The dreams were becoming more and more frequent. All he had to do now was close his eyes, and looming darkness would engulf his mind. Perhaps it was the sleep deprivation making the visions worse, but Savas knew in his core that was wishful thinking. This was not a simple dream, it was an omen. The longer the darkness was ignored, the more persistent it grew, and the wolf dreaded what was to come. Three days of desperately fighting the exhaustion was too much, the shadows beneath his eyes darkening by the hour and slowly, but surely, Savas gave into his body’s desperate need for sleep.
It started as it always did, the treeline beckoning him closer. A deep, primal need to run freely through the greenery. The scent of pine trees and leaf litter calling out to his senses, the trails of wildlife appealing to his wolfish nature to hunt. He’d never been able to resist the wild’s call. Feet moving of their own accord, the man crossed the invisible barrier between the wilderness and mundane society. It’s where he belonged, that’s what every bone in his body told him. The forest represented freedom to be who he was, to take on his bestial form without fear of repercussion.
Paws hit the ground. Wait, when did he transform? Did it matter? Cold black nose pointed to the earth beneath him, following the familiar scent of deer. Fresh tracks, taking down the beast would prove an exhilarating challenge on his own, sure to shed much of that pent-up energy he simply couldn’t shake in his human form. The wolf eagerly followed the scent, switching between his nose in the breeze and sniffing the soil for clues as to how far his prey could be from his location. Dashing forward enthusiastically, the wolf barely noticed how deep into the woods he’d gone until the trees swallowed the soft moonlight above.
A crack beneath his boot startled him. Wait, he was human again? Fully clothed, something that simply couldn’t be if he had transformed. Stormy gray eyes squinted, trying to make out what he’d stood on, only to reveal a bone shattered into a boot print as he stepped back. Finding bones in the woods was far from uncommon, animals met their untimely demise all the time, predators in the region were frequent, Savas himself was one after all. But this bone was strange. It didn’t match that of a deer, and it was far too large to be that of a coyote or rabbit. Perhaps a bear? An unusual find, but still nothing to concern the wolf, not yet.
Savas should have turned and left, but something compelled him to walk deeper and deeper into the mass of trees. Another crunch beneath his boots, more brittle than the last. Expecting to see another femur or rib of whatever he’d passed minutes prior, instead he was met with an off-white dome, broken open. It took a few seconds to register what he saw, until he leaned in, making out two empty sockets that looked back up at him. A skull. A human skull. An already quick heart began to hammer in his chest with the startling realization he’d uncovered human remains. He had to tell someone, he had to inform the authorities. Animal remains were normal this deep in the wilderness, human ones certainly were not.
There was a problem, however, all of his surroundings looked the same. What direction had he even come from? Nothing but looming bark-covered pillars stood around him, the moon and stars blocked out of sight. Not even a scent on the wind indicated where he’d come from. The wolf’s sense of direction ordinarily was impressive, how had he become so lost? Savas couldn’t simply linger and panic, he had to at least try to find his way out of the trees holding him hostage. The man picked a direction and started to run, desperate for any sort of marker to indicate where he was and how to return to society.
Short of breath, the beast had to stop, double over and wheeze for a moment. How long had he been running? It felt like miles. Everything looked the same- wait, no it didn’t. Sticking out of the soil revealed bones, many, many more bones. Some looked decades old, partially covered in moss, splintering at the slightest knock of the man’s boots. Those were not the ones that sent a chill down his spine, however, before him lay bones with flesh still desperately clinging onto them. Fresh bodies. No, not bodies, parts of bodies. Torn apart by whatever had savagely picked at them.
The soil below his feet began to growl and rumble, something below the soil moved and forced more and more bodies to the surface, human and animal alike, writhing with hungry worms that had made the corpses their home. Savas couldn’t breathe, his body frozen in fear as the true source of the boneyard rose up from the ground. A tangled mass of bones and branches. The body was shaped vaguely like a human, though that was the closest it would get, standing over thirteen feet in height with the skull of a long extinct deer in place of a head, antlers spanning almost as far as the creature’s height.
Fear struck any that dared to gaze upon it, and Savas simply couldn’t look away. This creature brought no feeling of comfort, only death. Grasping the man in its thorny fingers, the creature drew him closer to the empty eye sockets of its makeshift head, it need not speak, Savas knew what it wanted. Instead of simply consuming the werewolf, however, it took its other hand and forced its woody finger down his throat. With it, roots extending into every organ, wrapping around his very bones and tangling in his mind.
Savas awoke in a cold sweat, bolting off his bed in a panic. He was home. His lover’s lavish apartment situated as far from the wilds that called to him as they could get. His lover had barely stirred, merely turning over in their sleep, having grown accustomed to the beast’s growls and twitches in his sleep. It felt so real, to the extent his throat still felt strained from that horrendous being’s hands. One name lingered in his mind, one that was becoming more and more common.