Richard Harland

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Walter under the Full Moon (Chapter 1)

 

Walter Grimm belonged to an old and distinguished family of werewolves. Walter's Mum and Dad changed into their wolfish form every time there was a full moon. Walter's older brother Stefan had made his first change when he was twelve, his sister Sigrid had made her first change when she was only eleven. They'd both been grown-up werewolves for years. But Walter reached the age of thirteen and he still hadn't made his first change.

'He's a late developer,' said his Mum. 'Like my cousin Agatha. Look how hairy she turned out in the end.'

They waited until the next full moon after Walter's thirteenth birthday. Then they took him out onto the back lawn in the middle of the night. As soon as they were under the moonlight, the others all changed into wolves. Big beautiful wolves with thick grey coats, bushy tails and lollopy red tongues. They shrugged off their human clothes and padded around on the grass. But not Walter.

'Take off your pajama top,' said Mum.

Her voice was deep and husky, and her tongue got in the way of the words. A stranger would probably have heard it as a bark. Werewolves don't usually speak much when they're in their wolfish form.

Walter took off his pajama top and stood with his bare chest and shoulders in the silvery light. He looked up at the moon and felt very strange inside. He was sure that something was going to happen. This was it!

He waited and waited. But nothing.

'Think of running on all fours,' said Dad. 'Think of growling and howling. Think of peeing on trees.'

Walter tried. He closed his eyes and pictured a huge wolf – not grey, but white as snow. He wanted to be that wolf. Sharp teeth, long muzzle, pointy ears. Power and speed, pulsing blood and panting breath . . .

Harder and harder he concentrated. Had he done it?

He opened his eyes. The others were all staring at him.

'Yurrrk!' gasped Sigrid.

'Gharrr!' gasped Stefan.

Their jaws were wide open in shock and horror.

'What is he?' demanded Dad.

Walter looked down. There were patches where the skin had changed on his chest and forearms. But not hairy – smooth! Not white – but a sort of greeny-brown!

He touched the patches with trembling hands.

'They're hard,' he said. 'Hard and cold. I'm starting to feel stiff all over.'

Mum burst into tears. At least, it would have been tears if she'd been in her human form. In her wolfish form, it was more like a kind of whimpering.

They hurried him back inside the house and took him up to his bedroom. They lowered the blinds, pulled the curtains and blocked out every glimmer of moonlight.

Still they hadn't finished. They made him get into bed and covered him up with blankets. Blankets on top of blankets on top of blankets. It was like being in a cave with a tiny breathing hole.

Away from the full moon, the stiffness began to disappear. After another hour or so, the patches were gone too.

He got up to tell everyone he was back to normal. But his bedroom door had been locked.

 

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