Courage

By Cori Kane All Rights Reserved ©

Fantasy / Horror

3

Dean spent 20 minutes in their room, not unpacking. They let their bag fall next to the door, checked the view out the window and looked into the bathroom. It was a nice room, everything was tidy and smelled fresh. It felt so friendly, it gave Dean chills. They waited some time – time the man behind the desk would hopefully think he spent unpacking – before leaving their room again.

“Mr...Sutter.” Grey winced at his renewed use of Mr. Dean just barely kept from smirking. “You're going out. Do you need directions somewhere? Maybe a recommendation for a fishing spot?”

“I didn't come here to fish, though I hear the lake has some nice spots?”

“The lake's beautiful. It's to the south-west. If you go back to Main Street and head the way back you came into town, just before you cross the bridge on the right there's a path leading down toward it. I'd recommend the tour around, you won't be disappointed by the view, though I think it's more beautiful at dusk when the moon shines onto the lake.” Grey smiled.

“Thank you,” Dean answered with a fake smile of their own. They walked toward the door, thinking I bet you also love to howl at same moon, don't you? They didn't say it, werewolves had excellent hearing and muttering under their breath had gotten Dean into trouble more than once.

As they stepped out of the inn, the sun warmed them pleasantly. Dean opened their shirt and pulled it out of their jeans, keeping the t-shirt underneath tucked in. They went to their car and got their sunglasses from the rear view mirror, then Dean pulled a gun from the glove compartment. They pushed it into the back of their pants, before heading down the way Grey had told them to take.

Dean was surprised to see how ordinarily small town-ish Courage was. If they didn't know better, they would have thought themself to be in just any place on the American map with less than 1000 inhabitants. They shook their head over this scam, but none the less admired the beauty of the place.

As Dean walked down the path toward the lake, a couple of teens ran by them. They took little notice of Dean who stopped in their path and looked after them.

Probably part of the group I'm looking for, they thought. At least they're still alive and well.

Dean continued their way, arriving at the lake not twenty minutes later. It certainly was beautiful and quiet to look at. Except maybe for the group of teenage boys jumping into the water, splashing and cajoling at each other.

Swimming in a lake in mid-September? Dean shuddered.

They walked toward where the teens were having their fun and watched others as they walked between a couple of cabins. Dean was looking for their teacher and found the man sitting on a bench. He was rolling himself a cigarette, a cup of coffee standing next to him.

“Good morning,” Dean greeted, walking toward the bench.

“Morning. Taking a walk 'round the lake?”

“Yeah, it's warmer than I thought it'd be. Not warm enough for swimming, though.” They looked over to the boys splashing in the water. Dean smiled bemusedly, while still trying to take everything in. They didn't like small talk, but they knew that it was helpful for getting information.

“That's what I told them, but it's not like they're ever listening to me,” the man said, but cast a fond look around their cozy living arrangements.

“May I?” Dean asked, pointing at the bench.

“Sure.” The teacher picked up his mug and took a sip. Then he placed it on the armrest next to him. He was done rolling his cigarette and put it in his mouth, lighting it. “Would you like one?” he asked Dean, pointing at his tobacco.

“No, thanks. Appreciate the offer. I'm Dean, by the way.” They held out their hand.

“Aidan, nice to meet you.” The teacher shook the proffered hand.

“I take it you're the teacher of these kids, right? Not their dad.”

Aidan laughed. “Teacher yes, history. Don't have any kids myself.”

“Me either. Wouldn't have thought to encounter a whole bunch of high schoolers out here. This place seems far away from anything teens seem to be interested in these days.”

“I would've thought so too, but the kids wanted to especially come here. It's great, though. Fresh air, some hiking, campfire stories. The kind of thing I used to do when I was their age.” Aidan smiled happily. It didn't take much to imagine the jovial man hiking up a trail or building a tent. He seemed quite outdoorsy, despite the fact that he taught history.

“Well, we were a different generation. We didn't have cell phones and laptops,” Dean said and Aidan seemed to now look at them more attentively. Dean knew they looked younger than they were. Aidan probably meant to point that out, but he held his tongue after scrutinizing Dean.

“That's true,” he just said and then looked back over to the boys. They'd scrambled out of the lake and were now running back toward them, towels slung over their shivering shoulders. “Too cold after all, boys?” Aidan called toward them, grinning.

“Water is great, you should try it,” one of them told him, but could barely keep his teeth from chattering.

“When hell freezes over. Go shower and dress warmly. I don't want any of you catching pneumonia.”

They ran by quickly toward their respective cabins. Aidan looked after them, shaking his head. “They always know better.”

“We were just like them,” Dean said.

“True. I don't even wanna think about all the grieve I gave my parents and teachers.”

Dean nodded. They leaned back, enjoying the sun on their face for a moment. Then Dean sat up again, leaning his elbows on his knees. It was time to talk business. “Do you feel safe here, close to the woods? You've heard the rumors, haven't you?”

“Rumors?” Aidan asked.

Dean took off their shades, looking at the teacher. “Strange things happening in those woods.” They pointed behind them.

Aidan looked over his shoulder to where tall trees stood behind the cabins. “Strange how?”

“Well, people have seen strange creatures there. Things that looked like...werewolves?”

“Werewolves?” Aidan grinned and shook his head. “You trying to mess with me, Dean?”

Dean remained serious and shook their head. “I wish I was. Howling can be heard around the full moon, and this is no wolf country. Have you seen animals around here, like deer?”

“No, but my kids would scare off bears with the racket they're making. Listen, I don't believe in those things, though it's a great idea for a story to tell the kids later.” He was still smiling.

Dean wasn't surprised at his reaction. The existence of supernatural beings was kind of an open secret. People who wanted to know or had encountered these beings were aware, others weren't. At this time, Dean would have thought there were more people who knew or believed. Of course, their observations were affected by the fact that their whole life revolved around their job, the search, the hunt.

“I was just mentioning it, because tomorrow night is the first phase of the full moon. Werewolves change on three days per month, tomorrow will be the first. Maybe you should get your kids out of here before that,” Dean suggested.

Aidan lost his smile. “You really believe that?”

Dean nodded.

“Well, I don't. There's nothing strange here. Have you seen those people, they're possibly the friendliest bunch I've ever encountered. No city folk, just ordinary people.”

“One could say they're too nice, too ordinary. Could just be a front.”

“Listen, man, that's crazy talk. There are no werewolves, and you better not go around and put stories like that into my kids' heads. Stay away from them,” Aidan warned. He stood and put his cigarette out. He took another good long look at Dean, before he walked away toward the cabins.

Dean remained, looking over the lake. After another minute they rose and resumed their walk, contemplating what their next move should be.


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