A Wolf In the Fold

From the Story Arc: He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother

Previous Story in the Arc: Night Train by Heavy Brother (Wednesday, July 20, 2005)

Next Story in the Arc: A Wolf In the Fold, Part Two by Heavy Brother (Wednesday, July 27, 2005)

(posted Wednesday, July 20, 2005)

Heavy Brother scrutinized the mud on the tiles of the hallway, and felt a chill go down his spine. Among the scuffmarks and children’s footprints were massive paw prints, splayed to indicate immense weight.

The principal, a skittish old man, stood behind him with a terrified security guard. “The police are on their way. What can we do?”

“Move fast,” Heavy Brother said. “This wolf sucker is displaying what we call ‘learned behavior.’ He ain’t snatching one kid off the streets for a meal; he’s herding them all.” Wonder where the wolves picked that up, he thought.

The men blanched. “That hallway dead-ends. There are stairs down to the basement.”

“A den.” He frowned. “How long?”

“No more than five minutes.”

“Dig. Your rent-a-cop is coming with me. You wait here and send backup when it arrives. I put in a call to my people too.”

“Okay,” the principal said. He pushed the guard forward. “What should I tell them?”

No confident boast came to mind, only dread. “Tell ‘em to bring a big stick,” he said.

He took the guard by the shoulder and pushed him forward. As he did so, he lightened the man’s gravity pull, and his own. Their echoing footsteps disappeared.

“Forget your gun,” Heavy Brother said. “Get out that flashlight.”

“We’re not going to kill it?”

“We can’t.” They peered down the dark stairs. The sound of children weeping came to them. “These things are bulldozers with fangs. We’ll get the kids out of there, and then we’ll worry about the big, bad wolf.”

They ran down the stairs, taking them four at a time without the grip of gravity to slow them. The elementary school’s basement was off-limits to the public for a reason: it resembled a dungeon. The concrete walls, stained with residue, and cobwebbed light bulbs in protective cages would be enough to give a child nightmares. Condensation dripped from ducts, echoing throughout the hallway, a contrast to their silent footfalls. The children’s voices became more distinct, pleading for help, begging for mercy. So far, no screaming in agony. Heavy Brother guessed they had but minutes left.

“The boiler room,” the guard said in a tremulous whisper. “At the end of the hall.”

“Keep that light ready,” Heavy Brother said.

They sprinted down the hall, avoiding puddles. The children’s voices grew louder. One girl’s voice, louder than the rest, repeated “no, no.”

“Shit. He’s about to start dinner.” They reached a turn in the hallway. Muddy footprints followed the turn, terminating in a steel door a few feet beyond.

“That’s it,” the guard said.

Heavy Brother took a breath to focus himself. Time dilated, dripped to a halt; every second beat down on his back. He looked for gravity strands, wrapped them around himself in layers: zero-G, fifty-G, zero-G. Gravity armor, giving him the strength and resilience of a fifty-G being in a zero gravity world. Once a minor aspect of his powers, now it was all he had left after running out of Heavy Serum.

“Open the door and shine your flashlight in that sucker’s eyes. Get him to charge you.” He shoved the guard forward. “Go on, move.”

“But…but…” The guard’s eyes were wide with fear.

The girl in the boiler room screamed.

Swallowing, the guard spun around the corner and kicked the door open. Heavy Brother saw the light reflect against the dim walls. A chorus of children screamed in time with the roar of the Warwolf.

“He’s coming at me!” The guard shrieked. Heavy Brother listened to the footfalls of the beast. After two, he guessed it was nearly on top of the guard.

Hands outstretched, Heavy Brother threw himself at the concrete wall. It shattered from his weight, concrete chunks and steel rebars falling to the floor. His momentum carried him right into the Warwolf’s legs, performing a tackle his old football coach would have lauded.

The Warwolf’s roar filled the boiler room, deafening everyone. The creature topped ten feet, weighed at least a ton, and seemed to have steel cables for muscles. With his augmented weight, Heavy Brother toppled the beast, but it scrabbled for a foothold underneath him at once. Razor-sharp claws on hands and feet scraped against his gravity shell, trying to disembowel him.

“Get the kids out of here! Use that hole,” he shouted over the monster’s howls. Twenty children crouched in fear against the opposite wall.

The guard hesitated, staring at the enormous creature, twice the size of the man who tried to hold it down. Then he shined his light on the children.

“Let’s go, kids. C’mon!” He edged around the combatants. The children recovered from their shock and flowed through the ragged hole. It tore at their clothes, but not one child stopped.

Heavy Brother seized a head-sized piece of concrete. Willing the gravity pull around it to quadruple, he smashed it into the Warwolf’s maw. Blood and spittle sprayed his skin; he regretted his decision to keep his old costume with its bare chest and straps. The wolf heaved, and he knew he’d lost his momentary advantage. Two legs wedged under him, extended, and cast him into the wall. He hit hard, though in his current gravitic state he barely felt it.

A child scrambled past him. A handful were blocked from escape by the struggle. Heavy Brother circled the wolf, hoping to distract it from its intended meal.

It didn’t work. With inhuman speed, the beast plucked up a child and made to bite into him. Heavy Brother sprang forward to touch its hairy arm; with contact, he forced every strand of gravity nearby to coagulate around its elbow. Finding the child to suddenly weigh as much as a locomotive, the wolf’s arm fell limp. The boy collapsed to the floor, bleeding from the wolf’s grip.

“Run, kid!” Heavy Brother placed two hands on the beast’s chest and pushed. It staggered back. Crying, the boy fled.

The reek of the wolf reached his nose, combined with sour odors of urine, mildew, and burning coal. It wiped its mouth and gave him a smile that looked eerily human.

“Little ones good eating,” it said in a voice like asphalt. “You weak. Punish you.”

He blinked against the sooty air. Something felt wrong. “I’d like to see you try, you ugly sucka.” Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the guard peeking through the hole in the wall.

“They’re all out,” the man whispered. The wolf jerked its head at the man’s voice; he squealed and disappeared. Heavy Brother moved to block the hole.

“You and me, Fido,” Heavy Brother said. With the children safe, the danger he was in became clear. His grip on the strands of gravity wavered. Warwolves might not have been a challenge for him in ’69, at the height of his powers, but today, in his state, he didn’t stand a chance.

Not that it ever stopped him.

With an ear-splitting howl, it pounced on him, using its powerful legs to bound forward as Heavy Brother stumbled back out of the way. It slammed him against the ground with its immense bulk. Heavy Brother put up his hands to ward off a blow, but the wolf snaked its head down and bit him in the neck.

The gravity shell should have protected him. It had warded off bullets, missiles, superhuman punches, even fire. The wolf’s maw could have enveloped his entire head. Its fangs dug into his flesh half an inch, before the remaining gravitic flow stopped it. The pressure of its bite nevertheless made his bones grate. He screamed in pain. Hot breath obscenely caressed his skin, now wet with his own blood. The wolf’s fangs just missed his carotid artery.

Heavy Brother clawed at the thing’s face; his earlier strength had drained away. Glimpses of the gravity strands surrounding them flashed by, like a strobe light; there was nothing to seize on, nothing to manipulate. The gravity shell that protected him dropped, layer by layer.

“You taste good,” it said.

He felt the wolf’s weight increase as it bore down on him and his defenses faded. It tore pieces of his flesh away as it pulled back for another bite. Heavy Brother couldn’t move, couldn’t protect himself, couldn’t fight back. His ears roared; pain half-blinded him.

He was going to die.