Story of the Month
Freedom from Fear
Maria flees down the dark deserted road, her white nightgown dirty and torn. Her face, flawlessly beautiful in a naughty angel kind of way, is twisted with terror. Blonde, perfectly-textured locks bounce around her sleek shoulders and down the gentle slope of her back. Above the pine trees, the full moon shines bright. Maria stops, out of breath, chest heaving, the tight fabric of her nightgown hugging her impeccably round breasts. She peers fearfully into the bushes that line the winding country road.
A leaf floats gently to the earth, brushing the silky skin of her arm, startling her. She turns in a single, jerky motion. Mist rises in the autumn air, swirling in the moonlight. Somewhere in the nearby trees, an owl hoots. The noise haunts her, crawling up her skin. Her finger and thumb grip the silver cross around her neck as her plump lips recite the Lord’s Prayer.
She continues running. She can’t stop; the beast is coming. It’s following her scent. She must make it to Sheriff Conway’s house. He’ll have a gun and a silver bullet. A low, animalistic grunt reverberates through the woods behind her. She turns slowly, the moonlight illuminating her skin, sparkling in her anxious eyes. The beast steps from a distant shadow. It stands, man-like, on two legs, nose in the air as it sniffs her. The torn remains of suit-pants hug its hips—the only evidence of its human life. It howls at the moon, piercing the air with its tormented affliction. Then, licking its lips, overcome by the scent of its prey, it breaks into a hunched, four-legged run.
Less than thirty feet away, the massive beast races towards her, leaving a black storm of dirt in its wake. Muscles, sinewy and taut, strain under its matted brown fur. Maria screams, continuing her desperate sprint. Now fifteen feet away, the beast’s lips curl back. Moonlight glistens across fangs. The beast hurls itself forward with unearthly speed, urged on by the primal lust for blood.
Tears streak down Maria’s face as she runs. The beast is now ten feet away. She hears its laborious breath.
Lunging through the air, the werewolf extends its claws for attack. Maria dives to the side and the beast flies past. She rolls to a stop. The werewolf’s claws dig into the earth as the frenzied creature scrambles to turn around. Rising on its hind legs, it towers over her—standing at least seven feet tall.
As Maria cowers at the beast’s feet, a cloud blocks the moonlight, stealing the werewolf ’s strength. It drops onto all fours, convulsing as it shrinks. Paws turn into hands, hair into skin. Maria stares in horror. The beast, the killer responsible for the death of her husband, is her brother.
He looks up at her, anguish in his eyes. “Run. Get the silver bullet. Kill me.”
She stands stunned, mind unhinged by this shocking development. Then, the clouds part, letting the moonlight through, and turning her brother back into the snarling, hairy, fanged beast.
Francis screamed, unable to contain his fear for even one more second. It was the creature’s eyes that finally broke him, so horrific, yet so human at the same time. Could werewolves be real? He looked away from the TV, scrunching his eyes shut and covering his ears.
Austin sprang from the couch, slapping a hand over Francis’ mouth. “Shut it, you little dweeb, before mom hears.” His hand practically wrapped around the smaller boy’s entire face.
Too late. They could hear her footsteps coming up the stairs.
“Crap, look what you did. Where’s the remote, dick-lick?” Austin demanded as he released his grip on Francis’ mouth.
“I don’t have it. You turned the movie on.” Francis’ voice squeaked and trembled like a mouse in a snake pit.
The footsteps were getting louder. Austin shot Francis a look that said, get me the remote or I’ll pin you to the ground with my knees and shove my dirty socks in your mouth. Francis looked under the couch cushions. His brute of an older brother loomed over him, Islanders jersey hanging loosely over his pajama pants. Footsteps echoed down the hall, thumping anxiety into the boys with every stride.
Austin glared at Francis; his gaze was so menacing it made Francis want to cry. Austin held up his fist. “If mom finds out, you’re dead.”
The footsteps were right outside the door. Francis dove from the couch, hitting the power button on the TV. The doorknob turned and the door swung open, revealing their mother’s lumpy silhouette. She scanned the dark room, relieved that the boys were unhurt.
“What in the world is going on up here?” She wore her blue dental hygienist uniform, her hair was up, a clay mask covered her face, and her eyes were fierce. She hated being taken away from American Idol.
Francis cringed at the sight. “Nothing mom, we were just wrestling and Austin stepped on my hand. It’s ok though, it doesn’t hurt anymore. See.” He opened and closed his fingers to demonstrate that his hand was ok.
“Wrestling in the dark?” she questioned.
“Oh yeah, it’s fun. That way I have a chance because I can see better in the dark.”
She looked at the TV, suspiciously. “Where’s the remote?”
“I don’t know,” Francis answered, honestly.
The woman stepped toward the TV and her foot landed on Francis’ toy ’57 Chevy. Cursing, she limped to the wall and stubbed her toe on Austin’s barbell. “How many times do I have to tell you two to keep this room clean?”
The boys looked around sheepishly. An empty bag of Doritos lay next to the couch, chip-crumbs sinking into the carpet. A Tupperware container sat on its side, spilling Lego in the corner of the room. Austin’s Playstation games were spread out in front of the TV. Francis’ dinosaurs were bunched all over the room, abandoned mid-battle.
“Now clean it up and get ready for bed. It’s a school night.”
“Ok, mom” The boys answered in unison, hopeful that she’d forgotten about the TV.
She touched it. It was warm. “Oh, so you’re lying to me now. You were watching TV.” The boys flinched as the glow filled the room.
There on the flat screen was Maria, on the ground, blouse torn open, flawlessly round breasts exposed. The werewolf lunged at her. Both boys stared at the breasts, entranced by their beauty.
Francis had never seen breasts before. It was possibly the greatest discovery of his short life.
“What the hell are you watching?” Their mother screamed. She turned to Austin. “A horror movie? What’s wrong with you? Francis is nine years old.”
The boys were stunned into silence by their mother’s interrogation. She stood, feet planted firmly apart, hands on her hips, with ‘the look’ on her face—you know the look—the one only mothers get, perfected by years of dealing with misbehaving children, the one that kids all around the world know to fear. The look that says, listen to what I say, OR ELSE.
She turned to Francis, “Go to your room. I’ll deal with you in a minute.”
Francis quickly shuffled out of the room, happy to be temporarily out of the heated situation, and walked down the hall to his bedroom. He undressed and draped his jeans and t-shirt over the chair. A fallen pile of comics sat on the edge of the desk—evidence that he’d been reading them earlier when his mom thought he’d been doing homework. He quickly stuffed them under his bed. He hated when she was mad at him. Austin had said that their mom only got mad when the ‘red monster’ was around. Francis didn’t know what the ‘red monster’ was, he just knew he didn’t want to meet it. He wondered if it was as scary as a werewolf.
He put his Spiderman pajamas on, sat on his racecar-shapedbed, and closed his eyes. But as soon as his lids touched together and blackness engulfed him, there was the werewolf, snarling and running towards him through the dark. He quickly opened his eyes and looked around his room to make sure it was werewolf free.
Francis’ mom knocked on the door as she entered the room. She pulled out the chair from the desk and sat facing Francis. “You OK, kiddo?”
“You know you shouldn’t watch scary movies. Things like that aren’t good to put into your mind. They’re not good for anyone’s mind, especially kids’ minds.” She rested her hand on Francis’ shoulder. As per usual, his brown hair was a tangled mess.
“I know. I wish I never saw it.” He looked up at his mom and smiled, wanting to be back on her good side.
“Don’t worry; I’m not mad at you for watching the movie,” she said, messing up his hair even more. “You didn’t know. Austin shouldn’t have shown it to you. But Francis,”
“You really shouldn’t have lied to me. We’re a family. That means we’re a team. How are we supposed to be a team if we lie to each other? You know better than to lie.”
“I know, mom. I’m sorry,” Francis said, and hugged his mom.
She wrapped her arms around his small body. “It’s OK, honey. Just don’t lie to me in the future.” She kissed his forehead as she tucked him in, and then got up to leave. “Goodnight.”
She stopped in the door. “Yeah?”
“Are werewolves real?” Francis’ blue eyes shone in the light as they searched her face for an answer.
“Oh no, honey. There’s no such thing as werewolves. Don’t worry your cute little head about that. They’re just make-believe.” She smiled encouragingly.
He sighed, relieved. “Good, because I don’t like them.”
“Goodnight.” She turned the light off as she closed the door.
Francis pulled the blanket up around his chin. His nightlight shone in the corner of the room, casting shadows that stretched up the wall, taunting him with their sinister shapes. He tried to think of school, the upcoming science fair, his baseball game, anything but the werewolf, but its image kept clawing its way back into his mind.
A scratching noise at the wall startled him and he sat up. The hair on the back of his neck stood on end. Don’t scream, don’t scream, don’t scream, he told himself. It’s just a mouse. The scratching grew louder. It moved down the wall towards the door. It was too loud to be a mouse. It’s just your imagination, Francis’ told himself. Werewolves aren’t real. Then came the growl, low and guttural, augmented by heavy breathing. Francis leapt from his bed, picking up the baseball-bat from the corner of his room. The door handle jiggled, turning slowly. Francis’ breathing was erratic. His lip quivered. He wanted to cry out, but wouldn’t; he wasn’t a baby. It had taken months for Austin to stop teasing him after Halloween, when Francis had had a nightmare and had to sleep with their mom. He wouldn’t go through that ridicule again. The door creaked open, allowing a sliver of light from the hall to penetrate the room. The breathing from behind the door was raspy and strained. The bat shook in Francis’ hands. Then the door flew open and a large body leapt into the room.
Horror seized Francis, triggering his reflexes. He swung the bat.
His brother dropped to the ground, stunned, holding his elbow. “What the hell, Francis.” He looked up, face contorted in pain and anger. Grabbing the bat from Francis, he threw the smaller boy on the bed and leapt on him, pinning him down with his knees. He trapped Francis’ arms with one hand and used his free hand to lightly poke and slap the helpless boy in the face. “What’s the matter dweeb? Scared of the wolfman?”
“Not until you apologize for hitting me.”
“OK then. Have it your way.” Austin grabbed a hold of Francis’ chest and delivered an unrelenting titty-twister. Francis shrieked, but Austin smothered the noise with a pillow.
Once the pillow was out of his face, Francis resorted to his last defence, spitting. A glob flew from his small lips, catching his brother in the face, where it clung, stretching as it dangled like a liquid silkworm.
“Sick,” Austin said, and wiped it off on Francis’ cheek.
“Get off, or I’ll scream for mom.”
“Scream all you want, I’ll cover your face with this pillow.”
“Fine, get off or I’ll tell Jessica that you pooped your pants in Mexico last year.”
“That’s not fair. I had food poisoning.”
“GET OFF.” Francis’ face turned red from exertion.
The older brother got off the bed and walked to the door, laughing. He unplugged Francis’ nightlight. Standing in the door, he turned toward the small boy, “Just so you know, werewolves are real.”
“No, they’re not. Mom said.”
“She just said that so you wouldn’t be scared. But everyone knows they’re real.” He turned to leave, but turned back adding an afterthought. “And they really like to eat little boys, cuz they have the juiciest meat.”
“Get laaawsst.” Francis tossed a pillow at the door, but Austin quickly shut it, leaving the young boy in pitch blackness.
Francis swiftly turned on his bedside lamp. He walked over and plugged his nightlight in, mumbling under his breath, “there’s no such thing as werewolves.” Then he lay on his bed, turned off the lamp, and pulled his blanket over his head to shield out the world.
The dark forest was thick with the unknown. The wind whirled through branches, calling out in the night like a reclusive witch. Francis stood alone on a dirt path, baffled by the way it wound through the woods, maze-like. Light from the full moon shone into the woods, illuminating patches of the forest floor in a haunting glow. Francis had no idea how long he’d been there, he just knew he had to get out of the forest. Fast.
A howl ripped through the air, tearing through Francis’ ears and into his consciousness. He turned around, running from the sound. It couldn’t be a werewolf, could it? No, they’re not real. What was he doing in the woods alone at night? Why had he come here? It didn’t matter; he had to get out.
His slender body trembled under his pajamas. The werewolf leapt onto the path twenty feet in front of Francis. Its ears were forward as it listened to every move the small boy made. It stood like a man, walking on two legs as it licked its lips.
Tears poured from Francis’ eyes and down his round cheeks. Every muscle in his body tensed with fear. The boy turned to flee, but his legs wouldn’t work. He couldn’t move. The beast had some kind of spell over him. Francis was forced to watch as the beast strode towards him, claws outstretched. It frothed at the mouth, drool escaping its long snout, oozing to the ground. With each step the beast took, Francis’ terror grew. It was so close he could see its eyes, bloodshot and yellow as they stared at him, tasting him.
Try as he did, Francis could not break the trance and run. His clenched muscles were completely unresponsive. The werewolf stopped in front of the boy. Hot breath, reeking of rotten meat, billowed down on the tearful child. Francis called out, but even his vocal chords wouldn’t respond. He wished for his Dad, but the man was nowhere in sight.
The wolf dropped onto all fours, snarling, hungry for child’s tender flesh. The beast’s mouth opened, revealing bloodstained fangs. Snot bubbled out of Francis’ nose, oozing down his face, mixing with his tears, and clinging to his chin where it dangled, blown about in the wind. He stood submerged in dread, drowning in the horror of the imminent pain. Why couldn’t he move? The wolf bit into his leg, tearing through the flesh to the bone. The wound burned violently, consuming the boy in an ocean of physical misery. His small body convulsed and dropped to the ground, writhing.
“MMMOOOOOOOOOOMMMMM!” Francis called out in agony as he rolled off his racecar bed, landing on the floor, leg muscles knotted in a fierce cramp. Sweat-soaked pajamas clung to his shivering body as he tried to straighten his leg.
His mom burst through the door, scooping him up. “Shhhhh, it’s ok, sweet boy. You’re ok.”
Francis wrapped his arms around her neck. “M… my leg.” Even as he said it, the muscles started to relax and he was able to straighten his knee.
She stroked the front of his hair with her palm. “What happened?”
“The w… w… werewolf bit me. I… I couldn’t move.” Francis said, his shaky hand rubbing a tear from his eye.
“Oh, honey, it was just a bad dream. There’s no werewolf.”
Austin stood in the door, sleep crusting his eyes, hair a wild mesh. “Ha, a nightmare. You shrieked like a banshee. I thought you were dying. Let me guess, you’re gonna sleep with mommy now.”
“Shut up, Austin.” Francis wailed.
“Go back to bed. Leave your brother alone. This is your fault for showing him that stupid movie and filling his mind with that junk.”
Their mom turned to Francis. “You can sleep in my room if you want. There’s lots of room since Dad’s in New York.”
Francis’ limbs trembled. He didn’t want to be alone, but he was scared that the smirk on Austin’s face would turn into another month of ridicule. “No, it’s OK. I can sleep here.”
“Oh, Mr. Brave is growing up.” Austin chided.
“Give him a break.” Their Mom cut in. “Or do you forget crying and coming into my room to sleep when you were ten.”
“Ha ha, you slept with Mom when you were ten.”
“Go to bed Austin. You’ve got school in the morning.”
Austin disappeared into the hall. Francis climbed into bed. “Mom, what do I do if the werewolf tries to get me in my dream again?”
“Your dreams are in your mind; you can control them. If the wolfman comes back, tell yourself that you’re dreaming and make him go away.”
“OK,” Francis said, but he was doubtful.
“You OK now?”
“Ya, I’m fine,” Francis sighed.
After kissing his forehead, his mom left Francis alone in the soft glow of his nightlight. He pulled the blanket up to his chin and looked around the room. His eyes flickered about the dark objects. A tree outside scratched the window, its branch looking eerily similar to the arm of a werewolf. Francis stared at it, telling himself it was just a branch. The wind moaned, exciting the limb. Francis shivered, then pulled the blankets over his head. He laid in the private protection of his quilt dome, calming himself. Then, after much contemplation, he slowly drifted back to sleep.
Francis stood alone in the woods. There was no trail, just trees and bushes as far as he could see. Darkness engulfed the forest, filling it with the unknown, chilling Francis with the feeling that his worst fears lurked behind every tree, waiting to tear his flesh from his bones. He walked with his hands outstretched to protect his face from unseen branches, or whatever horror might be lurking in savage anticipation of its innocent prey.
Coming to the edge of a swamp, the boy rested against a tree, lost and bewildered. Moss hung from a branch above his head like a giant green cobweb. The full moon reflected off the still water, casting a disturbing aura onto the surrounding trees. Francis let his head fall into his trembling hands. He wanted to be home, to see his mom, even his brother. But he had no idea how to get out of the woods.
The soul-shaking scream of a woman ripped through the still air. The boy froze. Another scream, closer this time, pulled him from his daze. Looking around, he anxiously searched for an escape route, but was blocked by the swamp.
Then came a howl.
Francis stared in the direction of the wolf ’s piercing cry. Through the bushes he could see the dark shape of a woman running towards him. Behind her, the werewolf ran on four legs, bared teeth gleaming in the moonlight as it snarled. The screams grew louder as the woman approached the swamp. Long blonde hair flowed over her torn nightgown.
Ducking behind a tree, Francis frantically attempted to form a plan. He peered out at the woman. The moonlight lit her face and he could clearly see Maria’s graceful features. The wolfman was approaching fast, hunched and growling.
Francis frantically looked around. A path led away from the swamp. He could see his house at the end of the path. A light was on. His mom was in the window. He could sneak away while the beast attacked Maria. He looked back at the angelic woman. Horror wrinkled her face. She screamed for help. The werewolf was less than twenty feet behind her and gaining fast.
The boy began to flee towards his house, but the pleading screams of the woman stopped him. He couldn’t let her die. But what could he do? He turned towards her. The werewolf would be on top of her in seconds. Francis turned instinctively and ran toward her.
The cold metal of a heavy object weighed down his arm. Glancing down, he saw he was holding a silver samurai sword. Had he been holding it the whole time? Lifting it above his head, he leapt between Maria and the beast. The wolf ’s head snapped at him, drool stretching from its fangs.
Swinging the blade in a wide arc, the boy severed the beast’s head from its massive body. The body landed hard and began shrinking instantly, reverting into its human form. Francis stood triumphantly, sword shimmering in the moonlight.
Maria cried out in relief. She picked up the boy, smothering him with kisses and hugs. Her firm breasts pressed into his small body. Putting him down, she looked him in the eyes. “You saved my life, and because of your bravery I will show you my secret.”
Francis watched in excitement as the woman knelt down. They were eye to eye. The wind blew her hair from her perfectly sculpted face. The moonlight accentuated the curve of her neck. She was the most beautiful woman the boy had ever seen.
She looked him in the eyes. “Are you ready?” She grabbed the front of her blouse.
Before Francis had a second to realize what was happening, Maria tore out of her clothes, instantly turning into a Unicorn. “Get on my back. We will fly to Heroland, where rainbows disappear into waterfalls and monkeys surf on the backs of dolphins. There is candy and ice-cream and lots of other children to play with.”
Francis hooked his sword in his belt and climbed onto the Unicorn. The two took flight and the boy looked out over the forest. As they flew towards the moon, Francis glanced back towards his house.
The werewolf was crawling into his brother’s open window.
“Quick. Take me home. The werewolf is going for my brother.”
The Unicorn swooped down to the house, her white feathered wings stirring up a mighty breeze. She hovered in front of Austin’s window. Francis thanked her, then climbed into his brother’s bedroom.
He was too late. The werewolf hunched over the sleeping boy and bit into his neck. It looked up at Francis knowingly, an evil smirk on its face. Blood oozed from its mouth.
“AAAAAHHHHHHH! The wolfman.” Austin shot up in his bed, eyes in a blaze of terror. Beads of sweat clung to his forehead.
Francis stood next to him. “It’s OK Austin. I’m here. It was just a nightmare. There’s no such thing as the wolfman.”
“Get outta my room, twerp. What are you doing with that broom?”
Francis looked down, surprised to see the broom in his hand instead of a sword. “I was just making sure you’re all right.”
“I’m fine. Just go away.”
“You don’t have to be scared, Austin.”
“I’m not scared. GET OUT!”
Francis walked down the hall to his room. The moon shone in through the window, but it didn’t scare him anymore. He unplugged his nightlight and got into bed. Looking around the room, he smiled, feeling peaceful. Then, drifting in and out of thoughts of unicorns, rainbows, and candy, he fell asleep.
Story by Ryan Power