Howl

Drawing of the night sky with full moon and clouds. Caption reads: "She was a captive of the moon."

Howl

Short story by Iris Carden

When other women complained about their monthly cycles, Karen would nod sympathetically. She had a horror cycle of her own. Theirs contained blood, as did hers, in a way.

She was a captive of the moon. Its cycle was her cycle. For those five nights centred on the full moon, she lost herself, ran wild in the forest adjacent her back yard. Those nights in black and white were primal, wild, free, sometimes bloody. She hated them, she feared what she might do.

Those days she was exhausted, having not slept from moonrise to moonset. Those days all she could face eating was meat, bloody and raw. She ate all she could during the day, so she wouldn’t be hungry at night.

She could not work during that week, so she was only able to work part-time, and supervisors knew she would be unavailable one week in four. “Medical complications related to her cycle” was enough of a reason for most supervisors. If any pushed for further she would tell them how truly terrible endometriosis was. She would never outright lie and say that she had it, only allow them to make their own conclusions. She did make it clear that she would be physically unable to stand at a cash register on those days, which was absolutely true.

This morning, Karen was standing at her kitchen sink with a saucepan of boiling water. Into the water she dropped her sharpest knife, a pair of tongs and some sewing thread.

She would need another pair of tongs to get them out. She boiled the kettle and poured water over the second pair of tongs and a plate. Then she pulled the implements from the pot.

This was going to hurt. She opened the wound on her abdomen a little further with the knife, trying not to scream from the pain. With the tongs from the saucepan, she reached in and pulled out the bullet. It hurt, but she was fairly sure that if it had reached any organs she would be dead. She soaked the thread in disinfectant, and stitched the wound closed. It would not leave a scar. At moonrise, all injuries would heal. Until then she would endure the pain along with the fatigue.

Nothing like this had ever happened before.

The bushland belonged to her family. The house and the forest had been in the family for generations, and family members all contributed to its upkeep because they all knew that any of them could produce a daughter or granddaughter with her condition. It sometimes skipped generations completely, but the lycanthrope gene passed through the maternal line. It was always women it affected, women were already tied to the twenty-eight day cycle. With puberty some of the girls of the family showed themselves to be normal women, and some to be lycanthropes.

If someone was on her property with a gun, they were trespassing. The property was currently ostensibly owned by her uncle, her mother’s brother. He would never allow roo shooting or pig shooting on the property in the week of the full moon.

She couldn’t call the police to report the incident. Too many questions would be asked. What if they came back again tonight? She could heal from this injury but if she’d been shot in the head, or heart, there would be no coming back. Despite the legends, it didn’t take a silver bullet to kill a lycanthrope, just an accurate one. Despite the legends, if she died as a wolf, she would stay as a wolf, and no-one, except family, would know what had happened to her.

Karen had only just got dressed again, when she heard her front door opening. She didn’t need her heightened sense of smell to be overwhelmed by the cloud of perfume that entered. Grimacing in pain, Karen ran to the front room to greet the intruder.

A short woman in a bright yellow suit, with grey hair and purple highlights, looked surprised. “Oh,” she said. “The owner said there wouldn’t be anyone here. I’m Margaret Burns, from the real estate agency. I’m here to take photos for the ads.”

“What ads?” Karen asked.

“The ads for the sale of the house.”

“You must have the wrong address. This house isn’t for sale. How did you get in? Did you pick the lock?”

“Oh, I’m so sorry. Didn’t the landlord tell you he was selling? That’s very unfair of him. I have a key, see.” She showed Karen a key, that could very well have been a copy of her front door key.

“There is no landlord,” Karen said. “I don’t know how you got the key, but this is my home. It’s been in my family for generations. Now leave before I call the police.”

“Oh dear.” The real estate agent answered, “I will get back to the landlord, and have him explain it to you.”

The woman, appearing flustered, left.

Karen phoned her uncle. He assured her he had not hired any real estate agent and had no idea what was happening. He would, however, look into it.

Despite the assurances, Karen was restless. She ate a large rump steak before lying down and trying to rest before the moon called her again.

Eventually she drifted off, and knew nothing with her human consciousness until the next day.

She had no real memory of the night, just flashes. The trees, a man, a gunshot, blood, so much blood. The taste of warm raw meat.

A day later, her uncle was reported missing.

The next week, police searched her forest, because they’d run out of other places to search, and no one gave up searching for missing rich men.

Her uncle’s body was found, with injuries resembling an animal attack, and with an unlicensed firearm in his possession. Police, and anyone else who considered it, were confused. The only predators in the area were dingoes which might attack a child, but not a full-grown man. Hairs left on the body were tested for DNA and came back as “wolf”, an animal that should never have been in the Australian bush.

A thorough search showed found no wolf in the area. Wherever it had come from, wherever it went, it was not there any more. The mystery remained.

A month later, her uncle’s solicitor contacted Karen to advise she had inherited the family property.


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By Iris Carden

Iris Carden is an Australian indie author, mother, grandmother, and chronic illness patient. On good days, she writes. Because of the unpredictability of her health, she writes on an indie basis, not trying to meet deadlines. She lives on a disability support pension now, but her ultimate dream is to earn her own living from her writing.

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