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(Drumroll, please) Introducing the 2015 SKMB Halloween Story!

Discussion in 'General Discussion & Questions' started by skimom2, Oct 21, 2015.

  1. skimom2

    skimom2 Just moseyin' through...

    After much ado (and a few delays)... your 2015 SKMB Halloween Story! Each day from today until Halloween, a new section will be added to this thread. Our authors gave this a lot of thought, so please let them know what you think (but only in the dedicated story comments thread).

    We dedicate this story to Sharon C.

    Hot Blood and Cold Silver


    Traveling I-90 through South Dakota presents a mind-numbing vista of rocks, sand, hitch-hiking insurance fixated geckos with tiny suitcases and wayward tumbleweeds. Take one of the many sideroads though, and voila--you've tumbled down the rabbit-hole into the Badlands of the Old West. Ghost towns litter the landscape like weatherworn reminders of lost dreams. Cold Silver, South Dakota isn't dead yet, but it's coughing up dust. This tiny spot was established as a mining town in the 1850's, when a homesteader digging support holes for a log cabin struck silver. Unfortunately, that vein played out in a matter of months, and those who chose to stay in the intervening years eke out a "life" on cattle ranching and tourism.

    Cell-phone and camera clad Griswold's of all ages stream through Cold Silver, stopping in such quaintly monikered places as "Cookie's Chuckwagon", "Gunfighter's Leathergoods & Souvenirs" and "The Silverplate Bunkhouse". This town of some 1,500 and a half souls (the "half" being a retired circus performer "little person" by the name of Erwin) plays the Cowtown theme to the hilt. Yet, underneath this skin of crass commercialism, there is an ill-defined shadow that casts a pall over the year-round populace.

    In the last few months, several head of cattle and even some outside pets have been found slaughtered, literally shredded, as if they'd been run through a woodchipper. Strange howling sounds have echoed about the washes, gullies and canyons on nights when the bone-white moon has peered down on this dot in the desert. Locals know it's not coyotes, because what few tracks have been found are far too large for the desert dogs.

    To add to this mysterious carnage, today's edition of the local newspaper The Cold Silver Gazette--or as the locals call it, The Daily Disappointment--is blaring a headline that reads, "Are The Dead Now Walking?" It seems that the town's only funeral parlor, the unfortunately named Slabem Brothers Mortuary, is missing a body! The in-absentia dearly departed was a resident cow-puncher and historical re-enactor by the name of Dalton Hoyt, who according to the accompanying article was found dead of an apparent heart attack on the edge of Cold Silver two nights ago. The funeral home had the body ready for viewing, but just prior to calling hours observed something amiss: their "guest" appeared to have somehow up and left, perhaps for a sarsaparilla at Cookies Chuckwagon. The County Sheriff and regional CSI team are on hand, but so far have come up with nothing but what appear to be some rough dog hairs found on the casket's silk liner.

    My name is Lou Garou, and this is my story.

    (Author: GNTLGNT )
  2. skimom2

    skimom2 Just moseyin' through...

    “I know what happened to Mr. Hoyt’s body.”

    I stare in blank disbelief at the woman on my doorstep, mind still fatigued from a restless sleep filled with nightmares of roaming corpses and inhuman howls that pierce the night air.

    “Or at least how we can find out.”


    “I saw it, Lou!” she exclaims. Her eyes shimmer like emeralds in the morning sun.

    “How do you know my…”

    “In my dreams, I saw it because she let me see it. And I know you saw it, too.”

    “I’m sorry, Miss…” God, what was her name? I should know it. “…but I have no idea what you’re talking about.” I start to ease the door shut, but the young woman stops it with her foot, throws her right shoulder against it and wedges herself partway into my living room.

    “The key!” she yells. “You found the key, I know because I saw that too. It’s in the top drawer of your dresser, under your favorite tie. The blue one with the diamond stitching.”

    Shivers run down my spine. For a moment I can’t speak, can only look at the smiling girl whose head protrudes into my house. At that moment I know I have to listen to what she has to say, as much as my rational mind fights the notion. I sigh, pull the door open and bid her entrance. The girl gives me a relieved smile and hurries in.


    Her name is Anna Marie, twenty-two years old and a descendant of Abish, a Romani woman who was among the first settlers in Cold Silver. Abish had been known as a mystic in her day, healing, divination, clairvoyance. A prophetess. In fact, her persuasive, prophetic gifts that promised newfound wealth in silver deposits had spurred the westward expansion and eventual settlement. But when the mines dried up, the settlers blamed the old woman for misleading them. One night, she was dragged out of her cottage by a mob of enraged townspeople. They doused her with a keg of alcohol, and then touched a flame to her robes.

    And they watched her burn.

    “She’s buried out in Raven’s Ridge Cemetery, about five miles outside town,” Anna Marie says. “You know where it is?”

    I sip my coffee, eyeing the girl over the rim of my mug. “Yeah, 'course I do.”

    “Good, because tonight you’re going there.”

    I smile. Cross my arms over my chest and lean back in my chair. “Why on earth would I do that?”

    “Because Gramma Abish told me you would. That key,” she gestures in the general vicinity of my stairwell, “was hers. You need to go to that cemetery. There’s an old church there. The key will unlock something inside that you’ll need.”

    “Specifics, miss. What am I looking for? What’s it unlock?”

    “Okay, I’m not totally 100 per cent sure on that, but Gramma Abish told me you’ll know it when you see it.”

    And that’s why I find myself standing in front of a large wooden archway that reads RAVEN’S RIDGE. Beyond lays an old rancher’s graveyard that hasn’t seen an interment in over a hundred years. The cemetery was never meant to accommodate automobiles, so I leave my truck idling along the edge of the road. As I approach the boneyard’s entrance, I notice the shredded remains of a coyote near the signpost. My thoughts flicker to that story in the gazette, and its attempt to link Mr. Hoyt’s missing body with the string of animal carcasses left around town. For the first time, I think they might be onto something. As if to confirm this, a deep-throated howl pierces the still night. Distant, but not too distant. I reach into my jeans pocket and grip that strange silver-coloured key.

    Ahead, enshrouded in shadows where the full moon struggles for eminence amidst ancient elms, I see the silhouette of the church’s rotted steeple, its rusted bell silent now, beckoning only the dead and the damned. Which am I, I think, and what will I find hidden in the darkest chambers of that once holy house?

    I enter Raven’s Ridge as another howl echoes through the desert. I’m certain it’s closer than it was before…

    (Author: the_last_gunslinger )
  3. skimom2

    skimom2 Just moseyin' through...


    Tight to the shadows of the countryside, the Beast tracks Lou as he moves from his truck to the cemetery.

    Strings of red-spotted saliva hang from the base of its maw, swaying with each gurgled breath, the stench of raw meat puffing into the chilly air in cones of steam. Its eyes are dark pools that absorb the full moon’s silvery fingers of light and give nothing back. Though a fair distance away, the Beast’s ears twitch, registering the crunch of gravel from under the man’s boots as he turns from the graveyard to the church. Its nostrils, black and flaking, open wide.

    Lou smells of plain soap and water. But underneath this—a sweet spot that the creature has honed upon—the man drips with trepidation.

    Every muscle under the fabric of the Beast’s black fur is taut and bulked with blood. The hocks on his back legs are poised, locked in place. It’s ready to lunge forward to greet the man in the valley below.

    Yet, it waits.

    It watches Lou as he ambles to the steps of the church.

    Closer. Just a few more steps.

    When it is certain the man cannot retreat to the safety of his vehicle in time, the Beast charges down the embankment that leads to Raven’s Ridge, its belly close to the ground, lungs chugging, legs chewing up the dirt, sending a volley of pebbles and grit high in its wake.


    Stepping through the threshold of the church’s foyer, I pull the flashlight from within my jacket and pan it around.

    The floor is covered with the skeletal remains of dead leaves and rodents, both having gained access to the church long ago from under the crooked swing of the main doors. High in the nooks and corners of the cloakroom are drooping threads of web, abandoned and left to rot. I shine the light down. A spade leans in one corner of the room, handle up.

    I shake my head. It’s hard to believe that this house of decay once held the hopes of many gathered in prayer. Now, it’s as dead as the desert night surrounding me.

    To my left is a frame, caked in dust and speckled with mold, with what appears to be a map of the surrounding region behind the glass.

    I make my way into the belly of the church, where the pews materialize in the cone of brightness thrown from my flashlight, to search for…

    I furrow my brow. What exactly? A box? Storage closet?

    I reach into my shirt pocket and retrieve the small silvery key. I think about Anna Marie and how she knew it was hidden in my tie drawer.

    It’s so small, though. What could it possibly open?

    Then it hits me.

    I hustle to the foyer, to the glass-enclosed frame. There’s no handle or groove or anything to leverage it open. I run my fingers over the perimeter.


    A keyhole.

    I insert the key and turn it. Sliding the glass door open, uncertain if the ancient hinges are up to the task, I run my fingers along the bottom tray of the case. Nothing. I run my hands over the map itself, patting it. I scan the top corners, all with same result. I stare at the paper affixed to the back of the case, head cocked.

    It’s gotta be the map. What else could it be?

    I carefully peel the paper from its support and bring it to the sliver of moonlight at the open church doors. As I look out to the gathering of headstones adjacent to the building, it becomes clear that the page is not a scaled-account of the surrounding territories.

    It’s a map of the graveyard.

    There are rows upon rows of plots on this paper. Just rectangles. My hope turns into despair. Then frustration.

    What the hell am I supposed to do with this?

    Think. I lay the flashlight at my feet and examine the rectangles in greater detail, trying to make out names, dates, patterns, anything. And that’s when I see it.

    The light shining under the map reveals something written on the opposite side. I flip the paper and bring the flashlight up again. There’s a word scrawled within a rectangle at the far end of the graveyard.


    The spade rests in the corner, the rest of the church seeming to fade away behind it. Check the map again.

    Anna Marie said I would recognize what the key unlocked, that I would know it when I saw it. I swallow hard. What—or who—is awaiting me at the final shovelful?

    Before I can process what I’ve discovered, the foyer is filled with the dank odor of rotten meat, a stench so thick it has weight, and I hear heavy breathing as something advances up the steps.

    (Author: Shoesalesman )
    Patricia A, Grant87, niro and 19 others like this.
  4. skimom2

    skimom2 Just moseyin' through...


    I hear scrabbling and scratching approaching rapidly; my mind seems to float away toward the ceiling while I look down on my body below. Should I die, a routine autopsy would reveal nothing amiss, as genetic abnormalities are well hidden inside ‘junk’ DNA. So, too, would the potential for transformation be hidden from another so-called “werewolf” until the change was already upon them. I’m what’s called a late-bloomer, unaware of my difference until my change came upon me sometime after dark had fallen. I'm merely a passenger now, fading quickly from consciousness, and control….


    The beast from without the church leaped upon the one from within even as the latter’s clothes shredded; still Lou reached up and grasped his attacker by the throat. The dropped flashlight made exaggerated and monstrous shadows upon the walls and ceiling; the map skittered, forgotten, to rest under a pew. Nails scraped for purchase as the attacking beast was shoved by his would-be victim back into the row of pews to the left of the entranceway. Wood splintered and crunched as the church seats were upended and smashed under the heavy load of the hulking aberrations of canine and human disorder. The-one-that-was-Lou lifted what was left of a pew over his head and brought it down hard on top of his enemy, only driving him to his knees. The beast, in return, reached out to grab a hard-planked length from the kindling and swung it up into Lou’s snouted face. Lou was rocked back toward a still partially intact stained-glass window.

    The beast sprang off of his hind legs to catch Lou soundly in the midriff, sending both of them crashing through the glass remnants and into the graveyard between two headstones. Stiff hairs along the spines of both creatures stood up like porcupine quills as they met in a crushing embrace, each trying to wrestle an advantage over the other in that moment amongst the glittering shards and the markers for the dead. Blood flew like splatters on a Pollock painting, the cemetery and country cathedral the canvas.

    Lou skidded, his left heel striking a gravestone and upending it out of the ground. He regained his footing as he was pushed against the outer church wall. Using it as a brace, he summoned enough strength to push his adversary away from him. He snatched up the headstone and swung it across the other beast’s snarling visage. The beast yelped and spun off of his own back legs and feet, landing painfully upon another headstone before bouncing off of it to the grass, barking in agony. There was the sharp, acrid stench of urine and fear in the air, as he dragged himself up on all fours and loped out of the graveyard and into the night-shaded woods. The moon had only just risen above the trees, testifying to the brief period of time in which all the events transpired. The Lou-beast ran off under lunar light and starry observation, seeking prey of his own.

    Anna Marie watched from her car, hiding in the shadow of a landscaper’s shed. She had confirmed her worst fears, but dared not interfere. She drove the five miles back into town and parked down the street from Garou’s house (the name, of course, she thought, should’ve given him away from the start) and waited for his return. A couple of hours before sunrise, late to rage, early to rest, she saw a shape, rapidly returning to man-form, slink back over the back fence to the rear of his house. She had planned to confront him, but as true light began to return to the world, her courage failed her. She cranked her auto up and left, shaking as if run through by a low-grade electrical current.


    I awake, confused and naked, on the floor of my bedroom. I wonder how got there, but as the sun spills into my eyes and I shamble into the bathroom, I have a feeling I shouldn't try too hard to remember.

    (Author: Ebdim9th )
    Patricia A, Grant87, niro and 19 others like this.
  5. skimom2

    skimom2 Just moseyin' through...


    The cabinet mirror reflects someone different than the man I knew yesterday. My hair has red streaks in it and a large bump throbs and swells near my ear.

    What happened last night?

    There is a pair of pants and t-shirt in the laundry basket. I put them on, grab some aspirin and go into the kitchen. The digital clock on the microwave says 2 p.m.

    S**t. I missed work.

    Calling Jed Morgan isnt going to be easy, as I might already be fired for missing the day. After making some excuses, along with a good dressing down from the boss, maybe Jed will give me a second chance; it would only be fair, after working for him for a year. A good ranch hand isn't easy to find.

    There isn’t much in the fridge, a can of beer, carton of fat free milk and a jar of pasta sauce. Lately, I have been going to the diner on Main Street. They have decent steaks and the night waitress isn’t half bad looking either.

    I swallow two pills with the can of beer and sit down in one of the kitchen chairs. I start to replay last night’s events in my mind.

    The map. I was holding it and then... I can’t remember. All I know is I have to get back to the church. Soon.


    Anna Marie tried to call Lou around noon and didn’t get an answer. She put down her cell phone next to her computer.

    There was an online story from the Cold Silver Gazette. The headline read “Woman’s Body Found.” The latest version reported a body was found at 7 a.m. that morning on Woodridge Road, less than a half a mile from Main Street. The police on the scene said the unidentified woman was between the ages of 30-40. She had dark hair and a tattoo of a flower on her right arm. She had visible injuries and lacerations to her face, neck, arms and torso.

    Feeling guilty, Anna Marie turned away from the screen.

    “I should have followed him,” she thought.

    Her bags were already packed in the car. Last night didn’t go as planned. She had hoped he would find what he needed. That last clue into who he was and what was lurking in the shadows. Now, it was too late. It had begun.


    Taking a cold shower helps me wake up a bit. I wince as I wash the dirt-caked scratches all over my body. I get dressed, this time in clean clothes, and pop two more pills in my mouth. There are too many questions about last night. I want to go back to the Lou from yesterday, when Anna Marie first came to his house, and tell him not to go.

    Damn girl. She started this sh*t again.

    When I was young, there were episodes of sleepwalking where I found myself standing in the middle of the woods behind my house. I would walk home, or dad or mom would eventually find me. Mom took me to the doctor, but they couldn’t find anything wrong. The last time I did it--went into a fugue, whatever--was about a six years ago when I slept at the family home for the first time in 15 years. Mom had just died. I called for her and cried after I found myself in the same row of trees where I always woke up during the night trips. I walked back, knowing that mom would never come for me again. That's the only time I ever heard a howl in those woods. A deep and lonely one as though it could feel my longing and pain.

    Walking down the path to the driveway, I realize I don’t have my truck. If I was lucky, it had just run out of gas at the side of the road near the graveyard. The way my week was going, it had probably been stolen. Thank God I have a motorcycle I don’t use very much. I wanted to sell it a couple of years ago, but decided to hold on to it. Good thing.

    I get on the bike and start it, hoping it has gas and the gas isn't too old to fire up the engine. There is one stop I need to make before going back to the church.


    She’s not home.

    “Dammit.” I still pound on the door, though my hopes of her answering fade. I didn’t want to call her first, as I wanted to see the look on her face when I showed up on her doorstep. Was this all a game to her? Did she do some spell on me after I touched that key or map? Could be an anthrax thing, who knows?

    I go around to her garage, but there's no sign of a car or a hint of anyone in the house. The only sound is her windchimes blowing noisily in the wind on the back deck.

    Screw it.

    It's getting dark and it’s time to exhume whatever’s in that damn plot.

    (Author: notebookgirl )
    Patricia A, Grant87, niro and 20 others like this.
  6. skimom2

    skimom2 Just moseyin' through...


    I grab the handlebars of my bike, when a voice speaks to the left of me.

    “Do you really think it’s wise going back alone after what happened last night?”

    I turn slowly and look upon Sarah Sheffield, Cold Silver's schoolteacher, and what she's doing here I have no idea. I always figured that teachers, when off duty, sat home and thought up questions to ask uninterested kids. I don't know much about her. We pass each other in the streets occasionally. I also know that she isn’t hard to look at and that she lives alone. She's the last person I’d expect to sneak around in alleys at dusk.

    “What are you doing here!?”

    “Protecting your interests, one might say. You might be young and strong but you are certainly not bright. Didn’t you understand that Anna Marie played you the whole time?”

    My thoughts go in several directions at once. Protecting me? And how did she know about Anna Marie? And what's her interest in me? She hasn’t said a word to me up until now.

    “I don’t understand,” I mumble. “How do you mean played me? And how do you know anything about if she did?”

    “I’ll explain, but not out here on the street. Follow me”

    I don’t know why I just obey. It might have something to do with the authority in her voice. It's a voice that doesn't take any sh*t from nobody.

    It's just a short walk and then she opens her back door and shows me to a chair in her little kitchen. Nothing fancy but not too bad either. A microwave has a prominent place, which I take as an indication that cooking isn’t her primary interest in life.

    She sits down on the chair opposite me. “Now, I saw you come home last night and I realized then that you are what I am. I didn’t know there were more of us in Cold Silver. I also saw Anna Marie watching you which means that she knows too.”

    “Knows what, for Pete's sake?”

    “That you're a werewolf of course! Don’t you know that?"

    “A werewolf!” I laugh, but it's hollow. “Are you kidding me?”

    “Not at all. I saw you myself. You transformed from wolf to man on your way home yesterday. I take it you don’t remember anything from last night, then?”

    I shake my head. “The last I remember is holding a map in my hand and then its just a blur.”

    “You obviously were in some kind of fight.” She looks me over. “A serious one too. This forgetting is not unusual if you don't know what's going on. It takes time and practice to have your wits with you when you’re in your wolfshape. It's so easy that the animal part takes over completely. When that happens, we don’t remember what we have been doing. Where did you go and why?”

    I tell her the story of Anna Marie and the key and the map. It feels rather good, actually, to share this with someone. I feel like I'm into something up over my ears, but now at least I'm in it with someone.

    Sarah seems to be mulling the implications of my story over.

    “Wonder what her angle is? She probably became suspicious of you because of your name and did this as a kind of test… I don’t know. But who were you fighting?"

    “Don’t remember.”

    “And that map…. Did it really say exhume?"


    “I should probably tell you….” She pauses. “Do you remember that corpse that was stolen?”

    "Sure." What now? I've already had my dose of surprises for the day.

    “I stole it,” she says flatly. “He was my mentor and taught me a lot of what it means to be a werewolf and still coexist in a human society. I just wanted to give him a proper werewolfian burial. The timing was a bit unfortunate with these animal killings at the same time, but it was the decent thing to do.”

    “It wouldn’t be him that I would exhume, would it?”

    “No. I certainly didn’t put him in a cemetery. That’s not the werewolf way. But I think it would be a good idea to find out what it means. But not now. When its light outside. And, you know, I’m really glad I found you. We werewolves ought to stick together.”

    “Sounds good to me. But what do we do?”

    “We exhume that grave, find out whats there. Try to figure out what Anna Marie's side in this game is. Remember she knows about you now! And we watch our backs. These animal killings were almost certainly done by a werewolf, and it wasn’t me. And that werewolf doesn’t give a heck about coexisting. He’s on the warpath! So we watch our backs.”

    (Author: Kurben)
  7. skimom2

    skimom2 Just moseyin' through...



    Right about now, I’m asking myself why I wound up in a crap town like Cold Silver, or why anyone chooses to stay in a tourist trap like this.

    It’s simple. Cold Silver is where the great gray wolf, along with the Random Werewolf like me, is making its comeback. The tourists bring cash and food sources when they pass through town, things like pets that stay tied up outside campers over at the KOA. They dump rich grocery refuse in the campground dumpsters and leave cast-off steak bones at Cookie’s for the locals to pick over behind the restaurant. Even the occasional drugstore hunter who decides to macho up and camp out on the prairie is fair game, both for us and for the grays that lurk in the grasses.

    We might not be large in numbers, at least not yet, but we do try to take out the very worst of the tour-ons when they come to gawk at the cheap pine facades downtown.

    I hate them.

    They litter and take up extra parking spaces with their RVs. They bring their snot-nosed kids into Cookie’s and demand bottled water, extra napkins and organic tea, and then stiff the waitresses. They stink of trashy vanilla and Axe deodorant. They complain about the beds at the Bunkhouse, even though I know Pete Wilburn bought them all new three years ago from the factory over in Rapid City. They gobble chicken nuggets and soil public restrooms. They have loud conversations on their cell phones and cuff their children’s ears while they wait in line at Gunfighter’s. The tourist scene makes me want to change my name to Dexter, but that would be too much work.

    I have my reasons for hanging around. For one, Abish sank a bunch of pilfered gypsy silver nuggets – werewolf kryptonite - into the ground over by the cemetery. Anna Marie doesn’t know this, but she does know what Abish taught her descendants: how to kill werewolves. It’s my job to teach the town’s youngsters during the day, but I otherwise preserve, protect, and observe…and try to keep Anna away from my kind. I don’t trust her as far as I can spit. So I have to play dumb when I’m around her.

    The other reason I’m still here is that I know who killed Dalton Hoyt, and why. I know where his body is.

    The woman murdered this morning is Mrs. Hoyt. Both Dalton and Dee discovered the identity of the animal mutilator. Would the townspeople be surprised to learn that it was Anna who killed Dalton? I stole his body and buried it on the prairie outside of town, on the Rosebud off-reservation trust land, before she got a chance to desecrate it. After learning Dee also knew the truth, did Anna kill her in a state of panic? Maybe she killed both to send a message to the rest of us, so the Feds will blame my people for his and Dee’s deaths… and I don’t want that.

    Lou’s great-grandfather, Hohnihohkaiyohos, was the one who finally nailed Three Toes, a legendary gray wolf, because Three Toes destroyed most of the reservation’s livestock back in the ‘20s. He had his reasons, and none of them was the bounty money. It’s not lost on me that Hohni’s name means “high-backed wolf” in Cheyenne. Lou’s been paying for that sin of his nearfather for more time than is reasonable.

    Like Lou’s great-grandfather, I’m making sure the tribe has a chance to survive. Only this time, I’m up against an animal that is neither gray wolf nor werewolf, despite what I told Lou. I’m not sure what or who it is, but I know that I need to get to the silver stash before Anna does. If the creature responds to silver like I do, it will howl. The clock’s ticking. If I don’t get rid of Anna before midnight on Halloween, we’re all toast here in Cold Silver.

    Lou will help. I welcome the partnership. He might make a good mate after all this is over, and I don’t want to spoil that possibility by dying.

    (Author: Lily Sawyer )
  8. skimom2

    skimom2 Just moseyin' through...


    Despite my desire to return to the cemetery, I take Sarah's advice and return home to wait for her and daylight. My mind is fuzzy and I feel like I have hangover; shouldn't werewolves heal much quicker than this? My stomach churns; the scent of the thick, musty air in the church is still in my nostrils. A taste of iron lingers in my parched throat and the lump on my head is sore.

    What Sarah said mingles with bits of old memories and new revelations. I don't know who to trust. I need to process it all before I sleep.

    I call in sick again and settle down at the table to wait for Sarah, because who the hell can sleep with murder and mayhem hanging over their head? My cup of joe might or might not have a nodding acquaintance with the bottle of Jack on the counter. The bottle isn't telling, and neither am I.

    It's hard for me to believe that Anna killed Hoyt. Her emerald eyes seemed so honest. Maybe I am just intrigued by her youth and beauty. Does it mask her real agenda? If Sarah is right and Anna killed Hoyt, then Anna is protecting the rogue animal mutilator.

    That grave... it makes me uneasy. Sarah and I are the in the same boat, and the thought of heading back to Raven’s Ridge terrifies me. With the kind of luck I've been having lately, stress and unexpected circumstances will bring out the beast in me and I won’t be able to control myself. This time I may not be so lucky, but at least I will have help.

    Banging on the kitchen door jolts me from sleep, and I raise my head from the tabletop.

    Guess I could sleep after all. Who knew? My heart is pounding and it feels like a second cup of coffee may not be the best idea today but I grab one anyway. Jack and I eye each other, making promises for later.

    At the back door I rub my eyes and run my fingers through the hair that has sculpted itself into something like sparsely gathered tumbleweed. I push away the flimsy, dust-laden curtain that drapes from a rusted brass rod. I see no one until I look down. It is Erwin, the town's star tourist attraction. He looks up at me with worried old eyes of concern and I let him in.

    I can’t think of anyone who has more distain for the tourists and what has become of Cold Silver than Erwin. He is only four feet tall, but has the tenacity and venom of ten rattlesnakes running through his veins. He puts on a good show with the tourists at the summer carnival but everyone knows how he really feels.

    “You’re not going anywhere without me, Lou! I know what you’re up to and we have to stick together.”

    I raise an eyebrow and nod toward the table. Erwin flashes a brief, humorless smile and clambers onto a rickety kitchen chair. He settles himself with a sigh, grimacing when the old pine seat slab digs into his calves. When he's settled, he leans his forearm on the sticky surface of the tabletop and lights a cigarette.

    “Sarah asked me to come over here," he says after taking a deep drag. "She told me the whole story but I don’t know if I trust her.” This gets my attention and he catches my eye with a strangely bawdy wink. "She said you and her were headed over to Raven’s Ridge this morning and asked if I could help.”

    I pour him a cup of coffee, ignoring his pointed stare at Mr. Daniels, and sit in the chair across from him.

    Erwin looks for a place to ash, then shrugs and taps onto the floor. He stares at me expectantly, but I feel no need to speak.

    “So... Sarah mentioned you had a key and map or something?”

    I don’t answer. Why would Sarah talk to Erwin? I'd completely forgotten about the key and the map, too--maybe we should remedy that before turning Bela Lugosi and doing a corpse mugging.

    “Anna’s running from the Cold Silver police. They say she’s connected to Hoyt's death.” He pauses to balance his ciggie on the edge of the table, and then wraps his hands around his cup. He slurps noisily and wipes his mouth with the back of his hand. "They say she is wanted for his murder.”

    In the distance I hear a truck grinding down the gravel and dirt road leading to my house. Out the window, I see a dust trail whipping up from behind a late model Dodge Ram 1500 and hear the clanking of tools and equipment in its bed as Sarah navigates over the ridge.

    The air is cool and dry. Nose to the wind and all senses keen, I smell a predator and the fear of prey.

    (Author: Leif )
  9. skimom2

    skimom2 Just moseyin' through...

    We'll have TWO sections today, to make up for our late start :) Section #10 will post later this afternoon. Enjoy!

    “Now… about that map,” Erwin says. There is just the barest hint of avarice in his voice. “I’d like to take a quick look before we get on the road.”

    It could be my aching head, the fact that the last two days felt like a bad dream, or some weird werewolf intuition but I suddenly don’t feel all that comfortable with Erwin. Scratch that; I feel downright uncomfortable. It doesn’t make any sense, of course. I’ve known Erwin for years. Everyone does. He is a fixture in Cold Silver, the town little person—dwarf, midget…whatever.

    “I’d show it to you if I still had it, Erwin.”

    Erwin frowns. He takes another shot of coffee and casually flicks more ash on my floor. “What do you mean?” His voice isn’t exactly threatening, but it sure isn’t friendly.

    “I lost it.” I don’t say anything else. If Sarah told Erwin everything else we were doing today, why would she leave out the part about me not still having the map or key? It doesn’t make any sense. Why do people just keep showing up at my door, volunteering me for crazy things or volunteering themselves?

    Anyone looking at Erwin right now would think I served him the worst coffee in the world, a regular cup of poison.

    “Come on, Lou,” Erwin’s voice drops another octave. “We don’t have a lot of time before Sarah pulls to the door.” He sets the cup of coffee aside and takes another drag off his smoke before leaning forward on the chair. “I need to see it.”

    Hair goes up on the back of my neck and sweat starts to run down my back. Erwin was never the picture of health, but I’d swear he's ill. He's lost weight; I'm sure of it. His face is emaciated, skin pulled taut over his bones. Leaning forward as he is now, Erwin’s eyes seem pushed back deep in his sockets and his skin is ashy. Being so thin and drawn would look terrible on anyone, but on Erwin whose proportions were already disjointed, it looks downright monstrous.

    “I told you.” My voice cracks. “I don’t have it.”

    Erwin flicks what's left of his smoke onto my floor. He isn’t frowning anymore; he's smiling wide and toothy. It's infinitely less friendly than the frown. With an awkward undulation he hops back out of my kitchen chair and stares up at me.

    “That a fact?” Erwin walks toward me. “I don’t believe you.”

    Just when I thought my life couldn’t get any weirder. I’ve had an allegedly, murderous gypsy send me on a treasure hunt, fought a beast in the town’s creepy abandoned church and Boot Hill, found out the local schoolmarm is a shapeshifting monster and so am I, and now I’m being menaced in my own kitchen by the terminally ill-looking…whatever.

    “Easy there Erwin.” I take a step back. I’m grateful Sarah isn’t here yet to see me giving ground. Fine werewolf figure I’m cutting. “What’s gotten into you?”

    Outside the sound of an engine and the now much louder rattle of tools leaves no doubt that Sarah’s truck has reached the house. My pride takes another hit as I realize just how relieved I am. Despite the fact that I’m looking down on Erwin, having a good two feet and a hundred pounds on him, it feels the opposite. It’s like I’m a child faced with a vicious dog. I want to run, but some part of me feels certain that if I did the dog would bite.

    “Lou, come on!” Sarah’s voice comes from outside, following the rough noise of truck door slamming. “We're burning daylight!”

    Erwin reaches around his back and pulls a knife. The entire moment is surreal. What is worse, I feel a queasy distortion in my gut as the blade comes into view. It isn’t the shine and reflection of stainless steel but the cold, dull of unpolished silver, with a decidedly nasty point. I kick my chair toward him and I run. I’m out my door and onto the driveway so fast I don’t remember opening the door. It is funny the things that go through your mind when absolute terror sets in. I was afraid of Erwin, and I don’t know why. I was terrified of the knife because something instinctual took over. I’m certain now that Erwin must be a dwarf because I’ve never heard of an evil midget. Fairy tales, however, are full of evil dwarves.

    (Author: Robert Gray )
  10. skimom2

    skimom2 Just moseyin' through...


    I see Sarah walking to my door but before she can say anything, the sound of a motorcycle, my motorcycle I realize with a shock, pulls my attention away.


    The urgency in Anna Marie’s voice is palpable. I stop and look dumbly from her to Sarah and back again. I feel like a puppet on strings. Which way now?

    “Lou! We must go, please hurry!”

    I can hear noise in the house behind me. Erwin is going to come out any second now and he’s probably not going to stop until he has the damn map. I have no idea what's come over me – I fought a beast after all, and survived, but the last few minutes with Erwin definitely scared me out of my socks.

    Anna Marie revs up the bike. Sarah walks faster. Something in her cold eyes makes me side-step her and run toward Anna Marie. Let Sarah deal with Erwin.

    Everything’s a blur. We are out of there in seconds and all I get to see is the look of consternation on Sarah’s face. I hear a tremendous noise, like a yell and bark rolled into one and I expect to see Erwin coming after me with that knife.

    I have my arms around Anna Marie’s waist and she’s as taut as a string and rides like the devil is after us. When we stop we’re at the cemetery and it’s almost dark.

    I hold on tight as Anna Marie makes her way among the tombs to the back of the cemetery, near a small wooden shed that must be where the grave-digger keeps his tools. She stops and we get off.

    “I really need to know what’s going on here.”

    “Hold this," she says.

    I reach out and take the small flask from her. What the hell, I could use a drink. I take a long swallow. The whiskey goes down like water and I feel a bit better. She is not looking at me but is busy picking the lock on the shed door.

    “I’m not doing anything until you tell me what’s going on. The key, the map, it can all go to hell for all I care. I’m tired of all this running around.”

    She takes out a shovel and a couple of flashlights. They’re working, but they’re not very powerful. She turns and looks at me.

    “We don’t have time, Lou.”

    “Time for what?”

    “Do you think they’ll go home after what happened at your house?”

    “Sarah and Erwin you mean? What do you know about them?”

    She gives me a pitying look. “They’ll be here sooner than you think.”

    I grab her arm. “If you want me to do anything you better start talking. I don’t know who to trust here and you’re not helping.”

    She sighs and hands me a shovel. “I’ll give you the short version but first we must get the map from the church.”

    “No we don’t," I say.

    Her eyes plead with me.

    “I’ve got it all right here." I tap my head. “Let’s go and finish this.”

    I grab the shovel and storm off. She’s behind me with a flashlight. It’s good I don’t get spooked by cemeteries. At least I know these people are dead and I don’t believe in ghosts. It’s beasts and dwarves that worry me.

    I remember the map in complete detail, like it's part of my brain. I visualize holding the paper in my hands, the word "Exhume" standing out like a beacon. In a few short minutes we’re there. I see a simple wooden cross, the writing all but wiped out by the passing of time. I stick the shovel in the dirt with a satisfying thrust and turn towards Anna Marie.

    “You sure this is the spot?” she asks.

    “I’m sure.”

    “You dig, I talk. Now hurry! The moon is almost up.”

    I roll my sleeves and start digging while she holds the flashlight so I can see. She walks around the place and says some words I don’t understand.

    “What are you doing?”

    “Protection. It will buy us some time but not much. A spell."

    I go back to digging and she begins speaking.

    “Gramma Abish was a good woman. She came to this place because she said this is where she was supposed to die.”

    “Because she could see the future or what?” Sweat pops on my forehead and I wipe it off.

    She ignores the sarcasm.

    “She could see the future, but only fragments, like flashes of lightning, and only in her dreams. Everything she knew, she passed down to her daughters, they passed it down to theirs, and so on. She wasn’t lying when she said there is silver, lots of it, here, but she couldn’t say exactly where. That’s why, when whatever silver was found here dried out, people went mad with greed and killed her. But there is more, I’m sure of it. Somehow she is trying to keep her promise, that I know.”

    Anna Marie gasps, and I sneak a glance between my sweat and dirt clotted bangs. She's looking at the moon. “Hurry, Lou. We don’t have time.”

    A howl in the distance emphasizes her point and I put my back into it. Who knew digging some earth was so much hard work?

    “Before she died she left a key to her eldest daughter, who left town shortly after Gramma Abish’s death. The daughter married and had a girl and that daughter came back to Cold Silver with the key.”

    I stare at her like the words I’m hearing are so many pebbles raining from the sky.


    “Lou. Dig. Faster.”

    I get back to my shovel.

    “She was probably trying to forget, to protect you. Maybe she thought having a son would change things. But you can’t cheat fate. In the end it has to have what it wants. There’s something in this grave that we’re both supposed to see. Gramma Abish told me in a dream that only The Seeker will know where the grave is and get whatever is buried there. I’m The Guide, the one who’s supposed to help The Seeker. You.”

    She pulls up her sleeve and shows me a fading tattoo of a flower, similar to the one Mrs. Hoyt had. I ransack my brain, trying to remember if my mother had one but Anna Marie doesn’t give me time for that.

    “When it was clear to me you had the key, I knew you were The Seeker. The Guardian will try to stop you.”

    “The what?”

    She gives me an odd look. “The Guardian. Maybe your friend back at the house?”


    “One possibility.”

    Nowhere near the depth coffins are normally buried, I strike something hard and I stop. Anna Marie slides in next to me and we wipe off the dirt on top of the coffin. The wood is rotten, and I can see the remains, and something else now that the flashlight is closer: bits of silver of various sizes, scattered in the walls of the grave and amid bones and tattered clothes, a wooden box the size of a book.

    (Author: Demeter)
  11. skimom2

    skimom2 Just moseyin' through...


    - Sarah -

    I arrive to pick up Lou, certain he’s ready to get to the cemetery. He’s so ready he practically explodes from the house, running at a fast clip, and - oh, wait…here comes Erwin. What??

    Erwin’s always been an unpleasant sort, but the man I see in pursuit of Lou is a new personality altogether. He’s determined, striding as fast as his stubby legs will allow. He’s also wielding a knife. A silver knife. Erwin’s not just a poster child for anger management; he’s a bad man who knows too much about us.

    Between one step and the next, Erwin shreds out of his skin, his form reshaping between eye blinks. Where there were truncated form and sturdy flesh stands six feet of gaunt gristle over bone. Wiry black hair coats his much longer haunches and muzzle and the hump on his back, but greyish green skin covers his chest and arms.

    Dee Hoyt’s murder isn’t a mystery any longer. There’s nothing a wendigo likes better than a midnight snackerooni of tender human flesh.

    My heart freezes even as my mind races. If Lou is having a hard time fitting werewolves into his world, there’s no way he’s ready for Erwin in this state. Hell, no one can be ready for a wendigo at any time, but night is falling and it’s Halloween and if he’s in league with Anna Marie may God help all of Cold Silver, because there will be nothing left but washes of blood in the streets come dawn.

    Werewolves don’t generally eat their own, or humans, unless they’re starving and have no other source of food, but Erwin will just as soon chow down on a hunk of me or Lou as he will a steak. When they’re overcome with that hankering, Erwin and his tribe will kill anything for a bite of blood and bone.

    I have to try. Erwin challenges the survival of my brethren. He’s not 12 feet tall, but he’s still got claws. Apparently little people don’t achieve towering heights when they shape shift. You learn something new every day!

    “Hey, ugly!” Not inventive, but it gets his attention. His head jerks toward me, ropy strings of saliva whipping to the side so quickly that they catch the light. Fear has made me so loopy that I pause to admire the rainbows for the heartbeat of time it takes to lob a knife from my ankle sheath at him. Maybe now he’ll get the picture that Lou’s not interested, I think.

    That turns out to be the understatement of the century. Lou’s so not interested he’s decided to catch a ride with Anna Marie, who’s pulled up on Lou’s motorcycle.

    Erwin pulls my knife from his thigh and comes after me.

    I back quickly, feeling my change begin. “Shut up, Erwin. You don’t scare me.” I lunge forward long enough to snatch up the knife he dropped when he changed. The silver knife... with gypsy runes glowing along the blade.

    Dammit, I told Lou she’s a piece of work. Idiot.

    I have to get to the cemetery.


    The moon is high and slants its marble rays on the surrounding hills. Anna Marie and Lou are hunkered down over something in a gulley. Mounds of dirt loom behind them. I shift forms again. If I can’t get Lou to listen to me, maybe the boobies will get his attention.

    “What have you found?” I shout.

    “Nothing much,” responds Anna Marie. She glances back and laughs.

    Lou is leaning against the edge of the shallow grave, chest heaving. No doubt that there is silver in the hole, but what else?

    “Handling silver isn’t exactly my idea of fun.” Anna Marie visibly pouts. Lou’s done all the work and here she sits, like a hyena waiting for the rest of its brethren….

    …wait, no! – Anna Marie’s been waiting all this time to get Lou to do the grunt work in the cemetery…and then get rid of him. No wonder she rode off right as Erwin came charging out of the house – she wanted Erwin to see her leave with Lou.

    Because they are the same.

    I run toward them, shouting for Lou to get outta there, but jerk to a stop five feet from the grave. It’s as if my feet have grown spikes that root them to the ground. I step back and jump toward the grave; my feet refuse to move beyond the same faint lines I now see in the dirt.

    “Like that?” Anna Marie boosts herself neatly from the grave and sneers at Lou’s feeble attempt to pull himself alongside her. “Dee Hoyt did have her uses, aside from being my dinner. Poor thing, she was so lonely after Dalton died. Me and Jose Cuervo spent two long days with her after her werewolf friends deserted her.” She starts to remove her clothes, folding each piece neatly and laying them beside the grave.

    I open my mouth to reply, though I didn’t have a good excuse except that I was hiding Dalton’s body from Anna Marie herself, but I stop when she holds up a hand.

    “Please. No excuses.” Anna Marie makes another exaggerated pout. “Poor Dee. No one cared that she was a widow, not even her werewolf friends. And no one knew that Abish was her great granny, either.” Her grin is a cruel slash. “Tequila and me, we’re good at getting secrets out of people, especially ones about gypsy protective spells and Granny’s legacy to her family. You know, Sarah, you can never be too rich or too thin. Erwin understands, even if you don’t.”

    As I connect the dots, Anna Marie’s voice lowers, and her shadow in the moon grows long.

    She growls. I growl back and give up the struggle to reach the grave straight on. I never knew Dee’s secret, but I believe every word Anna Marie has to say this time. I dash to the left, hoping to angle in around the protective lines. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Lou finally heave himself out of the hole in the ground.

    In a heartbeat, Anna Marie is ten feet tall. She circles me, her mouth dripping adrenaline saliva. I tense, waiting for her spring.

    Lou snarls, but his back is still to us and he isn’t aware of Anna Marie’s change in stature. “Ladies, I don’t need a fight while I’m running out of time. Either help me or go elsewhere to duke it out.” It’s the first backbone I’ve sensed in Lou in a while.

    Anna Marie ignores him. And I go down on all fours with a soft “oooph”. It’s on.


    - Lou –

    I reach down into the grave again, steeling myself against the effect of the horrible silver chunks, just long enough to toss the book-sized box away from the grave. Backing away from the hole, I feel strength flow through me again. It seems like a miracle that I can take a full breath again; it’s a shock to feel it hitch in my chest when Sarah screams.

    I turn to see something that I suppose must be Anna Marie on top of what must be Sarah, lips pulled back in a snarl, ready to tear through the skin at the nape of the Sarah-wolf’s neck. Whatever Anna has become, I don’t want to be around that. Sarah was right; she’s played me all along. I still don’t know what, or who, in the hell I’m exhuming, and I don’t know what else I’ll come across while I’m out here at the cemetery. All I know is that I’m in danger, and so is Sarah.

    That’s when I wing the shovel at Anna Marie.

    It hits her squarely in the throat. She falls to the side, clutching at her neck and growling. Sarah’s not doing too well, either. Her skin’s torn where Anna Marie has ripped at it, and there are deep scratches showing under the tatters. Blood drips from them.

    To complete the party, another monster, roughly two-thirds the size of Anna Marie, is lumbering down the hill. About my height. I look him square in the eye and see the same maniacal menace that glowed from Erwin. I know it’s him. He no longer has a knife but he’s got baseball mitts for hands, a lethal-looking backhand swing, and drool falling from one corner of his mouth. He looks similar to Anna Marie, toothy and demented. Both of them remind me of Sarah, and how I presume I must look when I turn, but their savagery eclipses mine.

    Erwin leaps for me. I’m not ready for the assault.
  12. skimom2

    skimom2 Just moseyin' through...

    #11 (cont.)

    - Sarah –

    My ribs. My back. My fingers. They all hurt. And it’s because of her, the wendigo with the death-grip. The b*tch ripped me up She’s lying on the ground now in full freak-out mode because Lou pegged her with his shovel. She deserved it.

    I can barely stand up, but I have to. Erwin’s shown up and boy, is he pissed. Lou won’t be able to handle him for very long, even if Erwin isn’t full-blown wendigo size.

    I have to help. I have to figure out how to get rid of both Erwin and Anna Marie. My muzzle is long and I have many teeth that come in handy.

    I signal to Lou in a way that only werewolves know, an audible sniff and then a snort that passes for a wince of pain. It’s then that Erwin springs, and I call on every reserve I have to launch myself onto him.

    I sink my claws into his eyes and he roars.

    “Knife!” I bark, hoping he understands and cursing this mouth that doesn’t shape itself well to human speech. I toss it toward him.

    - Lou –

    Erwin falls on the silver knife in my hand while Sarah slides off him. It slices through his abdomen wall and lodges itself somewhere close to his liver. He screams. He thrashes. And then he closes his eyes. His breathing is labored, and he extracts the knife with effort. It clatters to the ground next to him.

    He’s now got two lethal wounds, one in his thigh by his femoral artery, and one in his abdomen with clean slices through his liver. Both have been delivered by a silver weapon. It’s slowed him down, but he ain’t dead yet.

    Now it’s Anna Marie’s turn to charge. She does, clumsily, and I lunge at her throat, tearing at her already-tender larynx with a snout that’s beginning to lengthen. For the first time, I can think through the change and the shifting haze, though the smell of hot blood nearly sends me out of my head. She stumbles backwards, howling, and gasps for air. I watch her as something whizzes past my head and plunges into her chest.

    Sarah has lobbed a perfect bulls-eye with Erwin’s knife and claimed Anna Marie’s heart.

    “Fire,” Sarah gasps. She's human again, and hurting. “It’s the only way.” She glances at the moon fearfully. “Hurry! Night makes them invincible!” Despite her pain, she crouches next to Anna Marie after she’s fallen to the ground and starts sawing at her neck.

    Dropping to all fours, I race toward the groundskeeper’s shed. Erwin shambles after me. G*d DAMN, if a wendigo isn’t hard to kill! I dash inside, hoping to see a blessed red can amongst the detritus.

    Erwin doesn’t bother with a door. The back wall of the shed crumbles under his assault, and his enormous, fanged face snaps, inches from my skin. He seems to be growing larger, and he’s definitely stronger with the rise of the moon. The black blood that flowed freely from his wounds is slowing, and I’m so, so afraid.

    Golden liquid spurts from the neck of the plastic can I clutch, drenching his fur and dripping from his chest. I fumble for my lighter, thankful that I didn’t lose my pants in the change, and praying that I can work it with my claws. A brief flash, and I toss it toward Erwin.

    His shrieks are unearthly.

    With the last of my energy, I drag myself and my gascan back to Sarah. My tired mind refuses to acknowledge the nearly headless monster I see pulling itself to its feet.

    The last thing I see before I faint is the hair on my wrists beginning to shrink and fade. Sarah catches me as I go down.


    “What is it?” asks Sarah. I’ve unfolded the paper we found inside the box. I smooth it and try to read in the weak first light of morning. What’s left of Anna Marie and Erwin might fit inside the box when we’re finished.

    “It’s a deed to a silver mine. And another map. It shows the mine entrance on it. And since Dee isn’t going to be around…. I say finders, keepers.” I manage my first smile of the day.

    Sarah’s smile is wan. “Dee. Damn it, I wish I’d known. I would have…” she shrugs and looks helpless. “I don’t know. Do you think this is what Anna Marie was after?”

    I consider Sarah’s question. “Yeah, probably. Whether she knew about a deed, or just wanted whatever a gypsy would hide, I guess we’ll never know. Erwin was in on it with her, primarily to help her fight, but also because he was a greedy bastard. Sad, isn’t it?”

    “And the Keeper, Seeker, Guardian thing? Do you think she made all of that up?”

    “I don’t know,” I answer slowly. “She did know about the key, or Dee did, and it did open the case that held the map we needed to locate the exact grave that held the box. Sarah, I’ve never been able to remember anything as clearly as I remembered that map. I close my eyes. “It’s still there.

    We sit for a moment, letting that settle in.

    “How well do you know your mother’s background, Lou?”

    I sigh. “Not as well as I thought. Apparently.”

    “So… what’s next? And who’s the Guardian?”

    I shudder. “I can’t think about that right now.”

    Sarah’s laugh is rusty, but it’s still a laugh. “Can’t say I blame you. I’ll take a silver mine, thanks.”

    “And leave the wendigos?”

    “The town doesn’t need wendigos. There’d be no tourists after a while, and the town needs the tourist income.”

    “Maybe that’s why I’ve killed two people and I feel no remorse.”

    We look at each other. We’re exhausted. But relieved. We have answers. And now, it seems, each other. Sarah’s bleeding has stopped for the moment, but she still needs to get the scratches cleaned. I no longer feel the urge for some of Jack Daniel’s company, either.

    “Buy you a cup of coffee at Cookie’s?”

    “I thought you’d never ask.” Sarah pulls Anna Marie’s cardigan closer around her arms—it had seemed a shame to leave the clothes at the gravesite when Sarah was interestingly naked—and shivers in the cold October wind. A gray wolf howls in the distance. It sounds like a challenge to my newly discovered werewolf ear. Sarah looks at me, eyebrow raised, and I know she heard the same thing.

    She grins. “Hey Lou? How much do you know about your great-grandfather?”

    **THE END**


    (Authors: Lily Sawyer & skimom2 )

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