This story is by Jeremiah Chersin and was part of our 2017 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the Summer Writing Contest stories here.
Pickman hailed a passing waitress. The bar was filled with smoke and packed with patrons clamoring for booze to drown their sorrows away with. It was pitiful. “Gimme a Bloody Bull.” He didn’t have any sorrows to drown, but it would make this night a lot more interesting.
He pulled out a cigar and lit up, adding to the bars smog. To Pickman’s left was a bay window overlooking USC’s derelict campus and beyond that, LA’s cityscape merging with the blinding sunset. He could almost make out the purplish hue of the Wall, a glimmer here or a flicker there. Those on the Inside simply called it the Wall, a force that kept fear and darkness and horror trapped within its confines. Nobody knew what those on the Outside called it. The first few months people clamored at the Wall’s edge, trying to find a way out. But the Wall proved to be impenetrable, suffocating, and trying to escape was futile. Then the Werewolves, Beasties as Pickman called them, began to walk among the people, appearing every full moon like clockwork. Ravenous and hungry. Neighbors turned on neighbors out of fear, and they beat at the Wall with even more passion. Eventually they realized that there was no way out, this was going to be life. Scrounge for food, eat, sleep, and hope they didn’t die the next full moon. Pickman, though, had never wanted out. He was right where he wanted to be.
The waitress brought his drink, and he inhaled it in one go. He ordered another and then leaned back in his chair, puffed out a cloud of smoke, watched the sun slip away and then, eventually, the ascent of a full moon.
“That’s a pretty nice piece you got there.”
The bar had cleared out a half-hour before, and the man that joined Pickman wore a tux that was worth more than his car. Not that it was worth much. The man nodded towards the six-shooter at Pickman’s thigh. “I’m Farley Coffman, the owner of this establishment. Mind if I have a look?”
“Sure. But I gotta warn you, she bites.”
Farley wore a smile that didn’t extend beyond his mouth, his eyes were cold as steel, darker than ebony even though they were ocean blue. Pickman pulled the pistol out of his holster and placed it on the table.
“I’m sure she does,” Farley said, taking a seat and looking it over with mild disinterest, “especially if you’re wandering the streets at this hour.” He glanced at his Timex, a very expensive Timex, Pickman thought, “Almost midnight. It’s a full moon tonight you know. Might want to head home. Would be unfortunate if you were accosted on your way there.”
“Oh, I know.” Pickman said, kicking his legs back onto the table. He could feel the alcohol buzzing in his head, making the world blur. He liked it. “But I’m right where I want to be.” Farley raised an eyebrow.
The moon was rising steadily in the night sky, full and brilliant. Only a few more minutes to midnight. Farley put the six-shooter down and folded his hands together.
“Business has been good I see,” Pickman said, nodding toward the man’s watch and general attire.
Farley smiled and played with the watch on his wrist, “Yeah, I guess I’m one of the lucky ones.”
“No wonder,” Pickman said, taking another drag on his cigar, “the Beasties have been hitting the other neighborhoods hard. People are scared to go out their doors. Not here though, hardly a sighting to speak of. Quite the miracle.”
Farley’s smile twitched. “Like I said, we’ve been lucky. But by all accounts, its not purely luck on my side. They say a man has been out on the streets, AND has actually killed a few of the Werewolves if you can believe it. Never heard of such a thing before. I suppose we have him to thank for keeping these streets safe.”
“I suppose so.” The moon pulled into its peak, its pale light shining into the parlor. A clang rang out from the kitchen, followed by a muffled cry. Then a thrumming, almost imperceptible at first, spread through the parlor. It rose in intensity until it was recognizable as a growl, deep and feral. Farley’s smile widened. “Sure you don’t want to leave?”
“Yep.” Pickman took another puff on his cigar and plopped his chair down onto all fours. “But you might.”
The world revved into motion all at once. Pickman swiped the pistol off the table fast as lightning, while a gruesome change came over Farley. Muscles bulged and his stature grew to inhuman height, shredding his clothes. His skull grew a snarling, snapping snout, and his flesh sprouted fur as thick as the weeds on Jefferson Boulevard.
The Beastie leaped at Pickman with a shriek, knocking the table to the side, but he already had the Beastie in his sights. Two thunderous shots rocked the air as the Beast tackled him and they tumbled to the floorboards. It took Pickman but a second to throw off the dead Beast and wobble back to his feet. He whirled around to find a second Beastie leaping the bar counter, saliva whipping from its jaws. Pickman had more time for this one. He took in a breath, exhaled, and pulled the trigger. Its head snapped back, and it crumpled to the floor. Pickman scanned the parlor for more, but any other Beasties that might have been around didn’t show themselves.
Pickman’s ears rang and the world continued to spin ever so slightly on its axis as he reached down to pick up his still-lit cigar. He took a puff and contemplated the two sprawling figures. Shredded clothes hung from the Beasties, the only signs of their once human form.
“Waste of good clothes.” Pickman said as he took another puff of his cigar, threw a five dollar tip on a table, and sauntered out.
Josephine Albers says
This is a very powerful story, with a great surprise ending. I like it a lot!
I love, love this story! I knew where you were headed, but you wrote it so well! I was pulled in from the beginning, and so far my favorite! Awesome piece!