Coffin Varnish

A Short Horror Story by Charles E.J. Moulton


As her own heartbeat accelerated, the fabric of time seemed to slow down. She could tell from the rotten whiff of human flesh that Randolph was hiding somewhere in here. Breathing quietly, solemnly, but the acute activity of a werewolf nostril detected even the dust on the bar and the smell of a dried raindrop. Sylvia could even detect the smell of aged alcoohol in long forgotten bottles behind the bar. It sat there, waiting for time to pass. Accordingly, smelling a dirty rat like Randolph would be easy enough.

Sylvia stopped for one instant, listening, tasting her own bloodlust for a moment, pricking up her ears, smelling his fear, trying to deciphre from what area the scent came. Her nostrils flared, the pumping blood in her veins causing small, subtle changes in her tinge of her eyes. As if her increased pulse filled up the minutes, her blood pumped the moments full of concentration. The fabric of every second expanded indefinately.

The creaking of the floorboards under her feet reverberated out into the emptiness, where the dust of eons lay piled layer upon layer. And yet in this town time had stopped, the clocks ticking backwards, the booze pouring back into the bottles, the women unsung or dead.

For one moment, her thoughts wandered back to how angry her assistant had been just now, back in her own time.

“Don’t travel in time just for fun,” Katie King had said.

“I have always done it,” Sylvia answered. “Don’t worry.”

She had been right, of course. In spite of all her experience, Sylvia remained reckless.

Not only had twelve werewolves joined her in her quest to rampage the past, Randolph had, as well. The question remained as to why they had split up in various directions. Now, night had arrived and the ghost town lay empty. Her former lover had killed her friends with the stone. The stone, why had she let it go? She had known it had the powers of time-travel and the power to kill. Her only advantage had been stepping aside quickly enough to avoid the blast. The subsequent chase had ended in Sylvia and Randolph running through the saloon, kicking and screaming. Many nooks and crannies to hide in, Sylvia thought to herself.

She hadn’t seen it, but she had heard the time-stone drop.

And Katie’s words returned.

“You know that even if you manage to get there, if this infamous half-man, half-werewolf joins you and uses the stone to kill, you better be far away when he uses it. Otherwise, you will suffer the repercussions.”

“I know, Katie,” Sylvia had answered. “My senses will not suffer.”

“Maybe your sight will,” Katie responded. “Avoiding the effects of the time-stone will perhaps strengthen your chances for survival, but affect your sight.”

Sylvia’s whisper crooned, barely audible to the human ear hiding in the corner.

Another old and creaking floorboard revealed her presence and a mouse, ever so small, sped from under the bar and out onto the open floor. Sylvia’s head snapped to the right, looking at it, concentrating on its movement, its little feet scuttering across the floor, hoping it wouldn’t slip away. With one swift jump, her legs arching and knees giving way, she jumped up and out across the floor, flying. Time stopped entirely, her face leaning forward. She could see it turn around, running past a shiny object two feet from the bar, painted blood red. An object lay there that she at the time did not, but should have, recognized.

“Avoiding the effects of the time-stone will perhaps strengthen your chances for survival, but affect your sight,” Katie had said.

Had Sylvia missed something just now?

Her body landed flat face down upon the speeding mouse, grabbed it by its upper body. It squealed as she bit off its neck with her front teeth blood trickled down her chin. The echo of a small squeek of a left-over animal in pain presented itself to her acute concentration.

Sylvia shot up like a bullet, her muscles tightening her body language, her white blouse sprinkled with mouseblood, her long hair tousled, long almost down to her brown leather pants. Her nostrils flared, her whiskers grew. The eyes, those brown eyes the hiding man, her former lover Randolph, had called Reindeer Iris, shifted, circling from dark brown to yellow. Yellow eyes graced the elegant face, flaring nostrils opening and shutting increasingly.

Sylvia’s ears pricked up, twitched as if they were alive, living beings on a living being.

One shifting foot, panting, somebody swallowing hard, sweatdrops falling on a dusty floor, noises audible in slow motion. Sylvia took a look at herself in the mirror behind the bottles. And so, while the bottles themselves were too full, the bar too dusty, the ghost town too empty, the saloon too smelly, the weather too hot, the victim too safe, she still felt that the chase was all worth the while.

Sylvia kneeled half-way down, sitting in mid-air like a sumo-ringer waiting to attack an opponent. She raised her knees, lifting off the ground and landing on dusty wood, once so full of glasses, now full of stains and soot.

Her high heels clicked upon that hard surface, pacing the area like a dancer on catwalk. She smelled his fear, he smelled her rage. This time, the man’s wound had left traces of blood all behind the bar.

Then, the noise of the scraping foot received a physical counterpart. A very faint smile appeared on her lips, barely visible. Like on the Mona Lisa, her smile beguiled, leaving the possible viewer baffled as to the emotion behind the smile.

She could hear the man’s fear.

Sylvia jumped down behind the bar with a thud, making that wounded man behind the corner whimper. The woman that was about to transform let out a chuckle. Now, they knew where they had each other. Solemnly, she walked with her clicking heels pounding ominously against the saloon floor.

The woman with the yellow eyes grabbed a bottle off the shelf in front of the mirror. As to the origin and contents of the bottle, she could not care less. It was alcohol, that much was sure. Old alcohol, probably. At least ten years old.

Sylvia raised the bottle to her lips, feeling the hard glass surface touch her whiskers. As the wet poison trickled into her mouth, making the mouse-blood mix with the alcohol, she understood this to be whiskey of the older sort. The kind of whiskey served in US saloons in the 1850’s: made of raw alcohol, burned sugar and a hint of chewing tabacco. Something the old cowboys used to call coffin varnish.

The contents of the half-empty bottle waltzed into her bowels, while she saw a scared face peeking out from behind the corner. The face, frightened to smithereens, waited for doomsday. Now, the Mona-Lisa-smile became a mud-eating grin, albeit with shining white teeth, too shiny for a 19th century prostitute.

“Don’t kill me,” the voice behind the corner whimpered, drool making its way down a dirty, bearded cheek. For one moment, the werewolf and the victim stood face to face.

Sylvia again rasied her left hand, in which a now almost empty bottle resided, high up in the air. She turned it over and let the remaining brown juice run out on to the floor.

Sylvia could feel that bottle twitch in her hand. She aimed at him a few times and seeing him jump back a few times made her grin. As she aimed at him, he jumped back a stride too far and hit his head.

Randolph let out a short wail, grabbed his head and looked at the traces of whatever juice had protruded from it. More of his own blood.

Sylvia licked her own lips, cackling with lust, wearimg the same wide-eyed expression as before she had eaten the mouse. A mouse or a human, it didn’t matter much. Meat was meat.

He shot up, his brown boots skidding, trying to arise without using his wounded right arm. Sylvia threw the bottle down on the ground, making a thousand small splinters spread across the saloon floor. Sylvia’s nostrils flared again and when Randolph shot up, finally being able to stand up with the help of one hand, both ran off.

Randolph circled the bar, knocking down a few chairs in the process. Both chairs tumbled and caused the wounded man to tumble down with them. Sylvia jumped over the bar and landed upon Randolph, skidding across the dirty floor and landing with his face flat down on the wood.

“You are going to pay for this!”

Randolph squeezed his eyes shut, his teeth clamping shut.

The woman grabbed his chin tighter, raising it to the point where Randolph thought he would even hear his neck snap. Her knuckles whitened, hands shaking, eyes popping out of their sockets. The man cringed in terror, pleading for her to let him go.

Sylvia thrusted her left knee into the man’s back and threw up his chin.

“Why didn’t you use the time-stone on me?” Sylvia spat.

Slowly, she leaned over, sensually, making the man wonder if her heart would, after all, be humble enough to forgive him. Her nose toyed with his hair for a while, leaving him with a mixture of pain and satisfaction.

“Why?” she repeated.

Randolph stuttered. “Uhm, because … uhm …”

Sylvia straddled the man, as if she was about to ride him, her hair hanging down over her face, her hands holding on to his face.

“Tell me why you saved me?”

Randolph clasped his eyes shut now, so hard that his face turned into a conglomerate of anguished wrinkles. The courage it took to say this obviously overwhelmed him.

“I love you,” he crooned.

She ejected a tongue and started licking his earlobe, slowly, patiently, lovingly.

Then, she whispered soft thing into his ear:

“I smell you like a butcher smells a stag.”

“Just let me go,” he screamed. “If you don’t love me, let me go.”

“You are only hungry for power and call that love,” Sylvia crooned, passionately. “To us real werewolves, that is called treason.”

Her whiskers growing, her eyes in a yellow glow, her nostrils expanding and imploding, she opened her mouth to a frightening range and attacked the man with her jaw. Her bite removed half of the man’s ear.

Sylvia heard his yelp, could feel his pain, enjoyed his pain, enjoyed that revenge and laughed as he shook his head, unable to hold on to his own head in protection.

Blood now trickled down his cheek and left Sylvia’s mouth pretty much clean of anguish. She sat up straight, straddled his back and gave the man a punch on his head.

He screamed, letting out a hoarse wail.

“You just wanted to kill me in New York City,” Sylvia gritted through her teeth. “That is why you spared me. And you wanted to me alone, so you waited for a chance when my friends followed me back in time.”

“What makes you believe that?” Randolph muttered, now close to bursting.

“You only become my lover so that you could take over my company,” she croaked. “You want to rule the werewolves of New York City. Love was never an issue. Frigging liar!”

Cynical cackles bounced out of her mouth like bubbles of mud from a swamp. The descrepancy between the beautiful woman slowly turning into a werewolf and the sneering hyena that now straddled the poor victim made the shivering human under her cringe.

“I want the time stone,” Sylvia croaked through gritted teeth.

“I’ve lost it,” he answered. “I am nothing without it.”

“Well, in that case, we are all screwed,” Sylvia yelped and kicked Randolph in the groin. He squeeled. “Just tell me one thing, why kill werewolves that you want to rule?”

Randolph began moaning.

“Tell me,” Sylvia screamed.

“I wanted to have an elite troupe of werewolves and not have thousands like you. My werewolf army will be like the Navy SEALS. You want the world to become your kind,” Randolph moaned, “but without the stone, I am powerless. I’ve lost it.”

“It’s here,” Sylvia cackled. “But that stone-blast ruined my eyesight. Be happy that it didn’t kill me.”


“Because then my ghost would come to haunt you,” Sylvia said. “Copulate you to death, ride you into oblivion.”

“Let me go,” Randolph cried.

Sylvia squealed, kicking him again, now in his stomach: “That stone has been in our society for centuries. Do you know what you have done?”

“God damn you! Let me go!”

Sylvia lift Randolph’s chin even more and now he could hear the muscle’s snap. One more lift, one more grab and, by Jove, his neck would break.

She gritted her teeth, her face now hairy to the point of horror, drooling and spitting.

“You know damn well what that stone was,” she hollared. “That stone was our property. It belonged to us. We were the protectors of the space-time-continuum.”

Randolph stopped, pausing, looking up.

A surprised gaze radiated across ever centimetre of his countenance.

“Somewhere,” she whispered, “there is a criminal on the loose, one that shall vanquish our race, a half-human, half-werewolf. We have to make sure that this person, whoever he or she is, is kept at guard. Your combat to kill us has made it difficult for us to survive. Is that you? Are you that creature?”

She buried her elbow in his back and he wailed.

“I think I can safely say you are not it,” Randolph said.

“That is for sure,” Sylvia cackled, lifting her claws and scratching him along the side, leaving a long trail of paw marks. “Bloody liar. Killer. You are nothing without that stone. Find it and die.”

There was another kick.

Randolph groaned, like someone in the verge of lifting heaving machinery.

Through his groan, his whisper seemed edgy and strange, half-civilized and half-brutal.

“Where is this criminal?” Randolph blubbered.

Sylvia gritted her teeth, now completely animal.

“He, like us, has a life centuries long, so we have to wait him out,” Sylvia said. “It is said, he escaped the original family and created his own race, but no one knows. I am the last one of my kind. I shall do the rest to kill whatever is left of him.”

Sylvia lift Randolph’s head one more snap, just one more, enough to make it impossible for him to move, but the loud crunch that she heard made even her cringe. The man slumped down without one word, one whimper. Like a lifeless sack of potatoes, Randolph plopped down, his hat falling down over his head and his shirt literally sticking to the floor by way of his own blood.

She stood up, legs spread wide across the victim, raised her claws into the air, shaking them at the sky. Her three feet long hair now a wild mane, she shook it and created a havoc of falling fur. Howling a howl, pain mixed with glory, the werewolf built in a laugh for kicks, pounding her paws on the ground. One paw accidentally touched Randolph’s hand and for a moment, she thought he groaned. Sylvia bared her teeth, sizzling with fury, grabbed him by the neck, repeatedly banging his head again the ground.


Sylvia panted, her hair hanging down in her face, her yellow eyes now pulsating from yellow to brown and back to yellow. The left-over mouseblood now dried up, it had been replaced with phlegm and blood. The faster pace of her panting slowed down until she realized that the culprit now had been vanquished.

Sylvia’s hair tickled her own face, hanging down on each side of her face, blood dripping down on an already dead man, realizing that she now actually had killed somebody responsible for destroying her own society. Her warm breath exuded out of her body and onto the deceased scalp of a former lover. As she breathed on him, her whiskers withdrew completely and the tinge of the yellow in her eyes turned brown.

Slowly, gently, she raised her head and looked out onto the street.

Twelve bodies. Time travel had never been so painful.

The stone? He must have it.

Sylvia destraddled the man, slumping down beside him and turning him over with a neutral expression that indicated detachment.

Searching all his pockets, she at first thought that he had dropped it somewhere in the saloon. She began searching the place for it, looking behind the bar, on the bar, even in places he had not been, even out on the street where she had chased him an hour ago. She desperately jumped over tables, onto porches, kicking in windows and breaking doors, letting out all her rage at having to endure this panic.

She stopped short and in dead silence she contemplated her fate. What if the stone was gone? What then? In that case, she was stuck sometime in the 19th century, all her friends gone, the secret identity she had built up for herself in 2013 eradicated. She must find the stone, given to her family by a man named Peter Stubbe in 1589, a warlock, a witchmaster.

Sylvia shot up like a rocket, realizing she had killed Randolph for nothing. Her wounded feet jumped from rooftop to rooftop, up toward the sky and down onto the corpses of her werewolf companions, who she had followed here.

“I know now why I like 2013.”

Sylvia smelled the difference now. She remembered smelling Randolph the second time she entered the saloon. Then, his human stench revealed his presence. You can never fool a werewolf. Wasn’t that what her father always had said?

Something in her told her that was not entirely true.

Sylvia knew that if she concentrated on that task, she would most certainly know the difference and tell where that bloody bastard had dropped the time-stone. She desperately wanted to get back to her job as a CEO, holding conferences, taking calls, meeting politicians, eating at fancy Manhattan restaurants, living in her Park Avenue penthouse and having young men for breakfast.

Sylvia again shot up, jumping a few times over toward the old saloon in this deserted town so close to dusk. Again, her nostrils flared, expanding, imploding, impanding, exploding, like a lusty addictive heatwave ready to copulate with destiny, riding the fire of physicality.

The stone was in the saloon.

The mouse. Yes. When she chased the mouse, she had seen the object. The stone had been lying there. Damn it, but where was … there?

Sylvia again felt a surge of hope rush into her heart.

The mouse had ran right past the stone and Sylvia had not even realized it. Which meant that she could’ve taken the damn stone and left Randolph in the old west, trapped here forever. That would’ve meant an even more horrid fate and an even better revenge for her.

But as she again strode over to the stone, she saw it and grabbed it, laughing, looking at Randolph laying there lifeless, giving his lifeless presence the finger. Then and there, she realized that it had been a good thing that she had killed the bastard. As she wished herself back to her Central Park office in Manhattan, she thought she heard something move in the old saloon, but discarded it.

Only the wind, she thought to herself.

Then, Sylvia was gone.

Back in the New York City of the year 2013, Sylvia smiled to herself, singing as she stepped into her office shower that night of Friday, July the 12th, 2013. A happy Top 40 tune cha-cha-cha’d across her lips as the water trickled down her body. As she dressed for success, decorating herself with Lancome, Revlon and Chopard, she opened a cool bottle of Moet and Chandon champagne, congratulated herself for being such a smart lass and leafed through some photos of possible lovers.

Who could just be someone worthy enough to pass her time?

After sipping the potion and drenched in sin, she called her driver to pick her up.

Maybe being the last werewolf on Earth wasn’t so bad, after all.

Last one?

Really? The last one?

Sylvia shrugged, smiling.

Who knew?

As she gazed across Central Park that night, she wondered in whose arms she tonight would be sauntering.

Then, she smelled the difference again.

Someone else was in the room with her.

She smelled the stink of that human, just like she had in the saloon in the old west.

She shivered. For the first time in eons, Sylvia shivered.

She smelled the difference.

Slowly, ever so gently, Sylvia turned around and looked into the eyes of a man dressed in leather boots, wearing a plaid shirt. Just like Sylvia rode on the wing of her friends wave of magnetism with the first time-trip of the stone, Randolph rode on the wings of hers. Now, Charon’s promise prevailed.

After he buried the knife in Sylvia’s belly that night, he kissed her gently.

Randolph put the time-stone on the desk and carried her up the stairs to the top floor and dropped her into a cupboard. Her head made a hard sound against the dead wood.

A hard thing to fit that woman into such a small space, he whispered as he walked away. Randolph danced down the stairs. Now, that moment was here and Randolph was in a Central Park office, just maybe, for good.

In peace, he would bury her. At night, unseen, in secret.

Whistling a happy tune, he called the driver and told him that the CEO was not feeling well and had changed her mind. The driver asked him, recognizing his voice from the time of the affair, if he now again was a part of the staff.

Randolph proudly answered the man: “Yes, I am back!”

The driver sounded confused, but Randolph thought nothing of it.

Don’t worry. Just drive someplace where the women are young.

He unclothed, threw away the old clothes into a black bag and showered. He sang, dressed for success with the clothes that Sylvia still kept in her closet.

There were strange noises coming from above, noises of opening cupboards. This was the night of carelessness, so Randolph thought himself alone.

And as he slowly changed into a Armani suit with a Brooks Brothers tie to go with that, he contemplated his own fate and wondered why Sylvia, with her extraordinary sense of smell, had never noticed that he was one half-werewolf.

Keeping a secret like that for a century had not been easy.

As Randolph waited for the driver, he remembered conversations he’d had with Sylvia. There were moments of regret, but then he realized that there could only be one.

Yes, she said that sometimes deceased werewolves awaken again. It had happened with him. He hadn’t really been dead, only mamed. However, he buried that knife deep in Sylvia’s stomach. The woman undoubtedly died.

As the office door opened and revealed the presence of a pretty female limousine driver, Randolph was not at all unhappy.

“Hi,” the twenty-something girl chirped, smiling. “I am Katie King, I’m filling in for the other driver tonight. I’ll drive you anywhere in the city you want to go and give you my own special service.”

“Why, thank you,” Randolph answered. “Where you from, girl?”

“New York,” she sang.

“Nice,” Randolph growled.

He knew that he would have a very good night tonight. The night yet lived a young existance. The dance clubs filling up with pretty women, the limousines just had to roar over to conquer seduction.

Before he finally left for the office door, he again slapped his hands against his forehead, laughing. He realized that he had left the time-stone on the desk. He cackled to himself, murmuring something about being forgetful.

To his own surprise, the desk only entailed a computer, paper work and red tape.

The stone? He had left it there. Where was it now?

The desk. It had been on the desk after he killed …

But that couldn’t be, could it?

Randolph turned around.

“I seemed to have mislayed my lucky stone,” he whispered.

Katie put her head to the side and shook it.

“Golly Moses,” she spat, cynically. “How’d have thunk, huh?”

But now, Randolph saw that the female limousine driver wore a completely different expression. No chirp, no sexy smile. Just a dead serious grin.

Mud-eating, brutal, spiteful and strange.

Another female was in the room.

That person stood behind him.

Randolph smelled the difference now.

And as he turned around, he saw stars, hoping that he could realize his dreams and created his own race of wolves.

Then, everything went black.