By Daniel Vlasaty
The wolf-man should not be outside right now. He knows that it is not safe to be out alone at night, to hunt alone. But the wolf-man is really just a boy. And like all wolf-boys he is not very smart. Things are different at night. The bats are different. But in his adolescent head he is a warrior. He knows nothing of the world.
He crosses the parking lot, moving into the shadows along the wall that separates the city from the rest of the world. The gun is heavy in his hand, awkward. The gun is his father’s invention, a modified bow-and-arrow with fully automatic capabilities.
The wall is crumbling in places, bits of brittle rock fall like snowflakes. It is one hundred feet tall and lined with a mess of thick barbed-wire.
A screech-cry echoes above him and he moves a little faster. Bats. Telling himself he is not afraid, he is not afraid. But he is. His fur stands on end and his heart beats so fast it is like a machine. Can you actually die from fear, he wonders. He sees the bats circling over the buildings and thinks that maybe it is possible. The bats are made of bacon. They are moldy and ugly and mean as all shit.
He fires two arrows into the air, the kick-back knocking him to the ground. His shots miss. The bats respond with screeches. One spits poison down at him. He dodges just in time and rolls into the wall.
He is not prepared for this.
Another screech. This one right in his ear, smaller. The bat is a baby but it is still the size of a house cat. It is climbing the wall, unable to fly in its infancy, leaving a trail of grease in its wake that glows blue-yellow in the moonlight.
The bacon bats live in large house-nests that jut out of the wall like branches.
He has only ever seen a bat this close once before. His father killed one when he was five. The only thing he remembers is the way it screamed when his father repeatedly bashed its head in. Its head was full of worms. He moves in closer to the baby bat. Its head is covered in red reflective eyeballs that blink in random patterns. It doesn’t seem to have a mouth.
The wolf-man grabs a large stick off the ground and gently pokes at the bat. It makes a squeaking sound like a rubber chew toy and keeps climbing, undisturbed. He pokes it again, harder. And again and again. The bacon bat swivels its head around to face him, revealing more of the same eyes. It opens its mouth, which appears on its face out of nowhere, and hisses. Its three large teeth, still too weak to break skin, drip poison.
The wolf-man wraps his hands around the bacon bat, its undeveloped wings flutter against his hairy palms. He glances over his shoulder and stuffs the bat into his mouth. Bones crunch under his teeth. He grinds the bat into a sticky paste and swallows.
The wolf-man wakes in his bed, unsure of how he got here. His head throbs like something he’s never felt before. The room looks different. The color is off, bathed in a washed-out reddish tint. He can hear his mother making noises out in the kitchen, smells breakfast cooking. His stomach growls but he is not hungry, cannot imagine putting any food in it. It is like he no longer has a stomach.
He stands up and immediately vomits all over his feet. Things move in the vomit. Tiny worms. He vomits more worms on top of them.
The worms begin to grow.
He notices that his fur is falling out in clumps.
He vomits again. No worms this time, only blood.
The room spins around him and he tries to balance himself. But the room is not spinning. He can just see in every direction at the same time. He falls to the floor, clutching his head. Vomit warm against his naked skin. A pain that is both hot and cold moves through his entire body, changing things.
Two bumps form on his back, and he watches them grow with eyes he should not even have. The worms are moving to the door. He watches them and he watches the bumps and he watches the bacon bats swim through the heavy sky past the window. The worms slide under the crack in the door and he hears his mother scream from the kitchen. A glass breaks and a pot clanks against the floor. He tries to move toward her screaming but can only manage a crooked crawl.
He screams out now, too.
The skin around the bumps on his back breaks, tears away in meaty flaps, and two bony growths push through. They grow in segments like skeleton fingers, stopping at about four feet long. He sees that they are skinless wings.
The wolf-man is no longer a wolf-man.
He stands now, feeling stronger than ever before. The room settles itself and he moves forward. He finds the worms eating his mother on the kitchen floor. Her skin has melted into a puddle of runny egg yolk. Purple veins run through the mess, pulsing. The worms chew on her muscles with mouths too large for their bodies. Their teeth are smaller worms.
His mother is dead but her mouth is still moving up and down. Like she is repeating one word over and over again. Her eyes explode in their sockets and her head cracks open down the middle. Her brain is a knot of worms.
He leaves her there like that, feeling nothing for her anymore. She is no longer his mother. She is a nest. The worms have laid eggs in her body, deep in her bone marrow. He goes to the front door and opens it to see the sun rising over rusty barbed-wire. The sky is an oil spill, casting shiny shadows on the city below. The bacon bats fly through the oil, pushing it around with their wings, screaming echoes into nothing.
The wolf-man steps outside, flexes his skinless wings. He is no longer a wolf-man.