Moonlight Beast

"Werewolves?" she gasped in a whisper, "Impossible!" --- Aspen is a young detective living in the small woodland town of Foniaulf. Her life is equally as quiet as the town, population 2000, until a series of killings send her into a spiral of fantasies she'd previously related to fairy tales and folk stories. She begins to discover the towns deep roots with mystic and werewolves. Completely under the mercy of a boy who howls to the moon in his spare time, Aspen must learn to cope or the consequences are fatal for both of them.

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1. A Close Encounter

Chapter One: A Close Encounter.

Aspen shivered, hugging her pale arms to her chest. A sharp gust of cool air rushed down her thin coat as she hurried along the cobbled path...

In the air around me, eerie gusts of wind surrounded, threatening and hissing. The freshly fallen, crisp leaves fluttered and rustled over the forgotten, damp ones lying depressingly soggy on the concrete. Another bitter breeze nipped at my ears, which were turning a deeper shade of crimson than my unruly hair.

I focused on every last murmur of noise, straining to hear anything at all suspicious. In the near distance, the sniggers and bone-chilling echoes of Foniaulf's many gangs getting into mischief came into hearing. I sighed, probably causing about a million stupid cases to work on at the station tomorrow morning.

Without warning, an owl hooted loudly. I squealed in shock, leaping into the air then crashing down onto my butt and colliding with the frigid, soaked ground. I huffed in frustration and heaved myself to my feet, sighing angrily once again as I saw the dampen patch on the back of my jeans. Making a mental note to be much less clumsy, I marched, continuing down the drizzly street where any surviving light was being briskly exterminated.

Rapidly falling darkness quickly obliterated the lingering light. A once salmon and purple painted sky began the process of turning a soulless ebony. Soon, a canopy of stunning, luminous yet flickering stars materialised amongst the vast ocean of blackness. Many were dull, merely flashing into existence every now and then much like a deteriorating bulb. Yet, there was an adequate quantity of shimmering stars accompanied with the shocking, bright moonlight to illuminate the otherwise pitch black nightfall.

Reflecting the mesmerising and dazzling assemblage of glittering stars and the luminescence from the restaurants which lined the streets, the puddles of freshly fallen water glistened and gleamed. A faint wind brushed against the water's surfaces, the ripples ruffling the stillness of it and the reflection was shattered.

When the puddle yet again stalled, I gazed at my faint reflection. Staring back at me with fire in her eyes, was a petite girl with fierce, bus red hair scraped back into a messy ponytail. She bit her already raw lips and ran a hand through her tousled locks. Despite the anxiety, this turbulent young woman was determined - she needed answers!

Yes, I was thirsty to know the truth. Yearning for justice.

For a brief second, I lingered on the image before once again, the soft wind whipped at the water's surface and my reflection was dissipated. I huffed and began to refocus on listening to my surroundings. It was of the utmost importance that I was utterly applied to the task at hand. After all, lives were at stake. As far as I was concerned, it was my job to protect people.

But who was the killer?

Sighing in frustration, I paused to catch my breath and gather my jumbled thoughts, watching my breaths form billowing clouds of mist. How on earth was it possible for someone to saunter around, brutally murdering innocents, and get away without leaving a trace? Urgently, I flitted through my mental file of the cases, ravenous for answers. I sought after the solution which no one else could up till that point.

Steve Parks, 22, murdered. He was found in a secluded alleyway, brutally mauled and suffering severe blood loss, on the brink of death yet still fighting. Immediately rushed to the hospital, the doctors attempted an emergency blood transfusion to save him from certain death. They were shocked when it failed due to a strange complication. It appeared that someone else may already have approached a blood transfusion and failed to complete it successfully. They had used the wrong blood type and it had mixed with Steve's Type B+ blood.

It because too late for poor Mr. Parks: the doctors felt hopeless.

Spilled platelets from his blood cells led to an uncontrollable clotting cascade, causing blood to clot in the veins. This cascade, which occurs when the wrong blood types are mixed, is called an acute hemolytic transfusion reaction and it killed him. It is currently whether the intentions that the person who did the transfusion were brutal or an honest mistake in trying to save him from something more deadly.

Another 3 victims – two women and a man of varying ages – were similar to Steve. They were discovered beaten, mauled and with severe blood loss. However, when they were discovered in a car park, they were already stone cold dead. All 3, the autopsy revealed, had experienced a failed blood transfusion.

Many more victims of widely different ages had also been discovered in secluded environments. 6 of the 9 showed evidence of failed transfusions.

Then, nearly a fortnight ago, two teenagers were found dead on the side of a woodland road. Sam Smith, 14 and Lily Grater, 17. Unlike the others, the autopsy demonstrated that they had been dead for several days while only just being moved to that position. Furthermore, it was deemed strange that there was no evidence of a failed blood transfusion and after further analysis, the cause of death was puncture holes in the neck, the source of a lethal injection of poison. Scratch marks and splinters on the skin made it clear that the teenagers had been dragged from the foliage to the roadside.

It was incredibly confusing to me. It made no sense at all. Why would someone take them into the woods to their deaths then drag the corpses' back days after the deed had been done? It was as if the killer wanted them to be found.

Absurd.

The thoughts bobbing in my head about the teenager's deaths, I subconsciously fingered my own scar on my neck. Two puncture holes which a traumatizing incident had given me to wear as a perpetual and painful reminder. For a moment, it crossed my mind that a wolf had maybe also attached Sam and Lily yet it was quickly dismissed. It was impossible, wolves left years ago. At the same time, it still sent shivers dancing up and down my spine.

That pure terror was something I'd never wish on anyone. If my mother hadn't arrived in time, I'd be dead.

I seriously needed to stop with the negativity, it was time to focus.

The case of Sam and Lily appeared to be the key to me. Therefore, it the most logical to revisit the site where they had been discovered by some unfortunate joggers. Perhaps sweeping over the crime scene once again would reveal something. The police had to have missed something on their search, it was easy to miss something critical. Besides, something else may have turned up since then.

These thoughts triggered an argument between the logical and brave sides of my brain. On the one hand, the logical side argued that I had no idea what was out there and screamed that it was too dangerous. However, the reckless and brave side calmly insisted it was the right thing to do and that it was vital I solved the case in double quick time. A far as I was concerned, logic was also selfish and I found myself internally nodding in agreement to my bravery. It wasn't the time or place to be cowardly. I shook my head, something was up.

It wasn't long until I was jogging on again, approaching the beautiful woods which bordered the town in a neat circle. The overpowering and tangy taste and sweet aroma of pine hit me first. The delicious smell of nature always reminded me of my childhood, spent living on the outskirts of the forest. However, all too often these memories were vicious and unkind, opposed to the happiness which was rarely my childhood. A bitter flashback took over me, tears pricking my eyes...

My tiny feet swung and kicked out in front of me, pulling on the air to go higher. The dainty little swing groaned in protest but I continued thrashing my legs. I giggled almost deliriously, my 5-year-old self kicking furiously in an attempt to reach the heavens. Huffing, I gave up and allowed the momentum of my previous efforts to keep me going. Leaning back and letting the wind capture my unruly locks, I relaxed, smiling. I was delighted to breathe in the intoxicating, spicy aroma of the trees which bitter cold only amplified. The view was ever so wonderful. With the arrival of autumn, the needles were becoming stunning warm shades of honey, marigold, garnet and scarlet with faded emerald streaking through at times.

A young child of 5, I kicked my legs furiously in order to go higher on the dainty little swing in the backyard. Once I reached my desired height, I relaxed, smiling, delighted to breathe in the intoxicating, spicy aroma of the pine forest. It was ever so pretty. With the arrival of autumn, the needles were becoming beautiful warm colours. An array of honey, marigold, and garnet, scarlet and faded emerald was presented with bright light streaming through the many gaps in the crooked branches. Tawny, crunchy leaves along with coffee coloured pine needles which had long since fallen, littered the entree to the forest.

Curiosity burning inside, I peered longingly at the clearing which led beyond the familiar environment of my garden. I could picture my mother's concerned yet far away face as she warned me of the dangers inside those woods. With many tuts, she'd sigh about getting lost and/or eaten by huge, terrifying bears who have no mercy whatsoever.

It was true, many wild beasts habited amongst those captivating trees. All too often I'd witnessed police rushing by my house in incidents when dangerous woodland creatures and ventured past the borderline and into my garden. On one occasion, a red fox had crept through the open conservatory door and began to scramble through the contents of our kitchen cupboards.

Despite the known dangers, however, I'd always been drawn to the woods. Something drew me in and my mind often wandered thinking about the adventures waiting for me. Since the moment I lay my eyes on those crimson treetops, I had developed a burning desire to venture past the fence and into the 'forbidden' zone.

On a regular basis, my mother would be dancing anxiously around the kitchen, watching me with the eye of an eagle as I skipped around the dewy grass. Yet today she had quickly popped out to go and buy some milk for our risotto. It would only take 5 minutes, and besides, nothing would happen to her little angel, right?

Wrong. Very wrong.

The curiosity finally exploded into a frenzy and I couldn't bare it any longer. Giggling to myself, I windmilled off the swing and approached the diminutive, picket fence. I was feeling mischievous. My mother would never find out; I'd only get a quick glimpse then retreat straight back to safety. Clearly, I was oblivious that the approaching events would impact my whole life...

I shook my head violently to shake out the memory. I didn't want to remember. It haunted my frequent nightmares and was the cause of what little fear I had. The bitterness of the memory was all too terrifying and still fresh in the front of my mind.

Following the distraction, I fixated myself on approaching the yellow taped area in a steady jog. Ducking under the sticky tape, I tugged several fiery strands of hair off of the sticky surface.

In the surrounding trees, there was a sudden, violent rustle. My heart rate rose as I cautiously advanced along the road which was pitch black. Making as little sound as possible I crept along the road with the lingering sense of being watched. Suddenly, a hunched silhouette darted across the road and into the trees. I skidded to a halt, ironically frozen in the exact spot where Sam and Lily's bodies had been abandoned.

Sounds appeared to echo from every direction as if several sinister people or things were surrounding me. Terrified of the unknown surrounding me, I wondered if this was how helpless the victims felt before they were murdered.

The rustling stopped abruptly. The only sound lingering in the air was my fiercely pounding heart. I could almost taste the bitterness of danger. My trembling hand grasped at my radio, holding down on a button which sent an SOS to the station. The loud crackle and splutter was startling.

The shocking sound alarmed my stalker. Roughly, a firm hand gripped my shoulders and spun me around to face them. I gasped at the unexpected sight, displayed before my eyes. The boy I saw wasn't obviously beautiful but there was something so out of this world stunning about him. He had a sparkle in his emerald eyes and such a captivating, tanned facade. The aurora he gave off of incredible peace and beauty left me ultimately speechless.

Despite the peace he made me feel, his facial expression said otherwise. Twisted into a stern, serious expression, his face certainly was no reflection of his aurora. Without warning, I shivered. Something was scarily familiar. The raven haired boy grimaced at my expression of stunned recognition.

"Sorry," he muttered sheepishly, looking guilty. Momentarily, I was confused. Why was he sorry? Then I glanced downwards, worried. In his hand, he gripped a sharp and heavy looking rock. Before I could fight back, he'd already swung the grey chunk towards my skull, hitting me in the temple with great force.

As he released his grip on me I stumbled, disorientated. I remember tapping at my head in confusion, feeling the warm, crimson liquid dripping onto my fingers. Everything was blurred and distorted. Why did the boy suddenly have 5 heads? In a split second, it seemed I had lost all strength in my body. My knees buckled then my body slapped to the concrete ground like a dead weight. A short grunt of pain escaped my lips before I fell into the dreadful, hazy world of unconsciousness.

As I drifted through the realms of sleep, the sharp memories all came flooding back, stabbing at me like knives.

Young Aspen had now reached the edge of the trees, practically trembling with anticipation. I skipped forward eagerly, arms wide and brushing the soft spikes of the pine trees. With a gasp of delight, I marveled the sights around me. It was the most exhilarating thing I'd ever experienced in my life. The fresh smell of pine boughs which swayed above me flooded my nostrils. The rough, dark bark was oozing with dripping resin in several places where woodpeckers had attacked. The sky vanished almost completely as I advanced further. Only fragments of blue sky remained visible through the thick canopy of trees, like scattered pieces of an impossible jigsaw puzzle.

The air was rich with the damp aroma of leaves and loam. Even after many hours of the rain passing, the soil remained wet, it's heavy fog surrounded my bare, pink feet which squished into the soggy mud. The only movement was the occasional bird, startled in the tree tops or a squirrel madly dashing through the undergrowth. The sound of running water in the nearby brook had the same hypnotic qualities of music, I just wanted to drink up the beautiful sound. Birdsong came in lulls and bursts, the silence and singing working together as if rehearsed.

I took in the deepest breath I could swallow then expelled the air slowly. My contentedness was abruptly halted, however, as a terrifying beast darted out of the bushes and came bounding towards me with great speed.

I cried out in terror, it was huge! In the half light, it could have been mistaken for an overly large dog however dogs don't move in the same way wolves do. The monster moved in graceful motions, so perfect they looked choreographed. Eyes wide with pure horror I stared deep into its emerald eyes as it viciously pounced on me, pinning me to the frigid ground. In those mesmerising eyes, I swear I could see a hint of guilt and sadness, the single indication of humanity as it crushed me and knocked the air out of my lungs. He bared his teeth, revealing rows of white daggers. At the tip of each tooth, stains of blood indicated the past victims who had fell at his mercy.

I'd only ever seen a creature as terrible as this in fairytales. A wolf. Except I could've sworn there was something abnormal about this wolf. It appeared larger than usual, with huge body parts and muscley limbs. How strange, I-

A terrifying scream broke my train of thought.

It came from me. The wolf had sunk its canines in my neck, tearing through the flesh and creating a warm flow of blood to ooze out of the wound. An unbearable pain erupted through my veins. The animal took one last sorrowful look at me and sprinted into the shelter of the trees, I was left squirming in pain, tears streaming out of my eyes.

Using my good arm, I dragged myself towards the clearing which opened back into my garden, screaming with the excruciating struggle. A huge urge to survive had filled me with a short boost of adrenaline which somehow got me back to safety.

My mother's eyes filled with fear as she witnessed her daughter pulling herself across the mud, close to death. What could have happened to me? A trail of blood led up to the grass where I stopped, losing the will to go on and flopped to my face. Next thing I knew, mum was by my side, sobbing as she scooped me up and cradled me close. A wave of relief washed over me as I melted into the safety of her arms and carried to help.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I gasped loudly, jolting upwards. Those eyes... those emerald eyes. They belonged to the boy I met last night and the wolf who attacked me as a child. But, how? Coincidence, or-

Jesus, my head.

I flopped back, groaning and rested my throbbing head back on the soft pillow.

"Pendo! You're awake!" Jake eagerly dashed through the door, his voice filled with relief. Looking up, I realized. Woah... I was in a hospital.

"Jake," I croaked, my throat feeling like a cheese grater. I smiled weakly. His eyes lit up and he grabbed me into a tight embrace. I patted his back awkwardly, unprepared.

"Jake, my head hurts!" I whined. He quickly apologized, gently placing my face back down and placing a soft kiss on my forehead. Moments later, two other familiar faces popped up.

"Sleeping ugly finally decided to wake up, eh?" Questioned Stella, my half-sister, a hand on her hip as she leaned on the doorframe, smirking. I rolled my eyes.

Arriving just behind Stella, my mum walked through the door and ran to my side. She grabbed my hand and rubbed the back of it urgently with her thumbs. I gave her a reassuring smile and told her repetitively that I was fine.

"So, what the hell happened?" I questioned, "I feel like I've just jumped off a building." Mum frowned slightly. Jake mirrored her expression, brushing a strand of my hair away with his fingers.

"We were hoping you could tell us that..." Mum shrugged.

I grunted as the fuzzy memories of the previous night came flooding back in a jumbled mess. It was then I succumbed to the groggy weariness which I felt so prominently. Instead of explaining immediately, I found myself uttering a single word.

"Coffee,"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Several hours later, I sat cozily on the brown, wrecked love chair, cradling a steaming mug of tea, held in Jake's arms. Gazing into his mocha eyes, I sighed. I was finally ready to spill. Maya, my boss, lingered at the edge of the room. She looked uncomfortable and out of place compared to everybody else. Everybody else was littered around the cramped living area, all fixated on me. It was clearly now or never.

Taking a deep breath, I told them the whole story. When, who, what, where and why. I only excluded the part about the boy with the green eyes. "Then, I lost my footing and slipped. I suppose I just hit my head off a rock because next thing I know I wake up in a hospital to Jake's ugly face!" I finished.

Everyone's eyes were on me. They gaped, either shocked or underwhelmed. Forever curious, Maya frowned, seemingly unconvinced. She shook her head. "Aspen Kaylee Lorentia tripped over! Who would've thought it?" Maya shook her head, chuckling under her breath. I only shrugged. Even if I was being 100% truthful, she would never believe me.

"And you are sure no one was there with you?" I nodded rapidly, too exhausted to utter a word. All the time, I was wishing she'd just leave. Finally, she let out a long sigh of defeat. After lingering for another minute or so, she exited on her own accord, slamming the door shut.

"You must be exhausted!" Terry exclaimed.

"You bet,"

He nodded, grabbing my mum's hand and pull her to her feet. Mum approached me and kissed me on both cheeks then left with her husband, mumbling 'goodbye' and 'see you later'. Finally, Jake and I could be left in peace in our apartment.

I smiled and lay back.

After kissing my forehead, my fiancée slowly rocked me to sleep. My dreams were full of mysterious boys with green eyes...

***

Fully edited, comment any mistakes if you notice them ;)

Thanks!
Love, Josie💖

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