Deserted Wolf Town
The Hunter slowly drove by on his Can-Am Spyder, 3-wheel motorcycle with oversized leather saddlebags that held the rest of his trapping and assorted supplies. Riding on the bike he could smell the roses and the aroma of lily flowers and also the infected all around him. He had on a German motorcycle half-helmet exposing his long silver hair that hung in a ponytail. He had squinty eyes that seemed somnolent, golden in color but they looked wise, oppressive with a constant look of steely determination. He had a scruffy appearance, with a weathered look to his forehead. He had a bulky leather satchel strapped on his right shoulder. He didn’t bother to conceal the fact that he had a sawed off shotgun on the right side, a rifle on the left side, and two handguns in his waistband.
After receiving what amounted to a desperate phone call from his superior, Dr. Byron Atkins, with the green light to search for, find, and destroy any lycanthropes that may have come to Louisiana he tried to smell subtle changes in the air. He had a line on the red marked and white haired stranger staying at the Point Breeze motel. He had staked out the motel for months but as of yet he proved elusive to capture and kill. When the reporter had gone for a day of research several times he had broken into her motel room to capture the white haired stranger, but as always, he disappeared. Downwind from the Hunter he could swear that the stranger had watched his every move. Eventually he had to keep moving. There was the matter of several escaped lunatics and the ringleader to deal with. He carefully navigated the overgrown brush and neglected gravel pathways through a hundred yards of thick trees and neglected farmland leading to the forgotten sugarcane plantation.
The Hunter slowed to navigate the overgrown weeds and the potholes in the road. He put his feet down on the grass to stabilize the bike as he bumped on down the gravel road. He explored the outer perimeter of the island first.
The motorcycle came to a crawl due to the rocks and weeds reclaiming the gravel road but still the bike staggered onward. The bike lurched forward and faltered, he leaned on the handlebars before righting himself again. The ground began slowly absorbing the wheels then his feet, water creeping out like a sponge. Leaving the rifle and shotgun, but patting his waistband to assure that he still had two guns in the holsters, he abandoned the bike before the three wheels could sink up to the spokes and the driveshaft. Carefully trudging through the forest he found the first shack by the swamp near the river. It was an old hunting shack he assumed from the isolated placement and had burnt down to the ground and long since been abandoned. He walked a mile and half away before he found the first of six servant shacks. They were long since abandoned too. He broke out from the thick jumble of trees to see the white manor in the distance.
His legs ached from the efforts of traversing natural obstacles, through the weeds and muck. He scrounged around on his knees carefully moving blades of grass looking at the dirt for clues of the lycanthrope’s existence. An unknown werewolf marked this territory acre to acre, north to south, east to west. A unique and very faint smell to a human being, but the Hunter had tracked the supernatural for years. He had become accustomed to the familiar pungent odor and now for him it felt like the primate enclosure at the zoo. He surveyed the clearing.
He could see the renovated manor. By the look of things, he could tell the occupants were there every few days or so fixing the house up but nobody appeared to have been there today.
There were no telltale signs of the werewolves’ presence either. No deep scratches strategically placed wall to wall, a secret lycanthrope language of their own, an indication of their den, suggesting only human habitation. He brought out maps of the Raccourci Island area. He had found a burnt hunting cabin, six servant shacks and the manor itself. However, he saw a clearing that was large enough to accommodate a barn, and caught the strong stench which hung heavy in the clearing, but he couldn’t find the barn itself. Perhaps the barn had burned down in the war, he thought.
He grimaced; there were signs of a heavy werewolf presence, but no clue to their whereabouts at the present time so he backtracked. He sluggishly trudged over the spongy wet ground until he saw his motorcycle again. Hopping onto the Spyder he slowly backed it up until he hit firm ground.
Observing town after town he had come to the painful conclusion that the infection had spread beyond the several purposely burned down shacks, trailers and houses. He drove down to Belcher, with six-hundred and seventy people the streets were empty outside and not a car in sight. Then on down to Plaucheville with nearly three-hundred residents, the same thing as Belcher, each neighborhood looked empty, abandoned. He pressed the clutch in, down-shifting the motorcycle to ride slower, inspecting the area of Pollock with three-hundred, seventy six residents. On down to Saline, Calvin, and then Ida, Louisiana which all had less than three-hundred residents, and on to the border of Arkansas; all a virtual rural wasteland, everywhere he stopped now were ghost towns.
He crisscrossed the land, gathering more clues to report to his superiors. The engine sputtered and coughed, severe punishment of the drive almost too much for the motorcycle to endure until he came to Hessmer; with a population of eight-hundred, where he gave the bike a rest, parking at the US Post Office. He could smell the newly changing. The weak-willed exhibited some manner of normalcy, never knowing the beast that raged inside them.
Residents in this town went on with their daily lives, going to work, doing yard work, cutting their lawn or just rocking on a porch swing. He felt several eyes staring at him. He glanced around and saw six people in the corner of a gas station/Laundromat. Latino or Hispanic features. They were dressed the same with pants drooped down to their boxer shorts, white wife beater tank tops with brown shoulder holster peeking out from a button-down blue checkered shirts, and had blue bandannas, intently watching Hunter’s every move. A gang of some sort, Hunter thought. By the smell of them those men were not aware of the beast that raged inside of them but due to extreme neurological changes they were obligated to fulfill the alpha wolf’s beckon and call, kin through the blood he thought. There were too many of them, he thought, he didn’t want to wear out his welcome just yet.
He turned onto Highway 1, stopping to check for clues at New Roads through Batchelor, LA. The sun set as he arrived at another small deserted town, Royal Bay. The streets were empty, newspapers piled up in yards. Cars resting in driveways, dust covered, where the occupants left it. A soft breeze blew across Hunter’s face as he stopped in front of a house its lights were on in broad daylight. He cautiously walked up the driveway.
A Rottweiler, obviously a guard dog, threw itself against the window from the adjacent house nearby and barked his alarm. Hunter stepped and stumbled as he looked at the crazed dog. Signs of neglect were painfully obvious. He could see the bones protruding out of his side as fleas hopped across his dripping muzzle. Scars on the lips that had bled and scabbed up told him he had been trying to eat his own face. Signs the dog had been trapped in the house for weeks. Barking furiously as the Hunter approached the neighbors’ front door.
Shaking off his initial start he withdrew a gun from its holster as he checked the door. It was unlocked. He swung it open, opening wide into a well lived in house. The TV still blared and it felt hot to the touch. Popcorn and beer sat on the coffee table. He scooped up and consumed a handful, the kernels were stale, and then he sipped the warm flat beer. He switched the TV off with the remote, the house warm and toasty but there were no signs of life within.
“Hello?” Hunter called out but silence was the only reply.
He walked over to the next room to discover the source of the heat. One of the burners on the stove top was still on, red hot, like a bright bull’s-eye. The pots that sat on the other burner were smoking as the last of the water had evaporated. He shut off the stove, sweat already shimmering on his forehead. He wiped his head with his sleeve and shrugged his shoulders. He assumed the owners of the house had left in a hurry.
Damn, something was really wrong he saw it as soon as he entered the living room. A bird cage hung on the wall near the fireplace. Bars broke and bent out of place. Two large birds lay motionless upon the fresh bloody newspaper in the cage. The colorful exotic birds were decapitated, lying in their own fluids.
A chill ran up his spine, the hair tingling on the back of his neck. He tightened his grip on the revolver as he climbed up, the stairs groaning under his weight. As he turned the corner with his hand still on the stair rail he saw them. An older couple lying on the bed, the bedroom door opened before them. His pulse quickened, unsure what to make of the scene. He called out to the couple as he approached.
He tried again... he heard nothing.
Hunter stood in the doorway watching closely the older gentleman. He had a half crown of hair that circled his head from temple to temple, his face was pale and wrinkled and on his oval face was several day’s growth of silver stubble on his chin. His heart sank when he realized the elder gentleman had the parasite, they were invading his fragile body, were it true he will stay in a coma, dead yet alive, his body in a state of suspended animation until the next full moon.
He cautiously felt his arm. He flinched; it was hot to the touch. He felt for a pulse but he could not find one. No wait… there it was, a beat a few times a minute. Was it a true heartbeat? He edged even closer, there was a faint jolt, like a defibrillator going off forcing the heart to once again beat. The parasite was keeping them alive but just barely. The Hunter knew from experience a weak frail host could not endure the transformation and eventually the brain would atrophy. Just the primal instinct of the brainstem would manage to survive. The only thing that survives is the primitive brain, a wolf’s brain, the simple brainstem that the parasite needed to survive with the host until the next full moon when they will wake out of hibernation and breed again. The elderly woman that lay next to the old man was curled up in a ball at his side, as motionless as the man. The Hunter now turned his attention to her. She had the same temperature and pulse as her mate. And they seemed to be in a deep sleep. The Hunter shook them both violently, but to no avail.
He turned his attention on the phone near the bedside picking the receiver up. He had to check in with The God’s Light, and report on his progress. The Hunter felt the bed shake, and looked in time to see a wrinkled hand snapping a hold of his shoulder, long nails growing from the finger tips, digging into the Hunter’s flesh.
He saw the beast, fury in its animal eyes, a blood lust. Sound was coming from somewhere deep inside a mouth full of teeth as it snarled in delight. The Hunter dropped the phone, reaching down in desperate effort for his gun. Short course hair rippled across the silver-haired man’s face as it contorted into a dog-like man beast. Its shoulders drooping, the pajama top ripped open showing sparse silver fur like hairs visible at its ridiculously long stretched sinewy neck. It’s impossible! The Full Moon is still a week away, yet more and more he could see with his own eyes the old man had awakened and was going through the transformation.
The beast tossed Hunter across the room with a minimal strain of effort, as it stumbled from the bed onto its feet. Jean slid up the wall, a piercing pain stabbing him in his side as he clambered to his feet. He eyed the gun with longing; it seemed like a million miles away resting on the nightstand between the silver haired beast and the bed. The silver haired wolf man leaned in, his breath putrid and stale, its claws dug into the Hunter’s shoulders. It sniffed him up and down his body and then it started a low, guttural snarl. Even though they were in a coma like state, the married couple could still hear and smell the intruder, a rudimentary security system the old man had awakened to protect his mate.
He subscribed to several tabloids like The National Enquirer, The Star, The Sun, The Eclipse, and a host of other magazines to keep up with the bizarre, weird, unusual and the supernatural. He had to rifle through myths, bogus sightings, and pure shit… like the sightings of the famous “bat boy” of The Sun magazine. Only one or two articles in the tabloids he subscribed to had a fragment of truth to it. For all his investigations, The Eclipse Magazine’s articles by Amy Anderson were surprisingly factual... all true actually. In his line of work seldom did he find all of the reports were genuine fact. He steadied himself with an elbow on the wall, dizzy and lightheaded from blood loss due to his shoulder wounds. Then a horrible realization came to mind. He stared at the mythic embodiment of death itself and he had been caught off guard. He closed his eyes, preparing for razor sharp teeth rendering his leathery flesh.
Hunter flashed back to where he survived an almost fatal encounter with the beast a long time ago. Before the forest had been an open area now he found himself trapped in the bedroom. He felt the warm wet urine spreading down his legs, saturating his pants. Suddenly he heard a loud wet gasp coming from the bed. The beast heard the sound too. He felt its hands loosen up.
The Wolf Man released the Hunter and jumped toward the bed, the old woman’s body lurching as he landed. The old woman’s eyes bugged out, mouth open; a pool of saliva darkened the area of the bed. Her heart was beating so fast you could see it through her chest. Her head snapped back and her shoulders arched. She uttered incoherent sounds as fluids spilled over her lips. A purplish red black welt spread throughout her chest as she turned a sick pale gray color.
The old man had a yeti-like appearance with his sprouts of silver fur. Bigfoot-like monstrosity which had him thinking of all those Bigfoot sightings across the United States, no time to dwell on this though as he reached for another weapon. The silver monstrosity with the gray torn, striped PJs had its attention diverted from the Hunter, seemingly more concerned for his wife.
In an almost tearful manner the husband had completely ignored The Hunter to aid his ailing wife. He gently scooped up his dying wife letting out a sorrowful lupine howl. The first time in years Hunter’s heart began to ache. The love that he had for her had been obvious even through the lupine haze of instinct and survival. Even with the fast and powerful healing process trying to heal her heart, her heart was too weak to complete the first and critical amalgamation to becoming both human and beast. He hated to kill the lovers, especially since the old woman was dying anyway.
He slowly bent down; his eyes never leaving his target, to retrieve his knife strapped to his calf. He had forgotten what a normal life felt like he had hunted the abominations for so long that only fragments of memory remained. At one time he had had land and a simple home. He had been a farmer once, hadn’t he?
Quick as a cobra’s strike he restrained the old, but in no means weak, man-beast in a choke hold with his left arm, his knife finding the pulsing artery in the old beast’s wrinkled neck. The knife slicing through to the spine breaking bone, his muscle memory from all his work kicking in, until the infected head rolled onto the bed.
The quick hot artery spray warmed his face. He closed his eyes and for a moment he was reminded of his youth back in France and summer time shower and that caught him by surprise before he could run for shelter. He smiled at his misspent, but innocent childhood. While he was lost in this time for a moment, just one moment, everything seemed bright, cheery, and right with the world.
The smell of metallic iron inundated the air; Hunter came to his senses when he tasted the salty copper liquid on his tongue. Gagging, he quickly spit, found his flask in his pocket and unscrewed the lid gulping the medicinal spirits. He gargled and spit then repeating the process again.
Gripping the bloody knife he poised it over the wife’s heart but hesitated. The Old woman’s heart was in full-blown arrest, He could see the heart struggling, her chest heaving under her sheer nightgown. Animalistic eyes that glinted when they caught the light just right were open wide but they were vacant. She let loose a guttural growl, exhaled once and then went still the heart stopped. Then, like an ode to lovers everywhere, the stricken couple lying in bed, holding hands for the last time.
He knew there was a week before the next full moon, his body had been conditioned to tell the moon’s cycles. He had hunted the abominations for so long he had gotten complacent. The old man waking up from their coma to a perceived threat and changing before his eyes had actually frightened him. He had not seen anything like that before. In his experience only through the pack to learn the mysteries of transformation, the ancient, or the powerful could change forms at will. However, apparently the old man in the coma awoke the primeval senses activated an early warning system of sorts; it was a crude survival mechanism spontaneously, instinctively changing the comatose man to protect the love of his life. He felt the heat of embarrassment as it rushed through him. He smelled the urine odor and felt his wet pants. For the first time in all his long years he was surprised, frightened and a little embarrassed.
As he quickly made way his outside he could not help but think of The Eclipse Magazine and articles by Amy Anderson and the tattooed faced missing man. He turned on the engine and rolled down the driveway. The motorcycle only turned down the main road a few feet before he heard close by an explosion, the shockwave threatening to topple the motorcycle on its side if not for the fact of the can-am’s three wheel stability, another sign that he had chosen his transportation well! The motorcycle slowly rolled down the main street and into Royal Bay. The town had become a ghost town. Communication towers were torn down and a closer inspection revealed fang and claw marks. Streetlights were down as well, blocking the road.
The auxiliary power station was nothing more than a scrap yard. A ten foot fence was no more. The generators were knocked back from their concrete anchors, only long deep scars remained. The primary power lines, secondary power lines, and ground wires were cut and destroyed, the transformer, circuit breaker, current transformer, lightning arrester, main transformer, and control building all looked like a tornado blew by knocking down the wall and roof on the concrete foundation.
However, the towers that looked like the Eiffel Tower were tilted, and leaning looking more like The Tower of Pisa. The darkness quickly set in, save for the orange incandescent glow of the inferno raging unchecked. He remained armed to the teeth as he was made keenly aware he was completely and utterly alone and helpless when he thought he saw shadows coming from the houses, human figures, coming to the fire, he thought. He throttled the engine, the drivetrain responding in kind. His mind was playing tricks on him; he tried to convince himself, better get on the highway and put the eeriness behind him.
Not for the first time grateful he chose the Spyder, 3-wheel motorcycle as he maneuvered the bike through the downed power line poles safely and was once again on his way to New Roads, to search for Amy Anderson. He had a few ideas where she might be, first the motel, then the libraries, he grunted; it would be a long night.