For The Fear Quest

A good man is hard to find.

My favourite time of the day.

It is dark still, but far away at the eastern horizon the blackness of the night sky is becoming suffused with the chilly grey of impending dawn. The wind is only a polite shifting of night air, carrying the many different scents of the bustling night life of the city up to me. I smell pizzas and cheap chinese takeaway, I smell Filet Mignon and sushi... I smell perfume and sweat, I smell sex and sick. It's a cacophony of smells, and I move my head ever so slightly to and fro, trying to determine distance and direction to the different sources of the different smells. From my perch on a roof top near the harbour I have an excellent view of many of the places people come to be alone; either alone together with another person, or just alone. The sidewalk along the canal, just below me, is long, and very lonely and dark. A lot of the late stragglers heading for the bus stops to catch the first morning bus home come this way.

I turn my head again. There is a sound of heels against the damp cobblestones of the sidewalk. I catch the scent of leather, cheap after-shave lotion... Aqua Velva... and sweat. I shudder. There are some things I will not subject myself to. Seconds later a man hurries by, dangerously close to the canal. There is no railing at this stretch, so if he stumbles he will fall into the water. Luckily he keeps his balance, and reaches the stairs that will take him up onto the bridge and to the busses on the far side of the canal.

Just as he reaches the top of the stairs to the bridge the sound of someone walking makes me prick up my ears. I sniff the wind and get a rather pleasant mixture of pizza, cigarette smoke, and soap. This person is not rushing along. He - it is a man's smell - is walking, not hurriedly and not too slowly. He is not worried about what might hide in the shadows. He is not afraid of the night.

I smile to myself. He will be...

I walk to the corner of the building and quickly make my way to the ground via the old drainpipe. Halfway down I stop briefly to listen. He is still walking confidently along the edge of the canal. I see his silhouette against the shimmering silver of the water. He is tall, which is good. I like them tall; tall and preferably strong.

I drop to the ground and run lightly in the shadows, towards the bridge. I make no sound, and he is blissfully unaware of my presence. He reaches the bottom of the stairs that will take him up onto the bridge at the same time as I begin scaling the uneven stoneworks. I climb the railing before he comes up; I hear his boots clanging on the metal steps as I position myself beneath a street light, ready for him.

What he sees when he steps out onto the sidewalk on the bridge is a young woman, rather scantily clad in a top and a short skirt, casually leaning against the railing. No boots or shoes, hair, dark and wavy, flowing down her back. He almost stops when he sees me, and I smile.

"Hello", I say, as if this is the most natural thing in the whole world. "Do you want to race me?"

"Do I what?!" He continues to walk, but slowly.

"Do you want to race me?" I repeat patiently. "To the end of the bridge."

He looks me up and down, and then shakes his head. "No, I don't want to race you."

"If you don't," I say, "I'll kill you".

"Yeah, right! Fuck off!" He shakes his head again. "Weirdo!"

I jump in front of him when he tries to pass me on the narrow sidewalk. There are no cars in sight, and no other pedestrians. This is the dead hour, shortly before dawn.

I am not very tall, but maybe he recognizes the look in my eyes; the look that says 'don't fuck with me, baby'. His hand goes to his back pocket and comes up with a cell phone.

"Now why'd you want to go and call someone right now?"

One quick move and his cell phone is flying through the night, slowly tumbling and occasionally reflecting the dim glow from the nearest street light. It disappears over the railing, but instead of a satisfying splash as it hits the water in the canal there is just a small and pathetic 'crunch'. It must have hit the pavement at the edge.

"What the FUCK are you doing??" he cries out, cradling his hand to his chest. I did hit him pretty hard. I smile at him again. I find a smile always gets me more and better results than hard words or threats.

"Come on", I say. "Race me to the... the containers you see, just past the end of the bridge. If you get to put a hand on the containers before I catch you, you live. If not... well..."

He is still just looking at me. Angrily, because of his hand and his cell phone, warily, because of the way I do seem to mean what I say - and disbelievingly, because, when all is said and done, I am only a young woman, some 5'4'' and seemingly slight of build. I sigh and let my shoulders droop a little.

"Look...", I say, and pull out the crumpled £100 note I keep stuffed into the hip pocket of my skirt. "Take this. If you beat me to the containers, you get to keep it."

To sparkle a man's interest you just have to show him money. This man is, disappointingly, the same as all the rest. He reaches out slowly and takes the bill.

"Just like that?" he asks, and suddenly his voice is both confident and condescending. I nod. I know what he is thinking. Even if I make it to the containers before him, he is convinced I will never be able to take the money back. It's okay. It adds to the fun.

"So...", he says. "On three or what?"

"Just run", I say, and step away from him. "Just run."

He trots off, looking back at first. I smile encouragingly, and look around to make sure no one will spoil my evening. This is one of the loneliest places in town at the most lonely time of night, which is why I like it here. These are my hunting grounds.

I stretch and yawn. I feel the shudder building deep within as I watch his eyes glide over my body. He is still slowly jogging along the sidewalk, ogling me, so I smile once more and let myself go. I change, loving the joy, the pain, and the new me that emerges. I change and the world becomes a different, and much more exciting, place. The fun can begin.

Seconds after his brain has translated the signals coming in from his eyes, it seems to stop sending signals to his legs. He stumbles, tripping over his own feet, falls to the ground, but tries to keep running on his hands and knees. I can see he is trying to scream, but the sound is not very loud. Yet. I shake myself off, getting into the feel of this shape. Two legs are now inefficient, so I drop down on all fours; my eyes still see, but my nose is doing the surveying now. I can hear him so clearly too. His heart is racing, and his breath... he hasn't caught his breath yet. He is still trying to scream. I listen to the strangled sounds coming from his throat and wait. I like it when they scream.

He doesn't scream, though. He suddenly realizes he is a walking and crying dead man unless he can get away from me, so he springs to his feet and bolts. I take a deep breath and howl, just for the sake of the thing. The sound makes him cry out loud, but he keeps running. I laugh and let my strong hindlegs propel me forward in long, effortless leaps. Admittedly my laughter sounds like a loud growl, but at least it makes him really put an effort into his panicked dash for life.

"Run!" I call out to him, and the word comes out as howl-growl. I bound along in the warm cloud that is the smell of his fear. I watch his back as I close in on him, but instead of leaping and felling him I overtake him. Playfully I tear a chunk out of his jacket sleeve, slightly damaging his arm too, making him shriek and pick up the pace even more. He is a good runner, this one. His legs are pumping, his heart is racing, his lungs are screaming for more air. I push him with my shoulder and send him staggering across the sidewalk - but he keeps to his feet and he keeps on running.

The end of the bridge is closing in, and the containers are only some 50 yards away. His breath is very laboured now, and he is slowing down. I push him again. This time he falls, but even in his near senseless state of fear and exhaustion he manages to roll and get up almost immediately. I leap up and get a hold on his collar from behind, but this guy is really industrious: instead of letting himself be brought down he sheds the jacket, leaving me with my front legs entangled and him free to hurl himself at the containers. There is a resounding "Doinggg" as he pounds at the side of the big steel box, and I stop and spit out his clothing, slightly bemused.

"I won", he pants. "I won! You have to let me go!"

I say a lot of words that probably would have made him blush, had he been able to hear them as words instead of a long, angry snarl. And then I concentrate, and change back. His expression goes from terrified-triumphant via terrified-disgusted to terrified-yowza. I brush myself off and shake my hair back. My clothing is lying somewhere on the bridge.

"Not bad", I say. "You did win, didn't you? So you get to keep the 100 quid."

He bends over, gasping for air, his legs shaking. "And you can't kill me", he rasps. "You said so yourself."

"I guess I did"; I am not happy. "Sod that!"

He is getting his breath back now, and I don't like his attitude. I may be a werewolf, and I may have scared him half to death only seconds ago, but I am also a naked woman, and I swear he is ogling me. He is steadying himself against the big container with one hand, wiping the sweat from his face with the other - and I see him staring at my breasts. One thing I do not like is being ogled by a stupid guy who has just beat me at my own game! So I punch him once.

There is a crack, a snap, and a "Doinggg". The crack is probably his jaw, the snap may be his neck, and the "Doinggg" certainly is his skull against the steel container. He drops to the ground like a rag doll thrown away by a disgruntled child.

I retrieve my money from his limp hand, and leave him lying there. This has not been a good night. I was counting on feeding after a satisfying hunt, but I am left with walking back across the bridge in search of my clothes while my stomach is screaming and kicking at my ribs. There is nothing satisfying about tearing into a unconscious or dead body, so I'll have to grab a hamburger instead.

I sigh. Being a werewolf really isn't all it's cracked up to be.

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