Late For His Shift
By Peter G. Reynolds
Look human, act human, be human.
The words rang in Ron's head. Words his father had said every morning at breakfast and his brother Gary continued to say after their father's death. Part maxim, part prayer, those words protected his family - from other clans and the world. It was their shield.
His father would always tell him that the world wasn't ready for their kind; humans think we're mythical, like witches, vampires, or dragons; and we need it to stay that way.
Ron remembered the stories his father would tell him in bed, about a time when werewolves were not only free but celebrated for their strength, cunning and honour. A time before man rose up against them, and they were forced to hide their true nature.
Ron smiled, not because of the stories but the storyteller. His father was an affectionate man, always understanding, with seemingly endless patience —when they were alone. But in the presence of his siblings, his father was Alpha, a difficult, if sometimes terrifying, taskmaster that Ron could never impress. Storytime was their time, the only time they were simply father and son. Ron treasured those memories.
Papa, why do the other clans hate us? Ron had asked his father one evening when he was five, his glow-in-the-dark bedsheets lying loosely around him.
His father had thought for a moment before answering, tucking Ron in so tightly he could barely move; his father was a master tucker.
"Intolerance," his father finally said, "they don't respect views that are different from their own."
"What do you mean?" Ron asked.
Ron's father exhaled audibly, "The Faoladh are a proud people with a rich history, Ronnie, that goes back centuries. But many want to forget about our past, ignore our traditions. And they'll attack anyone who disagrees with them.
Ron's eyes went wide. "The Clan War?"
"Yes, but that's not something you have to worry about. Our enemies will never find us, as long as we?"
"Look human, act human, be human," Ron said proudly.
"That's right," Ron's father gave his son a kiss on his head. "One day, we'll be strong enough, For time is his shield. He will be the last and the first and shall live longer than all those that came before."
"The Dead Wolf!" Ron exclaimed, remembering the line from the prophesy. He loved those stories most of all.
"Shouldn't someone already be sleeping?" Said a familiar voice from outside Ron's room. "Don't get Ronnie riled up; he's got school tomorrow."
"Yes, dear." Ron's dad roared with a smile. He placed his fingers to his lips, his voice reducing to a whisper. "Yes, Ronnie. We are all the Dead Wolf, and time is our shield. We just have to wait for the right moment, our moment. My dream is that it comes soon, so we can do it together."
His father had then stood, pausing at the bedroom door, his massive frame silhouetted by the light from the hallway. "But right now, our greatest strength is staying hidden. For if we're discovered, our moment might never come."
Ron looked at May and Kay and realized he might have just ended his father's dream.
They know what I am, he thought, and they were waiting for me.
Ron could see May's lips moving, but he couldn't hear her. His panicked thoughts drowned out everything.
Who else knows?
Are they coming for me?
Is that why they brought me here?
What will Gary say?
What would Papa say?
What am I going to do?
"Ron!" May shouted. She held his head between her hands, her face mere inches away from his. Her scent was powerful, lilacs and peaches and… Ron snapped out of his trance.
"What? How ?" Were all the words he could muster.
May's hands moved to Ron's shoulders. "It's ok, Ron, you're ok."
"Did I…?" Ron gulped.
Mary understood immediately. "No, Ron, you didn't kill anyone. You scared the hell out of them and maybe broke a couple of bones. But they'll live."
Ron heard the sounds of distance sirens. His heart began to beat wildly again.
"They've told the police; they're coming for me" Ron's voice was frantic.
May sat beside Ron and rubbed his back reassuringly, her hands making small circles from the base of his spine to the nape of his neck. Ron's heart slowed, and the tension in his shoulders melted. He closed his eyes. He felt much better.
"It's ok, Ron, you're ok." May's repeated. Her melodic voice was soothing, and Ron held onto it like a raft in a storm. "Nobody's coming for you, Ron; they don't even remember. My sister's very good at that."
"Yes, I am," Kay responded. "We couldn't have you thrown in jail; we need you."
"Need me? "Ron asked, opening his eyes. "For what?"
Kay's phone pinged as if in answer to Ron's question.
"Foods here." She said, rolling off the couch and onto her feet in one smooth motion. She then looked pointedly at Ron. "Don't get up. I'll get it."
May rolled her eyes. She then spoke slowly, choosing her words carefully. "Ronnie. We know about the prophecy."
"What prophecy?" Ron asked, giving May his best I-have-no-idea-what-you're-talking-about face.
May looked exasperated, "Come on, Ron." Then quickly added, "Ok. Fair enough. You don't know who we are, and you don't want to give too much more away. I get that. How about I answer some of your questions?"
Ron nodded, "Who are you?"
May crossed her legs and pushed her hair behind her ears. Ron was half expecting them to be pointed (they weren’t).
"My sister Kay and I are; I guess scouts is the best way to describe us. We were sent to observe the clans as they arrived here in Waterford and look for anyone who might be open to talking."
"Sent by who?" Ron interrupted, "The government?"
May laughed, "Oh heavens no, Ron. Here, perhaps it's easier if I showed you."