When The Anger Returns
A werewolf hopes that his bartender might be the one to rid him of his horrible curse.
Written by Gregory Patrick Travers
No one is more frightened when the anger returns than me. Believe me when I tell you this. I have the dissatisfaction of being the first one who knows what is about to happen. It starts as a tickle in the throat, and then the whispers start inside my head. That’s when I know the demon has returned and aims to claim more victims. And despite how I try to suppress it, I am powerless to stop it.
Once the anger consumes me, I become someone…something else. Whatever demon it is that takes use of my body, it does not allow me to see through its eyes or sift through its memories afterward. When I wake up dazed in the morning, as I always did, the only resonance of my misdeeds was in short news stories stuffed between late-night gas station hold-ups and high-speed car chases on the freeway.
From what I can tell, my demon is a beast of nature and not a beast of Satan, as its victims, though brutally mauled and wounded, were the result of an instinctive thirst for blood and flesh and not a narcissistic desire for mutilation. And if I was only but a hunter then perhaps I was not completely evil. Perhaps my soul was not completely damned.
That’s what I told myself, anyway.
But on that cold, snowy Friday in late December, as I sat at the wood in the warmth of my usual watering hole on the corner of Raven Street and 5th, watching the local newscast on their screens, I came to the realization that my soul was beyond saving.
I recognized my handiwork on the nightly report. Not only the way the victim was sprawled out like a rag doll with his stomach and throat torn open, his insides on the outside, but I recognized the victim himself! Despite how gray his cadaver had become, contorted in those prickly thorn-bushes, or how much rigor mortise had twisted his once handsome features into a frozen state of horror, I knew the corpse looking back at me with those fixed, vacant, dead eyes on the bar screen was Scott, from work.
This worried me a great deal.
Did the demon inside of me know that Scott beat me for the promotion at the office? If it had, that meant the attacks were no longer random. And if the demon was choosing its victims based on my subconscious emotions, it wouldn’t be long before the people close to me, the more human me, started to suffer…
“Can you believe this garbage?” said the young, male bartender, looking up at the TV screen with jolly eyes and a raised eyebrow. “This is the third attack in two weeks. What kind of psycho could do that to someone? Rip them to shreds like that? Especially during the holidays, right? Like, come on dude, chillax, have an egg-nog, right?”
“The news is saying it’s a wolf on the loose,” I mentioned as my knife cut into the blue rare slab of beef, sitting in a pool of pink blood on the plate in front of me. I forked the meat into my mouth, closing my eyes to savor the cool fibers of flesh between my teeth.
“I heard people are even buying dog whistles,” I added casually.
The kid scoffed at me, “What, the whole werewolf theory? Whatever, bud. I don’t buy it for a second. It’s a guy. A serial killer. Trust me, you’ll see. When the cops find this guy…you’ll see. It ain’t no wolf. It’s going to turn out to be some farmer or some bus driver or some other old fart that no one suspected.”
The kid had a cockiness that I found repugnant. But as I swallowed the ball of meat in my mouth, I thought about what he was saying. Now that I had a connection to the victim, the police would surely want to question me, especially with the knowledge that we were up for the same promotion at work.
I wondered, would they see I was hiding something? Would I give myself away? Or worse…would I turn into this thing? And if I did, would they kill me? Could they kill me? Despite knowing the horror my demon has caused, I could not bring myself to end my life. Maybe they could do it for me.
I was so busy in my thoughts that I hadn’t even noticed Stacey, my usual bartender, come into the bar and sit down at the stool next to mine. She had to smack me in the arm with a wrapped Christmas gift to get my attention.
“Hello?” she said with a giggle that trailed off. “Is anybody home?”
I came out of my trance and focused in on Stacey’s face encompassed in blonde curls which still harbored fugitive snowflakes who had covertly smuggled their way inside from the street. She shook her head like a dog who had just come in from the rain and snowflakes shot from her hair down on the bar.
Some flakes landed on my arm.
“Sorry about that,” she laughed. Then she handed me the Christmas gift that she held in her hands. “Here,” she said. “I got this for you.”
I took the gift from her and squeezed it. It felt like a shirt. “What is it?” I asked.
“It’s a shirt,” she replied.
I tore the wrapping paper open and pulled out a black t-shirt with, “Wish You Were Beer” printed on it in big bold lettering. I couldn’t help but chuckle. “It’s great,” I said. “I’ll wear it everywhere.”
She gave me a soft tap on the back. “I thought you might like that.”
I folded the shirt neatly and placed it on the bar beside my cutlery.
“Geese, blue rare steak again?” she said colorfully. Her face twisted as she looked at the pool of blood on my plate.
“Hey, the man likes his steak,” said the bartender, casually navigating over.
“What’s up, Stacey? Are you my evening sauce-slinger?”
“Sure am,” she answered.
The kid looked at his watch. “You’re early, bud.”
“I just wanted to drop off a present to my favorite regular,” she said, flashing me a wink.
Though my face wouldn’t dare show it, I could have sat there gazing into Stacey’s green eyes until the end of time.
Stacey brought upon a beautiful calm in me which I could find nowhere else. Maybe that’s why I chose to have dinner there four days a week. It certainly wasn’t the food. When she was around, the anger that plagued my demonic soul was not. There was no tingle in the throat, there were no whispering voices. The beast in me settled like dust on an old bookshelf. Whether she knew it or not, Stacey was my angel of mercy.
I wondered if perhaps there might come a day when I could have her for myself. Maybe if Stacey was mine, and around me all the time, I would be rid of this curse once and for all.
Without warning, I was ripped from my fantasy by a sudden, shrill screech that sliced through my skull like a chainsaw. The noise vibrated inside my head to the point I thought my head might explode from the pressure. I clenched my jaw and slammed my fist down on the bar.
Both Stacey and the bartender jerked back as my plate and cutlery shook.
“Are you okay?” asked Stacey, almost frightened.
They didn’t hear it. No one else in the bar was hearing it but me.
Though my head was spinning from the pain, I managed to scan the room and quickly zeroed-in on where the wretched ringing was coming from.It was the girl with her friend at the table in the corner…blowing on a dog whistle.
Thankfully, for all of us, she grew tired of it and placed the whistle back in her purse. With no more ringing, I felt relief, yet drained and a little annoyed.
“I’m fine,” I answered Stacey, shorter than I would have liked.
I got up from my stool and started for the jukebox. “I’m going to play a song,”
Stacey called out to me, “Oh! Play some Christmas Carols! The snow is so pretty outside under the full moon!”
By the time I reached the jukebox my heart was starting to race, pounding in my ears like a drum. Sounds became clearer, more present. The hum of the electricity running through the bulky machine buzzed in my ear like a fly. I could hear the dog whistle girl behind me, scratching her thigh. I could hear the toilet flush in the men’s bathroom even though it was ten feet away and the door was closed. I could vividly sense with heightened clarity every clank of cutlery or bottle, every cough or clearing of the throat, every sip of beer…Even as I was ten feet away from Stacey and the bartender, I could hear their conversation as if they were whispering it in my very ear.
“You see the way he freaked out for no reason?” said the bartender with a chuckle. “What a freak…”
“Yeah, weird,” Stacey replied.
She sounded genuinely concerned. Maybe she really did like me, I thought.
“So, what’s the deal with the present?” asked the bartender, spewing that cockiness I loathed. “You got a crush on this clown or something?”
“Ew, no,” she said right away.
I felt the stab of her recoil in my gut.
“I just feel bad for the guy,” she continued. “I mean, it’s three days until Christmas and he’s here every day eating steak by himself. He’s obviously got nobody that cares about him.”
“Well as long as you’re not going to take the charity case home or anything like that…You make me jealous, babe.”
“That’s sweet,” she sighed. “But after the way you performed last night, I don’t think you have to be jealous of some lonely barfly…”
“You coming over tonight?” he asked her. He had a newfound sense of smug victory in his tone.
“As soon as I get off,” she answered, lustfully.
I heard their lips smack wetly across one another and suddenly I felt a familiar tingle in my throat.
How foolish I was to think that Stacey saw me as anything but a customer, anything but a tip. No. To her, I was just a pathetic lonely guy with nowhere to go for the holidays. No one to love him.
Rightfully so, perhaps.
I pressed play on the jukebox and Frank Sinatra’s, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas began to bleed out the aged speakers wired to the rafters above. But I could hear no music. The onset of thin, trembling whispers in the back of my head drowned out the string orchestra and Frank’s smooth baritone voice.
The bartender’s laughing at you, they whispered mockingly. They’re both laughing at you.
I was starting to sweat. The voices grew louder and more violent as they shouted at me the things they wanted me to do. The things I had to do.
The tingle in my throat had evolved into a pulsing ache. My blood began to boil and bubble. My flesh squirmed.
It was no use fighting it. I knew what these symptoms meant. The anger was returning.
Soon I would lose all control. Soon the demon would be free.
And no one would be leaving this bar alive.