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House Of The Wolf
by Joshua Hocieniec

The house loomed before him, weathered and gray. Little flutters of fear trembled in his stomach. Tim looked over his shoulder at the little knot of friends hiding in the bushes. They were silently mouthing "go on" and waving him towards the house, urging him on.

He wiped his sweaty palms on his shorts, and crept from behind the long neglected fountain. He felt the eyes of the cracked, wingless stone angel boring a hole in his back as he crept to his next hiding spot. He slammed up against the rotting back porch of the eerie house and ducked down, out of sight of the windows. He hoped. He could feel his heart hammering away in his chest and his breath was coming is gasps.

"Calm down" he told himself, drawing a deep breath. "This place isn't really haunted, and the old man cant really be a werewolf" he reasoned. It's just a story the older kids told us younger ones to scare us, his thoughts went.

He and his friends always dared each other to go near the house. Pick an apple off the withered old tree in back, they'd challenge, or run up the steps and ring the doorbell. Most of the time no one got past the hedges that surrounded the place before they came running back screaming about a "face" in the window, looking straight at them.

This last time he'd mentioned how he'd actually been in the house once. He was hoping to prove how brave he was, but of course no one believed him. He had been in the house though. It was two years ago when his dad, an attorney, took him and his mother along to discuss some matter with the old man. He didnít stay long though, because as he waited in the living room for the old man to come downstairs he wet himself in sheer terror. His mother took him home while his father stayed. He'd never even seen the old manís face.

He did see a glass snowglobe though, sitting on the mantle above the fireplace. He remembered it clearly, both because of it's size, bigger than softball, and because it seemed to show this very house, only new and beautiful. He was after that snowglobe now to prove to his friends he had been in there before.

His breathing mastered, his heart no longer threatening to burst from his chest, he cautiously raised himself over the level of the porch, eyes scanning the windows for any signs of life. So far so good, no faces in the window, no sign he'd been observed.

He dropped back down and slid around to the side where a basement window stood partially open. Peering nervously through the grimy glass he could make out nothing. Swallowing a lump of fear and wiping his again sweaty palms, he pushed the window the rest of the way open and slipped inside. He landed with a crunch on a pile of last season's leaves, blown in from the window. He stood stock still, listening.

All was quiet. So quiet in fact that all Tim could hear was his own blood roaring in his ears. As his eyes began to adjust to the weak light filtering in through the grimy windows he began to make out shapes. Old furniture and boxes, crates of all sizes and various pieces of equipment littered the place. In one corner stood a pile of bikes. Bikes! What would an old man need all these bikes for? Maybe he really did go out on nights of the full moon and abduct kids that stayed out too late. It couldnít be, he reasoned. Surely the police would have done something if kids started disappearing every month. There had to be some other explanation. He started forward, carefully placing each foot to avoid more leaves or anything that could trip him up.

"Yipe!" the start of a scream tore from his throat before he could stifle it. He'd gone no more than a dozen steps when a spider web, thick and cloying had stretched itself across his face. That was what had torn the scream from him. With a shudder, half of fear, half of revulsion he started towards the steps again, now waving a broken board in front if him.

At the foot of the stairs he stopped again and surveyed his route. Thirteen stairs lay before him, cracked, broken, and worm rotted. Thirteen.

With his stomach in his throat, and his heart pounding in his ears he spread his feet wide and placed them on the outer edges of the stairs. Each step sounded like a shriek to his hyper-attuned senses, but he knew that by stepping on the edges he could keep the boards creaking to a minimum.

Slowly he advanced, thirteen shreeeeks marking his progress. At the top of the stairs he stopped again. Hardly daring to breathe he strained to hear any sign he had been discovered.

After what seemed an eternity of listening he nervously grasped the doorknob. He gave it a gentle turn and with a soft "snikt" the door was open. Pulling it just wide enough to slip through he found himself in a kitchen. Fortunately it was empty. In fact, it looked like no one had been in there in a long time. A thick layer of dust lay about the place, covering everything.

What does he eat if he doesnít cook? Timmy wondered, and visions of the bikes and all the old stories about a werewolf came flooding back. Giving himself a shake he fought down his rising panic. Deep breathes Timmy, he thought, trying to bring his breathing back under control. Lets just get the globe and get out of here, he urged himself, stomach still fluttering inside him and his knees weak with fear.

Carefully he tiptoed towards the front of the house. Beyond the kitchen was a large dining room, also dust covered. A large table stood in its center surrounded by eight high-backed chairs. It looked like a family of ghosts sitting down to dinner as each chair was shrouded in a white sheet. Timothy shivered and moved on. The large archway between the dining room and the living room had been covered over by a set of heavy drapes. Pausing just before the opening he listened for a heart stopping moment as he thought he heard a dog snuffling. A dog or...a wolf.

After what seemed an eternity the sound failed to repeat itself. Gathering up his courage and ignoring his pounding heart he peeked beyond the curtain. The room was empty! A great wave of relief washed over him, as he realized he had been expecting the old man to be waiting for him on the other side. He stepped inside the room, just wanting to get the globe and run. And there it was! Sitting on the mantle, just as he'd last seen it, was the snowglobe. It was big, about the size of a large grapefruit or a cantaloupe. It was more oval than round, like a basketball with someone sitting on it. The inside was the most amazing part though, for it held an amazingly detailed miniature of this house! It was a huge Georgian mansion, three stories tall with great white pillared porches at the front and rear. Even in the model you could see the brass doorknob and in the windows great antique furniture was visible. There was even the wizened old apple tree out back, only here it was a huge spreading giant, its branches heavy with large ripe apples. As Timmy reached for the globe he heard a noise behind him and spun around. Even before he could utter a scream, his mind blacked out as he saw the wolf leap for his throat!

When Timmy awoke the first thing his eyes opened to was the sight of the fierce old man glaring at him. Timmy screamed and clambered half over the back of the sofa before his dad was able to catch him.

"Werewolf!" was all he managed to shout before the fact that his mother and father were there registered. "Dad, he's a werewolf!" he shouted again, half-reassured and half-terrified of his parents involvement.

"Timmy, why would you say Mr. McGinn is a werewolf?" his mother asked.

"I saw him earlier" Timmy insisted. "He was in wolf form and he attacked me!"

"Boy, that was Yukon here, my dog." Said the old man. "He's a husky. They look like wolves but their friendly. In fact he wasnít attacking you, he was jumping up to greet you when you passed out."

For the first time Tim noticed the panting animal at the old mans feet. It was gray and black and had a great shaggy coat. It did look just like a wolf.

"What were you doing in here anyway Tim?" his father wanted to know.

"It was a dare," Tim said. "We're all a bit afraid of you sir" he said, turning to Mr. McGinn. "I was supposed to bring something out to prove I was inside" he said, rather sheepishly.

"Hrrmph" the old man snorted. "Now you look here son. I donít bother nobody and I donít want nobody to bother me. You're lucky I knew your father or it would have been the police I called instead of him," he said, stabbing a finger in his fathers' direction.

"We're sorry about this," his father was saying as they stood to leave. "You can bet we're going to have quite a talk about this when we get home."

"Hrrmph" was all the old man said again.

While his parents led him outside he noticed night had already fallen, and it was now dark outside. With a sinking feeling of doom he stumbled to the family station wagon. He didnít know what was going to happen when he got home but he knew it wasnít going to be good.

Dread sitting heavy in his stomach he buckled himself as his father started the car. Standing at the top of the steps watching them go was old Mr. McGinn and his dog. And as the glare of the headlights caught the two figures in their beams four eyes glared back from the darkness. Two the wolf-dog's, and two his master's.

(c) 2002 Joshua Hocieniec. All rights reserved.

Joshua Hocieniec is a frequent skeptical contributor to the X-Project Forums who still understands the value of a good story.

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