She cried as she ran. Not a pretty cry, with boo-hoos and a few tears, but the out-of-control kind: tears streaming, upper lip covered with snot and choking on sobs so hard she nearly retched. She looked back as she ran. It was just slowing her down, but she couldn’t help it.
She wanted to see it coming.
Running and twisting, gasping and sobbing, she staggered into a wall, brick biting her palms. One nail snapped like dry tinder, shards gouging into flesh, drawing forth blood as well as a cry of pain. The cry tapered to a whimper as she thrust herself away from the wall, staggering blindly on.
Behind her, a growl rumbled in the darkness, a primal sound filled with hunger and the promise of death. She whirled to face the sound, legs tangling and crashed sidelong to the ground. She twisted, rolled to her back, scrabbled backwards along the alley, gibbering with terror while her eyes remained focused on the shadows.
Within the shadows the darkness… moved.
She scrambled back, breath clawing through her chest, stopping as her shoulders met something solid.
Eyes gleamed red in the shadows. Stared. Moved closer.
Flailing hands found chain-link. Her breath became a cry as, turning, she gripped the links and pulled herself up. She gagged on fear, choked on mucus and tears, but she climbed.
Behind her a shadow roared and leapt — and a Horror entered the light.
Red eyes bulging, long, toothy jaws open inhumanly wide to emit a shrieking howl, the thing flew at the woman, long-taloned hands spread wide and stretching forth to rend and tear.
Screaming, she threw herself up the fence, terror overcoming any lack of skill. Her hands reached the top, gripped and pulled.
A thickly-muscled claw fell upon her calf. Squeezed. Yanked.
With a helpless wail, she fell to earth. The beast stood over her. Reared back. Loosed a blood-curdling howl.
“Son of a bitch!”
In an instant the man was upon the beast, dodging between the powerful arms to grip the werewolf by the throat.
“How many times do I have to tell you?”
The man jerked and pulled. The wolf stumbled forward with a surprised shout, but the man didn’t stop. His face a rictus of effort, he pulled one more time, straining with everything he had. With a sound like tearing cloth the wolf’s head was ripped from its body… revealing a man’s wide- eyed face beneath.
“Fasten the god-damn flap down so the frigging zipper doesn’t show!”
He turned and threw the head at the watching film crew.
Jack leveled a finger at the speaker, a big man with horn-rimmed glasses and a “Property of So Cal Tech” sweatshirt.
“Not a word, Bill! Not one friggin’ word! This is your suit, so it’s your fault and your problem!”
“But you ripped the zipper right off,” said Bill, examining the head in his hands.
“So fix it, and this time do it right — hide that God damned zipper, because next time it shows up on camera I’m gonna shove that head up your ass!”
A woman in a black jacket with STAFF across the back edged forward, clutching a clipboard protectively.
“Jack, you know this is just—”
Her mouth closed with a little snap as Jack’s finger whipped around to aim at her.
“Shut it, Stephanie. Just shut it.”
He looked about, raising his voice to include the entire crew.
“If it was up you all of you we’d be putting out the same shit everybody else is putting out! We’re on top right now, and we’re gonna stay there despite you morons, y’understand?”
There was muttering and shuffling until Jack threw his hands in the air.
“Fine! We’ll break until Bill fixes that friggin’ head.”
He looked at Bill.
“And you get it right this time, you God damn fairy! I’ll be in my trailer.”
The crowd started to disperse.
The girl who had run down the alley for the camera froze, then turned to look at Jack, who gave her a thumbs up
“You were perfect. Try to do that again, exactly, once Bill gets his shit together.”
“He’s an asshole,” someone muttered as he walked away, “but he really knows this stuff. He knows just what fear looks and sounds like — it’s amazing.”
Yes I am, Jack thought, wrenching open his trailer door. The lot noise disappeared as the door closed, the thick, custom soundproofing job shutting out the outside world, leaving him in peaceful silence. He stood for a moment, cradling his face in his hands.
“Fuckin’ amatures.” He puffed air through the spread of his fingers, then dropped his hands, brushing them against his thighs.
“Oh well. Time for some research.”
He went to the rear of the trailer and opened a narrow closet door.
Jack had forgotten her real name, but he called her Maggie. Maggie shook and cried, sounding exactly like Olivia.
Damn that bitch is good!
Maggie had a fever; She wouldn’t last long now. It might have been her freshly empty eye socket — that was infected, just look at the pus— or maybe the swolen red stitches holding her together where he had, over the course of three days, given her a layer-by-layer mastectomy. Who could tell?
Better get what I can from her while I have her, her thought, slipping behind her and reaching around to place the edge of the straight-razor against her right aureole, at the base of her remaining nipple. A high keening came from her as she tried to back from the blade, only to be blocked by his chest. His right cheek brushed her left, softly; He smelled the tears from her remaining eye.
“Thank you,” he murmured, “for teaching me what it is to be the beast… but I have so much left to learn.”
His voice dropped to a whisper.
The razor flashed.