Curse of the Werelupe: Part Three
“Ta da,” Kieavin said triumphantly.
“What is that supposed to be?” Gioama asked suspiciously, one eyebrow cocked quizzically.
“That’s your dinner.”
“Well it looks more like something left over from last night’s storm,” the Fire Kougra answered, tossing his head and trotting to the cupboard. “I think I’ll find something else to eat.”
Kieavin shrugged, tossing the blackened black heap into the bin and joining him. “No one can cook like Jenn,” she agreed whole-heartedly.
Gioama was relieved that she had figured out so quickly that her cooking was not quite as good as she thought, and rummaged around for something to eat. He sighed, wishing that Jenn was still there to stop their current meagre existence. He pulled out an unidentifiable fruit and presented it to his sister.
“Is this edible?” he asked.
She shrugged. “If it wasn’t, I’m sure Mum wouldn’t have put it in the pantry.”
“The stuff you just, uh, cooked came from the pantry,” Gioama pointed out.
“Ah, but that was before I cooked it.”
“Good point.” Gioama quickly took a bite out of the fruit and gagged as the taste flooded his mouth.
“And that is why you never eat a bagguss,” a certain blue Yurble said as he looked up from his armchair in the lounge. “At least not by itself,” he added with a small shudder.
“Thanks for the warning, Minotaur,” Gioama grunted. He tried to sound nice, seeing as Minotaur wasn’t being as snobbish and condescending as usual, but it was a challenge.
Just then there was a loud commotion on the stairs. Three heads swivelled up and around to see and dark brown shape stumbling down towards them. Two glowing green eyes flashed at them. Then the Halloween Lupe lifted his nose and sniffed the air.
“Something smells really bad,” Fanger commented, finally reaching the bottom floor. Gioama giggled and gave Kieavin a teasing look.
The Shoyru was a flash of green as she whizzed past on her wings and cannoned into the Lupe. “Fanger, you’re awake,” she cried.
Gioama watched as his brother extracted himself from the wall and pushed Kieavin away.
“I’m fine,” he gasped. “There’s nothing wrong...” He swayed and his legs collapsed underneath him.
Gioama rushed forward and helped drag him to the couch, where he sat dazed and confused. He shook his head as if to clear away something buzzing around it and Gioama noticed for the first time just how long and evil looking his fangs were, how sharp and jagged his claws were. And how the muscles bulged from his once scrawny body. This was not the brother he knew.
He was surprised to see Minotaur looking over with some concern, but the Yurble still stayed where he was, hesitating. Gioama settled down beside Fanger and opened two cans of Neocola, taking a sip. Fanger stared dubiously at it, then he reached out to hold it, but his paws fumbled with it awkwardly and at last he put it down.
“I’m just not used to this new colour,” he said as Kieavin poked her head out of the kitchen to check up on him. She turned back.
“That never happened to me,” Gioama pointed out.
“But you don’t have these, G,” Fanger said, showing off his new claws, then using them to ruffle Gioama’s fur. Gioama shied away at first, but then relaxed. A strange look passed over Fanger’s face, almost like doubt, but then he grinned. “Scary, aren’t they?”
Gioama suddenly scented disaster as Kieavin once again attempted to cook. He rushed in to stop her, knocking the saucepan out of her hands.
“I think we should go buy some hot dogs,” he suggested, scooping up the couple of thousand neopoints that Jenn had left lying on the counter for such emergencies.
Kieavin grinned and followed him, tapping her nose. “I knew that eventually you would get sick of my cooking and give me an excuse to let us eat out.”
“What do you mean ‘let us’?” Gioama asked.
“Well, I am the oldest here, other than Fang, and he’s sick. So I’m in charge.”
Gioama snorted and kept walking. “Doesn’t make you the most responsible,” he quipped amiably. “I wonder if we should go after Mum. After all, Fanger seems to be okay now.”
“Can’t you see he doesn’t have health enough to walk?” Minotaur’s voice chastised from the doorway. He indicated to the couch, and then froze when he saw that it was empty.
“Well, I’m guessing he can walk,” Kieavin stated unnecessarily.
Gioama bounded forward. “Where is he? He can’t just disappear.” He lowered his nose to the ground and followed Fanger’s scent to the front door, which was now hanging ajar. Gioama noticed that Fanger’s scent had altered slightly, but could not tell why.
He pushed the door open, and was surprised to see his eldest brother sitting on the front lawn, staring up at the moon. Kreludor was just past a half-moon, bulging slightly at one edge. It hovered in the night sky the night sky, sending bright moonbeams onto the contemplative shaggy brown face. Gioama laid a paw on Fanger’s shoulder, and the Lupe swung round with a growl, teeth snapping. Then his eyes registered the shocked Kougra and he recoiled, clamping his jaws firmly shut.
“Why did you run off like that?” Kieavin asked, sliding over the newly formed dew on the grass. She had missed the entire thing.
Fanger grunted. “I don’t know. But inside felt kind of stifling. I guess I just wanted some fresh air.” Gioama didn’t miss the flickering of his eyes as he turned to the moon.
Kieavin grinned. “Well, seeing as you seem to be moving well on your own, I think we should all go to the hot dog stand. Right, Minotaur?”
Minotaur shrugged. “Well, you two old ones seem to know what you’re doing, so I’ll leave you to it. I’ll just have a plain.” He turned to go back inside.
On a sudden urge Gioama jumped in front of the Yurble, stopping his progress. “You can’t go off into the house on you own,” he said, tugging one blue paw. “You have to come with us.” Maybe he was trying to smooth over the argument from yesterday.
Minotaur sighed, and did the familiar paw through the mane gesture. Then he finally nodded. Kieavin put on a bright face, showing no hint of exaggeration or sarcasm, and Gioama was grateful. Sometimes she was so tactless. He waved a paw in front of Fanger’s face, and the Lupe jumped.
“What?” he asked.
“Haven’t you been listening?” Minotaur asked. “We were discussing the prospect of a hot dog for dinner.” He spoke with enforced slowness, as if speaking to a child, and Fanger's eyes narrowed to two coin slots. But he nodded brusquely.
“Then let’s go.”
Gioama hurried to the Halloween Lupe’s side. “Are you sure you’re okay, Fang?” he asked. “It’s just, you looked so sick before, and now...”
Fanger flashed him a huge smile. “Just felt dizzy. But now being outside.” He looked up at the moon again, then he looked away guiltily at Gioama’s curious face.
“Is it something to do with the moon?” Gioama asked. “I noticed that it was blocked by those rain clouds last night.”
He saw Fanger’s eyes and nostrils flare, and wondered what he had said wrong. Then the Lupe turned away. When he turned back his face was calm.
“I don’t think so,” he said coolly. “It’s just the fresh air.”
Gioama nodded, then hung back to let Kieavin have a chat. He exchanged a glance with Minotaur, who was lagging behind, then slowly approached him. It felt strange, being so wary of his own brother. Minotaur let out a weary smile, but carefully guarded. Gioama padded beside him before suddenly making up his mind.
“I’m sorry—” he began, but Minotaur held out a paw to cut him off.
“No, I’m sorry. I just felt resentful, I guess,” Minotaur said.
“Resentful for what?” Gioama asked, thoroughly confused.
A brooding look appeared on the Yurble's face. “Nothing much. I was kind of jealous that Jenn hatched you after she gotten over all her financial problems. So you didn’t have to live with...”
Minotaur faded into silence, and Minotaur accompanied him, so that the only noise was the night. Then they exited the long street that their house was situated on and the bustle of the Bazaar destroyed their uneasiness, to a degree.
“Never mind...” Minotaur muttered.
He strode ahead, and Gioama looked up to see Fanger’s eyes staring at the Yurble. Then Fanger nodded and laughed at something that Kieavin said. They ran the last hundred metres to the Hubert’s Hot Dogs and stood discussing what they should get.
“We can’t get anything too expensive, or Jenn will skin us alive when she gets back,” Kieavin said, grinning.
Minotaur stood on tiptoe to peer at the array of food. “At least you’re acting half responsible, now,” he said in a scathing tone, then he looked embarrassed.
Kieavin ignored him. “So, with my new rule, I’ll just have a plain old hot dog,” she said reverently.
“Ooh, I’ll have a...” Gioama peered around. “A creamy hot dog, please.”
“Done,” Kieavin said. “Anyone else?”
“I guess I’ll have the same as you,” Minotaur sighed.
The Lupe prowled around the stand for a while. The blue Mynci behind the stand watched him carefully.
“Bacon and cheese, please,” he said at last, with a grin. Gioama tried not to stare at the bared fangs.
Kieavin ordered carefully, well aware that Minotaur was watching her every move in case she got something wrong. The Yurble trudged off as soon as he had received his hot dog, and sat down on a nearby bench. Gioama wolfed down his food almost as soon as he touched it, and spent a great deal of time staring through the Bakery’s window. Kieavin shook her head infuriatingly, sticking her tongue out and making and exaggerated show of hiding the neopoints away in their purse.
Fanger drifted to the outskirts of the shops, keeping his head low. Gioama watched him with worry, but he wasn’t looking, just staring up at the moon with a dreamy look on his face. He lagged behind when they set off for home.
* * *
Fanger could feel something calling him. But he couldn’t tell what. He bared his teeth as he struggled to grasp it. Staring up at the moon seemed to help, but the thought still eluded him. He closed his eyes and basked in the light of the moon as she hung in the night sky.
He watched his siblings up ahead, Kieavin and Gioama at the front, Minotaur walking behind, but not seeming to mind. But he could sense a gap between them. His family was apart.
One of his brothers was scared of him, the other one resented him for not being abandoned at the Pound like he had. And even thought two of his siblings got along well enough, there was one that oozed animosity like a disease. Fanger knew all about Minotaur’s past owner, having been the one that the Yurble had now. To be abandoned, then to be adopted again by the same person... Fanger shivered at the thought. The anger.
He padded more slowly now, watching as they grew further and further away. For some reason he didn’t want to go back. Even though Jenn would be back soon... Jenn... she was gone, and no one had told him why. He could feel the confusion of his thoughts overtaking him, and shook them off abruptly.
He would go home and wait; maybe things would get better.
He paused on the way up the stairs, listening to his siblings’ bickering below him. A mirror stood on the wall, for no particular reason other than that Jenn thought it had looked good. It was the first time he had seen his reflection properly, being too sick to see it when he had first stumbled down the stairs.
He was a monster.
That was all he could see. Huge gaping fangs, claws like serrated daggers, muscles that bulged fit to burst. His fur was shaggy and uneven, and his face had a feral look. His eyes glowed luminously, and even as he watched a slight swirl of red began to mingle with the bright green. He growled low in his throat, suddenly knowing why Gioama had looked so scared before.
The moon threw its own ghostly imprint on the mirror, and Fanger felt a small shudder run through him. The red in his eyes swirled round and round, every swirl making it larger, until the red vortex almost completely covered the green. Suddenly he liked his new image, liked it a lot. And he was beginning to dislike this small, close-in house less and less.
He lifted one set of serrated daggers and slashed through his reflection. His claws ripped through the fragile glass easily, and it tinkled to the ground. He watched the shards collect around his feet, grinning, then he swept them away. With three huge bounds he was down the stair, five more and he was at the door.
He saw a Fire Kougra and a green Shoyru lounging on a couch, while a peeved Yurble glared at them from his seat by the fireplace. None of them saw him. And he didn’t recognise them, only the longing to be out of the house, out of the city.
In his mind’s eye he saw a huge, empty wood, with shadows writhing in every nook and cranny. He saw a rock that jutted out of the ground like a deadly claw. He saw other Werelupes, led by one twice their size, racing past the wizened trunks of trees, under clawing branches.
And he knew he had to go there.
To be continued...