“You see, I don’t want to change. I don’t want to. I hate myself for it. The leaves change and so do I. Watch for it. I won’t remember it. I won’t remember what I’ve become until it’s too late,” the man said.
He was bent over the edge of the lake. The water had a frosty, silver clarity to it. It was fall. The sky was overcast. The leaves were the full fire of the season. Orange, yellow, brown, and red checkered the eves in a tapestry the surface of the sun would have been envious of.
“I hate this time of year. I hate it. I hate when the leaves go,” the man said. He was pale, thin, and balding. His clothes had a cloud of sweat steaming off them. There were other fluids coming out of his pores too. Lost bile and blood from old legends were seeping out. His body was changing drastically.
He wasn’t like other people. He’d always wanted to be.
“I mean. I’m getting married next year. What am I supposed to tell my wife when this happens? What am I going to tell her about why I come to this goddamn lake in northern Minnesota? I don’t know why I am this thing. I can’t explain it,” the man said. He turned to the tips of some trees behind him. There was a flock of ink-colored crows scattered across the branches. The birds cawed and shuffled as the man started to contort against the supernatural posture taking over his spine. He was being crunched up by it.
A snack beneath some nightmare maw.
The crows knew the man. They knew what he was becoming. Every year he would come to this lake and molt into a wolf. His wet, clayish skin would slide off. Hair would fill in every patch of muscle and bone. The werewolf coat was pointed, sharp, and fibrous. The color wasn’t grey, dust, or black, but shades of blue, red, and yellow.
It wasn’t soon after the crows remembered the transformation that it actually happened directly in front of them in snaps of tendons and peeling flesh. The man squealed in muscular howls as his face was pushed into a snout. The crows were happy their memory was so good. It stopped them from jumping off the line of trees and scattering into the sky. After a few moments the man was a beast, and the change was over. The werewolf shook off its old body into steaming piles of miscellaneous meat. The crows wouldn’t eat it. There was something sickly and wrong about the leftovers of the man.
“There! I’m done. I’m changed for the year. All I need is one meal. I just need to eat one time and I’ll be good,” the werewolf said. He crouched down in a spiked spring and snarled to himself over the water. He stuffed his mouth into the waves and drank vigorously. Becoming a monster was thirsty work. His esophagus clapped and stretched in sinewy thuds.
“I just need to eat one person. Just one. I shouldn’t feel too horrible about it. I could be a devil every single day. I was born that way. Nothing made me different. I control it all the time except for in the fall, then this stupid lake sings to me songs no one else can hear,” the werewolf said. He brushed droplets off his nose with a giant claw. He could hear everything in the woods. People were moving along the paths that split up the lake. Animals chattered in random static. His nostrils picked up the smell of sweat from hunters and joggers.
The werewolf stretched his body upwards in the shape of a comma, and howled into the still sky. The clouds, if they could move that fast, would have split apart to let the ghostly sound echo through. Instead, it bounced across the lake. Not a single leaf dared fall now that he was here. The werewolf quickly bounded off into the surrounding forest, which lined the lake. It moved silently.
The crows stood still. They knew it wouldn’t take long. After hours of gentle breezes, splashes of fish jumping on the lake’s surface, and the occasional droll of a large truck blaring down the nearby highway, screams bit the air. There were gunshots too, three of them. Normally, the crows would scatter against the gunpowder thunder, but they knew the source of the strife. The screaming went silent after a few more seconds.
It was very quiet, but it didn’t last long.
There was a crashing sound of broken underbrush. A heavy weight was being pulled through the forest. Eventually, the werewolf emerged with a hunter dressed in camouflage dangling out of his jaws. The man looked small, silly, and almost fake against the beast. The werewolf dropped him in front of the lake. If the lake were the devil’s owner, this frightened human would be a gift.
“There, it’s done for the year,” the werewolf said in a grizzled cough. The hunter stirred slightly under his bloody clothes.
The crows didn’t move. They wouldn’t dive down until the werewolf had passed out in the reeds. They knew better than to interfere with the feeding.
“Help,” the man whispered amongst the grass. The werewolf stomped on him with his front paw. Bones buckled. The man screamed.
“I just need one meal. That’s it. Just one,” the werewolf said, leaning its face over the broken man. He ripped a square of flesh upwards off the hunter’s back. It snapped apart in a white, stretchy pull. Blood hit the trees. One of the crows cackled.
“What? What? Are you surprised? Tell me,” the werewolf said. He threw a severed arm at the flock watching him.
“You’re hungry aren’t you? Aren’t you interested in eating? I know you are,” the werewolf said.
The crows didn’t move. They were glad they could fly away if they had to. Their silence and beady stares weighed down the monster.
“What? Stop looking at me. I know it’s wrong,” the werewolf cried with a full mouth.
The air smelled sick with blood. The sun was still afraid to come out.
“It only happens to me once a year,” the werewolf said.
Happy Halloween! All this week I’ll have some of my favorite spooky short stories posted on here. I hope you enjoyed this one. It is from my collection Monsters, Monsters, Everywhere. You can buy it in my bookstore.