As you stand there, staring at what you have become, my words start to break through the panic and the fog that surrounds your brain. Perhaps this isn’t so bad, after all. Yes, you are cursed, but you’ve seen the films; you’ve seen the TV shows. With this curse comes so much more; with this curse comes strength and speed; with this curse comes spidey senses; and with this curse comes power. Oh yes, the aphrodisiac of the masses; the luck of the few – power. Power to persuade; power to manipulate; power to control; and, above all else, power to kill.
For, dear reader, be under no illusion about what you are. You are a killer.
As the myriad of feelings and emotions course through your body – fear, hatred, loathing, excitement, arrogance, and invincibility – you see a door appear in the wall behind you. Escape!
You rush towards it; you yank it open; you rush through…….will you never learn? For, no sooner have you done so, than you realise that this wasn’t the door you entered the room through. You turn back, but it is too late. The door is gone. You have crossed straight into another part of my mind. You have failed to cross back into the relative safety of the dungeon corridor; into reality. You have failed to be ‘cured’ of your affliction, should I have chosen to do that, of course.
You have created a story within a story; a hybrid in my mind; a crossover of dark and sinister characters. But what will befall you in this world? You are better equipped to defend yourself this time, but defend yourself against what? For, as you look around you, all you can see are trees.
You are in a forest. The air is cool due to the shade cast by the immense pine trees. You listen. Nothing. Not even birdsong breaks the canopy; not even insects break the cushion of needles. You raise your nose and sniff the air; you can’t help it; it is an instinctive action now. You smell it. You wrinkle your nose against the stench, but your saliva glands respond differently and your stomach rumbles. You have to go; you have no choice; you have no control; not yet.
Your footsteps are silent; stealth like on the bed of needles. Nothing can hear you approach. But, then again, they don’t need to. Like you, it is their sense of smell that drives them. Unlike you, they have no choice; no control; ever. An inbuilt sensor tells them to seek out living flesh; to devour it; to leave nothing; whatever the risk; whatever the cost. Unlike you, they are dead.
It is as you break the cover of the trees, in that split second before your living scent overpowers the slow decomposition of the corpse, that you realise your senses had both been correct. For, while your nostrils and your taste buds had picked up the scent of fresh meat and had triggered your hunger; your sense of smell had also fixed on the more overpowering odour of rotting flesh. But, not the decaying of the flayed corpse of the pre-pubescent girl in the clearing, but the advanced putrefaction of the animated corpses feeding on her. Zombies.
You panic and start to back away, but it is too late for that. They sensed you while you were processing the scene. Their sensors redirected their focus to you and, as your brain struggles to comprehend the milky eyed, grey skinned, rotting corpses ambling towards you, your inner wolf; your survival instinct; your protector, kicks in.
Your vision starts to change as a crimson mist sweeps across it. You find you’ve stopped retreating. Instead, you crouch, ready to attack, your head slowly turning so you can take in the scene; your brain now processing the relative speed and distance of your prey; calculating your strategy; deciding on your plan of attack.
You launch forward, grasping two of your prey by the throat and ripping their heads clean off. You land and dig your back claws into the needles, skidding to a halt and rounding on them again. This time you launch straight for your prey, a former rugby player by the looks of it, and slam its body against the trunk of a tree, crushing its skull with your paw. You draw back as the pus that was once a brain oozes between the shattered skull fragments; the smell making you gag.
You pull yourself together and turn, but it is too late for your planned attack. The last zombie is upon you. You have no choice. If you don’t, you risk being bitten or scratched. And, what will that mean? You’ve seen The Walking Dead. You lunge forward and sink your teeth into its throat. The taste is disgusting, like putrefied meat, and you fight the urge to let go; to disgorge the contents of your stomach; to cleanse your palate. You squeeze your jaws and twist your head from side to side, listening as the decaying flesh and sinew tear and the desiccated bones snap as you decapitate the last of your prey.
You toss the head away and immediately throw up; your body wracked with convulsions until there is nothing coming up but acidic bile. You have to get that taste out of your mouth, but try as you might, you can’t. You need to rinse your mouth out. You need water. As you stand upright, you run your hand through your hair and that’s when you notice. During that base human desire to cleanse your system of the poison you had ingested, your body has morphed back to human.
Your senses snap to attention as you pick up movement to your right. You turn to see a woman standing there, staring at you. Her gaze shifts to take in the carnage in the clearing and she emits a cry and rushes forward, collapsing over the mutilated body of the little girl.
‘My baby, my baby,’ she sobs. You say nothing. You stand there for what seems like hours, watching her as she mourns. Then, her crying stops. She stands and takes a deep breath before turning to face you.
‘Come,’ she says, indicating for you to follow her.
‘Shouldn’t we do something with her?’ you say, clumsily pointing to what you presume to have been her daughter.
‘There is nothing else to do,’ she says, jutting her chin forward. ‘She is dead.’
‘But won’t she turn into one of them if we don’t do something…err…to her head?’ you say and look at the floor, not wishing to look the woman in the eye.
‘No. She is dead. She will not rise. You have destroyed her killers. She has been avenged. But how? How did you dispose of them all?’
‘No one has ever managed to do that. You will need to explain your method to our leader so we can learn. Come.’
You follow the woman in silence, until you come to a thicket of thorny hedgerow; a barrier; a man-made one.
‘Who’s that?’ A voice sounds from the other side.
‘Emmy is dead. They got her. Whoever this is destroyed them all; avenged her. For that we owe shelter and a debt of gratitude, at the very least,’ the woman says.
An opening appears in the thicket and you walk through, behind the woman. People let you pass, bowing almost as you do so. You look around, taking in your surroundings. Thirty or so tents are pitched throughout the site, joined by clothes lines of washing. People sit around in groups or walk between the tents; each focused on a task. The mood is sombre; joy absent. You see an area from which smoke rises and your senses pick up the smell of some sort of gruel being cooked. You recoil.
‘Here,’ the woman says, holding open the flap of a tent. ‘You can rest in here. I’ll make sure no one bothers you. Come out for food if you wish, otherwise you will meet with our leader in the morning.’ She leaves before you can respond.
You go inside to see a cot and a washstand, both fashioned from branches and twigs. A jug stands on the floor next to the washstand and you seize it, gulping down its contents. No sooner has the water hit your stomach, than it comes straight back up again. It tastes almost as bad as your prey.
You lie down on the cot and close your eyes. Where are you? How the hell will you get out of here? Who are these people? As the thoughts run through your head, the weight of exhaustion settles over you and you fall asleep.
You wake to find your senses alert; your body once again morphed into that of the wolf from within. You can smell meat; fresh meat and lots of it. You pad to the entrance to your tent and look out. The camp is in darkness; silent, bathed in the light of the moon; a full moon; a wolf moon, to be precise.
No one stirs as you make your way through the camp. Oh, where to start, you think as your tongue traces the sharpness of your teeth, the tantalising flavour of so many people captured by your taste buds.
Why not start at the beginning? So, you do. You go from tent to tent, sinking your teeth into the jugular, quelling any sound before it is emitted, before eviscerating your victims; dragging their sweet, succulent organs out of their bodies. Who knew a kidney could taste so moist; a liver so sweet; a heart so tender. It must be the still pumping blood.
A confidence in your hunt; an arrogance to your gait; blood matting the fur around your mouth, you rip open the last tent, when it hits you.
You can’t see anything on account of the glaring light directed into your eyes. You can, however, hear the click of the bullet being loaded into the gun; you can hear the ratchet of the mechanism as it is chambered; you can hear the click of the trigger as it is pulled; you can hear the hiss of the bullet as it whizzes through the air; you can feel it as it explodes through your sternum and tears through your lungs; and you can hear the air whistling through the hole as you take your final breath.
The moral of this tale, is that, eventually, your basic nature will betray itself.
For, dear reader, one should always ‘beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves’ – Gospel of Matthew 7:15.
A wolf in sheep’s clothing is an age old tale and an age old warning, to advise us to be on our guard, for people are not always what they seem. Never trust a situation simply based on what it looks like, for the most manipulative of ‘wolves’ will lure you in, by presenting an image which isn’t actually what it pertains to be.
You may have been welcomed into that camp as an avenging angel almost; someone who knew how to kill the zombies; someone who could help them to survive in this horrific world. But, at the end of the day, as the full moon rose and reached its peak, your true nature came to the fore, as it had in the forest, and you became the killer you truly are. For, if the zombies hadn’t killed that little girl, you most certainly would have.
In the words of Abstemius, from the fifteenth century, ‘people should be judged not by their outward demeanour, but by their works, for many in sheep’s clothing do the work of wolves.’
You know who you are.
May fear protect you when the darkness comes.
Til next time.