by Phil Geusz
Text ©2007 Phil Geusz
Lycanthropy isnt like other diseases. If youre diabetic, you can find a support group at any hospital. Any good-sized American town plays host to numerous kinds of cancer patient groups, one for virtually every part of the human body. There are groups for the spouses and children of many maladies, even. But just try finding help dealing with lycanthropy
Harry LaRue was growing desperate by the time he found the little posting on the Internet, a notice that eventually led him to an anonymous meeting room in the quiet part of a nearby large city. The quiet, middle-aged man didnt really expect to find real help; most likely this would turn out to be just another bunch of weirdos, he figured. But he had to try. Various shrinks had taken his money and laughed him off, while even his closest friends became uncomfortable when he began to hint at what was troubling him. No one believed in were-creatures anymoreHarry hadnt believed in them himself until one bright full moon almost a year ago, when his entire understanding of the universe had suddenly undergone a quite drastic alteration.
Having arrived early, Harry selected a metal folding chair and then quietly seated himself in a dark corner not far from the emergency exit. A toothpick found its way into the corner of his mouth, where he nibbled at it nervously. Brightly-lit and largely empty rooms bothered him a little these days, but the toothpick helped. Toothpicks were one of many new habits that had invaded Harrys life recently.
In time, others began to arrive in ones and twos. They gathered in small groups and cracked jokes, laughing easily and freely together like the friends of long standing they apparently were. But as the meeting time approached, people began to drift towards the chairs. Harry grew tensehe had chosen his undesirable seat partly in the hope of being left alone. But apparently whoever had set up the room knew from experience what the turnout would be like, and there were few spare seats. A whipcord thin young man with long brown hair seated himself next to Harry.
Evenin! he said, smiling and nodding. My names Doug. You new here?
Harry simply nodded, too nervous to speak. His pulse had gone wild the instant the stranger noticed him, though the young man hadnt behaved in any way impolitely. Harrys body, however, no longer cared much about politeness.
Doug picked up on the newcomers predicament right away. His eyebrows rose. Wow! Cool, Dude! Youre a prey species, arent you? Im sorrydidnt mean to spook you! I give the Word that I will not harm you. No were-creature can break the Word.
And with that, Harrys heart rate slowed to normal. It was like magic! Something deep inside Harrys soul told him that Doug was now more trustworthy than any other creature on the planet. For the first time in ages, Harry had someone he could really, truly talk to!
Doug was rattling on: guys are pretty rare, you know. I met a mouse once, and theres a few were-rats whove formed a colony in New York City. But your kind is so very few, compared to the wolves. Hey, Im kinda unusual myself, you know. Im a coyote!!
Really? Harry asked. It was his first unnecessary speech to a stranger since That Night.
Yeah! Im so lucky!! Id always loved yotes, but had never seen one in the wild. A friend took me out in the country one night to call some up for me, and a big male jumped right into the blind with us, nipped me, and then took off. Didnt think anything of it until I came to one morning in my bed with a dead jackrabbit in my mouth
Harrys eyes widened for just an instant, but deep down inside he understood that the Word protected him more completely than anything else ever possibly could. Relaxing once more, he inhaled to ask the first of many, many questions he needed answered. Just as he was about to speak, however, a gavel blow from the podium up front startled him nearly out of his wits. Order! a deep booming voice intoned. Order, Order! All mundane humans must now leave the premises. Norms remain at their own grave risk. Conversation died almost instantlyHarry could feel palpable waves of authority emanating from the burly man in the front of the room, while Doug and all the other predator-types were suddenly staring at the floor. The newcomer looked around in amazement at the spectacle, until his eyes locked with the speakers. He looked down then, too, in order to be polite. Not, however, before hed attracted irritated notice.
The speaker glared at Harry for many long seconds before continuing. I am Chuck M., and I am a werewolf. A chorus of howls erupted in reply to this formula, and Harry tensed to flee until Doug laid a protective hand on his shoulder. Once things finally quieted down again, Chuck continued. I have been a werewolf since 1843, when I survived an attack in Paris. I know of the aching need for blood, of the agony of the transformation, the cold burning of the moonlight, the uncontrolled beast that bides its time in my heart. Everyone here tonight knows these humiliations, knows that destiny has unlocked a part of their bestial nature that would have best been left caged. It has not been all bad, however. Like all of you, I have also known the joy of the hunt, the taste of fresh-killed meat and the joy of pack-brotherhood. He smiled. Let us share this brotherhood here tonight. We may speak freely here; the mundane no longer walk among us. The Word is given. Until midnight, there can be no blood shed.
A wave of relaxation crossed over Harry like hed never known before. Suddenly he felt totally safe and secure, even safer than he felt at home.
A pretty young girl raised her hand, and an answering nod called her to the wooden rostrum. Hello, fellow were-creatures! she began. I am Sally R. and I, too, am a werewolf. More howls erupted, but this time Harry rode it out without a trace of fear. Already he was learning from this meetingnever had he dreamed of such a thing as the Word. There was so much he needed to know
Six months ago, Sally continued, I was a pathetic furball that had forgotten human form. The Outreach program here found me, and nursed me back to health. It took time and patience and love, but look at me! I am wearing clothing! And speaking words! All thanks to you, my litter mates. All thanks to you! And she sat down to more howling.
Chuck at the microphone smiled. Great to hear from you Sally. Were just glad to help. If you ever remember your real name, be sure to let us know as soon as you can so we can get you back to where you belong
My God!! Harry thought to himself. Could that really happen? Could I actually forget who I am?
Other folks went to the mike one by one. Perry G. admitted to having become addicted to dog biscuitshe was a were-rottweiler. Pat M. spoke about the difficulties of being transgendered as a were. Its just one of those things that happens sometimes, Pat said a bit mournfully, Its not anybodys fault, just something that happens from time to time. No one understands why. There is no need for shame. In fact, I have gained much insight and wisdom from living the roles of both sexes. Steve W. was a were-cobrahe feared freezing and was saving up for a move to a warmer clime. Dana P. was a were-tiger, and had severe problems dealing with housecats. Others spoke about embarrassing social situations such as absent-mindedly sniffing lovers in indelicate places and marking their territory on days near the full moon. All in all, it was balm to Harrys soul. There just the kinds of problems he was trying to deal within his own life, though generally with a different twist. As the meeting wore on, Harry got to feeling better and better about himself and his situation. There was hope. Others were coping
Finally, things began winding down. Doug leaned over and whispered We have a rule here. If you want help, you first must speak in public about your problem and admit what you have become. Then, one of the packs will take you in.
Harry nodded, and raised his hand. For almost a year no one had believed him, and now he was surrounded by sympathetic fellow lycanthropes. His heart sang as was called on, and strode to the microphone.
I am Harry L., he stated carefully, And I am a were-bunny.
The silence was loud that it roared.
For over a year now, on the night of the full moon I have changed into fully lapine form and raided gardens all over the county. I fear that Ive pilfered much produce.
Was there a snicker from the audience? Well, Harry understood that the garden bit did probably sound a bit funny, until youd picked up a couple shotgun pellets
In rabbit form, I am white with blue eyes. Strangely enough, silver doesnt seem to affect me. Though ivory has bad effects
The snickering had grown. Bravely, Harry pressed on.
I have a neurotic need to always be chewing something, and the thought of eating meat now revolts me. I am afraid of almost all animals now, and sometimes I want terribly to hide under bushes
The snickering was continuing to grow. Hes a fake! someone cried out. There are no were-bunnies!
Another voice agreed . Throw him out!
Doug shouted back Hes genuine! I can tell!
What makes you think so?
The were-yote hesitated, then shrugged and went on. He smells delicious, if you must know!
More laughter, followed by decisive gavel banging. Order, order! Instantly the room silenced again, and Harry found himself once again the only one not forced to look at the floor. Harry, the large man in front continued, Do you have any idea how outrageous your claim is?
A new voice called out. When you eat half a carrot, does the other half become a were-carrot? There followed howls of laughter
Can you eat wolfsbane?
What about garlic, were-bunny? Can you eat garlic?
Harry tried to explain that he was quite fond of wild garlic, but the insults and laughter drowned him out.
Then the gavel banged again, and Charles M. reasserted control of the meting. Look around you, man! Everyone here is a were-creature, and every one of us is a meat-eater. Even rats and mice, which only rarely create new weres, eat meat from time to time. The very idea of a were-bunny is unheard of.
Harry shrugged. What could he say?
How do you claim to have contracted the disease? Chuck persisted.
I was passing through a pet shop, and tried to stroke a frightened rabbit. He scratched me.
More derisive laughter
Then Dougs voice. Was the bunny wearing a collar?
Harry was glad to hear a friendly voice. Yes. As a matter of fact it was. Why do you ask?
A collar can trap a small were-creature in full-morph form by not allowing him enough room to grow back to human, Doug explained. It happened to me once, though fortunately I was able to eventually twist the thing off.
Chuck shook his head. He simply wasnt having any Harry, I suspect that you genuinely do need help. Perhaps, however, not of the kind that we can offer here. Its not unheard of
Dont put him out! the were-coyote warned. Hes genuine, Im telling you.
Someone walked up to Harry and sniffed. I dont smell nothin, Doug.
I gave him my Word, and his scent vanished for me. Chuck is our Alpha. When he spoke for all of us, I bet the scent went away for everyone else too.
Hmm Chuck said dubiously. Doug, are you sure?
Positive! he declared.
All right, then, the groups Alpha replied, looking more than a little reluctant. Ill Test him.
Test? asked Harry. Suddenly, he was a bit frightened again.
Chuck smiled, exposing long, pointed teeth. Youve nothing to fear, bunny-boy. I am an Alpha-male werewolf, and thus can shapeshift at will. If youre playing straight with us, I can drag you along with me.
Harrys eyes widened. But I hate
Chickening out, faker? Chucks smile altered subtly into a leer. I dont believe a word of your story. In fact, I think youve just come here to stare at us like some kind of freakshow. If youre not leveling with us, Ill see that youre entertained, all right! Youll get such a big thrill that youll never forget it. The Word is only good among were-folk.
A lump grew in Harrys throat. Rabbit-form was something that he was deeply ashamed of, now more than ever since even the other were-creatures had rejected him. But what choice had he? Where else could he go for friendship and support? All right. But let me warn you of something: Im non-sentient as a bunny.
Chuck snorted. If youre faking, youll wish that was true. We Alphas have powers that few outsiders know about. Those that learn of them rarely choose to speak about the experience. Take off your clothes.
Shyly, Harry complied. Then Chuck stripped as well. When he was done, he extended a hand. Just grab onto this. Thats all youve gotta do. Everything else is up to me.
Harry reached out, and Chuck glommed onto him with fingers of steel. If youre a mundane and have failed to heed my warning to leave us weres in privacy, he promised, you will never use this hand again. And this will be least among your agonies.
Trembling slightly, Harry stood and waited as the big man closed his eyes and concentrated. Presently the viselike grip tightened, and something rather akin to an electric current began to flow
Usually shapeshifting was quite painful for Harry, but not this time. Apparently, the power of an Alpha werewolf made a major difference. Before the amazed eyes of the assembled weres, Harrys paws formed, his rich snow-white fur grew in, and matching ears and tail sprouted. As usual the were-bunnys mind disappeared early in the process, though the magic held him fast till it was through.
Presently, what had once been a mild-mannered man was now a bunny in mind and body. For all of Harrys other personal defeciencies, it must be said, he made rather a good rabbit. Certainly, he had all the the proper survival instincts. So, it was the most natural thing in the world that Harry, confronted quite suddenly by an Alpha wolf only inches away, fled for his life.
At first the crowd was too stunned to move. Though they had seen far more magic in their long lives than had any almost any mundane, they were still pretty shaken up at seeing what they thought could not be. So Harry got up a good head of steam before anyone reacted. It wasnt until their leader shapeshifted back to human and took charge that they finally managed to corner the were-bunny, trembling and exhausted. Okay everyone, Chuck directed his pack. Hold still and Ill make the grab.
Be careful! someone in the crowd cried out. We dont want to hurt the poor little bugger. Not after we didnt believe him and all that!
He said he reacts to ivory! someone else commented, the wonder of what he had seen still clear in his voice. Whod a thunk it? I wonder what else is unique about were-rabbits?
Ask him later, the Alpha ordered, edging closer. Dont distract me! Suddenly Chuck made his leap, grasping the rabbit right around its middle. Harry squealed in terror
and in sheer panic sank his incisors into the ball of Chucks thumb
Harry, it seemed, had never given his Word not to harm anyone. Instantly the latent magic of the Alpha werewolf was released. It poured forth like a tidal wave, transforming Chuck in the blink of an eye into a were-bunny. Chaos erupted everywhere; now there were two terrified white rabbits sprinting off across the meeting room floor, ducking under chairs and weaving like mad things.
For over an hour, madness reigned. Then Doug finally had the presence of mind to call for professional help. Soon a bemused woman from the Humane Society arrived. She captured the two were-bunnies, provided a cage, and tried not to laugh at the dozens of false-ringing and mutually-contradictory descriptions of what had happened and why the lapines had needed to be captured Right Now. After much discussion, Doug took charge of the pair. He took them to a quiet place, let them calm down a little, then freed them. But, even though the rabbits were no longer restricted from growth to human size, the change back to human just didnt happen
until weeks later, when both were-bunnies snapped out of it together. Doug found them waiting for him in his apartment one evening after work, both nervously gnawing on toothpicks. Harry in particular was getting on quite well; Doug had unthinkingly caged them together, and Harry had established dominance. This made him a bona fide Alpha were-bunny, much more powerful and in control of himself than hed been before.
And, it had made him a father as well. There is more to magic than even the were-folk will ever truly understand, and white were-bunnies are perhaps the rarest and most magical creatures there ever will be. Strange things can and do happen around them all of the time.
Chuck was expecting her litter any day now.