I wrote this flash fiction story for the flash fiction challenge on Chuck Wendig’s blog, Terrible Minds. The title I chose was written by Matthew J. Daniels. The link to the Terrible Minds challenge blog is as follows:
THE WOLF OF BANDERVILLE MOOR
by P.S. Joshi
Not having witnessed it as I did, people would think I’m crazy. I know I’m as sane as the next man. Of course, the next man might be crazy for all I know. I’m not much of a judge.
It was late September, and I’d decided to spend my two-week vacation writing at my cousin Laura’s small cottage in the moors of eastern England. She said it was quiet and peaceful, but to be careful and stick to the paths. People had disappeared walking at night. Some of the boggy spots were like quicksand. The small village of Banderville was within walking distance, so I could take the local road there and back. It’d make a good walk for exercise.
She also said, “Be sure to lock yourself in at night. Don’t go out from twilight until sunrise.”
That sounded like reasonable advice so I didn’t think much about it at the time.
I stopped in the town, introducing myself to the grocery store owner. I bought a few food items I’d need, then drove to the cottage. The first thing I noticed were the heavy iron bars on the windows, and the metal guard door that could be bolted on the inside. I had to unlock a padlock on the outside to get in.
I wondered what on earth made those extra precautions necessary.
I spread enough of my belongings about the inside of the cottage to make it feel like home. I put my laptop on a table near a large window. Paper was in a package nearby, and I’d brought pens, pencils, and erasers.
That first night I was tired so decided to take a nap before dinner. I overslept and woke up in the dark. There was a full moon beaming through the living room window.
Getting up, I rinsed by face with cold water, and heated a simple dinner of canned baked beans, toast, and tea on the small electric stove. As I began eating, a tremendous howl broke the silence.
My hand shook, and I dropped the spoon. Laura hadn’t mentioned anything about wolves in the area. The thought hit me I’d chosen the wrong place to vacation.
I’d heard wolves before when on camping trips. This didn’t sound like an ordinary wolf. Its cry pierced the air, throbbing like it was experiencing deep, severe pain. Several times the horrific sound repeated. I broke out in a cold sweat and felt weak and sick.
I came to, finding myself on the floor by the chair. I hadn’t fainted in years.
It was now completely quiet, too quiet.
I slept well that night. The next morning the sun was shining, and I felt like the night before was a bad dream.
I got up, dressed, and ate a quick breakfast. I took my tea to the table near the window and began working.
I’d been working about half an hour when there was a knock on the metal door. I opened the inside door. Through the metal grill, I saw a man about my age. He smiled and introduced himself as a nearby neighbor, George Turnbull.
I unbolted the metal door and let him in, happy to meet someone else I could talk to.
“George, I heard a wolf howling last night. It sounded huge. What do you know about it? You must have heard it.”
He lowered his eyes and shifted in his chair. He had a slight tick in his right eye. It seemed to worsen by the second. I also noticed dark circles under his eyes.
“Yes, I’ve heard it. I just don’t go out at night. At twilight I make sure I’m behind a heavy, locked door.” Farmers around here have had sheep killed. No wolf pack has been noticed though. I heard the sheep were torn apart.”
I felt better knowing I wasn’t alone in my fear. We visited for a short time, then he made excuses and left.
I didn’t feel like writing just then, so decided to walk to the town grocery store. The moor was beautiful with the heather in full bloom. I relaxed and enjoyed the fresh air and exercise. I had worn a jacket against the autumn chill. I warmed up as I walked.
The town was quiet as it was a work day. I entered the grocery and looked for a few things I needed. At the check-out, the clerk looked me over. He was a tall, thin young man with a bad complexion and dark circles under his eyes like George. He shifted from one foot to the other.
“You’re a stranger,” he said with interest. “You living at the Morgan cottage? I been past there. Nice place. Small though. I didn’t notice you parking. You walk to town?”
“Yes.” I started to resent the many questions, but decided he was just friendly.
“I deliver groceries in my truck for those who want the service. I know your cousin. She don’t spend much time here around Banderville. Too busy I guess.”
“Yes, you’re right.”
“I’m about to close for a couple hours. Not much business this afternoon. Want a lift home?”
“No thanks, I’d rather walk. I need the exercise.”
“Okay. See you around.”
When I got home, I locked up again. No way was I going to go out the rest of the day. I didn’t even feel safe in the late afternoon.
I managed to write about a thousand words that afternoon, and felt good about it. This was an excellent place to write.
The sun was going down now, and there was going to be another full moon. I decided to begin dinner. I took the rest of the beans from the fridge, heated them, and made toast and tea.
I had just began to eat when the howling started again. It completely unnerved me. I began to shake again, but also had an impulse to look out the window. I wish I hadn’t.
It was still light enough to see objects nearby, and the moon was ascending. I then saw it clearly. A man was changing into a wolf. His bones were reforming under his skin, fingers lengthening, nails growing into claws. I couldn’t see his teeth, but my imagination filled in. He lifted what was now a muzzle into the evening sky. Agonized howls cut through me like a knife. He slowly became a gigantic wolf.
It seemed he sensed me watching; he might have smelled my fear. At that moment, he swung his body and faced me. I couldn’t move. An even more terrifying thing then happened.
I lost sight of him for a moment. There was a scratching and sniffing at the metal door. I prayed silently, “God, help me.”
Something, no doubt the wolf, seemed to be trying to dig under the metal door, but couldn’t. Another howl split the air. There was heavy breathing gradually fading away. Silence finally came.
I had, without being aware of it, dug my fingernails into my palms. I was bleeding. I got some strength back, and went for the first aid box.
I decided the next morning to walk over to George’s house and see if he knew anything. He took some time to come to the door. He looked sick.
“Sorry, I took so long. I wasn’t feeling well this morning. Come in. I apologize for how rough I look. I suffer from migraines.”
“That’s okay. I won’t stay long. I guess you heard the wolf last night. Would you believe I saw it, and it tried to get in my door?”
I didn’t mention werewolf, but he got the idea. I could tell by the slight shade of green he turned.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” he said, holding his head.
His eye began to twitch, and I decided he couldn’t take any more.
The rest of the day was uneventful, but we were headed for another full moon.
When it became twilight, fear crept though me again. There was no howling though.
The next day I walked to town. The friendly clerk was nowhere to be seen. The store owner was behind the counter. I decided to see if I could get information from him.
“Any wolf trouble around here yesterday?” I asked.
“Was there!” he said. “We shot a huge wolf attacking Reg Martin’s sheep. I guess there’ll be no more trouble from that one.”
“Where’s your delivery man?”
He dropped a can he was packing. “Oh, ah, he went to London to visit family there. He talked like he might decide to stay. Why?”
“Just wondered,” I said. “I talked to him the last time I was in here. He seemed friendly.”
“Yeah, friendly guy,” he said, avoiding my eyes.
For the rest of my time at the cottage it was peaceful. When I got back to London, I called my cousin. She had some news.
“You know the town near my cottage? The grocery clerk there was reported missing by family in London, and the local police in Banderville started checking. They found a hastily dug grave. His body was in it. He’d been shot. There’s an investigation going on. Your neighbor, George, called me. He’s a nice guy.”
“Yeah, he is,” I said. “Nervous though, and suffers from migraines.”