Shuddersome Shorts

Tales of Eerie Terror

#22



Peter is definitely not a night person, but when the moon is full, you might say he's a regular party animal...


T.T.O.T.M. Inc.

By J. Geraci
About the author


Ohh, you were an animal tonight,” Sheila said. “Must be the moon.”

“What’d you mean?” said Peter.

“Oh, you know what they say, everybody gets crazier when there’s a full moon.”

“But it won’t be full for another day,” Peter said, then kissed her softly and pulled her body next to his, the warmth of sleep already overtaking him.

The next morning Sheila awoke to an empty bed and a brief note from Peter: “Sheila, babe, I’ve got some things that’ll keep me busy for the next four or five days. I’ll call you.”

Sheila was devastated. How could he do this? She counted on her fingers, four more days and it would be exactly one month since they’d been together. A month that they’d seen each other every single day. And now this.

Peter’s day at the office was filled with problems, and to top it off, ended with his most difficult client Jerome Albertus suddenly showing up, insistent on discussing every possible aspect of his upcoming divorce. When they finally walked out of the building together, the moon’s rim was just peeking above the horizon.

“Let me buy you a drink,” Jerome insisted, grabbing Peter by the arm.

“No,” Peter snapped, then caught himself. “I’m sorry, I’ve got to go, really.”

Before Jerome could protest, Peter was gone, walking away quickly toward the parking lot. Just as Jerome was opening the door to Clifford’s Bar, he saw Peter’s Porsche scream by, doing sixty.

Peter kept it at sixty going up the on-ramp, then nailed the accelerator, switched across all four lanes and was doing ninety by the time he was in the Diamond Lane. Drivers in the fast lane were startled by the whoosh of sound and air as Peter roared past them, his speed climbing.

Two miles down the freeway, rookie highway patrolman Fred Firestone was just closing his ticket book, satisfied that he’d make his first month’s quota when Peter’s car roared past. Fred jumped in his cruiser, hit the lights, siren and accelerator in one swift move. He swung into traffic, which was light at this hour, and radioed his position and asked for help.

Peter glanced to his right -- the moon was above the buildings now, he was running out of time, then saw Fred’s lights behind him and gaining. Peter instantly swung the Porsche across the empty lanes, deftly avoiding an old yellow Chrysler and aimed for the off-ramp. But he’d miscalculated. He downshifted, pumped the brakes, but it was too late. The Porsche hammered into the guard rail, ripping and shattering metal and glass, then flipped up and over then down the steep hillside, rolling over and over in the thick brush.

Officer Firestone had the flares out and was down the hill before the backup arrived. Thank god there’s a full moon to help, he thought, swinging his flashlight on the twisted remains of the once-shiny car. The beam hit the interior and Officer Firestone couldn’t believe his eyes: it was empty. Must have been thrown out -- damn.

He swung the light to his left and took a few ginger steps down the steep hill, the moon’s light a silver ribbon guiding him. And just as he looked up, the scream dying in his throat that was about to be ripped out, Officer Firestone thought, How could there be a wolf here in the city? Especially a wolf that big?

***
The moon had completed its cycle and the sun was just rising when Sheila heard Peter’s muffled plea through the door and saw him standing there, his clothes torn and smeared with blood and mud, his face bearing numerous cuts slowly seeping blood.

“Oh, my god!” she gasped. “What happened?”

“I...was in an accident,” Peter said, then staggered into the room. He collapsed on the sofa. “My car’s...totalled. And I think somebody jumped me.”

“Oh, my god!” Sheila said again, stunned. “I’m going to call the police.”

“No,” Peter snarled, the strength in his voice so different from his appearance. “Not now. I just need to sleep. I’ll explain everything later. Now I must sleep.” He stretched out full length on the sofa. “But you cannot let me sleep past dark. Understand...?” he murmured, sleep already overtaking him. “Wake me before dark.”

Sheila put a blanket over him. “Yeah, before dark, right. Maybe the dark before the dawn tomorrow.”

She went to the kitchen to start the coffee when a thought hit her: I wonder how he got here?

After the coffee was brewed, Sheila made some wheat toast and turned on the TV. The first image was high up from a chopper showing a twisted car at the bottom of a steep ravine.

“This is Randi Lane,” the reporter’s voice said, “where early this morning someone decided he didn’t need another ticket.” The image changed to a close-up of the car -- twisted steel, broken glass. “It was a decision that may have cost two lives...” The image changed to an earlier morning shot of a sheet-covered body being pushed into an ambulance, “...Officer Fred Firestone...” The image changed to a close-up of Randi Lane, her beautiful face serious and thoughtful. “... and the driver who still has not been found.”

The camera shifted to show a tall man in a green uniform standing next to Randi. “With me is Ranger Mike Harrington who’s here to shed some additional light on this terrible accident because, according to our initial information, Officer Firestone appears to have been attacked by a wild animal of some sort.”

“That’s right, ma’am, although it’s too early to confirm or deny that information -- the officer’s throat appears to have been..uh, damaged.”

“Damaged? I heard ripped out!” Ranger Harrington was at a loss for words. “I mean,” Randi continued, “what kind of beast kills like that?”

“Bear, maybe,” offered Harrington. “Although it’d have to be ‘bout three thousand pounds to do that kind of damage.”

The report bothered Sheila all day at work. The wrecked car looked like a Porsche, but what would Peter be doing in that part of the city? She came home at lunch to check on him, but he was sleeping so deeply she didn’t think a bomb would wake him. Let him rest, she decided when Margie and Angie asked her to join them for “just one little drink.”

But one drink became three or four and the moon was a silver disc in the night sky when Sheila opened the door to her darkened apartment. She clicked on the kitchen light so as not to disturb Peter, but he wasn’t there. Then she heard noise coming from behind her bedroom door. Sounded like a snarl.

“Peter,” Sheila yelped, half-delighted that they’d be able to make love again, the other half bewildered at his recovery. She hurried to the bedroom door, slowly opened it: “Peter, I can’t believe how quickly you’re back to your old... Peter? PETERRR!!!!!”

***
The sun was up and shining the next morning when Peter’s door bell rang. He opened it slowly and there was the beautiful Randi Lane.

“No reporters, “ she said quickly, “just me and you.” She offered her card and stepped closer so that Peter had to back up and she was inside his apartment. “Look,” she said quickly, “I figure I’m maybe a day or two ahead of the police.”

“What the hell are you talking about?”

“There was an accident two nights ago. Highway patrolman’s throat ripped out.”

“Yeah?”

“So, you were the driver Officer Firestone was chasing. It was your car at the bottom of the ravine.”

“Bullshit,” snapped Peter. “Besides, if that were true, how come you’re here instead of the police?”

“They don’t have the resources I have.” She put her hand on Peter’s arm: “I know about these things, Peter, I can help.”

He shoved her hand away and opened the door. “Thank you for your fantasy. Unless there’s something else, I’d like to get on with my day.”

Randi started for the door, then stopped. “It’s not the days that are a problem, Peter. It’s the nights. During the full moon.” She handed him a card. “My home number’s on the back. Call me. I know how to handle these things.”

After she left, Peter looked at her card. Above her name and number were the letters, T.T.O.T.M. Inc.

“Wonder what the hell that stands for?” he said aloud.

***
Peter couldn’t concentrate at work, his thoughts drifting back to Randi and Sheila and how much time he had. He reported his Porsche stolen, rented a car and drove it across the city to another apartment building and took the elevator to 4D. He stepped inside the empty space, threw the three deadbolts behind him, then walked down the hall to a thick, steel-plated door. Built into the wall next to the door was a complex of push buttons. Peter punched in series of numbers: Time of Entry--6:15 PM, Time of Release--7:30 AM.

He hit the # button and instantly electronic lights started flashing. The door opened, he stepped inside quickly and the door closed behind him followed by a whirring sound and the heavy metallic thunk of steel bolts sliding into place.

The room could have passed for a padded cell in a psycho ward: No windows, bare walls and floor, all thickly padded and sound-proofed. On the far wall, like some ancient dungeon, two sets of thick iron manacles were tethered to strong chains set into the wall. One set hung from the wall, the other snaked across the floor.

Peter put his ankles into the ones on the floor, clicked them shut, then did his wrists. But there was a bizarre element to the manacles: There was four or five inches of extra space his wrists and ankles could maneuver in, so he could slip out of them in a heartbeat.

***
Four hours later in the apartment right above Peter’s, his neighbor Harold Johnson cursed loudly. “Damn! Ten thirty at night and he’s making that noise again.”

“Oh, Harold,” Milly said, “just turn up the TV.”

But before Harold could hit the remote button, a muffled snarl came up through the floor. Harold stomped his foot down hard.

“I swear he does it once more I’m going down there and kick his ass.”

“Maybe his TV went on too loud,” Milly said.

But this time it wasn’t a snarl that came through the floor, it was a long, scary howl.

Harold leaped up from his lazy boy and came down hard with both feet. “Take that, you sonofabitch.”

Harold’s two-footed thump bounced down into Peter’s padded room down the wall, down the chains which were stretched taut to their limit all the way to the manacles which were no longer loose but cutting deeply into his gigantic hairy arms.

The arms of a monstrous Werewolf. A werewolf more awesome and terrifying than anything folklore, history or imagination has ever conjured up. A beast that hurls his body against the chains that will hold him prisoner until the electronic locks will disengage and release him, long after the moon has waned. Peter snarls fiercely.

A moment later, Harold above him stomps two..three..four times. Peter lunges upward, stretching the thick chains.

Milly turned up the volume. “There, now you can’t hear him.”

“I don’t like it,” Harold said. “One more time and I’m in his face.” But the words were barely out his mouth when he jumped, startled by a huge boom. “What the hell...?”

“Relax,” said Milly looking out the window. “It’s only thunder.”

“Thunder?” said Harold. “It’s not supposed to rain. Did you see any lightning?”

And in answer, a huge flash of white snakes in the sky, lighting up their entire apartment.

“Jesus!” Harold yells, “that was damn close.” He starts counting, “One..two..” and the boom crashes through their living room. This is followed by a huge roar through the floor from Peter. “That does it,” barks Harold.

Harold doesn’t wait for the elevator but takes the stairs down and bangs several times on Peter’s door. There is another lightning flash with a simultaneous rocking of the building. The lights go out and Harold stands in darkness.

“Damn, the building’s been hit. Electricity’s gone.”

The computer for Peter’s room flashes once, then goes black. The manacles snap open and the werewolf is free. He hears the pounding outside and leaps for the door. But by the time he opens it, Harold’s on his way down to the exit. The werewolf snarls and goes after Harold.

Outside the rain hits the street like marbles. A car pulls into the driveway and starts down the long ramp. Just as the security gate rises up there is a long, terrifying screech.

“Wow,” said Sid Greenburg, “that gate needs some oil.”

He started to drive forward when a huge shape burst through the gate and ran into the night.

“What the hell was that?” Anne Greenburg said.

“Must’ve been a big dog,” Sid answered.

“If it is,” said Anne, “I’m complaining to the board. No one’s supposed to have any pets. Those are the rules.”

***
The next day the evening sky was all pink chiffon as the setting sun tinted the clouds. Randi Lane rang Peter’s bell again. When he opened it she spoke quickly.

“There’s no time to mess around, Peter. I know everything: Officer Firestone, Sheila, your neighbor Harold Johnson. That’s three in three nights. And that’s just this month. Come with me, I can get you out of this hell.”

“I...I can’t,” Peter said. “You don’t know...besides, the moon will be up soon.”

“That’s why you’ve got to come with me now.”

Thirty minutes later Randi’s Lexus was flying down a country road. “We’re running out of time,” Peter said as his fingers elongated and sprouted hair. Randi started to protest but Peter reached over and snapped the key to off. The engine died instantly and the Lexus coasted on its own speed. The car was still moving when he leaped from it and rolled into the gully.

He stood up, the transformation now in full force: He roars and his back humps, ripping his shirt. His skull distends, changing shape. His eyes roll back into their sockets, then spring open, now a malevolent yellow-red.

The final changes wreak their havoc -- his teeth long and razor sharp, his ears pointed and hairy -- and Peter leaps up to the road, looking for Randi.

And there she is, waiting beside her Lexus.

Peter the werewolf bounds for her, saliva dripping from his fangs. But Randi stands her ground, the moonlight soft around her face as her eyes bulge and a scream rips from her throat.

But it’s not a scream of terror, it’s a howl of triumph.

Because Randi is now a nightmarish monster -- with twin obsidian heads, each with massive jaws that can easily help a werewolf stop worrying about That Time Of The Month when the moon is full...



The End




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T.T.O.T.M. Inc. is copyright 1999, by J. Geraci. It may not be copied or used for any commercial purpose except for short excerpts used for reviews. (Obviously, you can copy it or print it out if you want to read it!)