Cologne, Germany, 1562 A.D.
“Little Peter Griswold would surely never harm anyone…”
The evening sky was dipping itself in the warm bath of twilight, visible beyond the glen through a break in the forest. A lanky boy of twelve, smudged from hours of solitary exploration, Peter Griswold thought he heard someone speak.
“Of course not. Just look at those cheeks. Like rose petals floating atop a bucket of cream.”
Now he was certain. People were speaking about him. His face grew hot.
He scanned the wide glen around him, searching for his taunters. But there was nowhere to hide. The mutilated rabbit he held in hand could barely conceal itself among the short grass and flowers.
The forest that stretched up and away from him on either side was the only place a practical joker could seek refuge. As twilight advanced, shadows in the woods grew heavy and rolled along the ground like a dark fog. Surely, his spies were there.
“Did he raise a hand to strike his cousin Ursula when she laughed at his manhood? No he did not! He only wept. A gentle soul, he is…”
“But he thought about it! He dreamed of wringing her neck!”
“Where are you?” Peter yelled. His nostrils twitched.
“Yes, dream of it he did. Like he dreams of skinning his mother’s face, as he did to that rabbit!”
Peter looked at the partially skinned rabbit he held in one hand, and the sharp stick in the other with which he had separated its flesh from muscle.
“He is no gentle soul. He’s spineless, fit to be his father’s whipping boy and hiding behind his mother’s skirt! He hasn’t the courage to strike!”
Peter threw the skinned rabbit to the ground and brought the sharp stick raining down into its body again and again with all his strength—each strike, a bolt of lightning, and each of his guttural roars, a clap of thunder.
He had no concept of how long he had been at it. All he knew was that when he stopped he was gasping for breath like a horse driven at full gallop from dawn to dusk. When he looked down at the rabbit, it was no longer the animal he had delighted in holding as he whispered his secrets, then sodomized to death, then skinned; it was now only muddy sludge, red gore mixed with earth, with a tuft of fur sticking to the mess here or there.
Peter lifted himself and began to stumble home. Above the treeline, the first pale glimmer of the full moon appeared.
“Hurry home, Peter Griswold! Wolves are about!” one of his taunters called at his back.
“They do to young boys as young boys do to rabbits!” cried the other.
Laughter followed him to the edge of the glen.
It was on this mild evening that Peter first encountered the voices. His hope was that they would stay in the glen and torment him no more.
Hope never seemed to bear fruit for Peter. It wilted in his youth, replaced by something well within his grasp.
Bedburg, Germany, 1580 A.D.
Peter dreamed, deep and dark.
A narrow cobblestone road, glistening with rain under the moonlight, crowded on both sides by small houses. The dead were already filling the streets—here, in the gutter, there, piled on top of carts—their faces and hands black from plague. People stood over them, moaning in their grief, praying that they and the souls of their loved ones be delivered from all death, and all evil.
A hooded figure strolled slowly up the cobblestone road, approaching Peter, his boots caked in filth. A fog of sickness billowed from under his cape. As he passed, the fog touched the living, and every man, woman, and child fell instantly into death alongside the others.
The figure’s face was in shadow, but his black eyes glistened as if by torchlight. He reached toward one of the dead from among the piles and plucked its hand away; the hand gave as easily as rotten fruit.
The figure drew near and at last removed his hood. A kindly old man stood before Peter, a man of most strange appearance the likes of which Peter had never seen. His hair was cropped close to his head. His skin was dark like tanned leather, and his eyes were of an uncommon shape— like streaks of blood when flung about in feverish passion.
The old man smiled warm-heartedly.
“You are ready to take life… Are you willing to devour it?”
The old man clearly expected no reply, but paused all the same. “I have a gift for you.”
At once, his warm smile grew into a wide mouth full of teeth like sabers. The hand he plucked from the dead he now stuffed into his mouth in its entirety. He chewed with delight as blood like black sludge trickled from the corners of his mouth and ran down his chin.
Peter started awake as he heard scratching at the side of his house. Trees in the wind.
Remembering the blackened hand from his dream, Peter rubbed the stump of his wrist where his own left hand used to be, the hand his father had taken during drunken accusations of matrophilia; his mother cried and protested as his father separated hand from body with one angry swipe of the cleaver.
From that day on, Peter ceased to be known in town by the name of Griswold. The children and crueler adults of of Cologne and Bedburg had given him a new name: Peter Stubbe.
The moonlight and wild wind stoked his passion. He scratched at his beard, dressed himself, then passed by the room where his daughter and young son shared a mattress stuffed with hay. Like cherubs, they were. They had the look of their dead mother, and Peter could think of nothing finer than eating their faces smothered in gravy.
The wind caught the front door as he went out of the house, slamming it against the side in a great thud. With effort, he closed it.
Just beyond, the forest stood dark and silent.
“Tonight the moon is full! I know you’re about!” Peter called toward the woods.
He was answered by a chorus of laughs and snickers. “Indeed we are, Peter,” said one of the voices.
A shadow moved from one tree to another.
“Why do you taunt me from the shadows? You have followed me for a lifetime! Show yourselves, cowards!”
More malevolent giggling, this time louder.
“The Master does not come like a dog when called!” Several pair of large eyes gleamed in the shadows, then lowered themselves behind bushes, and disappeared behind trees. “Rather, the Master calls you. And he is waiting. Just there…”
Peter noticed the faint amber glow of a lamplight emanating from his barn, visible through a crack in the door.
In the barn nothing was out of order. Peter saw that the lamplight came from the cellar door, a slab of wood in the ground that concealed the lower chamber. Peter was alarmed. This is where he kept his…amusements.
As he lowered himself into the cellar, he was greeted by the sight of a man cast in silhouette against the light of the lamp, which hung from a nail on a nearby post. The figure’s hair was cropped close to his head. He wore a long coat and riding boots. The man’s back was to Peter, but he knew instantly that this was the strange old man from his dream.
In front of the man, bathed completely in amber light, was the village girl. She was blonde and made of undulating hills that now poured out of the top of her underclothes. Sweet terror beaded and glistened on her skin by the light of the flame. Bound at the wrists by a rope suspended from an overhead beam, her legs were curled under as she huddled in a pile of hay. A second rope wrapped around her head, secured between her teeth like a bit. Eyes red and cheeks swollen, her muffled wails of horror grew more frantic at the sight of Peter.
Abruptly from behind Peter, two country gentlemen and a maiden descended the cellar steps. He had not seen them outside, nor in the barn. The gentlemen tipped their tattered hats and the maiden curtsied coyly; the three quickly retreated to a far corner of the cellar, where the lamplight barely reached.
The strange man’s back was to Peter. “This girl is five days your captive. What will you do with her?”
“Do you mean to arrest me?” Peter asked, eyes wide.
From the shadows, the men and maiden laughed. He glanced back and saw that they began to remove each others’ clothes.
“She will be bones and dust while your doubt holds fast,” the old man said. “I know what you wish to do. I only ask what you will do.”
Gentle coos coming from the dark corner became moans of passion. The captive village girl whimpered.
“Who are you?”
“If your name is Stubbe, then so is mine.” The old man turned to face Peter, extending a handless left forearm much like his own. The wrist where his hand had been was marked by dimpled scars. “We are not so different, you and I. Long ago, I chewed off my hand to escape captivity. My name is Norbu. I am what you wish to be.”
Intense cries of carnal pleasure became low, deep purring sounds. Then snarls. “Make him our own, Father. We want the girl!”
Norbu smiled. “They are overcome by the moon’s pull. It seems your new brothers and sister could restrain themselves no more.” Norbu took the lamplight in hand and extended it toward the dark corner, illuminating the three.
The light fell upon three beasts the color of night, fornicating in the corner of the cellar. Their flesh had the darkest hint of blue, reminding Peter of the wet moonlit cobblestones in his dream. Light colored hair shot out from them in tufts and surrounded their heads like an animal’s mane; eyes of glistening black, their deadly teeth gnashed and lips curled in lust as they writhed amongst one another.
The captive girl screamed hysterically, then fainted.
“Werewolves!,” Peter cried in shock.
Norbu laughed heartily. “You Germans and your wolves. It is practically an obsession. In truth, there is no wolf in us at all. I embody a timeless power come forth in flesh, that waxes with the fullest expression of the moon. My children are spread across many lands. But yes, we are those glorious beings you call werewolves.”
Norbu beckoned toward one of the beasts. It immediately obeyed. “Now, show Konrad the meat of your hand.”
A simple strike of the teeth, a small letting of blood; the night thereafter was dizzying euphoria.
The captive girl in Peter’s cellar, shared among the others, had merely whet his appetite. As the moon waned, Peter fell into deep melancholy that lasted the next month. He felt as if he was merely biding his time until he at last could sate his newly unleashed hungers.
Alone on the road at day’s end, feet swollen and sore, her enormous belly taut as she struggled to waddle the last steps beyond the wood to her home, Ursula was startled to hear her name spoken, seemingly from nowhere.
“I can see you so clearly, even in this dim shade. Delightful.”
The voice, coming from amongst the darkness of the trees, sounded familiar.
“Do I know you, sir?”
“I so loved you once.”
“Peter Griswold? Cousin, is that you?”
“I was spurned!” His voice grew louder. Ursula heard a quick shuffling amongst the dry leaves.
“We were children then. Peter, come to where I can see you.”
“I’m afraid my appearance would be most startling to you. I do not wish to give you a fright while in your delicate maternal condition.”
“Are you injured? Shall I help you?”
“Yes. I have had an accident.”
Ursula’s concern moved her feet into the wood, toward the voice of her cousin.
With the road nearly out of sight, she saw Peter sprawled at the base of a large tree.
“Peter! Your eyes are nearly black! Are you bleeding?”
In a flash she was on the ground, looking up into Peter’s face. A passionate snarl overtook his lips. “It is only my heart that bleeds, dear cousin.”
His only hand ripped through her dress and underclothes in one stroke, exposing her breasts and belly, then quickly clamped against her mouth in time to stifle a scream.
Through her terror, she heard Peter’s bones begin to pop and grind as if he were being broken on the torturous wheel. His body contorted grotesquely. His chest expanded greatly beneath his coat; his jaw went askew, seeming to break, then settled as it took on a larger proportion.
Peter looked at her breast, his eyes feasting. The sight of her flesh like milk, topped with the firmness of her budding pink nipple, was overwhelming.
Most of her scream disappeared into the iron clamp of his hand. She felt sharp teeth around her nipple, and hot blood pour over her flesh.
He raised up again with a grin that dripped deep red. To her sheer terror, he now caressed her swollen belly with the stump of his left hand.
“And what shall I do with this dainty morsel?” His evil grin widened.
Those who lived in homes near the road heard a strangled scream that quickly faded into silence. All of Bedburg heard the booming, triumphant howl that followed; a howl most unnatural, surely of no ordinary wolf, that echoed among the trees and nearby hills. Spines shivered and hair stood on end as it was joined by other howls, one by one, until the forests of Bedburg throbbed in its rich, deadly chorus— beneath the pale light of the full moon.