The Moon Watchers | By: Dallas Releford | | Category: Short Story - Mystery Bookmark and Share

The Moon Watchers

THE MOON WATCHERS Dallas Releford Mystery As Tara Keene typed the last few words of the story into her computer, she felt the change beginning to take place as it always did about this time of the month. This change, the abomination, as she had aptly named it, never coincided with her normal menstrual cycle. For that she was grateful. There was no way she could handle both demons at the same time and retain any sanity at all. Scrolling through several pages on the screen, making a few changes, she smiled knowing she had lived up to her impeccable reputation as a star reporter for the Daily Enquirer, the largest newspaper in Cincinnati. Nate Bedford, her demanding, meticulous editor would publish it as he always did. Murder was rampant all over the county and the mean streets were deadly, uncontrolled, except by gang leaders. Her aggressive investigations had allowed her to report the details about the latest gruesome killing. Two gang members had argued at a local restaurant and a fight ensued. Guns were pulled and seven people had been injured. Three were dead including a twelve-year-old girl. Tara had blasted the new mayor, Cecil Arnold placing the nightly murders and daily shootings on his shoulders. She knew he would really appreciate that, except she knew he deserved it. As a reporter she was well aware that she couldn’t voice her personal opinions, so she dug up many statistics to convey her message to the eager public. Cincinnati had become a deadly place to be and the mayor wasn’t doing anything at all about it. She knew she was making another enemy, but what the hell, she had plenty of them already. What would one more matter? It wasn’t the first time she had made a statement. She had enough enemies to prove it. Feeling hungry as she usually did at the onset of her strange malady, she saved the story to a special network drive and sent a copy to Nate as an email attachment. Satisfied she had done her job, she was confident that Nate would do his, and publish her story. Leaving the building on Fourth Street she braced herself against blowing snow and harsh wind as she struggled toward her car. Less than an inch of snow covered the sidewalk. Stepping off the curb, she slipped and fell against the side of her vehicle. Her heavily padded parka softened the impact. Tara suddenly felt weak and faint. Using the rear of the car for support, she stayed there for a few minutes before trying to stand. Hunger, dizziness and dread drenched her in a familiar blanket of terror. Maybe it won’t be so bad this time, she thought and had an intuitive feeling that she might be wrong. Driving home to her apartment in Blue Ash through a blinding snowstorm, she began to dread what was to come. He would come again and try to mate with her as he had tried to do for the last six years. The only time such a union was feasible was when she was sensitive. Of course, she was supposed to be receptive toward him, except she had developed a special hate for him that allowed her to maintain some control over such feelings. He knew when the time was right. He could feel and sense it just as she could. There was little doubt in her mind. Submit to him and let him have his way or kill him and get him out of her life were the only two choices she had. With dark hair, deep brown eyes and a desirable body, Tara could have most men, except Brian Stranglov wasn’t a man—not by her standards anyway—and she most certainly didn’t want him or anything to do with him. It was called the Keene Curse and it had hounded her family for generations. The only way to elude it was to marry a human. Wondering if she had really accepted the curse as a fact, she repeated the thought that had rushed through her mind like a bullet through a cloud. Marry a human and hope her new husband survived long enough to give her healthy children that wouldn’t have the curse. Her future didn’t appear any more pleasant than her past had been. Hoping she had been wrong about the cycle she walked into her warm apartment, tossed her purse on a chair and put her coat in the hall closet. Anxious, she walked into the kitchen and looked at a calendar on the wall by the refrigerator. She groaned as she saw that tomorrow night was the first night of the full moon. Tara dreaded the ordeal that lasted for as long as the moon was full. She felt fortunate that the change only occurred at night. Otherwise, she would have a difficult time keeping a job since the abomination sometimes prevailed for several days. During the daylight hours she was merely a mild-mannered—but aggressive—reporter while in the darkness she became a powerful and deadly werewolf. Nothing was worse than a female werewolf. She would awaken in the night only to discover that she was miles from home surrounded by woods. After killing several people, she had bought a few acres in a remote, secluded area of Indiana where she built a cabin. When she knew the change was coming, she went there reducing the possibility that she might come into contact with humans. Sometimes, she could not remember what happened to her when she was under the spell of the full moon. It was those times that concerned her the most. How many humans had she killed? As she prepared a quick dinner of steak, a baked potato and broccoli, she wondered if Brian Stranglov was already looking for her. This time she must kill him. If she didn’t submit to him he would soon kill her rather than let her live. He was that way, she had learned. If he could not own her, possess her body, then he would make sure that nobody could have her either. He had already killed a few of her friends she had dared to go out with. Brian was a jealous murderer. Darkness fell outside her windows like black snow that drove the light away and left the world in blackness. The snow had ended and the sky was a blanket of dark blue with thousands of stars twinkling like miniature diamonds. She finished her dinner, washed the dishes and packed two bags she would take with her. She had to be at the cabin before moonlight touched her sensitive skin. Being a female werewolf was a bitch. What other choice did she have? She liked to live because she didn’t want to die. Tara was almost to her destination when a pale moon appeared from behind white fluffy clouds illuminating the white blanket of snow all around her. Another five minutes and she would be in the forest where bare-limbed trees stood like sentinels awaiting her arrival. Pushing down on the accelerator, she sensed the change slowly taking place. Another three miles and she would be at the cabin. Except, when Tara arrived, the cabin was gone. Nothing was left of it but a pile of dark, smoldering logs. The blue smoked curled up into the dark night. Stopping the SUV in the middle of the driveway, she stared at a tall dark figure standing near the ruins. Brian Stranglov, with his gray hairy paws resting on his hips watched her intently. Tara’s hands tightened on the steering wheel until her knuckles turned white. Anger paralyzed her and glued her to the seat for a long time. Glancing at her hand, she saw that her beautiful white skin was now almost covered with dark, stiff hair. She was so frustrated, she wanted to howl, rush out of the vehicle and rip all of the flesh from Brian Stranglov. Tara studied him knowing her body, as beautiful as it was, would be covered with hair and that she would look like a wolf in a very few minutes. Once the transformation began, it happened very quickly. He was standing upright on two hairy legs as most werewolves did. His normally handsome face was now the face of a werewolf with gray eyes, long nose, sharp fangs and a beastly demeanor. Was this the loathsome creature that had murdered her father, her mother and now had burned down her house? Anger compelled her to lunge from the car in a fit of rage after shutting down the engine. In seconds, she was standing before him snarling, letting him know she wasn’t afraid of him. To show fear was to die a gruesome death. “How dare you,” she screamed with her voice ending in a low growl. “Why the cabin? Why don’t you leave me alone?” “It’s time,” he said. “Time is short, Tara. You know this. Except for your sister, we’re probably the last of our kind. Oh, there might be a few of us scattered around the world, but very few. We must mate now and have offspring. I burned the cabin because you won’t need it anymore. As a tribute to you, and out union, I built a new cabin only a few miles from here. We will do what is necessary to reproduce our race. You cannot refuse me now, Tara. You have no other place to go.” Tara stepped closer being careful not to get too close to him. “I have a place to go and you won’t be there.” “Where?” he asked with his eyes as cold as the moonlight that endowed them with an ungodly gift and a voice that sent cold chills escalating throughout her body. “You have nothing now, no family, except for your sister and I shall soon dispatch her if you don’t do as I have requested. Fortunately for Serena, she’s too young to fulfill my needs.” “Your cabin,” Tara said. “After I kill you, Serena and me will live there and nobody will bother us. I vowed you would pay for what you did to my family and to me. Your time has come, Brian.” Brian stared at her for a moment as if her avenging words had been unexpected. Throwing his head back gazing at the full moon that floated across a star-studded sky, he howled. The long howl terminated what sounded like laughter. “You what?” he asked. “Kill me? Why have you waited for so long, Tara. I’ve done everything trying to force you to see things the way they should be, yet you have resisted. You’re just dreaming. If you could have killed me, you would have done so already. Now, forget about your hopeless situation and accompany me to our cabin. I promise it will be the most thrilling event in your small life.” Defeated, Tara knew what she had to do. There was no other way. “Okay, you win. Just don’t harm Serena. She is the only one I have left.” With his hairy hand holding hers, Brian led her through the moonlight toward his cabin. “You made the right decision,” he said. “Just think, Tara, in less than a year, we’ll have our own family, someone to care for us when we get old. Our children will carry on after we are gone.” “I can’t wait,” Tara growled. The very thought of nursing a litter of wolf cubs nearly paralyzed her mind and made her stomach ache. She knew she would have at least two normal babies. It was a family tradition. They wouldn’t acquire the curse until they were mature. “It won’t be too bad,” Brian assured her. “Just wait until you see our new home.” Tara had to admit that it was extravagant. The long, log cabin was located in a large meadow surrounded by various evergreen trees, mostly pine. Constructed from almost perfectly symmetrical logs it had at least twelve rooms judging by its size. She was in love with it already. Before they reached the long porch, a voice rang out disturbing the stillness of the forest. “Brian Stranglov, stop and let Tara go free. Your days are at an end.” When they turned around, they faced a tall, broad-shouldered man wearing a blue parka with the hood shielding his head. He held a hunting rifle. It was pointed directly at Brian. Brian growled in answer to the challenge as moonlight sparkled in his eyes. “Who are you?” Tara knew she would never have another opportunity like this. Swiftly she stepped away from Brian and stood near the stranger looking at Stranglov who seemed totally confused by the sudden appearance of the stranger. The snow was almost to the top of her boots. “He is a Moon Watcher,” she announced proudly. “His name is Bruce Stanton and he belongs to a group that hunts werewolves.” “So, why hasn’t he found you? What, I mean is how do you know so much?” “Bruce and me are engaged,” Tara said. “When we have children, they will be normal. Isn’t that great news? And, that’s not all. The Moon Watchers area a powerful organization and they have developed a drug to cure my problem. I won’t be a werewolf any more.” Brian looked at her with anger in his eyes. “You are a traitor to your own kind. You know that bullets won’t kill me, don’t you?” “Except for silver bullets,” Bruce said. “This rifle is loaded with several I made just for you.” Brian made an attempt to laugh at him. It sounded more like a high shriek. “You watch too many werewolf movies.” Before Bruce could answer Brian leaped toward him with his fangs bared and his hands extended. Bruce fired. They both watched as Brian Stranglov lay on his back staring up toward the moon. The fur on his chest was soaked in his own blood. Pools of the dark liquid was scattered in the snow. As they observed him, his body slowly crumbled into dust and vanished. An impression of his body and his blood in the snow were the only evidence that Brian Stranglov had ever existed. “Well, I guess that is that,” Bruce said. “It was a good thing he built his cabin on your land and you led me to it the other day. I thought I was going to have to kill him over at your cabin except I wanted him to tell us his plans. I thought maybe he might have had more hostages, but I guess not.” “Yes,” Tara replied. She walked over and stared at the empty impression in the snow. Was she finally free of this monster? “Now, we can be married and I won’t have to worry about him. When I get the medicine you promised me, I can live with you all the time. It’s well that I signed the land over to you so I don’t have to worry about it. If it’s in my name too long, they might be able to find out too much about me. I feel safer now that you own it.” Standing, she turned to face her new boyfriend. “When do I get the medicine to cure me, Bruce?” “There isn’t any cure, Tara,” Bruce confessed. “There never was a cure.” Confused, her heart beat faster as she realized that Bruce had lied to her. Tightness built up in her chest. As her heart pounded, flame erupted from the barrel of the hunting rifle and she felt a mule kick her chest. As blackness surrounded her, her legs became weak and then limp. She fell to the cold ground. The last word she uttered before death finally claimed her was, “Why?” Bruce stood above her with the smoking rifle in his hand. “You didn’t really think I’d marry a damned werewolf, did you?” He kicked her except Tara Keene was beyond pain and torment. The End
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