I haven’t done a Chuck Wendig Challenge for a while, but his latest one worked in well with a longer story (8,000 words) I’ve just written, so I wrote this one with the idea that it would be a prequel to that, but, as often happens, it took on a life of its own.
Here’s the Challenge:
Here’s Romulus & Rhemus. (The Werewolf Version).
I had been in a confused state of mind for almost a full day, unsure of where I was and uncertain of who I was. I know who I am now. I’m on all fours, and I can clearly see my right paw extended in front of me. There are things about me that make me unique in my species, the Were. I have no scent and I can move like the wind without making a single sound, as if the thick pads of my paws absorb sound itself. Both have saved my life on occasion, and more often lately I’ve been wondering what they saved it for.
Given a clear choice between being all Human or all Were, I would take Were. When you’re a Human, you never really know who the enemy is. A Were has no such confusion; we are solitary and we have been for millennia, and what we do is driven by necessity. Humans have low and confused morality, highly situational and usually self-centred. They take without asking, destroy without compunction, and manipulate without shame. Shame. I know that feeling. Its present when the Were in me is not present and I’m unwillingly thrust back into my Human form.
News had broken that Greek oceanographers, using side-scan radar and robot submarines took footage of a dull cubic amphora with unusually precise dimensions, laying between 1.2 and 1.4 kilometres deep in the sea between Corfu and Italy. Investigating and retrieving it they had made the sensational discovery of the silver-lined amphora enclosing the largest wolf’s skull ever known to exist. The dimensions they sent were impossible to believe, unless you’re familiar with Werewolves.
Something had gone wrong; something had happened. The ship-to-shore radio signals stopped abruptly, briefly replaced by an all-frequencies distress signal that cut out soon after, only a few nautical miles from port. Two rescue ships reported carnage aboard, before their communications also ceased.
“Romulus. Frater.” a deep and growling voice roared in my mind. Romulus. Brother. No one had called me those for thousands of years, and yet the shame of them could still bring me undone. I had killed my brother, Remus, but not for the reasons myth had recorded. Remus had gone mad, slowly poisoned by the minute silver traces he’d eaten and drunk in the hope of building homeopathic resistance to it, and thus to achieve unfettered immortality.
My first enraged swing at him missed and toppled a whole wall of the temple he’d built in his honour. My second found its mark, and it separated his head from his body. The silver in his blood was minute but still enough to make my shoulder and forearm sizzle where his blood spattered me, and my paw burned then as it has burned every second since. Across the millennia it has served as a reminder of how close all species came to the consequences of mad evil.
I had his skull entombed in the amphora, and with a ship full of trusted Holies we sailed it out to the deepest ocean trench, where I flung it overboard. I had thought Remus would not rise again, in that life or any other.
Being in proximity to that amount of silver for so long had taken a toll on me. I was sick for the whole journey out, and at death’s door on the journey back. I survived, of course, long enough to see Rome built and a Senate installed, but the trickery and treachery of Humans still appalled me. Will ever enough be enough for a Human?
The legends say I died. I had planned and planted them very well indeed; they stood the test of time until they changed into legends, then fables, and then myths. Now, they are studied by few as curiosities of the anthropological history of superstition.
I breathed out, willing myself to calmness. I felt the same rippling disorientation as before. Rhemus had not been as dead as I imagined him to be. The explosions in the Psychosphere told the tale. Free of the amphora, which had broken as it ascended from the depths, he began regenerating. Harnessing the power of the Psychosphere, his energy washed out around the planet, calling to the million of us who are Were. Without knowing it, our combined psychic energies had confounded the Humans, leading them to Rhemus’ long-dead body and exhuming it before bringing it on one of the rescue ships. The oceanographers had died in the psychic tsunami unleashed, and those on the rescue ships had died under Rhemus’ claws and teeth.
An ancient evil had risen and if allowed it would grow stronger. He was blood feeding, and over seventy Human had so far been his waking meal. “Ah, Romulus! Saepe temptati, semper fideles, fratres in aeternum,” Rhemus growled into my consciousness. “Ah, Romulus! Often tested, always faithful, brothers forever,” he had said. I knew it then; he was coming for me. “Rhemus,” I growled, “Omnia mutantur, nihil interit.” Everything changes, nothing perishes. I felt him sense the ironic menace in my thoughts.
Rhemus and I had united the Were until I killed him. In the Psychosphere he was attempting to unite them again. I knew his plans then, and they were more … planetary than he had ever dared. Every species as food for the Were. Already I felt some of them responding to his call. The end of peaceful secrecy was giving way to the beginning of a true world war Humans could not win. One wolf’s madness, freed by random chance, had changed the destiny of the world.
I felt the Were rising all over the world. A million immortals with the ability to shape shift from Were to Human. By the time the Human’s worked out that they were being exterminated by Were, the time to fight back would be gone.
Rhemus had always been the cunning one. As he called all other Were, he also called to me to join him, to let the past be in the past. I knew him well, my brother. He lived in a world of hatred, stuck in a past that no longer existed. “Tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis,” I said. It was true; times change, and we change with them.
I care nothing for Humans, and I care even less for what the Were will allow themselves to become, to satisfy one wolf-man’s madness. Perhaps it was time for the truly dominant species to rise. I reached for the multi-barrelled pistol I had had made so long ago, its eight silver bullets primed to fire simultaneously. Human and Were will never have my agreement, I thought, as I pressed the barrels to my forehead.
All they will have is my dead body.