I stare at the tombstone in the pale light of the full moon and my heart turns to a frozen piece of meat, figuratively speaking. Cold sweat breaks out on my skin as fear sinks in. I wait for it to take over, for the pulsing pain of transformation to start, for the blinding light when the beast takes over my consciousness. I wait in silence, knowing the silence will become a roar, a scream of terror, the last cry of an innocent victim the beast will feast on.
I shouldn’t have left the tower. Taylor shouldn’t have let me go; he knows what happens when the beast is set free in the city. Another innocent will die, although the last man the beast attacked could hardly be called innocent. Or he could, but you’d be lying through your teeth. Taylor did the research on the last victim when we were covering up the bloodshed. That man, Hyde, was nothing short of a slimeball, a sleazy fucker who never took no for a no. Apparently his unexpected and painful demise would’ve been welcome news to a long line of women, not to mention their fathers and husbands – if they ever would have found out. Nevertheless, I fear the beast’s next victim won’t be so appropriately chosen. So, I wait.
My breath comes out like a fog in the chilly night, and the only things breaking the silence are the dry leaves rattling on the ground, pushed around by the wind. Fear subsides when realization slowly dawns. It’s not coming. Fuck. I can’t tell if I need to burst out in laughter or in tears, so I land somewhere in the middle with a ha-ha-ha-snort.
I push my fingers through my hair in a desperate attempt to make it all make sense. Pacing around the cemetery, the questions are bouncing around in my head faster than a Duracell bunny on meth. It’s gone. Does it mean that she’s gone too? What was she? A ghost? A restless spirit from beyond time and existence? The reality knocks the wind out of me and I lean against a tombstone. The beast is gone; she took it with her. The previous evening flashes before my eyes. Her pale skin, the dark red rose petals around her, the red scratch marks over her chest. Her generous bosom rising with her panting as I drove my hard manhood into her tight cunt. Her hair, her eyes, the blood red lip caught between her teeth. I can’t fucking take this any longer. My heart is aching, my lungs are burning. I fall to the ground, my knees bruising from the hard rocks and I let out a scream from the depths of my soul. A flock of birds takes off from the nearby tree. I tilt my face up towards the full moon, clear as a huge silver coin in the sky and I finally truly understand that it’s gone. It’s a full moon, but the beast is dead silent. Fear grips my body, squeezing me like a giant hand scrunching an empty beer can. It consumes me, and turns into panic as I understand the consequences of the beast leaving. She came for it, and now that it is gone, I’ll never see her again. Never get to touch those perfectly shaped tits again, never get to suck on the delicious cherries that are her nipples again, never get to dive into that delicious wet pussy again. Fuck. She didn’t want me, she only wanted her Big Boy.
Following morning I’m a man on a mission. I go to the room, brushing the eternal cobwebs away from the hinges. I open the locks, and push open the heavy doors, preparing myself for the stale air; I’m filled with dread, but as I inhale, I smell roses. The hair on the back of my neck rises and a shiver goes through my spine as I look around the room, trying to find the source. My eyes land on the shackles on the wall, the ball-gags and handcuffs, the St. Andrew’s cross at the back. I run my hand over the wood that is stained by my sweat and the agony of the countless nights we kept the beast bound and gagged here in effort to save the innocent. There are no fucking roses in this room, even the petals I scattered over her body are gone. So where the hell is that smell coming from?
I look around the room and I chuckle; it feels like I’ve never actually seen it before. The room looks like a perfect dungeon, for fuck’s sake. Where has Taylor come up with this shit? He must have BDSM4U on speed-dial, the kinky motherfucker. Although tying someone down definitely has its advantages, I lick my lip as I think of her bound and blindfolded on this bed. I decide not to wonder why she stayed bound in the shackles if she could move through walls.
Desperate to find any trace of her – a hair, a drop of sweat – anything that Gail could use to make a spell to find her for me, I go through every square inch of the room. The smell of roses still lingers, but I can’t find the source.
“Gail, did you clean the room?” I ask as I storm into the kitchen.
“No, I haven’t touched it.” She shrugs.
“Damn.” I punch the counter with my fist; the pots and kettles clatter, startling Taylor who was sleeping with his feet up on the edge of the table, drool hanging from the side of his mouth.
“What’s wrong, Grey?”
“Every single fucking thing.” I scavenge the cupboards, shoving away a stray rat and a colony of spiders, until I find a glass and a bottle of rum, well hidden behind a jar of dried cockroaches. I pull open the cork with my teeth and pause, staring at the tinted glass in my hand. No way that’s big enough. A bucket is needed, or… Fuck it. I drink straight from the bottle, draining it halfway in one take.
“You do know who can help you, don’t you?” Gail says, pulling the bottle away from my death grip.
I clench my jaw until I feel my back teeth crack. I know, but it doesn’t mean I like it.
“There has to be someone else.”
“When it comes to restless spirits… You know there’s no one else.”
“Fine. Gimme back the bottle then, there’s no way I’m facing him sober.”
Without hesitation, Gail gives the rum back and I down the rest of it, chucking the empty bottle over my shoulder. It doesn’t crash as expected, as Taylor got his lazy ass out of the chair and played quarterback.
I punch Taylor in the shoulder when I walk past him.
“Go get the Spyder. Let’s go see if daddy dearest has gotten into his new coffin yet.”
The Spyder roars beautifully as we speed through the streets, whooshing by a bunch of homeless huddling by a burning tin and a pack of living dead heading down the road. Zombies or mummies, I could probably not care much less. I look in the mirror – stockbrokers. They all look the same to me.
The road becomes smaller, the color scheme greyer as we approach Grey Castle. The dark clouds hang around the hill the castle’s built on. It doesn’t matter that the rest of the city is basking in sunlight, Grey castle is forever in darkness.
We pass the gates, ignoring the signs warning off trespassers. We drive over the steaming moat, the ancient wooden bridge creaking beneath the wheels of the Spyder. The flock of bats that has been following us for the last mile has not gone unnoticed. I’m sure dad already knows we’re here; those damn flying rats have already tattled on us.
I step out of the car, the chill of the castle already seeping into my bones. I know he keeps the temperature low for a reason, but would it really hurt to turn it up a degree or two? Walking through the hallway on the first floor I see that nothing has changed. My sister’s first boyfriend is still on the wall, only his face, hands and knees are visible while the rest is hidden in the concrete. Carrick Grey did not appreciate catching that guy touching his teenaged daughter, so he decided to make a fair warning for any future boyfriends. Keep your hands to yourselves or become part of the interior design.
The fog running down the stairs from dad’s tower swirls around my feet as he opens the door for me.
“Son, I’ve been waiting for you.”
I ignore him, and step in, the door closing with a deafening thud behind me. I roll my eyes at his attempt to frighten me.
“I noticed your spies, so that’s no surprise.”
Dad’s eyes flash an ominous color of red and he waves his cape as he walks over to his desk and points at the open calendar.
“It was a full moon last night.”
“Yes, I know.”
“And you went out…” Carrick presses his black nailed fingertips against each other as he looks at me, expecting an answer.
“As myself,” I finish his sentence.
His eyes flash again, and he tilts his head, folding his arms in front of his chest.
“Ah, I see. She came and took her Big Boy with her,” he says, like it’s the most natural thing in the world. I fight the urge to slap him into next week.
“Yes,” I hiss.
“And now you want her,” he asks and I seethe, hating the fact that he seems to know everything.
“Yes.” I’m sure he’s going to make me grovel, the sadistic bastard.
“I knew you’d ask… and I can help you. But you’ll owe me big time, if you survive.”
“I don’t care. Just get her to me.”
“No, son. She’s not coming here, you’ll be going there.”
“Not where…. When.” His eyes glow a pulsing red, his stare so hypnotic I feel it in the depths of my soul.
What happens next doesn’t even register, it all happens so fast. Carrick catches an ice globe filled with a purple bubbling liquid from the end of his desk. He intones a spell in a language older than the world as he throws the globe at me, the liquid burning as the ice breaks on impact with my chest. I feel my heart stop beating, my lungs refusing to function, and the world in front of me contorting into colors twirling like in a kaleidoscope until it all turns black, like someone just switched off the TV that was my life.
Somewhere in the past
The full moon sheds its cool blue light over everything as I ride through the fields to get to town as soon as possible. The hooves hit the ground at a furious speed; the metal shoes against stones send sparks flying in the dark. Jumping off the horse even before he had fully stopped, I throw the reins at the stable boy dozing by the side of the barn and run into the tavern, pushing the double doors open without caring that I hit the barfly sitting on the old man’s lap, pushing her barely covered bosom in his face.
The bartender throws the stained towel over his shoulder as he sees me storming in. He grabs a bottle from the shelf behind him and pours me a glass of moonshine without me even asking for it.
“Evening, stranger, you look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
I grab the glass and swing it back, swallowing all its contents in one gulp. The liquid burns in my throat before hitting my stomach like a blast of dynamite. I slam the glass back on the table, lift two fingers and the bartender fills it anew.
“I think I might have.”
The bartender grabs a glass, spits on it and polishes it with the towel that he just had on his shoulder. He leans forward though, along with all the men who were close enough to hear my words.
“I saw a woman and a dog on the meadow.”
The old man by the door shoves the floozie off his lap, and hustles over to the bar, leaving her pulling the bodice of her dingy pale pink dress up, desperately trying to tuck in her breasts that had gotten free. She might as well walk naked, because at this moment none of the men care that her goods are showing. Even the pianist stops playing his broken piano, and moves closer to hear what I have to say.
One more stiff drink and I’m ready to tell them what I saw. I try not to worry that I can’t remember where I was coming from or where I was going to, when it all happened.
“I was riding through the forest and I came to a meadow. There I saw her, a young beautiful woman with pale skin, and a figure to die for.” I hear the barfly scoff and mutter something as she arranges her dress and someone yells to her Oh, shut it, Susannah.
“The fog rising from the ground glowed and swirled around her feet and her wolfdog as they moved. The dog ran around, always returning to her, his hot breath visible in the cool crisp air. Come on boy, that’s a good boy, she praised him, unaware of me watching her. I followed her by horse at a distance, my heart beating hard, as my horse stepped nervously through the fog. The two of them walked through the patch of trees, down to the river. Fear gripped my gut and I urged my horse to move faster; everyone knows that river is dangerous even in daylight. Miss! Be careful! I yelled as loud as I could, as I saw her follow the dog to the brink of the water, the treacherous ground slippery and the river’s flow unforgiving, especially after a rainy day. Finally she stops and turns towards me; she looks me straight in the eye.”
I don’t disclose the fact that even though she was far away, it felt like she saw straight into my soul. There was something so familiar about her, but I couldn’t figure it out. A smile appeared on her lips and she winked at me, making my heart beat all funny, and my trousers tight. But that’s not the reason why I’m now gulping down the burning liquid at Steele’s tavern. The reason for that is what I witnessed next.
For good measure I empty the fourth glass before I continue my monologue.
“The dog took off running and he ran straight over the foaming river… And she followed him. Her feet were hidden by the hem of her skirt, so she just kind of floated over the raging water. I had urged my horse into a gallop, but now I pulled the reins to get him to stop at the brink of the river. Shocked, I stood in the stirrups, gripping the side of my saddle and stared at her, her body now a faint glow in the meadow on the other side of the river. And then she vanished.”
Silence descends on the tavern, the only sound breaking it a snore from the man passed out by the table next to the piano.
“So she’s back,” a man in a worn but decent-looking suit says. The bartender takes a bottle from under the counter and gives it to the man furthest on my left. He pulls away the cork with his teeth and takes a swig, then passes the bottle to the next man, who in turn drinks and passes it forward. After a few more men I get the bottle. I look at the pale green glass and glance towards the bartender.
“Liquid courage, stranger, you’ll need it more than us,” he says and urges me to drink up and stop stalling. I feel everyone’s eyes on me as I lift the bottle and drink, before passing the bottle to my right.
“She had her dog, you say,” someone says.
“So she has got it back then,” someone else comments.
“You think she’ll leave him alone then?” The guy to my left asks, nodding towards me. The moonshine and the liquid courage has gotten to me and I can’t make out which voice belongs to whom as the men continue their hushed talking.
“I doubt that.”
“Lucky bastard if you ask me,” someone says and a few men chuckle at the comment.
“Who?” I ask, now utterly confused and boozed up, and feel the ten pairs of eyes turn towards me at once.
“You, sir,” the old man to my right says.
I swallow, trying to get the lump of fear now lodged in my throat to disappear. It doesn’t. Cold sweat breaks on my skin as I sit with my head in my hands. What the hell am I going to do?
I try to ask for advice, but the men aren’t very helpful. It seems something like this has happened before, but the opinions vary as to what my imminent future will be. Eventually I thank them and decide to leave. I wobble out of the bar, fetch my horse from the stable, and ride southeast, not really knowing where I’m going since I can’t even figure out where I’ve come from.
I come to a crossing, and I get the urge to turn left. I don’t have anywhere else to go, so I let my gut guide me. A mile later I realize that the roadsides are covered in rosebushes, the scent of them almost intoxicating. It’s a familiar smell though. It reminds me of something; just what that is, I can’t quite remember.
“You found me.” A soft voice startles me from my thoughts. The woman from the meadow is walking by my horse, her wolf-dog following just a few paces behind.
“Do I know you?” From my point of view, I see straight into her generous cleavage. The pale skin of her beautifully rounded breasts is almost glowing in the moonlight. It’s an oddly familiar sight.
“Oh, you insult me, Grey.” She halts and my horse stops too. I hop off, managing not to fall over even though I can barely feel my feet. Damn moonshine.
I stare down at her and I lose myself in her eyes. My gaze trails south, and I see love-bites on her neck. Now, what kind of woman would let anyone do such things to her? The images of me fucking her, bound and gagged, rush in front of my eyes and I gasp for air. She reaches out and catches my jaw, the tips of her nails pressing against my skin. She yanks me closer, her whole body pulling me to her like a giant magnet. Her dark red lips part, and I succumb to the primal need to kiss her. Our tongues touch and it’s like a dam burst inside my head, making all the memories and emotions flow.
“Anastasia.” I breathe a sigh of relief as she pulls back. “I remember. Now I remember.”
“I thought you would.”
The dog pushes himself in-between us, his tail wagging. She pats his head and scratches him behind his ear as she says, “Let me introduce you. This is Big Boy; I think you used to call him the beast.”
I swallow, as the dog bares his teeth in a smile of sorts, alerted by his name.
“Sorry I kept you bound.” I pat his head, realizing his fur is the exact same color as the fur I grew during the full moon. “But I couldn’t have you, well, us, killing the innocent townsfolk.”
Her blue eyes blaze with annoyance.
“He has never killed anyone innocent.”
“Oh, is that so?” I taunt her. “What about that girl it killed the first night?”
“That pretty little brunette, Leila?”
“Definitely not innocent. She was a stalker, and majorly cuckoo. Ask her family. Oh wait, that’s right, you can’t, because she poisoned them.”
We stop by a door, in the middle of nowhere. Well smack me senseless, I hadn’t even realized that we were walking all the time. Anastasia pulls out a huge iron key from her dress, and she unlocks the door, pulling the iron handle, making the whole thing creak as if it hadn’t been opened in years.
Big Boy leaps in, his nails tapping against the wooden stairs as he descends. Anastasia follows him, while I stand rooted right outside the door. A pink fog spreads over the ground, cascading down the stairs on the other side of the door.
“Well, you came this far, aren’t you coming in?”
I stall, looking at the stones that make out the frame of the door. I take a few steps to the side and scratch my head. The door is in the middle of fucking nowhere. There’s no house, no wall, no roof even. Just a door, and a beautiful, although very impatient woman waiting for me inside.
The rusty hinges creak as the door starts to close; I curse myself for stalling and rush inside before it slams shut behind me.
The search party, consisting of the men at the bar, headed out the following day when the horse the stranger had rode in on was found abandoned by the Rose Road as they called it. Some were sure the ghost had taken him while some thought he might have fallen off his horse and broken his drunken neck. They found no trace of him. And as for the woman and her dog, they were never seen again either.
Perhaps the restless soul finally found peace, someone said.
Back in present day.
The door in the basement of Grey castle rattles as a key is turned in its lock. Pink fog floods out of it carrying the sound of heavy breathing and panting. Footsteps become clearer as does the patter of paws against the wood as a huge dog runs through the door. He sniffs around the room before sitting by the door, patiently expecting his owner to appear. The sounds become moans, heavy breathing becomes panting, and the dog lies down, covering his hears, to escape the sounds of fornication flooding from the darkness.