In celebration of Valentine’s Day, I’m hosting a Kindle Countdown Deal on the first story I ever published on Amazon: The Wolf of the Blackwood. From now until next Wednesday, it’s available for $0.99! It’s much longer than the other pieces I’ve published recently, which have been under 1,500 words. This is a short story based on a much longer story that delves into Scandinavian werewolf mythology (sexy, right?). It’s about a woman named Lydia, who professionally renovates and flips houses. She finds herself in the tiny town of Schwarts Hold, West Virginia, a place that time seems to have forgotten. Schwarts Hold comes from the German schwarz holz, or black wood. German settlers came to this region and settled, naming their new town based on the dense forest surrounding them.
Lydia bought a house near the woods. It’s been abandoned for years, and the last family who lived there had left in a hurry, leaving their belongings behind to rot. And soon, Lydia begins to understand why.
Here’s a brief excerpt:
The wolf came again tonight.
The clock by my air mattress read 1:27 in harsh, red letters when I got up. I’d watched it now for hours, lying on my back, kicking the blankets off off only to pull them back over myself moments later. I’d taken one of those pills Dr. Jackson had prescribed, but it didn’t help. Another night spent counting the cracks in the ceiling.
I sat up, too tired to feel frustrated. The room suddenly seemed stuffy, claustrophobic even. I got up to open the window. The house’s main bedroom faced the woods behind it, a dense wall of dark pines that went on for miles.
Just as I opened the heavy window, the motion sensor light was triggered. And there, just at the edge of the woods, sat the wolf. A huge, gray beast. Even from my room on the second floor, I could tell. This was the third night it had wandered into my yard. The first night, it had frightened me to tears. I almost called the sheriff, but the locals already thought I was a scared little city slicker, not cut out for country life. So I just waited, and watched. That’s when I realized that it wasn’t prowling, or even coming any closer to the house. The giant wolf was just sitting by the woods, watching. Watching me, I kept thinking, but that was ridiculous. The wolf wasn’t watching me. Or if it was, only as a curiosity. A curious, wary animal watching another curious, wary animal. I fell asleep at the window’s bench, and when I awoke, the wolf was gone.
The second night was almost a week later. Again, I couldn’t sleep, and again, I went to open the window, suddenly feeling clammy and trapped. As soon as I came to the window, the light turned on, and the beast came from the forest. He sat just at the edge of the light. Watching me. Or the house. Or both.
Maybe the house had been abandoned so long, wild animals had taken to wandering through the yard. Maybe this was even part of his (I immediately thought of the wolf as a he; I don’t know why) territory. Now, suddenly the yard was rid of all the rusted car parts and broken pieces of furniture; the grass was cut; lights suddenly came on at night, even in the yard that once was free for them to walk through. Maybe that’s why the wolf kept coming back. Confusion.
That second night, we watched each other for nearly an hour. He was by far more interesting than my ceiling. I had the sudden urge to wave at him from my window. I didn’t really know why. Now I think I was happy for the company. I haven’t slept well my whole life. And lately, it felt nearly impossible to get more than a handful of hours of rest a night. Even with the drugs. Even with the stupid meditation music my therapist had suggested for “relaxation”–I never understood the allure of synthesized celtic tunes. So usually, I just spent my nights in the dark, silent and alone. Sometimes I turned on the tv, or read a book, but lately I’d been too exhausted to muster up the energy for more than wishing I was asleep. It was nice to have the monotony of those dead-of-the-night hours broken up by a visitor–even if it was a wild animal that would probably just as soon rip my face off. He seemed to cock his head at me when I waved. Then, to my disappointment, he turned and trotted off.
“Typical,” I muttered to no one.
Just as the wolf was disappearing, though, I finally noticed: this oversized canine had no tail.
Nothing? Probably, but the next day I could think of nothing else. Could it be a disfigurement? Was he born without one? It was the most excited I’d been since coming to Schwarts Hold, a West Virginian town with very little in the excitement department.
I found myself watching for that wolf each night, even checking the window before I uselessly tucked myself in. But it had been another week, and no sign of the gray thing.