Yo! I hope that you’ve had an awesome week so far. I am back with another instalment of the serial. This time around, we are introduced to a character that we heard about previously but are now meeting for the first time.
It was morning.
Michael Hecker was in a bit of a pickle. He’d lost some keys several days before and now needed access to the safe. Okay, maybe “need” was a strong word. Perhaps “wanted” was a better one.
He’d started feeling odd at the beginning of the most recent new moon. It was bad enough when the full moon came about, but the new moon was becoming difficult to manage as well. He sensed something evil and the beast was now reacting to its presence. As such, he’d woken up two nights in a row partially changed.
He suspected what might happen if the beast grew out of control and sort to keep it in check. This is where certain contents within the safe under his bed came in handy. A capsule of wolfsbane and silver flakes was usually enough to weaken the beast enough to stop the change. The beast, of course, heavily disliked Michael actively working against it.
He’d never really got along with the beast in the twelve years since he’d been bitten one night during a breakdown on a trip to Singleton in New South Wales. He’d been found heavily injured by a truck driver an hour and a half later. He was told by the doctor at the hospital that the cold winter air had likely saved his life but he now suspected that he would have survived regardless.
Michael had been housesitting for a friend during the next full moon, still recovering from the attack when he’d first changed. Thankfully, the residence was away from a populated area. However, he remembered killing several sheep over the following three nights. On the first night, it had seemed like a nightmare seeing the terrified eyes of the Ewe staring back at him. On the second, it had felt more real as the beast began to share more of its senses with him. Michael had remembered the taste and the smell and the feel of cold wet grass beneath his paws. By the third, he knew what was happening with an unsettling clarity.
Michael had grown scared of what he could do to the people that he cared about. He purchased some books on the subject but they offered nothing but folk tales inspired by individuals with a gene that caused excess body hair. This was not helpful at all, nor were all of the silly horror movies about werewolves that he’d made the mistake of watching. In fact, the latter simply intensified his anxiety until he finally decided to move somewhere with enough distance between inhabitants that he would be a lot less of a risk to other people.
So, now he lived in a small country town along the coast of Central Queensland away from the big city where he’d grown up. He’d always thought of moving to a small coastal town when he retired, but that dream had been dependent on having a wife and family. His dream of finding a good woman was no longer an option because he wouldn’t put another person’s life in jeopardy.
Exasperated by his unsuccessful search for the keys, Michael decided to go into the township to pick up some seasoned chips and a flavoured milk as a means of clearing his head. He was thankful that he hadn’t lost his car keys at least. He pulled some sweat pants over the top of his shorts and threw on a jumper before grabbing the keys and heading out of the door of his home.
Maia Dunham was getting milk from the fridge of the service station when a strange man walked past her. He was tall, with shoulder-length brown hair that barely covered the beginning of a wicked scar at the back of his neck. The man looked almost as tired as she felt. He looked at rows of flavoured milk, considering which one to purchase.
“Hi!” she said.
He looked up, dark brown eyes staring back at her. They were almost black. He croaked out a hello in reply. Then his eyes grew large and he stumbled forward, hands upon the glass door. As the strange man looked about to fall backwards, Maia reached out to stop him from hitting the shelf behind him. As soon as her hands made contact with his arm, everything went black.
Michael found himself in a white room with the beast nearby chewing on a large meaty bone. It was a bipedal creature with shaggy light grey and brown fur. Its lower legs bent back bizarrely, giving it the appearance like it might lunge forward at any moment. It had a long snout with numerous large teeth peeking out from its mouth every so often as it crunched into the bone. It wasn’t a tall creature, but it was stocky enough to be intimidating even without the fangs and fur.
Michael had often found himself in this same room whenever the change threatened. However, this time was different. This time another person was with them.
The pale and fragile woman that had been getting milk at the service station now stood several yards away looking at the wolf-creature. She didn’t seem phased in any regard, though. Most people would have dropped to the foetal position at the sight of such a monster, but not this woman.
“Where are we?” she asked.
Michael had wondered this many times since he’d been infected. Every single time that he was about to change, he met the wolf in this place. It would usually be gnawing at a bone or grooming itself. It would then stand up on its hind legs and chase after him. Of course, he’d never thought to hold his ground because the flight instinct usually kicked in.
“No idea…” he said, then paused. The lycanthrope looked up from its bone and tilted its head as it considered the woman. “Aren’t you scared of it?” he asked.
She shook her head, “No, actually. I have seen scarier things. As it is, he doesn’t seem to be aggressive. So, why should I be afraid when he is not attacking?”
Michael thought about it for a moment, then answered, “Well… because it is a freaking werewolf!”
Maia wasn’t moved by the argument. Instead, she walked up slowly to the creature. Michael warned her against it, but she continued on until she placed a hand on its head and began to pat it.
Michael couldn’t believe his eyes. The creature wasn’t attacking like he had thought it would. Instead, it was nuzzling into her hand like a child receiving affection from a loved one. Then it stopped and looked at Michael.
“See, I can play nice!” it projected.
“What do you mean by ‘scarier things’?” he asked the woman.
She looked back at him, “I am talking undead and Reapers.”
“Yeah. They don’t send people to the afterlife like many people seem to think.”
“And how do you know this?”
She dropped her head and lifted the wolf’s to scratch under its chin. She took a deep breath. The lycanthrope looked deep into her eyes.
“Because I’ve been wounded by one…” she stated.
“Your werewolf friend here is not a threat and I doubt ever will be. Unless somebody is threatening a loved one… that is. But I suppose you couldn’t know that.”
“And how do you know that?”
“Let’s just say that it is a perk of the wound.”
Michael found himself curious. She struck him as a good-natured person and seemed to have some knowledge that he was horribly lacking. She was pretty as well.
“My name is Michael Hecker.”
“Maia Dunham. I recently moved back to Carmila for health reasons… I was hoping to find somebody to help deal with my particular problem.”
“Perhaps we can help each other out… but probably better to go back first.” Michael looked at the wolf, “We need out.”
The wolf nuzzled Maia’s hand one last time before it allowed itself to fall back into Michael’s subconscious. Slowly, the white room faded and the two humans found themselves leaning against the glass doors of the service station fridge. The air felt heavier.
Michael leant to the side as Maia picked out a chocolate milk. She offered a shoulder to Michael who was still feeling light-headed and they made their way to the register where Debbie was waiting.
“What’s up with him?” Debbie asked.
“Probably low blood sugar… Mind bringing this up for me?”
Debbie shrugged and allowed her friend to purchase the drink. With flavoured milk in one hand and woozy man on the opposite shoulder, she walked over to the side room where visitors often ate and drink at the several tables available. She helped him into a chair, feeling weak herself. Maia opened the plastic bottle and plonked a straw into it before offering it to Michael. He took it and drank slowly. Maia sat down.
It would be several hours before he was feeling well enough to drive, but Michael had somehow made an ally because of this chance meeting. He wouldn’t forget it. He was afraid, but he now knew that he wasn’t alone. However, there still remained the mystery of what had occurred during the last few days of the new moon. It would be some time before they discovered the truth.