Deep in the countryside, there lived a werewolf named Wolfgang. Wolfgang lived alone in a cave high upon a hill that overlooked a small village.
Every night, Wolfgang left his cave and gazed upon the villagers in the town square. He watched as the older children passed soccer balls to one another. Younger children chased pigeons near the large sculpted fountain; and parents and grandparents exchanged stories as they sat on benches surrounding the square. For several peaceful moments, Wolfgang smiled as he watched the villagers.
But alas, Wolfgang was a werewolf and he had a job to do. Every night, Wolfgang used his ferocious and intimidating howl to scare the villagers.
“Ah-woooo,” Wolfgang howled.
The parents in the square stopped their talking.
“Ah-woooo,” Wolfgang howled again.
The children in the square stopped their playing
“Ah-woooo,” Wolfgang howled for a third time.
Within minutes, the village square emptied. As Wolfgang returned to his cave, he heard the familiar sounds of windows slamming and doors locking. And every night, Wolfgang would fall asleep in his lonely cave and dream about things like soccer balls, pigeons, and laughter.
One day, Wolfgang caught a cold. He spent most of the day sitting in his cave drinking hot tea. By nightfall, Wolfgang knew it was time to howl. He could hear the villagers greeting one another, as the sound of flying pigeons was met with children’s laughter.
With a sore throat and a stuffy nose, Wolfgang walked out of his cave and looked upon the village square.
But on this particular night, Wolfgang’s howl sounded different.
“Ah-choooo,” Wolfgang sneezed.
Instead of frightened screams, Wolfgang heard a faint “bless you,” coming from the village square.
“Ah-choooo,” Wolfgang sneezed again.
Instead of slamming doors, Wolfgang heard another, more distinct “bless you,” from a second voice in the village.
“Ah-choooo,” repeated Wolfgang for a third time.
This time, Wolfgang only heard the sound of a single bouncing soccer ball and the flapping wings of a pigeon. With a sniffle and cough, he turned to re-enter his cave. But before he could reach the cave’s entrance, he noticed something strange. Someone from the village was climbing the hill toward his cave.
He stood at the edge of the hill and watched, as the outline of a child became clearer and clearer. Before he knew it, a little girl with short brown hair approached. She reached out and handed him a white handkerchief with pink flowers embroidered into the corners. Wolfgang thanked the little girl and blew his nose loudly into the handkerchief.
“You have a cold,” said the little girl.
“Yes,” replied Wolfgang.
“My cave is cold and damp,” he explained.
The little girl peered into the dark cave.
“I bet it is lonely too,” the little girl added.
Wolfgang nodded as he turned to enter the cave.
“Wait,” the little girl said quickly.
“My family was just about to eat dinner and my mom made a fresh loaf of bread. Do you want to eat with us?”
Wolfgang looked confused.
“But I howl at your village every night and scare everyone. Why would you want to invite me into your home?”
The little girl thought for a moment. “Well, when you sneezed tonight, we all realized that while your howls seemed scary, you were just like us. Everyone catches a cold and no one should be alone when they don’t feel well.”
The little girl motioned toward the village square below.
Wolfgang walked to the edge of the hill and peered down at the village. Instead of seeing an empty square and locked houses, Wolfgang set his eyes upon a square full of people. Children, parents and grandparents all stood in the square and waved at him.
Handkerchief in hand, Wolfgang waved back and smiled. He turned back to the little girl.
“Ah-choooo,” Wolfgang sneezed again.
This time, everyone in the square called up to Wolfgang and said, “Bless you.”
With that, Wolfgang took the little girl’s hand and together they walked down the hill to the village. He never returned to his lonely cave at the top of the hill. And now the only thing Wolfgang scares are pigeons that happen to land in the village square.
Illustration by: James Brown