Updated: Mar 19
Late For His Shift
By Peter G. Reynolds
Ron hurried into the cemetery, hopping as he pulled off his shoes and socks. He unbuttoned his dress shirt (a gift from Mary, who'd kill him stone dead if he ripped it) and laid it carefully on a cracked yet dry headstone. The name was worn with age, but Ron could still make out the deceased was a beloved husband and father.Ron was neither, but he hoped to be someday.
He unbuckled his pants when the itching began, and Ron increased his pace, the path lit by moonlight that peeked its way through dark clouds invisible in the night sky. Sadly, the clearing was not empty. Ron sighed as his brothers turned and looked up at him, their yellow eyes glaring, their thick black fur bristling in irritation. The largest one spoke in a low growl, his tattered clothes surrounding him like a discarded snakeskin.
"Well, look who it is! It's Ron. The Whenwolf."
Laughter echoed through the cemetery, and Ron was glad his fur now hid how red his face had gotten.
The moon slid behind the invisible clouds once again, and Ron now found himself surrounded by sets of glowing yellow eyes.
"Hurry, up and shift," said a snarling, all too familiar voice Ron recognized as Alpha, the leader of his pack. Ron clenched his teeth and squinted, trying to force the change. He held back a little, as the last time he tried to force it, he just ended up pooping himself.
"Do it!" Growled Alpha. "The other clans won't wait for us."
One of Ron's shoulders wrenched itself from its socket with a sickening pop, the arm connected to it growing down past his knees. "I'm…trying…Gary", gritted Ron through the pain. Sweat poured off his forehead, and he could feel a steady stream of moisture running down his leg, but the change wouldn't come any faster. Too many eyes. Too many judges. He could smell their disappointment dripping in the saliva of unspoken childhood taunts. "Little Ronny Fife can't shift to save his life" and the less clever, yet perhaps more accurate, "Shiftless loser." Because that's what Ron was, one of the Shiftless. And if anyone other than his father, and now brother, was Alpha, Ron knew he would have been killed years ago.
Ever since he was a cub, Ron knew he was different. He always identified more with the children in his suburban neighbourhood than his own brothers and sisters. After the last clan war, his father had moved the family there from the backcountry as integration was an effective way to hide in plain sight. It wasn't an easy time for his siblings, wearing clothes during the day, going to a human school with tests and homework. BBQs with the neighbours, eating with knives and forks. It was a constant fight to keep the kids in line. But it was different for Ron. He was born after the move and knew of no other life. He never ran with his pack in the mountains, taking down a deer and eating it raw under the light of a moon so full and bright you couldn't look at it without squinting. Never lapped up spring water so clear you could see the fish swimming below, taunting you to try and catch them. No. The closest Ron came to this was family night at Sid's Steak House, and even then, he'd liked it medium.
So it was no surprise to his siblings, as they surrounded him in the clearing, that he failed to completely shift. "Don't waste your time, Gary." spit another of Ron's siblings. He was a creature out of a child's nightmares, a mountain covered in thick red fur. The veins in his arms pulsed in frustration, and his claws scratched at a fallen tombstone, digging deep grooves in its surface. Priests would call him demon. Children would call him monster. Ron just called him Carl.
To be continued.