Fratricide, Werewolf Wars, and the Many Lies of Andrea Paddington
By Stephen Bills
James Paddington opened his eyes, opened his maw, and yawned. Then, since that hadn’t done the job, he also stretched out from nose to tail and craned his neck around, which was when he saw Lisa curled up on her side of the bed. She’d turned back into a human during the night.
Pity. James always enjoyed when Lisa was a wolf; it was like a holiday from the world.
Still, it was interesting seeing her naked body through the wolf’s eyes and feeling nothing sexual. Why should he? She wasn’t a wolf like him, she was a human. He knew what the human in him would find attractive – the curve of her hips, the way her blonde hair fell across her face and lips – but it was all academic. Besides, she didn’t smell right.
Now if she’d been a wolf, that would be a different matter altogether…
Lisa’s face scrunched in the half-sneeze she always did when she’d changed in her sleep. She woke expecting a long snout and instead had a short nose. Everything was out of shape and size and it took a moment for the brain to fit inside the body.
She blinked away the sensation. “You’re awake, then?” she asked with her Scottish lilt, then ran a hand through his fur. “Come on, Jim. Big day.”
James closed his eyes and focussed on the dark place inside him, on the black void where – when he was human – the wolf lived and where – when he was a wolf – the human lived.
James felt himself shift. Not twist or distort. Just… change.
His hands and feet extended, shoulders widened, snout receded, fur retracted until all that was left was a two-week growth of beard. One of the odd side-effects of being a werewolf: even if he’d been clean-shaven before becoming a wolf, he always had a full beard when he turned back. Once he’d tried changing just for a few seconds: instant beard.
Paddington took his turn in the shower, shaved, and changed into his dress uniform. They drove to the cemetery and stood beside the mayor before the thousand-strong crowd of mourners.
“Today we remember the events of two years ago,” Mayor Quentin Appleby said. “We remember the zombie horde and the fight at the Tree. We remember those we lost, and what it cost us.”
There was an understatement. Nearly half of the island had become zombies. Everyone else had helped contain the horde, which in most cases meant putting an axe into a neighbour or childhood friend.
“We pray that the Three-God keep us safe,” Quentin continued. “May Idryo warm our lives, Enanti grant us community, and Tipote watch over us.”
That… that Paddington had a problem with. After all, it was to fulfil a prophecy of the Three-God that the Duke of Archi had created the zombie horde in the first place. It was only because Paddington had called outsiders from off the island that they’d been able to stop the prophecy destroying the world.
“And may we always remember our loved ones the way they would want us to remember them,” Quentin finished.
The speeches over, the crowd moved away, most to the pubs to spend a raucous morning “honouring” the fallen. A few drifted into the graveyard to spend time in silent remembrance. Lisa and Paddington walked to his parents’ graves: two grey marble tombstones side by side.
His father’s was old; moss explored its face and the letters were worn by the weather. He’d died just after Paddington’s birth. His mother’s tombstone looked fresh and new beside it, the embossed letters still black.
Greg and Andrea Paddington. Both gone now. Now James and Lisa were the only Paddingtons alive on Archi.
Little did they know that in six months, there would only be one of them left to stand and mourn three graves marked “Paddington”.