Anna Vizard resides in the hills of North Carolina, and often explores Appalachian settings in her work, but sometimes her characters prefer to live and die in New England settings, which suits her just fine, being in love with both places. 

Some of Anna’s stories have been included in: New England: Weird (anthology), Axes of Evil (anthology), Voluted Tales (ezine), Fantastic Horror (ezine), Horror Bound (ezine), Siren’s Call (ezine), and Flashes in the Dark (ezine).


by Anna Vizard


Inez almost stepped on the small rabbit, its bloody, silver fur frozen to the front stoop.

She saw it as an opportunity. Working the rabbit’s little body free, she brought it into the cabin. It had been gutted, so she assumed the entrails had been eaten by whatever had left it. No matter. Fresh meat at a premium, so Inez decided the rabbit would be her next meal.

Her husband, Glance, used to do the hunting, but he had been found on a back trail months earlier, near death, his body ravaged by the harsh elements. He lingered on for three days before dying of pneumonia. Inez was never sure if she missed Glance as a person, or missed his usefulness.

So now she lived alone in the tiny cabin. Although there were some distant neighbors helping her where they could, winter was a struggle for everyone in this cold climate, and most folks endured on their own. Inez had lived here her entire life, so she was not going to surrender to the elements, even without Glance. None of her kin before her ever did, and she wouldn’t be the first.

The closest neighbor, Buck, brought her cornmeal and other staples when he took his mule down the mountain and into town. He also brought her news of the goings on in the little isolated hollers that dotted the hills.

Other than that, she saw no one, though she expected that around spring she would have a suitor or two come around for a visit, whether she wanted them or not. Widows didn’t last long in these parts; the ratio of men to women was too great.

At least the winter gave Inez a reprieve, and for that she was grateful.

She ate the rabbit with some beans and cornbread, and wondered about those large paw prints on her stoop. It wouldn’t be the last rabbit left for her that winter, or even the last animal.

Inez didn’t know what was leaving the game on her stoop, but her stomach didn’t mind at all. Her pantry was near empty, and there was still a bit of winter left yet. Out of her tiny window, snow fell hard, the wind whipping through the pines. She had enough wood to keep her warm, but this winter had teeth…teeth ready to bite her hard if it lasted much longer.                                                                 


Its tail raised in a white flag of alarm, the deer fled on the game path toward the trees. Inez ran after it with a speed she didn’t realize she could possess. She swooped in; close enough to touch the pounding hooves. She stretched out her arms and her strong hands grasped the doe’s hind legs out from under her, and together the woman and beast tumbled to the dirt.

Inez awoke, gasping. The dream seemed so real, but then she understood that it was her hunger that made it so real. She gave in to the luxury of not getting out of bed immediately; instead, she reminisced about the deer in her dream. How badly she had wanted to catch it! How many meals would that doe have made had it been reality?

Finally she rose and walked to the only table in the one-room cabin. She poured a cup of water, hoping the liquid would somehow fill the emptiness.

And then she heard the noise. Oh Lord, don’t let it be a bear! she thought.

Creeping to the cabin’s one window, she slowly peeked out. Swirling snow and ice on the tiny panes made it hard to see, but on the porch was a silver-and-black creature that looked like no bear she had ever seen. Its powerful arms was tugging a deer just like the one in her dream.

The silver-and-black creature dropped to all fours, its glowing eyes finding hers.

The animal was panting, a long tongue lolled out of a long, bloody muzzle. Long white fangs, as long as a bear claws, stood out, even in the white of the snow, and Inez felt her bladder release. Ducking down she crawled through her urine to her husband’s old hunting rifle, trying her best to load it with shaking fingers, her breath coming in ragged gasps. Her was mind trying not to give into rising panic, aided by fear.

Making her way back to the window, she peeked out, but the creature had disappeared into the blowing snow. The only thing left to see was the carcass of a deer, gutted, and placed there by the wolf-like creature. Inez let go of the old gun and sank to the floor, her sobs heard by no one.


Springtime came. The doe carcass had sustained Inez through the rest of winter, but today was a good day to collect some ramps. The little wild leeks were so powerful, that if you ate them raw, everyone would stay downwind of you as to not smell them oozing from your pores. She loved them, but they came and went with the early spring, so the window of opportunity to eat them was small. Her little ramp-patch was not far from the cabin.

Inez walked to the patch, enjoying the late April sun, filtering through the new leaves of the mountain canopy. She took a well-worn path often used by the hillfolk. It was the way Buck came past her cabin on the way to his wife and five children. He would be along soon, and she would give him what little coin she had left from last year’s harvest.  He promised to bring her a few broody hens and a rooster.

And then she heard it.

Inez snapped out of her reverie and spun around, looking for the source of the sound of snapping twigs. The birds had gone quiet, and though she didn’t see anything, it was a good while before she continued towards her ramp patch. The birds resumed their song, and Inez figured it was a bobcat ghosting around while trying to get a better look at her.

Still, as she returned to her cabin, she walked quickly, and as she snipped and cleaned the ramps, she kept her eyes on the treeline, hoping to catch the watcher in the woods.


She heard Buck before she saw him. He was cursing his mule, Ole’ Jake, who was actually a replacement for the first Ole’ Jake who died of old age. Inez chuckled, she knew that the new Ole’ Jake was Buck’s best friend, and valuable not only for Buck’s kin, but to many folk on the mountain that relied on the mule to bring them things they needed, and once in a while, things they wanted.

As they came closer, Inez saw that they did not come alone. Soon, the other person came more into focus. He was a tall, youngish man, who walked in a confident, lazy, strides, and she could tell that he would slow a bit every few steps in order for Buck and Ole’ Jake to catch up. Buck spoke first when they got closer.

“Say there, girl, been a long winter I reckon, but here we are, how ya been?”

“I reckon I made it through all right,” Inez returned, but she was looking at the tall stranger standing  beside Buck who was smiling at her with bright teeth, hazel eyes twinkling. 

“Well, I brought you some flour, cornmeal, salt, fatback, and the missus sent you some dried apples, oh, and looky here in this basket, some hens, and an ornery rooster who thinks he’s a king.”

“Thank you kindly, and please thank Miss Nan for me,” Inez said, and cut her eyes to the stranger again. 

“Oh, and I reckon I’ve forgotten my manners, This here is Walker Corbin. He is looking to settle here…his kin hails from Black Mountain. He is stayin’ with us till he gets hisself settled, and Walker, this is Miss Inez Coal, one of the finest girls in these parts.``

Inez nodded, when Walker grabbed her hand in his, she could feel the hard calloused texture, which told her that he knew hard work. He looked into her eyes and said, “Miss Coal, it is a pleasure to make yer acquaintance.”

Inez felt herself pulling her hand from his, and said, “Well now, I’m  just a-dyin’ to see my hens and meet the king.” Her voice rose to an unfamiliar octave, and she could feel heat on the tips of her ears which she hoped the men didn’t notice, especially the man grinning like a cat who ate the canary.

“Well, all right, where do you want to put ‘em Inez?”
“I don’t rightly know, Buck. I suppose I can make a place in the cabin till I can figure somethin’ out.”

“Well now, Walker here is quite handy, and I think he wouldn’t care at all to come help you build a little coop to keep ‘em up at night, and a place to lay their eggs, what do you say Walker?”

“Don’t mind a’tal. I will be here in the morning and get started.” He grinned at Inez with his very white teeth.

Inez stammered, hemmed and hawed, but finally agreed to having the man named Walker Corbin come and make a place for her pullets. The rooster was not so young, but that only meant he would be a wise protector to his hens or rather, his subjects. Later, as he ate cornbread out of her hand, and let her pet his multi-colored feathers, she named him King Crower.


The morning that Walker Moore came started early for Inez. She put on a pot of beans, and put on her best dress too. She braided her long, brown hair, then spent the rest of the morning cooking, she boiled the dried apples back to life, wrapped them in dough and fried them up into little crescent shaped handheld pies.

She baked a pan of cornbread, and waited for Walker to come. She knew that Buck brought Walker along as a possible suitor, and she found herself feeling both nervous and suspicious at the same time.

There would be other suitors, no doubt, but there was something about the man with the golden eyes that drew her, and she felt her blood singing again. Inez realized how lonely she had been over the winter.

Later in the day when the hammering stopped, she brought out a drink of water for Walker as he came up to her front stoop.

“Well, Miss Inez, would you like to see yer hen house? My that smells good, why, I do believe I smell apples.”

“I would be happy if you stayed for dinner. The least I can do is feed you for your labor.”

After they put the hens and King Crower in the new coop for the night, they went into the cabin and ate. Inez stole looks at Walker, allowed herself a smile as he mopped up gravy from the beans with a wedge of cornbread. She made a parcel for him to take the little handheld pies, and he suggested sitting out on the stoop before he left. 

She said, “Are you not worried about getting home? It’s almost dark.”

“No ma’am. I know the trail like the back of my hand. I might ask you, do you get lonely out here by yerself?”

“You don’t have to call me ma’am. Inez will do, and I reckon things aren’t the same with Glance gone on. He was a good husband and a good man. “

“I hate it for you, I surely do. I know a thing or two about loneliness, and a lot about grievin’.”

“I try not to think on it too hard, but I must say that I don’t sleep as well as I’d like.“

Inez turned and looked at him, he was looking at the moon, his jaw was fine and should could see that he was remembering those he had lost, then he straightened and turned to her. “Well, Inez, I don’t reckon I’ve eaten a better meal, and certainly never with a kinder hostess than you.”

“Why, thank you kindly.”

“I will be back tomorrow with some chicken-wire so you can keep the birds penned up for a week or two so they know where home is.”

“That’ll be fine.” Inez allowed him a smile, and it was genuine. She had enjoyed his company, and was happy that he would be returning the next day.


That night, as Inez lay in her bed, something niggled at her. If the handsome man with the golden eyes was from Black Mountain, how could he know these trails so well? Black Mountain was a couple of counties over. She had never seen him until a day ago, and even those who had been running along the trails on this mountain for all of their lives rarely ventured out at night.

She drifted off to sleep, but woke in the middle of the night to use the outhouse. On the way back, she heard a rustling behind her, but before she could turn around, she felt a sharp nip on the nape of her neck.

She screamed and tried to run, but tripped and fell over a root. She sobbed as she pulled herself up on shaking knees, then to her feet, which somehow got her back into the safety of the cabin. As she composed herself, she put her trembling hand on the nape of her neck.

Her hand came away bloody.

She wet a handkerchief and used it to desperately try to cool the hot pain that spread from the wound. A searing heat flooded her veins, and she staggered to her bed, curled up under her mama’s quilt, and let the darkness envelope her.


“Easy now, easy,” Walker said, holding the tin cup to Inez’s dry lips, her face flushed with fever, her eyes sunken in.

“I don’t feel well.”

“It’ll pass. Drink some more of this here tea. It’s an old remedy. It’ll help.”

Inez struggled to sit up, her body felt weak and she looked down to see she had been put into her nightgown. She felt too sick to feel embarrassed that perhaps this man had changed her.  

“What’s happening to me?”

“Yer goin’ through some changes, Inez; and it takes some time for yer body to get used to the idea, that’s all.”

“Changes, what changes?” Inez said, but she felt drowsy and lay back onto the pillow. Walker put the quilt over her and tucked it under her chin. 

“I will take care of you, so just rest, rest. It won’t be long, and soon you will feel as right as rain, this I promise.”

“Something bit me; is that why I’m so ill?”

“I’m sorry, but it’s the only way. It’s always the only way.” Walker whispered sadly, but Inez had already drifted away again.


“Ugh-ugh-ugh-ahhhh, ahhhh…”

Inez felt her face changing, already on all fours, her back arched against the pain of what was happening to her. She had torn off her nightgown because wearing it had felt too hot. She hoped to die because the pain was almost unbearable, but somewhere, underneath it all, there was something else—a longing perhaps, or a restlessness so buried beneath the pain, that she couldn’t pin it down.

 “Stay with me, Inez; it will get easier, I promise. It’s already marked in your blood, just let it happen.”

She tried to respond to the voice that she wasn’t sure was in her ear. Perhaps it was in her head, but it came out as a snarl. Her legs bent in odd ways, but felt strong. In fact, she realized that her entire body vibrated with a new energy and strength, and though for those few moments of painful change, she was unaware of the fur that covered her body. When she saw the fur, she realized that it was glossy and spoke of her youth. It spoke of health. When the pain subsided, she was gripped with hunger and oddly enough, excitement.

“Follow me, Inez. We will go into the woods together.”

With new eyes, Inez looked at the creature that she now knew was Walker. She realized it was he who had taken care of her needs through winter. He had no problem on the trails because he saw through the same eyes she saw with now.

It had been him all along. Her hunger urged her to follow him, but later perhaps she would demand answers.

Inez ran behind Walker, but as she got her bearings, they ran as a pair. He playfully nipped her cheek, then ran ahead flushing out a rabbit from the safety of the underbrush. He made the kill quickly, and brought his prize back to Inez, dropping it between her paws, letting her eat, before cleaning up what remained for himself.

Her new eyes saw everything. The darkness, no longer a thing to fear, was now only a new space of sorts to explore. Inez could also hear things she wouldn’t have with her human ears, the squeaks of baby mice in their nests, and above all, she could hear what Walker was saying, and he her, all without uttering a word. They used growls, barks, howls and yips, and they were primitive conversations, but useful, and easily understood. Later, each holding a rabbit, they made their way back to the old cabin.

Walker tucked Inez in the quilts. She was tired, but she needed to know. “Walker, tell me why?”

“I set out to find a mate. I wanted a wife who could hunt with me…run with me. I was looking for a blood sign, and I about gave up to be honest, ‘cuz there ain’t too many of us anymore. I came off Black Mountain and made my way here to visit Uncle Buck, and to see if I could have any luck in these parts.” 

“How did you find me?”

“I was out on my own, when the moon was bright and full, and I had just taken a nice fat silver rabbit, when I smelled you, and I smelled your blood sign. “

Inez propped herself up on her elbow, and took the tin cup Walker offered that was filled with cool, spring water. “If I already had this in my blood, then I don’t understand why I didn’t change before you bit me?”

Walker grinned. “I did not bite you, Inez; I nipped you.” 

“All-righty then, why didn’t I change before you nipped me?”

“Because sometimes the blood needs to be…reminded, so to speak. Not all of us do, but as the blood gets weaker as generations go, well, it was in you the whole time. I jus’ helped you along.”

Walker looked down into the tin cup like he was looking into a well, and continued, “You know, Inez, there used to be more of us, but as time goes on, we are fewer. We came from France, and some call us the lost colony of the coastal midlands, but when we came in with the French Huguenots we slowly dispersed into the hills. I reckon your mama or daddy had long-gone kin that had the blood. We always kept our numbers low, as to not over-hunt or threaten our communities. Some still call us the loup-garou, or the roux-ga-roux

“Am I a monster? Are we monsters?”

“No, Inez; we are just a different sort of thing, but we never hurt anyone except in self defense, and we look out for our neighbors. We can smell bad sickness coming, and warn folks to be wary, we help provide in times of hunger. We are not monsters, of that I’m sure. I will tell you one more thing, my lovely Inez. We mate for life, and respect all that nature provides, never taking more than we need.”

Walker kissed Inez gently on the cheek as she was drifting into sleep, and took his own quilt to sleep before the fire. He lay awake into the night, thinking of all he had to teach Inez. They had a lifetime together no more, or less than any other human, and he aimed to make it a happy one.

When Inez woke up, she saw Walker still sleeping. She was torn between admiring his lean form, and barely contained an impulse to grab a cast iron skillet and brain him with it. He had no right to do this to her. He gave her no choice, and now she was this thing, not a monster, but not completely human either. 

Angry, confused and frightened, Inez put water on for tea, then went out to the coop to feed her chickens, and in there, she cried. King Crower stood next to her, making comforting sounds, but it was a long time before Inez returned to the cabin to make breakfast for her guest, who was  unwanted, and yet, wanted.


Inez and Walker were married in the winter. She had recovered, and she eventually forgave him. On the day of their wedding, Buck said he had never seen her cheeks so rosy. If they noticed her once brown eyes casting off yellowish hues, no one said.

The newlyweds settled in together, and when the moon was big, and low in the sky, they hunted, sometimes rabbit, other times deer, or wild turkey. They didn’t hunt as a team, but rather, as the alpha male and female…the beginnings of a new pack. 

Daily life didn’t change too much for Inez. She still kept her garden, her chickens, and now a couple of goats because soon she would deliver her baby, and a few milk goats were good to have when raising a family.

Walker was a man who wore many hats and never seemed to be at a loss for work. He was popular in these hills, even disarming some of the more stranger-wary. She still thought about Glance, but in a fond way; not one of longing or pining. She had lost both of her parents and siblings to illness, and two to opposite sides of the war. She had learned that in the mountains, grief was to be dealt with quickly, for there was always much to do before winter. 

She didn’t change anymore, after she became pregnant. Walker explained that it was just the way things were, he surmised that the transformation was too much for a fetus to endure, so they were protected from it. Inez felt restless, wishing she could go, but she could feel life moving inside her and understood.

One late winter’s night, Walker once more left out to hunt alone. He wanted to bring back a little more fresh meat for Inez to nourish herself and the baby. A storm was coming; one could smell it in the air with human noses, let alone wolfish ones. 

He kissed her gently and said, “I’ll be back before you know it.”

Inez hugged him tight, “I love you Walker, I wish I could go with you, but I reckon I have plenty to do right here.”

“I love you my darling Inez. I promise I won’t be long. Keep the home fire burnin’ for me.”

After one more kiss, he strode out and into the trees, vanishing like a ghost. Inez knew he would transform when he got into the wood a little deeper. That night she busied herself with the tiny quilt she was making for the baby out of old flour sacks. Everything was right in the world, and Inez felt content.

The first night Walker was gone, Inez kept busy with her chores and her nesting activities, Buck’s wife had given her some baby buntings, gowns that her own younguns’ had outgrown. Some of those things needed mending here and there, but they were clean, unstained, and Nan Skidmoor’s expert needlework was a lovely thing to see.

The second day and night passed and Inez became worried. The storm had started, and Walker had still not returned. She lay awake that night, and fear gripped her heart so hard that her womb closed tight around her baby.

She tried to relax her mind and mentally called out to Walker, but in human form, she couldn’t reach his thoughts. That night she slept little, and when she did sleep, it was filled with tossing and turning, and when she did wake, it was with a cry of despair.

On the fifth morning, Walker returned. But not in the way she had anticipated.

A loud banging on the door greeted her, and in came Buck with his oldest son holding Walker up in between them.  “Make room ma’am, we need to lay him down.”

Inez rushed to put the kettle on, then ran back to Walker. She saw he was barely conscious, his eyes red-ringed, his skin hot with fever, then she spotted his leg. Right above the ankle, his leg was shredded open, muscle and bone exposed. It had festered and smelled eggy, and Inez screamed in anguish. 

“How did you find him?” Inez asked.

“We didn’t. He found us, lookin’ like he had crawled the entire way, refusing to let go of a small buck. We have it on the back of Ole Jake. “

“How did this happen?

“He was mumblin’ a lotta nonsense, but he said something about a bear trap. Miss Inez, we brought him back to you, but we brought him home so he could die, at home, with you. A man oughtta be able to die at home with his family,” Buck said. His usual brashness was gone, and a kind, gentle voice reached her ears and broke her heart.

Inez knelt beside her husband and she didn’t hear Buck tell her that he would be back with his Nan. She stared at Walker’s handsome face, trying to save it to memory, trying to save it to give to their child later. She tried to cool his fever, and hoped that he would wake, if even for just a time, but he didn’t. She hoped that he heard her words of love; she could even hope that he felt her tears.

If he did, he never let her know, and sometime during the night, he passed on. 

The next morning, Nan came with two of her daughters, and gently sat Inez away from Walker’s body. They wrapped him in a funeral quilt made of old linen, and tied his body to a board.  Buck made a rough board coffin and they buried him at the woodline.


In the spring, her baby was born without difficulties: a little boy. He was beautiful, and favored his father in all ways, and he grew healthy on her milk, and the soft cheese made from the goat’s milk. On nights when the moon was bright, Inez would leave her son alone in the cabin, transform into a she-wolf, and hunt for tender rabbits or other small game. They wintered out together, and spring-time came once again, and so came Buck with some staples. 

“Why Howdy there, Little Walker.” Buck said as he handed the baby a toy carved from wood. In his other pocket he had a tiny bag, later she would see that it was a pickled lime. “I got yer mama some things too, but I know she is gonna like this especially.”

Inez didn’t hear Buck. Instead, she suddenly noticed that Buck was not alone. There was a man with him. She made a startled motion, because she thought that she was looking at the ghost of Walker—an older version of Walker, but Walker all the same.

Buck saw her ashen face and bellowed, “Oh, there go my manners again! Miss Inez, I would like you to meet Luke Corbin. He is here with us for a spell—uhm, he lost his wife a ways back. If he looks familiar it is because he is kin to your Walker, his brother, in fact. “

“It’s my pleasure ma’am; I sure was sorry to hear about my little brother. I miss him even today.”

“As do I, Mr. Corbin,” Inez said. 

Little Walker looked up at Luke Corbin and smiled up at him with his toothless gums. Luke smiled back. 

Buck looked at the cabin’s stoop and noticed it was starting to sag. “Looks like yer stoop is about to cave in. You know, Luke here is real handy. I reckon he could fix that for you for the price of a good meal.”

Inez looked into Luke’s golden eyes and without looking at Buck, said, “I reckon I could make up a good supper for Mr.Corbin if he don’t mind to come and fix the stoop for me. He can get to know his nephew.”

Luke smiled at Inez, then took her hand and said, “I will be here in the morning.”

Inez got up in the morning and went out to milk the goats. Laying on the broken stoop were two fat rabbits. They were gutted, their soft fur blowing softly in the spring wind. She smiled, knowing who put them there.

She would fry them up and serve them with some poke greens, fried taters and biscuits. I will leave my hair out of braids today, she thought, and started to hum as she waited for her company.