Friday, April 5, 2019

FULL MOON FEVER


Genre: Horror




FULL MOON FEVER
By Daniel Skye




            On Wednesday, March 20th, Shannon Mills went missing.

            On Thursday, March 21st, after an extensive search, the police found her body. What remained of it.

            Shannon wasn’t the first. But “Pistol” Pete Dixon was going to see to it that she was the last. No more innocent blood would be shed. Not under Pete’s watch.

            Pete was a hunter. He fired his first gun before he even had a license, before he even knew how to drive a car. His father would take him out into the woods every weekend during hunting season. And when his father fell ill, his uncle filled his shoes and took Pete along on his hunting exhibitions. Uncle Andrew even bought Pete his first rifle. Now, Pete had more rifles and shotguns than an armory.

            Pete was the first to recognize the pattern and brought it to the attention of the local authorities, who were none too receptive or appreciative of Pete’s amateur police work. But nonetheless, he had given them something to work with.

            People were disappearing from Cherrywood on the night of every full moon. The pattern was undeniable. Before Shannon Mills, it was Lynn Redgrave. And before Lynn, it was Gary Schneider.

            The town, including the local police, immediately assumed it to be the work of a serial killer, though Pete suspected otherwise. He thoroughly studied the tracks at the last scene. It wasn’t a bear or a fox, not even a deer.

The prints resembled a wolf’s paw prints, but the tracks were wider and deeper than any wolf he’d encountered. He couldn’t clearly identify the species. But whatever it was, it was big, and it was hungry. Very, very hungry. And it was only a matter of time before it made another appearance to satisfy its appetite for flesh and blood.


***


            Friday, March 23rd. Pete stepped out onto his front porch with a steaming mug of black coffee, leaned down, and dusted off the newspaper resting in the grass. The manic headline was plastered all over the front page, right above the blurry, distorted images of Shannon Mills’ grisly remains.

FULL MOON KILLER STRIKES AGAIN IN CHERRYWOOD!

            Pete sighed, took a big sip of coffee that singed his tongue, and lit a smoke.

            “Damn fools,” he said, shaking his head for no one but the birds to view his dismay. “A serial killer? You could only be so lucky. Nope, this is something bigger. Something the likes of which you simpletons have never seen before.”

Pete dropped the newspaper back in the grass, then dragged himself back inside. That’s enough reading for today, he thought. He checked the calendar and skipped ahead a bit. April 19th: The next full moon. That was when their “killer” would strike again. And when they did, Pete would be ready.


***


            April 19th. The town of Cherrywood was on high alert. A mandatory curfew was in effect. No one allowed to venture outside after dark. No exceptions. Not even for Pete Dixon. But Pete was never really good at following orders or playing by the rules. The local cops knew him well enough.

            Pete’s dark blue pickup coughed up exhaust as he rolled into the parking lot of the Palace Diner, his tires spitting up gravel.

            He exited the truck and went inside, took a look around. The name belied its interior. It was anything but a palace. But it was also the only diner in town, so it wasn’t like the locals had any other options.

            Warner, a gruff, chain smoking man with coke bottle glasses and a ruddy complexion, was manning the register. The sun had set and ushered in a gloomy, dismal twilight. Warner was getting ready to close out the register and lock up before the cops starting forcing everyone off the streets and into their homes.

Much like the aging Warner, the diner had been lost in time. The countertops were faded marble, the windows perpetually coated in dust that the eighteen wheelers kicked up whenever they blew through the service road. Padded booths with cracked, torn upholstery that Warner had sutured together with black electrical tape. A pie rack adjacent to the register, revolving to display the three-inch wedges of sweetness, topped with meringue or whipped cream.

Warner still sold cigarettes. Not a cigarette dispenser. You don’t see too many of those cigarette machines nowadays. He kept them behind the counter so anyone could come in and request a pack of cancer sticks along with their greasy hamburgers or fried eggs and crispy bacon.

“Pete,” he nodded in recognition.

“Pack of smokes, Warner. And a big ass cup of coffee. It’s gonna be a long fucking night.”

“One big ass cup of coffee coming right up.”

Bryce Tibbets was sitting at the counter. He finished his meal, paid his tab, and sauntered past Pete, bumping shoulders. They exchanged words before Bryce stormed out in a huff. Warner gave Pete the thumbs up, gave him his big ass cup of coffee, unfiltered Camels, and wished him luck. He knew what Pete was prepared to do that night.


***


              Pete’s house was a hunter’s wet dream. Two gun racks lined with rifles and shotguns on opposite sides of his garage walls. A solid oak gun rack mounted to the back wall of his living room, too (for good measure, Pete would say). And mounted above the mantle of his fireplace, rested the head of a 12 point buck. A coyotes head to the left, a wolf’s head to the right.

            He went to the garage and pulled a twelve-gauge rifle and a Remington double barrel shotgun from one of the racks. He loaded both and put them into his gun bag. Then he walked to his work bench and retrieved his Glock 19. They didn’t call him “Pistol” Pete for nothing. As skilled as he was with a rifle, as much of a pro as he was with the shotgun, nothing matched his pistols. The gun was his default weapon of choice.

            The moonlight shone through the garage window. It was time to make his move. He popped the clip from his Glock 19 and inserted a new clip that housed special ammunition. Silver bullets. He’d went out of his way to acquire them on short notice.

            Pete flinched at the sound of glass shattering from his living room. It sounded like a bowling ball being hurled through his window. He rushed to the living room, pistol in hand, and gasped at the shocking sight.

            The bipedal beast stood on two legs. Its chest was a vest of blood-matted fur. Its wet snout snapped open to reveal its jagged teeth. A low, guttural sound emanated from within. It was growling and licking its lips at the sight of its next meal.

            The beast charged across the living room with abnormal speed.

            Pete only had one chance.

            He stood his ground, raised his pistol, and fired a single shot.

           The beast folded and collapsed, blood oozing out onto the bearskin rug in the center of the room. Its snout sunk in, slowly disappearing. Its claws retracted. The hair vanished from its body as he reverted back to human form.

            What remained was the naked, lifeless body of one Bryce Tibbets. Sirens emanated in the distance. He saw the flashing lights through the shattered living room window as the cruisers pulled into his driveway. They kicked the door in and Pete tossed his pistol aside and raised his hands on their command.


***


            Pete was antsy, agitated. He sat alone in the white interrogation room for several hours, fidgeting in his seat. The hum of the fluorescent lights was maddening. He knew the local police were watching him through the two-way mirror. But that wasn’t what bothered him. What concerned him was how he was going to explain this to the police.

            Sheriff Ferguson entered, flanked by two of his officers. He dismissed them with a wave but ordered them to stay close.

            He took a seat on the opposite side of the plain wood table.

            “Pete,” he said, his voice quiet, somber. A hint of disappointment. He’d known Pete for years. And he never thought Pete would be capable of murdering a human being.

            “Sheriff, I know how this looks. But I can explain.”

            “I’m sure you can. But I’m not interested in your excuses. We know everything. You know Warner? He has a police scanner, listens in on our calls when he gets bored. He heard the news on the scanner and called in. I know you and Bryce Tibbets weren’t exactly best buddies. And I know there was an altercation at the Palace Diner this evening. It doesn’t look good, Pete. Not good at all.”

            “I didn’t kill Bryce Tibbets.”

            “Then who did?”

            “I killed the man who was once Bryce Tibbets. But when he came crashing through my living room window, he wasn’t Bryce. He was a monster. A…”

            He stopped himself. Dare he use the word werewolf? Who would believe him? Certainly not Sheriff Ferguson. Certainly not the officers under his command. And certainly not a judge or jury. All he wanted to do was keep the people of Cherrywood safe. And now he was going to be fighting for his very life.

            “You have a lawyer?” the sheriff asked. Pete nodded. “Good. You’re going to need one. I have no choice but to charge you with the murder of Bryce Tibbets.”

            They rolled his prints, took his belongings, fitted him for an orange jumpsuit, and stuffed him into a cold, dank cell. Outside, the moon blazed like a ring of white fire. And somewhere, far off in the distance, he could hear the unmistakable howl of the beast.

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