Along for the ride and o.., p.1
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       Along For The Ride: And Other Stories, p.1

           Martin Alvarez
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Along For The Ride: And Other Stories

  Along For The Ride

  Short Stories By Martin Alvarez

  Table of Contents

  Cover Page

  Rex Noctem


  The Final Account Of Dr. Fredrick Morrison

  Along For The Ride


  Rex Noctem

  Dermin is usually a rather introverted man. He isn’t large by any means, but he isn’t a terribly small man either. He’s mostly bland in terms of looks, though no shortage of women have commented on his piercing hazel eyes.

      He has few friends and fewer enemies, not for being a terrifying man, but for being a generally calm, unforgettable human-most of the time.

      A low fog creeps along the forest floor, keeping the ground a secret from all but the lowly worms that dwell beneath. Every animal that calls this forest home has hidden themselves and their young atop trees, in burrows and bushes, under rocks and in fallen tree trunks.

      They hide because a full moon has risen and they know better. Every month, and sometimes twice a month, for the last two hundred seventeen years when the Moon is full the animals of the forest have hidden from fear of being eaten, from an apex predator, from the Beast.

      The forest is deathly silent now and not an owl or bat makes a sound. Even the trees, it seems, dare not rustle their leaves.

      Far off in the distance a soft gallop is heard pounding the floor under the weight of six hundred pounds. Animals in their burrows can feel the vibrations. As it nears, leaves can be heard crunching and twigs cracking, followed by the beast’s breathing. He stops along the way, smelling trees here and there which he has marked-this territory is his own.

      He isn’t hunting tonight, only enjoying the cool night and the moonlight which surrounds him in its soft energies, a mother’s warmth, when out of the shadows a sound makes his ears prick up.

      Adjusting his ears he rises to his two hind legs and sniffs the air. He turns around-the sound is coming from behind. A few steps are taken in this hunched-over human-like stance before his senses pinpoint the source exactly. The fur on the back of his neck rises and adrenaline flows through his body as he realizes what’s going on and he thunders over the ground on all fours once again toward the thing walking around on his claimed earth.

      The source of the noise, a male wolf, has wandered far from home in search of food. He is unfamiliar with this section of the woods and its traditions. While stalking around, his highly developed sense of smell picked up something that confused him. It smelled like him, yet simultaneously completely different. It wasn’t a domesticated dog, he had encountered them before with men and both smells were saved in his mind. They both almost matched this new scent as well.

      The wolf didn’t have to wonder long before his questions were answered. The beast came smashing out of the darkness and slid to a stop only yards away.

      Both creatures stood their ground. They began to circle each other, the wolf studies the steps of his opponent to learn how agile it is, watching its muscles to estimate its strength.

      The beast need not watch anything but the wolf’s eyes. He knows he’s stronger, faster, meaner.

      Hunger and pride cause the wolf not to run. He hasn’t eaten in days and knows he will die soon if he does not take this chance. But also nothing, not even a bear has won a show of fearlessness against him. All have fled or died. He thinks he is the strongest creature there is. He thinks all fear him. He thinks.

      Both stop circling and bear teeth, growling, eyes locked on eyes.

      What happens next is over in a flash of fur and teeth. The wolf jumps at the beast, who stands and catches him between his massive claws. The wolf struggles but in one effortless motion the beast squeezes him and shatters his spine. His razor-like teeth tear through the wolf’s throat with ease but he does not eat him, he’s not out to hunt. He discards the lifeless animal and bounds toward a hill, the highest hill in the forest.

      Atop the hill is a wide clearing where nothing stands to block the Moon from bathing it in its light. In the center a wide boulder with a flat top protrudes from the ground.

      When the beast reaches the clearing he stands upright and waits a moment before he slowly walks to the boulder and stands on top of it.

      He looks at the Moon and then to the wolf’s blood on his body. Strange images, memories perhaps, flash through his mind. He looks down at the boulder beneath him next. He remembers being lost in these woods on a night like this-two hundred seventeen years ago.

      He ended up on this boulder injured somehow, his own blood had poured out and dried within its cracks. He remembers not what happened next or why he survived, only that the Moon had saved him.

      More images flash in his mind. Things, animals and creatures… and men, used to challenge him for this land. All had lost. Now they know.

      He looks to the blood again and his heart begins to race. He looks to the boulder and his breathing speeds up and causes his chest to rise and fall.

      Now they all know.

      He looks to the Moon and his hazel eyes are ablaze like two pits of burning coals. A long howl erupts from deep within him and his breath is visible in the cold night air, illuminated by the Moon. The howl lets everything for endless miles around know-reminds them. It’s a sound that screams out:

      “I am king!”

      It echoes beyond to the nearby village and all those who have heard the stories of the full moon check once more that their doors are locked and their rifles are loaded with bullets cast in silver. All say prayers in the dark as they draw their curtains to block out the malicious white light.

      All, but one.

      Dermin is normally a calm, forgettable man, not terrifying in the least-most of the time.


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