At first, I thought I was in a car or on a plane. I woke up in an uncomfortable chair with an incredible headache and no idea where I was. My eyes slowly adjusted to the sickly yellow light, and I saw a ceiling with water damage. I didn't recognize it. I smelled mildew and smoke, which would've startled me if not for the headache.
I started to rub my head, but I couldn't move my hand. I looked down, and my wrist was stuck in something. Actually both wrists. And ankles. I didn't like where this was going.
Ugly laughter erupted from across the room. "About time you came around!" someone shouted. I rolled my heavy head to the left and saw Seth and Nate. They were sitting on an unmade bed, smoking.
Seth was not one of my favorite people. He worked at a bar I avoided, and he was why. He and I went back ten years, so we knew a lot of the same people. Like Nate.
Nate wasn't a bad guy, or at least wasn't till recently. He was lonesome and impressionable, however, and apparently now he was Seth's lackey. He smiled at me almost apologetically.
"You should be more careful," Seth warned. "It's not safe to walk around alone at night." Seth had never shown concern for me before. I kept quiet.
"What's the matter, boy? Speak, boy!" Seth demanded, and my stomach did a somersault. Now I knew what this was about.
Seth smiled so hard he squinted. "You walk around alone a lot. One night last month, I was gonna ask you for some money, but then you gave me a better idea." Yes, I knew what this was about.
"I was gonna ask you for some money when you stopped and took your shoes off. I thought that was weird, but that was just the beginning! Wasn't it, boy?"
"Cut the crap, Seth," I said. "Get to what you want."
Seth ignored me. "Then you took off your shirt. Then you took off your pants. Then do you remember what happened?"
I glared at Seth. "We both know I'm a werewolf," I finally said, matter of fact. "What of it?"
Seth smiled even harder than before. "You're not leaving this room till Nate and I are, too," he cooed.
I stared at Seth a long time, my emotions running hot and cold. "You don't have a clue, do you?" I finally asked, and he laughed again.
"I've got all the clues," he gloated. "Moonrise is in an hour. Those are silver shackles on your wrists and ankles, and these are silver bullets," he continued and cocked a gun. "Try anything foolish between now and moonrise, and you're a dead dog. Get it? Dog?" He laughed again till Nate joined in.
Seth turned his attention to Nate and rolled two more cigarettes. I sat in the hard chair across the small room and mulled over my options. Moonrise was in an hour, but it mattered only because Seth thought it mattered.
- 1. Werewolves don't need moonlight to change.
I don't like to change in the daytime, but nighttime is fine no matter what phase the moon is in or whether it's showing. So I didn't need moonlight, but I did need an hour to stall, and I didn't want to startle Seth. His ignorance and arrogance were my only advantages besides, well, being a werewolf.
I couldn't leave, or Seth would shoot me. I couldn't change yet, or Seth would shoot me. Thirty minutes passed, and I couldn't think of anything better to do than change at moonrise and play it by pointed ear.
"Why do you want to be a werewolf, anyway?" I asked abruptly, and Seth laughed yet again.
"Live forever. Settle some scores." He said it with all the imagination of a grocery list, then rolled two more cigarettes.
- 2. Werewolves don't live forever.
Though on average we live longer than smokers.
I spent the rest of the hour hoping Seth would lose track of time, but several minutes before moonrise, he stood up and walked over to the window. "Show time, boy," he exalted, and made eye contact with me only as he opened the rickety Venetian blinds to let through the imminent moonlight. I swallowed. Seth wasn't letting me out of here till he and Nate were werewolves or dead, which didn't leave me a lot of latitude.
In case this isn't completely clear, I love being a werewolf. Not that I know different, but it's fun and normally comes in handy. I have a fur coat in case I get too cold, and I have fangs in case I can't open a bag of Doritos. This was the first time it had posed a real problem, and I wasn't about to let two goons ruin lycanthropy for me, at least not without a fight. It was just a more even fight than you might think, when I started out unconscious and shackled to a chair.
Anyway, I figured the least I could do was put on a good show, and the more compliant I came across, the less likely Seth would be to shoot me.
"Are you ready?" I asked, and Seth thrust Nate in front of me.
"Bite down on the shoulder, so the virus doesn't have to travel far to get to the heart," he instructed.
- 3. Lycanthropy isn't a virus.
There's so much wrong with that, let's focus on the "virus" part and try to forget the rest.
"I have to transform first," I reminded him.
I willed the change to come over me, and the shackles on my wrists snapped open at the first bulge of my forearm muscles. My teeth distended into fangs so soon after that, though, I don't think Seth or Nate noticed. I flashed a fanged grin at Nate before I became unrecognizable.
- 4. Silver doesn't affect werewolves.
Silver bullets do, but pretty much any bullets do.
I balled my hands into fists and could feel thick calluses already across my palms. It felt good, like sitting down in a car with real leather interior. What didn't feel good was growing a tail in pants with a 30" waist. By now, the shackles on my ankles also had snapped open, so rather than sit on my tail, I rose to my feet. Er, hind paws.
The idea was just to bite Nate's shoulder slowly and firmly, but he struggled, and the cliché copper tang of his blood briefly clouded my mind. The next thing I knew, Seth had grabbed Nate by the other shoulder and begun pulling him away from me. At first I was glad because I hadn't meant to bite Nate any more than absolutely necessary. By pulling Nate away from me with his shoulder still in my mouth, however, Seth hadn't helped him so much as shredded him.
"My turn," Seth said impatiently.
I clawed at Seth's collar and went to town on his shoulder, not caring how much of a mess I made. If he were to protest, he wouldn't protest long. But in fact, he liked it.
"I can feel something starting already!" he exclaimed before passing out pretty fast from loss of blood. Seth's blood was nothing to write home about, and I wanted to get out of there as soon as possible.
I let Seth fall to the floor, and I changed back, feeling like a beach ball with a leak. Once human again, I took off my clothes and piled them into the chair with the silver shackles. I tiptoed into the adjoining bathroom and entered the shower, trying to ignore the filthy floor and go on about my business. I stood under water as hot as I could stand till all the blood and sweat were gone down the drain. Although human, I gave myself a good shake because there was no clean towel anywhere in sight.
Both Seth and Nate looked worse than expected. Each lay atop a very large puddle of blood, very pale and very still. I gasped. There was no way someone Nate's size could have survived that much blood loss, even though Seth's wound looked worse. It was too bad about Nate. I had nothing against him, at least till today, and his only crime was looking up to Seth.
I dressed quickly, and it was lucky I did because an orange flash caught my attention. At moonrise, Seth and Nate had left whatever they were using for an ashtray on the bed, and the entire bed was suddenly in flames. By the time I got the door unlocked and opened, there wasn't a lot left to save.
I charged out the door and took big gulps of air as I ran. I ran to the edge of downtown before I stopped and started to cry at the needlessness of the two deaths and the senselessness of the whole sorry episode.
I had bitten two people before: one an old friend down South from whom I kept no secrets, the other an online friend out West obsessed with werewolves. The only thing that came of it either time was some bleeding, and the second time, an infection that went away with antibiotics. So Seth and Nate were wasting their time.
- 5. Werewolf bites aren't actually contagious.