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Children of the Wolf
The Werewolf Chronicles, Book Two
By Rodman Philbrick, Lynn Harnett
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1996 Rodman Philbrick and Lynn Harnett
All rights reserved.
I am a monster. The humans don't know my secret, or they would never have saved me. They found me in the swamp as they hunted the wolves—my real family—and brought me to this strange place they call a town.
They say they want to raise me as a human. They say they want to save me. But these poor, weak humans don't know the danger they've allowed into this wooden den they call a home.
The danger is me.
I can't help it. On the first evening of the full moon the Change comes over me and I turn into a foul creature of the night. A werewolf. A monster so terrifying that even my brave Wolfmother fled in fear. A monster so ghastly, so powerful, that it can see in the dark, and hear the heartbeat of a frightened bird on the wing. A monster whose glistening fangs ache for blood.
The most terrifying thing of all is that I am not alone. The night is full of monsters like me. By day they look human, act human. But at night they raise their human faces to the moon and turn into werewolves. And then in the darkness they hunt their victims, preferably children....
"Gruff! Are you okay in there?"
That was Paul, the boy whose parents had taken me into their home. He was outside this part of the den they call a bedroom, knocking on the wooden shield the humans call a door.
"Ohh-kayyy," I managed to growl. It wasn't easy getting the human words to work inside my throat, but I was trying. I wanted to please these humans. I especially liked Paul and his sister Kim.
"Take your time," Paul called out. "You'll get used to it."
He meant that I would get used to living with humans. I wasn't so sure. Maybe they'd never get used to me! After all, I'd never lived with humans before. Even though I was a human boy I had been raised by wolves since I was small, and lived and hunted as a wolf. I didn't know the ways of humans—and they didn't know me.
It had been a very long day. I was so tired it felt like the walls of this strange room were pressing in on me. So I went to the window to look out on my old home—the swamp.
As I looked out into the night from the second-floor window something caught my eye. A man. He was moving from shadow to shadow as if he was trying not to be seen.
Something about the way he moved made the hair stand up on the back of my neck. I had to force myself not to growl or bark. I was with the humans now—all I could do was stand watch over them.
So I watched intently as the man moved from the shadows and headed for the woods. Before he got there he stopped in a silvery patch of moonlight. Like he was waiting for someone.
A minute or so later the shadows moved again, and four more men scurried out of the darkness and joined him. They all stood there in the moonlight, waiting.
I shivered as if a worm had crawled up my spine, but I couldn't stop staring at them. I wanted to turn away from the window but I felt something was about to happen. Something I needed to know.
Suddenly my breath caught in my throat.
The men's faces were changing! As I watched, their ears grew long and pointed. Their mouths and noses fused into long snouts. Suddenly they threw back their heads and howled.
I watched, frozen with horror, as their clothes burst at the seams and fell away from their bodies. They dropped to all fours, sprouting wiry gray fur. They twisted and writhed in the moonlight as muscles rippled under flesh.
When the Change was complete the werewolves crouched motionless for a moment, as if savoring the change.
Then, all together they swung around and looked at me.
Five pairs of glowing red eyes glared up at my window. The monsters grinned at me, showing sharp yellow fangs.
I ducked back out of sight but it was too late. The werewolves had seen me!
Pressed against the wall, I heard a low, vicious laugh from outside.
"Join us, little Gruff," they called in a chorus of voices that dripped with evil. "Join us, or die!"
I whimpered in fear as the horrible voices echoed inside my head. I couldn't move. It was like I was paralyzed.
I looked down at my own body but it stayed normal. Frozen with terror and dread I waited for the tingling in my arms and legs that meant I was changing into a werewolf, too, just like I had for the past three nights.
But nothing happened. I slumped in relief. The moon was no longer full. I would remain a boy until the next full moon. But it horrified me to realize that full werewolves—those who had made a kill—could change at any time!
When my own hammering heart stopped pounding in my ears I heard the creatures whispering among themselves. Then suddenly everything went quiet. Had they gone? I was afraid to look.
But I had to know. Very slowly I inched my head toward the window and peered out.
Four hairy monsters were huddled in a corner of the yard.
Four? A minute ago there had been five of them out there. Where was the fifth werewolf? What was it doing?
I jerked my head back, afraid to breathe. But maybe I had counted wrong. It was dark out there, maybe I missed one. Biting my lip, I cautiously peeked out again.
No. I had counted right. There were four werewolves crouched in the yard, facing the house as if they were waiting. Their fangs gleamed in the moonlight and dripped with anticipation.
The monsters were plotting something and I was the only one who knew they were here. I was the only one who knew they even existed.
They were humans by day and evil monsters by night.
I had seen them as monsters before, for three nights in the woodsy swamp behind the town. They wanted me to kill, to become a full-blooded werewolf, and I almost had.
But last night the werewolves had come out of the swamp and stolen a child from the town. I had followed them and stopped them from hurting the child and chased them back into the swamp.
I thought the creatures came from the swamp. Now I knew they lived right here in town.
But the other townspeople didn't believe in monsters. They blamed the real wolves who lived in the swamp—the beautiful gray wolves who were the only family I could remember. The wolves had taken me in when I was a baby and I could never let anyone hurt them.
At dawn the humans from town had sent out men with guns to hunt my wolf family down. The hunters hadn't killed my family but they did capture me—the "wolf-boy" who lived with the wolves.
And now they were trying to make a human boy out of me.
And I knew I'd much rather be a human than a monster. In my heart I was a human, I was!
Now the werewolves had come for me.
It was the sound of a claw scraping against the outside of the house below my window.
The werewolf was climbing up the side of the house!
It slipped and grunted as its claws scrabbled for a hold. I waited for the sound of its body hitting the ground. Nothing.
Then I heard the faint scratching, clicking sound again. It hadn't fallen.
And it had climbed much closer. I could hear the rasp of its breath.
It was coming to get me!CHAPTER 3
I screamed and bolted for the bedroom door.
"Paul!" I shouted into the hallway. "H-help! Help!"
Paul's bedroom door flew open. "What?" he cried. "What's the matter?"
Paul was my age, twelve. His brown eyes were wide-open as he hurried toward me. But he didn't look scared, just concerned. Paul's family had taken me in that morning when the hunters brought me out of the swamp.
I opened my mouth but no words came out. Paul looked over my shoulder, into the dark bedroom. I put my hand on his arm to stop him from going in to look.
"No," I said haltingly, in my rusty voice. "Wait for the dad."
We could both hear Mr. Parker's feet pounding up the stairs. Mrs. Parker was right behind him and Kim, Paul's younger sister, was behind her.
"What's wrong, boy?" Mr. Parker asked me. Mrs. Parker looked worried.
"He thinks there's something scary in his room!" said Paul, the words tumbling out of him in excitement.
Mr. Parker frowned. He was a big man with a serious expression. "Let Gruff speak for himself, Paul," he said.
"But, Dad, you know he can't," said Paul, hopping from foot to foot impatiently. He was eager to get into my room and see what scared me. "He's been brought up by a family of wolves his whole life. We can't expect him to learn English in one day."
"Well, he won't learn if you don't let him try." Mr. Parker turned to me. "Now, Gruff, can you tell me what happened?"
I pointed at the bedroom. Even though I could understand a lot of the human talk, it was much harder to sort all my jumbled thoughts into words and get my lips and tongue to make the right sounds.
"Werewolves," I said. "Inside. You see."
I grasped Mr. Parker's hand and pulled him into the room. I pointed at the window. "There!"
Mr. Parker exchanged a glance with his wife. She shrugged her shoulders and nodded. I could tell neither of them believed me.
Mr. Parker walked over to the window in two long strides. Feeling safer with him there, I followed.
"Sorry, Gruff, but I don't see a thing," said Mr. Parker as he peered into the night. "Seems pretty quiet out there."
The werewolves had disappeared.
"Perhaps you had a nightmare," said Mrs. Parker in her soft friendly voice. "It's your first night in a strange place. You've never been in a house before, have you, Gruff?"
I shook my head, "No." I had, once long ago before I was left with the wolves, but it was too complicated to explain and I didn't really remember what it was like.
"Well then," she said, satisfied. "It's only natural you'll have scary dreams the first few days."
There wasn't any way I could convince them. But at least the werewolves were gone.
Then I saw a stealthy movement out of the corner of my eye. A big shadow, lurking behind the bushes near the street.
I grabbed Mr. Parker's sleeve and pointed. He peered intently into the darkness. Then his face relaxed and he smiled. "That's Mr. Ford, our next-door neighbor," he said, ruffling my hair. "He's out walking his dog, Misty. And Misty is hardly a monster."
Misty the dog was very small and fluffy and waddled when it walked. Mr. Ford was about a hundred years old. I felt embarrassed. Now I'd ruined any chance I had of ever convincing them that the werewolves were real!
Mr. Parker drew himself up and turned away from the window to look at his family. "I think I know what the problem is," he said confidently. "Gruff has lived with wolves for so long he doesn't know the difference between animals and people. Every shadow makes him jump."
"He'll get used to us," said Kim. "He already knows lots of things he didn't know when the hunters brought him out of the woods this morning. He just needs a little time."
Mr. Parker shook his head gravely. "No, I think the best way for Gruff to learn about humans and become a normal human boy is to plunge right in."
Kim and Paul looked at each other and at me, mystified.
"We're all new here in Fox Hollow," said Mr. Parker, speaking slowly so I would understand. "Wolfe Industries, a fine company, built the town and moved all the people here only two weeks ago. So you see, Gruff, none of us knows anyone else very well. The best thing for you would be to join in with all the other kids right away."
Then Mr. Parker spoke a word that sent chills up my spine. "School!" he said in a booming voice. "You will go to school as soon as we can arrange it."CHAPTER 4
Mrs. Parker shooed Paul and Kim off to bed.
"Would it help you sleep if I left the light on, Gruff?" she asked.
At least that's what I thought she said. But how could anyone sleep better in the light? Dark was for sleeping. It wasn't night I was afraid of, but flesh- eating monsters.
As soon as everyone was gone I got into bed. But it wasn't like sleeping on the floor of my wolf pack's den. The bed surface was soft. I kept feeling like I was falling.
And it was lonely, curling up by myself. I was used to having all the warm wolf bodies tucked in around me. I missed Wolfmother and Thornclaw, my wolffather.
And I missed my brother Sharpfang and especially the cuddly cubs.
I wondered where the wolves were now. The hunters from the town had chased them off and they could never go back to our old den. I wondered if they had found a new one yet.
Finally I got down off the bed and stretched out on the floor, pulling the blanket over my head. It wasn't the cozy wolf den but it was a little better.
I almost fell asleep. Then just as I started to nod off, something whispered and rustled outside under my window.
The werewolves were back!
I jumped up and went to the window. But there was nothing there. Nothing I could see, anyway.
After a while I gave up looking. I crawled under the bed with my blanket. The little space felt more like a den, and if the werewolves came through the window, maybe they wouldn't find me.CHAPTER 5
It took almost two weeks for the Parkers to get me into school. I spent the time trying to learn to be a human boy—eating strange foods and watching the flickering box they called a TV to see how humans lived. The TV filled me with questions but it helped me a lot with my English.
Then one evening Mrs. Parker announced that Social Services had been unable to locate my parents and that I could stay with the Parkers, if that was-all right with me. Was it! They could see from the grin on my face that it was fine with me.
But my grin faded fast when Mr. Parker said that now everything was set for me to go to school and I could start the next day. Up until now I had stayed indoors mostly, afraid to meet the townspeople who blamed me for the night the werewolves had almost stolen a little human baby. They didn't believe in werewolves and nothing could convince them that my wolf family wasn't to blame.
Also, even though I could understand more English from watching the TV, I still couldn't talk very well. I was curious about school but it was a mystery and it worried me that Paul didn't like it very much. He was always moaning about how lucky I was to get to stay home all day. Still, all the kids went to school. It was something human kids did. Maybe going to school would make me more human.
Mrs. Parker sent me to bed early, saying I should get a good night's sleep before my first day of school. I dragged myself upstairs but it was a long time before I fell asleep. In fact, I was sure I wouldn't sleep at all.
But the next thing I knew sunlight was streaming in and someone was banging on my door.
"Gruff! You awake?" It was Paul.
I scrambled out from under the bed. "Yes," I said, my voice coming out like a croak.
The door opened and Paul threw something on the bed. "Here's some clothes for school. Hurry! Mom always makes us eat breakfast before we go."
Even though I was now used to wearing jeans and T-shirts, it took me a while to figure out these new school clothes. In the woods I wore deerskins to protect me from the rain and cold. When I was little, Wolfmother chewed the hides for me to make them soft. When I got old enough to do it myself I figured out ways to hold the deerskins together with long pieces of dried deer sinew.
These school clothes were completely different. And not very comfortable. But finally I got them on me and went downstairs.
"Gruff! We're in the kitchen," yelled Paul.
He and Kim were already eating. They looked up when I appeared in the door. White liquid spurted out of Kim's mouth as she looked at me, her eyes crinkling. "M-milk," I said to myself, practicing English. Paul burst out laughing, spraying brown goo across the table.
"What's so funny?" asked Mrs. Parker, turning around with a glass in her hand. Her eyes widened. "Oh."
She frowned at Paul and Kim as she came toward me. "Here, Gruff, let me help you with that shirt. You've got it on backward. And you two," she said to the other kids, "clean up that mess. You ought to know better than to be laughing at people."
She smiled warmly as she helped me get the shirt turned around. It was much more comfortable that way. "Don't mind them, Gruff. I think you're very brave."
Excerpted from Children of the Wolf by Rodman Philbrick, Lynn Harnett. Copyright © 1996 Rodman Philbrick and Lynn Harnett. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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