By the Broken Window
by Maurice Roger
Part 1 appears
in this issue.
A figure comes into sight. A woman. Naked. Thin. She leans on the wall, holding her stomach. Her hair is shaggy. She falls to the floor, screaming and moaning. She shrieks for help. Does she know I am here? I should help her. I know I should, but I stand here, motionless, watching her squirm on her living room rug.
Heavy amounts of drool begin to pour from her mouth. Those wails deepen and louden and morph into something I have never heard come from a human being before. She howls. Her face changes, growing outward, slowly, into a muzzle. What am I seeing? Her back and chest stretch and pop, making the skinny woman twice the size she just was.
Every part of me wants to leave, to run away and warn Richard, but I can’t move. As frightened as I am, I can’t look away. It’s a dream. I’ll wake up. Wake up, Vern.
Black hair rises from the woman’s neck and hands. Her legs crack and shift into odd positions. She crawls out of sight. The wind picks up and ruffles the cornfields. I peek behind me again: nothing. I never wanted my brother so much as I do right now. I almost call out for him, but remember that thing in the house is still around. That thing.
I return to the window and instead of seeing an empty living room, I see two beaming red eyes and an open mouth of jagged teeth staring back at me. It stands far taller than the woman it once was. The wolf, covered in dark hair, lets forth a howl. I run.
I hear the window glass break behind me. I don’t look back. I must warn Richard. My heart pounds. It’s probably right behind me, its open muzzle inches from my jugular. I want to turn around and prove myself wrong, but what if I’m right?
I pass by the gas station again and keep running, turning the corner and race down the dirt road of endless cornfields. I can’t run anymore. I can’t. Out of breath. Out. Of. Breath. Must stop. Please don’t be behind me.
It isn’t. Was it all a dream? Did I really just witness that happen or was it all in my head? I stop, catch my breath, hand on my hips, looking at my surroundings. Up ahead, I see Richard standing at the car, smoking a cigarette. He’s okay. He probably didn’t hear the howl. Too far away to hear what I did.
“Hey. Hey.” I wave my arm to him, hoping he sees me. He waves back. I trot towards him.
“Where did you go, Vern?” he yells. “You were gone for a while.”
Just as I proceed to say my whereabouts, a soft growl begins to the left of me in the cornfields. Where, where is it? It could be anywhere. I pan the deep darkness of the cornstalks until I see something, a color, that doesn’t belong there: Red. Two dots, crimson-colored, focus on me.
The wolf appears from the corn. It stands on two legs, tail swaying. Its arms are outstretched to me, for me. It’s huge, much bigger than I thought. In the farmhouse, its size was affected by the furniture around it. Now, though, it will tower over me if I allow it to get any closer. I stumble, almost falling completely on the dirt road. Must warn Richard.
“I fixed it,” Richard says, flicking his cigarette. “I ripped my sleeve off and tied it around the hole. Should work until I get it to a shop tomorrow. Can’t drive too fast between now and then, though.”
I reach the car and say, “Get in, Richard. Get in the car. We have to go. Now.”
“Did you find anyone?”
“Get in,” I yell, opening the passenger door and get in. “Now.”
“What’s got into you, Vern? Scared yourself?” He starts the car. “See? Like new. Listen, Vern. I want to say I’m sorry for before. I was a little mad. I took the back roads so we could talk. I haven’t seen you—”
“Now, Richard. Go!” I look out of the windows and see nothing, but I know it is coming. I know it. I grab the shifter and put it into drive. The car idles a few inches before Richard presses the brake pedal.
He bats my hand away and says, “Vern, knock it off. What is wrong?” He switches the headlights on.
Slowly, a black shape rises at the front of the car. Its head is huge — I mean massive — covered in scraggly fur and crowned by two triangular-shaped ears. The remnants of the engine’s steam circle around its body.
I hear my brother say something. I can’t understand his words, but I know the nature is of fright and disbelief. I gasp. It leaps. Its pawed-feet dent the hood. The windshield cracks when the wolf pounds it. Richard stomps on the gas. The wolf falls forward, its head making the crack splinter even more.
For the first time, I get a decent look of its face. Of course, its entire head is shaped much differently from a human’s. Its eyes though, those eyes, as red as they are, and demonic as they appear, still have something human to them.
They remind of my grandma lying in the hospital tonight. She didn’t speak at all, but her eyes spoke volumes. Her eyes were tired, not, I don’t think, from her time in the hospital, but from the weathered years and age she has reached.
For a split second, I see a brief shred of sorrow and pain there, in the wolf’s eyes. It still has the ability to reflect the woman’s emotions, the human being it was only a short while ago. That woman in the house, she screamed for help, not specifically for me, but for anyone. She must have known what was coming and wanted to stop it before it began again.
The car moves fast down the dirt road, the wolf hanging on to the hood.
“Stop,” I say.
“Stop. Fast. It will fall off.” Richard slams the brakes. The car skids. The wolf slides off. Richard and I look at one another, sigh, and just as we smile, steam bursts from the hood in all directions. Not now. Please. Not now.
“Can we make it?” I say to Richard, who, as of this moment, begins to pray. “I said can we make it, Richard?”
He turns to me and says, “No.” He shakes his head. “Not with the hose burst we can’t.”
I lean forward and see the huge shape of the wolf sprawled on the ground. Its head faces opposite us. “We need to run away then, quick. We have no other choice.”
“Grab Betsy for me.” He points to the glove box. “Get her.”
My fingers fumble the latch until it opens. Papers. Pens. Condoms. Where the hell are you? There you are. My thumb touches her first. Then my palm. She’s cold, heavy. I have never held a gun before. It’s much heavier than I expected. In the darkness of the car, I can see her small size. I’m not a gun expert, but I can tell it’s a .38 from the many movies and TV shows. All black. Rubber grip.
“Is it loaded?” I say.
“Of course. Nothing more useless than an unloaded gun. Stay here.” Richard steps out, Betsy pointed at the unmoving wolf.
The crack of Betsy firing her first round into the wolf echoes over the cornfields. The wolf doesn’t move. Maybe it’s dead. Maybe the smash to the ground broke its neck. Maybe. The way its head is turned actually, sort of looks like a broken neck. That was all it took.
Is it going to change back to the woman it once was in the farmhouse? They always do in the movies. And what about silver? Do the bullets need to be silver? I sure hope not, because we don’t have anything silver, never mind any silver bullets lying around waiting to kill a werewolf.
“Shoot it again,” I say. “Just to be sure. If it doesn’t move, then I think it’s probably not going to move anymore.”
A second blast booms from Betsy, hitting the wolf in the chest again. Nothing. The wolf doesn’t move. Good.
“How many is in there?”
“It’s a six-shooter,” Richard says to me with an air of pride.
“Unload them all into it just to be sure. The head. Shoot the head.”
Richard nods to me and I suddenly feel the bond between us, the bond he wanted us to make on our trip. He kneels down to the wolf and turns its head with the barrel of the gun so it faces upwards. Ugly. Its red eyes are open, lifeless though, not moving. The muzzle is agape with its pink tongue hanging slightly out.
Richard cocks the hammer back on Betsy, sticks the barrel in the wolf’s mouth. Richard lets loose a painful cry as the wolf bites down on his wrist. The beast doesn’t let go even when it stands. The gun falls to the pavement.
“Richard,” I yell.
The wolf looks to me, my brother’s hand still in its jaws. Those eyes of pain and suffering that were there only minutes ago have left and been filled with a rage and retribution. The wolf bites harder until Richard’s bloody hand plops on the road. The wolf picks Richard up by his throat.
I open the door. “No!”
With one grand motion of its arm, the wolf swats Richard away. My brother’s body spirals into a ditch. The wolf turns to me. I get back in the car, turning the key in the ignition over and over and getting the same result. I’m going to die.
Wait. My brother’s gun: Betsy. It’s on the road. I heard it drop. I don’t know where it is, though. It could be anywhere. For all I know it may have skidded under the car or into the cornfields. My hand brushes the cover of my book.
Jumping, the wolf slams its hand through the windshield. I use my book to thwart its attempts to claw at me. It reaches in further, until nearly the entire windshield is gone and its head is near me. I throw open the door.
The wolf snarls. I run to the front of the car. Please, please let me find the gun. My shoes kick something heavy. I bend down. The wolf leaps at me, stopping inches from me. Its claws practically touching me. The resonance of Betsy’s third bullet fired through the wolf’s mouth rattles my eardrums.
The wolf falls to the ground. Blood seeps from its open mouth. I blast another round into its head just to make sure. That’s four. Richard said six. Two left. I kneel and point Betsy at the wolf again. Something makes a noise a few feet away.
“Vern,” Richard says, limping over to me. “Vern, help me.” My brother’s face has been ravaged from the wolf’s claws. He cradles his handless arm at the wrist.
I run over to him. “Richard. Richard. What do we do?”
We fall to the ground and hold one another. He tries to speak, but only stutters come forth. He collapses on his back and begins to cry. He wants to speak to me, but cannot. His eyes tell me enough. They tell me that my brother loves me, and he never wanted anything like this to happen. Who knows, maybe he is proud of me.
I hold his hand and look the sky. Clouds cover the full moon that was shining only minutes ago. I scan the area again, making sure the wolf hasn’t risen. It hasn’t. A pool of blood surrounds its body.
Richard gurgles loudly and squeezes my hand. When I return my attention to him, the saddened expression he had has now been replaced with something sinister. His pupils turn bright red. His lips begin to quiver. Fangs begin growing.
I roll away, stand, and pull the hammer back on Betsy. My hands shake as I point the barrel at my brother. Richard stands with ease, as if he wasn’t just in pain at all. His wrist sprouts a new skin that forms a new hand, which quickly morphs into a hairy red paw.
As Richard starts the same process as did the woman, I take a step closer to him, looking him in the eyes, and shoot. Richard falls to the ground, rolling away into where the cornstalks meet the grass. That’s five. I wait a few seconds to see if his body moves. It doesn’t. Just in case, I unload into his head the last round Betsy has to offer.
I’m not sure how much time passes before I finally get up. I can see the strands of dawn in the far off distance. I sit in the car and contemplate my next move. I have no idea what to do next. If someone were to come down the road right now, I’m not sure what I would tell them. I see the torn binder of my book between the seats. I hold it up. It is unreadable. The pages are ripped. Claw marks lace the cover. I let it fall to the floor.
I put Betsy back in the glove box and begin walking. The wind picks up. I look back at the scene. Lifeless, the woman has returned to her human form.
Richard lays in the ditch by the side of the road.
I’ll see you in the backyard, big bro.
Copyright © 2015 by Maurice Roger