By Chris Cooper
As he staggered this way and that along the wet pavement, the rain pouring down, Lester cursed himself for not leaving the pub earlier. Drunk as the proverbial skunk and soaked to the skin, he struggled to move his weary legs and for a moment he found himself eyeing a nearby park bench longingly.
“Nope,” he slurred out loud, “gotta get home…need to be up for work tomorrow…” and it took just about all the willpower he could muster to keep moving.
After what seemed like an age of walking, although it was more of a crawl than a walk, Lester spied a group of youths hanging around under a lamppost, drinking beer and fighting amongst themselves. Lester, who tended to place a high value on his own life, decided to cross the road in a poor attempt at self preservation, and was thankfully largely ignored by the gang, apart from a few jeers of “Wanker!” and “Come on then, if you think you’re ard’ enough!” Which he paid no heed to, even though his pride took a bit of a bashing.
Once he had reached a safe distance, the drunken shell of Lester leaned heavily up against a post box and attempted to light one of his soaking wet cigarettes.After the eighteenth attempt he decided to give up and instead accosted a passing pedestrian.
“Oh, scuse me mate, you don’ happen to have a spare cigg- cigr… cigre- smoke, do ya?” he slurred, all the while looking the pedestrian over. He was surprised to see that she was in fact quite beautiful, with her shoulder length silvery blonde hair, which shimmered under the dull street lighting, and deep azure eyes that were almost hypnotic to view.
“No!” replied the pedestrian, and she walked off as fast as her legs could carry her.
“Miss- mesh- miserable bitch!” slurred Lester, under his breath, as he struggled to stand up straight.
It took a while to sink in before Lester finally came to the realisation that the fragile looking pedestrian was walking straight at the gang of menacing looking youths that he had avoided just moments before.
“Bah” he exclaimed, “she’ll be fine.” And with that, he plodded off down the street. But it wasn’t long before Lester could feel someone tugging at his guilt strings.
What if she’s not ok, he thought, what if they actually hurt her? How could he live with himself knowing that he could have stopped it?
He heaved a disgruntled sigh and with much effort, turned himself around. “Dammit!” he exclaimed. “Why ish it always up to me to play the Good Shammaritan?”.
A short while later and Lester could see the gang up ahead, and they had the clearly terrified pedestrian pinned up against a wall. One of the yobs was stroking her hair and grinning evilly. It was pretty obvious what he wanted. In an act of completely selfless, and somewhat stupid, alcohol fuelled bravery Lester opened his big dumb mouth and accosted the gang at full volume.
“Oi! Let her go!”
“Look lads, it’s the wanker, come back for another round of abuse” shouted one of the mob.
“Turn around and walk away, fuckwit. Unless you want some of what this bitch is about to get.” replied another.
Lester, who was secretly hoping they would have run away when they heard him shouting, decided to bluff them out, and so puffed up his chest and moseyed over.
“Maybe I didn’ make myshelf clear” replied the now petrified Lester. “Let her go now, and you leave in peace. Continue to push your luck, and you’ll leave in an ambulance.”
Lester could feel his legs turning to jelly. He knew things were about to get ugly, but nothing could have prepared him for the full horror of what he was about to experience.
“Kill him slowly boys; it’ll make for interesting viewing while I’m fucking this little slut” exclaimed the leader, who was by this point practically foaming at the mouth.
“I’m gonna bite your face off!” said another thug, as he jammed his knuckles into Lester’s nose.
While attempting to dodge the virtual torrent of blows Lester took the time to glance at the pedestrian. Much to his surprise, she simply smiled and emitted an ungodly animalistic growl, before grabbing her attacker by the face and ripping his cranium from the spine with relative ease.
In the blink of an eye her form had changed from that of a delicate female human, to something completely different, something quite unnatural. Her silvery blonde fur shimmered under the dull street lighting, her deep azure eyes, almost hypnotic to view. Lester was now more terrified than he had ever been before.
With one effortless bound the creature covered the distance between herself and the remaining mobsters, who were too busy kicking Lester about to even notice their impending doom. In a whirlwind of flesh tearing and a shower of blood, the creature howled a roaring howl… she evidently revelled in the agony of her quarry.
In but a few short seconds it was all over. The great hairy creature stood over the almost unrecognisable remains of her prey and licked the gore from her vicious looking. razor like claws. Lester watched the beast closely and the beast watched Lester right back.
“Uh… I’ll just be leaving now…” And with that, he backed away ever so slowly, so as not to startle the monstrous animal.
The beast then made its move. Like a ferret up a drainpipe the monster rushed at him and all Lester could do was emit a muffled yelp as the creature closed its clammy paws around his throat and lifted him off the ground with little effort.
It was times like this that Lester had wished he had paid more attention in Sunday school as he frantically racked his brains for a prayer.
Holding him close, the beast took a deep lungful of Lester’s scent, growling almost contently at the smell of his fear.
“Well, what’re you waiting for?” he croaked. “Get on with it”.
The beast continued to sniff at Lester for a while, then without warning softly licked the blood off his grazed cheek and grinned a big toothy grin. In a flash of movement, the beast was gone, leaving Lester lying in a pool of blood and body parts, dazed, confused and painfully sober.
Lester lay back in the dew sodden grass of his back garden and gazed up at the stars. It was unusually cold tonight but he didn’t really notice as the fever of his phantom illness kept the chill at bay.
He cast his mind over the last few weeks since the attack, the media frenzy, the uncomfortable police interviews, and the onset of his sickness. Lester had been to see the doctor on many an occasion, but the doc just kept prescribing an assortment of antibiotics, none of which had worked. If he didn’t know better, Lester would have said that the doctor just didn’t care… on a similar note the police didn’t seem to care much either. They did house to house enquiries and a forensics team went over the crime scene, but then they closed the case after only a week.
In theory, Lester should be in prison by now. After all, who would have believed his story? Werewolves in London? He could barely believe it himself… maybe he just hallucinated it all… maybe he was going nuts…
He took a long hard drag on his cigarette then yawned a big hearty yawn. Recently he hadn’t been sleeping at all well, which is hardly surprising when you consider his ordeal.
His senses dulled by sleep deprivation, Lester never even noticed the great silvery blonde lycanthrope as she snuck up behind him, and it wasn’t until he could feel her hot breath on the back of his neck that Lester even realised she was there.
“Boo!” said the werewolf.
“Arrghh!” Screamed Lester, as he jumped a mile in the air and dived for cover.
“Ha, ha, oh man. That was too easy” chuckled the werewolf.
Lester said nothing, and crawled into the undergrowth of a nearby flowerbed.
“You can come out now” said the werewolf, “I’m not gonna hurt ya.”
“Go away!” exclaimed Lester, from the relative safety of a rose bush.
“No!” replied the werewolf.
“Please?” begged Lester.
The wolf sat down on the garden bench and crossed her arms stubbornly.
“Look, I’m sorry that I scared you, but I couldn’t resist” grinning like a Cheshire cat, the lycanthrope’s blade like teeth gleamed in the moonlight, “now come out from there, you look ridiculous.”
Lester poked his head out from the bushes and observed the wolf with sceptical eyes. “What do you want?”
“I just wanted to say thank you for helping me the other night… not that you actually did anything useful, but it’s the thought that counts.”
Lester clawed his way through the foliage and tumbled out onto the lawn. Picking himself up and dusting himself down, he once again looked the lycanthrope over as she basked in the moonlight.
“What are you?”
The beast cocked her head slightly to one side and smiled.
“Do you really have to ask?”
“You’re a werewolf, right?”
“I prefer the term lycanthrope” replied the wolf.
Lester took a step back and swallowed hard. “Are you gonna eat me?”
“Oh god no!” Replied the wolf defensively, “Although you do look kinda tasty…”
Before she could even finish her sentence, Lester took to the winds and made a break for the house, slamming the door shut behind him… the wolf sighed.
Now safely nestled in the kitchen, Lester peered out through the window and spied an empty veranda. It looked like the wolf had gone.
“I must be going nuts…” he said to himself.
“Talking to yourself is never a good sign” said a voice from behind.
“Arrghh!” exclaimed Lester, as he turned to face the wolf, who had by now taken on her human guise.
“I wish you wouldn’t do that” said the wolf, “It really hurts my sensitive ears.”
“Then stop scaring me!… how the hell did you get in here anyway?”
“I’m a werewolf, silly. I can do all kinds of neat tricks.”
“Ah, but you cant come in here” replied a smug looking Lester, “cus I didn’t invite you!”
“That’s vampires you simpleton.”
Quick as lightning, Lester made a break for the cutlery draw and withdrew the first item that came to hand. The wolf once again cocked her head and looked at him somewhat puzzled.
“Ha, silver! Your one and only weakness. Get back foul creature” and with that he repeatedly prodded the wolf with a badly tarnished spoon.
The wolf stared at Lester with a look of disappointment and sighed once again.
“First of all, silver only works in the movies, smart ass. And secondly, that is stainless steel, not silver.”
“How would you know?”
“Cus it says so on the handle.”
“Oh… I was kinda hoping you wouldn’t notice” replied Lester, an embarrassed smile creeping its way across his face.
“You know, you’re kinda cute when you blush” said the wolf. “You don’t have a girlfriend, do you?”
“Oh great, first you want to eat me, now you want to shag me… for heavens sake, make your mind up!”
“I never said I wanted to eat you, you just assumed that I did” replied the wolf.
After a short uncomfortable pause the wolf held out her hand.
“I’m Sofia, pleased to meet you.”
Lester shook the creature’s hand timidly.
“I’m Lester, and I wish I could say the same.”
“I guess, since you’re here, you might as well make yourself at home” said Lester as he opened the fridge door. “Drink?”
“What have you got?” replied Sofia.
“Erm… beer, beer, beer or err… beer.”
“Do you not have anything softer?”
“Well, you could try this… but its been in there for a while…” and with that, he handed the wolf a rather ancient looking can of Dr. Pepper®.
“Use by September 99?” said the wolf, reading out loud.”
“Oh stop yer whinging, its only six years out of date.”
Lester grabbed an armful of beers and made his way to the living room, closely followed by the wolf. Brushing the huge pile of newspapers, empty beer cans and dog ends onto the floor, Lester parked himself rather comfortably in his favourite armchair.
Sofia cast her gaze out over the rubbish tip that vaguely resembled a living room.
“You actually live in this dump?”
“Why? What’s wrong with it?”
“Oh, nothing.” replied the wolf, as she carefully picked her way through the mound of empty pizza boxes and mouldy old socks.
“So, do you have any questions for me?” Asked Sofia, as she cautiously opened the recently exhumed soft drink.
“About what?” Replied Lester.
“About the changes…”
“The changes you should be experiencing about now.”
Lester stared blankly at Sofia… Sofia returned the look.
“You mean to tell me that you haven’t turned?”
“But this isn’t possible, I turned you, I know I did! There’s just no way…”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
Sofia shifted uncomfortably and gave Lester a guilty look that reminded him of a house trained puppy dog sitting by a puddle.
“Well… you remember that night we first met, right?”
“Yeah…” Replied Lester.
“And, you remember when I licked your face, right?”
“Yeah…” Replied Lester, now starting to worry.
“And, you know you’ve been feeling kinda ill recently…”
“Yeah…” Replied Lester, now panic-stricken.
Sofia put her beverage to one side and looked Lester in the eyes.
“Look, Lester, there is no easy way of putting this, so I’m just gonna come right out and say it. When I licked you, it wasn’t cus I was flirting with you.”
“That’s a shame,” replied Lester, “cus I like hairy girls.”
“Shut up, this is serious!”
“Anyway, I was trying to change you.”
“Change me into what?”
Sofia gave Lester one of her despairing looks and suddenly the truth hit home like a concrete elephant wielding a five-ton sledgehammer.
“You did what!” Lester jumped to his feet and angrily paced around the room, making no secret of his irritation. “I knew you weren’t to be trusted, get the hell out of my house!”
“Now, calm down Lester. It’s not how it looks…”
“I don’t care, you betrayed me…”
“I didn’t even know you, how could I betray you?”
“You… because… look just fuck off. I don’t recall even inviting you in here anyway!”
“Please Lester, you don’t know what your doing…”
“I know exactly what I’m doing. I’m kicking you out of my house. Leave now or I’ll call the police!”
“That wouldn’t be advisable.” Replied the wolf.
“Why not? Are you gonna eat me? Then stop fucking about and actually do it! This whole scenario is starting to bore the hell out of me!”
“Fine! Go ahead, call the police… but I don’t think you really wanna.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
Sofia winked at Lester mysteriously, “It’s good to have friends in high places.”
Lester stopped his agitated pacing and stared at the wolf.
“We’re everywhere…” Whispered Sofia, “Why do you think the police closed the case after only a week?”
Lester sat down heavily in his armchair as the vacant stare made its unwelcome return.
“Look,” said Sofia, after a painfully long pause, “I’ll get to the point. You obviously haven’t turned… I guess the alcohol in your blood stream must have slowed down the changing process long enough for your antibodies to get busy… either way, the offer is still open, I can still turn you, if that’s what you want.”
“Why the hell would I want that?”
“Oh, my friend, you have no idea what you’re missing…” Replied Sofia excitedly.
“I think I have a fair idea of what’s involved… walkies in the park, chasing the postman… thanks, but no thanks.”
“It’s not just about chasing the postman… although I have to admit, that is kinda fun… you’d be invincible, you’d be able to do things you never even dreamed possible.”
“Thanks Sofia, but your wasting your time. As much as I’d love to be able to lick my own nuts, I’m just not interested.”
Sofia sighed softly and shrugged her shoulders.
“Then, I guess there is nothing left for us to talk about.”
“You know where the door is.” Replied Lester in the most callous tone he could muster.
“Well… goodbye Lester.”
And with that, the wolf disappeared, leaving Lester alone with his thoughts… and his beer.
Listlessly gazing out of the window and watching the world go by did nothing to ease Lester’s chronic boredom. As the mid autumn evening drew in closer he watched the heaving mass of people as they hurriedly made their way back to their homes and soon he found his mind turning to the werewolf and her insidious offer.
Thinking back, he wondered why he had turned her down. He spent his whole life hoping for something to alleviate the monotony of his hand to mouth existence, yet as soon as the opportunity arose he did what came naturally and hid from it.
“Lester! Get back to work, you lazy shit!”
“Yes sir, right away sir, wont happen again sir…” replied Lester meekly, before limply shuffling through the mound of papers on his desk.
Dammit, if he had taken Sofia up on the offer he certainly wouldn’t be putting up with this kind of abuse, but what could he do about it now?
“Right, I’m outta’ here,” said the manager, as he threw on his coat and made a beeline for the lifts, “that paperwork had better not be on your desk by the time I get back or you’ve had it, you hear me shit bag?”
“Yes sir, I’ll make it a priority sir.”
“Just make sure you do… shit bag!” And with that the manager from hell departed, leaving a trail of cheap aftershave in his wake.
Almost immediately Lester got to work, shuffling papers and signing documents, working his way through the paper mountain at an almost frantic pace, all the while cursing his own weakness.
“Should have spoken up Les,” he whinged to himself, “should have told him where he could stick his paperwork!”
In fact Lester was so busy shuffling papers that he didn’t even notice the werewolf as she snuck up behind him.
“Whatcha doin’?” Enquired Sofia.
“ARRGHH!” Exclaimed Lester as he dived for cover under the desk.
“Ouch… don’t do that!” Whimpered Sofia as she rubbed her big furry ears.
“Stop sneaking up on me then!” Replied Lester as he warily emerged from the makeshift foxhole.
“Why are you here anyway? I though we had said all that needed to be said.”
Sofia sighed heavily, “Well, he who must be obeyed has decided that he still wants you. Thus I have returned to try to convince you again.”
“Who is ‘he’?”
“My boss.” Replied the wolf flatly.
“Err, you have a boss?”
“Even werewolves have to work for a living Lester.”
“Oh… ok… so, what exactly do you do?”
“Well, I guess you could say I’m a recruitment officer.”
“Recruiting for what?”
“The pack, silly!”
“Yes, the bloody pack! Wolves live in packs… I thought everyone knew that.”
“So… your boss would be the Alpha male?”
“Yes! Well done Einstein, give yourself a gold star.” Replied Sofia, sarcastically. “Anyways, do you want in or not?”
“Erm, I dunno…” Replied Lester who was now sitting at his desk calmly sipping his coffee, “What are the benefits?”
“Benefits? Is being able to leap over buildings in a single bound not enough for you?”
“Well, it would certainly make my commute into work a lot quicker, but there has gotta be more to it than that.”
“Hmm… ok. Well, besides the rather generous wage packet, we also have the being able to enter buildings without using the door thing, the ability to tear through steel with our bare paws, immortality, being able to run faster than a speeding bullet, ultra keen senses… and a twenty percent discount at Burger King… but only until 4:00pm.” Replied the wolf, checking an imaginary list as she went, “Upon accepting employment you are also eligible for a one percent share in the corporation…”
“Yes, the corporation. You see, in recent years the pack has had to go into the corporate sector… sad isn’t it?” Sighed Sofia, “Nowadays everybody needs money… we considered selling our souls to the devil for infinite wealth but the vampires already did that and it didn’t help them much, so we decided against it.”
“We used to just steal what we wanted,” continued the wolf, virtually ignoring a rather shell-shocked Lester, “but then we hooked up with the church and they laid down all these ground rules and…”
“Wait a minute… the church?”
“Oh yeah. That’s another thing I forgot to tell you. We’ve got this special arrangement with the Vatican. We scare people and they run to the church for guidance… in return we get sanctuary from Christian lynch mobs and money off weddings and christenings… it’s a pretty sweet deal actually.”
Lester leaned back in his chair and scratched his chin thoughtfully. Sofia sat watching him, wagging her big busy tail.
“So why do you want me?” Said Lester, breaking the silence rather suddenly. “I mean… you’ve seen what I’m like. I hide under the desk at the first sign of trouble. In a fight I’m about as effective as air brakes on a tortoise. I’ve met jellyfish with more backbone than me, what could I possibly have to offer you?”
“Why, potential, of course!” Replied Sofia, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.
“Uh… po… ten… tial?”
“Yes, potential, not what you are but what you could be. You showed a lot of back bone by confronting that gang of thugs the other night… many wouldn’t have bothered.”
“That was just a one off.” Replied Lester as he stood up and headed over to the coffee machine.
“You’re not selling yourself here Les. Most guys in your position would jump at this chance.”
“I’m not ‘most guys’.”
“Evidently,” replied the wolf, and she began to preen herself in a most unnerving fashion, licking her long sharp claws and running them through her thick silky coat, “but then, that’s why we chose you. You don’t think we just accept anybody, do you? I mean we do have standards.”
There was a long uncomfortable pause as Lester watched the empty Styrofoam cup drop into position. The coffee machine buzzed loudly and vibrated like a jackhammer before letting loose with a viscous brown sludge. Slowly, the Styrofoam cup began to fill up. Lester winced at the prospect of actually drinking it.
“Yes.” He said, out of the blue and with a certainty that surprised him on so many levels.
“Uh, what?” Replied Sofia, who was clearly almost as surprised as Lester.
“I said yes.” He replied, without looking up.
“B… but, you were so against it a minute ago. Are you sure you’ve thought this through?”
“I’ve thought about nothing else! Besides, I thought you wanted me to join? Now you don’t seem so sure.”
“It’s not that… I’m just thinking that you’re only doing this because of your currant set of circumstances. This is a huge commitment, and it’ll change your life. If you’re ‘only’ looking for change then you could just take up bungee jumping or something…”
“You don’t think I’ve tried to change in the past? I mean, look at me. What do I have? What about me is even remotely exceptional? What part of me stands out from the crowd in any way shape or form?”
There was another uncomfortable pause as Lester took his vomit textured coffee substance from the machine and took a sip, before wincing in disgust.
“Is that a rhetorical question?” Queried Sofia, meekly.
“Yes it’s a bloody rhetorical question!” Snapped Lester.
“Ok!” replied Sofia resentfully, “There’s no need to snap!”
“Sorry. Anyway, my mind’s made up. I want to change and you can help me.”
“Are you sure.” Replied Sofia.
“Yes, I’m sure.”
“Lester! Where’s my tea?” Screamed Sofia, making it seem as if it were the most important thing in the world, “and why haven’t you finished that report yet?”
Lester sighed as he cast his gaze out the window. He looked the mansion’s perfectly preened garden over and wondered where it had all gone wrong.
“Lester? Hurry it up you sad excuse for a werewolf. I don’t have all day!”
He placed the silver plate tray on the vast Victorian oak kitchen table, then carefully placed the teapot, fine bone china cup and sugar bowl on top, before reaching for the teaspoon and clumsily dropping it on the floor.
“Lester! What was that noise? You better not have broken anything or it’s coming out of your wages!”
He sighed sorrowfully. Ever since his life as a werewolf began it had just been one clumsy mishap after another. If it wasn’t teaspoons slipping through his needle like claws it was his thick bushy tail knocking over vases… and he was perpetually bumping into doors and windows with his elongated muzzle.
Just then, out of the corner of his eye, he spied a shadow, slipping through the kitchen.
“Arrghhh!” Exclaimed Lester.
“Have at thee!” Exclaimed the Shadow, before prodding Lester with a badly tarnished spoon.
“Jus… wa… hang on, what are you doing?”
“I am Jack Sprocket, world renowned werewolf hunter and you are my prey! Have at thee.” The werewolf hunting shadow, AKA Jack Sprocket, continued to poke Lester with his stainless steel spoon of wrath. Lester just watched the shadow with a look of abject amusement.
“Uh, Jack is it? Well, silver only works in the movies, and besides that is stainless steel, not silver.”
The fat, balding middle-aged man, with a handlebar moustache, stopped poking Lester for a moment, before dropping the spoon, turning his back and rummaging through a small bag full of odd, round, funny smelling objects.
Lester tried his best to peer over the werewolf hunter’s shoulder, before being denied as the hunter shifted in the opposing direction. Suddenly…
“Have at thee!” Exclaimed the shadow, before prodding Lester with a pungent clove of garlic.
Lester slapped his forehead in despair, “Garlic is for vampires, you idiot.” He said, unsympathetically.
“Oh, I knew that…”
“LESTER! Hurry up with that damn tea!” Came the booming voice from upstairs.
“Hey,” Said Lester, to Jack, as he placed his arm on his would be killer’s shoulder like an old friend, “you want to kill yourself a werewolf? Then I have the perfect target…”