“Strawberry Moon” by Kerry E.B. Black

Aaron huddled under a blanket behind the couch his babysitter Tiffany napped upon. A fire crackled in the fireplace despite the summer season. On television, the news began its broadcast.

Best not change the channel or I’ll wake her. Besides, Chiller Theater starts after the broadcast. Hope it’s something with Vincent Price or Boris Karloff. I love those guys.

The perky broadcaster’s eyes glistened as she read the headline. “Another brutal attack on Pittsburgh’s North Side has police baffled. They suspect an animal and have involved Humane Society officers and staff from the Pittsburgh Zoo.”

Aaron nestled deeper into his blankets. He lived on the North Side. Sure hope Mom and Dad will be careful when they leave the Rooney’s anniversary celebration.

A full moon glowed through cloud cover and illuminated the street outside Aaron’s Avery Street home. A “strawberry moon” the meteorologist explained while pulling at his Steeler-striped tie. He forecasted summer storms for the rest of the weekend. A distant growl of thunder confirmed his report.

Tiffany’s phone jingled a message. She roused and typed a hasty reply before she stretched her lithe dancer’s body toward the ceiling. Even on tiptoes, she wasn’t much taller than Aaron. His face warmed as he imagined embracing her.

Unaware of Aaron’s presence, Tiffany strolled to the entry while ruffling her long hair. It cascaded to the middle of her tiny waist. She peeked through the side window, applied lip gloss, and opened the door. “About time you got here. I thought you were standing me up.”

A hulking figure scooped her from her feet. She squealed and shushed him. “Put me down and come inside. The kid’s asleep.”

Aaron bristled. Kid?

“When are his parents coming home?” the neanderthal said.

She guided him to the couch. “Not for a couple of hours, but you have to be gone before they get here.”

“Sure thing. Now bring those sweet lips over here.”

Aaron fought a gag as the boyfriend’s leather jacket slid to the carpet at their feet. It stunk of wet dog, and something dark stained the lapel. Guess Lover boy’s a messy eater.

The newscaster on screen flashed a dazzling smile. “This just in. Another body was discovered outside of the Andy Warhol Museum on Pittsburgh’s North Side. Investigators say the mangled remains of an unidentified male show signs of animal attack, like the three victims found last night.”

Tiffany sat up, stiff. “That’s pretty close to here!”

The boyfriend nuzzled her neck. “Don’t worry about it, Tiff. I’m here with you. Don’t you feel safe with me?”

She pushed away. “Stop it. I’m going to lock the door.”

His smile revealed long, white teeth. “Whatever.” He stretched his hands over his head. His wrist bore a tattoo, a black star held in a circle.

The mark of the beast!

Worse, his index and middle finger were the same length.

Like in almost every werewolf legend known to man!

Aaron’s eyes grew wide, and he held his breath as Tiffany returned to renew kissing.

Silver. I need silver.

He spotted candlesticks and the chest of his great grandmother’s sterling in the dining room.

How to get there without being spotted? Of course, if they don’t come up for air, it won’t be a problem.

He hunched, ready to sprint from his hiding place, when Tiffany groaned. Aaron froze. Is that a ‘she’s having fun moan,’ or is he killing her in my living room?

A quick glance turned his stomach. Why’s she allowing him to paw her like that?

On the mantle rested his mother’s silver trophy cup from her college rowing days. I know it’s real silver, since I have to polish it before every family get-together. It’s heavy as heck, and it’s closer than the dining room.

He burst from his hiding place and sprinted to retrieve it. His feet tangled and kicked the boyfriend’s coat. He careened and it skittered toward the hearth. “Argh!” He caught himself on the tile before sliding into the flames, but the coat smoked.

Tiffany sprung to her feet. “Oh my gosh, Aaron! What are you doing awake? Are you okay?”

He pulled the coat from the blaze.

The boyfriend barked, “Give that to me!”

If Aaron had any doubt about his theory, the man’s appearance put it to rest. Thick, dark hair sprouted over his body. Teeth dripped saliva and pinkish froth. His hands curled into claws, and his eyes glowed in the low light.

Aaron clutched the jacket and backed closer to the fire. “Back off.”

Tiffany staggered, pale. “What’s wrong with you? You’ll scare him.” She touched her neck where he’d been kissing and screamed. Blood coated her fingers. “Did you bite me?”

The man hunched toward Aaron. “I’m serious. Give me my coat. Now.”

Tiffany dashed to the front door and struggled one-handed with the lock. She clamped her other hand over her wound. Blood pulsed through her fingers.

She’s leaving. Thanks, Tiff!

The werewolf glanced over his shoulder at her. Aaron seized and threw the trophy at his attacker’s head. It rang when it struck.

The wolf-man snarled and leaped.  

Aaron dropped the coat into the hungry flames. For a second, he feared he’d smothered the fire, but with a whoosh, it burst, consuming the garment.

The werewolf dropped to his knees and clutched his stomach. His screeched, “No!” came out as more of a howl than human language.

Aaron guarded the conflagration with a sweep of the iron fire tools, careful to avoid the werewolf’s grasp and bite. As the coat reduced to ash, the lycanthrope gasped, groaned, fell silent. Thick blood pooled around the split in his head and dripped from the scratches and pokes from Aaron’s defense.

Aaron shook with reaction.

Tiffany’s hysterics echoed through the open door.  

A seeming eternity passed before Tiffany ushered police into Aaron’s home. A paramedic wrapped him in a thick blanket while police took statements.

Guess that coat was some sort of link to his life.

A blur of red and blue infiltrated Aaron’s musing. “I don’t care if I sound crazy. That man was a werewolf and tried to kill us.”

The lead officer rested a hand on Aaron’s shoulder. “Well, no matter what, you were incredibly brave and resourceful.” He closed his notebook with a snap.

The coroner transporting the dead body nearly bumped into Aaron’s frantic parents. They rushed to him, knelt to embrace him. “Thank God you’re okay!”

Aaron melted into their embrace, comforted by their obvious concern. Safe.

“We’ll contact you if we have any questions.” The officer handed Aaron and Tiffany his business cards.

They nodded, but when Tiffany scratched her bandaged neck, Aaron jolted. The faintest trace of a tattoo emerged on her wrist.

*

Kerry E.B. Black writes eclectic stories from a cottage in a swamp situated along the foggy Allegheny River in Pennsylvania, USA. Other fine publications such as “Postcard Poems and Prose,” “Moonchild,” and “The Ginger Collect” have published her works, and several of her stories have crept into anthologies. Kerry’s first novel, “Season of Secrets,” has an expected late autumn release through Rhetoric Askew, and a collection of her short stories “Herd of Nightmares” is expected out by year’s end through Tree Shadow Press. Please follow on social media https://twitter.com/BlackKerryblick, https://kerrylizblack.wordpress.com/, and http://www.facebook.com/authorKerryE.B.Black.

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Artwork provided by Amanda Bergloff (@AmandaBergloff)

One thought on ““Strawberry Moon” by Kerry E.B. Black

  1. Pingback: Encore for Our August Performance | The Evening Theatre

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