“You’re making the right decision,” her mother told her. She rocked in her chair beside the fireplace, knitting a shawl for Rebecca. Rebecca didn’t want a shawl, and she didn’t want to be making the right decision either. What she wanted was to be out there, right now, taking Charles away from this accursed place, taking him to safety . . .
“When I think of what he must have done to be so cursed . . .” her mother shivered. Her grey hair was tucked up in a bonnet; her feet crossed and bundled in slippers to chase away the cold of the stone floor.
“And what must he have done?” Rebecca asked. Tears coursed down her face. She hoped in the darkness of the house, lit only by the fireplace, that her mother didn’t see her tears.
“Rebecca, you’re only sixteen. He’s a wendigo. Do you honestly think any of it will work now? He’s a monster,” her mother said. She set her knitting in her lap and looked Rebecca in the eyes. “Do you know how someone becomes a wendigo?”
Rebecca didn’t answer. She didn’t even look away from the fire to gaze at her mother.
“By eating human flesh. They’re cursed. Not even as clean as a werewolf for heaven’s sake. At least werewolves have to be attacked by another to change, and then it only happens during the full moon.” She resumed knitting, her needles clicked together as she went. “But they’re both beasts, and they both need to be put down.”
“And that’s where Father went?” Rebecca asked, her voice think with emotion. Just the thought of hunters out there looking for Charles, looking for her boyfriend, was too much for her to bear. Her heart hammered in her chest, her throat constricted with tears. She wouldn’t let more tears follow though, it seemed like kind of a betrayal to have wept at all in front of her mother.
“Yes,” her mother answered. “And half the town.”
Rebecca was out of her chair and halfway to the door before her mother could react. Most of the dining room had been piled up before the door. With some effort she shoved at the table aside and started hurling chairs behind her, halting her mother’s advancement.
She pulled the door open and Rebecca charged out into the cold autumn night. Her dark hair had slipped from her bonnet, and she tore the garment free, letting her wavy locks cascade down her back. Her feet were bare, but the ground was hard. At least she was thankful for that since there was no mud to slog through.
“Rebecca, come back here!” Her mother called from the doorway, finally having made it through the destruction Rebecca had left in her wake. “Rebecca!”
It was no use calling to her. Rebecca was already in the line of pines surrounding their home. She was determined, and she was fueled by her fear that the hunters would find Charles before she could. Her heart hammered in her chest, her breathing frantic.
It was a dark night, and Rebecca wasn’t used to the forest even by daylight. Fog clung to the ground like a blanket of smoke. The wind high in the branches confused her even more, not sure if it was the wind, or someone charging through the underbrush at her. She quickly became lost. She kept running though, it’s not like she had any notion where Charles was anyway.
In the end, it was Charles who found her, lumbering through the woods, though he made little sound, Rebecca felt his presence as he neared. When Rebecca turned toward the sound, he stopped.
He was taller than she’d remembered him being before the transformation. Great horns sprung from his head, dripping red with blood in the light of the full moon.
Will he ever change back? Rebecca wondered. Didn’t her mother say something about werewolves only being monsters during the full moon? Did that mean a wendigo would never change back to a human?
What did her mother know anyway?
Even with all of her bravery and determination to do this, to take him and run, Rebecca couldn’t help the shiver brought on by his change.
He was thin, his body almost appearing stretched. His teeth, once neat and straight, were now long and ragged, like broken glass. His mouth hung open, his eyes held a reddish, glowing cast to them.
Charles reached out to her, his long fingers ending in claws.
“You remember me,” Rebecca said.
In the distance the sound of hunting dogs rose on the air, their hungry howls carrying on the wind. Charles looked off in the distance where the shouts of hunters could be heard.
“Charles, we aren’t safe here, we have to leave!” she said. She grabbed his hand and tugged. He pulled away from her, his head swiveling back to stare at her with alien eyes. A growl rumbled up from deep in his chest.
She gasped and backed away. She tried finding something of Charles there, inside his eyes, but she couldn’t.
And then, there he was. There in those red eyes, she could see recognition. He did know who she was.
I don’t care how he came to be like this, she resolved. Her mother must be wrong. Charles could never do what she claimed. Maybe he’d been cursed, and when they killed the witch that did it, he would turn back into a human. Yes, that must be what happened. They would live in the woods until then if they had to. Far from villages where people would hunt them.
Her words were cut short by the thundering boom of a gun. Blood splattered her face. A force like being punched hammered into her chest.
Charles eyes went wide, ridden with pain. Rebecca stumbled away from his flailing arms, his raking claws. She wiped at the blood on her face, her breath coming short and hard. She felt a gurgle whenever she drew breath. Her legs went weak and she collapsed.
Rebecca tried to stand, but she couldn’t. Her legs were shaking; her arms wouldn’t hold her weight.
Something was wrong. She felt something seep down the front of her gown, felt a trickle between her legs. Her hands went to her chest, and there she felt the pump of blood flow between her fingers.
She’d been shot.
Charles listed forward, his eyes unseeing, his mouth working. His feet scrambled, trying to find purchase on the hard ground before he finally fell to his side, twitched twice, and fell still.
Rebecca reached for him, but she was growing weaker with each passing breath. No sooner had her hand touched his brown hair than she listed to the side as well, and fell into everlasting sleep beside her cursed lover.