Friday, November 13, 2009

Short Story: Legacy

Legacy
By David Williams

The smell was overwhelming, it filled our nostrils. It made us hungry and with every second that passed, our hunger grew and our watery control dripped from our hands. Our pupils were dilated, our hair reached for the sky, our heart was trying to punch its way out of our chest and all the while the hunger grew. Soon it would be time to feed. Soon it would be time to relinquish command to our hunger. And soon it would be time to sink our teeth into our unsuspecting prey and feast upon their soft tainted flesh. Then once again, we would be happy. Though for now we waited, my beast and I.

***

Opening my eyes I found myself at a desk, looking around I found I recognised this scenery; I was at work. My small lackluster office had little to offer; a desk, a computer, a chair, a clock, a door, and a filing cabinet. The company had put a price on my head, and this was it. My gaze drifted to the clock on the wall. It was only mid afternoon but I didn’t want to work anymore today. The stranglehold of a normal life had gotten to me and I needed to get out of the office. Minutes later, I found myself staring at the clock again, silently willing it forward but to no avail. As expected it was no De Lorean and I spent the next five minutes in a titanic staring competition. I blinked and stood up, “You win this time, friend.” I muttered underneath my breath as I left my desk carrying nothing but a leather briefcase filled with feelings of contempt. It’s OK; my job is entirely redundant. Most days I just sit at my desk all day, clicking away on the computer; pretending to be busy - thank God for solitaire.

Just before the exit I was stopped by Marcus Norman, a fat cat from marketing. He was probably the guy I had given wedgies to in the fifth grade and by the looks of things he hadn’t grown up that much. He was a head shorter than me, but made up for it around the waistline, it was all too easy to imagine him dressed in red and white living in the North Pole with an army of elves to do his bidding. It would have probably suited him better than the black and white attire he was wearing which looked as expensive as his phony grin. Personally, I liked these frauds, these pseudo-humans. They reminded me of myself as they only looked and acted the part but in reality they wore the same costume I did. For people like us, Halloween was a daily occurrence.

“Where do you think you’re off to Jack?” He asked in his peculiar accent which made every vowel sound like it cost him a fortune to pronounce.
“Off to find my Jill, it’s been a while since we went rolling down the mountain.” I retorted, smiling that smile that businessmen so often give, the ‘thanks for your money’ kind of smile. He lapped it up as a dog of society always does.
“Ha ha, always a joker. If you’re not careful someone might confuse that with hostility.” He paused, “did you get that report I emailed you? I need it signed, sealed and delivered by tomorrow afternoon.”
“Aye, aye captain” I gave him a mock salute and continued my pursuit of freedom.

I parked my car across the street this morning, a sparkling red hatchback. I bought it two weeks ago, and couldn’t be happier. This may sound weird but I think I’m in love with it or as close as a man can come to love an inanimate object - yes, I live a very dull and unfulfilled life, or at least pretend to. I try to fit in with these salt-of-the-earth type people who wake up, go to work, go home, sleep and do it all again the next day. I almost feel sorry for them. I actually would feel sorry for them if there weren’t people who were far worse off in life, such as me.

It took fifteen minutes of ducking and weaving through the hectic afternoon traffic before I reached my apartment. It wasn’t big, or even average in size, but it sure was cosy – at least that was the real estate agent’s rhetoric. I made my way inside and with heavy eyelids I stumbled to my bed. I like to sleep; it’s my second favourite activity after eating. I often thought that I make a poor human, but I’d make a great sloth. With that in mind I closed my eyes and let the sandman finish his lullaby.

***

The silver hair on our back stood up, our broad shoulders were hunched, and our yellow teeth were barred. A woman stood trembling before us; she was cornered. She wept, tears streamed down her face. We took a step forward; the hunger began to take control. She began to pray.
“Oh God…. Oh God, oh God, help me”
We stopped, stunned. That voice, with startling clarity, we recognised the voice, it couldn’t be, there’s no way, it just couldn’t be. We took another step forward. Now we were close enough to see, and as she came into focus my worst fears were confirmed, it was Stephanie.
Even in this light her eyes were as beautiful as the morning sun, everything else was a mess; her usually neat dark hair was covering her face, her cute button chin was quivering uncontrollably, and her lovely rounded cheeks now glistened with teary stains.
“Oh no, OH NO! Run Steph, get out of here now!” I tried to yell but nothing came out. We took another step forward. “Stop it! Stop it NOW!” I screamed, again nothing happened. I turned to run, but something pulled me back and forced me to watch; the hunger had control.

***

“STEPH!” My eyes sprung open as I gasped for breath. My hand stretched out searching for something distant; something unreachable. A lone tear rolled softly down my cheek leaving an emotional stain where it landed on my pillow. The nightmare was back.
“Stephanie” I whispered her name. I’m stronger now, I could stop myself now. If only I could turn back time.
“DAMMIT!” Tears now running freely down my face, I picked up the pillow and hurtled it across the room. It hit the far wall and exploded in a shower of feathers. She was my everything, now she was nothing more than horrible memory. One that I wish I could lock away in the dark corners of my mind.

I spent the next half hour in a cold shower, hoping to wash away all the dirt, grime, and painful memories. I can only hope that Meat Loaf was right when he sang ‘two out of three ain’t bad.’ Towelling myself off, I took a quick glance at the clock, six o’clock. It was just about time for the monster to return and for me to plead him not to.

The minutes silently rushed by as I sat there waiting for my fate to throw me back into the corporate box in my head. From there I would watch helplessly as a violent horror show unfolded in front of my eyes. I sat on the edge of my bed hoping that I could remain in control and for brief moment, I thought it was working. But then, without warning it hit, it always does, it felt as though someone had crept up behind me and punched me in the kidneys. I fell to the ground my hands clutching at my stomach, trying to breathe with my lungs on fire, I was hardly succeeding. The pain was excruciating.

Throughout it all my senses became increasingly heightened, subtly at first but after a while I could taste the air as it drifted in and out of my mouth, I could feel the hair – which was now growing rapidly from every orifice – rustling against the carpet as I writhed painfully around, though above all of that I smelt it, the distinct smell of human flesh.

In agony I flopped about like a fish out of water. I waited, and I prayed for the pain to diminish - it might have worked had I believed in some sort of higher being. What must have taken seconds felt like an eternity and I was reaching my limit, the suffering was becoming too much for me to bear. Then, as suddenly as it started, it stopped. Relief at last, except I was no longer the man I was an hour ago. I wasn’t in control anymore. My beast was and, more so, he was hungry.

***

My other self pressed his nose against the ground, he took his time sniffing and snorting, patiently waiting to pick up just the right scent to begin his hunt and I was forced to watch. Moments later he was off, running down the street at speeds unthinkable to man, or even the average wolf; he was something else entirely. He stuck to the back alleys to avoid detection; a master of his craft. He was clever, calm, and in control. I, on the other hand, was given time out to sit in the corner and think about what I had done. I’d let the monster out of its cage and for that someone would pay the ultimate price. It seemed only fair that I spent the time twiddling my thumbs. What else could I do? Resistance was useless.

His pace dropped off and his sprint turned into a prowl, we must have been close to his target. He crept forward silently, melding into the shadows. From above, the moon looked on but the alley was dark and even it couldn’t see us; nobody could. It wasn’t long before tonight’s meal came into sight. A woman, young and beautiful, stood under the street lamp talking in a loud, piercing voice on her phone. Her red hair contrasted perfectly with her blue phone, which shone the same colour as her eyes under the moon light.
“Not her” I said and he seemed to understand me. Unwillingly he turned away; he hates it when I deny him. I was stronger now and I couldn’t let him do it, she was too young and still had so much to give. It was not her time.

It didn’t take long for my driver to find his next target, a middle-aged man who looked as though he hadn’t shaved since birth, or showered either. In his hands he carried a bottle of whisky as tenderly as a mother carries a newborn. My wolf paused, and watched, waiting for my appraisal and I gave it. It was his time.

***

My wolf trailed his prey eagerly from under cover, awaiting an opportunity to strike. He watched the man stumble this way and that, without making any real headway. He stopped, looked around and took one last drink from his bottle before heading into the nearest alley.
“Honey, I’m home” He mumbled as he slumped down against the wall. I’m sure if he knew those were to be his last words he would have said something a little more poetic. My wolf cares not about such humanistic things. It’s truly nothing more than a beast I thought as I watched my caretaker mercilessly rip apart this man, one bloody chunk of flesh at a time.

I soon became lost within a torturous world of blood and violence. I felt my face contort in ways unthinkable and I’m sure it would have looked something like Edvard Munch’s ‘[I] The Scream. [/I]’

BANG! A gunshot, just what I needed to snap out of my daze. I turned to look, it was a police officer. He was young, his knees were shaking, and his lips were a quiver. Slowly, the beast turned to look. The predator’s eyes lit up, this was his lucky night. A mixture of blood and saliva seeped from the evil Cheshire grin that reaches into one’s soul and calls it out for supper.
“W-W-What the” The boy stammered as fear’s icy tentacles slowly wrapped around his scrawny figure; he was paralysed. I cringed, this boy was far too young and this gruesome scene was enough to permanently taint his innocent eyes. That was punishment enough.

“Let’s go!” I yelled, and he obeyed – I am much stronger. With a blood-curdling howl the wolf turned and bounded away quickly vanishing into the night. Behind us the boy fell to his knees, tears falling uncontrollably to the ground. A strangled scream filled the night as we headed for home.

***

I opened my eyes and was greeted by a familiar ceiling. Raising my arm I examined my hand; five fingers, I was human again. Had it all been just a dream? I laughed at the thought, it had happened too many times before for it to be a dream. I felt a twinge of regret, a man had died and here I was laughing, something was wrong with me, well, something else was wrong with me. I saved two lives last night, at the cost of one. I wish I could think that I am a hero but in truth I am about as much of a hero as a dirty cop. A true hero only sacrifices themselves, while I only sacrifice others. I had to do, what I had to do. A tenant has to pay their rent, the sun has to rise, and we have to kill people. In my position, a true hero would probably opt for death, I would too if it weren’t for this damn survival instinct. Sometimes it sucks to be human.

I put on my daily fa├žade and prepared myself for work, another arduous day of pretending to be like the rest of the word. To them I was just another bird, hidden within the flock, gliding upon the jet stream of fate. As for me, I didn’t know what I was, an actor by day and a murderer by night. It was a tough life to maintain, however, it made the joyless exercise of work almost soothing, and while others loathed the fact that they spend their lives trapped within the walls of their cubicle I slipped into my refuge like it was a comfortable pair of slippers.

It wasn’t until lunch that I really had time to think about the night before; the hunt, the kill, the exhilarating near death experience. If that boy had shown a steadier hand I might not have been sitting here. What if he had killed me? Who would mourn the stain on the earth I called a life? I’m sure if people knew my truth they would throw a party at my funeral and dance on my grave. It would be a regular Mardi Gras where women would throw beads at men from their windows, and the men would catch them and everybody would laugh and sing all through the night. No one would cry, not even a single tear and I would disappear, forgotten, like dust in the wind.

Days turned into weeks which in turn became months, and still those questions plagued my mind. I didn’t want to be forgotten and the more I thought about it, the more I wanted someone, anyone, to know the truth about me, and what I had become. So that became my obsession, to find someone to share the experience with and then doom them for the rest of their lives. It began to sound like a marriage.

***

Three months had come and gone, people had been born, people had died but all that remains of these events are the memories left behind. In that time, however, I had become resolute on finding a successor. For the most part nobody wants to be forgotten; just the thought of being forgotten filled me with more fear than the prospect of death ever had. And so, with that in mind, I have spent the last three months researching, making sure that I have found the right person. The right person being someone who is young, empty, and willing to control this curse.

Trying to find the cheese at the end of the maze isn’t easy when every dead end is corrupted by hate and loathing for mankind. I may be a monster for what I do but I’m now a controlled monster. Ever since the death of my love, Stephanie, my beast’s victims are naught but the dregs of society. They are blips on radar earth, and as harsh as it is to say, no one will miss them. The last thing I wanted was another wolf running around killing without judgement where mothers, lovers, and children; no one would be spared. I have enough guilt on my plate already. I narrowed my search to those who were now contributing to society. I picked a short list of the most appropriate candidates; a secondary school teacher, a construction worker, and an accountant.

After a brief meeting with both the construction worker and the accountant I found them both to be unusable. The accountant had moved on from his juvenile misdemeanours to more serious crimes, and the construction worker seemed to, despite very incriminating DNA evidence, honestly believed that he was framed for the double murder of his parents – it must help him sleep at night. All that was left was the teacher, beaten as a child by an abusive father, he somehow rose above it all to win “Teacher of the Year” two years in a row. I was impressed.

***

I opened the door. A young bearded man sat alone on an island surrounded by a sea of students, all hypnotized by the words pouring from his mouth. He didn’t even look up, or stop reading, when I entered, or even when I took a seat.
“… and so he hunted the werewolf, day and night, but the monster didn’t want to be found. Sam kept on searching, until one day he stumbled upon the monster’s lair. The monster looked at him and cried. It was then that Sam realised that the werewolf was just sad because he was alone.
“Bite me, make me a werewolf too” Sam said, and the wolf obeyed. Sam left the lair that night, and didn’t return for two weeks. When he came back he was no longer a man, but a wolf.” The unsuspecting teacher paused and closed the book, “and with that it’s lunch time.” As if by design, the bell rang. The kids gathered their belongings and meandered out of the room.

I had to chuckle to myself – oh, the bitter sweet irony. He waited until the last child had left before acknowledging my presence.
“What can I do for you?” He asked
“Sorry to bother you, but I’m Jack Lycan; I work with the local newspaper. We are running a small section on local teachers, and well, I drew your name out of my hat. Interesting subject matter, I might add.” I lied.
“Yes, I suppose it is. I like to teach the kids things that others wouldn’t, it makes learning slightly more interesting. Plus, whether they believe it or not is their choice, I think they enjoy having that power.”
“An interesting philosophy, so what’s your story? How did you become a teacher?”
“Well,” he hesitated a second, “I’d like to leave my past in the past. I just like kids, I doubt I could have any of my own so to me teaching is the next best thing.”
I nodded understandingly, pretending to care, while deep down I was thinking what an incredible “catch” this guy would be, for my beast and I. The conversation continued for a while and every time he opened his mouth he convinced me even more that he was the one I was looking for.
“Thanks for your time, Mr Wulf”

***

The moon smiled down upon the sullen earth and my wolf smiled back. Tonight would be the night where my secret would come out of hiding for one lucky person. The cursed lottery had chosen his name, Roberto Wulf, and tonight as my chaperone sped towards his house, I intended to give him his prize; a life not worth living. I anxiously waited for the moment where I could openly tell him my story and set myself free. The silence has been a burden that I’ve had to bear for too long. My wolf took a sharp left, and there it was a thorn within a bed of roses – an exceptionally ordinary house in this obviously opulent neighbourhood.

Although I was excited, to my beast this was just another hunt, only this time I openly cheered him on from the background. He took his time with all the necessary precautions, staying out of sight, looking for a way in. During the second lap of the house, he spied an unlocked window. Despite being a wolf, he managed to push it open with ease and he slipped gracefully inside without making a sound. He dashed behind a table, and laid there contemplating his next move. The shadows were few and far between and his silver fur didn’t blend with the superfluous coloured wallpaper. I could see he was uncomfortable – things were different this time we didn’t usually do personal visits. A shrewd silence fell, broken occasionally by the soft padded prowl of an assassin and a loud overexerted grunt from an unsuspecting victim.

This noise intrigued my wolf, as it did me. We crept towards it; through the kitchen, past the sofa, and finally up the stairs. We were heading toward the bedroom; a bad feeling began to brew in my stomach. I would hate to do this in front of company; that would be rude. But tonight, nothing was going to stop me. Seeing the door slightly ajar we inched forward and with each step forward the grunts became louder. We were so close now; the lingering smell of sweat filled the air. Forms came into focus from the other side of the crack. Recognisable Roberto was lying on his side, his back facing the door, and with one hand he was stroking something in front of him.


“I’m going to wash my face. Do you want anything while I’m up?” It was Mr Wulf’s voice, calm and casual. No reply. He chuckled as he disappeared from view. Now was our chance, three months of preparation, all leading to this moment. My wolf nudged the door open and sprang in. We were ready for everything, everything but this.

***

My night was ruined. On the bed, a boy laid in a puddle of his own tears; bound, gagged, and naked. I recognised him from the class this afternoon. My wolf took no notice but I did. This man was meant to be my saviour, my light at the end of a tunnel, but this would not suffice. He didn’t deserve a life of torture; he didn’t deserve a life at all. Justice would come on swift wings to avenge this disappointment. However, it would not be served with a badge or a gun but with the sharpened teeth of a beast without morals. So I uttered those words no human should utter.
“Kill him”

My partner in crime listened to my words and obliged. Crouching below the bedside, he waited and watched. Seconds ticked by, each with the weight of an hour. While my wolf was calm, I hungered for blood; his blood. How much longer would we have to wait? How many more breaths would this scum take? Footsteps could be heard coming from beyond the doorway, at last. One second, two seconds, I counted as my wolf jumped onto the bed and pounced in a flash of fur and yellow teeth. Roberto was caught by surprise, fangs sunk deep into his throat. Surprise turned to acceptance as he looked into the eyes of the beast and smiled. It was as if he could see through the costume. “Jack, a word is nothing more than a string of letters.” He whispered, his eyes closed for the last time.

He knew it was me? How? Why did he tell me that? The answers to these questions died that night; the same time as Mr Wulf’s black heart stopped beating. It was not my wolf who did this but something more sinister; me. I had killed my successor and doomed myself to a life of eternal loneliness, for an innocent boy? Was it really worth it? I wasn’t sure but it felt as though I had lost something – a vital piece of my life had been ripped from my hands and brutally murdered.

Tears cascaded down my ethereal cheeks as I looked on and made sure my predator finished his work. Terrible thoughts stampeded through my head. That was, until I heard it, the muffled cries of a hallowed soul. My tears were slowly replaced with a guilty smile as it crawled across my lips. I couldn’t, could I? This boy’s life had already been ruined tonight; once by a man, and once by a wolf. And now, it was my turn.

***

With one last look at his face we left him tied to the bed with a gaping wound in his leg and disappeared into the velvet night. I wasn’t too sure of the process of turning man into beast but if it worked he would be free by tomorrow night, if it didn’t he would probably die. It made me feel bad for him, if only for a little while.

The next morning I returned to work apprehensive about the results from the previous night’s experiment. I wondered about how the next few days would pan out, and whether or not I should return to the scene of the crime. It seemed like an endless game of mental ping pong. The game continued in my head for three days after which I surrendered myself to my anxiety and returned. A criminal always returns to the scene and my crime was unleashing another monster onto this world.

I entered the house, the putrid stench of a rotting cadaver hit me like a runaway train, only this fetor wouldn’t kill me – I only hoped that it would. I scoured the room; there were no signs of life. With the exception of a set of frayed ropes the bed was empty and the only remnants of our dearly beloved teacher, was a blood-soaked stain where I had left him. He must have transformed, it was the only way he could have escaped. To think it was that easy to turn him into a monster; humans really are fragile creatures. I paused for a second to wonder where he went. I didn’t know whether it was the foul odor, or that I hadn’t had a good night sleep in at least a week but I needed to get out of there, I just couldn’t think straight.

I returned home later that night and there on my doorstep was my masterpiece, my [I]David[/I]. A naked boy, his mouth caked in blood. I smiled; I don’t know how he found me but it didn’t matter because there he was; my legacy.

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