Dumpster Diving for Werewolves

Tatiana Lang guessed the predawn temperature was in the forties. It would warm into the sixties later, but right now, laying naked behind a dumpster and splattered with crusted blood, it was downright cold. That was the downside of being a werewolf: when the moon set her dense fur vanished and she was left with only her skin to protect her from the elements. At least she’d found the relative shelter of the dumpster before she returned to human form.

She’d raised to one knee when the sound of an approaching car made her freeze. Chances were slim the car would stop at this hour, but even if it did, most likely someone would toss in their trash and leave.
Tati crouched against the sticky, stinking, greasy metal container and waited for the car to pass.

It stopped.

Well, nuts.

A car doored opened and Tati heard someone get out.

Toss your trash and leave, she thought.

“Ms. Lang, please come out,” a woman said.

What the—

Tati looked down at the dried blood on her hands and chest. How in blazes did she know?

She turned her head and glanced at the dark line of trees twenty yards away. She could make a break for it. Why hadn’t she stayed in the trees to transform?

“Here,” the woman said, and a pair of sweat pants and a t-shirt landed three feet away.

Tati’s thoughts raced. How could anyone know she was here and that she needed clothes?

“His name was Angel Velazquez. That’s his blood on your chest. The authorities will find his body very soon, so If I were you I’d get in the car.”

Tati stood up. The first rays of dawn flashed on the windshield of a soccer mom-style minivan with dark-tinted windows. Standing beside the van was a slender woman in a tan jacket with an Advent Industrial logo.

Advent.

“Bloody hell,” Tati said, shaking her head. “Am I late for work?”

It’s Tough Being A Wolf

“You can change if you like, you humans. Stop drinking, stop using, go to a 12-step process. It’s so easy. But every full moon, I change. I become the wolf and I kill. There’s no 12-step program to quit being a werewolf. There’s no quitting what I am.”

Tati nodded to the bottles on the floor. “I drank all that: a quart and a half of vodka, a fifth of Scotch, I don’t know how much beer. I must have passed out cold about midnight. I don’t remember any of it.”

She picked up the only unbroken glass on the table and hurled it against the wall. It shattered, ricocheting shards everywhere.

“I can’t remember getting blind drunk, but I can tell you that the full moon rose at seventeen minutes after one. When it did, I was nearly to the woods. The moon came over the edge of the valley and I felt myself transforming into the beast. I felt the booze in my system metabolize in an instant and I felt alive and powerful. The anger and the vodka and the meth were gone, replaced by the single-minded certainty that I was the master of the forest – and that I would kill.”

It’s a Curse or Something

“I don’t pretend to know what causes the werewolf thing. Gallard’s people say it’s a pathogen that enters the victim’s bloodstream and mutates protein structures. The Book of Lycaon says an old Greek king was cursed by Zeus to turn into a wolf. The fundamentalists say it’s demon possession. Maybe it’s all three, or none of them. All I know, Omar, is that when that God-forsaken full moon rises, I become something unholy and murderous.”

Werewolf Genetics

Gallard shook his head. “Becoming a werewolf is not genetic. Your children would not be acquire the pathogen unless they were bitten. But if you bite someone and then they bite someone, the affliction passes, but only to the fifth generation. After the fifth iteration the pathogen is no longer transmissible. A genetic counter shuts itself off and the curse is broken.”

She’s Dead, Detective

“Pastor Omar, you counseled Tatiana Lang, didn’t you?”

“I did, Detective, for several months. Her death was unexpected and it hit us all pretty hard.”

“Was she violent? Did she ever attack you?”

Omar shook his head. “The content of our counseling sessions is private and will stay that way, even after her death. But no, I never felt unsafe in her presence.”

Pope leaned forward. “I didn’t ask if you felt unsafe. Did she attack you?”

The pastor leaned back in his chair and sighed. “Detective Pope, I’m happy to assist the police, but my sessions with Tati Lang are private. I can give you the dates of our sessions, but what we discussed is off-limits.”

Pope smiled. “You said ‘our sessions are private.’ Twice. Not ‘were private.’ Like maybe she’s not really dead?”

“Sorry. It was a slip of the tongue. Like I said, her death hit us pretty hard.”

Obsessed Much?

“The Book of Lycaon is a marvel, Ms. Lang. It records more than three millenia of blood lore, thirty-three hundred years of werewolf history and genealogy. I’ve made it my life’s study and have translated dozens of obscure, extinct dialects–some recorded nowhere else. The volumes describe how werewolves are created and how they die, and how they are cured.”

Gallard gripped Tati’s arm and drew her to the leather-bound books.

“This is your history now, Tatiana, and your salvation.”

The Wolf Life

“Being a werewolf isn’t like what Hollywood says. Sure, for a night or two around the full moon you’re on top of the world. The wolf takes over and your body changes into this magnificent beast that owns the darkness. Then the bloodlust rises and you slay indiscriminately, blindly. And suddenly you’re human again and you wake up naked behind a dumpster or deep in the woods or in some farmer’s stock yard. And for four weeks you live with the horrific knowledge that you’ve killed yet again. And one night the full moon rises and the cycle begins again.”

12-Step for Werewolves

Tati drained the last of her beer. She watched through the window as a local loaded equipment into the bed of a pickup truck.

“These are good folks, Omar. I’d hate to kill any of them.”

Omar leaned close. “The full moon isn’t for three days. Let’s get back to the ranch. There’s a valley miles from town with deer, elk, and antelope. I’ve hunted there for years as a wolf. You don’t have to kill anyone.”

Tati shook her head. “What is this, a twelve-step program for werewolves?”

Omar chuckled. “Now there’s an idea. A twelve-step for recovering werewolves. It’s almost too bad there aren’t more of us.”

Preacher Wolf

“How’d you get to be a werewolf preacher? That’s just wrong on so many levels.”

Omar laughed and grabbed a burrito from the bag. “It’s not, really. I was pretty well lost. I had a bad coke habit, lost my job and my family. I was living in a car I’d stolen. Somebody found me and thought I was worth saving. This guy got me into rehab. It didn’t take the first two times, but eventually something got through. I’d been sober for six weeks when I was attacked on a camping trip. This wolf creature slashed my guts open. I could SEE my intestines hanging out. By the next day my wounds had healed. That’s about sixteen kinds of not right.”

Tati didn’t speak. What happened to Omar had happened to her half a world away–the wolf attack, anyway. At last she said, “And the preaching?”

Omar swallowed a mouthful of burrito. “Somebody took me out of the gutter. My life wasn’t worth saving but he did it anyway. I wondered what kind of person would do that. I wanted to let other people know they were worth saving too.”

“It was Gallard, wasn’t it? Gallard saved you.”

Omar nodded. “Well, Gallard got me out of the gutter. The saving came from somewhere else.”

“But you’re a werewolf. How do you square that with God? I thought there was the whole ‘Thou shalt not murder’ thing.”

Omar laughed. “It ain’t easy. God gives me grace and Gallard lets me use his hunting preserve on the full moons.”

Living the Nightmare

“This isn’t something you ‘come to terms with’. That makes it sound like a negotiation. No, one day you’re a normal person with a normal life and the next you’re an inhuman monster stalking the helpless under a full moon. The smell of blood is the smell of madness–and release.”

Tati cut a thick piece of the rare, juicy steak.

“You know what’s funny? Before I became a werewolf I was a vegan. Ain’t that a kick.”