At a young age, Chris Stenson had success winning young author contests and his love for writing continued throughout high school and into adulthood.  He is the founder of a local writer’s group that has hosted nationally-known authors as guest speakers. His short story “Two Bobbies” was selected for inclusion in the Horror Writers Network Anthology, The Gates of Chaos and was published in March 2021. He is currently working on his debut novel Sins of the Mother which will be released by Sage’s Tower Publishing in late 2021 or early 2022.

by Chris Stenson

A savage cry cut through the forest.

Animals of all sizes stood at rapt attention. Minutes passed. Ears twitched and nostrils flared. A small creature broke from the snowy undergrowth and dashed towards freedom, zigzagging around tree trunks and diving through thickets of thorns, employing whatever acrobatics it could to keep death at bay.

A darkness blacker than the shadows followed. Rage built inside. The hunger grew. The tiny morsel wouldn’t sedate its appetite. The creature desired flesh—tender and sweet, and blood, rich and warm.


A full moon rose above the skeletal birches and laden pines. The orb’s pale winter light reflected weakly off the road. The forest that lined US-71 North between Blackduck and International Falls swallowed the illumination, creating an inky corridor the headlights barely penetrated.

Large finger-drifts inched onto the road, and the car punched through the snow, sending plumes of ice crystals into the air: pinpricks of water droplets onto the windshield, which froze in-between the sweeps of the wiper blades.

Their steady rhythm kept lulling Jonathan into submission, his eyes inching closed and a few seconds later, snapping open. This cycle would repeat every few minutes. Tonight, his customary sunflower seeds and caffeine had failed to keep him alert.

He’d been on the road all week trying to sell copy paper in a dwindling market filled with paperless computers. The outside temperature inched towards ten below. If he fell asleep and buried his car in the ditch, no one would find his corpse until spring.

On his right, a frantic yellow-eyed creature dashed out from the trees and across the snow-filled ditch. With what seemed to be no second thoughts, the small animal hurtled itself in front of the car. A thump jolted Jonathan to full alert. “Holy shit!”

He slowed the car, pulled over to the shoulder, and glanced in the rear-view mirror. The animal lay unmoving. Debra, his wife and a veterinarian, would have told him to be careful when approaching a wounded animal, even one as small as this rabbit. It might not be dead, she would say if she were here.

He’d have to go outside in the cold to see what he hit. Jonathan hated winter. He slipped on a hat, a pair of ski gloves and reached into the glovebox for a flashlight. 
The snow crunched under his feet, and his fogged breath circled his head as he walked along the highway. The frigid air bit into his cheekbones and numbed his fingers. A dozen paces from the car, the wind blew in earnest, and the previously light, wispy snow turned into larger flakes, obscuring his sight.

He zipped his down-filled parka to the top, pulled up the hood, and leaned into the wind. He kept pushing himself forward because he didn’t want the animal to suffer. There was a gun in the car under the seat if it came to that.

At the edge of the forest, red eyes pierced the blowing snow and fixated on Jonathan. A deep growl filled the space between them. A large wolf stepped out of the shadow and trotted toward the fallen animal. Jonathan stopped mid-step, a cold sweat prickling his skin. Belatedly he wished the gun was in his hand instead of on the floorboard.

He pointed his light at the wolf, and the creature snarled, hackles raised. “Wow. You can have it,” he said, arms raised in submission. “It’s all yours.” 

The wolf eyed Jonathan, licked the blood from the rabbit’s head, picked the wounded creature up, and crunched. The rabbit squealed, and the wolf let the lifeless body flop to the ground. 

Jonathan stepped back, his legs quivering. 

Almost smiling, the wolf’s tongue snaked out and wiped the blood and tissue from its lips.
Jonathan shuffled farther away.

The wolf ripped off one of the dead rabbit’s legs. Blood dripped off its glistening fangs, and Jonathan swallowed hard. While adjusting his grip on the flashlight, the light slipped from his hand and fell, disappearing into a snowdrift. Trying his best not to panic, he slowly stepped backwards toward the car, and to safety.

His wife’s words kept him from sprinting. Be calm. Take slow and measured steps. They are more afraid of you than you of them. Don’t look them in the eye. They’ll perceive a threat and attack.

This wolf did not appear to be afraid of him or anything else.

Another step backward. Then another. Jonathan’s focus never left the wolf. He kept going until the back of his thighs hit the bumper. Terror gripped him, but he swallowed his urge to scream. He inched his way to the driver’s door and slid inside. A wave of relief washed over him. He’d made his way to safety.

The sudden thump on the hood caused him to scream as the wolf leaped at him. Fangs grated against the windshield, claws scraped against metal. Hungry red eyes peered at him like he was the next meal. The creature growled, lowered its shoulder, and slammed into the glass.

In his haste to escape, Jonathon’s gloved fingers slipped on the gearshift. The engine roared until he ground into first gear, the car lurched forward, and stalled. “Son-of-a-bitch.”

He leaned forward, reaching for the gun. His fingers scrabbled around on the car floor, but they made no contact with the gun. It must have slid backwards, out of reach, unless he were to get out of the car, which he wouldn’t do.

He restarted the car and rolled forward. The wolf bounded off the hood and kept pace. Veering off, the creature disappeared into the depths of the forest. Jonathan’s heartbeat slowly returned to normal as he sped down the snow-covered highway. 

An angry howl filled the night. Jonathan pulled over to quiet his shaking hands.


Startled by his ringing cell phone, Jonathan frantically searched until his fingers touched the cold, plastic case. He grabbed the phone off the dash, his adrenaline kicking in.

“Where are you?”

“What...?” He looked outside. The halo of the rising sun peeked through the trees. “Oh, shit. What time is it?”

“Almost eight a.m.”

“I must have dozed off. I pulled over...so tired.”

“You should have called me. I was getting worried.”

“I know. I’m sorry.”

“You promised.”

“I know. I know.”

All the way home, while the snow blew and the sun rose, Jonathan imagined seeing the wolf’s blood-red eyes and murky shadow everywhere. Nerves taut, he needed a hot shower to soothe his fragile psyche. In the kitchen, the headline from the paper caught his attention. A second girl had gone missing in Koochiching County. He dropped his bags in the bedroom, kissed his wife, and headed for the bathroom.

Debra stood in the hallway when Jonathan exited, a towel wrapped around his midriff. 

“What happened to the car?” she asked.

“What do you mean?”

“There are scratches all over the hood.”

Jonathan’s pulse quickened. So it hadn’t been a dream. “Let me go check.”

Taking slow, deliberate steps to the garage, he did not want to appear anxious or worried, but his mind was racing with possibilities. He found long, deep scratches covering the hood. He ran his finger along the bare metal grooves.

“Are you all right?”

Jonathan spun around. He repeated, “What do you mean?”

“Are you going to tell me what happened?”

“I don't know.”

“Or don’t remember,” Debra said, hands on her hips. “You’re not telling me the truth. Did you get into an accident? Or did you have a black-out and that’s why you don’t know?” 

“I haven’t been drinking! I swear I was sober last night.”

She raised an accusatory eyebrow.

“You wouldn’t believe me,” he muttered.

“Try me.”

He told her about the wolf. 

Debra didn’t believe him. He received the standard speech: wild animals fear humans and avoid us whenever possible. There was no reasonable explanation why a wolf would act that way.

Unless you provoke it. 


All weekend, fractured conversations interrupted long moments of uncomfortable quiet. The tension built until Jonathan’s skin glistened with nervous moisture. Debra believed he had started drinking again, and he needed to prove her wrong, to make up for his mistakes of the past.

After Debra left to check on the weekend guests at the clinic, Jonathan went to the grocery store. He would cook her something special, buy flowers, and go all out to show her how much he loved her. 

In the produce section, with a package of kale tucked under his arm, he encountered a blond-haired beauty that bumped into him and whispered in his ear. “No way I could eat that. I prefer biting into something meaty.”

He tried to ignore her and moved to the broccoli section. Several minutes later, he caught her staring at him again. Once again, he ignored her.

Suddenly she was behind him in the checkout lane. “Do I know you?”

“We’ve met once.”

“We have? Where?” Jonathan smiled. “Give me a hint.”

“You’ll remember,” she said, “I promise you, I’m not forgettable. Some night you’ll wake up and remember exactly when and where we met.”

“Look,” he told her, “I’m changing my ways. Whatever may or may not have happened between us, it’s over.”

She shook her head. Her cold eyes and gaze made him shiver. A memory flickered deep in the folds of his brain. She was right. They had met before, but where? How could he forget meeting such a beautiful woman?

He stopped at the florist for a bouquet of wildflowers. 

A kiss of a breeze tickled the back of Jonathon’s neck. He swatted at it. The woman from the grocery store stood right behind him. “Are you following me?”

“I couldn’t get enough of your musty scent. You smell tasty.”

“You’re insane. Get away from me,” he told her.

“Lighten up. I’m kidding. I just moved to town and needed to do some shopping. International Falls is small. There aren’t many choices.”

He relaxed a bit at that. “Why would you move to International Falls? Especially in the winter?”

“I start a new job on Monday. The Rainy River Paper Mill. I’m the new Purchasing Manager.”

Dread percolated through Jonathan’s veins. They would see a lot of each other, and he found her irresistible. For the first time in twelve months, the urge to drink resurfaced. And when he drank, he cheated. He couldn’t do that to Debra again.


The large white she-wolf sat at the edge of the trees, its enormous body obscured in a veil of white. The hunter sniffed the air, the insatiable hunger for flesh and blood becoming uncontrollable. The child was close. The creature’s mouth watered in anticipation. 

The wolf waited. At times the swirling snow swallowed the child, the young girl’s eyes just a glint in the early evening light. The scent wafting from the girl whetted the creature’s hunger. The vicious fury kept building. The child scampered farther from the house. The wolf stepped out from the shadows and inched forward. The wind howled, and the house disappeared in the twilight. 

The girl turned, her eyes growing large with fear. She and the wolf stood at the edge of the yard, scrutinizing each other. The child blinked first, screamed, and ran. The wolf lunged, sinking its fangs into the girl’s snowsuit, teeth piercing the girl’s shoulder. The girl tried to keep her balance, but the wolf yanked her down. 

Another scream, swallowed by the wind, never reached the house.

The wolf clamped down on the girl’s ankle. A gray jagged edge of bone poked through the skin. Blood splattered in a hideous pattern. The girl kept screaming as the wolf dragged her towards the trees, leaving a smear of blood in the snow. 

The house door opened and a woman ran out. “Callie! What’s happening? Where are you? Callie!”


Debra enjoyed the flowers and the supper. After washing and drying the dishes, she and Jonathan snuggled on the couch. Baxter, their English Springer Spaniel, sat up, his hackles raised. His deep, angry growl resonated inside the living room. Jonathan pulled his dog close. “Bax, what’s the matter?”

The dog scampered to the window, and Jonathan followed. A cacophony of angry dogs was barking outside. He pulled the curtain aside. A light snow drifted down. Other than the dogs, the neighborhood appeared quiet. He went back and snuggled with his wife. 

A few minutes later, someone knocked at the door. A child’s voice cried out. "Open up. Open up. Let me in.”

Jonathan rushed to the door and flung it open. No one was there. He stepped onto the porch and walked to the edge, but his were the only footprints in the newly fallen snow. He scratched his head. 

"Who was at the door?”

“No one,” Jonathan said.
Fifteen minutes later, the neighbor dogs bayed again, and Baxter attacked the front door, his teeth bared. Jonathan grabbed Baxter by the collar and pulled him away. 

This time a man’s voice followed the knocking. “Open up. Open up. Let me in.”

Jonathan let go of Baxter's collar. “Baxter, stay.”

No one was at the door this time either. Jonathan stepped outside and scanned the block. “This isn’t funny," he yelled. “It’s too damn cold for this shit.”

Before he was able to sit again, someone else knocked. “Son of a bitch.” 

On the way to the door, Debra grabbed his arm. “Don’t. Maybe we should call the police.”

Baxter stood in front of the door, his hackles raised, and a deep growl thrummed in his throat. Jonathan studied his wife and the dog. “No police.” He opened the door and recognized the woman immediately.

A figure clad in white brushed off the snow from the fur that lined the hood. Baxter lunged forward. The figure pulled the hood from her face, and brilliant blue eyes fixated on the dog. Baxter stopped short, yipped, and peed on the tile floor before slinking away, tail tucked between his legs.

Debra let out a gasp and hurried towards the door. “Ingrid, what are you doing here?” she asked.

“Can’t I visit my sister and her husband?”

“No. I told you to stay out of my life.”

“Fate is fate.” Ingrid smiled, shaking her head.

Debra’s face turned white. She stiffened, and her eyes darted across the room. “Get out.”

Zipping up her white parka, Ingrid laughed and turned to Jonathan. “It was nice meeting you.”

When Jonathan glanced out the window, Ingrid was already gone.

“What was that all about?” Jonathan asked, hoping his wife had not seen the recognition in his eyes and his lie by omission. “I never knew you had a sister. What’s the story here?”

“She’s dangerous,” was all Debra would say.


When Ingrid left, the romance Jonathan expected left with her. Debra fell asleep during the movie, and he watched the ending with Baxter on his lap. He covered his wife with a blanket and went to bed to read.

Mid-chapter, the phone rang. “Yes, Debra’s here. Just a moment.”

In the living room, he prodded his wife awake. Handing her the phone, he said, “It’s your work.”

Debra listened, nodded, and hung up. “There was a large animal attack on a dairy farm north of Blackduck. Two cows need medical attention. I’m not sure what time I’ll be home.” She kissed him on the lips. “Don’t wait up.”

And so he didn’t.


Jonathan’s alarm sounded for the second time when Debra returned home hours later and walked into their bedroom, her arm bandaged to her shoulder.

“Oh my God. What happened? Are you okay?”

“I was stitching a calf’s ripped flank when the wolf attacked again. Luckily, a blast from the farmer’s shotgun sent the beast fleeing back into the woods before it could do more than bite me.” 

“A large wolf?”

“Yes.” Debra frowned. “A hungry, rogue wolf can be dangerous. They don’t always follow the typical patterns.”


“No, just puncture wounds. I’ll make an appointment for rabies shots.”

Jonathan wrapped his arms around his wife, thankful she survived. He wanted to blurt out, “I told you so!” but he didn’t think she would appreciate the sentiment. 


Monday morning came too fast. Debra’s injury had become inflamed Sunday afternoon, and they had spent nearly the rest of the day in the Emergency Room. Jonathon rubbed his tired eyes, wondering if he’d make it through the day. A knock on his office door pulled him away from the computer screen and the dreadful sales numbers. 

Peter, his boss, and the blond-haired woman stalking him in the grocery store stepped into his office. “Jonathan, I would like to introduce you to Rebecca Vargr, the new Renewable and Sustainable Purchasing Manager.”

Jonathan stood and offered his hand. “Nice to meet you.”

Rebecca smiled and placed her long, elegant fingers in his. A warm sensation flooded his chest. If Peter left, he would take her on the desk.

She smiled and winked. “Peter says you are the man.”

Jonathan noticed that Peter looked confused. “Peter is too kind.”

“You’ll be working a lot together,” Peter said. “You need to get Rebecca up to speed as quickly as possible.”

“I look forward to learning from the best,” Rebecca said, and once again Jonathan caught Peter’s odd expression. He hoped Peter couldn’t read minds.


The next couple of weeks passed in a blur. Meetings, tours, lunch dates, and plenty of flirting by Rebecca complicated his life. He did his best to keep their relationship professional, and he made sure Debra wasn’t ignored at home, but he struggled.

“Is everything all right at home?” Rebecca asked, standing in Jonathan’s office doorway.

He rubbed his eyes with the palms of his hands in hopes of smoothing away the tension and anxiety etched in his face. He took a cleansing breath. “For the last week, Debra has been feeling horrible—headaches, body aches, and a runny nose. Not your typical cold. Her doctors have tried everything, but so far, nothing has worked.”

Rebecca walked around his desk and placed her hands on his shoulders. Her strong fingers dug into his tense muscles. “Poor baby, you’re stressed.”

Jonathan nodded. 

“I could make this all go away, like before.”

“Tempting, but I’m married. And there was no before. You must be thinking I am someone else.” 

Rebecca rubbed deeper. “Still haven’t remembered yet? You must have been one drunk boy.”

“I don’t drink anymore. Ahhh...” He knew he should stop her, but didn’t.

“When is the next full moon?’ she suddenly asked, stopping her kneading of his shoulders.

“What? I don’t know.”

“Two days. It should be full for three nights.’

Jonathan twisted in his chair. “So? Who cares?”

She gave his shoulders one more squeeze before walking towards the door. “Your wife was bitten by a wolf, correct?”

It dawned on him as to what she was saying. Suddenly he remembered calling her insane the day he met her at the store.

“A lycanthrope,” Rebecca said, closing the door behind her. They were alone in his office.

“A werewolf. You think my wife is turning into a werewolf. You can’t be serious.”

He tried to rise from his chair, but Rebecca grabbed his shoulder. “Stay seated. I’m not done.”
She leaned behind him, her perfume wafting seductively around his head. “I think you should listen carefully to my next words.”

Jonathan tried to pull away, but her claws dug into his shoulder. “If you go to HR,” she nuzzled his neck, “I'll disappear again.” She nipped his ear with her teeth. “And they’ll never find all of your parts.”

She came to his front and straddled his lap. “Wouldn’t this be better? I could take you right here.”

Jonathon squirmed from underneath her. His heartbeat pounded in his ears as he pushed her off of his lap. “You need to stop all of this.”

“No one would know.”

“Please leave my office. We will both forget this ever happened.”

Rebecca walked toward the office door with dignity. “Until you remember what really happened.” She left.


Debra was standing on the front steps when Jonathan pulled into the driveway. The sun had set, and as he walked to where his wife stood, he sensed hidden eyes boring into him. He stopped and scanned the neighborhood, nothing out of the ordinary stood out.

“God, you look radiant tonight,” he told his wife.

“Thank you. I woke up feeling so much better this morning. I think I’m over the worst.”

Jonathan smiled, but his stomach was in knots. And that night, his sleep came in bits and pieces, interspersed with dreams. 

He stood on the porch and breathed the night deep into his lungs. The air tasted clean and delicious. A musty, wild animal odor filled his nostrils. He caught a flash of moonlight on a moving shape. Ingrid stepped from the shadows. Her icy, blue eyes glowed red. A horrid fascination overcame him, and he followed.

Ingrid dropped to the ground on all fours and sniffed a small boot-print in the snow. She bounded to her feet in wild excitement. “I know you’re there.”

Jonathan froze. A second woman inched out of the tree line.

“Don’t fight me.” Rebecca’s jaw elongated, and fangs sprouted from her mouth. “You won’t like it if you do.”

Debra prodded him. “Honey, wake up. You’ve had a bad dream.”

Jonathan sat up, his head buried in his hands. A cold sweat covered his body. He peeked  outside their bedroom window, and saw that the sun peeked above the horizon. Shadows hid most of the backyard, but the red eyes of the wolf were clearly visible. The monster of his dreams sat in their backyard.

Jonathan jumped to his feet, grabbed a sweatshirt and a pair of sweatpants, and rushed downstairs. He needed to get to his gun, still in the car. He armed himself with a baseball bat in the mudroom, slipped on boots, and ran outside. The beast had disappeared.

“Jonathan, what are you doing?” Debra asked from the doorway.

He bent down and examined the snow. Several sets of large tracks covered the yard. “Debra, come here.” He pointed to the ground. “Look at these.”

A few moments later, Debra knelt next to him. “Wolf tracks.”

“A wolf was in our yard this morning. I saw it from our bedroom window.”

“You must be mistaken. Wolves are mostly nocturnal. The wolf was here last night, not this morning. And actually, by the looks of these tracks, it’s been here more than once.” Debra tilted her head, her nostrils flared, a quizzical look on her face. “I’ll contact Animal Control.”

The hairs on the back of his neck stood at attention. He glanced to the trees bordering their property. “Is the wolf close by?”
“No, she’s moving away.”

“How do you know it’s a she?”

She shrugged. “Experience.”


It was time to sell paper products again. The snow came down in sheets of white. The windshield wipers, at full speed, banged back and forth but couldn’t keep up. Jonathon had trouble seeing the lines on the road, where the road ended and the ditches began. He hated this stretch of highway, eighty-six miles of pure torture.

This trip, the bacon-ranch flavored sunflower seeds kept his mind alert. He reached for another handful and didn’t see the dark shape materialize in of his lane until the last second. Even if he wasn’t in the middle of a blizzard, he wouldn’t have been able to stop in time.

He braked and swerved, but the shape leaped right in front of him. The impact threw the dark object into the windshield, and whatever he hit landed in the snow. The car careened into the snow-filled ditch. The airbag cushioned the impact, but the seatbelt cinched hard against his chest.  

What had he hit? It was surely bigger than a rabbit this time.

Jonathan exhaled and rotated his stiff neck. He extracted himself from his seatbelt and pushed the deflated airbag aside. Outside, vertical blown snow pummeled him. He struggled to the front of the car to examine the damage. The front passenger quarter panel had been crumpled, and spiderweb cracks radiated out from where the creature hit the windshield. If he could get out of the ditch, the car should be drivable.

Coarse gray hair and splotches of blood dotted the bumper. That’s when he spotted the wolf in the road.

He bounded up the incline and dashed towards where the wolf lay. He dropped to his knees.

The animal was alive. Its blue eyes flashed in anger, and in his heart, Jonathan knew it was all true. He remembered, just like she said he would.

The creature suddenly rose from the ground and lunged. Razor-sharp teeth tore Jonathan’s jacket and punctured his flesh. The animal shook its head once before crumpling into the snow.

Intense pain bloomed in his shoulder. Heat pulsed from the wound, and blood ran down his arm, pooling in the fingertips of his gloves.

He gritted his teeth. “Hold on.” Wrapping his arms underneath the front legs and clasping his hands together, he dragged the animal to the car, laid it down on the backseat, and covered it up with a blanket. Could Debra save Rebecca? He would have to explain everything to his wife. 

After shoveling around and under his vehicle, Jonathan leaned against the fender, caught his breath, then climbed in. He shifted into reverse. The wheels spit out snow, the back-end slid sideways. Fortunately, the car found enough traction and eased onto the road. 

Arriving home, Jonathan parked the car in the garage and rushed into the house to call his wife’s name.

His voice echoed mournfully throughout, but otherwise the house remained quiet. He checked the counter for a message then rechecked his phone. His call to Debra went straight to voicemail. He phoned the clinic, but they didn’t know where she might be. 

He leaned against the garage wall and watched his parked car as dawn approached. The shape of the wolf under the blanket changed. As it got smaller and smaller, anticipation got the best of him.

He yanked the blanket off. His bloody and bruised wife lay on the back seat—not Rebecca. He dropped to his knees and cradled her lifeless body in his arms. Tears streamed down his face.

The garage door opened. 

Rebecca stood there, on her haunches. Thick, coarse fur covered her body. Long, sharp claws clicked on the cement floor. Jonathan slid backward. Rebecca stretched her jaw until the teeth realigned and returned to normal. A guttural growl turned to a groan as her body twisted, shrunk, and the fur disappeared.

A gorgeous naked creature stood in front of him. “Your wife bit you.”

Jonathan glanced at his blood-soaked shirt and nodded. “I hit her with my car. I killed my wife.”

“She was searching on the road. Roadkill tastes disgusting. I told Debra that, but she didn’t listen. You’ll learn this soon enough.”

She put her arm around Jonathan and helped him to his feet. “Let’s get you in the house.”

Ingrid was standing in the kitchen when they entered. “Rebecca, how is our sister?”

Jonathan stopped, bewilderment written all over his face. “All of you are sisters?”

Ingrid smiled. “We are now. Welcome to the family, brother.”