“Hello,” was the first thing he said, “My name is Louis Pines. Folks call me Lou.”
That was when the horrors began. The village of Bryte had been peaceful until he showed up. Sheepherders had nothing to worry about, ranchers and their cattle were safe, barn cats even still stuck around. There was nothing that went bump in the night besides the occasional coyote.
No, now that Louis Pines was around, sheep turned up gutted, cattle were found bloated in the river, even the barn cats disappeared. Now that Louis Pines was around, things were different. Everyone knew it.
The village was small and contained in the mountains where the cliffs were steep and the hills were crawling with greenery. There, they made a quaint living, with flickering electricity and rattling water pipes. Things were simple in Bryte. For a while.
Louis worked as a lumberjack, bringing down the forest a little at a time, providing wood for warmth in the winter and shelter during construction months. He had worked as a lumberjack his whole life. He had transferred to Bryte because of his condition; Lycanthropy.
Before the move, Lou had been a lonely man, working at lumber camps since he was 17, when his father was still teaching him. His whole family were lumberjacks. It had been that way for centuries. Who was he to deny tradition?
It was before the move to Bryte and a wet night when he encountered Adam. Adam was a tall man, bulky and wearing nothing but shorts in the rain. It was odd to find someone in the woods at night, let alone someone so sparsely clad. Lou had been working late when he spotted him. His towering mass was stark against the darkness of the trees. His white skin was covered in a fine dusting of silver and grey hair. There was a tattoo on his shoulder, but in the dark it was hard to make out.
Adam had stood, watching Lou for what felt like ages. When the lonely man, clad in a bright reflector vest and helmet, began to climb the slope, Adam watched until he was nearly all the way there. Then he turned and began to wander back into the trees.
“Hey,” had called Lou. Adam didn’t turn.
He followed him until he was sure he was lost, catching only glimpses of Adam’s back as he tried to catch up. It was dangerous in the woods at night! Besides, the camp’s equipment couldn’t be left alone with some loon in the woods. What if he vandalized or broke something? Louis would be responsible! He’d been the last one there after all.
When he finally caught up, they were both a good kilometer into the treeline. Here, some of the trees had been marked with an orange ‘x’, but they were sparse. Far enough away that if he screamed, he wouldn’t be heard.
And he did scream when Adam bit him, and no one heard. No one heard when the others screamed, either.
So now, hundreds and hundreds of miles away from the massacre, Lou was making a new life for himself. Bryte was the right place to do it, he figured. No one knew him. He was in a whole other country. He could keep to himself and make a nice life for himself. A quiet life.
That wasn’t to be.
The day was bright and sunny when it happened. The chain on the chainsaw broke, a piece flying away and lodging in Lou’s right shoulder. It wasn’t a large piece, but it found the weakest spot in his protective gear and sliced right through it. It was a deep wound. Carefully, Louis shut the machine off and set it down before hauling himself to his nearest coworker. Danny, the newest of the group and horrified by the accident, shut off his own chainsaw and nearly carried the hulking man down the mountain himself. Chris drove him to meet the paramedics at the bottom of the logging road. Finally, he had been taken to the clinic to get forty stitches and ten staples.
He didn’t know it yet, but it would be his undoing.
Bryte was a superstitious village. Ghosts haunted the roads at night. Black cats were familiars to witches. Bigfoot sometimes made an appearance. Even some shops had salt at their thresholds to keep evil away. It wasn’t a surprise that some folks kept silver bullets around when the livestock started turning up dead.
That night came the full moon. Like most months, it snuck up on Lou. He wasn’t the kind of man to keep track of such things, but his coworkers did. They knew not to be caught out late at night near the full moon. If not for the wolves wandering around, then for the panic that emerged from the docile villagers at that time. They grew wary around the full moon. Hands on their knives and guns cocked just in case.
Louis was alone that night, tending to the wound. The clinic wasn’t equipped to keep him overnight and so had sent him home with doctor’s orders to rest. The gauze was drenched in blood again and needed changing. Right in the middle of the task, he happened to pull open the curtains to his bathroom. In spilled the light from the full moon.
He knew he was in trouble even before the transformation began.
Racing to the back door, he flung it open and began to strip bare, stumbling out of his pants just in time for his underwear to tear at the seams. It always did during the transformation, because Lou was a shy man who would rather buy underwear every few months than expose himself in his own back yard. His feet, bones cracking as socks tore open to reveal paws, stumbled over the terrain as he let out a howl. It was a spine-chilling sound, shrill and wolf-like, but with just enough man for it to be punctuated by his scream.
Several folks would shut off their lights in the neighbourhood and lock their doors when they heard the sound.
Once he was a hulking mass of fur and teeth, without his senses as a human, he took off into the woods to hunt. It wasn’t long before the scent of the town drew Lou. Usually, he was working at the camp. Usually, everyone else went home early. Usually, he didn’t go into town. Tonight, he would.
Jesse spotted him first. She was working in her kitchen when the floodlights came on in the yard. They were meant to scare the coyotes.
Lou reared up and covered his eyes with a snarl. Jesse screamed and dropped a dish, shattering at her feet. Her husband turned to see the commotion, but by the time Jesse had pointed out the window to where the werewolf had been, Louis was gone.
Padding down the street, away from the bright streetlights and the stinky cars, Louis followed the smell of his own trail. It was fresh and bloody. He followed it to the clinic on the edge of town, where he had gotten stitches.
He scared the doctor on the way, who lived in a house just next to the clinic. He rooted around in the garbage for the rotting meat inside, then continued to follow the smell of blood. It was staler in the mountains, but easier to follow. There was less pollution. Besides, there was something else that smelled delicious. Some poor soul was out in the mountains alone on the full moon.
Lou approached the human on all fours, snout to the ground but eyes on the prize. The smell of blood was stronger there, near the bottom of the logging road. Chris’s scent was strong here too, ripe with concern and fear. The werewolf couldn’t smell that before the change, but it was clear that Chris was a good friend. His scent was stale here though. Hours old. And the new scent was just ahead, back to him.
Louis had the presence of mind to falter in his lunge. The younger lumberjack didn’t escape unharmed, yelping when Lou’s massive paws pushed him into the forest roughage. Headphones bounced against the roots of a tree and the unlit cigarette between Danny’s teeth went flying. He smelled like food.
The younger lumberjack struggled to his feet, pushing with all his might against the massive form that Louis Pines was cursed to take roughly every 28 days. Lou was pushed off, but not for long. He reared onto his back legs, teeth bared and hot drool dripping from his jaws. Throwing back his head, he howled. It was deep and heady and hair-raising.
Danny ran, forgetting the wireless headphones he’d gotten for his birthday. He ran as fast and hard as his legs could carry him, towards town. Towards safety. Feet pounding against the pavement and heart racing in his chest, it was all he could do. No one would hear him scream out here.
But he supposed that was the point.
Lou was upon him before the next light. Jaws snapping and grabbing at Danny’s clothing, he was nothing but a monstrous appetite. Until one of those steel-toed boots of Danny’s hit him in the right shoulder. Wheeling away with a garbled, pained noise, the werewolf collapsed to his knees. With twisted limbs, he hugged himself, but not before Danny saw the wound.
“You!” he hollered, pointing. “You! You’re–“
Louis winced as he stood, hulking form casting a dark shadow over Danny’s trembling body. There was one thing Danny wasn’t, though. Danny wasn’t a nonbeliever.
He turned and ran again. This time, when Lou chased after him, it was at a distance. This prey was feisty. Perhaps too feisty.
Perhaps even not worth the risk.
Falling behind at a trot, then a jog, then a walk, Louis began to sniff the air again, looking for something else to eat. The faint scent of sheep from the nearest farm filled his nostrils, and he veered off the road. It was in the midst of eating the carcass of one of those sheep that the others began to rally.
It was at the witching hour when the others formed a crowd.
Finally, it was the wee hours of the morning, before the light touched the horizon while the moon was still pretty high in the sky, that the crowd marched into the streets. There was power in numbers, and now they had a target. The death of their livestock would stop tonight, and there would be no more werewolf attacks on their residents!
Louis was making his way back to his home, following his own scents as he did every time this happened, when the crowd came upon him. He stood, frozen, as they rounded the corner. Flashlights, bright as spotlights, zeroed in on him. His eyes reflected back their faces, contorted in rage and holy fury. The priest, who had hardly any parish here in Bryte, carried an actual torch. Or maybe it was a shirt soaked in kerosene wrapped around an old broom handle. It was hard to tell.
It was the priest that pointed to Louis, but it was Danny, leading the crowd, that spoke.
“See the staples? That’s him!”
The crowd broke into a run. So did Louis.
He didn’t get far. He didn’t need to. The woods were his second home on these nights. They would become his first home, too, once the priest had his way and torched the lumberjack’s house.
The crowd searched for him for hours even when he disappeared, until daybreak came and many of them had jobs to get back to. It wasn’t long after that, that the moon set.
When Lou came back to his senses, he wasn’t too far from the ruins of his house. Cold in the chilly morning air, he snuck back towards town. The smell of ash and smoke was heavy. When he saw why, his stomach sunk. Everything he had built up from losing everything before… It was all gone.
Naked amongst the burnt rubble, he sat down and cried.
Truly, it had been a terrible night for Lou Pines.