Aphelion Issue 287, Volume 27
September 2023
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Wolf Cult

by Charles E.J. Moulton

MacGorrage Court, Glen Airdrie, Scotland

Monday, November 30th, 1885

Sweat drops trickled down Roger's brow, performing little waltzes of death on his cheekbones, small races of saltwater being created along his face in a proverbial inquiry which sweat drop would arrive first at the chin. The winning sweat drop finally lingered there, dangling to and fro for a second before it dropped, almost in slow motion, and landed on the carpet. The mirror image of a beastly face flickered inside the drop.

Roger looked up and gasped.

Roger ran to the window, crying and reaching out in order to beg the illusive beast to spare him his life. He felt the familiar touch of that balcony door, hands sliding over the frames to the Hungarian green lead glass that his father had cut himself. The rugged texture made his fingers sway like a boat on stormy water. New windows, clear sight. The sensation tickled his fingertips as he gazed over at a bush, its moving branches swaying to and fro. A creature stood behind it, waiting for him to open the book.

A few November leaves and dry branches spoke of a cold winter. The dark night made Roger stall. He waited, flirted with cowardice, trying to run, but he knew that beyond the nightly fog there were lurking shadows. His limited gaze could only make out the stone wall sixty feet away. The rest vanished.

Roger stood there, looking like a golden catholic fresco, hand on mouth. Fear crept inside his heart like a lizard in the desert heat. The hot air from Roger's mouth protruded against his hand, creating a warm and almost bloodlike heat against his fingers. This heat felt warm and familiar, almost like a warm blanket that he could slip into and snuggle inside. However, that was the only warmth present here right now. The icy chill that penetrated the ivory towers of this Scotland mansion had an otherworldly nature.

He picked up his pipe, lit it with a shaky hand, and walked over to the window. Roger told himself to calm down as he looked out upon the moors. The book lay there, waiting for him to open it. It spoke to the painting and the painting answered back. Grandfather's portrait slowly metamorphed into the face of a demon.

How long could Roger survive in this house with everybody gone? With wine, salty meat and potatoes to last him a month. He could as carefully as a church mouse now that everybody had died, but would he be able to survive whoever was out there?

"Everybody's dead," he mumbled to himself. "Everybody but me."

He raised one index finger and bit it.

One tear protruded from his left eye, making his hand slowly crawl up and caress his growing fangs. "They smell fear."

He strode over and poured himself a local whiskey. Where was Randolph now? Also a wolf? Roger tried to picture his old butler as a wolf, but could not.

Slowly, he glanced over at the book like a nervous soldier ill-willingly preparing for battle. He let the muddy liquid of musky alcohol slowly splash into the crystal glass, its sweet-bitter aroma glittering and shining in the light of the candles. The glass rose almost automatically up to his lower lip and tilted, the juice entering his mouth like an ocean when the water comes back toward the shore when tide is high.

"Born in to wealth, but dying in solitude," Roger whispered to himself, as he gazed upon the moors.

The whiskey trickled down his throat and gave his tired brain the illusion that everything was all right. That his wife was still alive, that the mansion was still full of people. Alexis entering with a joke at the ready, complaining about Denholm's ill sleeping habits. All these bon vivants, all these nouveau riche good-for-nothing's that spent their time playing tennis and drinking alcohol, reading Tennyson and chasing women. All of them under Roger's constant patronage. All of them gone. A big bachelor party completely disintegrated and even his wife accepting that Roger slept with other women, because she, too, slept with other men.

Here at MacGorrage Court in the Scottish highlands, a formidable Tennyson cult had emerged. Last year, after a trip to Orkney with William Ewart Gladstone, Alfred Lord Tennyson had written a tragedy named Becket. Much inspired by Baron Roger MacGorrage love of Tennyson, the entourage met and discussed the works of the author. Maybe it was the fact that both MacGorrage and Tennyson shared the Baron title.

"The old order changeth, yielding place to the new."

This had been one of Tennyson's quotes and Baron MacGorrage had remembered that and turned the mansion into a centre of education and high life, but the old order was going to disintegrate. The new order of the wolves was marching onward, whose last nail in the coffin was a book written in a strange language.

But there were other reasons why MacGorrage loved the play Becket. Tennyson and he were both barons and the play itself concerned itself with a friendship between two men that turns into hate. Out there was a recluse demon, a man-wolf who once had been his friend. No, that had become his friend. Becket was simply an allegory about his own hatred toward a former friend, a man who had not befriended for a thirty-something years, ever since that fight by the Glenfinnan Monument one autumn day 1851.

"Befriending the demon," Roger whispered to himself. "Why did I do that? In order to repair what my grandfather destroyed?"

He wanted to find out where his grandfather had gone.

That's why he would open the book now. He had to find out.

Maybe he would actually achieve the impossible and eradicate the wolves. In that case, the secret would be revealed to him. The probability of him disappearing was greater and so he might soon be entering the domain that his grandfather had emerged into sixty years ago. The entire assembly of the court was gone, leaving MacGorrage the sole survivor of a mysterious slaughter. A bloodless slaughter, brought on by claws in a skull, vanishing aristocrats and the smell of sulfur.

Roger remembered that day as clear as if it had been yesterday.

He had seen a werewolf.

No, even worse.

He had seen his grandfather being attacked by a werewolf in this very room, the room he was in right now. At seven o'clock that evening on that cold winter's day, years ago, the little boy wandered about the mansion alone. He clearly heard the strange noises coming from the old man's study. He witnessed a half-wolf, half-man, claws digging into the old man's skull. It shook and frothed at the mouth, croaking: "Remember Bob Jeffries!" at the boy after which he simply disappeared out of thin air.

The boy spent the entire evening running around the house screaming. His parents found him in the basement around eleven o'clock after their return from Edinburgh, banging his head against a bookcase and whimpering.

The authorities believed none of it. Merely as a formality, they issued a search warrant. Grandfather MacGorrage disappeared from the picture completely.

Once the old man took up the chase against the wolf-cult, the attacks against the MacGorrage family began again, and the man known as Bob Jeffries again emerged from the underworld in order to eradicate them.

The smell of sulfur remained in the house for a long time.

It was a rotten smell. Unpleasant. Roger's parents and the staff of the house spent weeks trying to rid the house of this smell. To no avail.

Now, sixty years after that unfortunate event the whiff again met Roger's nose. The unholy book, that at the same time held the keys to chasing them away, entailed the perfume of lost souls.

Rugged fabric, most certainly 18th century fabrication. Thinking again, he eyed the brown, faded cover seemed to look at him with old, staring, irisless eyes. It howled a secret that only the dead could betray. The secret lay not in the book itself, not in all those bad spells inside the frame, written in cryptic prose. No, this book's curse lay only in the memories of that night. The book knew this. It memorized the pain of its victims.

Roger gripped the glass tight, so tight that he could almost feel the glass crack. It began shaking in his hand and Roger had to grasp his one hand with the other in order to stop the shaking. He could almost see the wolves now.

Making a decision, Roger lifted the glass to his mouth and drank the bitter juice down to the last drop. Then, he simply let the glass drop relentlessly. There was no stone floor it could drop onto. There were carpets all the way round the room.

His breath turned shallow, marked by fear.

"Jesus Christ," the baron whispered to himself. "What if this doesn't work? What then? What I fail to read the text once I open it? Will I be dead?"

Baron Roger MacGorrage's only hope belonged to his son Alexis, who had left Scotland last year in a fit of rage for the United States of America. All that he knew was that he had traveled on HMS Myrtle and had arrived in New York last summer.

The last Roger heard from Alexis was a letter from Chicago.

Using his fortune well, he apparently was doing well.

Roger hoped that the wolves wouldn't travel all over there.

Maybe the MacGorrage family could survive after all, at least over seas.

He just regretted not really having remained friends with his youngest son.

The baron slowly walked around the desk and leaned against it.

He picked up the book again and that sulfur smell returned like an old friend. The texture of the cover spoke to him and the brown color of that 18th century fabric spoke of a time one hundred years ago, before Victoria, before the French Revolution, before Napoleon, before Nelson. Mozart was still alive and a witch named Bealinga roamed the Scottish moors chasing away wolves.

Why this witch had knocked on his door was a mystery. She had arrived yesterday during the dead of night, claiming to have seen the light shining in the library. She was Bealinga's great granddaughter and the words read from the first page of the book would make the wolves disappear forever.

Roger's hand shook. It was too difficult. Too difficult to bear. The candle flickered nervously and all of Roger's ancestors seemed to gaze down upon him with a look of disgust. They were all wolves now. All of them.

"The wolves have always been here," they seemed to say. "But now that you have chosen this loose lifestyle instead of choosing a wife they have come back. Why have you not married and stayed away from the loose life like we did. Why did you have to provoke the evil feelings of the wolves?"

The title of the book was written in an ancient language that the witch described as Vilurian. It was the language of the witches of northern Spain. A tribe that lived in caves. Bealinga's lover had printed out two hundred copies of the book and handed the out to witches, who were the only ones that could read the language, and instructed them to read these words aloud whenever demons attacked them.

The title of the book was written in clear black letters on a brown and very dusty surface:  Utwha oiwmskŪ llaii wjjwi wjwpo njweooe.

Roger had no idea what it meant, only that this old hag had told him that if he read the first words of the book aloud all his friends would come back to life and the wolves would disappear. With trembling hands, he opened the book. No wolf yet. The dusty pages seemed to smile at him and scream at him at the same time. The wolves were close now and Roger's shirt bit his neck, just like his bowtie scratched his skin and the shoes scratched his toes.

Roger heard the barkings of the mad dogs out there. No howl. There was very little time now. He could feel that urge rising again. The urge that rose from his crotch and up his spine. The urge to do the devil's work and kill those bastards. Or was he doing the Lord's work? The Lord and the Devil lived inside him. Who won him over most of the time?

No matter, he was the only survivor of MacGorrage Court.

The only clansman left alive on a haunted moor.

That mattered.

The howls came closer now. God, they were here.

Something had to be done.

He couldn't read these words. What language was this?

This was no known language.

Old SŁtterlin writing, the kind that Professor Hubbard in Edinburgh taught his students to read and write in, graced the pages that crumbled in his hands. Roger was almost afraid to touch these pages, for fear of causing a total breakdown of the paper.

He took a deep breath, getting ready to breathe, when he heard the rustling of leaves outside. Looking up, he suddenly saw how the branches of the bush outside moved. At first, there was nothing there but fog and green leaves.

Then, there was a face, two snarling teeth, and yellow eyes.

Bob Jeffries, Roger told himself, he is back.

The wolf that appeared was standing on two feet, his claws dripping with blood from an already very impressive row of victims. He recognized his friend, a companion he had not been friendly to for over three decades. The hunt now reached its conclusion. The expression on his face was the same as on that day.

"You have ceased being my friend, Roger," he had said back then, "and one day you shall pay for it."

There was no shattering of glass. Just a wolf suddenly standing there in Roger's study, waiting to kill. There was no plea on his breath, just a hungry tremor. The wolf smiled, just as he jumped up upon the desk and grabbed the book in his claws. As he did, three other wolves came crashing in through the oblivion of seemingly splinterless illusion took one leap on the baron and cracked his neck.

Exactly three minutes later, there was a nearly dead aristocrat in the study of the empty MacGorrage Court and desk without a book on it. Outside the closed balcony window, the sound of four appetized wolves haunted the Scottish moors.

Under the bright full moon, later that night, Roger MacGorrage awoke into the empty oblivion of lost souls, howling at the moon, jumping out through the Hungarian glass window, turning a flat crystal space into a million splinters, getting ready to claim his right to kill fresh flesh, taking his place as the last MacGorrage to have given up his right to remain human.


© 2015 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 Voodoo Judgment in our December, 2014 issue.

E-mail: Charles E.J. Moulton

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