The sun began to set in The Constant, the sky turning a warning shade of red. The movements around base became more hurried, everyone running in and out of the wooden gate in preparation for nightfall.
Everyone except Woodie. He often felt isolated from the group, missing the pine trees back home and the isolation of the mountains, where it was just him and his trusty axe. Here, in this strange land with strangers who managed to find themselves in the same situation, he kept mostly to himself, hardly speaking even when spoken to.
Tonight, he stood alone on the sidelines outside of the stone walls, caressing his dependable axe, too wrapped up in his own plans to hear or care about the orders being called out from within.
"Tonight's the night," Woodie murmured to Lucy, his fingers vibrating with his excitement as they ran slowly up and down her sturdy steel.
"Look at that beauty," Lucy whistled in his ear, indifferent to his eager words. "How I long to feel it crumble underneath me."
Woodie glanced around, eyes falling on the large pine tree only a few feet away, and he knew she's what Lucy was referring to. Normally, he would allow Lucy to indulge on her temptations, grip her tightly as he swung his arms through the air; the wind whistling around her slim frame, her trills of pleasure, the resounding sound of her hitting the bark of the poor tree fallen victim to her desires - they all came together to form a symphony to his ears.
But he couldn't waste any time tonight. "We'll get her tomorrow, eh?" Woodie promised, his lips sliding along her sharp blade. Lucy whined, but didn't press.
"Woodie!" He startled at Winona's call, turning to face the clever woman. "Why are you just standing about? It's a full moon tonight; you should be making sure you have enough food and planning what to do when you change. Do you know what you'll be turning into?" Winona turned and headed back into the camp, her matter-of-fact tone as brisk as her steps.
Woodie ran up behind her, gripping Lucy tightly. He wanted to blurt out the genius plan he had been working on secretly, but he didn't. Instead he let out what would normally be the truth: "No."
"Hopefully a Goose, so you can look for Lunar Island," Winona commented offhandedly. She busied herself by one of the fridges, pulling out the stack of monster meat Walter had been saving. It was smaller than usual, but she didn't question it. She called the boy over, handing him the meat and reminding him of where Glommer could be found.
Woodie watched with interest as the boy fed his dog, who proceeded to grow about five times her regular size. He felt a connection with the pup, often reminded of his own transformations when he watched her change. But he couldn't run a hand through her shaggy fur like he usually would, for Walter mounted her and they were off in an instant, planning to get a head start on the night.
Winona became preoccupied telling Webber what items she needed him to get from the neighboring spiders, so Woodie took this opportunity to inch toward the Prestihatitator. He had been spending more time near it lately, figuring out ways to add to his curse in ways that he had never experienced before. He pulled out all of the resources he had gathered, including the small stash of monster meat that he had stolen from the fridge.
It took only a few minutes for him to combine these resources to create a small, wooden idol. It was of a bull, standing majestically, legs apart in an intimidating pose. Chuckling gleefully, Woodie slipped the statue into his pocket.
It wasn't long now. In the remaining minutes, Woodie was able to convince Warly to cook him a nice handful of meatballs; the full moon began to show her brilliant face as he securely pocketed the meal.
Then the transformation began.
The pain was something he knew he would never get used to, but luckily the change from human form to another animal was quick. In an instant, Lucy had slipped from his morphing hands with a shrill shriek, while his flower crown fell from atop his head. His stature grew, his snout elongated, and a tail and horns formed where they weren't before.
He had become a Bull.
Woodie took a few paces, getting used to his muscular frame, his ears deaf to the gasps and shouts around him. He felt powerful, sturdier - though smaller - than when he was a Moose.
He glanced around the dimly lit environment with new eyes, seeing people and objects he didn't quite recognize. He saw an axe at his feet, her color dull and faded. She let out a whine and, startled, he kicked away from her, heading into an open clearing.
Woodie's mind was only still partially intact, as it usually was when he changed, and he tried to make sense of the new sensations filling him. What should I be doing? What would be beneficial for the group? he thinks to himself, struggling to recall what "the group" even was.
Then, in his peripheral vision, he saw motion. It was fabric, flowing in the wind. Rage started to build inside of him as he turned his head toward it to get a clearer picture. It was a muted color, one he couldn't quite put a name to. It was attached to the back of a person, a man with pointed hair and a long beard. As the inattentive man continued mining rocks, his cape continued to wave in the wind mockingly,
Woodie's Bull instincts kicked in and, before he could stop himself, he was charging toward the man, his head lowered and his flat horns directing his movements.
The sound of his heavy hooves pounding against the cracked ground caught the man's attention. He let out an undignified yelp and began to speed around the clusters of rocks, increasing the wind speed in which his cape was encouraged to dance.
Woodie continued to sprint after him, determined to cease that incessant movement.
"Someone, please help!" the man called out.
"Wilson, what's going on?"
These words passed through Woodie's ear and slipped right out the other. He was too engrossed on the fluttering fabric, too focused on not falling at every sharp turn made.
"Can't you see? There's a mad creature after me!"
"Wait, look at his shirt! That's Woodie!"
"Woodie? What the-? Ah!" Wilson let out a scream as he tripped over a pebble. He flipped onto his back, coming face to face with the charging Bull. He began to quickly scoot backwards, reaching behind him in an attempt to find something to use as shelter. "Wigfrid, do something!"
Woodie felt satisfaction begin to rise in his chest as he closed in on the man taunting him. As he lowered his head even more, horns ready to pierce through whatever they came in contact with, he suddenly felt a sharp pain run up his snout.
Blinded with confusion, he stumbled over his hooves and crashed to the ground. He blinked up at the culprit: a girl with wild pigtails, holding a spear by its head.
Wigfrid batted the base of her weapon against her other hand as she glared down at him. "Woodie, you know better than that. What have you done?"
Woodie bellowed up at her, his warped vocal cards incapable of forming human sounds. He felt trapped, unable to escape this girl's accusing eyes keeping him pinned down.
Wilson approached them, his movements tentative. "Woodie, what is this new look?"
"Yer messing with somethin' you shouldn't be, boy." The sudden, gruff voice caused all three to look over.
Wickerbottom was approaching them, the rest of their group following behind cautiously. She shook her head, looking over the large Were-Bull.
Before he could even think of trying to respond, Woodie let out a strangled cry as pain began to shock through him. With a dizzying speed, he was back in his human form. A great pang of hunger racked through Woodie's body and he scrambled for the meatballs waiting for him in his pockets. As he gulped them down, he peered sheepishly up at everyone watching him, a range of emotions - from anger to shock to confusion - painted plainly on their faces.
"The night is not yet over, but yer already back to normal," Wickerbottom continued. "You wasted this full moon. That's why you don't mess with magic if you don't know what yer doing."
Woodie looked down at his hands, shame burning his ears. " Sorry, everyone," he mumbled. "Just wanted some agency over my curse. Be what I wanted to be for once, ya know?"
Walter stepped forward, a kind look on his face. "Better to have tried and failed than to not know what it was like!" Woodie smiled at the boy, grateful for his consistently positive outlook. "Why don't we head back now? You can ride Woby if you want."
Woodie's mood lightened significantly, now excited at the prospect of going home. "Thank you, Walter."
Willow stepped forward, and she and Walter helped Woodie get to his feet. He brushed the dust off himself, still slightly embarrassed, before slowly following his two friends back to base.
Wilson came up and clasped his shoulder. "You scared me, pal. Maybe don't keep these things to yourself, right? I can use my scientific mind to see if I can help you do it better next time, if you want."
Woodie brought a hand to his chest, touched by the offer. "Thank you."
"You think science can do more than magic?" Wickerbottom asked, catching up with the group. Her tone was harsh, but teasing.
"Well, magic obviously didn't work!" Wilson exclaimed.
"He just wasn't educated enough on it. I'm sure with some practice-"
"Everyone knows magic is just unexplained science!" Winona cut in jovially, skipping closer.
As the group continued making their way back to base, bickering lightly, Woodie realized he felt right at home in that moment. While he did miss the mountains of Canada, here with his found family, he felt fully accepted - curse and all.