Melanie smiled at him as she opened the door. “Hi, come in. Just put your bags down anywhere, I’ll put the kettle on.”
“Thanks,” he said, dragging in a packed rucksack and a suitcase. “I really appreciate this, y’know.”
She laughed as she disappeared into the kitchen. “It’s nothing,” she called back to him. “I couldn’t just leave you on the streets, could I?”
He put his bags down beside the front door and looked around his friend’s sitting room. It wasn’t quite what he had expected; he always thought she had impeccable taste, yet her sofa was battered and suspiciously damp-stained. She had no coffee table, no carpet or rugs on the floor, no little objets d’art – the only decorative thing in the room was the massive fish tank. It was so big that it stood on the floor
“What do you keep in here,” he asked as she returned with mugs of tea. “A shark?”
She looked a little nervous as he approached the tank. “Um, no, Joe, it’s just my… goldfish.”
He thought she was joking, but when he looked into the tank, sure enough, the sole occupant was a single goldfish.
“What does one goldfish need all this room for? He won’t even remember swimming all the way around!”
She handed him his tea and raised one eyebrow. “The three second memory is a myth, they debunked it years ago. Anyway, he’s my fish and I like to give him lots of space.”
She disappeared back into the kitchen.
“Spoilt little fish, aren’t you,” he muttered, tapping on the side of the tank, watching the goldfish swim around. “Damned stupid looking, too. You totally have a three second memory.”
When he finished his tea, she showed him upstairs to the spare room.
“You’ve got an ensuite here, there’s a kettle and a mug and stuff if you want a cuppa before I get up…”
Something on the back of the door caught his eye and he interrupted her. “Why is there a bolt on the door?”
She took a breath, then paused. “For… safety. I sleepwalk. You should bolt your door as soon as I go.”
He looked at her slender frame and laughed. “I’m twice your size, Mel, I don’t think you could hurt me when you’re awake, let alone in your sleep!”
Her face darkened. “Seriously, Joe, just bolt the door,” she said, before turning and leaving the room.
Baffled, he shut the door behind her and settled down for the night. The moon shone brightly outside the window, big and full, and the thin curtains didn’t quite block out the light. He lay down on his back with his arm over his eyes to block out the light.
He woke up with a start; he had either heard a loud splash, like something large falling into Melanie’s fish tank, or he had imagined it. He lay there in the moonlight and listened.
Heavy, wet footsteps crept up the stairs. Somebody must have broken in and fallen in the fish tank, he thought. The floorboards creaked underneath a considerable weight as the footsteps drew closer. Joe sat up, looking with fear at the door. He should have listened to Melanie, he thought. He should have drawn the bolt.
As the intruder grew closer, he heard a heavy breathing; almost a growl. Dear lord, he thought, that’s no burglar. Who the hell was out there? Who – or what?
Perhaps he could reach the door first. Perhaps he still had time to draw the bolt.
He overcame his fear and stood, taking one tentative step and reaching out one shaking hand towards the door.
He was too late. The door handle turned, and the door was flung open, smacking into his hand with some force.
Outside in the hallway, lit by bright moonlight, stood a soaking wet, seven foot tall werewolf. Where the shadows struck it, Joe could almost make out a hint of golden scales. Joe stared at it in fear and awe as it loomed over him.
“Hello, Joe,” it growled. “Who’s the damned stupid looking one now?”
© Kari Fay