From a distance he observed a fire in the center of a ring of tipis. The steady rhythmic beating of war drums called to him. He drew closer to the glow of the fire and could smell the incense, wood-smoke, and sweat well before he felt the heat of the flames. Those performing the ritual sensed his approach and ululating war cries ripped from their throats fully awakening his senses. He found himself staring at a painted warrior who was kneeling on the ground. The young man was kneeling as close to the blaze as he could without being burned. The drums grew louder, the rhythm climbed fast to a rapid intensity. When the pounding of the drums and the cries of the tribe reached the deafening crescendo of a fever pitch, Drinick roared. He felt the fear burst from all of them at the sound of his voice. He could taste it on his tongue. Only the young warrior did not bleed the scent of fear into the air. Drinick had eyed him hungrily. The man raised his painted face and met Drinick’s starving gaze. They locked eyes as the drums beat on the background.
Drinick woke from his dream minutes before midnight. He was in his cabin, nestled alone in the woods. He peeled the sweat soaked sheets off of himself and staggered into the bathroom. He flipped on the light and locked eyes with himself in the mirror. “My name is Drinick Marshall.” He said. “I was born in 1989. My parents are Linda and Jared Marshall. I have a sister named Emily. My name is Drinick Marshall.” He had gone through the change enough times to know that this would do no good but it still made him feel better when he felt it coming on and the dreams became too much to bear.
He repeated this over and over. A steady mantra, “My name is Drinick Marshall. I was born in 1989.” He tried to hold his own gaze in the mirror as he said it. “My parents are Linda and Jared Marshall. I have a sister named Emily.” It would do no good. “My name is Drinick Marshall.” He looked at his hands that were gripping the edges of the counter. His nails had turned black and were beginning to grow. The claws. He thought. He gripped the sink harder. “My name is Drinick Marshall!” he said again with more conviction, commanding the wolf to leave him alone. “My name is-” his head snapped up and he locked eyes with himself in the mirror once more. They were not his eyes that stared back at him. They were yellow and full of hunger. His pupils dilated. “Argh!” Drinick cried. He pushed himself away from the sink and rushed out of the bathroom. He tore through the small kitchen and bolted through the door, almost snapping it off of its hinges.
He rushed into the cool night air, his bare feet pounded against the damp earth and the night chilled his exposed chest. All he was wearing were the flannel pants he had been sleeping in. Fast and faster still he ran, making a dead sprint for the timber line. When he reached the trees, the darkness swallowed him and thin beams of moonlight filtered through the branches to play in rapidly changing patterns on Drinick’s body as he raced through the woods. He came to a ravine and cleared it in a single bound, landing heavily on the other side.
Drinick raised his head and sniffed at the air frantically. He paced in wild circles, sniffing in every direction and trying to catch the wind. And then he found it. As soon as the scent filled his nostrils, he became grew still. He stopped moving and let his nose plan the path to his prey. Moonlight cast eerie shadows on the leaves that smothered the forest floor and Drinick heard their soft crunch under his bare feet as he began to stalk his prey. Silently. Patiently. He made his way through the woods. When he reached the top of a small hill, he finally saw them. Three deer were sifting through the dead leaves with their hooves looking for any small plants that might be clinging to life beneath the forest’s autumn blanket.
Drinick crouched low and put his palms against the damp ground. He could feel the tiny vibrations that the deer made with each cautious step. He watched them and let his muscles tell him which way they would run and how to chase them down. He remained still, a sinister gargoyle at the top of the hill. One of the deer nervously kept lookout while the other two grazed. It glanced warily up the gentle incline to where Drinick was crouched. Without moving, Drinick locked eyes with the deer. As they gazed back at one another, the scent changed. The sweet decay of old leaves became permeated with a jolt of something new. Fear, he thought. The scent called the image of the painted warrior back from his dream. Drinick knew that his prey was now fully aware of his presence. As the new smell began to slowly fill his nostrils, the other deer perked their heads up and stood motionless. A moment passed. In the silence, Drinick could hear the three distinct poundings in the chest of each deer as the chambers of their hearts began to fill their blood with adrenaline. Drinick flexed, he knew what would come next.
Drinick leaned back on his legs to steady himself and when he did, the deer bolted. A half roar ripped from his still-human throat as Drinick plunged down the hill after them. Panicked, the deer leapt and sprinted through the woods, terror fueling their every step. Drinick kept pace. The small herd rounded an oak tree, huge and ancient. One deer, a doe, broke away from the other two. Drinick followed her. He could hear her panting as he tore through the brush in pursuit of his quarry. Her tail was folded down now, thinking only of escape. The scent of her fear had become intoxicating. Drinick could taste it. Another ravine was ahead of them. The doe would reach it first. Drinick saw his chance.
At the edge of the ravine the deer slowed and tried to change her course to avoid running straight into the ditch. Drinick did not slow. He crashed into her and together they tumbled down the slope. They landed beside one another at the bottom after smashing their way through brush and dead leaves. The doe, panicked and wild-eyed, tried to rise. From the ground beside her, Drinick reached up and dug his black nails into her back. He pulled her back to the ground. He put his weight on top of the deer’s warm body and wrapped his strong arms around its neck. The deer bleated and flailed its legs beneath him. Every instinct told him to make the kill. The wolf was screaming in his head. Tear flesh, it commanded him. Drinick shook his head wildly from side to side. Rip Meat! The wolf screamed. Drinick gritted his teeth and felt his arms squeeze tighter. He could feel the doe’s spine and knew he was close to snapping it. Kill, Kill, Kill! The wolf barked and against his will, Drinick squeezed tighter and tighter still.
Drinick closed his eyes, he felt the wolf racing through his body and he could feel the deer writhing in his arms. Rip, Tear, Kill! The wolf screamed. Rip, Tear, Kill! Drinick grunted, he tried to speak, his words came out as growls. Rip, Tear, Kill! The wolf roared again. Then all at once, in a sudden swift motion, his voice returned. “No!” Drinick screamed. He tore his arms away from the warm body of the deer, rolling off of her and thrusting his hands into the soft ground instead.
Stunned, the deer lay in the ditch for a moment. Drinick pulled his hands away from the ground and hugged himself. “My name is Drinick Marshall.” He panted, rocking back and forth. “My name is Drinick Marshall.” Slowly, the deer rose from the spot where she had been dragged down. Small streams of blood flowed from her side where Drinick’s claws had dug into her. She took a few cautious steps and then turned to look at Drinick, confused. He remained on his knees with his arms wrapped around his body, repeating his mantra between ragged gulps of air. After a moment, he stopped rocking and saw the doe staring at him. “What!?” he screamed at it. The deer didn’t answer. “Go on!” he yelled. “Get out of here!” The deer didn’t move but continued to stare. “I said get!” he yelled again. His hand closed around a rock on the ground. He flung it at her. The rock connected with the deer’s hindquarters. When it did, the she gave a jolt and then cantered away, melting into the trees.
Drinick remained there for some time. His breathing eventually slowed and he glanced down at his hand. His claws had vanished, replaced instead with the clear nails that belong to humans and the soft pink skin underneath. Drinick stood and immediately had to catch his balance. The wolf had left him, but he knew that it was really still there, somewhere deep inside him waiting to emerge again. Without the wolf’s fury to warm him, he felt the full force of the autumn cold and wrapped his arms around himself once more as he took inventory of his body. The flannel pants he had been sleeping in were torn and shredded in places from his chase and blood ran from several small cuts on his legs and back. He took one deep breath and let it out slowly. Then he started the climb out of the ravine and the long walk back to his cabin.