Ironically, it was in Vulpecula, the constellation of the little fox, where the persecuted werewolves finally found safety—on a nameless planet orbiting a distant, faint, nameless star. Whether the location was reached by chance or design is both unknown and unimportant. What mattered were the six moons, one always full, which waxed and waned asymmetrically in the blue-back sky, permanently keeping the lycanthropes in their altered, feral state.
They had been driven there from across seventy-seven solar systems in seventy-seven galaxies; misunderstood, feared and hounded by every species they encountered. On Aanganese, an orb of charred land and oceans of lead, anarchic cyborgs crucified werewolves along the ragged equatorial coastlines, leaving them to bake in the heat of the nearby red giant, as it expanded to destroy their incorrigible world. On the twin planets of Eulergall and Eaxexass—inhabited by the paranoid Y’Chroma, a sadistic race of half-life automatons—werewolves were stretched—howling ferociously in the agony—between the gravitational pull of the coupled worlds, until their brutalised bodies became thinner than a string of atoms. Their fate on Trauhasse had been so chilling that it had been repressed from the collective lycanthropic memory. Now, on this anonymous world, they had found safety and peace. They swore they would never allow their terrible history to be repeated; that no living thing would ever come to torment them again. This anonymous rock, where every surviving lycanthrope had made their lair, was theirs now, and theirs alone. They would defend both it and themselves until the end of time.
Bósifried was the last King of the Werewolves: A god-like beast so magnificent that he was entwined with the very fabric of the universe. From his throne in the firmament of the Beyond, he watched in helpless pity as carnivorous mutant robots massacred his brethren and drove them from ancestral lands; as their suckling young were mutilated by the steam-hissing savages of Alpha Kraucente; as werewolf turned against werewolf in desperation to survive; and as they petitioned him, Bósifried—beseeched him through sacrifice and incantation—to protect and save them. Yet their maltreatment was no more than a reflection of the abuse their godhead faced in the murky peripheries between the real and unreal megacosms. Once, not so long ago, Bósifried had enjoyed all the immunity that his divine status brought him: The respect and untouchability of being a member of the Grand Cosmic Council. Yet something had recently stirred changes in the other deities’ perceptions of Bósifried and his kin. To begin with the propaganda was mild and indirect, but soon the Grand Cosmic Council stopped consulting the Werewolf King on issues affecting his species, and overturned resolutions he had already proclaimed. Matters rapidly degenerated: New forces, new powers and new procedures began to take precedence; Bósifried was being usurped, and the attempted extermination of werewolves was the natural result. The Werewolf King himself had become a target. He had no choice, now. He was forced to run.
From his residence in the mysterious and magickal substance that holds all suns and moons and planets together, Bósifried tore himself free and took on his physical form. As he left the constraints of the cosmic fibre behind him a terrifying roar resounded through thirty galaxies, and a dozen stars imploded from the sudden imbalance in the quantum. A fissure appeared in the tissue of the universe and a streamlined craft burst out of it at tremendous speed, its cylindrical shape unwavering in its unequivocal course. At the helm of the magnificent yellow and orange craft stood Bósifried: Twelve feet and an inch on his hind legs, coarse fur, blacker than the souls of a thousand black holes, enveloping his muscular body. His thick, lengthy tail thrashed about behind him and his jaws dripped oleaginous saliva. His fiery red eyes glared like embers. He wore a simple crown of beaten gold panel, the symbol of his legitimate rank.
Within an instant of Bósifried making his escape four more lacerations cut through the universal curtain, setting off four more monstrous bombs of deadening sound. Shockwaves oscillated wildly in all directions as four more rockets departed the non-spacetime realms in hot pursuit of their lycanthropic quarry.
In the first craft were the Zlochin—a mechanical paramilitary force—resplendent in their brass and leather uniforms and wielding deadly anti-atom rifles. The second craft contained a delegation of the Judges of the Soudny Den—huge, bodiless wrinkled heads of fifteen eyes, twelve ears and one mouth—who were responsible for ensuring the legality of capital proceedings throughout all cosmic jurisdictions. The third contained a back up militia, the six-armed Fialova Brigade—bloodthirsty, amoral and murderous rogues with the ability to become invisible at will. Finally came the Moudrosti, the writers of the chronicles and annals of known and unknown galaxies. The inhabitants of each craft had a common purpose: To ensure the demise of Bósifried, and the obliteration of werewolves from history.
Bósifried increased his speed to factor Σ≥0.05/-1. Knowing that this journey was imminent he had already programmed his craft to head directly to the planet where his brethren had congregated. There he knew he would be safe. More than that, his coming would be final proof of the werewolves’ faith in him—that he had not, and never would, abandon them. Galaxies shot by in green and pink light as the King of the Werewolves strove to shake his pursuers and reach his final destination.
The first missile caught the rear end of Bósifried’s craft and ripped off a chunk of the upper fuselage. The Zlochin had been careless in their aim. Bósifried howled, snarled, and howled again, as the impact sent his ship spinning off course and his precious crown hurtling from his head, and he struggled to regain control. Rapidly, he hit several buttons on the console in front of him, activating the ship’s auto-repair function, then gripped the dirigibility lever to assume manual navigation. A few seconds later equilibrium was restored and auto-pilot reinstated. In his long, freshly sharpened claws, the King of the Werewolves picked up his crown and restored it carefully to his head. He howled again.
A voice came through on the intership communicating screen. It was unrecognisable, but its message was clear.
—Bósifried, it is folly to continue further with this preposterous charade. You cannot escape. We outnumber you four-to-one. We will soon have you surrounded. You are a wise beast, you have proven that over your time, but new laws of history are being written, and it has come to pass that you must face due process. Save your dignity, Bósifried, and surrender. Your brethren will praise the sacrifice. Alas! they must submit to the redaction in the cosmic anthropology, for their extinction has already been ordained. But listen to reason, Bósifried. Give yourself up and be remembered with the nobility that your kind richly deserves.
The King of the Werewolves howled and spat a torrent of diseased phlegm at the communicating screen. He regretted being unable to unleash his wrath on his opponents in person.
Several aeons passed, yet Bósifried did not reply to the continuing demands of his executioners-in-waiting. He had no intention of capitulating, and increased his speed to Σ≥0.06/-1. He checked his galactic longitude and latitude on the positional abacus. Seeing he was less than thirty light years from the werewolf colony he snarled and pawed at the console in delight.
A second missile hit the craft, causing substantially more damage than the first. The Zlochin had improved their aim. The ballistic tore straight through the fuselage, leaving a gaping hole from one side to the other. By sheer coincidence, neither Bósifried’s flight path nor any of the ship’s navigational equipment was damaged; the missile had failed to hit any vital apparatus. The only noticeable effect, after the initial explosion and subsequent shockwave, was a slight reduction in the spacecraft’s velocity. Bósifried moved up two gears to Σ≥0.08/-1, to compensate for the increase in drag.
He checked the positional abacus again: Fifteen light years until touchdown. He considered sending a message to his kin that he was finally coming to them, that they need do nothing in preparation except ready themselves to welcome him, but ultimately he decided against it. He thought it would be better to arrive unannounced; that way he could observe their true reaction to his visitation.
On the perception monitors Bósifried could see that the four pursuing spacecraft were gaining on him. He checked his fuel levels and cursed himself for not having set the replenishment gauge, which would have instantly replaced fuel as it was burnt. Levels were getting critically low; perhaps only eleven light years’ worth remained, and there was no time to rectify the oversight now. He performed some quick calculations on the reckoning engine. With enough propulsion it might just be possible to reach the werewolf colony even when the fuel ran out; the momentum should be enough to get him within two or three light months, from which distance he could complete his descent in the smaller landing module. The risk had to be taken. The King of the Werewolves increased speed to Σ≥0.09/-1.
A third missile attack from the Zlochin did nothing to slow Bósifried down. Another message came across the intership communicating system, the distinct tone of desperation in the voice giving Bósifried a singular reassurance that a victorious escape was within his grasp. The missile penetrated his craft in a similar manner as the second one had, causing much superficial damage but leaving all essential machinery unaffected. On the positional abacus, Bósifried could now see the exact location of the werewolf colony, and duly programmed his route into the navigational console. To be safe he duplicated the coordinates in the spacecraft’s back up routemaster. With a final blast of warp speed he left his pursuers behind.
The King of the Werewolves snarled, howled, and snarled again.
From an anonymous planet in the constellation of Vulpecula, where the universe’s entire population of werewolves had built a safe haven for themselves, a rapidly moving bright white light could be seen in the sky, approaching the planet in a steady arc. The werewolf elders feared the worst: That some unrelenting enemy had tracked them down, intent on seeing them out once and for all. Seemingly abandoned by their godhead, the formerly all-powerful Bósifried, the elders had taken it upon themselves to ensure the continued survival of their community. With the entire body of werewolf knowledge at their disposal they had constructed a devastating defence system on their new planetary home. A series of gigantic launchers, each with a warhead containing the explosive power of half a pulsar, had been set up at strategic, regular intervals all across the landscape and seascape. No matter where an attack came from, the colony would be defended.
For several months the werewolf elders followed the trajectory of the mysterious invader, holding their fire until they were sure of what they faced. By recording its progression and speed they were able to predict its path with unerring accuracy. The day of reckoning would soon be upon them.
When the day finally came, the elders knew their fears had been justified. A great cylindrical craft was bearing down on them, its luminous yellow and orange livery distinct against the dark background of the sky. The elders gave the order, and one, another, then a third warhead was launched. The three missiles hit the invading spacecraft simultaneously, blowing it to smithereens, trails of dust and debris sprawling out in every which way like the last death throes of collapsing star.
The elders did not rejoice. Their faces and hearts hung heavy with sorrow. For now that they knew they had to protect themselves, they also knew that that could mean only one thing. Their godhead, Bósifried, was dead.
Previous publishing credits include spinetinglers.co.uk prize winner (October 2011); stories in the Static Movement anthologies Cobwebs and Antiquities and Medieval Nightmares; a story in the Crooked Cat anthology Fear; and a story in the recently published ebook Things We Can Create (Stone Thread Publishing).
About the author: Christopher Bleakley is a lawyer currently working in Prague, Czech Republic. Suffering legal nightmares during the day he likes to relax with literary nightmares in the evenings. A fan of the horror and other weird fiction since childhood, particularly the classic English ghost story, he has been writing short stories in various genres for the last few years, but not nearly as many as he would like to. He has also completed one novel and is currently working on his second.