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Wolf, Interrupted

Lycanthropy is a curse best shared with others!

By Eric WolfPublished 2 years ago Updated about a year ago 7 min read
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Wolf, Interrupted
Photo by Benjamin Voros on Unsplash

Working up my nerve, as I clutched the armrests of my chair until my fingers throbbed, I said to the people behind those weary-but-interested faces in my circle, "My name is Pauline," smiled patiently through a halfhearted chorus of, "Hi, Pauline," before I finished up my introduction: "and I am not a wolf, but I ought to be."

Eight pairs of eyes fixed upon me in the church basement’s subdued lighting: some bleary, some reddened from fatigue, others widened (as mine were) by nervous energy, even damp. It was a lush spring night outside, so my hugging myself was not from being cold. Must be what's 'eating' me, I mused silently — when I am the one who ought to be eating!

The nine of us had braved the rain and wind to meet up on a typically chilly night in downtown Seattle. We were pretty varied in terms of our backstory ingredients, as you might expect of pretty much any collection of strangers. “It’s another full moon, night after tomorrow,” I pointed out, “and here I am, totally unable to threaten anyone with my beastial transformation. And… it sucks.” They hissed and narrowed their eyes at me. “I don’t mean graveyard-sleeper sucks.” This relaxed them. Vampires are not our preferred company.

I was met with sad smiles and words of encouragement, murmured, almost half to themselves, from the other Friends of Larry Talbot. Their response to me, as much learned as it was automatic, was borrowed, from other support groups, of more prosaic interests: weaning the participants from overeating, alcoholism, gambling, even sexual compulsion. What separated our group-in-need from the other kinds was that we suffered from an inability to engage in something sinful, one which was making us pretty miserable, the longer we qualified to be members in it.

Until the attack that had reshaped my life — even as it savaged my wiry little body (well, my little brother likes to claim that I’m somehow huge, his huge sister) — I had usually scoffed at the notion of attending any such meeting, since I didn’t inherit/develop any of the more fashionable addictions. That changed, of course, when I succumbed to an invitation from my previous boyfriend, Nature Boy Charlie, to hike in the forest just west of the city, so removed from the choking urban landscape. Nothing but clean, crisp air; green vegetation in every direction — and a particularly hungry werewolf, intent upon eating the pair of us. He dragged Charlie off someplace; I was able to stagger for help to a nearby cabin, and woke up in a hospital weeks (okay, a few days) later.

Our name was a pretty good joke, but apart from circle members, the only folks around who might get it were probably fans of old monster movies. Cinephiles of darker tastes would recognize Larry Talbot as the name of the title character Lon Chaney portrayed so vividly in The Wolf Man. It was a play on the use of ‘Bill W.’ for Alcoholics Anonymous, only Bill Wilson was real, not a fictional character, and his problem wasn’t that he was unable to drink.

No, what brought us together was our incapacity, under the silvery light of a full moon, to transform ourselves, into wolves. There was a clinical name for our malady: Trans-Lupine Dysfunction, or TLD, as Warren, who was sort of our senior member, would explain to the new arrivals. He handled baggage for Sea-Tac International Airport, and had suffered an attack similar to mine. He divulged early on that coming out to his parents (“in the Eighties, can you imagine?”) was the toughest thing he had ever had to do, until one full moon night, a month after his attack, he discovered that he Could… Not… Change! He joined a TLD support group, and rose to a mentor-like position, within it; he was a sponsor for beginning, failed lycanthropes — such as yours truly.

Eun, who usually sat beside me, was nearly ten years younger than myself, and the only other woman present who was a recent group ‘acquisition’ — meaning, she had not had a reason to attend this, prior to her having been ‘introduced’ to the condition we shared. She worked in a florist’s shop; her favorite joke lately was: “Black flowers would suit my victims, if only I could summon the Beast Within!” We became fast friends, despite age, and other, differences; her snarky wit and our shared frustration bonded us like glue.

^^^^

Some folks came and went; either they worked out their main issue, at the next full moon, or they grew disenchanted with the whole support process. Important thing was, each of us had everyone else’s back, and vice the versa, so to speak, as it were. We were able to go out on dates, work nights, catch up on our sleep — when we could sleep — on lunar-illuminated evenings. We did not need to work out a procedure to hunt and kill safely (i.e. no humans were targeted — we stayed outside of the city limits, and had a ‘safehouse’ type of a deal worked out).

We couldn’t hunt at all; killing was still possible, sure, but a human type of killing none of us wished to commit in any case. We had actual soccer moms, Gretchen and Pamela, in the group at that point; they never had so much as a hair out of place, following a full moon, and the vehemence they showed to the other parents and the coaches of their kids’ games, should have pushed them right over the edge…

Ah, but then, a miracle. One of us finally broke through. I canceled my first date — okay, postponed it — with a young professor of anthropology at the U. of Washington, to substitute for Warren as group leader, one evening. It was the new full moon, of course, or the rest of this twist wouldn’t have happened. Our circle had welcomed a new friend — we don’t call ourselves ‘patients’, ‘addicts’, even ‘members’ — named Miguel, a recent transplant from Las Vegas. He told us all his wild tale, of Sin City excess and an ill-chosen visit, one moony night, to the surrounding desert, when out of nowhere came —

We had no warning for what happened next. I could just catch a glimpse of Warren, whom we had not expected to see that night, with another man, a muscled young guy in his early thirties, brandishing a polished pistol, and Eun gaped at him, the second guy, I mean, with a mixture of recognition... and rage.

She had been grousing about Warren's absence, a breakup, her parents' nosiness, the usual gripe-a-thon, but not even such miseries produced a snarling beast out of my petite Korean-American friend. Now, this had moved the needle just enough... but why? "Him, again," she growled —literally.

A low rumbling growl issued from Eun’s throat. She looked at me with eyes the like of which I had only seen once before, eyes wide open and reddened with the blood of unchecked, unthinking fury, the violence of the hunt. The pain that ran down her spine, as she writhed in the change, must have been agonizing; I’d seen all the movies, of course, but the reality, so we had been informed, was worse, if anything. Our soccer moms sprang from their chairs; Pamela was a head taller than Eun, but still in full possession of her human faculties, thus was only in jeopardy if she had not been bitten before. Odd thing about lycanthropes: unless attacked ourselves, we will probably not launch an attack against one of our own. As long as we gave Eun the space she demanded, at that moment, we were safe from her harm. Probably.

The fur began to fly. That is no metaphor; I meant to say, Eun leapt across the room, almost as if winged, and tried to bolt, out into the hall, through the doorway. Warren yelled out her name; the others rose to their feet and beckoned to her; she was on the move, and the pistol-packing stranger did what he had come prepared to do.

^^^^

He fired a single round at Eun, who was running on all fours, a coat of dark brown fur covering almost her entire body, and we heard its explosion and could not move.

Mister Pistol stepped into the room, waving his gun around, targeting each of us, one at a time. “Are you sensing the change?” he barked at the room. His gun hand came to rest aimed at me. “Do you want to change?

“Those are two different questions,” I managed to answer him, a moment later; Warren stepped up to pat me on the back with one hand and waved the guy’s gun away with his other one. “Of course, I want to change. I just… can’t. Hey, you know, Warren, this wasn’t cool. We weren’t told about him —”

“That’s too bad,” said Warren. “My friend Levi is sort of our janitor. He makes it a point to clean up any unexpected breakthroughs, like Eun’s.” Gretchen was beaming at him; he stared back. “Gretch, you seem pretty okay with this. Eun may be dead, even before we catch up with her.”

“That’s just it,” said Gretchen. “She had a breakthrough. She was able to ‘wolf out’. It could have happened to any of us. We could be shot at, next.” She was so excited by the possibility, she laughed.

“That would be just the best feeling ever,” agreed Pamela, who seemed to find even more delight in the prospect of becoming a werewolf hunter’s target.

"She made it out okay. Unreal!" Warren began to clap his hands, slowly, as if applauding the soccer moms. “It’s so beautiful,” he said. "Makes me so proud, you guys. If Eun can lose total control, over herself, I see no reason why the rest of us can’t do the same. She gives us all hope.”

We broke up the meeting, then and there, to follow Levi outside. He was tasked with tracking Eun's movements, to make sure she didn't break our cover by attacking humans within city limits. Putting aside the unsettling notion that he could kill Eun — or any of us — I had to admit: it felt really good, at that moment, to be almost a werewolf!

© Eric Wolf 2021.

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About the Creator

Eric Wolf

Ink-slinger. Photo-grapher. Earth-ling. These are Stories of the Fantastic and the Mundane. Space, time, superheroes and shapeshifters. 'Wolf' thumbnail: https://unsplash.com/@marcojodoin.

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