Something is eating away at Milo. Perhaps it’s the stress from dealing with his oppressive older brother. Maybe it’s his low blood sugar. It could be his remorse over the twenty three dead women buried in his backyard. Or possibly it’s the beast inside of him, trying to fight its way to the surface, with or without the help of the full moon.
Something is devouring Milo, and this time it isn’t just his guilty conscience.
Taming the Beast
by Graeme Reynolds
There was a time when peoples fear of vampires and werewolves wasn’t just the by product of literature or movies. Not so long ago, the fear was very real to a great many people. Frightened villagers would remove the heads of any family members who died suddenly, and bury them with a stake through the heart and cloves of garlic in the mouth. People looked suspiciously at men who’s eyebrows joined in the middle. Families huddled in their homes, fearful of the predators that stalked the dark forests beyond the sanctuary of their village.
These legends have been with mankind for centuries. There are records of vampire like creatures and shape-shifters in almost every culture on the planet. The walking corpse with the taste for human blood. The man cursed to become a monster, or worse, who willingly becomes one. These themes have been explored countless times, and have produced some of the most terrifying pieces of cinema and literature ever.
Then Anne Rice and Buffy came along and spoiled it for everyone.
Little by little, modern culture has started to tame these great archetypes, until we are left with sparkling vampires, cute fluffy werewolves and a strong yet vulnerable female character caught in a love triangle with them, when by rights they both should be ripping her head off and fighting over her corpse.
I mean, there are now even paranormal romance novels featuring zombies. I mean, really? A fucking zombie? A decomposing, plague ridden corpse that eats human flesh? Seriously, there has to be a line somewhere!
As you may have gathered, I’m not in favour of the current neutering of our paranormal monsters. I want my vampires to be cold, ruthless killers. I want my werewolves to be tortured souls, cursed to become bloodthirsty monsters every full moon. The current erosion of the genre might, if we are not careful, rob these mythical creatures of their power to scare us, which is ultimately what made them interesting and intriguing in the first place.
Fortunately, all is not lost. While vampires may very well have been done to death, there are a growing number of werewolf novels coming out that still focus on the animalistic, because, ultimately, that is what werewolves are about. The conflicting sides of man’s nature. How, beneath the veneer of the most civilised of us, remains an instinctual core that is savage, ruthless and brutal, no matter how well we think we have our own beasts tamed. Devouring Milo is one of these books, and it fully deserves it’s place alongside the other classics in the lycanthropic canon.
And let’s be honest here. Who among you, would not feel the tiniest ice finger of fear run down your back if you found yourself alone and isolated, on a dark night with the full moon just beginning to peer out from behind the clouds? Perhaps you would walk just that little bit faster than usual, ears straining for the sounds of something hiding in those dark trees behind you. Listening for the faintest hint of a growl from the undergrowth. Those fears still persist, no matter how hard we might try to bury them. In our hearts, we really aren’t that far removed from the frightened villagers of two hundred years ago, no matter how many times we try to neuter our fear with over-familiarity.
Just remember, the next time you find yourself alone in the dark, and you hear something howling, that we are too civilised to believe in things like that. Monsters don’t exist. Monsters CAN’T exist. Perhaps you’ll even convince yourself long enough to get back to the safety of your home and breathe a sigh of relief as you lock the door behind you.
Graeme Reynolds has been called many things over the years, most of which are unprintable. By day, he breaks computers for a living, but when the sun goes down he hunches over a laptop and thinks of new and interesting ways to offend people with delicate sensibilities. He lives somewhere in the wilds of Wales with an ever increasing menagerie of lunatic animals and a girlfriend that is beginning to suspect that there is something deeply wrong with him. He has over thirty short story publications to his name, and is a member of the Horror Writers Association and the British Fantasy Society. His werewolf series, High Moor and it's sequel Moonstruck have received critical acclaim, a fact that still surprises him.