The first day of anything is a nerve-racking experience, the first day at a new university where I know no one is even worse. At least at my high school and the job I had people I previously knew while we may not have been friends. There was not that fear of acceptance. That fear of fitting in. I did not fit in with everyone at those previous places, but there were some friendly people. To top it off, this is university. A big university in the middle of the beautiful Banff to be exact. So not only do I not know anyone, but I will be starting a new career as well. My stomach turns and nausea creeps in for what feels like the hundredth time in the half-hour since we’ve been here. I inch closer to my dad and without thinking he wraps an arm around my shoulder.
“You’ll be fine pumpkin,” he pulls me close for a squeeze then lets me go as we approach the welcome committee students. Pumpkin has been his nickname since my red hair came in as a baby. From him, it is enduring and comforting, if anyone else called me pumpkin I’d have half a mind to hit them and hit them hard.
The people at the welcome desk look friendly enough, but first impressions aren’t everything. There was a guy in my high school, who was nice to me at first, but after weeks of hanging out and chatting, he turned on me when he realized he wasn’t going to get it from me. That has been the story of my life with guys. Since my change when I was 8, I seem to attract people, even with this hideous jagged scar on my face. I guess it adds intrigue, but I never tell where it really came from, I only give half-truths and uninteresting stories. That is, only to the humans, the other werewolves know what this scratch means. There are not many of them out there, but they are there, and they avoid me like the plague. I don’t know why exactly, but from what little snippets of conversation and comments I could gather, a changed werewolf is volatile and can not be trusted. Not that I blame them in the slightest. I have no control in a full moon and remember nothing in the morning. My father is the one who sends me to the basement and locks it up so that I never hurt anyone ever again.
“Hi there!” A chipper brunette with a student leadership t-shirt greets me and my dad with the cheesiest smile I have ever seen adorning her face. “Welcome to Banff University of Arts, my name’s Chelsea, I’m going to need your name so I can sign you in.”
“uh-hum,” I clear my throat to give my nerves time to settle, “Erica Chesterfield, I’m in the Musical Arts for a Bachelor's Degree and minoring in English Literature.”
She flips the paper before her to get to the ’C’s and runs her finger over the names. “Ah-ha, Erica Chesterfield. Check!” she says as she places a check in the square beside my name. “Since you aren’t going to be living here in a dorm, it is not totally necessary for you to stay the full day, but if you would like to participate in the community building games and ice breakers this evening, you are totally welcome!”
She pauses for a second and even though I plan to leave to settle into my new home as soon as I can, I offer her a smile and a small nod which seems to please her as she continues, “the first thing you’re gonna want to do is head over there to that office,” she points to the building behind her, “to pick up your student ID card, parking pass, brochure, timesheet, textbook receipt, and all that important stuff. You can also check your balance or if you have any outstanding payments that’s where that info is at. After that, you go to the library which is on the floor above to pick up your textbooks and maybe familiarize yourself with the system we have. I have a checklist here,” she hands me a paper with an artsy list of the day’s events on it, “that has anything I’ve missed on it. Once done that there is a welcome assembly in our theatre building over that way. Welcome to Banff and we are so excited to have you!”
“Thank you,” I say as I begin to look over the checklist. My dad has gone off to mingle with other parents, while I may not be completely normal, my dad is and is completely terrified of my being on my own. I’m sure he’s looking for other parents who feel the same if any do.
“Ahem,” a throat clears behind me and I mumble an apology and step out of the way. As she passes me, I catch the unmistakable smell of Werewolf and quickly look away in submission. Not only is she a werewolf, like me, but the beast in me that is ever-present in the back of my mind can tell she belongs to a pack. I can not tell her rank, but the fact that she belongs somewhere places her above me even if she is an omega. I am a lone wolf, or a rogue. I have no pack.
I expect a sneer or snarl to escape her lips as she looks at me in return, but instead, I receive a cautious smile and she turns to Chelsea to receive the same introduction I did moments before.
Reaching into my bag I pull out a pen and clip it to the checklist. I go to my dad and tell him that I need to go to the main office and point it out, so he knows where I am. Since my change, he has become very protective and cautious about bringing me new places. Werewolves were not part of his world until me. We had no idea what we were dealing with or what could happen. In fact, the only reason we both know is due to my first change a month after my accident that caused the scratch on my face and the bite on my ankle. I shudder at the memories and suppress them to the back of my mind. My dad shoos me to the office and continues chatting with the parents around him. I can tell he’s nervous about me going on my own but after 11 years of learning what I am, we both know that we have nothing to worry about for now.
The office is generic, boring. There are three stations behind plexiglass with a slot at the bottom for any important documents to be passed. Right now, each station has a line, A-I, K-R, and S-Z by last name I head into the first line and await my turn while fiddling with the checklist and pen that are still in my hands. Hardly a minute later that girl from a pack that I met outside gets into line behind me and waits.
There is an awkward silence as hardly anyone here knows each other, this is orientation for new students after all. This girl intimidates me. Pack wolves intimidate me. They do not have to, but their superiority over me has always caused insecurities within me to bubble up, and the fact that I have often been pushed around by that pack that was in my hometown Clearwater. They can typically control their beast as they are often born with the curse, those changed like me have no control and typically cause trouble for pack wolves. This is not to say that changed wolves can not be in a pack, but it is rare and can be more trouble than it’s worth. If I wasn’t locked up every full moon, their treatment of me would have been worse.
A throat clears behind me once again. I cautiously glance behind me to see if it was the girl, pack wolves don’t like rogues looking at them, it can be seen as a challenge. My eyes flicker between her face and the floor between us. There are still 5 people in front of me and the person at the desk is asking a lot of questions, so I am in no rush to hurry a conversation.
“Hi,” she says with a shy smile as I finally look at her face for 5 consecutive seconds.
My face warms and I respond with a quiet “hey”.
“My name’s Margaret” she offers no handshake but keeps her smile on.
“Erica,” I respond slowly gaining confidence to maintain eye contact with her light brown eyes.
“What program are you in,” She asks with that shy smile still on her face.
The effort she is putting in warms my heart and I shyly smile back and answer, “I’m in the Musical Arts for my Bachelor's Degree and I’m minoring in English Literature, what about you?”
“Journalism and Political Science.” She responds and her smile grows a little more genuine. “Are you in dorms?”
“No, I’m renting a house nearby.”
“Good,” she says firmly and I look at her in confusion, “Fewer accidents.”
My mouth forms an ‘O’ and the line moves up. The conversation between us dies as I feel put in my place as a rogue. I by no means think she meant it to do so, but it did anyway and allow the silence to continue as I turn to face the front of the line once more.
If all the pack wolves here are as friendly as her, these next few years might not be as miserable as I thought they would be.
I’ve got my student ID, my textbooks, my timetable of campus events and holidays, parking pass, and three brochures. I’m sitting in the theatre at the end of the welcome assembly surrounded by strangers as my dad has driven his pickup truck with the last of my big furniture items to my new home for 4 years. The assembly is pretty good, as good as assemblies get, I suppose. And as we all file out, I feel eyes watching me exit the building. I look up to see a guy and a girl with the same eyes as Margaret watching me as the friendly girl walks up to them. They throw me a warning look before ushering Margaret away to a grey SUV parked a few stalls away from my beat-up civic. The look they gave me makes me gulp in an attempt to wet the back of my throat as my mouth has gone dry in fear. I hurriedly walk to my car and take off down the highway that leads to my little shack.
Okay, 'shack' is a little harsh. It is a sturdy single floor cabin-like home with a wood-burning fireplace and the essentials; a kitchen, a bedroom, a bathroom, and a separate living and dining space, plenty of room for my instruments and bookshelves. It’s cute and my style, but compared to my dad’s home in Clearwater, it is most definitely a shack. I like it though. And to add to its charm it is secluded and surrounded by forest, perfect for making my uncontrollable howls during a full moon blend in with the wolves that undoubtedly roamed the area.
I pull up to the side of the house and exit my car. The air smells so fresh and crisp out here, absolutely wonderful for my senses. The clouds look darker and heavier than earlier, indicating overnight rainfall. I quickly open my trunk and back doors of my car and start unloading my possessions. As I walk past my dad’s truck, I notice it is almost completely empty, indicating that my mattress, night table, and the cage were already inside. The lack of a cage makes me stop short and mentally count the days to the next full moon. 10 days. September 13th is when I will spend my first night here at this new place. It is terrifying to lock oneself up like a feral dog, but necessary for the safety of people and creatures in the area. A changed Werewolf is unpredictable and extremely dangerous. From what I’ve gathered over 11 years, we are impossible to control.
I shake it off and bring my stuff in.
An hour later my dad and I are resting on the couch in my small living space celebrating my moving out with microwave popcorn and a thrilling movie on my laptop.
I’m clenching the blanket that’s over my legs in my hands as the protagonist is hiding from whatever it is that is after her. Just as he and I both start relaxing, the thing jumps out and begins the chase again making me jump along with him. My dad and I both chuckle at my reaction.
After a few minutes, once the movie has started a small break in tension, my dad turns to me, and with that look, I know he wants to talk. I turn the volume on my laptop down and give my dad my full attention.
He opens his mouth to speak but closes it as if the words escaped him and instead sighs and pulls me in for a tight hug. “I’m gonna miss you, Pumpkin.”
I smile and hug him a little tighter, “I’m gonna miss you too, dad.”
And we pull away from the hug after another moment and he opens his mouth to speak once more, “I know you are cautious and know what to do in emergencies, but I worry about you, I’ll always worry about you.”
I know what he means, since losing my mom so suddenly in a car accident I’m all he’s got. Then he had to deal with the attack that left me changed so soon after the accident. Then he witnessed my beast firsthand during the second full moon of that cycle and had been scared for life. The poor man couldn’t catch a break. He was constantly worrying that we would forget something during a full moon and that I’d hurt someone. Then when my body started having slightly enhanced abilities, such as an uncanny sense of smell, faster than average reflexes, and even random bursts of inhuman strength without the full moon he began worrying even more.
As an English professor, he has great research skills and resources and was able to find plenty of information about what I had become, but those are all based on legends and myths. There are particulars that are simply not available in the public domain. So much of it, we had to learn slowly over time. I like to think that after 11 years we have it all figured out and the mystery is solved. But there are still times were the first indications of my change sneak up on me earlier than they are supposed to, and the socialization of my kind is still a learning curve. Being all alone in this is what makes it the hardest. My dad is helpful in his research, but he often becomes a mother-hen mixed with it. This might sound cliché, but he doesn’t get it, he doesn’t understand what I’m going through. Not having anyone else like me, or, actually no one willing to be with me, to help me, that is like me. A werewolf. It took 3 years for my dad to admit to himself what I was. I was a freak in his little girl’s body beforehand. I still am, but he is more subtle and accepting of that freak. He was constantly looking for a cure. A way to fix me. I appreciated the effort and everything. But sometimes I just wanted him to hold me and not be afraid of me. To talk to me without it being an interrogation. Even now, whenever the full moon has come and past he pulls back and avoids me as much as possible for those few days. I get that he is protecting himself, but it still hurts.
I’m a lone wolf through and through, and it hurts every day of my existence.
“I know you worry dad, but you don’t have to. I can smell a pack in this area, they’ll protect others. If it ever comes to that. I know the tells and I have the cage. It’ll be okay.” I give him a reassuring smile and he smiles back and turns back to the movie and his arm goes over my shoulders and pulls me close.
He left when the movie ended, it’s a long drive home and the rain that will come this evening will make it difficult to see on the winding roads in the dark. It was a difficult goodbye, but quick. Like ripping off a band-aid. I’ll miss him, but there’s something freeing about being on my own. I don’t have to wait for anyone to shower first. If I wanted to turn my music up full blast, I could, and I don’t have to censor my playlist and can sing along freely. If I can’t sleep, as I am currently experiencing, I can play a somber melody on my violin and not worry about waking anyone.
Music has always been my escape. I got my love of music from my mom. She was by no means a musician, in fact, she couldn’t keep a beat, knew nothing about tone, and sang like the seagull from The Little Mermaid, but none of that stopped her love of music. She had an appreciation for all genres, and I heard every type growing up, dancing in the kitchen to the latest pop sensations with her while making dinner. Waltzing to the classics with her through the halls while getting ready for school. Head-banging to the loudest metal when it all gets a bit much. But my favourite time of all was when she enrolled me in music lessons. Not only would she lose herself in music on the radio, but she would intently listen and encourage me in my own musical ability. I was just getting good at violin when she died. I didn’t play anything for 6 months. My dad didn’t touch the radio. It wasn’t until the day of what would have been my recital came that I decided to play again. But I didn’t play in front of those strangers. I stayed home and when my dad came home from work, I was in the recital dress that I got with my mom and had my violin in hand with the piano ready behind me. My dad put down his briefcase and sat on the couch, on the end table sat a picture of my mom that had been out since her funeral. With my audience ready I began playing Mom’s top 5 in somber tones, 2 on the violin and 3 on the piano. I was too caught up in the music to note my tears and the tears in my dad’s eyes. As the final notes faded on the piano I broke down and so did my dad. We held each other close and promised one another that music would never leave the house again.
And as it did then, my mom’s favourite song brought tears to my eyes with the final notes fading away. I carefully pack away the precious instrument and turn off the lights and head to bed. It took a while, but I finally drifted off with a smile on my face.
I’m running. That big scary thing is chasing me. It’s snarling viciously and snapping at me. The trees scrape my cheeks, and my bare feet are muddy and bloody from all the forest debris tearing into them with every rush of my steps.
Don’t look back. Don’t look back.
I should never have snuck out to look for fireflies. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
I can feel its hot, steamy breath on the top of my head. Its huge. From what I saw, it is not a wolf though it has the face of one, it is much too big, and wolves don’t walk on two feet.
My foot suddenly snags on a tree root and my body lurches to a stop causing me to fall on my face. The beast stands over me. I try to crawl away, my arms scramble to get beneath and my legs frantically kick to get my body moving forward. I barely move a foot away when the beast’s jaws latch onto my leg and drag me back toward it. I scream in pain as those massive canines tear into my skin down to my bone. My body twists on impulse to try to escape the pain, but it only causes the tears to spread, and my sight blacks out for a second or two from the pain.
The beast reaches its finger-like front claws toward my face. I close my eyes and scream in terror jerking my head around. This causes those claws to tear through the skin on my face, four jagged lines going from just under my eye to my jaw, one claw continues down my neck. My wet, sticky blood pours from the wounds on my face and ankle making those scratches from the trees and rocks seem like little more than mosquito bites.
Snot runs uncontrollably from my nose and salty tears mingle with the blood on my face and run into my already red hair.
Why doesn’t it just kill me? Just let it kill me, please!
As I sit crying and bleeding on the forest floor, the hot breath fans my face one final time before the beast prowls away and I pass out from the pain.
Suddenly the scene changes and I’m running through the forest on all fours with one thing on my mind, I need flesh. Warm and fresh.
My eyes scan the clearing in front of me from the edge of the woods. Searching, waiting.
A movement to my right causes my muzzle to swerve in the direction. Excitement fills me at the sight of the old man walking, his heartbeat is music to my ears. An excited snarl releases from my throat and before the man can register what is happening, my furry body is on him. His terror-filled eyes please me and I savour the expression before tearing into his being.
So warm. So DELICIOUS.
The sound of his heart stuttering to a stop brings a howl of pleasure from the core of my being. Pure PLEASURE.
My jaw lowers to open his chest and feast.
I jolt awake and in a cold sweat. My own heart pounding.
I hate that dream or memory. Whatever it is, I hate it. Only a beast would feel pleasure at such an event. But I guess that is what I am now right? A beast trapped and only desiring one thing, to kill.
hiya, I just want to note that the University itself is made up.
happy reading :)