Tales of the Hidden Worlds

A Touch of Fur

Babe in the Woods by Rob O’Neil

The young girl tossed and turned in bed. Sweat soaked her pillow and nightclothes as she tangled herself in her sheet. Her eyelids fluttered in her sleep and she moaned, telling of the turmoil that haunted her slumber. In her nightmare, the young girl ran through a darkened woods, chased by a dark growling mass. The howling, snapping, snarling mass had long, dark hair and red glowing eyes. The lupine form snapped at her heals, and the girl screamed in terror. The young girl ran for what seemed like miles with the howling wolf at her heals. In her dream she was exhausted, terrified, and stumbling. Her foot caught on a root, and she sprawled face first into the dark soil. She turned her head and saw the jaws open. Just before the gleaming fangs grabbed her throat, she woke with a scream.

A few blocks away, a man jogged through the night. He spent his days as a high-pressure lawyer about to make partner. Between court appearances, wealthy clients, and the stress of trying to make partner by the age of thirty, the man worked ninety hours a week. He had no social life. He had no significant other, and his family only received the obligatory holiday cards.

He needed a way to cope, and he found that running was that way. As a cross country star in high school and college, running was an easy solution. He ran late at night, just before he went to bed. His standard was five miles, with stressful days leading to longer runs. He chose a specific running path that wound through several small parks and residential neighborhoods. Tonight he was running at a pace that would match or beat his personal best, and the rhythm of his shoes slapping the pavement kept pace with the music coursing through his headphones. He was only aware of his surroundings enough to keep on his chosen route, oblivious to the dogs barking and cars driving past.

He realized that his path ahead had a strange shimmering light blocking his way. The man slowed, coming to a halt a few feet from the light. As he looked closer, he realized that the light extended in a pool of liquid darkness about five feet in diameter. The glimmering darkness was shot through with a rainbow of colors, swirling and streaking in strange, almost geometric patterns. As he watched, the colors swirled around in a strange hypnotic effect.

The man reached out his hand, stopping mere inches from the swirling inky black. He stopped himself from touching it. Barely. He shook his head, closing his eyes to tear himself away. He began to pull his hand back, and the darkness extended itself towards his hand quickly.

The man cried out as the darkness grabbed his hand. The darkness quickly flowed up his arm, running in stringy waves, covering to his shoulder. The cold was shocking, painful, and the man screamed. The darkness reached his chest and quickly covered up and over his head. The man dropped to ground, unconscious, as the inky blackness covered the rest of his body.

He opened his eyes. At least, he thought he opened his eyes. The world was different. At least it seemed different. It was not as dark out. Instead, the lightness of the world around him appeared to be breaking into dawn. The colors were less intense. There were blues and yellows around him, but no red and very little green. He lifted his head and looked around him. He could see further into the woods than he normally would be able to. He could also hear the world around him. The man realized his hearing seemed more…acute than normal. He was hearing sounds that he normally didn’t. The birds were chirping. A key scraped in a lock nearby. Footsteps sounded on the sidewalk outside the park.

He felt the cold asphalt of the path beneath his fur and paws. Fur? Paws? He tilted his head down and saw that his hands were larger, with longer fingers that ended in longs claws attached to his arms. Arms that were thicker and covered with long fur. He moaned. At least, he tried to moan. It came out as a howl. He could just see the end of his new snout. Licking his chops, he felt the razor-sharp fangs that now filled his mouth. And he was hungry.

He was hungry. Very hungry. That hunger drove him to his feet. His feet were also longer and clawed, twisted to resemble larger wolf paws. He stood, slightly hunched, his large torso resembling his human heritage. His wolf-like head sat atop his strong shoulders. The wolf-man’s stomach growled incessantly. He sniffed the air, testing the winds. He smelled various small creatures in the park around him. Not interested in that small prey, he shifted around, looking, listening, and sniffing for larger prey that would satisfy his hunger.

There. The sound of footsteps slapping the pavement. Another late night jogger. The wind was blowing from the direction of the sound, and he smelled a light scent. A woman. She smelled of sweat, of a slightly sweeter scent. She smelled innocent. She smelled like prey. He turned and began a loping run towards the runner. It was time to slake his hunger.

Bryan Donihue
Bryan Donihue

Bryan is a published author (fiction and non-fiction), game designer, graphic artist, web designer, consultant, trainer, ministry leader, and multiple-business owner. He is also happily married to his wife of over 20 years, Christina, and father to six or seven kids, depending on the day. He even sleeps occasionally.