Matthew McAyeal is a writer from Portland, Oregon. His short stories have been published by "Bards and Sages Quarterly," "Fantasia Divinity Magazine," "cc&d," "The Fear of Monkeys," "Danse Macabre," "The Metaworker," "Scarlet Leaf Magazine," "Bewildering Stories," "The Magazine of History & Fiction," "Tall Tale TV," "Fiction on the Web," and "Necro Magazine." In 2008, two screenplays he wrote were semi-finalists in the Screenplay Festival.
A long time ago, in the twilight before a night of the full moon, a young Puritan colonist named Constant Turner was barricading himself into his home. This was not an unusual activity at the moment, as all the townspeople were doing the same. The difference was that they were hoping to keep danger out while Constant was hoping to keep danger in.
It was thus a most inopportune time for someone to knock on his door. A knock came nonetheless.
“Go away!” he barked.
“Please, Constant!” said a very sweet voice. “I need your help!”
The voice belonged to Obedience Child, the local seamstress and the prettiest of seven nubile sisters. Her sisters were named Patience, Mercy, Thankful, Hope, Unity, and Rachel. Constant had gotten to know Obedience quite well recently, since he needed so much clothing repaired these days.
“Find someone else!” he said. “I cannot help you right now!”
“Constant, please!” she begged. “It has to be you and it has to be right now!”
He couldn’t say no to Obedience for long. Against his better judgment, he let her in. He knew he’d have to get her to leave before the darkness came, but how long could this take?
The familiar sight of Obedience’s beauty was revealed as she stepped inside — her fresh face, fair skin, dark hazel eyes, and the little curl of dark hair peeking out from under her white coif. Like all the townswomen, she wore simple Puritan garments, but Constant did not think that the robes of a queen could have enhanced her beauty. Surely even Louis XIV, in his decadent court across the sea, could not hope for a woman so beautiful!
Constant knew her well enough to know that her beauty on the outside was matched by beauty on the inside. She was not only a God-fearing hard worker, as any good Puritan colonist would be, but friendly, helpful, and cheerful. She always smiled a most loving smile at her fellow creations. Even now she was smiling, only it was a bit more nervously than normal. Constant hoped she would always smile at him like that, but her smile would disappear really quickly if she stayed there much longer…
“Constant, I need your help,” she said. “My father wants me to marry John Black.”
“Do you want to marry him?” asked Constant, trying to keep his voice even. He hated John Black and was sickened by the thought of Obedience marrying him, but Constant wasn’t exactly in a position to pass moral judgment on anyone else.
“No,” said Obedience. “I cannot marry him. He is a wicked, ungodly man! You remember what he did to that Indian village during the war. That was the same night the wolf attacks started. It is God’s judgment against us, I am sure of it! But you knew it was wrong at the time. That’s why you stayed behind with the men building the palisade.”
“Yeah, I suppose I did,” said Constant awkwardly. “Maybe you should go now.”
“It’s dreadfully ironic that you were the first victim of the wolf attacks and on that very night no less,” she continued. “As I recall, you found yourself naked in the forest when you woke up the next morning. I still don’t understand how that happened. And just a month later, your entire family were the wolves’ next victims. Oh, Constant! I feel so bad for you and so afraid as well! How do the wolves get past the palisade?”
“Well, no one knows that,” Constant lied. “You should go now.”
“Constant, I want you to marry me!” Obedience declared. “Believe me, I know my father wouldn’t be happy with the match, but I don’t care! You’re the only godly choice! I’m ready to give up everything for the Lord and I can only do that with you!”
“No, you can’t,” said a gruff voice suddenly.
At that moment, John Black himself burst in the door. He was a tall, handsome man with shining black hair and he was pointing a musket at Constant!
“If you think this is the way to court me, you are wrong!” Obedience yelled indignantly.
“I’m not doing this to win your favor, woman,” John said with a condescending sneer. “I’m saving the town for a second time.”
“You didn’t save it the first time!”
“I did what I had to do,” he drawled. “Why should I have spared their women and children? The children would only grow up and the women would only breed more of them. My only regret about the war is that I didn’t kill King Philip myself!”
“And how are you saving the town now?” asked Obedience, crossing her arms.
“By putting an end to his attacks!”
“Wolves are behind the attacks!”
“No,” said John, shaking his head. “One wolf is. Him. He’s a werewolf, Obedience! The attacks always come during the full moon, the same nights he’s always too ill for his militia duties. But it’s over now. The silver bullet I’ve loaded into my musket will see to that!”
“Werewolves!” scoffed Obedience. “Surely that’s an old pagan myth! We Puritans know better than to believe such foolish superstitions!”
But even as she spoke those words, thick hair had started bursting out all over Constant’s body. “Go! Go!” he yelled at Obedience. “Get out of here!”
“I will not leave with John Black!” she declared proudly.
“He’s right about me!” yelled Constant, speaking quickly while he still could speak. “The wolf which attacked me was a werewolf and I became one when I was bitten! The next time I changed, I killed my own family! I’ll kill you next if you don’t leave! I’ve tried to stop the attacks, but the beast always finds a way! I couldn’t tell anyone! I didn’t want anyone to know! I really, really didn’t want you to know because I — because I love y—” At this point, the growth of huge wolf fangs suddenly made him incapable of human speech.
Constant hated the way Obedience was looking at him now — with big, fearful eyes and not even the slightest smile. She was scared — scared of him! And she ought to be too, since the beast was rising up within him and he could already feel its monstrous impulse to rip apart her vulnerable, delicate body. Oh, how he wished he could save her from the danger! That would bring back her beautiful smile for sure! But he couldn’t. He was the danger.
He flailed and snarled as he came down on all fours and burst out of his clothes. He was not a person anymore. He was a beast now. He did not recognize Obedience as a special person or even a person at all. She was just something to kill in the hopes that it would help satiate his violent fury. His only concern was that she wouldn’t be enough — not even close to enough! He would have to kill a lot more people than just her, so he’d better get started!
The werewolf lunged forward.
Obedience screamed in terror.
John fired his weapon.
The silver bullet found its mark.
Tension dissipated as the werewolf collapsed. Being dead, Constant was spared the sight of Obedience collapsing romantically into the arms of her rescuer, John Black.