24. Moon Rise

The moon’s bloody glow spreads over the farmers’ fields, casting out the brief relief of night. Its slow swell creeps upon the descent of the surrounding hills, infecting all in its red monochrome. Ascending into heaven, the demonic orb usurps the sun’s court, ushering in its reign of mutation and death.

And deep within the forest near, the naked Richard steps over the strewed bones littering the cave entrance, walking out into the moonday. Covered by the forest’s thick canopy, he exits the utter darkness of the cave only to enter the impenetrable shadows of the forest. The hissing echoes of the distant moon trees spreading their thick pollen weave through the countless forest paths, silencing nature in an unnatural refrain.

A wave of humid heat hits the hunter like a passing wall, the noxious odor burning his nose and bringing tears to his eyes. Blinking and rubbing these away, the hunter finds himself in progress from his late domicile, marching where he knows not. Into his bare feet the forest floor sends its dried pricks, driving the sleep from Richard’s mind. He stops in the darkness, and so blinded, finds himself in an expanse of empty space.

As if from behind, a voice whispering in his ear, the wolf softly growls, “Let me out.”

With a sudden spring, Richard’s leg shoots forward, and he again roves into the forest. The unsure fall of his foot is pregnant, generations following it, themselves evolving from an unsteady stride into a run. The slow change is imperceptible, the gradation of the transformation invisible between succeeding steps all suddenly unveiling itself a full sprint.

The world slowly takes form as a red tint infects the surrounding surfaces. Pillars fade into view; their cracked bark catches and shadows the light of the moon like the shattered faces of a mirror. The dancing pollen billows in the fevered winds of the early moonrise, the howling breeze stirring the infectious mutations throughout the forest.

Like hot pins searing and stabbing into his flesh, the light burns. His unstoppable strides grow longer, and in bounding leaps his uncontrollable legs sprint further into the redness of the moon. His vision blurs, black blotches swelling over his eyes as the unnatural radiation blinds him. Tears anoint his cheeks, and he buries them with his hands.

Between his palms he feels the bulging of a snout, his nose and lips pushing out of his face. The tips of his fingers, as they touch his skin, terminate in wicked claws. And hair, all over, begins sprouting from every facet of his body. Building inside his chest, next to his fevered, racing heart, a rising pressure forces itself up into his throat, and finally escapes, splitting his jaw open in a ravenous howl.

Spittle flies off of his curved, white fangs as the transformation is completed in that terrible shout. Like the ground is taken from under him, Richard falls away into blackness, into his own personal night, floating in the subconscious inner-space of his mind. The wolf consumes his body and will, and towers a giant on the face of the earth.

The sweet perfume of sweat and blood waft into his nose, the odors from the villagers reaching out to him in their helpless state of being prey. He longs for their soft, pink flesh, to have it within his power, and to tear and rip it from their bones. Licking his lips, he drools, his hunger like fire, like the grave, never fulfilled, never satiated, starving always.

He bounds forward, an animal upon all fours, racing through the moon dust settled on the road. Around him, as like soft flakes of snow, the plummeting red pollen thickens in clouds, absorbing him in their impenetrable cover.

Upon the precipice of that oft traversed hill stands Stanley, who drags his sharpening stone across the razor edge of his blade a parting time, peering into that dense fog. Throwing the grey brick to the side, he stands ready.

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