When one lives near the wild lands of Minnesota, and their dog runs away, he's usually gone for good. Of course, the fact that Matthew had begged for a dog for years, meant when he had run away, it was up to the young, soon to be Sophomore to find him. So there he was, walking through the thick brush of the of the forest that lay beyond his home, scratched and wet. Armed with only a small flashlight to guide him through the darkness of the summer night.
He wasn't going to give up after only looking for ten minutes, but that didn't mean he wasn't thinking of it. Spike will be back in the morning, he thought. He always comes back. This was the third night that the pup had run away, after all. Waving the flashlight in a blind effort to find the missing canine, he nearly tripped over an invisible root. Groaning up into the sky in frustration, he stopped when he noticed a small rustle of leaves and a snap of a twig. Adjusting the small flashlight his family gave him toward the noise, he realized it was nothing but a bush.
“Spike?” he asked in its direction, “Spike, come,” he hoped it was the loyal pit bull. Procuring no answer, but sensing that there was something hiding in the leafy pile, he stuck his hand in to pull out what must surely be the delinquent dog. Instead of the sensation of a cold rubber collar, he felt the shooting pain of a bite on his hand.
Matt is used to bites. Anyone who grew up with a puppy would say they are exceedingly generous in that respect. This was no playful puppy bite, however. This was a hard, potentially bone crunching bite. Pulling his hand away as soon as it became free, his flashlight flew over to the bush, spying a retreating gray figure. Definitely not Spike, he thought.
Spinning the flashlight over to his other hand, he saw numerous trails of crimson blood running off the edge of his palm. Deciding a possible case of rabies was more crucial than a lost dog, he turned around to head back home. The idea of another animal coming after him creeping into his mind, he began to run. Sprinting for only a couple minutes, he looked in surprise as his house came into view. Did wild animals come that close?
Walking through the side door that led to the kitchen, he listened as his footsteps echoed on the cold linoleum tile. He looked around but didn't see anyone. They must be in the living room, he thought. Strolling through the arch that led to the room, he saw the three members of his family sitting in the small area, the stairs that led to their bedrooms behind them. They seemed to notice his presence, but not that something was wrong.
"Did you find Spike?" his brother asked, not looking away from the television.
"No, I got bitten," Matt replied.
"What?" he heard his mother exclaim. Immediately the woman rushed toward him, getting a good look at his blood soaked hand, "Oh my God," she ran to a nearby drawer, pulling out a roll of gauze. She then went back, pulling him by the arm to the kitchen sink. As she washed off the blood with warm water and soap, she asked, “What happened?”
“I was looking for Spike, and I checked a bush I heard a noise from. Then something bit me. All I know is that it was gray,” he answered, "I think I should go see a doctor. What if it had rabies?" his mother nodded in agreement, shooing him to the small sedan outside. As he heard the car roar to life, he sighed, leaning his head against the window. Watching the houses go by, he glanced over at his hand again. He may have been going crazy, but it felt as if it were already starting to close.
Sitting on the hospital bed in the emergency room, Matt took passing glances at his now properly bandaged hand. The bleeding had suspiciously stopped by the time they arrived. In fact, the doctor had at first thought the bite happened hours ago, "Well, you have no broken bones. You're quite lucky," the doctor, a young blond man, held up his x-rays, "The results of the blood test will be back in a couple days. If you would like us to call instead of coming back, we can."
"So what do you think bit me?" Matthew asked, peeking at his x-ray.
"I'm no veterinarian, but it looks canine. It could have been anything from a stray dog to a wolf," replied the doctor.
"Doctor, what happens if he has rabies?" his mother asked.
"We'll know in a couple days, and if he has rabies, we can treat it. For now, though," he pulled out a needle, "we'll administer the first part, just to be safe," Matthew held out his arm, watching as the needle pierced his skin.
Matthew collapsed onto his soft bed, too exhausted to change into pajamas. Rolling over on his back, he looked again at his wrapped left hand. Sure enough, there was no sign of blood on the bandage, though they wrapped it up to be safe. In fact, for getting bitten by something, he felt pretty strong. Like the feeling after getting over a cold, and it felt fantastic to be healthy again. If he weren't so tired, he would feel on top of the world.
Whatever, he thought, I'll feel better tomorrow. He rolled off the bed, getting under the covers. Before he could even think of anything, he was out like a light.
A few hours had passed before he became disturbed by something. Running his hand through his hair, he realized what had woken him up. There was a strange, steady hissing throughout the house. Focusing on the noise, it sounded almost like...breathing? It was as if people were breathing right in his ear.
Eying his room, something else was amiss. The clock chimed in that it was two o'clock in the morning, but he could see his room clearly. He could identify everything as if the light was on, and could even read the posters on his wall. Deciding to go to the bathroom, he opened his door as quietly as he could and walked through the hallway, flinching every time the floor creaked. Passing his parents' room, he stopped for a second, but he didn't hear them get up. Finally arriving at the bathroom, he flicked on the light...
...Only to be assaulted by light so bright, it was like staring into the sun. Quickly turning off the light, he opened his eyes, still a little blind. Sure enough, once the flare disappeared, he could see just fine. Going over to the mirror, he looked in shock. Staring back at him was not his reflection.
His chestnut hair had become a shockingly pure white. His eyes, usually a dark hazel, were now a gold. Worst and most dreadful of all had to be the two furry triangular ears sticking out of the side of his head. Opening his mouth, he saw his two pointed teeth--the canines he thought they were called--had grown into wicked fangs.
Then, something strange happened. He laughed. Not a loud laugh, but a low chuckle. He laughed for a good two minutes before stopping. A dream, he thought, it's just a dream. He stared at his supposed reflection some more. Pretty convincing one, though, he thought. Satisfied that he was asleep, he then went out of the bathroom and back to bed.
"Matt, breakfast is ready!" he awoke to the sound of his mother shouting downstairs. Groggily he rubbed his head, getting up. Opening his eyes, the light that shined into his room didn't blind him. Opening the blinds, there was a flood of warm sunlight.
Coming down the stairs, he noticed his father in the living room. Looking up from the Sunday paper, he saw him go wide-eyed, "My God, son, what happened to your hair?" his dad asked.
Immediately he began patting the top of his head, "What's wrong with it?" he replied.
"It's...white," his father answered, still in shock.
He ran up the stairs as fast as he could go, slamming the bathroom door behind him. Sure enough, his reflection revealed a crop of whitish-silver hair atop his head. Just like in my dream, he realized. Nothing to worry about, he reassured himself. So your hair is white, it's not like you'll turn into a wolf man.
Coming back down the stairs, he walked into the kitchen, looking at the woman standing at the oven. His mother stared at him, "Wow, your hair really is white."
“I saw," he countered. Sitting down at the table, a plate of eggs, bacon and toast were placed in front of him. Taking a piece of toast from his plate, he bit into it before he heard a scratching at the door. He watched as his mother opened it, revealing a small, and extremely dirty, brown pit bull, "Hey Spike!" he exclaimed, clapping his hands to call him. Looking over at his owner, the dog stiffened, his fur standing on end. A low growl emanated from him. Matthew's face contorted into a confused glance, "What's wrong with him, Mom?"
"I don't know Honey," she replied, patting the dog on its head. Instantly he relaxed, looking up at the woman and panting.
"Weird," was all Matthew could muster before he returned to his breakfast.
Finishing his meal, he quickly put the plate in the sink, rinsing it off before returning to his room. Opening his closet, he brought out a large gray hoodie, slipping it over his t-shirt. Even though it was July, the last few days had been cold and cloudy, only reaching about fifty degrees.
Returning to the living room, he shouted a quick, "I'm going out," before exiting through the side door. Turning to the right, he began to head into the woods. He wasn't sure why, but he felt a strange urge to go to the area where he got bitten. Looking around, he realized he probably wouldn't find it. Not only was it dark at the time and he had no idea where he had been, all the bushes looked the same. That was when a small spot of muddled red caught his eye. In front of a bush was a tiny puddle of what he assumed was his dried blood from the previous night. Looking at his hand, he sighed, taking the branches with both hands and pulling the bush apart. Only to reveal nothing.
"Looking for me?" asked a mysterious voice. Looking over he noticed a gray wolf standing, staring at him with his yellow eyes. Matthew gave a quick shout, falling flat on his butt. Backing up as best he could while sitting, he decided to wait for the wolf to make the first move. He couldn't tell, but he swore the creature glanced at his hand, "Your wound is healing up nicely," said the voice again, from the direction of the wolf. Matt looked all around, trying to identify the source.
"Was that...you?" he finally asked, pointing at the gray beast.
"There's no one else here," stated the voice.
"Great. I'm going insane," Matt, grasping his head as if having a migraine.
"No, you're not," the wolf took a few steps forward.
"Right, like I'm going to trust a talking wolf," he countered.
"You choose to believe you're insane rather than that something else is happening?" asked the canine.
"Because wolves don't talk! But here's one talking to me! What can I be other than insane?" he asked, holding out his arms.
"I believe humans would call you a 'werewolf'," he answered.
“What?" Matt said blankly, looking at the wolf with shock.
"Look it up in one of your books," and with that, he disappeared.
Getting to his feet, Matt looked at where he disappeared to with contempt. Kicking up some dirt, he turned around, walking out of the woods and onto the cold stone sidewalk in front of his house.
Walking past the many houses, he eventually found himself out of the suburbs and into the business district of the city. Look it up, the wolf's words echoed in his head. Looking around, he realized the Library was just around the corner, “why not?”
He pulled his hood over his head and walked around the street, and into the library. Going inside, he looked around at the vast array of shelves and books. Heading to the service counter, he waited for the librarian to notice him, "Hello, how can I help you?"
"Do you have anything on, uh," he leaned in and whispered, "werewolves?"
"Werewolves?" she said much too loudly for a library, "Let me check," she turned to a computer at her side, entering the word into the search, "Is there anything in particular you wanted?"
"Maybe their origin and powers and stuff? I have to do a paper about a mythical creature. This one seemed good," he lied.
"Does 'Werewolves: A Study' sound good?" she looked at him.
"Sure," he answered.
"In the fantasy section, the author is Arthur Follicks." He gave his thanks before heading to that area of the library. Skimming the titles, he eventually found the book, taking it out of the shelf. He noticed it was unusually thick and hardcover, not what he expected from a fantasy book.
Sitting at the nearest table, he sat down on one of the wooden chairs. Deciding he didn't want to waste his whole day learning, he decided to just skim and read any vital information. Opening it to the table of contents, he started, "Okay," he read through it, "Chapter one: Origins."
He was halfway through skimming the book, and he didn't have much luck. The book detailed the origins of werewolves from many different countries, and most of them conflicted with each other. Parts of the book claimed it was curable while other parts said it was a curse that couldn't be removed. Rubbing his now aching head, he looked over to see an hour and a half had passed. Putting the book on the nearest cart, he exited the library.
He sighed as he walked down the sidewalk. How was he supposed to know what was real? The book said that werewolves transformed at the full moon while another section claimed it happened every night. It was as if the book was trying to confuse him. Before he could think about it anymore, someone pushed him roughly to the side, "Hey!" he shouted at the offender. Looking, he saw the man running away as if his life depended on it.
Suddenly he heard a shout. Behind him, a woman was running, screaming that he had stolen her purse. Reflexively, he began to chase the man down. Even though it was morning and few people were out, it was near impossible to catch up. As the thief slipped further and further away, he slowed, panting. I need to go faster, he thought.
Suddenly he felt a surge of energy. Everything became not brighter, but sharper. He could hear conversations, cars running, people walking. Rubbing his nose, he smelled gasoline, smoke, sweat, and hundreds of other scents. Putting all the new input he was getting aside, he began to chase the man down. He caught up in a few minutes, surprised that it wasn't longer. Grabbing the purse, the thief turned around, only to get pushed to the ground. Turning around to give it back to the woman, he stopped when he heard a strange flicking sound.
Dropping the purse, he turned around just in time to grab the man's arm before he got stabbed. On instinct, he pulled forward, flipping the man over his shoulder and onto the ground. Looking at him on the sidewalk, he let go, eying his hands and wondering from where that strength had come. That was when he noticed his fingernails were curved. Almost like-
"Oh my goodness, thank you," he noticed that the woman had finally caught up with them. Grabbing the purse, he handed it over to her, "Here, let me give you something," she started digging in her purse. Pulling out a ten dollar bill, he put his hands out and waved them as a sign he didn't need anything.
That was when he again noticed his fingernails were curved down, almost like claws. Staring at them for a second, he looked at the woman before running. He didn't stop until he arrived somewhere secluded, which didn't take more than a couple minutes. Looking down, he noticed his fingernails were indeed claws now.
Going behind a tree and making sure no one was there, he pulled down his hood. Feeling where his ears would be, he instead felt soft fur. Looking over for more differences, he noticed he was standing on his tiptoes, and even when he put his heels to the ground they reflexively went back up. Turning around, he caught something behind him. Chasing it around for a few turns, he was finally able to grab it. In his hands was a long wagging patch of fur. A tail. He had a tail.
Sitting down against a tree, more from all the extra sights, sounds, and smells than anything, he put a hand to his head, rubbing it through his hair. Before he could think about anything, a crashing sound came through the treetops. Before him landed a girl about his age, short and as thin as a twig. Normally he would think she had been climbing and fell, if not for the large pair of brown wings sprouting from her shoulders.