Once Bitten, Twice Shy

The full moon was low in the sky. Instead of its usual brilliance, the orb had a creamy opalescence against the ebony backdrop. She sat at the window seat and gazed out at the shadowed garden which still bore evidence of the latest winter storm. The ice encrusted snow lay thick and heavy in patches, just as it had a year ago. The fateful night that turned her world upside down. Quivers ran down her spine as her memory plunged her back into the nightmare.

Snow had fallen earlier in the day lying soft and feathery on the frozen ground. Marc was restless, pacing the floor in front of the window peering out at the grey snow-filled clouds in the early evening sky. He turned towards her, a speculative expression on his face.

“Do you fancy coming for a walk with me?”

Surprise flittered across her face – this was a first for Marc. A romantic evening stroll through the snow was far from usual for him, but the change was a welcome one.

“Yeah, sure. I’ll just grab my boots,” Rene responded with a grin. She dashed upstairs and rummaged in her wardrobe for her wellies and a hat to keep her head warm. Five minutes later she was bundled up warmly and ready to go. Marc grabbed her hand and they walked out into the cold crisp night.

As they sauntered through the clouds of fluffiness they snuggled closer. The night air nipped at their faces; Rene’s nose tingled and as she wrinkled it, Marc chuckled.

“Awww, you look so cute when you do that!” Rene stuck her tongue out at him and he laughed harder.

“Just because you look like Rudolph’s brother, doesn’t mean you can take the mickey,” she pouted, pretending to be miffed. Marc laughed again and with the speed of a cobra, scooped her up in his arms and deliberately fell into the snow immersing them in its icy softness.

They giggled like two carefree school children. Rene rolled over and scrambled away, scooped up a handful of snow, shaped it into a ball and lobbed it at Marc, catching him on the forehead. She burst out laughing and reached for another handful, but before she could launch another attack a snowball smacked into the back of her head and she heard Marc chuckling behind her. She turned and threw another one then ran, not stopping to see if it found its target. A missile caught the back of her neck and she shrieked as the icy wetness found its way down her back.

Rene bent and grabbed another handful of snow, almost falling as her momentum carried her forward. She could hear Marc gaining on her and she took off over the field, crafting another missile as she ran. This was the most fun they’d had in too long.

Her footsteps masked the sound of his and didn’t realise he was no longer behind her until she heard a terrified scream which could have churned milk into butter at fifty paces. She whirled around, startled to find she was totally alone.

“Marc?” her worried voice appeared muffled in the wide open space, as if she were in a vacuum. She started running back, retracing her steps. Icy panic gripped her heart sending shivers through her torso.

It was a couple of minutes before Rene came across Marc’s footprints. A puzzled expression etched into her features as she noticed them veer to one side and she began to follow. The imprints progressed in an arc close to trees and bushes and then stopped beside two fresh furrows that vanished into the undergrowth. She took a few steps into the bushes then paused. A trail of bright red splashes of differing sizes marred the hoary surface and a coppery odour assaulted her nostrils.

“Marc?” she yelled, the fear in her voice hung among the trees, an almost tangible thing.

Rene staggered back a few steps, gasping in horror. Her breathing accelerated and she was close to hyperventilating. Her eyes gaped in the direction of the blood as a scream began to build in her lungs. A rustling in the bushes ahead drew her attention; her eyes flicked in the direction of the noise and a pair of yellow eyes stared back at her.

Her scream erupted into the night; Rene turned and sprinted back towards home, terror flooding through her. She could hear growling behind her, but no sounds of pursuit. However, she didn’t dare slow her pace or look back. She flung herself through the door and bolted it. As she leaned back against it trying to catch her breath, she heard howling echoing around the outside of the house.

She ran into the kitchen without turning on any lights and peered out at the moonlit vista. Standing six feet from the window, a huge wolf-like creature stood on its hind legs, its head thrown back as it bayed at the sky; the voice filled with agony.

Rene was mesmerised by the creature – she’d never seen anything so strange and terrifying – and scrutinised it from her place of safety. As abruptly as the howling began, it ceased and the beast lowered its head as it dropped to stand on all four paws. It gazed directly at the window where Rene stood; a pitiful whine escaped from its throat and a pair of tormented eyes met her stare.

She inhaled sharply; there was something about the wolf-like animal that she sort of . . .  recognized, yet how could she? Her eyes were unexpectedly drawn to something glinting on one of its front paws which the beast had lifted from the ground and as she realised what it was, her legs gave way and she crumpled to the floor, moaning.

“Marc!” a tortured whisper floated from her lips. Pain flooded her chest as her heart ripped in two. The glint she saw was the engagement ring she’d given to Marc only six months previous and just before he’d disappeared from her view she’d noticed fresh wounds around his neck and shoulder. He’d been bitten.

She couldn’t bring herself to move from the house, it was the only link to Marc she had left. But she didn’t dare venture out at full moon anymore; she’d lost Marc to it, but refused to lose herself.

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