WATCH WHAT YOU DO,
WATCH WHAT YOU SAY,
AND FEAR THE MOON
ON NEW YEAR’S DAY.
The end of the year draws closer, and the small town of Lakewood suffers a series of vicious animal attacks.
High school senior Emily Berns suspects it may be something worse. Something – or someone – close to her.
Targeted Age Group:: 16+
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I wanted to write something that was true to what I think is the essence of werewolf stories: Tragedy. I dislike when werewolves are portrayed as cool, buff fighters riding in packs.
To me, the werewolf story is one of self-destruction and losing control. Think the original Wolfman or An American Werewolf in London. You contract the curse and are doomed to spiral downward and eventually destroy yourself and everything you love. New Year's Day is my attempt to capture that.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I tend to avoid basing characters on anyone I know. Sometimes I take inspiration from real-life events but I change things up so that it's not about anyone real. I did that here. I don't want to go into the specifics, but I took a real situation I knew and played it out in a fictional way. I mean, there weren't any werewolves and the actual events went very differently. I just used a situation I knew as a starting point.
It didn’t matter. Not anymore.
Colton Berns lay in his backyard behind his mobile home, staring at the night sky. He tried to feel sorry for himself. Tried to conjure up feelings of stars mocking him. Of his life being ruined. Instead, he just felt flat.
And drunk. He definitely felt drunk.
He ran his hand along the ground beside him. The air was cold for September. The winter was going to be brutal.
He groped blindly to his right a few moments longer before finding the half-empty 24-pack of light beer he knew was there. Without turning to look, he fished out a beer and opened it. He drank from it as well as he could without choking and burped up at the full moon.
It wasn’t true. Something did matter.
Emily, his 18 year old daughter. This would be her last year in high school and likely her last year at home. He couldn’t give up completely. There was her. So there had to be him.
Even if he had lost his job.
“I’m real sorry, Colton,” Stuart had said. Stuart was his manager – former manager – at Wilson Machine Parts. “I’m real sorry,” he’d repeated, his fat face stuffed with empathy. “I did my damndest to keep every one of you.” Colton had made lawnmowers at that shithole of concrete and steel for nearly twenty years, and now he was just…done.
Colton’s best friend and coworker, a man he’d simply called Jones, must have sensed the layoffs coming. It had certainly seemed that way when Jones dropped dead the week before Colton was fired. He’d smiled at Colton. Then Colton had stared as the color drained from Jones’ surprised eyes, then his cheeks and then Jones had crumpled to the floor.
What was the point? What was the point of anything?
Money. Money was the point.
Or, rather, providing. Keeping him and Emily afloat. Her part-time job at the grocery store wasn’t going to cut it. Rosalyn, Emily’s mother, had left years ago. The judge had allowed Emily to choose who to live with. She chose Colton. Colton had tried hard to make her choice correct.
But that was done. Gone. Like it had never been. Like he’d never tried. Like Rosalyn had been right to leave and Emily wrong to stay.
He poured the rest of the can into his mouth, trying not to choke. He mostly succeeded and coughed up the rest. He crumpled the can, tossed it aside and stared at the sky. He let the wooziness wash over him. It would have normally been soothing, but not tonight. Not quite.
Where was Emily, anyway?
Practicing, he realized through his haze.
Shit, when were the state championships? He struggled to remember then gave up. They weren’t tonight, so fuck it.
He reached for another can, then heard a rustle to his side.
He whipped his head to look. Part of him knew he took a second longer than he should have.
“Hello?” he said, staring into the chilly dark.
Nothing special answered. A slight wind. Some insects chirping.
“Em?” he said, then his sluggish brain caught up with him. Emily wouldn’t be coming from that side. The gravel that constituted their driveway was on his other side, and there weren’t any headlights approaching.
“Hello?” he repeated, staring. A few seconds went by. Nothing presented itself. He sighed, laid back and resumed drinking.
Another rustle, followed by a low growl. His fogged brain thought dog but the clear bit of him left knew better. It was too deep, too full-throated, too large a sound to be a dog. And it most certainly wasn’t Em.
He moved to set the can down next to him as carefully as he could since there was still plenty left. It fell from his hand, splashing across his chest. The cold air hit the wet spot, sending a chill through him. He cursed and stood shakily.
“Who’s there?” he shouted, hoping to sound tough. Instead he felt foolish, hearing himself slur.
And, this most certainly wasn’t a who.
He stared hard into the dark. The hulking outlines of trees and bushes stared back, looking sinister. A few seconds passed, Colton staring at the shapes and sweating despite the cold.
Then one of the shapes moved, shifting to the left. It was low to the ground. It sunk lower. Crouching.
“Oh shit,” Colton more breathed than said.
It lunged. Colton thought to dodge, but his feet didn’t cooperate. He fell backwards, hitting the semi-frozen ground with such force it pushed the air from his lungs. He gasped and choked as something large and hairy passed overhead. He stared up at it, heart pounding, both impressed and scared at the size of it. It smelled feral, hungry and violent.
The thing landed somewhere behind him. The impact shook the ground beneath his back. Adrenaline sobered him, however temporarily, and he rolled to his stomach. He pushed himself to his feet as fast as he could.
He stood, sweating into the cold air. He knew he should run but had no idea where. He watched, dumb, as the thing spun around to him.
He looked it dead in the face, struggling to make sense of the thing. Wolf, his woozy mind told him. They weren’t common in the Lakewood area, but this thing almost matched what he knew them to look like. Just bigger, meaner and – what?
Then he knew.
It was smarter than a wolf. More aware. More hateful.
The thing leapt again. He lunged to his left and his foot hit a rock. He stumbled, slammed hard against the ground, then spun down an incline.
The beer and motion made him nauseous. His chest pounded as he rolled. He listened hard for the wolf – what else could he call it? – but could only hear himself hitting the ground over and over.
He rammed hard against a tree and stopped, rolling away and onto his back. He stared up at the moon, panting despite wrenching pain from his side. His mind raced as fast as it was currently able. Was he hidden in the brush? Had the wolf lost sight of him? Was it better to move or stay hidden? Was he even hidden to begin with?
Fear and confusion kept him on his back. A minute passed with no growls or nearby footsteps. Maybe he was okay.
Em! He realized in a panicked rush that Emily would be home before long and that thing could still be roaming around the property. He fumbled in his pocket, hoping he had the phone Emily insisted he keep on him.
He didn’t Shit. He forced himself to calm, then eased up onto his elbows to scan the yard. Nothing out of the ordinary. Good.
He began to ease himself further up.
What he thought was a shadow stretching out from his back deck leapt at him. There was no time to react or think. Just cold, sharp fear and the wolf-thing was upon him. It knocked him back to the ground. He barely managed to get his arms up to keep the thing’s teeth from his neck.
“Fuck!” he yelled, struggling with the thing. He grappled with the mass of fur and muscle. It snarled and snapped, spattering his face with thick drool. “Fuck shit no!” He was too scared to care about the drool landing in his mouth. He struggled, gripping the thing so tightly clumps of hair tore loose. The thing’s back paws clawed at the dirt, trying to overcome Colton’s grip.
His arms quivered from exhaustion, adrenaline and drink. It was a matter of seconds before they gave and the wolf-thing clamped its muzzle over his throat. He struggled to think. He realized he had a pocketknife. Fancy and coated in silver. A gift from his grandfather, back when he wasn’t a drunken failure.
Bellowing with effort and rage at the wolf, he let go with his right hand, managing to balance the thing with his left. It rocked sided to side, all paws and snapping teeth. He dropped his right hand to his hip, grappling with his pocket. He blindly found his way and shoved his hand inside, struggling with folds of cloth.
The wolf struggled. Colton’s arm ached and trembled. Even fewer seconds left.
He found the knife and pulled it from his jeans, struggling to get his thumbnail under the ridge. The wolf struggled and frothed. He managed to flip the knife open.
Yelling in triumph, he shoved the blade into the wolf’s abdomen. The wolf yelped. Hot liquid rushed past Colton’s hand and onto his stomach. He pulled the blade free and stabbed again. A third time and the wolf pulled away. Colton wasn’t ready. The wolf slipped off his quivering palm and landed atop his legs. The wolf growled and clamped down on his left thigh. Colton screamed.
The wolf wrenched its neck back and forth, teeth digging into muscle and sinew. Pain shot up his leg as blood ran free. Adrenaline and anger took over and he managed to sit up far enough to ram the small blade into the wolf’s neck. The wolf yelped, more distressed than before, and let go. It staggered back.
The two stared at each other in the moonlight, both bleeding into the grass. The wolf snarled, then yelped and ran off.
Exhausted, Colton fell back into the grass. He knew he should get to the trailer and call 9-11. He struggled to his feet, took a few steps toward the house, back up the incline. His blood pulsed out of him, running down his leg and onto the ground. He felt dizzy.
He fell, still a ways from the house. He rolled onto his back, gasping.
He thought of Emily, then passed into unknowing.
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