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The Chocolate Werewolf
Copyright © 2014
All Rights Reserved
The change started three months ago. It came suddenly, but I think my body had been building up to it since I was just a tyke. I suppose I should tell you that my name is Albert Bailey and I’m twenty-five years old, with a wife, an infant son, and carrying enough extra pounds around my middle to match my age. My wife, Joyce, is a little worried about my excess ballast, and she tried to put me on something called a “Primal diet” which, as you’ll find out later on, is really pretty funny.
There is no history of mental illness in my family unless you want to count my great, great, great, great (I think that’s the right number of greats) granddad Lucius “Mad Red” Bailey. My family has always been filled with long livers and slow breeders. Mad Red was a pirate on the Queen Anne’s Revenge under the command of Edward Teach, the notorious Blackbeard. He (Mad Red) was the paradigm of the Robert Louis Stevenson, Errol Flynn style privateer. He sported a wooden, peg leg, bristly red beard, and an eye patch to cover the hole in his head where his left eye had been poked out by a cutlass. He had apparently been caught on the wrong side of the sheets with some North Carolina politician’s wife.
Mad Red was tried and convicted for murder sometime during the ‘30’s of the eighteenth century. A good defense was painfully lacking since he had been caught red-handed dismembering the body of his victim, John Langley, with an ax. At his trial, he couldn’t explain his actions, insisting to the jury that “the moon got’n me eyes.” Had they existed at the time, the jury probably would have been enjoying Reese’s Pieces and Coca Cola at his very public hanging the same day, consigning him to kick up his heels in the air dance in the dead of winter in front of a cheering crowd.
But all that was a long time ago and has nothing to do with me or what’s been happening. I don’t think.
You see, I’m a chocolate werewolf.
I don’t mean a Walter Mitty or Jekyll and Hyde type werewolf, but a full bore, Lon Chaney, Jr. werewolf with wet, dripping chops, pointed fangs and yellow eyes. A real hairy-palmed animal; a blood drinker, throat ripper, and lady killer. I skulk through the night, slinking behind thorn bushes and tall weeds, sniffing for my victims. There’s always that smell that gives them away. When I find them, I spring out on legs that are iron hydrants of sinew and muscle, and I set on them. They might have time to cry out once, usually in confusion rather than fear, before my jaws crush their larynx.
That’s me by night. During the day, I’m a helluva nice guy and a chocolate junkie. Ever since I was a little nipper I’ve always had to have my daily fix of chocolate or I go nuts. Chocolate kisses, bon bons and éclairs; chocolate covered peanuts and fudge swirls, chocolate cake and ice cream. Every kind of chocolate confection you can think of, I’ll eat it and be happy about it. Even in high school I would sneak off to the soda shop, filling up on chocolate milkshakes and Mr. Goodbars before returning to school. Gave me a terrible case of zits, I’ll tell you.
I can only believe that all the chocolate I’ve eaten over the years has caused me to… transfigure. That’s the kindest word I can use.
You might think the first time I changed was the worst and I’ll have to admit it was pretty bad, but not nearly as bad as the next time.
Let me tell you about it.
I had just taken a shower and as I finished I caught a glimpse of my stark naked body in the mirror. It looked the same, pale and pasty, an unflattering set of man boobs (what my dad called “moobs”) beginning to take hold. But I felt a hot, primal instinct overtake my mind. The closest I’ve ever come to being lost in the wilderness was when I got off the trail at the North Carolina state zoo in Asheboro, but an animal imperative to hunt clawed its way from that deep place inside where modern man has coffined it like a malformed child. The desire burned through me like a flame. A totally new, unexpected, and -I have to admit- pleasant lust for blood surged in my belly and limbs, swelling my torso until I had the strength of twenty.
What was the pain to me as I saw my chest bubble and expand, the doughy, corpse-white skin darkening and sprouting coarse, shiny hair? Incredible pain was my constant lover as my spine straightened with wracking grindings and snaps, forcing me down on all fours. The flab on my belly constricted into sleek bundles of muscle tissue like drawn cables of the strongest iron. No more moobs!
My ears lengthened and short tufts of hair erupted from their pointed tips. My eyes changed from uninteresting brown to lustrous yellow, fluorescent and merciless.
My nose wrenched from my face in a crunching explosion of facial bone. It lengthened into a muzzle from which I saw my small, canine teeth elongate from ineffectual points to tapered sabers that could rend at will. My face changed from that of a puling man to that of a hungry wolf.
Sister to the sun, the moon shone down from the winter night sky, seeming to intensify my urge to hunt and feed. I crept down the hallway on newly padded feet and peered into my bedroom. My wife was asleep, one arm curled under her chin, her dark hair spilling off the bed like an anthracite waterfall. I padded closer. The muscles in my legs quivered with black anticipation. Saliva welled in my throat until I was nearly choking.
Then I heard something.
A pitiful cry came from the next room. My hackles rose into a ridge on my back. The physical craving to feed was like an immutable mandate. A low growl rumbled in my throat, almost like a purr.
I loped down the hallway to my son’s room. My shoulders swaggered and brushed the walls. My head swung to and fro. I lolled my tongue out and licked my muzzle. Drool spotted the floor in black sunbursts. I imagined what it must look like as I swung my massive head around the door jamb, Pit Bull teeth bared, snout wrinkled, gold eyes glowing in the darkness.
I reared up on my hind legs and stared into my son’s crib. Joseph Bailey, named after his uncle. His eyes were open and they stared back into mine, not scared, but interested. He reached up a chubby hand and smiled his toothless grin.
I don’t know how long I stayed like that before some feeble remnant of affection allowed me to turn away from my son and steal out of the house.
But the hunger was still there. I lifted my muzzle in the air, sniffing, catching, for the first time, that smell that I would come to know so well. I couldn’t describe it then or now. It was like a beacon or trail, and I followed it. The moonlight lit my way and spun ghostly shadows on the dead grass as I made my way to a modestly affluent home set off by itself. I heard a woman’s laughter, counterpointed by a deeper male reply. There was whirring and splashing.
On an outdoor deck, seen through a screening thicket of bushes, a man and a woman frolicked in a hot tub. Steam rose from the hot water into the frigid night. Two wine glasses sat on a table next to the hot tub. With unerring accuracy, I knew that smell came from the woman. I crouched, in full attack mode, hearing the wind sing a mournful melody through the night.
Too late the woman sensed some danger and when she turned to look I had already leaped through the privacy hedge and was on the deck in three, loping strides.
Her male companion was slower to react, whether from alcohol or a feeling of invincibility, I’ll never know. I do remember the unhappy union of fright and bewilderment on his face as I leaped onto the deck surrounding the hot tub.
I could see from my vantage point above her that she wore only the bottom half of a white bikini. Then her unblemished throat was between my teeth before she could rise. She beat wildly against my neck, but the blows might as well have been the beating of a moth’s wings. Her pinned up hair came loose and whipped through the air as I shook my head violently. The muscles in my haunches bunched as my claws dug into the wood of the neck, leaving deep, squealing marks. The sounds of snarling, splashing, and crunching bone shattered the night. Her trachea came loose with a wet, tearing sound as I dragged her from the hot tub.
Blood from her mangled arteries spread through the hot tub like a cloud chamber, turning water to wine, yet her male companion remained inert, blubbering and wide-eyed, chained to his spot with fear. Even in my primal state and blood lust I felt contempt for the man, but he was not my concern at the moment. He didn’t have that smell.
The small table next to the hot tub was knocked over in our struggles, sending the wine glasses crashing, and a scattering of small coins falling on the patio. The woman’s hands flopped limply on the ground and her feet kicked once. We became a shadow in the night.
I ate quickly, in case the man were somehow to galvanize himself to action, finally having an appreciation for the phrase wolfing it down. But the man seemed to be in shock, unable to move even if he had had to save himself.
A few minutes later I left her rapidly cooling body and silent testimony to an ultimate horror: two broken wine glasses and a few silver coins winking in the calumnious light of the moon.
“Where did you go last night,” Joyce asked me the next morning. Her hair was untidy in a sexy sort of way and she wore her flowered housecoat with the print flowers on it, what she called her China Whore robe. She rearranged frying, link sausages in a pan.
“I couldn’t sleep,” I lied, “so I went out and had a couple of beers.” What could I tell her? That I changed into a wolf and ripped a woman’s throat out? Now, I ask you, could I tell her that? Strangely enough, I felt nothing for the woman I had killed. Who was she to me? And another strange thing was that my mind seemed to accept that I had changed into a wolf and killed. It didn’t bother me at all. Still, I would keep a close eye on the news. An animal attack that resulted in the death of a human being was just bound to be turn up on the police blotter.
I had come home and cleaned myself up, transforming back to human about the time I made it to my front yard, creeping the last few yards with my hands over my nuts in case anybody was looking. Feature that. I’m covered in the blood of a woman I’ve just murdered, and I’m worried about the neighbors seeing my big white ass just a-shining in the moonlight. It was a good thing I made it back. I had left my clothes all over the bathroom floor, and Joyce was kind of OCD about that kind of thing.
“Joey woke me up last night,” Joyce informed me, sitting down at the table. “Laughing his head off at something. That’s how I knew you weren’t home. I couldn’t find you anywhere in the house. And you left your clothes all over the bathroom floor.”
So I hadn’t gotten away with it.
“Sorry,” I said.
Joyce’s OCD was understandable. She wasn’t really agoraphobic, but she didn’t go out any more than she had to. She was actually a little mousy, one of those women who had been badly used so often that all those little hurts finally show up on their faces. She had a nice little home business, stuffing envelopes with free samples and coupons and shit. It didn’t pay much, but it made her feel useful and it let her stay home. Before we were married, she had told me about various little abuses and upsets. In a weak moment, she had confided that she had once been brutally attacked, though she never went so far as to claim she was raped. She never gave me a name, but even as far back as the first time I changed, an idea started forming.
“How many eggs do you want?”
“Just a couple. I’m not…. I’m not very hungry.”
She looked at me curiously. “Do you have a hangover, or are you in a chocolate coma?”
“Honest,” I said playfully. “All I had was a couple of beers.”
Joyce broke a couple of eggs into a cup and began whipping them. She pulled a few bottles of spices from her Voodoo Spice Rack and sprinkled them into the eggs. Remember I told you that she had put me on a “Primal” diet? It’s a high fat, low carb diet and the flavor you don’t get from the carbs has to be made up with all manner of spices. Most of them I didn’t know, things like cardamom and coriander. What the hell was a coriander? I had once asked her about something called “turmeric”. Who would use something called “turmeric” in anything?
“I wish you had told me you were going out. After Joey woke up, I started to get scared.”
I looked up quickly, but Joyce didn’t notice. She was busy with the eggs.
“I don’t know. I just had the scariest feeling that I woke up just in time to keep something from happening to Joey. And I couldn’t find you, so I just… got scared. I’m not…. I’m not a strong person, you know.” She pulled her lips up in a tiny smile.
That made me feel like shit.
“I know. I should have told you.” On not quite a whim, I asked her why she had never told me who attacked her.
“Why would you bring that up now?”
“It’s not good to see you live like this. Afraid. What if… what if,” I asked hesitantly, “there was something I could do about it?”
She looked at me calmly, a measured pain in her eyes. “It was a long time ago,” she said simply. “Just let me deal with it in my own way.”
I let it go for now. I still didn’t know what I was dealing with.
“You should let me worry about you,” Joyce said. “You need to start taking better care of yourself. You seem to be changing right in front of me. All that junk you eat, it can’t be good for you. Who knows what it’s doing to your insides?”
I grunted and sat down to my hateful, flavorless eggs with no toast or ‘taters. When I finished, I kissed Joyce good bye and left her to tend to Joey and stuff her envelopes while I went to work.
The drive to work was simple and scenic, but I got no enjoyment from the stark, winter landscape, the time of year when the earth sheds its courting plumage and prepares for the bare essentials of life, like an animal.
I thought of poor Lon Chaney, Jr. in Curse of the Werewolf, doomed to live always in a netherworld between man and beast when the moon was full. Then I thought of poor Albert Bailey, destined to live in that same world for reasons yet unknown to him. Lon Chaney, Jr. only had to act the part. I had to live it.
What should I do? Suicide was out of the question. I had no assurance that I would change again and, as I have said, I rather enjoyed the feeling of power. I unwrapped a chocolate bar and began to munch. The familiar, honey-sweet taste settled in like an old lover. Some doctors had said that chocolate had a mysterious effect on some glands, those tireless little powerhouses that produced polysyllabic compounds that were as mysterious as magic. Could all the chocolate I had eaten over the years have caused such a monstrous change? The idea was ridiculous. There were millions of chocolate junkies in the world and nary a werewolf nor even a case of fatal biting among any of them.
I had a bad moment when a name was supplied with my victim. At the top of the hour news on my local radio station, the story of a wolf attack on Mavis Parker aired. She had been found dead, her throat ripped out after having been dragged away from her hot tub. There were signs of a struggle and many short gray hairs had been found stuck in the blood around her throat. Traces of wolf saliva would almost certainly be found by the pathologist who performed the autopsy.
There was little doubt the marauding animal was the big, bad wolf. There was even a witness. Foster Lewis (not her husband, by the way. He had apparently been caught on the adulterous side of the fence) had told police how he had heroically tried to save Mavis, struggling to stave off the mighty beast with his bare hands, finally embellishing the story by mentioning how he had barely gotten away with his own life. I laughed out loud. Any minor injuries he had probably came from clambering out of the hot tub to get away. The news didn’t speculate on how such a relatively rare creature as a wolf could have found its way into a fairly modern suburban area or why it would attack a human once there.
I could have told them.
The next time it happened was only a week later, and I was better prepared for it. Almost as if it were planned, Joyce was already asleep. When the hot flash came over me, I thought Dear God, not again. I rushed to the bathroom, my back already beginning to hunch over. My shirt buttons popped off and rolled across the tiled floor when my chest swelled and deepened. My palms broadened and fingers shortened, growing claws. The pain was blinding as the atavistic ritual ground on. The now familiar sensation of avulsing bone shot through my limbs like glassy splinters. My silhouette streamlined from the Michelin Tire man to a sleek predator.
I stalked from the bathroom, my ripped clothes hanging in tatters. I padded up to my wife’s sleeping form, watching her sleep in her China Whore robe. How easy, I thought, to drag her out of bed and tear her to a ripped and ghastly rag doll. But something stayed me; something more powerful than the transformation.
I left my wife and went to my son’s room. His tiny blue eyes were open. My huge, shaggy head loomed over my son, its shadow blotting out all of his facial features except his eyes which looked like pale saucers. A strand of viscid drool hung in a runner from my jaws. I felt the thick sinews in my neck contract automatically as I readied to strike.
But I didn’t. It was a far more difficult thing to do this time, but I turned away.
I fled my house, loping down the back streets, my nose testing the air for that smell. And then I caught it, coming from a darkened, below street level flop house on an outskirt of a seedier downtown district. Blue and red neon signs, flashing traffic signals, and traffic sounds were subdued down the stairs which led to the grimy abode. The squeak of scurrying rats was the loudest sound in the hovel.
I didn’t even bother to conceal myself from the pimps and junkies that stared at me with blasted eyes as I descended the concrete stairwell. Through the window I saw a woman who might have once been pretty. She sat in repose, her back against the wall. A tourniquet was strapped around the bony remnants of her upper arm, a syringe on the dirty floor next to her.
With a mighty leap I crashed through the window and hurtled into her with every bit of strength I possessed. With one of the odd sensations prevalent in this weird life, I noticed the woman’s name on an eviction notice on the floor. Cheryl Coombs. I marveled that I could still read in my state. Cheryl Coombs would never have to worry about an eviction notice or global warming anymore.
She put up a less than satisfying struggle and I knew my needs this night would be satisfied without further interruption. I ate until I was bloated and left her limp body in the cold, impersonal garret.
I returned home that night, sneaking among the bushes to conceal my nakedness. Without my fur coat I was shivering and probably turning blue, but it was still too dark to tell. I glided past my still slumbering wife and closed the door.
I went into the bathroom and looked in the mirror. The sight gave me no pleasure. The wolf was again gone, but what I saw looking back at me filled me with shame. I was repellent. The thought that I could have murdered my wife and son filled me with a revulsion that failed human expression.
I didn’t smash the mirror in with my fist, or sink to my knees and sob. Nothing so melodramatic as that. I simply swore to myself that I would never touch another piece of chocolate.
I gathered up my tattered clothes, got my pajamas and underwear, then stepped into a hot shower. When I was done, I went to Joey’s room. He was asleep, curled up and breathing normally. The memory of how I had contemplated his murder was like a punch in the stomach. Never again. I would stake Jesus himself before harming my son.
I slipped into the bed next to Joyce, but didn’t really sleep for the next couple of hours. When Joyce woke up I pretended to be asleep as she got up and tended to the baby. I listened to her start puttering around in the kitchen, getting breakfast on. That’s what I had been waiting for.
I got up and crept to her jewelry box, hoping to find a ring, or an old coin, even a St. Christopher’s medal. Anything silver, because silver was what I needed. The jewelry box, though not empty, was slightly less bare than Mother Hubbard’s cupboard.
Not quite frantic, I wondered where she might keep anything resembling more jewelry. The desk where she kept all her envelope stuffing junk was awash with flotsam and jetsam. Piles of stuffed envelopes ready to be mailed were stacked on one side of her computer monitor. Drawers were filled to bursting with all manner of junk, and the little cubby holes above her computer monitor practically creaked with CD’s, DVD’s, old computer parts, papers and jewel cases. For all I knew, Malaysia Airlines flight MH 370 might be in there somewhere.
I heard her humming softly in the kitchen as I tried to quietly ease the drawers out. Rubber bands atop a sheaf of disheveled papers and a jumble of pens and pencils stared up at me. I tried another drawer and discovered old eyeglasses, jars of multivitamins and supplements, mouse pads, and sheaves of old bills and bank statements, paper clipped and rubber banded. There was an unmarked little vial of some kind of finely ground powder next to the machine she used to gum the envelopes, maybe some kind of desiccant.
It was beginning to look like a waterhaul as I raked my hand behind the computer monitor, hoping not to stick my finger in a loaded mousetrap back there. No mousetrap, but a single sheet of paper. Odd, everything else was a hoarder’s nest, but this one sheet of paper sat alone in solitary splendor.
Curious, I pulled it out and looked at it. On it was a hand written list of three names and addresses, nothing more, and each name had an annotation by it.
Mavis Parker…. Whore!
Ralph Sycamore. Next to his name was the word RAPIST in screaming capital letters and savagely underlined three times.
My blood felt like liquid nitrogen in my veins. What was all this?
“Albert, are you up,” Joyce called from the kitchen. I didn’t answer, only plodded robotically towards the kitchen, the sheet of paper limp in my hand.
She looked at me as I stood in the doorway. Her face first showed surprise, then her eyes narrowed as she saw the sheet of paper in my hand. Standing there in her gaudy, China Whore robe, my mousy little wife had transformed before my very eyes. I wasn’t sure who she was at all. But then, who was I to throw stones?
“Joyce,” I said in a small voice. “What is this?”
She seemed to debate telling a lie, then thought better of it. Joey sat in his high chair, all grins and happiness with his baby food smeared around his mouth. Joyce’s voice was soft when she spoke, but steady as steel.
“You don’t know what it’s like to live with it, Albert,” she said. “To be helpless against the woman that split your parents up. To know who put the needle in you brother’s arm. To know….” and here she squeezed her eyes shut and swallowed hard. “To know who raped and beat you and not be able to do anything about it. But I saw you changing, Albert, and I used that.”
I slumped down into a chair at the kitchen table, wobbly-kneed, wondering if she had any idea of the risk she had put Joey in; that she had put herself in, or even if she cared.
Joyce continued to cook breakfast, reaching up into the Voodoo Spice rack for some seasonings, as if we were talking about whom would pick up the dry cleaning today.
“How did you do it, Joyce? What have you done to me?”
She looked genuinely surprised, even a little hurt.
“To you? Nothing. I just accepted what you were. You’re my husband. Wouldn’t you do anything for me?”
“But how did you know I would go after… these people?”
She smiled thinly and a knowing little glow re-ignited the sparkle in her eyes.
“If you send out enough envelopes that say ‘free sample’ inside, eventually people will open them. And when they do…” She glanced up at the Voodoo Spice rack.
“It’s an old world recipe,” she said matter-of-factly. “A pinch of this, a smidgen of that, a little of the other and voilà. That smell. That smell that marked them.”
She set my plate of bacon and eggs in front of me.
“Now eat up, Albert,” she said gently. “There’s one last name on the list.”
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