A teenager seeking help, settles for dinner
“Hi, my name is Anastasia, and I’m a werewolf.”
“Hi, Anastasia,” the room booms back, welcoming the newest attendee at Werewolves Anonymous Plano.
The newest member looks bored. She doesn’t believe this type of talk therapy in a “kumbaya, isn’t this wonderful, see I’m just as screwed up as you are, circle-jerk” meeting can help her, not really. But she’s running out of options.
She glances down at her watch.
Thirty-one minutes to go.
For the most part, everyone here looks more goth than wolf, like they’re trying too hard, Anastasia thinks.
This was a stupid idea; why the hell did I take that flyer?
The attention shifts from Anastasia to the goth teenage boy sitting on her right as the introductions continue.
“Hi, I’m Mark, and I am a werewolf. May I make a bit of a check-in?”
Anastasia sniffs. None of this is legit, she thinks. She’s not met any of her kind yet, but none of this smells right.
“Hi, Mark, we do check-ins after introductions and the principles. Okay?”
Mark sulkily nods.
“Hi, my name is Kevin, and I’m a werewolf.”
Kevin is probably the oldest attendee. He looks to be in his late 40’s, possibly older. He is wearing a three-piece suit, and Anastasia thinks he’s probably an accountant or a banker or something even more boring.
What’s more boring than accounting? Marketing? Finance?
Anastasia recently turned 17, and this is her first year of living with this debilitating condition.
She looks past the meeting leader, Carol, on the opposite side of the circle of chairs and sees an impressive snacks table lined up for later or perhaps a meeting intermission. A pristine white table cloth covers the long table. On it are rows and rows of cheap plastic cups with what looks like blood.
Anastasia sniffs the air.
That’s tomato juice; they should call themselves Vampires Anonymous.
She hates the smell of tomato juice because her sleazy younger brother, Stephen, always drinks it after his pathetic workouts when he stinks of sweat, hormones, and desperation.
She studies Carol briefly.
Carol looks to be a couple of years older than Anastasia. And where most of the young attendees opted to go goth, in a lame attempt to sell their werewolf thing, Carol went the opposite way; she’s perky, blonde, good hygiene, the correct amount of make-up to give off the well put together, minimal effort look.
She’s probably even a cheerleader.
Anastasia turns, eyes the exit one more time.
You got this, hang in there, okay? I can get through the next half hour and then leave and never come back.
“Hi, I’m Carol, and I’m a werewolf.”
The group energy level has decreased since the meeting began, Anastasia notices.
Yes, that, or they all hate Carol.
Anastasia feels the hairs on the back of her neck tingle. She idly wonders how that first bite of Carol would taste. The pheromones, the tiny little sweat droplets on her neck, the explosion of hot, salty blood in her mouth as she pierces through her carotid artery.
She peeks at her watch.
She feels panic start to settle around her.
Oh, this is going to be a bad one.
But she thinks that during each of the seven full moons she’s experienced as a werewolf.
“And now I’ve asked Winona to read the Twelve principles of WA, Winona?”
“Hi, my name is Winona; I’m a werewolf.”
Oh my, she’s a snack.
Some energy has returned, at least for Winona.
To her credit, Winona (not her real name, Anastasia thinks) bears a strong resemblance to Winona Ryder. She is leaning into the likeness, inviting the comparison and comments. But on the other hand, Winona seems genuine. Like she might say, “Winona, who? Never heard of her. Beetle what?” and might be believable. Winona seems to seamlessly, genuinely embody the goth spirit. Despite herself, Anastasia thinks she likes the girl.
Winona clears her throat, begins reading.
“The twelve principles of Werewolves Anonymous.”
“Step one: we admitted we were powerless over lycanthropy – that our lives had become unmanageable.”
She pauses dramatically between each step.
Work it, sister.
“Step two: came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
Sanity? That’s rich, ha.
Winona pauses again, looks up, quickly scans the faces. She smiles once, content that she’s killing it.
“Step three: made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.., or HER!”
You go, girl. I don’t believe the actual steps include such gender inclusiveness, but whatever, you do you.
Anastasia feels her attention start to wonder. Another tell-tale sign that the change is approaching. Again, she eyes the door but decides to stay a bit longer.
“Step eight: made a list of all persons we had eaten, excuse me, harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.”
Nice touch, Winnie. A list of them? ALL of them? How long do you have?
Love her or hate her, the girl is making the principles her own in a way that amuses Anastasia. But her mind wanders as she tries to recall her total number. She decides it’s probably somewhere north of forty-two.
Forty-two innocent men and women were dead because they had the misfortune to encounter me during a full moon.
“Twelve: having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other werewolves and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”
“Thanks, Winona,” Carol says chirpily. “Okay, now does anyone want to check-in?” she says as she catches Mark’s eye.
“Hi, I want to.., wait, do I introduce myself again? Each time I speak, I mean,” Mark says.
“Yes, that is our normal convention.”
“Hi, my name is Mark, and I am a werewolf,” Mark says.
You’re losing them, bruh.
She’s right; the room is tepid toward Mark.
“I am feeling guilt and shame; I literally bit my girlfriend’s head off last night.”
Whoa, hold the phones. What do we have here?
She sniffs again and knows Mark is exaggerating, lying.
Though how she can smell anything over the awful stench of the tomato juice is a mystery to her. She scans the faces around the room. She sees some looks of pain and boredom, but she sees no others so clearly offended by the glasses of vegetable juice rapidly coming to room temperature and smelling worse by the second.
She ignores his tedious voice as he drones on with his boring check-in.
“… and so I just told her, you know, ‘you should probably sleep at your place tonight, Em.’ It was brutal,” Mark shudders at the traumatic memory.
That’s biting her head off? Get lost, you pompous poser.
Anastasia wants to say something snarky, some scathing remark that will shut up Mark (along with any other Marks here tonight), but she’s seen enough information to realize that is not the twelve-step way. Whoever is speaking is never interrupted, never judged, never challenged, ever.
Why am I here?
Anastasia looks at her watch again.
She looks up and catches Winona looking right at her. No one else would’ve seen it, but as they lock eyes, Winona quickly flashes eight fingers to her.
What the hell is that supposed to mean, Winona?
Flustered, Anastasia breaks contact and looks to the basement casing window. She can’t see the moon from this perspective; the orientation is wrong. Though she could be walked into this room blindfolded minutes before the moon went full, spun in circles, and as soon as the moon rose over the eastern horizon, she could swivel and point precisely to where it was in the sky, like some compass that only points eastward when the moon was full.
The room is silent as the werewolves, in true Quaker fashion, sit and wait until someone feels compelled to speak.
“Hi, my name is Winona, and I am a werewolf,” she says as she catches Anastasia’s eye once more, winks.
What’s with all the gawking, girl? Take a picture. It’ll last longer.
“I’m feeling more and more each day that none of this makes any sense. What’s the point?”
No, no, no. Far too emo, too goth. Stay angry, girl, stay angry, surrender to the darkness within you.
“I guess I’m depressed. Maybe I need to hunt some prey and taste the sweet fear of my victim. See them as they realize that help is NOT coming, that their end is nigh.”
Nigh? Damn. And she had such potential. I think I’ll eat you last, right after Carol.
Anastasia doesn’t even notice the shift, transitioning seamlessly from genuinely hoping for sanctuary here tonight to planning her bedtime snack. On her way in earlier, Anastasia instinctively noticed there was only one entrance into this meeting room. She saw how she could lock it from the inside so she could begin eating these people. Anastasia doesn’t literally eat them entirely. She samples a little bit of this one, a little bit of that one. Carol, for instance, will be utterly throat-less when Anastasia finishes with her. With Winona, she instinctively knows it will be the wrists and forearms. Winona will bleed out slower than the others.
Well, maybe not THE slowest.
She eyes Mark and thinks CALVES, CALVES, CALVES. That must be a slow way to die. She tries to remember if she’s taken anyone that way but cannot say definitively one way or the other.
The room is silent. Anastasia thinks about checking in; having some fun with this room of posers, like a cat playing with a mouse before devouring it. But she needs just a few more minutes before her strength will begin to increase dramatically. Until then, she could be stopped by a few of the attendees here tonight.
No reason to push my luck tonight; momma is hungry but not stupid.
She nearly laughs at her cruel humor.
When did I start calling myself Mamma? Jesus, mother issues, much?
She makes a mental note to share this new eccentricity with her psychiatrist next week. Her biggest issue, being a werewolf, hasn’t yet come up in her conversations with Dr. Schwarz.
Anyone studying Anastasia’s face would see she’s already started changing. Her eyebrows are almost meeting now, and she has more sideburns than most women like to wear. Her fingers and nails are shockingly much longer, and so she’s careful to keep her hands folded in her lap for now.
Now, where was I? Oh, that’s right, I was selecting my meal.
She continues scanning the room like it’s a buffet.
Neck, hamstrings, oh my! Achilles’ tendons.
She thinks she’s never eaten an Achilles tendon before. She is aware there’s not a whole lot of meat there, and the person probably won’t even bleed out from such an injury, but she does enjoy a little music to set the mood for her meal, and that chick looks like she can hit those high notes when she screams.
Anastasia catches Winona’s eye a third time; the pale girl is positively inscrutable; she looks blissful.
She shifts slightly in her seat, pulling the dress down over her swelling calves. The pain of her transformation is delicious. The movies get that part wrong. Oh yeah, it hurts, but werewolves love pain, both her pain of changing physical form and theirs when all the biting and chewing and screaming starts.
Neck, neck, nice butt, neck, wrists, neck, neck, did I miss anyone?
She scans the room again (careful not to lock eyes with Winona) and sees she’s selected a morsel from everyone; this will be her biggest meal ever.
Kevin is droning on about how he wants to literally eat his boss for publicly chastising and humiliating him every week in the status meeting.
And I would literally love to teach you the proper usage of the word “literally.”
She nearly laughs again. She’s started to look down into her lap. Her face is almost covered in hair now, but her strength is usually the last thing to change. Once her clothes start to tear, she’ll be ready, and it will be too late for this bunch of posers.
She imagines the next five minutes in her mind.
The chain for the doors is in my bag. Jump up, knock that chubby guy in the head with the purse, quick dash to the doors, chain – figure-eight through the handles, locked, two, maybe three seconds max? Maybe less. Then it’s Anastasia’s All You Can Eat Buffet at Werewolves Anonymous Plano.
Every attendee has a cellphone, of course, but Anastasia eats fast. She’ll be a half-mile away from the place before help arrives.
As the moon goes full, her muscles begin expanding, her clothes rip, and she is up, out of her chair, and moving fast.
It felt like a luxuriously long meal. In reality, it was a few minutes at most. The room is a gruesome scene of gore, blood, and carnage. The white tablecloth is awash with blood, bone, skin, teeth, and a single ear that Anastasia believes is Carol’s. As her eyes dance around the room one last time, she replays the entire thing in her head and smiles as she remembers each bite.
Kevin had been the biggest surprise. Not in how he might have tasted but in his silly attempts at heroism; he had chosen chair over cellphone. She almost laughed when Kevin landed what he thought was a werewolf ending blow with the metal folding chair. She had been devouring Mark’s right calf when the chair slammed into her broad back. She laughed. Of course, her laughs had probably sounded like a dog chuffing to him. She leaped up and playfully swatted at – and through – his neck. He was dead before he hit the floor.
She remembered thinking, “Damn it, I was going to eat that.” Anastasia hated eating dead people. In her initial hunts, she had made that mistake, but only twice. Once a struggling entree died, the taste soured immediately. So Kevin went unsampled by her.
She turns back to her last little morsel.
And now dessert.
She looks down at the enigma that is Winona. She is a paradox, a vision of intense bliss and bottomless calm.
What’s going on?
Something was wrong here; Winona wasn’t scared; she wasn’t screaming; she wasn’t calling for help on her phone or clawing futilely at the high basement windows. She was smiling and looking admiringly at Anastasia, apparently unfazed by the gore covering her otherwise pretty but now decidedly hairy, bloody face.
As if she knew what Anastasia had planned for her, she offered her lovely, slender, and deliciously fragile wrist up to her willingly and said calmly, “Bite me? Gently, please?”
She wants me to turn her?
The crazy girl wanted Anastasia to bite her.
Anastasia was shocked.
“But.., but..,” Anastasia tries to say through her less than comprehensible wolf throat.
Her words sounded like guttural grunts to the calm goth girl.
“You look confused, confession time. You see, I set all of this up. I figured out months ago what you were. After that, I found this group of posers and started coming to these boring meetings. Wow, who knew Kevin would grow a pair at the last minute? I was almost worried when I saw him sneak up with that chair. But BAMM! You dropped him like a bad habit. And have you ever heard more pathetic nonsense?”
Winona closes her eyes in pleasure, sniffs the air. “You know, I think I love the scent of blood already; isn’t that crazy? Anyway, where was I? Oh, right, the posters; I was the one who kept hanging the WA posters for this meeting in the halls at school and on your locker. I saw you tear it down in disgust so many times that I began to lose hope. But then, last Thursday? Do you remember that, right after Algebra? You yanked it down, but then it looked like you were finally reading it. Do you remember?”
Anastasia stares blankly at the pale girl.
Ladies and gentlemen, behold, my very first fangirl.
“I remember it perfectly; you folded the flyer in half.., three times. And then, you put it in your right rear pocket,” Winona says as she mimes performing the remembered actions with an invisible flyer. “I was so happy at that moment.”
Anastasia’s wolf heart begins to shimmer with some unexpected, foreign feeling. She thinks it might be hope.
“But I had to be sure, didn’t I? I couldn’t just walk up to you after history and say, ‘Hey, I know you don’t know me, but would you bite me, please?’ No, that wouldn’t have worked at all. Plus, if I’m honest, I wanted to, no, I needed to see you eat. And Oh, My, God, did you ever deliver.”
This crazy chick is going to climax.
“And well, anyway, I want in. Please, turn me?” Winona says. “Please?”
Again, she holds out her tender little morsel of a wrist.
Moving with more grace than she ever has in her human form, Anastasia, takes Winona’s wrist, pulls her to her feet, and tenderly embraces her
Don’t crush this one; this one is a delicate orchid; she’s special.
Instantly, Anastasia sees potential here. She would no longer be alone; she would have a companion, someone to hunt with, maybe. Truthfully, Anastasia didn’t hate being a werewolf; she reveled in her sense of steely power, felt invincible, indomitable during her monthly episodes. Anastasia didn’t want to give that up. What she wanted since that first full moon seven months earlier was a handbook on how to be a werewolf; maybe this mysterious, pale girl was that handbook.
“The depressed, overstated, an overdramatic bit earlier? That was all designed to entice you. I wanted you to take me last. I wanted you to see that I see you. I get you. And my god, you were magnificent just now.”
Winona looks around the room and shivers with pleasure.
“That was poetry. Please, let me join you,” Winona says, tenderly kissing one hairy cheek.
With equal tenderness, Anastasia pulls the offered wrist into her mouth and bites. Just once and just enough to break the skin. She quickly pulls the wrist out of her mouth and steps back. She has to because Winona’s blood is the most delicious she’s ever tasted.
She has to look away because she desperately needs to be away from here, NOW.
Anastasia turns to leave. As she unchains the door, she hears Winona shout, “I’ll find you tomorrow. We have a lot to discuss. Sweet dreams, my queen.”