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Moonlight's Call

Eric Witchey has sold stories under several names and in 12 genres. His tales have been translated into multiple languages, and his credits include over 160 stories, including 5 novels and two collections. His work has received recognition from New Century Writers, Writers of the Future, Writer's Digest, Independent Publisher Book Awards, International Book Awards, The Eric Hoffer Prose Award Program, Short Story America, the Irish Aeon Awards, and other organizations. His How-to articles have appeared in The Writer Magazine, Writer's Digest Magazine, and other print and online magazines.

Hooves and hounds.
She runs alone.
Low and fast, she bounds along farmer Davis's tractor road between corn and bean fields. She rounds the bend near the farm pond. She runs for the masking reek and covering shadows of the dump, where rats have run from her moonlit teeth to hide in mountains of garbage made by mortal men and women.
Beyond the dump is safety. There, the tree line guards the dark woods. The forest calls her, a spirit trapped in traditions so old that they are lost in full moon nights before knowing.
Her last pups are fifty years gone. It has been that long since she heard a male song caress the full moon sky. So long since the moon song called tradition's name.
Hooves and hounds.
She runs!
Behind her, dogs, noses low, sniff and cry for the strength to chase and catch.
They share the silver blood song. It is weak and small in them, but they have the joy of the pack, a joy she dimly remembers. They know mates and suckling pups. They need not wait for the moon to hear the sliver song.
Tradition means nothing to them.
She passes the pond, the sweet water smells. Frogs sing. Snakes slide away into dark water. She savors the tawny musk of deer that walked there and tasted new grass.
She has not fed. She must taste blood before morning. Traditions bind her to the silver song. Hot blood; sweet, steaming ecstasy.
Tradition is the moon, a chase, a kill.
Even horses, men, and dogs have their place in the silver song. Tradition.
Chase or chased. Alive with silver song and pulsing heart. Her howl is born in her loins. It rises into her lungs and ascends to the stars.
Hounds howl their answer, their threat.
She sprints past the pond. Dark garbage mounds loom ahead. Beyond, the tree line calls. In shadows and brush, no horse can ride, no man will dare walk, and no dog will survive her jaws.
The moon sings. Night fire grows in her belly. Blood calls. The night carries her swift and silent along tradition's road.
Chased or chasing, they're much the same. Both are heated blood and running. Life or death waits at the end.
In the dump, no rats scurry. The silver light shines on mounds of refuse and a man.
A man!
Light explodes beyond the mounds. She is blind.
He lays in wait to take his foe.
Traditions are not the stuff of games.
She drops low into a shadowed garbage canyon. She presses her belly into stench and slime.
She peers through the shadows at the man, tall and lean, a hunter like herself. She understands him. Cunning. Strong. He stands on the bed of a truck. By his leg, a spotlight shines, casting long shadows among the mounds and valleys of garbage. His rifle is not shouldered but ready, cold and steady in the moonlight.
Hooves and howls.
Rifle and light keep her from the trees.
Ignominy, to die, to end the line, to lie down and leave the flesh is such a place is wrong!
She cries to the silver sky, "Alone!"
The man looks her way. "Hush, girl," he says.
The hounds reply. No mercy for her kind. Only blood will end the night.
Instinct drives her belly low in shadows cast by man smelling things. Her fur is soaked with slop. She regrets the cry. She crawls in shadow toward the truck, toward the barrier between her and her woods. Her pounding heart betrays her love of life. She fears the hounds will smell or hear.
A horse whinnies.
She crawls close, nearer the truck, unseen. Garbage breezes give way to gun oil and sweat. The man smells of strength of will and sinew. She breathes him in. She savors him. Silver song. Traditions.
"Hold!" he calls. His rifle comes up.
She freezes. The silver song rises. Her heart pounds the beat. Blood is near.
"Who are you?" Horse man's angry yell. He wraps long dog leads around his pommel. Smart. He does not let them run free to feed her hungers one-by-one before she is killed.
Horse shuffles. Fear smells ride the breeze amid the refuse of man, the gun oil, the strength of will and muscle. Hounds and horse smell her. Restrained, they whine and howl.
So much blood so near. Fear battles desire.
Hounds battle their leads.
"Warden Lupine," strength and will calls. "Federal Conservation Warden."
"This is private property!" yells horse and hounds. "You got no business here!"
"Werewolves are endangered."
She crawls, belly low. The shadows hold. Closer. Near the truck. Near the woods.
"Endangered my ass! Sheep-killing, child-stealing, devil dogs!"
Traditions. The song of angry men mixed with silver sky and heated blood.
Hunt and life and death. Chase or chased.
Alone. She wishes for lost hunters, her pack, long dead.
"Hurt that Lycanthra Cannis Lunas, and you'll take a heavy fine!"
"I let it live, and I'll lose this farm."
"Can't let you hurt her. She's part of a tracking study. Besides that, she's a third-grade teacher most of the month."
"If I kill her when she's a teacher, I can get life. If I shoot her when she's a wolf, it's a five hundred dollar fine!"
Strength and will shoulders his rifle.
"You won't shoot me."
Hounds whine.
"Give me reason, and I will and can."
Trees and shadows. Silver song and man smells. Traditions. Too long the nights have been silent. She cannot help herself.
She leaps.
For a heartbeat, she rides the breeze. She hits strength and will at the chest. She closes her jaws on flesh. Gunfire banishes the silver song.
A man screams. A horse runs. Dogs howl, chasing, dragging, tethered to pommel, helpless to escape.
She tastes blood, sweet and hot and right. The chase is ended.
She bolts over the cab of the truck. She makes for shadows, trees, thickets. No man will follow. No hound will dare her jaws.
Sunlight warms her naked flesh. Her wolf dreams pass. She rises from a mossy bed. She smooths her long, red hair. Naked, she picks her way through the scratching brush. Cool morning air is sweet. The dirt path is familiar, dusty soft beneath bare feet.
Near the dump, she finds a green pickup. The warden, dark haired and tall, rifle by his side, lies in the bed. Blood pools beside his handsome face.
On the road beyond, blood marks dust where farmer Davis's horse stood. Blood trails away along the road amid hoof marks. The tracks of dogs, running and dragged, follow beside.
She sits on the cold steel tailgate. She traces a long finger through the red warmth congealed at his neck. She puts her fingers to her tongue. In the blood she tastes the ancient male song.
Her heart races. He tastes of pack, of mate, of silver fire dancing through ancient veins.
She licks his wounds.
He stirs. Gray eyes open, deep and full of silver song. His hand rises. Fingers intertwine, his and hers, warm and needful.
He sits. He takes her head in his hands. Their lips touch and part. His tongue is hot and alive. The kiss is long--the mating, animal.
Traditions, blood and silver song.
In silent late morning sun, they drive.
"A teacher," he says. "To teach the litter."
"A warden," she says, "to protect the pups."
He shows his teeth. They pass the farmhouse. The vet's truck is there. Farmer Davis stands beside his hip-shot mare. He turns as they pass. Hate fire burns in his eyes.
"Together," strength and will says. Fingers intertwine.
"Tradition," she says. "Hunt and life and death."
His laugh is the silver song.
The End
This story was first published on Friday, October 21st, 2022

Author Comments

Like most humans, I'm a beneficiary of, a willing participant in, and a victim of love. The Love's Call stories began as a speed writing warmups based on randomly selected prompts. One of the prompts was the question, "What does romantic longing and love feel like for mythic creatures?" Composition took place, as it often does, in a fever of sublime madness. Revision, a cognitively complex process and the hardest part of writing flash fiction for me, turned the first drafts into stories by exploiting details to imply character lives that extend into a greater world than actually appears in the text so that the reader can bring those lives into focus in a single thematically resonant moment of change.

- Eric Witchey
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