates from our village since the beginning of time. Who knows what sort of trouble braking that ancient ritual could cause? One thing I know for certain. It is not the Werewolves poisoning their mates"
"How do you know?" I asked.
"Really child, do you not remember a thing about the stories I told you? The bond between a Werewolf and his mate is nothing less than undying love, and forever devotion. Nothing is stronger."
She finished brushing my hair and stood up.
"It is time for me to go home-"
She broke off as she began a fit of coughing.
"Nona!" I cried, hurrying towards her.
She waved away my helping hands and smiled. "Nothing to worry about sweetheart, I'm fighting a cold. Now hurry, off to bed with you."
"Nona, I'm seventeen. I can stay up late."
"No you can't" Nona insisted. "Go to bed, I'll see you tomorrow."
Later, as I lay on my bed, I couldn't help but imagine it. To have a bond with someone. To share a love so strong that nothing, not even death could keep you apart.
Though I was aware of the danger, there was a part of me, a very small part of me, that wished that I would be chosen.