Howie circled me, his hooded eyes of gold attentive to my slightest movements. He knew he could never successfully attack me, but once in this mood he forgot all common sense. His coat gleamed ochre as his paws clicked on the parking lot concrete.
“This is what you wanted, Howie,” I said, pointing to the man laid out between weeded cracks in the pavement. “I knew you were hunting this area and wanted to see you. Come get your meal, all nicely delivered.”
Howie hunched down and almost crawled to the unconscious man. He watched me peripherally, pelt bristling along his spine. He passed the “For Sale” sign on the wooden fence of the vacant building and moved to within inches of the man, ears flat, sniffing at the blood seeping into the cracks to soak the weed roots.
“Enjoy my offering,” I said gently. “Consider this an overdue birthday gift.”
He stared from the man to my face, with hackles never lowered.
I slipped the ritual blade from my pocket to my left hand as part of my stride toward the victim.
“Let me make it easier for you, honey. Been such a long time, the least I can do is give you a properly prepared birthday gift.”
His lips peeled away from gums and teeth with a rumble. His jaws snapped a threat as I lowered the blade.
With a few slices along the man’s stomach, wavy lines welled up and crimson drips saturated his opened plaid shirt. Howie’s mouth hung open. He ran at the body and placed paws on both shoulders, lowering his head for the kill.
I stretched forward, raking the blade down his large, furred head between the ears and along the spine. He tried to flip around to attack.
I grasped firmly along the opened skin and ripped hard with each hand. He whimpered, then growled and snapped in attempts to bite as wet skin showed. I shifted away from each bite, always pulling at the furry seam. As the skin tore free the transformation began.
With one hard rolling of his body, I had him on his back–in one finishing slit along chest and underbelly, the skin and tail worked entirely free from him.
“My poor Howie,” I said, calming myself as I finished the ritual.
I tossed the wolf skin into a barrel I’d placed nearby with just enough flammable liquid in it and threw my prepared matchbook in. The fur and skin exploded in flames.
Howie wailed a human howl of loss.
I lifted the base of his head, until the pulse at his throat met my lips. I whispered into his flesh, “Happy birthday, honey. I’m taking you back.”
I slid the already bloodied blade up into his chest, holding his throat in place, and just at the point of death I brought him into my eternity with a welcome kiss to pierce his fully human skin.