I originally wrote this piece in 2010, back before I realized I wanted to be a writer. I was trying to create something interesting out of old monster cliches for Halloween. The story has undergone several drafts since then, but I enjoy how it’s turned out. I hope you do too.
Maybe you look out your car window over the fields at night. Maybe you catch me: a shape darker than the grey weeds and hay, rushing towards a kudzu-covered shack. I don’t feel the brittle plants snapping under my bare feet, I only feel my pads pounding against the earth. The wind I whip through chills the wetness on my skin and in my hair. Sometimes in the middle of the night, after many hours of dissection and feasting, the energy grows too great for me and I must run. Through fields, past trees, across the pavement under watchful streetlamps. Past the dim, cracked windows of apartment buildings. Run and run in the night. The air rasping in and out of my mouth dries the wetness to a rust around my jaws. When I brush my forearm across it, tiny flakes stick in the hairs. Grinning makes it crackle.
I am careful not to howl.
Back in the shed, I grow tired and crouch in the corner. Under the heavy smell of leaves and the iron scent of blood, there’s a trace of sweet tobacco in the air. It makes me feel sophisticated.
The crumpled mass in the corner doesn’t look so appealing now. The frenzy has subsided. The splashes on the walls around it, the gaping holes of the body are too gaudy, too cliche.
Perhaps they won’t find him until he’s just a scattered pile of bones, a mess of tibia and rib mixed with the scraps of a pink polo shirt. Maybe they’ll find him in three hours, not quite congealed. Either way, I’m not moving just yet. I’m busy breathing the moonlight, becoming thin, so thin and small. A crack has rotted out in the wall beside my head. I poke at it, dig it out with my finger. The orange moon is out there. I’m less than its weak beams. Running on the night’s current has left me as a husk.
A spider glides down and picks pitifully through my hair. My nails have shrunk from talons into another brutalized French manicure. I sweep my clotted hair up- tie it into a messy bun. I rise and limp home. I can feel the thorns in the weeds now.
I am no hunchbacked beast. I am no sexy, smoldering stereotype. I don’t grow whiskers or sprout yellow eyes and curving fangs. My fangs are my own teeth. My hands can become claws without the help of superstition. My body doesn’t make me a monster- nor does my private frenzy and the hunger.
Prey isn’t a waifish woman in a pale nightgown tripping over moors under the fat moon. My delicacy is the overconfident frat boy, the awkward loner, the desperate stoner. In a bar, I will say anything to get them to come away with me.
“Hey there. Oh my God, are you wearing Old Spice? That’s adorable. And kinda hot.”
“I know the best place to go if you want to trip. It’s by this playground…”
“I’d really love for you to take a look at my work and tell me what you think. It’s not very good, but maybe you’ll like it.”
I do this sober, when the hunger has only begun to echo at the edges of my mind. I am not a good person overtaken by evil, racing through bloody fugue states only to weep helplessly when I have to finger-comb other peoples’ flesh out of my hair in the shower.
I, unlike everyone else, have no delusions.
Think, for a moment, on a time when you’ve been walking out on a cool September night. You’re wrapped in the joy of hearing crickets or the traffic sailing past. Then, the smell on the air suddenly shifts, and you are no longer afraid of any shadow. There is no more fear of the dark, then, when you are within it. Claim it. Run through it like a predator.
This is the beginning of realizing the hunger.
When I get home, I throw my clothes in the dumpster outside and take a long bath until the water is chilly and pink.
In the bar this Saturday, I could be the one with the smoke-stained smile and vodka laugh. Too available, too insecure. I keep looking at you.
“Are you a natural red-head?” you’ll ask.
I’ll laugh and say you’ve caught me.
that inside my canines lurks the feeling of fangs, and inside my fingers lies the feeling of claws- just beneath the skin and bone-
And I am no longer afraid of the night.