Prompt: “Eyes squinted up at the moon in dread, feeling an ache deep in their bones.”
Three days. That’s all it’s been, since the attack.
Three days of fatigue. Of aching. Shaking, shivering, as cold as the grave one moment and burning up like the hottest forge the next. Nothing alleviates his fever, nothing helps calm the flow of salty sweat beading and rolling and dripping endlessly down his forehead, stinging his eyes and the scratches on his skin.
He doesn’t know where he is now. His mind is dazed under the desert sun, his body wounded, and he’s wandered far from the caravan. Far from the other mercenaries hired to protect it. Far from the bodies of the people they’d been hired to guard.
Far from the corpses of other things. Things he doesn’t want to think about, but had come tearing and howling and snapping and biting three nights ago, stealing their way into the peace of the camp. Along with anyone else who once took a breath, they’re dead, now.
The desert has always had a pull to him. A draw, that keeps him coming back despite the harsh conditions. And not only him: people thrive elsewhere amidst the sands and the bleached bones, living in small oasis communities of countless years.
But now, the desert is his enemy.
It was the desert that sent the hulking, bloodthirsty, ravenous things to the camp. It was the desert sun that beat upon his back, burning and peeling the skin of his face and his hands and anything else unlucky enough to be exposed to its cruel rays.
The night doesn’t bring much relief, either.
Especially not tonight.
Luckily, thankfully, he sees bones ahead, jutting out from the shifted sands like a broken memorial. He doesn’t speculate on what it once was: that doesn’t matter. What does matter is that the bones of the ribcage and spine are wide enough, long enough, sturdy enough to provide some sort of shade, some sort of protection.
With the last of his energy, he makes his way slowly to the sun-bleached monument. Collapses as soon as he arrives, crawls with fistfuls of sand that rubs his skin raw, shimmies under the arched bones and…sinks into the cooler dunes.
His eyes must have closed without him realizing it.
When he opens them again, he’s lying in the same position he’d collapsed in. One arm curled under his chest, the other outstretched in front – as if reaching for more shade, more cool, more protection from the sun.
But the sun doesn’t beat down on him, now.
Instead, hanging in the sky like two ominous beacons, are the moons.
Throat dry, lips cracked, he swallows.
He squints up through the slats of the bones at the full, heavy celestial bodies with a sense of pressing dread, feels an ache deep within his bones. A low groan rips from his throat, and he wants nothing more than to close his eyes – out of sight, out of mind – but he can’t. He’s drawn to the luminous, silent moons.
And now, he can’t afford not to think about what had attacked the caravan three nights prior.
He can’t afford to ignore the deep scratches on his arm, the puncture wounds from the gaping maw of a giant beast on his shoulder. Can’t afford not to think about the symptoms he’d been plagued with since as he’d stumbled along through the desert.
That’s what they were. Werewolves.
He’d been scratched, bitten, infected – and tonight?
Tonight was a full moon.