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July 08, 2024

Legacy of the Lycanthrope

By Lisa Lahey (short, PG-13)

Cover image.
Image credit: Public Domain. More info.

Lisa Lahey is an Associate Acquisitions Editor for After Dinner Conversation Magazine.

~~~

During a cloudless night in 1876 Romania, I rode inside my coach from an opera house in Bucharest to my castle in Crit. Suddenly, an animal resembling a wolf, except for its horrendous size and sheer power, barreled into my carriage with such savage force that it knocked it over. It struck with the speed of lightning and the violence of an army, rendering me unconscious. When I woke, I discovered the beast had slaughtered my driver. I suffered superficial scratches and a deep bite on my shoulder.

Three weeks went by, and, during a full moon, I fell ill with a fever. I took to my bed. The moon burned my eyes more fiercely than the sun ever had; I could not look directly at it. Silver rays pierced my retinas, nearly blinding me. Inexplicably, as the moon peered at me from behind the clouds, my body seared with unspeakable pain, convulsing, and twisting as every tendon in me stretched and snapped. I screamed in agony as my jaw lengthened until it dislocated from my skull. I sprouted a thick coat of fur that burned through every pore of my skin.

My body fell limp, and I lay motionless in my bed. My new form bewildered and terrified me. My legs sprouted paws with claws that were five inches in length. A thick silver-brown coat of fur covered my entire body. I became more powerful and rejuvenated than ever before. It was a dreadful rebirth; the pain returned. My blood seared through my veins, and I was so ravenous that my stomach burned with its own acid. Roaring with rage, I sprang from my bed and smashed through the window, and sped off into the night.

I had never experienced the sounds, the smells, and the feel of the earth as I did now. I heard the buzz of insects from hundreds of feet away, including the delicate sound of a cricket as its tiny feet landed on a blade of grass. Beneath my feet, I felt the vibrations of the snoring of cows sleeping in their barns. Everything around me glowed with a silver aura, sharply defined against the black sky. A five-spotted hawk moth alit on a tree forty feet away. A tiny field mouse emerged from its borough, unaware that a hungry brown owl awaited its moment to pounce. Somehow, I acclimated swiftly to these wondrous changes as if I had always known them.

The faintest snap of a twig in the woods drew my attention. Whispering through the trees with the stealth of a shadow, I spotted a magnificent stag. Normally, the animal would be asleep in its den, but, having smelled my approach, it emerged to investigate the encroaching danger.

It was the deer’s last courageous act.

With a ferocious roar, I lunged upon the animal and seized it by the throat. My fangs ground into its neck. I felt the crushing of delicate bones and the thrashing of its death throes. I devoured every inch of the poor animal, ripping its legs out of their sockets, crunching its ribs between my teeth, and sucking the entrails from its abdomen. When I finished feeding, there was nothing left except shreds of felt and tendons clinging to its crushed bones.

I emitted a barbaric victory howl, causing bats and birds to scatter from the trees. Small animals burrowed more deeply into their dens, but I knew exactly where they were. It made no difference to me; my feast was over, and, satiated, I returned home.

* * *

I hailed from the Romanian aristocracy and the only noble family in Crit. We lived in a magnificent castle on a hilltop that overlooked the countryside with its clear rivers, and acres of emerald-green grass.

My father, Earl Serghei Dragos, served on the king’s military advisory council. In her youth, my mother Vina, had been a great beauty. Before middle-age had set in, she had been black-haired and brown-eyed, slender, with porcelain skin and a swan-like neck. My father’s sole interest was her breeding and beauty, and they married in 1873.

There was no affection between my parents. They lived like acquaintances and briefly passed the time of day when they encountered one another. This was not unusual among the aristocracy, since marriages served to strengthen political ties. Bride and groom were strangers when they wed, and many remained so during their marriages.

During childhood, I participated in all the athletics of a young nobleman. I practiced fencing, archery and rode horseback. However, I had yet to engage in the most significant sport for all noblemen, and at twelve, Father decided it was time for me to hunt.

On the chosen day, we rose at 5:00 in the morning and ventured into the woods. Father and I lay in wait. As the sun rose, a beautiful deer wandered into the clearing. I watched as she lowered her neck and nibbled on fresh clover. Father whispered, “now,” and I pulled the trigger. The animal fell where she stood, and I yelped with joy. Father shook his head.

“You have not killed it, Lucien. You must finish it off.”

I approached the fallen animal and discovered that Father was correct; the poor deer gasped for air, her tongue lolled out of her mouth and blood seeped from her throat. I raised my gun toward her head when Father pushed it aside.

“Not yet.”

He reached into his belt and pulled out a hunting knife. The animal lay with its eyes open and its tail twitching when Father split it down the middle from its neck to its belly. To my great horror, my father reached inside the deer and ripped out its beating heart. Blood spurted from it as he dug his teeth deep into it. In that moment, he wore the look of a deadly animal, a wolf, or a coyote, I could not tell which. His lifeless eyes shook me to my very core, and, in that horrible moment, I believed him capable of killing me without remorse.

* * *

Months of killings passed since the colossal wolf had attacked me. The following morning when I woke, I experienced partial memory of the savagery I committed. I convinced myself they were nightmares. I could not believe I was a werewolf; such myths were foolish folklore.

Despite my denial, during each full moon, my body endured an insufferable transition into a werewolf. One night, as I travelled along the highway in search of prey, I spotted a carriage whose driver had alit to tend to the horse. I ran in his direction, the wind whistling past my ears as I gained speed. By the time the poor man knew he was in danger, I pounced on him and tore his throat out. The carriage door opened, and a gentleman held a pistol at me. I threw myself upon him before he could fire and ripped him to shreds. The horse reared onto its hind legs, then raced off with the carriage. I ignored the animal; tonight, I would dine on human flesh.

I swallowed the gentleman’s larynx whole, then I feasted on his abdomen. I tore into it with ferocity, consuming his intestines, stomach, colon, and bowel within mere minutes. The fragility of the man’s blood and the throbbing of it in his veins made him irresistible.

The next morning, I was fully aware that I had made my first human kill. It was too horrendous not to recall it. I fell to my knees beside my bed and prayed to God to strike me dead for my wickedness.

But God remained silent.

I carried the guilt of the gentlemen’s deaths deep within me, dreading the inevitable knock on the door from the Executor of the Ordinance of Justice.

The door, too, remained silent.

* * *

In the weeks after the murders, my mother noticed my loss of appetite and agitated manner. She wanted to summon the doctor, but I assured her it was unnecessary. I stated that I suffered from a mild illness that would resolve itself. Her lips pursed into a thin line and her eyes darkened, but she let me be.

During the harmless phase of the moon, I lived a normal life. The week after I killed the men on the roadside, I began an apprenticeship with my father at the king’s court, sitting with his military council. I would one day take my father’s place in the court when he retired. For years, my father’s counselling and an esteemed tutor had prepared me for this role.

Even as my political status improved, my vile instincts spiralled out of control. During another full moon, I took to my bed, overcome by the same fever, agitation, and dehydration as before. My father stood in the doorway watching me as I thrashed about, speaking in tongues about full moons and human slaughter. He went downstairs; I heard the front door close loudly behind him as he left the manor.

My appetite had increased since my first human kill, and I was far too ravenous to go out into the night seeking prey. In my full form as a werewolf, I stood at the top of the grand staircase, watching my mother emerge from the drawing room. As I glowered at her, a red haze of rage descended upon me. My mother’s face drained of colour, and she screamed as I leapt over the stairs and pounced upon her. I crushed her skull with my massive jaws, then ripped her open and devoured her organs. I discovered that the fairer sex’s innards were more delicate and nourishing than that of men.

When I rose the following morning, I recalled slaughtering my precious mother, and raced to the foyer. I found the poor woman slain and bloodied.

Praying my father was alive, I roared, “Serghei!”

“Yes, Lucien?” He stood behind me smoking his pipe, as calmly as if it was a summer day.

“Mother is dead!” I bellowed.

My father nodded, puffing on his pipe. “I will fetch a blanket to cover her.”

He did so, then indicated that I was to follow him into the parlor. He sat in his armchair. “Lucien, the time has come for me to reveal your ancestry. As impossible as it sounds, we hail from an extensive line of lycanthropy.”

“Werewolves?”

“Indeed, Lucien. I knew last night you were going to devour us. I left for the night, allowing you to kill your mother.”

“How could you let this happen?”

“Your mother knew about us and threatened to go to the authorities.” Father squinted through the smoke from his pipe. “Lucien, I was the wolf that attacked you the night you returned home from Bucharest.”

My head spun with his words, and I spiralled into deeper depths of despair.

“I, too, became a werewolf when your grandfather bit me. I lived with this misery until you came of age. Now that you are a lycanthrope, I am free from this abominable curse.”

I looked at my hands; blood had dried beneath my fingernails. I could still taste Mother’s precious blood caked onto the roof of my mouth; I wanted to vomit.

“I know you will kill me; you cannot control it. I am sending you away and I will inform the authorities that you murdered your mother. If you return to Romania, you will face execution.” Father gently set his pipe on the table beside him.

I thought of my mother lying in the foyer beneath a blood-soaked blanket and I wanted to rip my father’s throat out. But I had murdered my mother the night before; I could not bring myself to kill my father. I left the parlor without another word and ascended the stairs to my bedroom. I found my pistol, held it to my head and fired. A solid, steel bullet tore through my skull and exited through the other side. I fell to the floor, expecting to die. The pain was savage. I waited for the inevitable pool of blood around my skull, but oddly, there was none.

It became clear that no bullet could kill me. I had no idea if anything could. I collapsed in a heap on the floor, wailing like a wretched infant.

* * *

The following day as I departed for London, England, I raged silently at my father. He had removed me from my home and from the Romanian aristocracy. I knew no other existence and the thought of living beneath my station was abhorrent.

London’s upper class looked upon me favourably and accepted me into their social circle. I despised them. They were gauche; the nouveau riche who had worked for their money were beneath my upbringing. Only the aristocracy were born to wealth, and I couldn’t fraternize within that circle. Should I claim my rightful place among them, someone might trace my roots and discover I had murdered my poor mother.

My only comfort lay in my skill in hunting human prey. I accepted that I was a werewolf and a voracious predator; there was no sense in denying it. Three weeks after my arrival in London, I became aware of a perfect hunting ground; an impoverished ghetto named Whitechapel. Whitechapel was a teeming slum with one million of London’s poorest citizens. I found my first victim, a prostitute, in an alleyway; it was there that I savaged her.

The newspapers sensationalized the killing. They paid particular attention to the “removal of the uterus.” This was their carefully edited term for readers with a tender disposition. Nonsense. I tore out her uterus, my fangs dripping with blood, and shreds of her intestines still clinging to them. The uterus is quite tasty, particularly during ovulation with the ripening of the uterine lining.

After this kill, the newspapers dubbed me the elusive “Jack the Ripper,” so named in a fraudulent letter to police. It was not my doing; I would never be foolish enough to offer a clue to my identity. My newfound infamy proved a serious risk to my security.

With each full moon, I slaughtered four more Whitechapel prostitutes in succession. The police followed leads that brought them perilously close to me, and I was obliged to leave England for Moscow. Once again, I associated with the lower class, cursing the loss of my nobility.

Trapped by my own immortality, I would live my life as a werewolf throughout eternity. I could not live in one place for long, rendering me a fugitive. Where once I lived as an esteemed aristocrat, now I lived as a transient on the fringe of society.

I finally understood my father’s reasoning in passing the curse onto me. Until someone discovered a means of killing a werewolf, the slaughter of victims would continue. There remained a more feasible option; I could sire a son and pass the damnable curse onto him. Like my father before me, I would finally be free of the wretched legacy of the lycanthrope.








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Article © Lisa Lahey. All rights reserved.
Published on 2024-07-08
Image(s) are public domain.