There was a time when things were different. The most I had to worry about was which party I would attend that weekend. All that had changed in just a few week’s time.
I watched from the line of trees behind the school. My friends were where they always were this time of day; hiding in the alley to share a cigarette. They all thought I was sick with mono. With that excuse, no one even questioned why I’d been out for almost a month. My stomach turned to knots as I watched them. I’d be long gone before they even knew I was missing.
The walk back home was lonely. I cut through the woods to avoid running into anyone. My parents would be upset if they knew I had even left the house.
We were leaving tomorrow. My Dad said we were heading north; that the cold would help the change move along faster. I didn’t want to leave. For sixteen years, this small town had been my home. They said I needed it; that the change would be good for me. I wasn’t so sure. Nothing good had happened since all this had started.
I emerged out of the woods and into my backyard. For the tenth time that day, I contemplated running but I knew it was useless. He would find me easily. He always could. I turned around and gazed back into the woods. I would soon call the forest my home. He had told me that much at least.
I walked toward the house and knew I was too late. As I walked in, my father was waiting for me.
“Where have you been, Alex?” he asked.
I wanted to lie but he would know. “I went to the school. Don’t worry. No one saw me. I made sure of it.”
He stared at me for a long while before nodding. “It’s fine. Even if they did, we’ll be gone soon.”
His words punched me in the gut and tears welled in my eyes. I squeezed them shut and forced the tears away. He didn’t like it when I cried. A future leader never cries, he said. He was staring at me when I opened them and I forced myself to smile.
“You’re right. Sorry, anyways. I just wanted to see it one last time.” I walked past him and ran upstairs to my room. My mom had somehow packed everything I needed into one small bag. She was sitting on my bed, wringing her hands together over and over. When she saw me, she bolted up and wiped the tears from her face.
“Alex, I didn’t hear you come in,” she said as she moved toward me. I wrapped my arms around her and let the tears fall from my eyes. She didn’t want this either. She hadn’t even known what would happen when she married him. He had kept everything from her. I pulled away and sat down on the bed, wiping my eyes quickly in case he came upstairs.
“Why do we have to do this, Mom?” I asked. “I don’t want it. You obviously don’t want it. There has to be a way to stop it.” The tears kept coming. I threw my sleeve over my face to wipe away the moisture but it was pointless. The flood gates had been opened.
“I know but there’s nothing we can do, I’m afraid.” She sat back down beside me and rubbed my back. I was so grateful for her. She was just as lost as I was.
I stood and walked over to the dresser. The painting above it had always been my favorite. I had loved the ocean since I was a little boy, even though I had never even seen it. When I was little, I dreamed I would live somewhere tropical when I grew up. I would swim for hours in the crystal clear water and have monkeys and parrots as pets. Now, I would never even see it. I would never feel my toes buried in the warm sand. I belonged to the woods now, he said. My eyes moved downward to the calendar. There were only two weeks left until the full wolf moon. After that, my life as I knew it would be over. I wouldn’t be Alex anymore. I wouldn’t even be human.
I’d be just like him.
Come get Sloshed at the Speakeasy!