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 comes than me. Believe me when I tell you this. It is I who has the dissatisfaction of being the first one to know what is about to happen. It starts as a tickle in the throat, followed by the hoarse, demonic whispers inside my head. That’s when I know the beast 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 makes 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 in 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 that 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 evening, as I sat at the wood in the warmth of the corner bar I frequented, watching the breaking news on their screens, I came to the realization that my soul was beyond saving.
I recognized my handiwork on the news report. Not only the way the victim was sprawled out like a rag doll, stomach, and throat torn open, his insides on the outside, but I recognized the victim himself! Despite how gray his cadaver had become, or how much rigor mortis had twisted his once handsome features, I knew the corpse on the bar screen was Scott.
This worried me a great deal.
Did the demon know that Scott beat me for the promotion at work? If so, that meant the beast’s attacks were no longer random. And if the demon was choosing its victims based on my subconscious animosity, it wouldn’t be long before the people close to me started to suffer…
“Can you believe this?” said the young, male bartender, looking up at the TV screen. “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 my plate. 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, mid-chew.
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 had just said.
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 cannot bring myself to end my life. Maybe the police could do it for me.
I was so busy in my thoughts that I didn’t even notice Stacey 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.
“Hello?” she said with a trailing giggle. “Is anybody home?”
I came out of my trance, focusing on her pretty, young face, encompassed in blonde curls, still harboring fugitive snowflakes that had smuggled their way inside from the street. She shook her head like a dog coming in from the rain and snowflakes flew from her hair down onto the bar. Some 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, draping the shirt over my wool sweater to model it for Stacey, and less so, the bartender. “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 the plate.
“Hey, the man likes his steak,” said the bartender, flashing Stacey a smile. “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.
She smiled at me and winked.
I could have sat there gazing into her beautiful green eyes until the end of time.
Stacey brought upon 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 Stacey was around, the anger was not. There was no tingle in the throat, there were no whispering voices. My demon settled like dust on an old bookshelf. Stacey, whether she knew it or not, was my angel. I wondered if perhaps there might come a day when I could have her for myself. Maybe, if she was mine, and around me all the time, I would be rid of this horrible 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 deafening ring vibrated inside my head to the point I thought my brain 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. How? Why?
Though my head was spinning from pain, I managed to turn my head and scan the scattered patronage of twelve or so customers. I saw where the sound was coming from just as the unbearable screeching came to a dead stop and a soothing wave of relief rushed over me.
It was a 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.
“If there is a wolf out there killing people, he won’t be messing with me,” I heard the girl laugh, though, by all accounts, I shouldn’t have been able to hear what she was saying. She was all the way in the back; much too far for a human ear to pick up.
Just as clearly, as if they were sitting at the stools next to mine, I heard the girl’s heavier friend say, “You’re so paranoid.”
“I’m fine,” I answered Stacey, finally. 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!”
But I barely heard her. My heart was racing, pounding in my ears like a drum.
Panic struck me like a steamroller. Things were starting to change. The demon chose to attack my enemy from work and now I was gaining its extraordinary hearing capabilities. Even ten feet away from Stacey and the bartender, I could hear them whispering about me. I flipped through the jukebox track menu, pretending to be focused on that, while I listened to what they were saying behind my back.
“You see the way he freaked out like that?” 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 so 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.”
“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.
“You coming over tonight?” he asked her.
“As soon as I get off,” she answered, lustfully.
“Oh, you’ll be getting off, alright…” the bartender swooned.
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. In her mind, I was just a pathetic, lonely guy with nowhere to go for the holidays.
I pressed play on the jukebox and Frank Sinatra’s, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas began to flood out the speakers above, wired along the rafters. But I couldn’t hear the music. I couldn’t hear anything at all. The whispers, hoarse, demonic whispers in the back of my head drowned out the string orchestra and Frank’s smooth, baritone voice.
He’s laughing at you, the voices whispered mockingly. They’re both laughing at you.
I was starting to sweat. The voices became louder and more violent. The tingle in my throat had evolved into a pulsing ache. It was no use fighting it. 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.