“I know what you’re thinking. You’ll start over, make a new life for yourself.” The man shook his head and relit the pipe. “You can never go back to being the man you were. That man no longer exists. You cannot pursue that life any longer.”
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“Why not?” Henry replied shocked at this suggestion. “You can cure me. Why can’t I return to my life. I can’t return to my town, but I can start over.”
Shaking his head Zaroff tried to explain, “While the curse can be dealt with, it does leave residual marks on you. Like the scar of the bite you will always be tied to it. You can never live among men for there is something wild and untamed about you that will always make theme uneasy. Whenever there is violence they will blame you. You can never marry for any children you would bear would also have the curse. It is in your blood,” Zorroff says pointing at the mans chest with the tip of the pipe to drive the point home.
“What then, will you deny me my one chance to be normal.” Henry asks.
“No, what I am saying is that you must rethink what is normal and what is not. You no longer fit into what most people would consider normal, but I will not deny you the cure.
Zaroff turned his chair back to the table and motioned to Katerina to come over. She brought a small leather pouch with her. She handed it to Zaroff who took it and unrolled it on the table before him. Henry could see that inside the pouch were several small vials filled with a pale white blue liquid. The liquid looked to be the color of the moon. Zaroff took a large needle and screwed it into a large syringe. He then drew the entire contents of one of the little vials into the syringe. He squeezed the air out of the syringe, careful not to spill out any of the liquid.
Like a man in bad need of an opium fix, Henry rolled up his sleeve and presented his arm to Zaroff. Zaroff grabbed his arm tightly around the bicep exposing the vein that ran shallow there. Henry steadied himself for the injection, but Zaroff hesitated. Henry looked up to see what he was waiting for.
“Everything that has happened in your life has led you to this moment. From here on out you have free will to do whatever you want. Do you understand,” he says holding the needle inches from Henry’s arm.
“Yes!!” Henry says, “anything you say. Just give me the shot. Let this damn nightmare be over.”
“You are thinking of this wrong.” Katerina chimes in. If you don’t choose your path correctly, you will remain a wolf forever. It is up to you.” She says, her beautiful eyes both pleading and hopeful at the same time.
“Just give me the cure.” Henry almost spits at Zaroff. He nods in acceptance and proceeds to give Henry the injection.
He can feel it almost immediately. At first it burns hot in his veins as the liquid spreads throughout his body, but then it starts to cool him from the inside out. Not cold, but cool like a warm breeze on a moonlit night. Henry is so busy concentrating on the sensation that he doesn’t realize that the sun has set and the moon is rising soon. He is floating on a cool refreshing breeze that he believes will lead him to a new life when it suddenly vanishes. Like a man who is forcibly awakened from dream, Henry is surprised when the first spasm racks his body. Instantly, he snaps out of his daze as the pain washes over him, replacing the cool breeze he was floating upon only moments ago. He manages to stumble to the window to see the full moon rise overhead. Curiously, Zaroff and Katerina are gone. The second wave hits and knocks him to the ground. This change is more painful and severe than the last couple. He doesn’t understand what is happening to him.
“What have they done to me.” He thinks as he tries to steady himself on the table. He sees there is a letter there addressed to him, but before he can open it another spasm pierces his skull.
“Zaroff!! Katerina!!” He half yells, half roars through the castle. He knows that he doesn’t have much time so he runs through the castle looking to get back to the cell. At least he can wait out the change there. The transformation is worse than any he can remember. He see his hands grow larger and more claw like. He can barely stand because his legs are growing and shifting. Still he runs down through the castle to the dungeon. Leaping a hole in the floor he lands on weak spot and finds himself falling twenty or thirty feet. Pain keeps him awake as he now crawls in the direction of the cell. His bones are still shifting causing him to stop every now and again, but he has reached the cell he woke up in. Desperately, he tries to close the door, but finds that he hasn’t the strength to fight the pain and close the door at the same time. As the pain grows its most intense, he feels his humanity slipping from him and the wolf take over. In one last ditch effort he attempts to close the door, but unconsciousness takes over and he falls to the floor.
Henry wakes up to notice that it is still night outside and that he can still see the moon. He knows he has been unconscious, but he doesn’t know for how long. Slowly he stands up careful not to bang anything off of the large bars. Looking around he notices that he can see pretty well by moonlight since there was no torch in the cell and the dungeon is quite dark. Moving over to the window he can see that the moon is still rising. He must have only been out for a few minutes!
He reaches up to grab a hold of the bars that enclose the window, as he does, he sees that it isn’t his hands that are reaching for the bars, but the hands of the wolf. Immediately he draws them back. Panic begins to overwhelm him. Looking around he then realizes that it isn’t because of the moonlight that he can see so well; it’s because of the wolf’s enhanced vision.
“Oh, my god!” He says in a voice that isn’t his own. Reflexively he reaches up to cover his mouth and instead feels the muzzle of a wolf. Dropping his hands immediately he backs up only to run into a wall. “The cure didn’t work,” he thinks, “I’m going to be stuck as a wolf forever.”
Running from the room he bounds up walls and around broken floors and stairways to make his move back to the room where they sat and ate. On the table is a wax-sealed letter. He grabs the letter off the table and using one of his claws, he cleanly cuts open the envelope. Taking the letter from the envelope he begins to read what Zaroff has left him.
I understand that it must be quite a shock to be standing there reading this letter with the sound of the wild ringing in your ears. I would also hazard a guess that by now you realize that the cure doesn’t break the curse so much as bend it. Yes you are still a werewolf, that cannot change, but it is you that is in control now. The beast is gone. You have control of your life once again.
I hope that this will serve to let you know that now you…
Henry didn’t bother to finish the letter. He crumpled it up and threw it in a corner. Then he wrecked the room, smashing the furniture like they were toys.
“Why would god do this to me!” He thinks, not wanting to hear his own distorted voice through the beast’s throat.
“I am not a bad person. I don’t deserve this.” His pounding and pacing echoes throughout the castle. “Very well, if it’s a monster that I look like then a monster I will be.
Leaping from a broken tower, Henry is almost overwhelmed at the power of the wolf. He realizes that this is most intoxicating. He runs across the glade and then into the forest that surrounds the castle and separates it from the village. He plans to go there and slaughter as many of them as he can before he is killed. He turns to run when his nose catches the scent of a buck not one mile from where he sits. His stomach grumbles and turns and he finds his mouth watering at the thought of deer meat.
“Well, maybe a quick snack to take the edge of my hunger, before I start.” He thinks, as he makes his way silently off into the direction of the buck. The buck is standing there in the dark forest nibbling on some leaves from a nearby bush as Henry approaches. Unaware he is doing it he has shifted his approach so as to be upwind from the deer. In a mirror of last nights adventure with Katerina, he slowly starts to approach the buck, shifting his approach as the breeze changes. He moves quietly in the night knowing that the buck can see as well as him even in this thick forest. Suddenly the breeze changes faster than Henry is able to move. The buck catches his scent and is off. Henry, with a growl, gives chase after him. Through the thick woods the two move it perfect symmetry. To and observer Henry doesn’t appear to be chasing the buck, but shadowing the bucks movements over stumps, rocks and small streams. Eventually, though the buck tires and Henry closes just enough to capture the terrified animal. He climbs atop the deer to keep it from struggling as he prepares to rip its throat out. He is just about to sink his fangs into the buck’s neck when Zaroff’s words earlier today come rushing back to him.
“From here on out you have free will to do whatever you want.” The words echo back in Henry’s mind. Sensing that Henry is distracted the deer tries to squirm out of the deadly embrace. Henry shakes the memory from his thoughts and bends the head of the creature back, revealing the tender throat and the pulsing artery beneath it. As he opens his jaws wide to lean in and taste the deer’s flesh another memory floods his brain.
“If you don’t choose your path correctly you will remain a wolf forever. It’s up to you.” He can hear the sweet tones of Katerina in his mind. He sits there a moment and thinks about what has happened. He looks at the deer and concentrates on his new found senses. He can smell the fear of the animal rolling off of it like waves of fog. He can feel its heartbeat beneath its fur. He sees the panic in its eyes. Suddenly he finds himself sitting there on the ground stroking this animal trying to soothe it as he gently weeps. Eventually he lets the animal go. Quickly it runs off into the woods to seek its mate.
Henry makes his way slowly back to the castle. As he walks there he lets the power of the wolf rush over him. The sights, smells and touches of the night speak to him in a way that never did before. Even when in his human form he didn’t take the time to appreciate the awesome gifts that had been bestowed upon him. He realizes now that the cure didn’t vanquish the beast it merely gave him understanding of it.
In the castle he finds the crumpled letter and begins to finish it.
you have the choice that you didn’t have before. You can use your gift to be a blessing or a bane to those around you, which you will choose I do not know. What I can tell you is we will be watching you. Perhaps you will see signs of our passing when you enter or leave an area, but even if you don’t we will be watching over you. When you are ready, you will see us again. If you choose the correct path it will be to join us and help others of our kind reconcile their curse and if you choose the wrong path we will be your hunters.
I believe that we will be great friends and help many people.
Sincerely your brother and sister,
Zaroff Mikhael Dismarovitch and
Henry gently folded the letter and placed it back into its envelope. He didn’t spend the night in the castle though, he went into the forest and reveled in his newfound freedom. Later, back in his cave he also thought about the gravity of his situation. In the morning, when he was happy to see that he was once again a man, he found some clothes, boots and some coins had been left for him along with a note from Katerina. It told him that the special buttons he saw would come in handy when the change came upon him. They open easier than trying to untie or unhook things to take them off.
“A simple tug will open the garment. That way you don’t rip it,” the note read. He also noted that the boots had the same type of snaps, but only at the top.
After getting dressed Henry walked past the glade into the wilderness that spread out past the castle and into the Carpathian Mountains traveling east. He traveled east because he could smell Katerina’s scent and she was headed in that direction, probably towards Austria. As he walked through the deepening forest, he didn’t fear anything there, after all he was now one of the forests creatures.
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