Okay, because someone asked for it – I wasn’t going to include the prologue here, because I didn’t want people thinking my novel is about a 13-year-old girl. That said, popular demand wins! So here you go!
NOTE: If you’ve read my short story NIGHT’S CURSE, you might notice that there is some overlap. That is effectively a prequel to this (the backstory), but I wanted this novel to be able to stand on its own and not require people to read that short story.
KATHERINE NEVER WANTED THE MOMENT TO END, that Christmas Eve. Years later she would look back with restless yearning for that night. But not for the next morning.
Thirteen-year-old Katherine giggled on the couch beside her father. A thick blue snuggly wrapped around him, giving the impression of a fat wizard. She laughed again and pointed at the ridiculous getup. He smiled back with a wink. His white hair was momentarily highlighted purple from the lights on the trim outside the window. Frosty the Snowman blared from the kitchen, escaping into the living room along with the scent of cinnamon and cloves.
Katherine let her eyes slip to the silver and gold sparkling Christmas tree near the door. Presents lay piled underneath, stockings hung along the wall on the other side of the door.
“More than one this year?” she said with a hopeful side-glance at the presents, the kind she knew he always fell for.
Her mother entered with a tray of gingerbread cookies. “Don’t let her sweet talk you, not this year.”
“She has plenty of presents,” her father replied.
Howard shrugged at Katherine. “Sorry, honey, your mother has sweets.”
Katherine poked her father’s belly. “Sold me out for him again, huh?”
They all laughed as her father reached for two cookies – one for him and one for Katherine.
Of course she got her way, and after opening a stuffed dog that she felt too grown up for, and a book she had never heard of, they sat among the wrapping paper and watched “It’s a Wonderful Life,” because they never missed it on Christmas Eve. Soon Katherine found herself yawning, and her mom agreed to tuck her into bed.
“Don’t go,” Katherine said.
“Santa will be here soon.”
Katherine yawned. Such fantasies had left her imagination long ago. “Give me a break.”
“You’ll see, if you’re good just one more night.”
Katherine giggled as her mom rubbed noses. “Mom, stop it.”
“Too grown up for that now?”
Her mom smiled for longer than seemed natural, then reached for Katherine’s shoulder. Katherine cringed, but her mom soothed her by brushing a hand against her forehead. She moved aside the cloth and cringed.
“It really is getting better though,” her mother said as she assessed the scar Katherine knew was there but didn’t want to see. The scar from a camping trip in September. A dog or something had leapt from the shadows and bit her. Oddly, it had stopped then and paused to sniff her before retreating into the darkness. Her parents had found her screaming, but by the time they got her to the hospital the bleeding had stopped and, as unbelievable as the doctor said it was, had already begun to scab. She dreaded returning to school and being made fun of, but the scar wasn’t revealed as long as she didn’t wear a tank-top. Being in Seattle, she didn’t have to worry about the weather being too warm, and she often had to wear a sweater.
Katherine pulled away and covered the scar, avoiding her mother’s gaze.
Her mother moved to the door and paused by the light switch. “Sweet dreams, my little angel.”
Katherine smiled sleepily and her eyes closed. She dreamed of the Christmas last year, lying beside the tree after a full breakfast, her presents surrounding her, a glass of eggnog half-drunk in her hand. She didn’t have any cousins to celebrate with, no siblings either, and her grandparents lived three hours south, in Oregon. But she always loved spending time with her parents, the blessing that was Christmas, the only time her father seemed to be able to escape his job at the pound. This year’s expectations were especially high.
The next morning she awoke to bright sunlight escaping through the cracks in her blinds. The fresh air of Christmas morning filled the room. The brum-pum-pum-pum from The Little Drummer Boy beat in her head and she giggled. She jumped out of bed and ran to the living room. She knew Santa didn’t exist, but that didn’t mean he wouldn’t bring her some goodies in her stocking. Sure enough, her stocking was especially lumpy and she knelt down to dump its contents on the floor. Before her lay chocolates, a tangerine, and a new Christmas ornament. She always looked forward to the Christmas ornament, wondering what her parents would find for her – this year it was Santa with a dog in his lap. She had always wanted a dog, all those days visiting the pound, the dogs looking at her as if they were long lost friends. The best of friends. She wondered if this was a hint that it was forthcoming.
She stood and her foot sloshed in the dampness. She turned with a smile, ready to hang the ornament on the tree—
Her father’s body lay on the drenched carpet, a mangled mess, his skin torn and chunks of flesh missing – blood everywhere. Katherine felt the panic overtake her. Her skin tightened around her bones and her chest collapsed in with her lungs. The room seemed to shudder. A thought struck her. Mom!
She ran for her mother’s open door, but froze halfway. A pair of legs, certainly her mother’s, lay past the door in a puddle of blood. Katherine stumbled back, her voice catching in an attempted scream. Bile soured her tongue. She felt for the walls, reaching for balance as she began to hyperventilate.
A creak came from the open front door and sent tremors through Katherine’s nerves. She turned and sprinted through the hall and into her bedroom. She slammed her door shut with both hands and then stared at the red contrast of flaky blood on her hands against the white door. Blood caked under her fingernails. Stumbling back, she caught herself against the window sill and retched.
Wiping her mouth with her sheet, she looked back to the door, at the red hand prints and then down at her own hands again. None of it made sense. The only thought she could understand at that moment was the overwhelming urge to be away from that metallic stench of death, from the horror in the other room.
She ran to the window and pushed, but her hands slid along its sleek surface and she fell. With determination she stood. Amid screams and tears, she pushed again. The window opened and she pulled herself up and over, into the back yard. The morning dew dampened her pajamas; the sunlight sparkled on the deep green grass. In the distance, across the field, the tree line she had so often played in with her school friends now seemed the only place to go. It became her sanctuary, her means of escape. She forced everything into her muscles as she pushed for those trees, as if entering the shadows of those hemlocks would make everything go away.
She never seemed to stop running. The sun set and rose, and Katherine continued on. And she ran and ran, until one night when the moon rose to reveal a perfect circle, a full moon, and that’s when it happened—that’s when she first became aware of the transformation.
It started as a burning in her nostrils, until the scent of the dirt inches from her face overwhelmed her, surging through her insides. Her eyes stung, pulsing as if they would pop. As she screamed, her skin seemed to be tearing away from her flesh. She opened her eyes to see only black and white. Long hairs had sprouted on the backs of her hands. She scratched at the hairs to get them off, but her fingernails had become claws and her scratching pulled blood. The burning and the pain surged and she screamed as loud as she could, her back arching and her muscles clenching…
…then everything went black.
FROM JUSTIN >>> As I mentioned above, I wasn’t sure about including this at first. I don’t think everyone always needs to see the full backstory. But, this part of the story was in my original screenplay a long time ago – one that was read aloud by actors in front of some Hollywood execs, and they loved it! So I figured I wouldn’t just let it fall off into the digital landscape of nothingness.
What are your thoughts? Have you read NIGHT’S CURSE, and do you feel it changes anything?
If you just found this, the next three snippets have been posted.
But, as always, I want to promote another book similar to mine, and today let’s go with another Werewolf novel, and I want to go with J.A. Cipriano’s….
And yes, I wrote that on my nametag.
I was having a great day right up until Justin Bailey, werewolf prince and Grade A Pain-In-My-Ass came barreling into the shop I work at. Then he threw around words like “blood feud,” “sorceress,” and “murderer,” so I couldn’t just kick him out, especially since they all seemed connected to me.
Now the only thing I can do to clear my name is use my magic to help him find the culprit before the council of wolves takes matters into their own hands. If they do, they won’t just kill me, they’ll put the kibosh on anyone who’s ever talked to me.
I guess Uncle Ben was right about that whole responsibility thing.