This story is one of the October Writing Challenge entries chosen to be a featured story.
The steps to surviving episodes like these were easy: hush among the woods; hide when the moon is full.
Archibald’s teeth clacked. He shivered under the cool breeze’s caress in a moonlit world. Snarl, his thoughts went in his sleep, thinking of sharp teeth, thick fur, and the need to do something drastic; the wish to howl at the moon.
Snap, a twig broke amidst dead trees. Archibald’s ears perked up, picking at the sound—he was supposed to be isolated. Snap.
The sound of steps appeared.
Hush among the woods.
They came closer. Crunch, they moaned on maple leaves.
Hide when the moon is full.
He drew the courage to peek from behind the tree trunk he lied by. The inky ambience hid him as his shape slowly changed: dark gray fur grew, enhanced sight and smell…
He smelled her before he saw her, walking carelessly into the woods, following a trail of coal stones. She had midnight hair and carried a woven basket—the scent of apples and book pages was strong. She twirled and skipped, her silky cloak dancing in red obscurity. Archibald’s interest stirred as he followed the red riding hood as she went, humming.
He crept along the trees in silence; his steps muffled.
The girl finished her song before reaching a clearing. The moon kissed her features: blue eyes where Archibald’s were brown; a pure heart where Archibald’s heaved with burdens. Obedience was sewn onto her red cloak—her name. She studied her basket, as if making sure nothing had fallen as she sang and danced.
Obedience fixed her stare far into the coal path—Archibald mimicked, grinning maliciously, for the youth’s destiny was clear.
Hush among the woods. He bolted ahead, meaning harm.
He couldn’t help it now; he’d lost his hide-and-seek with the moon this time; she had turned him into a monster once more, as it did every month, ever since the incident.
The first times had been the worst. He doubted he’d ever forget his brother’s expression the day he scarred his mother–his father’s disgust when he chained him to an oak tree. Archibald stumbled upon deception often as he could. Sometimes on purpose, even. It was much harder to be marveled than let down, was it not? Take the earlier afternoon—him being kicked out of the inn for odd behavior; Archibald stumbled out and marched into the forest, nursing an empty bottle. Drunk in madness, I’m in love with my sadness.
That didn’t matter then…
Hush among the shack. He stepped inside, looking both ways. Clear coast. He moved deeper into the wooden place. Moonlight filtered through the gaps on the ceiling—that damned moon. How could it rise every night, careless of what it’d done to him? She had let that pest bite him, ripping off a strip of his flesh—and Archibald pushed through it. He had only been trying to protect his brother—the beast had surged from the dark, as if it’d always been there. And now he was one of them, thanks to the sour moon that had turned him into a—
“Hello?” a feeble voice called. “Obedience, dear, is that you?”
Obedience, Archibald snarled—this was the right place.
He crept into the humid chamber the voice came from.
An old woman. She smelled of pines and cherries.
Archibald pushed the wooden door open—it creaked.
The lady’s eyes widened as she scrambled to get out of bed, screaming. But it was too late; hush, hush. Archibald locked her in a nearby closet, gagging her with the towel on her nightstand.
Hide when the moon is full. He put on the lady’s peach nightgown, taking her place beneath those thin sheets. The grandfather clock struck one—he waited, nuzzling himself onto the old pillows.
Knock, knock. The main door creaked.
“Grandmother?” a honeyed voice ventured.
“Here, here,” Archibald crooned.
Step, step, step: The shadow of feet under the door. “Come in, dear,” he prodded.
Obedience stepped in with her basket. A skeptical look tinged her eyes. She couldn’t quite make out Grandma’s silhouette in the darkness. “Obedience,” went Archibald.
“Grandma,” she mumbled. “What a deep voice you have…”
“To better greet you with,” the creature answered.
She focused her eyes. Thump, the closet doors pounded. “Grandma,” Obedience doubted, “such strange eyes, you have.”
“To better see you with, dear.”
The closet doors pounded relentlessly. Obedience gulped. “Grandma,” her voice shook, “what a big mouth you have…” she breathed, finally taking in the beast’s nature as this stepped from under the covers, moving forward on four paws.
Hide when the moon is full. The closet flew open, showing a body to the ground—but Obedience couldn’t see who it was—hush.
The werewolf was upon her.