A Case of Lycanthropy
by Jeani Rector
Her name was Susan. She was an ordinary person living an ordinary life.
Until the day the dog bit her.
Susan hadn't noticed the stray until it was too late. One day, while locking the door to the church where she volunteered, she saw movement out of the corner of her eye. Then, a dark projectile seemed to launch itself out of the church parking lot. The shape headed straight for her.
The dog was so quick that Susan only saw it as a blur. Susan felt rather than actually saw the dog bite her arm. Before she could react, the dog ran off, vanishing into the bushes at the far end of the deserted blacktop.
It had all happened so fast.
Stunned, Susan stood still for a moment, staring stupidly at her arm where her sleeve was torn. She wondered to herself, rabies? What were the odds?
Finally she reacted. Shaking, she moved the sleeve of her blouse in order to view the damage. She was surprised to see that it wasn't a very bad wound on her arm. Her skin was only slightly broken.
Still, there were a few drops of blood welling from the shallow bite mark.
The drops of blood made her again contemplate the idea of rabies, which led to the question, should she go to the doctor?
She decided she should take no chances. Walking away from the church, she got into her car. She drove, calling the doctor on her cell phone while she steered her car out of the parking lot. When she connected with the nurse, she was told she had better come into the office and get immunized against rabies. And so she did. Five times. It took five treatments to receive all of the immunizations.
So, that was that. Life went on.
Susan had short dark hair, worn in an unassuming style, bound by barrettes. She had no children. She was thirtyish, bookish, and married to a man named David who seemed to prefer long hours at his job instead of spending time with her.
Normally she went through her days as though sleepwalking...she did everything by routine, and one day in Susan's life was the same as the next. But after the day of the dog bite, Susan began to feel different.
The changes to her emotional well being began slowly. She began noticing people. Susan was becoming attracted to strangers. She would find herself staring at strangers in stores, on the street, even on television; scrutinizing these strangers closely for…she was not even sure what she was hoping to find. But she would stare so blatantly that people started frowning at her, turning away in irritation.
She was becoming aware of a budding sexuality. Something new, something different, something overpowering. She felt younger. She felt as though she were coming alive; for the first time in all of her life, she felt sensuous, womanly, and in sync with her body.
She was conscious of the feel of her breasts against the material of her bra; it made her feel bound, restrained. So she removed her bra, and went without, feeling reckless and brave.
She soon abandoned her underwear altogether, and pondered the new sensations this allowed. She reveled in her little secret, that she was exposed underneath her clothing. But even that became not enough. She wished others would guess her secret, so she began wearing more revealing clothes, as though to give them a hint.
Susan removed the barrettes out of her hair, and no longer visited the hairdresser. She wanted to let her hair grow long. In the meantime, she wore it in a loose style. She would never look beautiful, but now she had reached an almost. She began wearing makeup, and then even more makeup.
Then came the day when it was not enough just to look passionate. She needed to act it out. She needed to be passionate.
It was a Tuesday night when Susan gave in to her passions. She paced her living room, alone as usual at eight o'clock. David hadn't come home from work yet. She was restless and irritable, and was aware of a tingling sensation under her skin, like the ‘pins-and-needles' after an arm or leg goes to sleep; except she felt it everywhere. She wanted to get out of the house. She wanted an adventure.
She wanted to do something uncharacteristic, to do something devious and perhaps downright dangerous. She craved something negative, an underworld, something wicked. She wanted to shed her schoolmarm skin to reveal something sordid underneath.
Susan changed into a slinky black dress, grabbed her car keys, and walked out the door.
She drove to the south side of town. She purposely chose the worst neighborhood in which to find a bar. The multi-colored lights on the sign that said "Don's Drinks and Dancing" caught her attention.
Later, as she walked out of the bar with the stranger she had picked up, she strolled arm-in-arm with him across the street to the motel. Unembarrassed, Susan went into the lobby with the younger, dark-haired man she had found. She was unconcerned that the motel clerk gave her a knowing look as he extracted the room fee out of her escort.
Susan and the dark-haired man found their room. They barely had time to shut the motel door when his mouth was on hers, and she tasted him. He pulled her against him; his hands were on her back, holding her fast to him. She responded in kind, pulling up his shirt. Her arms slipped over his skin, over the hard, muscled back that was slick with sweat. She felt on fire; hot, as though fevered. Her heat came out of her in waves, and she imagined her hands searing into his back. She wanted to blister his flesh, to brand him with her passion and desire.
The dark-haired man pulled Susan to the bed, and they fell on top of it in a heap, entwined. They pulled at each other's clothes, peeling them off, almost tearing fabrics in their haste.
And then Susan bit him.
She broke the skin on his arm. His blood tasted of pennies; the coppery taste of coins on her tongue. His blood was hot and moist, and she wanted to drink it, to swallow it.
"You bit me!" the man cried, pulling himself off of her. "What are you, some kind of freak?"
He hopped off of the bed onto the floor. "Damn it, you hurt me. Look at this, I'm bleeding!"
He stood there a moment, looking back and forth from his arm to her, as if deciding what to do next. Then he said, "Hell, I paid for this room, and I'm going to get my money's worth."
So he came back to the bed. He grabbed her hips and inserted himself between her legs. Pumping wildly, he was rough with his thrusts, mean, almost brutal. And Susan became just as rough and violent, screaming "Wolf! Wolf!" until both of them were spent.
He rolled off of her, breathing hard. The bleeding on his arm had stopped. Calming down, he said, "You know, you're a real freak, yelling about a wolf and all. You into animals, baby? Yeah, you some kind of wild animal. Lord knows you bite like one. You hungry like a wolf?"
"Something like that," Susan said. Then she sat up in the bed. "I have to go."
"What's your rush?" the man asked her. "I mean, this room is paid for. We can do it again. Just don't bite me this time."
"No, I have to go. I'm married."
"Hell, so what. So am I."
She looked at him. "I'm leaving now."
When she got off the bed, he got off too. He stepped in front of her to block her path.
"If you try to stop me from leaving, I'll kill you," Susan told him.
Something in her voice made him hesitate. She sounded level, matter-of-fact, her calm tone belying her words. Even though he was much bigger than she, it was something about her voice that made him step aside.
"All right, get out," he said. "Go bite your husband, you freak."
"Maybe I will," she said, as she got dressed.
Driving home, Susan remembered about the dog that had bitten her at the church, so many days ago. That had been the catalyst for everything that had followed. She hadn't contracted rabies, but maybe she had gotten something else from that dog. As she drove, she looked at the night sky outside of her car window and saw that the moon was full.
She thought back to how strong her urge was to bite the man in the motel, and how satisfying the coppery, warm taste of his blood had seemed. It was something she had to do at the time; it was a need.
In her mind, she connected the dog bite to her own biting of the stranger in the motel. The word werewolf came to her mind.
She felt no panic at the idea that she could be a werewolf. That would explain many, many things. It would explain the otherwise unexplainable. It made sense out of senseless behavior.
She decided she would accept her condition. After all, what else could she do about it at this point? Susan was neither afraid nor remorseful. It was neither good nor bad, it just was.
Arriving home, she drove her car into the garage, noticing that her husband's car was missing. Late again. He was late again at the office.... or was he?
For the first time, Susan wondered about David.
After all, she had been unfaithful this very evening. Could David have been unfaithful as well? Of course he could.
She was willing to bet he wasn't working late at the office.
Suddenly she was willing to bet that he had been cheating on her for a long time, probably during their entire marriage.
She resented him; felt abandoned by him. She had quit college to marry him, to bear his children. Now he rarely came home, paid no attention to her when he did, and of course there were no children. One of them was not able to reproduce, and David wouldn't agree to see the doctor to discover which one of them was the culprit as to why they could not conceive any children.
And now Susan was thinking that David was cheating on her.
It was of no matter that she had just done the same to him. She knew her own cheating could be justified. Because lust was the sort of thing to which werewolves were driven. Werewolves were of the underworld, and did wicked, decadent things. It was the nature of the beast. But David was no werewolf, so he had no reason to cheat.
She thought more about David, and examined her feelings for him. What did she get out of this marriage? Not much. David frequently ignored her. And when he did pay any attention to her at all, it was merely to complain about her. He was too demanding, too critical. He made her feel bad; he caused her to feel stressed all the time. She would be so much better without him.
So she would kill him. The stranger in the motel had been practice for the actual event. The stranger had been her first taste of blood, but wouldn't be her last.
She wanted to kill her husband, and she knew why. In the end, it really had nothing to do with her resentments towards David. It was because she was a werewolf, pure and simple, and tonight was a full moon. It was a killing moon.
Susan walked out of the garage and entered the house. She didn't bother to turn on any lights; her eyesight seemed to be keener, and objects were clear even in the dark. Her senses were heightened, and she could feel the blood coursing through her veins; she seemed to be focused on blood, all blood, even her own. The lust she was now feeling was not for sex, but for blood.
She went into the kitchen to take a large knife out of the drawer.
And so she waited in the dark, crouched on the living room sofa, holding the kitchen knife. The blade gleamed, reflecting the bright moonlight that streamed in through the front window. As she waited, she continuously moved the knife up and down, its sharp tip penetrating the sofa cushion again and again.
She was a hunter awaiting her prey.
She heard the key in the door, and readied herself for an attack.
The front door opened, and a shape entered the room. Susan could see David's hand groping for the light switch. The light came on, and he seemed momentarily blinded by the brightness as he stepped forward and shut the door behind him.
Seizing the advantage of David's momentary blindness, Susan leaped from the couch. She screamed with primal rage and lifted the gleaming knife high above her head. Running towards David, she used that momentum to add force to her thrust. Susan found her target, the knife plunging deep within David's throat.
He was unable to scream, or make any sound at all as he collapsed. Blood gushed from the carotid artery, spraying everywhere. Susan relished the fact that she was being rapidly covered in blood. She opened her mouth, tasting it. She held out her hands, reveling in the warm dark wetness of it. She began smearing David's blood all over her own body.
Six months had passed. The defense attorney asked for the credentials of the doctor who was sitting on the witness stand during the murder trial of Susan Hennings. The attorney, Craig Schaffer, wanted to establish the validity of the doctor's statements to the jury.
"I am a psychiatrist at the Davis Medical Center located on University Avenue here in this city," Doctor Benson told the jury. He went on to describe his various medical degrees and his lengthy experience. Schaffer felt that the doctor was a very important witness for the defense.
"Doctor Benson," Schaffer asked, "Is it true that the defendant, Susan Hennings, has been under your care in the psychiatric unit in Davis Hospital for the past six months?"
"It is true," answered Benson.
Schaffer concealed his anxiety. To prove not guilty by reason of insanity was a notoriously difficult verdict to achieve. When the M'Naughten Rule was adopted, it stated that a defendant is only legally insane if he or she cannot distinguish between right and wrong in regard to the crime that is charged. If the jury finds that the accused could not tell the difference, then there could not be criminal intent. Although it sounded simple enough, in practice, it was extremely difficult to prove insanity because most defendants knew they had done something wrong. Any attempts by the accused to lie, to cover up the crime, or flee the crime scene threw M'Naughten right out the window.
But Susan Hennings had done no such thing as flee the crime scene. She had stayed in her living room, cutting up her husband with a kitchen knife. When she was found by a neighbor, she had been putting pieces of her husband into her mouth.
Schaffer jerked his thoughts back to the trial. He continued questioning the doctor. "To your knowledge, which is extensive in the psychiatric field, are you aware of the possibility that a person can believe that he or she has been changed into an animal?"
"I am aware of this."
"What is this belief called?" Schaffer asked.
"It is called Lycanthropy," Benson answered. "The word Lycanthropy is derived from the ancient Greek words lykos, meaning wolf, and anthropos, meaning human being. So you can see that the word Lycanthropy has been around for a very long time."
"Can you describe Lycanthropy?"
Benson began, "I believe this condition to be a mental illness..."
"Objection!" called the prosecutor. "Speculation as to validity."
"Sustained," agreed the judge.
Schaffer tried again. "Doctor Benson, are you aware of any medical documentation of Lycanthropy as a mental illness?"
"Absolutely," Benson said. "Clinical Lycanthropy has been documented to be a mental illness in 1988, published in the Psychological Journal; and in 1989 by Denning and West, published in Psychopathology. Also in 1999 by Moselhy in Psychopathology. Also in....."
The doctor continued to give examples of documentation for ten whole minutes. There were a lot of examples for him to give.
"That's certainly a lot of documentation. Thank you." Schaffer hoped the jury was impressed. "Doctor Benson, can you please describe the symptoms of Clinical Lycanthropy as a mental illness?"
"Certainly," Doctor Benson said. "Affected individuals have a delusional belief that they have transformed into an animal. It has been linked with the altered states of mind that accompany psychosis. These are delusions and hallucinations, because the transformation only seems to happen in the mind of the affected person. In other words, other people still see them as a person, but in their own mind, they have changed into an animal."
"What could cause this to happen to a person?" Schaffer asked.
Benson answered, "The condition seems to be an expression of psychosis."
"In other words, this could be an expression of a mental illness?"
"That's correct. It is an illness of the mind, a delusion, because in reality, no human being can change into an animal."
Schaffer relaxed. "No further questions."
"No questions," said the prosecutor. Schaffer felt exhilarated.
While Doctor Benson exited the witness stand, Schaffer sat at the table next to his client. Susan Hennings had sat immobile, expressionless, throughout the entire trial. "It's going well," he whispered to her. She gave no indication that she heard.
The trial continued to go well for the defense. Schaffer was confident when the jury exited the courtroom to deliberate.
Although no one could predict a jury's decision in advance, Schaffer felt if any trial could win by reason of insanity, it would be this one.
When the jury filed back into the courtroom, only three hours later, they looked at Susan. She did not return their gaze.
But Schaffer noticed. He held with the superstition that if the jury looked at the defendant, they were not planning to convict.
And this jury looked at Susan.
The judge asked the foreman if the jury had reached a verdict.
"We have, your Honor."
"Would you read the verdict?" asked the judge.
"For murder in the first degree, we the jury find the defendant not guilty by reason of insanity."
The courtroom clamored with commotion. This was big news! Reporters and other media people ran for the door to report the outcome of this trial to their newspapers and to their local television news stations.
And when Schaffer turned to his client to congratulate her on her freedom, he was stunned to see that Susan Hennings' eyes were glowing red.
© 2007 Jeani Rector
Bio: Jeani Rector grew up reading Stephen King novels. Halloween is her favorite holiday. Her two children sing "The Rector Family" to the tune of The Addams Family. It is all in good fun and actually, most people who know Jeani personally are of the opinion that she is a very normal person. She just writes abnormal stories. Doesn't everybody? For more about Jeani Rector, check out After Dark: A Collection of Horror. Ms. Rector's story Cat's Eye appeared in the February 2007 issue of Aphelion.
E-mail: Jeani Rector
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