Aphelion Issue 296, Volume 28
July 2024 --
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Coffin Varnish

by Charles EJ Moulton

The fabric of time seemed to slow down indefinitely and as her heartbeat accelerated, the dust sailed to the ground in an almost immobile fashion. The breath of time exhaled its microbes in microscopic fashion, acute sensation defining every movement of every cell in her animalistic soul.

Sylvia, the predator, stalked him, the victim.

She caught a rotten whiff, the scent of Randolph's human flesh. It revealed to Sylvia that he hid somewhere in here and that he was petrified. Breathing quietly, solemnly, the activity of her nostrils detected even the whiskey on the bar and the smell of a dried raindrop from a cowboy that had passed through the swing doors years ago and flirted with her, the stranger. Sylvia could even detect the smell of a twelve-year-old Scotch in long-forgotten bottles behind the bar.

Sylvia stopped, listened, tasting her own blood trickling out from the left side of her own tongue and down the sides of her mouth. Sylvia pricked up her ears, trying to decipher from what area the scent came. Her nostrils flared, the pumping blood in her veins causing small, subtle changes in the tinge of her eyes. She was about to transform.

As her increased pulse filled the minutes with anger, her blood pumped the moments full of concentration, making the fabric of every second expand seemingly forever.

The creaking of the floorboards under her feet reverberated out into the emptiness, where the dust of eons slept layer upon layer. In this town, time had ceased to exist, the clocks ticking backwards, the booze pouring back into the bottles, the women unsung or dead.

The horrific apocalypse of the West had arrived by her hand, her anger, her cursed existence again the cause of deliberate and necessary decay.

"Randolph," Sylvia screamed, her rugged voice shooting out into the empty saloon. "I'm hungry." A sarcastic chuckle bubbled up from her belly and hit her lips. "Give me your heart, you little bastard!"

Sylvia waited just like he waited, listened while she listened. Old floorboards, Sylvia thought to herself. Their cracks sounded like bedsprings. Now Sylvia would kill just like Randolph had killed, eat like he had ate, enjoying human flesh like he had killed female werewolves.

"Let's get this over with. No more beating around the bush. You killed my clan, you bastard, and now it's payback time."

A mouse, ever so small, sped from under the bar and out onto the open floor. Sylvia's head snapped to the right, looking at it, concentrating on the mouse's movement, its little feet skittering across the floor, hoping it wouldn't slip away. Sylvia's legs arched, her knees gave way, and as she jumped out across the floor, flying, her face leaned forward. She could see the mouse turn and watch her, just as petrified as Randolph seemed to be right now. Sylvia's body landed flat face down upon the speeding mouse, practicing what she wanted to do to Randolph, ignoring a small golden flash that flew by her vision.

She bit off its neck with her front teeth, blood trickled down her chin. The sweet flesh warmed up her tongue, the squealing barely audible to her right now, its squirming movements dying out in her mouth.

There. Another sound. Another cracking floorboard, the flash of a naked eye, the radiance of a petrified aura.

Sylvia shot up like a feared silver bullet, her muscles tightening, her white blouse sprinkled with mouse blood, her long hair tousled, her brown leather pants by now sticking to her legs like glue. Her nostrils flared, her whiskers grew. The eyes, those brown eyes the hiding man, her former lover Randolph, had called Reindeer Iris, shifted, circling and transforming from dark brown to yellow. Yellow eyes graced the elegant face, flaring nostrils opened and shut increasingly.

Sylvia's ears pricked up, twitched as if they were alive.

One shift, a pant, a swallow, one drop of sweat falling on a dusty floor, noises audible only to a werewolf. Sylvia took a look at herself in the mirror behind the bottles, and so, while the bottles themselves were too full, the bar too dusty, the ghost town too empty, the saloon too smelly, the weather too hot, the victim too safe, she still felt that the chase was all worth the while.

Sylvia knelt, waiting to attack an opponent, sprung up. She raised her knees, lifting off the ground and landing on dusty wood, once so full of glasses, now full of stains and soot. Her high heels clicked upon that hard surface, pacing the area like a dancer on catwalk.

Then, a faint Mona Lisa-smile appeared on her lips, barely visible. Beguiled, leaving the viewer in the corner baffled as to its emotion.

"I've got you now," she crooned.

Sylvia jumped down behind the bar with a thud, making that wounded man behind the corner whimper. The woman with her clicking heels pounding ominously against the saloon floor and the transforming yellow eyes grabbed a bottle off the shelf and revealed a cracked mirror.

Sylvia raised the bottle to her lips, feeling the hard glass surface touch her whiskers. As the wet poison trickled into her mouth, making the mouse-blood mingle with the alcohol, this whiskey of the older sort brought back memories from other time-travels.

Card games, hookers, coffin varnish. The kind of whiskey served in US saloons in the 1850's: made of raw alcohol, burned sugar and a hint of chewing tobacco. Something the old cowboys used to call coffin varnish. How fitting, she thought to herself. Hard liquor for cowboys destined for death.

The contents of the half-empty bottle waltzed into her bowels, while she saw a scared face peeking out from behind the corner. The frightened face met a mud-eating grin with teeth too shiny for a 19th century women. This woman's home was not in the Old West. She was a visitor, no more. Unlike Randolph.

"Don't kill me," the voice behind the corner whimpered, drool making its way down a dirty, bearded cheek. For one moment, the werewolf and the victim stood face to face.

Sylvia again raised her left hand, in which a now almost empty bottle resided. She turned it over and let the remaining brown juice run out onto the floor.

Sylvia could feel that bottle twitch in her hand. She aimed at him a few times and seeing him jump back a few times made her grin. As she aimed at him, he jumped back a stride too far and hit his head.

Randolph let out a short wail, grabbed his head and looked at the drops of blood that ran down his hand.

Sylvia held on to the bottle and smashed it against the bar behind her, making it break into a thousand pieces, leaving only a few sharp edges left over for her to threaten Randolph with.

Randolph shot up, his brown boots skidding against the floorboards, trying to arise without using his wounded right arm. Sylvia's nostrils flared again and when Randolph shot up, finally being able to stand up with the help of one hand, he tumbled from behind the table in the corner and landed by the bar. Randolph circled it, knocking down a few chairs in the process. They tumbled and caused the wounded man to tumble down with them. Sylvia jumped over the bar and landed upon Randolph, skidding across the dirty floor and threatening him with her face flat down on the wood a nose length away from her victim.

Randolph squeezed his eyes shut, his teeth gritting.

The woman grabbed his chin, raising it to the point where Randolph thought he would even hear his neck snap. Her knuckles whitened, hands shaking, eyes popping out of their sockets. The man cringed in terror, pleading for her to let him go. Sylvia thrusted her left knee into the man's back and threw up his chin.

Slowly, she leaned over him, sensually, making the man wonder if her heart would, after all, be humble enough to forgive him. Her nose toyed with his hair for a while, leaving him with a mixture of pain and satisfaction.

Sylvia straddled the man, as if she was about to ride him, her hair hanging down over her face, her hands holding on to his face. She groaned, thrust her pelvis onto his crotch, laughing, grabbing her victim's hands and pushing them onto the floor. As she did, Randolph saw her change. It was hard for him to concentrate on anything with all of that dust falling into his eyes, the rays of the full moon making its way through the dirty windows and hitting his eyeballs.

Randolph clasped his eyes shut now, so hard that his face turned into a conglomerate of anguished wrinkles.

Sylvia buried her knee against Randolph's wrist and raised the bottle whilst still riding his crotch. She put the sharpest edge against his chin with her hand. She pushed it ever so gently into a wrinkle and watched one drop of blood trickle out of his throat. It fascinated her to see how little she had to push the broken bottle into the man's throat in order to cause injury.

"I love your blood," she crooned.

She stopped riding him, bent over and ejected a tongue onto the blood. Slowly, patiently, lovingly, she licked it off. It tasted like hell, wonderful and sexy hell.

"I smell you," she continued. "Now smell this."

"For the love of God, I'm sorry I killed those people."

"Why did you kill those people?"

"They attacked me, Sylvia," he answered.

"Why didn't you let them kill you?"

Her whiskers growing, her eyes in a yellow glow, her nostrils expanding and imploding, she opened her mouth to a frightening size, frightening to Randolph, and attacked the man with her jaw. Her bite removed half of the man's ear.

Sylvia heard his yelp, could feel his pain, enjoyed his pain, enjoyed that revenge and laughed as he shook his head, unable to hold on to his own head in protection.

Sylvia sat up straight, straddled his back and gave the man a punch. He cringed and moaned, holding on to his ear, shaking, trembling, and hollering.

"God, I never would have had an affair with you if I had known you were such a bitch."

Cynical cackles bounced out of her mouth like bubbles from a swamp. "Bitch? That's what you call me? Bitch?"

The discrepancy between the beautiful woman slowly turning into a werewolf and the sneering hyena that now straddled the poor victim made the shivering human under her cringe.

"To me you were just another chick, Sylvia, another girl coming into the saloon and flirting with the guys. I knew you were no regular hooker."

Sylvia half-smiled. "How did you know? After all, you guys are just dicks on legs? All you want to do is copulate."

"It was your eyes," Randolph whined. "I mean, those other people that arrived with you were equally weird. When the town began to disintegrate, I knew I had to do something."

"I want the timepiece," Sylvia croaked through gritted teeth, ignoring his sermon of whiny complaints.

"The what?" Randolph inquired.

"You goddamn hypocrite," she spat. "You have found out who we are, who I am, who my friends were. You managed to kill a big gang of female werewolves. What was it? Silver hammers? Crosses? I heard you screaming the Lord's name, bastard!"

"I dropped it and couldn't find it anymore," Randolph stuttered, his hands shaking frenetically.

"Well, in that case, I am screwed," Sylvia yelped and kicked Randolph in the groin. "I will keep hunting for new werewolves, transforming newcomers, darkening history. I have no home, Randolph, just a damn timepiece with which I can travel through history. You killed my friends, so now I am on my own. So, I am asking you for one last time: where is the timepiece?"

Randolph moaned. "You chased me back into this saloon, Sylvia. I dropped it somewhere in here. Why did you kill everyone? What did we do?"

"Human decay is my prosperity," Sylvia hollered.

"Let me go."

"Why?" Sylvia screamed.

"All I want is to shoe my horses and drink my whiskey. Give me back my town. Why me? Why dincha go to Barney Willheimer. He slept with everyone around here."

"You just seemed gullible enough. Barney was not gullible, just horny."

Randolph spat. "What makes you think I can't kill you?"

"Because I am sitting on you pushing a broken bottle against your throat."

"I don't own a silver hammer and I am not a religious man, so how do you think I killed them all?"

"You were screaming at them about Jesus," Sylvia yelled, now pushing the bottle even closer to Randolph's larynx.

Randolph now bit his lip, a truth glowing in his eye, a fear dancing there behind the surface.

"What are you hiding?"

Randolph's lower lip trembled, his eyes twitching and his cheeks lifting toward his eyes.

"The local priest here wouldn't believe me when I said that you... were..." Randolph began, trembling more this time.

"Local priest? I have been cursed by eternal living death, forced to travel history with that timepiece in my hand, eating souls. I live on killing people and I have to travel into another time every year just to stay alive, and you speak of some damn preacher?"

"The priest told me that your kind reacts very badly to a certain phrase," he interrupted. "A saying about something that will kill you if you look at it."

Sylvia lifted Randolph's chin and now he could hear the muscle's snap. One more lift, one more grab and, by Jove, his neck would break. She gritted her teeth, her face now hairy to the point of horror, drooling and spitting.

"How do you know about the phrase?"

Randolph stopped, pausing, looking up.

"The preacher did his research. He told me about a man named Peter Stubbe, who was a warlock. Apparently, Peter was there when you..."

"When I what?"

"When you were excommunicated from that community for sinful conduct. You were part of a moon cult."

"Peter was a werewolf that bit us all that and turned us into werewolves. We prayed to the moon, copulated under the moon and dug up the dead. We told Peter we were invincible, that we would be the greatest werewolves of all time. We went too far and what we did conjured up Peter's anger. He cursed us to have an eternal life. Just because we were the greatest werewolves of all time, we would have to travel through time forever. He gave us a timepiece. I had friends, at least until now, and with them I was to travel through time and space for all time."

She paused. "Who was that priest? Is he still alive?"

Randolph shook his head, his eyes turning toward the full moon. "I don't know. He disappeared."

Sylvia's anger now rose to an impossible height. She forgot the rule of never biting a victim in the throat. She forgot her rule of breaking a victim's neck before biting him. She forgot all of that.

Randolph's blood was sweet, his throat muscle tasted like honey and coffin varnish. She had no idea why Randolph looked out onto the street or what he saw, but Sylvia's disappeared into her wrath, biting her victim until he yelled for her to stop. Sylvia heard Randolph's head snap one more time, just once more, enough to make it impossible for him to live on. The loud crunch that she heard made even her cringe. The man slumped down without one word, one whimper. Like a lifeless sack of potatoes, Randolph fell over, his hat falling down over his head and his shirt literally sticking to the floor with his own blood as physical glue.

She opened her mouth, inserted his hand and bit into his dead body, feeling the bones crack between her teeth. The hand felt chewy and rough to bite into, but tasty enough for comfort.

She stood up, legs spread wide across the victim, raised her claws into the air, shaking them at the sky. Her three feet long hair now a wild mane, she shook and created a havoc of falling fur. Howling a howl, pain mixed with glory, the werewolf built in a laugh for kicks, pounding her paws on the ground. One paw accidentally touched Randolph's hand and for a moment, she thought he groaned.

Sylvia bared her teeth, sizzling with fury, grabbed him by the neck, repeatedly banging his head again the ground.

Sylvia panted, her hair hanging down in her face, her yellow eyes now pulsating from yellow to brown and back to yellow. The leftover mouse blood now dried up, it had been replaced with phlegm and blood. The faster pace of her panting slowed down until she realized that the culprit now had been vanquished. The preacher? Who had he been?

Sylvia's hair tickled her own face, hanging down on each side of her face, blood dripping down on an already dead man, or one that she assumed was dead, realizing that she now actually killed somebody responsible for destroying her own clan. Her whiskers withdrew completely and the tinge of the yellow in her eyes turned brown.

Slowly, gently, she raised her head and looked out onto the street.

Twelve bodies. Time travel had never been so painful.

Sylvia de-straddled the man, slumping down beside him and turning him over with a neutral expression that indicated detachment.

Searching all his pockets, she found flint stones, chewing tobacco and a bottle of rum, but no timepiece. She left Randolph and jumped behind the bar, on the bar, but when that failed she ran out on the street and searched the dusty road. She jumped onto porches, kicking in windows and breaking doors, letting out all her rage in having to endure this feeling of panic.

What if the timepiece was gone? What then? In that case, she was stuck sometime in the 19th century, all her friends gone, her life eradicated. She must find the piece, given to her by Peter Stubbe in 1589, a warlock, a witchmaster.

Sylvia shot up like a rocket, realizing she had killed Randolph for nothing. Her wounded feet jumped from rooftop to rooftop, up toward the sky and down onto the corpses of her werewolf companions, who she had accompanied here.

"I know now what I like about the year 2014. I am going back there to search for new victims, sex hungry male potential werewolves that will travel time with me."

Sylvia slumped down, her cheek resting on a dusty road, Randolph's blood drying on her chin.

Sylvia again shot up, jumping a few times over toward the old saloon in this deserted town so close to dusk. Again, her nostrils flared, expanding, imploding, impending, and exploding, like a lusty addictive heat wave ready to copulate with destiny, riding the fire of physicality.

The timepiece was in the saloon.

The mouse. Yes. When she chased the mouse, she had seen the object. The piece had been lying there. Damn it, but where was... there?

Sylvia again felt a surge of hope rush into her heart.

The mouse had ran right past the stone and Sylvia had not even realized it, which meant that she could've taken the damn stone and left Randolph alive in the Old West, trapped here forever. That would've meant an even more horrid fate and an even better revenge for her.

Randolph lay there lifeless. The piece had the design of a sundial, only that the pictures on the golden object were stars. The other man, the priest that so mysteriously had vanished, he had been the one Randolph had looked at moments before he died. Sylvia was inside the saloon, holding the timepiece, when she heard the swing doors open and shut and swing back and forth, only to come to a slow halt with an accelerated vibrato.

She recognized the face. The man had worn other clothes back then in the 16th century, other boots, other pants. That didn't matter. She knew a warlock when she saw one. Witchmasters never die. Werewolves don't either, unless they are killed by their warlocks.

Peter Stubbe smiled as he walked into the saloon that day, burying his silver knife into Sylvia's chest and, just for kicks, pressing his gun against her head and killing her with a silver bullet. Somehow, he had known she would go too far, just like she had last time. He had to keep a lid on their escapades. Now, the female werewolves had stopped biting. The males were about to conquer the world. A time for change had arrived.

The warlock knew why he had tutored Randolph to give Sylvia the double whammies and why he had insisted that he help kill her friends. Peter, the warlock, also had a hunch that Sylvia would want to bite his neck before she killed him.

So, it came as no surprise when Randolph awoke from the dead that night of the old western full moon. The town was deserted, but that didn't matter. The timepiece was in the warlock's hands, the last of the old werewolves had died and the new werewolf was now transformed, howling at the moon and kicking down the doorways of a long gone and much forgotten ghost town.

"Witchmaster, Witchmaster, throw me a gaze,
Talk to me now about bygone days,
Werewolf servants pick up the mirror to cry,
Evil shall see itself and it shall die."

Peter, spoke the rhyme that Randolph had spoken before, killing Sylvia's friends. He hoped it would work on Sylvia. He wasn't sure. After all, Peter himself had given Sylvia absolute immortality, not the others.

The immortal warlock and werewolf witchmaster, left Sylvia's dead body lying there next to a broken bottle of what he believed was coffin varnish.

As he walked out onto the porch of the saloon, he saw his new werewolf saddling his horse and getting ready to ride into the night.

After so many centuries of pain, Peter Stubbe finally had the chance of travelling through time with a male buddy. Maybe he would even break his own rule and transform into a werewolf himself again after so long a time.

Two creatures of nightly sin rode into the darkness that night, carrying one timepiece. As discussions followed as to where to go next, a young female werewolf named Sylvia awoke in an old ghost town saloon. She pulled out the silver knife out of her chest, spat out the silver bullet and cackled to herself how ridiculous this chase had become. How silly was it that her warlock always forgot that he had made her absolutely immortal and a part of the living dead.

Or did he forget? Maybe this was on purpose.

Sylvia smelled the difference now.

Two werewolves were on their way into another era and soon they would be using the timepiece, the small pocket-watch that allowed them to travel through history.

Sylvia jumped over roofs, destroying the roof tiles with her claws and screaming, not howling, at the moon.

The real chase had begun.


2014 Charles E.J. Moulton

Bio: Mr. Moulton grew up in a trilingual and artistic family and spent his childhood on stage. He played his first role at age 11 and has since then acted and sung in over 100 stage productions. His publication credits include horror stories for SNM Magazine and Aphelion, historical articles for Socrates and Skirmish and literary fiction for Idea Gems and Pill Hill Press. Mr. Moulton enjoys versatile creativity, is married and has a daughter. His last Aphelion appearance was The Next Turtle in our August issue.

E-mail: Charles E.J. Moulton

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