The Choices We Make
By Michael L. Turner
That’s what it all comes down to. It’s the choices we make, the ones we don’t, and the ones we allow to be made for us. Then at the end it’s all balanced on some cosmic scale of good and evil. Hopefully on that day, one leaned more toward the good, rather than the other.
Jared Evers shook his head in frustration, and then lowered it in disgust. Looking at the solitary walls of his jail cell, his thoughts were his only companion. There were good men in this world. Jared had long accepted that he was not one of them. He also believed that his scale did not lean the other way. What he was, he didn’t exactly know, and ten years of thought did not make it clearer.
In that time, Jared had watched closely where his choices had landed on the scale. At the close of this day it was his choice that put him in this jail. Three nights of his life would be spent here, alone. It wasn’t a judge that him here, and no sheriff held him. Slaton West Virginia had neither. The coalminers had long abandoned this town. Most of this isolated town had fallen into ruin, crumbling under its own rotted weight. The old jail, with its walls of bricks and bars, would outlast it all. This had been the perfect find for Jared.
He looked at the keys to the cell in his right hand, and then to the scar on his forearm. It was the last one, his body would ever have. That scar was why he was here. It was the balancing mark on his scale. After ten years he could still feel the flesh of his arm being torn. It all happened on a wooded roadside, just outside of Liberty Virginia of all places.
Jared had only stopped to change a flat that night. He was tired, it was raining, and he never saw it coming. The creature was just right there. As Jared knelt, working on the tire, the fangs sank into his arm. He was helpless as the beast dragged him about like a ragdoll. With the tire iron still in his other hand, Jared tried to fight back. Somehow, they must have ended up in the road. That was when the pickup clipped him, but hit the beast full on. He heard shattering glass and felt a sharp pain in his shoulder, which must’ve been the trucks side mirror hitting him. Jared awoke the next day in the hospital. The police report said whatever attacked him had run off, even after the mess it made of the farmer’s truck.
Over the next week one doctor had remarked that Jared’s recovery was nothing short, of miraculous. Within a few days all the marks left by the animal except the bite mark had healed without scarring. By the end of the week, even the broken collarbone had completely mended. The doctors wanted to run more test, but Jared had tired of their company and left. Looking back, maybe he should have stayed. Then again, he really just wanted to stay, so he would have the chance to see again, the doctor who called his recovery a miracle. Then he planned to rip the man’s throat out.
It was dark thoughts like that, which started to cross Jared’s mind more often after that night. He found himself looking at people around him, and wondering about all the things he could do to them, with such ease. Friends had started to notice the evil grin, now often on his lips. When they spoke their concern, Jared was horrified by the thoughts they had interrupted, as the realization of what he was pondering dawned on him.
Each night, Jared stared up at the moon, always knowing its position and phase, even with a dark cloud cover. It was almost full. He didn’t know what it meant, or was that just a lie he told himself. At night a small fire burned beneath his skin, growing in strength with each moonrise and moonset. The dark thoughts continued to float with ease through his mind, beckoning his submission.
“It’s wrong!” He yelled out. Then a small voice would answer, saying, “Don’t worry. It’s okay… It’ll just be this one time.”
“Shut up!” Jared angrily snapped back. Right from wrong seemed like a fading memory, but he still knew the difference.
To this the voice asked. “Do you?”
By sunset on that final day, Jared was nothing more than a quivering mass of spent nerves. Darkness filled his mind, and his body was burning. Jared shuttered in pain, and by the end he simply blacked out.
He awoke the next morning face down on the couch, absent of any clothes. He didn’t really care. The fact that his mind had cleared, and the pain was gone, was all that mattered. He felt refreshed, and full of energy.
At that point, Jared simply dismissed the previous evening to illness, a fever maybe. He jogged five miles that morning without breaking a sweat. Heading for work, he skipped breakfast, feeling oddly full. On his way he flipped through the radio presets, until he settled on a news station, hoping to catch the morning stock report. What he caught instead, was the local news report. There had apparently been several animal attacks in Veteran’s Park last night. The deaths of a woman jogger and a homeless man were listed.
The news hit Jared like a brick, as he veered off into the emergency lane, and skidded to a halt. Images flashed into memory, and coldness ate into Jared’s soul. He clenched his eyes shut, as images seared the back of their sockets.
He was in the park, lit brightly by street lamps and a full moon. He stood over a park bench; a dirty looking man lay there clutching a recently emptied bottle, of what smelled like not-so-fine whiskey. Jared reached for the man with a hand covered in fur and sporting inch long claws. The bench had been beside one of those jogging paths, unfortunate for the runner who came across him and his prey. She had screamed and he looked up at her, with warm blood dripping from his long snout. The rest was blurred, and yet so clear.
Jared’s eyes shot open, as someone tapped on the car window. He looked up into the face of a highway patrolman.
“Are you all right sir? Do you need any help?” The officer had asked him.
Jared was drenched in sweat, and couldn’t keep himself from shaking. He indeed needed help, but who could offer it. He looked down at his hands gripped tightly in fists at his lap. He studied the backs of them and then forced them open to see the palms. They were his, but those in the park he could not deny, were also his. What was he and what was going to become of him?
Those two questions he would continue to ask himself over the next ten years and neither had truly been answered. The myths and legends proved useless, but he had learned one thing. He really wanted to hurt whoever had come up with the idea that a silver bullet would kill a werewolf. It didn’t, but surely did burn like hell. His life could never be normal again, and he was resigned to three nights a month, locked in this old jail.
Jared looked down to his scarred right arm again. Darkness plagued his mind still today, but it had not come from the beast. The bite had merely unleashed an animal already within him. The thoughts that made him cringe, were his own. The beast had only given them the opportunity to surface. He was that monster shaped by his darkest thoughts. This surely placed him on the latter part of the scale.
A feeling of total disgust filled Jared. “I will never balance the scales!” He growled in realization of the facts. “This is who I am!” He shouted to the air. Jared’s mind fell to darkness. He was tired of living this confined life. He craved the free air, to live his life his way, and to enjoy the hunt that called to him.
He looked at the keys in his hand and tossed them aside. He laughed, walking from the cell and building. He was free.
A few minutes past and Jared silently walked back in. After retrieving the keys he locked the cell and sat quietly until sunset and moonrise.
Good and evil are in the choices we make, the ones we don’t, and the ones we allow to happen. Tonight, Jared Evers chose to be a good person. Tomorrow the decision will be made again.