If You Believe in Love at First Sight (The Speed of Darkness short story)

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic


Joel Shine is led into trouble when he follows a pretty face.

Submitted: September 10, 2018

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Submitted: September 10, 2018

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You might say love at first sight is a fantasy. ‘It’s just a fairy-tale,’ I’ve always been told. If only I had let that notion run free in my head and ignored her eyes across the room, I might not be in half the trouble I’m in now.

Ok, probably not. Most of my actions came about through trying to be a decent person, which is something try to I pride myself on being. And the night being what it was, I’d probably had a drink or two that was fueling my system, eradicating any logical fears or plain self-doubts.

The night? It was the final gig for the cover band I played in; the group consisting of me, my older brother, and two of his friends. The three of them had recently decided that the time had come to quit the band game and actually grow up.

I myself wasn’t all that eager to set down my guitar. I could still envision my name in lights across some major stadium billboard. I might not have had the voice that would attract the screaming little girls, but I can piece together music and write a clever enough lyric or two to entertain a clever audience; if you’ll let me be the one to judge.

The girl? She was pretty enough when it comes right down to it, but that’s not what attracted my attention. It was more something about the way she was listening to our music. Or rather wasn’t.

From up on stage, it’s much more common to see people almost singing along; you know, at least moving along with the beat of the song. Maybe, when they are with another person; the two of them can be lost in some other world together; but not too often does someone alone come to a concert and not pay attention.

It intrigued me, you know? Why would someone come all the way out to our event if they didn’t even care about the music?

Although thinking that way made me realize that our show wasn’t much of a concert for anyone other than me and my band-mates. It wasn’t likely we had even been a factor in her coming here. For nearly everyone else that could hear us, we were nothing more than a few local nobodies who were filling the stage when no star act had been hired.

If I was being generous, I could probably even count the number big names who had stood on this stage on one hand. Suddenly, thinking of things this way forced me to realize that my brother and his friends wanting to leave this silly band life wasn’t quite so crazy. As the last chords faded off of my guitar into silence and the lights dimmed down to lackluster applause, I think my messed up perception that I would ever become a famous rock star died.

If my half-assed attempts at being a musician couldn’t even raise a smile on the face of some chick sitting bored at a bar across the room with a drink, just who was I kidding other than myself?

 

Although, maybe that thought of mine penetrated her radar.

Her eyes came up to meet mine, first time; and shyly, she smiled. She looked down at her watch as the stupid grin lit my face, but my silly joy wasn’t missed; at least, not missed by my smirking brother. Pete clapped his hand on my shoulder as I knelt down to start picking up electrical cords from our equipment. “Just go to her Joel.” He smirked, “We can pick up here; who knows if any of us will ever get this chance again?”

 

You see, that’s the thing; when we started the band (we called ourselves The Particle Men), music hadn’t all that much to do with it. Oh sure, we all liked music. I’m thinkin’ Curtis even might have already owned his set of drums. But it’s not like any of us was ever some sort of child musical-prodigy. I kind of learned to read a couple guitar chords off the internet. Peter couldn’t sing any better than me, but the band was his idea and he declared himself as lead singer; he’d never played any at the time, not wanting to be called ‘no good’ he simply refused to mess with instruments; so he became our singer. As the older brother with our great last name, he claimed to be the one who had the right to Shine.

Marcus, I’m not sure he ever even remembered the sets of chords I tried to teach him in the few minutes before nearly every performance, at least not for more than one night to the next. I must have shown him how to play the same songs countless times.

No, it was never really about the music. It was more about the pictures you see of singers on newspapers or magazines; seriously, how often do you see something that shows band-members, without the screaming fans and (dare I say it) the happy pet bimbos.

Yes I’m sure there are many who find my terminology insulting, be they the performers or those groupies that I may have possibly badmouthed. I’m sorry, just trying to get across what we first saw with our hardly older than school-kid minds.

It certainly at least appeared to us like: (being in a musical band) == (having a constant supply of easy chicks.) And hey; we were four, single, college-aged men.

Yeah, putting together the four of us who had very little musical talent didn’t quickly attract fame just because we called ourselves a band. Before long the four of us (at least me, Pete and Curtis) were perfecting what we could copy off the radio until it sounded good enough to get us hired for a night or two, at local clubs. I’m not sure when the realization that we would never reach fame or become some type of super chick-magnets first became a topic of bad mood conversation, but none of us was all that much surprised a month or two before that final concert night when Pete suggested that we put an end to our whole musical enterprise.

Out of all of us, I’m the only band-member that seriously imagined my life could be going anywhere with music. I’d like to think I have some talent, and it may be that the others were nothing more than just humoring me when I demanded we still complete the playings we already had scheduled and they agreed to go along with it.

 

Back up here, not the silly band dreams. Those were kind of off the table by the time the night finished, anyway. Where was I?

The girl. The blonde at the club that was draped in a baggy trench-coat. (Ok, I still don’t know her true hair color, but from what I’ve seen I know it can’t actually be green, blue or maroon; so I kind of doubt that the black was real either.)

Although, the fact I had hesitated sucked. When I started over to where she sat, she looked up and noticed some other guy she seemed to be expecting who was just coming in.

Talk about a buzz-kill. There was little I could do other than pretend I had been headed to an empty space at the bar a few spots down. I was the undeniably-cool guitarist and this little freak just had me thinking ‘nerd’ as he made his way over to her.

Ok, sorry; I’m not living in some happy little afterschool-land special kind of world. A nerd is what he was- coming into the night-club with the full dress-pants, button-up brown shirt and his un-styled hair that couldn’t have seen a comb, much less a wash in days.

It was also just something about his face…. His movements… I could literally imagine him pulling something useless like a protractor out of his shirt pocket…

I’ll have to admit, I was probably ready to see him in a bad light just because the girl I’d been watching seemed to be waiting for him. I’m sure I only continued to watch because she seemed annoyed about the time or something else about her watch.

It was hard not to watch the confrontation, though. It was somewhat difficult not to feel slightly sorry for the weird little guy. Little? He’d be exaggerating to claim a height of 5’4’’. Which I guess isn’t all that short if he wasn’t approaching the angry downward-cast glare of Ms. ‘I Didn’t Want to Meet You Here’ that was easily above his head. With any luck for me his lateness would split the two of them up, leaving her with the need to be comforted.

 

I guess it was when he stumbled and barely caught himself about halfway across the room that I finally noticed that his lack of coordination may have something more to do with pain than lack of coordination.

Her ice cold demeanor quickly vanished as she pulled out a chair for him and said, “Sit down!” I was silently overjoyed when she made no move to embrace him, showing that theirs’ was some platonic type of relationship.

Climbing to the seat, he didn’t argue, bottom lip between his teeth. With a hand coming up to his forehead, he closed his eyes and caught his breath.

“I thought you were better now;” she frowned.

“Yeah, and maybe if Striker wasn’t hot on my tail, I could try using my driver’s license instead of walking, or simply stay off my feet and rest somewhere for more than a day before he tracks us down.” He looked up at her in anger, “Or perhaps, without misled authorities hunting him, Eric wouldn’t be unable to carry his ID; that whole situation makes it somewhat hard for him to legally obtain any permanent type of transportation. The whole problem, if you haven’t noticed, came about when my shifting for you made long walks a tad uncomfortable...”

“Don’t try to throw this all on ME!” The girl almost kept from screaming as her eyes narrowed. “Do I not remember right that neither Mr. Omlup nor I was involved until the day you showed your face??”

“Not involved?” The guy may have at first struck me as some type of wimp, but now I think the only thing that kept him from shooting to his feet in a failed attempt to match her height was the grip of his fists on the edge of the bar. “Who was the grand warrior of ‘The Solar Flare’? Who not only swallowed, but was spreading lies for Perry Striker? Would trade her friend for nonsense lies because she wasn’t sure how to deal with his secrets?”

At this point, I had really heard enough of their argument. I wasn’t quite following it, but they had been going on long enough that it wasn’t like I was the only one at the club listening to their fighting now. If I didn’t jump in to save her, someone else would.

So, I walked over behind him, and clapped my hand on his sleeve at the right shoulder.

Now, I was pretty much walking up from behind him; so I wouldn’t have been surprised if he tensed up or just jumped. His sudden jerk at the contact was something else though. Instantly, he was turned my way and his eyes were on me with his left hand over my right stopped maybe an inch or more away before I even saw him move.

Not wanting to let on how much his speed had startled me; I ripped my hand off his shoulder and was yelling at him to ‘Back off from her!’ before the painful, wet sensation hit my mind.

Ms. Beautiful reacted quickly and had a wad of paper-napkins around my sore hand before I could take a look at it. “Why did you do that?” she hissed angrily at her speedy companion who was now clutching the shoe on his right foot as he blinked back tears.

“You can’t really think I meant to do that,” Super-Nerd-Man(that’s what he now was in my mind) hissed back. “He startled me. It was more something of a reflex. Let’s just get outside.”

And so, she led me out to the street in near shock by my paper covered (bleeding?) painful hand. Not really aware of what exactly was happening; my band-mates were smiling as they waved me on. Super-Nerd jerkily made his way after us, lagging behind.

 

“Who are you?” I tried asking as I realized that their quick reactions had stripped any control of the situation from me. I was hurt and confused, but the way she kept glancing at me was more of concern for an acquaintance than pity for a stranger. As I turned and caught sight of the little guy’s wet shirt, I tried yanking my hand from her grasp. “Don’t tell me that’s my blood! What the Hell did you two do to me??”

Looking around, I’m sure to make sure no one else could hear, he grumbled; “Believe me, it’s not all yours.”

“Wait, hold up;” she dropped her hold on my hand, now that we could no longer be spotted by anyone, and turned to yell at the little guy. “Here and in the gym, when something goes wrong; there’s blood. One of the things Eric was clear about was the lack of any blood when things definitely went wrong with Bart. And the dumb shoes; they certainly stayed together time, but with how you’ve been walking these last couple of days, I’m ready to get you crutches. Why don’t you just go back to the moccasins? They may look dumb but that’s certainly better than chancing some glitch that that constantly hurts you or takes out a guitar player’s hand!”

 

Her words brought the true graveness of the supposed mishap to my eyes for the first time. Now that I was able to look upon my hand I could see that the palm side seemed nicely skinned. I wouldn’t be able to strum music on any guitar for weeks; with only that time off of guitar-ing if by some miracle it healed right.

He did reply, yet I’m not sure I understood it all, at least not at the time.  Looking down at my maimed palm and fingers under the streetlight was even more depressing than the end of the band so I won’t swear my account of what he said is exactly right.

 

“My bloody shirt right now hasn’t a thing to do with the shoes!” he insisted. “It has more to do with why the phenomena that is why Bart lacked blood. The shoes tore my feet in the gym (and right here it feels like) because the insulated sole is on the OUTSIDE of my body, repelling my shift-mode foot in all directions something like stepping on a mine. This pair of shoes isn’t so cheap and they’re somewhat stronger; a quick movement by the wearer is less likely to rip them.”

Here he imitated shooting a rubber-band “My insulating shot moved through the INSIDE of Bart’s shift-mode head. Yes, everything was forced in all directions momentarily; it just happened to be quick enough that the rubber-band was gone. Flew on out of any contact with his form; for all intents and purposes it vanished, as if it never had existed.

“So, why was there no blood?” he asked, looking between the two of us. By now he struck me as more of a deranged young professor, who; if I understood right, was claiming that he could shoot directly through people with rubber-bands.

“The answer is quite simple,” he nodded to his female friend, whose eyebrows were clearly raised in the question. “When matter reforms from its energy state, like matter attracts like matter. That is why my clothes remain physically independent from my body. Or why my bangs aren’t suddenly plastered within my forehead. Yet, just as that attraction keeps separate objects apart, it can pull like objects together, when they are close enough. Like when the energy from my human flesh shoulder was suddenly flowing directly through the human flesh of his human hand”

“Well I guess this proves you’re actually human;” she scowled darkly. He looked annoyed at the comment, but she continued talking before he could respond. “What about the shirt? I thought different materials stayed separate”

With his stumbling walk he started leading the way, as if he expected us to follow; “This shirt is thin, and he didn’t just lightly pat me either. He was defending you! Startled me into sifting so suddenly that before I even realized it, his hand was literally in my shoulder. As I was not trying to go anywhere at the time, my mind merely un-shifted before I could take any spatial considerations of what may happen. He could probably only rip his paw away when I rematerialized because the shirt tried to remain separate in the space that was formerly between us.”

 

I wasn’t really sure if I was actually understanding what it sounded like he was trying to say at this point, but listening to this other man’s perception of events was now making me slightly squeamish (this wacko couldn’t have passed me some freakish disease, now could he?). I don’t even know why I was still following the two of them as they walked on at this point; it just seemed like the thing to do. I suppose that I was making a disgusted face with the thought of my hand conjoining with the unhealthy looking man’s shoulder, when her gaze fell upon me like a wonderful beam.

“Thank you,” she said as she stopped walking. “You didn’t even know who I was. I’m Hillary Brenner and I’m delighted to meet someone who cares as much as you. You have to get better and play that guitar again, you guys are great!”

I smiled, figuring it wasn’t the time to mention the band breaking up. “Thanks. I’m Joel Shine. I can see he’s not out to hurt you now, but if I leave will you two be Ok together?”

“Me and Nigel..?” Hillary started laughing. “We’re not daing-together if that’s what you’re thinking.”

That’s a relief, I thought; for the worry had hit my mind.

And she wanted to make sure I knew that they had nothing, so I couldn’t be the only one who saw our possible connection.

 

“Not too much longer!” Nigel called from up ahead, seeming to realize we had stopped for the first time.

“So why are you so sure he’ll come here?” she asked as he stepped off of the roadway onto an overgrown vacant lot.

“It’s the best chance, hopefully. After the fiasco last month, we’ve tried spending time here every evening, hoping he’d naturally just come here when he lost control yet his body still needs to rest. When he’s tired out after a nighttime of moon…”

 

I’m sure he continued with his cryptic non-sense at this point as she moved closer to confer with him, but I wasn’t listening. I could only watch the graceful way she went to deal with him. (I wasn’t really sure at this point if she was worried for someone like he seemed to be, or just humoring Nigel, like one may a senile uncle; she was just wonderingly attentive as only a kind soul can be.)

And Ok, maybe that’s not quite true love at-first-sight, but I really don’t think you can come all that much closer.

 

It was what happened next though that proves the way my heart was leaning. I’ll dare you to explain the cause of my following action if it was not out of love.

So The Particle Men were finished and I’d no future prospects in sight? Pu-lease, I’m not weak enough to let that self-centered nonsense destroy my life.

The fact it was for love is undeniable, even if the rest of my tale sounds more made up than what I’ve claimed till now-

As I myself have trouble believing all that seemed to happen, let me paint the clearest picture possible of the situation to try explaining what happened in the darkness, before morning, that night.

First of all, let me be clear that we were no longer in the city, no longer near the lights of downtown at all. Oh sure, the roads were paved. I mean, I’m not even sure you could even say we’d quite reached the suburbs yet.  We’ just reached more an area consisting of storage sheds and chemical manufacturing plants instead of happy stores or office buildings. Maybe a used car lot on the horizon? Only the types of businesses and buildings that were virtually abandoned when nighttime came and no more workers were inside.

Hillary and Nigel were a few yards head of me nearly yet arguing again in hushed tones while I tried to reconcile the thought of my hand somehow within his shoulder in my mind. The palm certainly stung, and it looked to have been virtually skinned, was bleeding and- it’s not all yours, he had said.

Why might someone like her make an obvious effort to put up with someone that they clearly didn’t like? I couldn’t pull all that many reasons off the top of my head. Maybe he had unexpectedly gotten hurt in some effort to help her. Perhaps he had forgiven some misdeed he could have held against her. Or, more likely (given that his grim/no nonsense demeanor made it doubtful he would be too self-sacrificing or forgiving) the man was gravely ill in some way and any kindness she showed him was little more than feeling sorry for him.

That last thought didn’t make my ripped up hand hurt any less, and their hushed conversation might not be so innocent. “Hey, dude;” I called over to the two of them; “You’re not strangely sick somehow, right? I mean, I’m not gonna get sick in some way because of whatever it was that you did to me?”

He looked over at me thoughtfully. “I suppose I should ask you the same thing.” His left hand came up to cover his bloody right shoulder; “As far as I know I’ve no communicable diseases. As for what happened, YOU grabbed ME! I think you wanted to catch me off guard? YOU DID!! All results here are more YOUR FAULT than mine-“

“Nigel! Do you really know that?” Hillary cut in, looking at him critically. “When was the last time you saw a doctor anyway? Was that before or after your stint as a lab test animal?

It was nice to hear she at least took my worries seriously, but at the same time; was she just cruelly playing with his overactive imagination?

 

Not truly caring to listen as she taunted him with outrageous nonsense that he really seemed to believe, I glanced over at the grassy fielded area and a quick shadowed movement caught my eye.

 

Nigel seemed a bit pissed off by what Hillary said, yet that conversation became little more than background noise as I tried to get a closer look at the animal? that was closing its distance to us.

 

It was certainly something alive, something taking advantage of their squabble, calmly seizing the opportunity to hunt and stalk them unnoticed.

 

“The last time I saw a doctor? When was the last time you saw a doctor?” Turning his back on her in a move mildly reminiscent of a little kid; “Why should I go off to a doctor, I AM a doctor!”

 

The creature had now paused in the last of the tall grass before the road, seeming to be unaware that I was watching.

 

Totally incognizant of any danger, Hillary raised her hands and finally started yelling at him (in a way that put to rest any beliefs she may be only humoring Nigel); “I’m pretty sure you’re not the right kind of doctor! Your stories of living in, let’s call it Medical Hell, the testings of weapons on werewolves. Did you never stop to think you may be sick from that?

 

I will admit that up until this point in time I had never come across a real wolf. Big dog, I figured; maybe the size of a golden retriever. It may have just been the darkness playing with my imagination, but I will swear that the fearsome animal that materialized out of the grass was the size of a small pony. A streetlight from somewhere far down the road made his eyes glow orange.

 

Nigel, of course, didn’t even see this monster when he turned angrily back on Hillary. He was simply yelling out his answer to her. “You’re right to call it Hell, but the fact of what they did what they did to me just about assures my perfect health when I finally got away. They weren’t testing new toxins or poison dispersal systems on me; they were attempting to see how effectively they could mould my living body into the weapon of their liking. They didn’t want anything to irreversibly hurt me before they could time how long it took until the continuous shifting killed me, or at least left me brain-dead.

 

With the two of them lost inside of their own little argument, I realized I was the only one to notice that the threatening shape was working its way closer to their noise.

 

“Hey guys?! Is that some sort of big animal in the grass?” I called over and pointed at the big dark shape.

“Crap, he’s already here;” Hillary nervously observed. “Think we can distract him until the moon sets?”

“It’s way too early;” Nigel said fearfully as he backed up as he looked at his watch. “You can’t seriously expect you’re gonna outrun a wolf on foot for 5 minutes.” Now the fool was tugging off his tennis shoes for some reason. If he said that he didn’t think running possible before…

“Professor Eric, please!” Hillary threw open her arms and started pleading with the animal. Sure, the two of them had been alluding to werewolves all night, but that was nothing more than placating the crazy man.

Or perhaps he was acting to try calming her.

I turned back to try and get a read off this Nigel character to understand what was really going on, but only found the empty road. Nearly empty; the two dirty shoes that had been on his feet were laying abandoned in the roadway. Did he seriously run off and leave me to deal with his psycho girlfriend who seemed not seem to understand the uselessness of speaking English to a wild animal that looked about to maul her?

But, when I stared in dismay at her, she noticed I was still right there motioning for her to get away from the canine, but she just started to wave her hand like she could just dismiss me. “Don’t worry;” she called in annoyance, “I’m sure Mr. Omlup won’t attack me! He has to recognize me on some level.”

If she was literally insane did that change how I felt about her?

Was I just going to stand by and watch as a now rare bright spot in my life was stamped out?

She had thought it important that I know she wasn’t going out with that Nigel dick, and if he would leave her to face this creature alone I could see why; had she also been hinting that there might be a future with us?

We would never have a future or anything if I waited for that wolf to take advantage of her trusting movements and gestures.

So I did the only thing that naturally came to my mind; I had no weapons, but this wolf was alone. They were supposed to be pack hunters, weren’t they? Even if running at it didn’t make the beast turn and flee, my movements ought to tear its concentration from her.

As I ran, I heard her screaming at me to get back; like this logic just applied to me and not to her. I also heard another voice in front of me, behind the wolf that sounded almost like Nigel (yet at that time, I hadn’t a clue as to how he could have gotten there).

And, Nigel even shouted, trying to taunt the wolf over to himself (he called it Eric, too).

The wolf however, had already seen that I was closer, and was moving between him and the easy prey of Hillary.

Yes, you could say I walked into its very jaws. Offered myself as decoy bait, to save a woman I had known for less than an hour.

If you’re ever tempted to try it, let me warn you; an unarmed man can’t hold down an animal of that size. Attempting to grab any hold on him was futile, the creature could move too fast. All I could manage was to get a fistful of fur that he would immediately either pull from my hand or twist fast enough that I was left with nothing more than a loose hand-full of fur.

And while his dense fur may have fully protected him, I was with little protection of my own. His claws tore easily through my shirt, yet I hardly noticed as I fought with my arms to block his jaws from my neck.

In the next few moments, I was sure I would die; I had been knocked to the ground where a warm puddle that must have been my own blood started filling the depression behind my head. The figure atop me howled in victory; but even as it did it sounded as if something in his throat began to catch.

A horrid whistling of air through the tear in my own throat was preventing me catching a full breath, and I’m sure I would have suffocated had Hillary and Nigel not finally come forward to drag the now shaking beast from my chest. I was sure that what I saw next at this point was nothing more my blood-drained senses throwing illusions into my mind; for my attacker’s fur looked almost like it was retracting into within his skin.

As the animal snout flattened into a human face, I closed my eyes. They obviously weren’t working right if I saw this B-grade horror movie to be my reality. Closing my eyes and praying I’d rest in peace seemed the only thing left I could do.

 

Their talking over me seemed unconnected to events of here and now. Some new voice was asking ‘How could you two let this happen!?!’

Hillary sounded annoyed as she pointed out ‘This is more YOUR fault.’

And the little strange guy? He sure didn’t fail to fill the world with his nonsense logic again- ‘Too bad he isn’t a werewolf. I mean, I’ve seen some amazing recoveries brought about through transformation.’

‘But the moon is already down!’ Hillary argued; ‘Remember the moon? That was kind of the whole problem here, you know?’

And the new voice again; The werewolf? Eric?: ‘He’s right, you know? The timing’s not so strict for a first gen. werewolf…’

‘And if you wolf him now, how is he of the first generation?’ she disputed.

‘He has no werewolf ancestors, I don’t think. That makes him first gen.’ he countered; ‘My parents were wolves before I was born. Means I’m at least second gen. If I can turn him here, he may have a shot.’

‘You need us to do anything?’ That annoying Nigel seemed delighted with the prospect of getting to watch my becoming a werewolf.

‘Go watch the road, make sure no one’s coming,’ grunted Eric in annoyance at Nigel.

I felt the man who I assumed had been the wolf, pull me so I was laying flat on my back.

‘Should I watch the other end?’ Hillary asked.

‘Not unless you just want to. I have wolf senses, remember? No one’s out there; I just wanted to forestall ‘The Great’ Dr. Hunter from trying to do what I do on himself or anyone else unlucky enough to be around when he happens to get bored.’

‘You mean I could copy what you do and make a werewolf?’

The now-human wolf chuckled as he pressed his hand down on my breastbone. ‘Not without the venom. This guy was bit while I was under, so there’s probably a bit of venom in his blood. And I’ll thank you not to start dear Nigel Hunter on some werewolf venom-seeking quest.’

 

I can’t even tell you exactly what he did next; I think I may have passed out by this time. I’m sure I would have slept longer if I didn’t awake to the horrible pain of thick multi-inch strands of fur erupting from every inch of skin on my body. The bones in my face contorted and I suddenly realized that I was aware of a tail, but it was that fur that had me jumping to my feet as I was literally howling in pain.

Eric first spoke to me when he clapped his hand on my shoulder. He grinned at my confusion that was echoed on Hillary’s face, for I hadn’t become a wolf like he had been. I was a walking on two-foot, mixture of a man and wolf. Standing in the field, in the same clothes I had been wearing; I was the perfect Halloween horror movie monster.

“Welcome to the pack, my friend,” Eric told me with a faint smile.

“Say what?” I asked gruffly, unaccustomed to making speech come out through a wolf muzzle. “What did you...?” I started to ask but stopped myself, for the answer was totally obvious.

“I saved your life. Your throat is healed, is it not?” The man, who was now bundled in that trench coat Hillary had been wearing earlier, pointed at my neck.

Disbelieving, my fur covered hand came up to touch my throat.

“Why doesn’t the moon affect him” Hillary asked, staring at me.

“I’m sure it does, just like me;” the wolfman said, gripping my shoulder tighter. “It’s just that the bodies of those who haven’t fought against being werewolves for their whole lives are not as strong at working to fight the venom so they change more easily when they lose that self control through sheer emotion; anger, fear, or excitement. Yet, because the change is less natural, the more his body will try to reject the transformation. It’s why he almost looks more like a man than a wolf.”

“So, how do I get rid of it?” I practically barked at him as more scents that I had ever imagined assailed my nose. If he was saying I just needed to concentrate, I could do this.

“Just relax.” Nigel called from where he was, already walking back to our group.

“I know you’re plenty good with lots of stuff- but please;” Hillary turned on the little dweeb, “you’re not the world’s greatest expert on everything.”

“He’s right though,” Eric tightened his grip on my shoulder; “calmness works when there’s no moon. I used to think my dad was not sharing candy, but now I’m pretty sure he had a habit of popping sedatives to try and stay human.

“Although, I don’t see why you came back Nigel.” Eric frowned as he continued speaking; “we’re still not quite ready to be found unawares.”

“Don’t think you’re fooling me;” Nigel sounded a little ticked off, “I’ve spent enough time with different werewolves, remember? I’m quite aware that your human looks don’t cancel your senses of scent or hearing. You wouldn’t be so calm waiting here now, were anyone coming. You simply didn’t quite trust me to watch just how you did it. Fair enough, I respect that. I doubt I’d trust me, either.

“But seriously; I heard his howling so I knew your work was over. Now the only thing left is to see if it fixed his hand,” he said looking at my fur-covered digits.

“His hand..?” Eric asked in confusion.

I had somehow totally forgotten. That possible career ending injury that had come out of grabbing his (un-shoulder?). If becoming a werewolf had fixed my throat and probably eliminated my ability to withstand the excitement of standing before a live audience, would my hand at least stay repaired so that when I became human again so I could still play guitar?

“Trying to grab Nigel as he shifted did something to Joel’s hand.” Hillary began explaining.

“I thought we all agreed that the risks outweighed the benefits for shifting in most situations;” Eric folded his arms. “Other than trying to outrun a werewolf, why were you doing it tonight?”

Holding his hands out in front of his face Nigel muttered, “He came up behind and grabbed me. It was just a jump reflex…” In talking he turned to the side so he wasn’t facing the three of us anyone. I’m not really sure that he said more; that was all I heard, at least.

With a worried look on his face, Eric hurried over to confer with him.

That’s when her hand touched my neck.

My now furless, human neck.

I turned and looked into her eyes again.

“Do you need to go back and get your guitar, before we leave?” she asked with a shy smile.

“What makes you so sure I’m ready to jump up and disappear with you and those two freaks?” I said, putting my right arm across her shoulders (The hand felt perfectly better!).

“If you feel anything for me like I do for you, you’re coming.” She looked at me appraisingly; “You already had no qualms at risking your life for me. It’s why I didn’t ask if you were coming. All I’m asking you, Joel, is: do you want to walk back and get your guitar??”


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