Curse of the Dryad
Wolfen Lee McKoy
Stepping onto my back porch. I breathed in the autumn air. It was thick with the smell of pine. In my hand I carried my father’s old rifle. I heard rustling not far off, which I assumed was the wind in the pines. In the darkness I saw a flash of white in the moonlight. I cocked my gun, aiming it into the abyss before me. I heard a deep rumbling ahead of me and more rustling. It was definitely not a raccoon- maybe a bear.
Suddenly I saw a flash of yellow, and before I could react a large white creature came bounding out of the woods. I struggled to wrap my fingers around my gun to fire at it, but it was of no use. It pressed on me and the shots that I did manage to get either missed it entirely or it couldn’t care less. I attempted to hit it with the shaft of the gun and it yelped, but it did not halt the attack. The wolf’s amber eyes glinted in the moonlight. Its breath steamed over my face as it snorted. It paused for a moment and its heavy paws pressed against my chest. It looked into my eyes, tilted its head, and let out a long howl. I tried to back up but it held me fast. As it lowered its head, it once more returned its gaze to me. In those eyes I saw a strange intelligence, almost human. It drew me in, like a trance.
It growled again, and opened his maw wide, biting into my neck. I choked out a scream, feeling it's fangs rake into the skin of my neck. It did it with an almost carefulness, as if each bite was placed deliberately. After a time it stopped and I looked down to see red blood soaking through my shirt. I slumped back against door and gazed up at the moon. I beheld stars that I had never guessed would be there. It was an impossible sky, but it lasted for only a moment before it vanished. After that I fainted. For hours I drifted through an uneasy sleep. My dreams were half-formed, and filled with impossible shapes that bustled about. They shuffled about a land of mist, reaching toward me with misty tendrils of smoke.
I floated in and out of consciousness, and awoke to feel dirt under me and I became aware that I was naked. I felt something within me stir, and the land of dreams accepted me again.
This dream was different. I was still in the land of mist, but instead of the strange shadow creatures there was a wolf which looked strikingly similar to the one that bit me earlier. It lunged at me and jumped into me. Then I was the wolf. It was scary how real it felt. I ran about the land of mist. All the while, there was strange chanting that seemed both far away, yet close at hand. Strange figures flashed in front of my eyes with faces carved of wood, yet still very much alive.
After a while I opened my eyes again and I felt empty. I reached into the emptiness, and a force seemed to stir in response. I let go of the sensation and opened my eyes. Bright light sliced into my vision. I was sprawled out on the carpet of some unknown home. Outside I could hear the birds chirping. I stood up and looked about the small mobile home. It was scant, with very few pieces of furniture, most of which had been badly ruined, with strange gouges down the sides. I heard footsteps, and a young woman stepped through the door. She wore black jeans, a loose t-shirt and a brown beanie. Her blond hair poked out from underneath it.
“Good morning, sunshine.” she said taking a seat. She patted a hand on it, motioning for me to sit beside her. Cautiously I limped over, my muscles still sore.
“Uhm… hello.” I said, “What’s going on? Where am I?”. She chuckled, smiling.
“You’re at pack headquarters, honey buns. You’re one of us now.”
I look at her, my brow furrowing. “Pack?”
Again she laughed. Her laugh was honest, and I could listen to it a thousand times without it getting old. “Babe. This is where we get together at. You’re one of us now, after last night. It seems that the dryads took a special liking to you. Come.” she said standing. She reached behind the couch and pulled out a towel, motioning me to follow her as she exited the trailer.
I jumped up and wrapped the towel around me, and followed her out the door into the woods surrounding the house. All around were similar trailers and Not far off there was a small shack which she seemed to be leading us to. I sped up to catch up to her, asking “Dryads? What do you mean, dryads?”
She smiled but said nothing. Again I felt something stir within me. As we approached the shack, she looked through the window, sighed, and walked around to the other side. I walked around to the back side of the shed with her, to a rather peculiar half-circle of trees. Suddenly she began to sing in a clear, high voice. To my amazement, the tress began to move, taking on humanoid shape as I watched. The bark shifted, revealing the wooden faces from my dreams.
“I present to you, the dryads of this forest.” she said.
“Greetings.”, one of the dryads said, its limbs changing into human-like limbs.
“Uh… hi.”, I stammered in reply. “So… she says that I’m a werewolf now? Something to do with you guys?”
All of them looked at me and nodded. Another one spoke with a feminine voice, “Yes, and a most curious one, too. We feel the pull of the moon strongly in you. You are destined to do great things, perhaps terrible things. We can not yet say. However… we have decided to give you a gift.”
“A gift? what gift?”
“We have given you the form of the wolf. That is, it is your true form now. Soon, you shall forsake your human form, and reside in your real form forever more.”, she smiled, but her words chilled me to the bone. What did they mean?
They lifted up their limbs and began to chant softly. As they did so, that which I had felt stirring within me suddenly leapt to life, like a flame springing forth from embers. Under the influence of the dryads’ magic my body changed. The fur spread, covering my body. My face contorted and lengthened. I felt the bones in my legs assume new shapes. I yelled, feeling my spine lengthen into a long, lupine tail. As my transformation ended, so did the dryads’ song. I whimpered, sobbing thick, oily tears.
"Stand.”, commanded the tallest of the dryads. I struggled to my feet. I had not become entirely a wolf, but a mix between a wolf, and a man.
“Please,” I begged, “Change me back.”
You have no choice in the matter. We have chosen you, above all others. This will be your new form, from now until your dying day. Forget your days as a human. Forever more, you are a wolf, and you will do great deeds.”
I shook my head, muttering, “No… ”, repeatedly. I put my paws over my eyes, sobbing. I felt the young woman put a hand on my band, but I growled at her, biting near her arm. I jerked away, and bounded off into the woods on all fours.
After a couple of hours I found myself behind my home. I kept swiveling my head from side to clear my vision of my snout, but it was no use. With a heavy heart I padded into my back yard. Standing on two legs I reached to the door handle, struggling to grasp it with my paws. It took two hands to do it, but I managed to open the door. I sighed and shook my head, locked the doors, and padded back the way I had come.
In the coming weeks, I would learn about the strange world in which I had come to reside, one of shapeshifters, and magic. However, what the dryads had said was true, I was stuck this way. I did visit my home now and again, and eventually, the police arrived. I’d overheard one of the officers saying that my boss had called me in, after not hearing from me for a few days. However, I’d gotten too close. he saw me. Bullets whizzed past my ears as I trotted away into the shadows, but I did stop to mark against the side of my house for good measure. I’ve not returned to my home in nine months.