Small Town Wolf
A story by Paige Evans
It was a crisp, cold December night. A person couldn't breathe without the evidence crystalizing in the air before them. So what was Audrey doing outside in nothing but a T-shirt and pajama pants?
She really wasn't sure, either.
"I'm s-so sorry about th-this, Audrey," said a voice to her side. One of Audrey's neighbors, sixteen-year-old Kelley Ford, stood wrapped in a thick, green and white quilt. Her face was etched with worry. Her cat, Noodle, had gotten out of the house and was now roaming the area. Noodle often found its way out of the Ford house; this wasn't the first time Audrey had been called on to rescue the stupid animal.
"I j-just didn't want to l-leave her out here. It's so c-cold," Kelley rattled out.
"It's not a problem, really," Audrey assured her as she crept around the flower gardens Kelley's mom liked to keep. Just call me your friendly neighborhood werewolf, she added silently.
Honestly, Audrey didn't understand why Kelley kept calling on her to find Noodle. Noodle didn't like Audrey, and with good reason. Audrey could have eaten Noodle in one bite. Not that she would. Cat, she'd discovered, didn't agree with her. She supposed it was because she was the only person fast enough to catch Noodle. Humans, on average, couldn't move quickly enough to catch a cat that was really determined to get away from them. Audrey, on the other hand, moved even more quickly than a cat that was really determined to get away.
Audrey heard the crunching of small feet on the freshly fallen snow. She crept forward; through the railing around the porch, she could see a tail pointed up in the air, swishing around as the cat frolicked. She understood how Noodle felt, of course. She understood what it was like to be in a cage, to be locked away, to never run free. Though, unlike Noodle, Audrey's cage was made of flesh and bone.
Noodle froze, sensing Audrey's close presence. The cat jumped, sprinting towards the small cluster of trees on the other side of the house. Audrey moved quickly. So quickly, in fact, that Kelley, who was looking on anxiously, wouldn't have been able to tell you exactly what Audrey had done. Noodle sprang forth. So did Audrey. They landed in the snow, the cat clasped firmly in Audrey's hands. With a grunt, she hauled herself to her feet, and handed Noodle back to Kelley, who was gushing, "Oh, th-thank you, Audrey! Thank y-you!"
"Don't mention it," Audrey muttered. Kelley went into her house, carrying Noodle tightly in her arms, and Audrey headed across the street to her own humble abode. As she walked, she studied her arms. Noodle had scratched up a storm, all right. There were several gashes along the undersides of her arms, already dripping blood onto the crisp white snow. Cats, along with most other animals, hated her. It was the whole werewolf thing. It made for quite a lonely existence; she couldn't even keep a pet around the house. With no boyfriend and not even a pet to keep her company, Audrey found home a most detestable place.
Audrey kicked her snow-covered boots off outside the front door. Not that it would have really mattered if she wore them inside. Her home wasn't the cleanliest of places. Werewolves didn't really care a lot about keeping their homes spotless. Or perhaps she was just a slob. Had she been so negligent before she'd been bitten? Sometimes Audrey couldn't remember what it was like to be human, she'd been bitten so long ago.
She trudged into the house and went back to what she'd been doing before Kelley had called: sitting on the couch, watching pointless shows on the Travel Channel in an attempt to pass the time before she was tired enough to go to bed. Finally, when she could stand it no more, she got up, turned off the television, and marched glumly back to her bedroom.
As she lay in bed, she thought about her life and the way it was now. Maybe it was just silly of her, but she'd thought that becoming a werewolf would make things a little more exciting. Instead her life was more boring than ever. She couldn't have close friends—what if they found out her secret? She couldn't have a lover—what if she passed the curse through sex? She couldn't even have a fucking pet—animals couldn't stand her. Well, dogs seemed to like her, but they were so damned annoying that she wouldn't want one anyway. And she had a shit job because it was hard to stay in college and keep your grades up when you were turning into a snarling beast once a month.
Maybe she needed to get out of Carlin Cross. A change in scenery would do her good; she'd been living in this hole-in-the-mud town all her life. Of course, the notion of moving away had crossed her mind before, but she could never bring herself to actually go through with it. Once she'd got as far as looking on the Internet for any places for sale in a city a few hours away, but that search had died quickly enough.
Audrey pushed all the thoughts of her fucked-up life out of her head. They weren't conducive to sleep. Not that Audrey ever slept well anyway. Werewolves were more accustomed to roaming around at night and curling up somewhere during the day. Unfortunately the only people who got the privilege of sleeping all day were those artistic types, writers and musicians and the like. But for Audrey, as it was with most normal people, the world didn't revolve around the night life.
Damn shame, that.
Audrey awoke the next morning to the sun glaring at her through the uncovered window. Audrey never closed the curtains—even though she was always tempted to—because if the sun wasn't there to wake her up, she'd very easily sleep the day away. Groaning because the time she spent sleeping never seemed long enough, Audrey threw back the covers and pushed herself out of bed. Another terrible day, she thought to herself as she stumbled across the hall to the bathroom. She waited until the water in the shower was scalding hot before she stepped in.
Freshly showered, and wide awake even though she didn't want to be, Audrey made her way to the kitchen, where she made herself breakfast. Bacon, eggs, sausage. Good thing she never seemed to gain a pound. Being a werewolf did have some advantages.
When she had stuffed her face all that she could, she dumped the dishes in the sink. She'd wash them, eventually. She shuffled back to the bedroom to get dressed for the day looming ahead. It wasn't like she had to wear an actual uniform, or even look that nice, for that matter. Eddie Adams, the local vet, didn't enforce much of a dress code on his employees. Finally she pulled out a pair of jeans and a top that didn't look like she'd bought it at Wal-Mart (even though she totally had) and slipped them on. After fluffing her short hair a little bit and slapping on some black eyeliner, which was the only type of makeup she ever wore, she decided she looked good enough to leave the house.
Audrey went outside to discover her car was covered in ice. It was probably too dangerous to drive on the roads. Oh well. It wasn't like a car accident would kill her or anything. In fact, she didn't think anything would really kill her, besides maybe a silver bullet to the head.
In a series of automatic motions she fetched the ice scraper out of the car and set to work on the windshield. She had to be careful, though. She was strong enough that she could put the stupid ice scraper right through the glass. When the windshield was clear enough that she could see out of it, she slid into the cold vehicle. It was a 1967 Volkswagen Beetle, red, and also the love of her life. The car, which she had found in prime condition for an incredibly low price, was probably her favorite possession.
The drive to work was incredibly slow and tedious. She wouldn't have bothered going slow if it weren't for the police. She didn't need to be taken in for reckless behavior. By the time she arrived at the Veterinary Offices of E.W. Adams, she was ten minutes late.
The office was completely dark. Frowning, she got out and went to peer at a white piece of paper taped to the door.
"Office closed due to the weather," she read aloud. A soft growling could be heard as she stomped back to her car. How dare he close the office! Couldn't even be bothered to give her a call so that she didn't have to get out of the house. She did own a phone, or wasn't he aware? Getting back into the car, she glanced at herself in the rearview mirror. Behind her sunglasses, her eyes were glowing yellow. She closed them and took a deep breath, and when she looked again, they were back to being green.
What was she going to do now? There was no sense going back home now that she was already out. But damn, she hated being around people more than she absolutely had to be. It wasn't that she disliked all people. It was just that when people were around, things became chaotic. The smells were what got to Audrey the most. Almost everything people did left a scent on them somehow. And when a lot of people were together in one place, the smell was almost too much to handle.
But, still. She couldn't just mope around her house all day. That's why she'd gotten the job as a vet's secretary in the first place. So she could get out of the house once in a while.
She thought about it. She could go to the mall. Maybe treat herself to something nice? Even as she thought this, she was backing out of her parking space, and turning left out of the parking lot. Her feet and hands had already made the decision for her; she was going back home, back to her existence that wasn't really an existence at all. One day, she'd change that, she decided.
But today wasn't that day.
Back at home she took off her shoes and plopped down on the couch, turning on the television as she did so. The Travel Channel popped on. It was one of those shows were stupid people stayed in haunted houses all night, and the cameras moved or some shit and everyone freaked out. Audrey fell asleep to people screaming.
She was sixteen again, and walking the familiar path in the woods behind her house. She often took a walk through the trees when her parents' fighting became too much for her to stand. It was a hot, sticky night, and her hair, longer then, plastered itself uncomfortably against the back of her neck. She swept it to the side, wishing she'd thought to bring a hair-tie with her. But of course, she hadn't really been thinking much of anything when she left the house. She'd only wanted to get away. Get away from all the shouting, and the name-calling, and the insults. God, why didn't they just get divorced already? They both wanted to. But of course, divorce would ruin appearances, and her parents were about nothing if not about appearances.
She had now gone farther into the woods than she'd intended to. It was dark, after all. She wanted to be able to find her way back home. She turned to go back, and as she did, she heard something that sounded like a groan. She paused. A few moments later, she heard the sound again.
"Hello?" she called. "Is someone there?"
She started forward, not in the direction of home, as she should have done, but in the direction of the sound. It seemed like it was coming from a clump of bushes just a few feet away. She crept toward the bushes, ready to turn and run if it was something not-so-nice. She did not hear the sound again, though. "Hello?" she called again, reaching the bushes. No answer. She pushed branches aside, and let out a small scream.
A man was lying there. But he wasn't just lying there. No, he was bleeding there. Dying there. He might have already been dead. "Hey, mister?" she said. He did not respond. Moving the clumps of plant aside, she got on her hands and knees and crawled through to him. "Oh, my God," she muttered when she saw him close up.
It looked like he had been shot. There was a gaping hole in his chest. Blood oozed from it. Some had been splashed onto his face upon impact. He was pale from blood loss. She knew she should go for help, but she couldn't just leave this potentially dead body there, not without checking it herself. She put two fingers against the cold, clammy skin of his neck. No pulse that she could feel. She put her hand over his nose. She couldn't tell if he was breathing or not. She looked around; she was too far from her house for her parents to hear her if she screamed. She wondered if she could get home and get this man some help before—
With a gasp, Audrey woke up. She sat up so quickly that she lost her balance, and fell off the couch, landing on the hardwood floor in a heap. "Ouch," she muttered, pulling herself to her feet. Her wrist was throbbing. She studied it, putting it under the light of the lamp as she sat down. It was nothing more than a scar now; twelve years ago it had been a gaping, bloody mess.
The man had bitten her on the wrist, had almost taken a pretty chunk out of it, too. She'd managed to break free of him and run back home. He hadn't followed. He'd been too weak to follow. She hadn't known it then, but the man was a werewolf, and the next full moon, only a few nights later, she'd undergone her first Change. It hadn't taken her long to figure out what had happened. She'd been bitten by a werewolf, and now she was one. She'd researched on the Internet, putting together popular opinions and making some up for herself, melding the legends until she found some semblance of the truth.
She had never forgotten that night, but it had been a long time since she'd dreamed of it like that. What had brought it on? Surely not the glowing of her eyes earlier? She was easy to piss off—her eyes glowed almost every day. Why would she randomly dream about it now, when she'd done nothing to trigger the resurfacing of such a memory?
She tried not to think about the man who'd bitten her, and most of the time she succeeded. It wasn't as if she was ever going to see him again, so why dwell on him? He'd bitten her, given her this blasted curse, and that was the end of it. He probably hadn't even meant to bite her, but he had been dying at the time, and dying probably made people do some pretty stupid things. Even those people who weren't actually people.
Audrey was never sure if the man had actually died. She'd gone back the next day, despite her better judgement, but she had not found him. She'd looked everywhere, but there was no one in those woods with her. She didn't know if she'd wandered farther than she'd originally thought, and he was rotting away somewhere deep in the woods, or if he'd managed to leave, or if someone had come and got him. She didn't know, and she'd never know. And she'd learned to deal with that.
Audrey sat up with a yawn and looked to the television. The Travel Channel was still showing those ghost hunting shows. Blaming the Travel Channel for her dream, she grabbed the remote and turned the television off altogether.
She stood. It was almost dark outside; she'd slept the whole day away. God, but she was so bored. Life held nothing exciting for her at all. Nothing, except...
A sudden idea hit her. She didn't take time to think about it. Didn't take time to question it. She just ran with it. Grabbing her keys, she practically flew out to the car. In no time she was heading down the road, not caring anymore about the ice or dangerous driving conditions. Let her be in a wreck. What couldn't kill her would probably be entertaining.
Despite her reckless driving, Audrey did not have a wreck, and after being on the slick roads for twenty minutes or so, she finally pulled into the driveway of her old house. It was sort of sad, being here. It had been abandoned since her mother died. Sad, yes, but advantageous for Audrey. She got out of her car and started stripping right there, folding her clothes and setting them in the driver's seat. When she was down to nothing, she closed her eyes and concentrated. She didn't need a full moon now, hadn't needed one in years. She felt her body start to rearrange, muscles and bones taking on different shapes. It almost wasn't even painful anymore.
Tail wagging like an overly large dog's, a shaggy black wolf bounded off into the trees. A single howl lit up the night.
Audrey woke at home. She didn't remember getting there, but that was often how it went when she changed. She didn't remember anything afterwards. A good, long sleep was always needed to recuperate. Lumbering out of bed, she did what she always did. She showered, she made breakfast. Just another normal day in the life of Carlin Cross's only werewolf.
Looking through a window in the living room, she saw that a new layer of snow had fallen sometime during the night. She didn't remember doing so, but she had probably romped and played in it sometime last night. She wondered if she'd have to go into work today. Probably not. Still, she'd better call and make sure this time. She didn't want another wasted trip.
Grabbing the cordless phone off the table at the end of the couch, Audrey quickly dialed Eddie's cell phone number.
"Hey, Audrey," he answered.
"Hi, Eddie," Audrey said, her voice full of false cheerfulness. "I was just wondering if I had to work today, or did you just close the office without telling me again?"
There was a moment's pause. "What are you talking about?" he finally asked. "I left you a message yesterday, Audrey."
"Eddie, you know I don't have an answering machine," she snapped.
"Well, I guess it's a good thing I didn't leave you a message on an answering machine," he snapped back. Typical Eddie. "I left a message with your boyfriend; he said he'd tell you."
It was Audrey's turn to pause. The fine hairs on her arms and the back of her neck stood on end in a sudden cold splash of terror. "Eddie," she said carefully, "I don't have a boyfriend."
"Ugh. Lover, brother, whatever. It was a man, and he said he'd give you my message. So, can you come in today or what?"
Audrey couldn't answer. Her mind was whirring. Someone had been in her house. In her house! Yesterday, right under her nose. She hadn't even noticed. (And she had a very fine nose.) How could someone have gotten past her without her noticing? What kind of a damned werewolf was she?
"Audrey," said Eddie in a bored tone on the other end.
"Wha—oh, yeah...yeah, I'll be in today." It wasn't as if she was going to stay home. Suddenly home wasn't safe anymore.
"Good, because we've got a shipment coming in, and you know how terrible I am at that sort of thing."
"Yes, of course," Audrey told him. She wasn't really listening to Eddie at this point. "See you later, Eddie." She hung up while he was still talking.
Before Audrey got dressed, she did a quick but thorough search of the house. There was no scent besides her own. If someone had broken in, they would have left a scent of some kind. But there was absolutely nothing. How could someone, even someone who wasn't human, leave no smell behind whatsoever?
Suddenly it hit Audrey; hit her like a ton of bricks. What was the standard way to throw dogs off a scent? Jump into water, of course. Whoever had broken in would have been soaking wet, and she wouldn't have noticed, because the water would have washed everything suspicious away. The only smells they could have brought into the house would be the ones from outside, ones she brought in herself everyday, so she wouldn't notice those as being out of the ordinary. And sure, the person would have dripped everywhere, but what did Audrey do as soon as she woke up? She showered, and then she dripped everywhere, so she wouldn't have noticed the water either.
Whoever had broken in had done it perfectly, and that scared the shit out of her.
Whoever had broken in was also aware of the fact that she was a werewolf. That scared her even more.
She dressed and got out of that house as quickly as she could. She felt like she was being watched, but of course that was just paranoia. Not like she didn't have a right to be paranoid. Someone knew her secret, someone in this town knew her secret, and they had gotten into her house without alerting her to their presence. Had someone seen her change? Had someone been reading a lot of Wikipedia lately, and put two and two together?
Was someone planning to kill her?
She was still late for work when she barreled, tires squealing in protest, into the parking lot at the office. There was already someone in the waiting room when she got inside. "I'm so sorry for your wait, ma'am," Audrey said, taking her seat behind the counter. She hated the way her voice shook, but she was working herself into a panic over the break-in.
The elderly woman stood and ambled over to the counter, where Audrey handed her a clipboard so she could fill out her information. As she wrote, she spoke, the way all elderly people do, about all her ailments, her children and grandchildren, of anything that came to her mind, really. Audrey was only half-listening. She was still really shaky—she's barely been able to hold onto that stupid clipboard before the woman had taken it from her. She didn't think anything bad could happen to her here in the office, with people constantly in and out, and Eddie just in the next room, but you never could tell. She'd thought she was perfectly safe at home, too.
"Dear, what's wrong with your eyes?" the woman suddenly asked, looking down at Audrey with a mix of concern and fear. "They look like they're...glowing."
Sucking in a breath, Audrey closed her eyes. "It's...these lights in here," she said, trying to calm her breathing. "They do horrible things to contacts." With her eyes still closed she felt along her desk until she found her sunglasses. She shoved them onto her face, and when she opened her eyes, the woman was tinted dark purple.
The woman was looking at her strangely. Oh, God, Audrey thought, petrified, does she not believe me? Finally, though, she handed the clipboard back to Audrey and took her seat once more.
The woman and Audrey had sat in awkward silence for almost ten minutes when the woman finally asked, "Is the doctor in yet?"
Audrey, who had seen Eddie's car in the parking lot, frowned. "He should have seen you by now. I'll just go see what the hold up is." Grateful to escape the woman's penetrating stare, Audrey escaped into the back of the building, where Eddie had his examination room and office. She opened the door to the office only to be assaulted as soon as she did with the smell of alcohol.
"Eddie!" she hissed, stepping into the office and closing the door behind her. "What the hell?"
"It's just a little pick-me-up," he said.
It didn't smell like just a little pick-me-up. "You can't operate on animals when you're drunk, Eddie!"
"Well I guess it's a good thing I'm not drunk, then," he snapped at her, standing.
She glowered. "Well, if you're done drowning your worries in alcohol, there's a woman out in the lobby who needs you to attend to her cat."
It didn't seem as if Eddie had heard her. "Are your eyes glowing?" he asked incredulously.
"No," she snapped, and left the office.
When Eddie walked into the small lobby he was all swagger and charm, and Audrey knew the woman couldn't smell the alcohol over the scent of his aftershave. Still, he was drunk, and if Audrey had half a mind, she'd tell the woman to leave and save her cat's appointment for another day. Apparently I don't have even half a mind, Audrey thought as she watched Eddie lead the woman and her cat to the examination room. Well, Eddie did sign her paychecks...
It was a slow day. Only scheduled appointments showed up. There were no walk-ins; no one wanted to be out in this weather unless they had to be. Audrey hoped the only appointments were for cats. She didn't mind cats that much. They didn't smell that bad, and all they did was hiss at her. It was dogs that she had to watch out for. Dogs were tricky ones. And they weren't all that appealing to her nose, either.
Unfortunately you couldn't be lucky all the time. Around noon one of Audrey's neighbors, Mrs. Feldheim, brought in her dog Bear. He was the most annoying Pomeranian Audrey had ever seen in her life. And he wouldn't stop talking to her.
"How are you, Audrey, dear?" Mrs. Feldheim asked as Audrey handed her the clipboard.
"Fine, Mrs. Feldheim, just fine," Audrey answered. On the other side of the counter, Audrey heard another voice.
Hey! Hey, big dog! What you doin' up there?
Audrey rolled her eyes, thankful for the sunglasses she'd been too afraid to take off. Dogs annoyed her so much.
Mrs. Feldheim looked down at her dog sternly. "Hush up, will you, Bear?" she said. "What are you so worked up about?"
Hey, hey, big dog! You wanna play? Play with Bear.
"Bear, hush now!"
Audrey simply closed her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose underneath the sunglasses. And then an idea occurred to her. An idea so ludicrous that it couldn't possibly not work. She knew she couldn't very well ask any of her neighbors if they had seen anyone sneaking around her house. They'd want to know the whole situation. But she could ask Bear. Who was he going to tell?
"You know, Mrs. Feldheim," she said, smiling cheerfully at the woman over the top of the counter. "Eddie isn't quite ready for Bear yet, but I can go ahead and take him back to a room and sit with him if you wanted me to."
Mrs. Feldheim just smiled. "That'd be wonderful, Audrey, thanks."
Audrey just kept smiling, though she felt it crack a little when Bear realized what was going on.
Ooh, are we gonna play now, big dog? Huh? Are we gonna play?
Audrey tugged on the dog's leash. "Come on, Bear," she urged. The dog turned in a circle.
"He likes you," Mrs. Feldheim observed.
"Yeah, dogs usually do," Audrey muttered. Dogs were about the only animals that could stand to be around werewolves. In fact, dogs loved werewolves. They were just so fucking annoying...
Bear was still bouncing around and yapping excitedly as Audrey pulled him into a free room.
Bear and big dog gonna play now!
"No, Bear, we're not going to play," Audrey huffed as she picked him up and set him on the table.
Then what we gonna do, big dog?
"Will you stop calling me that?" she snapped. Then, remembering that she didn't want to scare the poor thing, she took a deep breath. "Bear," she said, looking into the dog's large, excited eyes. "I have a question to ask you, and I need you to pay very close attention. You got that?"
Yeah! Yeah, big dog, Bear got it!
"Did you notice any humans going into my house yesterday?" she asked slowly. "Were there any strange humans at all?"
No, no, big dog. Bear didn't see strange humans.
She sighed, lowering her head in defeat. "No strange humans at all?" she muttered. "Are you sure?"
Yep. Bear didn't see strange humans. Bear just see other big dog...
Audrey's head snapped up. "What?! Did you say you saw another big dog?"
Yep. Bear see big dog.
"And it looked like me?" She swallowed. "It looked human?"
Yep. Big dog looked human.
Audrey put a hand to her mouth. She was shocked, to say the least. She was sure that it was a human that had broken into her house and answered the phone, but Bear hadn't seen a human. He'd seen a "big dog." He'd seen another werewolf. But she would have definitely known if another werewolf had been in her house, right? She couldn't have missed something that big.
Had two different people broken into her house on the same day? It seemed like she was grasping at straws with that one.
Audrey couldn't help it. She patted the dog on the head once or twice. "Thanks, Bear," she said. "You've been a great help. I..."
She couldn't finish her sentence, though, because at that moment the door opened, and Eddie walked in. She whipped around. They stared at each other. Finally, frowning, Eddie asked, "Were you just talking to that dog?"
"Huh? Eddie, what are you talking about? Are you feeling well?" Audrey asked in her most sincere voice.
Eddie frowned more deeply. "I'm not sure," he answered.
"Well," Audrey sighed, making her way towards the door. "Maybe you should cancel the rest of your appointments. Go home early. Come to think of it, you are looking a little green today."
"Green...?" Eddie asked as she left the room, slamming the door behind her.
So this story was taken down six months ago after a ripped-off copy of my story Far From Human was found on another website. I know I said I would be returning in January, but I thought that I would sprinkle December with little gifts for all of you. 'Tis the season and all that. So I'm reposting Small Town Wolf and Hell Bent, and saving the (drastically altered) version of Far From Human until January.
So if you just found this story, welcome, and if you have been with me for the long haul, welcome back. :)