Tthey were closing in on him and he couldn’t run any faster, he just couldn’t. It was broad, noisy daylight and there were people about, but they wouldn’t do anything to help him, they never did.

They just saw a bunch of kids mucking around, or at most one boy being chased by four boys, and they just walked by, because you couldn’t interfere with kids these days, not unless you wanted the police to come calling. They didn’t see a fugitive being chased by a lynch mob. Tommy had nowhere to run to, and when they caught him he didn’t even fight. He was weak and gentle, wore glasses and thought that fighting was wrong.

The ferocious glee in their faces scared him more than the pain of what they were going to do. When they dragged him into the waste land, he didn’t scream for help because he was proud, and no one would have helped anyway. He didn’t scream when they hit him either. He just kept asking, “Why? Why?” because he genuinely wanted to know. But they didn’t tell him. They punched him, kicked him, spat and even peed on him, but they didn’t answer his question. When they were finished wiping their feet all over him, they walked away, laughing.

It was broad, noisy daylight and there were people about but no one helped, no one cared, and the world went on just as though he didn’t exist. Tommy was fumbling on the ground for his broken glasses when something showed an interest in him at last. He looked up, blinking through his tears. The dog’s breath was warm, his eyes were gentle and understanding, and his hair was rough as a mat. Tommy tried to speak, but couldn’t say anything. Unhappiness filled his throat like ammonia, it was cold and thick. All he managed was a loud gulp at which something cruel and vicious like a human would merely have laughed.

The dog licked his face with a tongue like sandpaper. Tommy wasn’t afraid, though the creature was enormous, the size of an Alsatian at least. Tommy closed his eyes, and his rapid, painful breathing slowed and became quiet and regular. Then he started, because the dog had nipped him on the lip. His mouth was already painful and bleeding, so he didn’t really notice a little hurt that just lasted a second, but as he rubbed his face in bewilderment the dog turned and trotted off. Soon he had disappeared from sight among the piles of rubbish and long grass that covered the area.

Tommy got to his feet and walked slowly home. Broad, noisy daylight. People on the pavement; zooming cars. He held a handkerchief over his nose until the bleeding stopped. His mouth, chin and throat were stained with blood; so were his hands and shirt. He weaved about a little because he was dizzy and his glasses were broken. No one paid any attention to him. People walked past, and the cars kept on zooming.

A week passed.

Tommy’s parents wanted to get the cost of replacing his glasses, so the matter was taken up by the school. The school was very keen on taking up the matter of bullying. The way the school took up the matter of bullying was to call the victim into what was called the 1-2-1 Room which was painted bright yellow and hung with pictures of flowers and things. In the room was a teacher who said “Hi, I’m Steve,” and then did several things:
[1] Looked concerned:
[2] Looked at his computer:
[3] Talked for a bit, using the phrases “up-front”, “hands-on”, “outreach”, “relationship”, and “community”:
[4] Looked concerned again, and
[5] looked at his computer … again.

This had happened several times to Tommy, because the bullies could never resist breaking his glasses. It gave them particular satisfaction to stamp on them. Every time this happened, his parents complained to the school so they could get a grant to buy him new glasses. Every time that happened, he got called to the 1-2-1 Room where a teacher said, “Hi, I’m Somebody-or-other”, then looked concerned, talked about relationships, and looked at his computer.

Another week passed.

Tommy looked at the night sky through his new glasses, and, seeing that the moon was full, said, “Please don’t let them pick on me again tomorrow. Please! I’ll do anything you want. Anything!” He didn’t have any real hope.

His parents were sitting downstairs watching television. He had done his homework. He had no friends, and outside was where they got at him. So he stayed in his room and played with his computer for a bit, and listened to loud music. Then the mobile rang and it was his mother downstairs watching television telling him to get ready for bed, so he grunted and went off to brush his teeth. He was tired, and his body had been full of aches and pains all evening. He lay down, switched off the light, and softened the music a bit. Then tapped a number.

“Night, mum, night, dad,” he said to his parents who were still downstairs watching television.

“Night,” they said.

He closed his eyes, then after a while switched the music off completely. The moon came and looked in the window. An hour passed. A second. His parents switched off the television and went to bed. A third …
Suddenly Tommy woke. There were pains shooting all over him. Panic! God, what’s happening to me? There was cramp in his feet like he was wearing hard heavy shoes two sizes too small, and his legs had red-hot needles sticking in them.

I’m paralysed! I’m having a stroke! I’m dying!
He was so frightened that he cried out aloud. ‘Help!’
The howl that hit the ceiling wasn’t human. Tommy froze. Then tried again.
“Ooooowwwwwooooohhhhh!”

His eyes turned huge and he raised his hands. Two paws covered in black fur confronted him. He tried to get out of bed, floundered, and fell onto the floor. The room was dark, except for some faint silver moonlight, but strangely his eyes seemed happy in the dark, though his thick glasses were sitting on the table above his head. Despite the sheets and torn pyjamas he could see what he had become.

A wolf!
Impossible! Tommy closed his eyes tightly. I’m dreaming. He shook his head. His long ears flapped.
I’m dreaming!
No you’re not, a little quiet voice insisted somewhere inside him. I am! I’m dreaming!

He ground his teeth, and the long front fangs jutted over his lips. He tried to pinch himself, but his arms didn’t seem to work the way they used to, and his hands …! He opened his eyes again, and, yes, he was still a wolf. He gave himself such a fright that he sprang to his feet and stood growling with his hair on end.

Then he saw himself in the body-length mirror which was on the door of his wardrobe. The growl faded away and his hair lay down. Hey! He was big and handsome, heftier-looking than the biggest Alsatian, and with a long elegant snout, clever eyes, and ears like radar scanners. Under his coat he could feel muscles moving. Muscles? Tommy had no muscles, he was hopeless in the gym, fell off everything and got laughed at.

He turned and looked at himself sideways. Of course, he couldn’t see all of himself at once, because the mirror was vertical and this new body of his was horizontal, but what he did see was pretty good-looking. Hmm, in fact not bad at all. He could get used to himself with a handsome, muscular body – even if the tail was a bit bizarre. But then he found he could control it, he could lift it and flourish it, and … and he needed to pee.

The toilet was downstairs. He trotted to the door and – damn it, he couldn’t get hold of the handle. He scrabbled at it with his claws, and then tried it with his teeth, but it wouldn’t move. And he needed to pee badly: really badly.

Eventually, using his teeth, he got the bed sheets and torn pyjamas into a pile with the mattress protector underneath them and let go there. Then he padded over to the window and stood up on his hind legs to look out. Oh, he wanted to be out there! His ears were picking up so much stuff they were twitching. Not only could he hear his parents snoring downstairs, he could hear the neighbours on both sides and over the road as well – even the ones who didn’t snore, just breathed deeply.

He could hear clocks ticking, refrigerators clicking through their cycles, dogs and cats in their baskets. And in the open under the stars there was so much going on!
He nudged the window with his nose. I could break this, he thought, I could break it to pieces and land in the garden.  He could, yes indeed.
But something told him that he would only be a wolf for the nights of the full moon. The rest of the time he would have to live with his human body. He took a last longing look at the night outside.
“Tomorrow,” he said to himself. “Tomorrow.”

With first light the pains hit him again, the cramp and the red-hot needles as before – but they only lasted a couple of minutes, and they didn’t bother him much now that he knew what they were. Naked, he stood in front of the mirror and saw the displeasing sight of his human body, thin and white and bruised here and there where they had got at him.

They wouldn’t get at him as a wolf. In fact …
Then the smell hit him – the stink of full-bodied vintage wolf pee. Yecch! He dressed quickly, bundled the sheets together, and tiptoed downstairs to the washing machine in the kitchen. He would probably have it finished and on the pulley by the time his parents woke up, and he would think of an explanation if asked. “Wet the bed. Sorry, mum.” Meanwhile – he shredded his torn pyjamas with a pair of scissors, dumped them in a bin liner, tied it up, dumped it inside another bin liner, and dumped the lot in the bottom of the rubbish bin.

That day was Friday. Usually the bullies were happy to have the weekend in front of them, with lots of free time to commit axe murders in, or whatever the hell they got up to, and left him alone. Relatively speaking, that is. And, relatively speaking, so they did. That Friday all that happened to him was that he got elbowed in the ribs, had his new glasses knocked off in the corridor, got tripped on the stairs, and had his satchel dumped in a puddle in the school playground. Then the bell went and the week was over.

Two of his persecutors went home in the bus, one was picked up in a snazzy Peugeot, one walked. Hidden, Tommy waited for the one who walked, and, when he saw him swaggering past, hands in pockets and backside jutting, followed him on the other side of the street and a hundred yards behind. If I change again tonight …

With the possibility of getting even actually in sight, Tommy could find no forgiveness in his heart, none at all. In the 1-2-1 Room, ‘Hi-I’m-Somebody’ talked about “the need to understand the nature of a relationship”. ‘Hi-I’m-Somebody’ thought that having your head flushed down a toilet pan or getting spit wiped in your eyes constituted “a relationship”.

Tommy didn’t. He thought it was an offence against life, and he intended to wipe it out. He followed his persecutor to a house in a suburban side-street, saw him let himself in with a latch key, saw the Nissan parked in the driveway, saw the garish curtains, and the paving slabs, and the concrete bowl with some stunted shrub, and felt no forgiveness. After ten minutes he went up to the door to make sure of the name on the bell, and came away.

That night, leaving his parents welded to their couch in front of the television, tommy prepared for THE CHANGE. At least, he hoped he was going to change. The moon still looked full, and he had seen enough films to connect this sort of activity with the full moon. He left the light on, and lay down naked on top of the bed. The window was open, and he was sure that he could hop down onto the kitchen roof and so into the back garden.

After a while he dozed, and then awoke with that same sweet pain – and laughed. YESSSS!

There was no fear this time, no uncertainty. It was happening, and he was running with it. This time he left the bed with a bound and was over at the window in a second, pushing it wide with his muzzle.
“Ooooowwwwwooohhhhh!”
It was midnight and the moon was doing its silver duty about the sky. Whatever moved within a mile on four feet or by wing heard him.
It can’t be! A wolf? Here? Now?
YESSSS!

He leapt from the window, and his body was lithe and strong. It was like having the most powerful bike ever up to its highest gear, except that it was a hundred times, no, a thousand times better than that. As he ran through the night towards his goal he knew that all the chains which had bound his human body had dissolved and that, for a few hours, he was able to do whatever he liked.
***

It made the afternoon news on radio and television, it featured in the national news that evening, and by the time the Sunday papers were ready for it, a second killing … “Brilliant!” “Hold the front page!” “You’re not going to believe this!” said the hacks … guaranteed headline status everywhere.

TWO BOYS KILLED IN SAVAGE ATTACKS!
SLASHER FIEND SLAYS AGAIN!
LORD OF THE CANNIBALS!
BLOODY BEAST BUTCHERS BOYS!
BOYS BUTCHERED BY BLOODY BEAST!
BLOOD FIEND BUTCHERY!
BEAST OF BLOOD!
RIPPER RAMPAGE!
NIGHTMARE …!
FRENZY …!
GORE …!

The police were round the blood like bluebottles. It was the inevitable image – the clustered white cars, revolving blue lights, swarming dark uniforms, buzzing radios, and, in the centre, two wrecked rooms, two bodies mutilated beyond recognition, and the blood splattered over the walls, splattered over the ceiling, running down the stairs, soaking into the carpets, forming puddles wherever it went.

On Monday morning the Head Teacher called the whole school into assembly. He stood up on the dais looking grave, and ‘ Hi-I’m-Somebody’ and ‘Hi-I’m-Somebody-Else’ sat behind him in serried ranks looking graver.
“Boys and girls, most of you will have heard …”

And the pupils all looked shocked, Oh God!, they did. Most of them hadn’t known the dead boys; those who had thought they were louts and within the school they were thought kindly of by precisely no one. They were and missed by no-one, except possibly their two meat-headed friends, who were too meat-headed to think much at all. But for all that, everyone looked shocked, they did by God! Death is the ultimate fact of life and it had just hit them all with both barrels.

Tommy sat there in the assembly, thin, bespectacled, round-shouldered. His face was carefully expressionless, but inside he was singing and dancing. Got ’em! He hadn’t changed last night, but three nights of the full moon were enough. If it happened again next month – and, Oh please God!, let it happen again! He knew exactly what he was going to do.
Chop the other two. Yeah!
***

Over the next week the police conducted dozens of interviews in the school. They used the 1-2-1 Room with its bright yellow paint and lots of soothing pictures. Tommy was called in to face a pretty policewoman (“Hi, I’m Jacki.”). She had a laptop computer which she opened, looked at with a concerned expression on her face, and then asked him about his relationship with his dead persecutors.

“I wanted to kill them both,” said Tommy.
He said this in a matter-of-fact way with his arms folded, because, after all, he had killed them both.
Policewoman Jacki looked more concerned and used the words “shock”, “trauma”, “awesome”, and “totally chill out”.
Tommy kept his arms folded and said nothing.

He was given a week off school to help him recover from the awesome shock and trauma of having known two boys who had gone to the shredder. He spent the time reading up about werewolves on his computer, and watching werewolf videos when his parents’ bottoms were transplanted to office chairs and he had the couch to himself.

Pretty Jacki dropped in to ask him if he was chilling out, totally. She sat smiling at him in the armchair with her knees drawn together, the black and white chequered cravat at her throat, and ruby earrings glowing over her sombre uniform.
“You know what I think?” said Tommy. “I think a werewolf killed them.”
Jacki’s smile was invincible, but her eyes jumped.
“A – werewolf?” she said.

She looked at her lap, and found that she hadn’t brought her laptop with her. She looked back at Tommy with a very concerned expression on her face and used the words “distressed”, “reality check”, “get weird”, and “panic attack”.
Tommy nodded knowingly, said, “A werewolf – definitely,” and went on to give amazingly accurate details of both attacks.
“Cool,” said Jacki, feeling a prickly heat coming on. “Cool … yeah.” And she packed up her smile and left the house, looking and feeling rather dazed.
***
Three more weeks passed, and the full moon came round again.
That two more boys from the same school should be slaughtered with the same savage ferocity, apparently by a dog of unknown type, but possessed of extraordinary strength and cunning, simply beggared belief. Coincidence? Surely not. Yet there was no trace of human participation at any of the four killings.

Television cancelled programmes and featured documentaries and interviews with all manner of concerned experts who talked in a very concerned fashion about whether a dog could possibly have done this, or done it at human instigation, or, if not a dog, then what? And everyone who could reach a computer looked at that computer in a very concerned way.
Jacki typed the word “werewolf” and clicked on “search”.

“Boys and girls,” said the Head Teacher, and back to the 1-2-1 Room came the police, and every one was shocked, all zoos and safari parks doubled, trebled and quadrupled their security, there was talk of armed vigilante groups in the street, and the newspapers went orgasmic.

EVIL FIEND STRIKES AGAIN!!!!
Blah-blah-blah.

And through it all walked Tommy, unmoved. He had never felt so calm, so confident, so completely in control. He had that certain indefinable glow that brought respect in classroom and playground and meant that he no longer had the word victim stamped across his forehead in letters of fire. As the first week became the second and the second turned into the third, no one jeered at him any more, no one tripped him on the stairs, pushed him into the toilets, or broke his glasses. It was almost as though they knew, yet they couldn’t know, because it was impossible and werewolves didn’t exist. As they used to say in the Westerns, Tommy walked tall.
***

It was early in the evening, with the full moon due that night, when Jacki turned up at Tommy’s house. His parents were both welded to the couch in front of the television, of course, and Jacki chatted with them for a while, then let them give their whole attention back to the box while she went upstairs to his room.

Tommy knew she was in the house. He was sitting waiting for her, his eyes calm, his body quite immobile. Computer and CD player were silent. Jacki came in and sat down on the bed. For a while neither of them spoke. Jacki studied Tommy’s face. It was the sort of face you don’t want to meet in the Interrogation Room. Neither defiant nor indignant, neither sullen nor brazen – the face of someone in control. “And he’s only a child,” she thought.
“Listen,” she said quietly, looking straight at him. “I know what you did. I know it’s impossible, but I know you did it. And tonight you’re going to do it again, aren’t you?”

Tommy looked at her unblinkingly.
“I’m not moving,” said Jacki. “When you change, I’m going to be here to see it. I know that you will become much stronger than I am when that happens, but until then you are just a little boy, and I am a police officer on duty” – she let him see her baton and handcuffs – “so if you even think about running away …”

Tommy smiled, for a second, just a twitch at the corner of his mouth.
“Take me with you!” Jacki pleaded, voice low and intent. “There’s so much I could do if I had your power!”
Somewhere, ‘Hi-I’m-Somebody’ and ‘Hi-I’m-Somebody-Else’ were drinking their cocoa and boning-up on a bit of child psychology before going to bed. Somewhere the Head Teacher was sitting watching the telly with a glass of brandy in his hand, wondering if just maybe he was failing the children in his charge. Somewhere the Chief Constable and the Chief Superintendent were worrying in case any of their minions were abusing anyone’s civil rights. Somewhere criminals and bullies of all shapes and sizes were swarming, cocky, vicious, self-righteous and cruel.

Somewhere someone had had enough. Tommy moved for the first time. He leaned forward slowly and ever so slightly, bringing the tips of his fingers together and resting his chin on them.

He looked at Jacki with his calm, confident eyes.”Are you sure?” he asked.

***

Three hours later two huge wolves were loping through the night.

THE END

THE WOLF BOY by Colin Mackay. All copyrights reserved Colin Mackay 2001