Title: Strange Matter #1 – No Substitutions, a.k.a. “Fairfield Nights: The Ballad of STACY CALHOUN”
Author: Marty M. Engle
Summary: Your next class could be your last.
Curtis Chatman and Shelly Miller didn’t plan for trouble. They expected a quiet sixth period in the library reading their favorite supernatural tales after Mr. Mayfield’s dull biology class.
They didn’t expect suspension.
Fairfield Junior High welcomes Stacy Calhoun, the new substitute. He holds an unnatural power over his class. An appearance as unsettling as his lesson plan, his silvery eyes catch every movement, his pointy ears can hear every whisper.
After a terrifying encounter in the library, Curtis and Shelly discover a shocking secret about their temporary teacher, a secret that could cost them their lives.
Now, after a lifetime of avoiding trouble, it howled outside their window, simply dying to get in.
It was time to devote focus to another series as an ongoing project, and the one most deserving was Strange Matter. Considering Marty Engle allowed me the honor of recapping “Rilo Buru’s Summer Vacation,” it was only fair to give Strange Matter its due.
As it stands, I actually bought Wing this book years ago as a birthday gift – and long before I’d read it myself. I know how you are with your werewolves, Wing darling. [Wing: You do, you do, and you give the best gifts! I’m thrilled you’ve decided it’s time to recap this.]
Thankfully I own the entire Strange Matter collection so I don’t have to worry about tracking them down. Now it’s simply down to having the time and energy to focus on these recaps.
Here’s author and series co-creator Marty Engle’s thoughts on “No Substitutions”
It was the “test case” book to see if ray and I could put a strange matter on the shelf once a month. Going in, we decided to write stories we wanted to read even as adults and not write “down” to kids. Also as children of the 80s growing up on a steady diet of Lucas and Spielberg, we wanted to capture our experiences of growing up in comfortable small towns while at the same time putting the fantasy adventures we always wanted to go on down on paper.
We treated each story as a movie we didn’t have the budget to film. Hahaha
[Wing: I love that they were determined to not write “down” to kids. I’ve heard a lot of different people talking about how kids aren’t discerning in their reading and since they’re new to most tropes, it doesn’t matter how they’re pulled off, etc., and I think that’s a load of shit.]
[Wing: WHY IS IT ALWAYS SPIDERS?!]
With one springing leap the wolf overtook the wild rabbit. The wolf’s speed amazed me. That rabbit never knew what hit it. Both animals flew amazingly fast across the field. The grass behind them blurred into a streak, then WHAM! In a flash of claws and bone-white teeth, the rabbit met his doom.
We couldn’t see how much blood splattered the grisly scene because of the grass.
We could hear it though, wet sounds between the cracks and crunching. That’s the way it always goes in those lame nature films. They never show the good stuff.
Goodneth what a violent beginning! [Wing: Love the hell out of this.]
Curtis Chatham had a hard time staying awake in Mr. Mayfield’s biology class thanks to boring biology movies like this. When the bell finally rung and Mr. Mayfield announced the reading assignments for next class, Curtis yawned when his best friend Shelly Miller ran up to him with BIG news.
Curtis and Shelly were both easily excited and easily bored. Though Shelly could be frustrating at times, she was the only person who could keep up with Curtis. When it looked like Curtis was too bored to care about Shelly’s news, she turned around in a huff. Curtis knew she wouldn’t leave; Shelly always got antsy when she knew something Curtis didn’t.
So FINALLY, Shelly decided she tell Curtis her big news after all. Mr. Jackson’s out today so they have a substitute teacher! Mr. Jackson happens to be one of the most boring teachers at Fairfield Junior High. He keeps all the windows closed and the heat up high in his classroom, he always talks in the same monotonous tone, and he always strolls up and down the classroom making sure kids pay attention. It doesn’t help that his class is right after lunch and late in the afternoon.
Curtis went over the potential substitutes. There was:
- MRS. LIKENS – She could never get the class under control.
- COACH THOMAS – Math puzzles and perfect posture galore. [Wing: I could get behind some math puzzles.]
- MRS. FORTUNE – The good one.
If you selected MRS. FORTUNE, you win!
What do you win? Yes.
Whenever Mrs. Fortune is the sub, she brings the class to the library and lets them read whatever they want. So long as they actually read the fucking book. Curtis and Shelly always made a beeline towards the mysteries when Mrs. Fortune’s the sub. [Wing: BEST. SUB. EVER.]
Shelly practically dragged Curtis out of Mr. Mayfield’s class; Curtis almost dropped his prized notebook. It was full of Curtis’s awesome monster artwork. Why, Curtis’s sketches once saved him from a fight with local bully Kyle Banner. See, Kyle decided he didn’t like Curtis one day. What was the reason? He doesn’t need a reason he’s Kyle fucking Banner. But then Kyle saw the werewolf drawing Curtis made that day and asked if Kyle could draw something for him.
Curtis did a grotesque masterpiece in Kyle’s notebook, and from then on Curtis was on Kyle’s “No Hit List.”
[Wing: This is adorable.]
Boy Shelly really was trying to get Curtis out the door. Thankfully Curtis likes the fact that she’s pushy. Shelly can usually think of something to do when Curtis can’t, and vice versa.
Boy isn’t it great how they’re best friends despite being so totally different? [Wing: Now this sounds awfully familiar…]
Shelly couldn’t believe how great it was they get to end the day with Mrs. Fortune as their sub.
But wait, who’s THAT in the classroom?
Sitting in Mr. Jackson’s seat, where Mrs. Fortune should have been, sat a man I had never seen before.
He had white-blond hair in a bowl shape and piercing blue eyes. His eyebrows grew together over his nose. His smile seemed fake. His eyes stared fiercely at each student filing into the class.
None of the kids had a clue who this stranger was, and they were all trying to figure out what his deal was. Some gave a half-smile, others tried too hard to smile and almost looked like they were in physical pain. As the silence in the room deepened, so did the mystery of their sub’s identity.
The silence loomed. Who would crack first? Who held the power in the room? The tension mounted. These first crucial moments always told the tale.
We looked around at each other. No one said anything. The usual Substitute Teacher Terrorizers sat looking as puzzled as the rest of us No one dare move or even breathe.
I love this description of the kids somehow sensing there’s definitely something wrong with this guy’s presence. Like beyond a mystery sub, there’s something… inhuman.
Sensing the tension was at its peak, the substitute teacher slapped his hand on the desk and stood up. No one could tell if he was friend or foe when he grandly revealed that HE is…
That’s right, THE Stacy Calhoun.
Absolutely none of the kids reacted to this, so he repeated that, yes, he’s STACY. CALHOUN.
Silently, the kids were collectively “Yep, you sure are that thing you said.”
Seems STACY CALHOUN is surprised that none of the kids in class know who STACY CALHOUN is. Curtis tried to figure if STACY CALHOUN was some famous warden or army captain.
Shelly tried to tap Curtis on the shoulder and hand him a note when Curtis, not taking his eyes off STACY CALHOUN, tried to subtly take the note. Too late, and before Curtis could blink STACY CALHOUN was on top of him.
STACY CALHOUN plucked the note from Curtis’s lap before he went to explain who he, STACY CALHOUN, was. Up close, Curtis could see STACY CALHOUN had a fine layer of blond hair covering his whole face. His nose, forehead, even his eyelids.
“I held the proud title of star quarterback for Fairfield High, three years running, back in the early 1970s. I substitute teach now.”
Oh, no. And I bet that thought echoed in every single kid in class.
“You no doubt believe that my reflexes have slackened with age. Enough to give you leeway for note-passing, airplane sailing, rubber-band flipping, gum chewing or name calling. Unfortunately, you will be surprised by my keen eyesight and my acute hearing.”
STACY CALHOUN moved to the back of the class, and that made Curtis even more uncomfortable when he couldn’t see STACY CALHOUN. This whole “King of the Universe” shtick got old very fast as STACY CALHOUN announced he decided NOT to use his lesson plan. Curtis couldn’t tell if anyone dared to breathe as STACY CALHOUN walked up and down the aisles. STACY CALHOUN could tell he had the entire class focused on one thing, and that was STACY CALHOUN.
Now STACY CALHOUN asked what Mrs. Fortune would’ve had the class do.
Shelly’s hand shot up She had a look on her face I had seen before. The same look she gave Kyle Banner before she punched him out.
[Jude: SHELLY OH MY GOD]
Stacy Calhoun’s ears perked back and his head raised slightly and cocked, like an animal that heard something behind it.
“You, the little note passer?” he called.
He didn’t turn around. How did he know Shelly raised her hand? How did he see her?
“We would have gone to the library for the rest of the day,” Shelly said. It sound more like a demand than a statement.
Smiling broadly, like he was going to eat a kid, STACY CALHOUN announced they would thus go to the library. In an orderly fashion. Single file. And if any kid stepped out of turn, STACY CALHOUN would have some very not nice things to say about it.
Curtis couldn’t believe STACY CALHOUN got their class under control like pet dogs so quickly. They, who had the reputation of making most substitute teachers sorry they hadn’t gone to clown school like their parents wanted. [Wing: Oh, STACY CALHOUN, not here for the alpha dog bullshit.]
Too bad Curtis and Shelly were almost out the door when a voice asked to speak with them for just a moment.
STACY CALHOUN asked what Curtis and Shelly’s names were. And because Shelly’s a fucking boss, she looked STACY CALHOUN straight in the eye as she told him her name. Curtis couldn’t help but notice how STACY CALHOUN’S eyes looked a bit… different. How the blue had become somewhat silvery. [Wing: LOVE THAT.] Curtis looked down at the floor as he told STACY CALHOUN his name.
Now, STACY CALHOUN asked if Curtis and Shelly could help him with a small thing. Over at his desk, STACY CALHOUN was now holding up two big cardboard boxes – one in each of his big hands. Curtis and Shelly almost had their arms broken when STACY CALHOUN casually plopped each box into their hands. What the hell was in them?! The fake smile on STACY CALHOUN’S face made it obvious this was a punishment for the note passing.
“Can you manage them?” he asked. No mere question, but a challenge.
Shelly looked mad and grabbed her box, tugging it up to her knee where she slid her hands beneath it. She would manage them all right. She’d pull her arms out of their sockets before she would admit defeat.
“No problem,” I muttered.
[Wing: I adore stubborn, grumpy, angry Shelly.]
STACY CALHOUN told Curtis and Shelly to bring the boxes to the library.
And everyone in the library better be seated and quiet or STACY CALHOUN won’t be happy.
And you don’t want STACY CALHOUN to be unhappy, boys and girls and enbies.
Curtis and Shelly made it to the top of the stairs near the library while struggling to hold the boxes, which upon closer inspection were both taped shut. Curtis had to admit STACY CALHOUN deserved some points for making it seem like they had a choice in “helping” him. They both could’ve told STACY CALHOUN “no.”
“Why didn’t you?”
“I don’t know! Why didn’t you?”
Curtis finally asked Shelly what was in the note that got them in trouble in the first place. Turns out she was gonna ask him what he thought was in the boxes on STACY CALHOUN’S desk.
As Curtis and Shelly began to laugh, they thought of a better way to get the boxes down the stairs. One step at a time. One KICK at a time. After all, STACY CALHOUN didn’t say they COULDN’T kick the boxes down the steps.
Unfortunately the hallway was empty, and chances were Curtis and Shelly couldn’t kick the boxes across the floor. Cardboard boxes do tend to get pretty ragged after getting kicked around. But just for good measure, Curtis kicked the box again. Stupid STACY CALHOUN and stupid STACY CALHOUN’S box.
That’s when Shelly realizes Curtis forgot his notebook in the classroom!
Curtis hurried back up the stairs to get his notebook back from Mr. Jackson’s classroom, but had to make sure Mr. Mayfield didn’t see him. Mr. Mayfield had a thing about kids who didn’t have hall passes. Curtis knew Mayfield didn’t have a class at this time, so maybe he was just having lunch or straightening up in the biology lab.
Well, Mayfield IS in the bio lab, but as Curtis overheard, he wasn’t alone.
Shockingly, Curtis heard Mayfield yelling at someone. Mayfield NEVER yelled at anyone. Worried, Curtis looked through the glass in the bio lab’s door. The lights were flickering on and off and the film projector was still whirring despite the movie being over. Curtis saw Mayfield being held down in his chair by STACY CALHOUN.
STACY CALHOUN held Mayfield down with one hand, while the other hand was curled into a fist. Curtis watched as STACY CALHOUN slammed his fist into the chair next to Mayfield, causing Mayfield to break free and back up towards the projector. Mayfield screamed he wouldn’t join in whatever STACY CALHOUN had planned. STACY CALHOUN’S face was a shade of red Curtis had never seen on someone’s face before as STACY CALHOUN circled Mayfield around the dissection table.
Never taking their eyes off each other, STACY CALHOUN asked Mayfield to reconsider while the live frogs in their jars seemed to be going crazy.
That’s when STACY CALHOUN picked up the dissecting knife, looking at the knife, to Mayfield, to CURTIS!
Curtis didn’t back down from his position behind the door, and STACY CALHOUN turned back to Mayfield. STACY CALHOUN calmly capped the dissecting knife and pocketed it before certain… things happened.
“You had your chance. Now it’s too late. You should have joined me. You should have come with me It could have been just like the old days.”
Mr. Mayfield seemed as terrified as I was.
“Go on. Check your hand.” Stacy said coolly.
Mr. Mayfield slowly brought his fist in front of his face. He pressed his fist hard against his forehead and started to open it.
Stacy smiled as Mr. Mayfield’s face flooded with terror. Mr. Mayfield’s fingers unfurled and his opened hand shook.
The frogs went wild in their jars.
I could see that something marked Mr. Mayfield’s outstretched palm!
Curtis finally ran back to the stairs before Mayfield or STACY CALHOUN left the bio lab. Mayfield ran from the bio lab while clutching his hand, as if he were in pain. Not wanting STACY CALHOUN to see him, Curtis fled down the stairs back to Shelly.
Shelly was still in the hallway with the two boxes and conversing with Coach Dawson. Curtis liked Dawson, who was Curtis’s tennis instructor. Tough, but not that tough. Fair minded. Being near Coach Dawson gave Curtis a sense of safety.
But wait, would Coach Dawson be a match for STACY CALHOUN?
Shelly wondered why Curtis took so long when Coach Dawson asked why the two were carrying such heavy boxes. And for that matter, what’s in ‘em? Curtis explained they belonged to the new sub, whom Shelly helpfully explained was a jerk who knew the boxes were too heavy for two kids to lift.
When an ominous shadow fell over Curtis, he feared it was STACY CALHOUN. Instead it was Mayfield, who told Dawson he was feeling a bit… under the weather. The look Mayfield gave Curtis silently told Curtis that Mayfield had something he needed to tell the boy. Mayfield knew Curtis saw his altercation with STACY CALHOUN.
Mayfield explained he was leaving school early (though school was practically over anyway) to do some errands. Dawson expressed hope that Mayfield feels better before wondering what THAT was all about. Oh well.
But don’t worry Coach, Shelly can handle her box just fine. She’s a regular Samson, after all. Curtis, on the other hand, had no problem admitting he needed help. As Dawson carried the box to the library, Curtis noticed the school mascot on the back of Dawson’s jacket.
A timber wolf.
(SIDENOTE: Continuity in play! “The Midnight Game” mentioned the school’s mascot was the timber wolf)
[Wing: Why did I never choose a school with such a good mascot? Why?]
Then Curtis heard a voice.
“A little late getting to the library, Curtis?” The voice curled around me like a snake. A cold shiver traveled through me.
I didn’t turn around. Cold fear pushed me forward, but I half expected a hand on my shoulder to stop me or something.
Nothing. He didn’t do anything, say anything. No sound. A chill wind whipped down the empty hall.
I took another step and felt hot breath on my neck.
Okay, I forced myself to turn and look.
I knew it. Nothing there. He had vanished, but how? Nothing down that hall but a scuffed up floor and hundred year old wads of gum. No doors had slammed and I’d heard no footsteps.
A blinding dread and a flash of fright sent me hurtling down the hall to catch up to Mr. Dawson.
We entered the library together.
Well if the hallway was terrifying, what do you call what was happening in the library?
Curtis’s class had certainly earned their reputation for being rabble rousers with the chaos they were making. Coach Dawson instinctively grabbed a paper airplane as it flew towards him.
And dropped STACY CALHOUN’S box.
What was INSIDE the box?
Only HUNDREDS AND HUNDREDS OF BUGS!!!!!!!
HUNDREDS of roaches and spiders streamed from the overturned box and scrambled across the floor!
My stomach lurched and heaved as the carpet of bugs rose ankle deep!
Everyone froze as the insects scurried over their shoes, and up their socks. The girls and boys screamed as they felt hairy little legs crawl up their shirts and into their hair.
Poor Piggy Steiner had been crawling under the library tables pinching girls when a wave of bugs flooded over him.
[Jude: FUCK YOU PIGGY]
He screamed a full two minutes before Coach Dawson pulled him up. The coach brushed him off as best he could and yelled for silence.
No good. Shrieks and cries filled the library as the kids scrambled over each other for the door. Beneath their feet, the bugs popped, snapped and opened like peanut shells.
I saw Shelly laughing hysterically, perched on top of the card catalog. Shelly actually liked bugs, unlike most girls I know. She liked them enough to own a pet spider, an ant farm and two centipedes named “Flash” and “Speedy.”
…girl you a freak. [Wing: WHY IS IT ALWAYS SPIDERS.]
Coach Dawson tried to get control of the situation as the bugs vanished into the library as quickly as the came, scurrying under books and shelves. Curtis and Shelly were more concerned about what else might’ve been inside the opened box.
Carefully lifting up the flap, the two kids expected something more disgusting would crawl out but it seems the box was bug free. The inside was a complete fucking mess of cobwebs, as if the box hadn’t been opened for like a hundred years. Curtis couldn’t believe he had been carrying that thing with all those bugs inside, when Shelly pulled out an ancient looking book.
The front cover said:
THE LOUP GAROU AND OTHERS
The cover bore a silver etching of a face split down the middle, one half a man, the other half a wolf.
As much as Curtis loved books about monsters, he knew this book was different. It radiated a kind of sinister energy; even Shelly picked up on it. Something about this book was positively inhuman. Deep down, Curtis knew this wasn’t a book made with the likes of Lon Chaney Jr., Dee Wallace Stone, and Jack Nicholson in mind.
This, THIS, was a book on the real thing.
[Wing: I have hearts and stars in my eyes. I want it.]
Curtis and Shelly knew they had to get the book out of here, but wait, where’s the OTHER box? Shelly pointed towards the librarian’s desk.
And STACY CALHOUN.
STACY CALHOUN sat in the librarian’s chair, a big smile on his face as he leaned forward and told the kids to bring the book over.
The moment Coach Dawson entered the library, STACY CALHOUN somehow had Curtis and Shelly by the backs of their shirts. Oh Coach Dawson, it’s just TERRIBLE. It seems two little troublemakers who like to pass notes in class wanted revenge for their punishment and filled STACY CALHOUN’S box with all those awful little creatures. STACY CALHOUN practically had a silver tongue [Wing: Nice.] as Coach Dawson fell for it. Curtis tried to explain and Shelly denied they were being punished, but to Coach Dawson they committed the ultimate offense.
Not paying attention in class.
How would Curtis and Shelly got out of this sticky situation? Tune in next time!
It’s next time and they didn’t get out of this sticky situation.
It didn’t help that one kid had twenty spider bites, [Wing: I’LL BE HAVING NIGHTMARES FOREVER, THANKS, STRANGE MATTER.] and Patty Carmike had to be hospitalized for a week due to her allergy to ant bites.
Curtis and Shelly were framed for over thirty kids being traumatized, receiving a day of in-school suspension.
I had always thought the school system reserved suspension for future bank robbers, car thieves, and 7-11 hold-up creeps who skulked around the back of social studies classes.
Curtis don’t be classist.
Well anyway, Curtis was fed the line of how this suspension would be a big, fat blemish on his PERMANENT RECORD. Are permanent records even a thing?
God damn STACY CALHOUN.
Stuck in his room, Curtis thought about STACY CALHOUN’S ugly hairy face and haunting silver eyes, wondering when Shelly would call so they could complain together. When the phone rang, Curtis tried to answer before his mom picked up. Not fast enough, because Mrs. Curtis’s Mom informed him AND Shelly that he had exactly two minutes to talk. After that he BETTER be writing that essay (the one all about their EVIL actions) he needs to do for his punishment. Y’know, in case he’s not banned for life from that school.
You too, Shelly!
Once Mom hung up, Shelly want to asking how STACY CALHOUN managed to grab them so fast, why all those bugs were in that box, and why STACY CALHOUN had that werewolf book. Curtis relayed the fight he saw between Mr. Mayfield and STACY CALHOUN, and how Mayfield was clutching his hand as if he were hurt. Curtis also mentioned how STACY CALHOUN hadn’t even touched Mayfield’s palm; it’s like he THOUGHT about the mark and it materialized.
[Wing: Not the most dramatic moment of mark of the beast, but still fun.]
Shelly asked if Curtis really thought someone could do that, when Curtis reminded Shelly she was also scared when they saw that book. Well now Shelly was determined to figure out what to do. She wasn’t going to let STACY CALHOUN get away with this, regardless if he was STACY CALHOUN.
Once, [Shelly] got a “C” on a book report she did for Mrs. Dobson. She cornered the poor teacher on her way out of a faculty meeting. In front of the principal and the entire English department, she argued her way into a “B+”. She took her school record very, very seriously.
[Wing: Baby!Wing would have been in love with Shelly.]
Oh my God I just want to see these kids mingle with the Graveyard School gang.
Curtis agreed with Shelly as he cared about his school record too. Their plan was to sneak out and talk to Mr. Mayfield and figure out what went on between him and STACY CALHOUN, and what happened to Mayfield’s palm.
Before she hung up, Shelly pointed out all this trouble happened because of one box.
So… what could be in the other one?
Curtis and Shelly met up later at the corner of Elm and Willow after Curtis snuck out of his house with his parents none the wiser.
It was then Shelly could tell Curtis all she had learned about STACY CALHOUN.
“He used to play football. I asked my Dad about him in between the yelling and cries of disbelief over his daughter’s criminal behavior. Dad said Calhoun used to be the best. No one could stop him. He moved so fast you couldn’t see him, and if you tried to tackle him, he’d jump over you like an animal. If he had the ball it was a guaranteed touchdown. People called him the ‘Beast of Fairfield High.’
[Wing: So subtle. I love it. I’m very forgiving when it comes to dramatic, unsubtle werewolf hints.]
“He had a huge head.” Shelly carefully avoided each crack in the sidewalk.
“I gathered that.” The guy had two zipcodes for his ego alone.
“Apparently his whole family was jock. Everyone called his Dad ‘The Beast,’ as well as his older brothers. [Wing: So were they Beast Sr., Beast Jr. 1, Beast Jr. 2, and so on?] There are pictures and trophies all over the high school. Dad seemed surprised to hear he actually came back to town after what happened in 1974.”
I bit. “What happened?”
“Dad said they made him quit.”
“Why?” We stopped at a red light. The crosswalk signal pressed with a click under my finger, the metal unusually cold.
“He crippled some guy for life. Broke his neck on the five yard line.”
I stopped abruptly and looked at Shelly as she slowly spun around the metal pole.
“Dad told me that Calhoun’s speed amazed him. He said the poor guy never knew what hit him. They both ran so fast across the field that the gross under them blurred into a streak, then WHAM! A sickening crack and it was all over.” [Wing: Goddamn.]
Like a rabbit, I thought. My heart sank as I recalled Mr. Mayfield’s science film in gruesome detail.
“Dad said that Calhoun smiled and waved as the poor guy’s stretcher slide into the ambulance. The crowd didn’t make a sound but Calhoun’s dad and his brothers cheered and howled over the victory.” [Wing: SO. SUBTLE. I LOVE IT.]
Calhoun bowed in my head, receiving imaginary cheers. The dissection knife gleamed in his hand. He stared at me with shimmering silver eyes.
“I guess they’ll let anybody substitute teach these days,” Shelly said.
Jesus H. Fucknuggets.
That was when Curtis noticed something odd about the traffic light. It had previously been red, but instead of changing to green it was now yellow? Huh.
“What a creep,” I said, my hands in my pockets.
“He left town with his family a week later after some kind of trouble with his Dad. He’s still a legend of sorts and an underground football hero. Dad said a lot of his friends still think of Calhoun as the greatest quarterback Fairfield ever saw. Now he’s back.”
UH EXCUSE YOU CHILDREN BUT WHAT ABOUT TOM MAUL OF THE GREEN DEVILS?
Oh wait that’s in the next book.
“Your Dad told you all this?”
“Well, no… not exactly. I overheard him and Mom talking about it while I was stewing in my room. After they found out who got me in trouble, they almost believed my story.”
“I wish I could say the same. I’m in the doghouse for good,” I moped.
“Good choice of words,” she joked.
“What do you mean by that?”
She just laughed.
“What happened to Calhoun’s Dad?” I asked staring at the light. An awfully long time to wait for a light to change. Very weird.
“He died last year. Dad thinks that’s why Calhoun came back to Fairfield. To get away from his family.”
Shelly stared up at the light. It glowed a dingy yellow. The crossing signal remained a cold, dead black.
“What did his dad do?” I asked, my attention more focused on the light than the question.
“He was the dog catcher.”
The light refused to change.
I am just loving this and the build up of suspense conveyed by the oddness surrounding the traffic light.
Curtis and Shelly both grew annoyed and slightly unnerved by the ugly yellow light. The only light on the entire street. No cars were coming, and even with a small breeze the light stayed firmly in place as a low mist came in.
Then I became aware of the parked cars.
Cars sat like abandoned shells everywhere. They lined the streets like tombstones, all silent and dark.
[Wing: This is beautifully creepy.]
That’s when Curtis heard something behind them. And whatever it was, it was under a moving van.
Then they heard it crawl on the concrete.
That was it for Shelly who ran, light or no light, before whatever was under the van made a move.
As Shelly ran, the headlights of a nearby car blared to life as it lurched forward. But the wheels weren’t moving! Curtis heard and smelled burning rubber as something was propelling the car forward, followed by horrific howling! Shelly screamed as Curtis threw himself forward and tackled her out of the way before the car hit her.
The car stopped.
Curtis saw it.
A huge skulking figure with pointed dog-like ears removed its claws from the back of the car with a metallic groan. It turned to come after us, only a few steps away!
[Wing: I LOVE THIS SCENE. Very cinematic and creepy.]
Curtis ran and ran, pulling Shelly with him before realizing he’d lost track of her. Feelings of guilt were jumbled up at the thought of those claws ripping out the car’s bumper as Curtis heard Shelly scream.
Reaching an overpass bridge, Curtis finally stopped ruining as Shelly thankfully caught up with him to ask what the FUCK was that?!
I mean what do you THINK it was, Shelly?!
[Wing: Why does no one ever think of the werewolf?]
Shelly started crying as she realized she was almost killed, but Curtis argued they had to keep going for Mr. Mayfield’s house. Curtis vainly tried to rationalize it could’ve been anything back there, but Shelly knew better.
“Bull! It’s Stacy Calhoun! He’s trying to kill us!” Shelly argued, more angry than scared.
“Come on now. It’s dark. That could have been some guy trying to push start his car or something. He left his emergency brakes on, and it got away from him in the dark, that’s all.”
Shelly fixed me with an icy stare. “He sure had terrific timing.”
Curtis was caught between a rock and a hard place; either their substitute teacher was trying to kill them, or some rando was trying to kill them. The prospects didn’t look good.
At the very least, Curtis needed to get to Mr. Mayfield’s house to get something done about the nasty cut on his arm from where he fell. It looked pretty bad. Shelly made Curtis promise after going to Mr. Mayfield’s home that they would head back a different way than they came, to avoid… whatever the fuck was out there.
Looking back, Curtis mused that if he knew then what he knew now he would’ve just gone straight home.
Werewolf or no werewolf.
They finally reached Mr. Mayfield’s home on… Dogwood Avenue. Everything about the house and surrounding area seemed neat and well groomed.
That’s when they heard another voice from above, a voice calling their names. Curtis and Shelly watched as a figure slid down from a tree in front of the house, one that was too small to be STACY CALHOUN. It was Mr. Mayfield!
And he knows why they’re here.
Mayfield’s casual tone of voice bothered Curtis; the teacher acted like he’d caught the two kids without a hall pass. As Mayfield beckoned the kids inside his home, Curtis could tell even Shelly had lost her nerve. But they’d come this far already so…
[Wing: DO NOT ENTER A HOME LIKE THAT, YOU TWO. DO NOT.]
Curtis and Shelly entered their teacher’s home with his small terrier, and Curtis noticed every window was open. That seemed contradictory when Mayfield gave off the vibe of someone who was being pursued.
Curtis’s questions had to wait as Mayfield picked up his phone and did the worst thing imaginable.
HE CALLED CURTIS AND SHELLY’S PARENTS!
Curtis blanched as Mayfield reported his whereabouts to Curtis’s mom, explaining Shelly was with him at Mayfield’s home. Once Mayfield hung up, Curtis didn’t hold back from screaming about being ratted out by his own teacher. Seems the rental units have been searching for the kids for like an hour.
Mayfield retreated into his living room, his little terrier joining him as Mayfield sank down into an overstuffed armchair. While cuddling his pet dog, Mayfield addressed Curtis regarding what went on with between him and and STACY CALHOUN. Curtis was at a loss for words but Shelly picked up the slack, explaining they just wanted answers about everything. The book. The bugs. Why STACY CALHOUN was out to get them.
That’s when Mayfield asked what they know about werewolves.
Even Mayfield’s dog stared at Curtis and Shelly during the tense silence following that question, before Mayfield gripped his dog’s jaw and told Curtis to come forward.
Mr. Mayfield’s fingers spread the lips of his pet, revealing sharp pointy teeth.
“See there, how sharp they are? How solidly in place? He can put fifty pounds of pressure on each of those little blades. Feel one.” He held the dog firmly.
I hesitated, staring at the exposed teeth, sharp little blades glistening in the moonlight.
“Go on. Feel one,” he insisted.
I reached out and placed the tip of my finger under the dog’s pointy incisor.
It punctured the tip of the skin so easily, I didn’t even feel it. I saw a dot of blood grow on my finger.
“This is a small dog, Curtis. A very small dog.” I could feel his eyes pierce me as easily as that dog’s tooth. “You didn’t see me fight with anyone today. I didn’t even meet with Stacy Calhoun. You two put the bugs in the box and you are very sorry.”
I wanted to argue. I wanted to say he was completely wrong and he knew it. I wanted to ask him why he would lie and stick up for that creep, Stacy Calhoun. I wanted to tell him I would prove everything. But as I looked at him, I couldn’t say a word.
His eyes were so full of fear at that moment, I thought he might cry.
[Wing: God, I love this. The whole exchange about the small dog, the teeth, the what you saw certainly didn’t happen, I love it all.]
Mayfield held onto Curtis’s arm when suddenly the doorbell rang, and Curtis found himself in a daze as Mayfield laughed and chatted with the people at his front door. Curtis’s parents were both thrilled to find their son and probably thinking of killing him for running off. Better them than STACY CALHOUN.
Curtis’s dad led Curtis and Shelly to the car while Curtis’s mom apologized to Mayfield for the trouble. Getting in the vehicle, Curtis watched Mayfield wave to him from his front door. In the porchlight, Curtis could make out the mark on Mayfield’s hand.
A five pointed star.
[Wing: ahahahahahahahahahahaha, always love this]
Curtis did his best not to scream, having seen the mark of the werewolf.
The car ride was excruciating for Curtis due to the image stuck in his mind. Claustrophobia was setting in, like Curtis was an animal trapped in a small cage. He needed out and needed it fast. Sounding as pitiful and downtrodden as possible, Curtis asked if they could grab a bite to eat. Luckily, McDonald’s was right around the corner. Mrs. Curtis’s mom had a soft spot for the old golden M. The family had fallen into a habit of stopping by there after Curtis was picked up from baseball and piano practice.
See, capitalism isn’t all bad! A ha. A ha ha. I hate this country.
Curtis didn’t care if it was McDonald’s, Burger King, even a fucking Roy Rogers, he just needed out.
A cool night breeze followed by the smell of “burgers” and “french fries” had Curtis feeling better, while his parents finally asked what Curtis and Shelly were trying to do. Seriously Curt, why were you bothering Mr. Mayfield so late in the evening? Like, it can’t be THAT dire. At least the ‘rents were taking it easy on both of the kids. For now. Curtis figured he was getting mercy simply because Shelly was with them, but once she was home-OH SHIT WHERE DID THAT TRUCK COME FROM?!
Suddenly the window lit up with the lights of a large pick-up pulling into the space in front of the window where we were eating.
The truck flew into the space! It looked like it COULDN’T STOP! Its lights froze us in our seats as it roared within inches of the glass!
“HOLY COW!” Dad cried. He almost jumped out of his seat.
Jeez we came for a werewolf story and get thrown into Stephen Spielberg’s Duel.
[Wing: Every story needs more werewolves, and Engle and Barnes know it. I love them.]
Pissed off, Curtis’s dad decided he would have a chat with such a reckless driver when Curtis saw the look of dread on Shelly’s face. Because guess who just got out of the truck. Was it:
- STACY CALHOUN
- STACY CALHOUN
- The Wealthy Dowager
Time’s up it was STACY CALHOUN, who then entered the McDonald’s.
Stacy Calhoun marched through the glass doors of McDonald’s like he owned the place. He looked from side to side with his nostrils flaring, like some kind of hunter.
Like a wolf.
The only thing scarier than STACY CALHOUN was the fact Curtis’s mom was… happy to see him.
“STACY!” she cried out cheerfully.
I tried to stop her. I even grabbed her arm to stop her frantic waving.
Too late. Mom, the social butterfly, was in full flutter.
WING GET DOVE AND BAT IN HERE WE’RE SHIFTING INTO UTTER FLUTTER.
Shelly tried to slide as far down into her seat as possible when STACY CALHOUN saw them and walked forward. Smiling. Mom’s excitement at seeing STACY CALHOUN was stomach churning, as evidence by Dad’s hard cringing.
Mom, Dad, and the former quarterback-turned-terrorist-substitute exchanged brief accounts of their current activities, chatted about how long it had been since they had seen each other and about how they ought to get together some time.
I sat there, trying not to look in his direction. Every word he said made my skin crawl, like the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard. Sheer torture.
Shelly’s Mom and Dad knew this guy’s creepy past. Why didn’t my parents? They talked to him like they’d been friends since sixth grade.
I even heard Mom mention dinner at our house some night! [Wing: WEREWOLF PACK WEREWOLF PACK WEEEEEEEREWOOOOOOOOLF PAAAAAAAAACK.]
Suddenly I felt a large hand on my shoulder. I couldn’t help but cringe.
“Hello, Curtis. No hard feelings I hope,” the devil said, smiling.
Oh but it got better.
I looked up at him and almost gasped.
The fine layer of blond hair that had covered his face had grown thicker. Every strand was visible and his eyebrows had grown completely together. His eyes shone like steel mirrors.
Where’s Gary Busey when you need him?
Shelly never took her eyes off the truck, as if she’d seen something important and tried to get Curtis’s attention. The adults took the silence of the lambs as an indication of embarrassment from the “prank.” STACY CALHOUN deliberately turned towards Curtis’s dad and made a veiled comment about how they did similar stuff when they were in school. Yeah, they were known to… hang out, from time to time.
[Wing: WEREWOLF PACK.]
Unfortunately some poor McDonald’s employee had to inform STACY CALHOUN he needed to move his truck because he parked in the handicapped spot. STACY CALHOUN practically bit her head off as he said he’d move it before turning the “charm” back on. As the parents gathered up the remains from dinner, STACY CALHOUN informed Curtis about what to expect at school.
“By the way,” he whispered into my ear, “I just paid a little visit to your friend, Mr. Mayfield. I’m afraid he’s going to need a substitute tomorrow.”
Through the noise in my throbbing head, I saw Mr. Mayfield’s dog’s teeth and the dot of blood coming out of my finger. Over and over again.
Then I saw that terrible pentagram on Mr. Mayfield’s palm.
Shelly got Curtis’s attention and finally pointed towards what had captivated her gaze for so long. In the back of Mayfield’s were the two boxes from school.
Curtis announced he was going to the bathroom, and only Shelly knew what he meant by “bathroom.” He left the building knowing once he was outside no one, not even his parents, could protect Curtis. His back to the wall, Curtis watched STACY CALHOUN park the truck into the furthest space in the lot. Way to make things easy for him.
Under cover of darkness, Curtis made his way towards the truck. Hoisting himself up into the back of the vehicle, Curtis saw the two boxes and two garbage bags near the front.
And a small, black rectangular window that was half open.
As I reached the boxes, I smelled something very strange coming from that little window. With a blurring rustle of movement and a loud SNAP, the window filled with the snarling, snapping jaws of a large wolf!
The howls and barks made my heart stop and I felt the hot wind from its snout on my arm. From the dark of the cab glowed two little fierce coals.
I fell backward as rows of razor sharp teeth tried to chew their way out of that little black window.
It wanted to chew on me.
[Wing: Er, Monster Dog will also try to eat your face if you get too close to my car. Maybe stay away from people’s vehicles.]
Curtis had to get those boxes even if he lost a hand in the process. Somehow he knew, as did Shelly, those boxes provided another valuable piece to the puzzle that was STACY CALHOUN.
I could hear the snap of the jaws and the scrape of razor sharp claws on the window.
Sobbing, I reached toward the box.
I appreciate that they’re showing Curtis is openly crying from fear and it being treated as a natural response due to how fucked up the situation is.
Curtis managed to knock over the box, leading to the book sliding out. As Curtis fled with the book, he saw from the corner of his eye a horrible, hulking figure. Curtis managed to get to his parents’ car – which was unlocked apparently [Wing: Until the day he died, my dad refused to lock his personal vehicles. I lock mine obsessively.] – and hid in the back seat on the floor. Curtis knew it was only a matter of time before claws slashed through the metal and glass when something yanked the door open with a fury.
Oh thank God it was just Mom and Dad, but they were pissed off. Because apparently SOMEONE made a mess in the bathroom. Like an actual, honest to forsaken God mess in there. And it was NOT pretty.
Kids these days.
Shelly quietly confided in Curtis what happened after he left McDonald’s. STACY CALHOUN came back and noticed Curtis was gone. STACY CALHOUN asked where Curtis went. As STACY CALHOUN headed for the bathroom, Shelly followed behind him. Shelly heard the sound of STACY CALHOUN trashing the bathroom, pounding on the walls and ripping it apart when he burst out of the men’s room. Only now he had grown several inches and was covered in thick, black fur when it sprang through the side door before anyone else noticed.
Curtis knew STACY CALHOUN was onto them and would try to corner them again, but armed with the book they had the most powerful weapon in the world. KNOWLEDGE.
Back in the safety of his room, Curtis hesitantly opened the book on werewolf lore – one of the sources of his troubles – and began to read.
On the first page was an image and description of a berserker, a crazed Viking or Norsemen warrior wearing an animal skin like a bear or wolf. Curtis’s sense of fear intensified due to his belief this book was written on the real thing and not Hollywood make believe.
[Wing: I love love love berserkers as werewolves.]
Closing the curtains, Curtis didn’t want anyone to see him as he began to read some more to learn just how out of his depth he truly was.
Where the fuck did that dramatic wind come from he closed the window!
Curtis read about the three types of werewolves.
- THE HEREDITARY WEREWOLF – Families of werewolves where it’s passed down from generation to generation. Live in clans, don’t associate with people unless hungry. Look like real wolves.
- THE BENEVOLENT WEREWOLF, A.K.A. LYCANTHROPE – Live alone, didn’t want powers, received them accidentally through a bite or curse. Don’t want to hurt anyone, want to be alone. The more self-loathing they suffer from makes them appear less wolf like. They may even just act like a wolf without looking like one. Often seek cures.
- THE VOLUNTARY WEREWOLF, A.K.A. LOUP-GAROU – Became werewolf willingly, obsessed with power and thrill of the hunt. Will do anything to make themselves a werewolf. Always have a wolfskin with them, wear it while human and it can melt into their skin. Half-man, half-beast, complete monster. Are berserkers. Attacks are almost always deadly. Always hairy even in human form. Pentagrams appear on the flesh of their next intended victims.
Curtis immediately tried to call Mr. Mayfield’s house and received no answer. Not good.
Peering through his bedroom curtains, Curtis let it sink in that werewolves didn’t need a full moon to attack. And wolfsbane did nothing to slow them down either. With the realization of what werewolves were capable of, Curtis doubted his ability to sleep.
Curtis went over the ways to kill each type of werewolf.
- Hereditary werewolves could only be killed by killing the entire clan with fire. [Wing: Well that’s a little dramatic. Leave that poor family alone.]
- Lycanthropes could be killed by silver. In the Middle Ages, one way to kill a lycanthrope was by placing a silver necklace on them. [Wing: Romantic.]
- Loup-Garous are the trickiest to kill. If you sprinkle salt inside their wolfskins, when the put the skins on the salt would cause them to melt. [Wing: …okay, never heard this one before. I like it.]
Curtis thought about what kind of werewolf STACY CALHOUN could be. Would silver work? Although STACY CALHOUN seemed like a bloodthirsty predator, was that a front? Racking his brain for a way to deal with STACY CALHOUN, Curtis knew he didn’t have much time. Because Shelly called him to inform him of a new development.
There was a pentagram on HER hand! [Wing: NOOOOOOOOOO]
When Curtis and Shelly were finally allowed back in school, they were treated like stars by their classmates for “their” prank. Not everyone thought it was cool, but enough thought it was hilarious. [Wing: And baby!Wing would have wanted to burn the school down. It’s the only way to be safe with all those spiders loose.] Curtis talked with Shelly in private after third period to see how she was holding up.
“How you doing?” I asked, knowing the answer.
“I have a pentagram on my palm, you idiot. How are you doing? Brilliant question, Curtis.”
Well excuse him for living, Miss Thing! [Wing: She’s perfect. I love her.]
Shelly complained about how hard it was to hide the mark on her hand; Curtis had a similar problem when he got caught cheating. Anyway, Curtis asked if Shelly brought the goods. She did indeed, but Shelly wasn’t sure they would work.
Curtis took the time to inspect Shelly’s palm, which had turned a black-purple like color akin to an awful bruise. The pentagram was there, clear as day. And it hurts just as bad as it looks.
STACY CALHOUN wasn’t at school the previous day or the day before, but since his truck was in the parking lot Curtis hoped that STACY CALHOUN was in school today. They needed him here for the plan to work. Besides, even if he’s not in the school they’ll still deal with STACY CALHOUN eventually.
STACY CALHOUN knows where they live.
Shelly pulled out two expensive, and two exceedingly sharp looking, silver earrings. Their edges had been filed down sharp, so sharp Shelly was able to slice through a notebook with ease. Curtis was going to sharpen his a bit more to make sure it’s extra sharp.
[Wing: These dramatic children. I love them.]
Two class periods later, Curtis and Shelly saw the box on the teacher’s desk. It was the one box that hadn’t opened. And now, in front of the box and the desk, was STACY CALHOUN. And STACY CALHOUN had an announcement he figured Curtis AND Shelly would be interested in hearing about.
STACY CALHOUN smiled.
They all smiled at each other, but Curtis and Shelly smiled because of their ace in the hole. Curtis unfortunately did too good a job of sharpening his earring, and he’d cut himself in three places on his thigh as he hid the earring in his pocket. The pain was worth it to deal with STACY CALHOUN, even if the bloodstains weren’t.
STACY CALHOUN called Curtis and Shelly to the front of the room. The two marched, not showing any fear, as STACY CALHOUN asked them to open… THE BOX. Come on, Curtis, Shelly, open… THE BOX.
Curtis reached towards the box when Shelly stopped him. She would open-WAIT STACY CALHOUN HAS AN ANNOUNCEMENT.
You see class, STACY CALHOUN will no longer be your substitute teacher.
He’ll now be your PERMANENT teacher.
As their classmates clapped out of obligation, Shelly stopped giving a shit and ripped the box open. And the box was full of… invitations? Curtis realized this wasn’t the same box after all. STACY CALHOUN had trolled them.
A werewolf troll, I feel like they need to do a movie about that.
TROLL IV: THE ORIGINAL NIGHTMARE.
STACY CALHOUN announced these invitations are for a big, big party STACY CALHOUN is planning to celebrate his return to Fairfield. For his students AND their parents. It’s going to be held at STACY CALHOUN’S dad’s old place, the dog pound, on Beechwood. [Wing: A party at an old dog pound sounds miserable. Poor doggos at the dog pound. Not sure it’s worth a werewolf party, even.] Anyone who’s ANYONE will be there.
Yet I bet he couldn’t even get anyone from Frasier to show up. Or Murphy Brown.
Curtis and Shelly were forced to hand out the invites to what would be a slaughter. They would all be in the company of a wolf.
I handed my friends, my classmates, the address of the big bad wolf. He might as well have had a walk-in oven.
[Wing: That’s Hansel and Gretel’s story, Curtis. Keep your morality tales straight.]
Curtis headed back to the box of invites and paused, making sure STACY CALHOUN focused on him. While STACY CALHOUN barked at Curtis to not dawdle, Shelly got behind STACY CALHOUN and dropped the silver earring down STACY CALHOUN’S back.
AND THAT’S WHEN SHIT GOT REAL.
STACY CALHOUN went berserk, screaming, then howling in agony as blood dripped down his back. The windows burst open and a wind blew through the room as Curtis watched STACY CALHOUN transformed!
Mr. Calhoun grew! In front of our eyes, he grew so rapidly that his shirt tore away from his transforming body.
The hair on his body sprouted. His eyes glowed red and seethed with anger. His voice became an animal’s cry. His fingers had sprung small claws.
Instinct told me to run, but I swallowed hard and stood my ground.
He snarled and screamed in fury at the earring as it continued its merciless journey down his pants. He roared at Shelly, raising his clawed hands to strike!
“I KNEW IT! YOU’RE A WEREWOLF!” I yelled as loud as I could. I had to get his attention and it worked. He turned and glared at me.
STACY CALHOUN had transformed, but not entirely. Something stopped the process from turning STACY CALHOUN completely when the teacher lunged at Curtis. Curtis remembered the rabbit in the video, but if Curtis was a rabbit, he was a rabbit with a silver bullet.
OKAY YES IT’S AN EARRING WE’RE TRYING TO BE DRAMATIC HERE
Armed with a slingshot he put together last night, Curtis ignored the pain as the earring sliced at his fingers and aimed at STACY CALHOUN. Curtis aimed when he realized STACY CALHOUN’S letterman’s jacket was draped over the chair near the desk. The lining on the inside was WOLF’S FUR.
[Wing: I love, love, love this detail. Love it.]
Curtis let the earring fly, but it only smacked against STACY CALHOUN’S forehead instead of cutting him. Jumping out of the way, Curtis saw STACY CALHOUN crash into the blackboard. In a cloud of dust and plaster, Curtis watched as STACY CALHOUN grabbed the jacket. The principal and Coach Dawson made it into the classroom amid the chaos of terrified students as STACY CALHOUN jumped through the third story window and vanished.
Knowing exactly where STACY CALHOUN was going, Curtis and Shelly left school under cover of the confusion. Shelly didn’t understand why the earrings hadn’t killed STACY CALHOUN as Curtis explained he’s a loup-garou, meaning they have to use his wolfskin to kill him. It seemed impossible to get close enough to STACY CALHOUN to put salt in his wolfskin jacket while Curtis tried to figure out if anyone else now understood what happened and why.
Near hysterical, Shelly feared everyone would blame the two for what happened. From her perspective, they assaulted their teacher and drove him out a window. From Curtis’s perspective, they exposed him as a fucking werewolf. He had to remind Shelly they’re dealing with a legitimate monster. There’s no reasoning with STACY CALHOUN. They have to take care of him now before he kills anyone.
That’s when the phone rang.
Curtis didn’t want to pick it up, but he Shelly begged him to. What if it was her parents looking for her?
SPOILER ALERT it wasn’t.
The voice on the line chilled me. I nearly dropped the phone, staring at the wall in sheer, frozen horror.
Stacy Calhoun. His voice sounded different, barely understandable. But what he said rang crystal clear. I hung and turned to look at Shelly.
“Who?” She asked.
“Calhoun. He said he’ll see us tonight.”
That night, Curtis and Shelly rode the bus to their doom. Curtis thought about all he did in his thirteen years of living and how there was so much more he wanted to do. All the people he would miss.
I could only see them for a second in my head before they were shredded by sharp claws and slashing fangs.
But it had to be done. Between fight or flight, flight wasn’t an option. STACY CALHOUN would hunt them down no matter where they hid, so the kids decided to take the fight to him. One way or another, this would end.
Armed with a canister of salt, Curtis and Shelly headed for the loup-garou’s lair.
They caught the attention of an old lady on the bus, and the old lady’s ratty looking dog hidden in her overcoat. They explained they were on their way to the dog pound.
“Dropping off or picking up?” she asked with a scowl.
“Dropping off,” I said, with my hand on the container of salt.
Oh wouldn’t you know a fog was rolling in as Curtis and Shelly got off the bus. The dog pound looked like a wreck in dim yellow light from the streetlamps. Practically every window was broken. The place seemed abandoned, but the kids knew it had to have one occupant.
Shelly peered through one of the few windows that wasn’t broken, and saw through the grime what looked like the second box. The ACTUAL second box. And it was open for all to see.
Curiosity was literally about to kill someone as Curtis tried to stop Shelly from entering through an empty window pane. Too late, Shelly was inside and crept towards the box as Curtis watched while also trying to stay alert for anything unusual.
Shelly pulled out a bunch of old books, some magazines, a cap of some kind, and some old gray uniform. Curtis suspected these belonged to STACY CALHOUN’S dad when Shelly ran to the window and held up an old picture. It was of a younger STACY CALHOUN and, and Mr. Douglas Mayfield! On the high school football team! Looking like friends!
My biology teacher and the substitute…
God you’re a drama queen Curt.
Shelly was trying to say something to Curtis when he realized THERE WAS SOMETHING BEHIND HER!
A big, hairy shape rose up behind her, slowly, making her look very small. Its fangs dripped like faucets.
Its two yellow eyes snapped open.
[Wing: SO FUCKING CINEMATIC. I desperately want this to be adapted into a story in an anthology horror movie.]
Shelly ran and the wolf ran after her, only Curtis realized this wasn’t STACY CALHOUN but the wolf he saw in the truck! Curtis ran without thinking into the dog pound to get to Shelly when she screamed at him to watch out. The wolf was poised over Shelly after she fell, but it sprung at Curtis. Curtis dodged just in time and the wolf slammed into one of the empty cages against the wall. The first chance he got Curtis slammed the door and locked the cage. But the wolf wasn’t going down without a fight and sank its teeth into Curtis’s ankle!
As Shelly ran to help Curtis, they both realized STACY CALHOUN’S wolfskin jacket was lying in the middle of the room. Surrounded by trash and bones, the jacket had deliberately been left in a clean space for someone to notice it.
They knew it was a trap, but what other options were available? Well they didn’t get far when STACY CALHOUN grabbed them both by their shirts and howled with delight.
His shirt hung in cotton tatters on his heaving chest. His eyes glowed blood red and hair covered his huge, rippling body. His pointy ears twitched.
“My two star pupils! So glad you could come!” His voice sounded like a whole pack of animals growling at once.
STACY CALHOUN threw the two kids across the room. Shelly cried out in pain as she held her arm; chances are she’d broken it. Curtis flew into an old chair which broken and sent dozens of splinters into his knee like needles. The salt container, their only weapon, landed near Shelly but not close enough for her to grab. [Wing: Why did you only bring one? W H Y?]
Sobbing from pain but not stopping, Curtis grabbed an oily rag and wrapped it around a broken chair leg.
“You kids make yourselves at home while I slip into something more comfortable,” Stacy Calhoun cackled as he reached for the jacket.
Anger burned through Curtis as he lit the match and set the rag ablaze, determined to stop STACY CALHOUN.
The torch blazed to life at the touch of the match in my trembling hand. I held the burning torch, and steadied myself, staring at him.
His huge burning eyes glued to it in fear.
“FETCH!” I yelled and threw the fiery stick as hard as I could.
Well Curtis wasn’t under the delusion the fire would be enough to kill STACY CALHOUN, but it would cause a distraction. The box, newspapers, and oily rags immediately burst into flames and STACY CALHOUN scrambled to put out the inferno while saving his lair and his father’s possessions.
Curtis struggled to get to the jacket even as his legs gave out. Grabbing the salt container as Shelly fell against the back wall, Curtis poured salt into his hand and he ran as fast as he could. Trying to block out everything, the smoke, the fire, STACY CALHOUN, and almost reached the jacket when something like a sledgehammer hit Curtis’s back. Curtis flew through the hair, his fist open and salt pouring out.
Through the smoke, the injured Curtis watched STACY CALHOUN slip the wolfskin jacket on to complete his hideous transformation.
He grew a full ten inches into the most horrifying, wolf-like thing I could have imagined. His shoulders had to be six feet across, and hunched, like an animal’s. Pointed ears grew up the sides of his head like antennae.
Curtis knew he was dead as rows of razor sharp teeth emerged through the smoke ready to rip him open when suddenly, STACY CALHOUN began screaming in pain! The wolfskin jacket dropped off STACY CALHOUN, some errant grains of salt miraculously still sticking to the fur and to STACY CALHOUN.
His face bubbled and reddened. The grains of salt that stuck on his sin sank into small pits and ballooned into gaping holes.
With a final hideous shriek, Stacy Calhoun vanished.
Curtis wasn’t sure what to think other than how thankful he was that the salt had managed to land in the jacket after all. They had won.
Shelly staggered to Curtis and the two managed to flee the burning dog pound…
And heard the howling of a wolf.
[Wing: Yes, yes, good, good. Love this.]
Well, Shelly only sprained her arm. And the official story was that STACY CALHOUN had snapped and gone on a rampage in class that day, before torching his father’s dog pound. They’re still looking for him, but Curtis knows they won’t find him. Although people have been looking for STACY CALHOUN for a long time, it seems.
No one knew where Douglas Mayfield was as well, but Curtis knew he’d be seeing him soon.
Tonight, most likely.
Curtis’s palm itched like crazy.
And he had a lot of reading to do.
And there we have it, the end of the first book in the Strange Matter series.
Interestingly, Marty Engle revealed to me that STACY CALHOUN was based on someone who attended high school with him and Johnny Barnes. And from what I understand, this person was exactly the same as STACY CALHOUN.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book on the reread for how immediate Curtis and Shelly were in taking matters into their own hands. And how STACY CALHOUN felt the need to have a pissing contest with two kids.
[Wing: I LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS BOOK. Yes, it’s werewolves, but it’s also full of adventure and creepiness and cinematic scenes and monstrous moments and I LOVE THIS BOOK SO GODDAMN MUCH. I’m sorry baby!Wing didn’t know about this series much earlier.]
Next up, since “The Midnight Game” was already recapped we will be skipping ahead to the third book, “Driven to Death,” for our next Strange Matter recap.
Expect sibling bickering, ghost cars, and… pirates?