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George Walbridge was bored. Numbingly, endlessly bored. His iPhone had a number of games, but had run out several towns ago. His mini laptop was back in their hotel room, and although it was fairly close to the village he and his father was sat in, there was no way George was going to walk past that moody cow of a receptionist again. George was desperate for entertainment, but not yet that desperate.
George was away with his father, Arthur Walbridge, following in the footsteps of Alexander The Great. They were currently in eastern Europe - George wasn't sure where, his father rarely told him anything of importance - staying in a small hotel with no Wi-Fi. This was what pissed George off the most. His father was reluctant to pay extra for Wi-Fi or even just electricity, although they could have easily have afforded it. Arthur was a well known and successful artist and historian, and although he spent most of his time abroad, he lived in the states with his wife, Eleanor, and his two sons, Peter, who was in Dartmouth studying science, and George.
George had been given the privilege of coming with his father on his latest travels because of what had happened at school that day. It wasn't his fault, not really. Henry had bullied him for far too long. peter had told him to man up, show the little bully who was boss. So George had waited outside school with a baseball bat, and when henry showed his face George had battered him.
Everybody was more bothered about how Henry had nearly lost the sight in his left eye than how Henry had treated George. His father had thought it best to give George's traumatized classmates time away from George, and since he was planning a trip anyway, he took George with him.
George had to admit that some of the temples and stuff they'd seen were pretty cool. But other than that this had been the most tedious trip of his life.
"Right," said Arthur suddenly, interrupting George's train of thought. "I think it's time we headed back to the hotel, son. We're moving on to a village just south of here tomorrow. You're going to need your sleep."
He ruffled George's hair, much to his annoyance, and walked towards the place they'd parked their rented car.
The next day father and son were arriving at the tiny train station, and George noticed something strange. there were police everywhere. The stationmaster and a policeman were having a heated discussion in a language George did not understand. Arthur frowned, and went to speak to them. George followed. the police man awkwardly explained that there had been an accident involving a child and a desert wolf. that was when George noticed the body. On the sidewalk, with a sheet hastily pulled over it, was the body of a child, no more than eight years old. A small, mutilated hand stuck out from the sheet. A small crowd of children, roughly the age of the victim, stood quietly next to it. George distinctly heard one mutter the word, "Gin."
"Huh? Gin? So maybe the kid was attacked by a drunk," George's cousin Martin mused later on the phone in the hotel room.
"Maybe." George agreed. "But he must have been pretty messed up to do that, the skin had been torn off the bone, Martin."
Martin whistled, "Weird. Maybe it was a wolf then. Anyway I gotta go man. See you soon."
George was somewhat eager to look around this strange village. But in the morning he was disappointed. this village was almost identical to the last, if not smaller. Arthur droned on and on about the history of the place, and George ignored him.
Sometime later George spotted a bunch of kids at the edge of the desert, throwing stones at a speck in the distance. he walked closer to them, trying to make out what the hell they were attacking. they were yelling abuse at it, screaming at it. Her. It was just a little girl. Small, dressed in rags. George felt sorry for her, and began walking towards her. to his surprise, she ran away. he ran after her.
"Wait!" He yelled.
He finally caught up with her. " I... won't... hurt you" he gasped. She looked up at him, and the creases in her forehead eased just slightly. The children had stopped throwing stuff, but were now yelling frantically at George, as though begging him to run away. George smiled at the girl.
"They wont hurt you now," he promised.
The corner of her lip turned up in a faint, reassuring smile, but something about her eyes made George uneasy. they reminded him of Peter's lizard .
Thur Walbrige watched the children yell at his son, and felt slight unease. But george seemed unconcerned, and so Arthur let it slip out of his mind and continued with his painting of the desert.
He thought of what the bartender of the hotel told him. About the dreaded Giin, the shape shifting ghoul. A Genie. but not like the Aladdin film that George used to enjoy so much. No, these were so much more vicious. These would strip the flesh off bones. They were lizard like, horrible beasts that enjoyed the taste of children.
The bartender had warned him to keep an eye on his son, for the bartenders own had fallen victim to the ghoul only yesterday. It had gained his eight year old sons sympathies by taking the form of a starving young girl, and had skulled at the edge of a desert.
This desert, in fact.
Arthur glanced up to continue his painting and noticed how the children were yelling so insistently. Arthur smiled, believing that they were playing with his son. What was it that they were yelling? Giin. Ghoul.
And then with a flash of insight, Arthur understood. And then he was running over to the desert, yelling loud enough to wake his wife at home. Because George needed to run. Now. Before it was too late
George heard his father calling, but he ignored him. Whatever it was it could wait. Somthing about this girl intrugied him. She seemed intruiged by him too, tilting her head to the side, eyeing him with... hunger?
Finally she smiled. George was mesmerized by her teeth. They were the sharp, pointed teeth of a lizard.
Arthur reached his son too late. The thing was already running away, changing as she ran. First a girl, then a wolf, then a lizard, running in the sand.