This is, no exaggeration, my favorite short piece I’ve written thus far in 2023. I’m very excited to share it. I apologize for not posting last week; it’s a safe bet that if I miss a day here or there it’s probably because I’m either sick or traveling, and the latter was the case last time around. I hope that this one makes up for it!
I spent a while looking through prompts from ServiceScape, then came across this one. Feeling super inspired after a day of struggling with my main project all day, I banged this out in an uncomfortable chair at a Barnes & Noble Starbucks. As with the last prompt I used from them, I ended up discarding some of the details of the prompt and keeping my favorite parts.
Fair warning—there is the briefest non-explicit reference to animal death and some allusions to mental health issues. It’s got comedic elements throughout, but it’s also kind of a downer.
“This,” the witch tells me, “will stop your transformations.”
It’s not entirely a lie. I hear what I want to hear: it will cure my lycanthropy.
She holds up the bottle of greenish-grayish potion between her forefinger and thumb like it’s an uncut diamond. The price tag reinforces that comparison. But I’d take out a second or even third loan if it meant that I wouldn’t have to spend every full moon running around naked and killing things.
In hindsight, it reminds me very much of some of the side effects listed on prescription medication. Here, the doctor and by extension the pharmacist says, is a medicine to cure your depression. One of the side effects is… giving you depression. And suicidal thoughts, as a free gift.
Except that she doesn’t warn me of any side effects at all. Or clearly state the desired effect, really.
I take the potion as the witch instructed. Some wild part of me hoped that its effects will take hold immediately. That when the moon is full I will no longer feel inexorably drawn to it but instead see it for what it is: a giant space rock. A pretty giant space rock, but a giant space rock nonetheless. Nothing mystical about it beyond whatever sciencey mumbo jumbo makes tides work.
The potion isn’t as quick to take hold as I would have hoped. Instinct drags me outside. I stare right at the moon, very much like a kid looking at the sun immediately after being told not to look at it. Then comes the pain. Bone-crunching, muscle-tearing, face-rearranging pain. It hurts every time. But at least tonight I can assure myself that this is the last time.
I shake myself after everything has shifted, forever discomforted by the sensation of having a fur coat on nearly every inch of me. There’s just enough of my human consciousness in control left to double-check that I locked the door to my house—which is little more than shoving my muzzle against the wood—before I take off. Through the suburbs, across the highway, with the woods as the ultimate destination.
A near-death experience with a semi-truck later, and I’m in my element. There are no people here. It’s safe to let the beast take over. I run around with my nose overwhelmed by dozens of scents. Then I pee on a tree. And then I kill a deer and eat it and only throw up a little bit this time. I climb up a rocky ridge to look out over the city below. The first time I changed I wound up here, too. It’s almost nostalgia-inducing. I pant and wag my tail once, feeling almost happy.
I lay down, rest my chin on my crossed forelegs, and exhale. Trying to relax doesn’t last long. The stress gets to me. I leap to my feet and start pacing, trying to tire myself out for when I have to sleep through the day. I spend most of the night there. I decide that I’ll almost miss this when it’s gone. The fur is kind of cozy. Still, I’ll be better off in my own bed.
I wait for the beast to relinquish control over me at moonset. It does not.
My ears press flat to my head and my tail droops. The pacing gets more and more frenzied as the sun rises. Whimpers squirm out of my maw.
I’m… not changing back.
I double-check that the moon is indeed gone. It is. So why—?
The world around me changes, brightened with the sun’s warm light instead of the moon’s white glow. I stay the same.
Am I… never changing back?
No, no, no, no—
In a fit of passion, I bark at the sky until my throat is raw and the sounds come out soft and weak.
Did I do something wrong? How could I screw this up?
Step one: remove cork from bottle. Step two: drink potion.
That’s all there was to it. Did I miss some further instructions from the witch? Was I supposed to… what, add some of my hair—or fur—to it? Recite an incantation? Pray?
If someone were walking in the woods—an early riser, maybe, a health nut jogger—they would hear what sounded like the crying yips of a puppy. Upon coming to investigate they would not see a stray dog but me, making noises entirely too high and pathetic for my large body. I’ve doubtless scared off every other animal around.
I don’t know what to do with myself. Not once did I calculate what to do in the event that I would end up stuck like this. Why would I? How could I let myself think about the horrifying possibility?
My curse from before is nothing compared to now. Anger crashes over me. I’m furious at her, I’m outraged at myself, for trusting her. All too quickly, despair overwhelms all of it.
I learn something new as I howl at the sun: werewolves can shed tears.