The moon is full; I can feel it. I can feel the change in my legs, feel the skin ripping and tearing, the transformation beginning. The pain is almost unbearable for a few minutes as my legs change shape, my chest changes, the hair changes.
My family won’t recognise me any more. Even my thoughts are different, somehow changed along with my body. I’m cold. No clothes, of course. I must run but I can’t. Be careful, I tell myself – this is the danger time. Give them no sign. Slip away, quietly. It’s for the best.
There’s a wall around the side. I walk around there, climb it easily. So easy when I’m like this. I couldn’t normally. I’ve done this so many times.
I get to the top of the wall and look around. Nobody left. Nobody right. I get onto the path and start to walk, quietly, towards the gates. They’ll be locked, of course, but that’s no matter. I don’t usually need to go through the gates if I’m careful.
There’s a little hut by the side. The guard is asleep. There’s a fire exit. I just push the bar, down, and I’m out. I’m free.
It isn’t easy being me. I’ve lived with this for years. How long is it since I was bitten? Too long to remember. Every full moon I have to be careful.
I can’t be seen, at least not like this. So I skulk along the road, careful to hide behind bushes where possible. A passing car picks me out in its headlights, so I duck behind a bush. The lights pick out a path but nobody spots me. I wait, watching the red lights at the back of the car until they disappear round the corner.
There’s nothing on the street now, so I come out slowly, looking both ways. I’m getting cold.
Three doors away, I knock on the back door. I hear shuffling inside and an old lady opens the door.
“Hello Seamus,” she says. “Come in.”
I come in behind her. There’s a few clothes – jeans, a jumper, socks and some slip on shoes. I get dressed in silence and she busies herself putting the kettle on. I can smell something baking in the oven. Normally the smell would be overpowering; in this form, it just smells delicious.
“Do you want some tea?”
“Please,” I say, pulling the shirt over my head.
“Any trouble tonight?”
“No,” I reply, shaking my head.
She pours water into the two cups, stirs to get the flavour out of the tea bags, adds a drop of milk and hands it to me. It’s hot. I blow on it, cool a little, and then sip. The golden liquid is delicious. I’ve missed this.
“Whatever will you do without me?” she asks.
“I don’t know, mum,” I say. “But you’ll outlive me, probably. I’m getting old.”
She smiles and drinks some of her tea. “Let’s not think about it,” she says. “It’s a rhetorical question.”
We sit in silence for a while, drinking tea. The oven pings and she takes the biscuits out to cool. There’s a ritual about this now, after twelve or so years. She leaves them to cool while we talk a little, then we start with the second mug of tea. We tried a teapot, but I got clumsy and broke it. We switched to tin mugs.
“You must be nearly thirteen now,” she says.
“I suppose so,” I shrug. “I’m not sure.”
She nods. “It’s in my diary, don’t worry. I think it’s next month.”
I nod, drink some more tea, and she stares into space.
“I remember feeding you,” she says. “From a bottle, like a baby. Of course, that was before I retired. Now…”
I touch her hand. “It’s OK,” I say. But it’s not. Something is worrying her.
We talk a little more, eating the biscuits with their cinnamon topping and raisins, drinking down tea. Eventually, around one, she goes to bed and I go off to sleep on the sofa. Except I don’t. Tonight, I’m going to explore the town a little again. I wait a little until she has gone to bed and listen for snoring. Then I get up from the sofa, I take the spare keys from the bowl in the hall and I slip them into my pocket, open the door, and close it gently behind me. I check the door, and it’s locked. She’s safe, at least, for now. I have two, maybe three hours.
I walk down the street, following the path. Last month I went left and explored the estate. Tonight I follow the moonlight to the right, instead of the left.
The road starts much the same: the same small houses, white painted, their curtains closed to keep out the dreadful silver of the threatening moon. But then it ends and joins to another street, wider this time. There are places that look like houses, but with bigger windows. And lights on.
At first, I try and hide, make sure nobody is coming. I poke my head out, carefully, checking, sniffing the air, but I don’t see, hear or smell anyone. I inch forward, slowly, growling a little to myself. I’m not sure whether that’s to warn someone off or keep myself company.
The first of these places has lots of lights. I freeze when I see there’s two or three people just standing there. It’s not good that they’ve seen me, but they’re still. Maybe they’re playing a game with me? Are they waiting for me to move? Is their vision based on movement?
And then I realise they have no faces. And I remember Mum telling me about toys and dolls. Are they dolls? The place has lots of clothes, so it could be something to do with that.
I’m not sure I like this street. I walk, carefully, to the next one. It has white boxes, like the machines Mum has in her kitchen. There’s the one that she has that washes clothes, or the one that washes plates, they look a bit like that. Maybe this is a “shop” where you get these things? She’s told me about those. So perhaps the one next door, is that where you get your clothes?
I hear a door open behind me. Some men come out, laughing.
I ignore him. He says something to his friends and they laugh. I keep looking at the machines, trying to ignore them. That’s best, she says: ignore. Just in case.
I don’t know what that means, but it doesn’t sound good. I turn to face them. There’s three of them, they don’t look alert, but happy, sort of dazed, like they have been hit with something. I look at them.
“What you looking at?” The middle one says. He’s the one that spoke to me first. He looks fat, and not very strong.
“Machines,” I reply.
He laughs. “Machines, he says.”
I nod and try to smile.
“Come on,” says one of the others. “He’s simple, let’s go.”
The fat one holds an arm out in front of the other, and then starts to walk over the street towards me. I bear my teeth a little, to show I’m not to be trifled with.
“You retarded or something?” he says, poking me in the stomach.
“I don’t know what that means,” I reply.
He pokes me again.
“If you poke me again I will bite that off.”
He roars with laughter, head shaking back. And then he aims to hit me, trying with one hand to hit.
I realise that I have to fight and I snarl, back up a little and that makes them laugh. So I pounce on the fat one and bite at the neck and he screams. Blood starts to flow and he is lying there and I stand on him, triumphantly, and I growl.
The other two back away and then start to run.
I realise now that it isn’t safe here for me. Not any more. I start in the other direction, and I run, back towards mum’s. I go in the front door as quietly as I can, and I settle on the sofa and I try to sleep a bit.
At four her alarm goes off and she comes downstairs.
“Come on, Seamus,” she says, shaking my shoulder. “You need to get back.”
“What’s this on your collar?” she asks.
And I confess it. All of it.
She sighs, shakes her head.
We walk back, slowly. She takes me to the side entrance where the security guard is waiting.
“Did he have any trouble tonight, Mrs Grady?”
“I heard, on the police scanner,” he says. “You ought to be more careful, Seamus,” he says, turning to me.
I start taking my clothes off. There’s a cloud over the moon and it’s starting to set. I can feel a change coming.
“You know what we’ll have to do, don’t you?” he asks, looking at mum.
I take off my jeans as she nods. I give her a hug and then start off towards the wolf enclosure.
“Lychanthropy,” he says as I go back to the family. “It works both ways.”
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