City of Fang

It’s been awhile since I’ve cleared the cobwebs off this blog and participated in one of Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction challenges, but this random title challenge spoke to me. Here goes..

City of Fang

 

Marsha burnt the meatloaf again, but Gerald wasn’t about to mention it. Not tonight. He wasn’t stupid, after all. Irritable, achy, and itchy, but not stupid. He shook the thought from his head, snorted the scent from his nose, and spread his napkin across his lap, ignoring his already swelling quadriceps.

“Smells good, hun,” he said. He reached out to fork a slab, but his arm stopped short, jerking against the stainless steel manacle. He forced a laugh.

“What do you think of the new hardware?” He jingled the cuff like a department store Santa. “Cost an arm and a leg, but with this fancy felt lining you can barely tell you’re shackled. Kids? Am I right? Max?”

“Sure, dad,” Max said without looking up from his plate. He tugged at his manacles unenthusiastically. “Whatever.” Gerald couldn’t tell if Max’s canine teeth were already descending, or if he was just mumbling around a mouthful of meatloaf.

“How bout you, Trace?”

Tracy looked up from her I-phone just long enough to scowl. She jingled her cuffs mockingly. Beneath her mop of bleached blonde hair, the vein in her forehead throbbed like a fire hose.

Ugh. Gerald thought. Teenagers.

“Why don’t you put the phone away, Tracy?” Gerald growled. “You can’t tweet, or instamagram, or whatever-the-hell-it-is you do with claws anyhow, can you? You’re just gonna break that damned thing again and—“

“Gerald!” Marsha barked. “Enough.”

Marsha stared at him from across the table, pupils dilated and nostrils flared. The scrunchie she used to tie back her hair had snapped, frizzing it up and spilling it across her shoulders like a lion’s mane. Her own manacles were pulled taut.

“You know how hard this is on the kids,” she said.

“Oh, give me a break, Marsha,” Gerald said. He reached out for his cocktail, jangling chains like Jacob Marley. “This is hard on all of us.”

Max snorted. He shook his greasy bangs out of his face with a flick of his head. What had been a pathetic teenage moustache only moments earlier was now a bristling beard. “Yeah right, dad. As if. You work for the City.”

“Yeah,” Tracy growled. She jerked against her chains. “This was your stupid idea.”

“Ordinance 476-A is not stupid!” He roared. The collar buttons of his checkered shirt burst and shot across the dining room. His flabby, naturally hairless chest was swelling thick with muscle and thicker with fur. “As of last month’s census the city was only two percent human. There’s no more prey, kids. No more food. We can’t just roam free anymore. Unchecked. Unregulated. What would you have—HEY! DAISY!”

The little ginger-haired girl paused as she skipped passed the dining room window.

“Hi,” she said with a smile, shuffling forward, pressing her freckled nose against the glass.

“Daisy?! It’s a blood moon tonight and the suns nearly down.” Gerald snarled. Coarse hairs began to protrude from the pours on his nose, his cheeks, his forehead.

“And?” Daisy said around a mouthful of bubble-gum. In the low-light of dusk, her eyes began to glow. “I’m selling cookies for my Girl Scout troop. If I sell the most I win a year supply of luxury canine shampoo. You wanna buy some?”

“City ordinance 476-A clearly states that all lycanthropes must remain in their homes for the duration of the blood moon,” Gerald snarled. “You get inside and secure yourself, young lady. Or your father is going to be facing a hefty fine and five demerits on his apex predator’s licence.”

Daisy turned up her nose—which was growing more snout-like with each passing second—adjusted her colorful sash, and stomped away, waggling her pigtails defiantly.

“Can you believe that kid?” Gerald asked no one in particular. Beneath the table, his shoes split like over-stuffed sausages. “I mean, seriously? Marsha, remind me to have a word with her father.”

Marsha huffed. Her brow was elongating, making muffled popping sounds like cracking knuckles.

“Eat your dinner, kids.” She said, awkwardly changing the subject.

Max growled. “I want blood.”

“Yeah,” Tracy added. Her earrings clattered to the table top as her ears swelled to fleshy points.

“Well, we don’t have blood,” Marsha said. “We have meatloaf.” She pounded a deformed paw on the table. Her shackles clanged. “Three hundred and fifteen pounds of meatloaf.”

“Can I be excused?” Max sneered. “Can’t I spend the night locked up in my room like a normal ‘thrope?”

“No,” Gerald barked. He groaned as the bones in his legs snapped and shifted. “This family doesn’t spend nearly enough time together as it is. We are going to spend the metamorphosis right here around the dining room table. Together.”

“What do you mean we don’t spend enough time together?” Tracy growled. She paused for an inadvertent howl. “We just got back from stupid Sea World.”

“Sea World isn’t stupid!” Gerald snarled. “And even if it was, you and your brother wouldn’t know. You two spent the whole weekend moping around the hotel. You didn’t even try to enjoy yourselves”

Max snorted. “YOU ATE A SEA LION!”

“No, no, that’s not true,” Gerald said. He pinched the bridge of his muzzle. “I ate a manatee. A sickly manatee I might add, and I felt terrible about it. You know I’ve had issues with my blood lust. Regardless, I still tried to make the most of the vacation.”

“Enough!” Marsha snapped. She gnashed her fangs, splashing her untouched slab of meatloaf with viscous drool. “Enough arguing. If we are going to spend the change together, them we are going to do it in peace, or I swear on my canids I will rip you all to shreds!”

No one replied. For a long, drawn out few moments the only sounds in the dining room were the clank of manacles, labored breathing, and the muffled snap of shifting bones and rending skin. The air grew heavy, tense, ripe with the stench of a family of werewolves.

Outside the dining room window, above the sprawl of lycanthrope suburbia, the moon came out from behind the clouds, full and fat and red like a juicy spleen. Somewhere a werewolf howled, then another, then another still. The blood moon was high and the city of fang had been awakened; six hundred thousand werewolves strong. The Robertson family–Gerald, Marsha, Max, and Tracy—added their own howls to the symphony, rumbling the cutlery and trembling the window pane, until they finally fell quiet amidst a smattering of yips and yowls.

Gerald looked at Marsha and pulled his black lips back in a smile. She smiled back and waggled her tail provocatively.

“See kids,” Gerald grunted, turning his big yellow eyes on his teenage werewolves. “This isn’t so bad. We’ll give the humans a little time to replenish their numbers and we will be back hunting in no time, you’ll see.”

Max and Tracy barked in acknowledgment. Tracy attempted to tweet something snarky, but her claw shot sparks and plumed smoke as it punched right through her I-phone and stabbed into the table top.

“Yep,” Gerald continued. He gnawed a flea of his shoulder. “This isn’t so bad at all–”

The front door flung open, interrupting Gerald as it smashed against the wall hard enough to trickle dust from the ceiling. The Robertson family roared in unison and struggled against their shackles, but it was no use. They were felt-lined, quadruple plated steel. Gerald was on the city council, after all. He could afford the best.

“Hi,” a ginger-tinged werewolf snarled as it lumbered out of the threshold shadows. A crooked bow was lodged behind one of its ears and tatters of girl-guide sash were stuck in its fur.

“Daisy!” Gerald roared. “I thought I told you to go home?”

“You did,” Daisy said slyly. She licked her snout. “But there’s no food at home. There’s no humans anywhere, and I’m hungry.”

Gerald didn’t like the way Daisy was looking at him. Discreetly, he strained against his cuffs. They didn’t budge.

“Y-you want some meatloaf?” Marsha whimpered.

“No thanks,” Daisy said. She disappeared into the kitchen and returned a moment later clenching a bottle in her paw. Gerald’s werewolf heart sank as he realized what was in it; hot sauce. He roared and thrashed like mad, but it was no use. He was secure in his bindings. He wasn’t going anywhere. Daisy emptied the bottle onto the meatiest part of Gerald’s hunched, muscular back. She bared her fangs.

“I think I’m in the mood for something wilder.”

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