Oh I looked human. Most of the time. For three days out of the month, we were something else entirely. My family were Wulfen, and given there haven't been wolves in England for centuries, we'd become adept at avoiding detection. Being smaller and lighter than my brothers, I trained as a Tracker, and I was good at it. Very good. My brothers could have been jealous, but they had no other sisters, and protected me as the Warriors they were.
So it was that I came to be skirting the remains of an old village, late one spring evening. Some of those places avoided much trouble, being so far out of the way, and the inhabitants continued on much as they did before, growing their own food and bartering goods. They were always happy to see me, bringing with me news of the 'outside world'. Not all villages escaped, and the burnt out buildings of Woldendale put me on my guard. Riot Boys had been here - and might still be around.
I found myself in a pub car park on the edge of the village. The pub wasn't gutted by fire, but the windows were full of broken glass, the walls coated by thick graffiti. The Riot Boys probably drank it dry before they moved on. I lifted my head and let the scents of the air wash over me. Nothing - human or undead. I didn't think there was anything worth salvaging in Woldendale but I had to check.
I picked my way across the car park, and something shiny caught my eye. I padded closer, and saw the remains of a bracelet lying on the ground. Several cracked beads still clung to the nylon thread, although most of them had scattered across the tarmac. I picked up the fragile remains and sniffed, but heavy rain had washed away any traces of its owner. Now the bracelet just smelled of bad weather and petrol. I didn't have to be clairvoyant to see how it ended up here. Some hapless girl, perhaps eager to meet a boyfriend, ignored curfew and crossed the car park. With both revenants and Riot Boys in the area, she stood no chance. She encountered one or the other - or in a worst case scenario, both - and in the ensuing scuffle, the bracelet broke, and spilled its beads on the ground. I sighed. Nothing I could do for her now.
A scent caught my nose. Rotting flesh and hair gel – particularly cheap hair gel, considering its pungent aroma. I froze, trying to gauge the direction. Someone shambled out of an ancient lean-to at the back of the pub. He cut a strange figure, with his disintegrating skin, bloodshot eyes, and hair thick with styling product. He sported the typical spiky crop favoured by the Riot Boys, and was even clad in their tracksuit and trainers uniform. I could see acne scars among the patches of rot on his face – he couldn’t have been more than fifteen when he died.
He uttered a single moan and lurched towards me. I cursed myself for not keeping a weapon to hand, and scrabbled at the buckles on my bag. I backed away across the car park as the revenant ambled closer – not quite hurrying, but not taking his time either. I fumbled with the strap and the buckle finally gave. My foot caught on a pothole in the tarmac, sending me sprawling backwards. The flap of my satchel opened and scattered the contents of my bag across the car park.
The revenant smiled, a horrifying sight of missing teeth and misshapen lips, and bore down on me. I scrambled backwards, and my hand found smooth wood. My fingers curled around a handle and I swung upwards with all my strength as the revenant pounced. The head of my hammer collided with the revenant’s skull in an explosion of bone and blood. My would-be attacker keeled over, the hammer still buried in his brain.
I pulled the hammer free and wiped it clean on the revenant’s tracksuit top. I gathered the rest of my things and dumped them back in the satchel, ever mindful that where there was one revenant, there would no doubt be more.
A low moaning erupted within the lean-to. I recognised the sound – humans might think it a sound of mourning, but the moan, interrupted by snarls, was a revenant argument. They likely didn’t know I was there, but if they came outside, they would. My brothers would storm the building, slaughtering all the revenants they found, and they’d celebrate later with a feast of venison and ale.
But that was my brothers. I was on my own. I may be Wulfen but I wasn’t stupid. The revenants of Woldendale could wait. So I did the only thing I could. I ran.
* * *
Bracelet by L1l1th, tarmac by Blackcatm, edits by me. Concept of a broken bracelet in a car park from Nerine Dorman.