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Autumn Moon

Author(s): C.I. Kemp

Five hundred years ago:  In a remote wooded area, the victim of a hideous atrocity vowed that there would come retribution.  Death would not be forever.  In years to come, the horror would resurface.
Today:  Homestead, Montana, is a nice, quiet town, At least, it was until the wolves came. 
Nielsen Johns is a naturalist and expert on wolves.  He is at a loss to explain their presence and their actions, and suspects something sinister is about to unfold.  When some people start changing and others start dying, Niels’s worst fears are realized. 
At the same time, Annette Highlander, the woman Niels loves, is wrestling with events from her own shadowy past.  Annette is a single mom, trying to make a new life for herself and her two children.  This might not be so easy, however, since she has enemies in Homestead.   One is a callous blackmailer who knows of her history and has no hesitation about using it to achieve his own ends.  The other is a ruthless psychotic who will stop at nothing to see Annette and her children dead.
Homestead is about to be plunged into a wave of horrific violence.  Only Niels stands between the oncoming terror and his home town.  He must uncover the secret behind the wolves, while protecting Annette and her family from the dangers that threaten them.
Autumn Moon is the story of a town in which things are not what they appear to be - where wolves think and plan like humans; where humans stalk and kill like beasts.


“The alleged carnage of the werewolf pales in comparison with the actual cruelty of the human race.  The nature of the wolf is gentle, pacific; the history of mankind, especially towards its most vulnerable members, is anything but.  In view of that fact, any savagery attributable to the werewolf must be seen to derive, not from the nature of the wolf, but rather from the nature of the man.”
- Nielsen Johns, Author of Of Wolves And Men
She looked up and saw the wolves.
Once again, the back yard was wall-to-wall wolves, illuminated in the perimeter lights, with more emerging from the woods.  The lights accentuated the shimmery glow in their eyes, even more prominent, now that it was night.  Unlike before, none was sitting or lying down.  They were all walking towards the house and they didn’t stop at the flagstone patio as they had before.  They kept walking, right up to the double glass doors.
Annette sat mesmerized. The last time the wolves had appeared, a part of her had wanted to go out and join them.
Then, the impossible happened.
Annette had seen movies where people oozed through a wall or some other solid barrier, courtesy of special effects which ranged from masterful to cheesy.  In most instances, the outline of the person going through the wall went all watery and wavy, like those flashback sequences on TV shows.  It might be a neat effect, but it didn’t look real.
What was happening here was real; impossible, but real.
The wolves were coming into the room, through the glass doors, as if they weren’t there.
There were no watery, wavy outlines.  There was no broken glass.  The wolves just came as if there was no barrier, even though Annette could see her own amazed reflection in the glass.
They didn’t stop until they reached the couch where she’d been sitting.
One wolf opened its jaws and took her right wrist in its mouth.  Another wolf did the same on her left.  Two more grasped her lower calves in the same manner.  Others, her forearms.
They applied no pressure whatsoever.  There was no pain.  Somehow, Annette sensed that this was not an attack; in some primitive way, she understood that these animals were attempting to forge some type of rapport with her. 
Her mind was awhirl with a thousand impressions.  Aside from the strangeness of what was happening to her, something about it seemed right.  She knew that she should be afraid, under normal circumstances, she would be afraid, but now, for reasons she couldn’t fathom, she was not.  She felt the points of their teeth through her blouse.  She had some vague recollection that a wolf’s jaws have a biting capacity of 1,500 pounds per square inch.  Those teeth could shred her flesh and crush her bones, but she knew that that would not happen. 
Eight powerful wolves were holding onto her and she was not afraid.
The wolves began tugging at her.  Their tugs were gentle at first, then more insistent, but never with any force that could hurt her.  If she resisted, they ceased their attempts for the moment, then resumed them again, always gentle, yet always persistent.
Follow us, they seemed to say.
I will.
The wolves continued their tugging and Annette felt her body moving in concert with them.  She was standing, but had no recollection of rising from the couch.  She was walking – had to be walking, since she was moving forward – but had no awareness of moving her legs.
She was no longer in the rec room, She had accompanied the wolves out of doors, but this was not her patio, her back yard, or even the woods beyond her property.  The trees surrounding her were not the Ponderosa Pines, Quaking Aspens, or Western Larches that adorned the mountain trails she knew so well.  In fact, there were no trails, no paths.  Only tall fir trees covered with snow, looming out of the snow-covered ground.
The wolves continued walking and she moved with them.  They were no longer holding onto her, tugging at her.  Their will was her will.  Where they were leading, she was following.
She looked up at the sky.  This night in Homestead had been clear.  The sky was full of stars.  The sky over her head in this place was a consistent, dull gray.
What was happening?  Where was she?  Where was she going?
There was still a part of Annette’s rational mind that knew what was happening was beyond the realm of natural law. She should be terrified.  She should be resisting the wolves’ psychic pull.  Yet she was not terrified, she was enraptured.  She would not resist.
The wolves kept walking.  Annette kept pace with them.
She heard voices, then footsteps mingled with the sounds of crackling ice.  For the first time, she realized how cold it was in this place, yet she herself was not cold.  She was wearing a V-neck sweater, jeans, and sneakers – poor protection against even the recent Montana nights which had been in the low forties.  Yet here, with the snow frozen on the ground, she felt warm, insulated against a cold which must be intense.
The voices came closer and Annette struggled to make out words or phrases.  She could not.  The words were in a foreign language she did not recognize. They were men's voices and they were coming closer.
Annette saw lights and realized they were torches.
The torches came closer and the wolves halted before a clearing.  Annette realized that she too was standing still, no longer moving forward.
Several men made their way into the clearing.  They were dressed in heavy fur-lined boots laced up to the calves.  Their coats were knee-length shearling as were their gloves and hats.  When they spoke, wisps of mist from their mouths obliterated their features. 
Annette had to strain to hear their words, in the hopes that a familiar sound would clue her in to the language they spoke.  She could make out one word, a name:  Ileana.  One of the men spoke it and the man standing next to him spat in the snow.
Their leader was a tall man with dark, fierce eyes, and the only one who was bare-headed.  While the others spoke in hushed or hesitant tones, his voice rose above the other with weight and authority.  When he spoke, the others fell silent.  When he spoke the name, “Ileana,” he did so with an anger and forcefulness that chilled Annette in a way that the frigid climate never could. 
 Blackness seemed to radiate from him:  his hair, his eyes, his thick bushy beard all bore the same lustrous, ebony hue.   It was not a mere physical blackness.  There was something about this man that radiated an eternal darkness, one suggesting a soul blacker than any mere corporeal characteristic he might possess.
The wolves shared her distaste.  When he passed, they all bristled, a few growled.
The man and his band walked past, not seeing them. 
At any other time, Annette would have been amazed by this, but tonight, it was just one more inexplicable occurrence that somehow seemed normal.
When the band passed, the wolves began moving again.  They followed the band and Annette followed the wolves.
They had gone about a mile when the leader brought the group to a halt.  They were standing before a wooden cabin and the leader began yelling to someone in the cabin.  Someone named Ileana.
Annette saw the interior illuminated with a soft glow.  The door opened and a woman emerged, holding a candle.  She was clad in a white robe which came down past her knees, but not quite to her feet, which were bare.  Her hair was dark blond, wavy and came down past her shoulders.  Her figure was slender, but solid.  Her face had lines which denoted a hard peasant life, yet these features detracted from her beauty only a little.
The woman said something in that strange unfamiliar language, directed to the dark-eyed leader.  Her gaze never wavered.  Annette did not understand what she said, but she did understand that she was expressing defiance.
The woman’s (Ileana’s?) response drove the leader into a rage.  He came towards her, shouting something which Annette interpreted as an ultimatum.  When she answered him, in the same defiant tones, he started shouting again, this time, brandishing a truncheon he’d pulled from inside his coat.
Annette lost it.  “Hey!  Leave her alone!”
Her words went unheard.  The leader edged closer to the woman, shouting and raising the truncheon higher.
“Get away from her!”
Suddenly, two small forms came rushing out into the night.   They were shouting and the boy was crying.  They were running towards their mother, the girl was shouting at the men.
For the first time, the woman showed fear.  She yelled something to the children, no doubt ordering them back into the cabin, but it was too late.  The leader grabbed the woman by the hair and forced her onto the ground.  He barked a command, and four other men rushed forward towards the children.  The boy tried to run, but he was brought down.  The girl stood her ground and was held fast.
The leader looked down at the woman and repeated whatever demand he had made.  This time, his voice held no anger.  He was smiling an ugly smile and his tone was triumphant.  The woman knew she was at a disadvantage.  She shouted back, no longer defiant, but begging, for him to spare her children, to leave them in peace.  Once again, the leader repeated his demand.  Her response was a rapid head-shake.   Annette sensed that it was not because she was being obdurate, but because she could not accede to the demand being placed upon her.
At this refusal, the leader’s fury knew no bounds.  He swung the truncheon and brought it down on her elbow.  The woman screamed and so did Annette.
“Get away from her!” 
Annette tried to rush forward to the woman’s defense, but found that she could not.  It wasn’t that the wolves were holding her stationery, it was just that her feet would not move, however hard she willed them to do so.  It was like a dream where the dreamer is being chased and is trying to run, but cannot.
“Stop it!  Leave her alone!”
The children were screaming by now and the leader was still shouting at the woman who was in too much pain to respond.  The leader took her silence as further insolence and barked an order to the man standing alongside him.
To Annette’s horror, this man doffed his gloves, drew a knife from a sheath at his belt and strode towards the boy.  With a casualness even more revolting than the violence inflicted on the woman, the man slit the child’s throat.
The boy’s crying gave way to a sickening gurgle as he fell to his feet and died, his blood flowing like a river in the snow.
The woman had found her voice and was screaming what might have been curses, promises, or entreaties.  The leader ignored her and gestured to his follower who walked towards the girl.
“Stop!  Don’t!”  Annette shrieked, knowing it was useless.
The girl struggled and managed to break away.  She started running, but the man with the knife caught her.  She turned and managed to bite his ungloved hand.  He yowled in pain, and thrust the knife into her breast.  The girl screamed but the man, in caught up in a berserker’s rage, plunged the knife into her body again and again.  The child had affronted him, she would pay in blood and agony.
Annette was shouting with fury, knowing that her cries were fruitless, yet she was unable to stop until the girl lay still.  Annette then turned her attention back to the mother.
A change had come over the woman on the ground.  She had stopped screaming and appeared to be in a trance.  At first, Annette thought it was a natural state of shock at seeing her children butchered in so hideous a fashion.   Then, she realized that the woman was in a state of extreme concentration.  She was shutting out the horror of what had just happened.  This was not to protect herself from the enormity of this horror, but for some other reason. 
The leader understood this.  For the first time, his features became contorted in terror.   He brought the truncheon down again and again, with the same ferocity with which lieutenant had wielded the knife against the little girl.  When he was finished, the woman was still, the leader was panting, sweat poured off him, despite the extreme cold.  He shouted something to the other men.  They complied, dragging the dead children back onto the house.
The leader turned his attention back to the woman.  To her amazement, Annette saw that the woman had begun to change.  .  The bridge above her nose had started to sprout coarse hair and her face was developing pustules with shoots of that same coarse hair.  Also, her jaw were starting to change, to elongate, no longer looking human.
The leader lifted the woman, carried her to the door and heaved her inside as if she were sack of grain.  He then shouted something to one of the men who threw his torch into the cabin.  In moments, the flames spread, obliterating all traces of the structure as well as its occupants.  The leader spoke again, his head bowed, and Annette was amazed to realize that it was a prayer.  This murderer, this butcher actually had the temerity to invoke the Almighty after slaying an unarmed woman and her helpless children!
Annette felt sickened.  She had never felt so enraged or so helpless or so nauseated.  Why had the wolves brought her here?  What was their purpose?  Why had she been subjected to so hideous and so unconscionable an event?
She got to her knees and realized that she was alone.  There was no house, no shearling-clad men, no wolves.  There were no snow-covered trees, no snow-covered ground, no gray sky devoid of starlight.
She was on the floor of her rec room.
It took her a moment for her to take in her surroundings before she swooned.

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ISBN (Print):
ISBN (Electronic): 978-1-62916-049-8
Genre: Horror
Date Published: 01/02/2014
Publisher: Taliesin Publishing

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