Dead Girl Moon Chapter One



JUNE 4, 2006


They called themselves hunters because hunting was their job. They wore uniforms like fake soldiers in movies—all black like they wanted to blend in with the night itself—but they never turned the lights off, so they stood out against the white cinderblock walls and concrete balconies like dead trees and a winter sky. They all had a special badge on their shoulders with a skull, two smoking guns, and some scribbles underneath it. The skull was a wolf skull. Like hers, her real skull anyway. Having two bodies, Doctor Gregor said, was complicated.

One day, little Regina Slaughter asked Tiffany what the scribbles were. Tiffany said they were words, Gluttons of Chronos.

“It’s their pack, I guess.” Tiffany, fellow captive and wolf-girl, bit her lip and crossed her arms tightly over her chest.

“They’re titans?” Regina asked with her girl-skull, girl-mouth. Dead Daddy told her all about the titans. They got eaten by their children or something—she couldn’t remember very much anymore. Most of everything before the cages was gray dishwater in her mind. When Regina was wild she didn’t know any other werewolves. After her parents died she wanted to abandon her girl-shape forever and live in the woods for the rest of her life. Only there weren’t any woods, only tall buildings, and garbage-strewn alleys.

“I don’t know.” The older girl leaned stiffly into the poly-glass wall of her cage and didn’t say anything else. 

Tiffany’d been here a month already, but she still wasn’t used to her cage. She had shoulder-length blonde hair that grew out of dark brown roots. Her skin was a pretty golden-brown, and she had freckles across her cheeks and the bridge of her nose. Tiffany was seventeen and the coolest person Regina had ever met. She had this awesome snarl that scared one of the younger, inexperienced hunters so bad he dropped her food tray when he tried to slide it through the slot in her poly-glass door. Tiffany didn’t get anything to eat that night, but that only made her more of a badass in Regina’s eyes.

Regina was nine years old when the Gluttons of Chronos caught her. She figured she had to be somewhere around eleven now. Regina’d been here, locked up, as Tiffany said, for a little over two years. She knew that much because Doctor Gregor told her. The hunters had caught her after she ran away from home. After her parents died.

“Chronos was a titan.” Regina tried to keep the uncertainty from her voice, tried to sound confident. “My Dead Daddy told me.” She wished she could remember better.

“If that’s what you think it is, then that’s what it is,” Tiffany said.

The hunters said people like Regina and Tiffany and all the others in the cages were monsters. Abominations. But really, they were only werewolves. They could feel the moon, even during the day, and whenever they needed to, they could use that feeling to change.

Or they would have if they weren’t hobbled. The hunters bound the wolves with silver collars that constantly burned their skin. Along with the silver, Doctor Gregor poisoned them. The chemicals he put in their food made them numb to the moon, and the silver kept them from trying to shift and kill the hunters who caged them.

The only door to Regina’s cage had a slot in the center edged with silver so she wouldn’t try to reach her arms through or bite the hands that fed her. The floor was roughly sanded concrete and had a drain in the center. She had air holes in the poly-glass walls, a cot, and a toilet. No blankets. No pillows.

There was a big digital clock on the wall with large red numbers. It was there so the hunters could keep track of their shifts, but Regina liked reading the time too. It counted the hours, minutes, and seconds. She could spend hours watching the fast flashing numbers, and they were especially comforting at night after Doctor Gregor’s special shots.

Most of her neighbors, the other werewolves, didn’t like the clock. They would look up at it and cry or turn away and mope until food or bullets distracted them.

The cages were set up in two rows of ten, the rows split by a gap six feet wide and forty feet long. The hunters painted markers every five feet. When one of Regina’s neighbors was not compliant and was well enough to put up a fight, the hunters would put him at the one-foot marker and make him run down to the other end. They would shoot at him and take bets on how far he would get before he fell. Anyone who didn’t watch their games would be shot as well. The hunters only used regular bullets, not silver. Silver was for killing, and killing, Regina learned, was mercy. If a hunter killed a werewolf he—or she—couldn’t feel pain anymore. Their pain was a public display.

Regina never did anything bad enough to deserve that kind of punishment. Or she had, but the hunters thought a little girl wouldn’t be good enough sport.

The wounds from those punishments healed with barely any traces, but the excavations and medicines from Doctor Gregor’s hands lingered in everyone. Sometimes Regina missed feeling the night and the full moon so much her stomach hurt and she couldn’t move without throwing up. The doctor said it was just a reaction to the bane in her food. When he said things like that Regina felt better; her sadness turned to anger, and angry always felt better than sad.

A catwalk went all the way around the perimeter of the holding area so the hunters could patrol without getting too close. On the opposite wall, a staircase led up to the guardhouse. There was a door next to the guardhouse, and beyond that door was a room full of assault rifles and silver bullets. Beyond that door was TV, pizza, and—most importantly—beyond that door was another door that opened to the outside world.

At least, that’s what Regina hoped was beyond the door. She hadn’t seen what the rest of the compound was like when she arrived because she was unconscious at the time. Tiffany, however, had been awake and saw the hunters’ break room and their armory.

Through Tiffany, Regina learned what the hunters did to them was not legal. She also learned that the world legal did not apply to her because she wasn’t human—none of them were even though some of her neighbors pretended to be. Regina hadn’t been pretending when they caught her, and she wasn’t about to start now that she was stuck in a glass box.

Even though Regina was a girl-wolf, she didn’t take up space or “expend resources”, as Doctor Gregor said. The hunters liked that. She hated making them happy but her neighbors needed the food more than she did, especially in the throws of Doctor Gregor’s excruciations. As the big digital clock ran through time her neighbors writhed and moaned on their cots, bloody sores erupting all over their bodies. Day and night they thrashed with nauseous convulsions or threw themselves against their poly-glass walls to dull the pain with unconsciousness or a different kind of torture.

Sometimes they would lie unconscious for days and wake confused and delirious. Sometimes they would stay that way, raving in agony until they were taken away and Doctor Gregor did something that would either fix them or they would disappear and never be seen again.

Every week the hunters let the werewolves shower and gave them new sets of clothes. They also let them outside in a closed-off, dirt yard with high concrete walls topped by looping coils of razor wire. The hunters never let the werewolves out at night, never let them see the moon except as a ghost frying in the daylight.

When one of the werewolves died the hunters would always find another from the wild to take his place. 

So far, Tiffany was the only other girl Regina had seen since her capture. All the rest of her neighbors were men. They came from real werewolf packs and real families. Since Regina and Tiffany were the only girls, the other wolves treated them with either extreme indifference or extreme kindness. Regina got most of the indifference even before Tiffany arrived because she was so young. Sometimes it hurt her to see them give all their kindness to Tiffany.

Tiffany was everything they couldn’t have and she knew it. The knowing made Tiffany sad, but she tried not to show it, she didn’t want to make things worse. Tiffany didn’t treat Regina like a kid. She didn’t ignore her either, the way most of their other neighbors did. Tiffany answered every question Regina asked and told her everything she knew about the hunters, even though it wasn’t much. 

All Tiffany knew for sure was the hunters were never going to let them out.

end credits

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