Here’s a story I wrote for a convention anthology last year. Tonight seemed like the perfect night to share it.
It started on the full moon.
The first thing I noticed was the difference in my teeth. You don’t really think about it unless something changes, but if there’s one place on your body that feels the tiniest modification, it’s the inside of your mouth. I remember looking up at the moon, huge and round, just cresting the treetops. My tongue probed the difference. A change in the sharpness. A change in the shape.
It only lasted a few hours, and by the next morning I didn’t notice it anymore. I forgot all about it for a month, busy as I was with my life and family.
The next full moon it returned.
That strange, different feeling in my mouth.
This time it was accompanied by a weird, prickly sensation on the back of my neck. All the hairs stood up, and a cold chill raced down my spine.
The night was overcast, but whenever that glorious full moon peeked through a break in the clouds, I felt it. It called to me. I longed to reach up and caress its pockmarked surface.
It made me feel…hungry.
I still lived with my parents then, and my father noticed. I saw him exchanging worried looks with my mother, but neither one said anything. They went about their business like nothing was wrong, but I felt their fear.
They knew something.
I wouldn’t beg for answers. Whatever was happening to me, I could handle it. It was only a few nights each month.
But it got worse with every rising moon.
The bright glow compelled me to prowl, leaving the safety of my home and family to wander alone in the woods. The trees looked darker on these nights, their leafy canopy pressing down on my changing form.
Three months after that first full moon, I made the transformation completely.
As the night sky came alive with insects, drawn as I was to the golden orb in the sky, I threw back my head and howled. Nothing in my life could have prepared me for the depth of that howl. It came from inside me, from some black corner of my soul, and enveloped me in the rightness of the sound.
My body shook with agony and pleasure. I felt alive, more alive than at any other moment in all my days. My limbs changed, my posture and my countenance transforming in the strength of that magnificent, terrible howl.
When I finally stopped, gasping for air, I looked down at my new form and shuddered.
I was a beast.
I had taken on a new form, and even in the fluttering confusion of the transformation, I knew I was dangerous.
My own family wasn’t safe when I changed. The overpowering hunger filled me. I wanted to kill, not for food, but for the dark, visceral pleasure of killing. It was my new nature.
The first time I hunted in the body of the beast I was clumsy. Rage boiled just under the surface of my consciousness and I bolted through the woods, crashing over fallen trees and splashing through fast-running streams. I didn’t make a kill that night, but the exhilaration of the hunt thrilled me. Hot blood rushed through my veins, consuming me with fierce, maddened joy.
The next morning I awoke in the middle of a meadow, bare trees waving in a chill autumn wind. The rage, the hunger, the pain and pleasure were gone. I was just me again, cold and alone.
I didn’t return to tell my family goodbye. They knew. From the first moment my eyes were drawn to that resplendent full moon, they knew what I would become.
Most feared of all wolves, most hated of all men.
I’ve kept to the fringes of society all these years, though the desire to return to civilization is strong. I miss the community of a loving family. Loneliness crushes my soul. And most of the month I have control of my body and my hunger. On the moonless nights, I could live safely among my own kind.
But when the full moon rises, I cannot withstand its pull.
I throw back my head and howl into its golden light and watch my familiar body transform into the most feared hunter of all, the most dangerous predator ever to stalk the woods.
My face shortens.
My teeth grow square and flat.
My spine straightens and my hips extend.
My paws lengthen into dexterous fingers that itch for the cold steel of a weapon.
I am the greatest killer the world has ever known. And nothing in the forest is safe when the wereman howls.