Bound Howler

Chuck’s challenge this week:  Subgenres.

This one’s a bit longer than most, but I think it’s worth it.  That in mind, I won’t beleaguer you with a drawn out explanation, I’ll just let the story speak for itself.



Bound Howler


Trina threw down an armload of ropes and a sturdy length of chain on Ark’s counter, drawing a hearty laugh from the proprietor.  He leaned his smudged elbows on the smudged oak and leered at her.

“And what on earth are y’doin with all that, then?”  His eyes traced a long slow route down her blouse and her skirt before arriving, much too late, back up at her face.  She wasn’t the prettiest girl in the village by any stretch, but she wasn’t the ugliest, either.  He’d certainly had worse.

“Not sure if that’s any of your concern, Mister Ark.”  She, on the other hand, stared fixedly into his eyes, she had no use for the rest of him.

Ark spat.  “My supplies, my concern.”

Trina sighed and leaned in toward him across the countertop.  Again, his eyes strayed south; she wasn’t above using what wiles she had to her advantage.  “Storm last night.  Spooked my horses.  They broke their gate and scattered all over MacLaren’s land.  I need to secure the gate,” she nodded at the chain, “and throw together some bridles til I can have proper ones made,” she nodded at the rope.

Ark’s eyes fell on the bandage just above her left elbow; she’d tried to conceal it with her sleeve.  “What happened there?”

She yanked her sleeve back down, covering the dressing.  “Snagged it on a nasty tree branch.  Chasing after the horses.”

His eyes began creeping down her body again.  “So, how do you plan to –”

“I’ve got coin, you lout.”

Transaction completed, she rushed home.  The darkening sky was all the sign that the village needed to begin closing up early; it was already a full moon, and likely to storm again besides.  Storefronts were being closed up and bolted shut, horses tied a little more securely in their stables, children hurried inside over their whines of protest.  As she crested the little hill before her squat stone house, Trina paused next to the perfectly intact stable door; all her horses were completely undisturbed.  She shifted the ropes and chain on her shoulder and moved on toward her house as the first drops of rain began to fall.

Inside, Timmon greeted her in a near panic.  “I was worried,” he said as she unburdened herself of the ropes and chains, handing them all to him.  “It’s getting dark, I didn’t think you would make it before…”

She frowned and knelt next to him, wiping the tears from his eyes with a delicate caress of her thumb.  “Hush, dear.  I know what time it is.  I had to make an arrangement.  It’ll be a storm again tonight.  Have you done what I asked?”

Reminded of his duty, he straightened and nodded.  “Yes’m.”

Playing to his sudden sense of seriousness, she gave him a baleful look.  “Windows shuttered and bolted?”

His head bobbed up and down with vigor.

Trina arched an eyebrow.  “From the outside?”

Timmon suppressed a giggle.  “I don’t understand why it had to be from the outside, mother.  The winds are outside, aren’t they?  Wouldn’t we want to open them from inside?”

“Young man,” Trina responded with no trace of humor, “one day you will run this farm and you can decide which side of the windows to bar.  Until that day, you will do as I’ve told you.  Have you done it?”

Timmon looked like nothing so much as a soldier whose commander had just called him down for loafing.  “Yes’m.”

Trina softened at that, one side of her mouth curling up in a smirk.  “Good, then.  Off you pop.”

The little boy’s face fell.  “Do I have to go to the Anders’?  Shane’s sister is always following me around with these big cow eyes.  She says she wants to marry me.”

“Yes, you do.  And one day, you might change your mind about Lorna.  She’s got her mother’s looks; the other boys in the village will snatch her up if you’re not careful.”

“Yuck.”  Trina tousled his hair, spun him at the shoulders, and shoved him tenderly toward the door.  His hand on the latch, he paused.  “I don’t understand why you’re sending me away.  With the storm coming, you’ll need –”

“Tim.  It’s time to go.”  She pointed at the door with unmistakable finality.  Timmon groaned and turned.  “One more thing.”  She handed him the length of chain; his spindly arms strained under its weight.  “Fix the front door with this.  Get that old, heavy lock out of the barn, bring it back here, and lock it up, tight as you can make it.”

“Ma, it’s startin’ to rain –”

“Do it.  And then be off with you.  I’ll see you in the morning.”  Again, Timmon made for the door.  “Son?”

He spun on her with the irritation and displeasure that only a child can fully communicate.  “Gods’ sakes, what??”

Trina fixed him with steady yellowing eyes.  “I love you.”

He tsked and opened the door.  “Can I go now?”

She nodded once, a tender smile on her lips, and he gave her a half-grin before he left.  In a heartbeat she was up and watching his back as he jogged up the path to the barn.  It would take him a few minutes to find the lock in the barn; she’d made sure to tuck it away under some of her husband’s old tools.  She’d have to move fast.

The peaceful patter of the raindrops and the occasional roll of thunder masked any noise that might have drawn the boy’s attention.  With speed she’d only recently begun to master, she stole around the side of the house, and threw open the cellar.  Into the wheelbarrow went the burlap sack her husband had used to haul pig manure into town, bulging and squirming with its loathsome contents.  She wheeled it up to the front of the house and dumped it on the front step, then hauled it bodily inside.  It thrashed and stunk and made muffled shouts, which she ignored as she dragged it across the landing and into the living room of her tiny house.  She threw the door closed behind her, hoping against hope that her boy hadn’t seen her, and that he wouldn’t think twice about the wheelbarrow that sat now outside the front door.

He didn’t.  Trina sank against the door and began to laugh, to cry, to wail into the palm she pressed against her mouth.  The clinks and clanks and the low, heavy click of the padlock sliding shut sounded from outside, then there was only the sound of the gathering rain and the struggles of the man in the bag of pig shit.  She waited long enough to make sure Tim was well and truly gone, then she took her husband’s knife off the mantel and slit the bag open.

Dil Cungerd emerged from the bag and began flopping and slithering about the floor like the snake he was.  Bound hand and foot, he didn’t get far.  Trina yanked the filthy rag out of his mouth and waited for the stream of profanity and abuse to subside before she spoke.

“Hi, Dil.”  She sat on a stool looking down at him with pity and amusement and fury fighting to shine out through her eyes.

He spat at her.  The gob of saliva landed well short, him being on the floor and trussed like a prize turkey, but he was not disheartened.  “Filthy whore, what?  Brought me back here for another go?  First time ol’ Dil got to you wasn’t enough, ay?  If you wanted another turn, all you had to do was ask.  Next time, I won’t treat you so nice.”

Trina closed her eyes and tried not to remember the foul scent of him, the point of his knife at her throat, his animal grunts from behind.  Her husband had been dead a week, and Dil had decided that he’d lay a claim to her house and land.  Her insides curdled, her stomach threatened to empty itself.  Not at the memory of the event, but at the thought of what was coming next.  She wasn’t sure how sorry she could really feel for a drunken, thieving rapist like Dil, but a small part of her was pleased that some other part of her felt a little bit of sympathy for him.  The rest of her was as calm and focused as a timber wolf stalking a jackrabbit.

Dil, the charmer, had not stopped venting his bile.  “…you’ll pay for this one, won’t you?  Disgusting bitch.  I’ll have the magistrate –”

Trina’s pointed boot caught him in the gut and all his air went rushing out.  He gasped like a boned fish on the floor, his eyes slammed shut in pain.  “I think that’s quite enough of that, Mister Cungerd.  More language like that and I’m afraid I’ll have to ask you to leave my house.  And the sun is almost set.  You know what that means.”

Dil’s eyes popped open again, wide and bulging in fear.  The full moon.  The werewolves.  He fought his aching lungs to squeak out a pitiful, “you wouldn’t.”

She smiled at him and picked up the rope off the table where Timmon had left it.  “You’re right, I’m much too hospitable for that.  I wouldn’t throw any man to the wolves, even half a man like you,”  She began, with short, practiced movements, to tie thick, intricate knots around the sconces on the wall.  The ends of the rope she tied to her wrists and her neck.  She tested her weight against them; she couldn’t get anywhere near Dil.

“Bloody hell,” Dil choked, “what are you doing?”

She turned to him, all feigned scandal, as if she were sharing a bit of juicy gossip with the last housewife in town not to hear it.  “Oh, didn’t I mention?  I’ve been bitten.”  With a flourish, she removed the bandage from her elbow and tossed it at his feet.  The jagged crescent on her arm glowed, crimson and purple and unholy.

Dil already smelled like pigshit and booze and stale sweat, but he pissed himself then, and the room became unbearably rank.  He stammered like a fool.  “B… but them ropes won’t hold you.”

Trina sat back on her stool again and folded her hands in her lap.  The ropes hung around her, seeming suddenly as limp and unsubstantial as Dil was.  She smiled like a schoolteacher speaking to the village children.  “No, they won’t.  But they will keep me off you for a little while.  Long enough, perhaps, for you to make apologies for the life you’ve led.  If that’s a thing that interests you.”  Her eyes gleamed in the dim light, golden and fierce.

Dil stared at her in mute terror.  Somewhere outside, the sun disappeared and, through a hole in the clouds, the full moon threw its rays across the storm-torn land.  Before his enraptured eyes, she seemed to swell and stretch at the edges.  A low growl emanated from her and the ropes grew taught.  It was hard to tell if the howls and shouts of terror were coming from inside the house or from the woods themselves.

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