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Anne Under the Moon - Chapter One: Anne is Surprised

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Dear Diary,

Well, I don’t quite have a real diary just yet, but I can imagine I have one, and that’s almost as good really. A great old leather-bound diary with edges positively loaded with gold, and a huge and downy white quill pen dipped into dark red ink, and my handwriting elegant and beautiful on the page. Though my handwriting isn’t really beautiful, so much as crabbed and messy, and I always smudge the ink and make such a mess that the teacher is sure to scold me.

I can see that I am going to need a diary very dearly in the coming months, with all the exciting events and beautiful sights I am sure await me here at Green Gables. Here I am, tucked up in a great big bed, all to myself, not three to a bed like at the Hammonds’ place, or just a tiny wee cot like in the asylum.

Now Diary, you’re to stop me if I run away with myself, for I’ve been told I have a mind to do that, and today has been such a marvellous day full of adventures and new friends that I positively must get everything down and in the right order before I go to sleep, though I don’t know how I ever shall get to sleep, with so many exciting things to look forward to in the morning. Isn’t it always the cruellest thing, Diary, that when we want time to pass quickly it simply crawls along?

But I must go on with my story, as they say.

The coach from the asylum, and the journey by train would have been be enough for a full entry themselves, and enough excitement for a month, I should think, if they had not been positively eclipsed by the events of that night. I shall have to leave you only with the barest of impressions of the great sweeping vistas that unfolded before the ever-rushing pursuit of the locomotive, of the perfectly divine sandwiches served by a conductor in a handsome uniform, the great billows of steam in the cool Spring air. I was giddy when I arrived at the station in Bright River. Such a romantic name, I thought, Bright River. I could just imagine a river, glowing brightly in moonlight on a clear night. It was to be a full moon that night, in fact, which gave me an ominous shudder, but I gripped my luggage tightly and persevered. The old carpet-bag I took pains to imagine as a sturdy case of dark leather, as one might take on a daring sea-voyage, or see in the lobby of an elegant hotel. But my foreboding only grew, for it soon became apparent that whatever arrangements had been made for my arrival had failed terribly, for one by one the other passengers on the train departed, until just I remained on the platform, alone in the gathering dusk.

I was at the very precipice of despair, shivering in the thin yellow dress supplied to me by the asylum. The moon, full and waxy yellow was rising behind the branches of a big wild cherry tree, all white with bloom. I had just begun to make up my mind to spend the night amongst those great flower-burdened branches, when a very tall and grey-haired man appeared on the platform, the very spirit of rescue.

Oh Diary, I knew as soon as I saw Mr Matthew Cuthbert of Green Gables that he and I would be the greatest of friends. He had kind eyes, you see, and I have always said that you can tell instantly everything that you need to know about a person if they have kind eyes. I have always been a great believer that some folks you meet are simply kindred spirits, and you can tell their thoughts immediately upon seeing them. I could tell Matthew’s thoughts right away, and they were such shy and gentle thoughts as I could not help but immediately think of him as a bosom companion. I shan’t tell you all the wonderful things we discussed on the journey back to Green Gables, for there were simply too many to recount, and too many sights of such splendour and beauty that my story would just go on and on forever, and there are much more serious and foreboding things to come, diary, which I must get to immediately.

The buggy was bouncing over the rough and stony road, guided only by a lamp hung from a pole lashed to the dash rail. Full darkness had descended, and the white blossoms of the cherry trees were positively ominous looming out of the darkness, while fireflies danced in the fields. Overhead the full moon glowered down at us. I was perfectly rapturous at the beauty of it all, having seen very little of beauty in the asylum, but my rapture was broken by the panicked whickering of the sorrel mare, who I had been calling Lady, or at least imagining calling her Lady, and picturing myself riding her side saddle, which is ever so much more elegant, in a great flowing dress with puffed sleeves, across rolling meadows beneath a great castle all spires and battlements.

The horse whickered again, and stopped dead in her traces, jerking the buggy to a stop behind her.

“What in the world?” said Matthew, standing up atop the buggy. “What could have got into the thing?”

He got down from the buggy slowly, and walked to the side of the horse, which was stamping its feet and snorting. “Well, now” said Matthew, patting the panicked horse on its flanks with a gnarled old hand. He took the reigns in the other hand.

But I was not paying attention to the horse, for in the darkness behind Matthew, I saw something that struck me positively dumb with horror.

Reflecting the moonlight, two sinister yellow eyes, glimmering in the shadows beneath a cherry tree. As I watched, mute with shock, another, and then another pair of eyes appeared in the blackness, on all sides of the buggy.

Even I could now detect the scent that had frightened the horse so. It was a feral, animal smell, of musk and old blood. I recognised it at once. It was the stink of werewolves.

It isn’t everyone who can sniff out a werewolf, but I got the knack of it up the river at the Hammonds’ sawmill, where the woods were just thick with werewolves. And it usually fell to me to see them off, with Mr. Hammond drunk most of the time, and Mrs. Hammond busy with the children. So, young as I am, Diary, I suppose I know a thing or two about werewolves and how to deal with them, though they can be awfully frightening when they come upon you all at once out of the darkness.

The first werewolf to pounce was a big beta with grizzled black fur and all the hunger of a first change on him, and he came bounding from the shadows on all fours, all fangs and claws, ready to sink them into Matthew’s exposed back. The horse rolled its eyes and reared up, and Matthew went stumbling backwards towards the werewolf behind him, seconds away from calamity.

A werewolf in its first change is a terrible thing, mad with hunger, heedless to danger, without a thought in its head but for killing and eating. This one was still wearing tattered and ripped trousers, and his fur was sparse and straggly, like a worn-out rug. You could just about see a bit of human face left to him, in the nose and brow, but the teeth and eyes were all wolf. Though it might not have its full strength yet, and won’t gain it for many years, a first-change wolf can be much more dangerous than even a seasoned alpha, if you are unprepared.

But I was not unprepared. I had noticed earlier the double-barreled Remington Matthew kept under the box seat of the buggy, and the moment I first caught a whiff of werewolf, I wasted not a moment in snatching it up. I let the charging beta have it with the first barrel, just as it began its final leap at poor Matthew’s back. Being a 10-gauge, there was quite a kick as I pulled the trigger, but I dare say the werewolf felt the kick a little stronger, for I had hit him squarely in the face with the buckshot, and blew most of the fur and flesh off his skull. He landed in a heap at Matthew’s feet, leaking blood redder that my hair. Matthew, who had until that moment been quite unaware of his mortal peril, looked at it with a rather bewildered air and said “Well, now”.

But there was little time to explain to poor Matthew why he was suddenly confronted by a bloody and steaming carcass on an otherwise charming but cold Spring night. Another young werewolf was loping from out of the shadows, this time set on sinking its fangs into my own tender flesh. This was another beta, with russet fur, young and eager like the first, slavering fangs in an all-too-human face. I swung the long barrel of the Remington around and squeezed the second trigger. Again the great 10-gauge roared, and a great deal of blood sprayed out the second werewolf’s back as the blast punched a hole through his chest. He stopped in his tracks and toppled backwards into the long grass at the side of the road.

I couldn’t help but feel a little sorry for the red-furred wolf, for it is a trial to go through life with red hair, and I suppose that is the same whether you are a little girl from an orphanage, or a great furry beast with sharp fangs and a hunger for flesh.

Then I heard a low growl behind me and my blood ran cold. My spine tingled, though not in the delicious way that it does from a really thrilling poem or a piece of beautiful music, but rather in that awful way, like it does when you realise you’ve left the milk on the stove for far too long while imagining yourself elsewhere, and now its boiled over and spoiled and everything is ruined.

Slowly I turned my head. Crouched on the back of the buggy, claws sunk into to the brightly painted wood, a third beta-wolf was glowering down at me, thick saliva running in rivulets from its gaping jaws. This was an older beast, jet-black and more cunning than the others, able to master his hunger a little better. He had a full pelt and an elongated, wolfish face. His yellow eyes glimmered in the moonlight, regarding me carefully. He had seen me dispatch its two pack-mates, and lacking their hunger-madness, he was approaching me with more care.

I had emptied both barrels of the Remington, and there was not time to bring the gun to bear on the snarling beast, so even bluffing was out of the question. Instead I leapt forward off the buggy, taking with me my old carpet back, and landing rather less than daintily on the wet and muddy road.

Not a moment too soon, for the black-furred wolf on the buggy chose that moment to spring forward, landing with gnashing teeth on the very spot I had occupied moments before. I had escaped death by the merest of inches, and was not yet free from peril, for the wolf immediately sprang again towards me where I crouched on the ground.

But I sprang to meet him. From my carpet-bag I had pulled an old silver knife I took with me from the asylum, the sole possession I retained from the Hammonds’ mill. It was nothing more than a silver butter-knife honed to a wicked point, though I could imagine it was a fine sword, like from a tale of King Arthur, that a knight would swear all kinds of fearsome oaths upon, and that a lady might take as a memento of her hopeless love as she cast herself into a river to drown. If you can imagine something like that, I have always felt, it is quite impossible to feel afraid even in the direst of circumstances.

So I sprang to meet the sable-coated beast, ducking under the swing of his great talons, and fairly struck him a firm blow deep in his breast, just below the rib cage. Even the dullest silver blade will work as though it were the finest damascus steel against a werewolf during the change, and so my little butter knife slipped quite easily into the great black beast. He at once began to thrash and claw at me, quite in agony from the small wound, which was hissing and spitting as the blood spilled out over the silver. There was nothing for it but to cling with all my might to the werewolf’s back, my legs wrapped around his hips and my free hand knotted in the thick fur at his neck. All the while, I was working my blade deeper in the wound, opening a great gaping rent in the werewolf’s belly, from which poured a terrific volume of blood and looping entrails. Quite soaked now from the werewolf’s blood, I stood up from the corpse, still twitching even in death.

“Where is the alpha?” I thought to myself, scanning the dark woods around the road. Werewolves will not form into a pack without an alpha to keep them in line. Left to themselves, the betas will just as soon chase deer in the woods or turn on each other as they will hunt human prey. A coordinated ambush in the woods could only mean that an alpha was present. But where was he?

There was no time to ponder. My priority was to get Matthew to safety. The poor man was staring at me in the most befuddled way, quite unable to decide which question he wanted to ask first. The horse was still stamping and tossing its head in fright, though Matthew still kept a firm hand on its bridle. I thanked Providence for his cool head in keeping hold of the horse, for werewolves are liable to drive many folks into a panic, and had the horse bolted, we would have been in considerably more danger.

I hurriedly undid the buckles that held the horse in the traces of the buggy. We’d need speed more than comfort for this ride. Matthew seemed to get the idea, for, despite the lack of stirrups, he hauled himself up onto the horse’s back, and I clambered up behind him. Then we rode, leaving the buggy, and the reeking corpses of the werewolves in the darkness of that moonlit spring night among the drifting cherry blossoms.

It was to look at those beautiful white blossoms one last time that I turned around on the horse to look behind us, and that is when I saw the most surprising sight.

In a beam of quite brilliant moonlight, figures were moving. The long and sinuous form of an omega wolf, with fur of the palest grey, was twining around the legs of a young human girl. She stood in the moonlight, pale skin glowing near as bright as the moon itself, her black hair like silk falling down her back. I suppose she was about my own age, though not skinny like me. I could tell despite the distance that she would have the most perfectly dimpled elbows.

At first I thought some poor unfortunate had stumbled into the path of the werewolves, to suffer the fate we narrowly avoided. But the girl was quite calm. Her hand idly caressed the fur of the great grey omega. Behind her, a whole pack of wolves emerged from the woods. As I watched, they struck up a fearsome baying under the moon. The girl raised her face from the carnage around her, and looked directly at me. I saw such an expression of rage and hate on her face as I have ever seen in my short life. Standing in the moonlight, surrounded by howling wolves, and glaring at me, she looked just like a figure from Roman myth, a pagan moon goddess, a huntress. Our eyes met, and a thrill ran through me, for it was as if I could instantly tell what she was thinking, but her thoughts were such uncanny and furious things that I positively reeled from them.

Oh Diary, it is late now and I can feel sleep beginning to tug on my eyelids as I write, or rather, as I imagine writing. Who was that girl, diary? Will I see her again? If she is somehow a friend of werewolves, then I suppose that we must be terrible enemies, and yet I can’t believe that a girl that beautiful can be completely evil. I suppose I shall have to let the future unfold as it will, and remain content to imagine all the adventures I shall shortly have in discovering the answers to these questions.

Yours faithfully,

Anne (or Cordelia) Shirley