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The Beast in Me (completed)
Saturday evening, I was killing time by internet browsing on nothing particular when I felt my cell phone buzzing in my pocket. It was a message from Sheena:
“Can you come here? Like now?”
That was strange. I thought she would be busy preparing for her birthday party with the girls tomorrow. Mom was feeling queasy and I had promised to stay home. I sighed and looked out of the window. The sky was clear and low above the horizon I saw the full moon rising. Actually, it would only be full at midnight, I had learned in astronomy. Even so, it was a powerful view.
I started pushing the keys on my phone with my thumbs.
“What's up? Troubles with the decoration?” I texted her back.
I made a double take when I read her next message.
“No, I got a letter from my mother.”
That didn't make sense to me. Had her mother written to her from heaven? I pondered seriously a while whether Veelas actually can go to heaven. I dismissed that notion quickly, though. Sheena must have meant something else. Or perhaps someone else had written the letter. A practical joke? Yes, I was almost convinced that Frank had something to do with it. Maybe this was his way to satisfy some of his sadistic inclinations.
My phone buzzed again,
“Please Ron... I can't open it without you around. Come around the back side of our house at eight.”
I sighed again. But why couldn't Sheena talk to her father about such stuff? Right, if it was a practical joke there was no point making her father all upset for nothing. Sheena was wise. And thoughtful. Ok, mom could probably manage alone for a couple of hours, I figured. But better if I checked with her.
Turned out that mom was indeed feeling good enough for me to be able to steal away for some time. See was going to take an early night. I didn't say I was going to Sheena, though.
The outside air was crisp and cool. It had been raining earlier all day but now the sky was clear and dark, save for the big, bright moon. It filled me with energy when I inhaled the rain-cleared atmosphere in all its the freshness. After stepping from our front stairs, I started making long strides. Of course, there was no way I was using my motorbike without mom hearing me leave the house. I felt like a thief prowling.
I felt light. The muscles in my legs seemed to long for being used. I walked past Mr. Henderson's house and down our road. I heard the crushing of the gravel underneath my boots. My pace increased inadvertently. I caught myself skipping like a five year old. I chuckled and forced myself to slow down. It was no good. Walking felt awkward. Slow. I gave in and tried an easy jog, instead, to work off that extra energy that I seemed to have accumulated somehow. It was a twenty minute walk, I would need to save my breath, I told myself. But the breeze that my speed was creating only let me feel more powerful. Wow, I hadn't felt like this in a long time. Then I stopped holding myself back.
I shook my head when I arrived just five minutes later at Sheena's place. I sneaked around the house. I caught a glimpse of Mr. de Veela in the living room, illuminated by the flickering light of the big flat screen TV. Then I turned the corner and went into the backyard.
I didn't have to knock on Sheena's window, she was already waiting for me. She popped open then window. Then I jumped up and over the window sill effortlessly. Sheena closed the window behind me.
I saw a ripped-open envelope on her bed.
“So you opened it already. Find out who's trying to pull this bad joke on you?” I said with disgust in my voice. Sheena waved with a smaller letter and handed me a hand-written note. I read it out loud.
“Sheena dear, please wait with opening the letter until your sixteenth birthday. But make sure dad isn't around because he wouldn't understand. Love, mom.”
I let my hand sink and stared at Sheena. She was fighting back her tears.
“She must have given directions to the courier company to deliver the letter just in time before my birthday.”
“On a Saturday?” I asked.
“It actually came yesterday. My dad had forgotten to give it to me until a couple hours ago.”
I picked up the other envelope and read the return address. It looked like a semi-official mailing, just enough to not discard it as spam. It almost convinced me but I started to raise objection,
“Yeah but still, anyone could have...”
“I know, but the hand-writing is hers. As is the special card that she wrote the note on. It's from her stationary. I still have the rest of it in my drawer...” She pointed at her desk. I inhaled sharply. Now I was convinced. I thought about the implications. So her mom wanted Sheena to read something on her sixteenth birthday, something that she for some reason had not been able to say while she still was alive. How weird was that? What could it be? Something that ought to justify the agony that such a refreshing of a wound necessarily implied.
I looked at the clock. It was just a few minutes after eight.
Sheena must have guessed my thoughts, as she said,
“You have to go back soon, right?” She looked at the envelope and then at the note.
“No problem... I can stay a few hours. Mom is asleep.”
“You're such a good friend, Ron. You don't deserve being pulled into this ridic... ulous...” but she choked on her words and stifled a huge sob. Now she couldn't hold back her tears anymore. But there were also other emotions. She crumpled the letter in her hands.
“Why did she have to do this?! I was just starting to get over my pain. She must have known that it would only hurt more.” She threw the crumpled letter into the waste paper can. I reached out and stroked her arm.
“But... It means that she wanted you to know that her love to you lasted beyond her death. She wanted to be there for you on your sixteenth birthday, so much that she went through...”
Sheena shook her head emphatically,
“You don't understand, Ron. It's all part of her Veela-craze. She was talking and planning for my sixteenth birthday for years! I couldn't stand it... I even started wishing...” To my amazement Sheena broke down and collapsed onto the floor. She was sobbing uncontrollably now. I was at a loss. I contemplated whether Sheena was in her right mind. Or if the pain was just so strong that she was delirious. I squatted and put my hand on her back. I was trying to come up with something to say, something intelligent and soothing. But I knew nothing. Finally, her sobs waned and it almost startled me when she looked up at me with reddened eyes,
“I feel so guilty. I pushed her away. The more she tried to reach out, the more I pretended I didn't care about her. About her dying. I knew she wanted me to embrace our Veela-heritage.”
“And you didn't believe in it...”
Sheena wiped her runny nose with the back of her hand. I offered her my handkerchief. She grinned and took it thankfully and blew her nose.
“That's what I told myself first, too. But it's worse: I did believe. Deep down. That's what I was afraid of.”
I looked at her, unable to fathom what she was saying. Sheena rubbed her eyes dry with the palms of her hands,
“You know, my dad is a scientific advisor for the Sawatzky Mining Company. He taught me about the laws of physics, taught me to seek the rational explanations for inexplicable-looking things.”
I nodded. Sheena continued,
“Intellectually, I know that these supernatural notions of my mom were ridiculous.” Sheena laughed, “I mean, you're probably doubting my brain right now that I even for a moment could give it a second thought...”
“No, no, I...” I was actually starting to doubt the REAL world. Why, suddenly, was my world being pulled out from under me; a physical, rational world that I firmly believed in, much as Sheena did. For me there had been no space for irrationality or supernatural beings. At least, I had been diminishing its space ever since the age of... three. Werewolves and now Veelas did not have a place in this world of mine, until recently. Therefore I believed that my werewolf-episode had been a trick of my own mind. Yet it seemed, after all, I was not alone in this relapse.
“I locked it away... my doubt... at the expense of my mother's feelings...”
Sheena's eyes filled with tears again and I feared that she would lose it again but she just let two drops roll quietly down her cheeks.
“I'm sure she forgave you... before...”
Sheena smiled bittersweet,
“I guess that's what parents do... but I haven't forgiven myself.”
“Was she sick for a long... I mean... How...” I regretted that I couldn't tame my curiosity better. But Sheena seemed to be glad that I asked,
“Oh... You see, I told you she used to go to the woods... Deep into the woods... sometimes for days at a time. One day she came back from one of her outings, bleeding from wounds on her arms and legs.”
I felt a constriction in my throat and I winced. Sheena noticed and grinned knowingly.
“Sorry, you asked... Anyway. It weren't very deep wounds but mom was very concerned. Ominous. Dad treated them and he and I were convinced that it was nothing serious. That's when mom started trying to take up Veela-lore with me again. I... I closed my ears to it. She got worse, no medicine would help, the doctors were baffled and frantic. She seemed to know that it was useless. She tried talking to me over and over again, said I needed to prepare...”
“Prepare? For what?” I asked. Sheena shook her head.
“There are all these Veela-stories about fights and wars...” Sheena explained wearily.
“Wars?!” I echoed.
“You know, the good against the bad... You see now, why I started to get fed up with this Veela-stuff!?”
“Uhhm, I suppose the Veela's belonged to the good side...” I said, hoping I was right.
“Of course! And they always fought against the evil beings that would attack innocent people. The Veela were supposedly known as the protectors of the good and the innocent.” Sheena's voice was carrying a slightly condescending tone in her voice.
“Aha, so that's where these stories about bad white settlers invading the land of native Americans came in...” I figured. Sheena sighed,
“No that was me trying to rationalize... in my mother's stories there were other fabulous beings. Really, I can't understand that I ever took these fairytales seriously, worse still can't put them in their right context. I think I have to accept that my mom was...” Once more, Sheena' voice started trembling. I shook my head. I would have agreed to her assertion only a month ago, but now I was less sure. Actually, it was rather that I was not at all convinced that her mother was a lunatic.
“What kind of beings?” I tried to distract her.
“Werewolves.” Sheena said dryly. My ears almost popped. “Yepp, Veelas have a long history of fighting against the evil werewolves that attack people.”
I held my breath. This was unexpected. And frightening. I stared at the wall. Then my gaze fell on one of the pictures. Now I realized that the Veelas were depicted to be fighting against werewolves.
So that's what I look like, transformed. I was disgusted. And then afraid again.
“You look like you don't just think this is all the figment of an exaggerated imagination... or of a mentally ill person.”
“In the stories... I mean, you said there was good and evil... But were the werewolves all bad... Beyond repair...?” I asked with a fearful voice.
“Hmmph, what do you think!? Fairytales are painted with broad brushes, no room for subtleties.”
That's what I had feared. I was a threat. I had to protect the world from myself. I swallowed. Sheena scratched her head,
“Well, now that you ask... My mother did start telling me this one story... But that was when I already had detached myself from her craze. I guess she was trying a shot at winning me back by giving the Veela-stuff a more complex appearance.”
“What about that story?!” I urged. Sheena looked at me.
“Are you really buying into this stuff!? That's sweet of you, Ron. I know now that you care about my feelings but you don't...”
“Sheena, please... Your mom might not have been as far off as you imagine...” Was this really me, saying this?
Sheena sat up straight now. Her eyebrows were furrowed.
“Are you making fun of me? Listen, I really appreciate your empathy but you're not supposed to pull me deeper into...”
My insides were squirming. I stood up and paced about in the room. I had been falsely lulling myself into the hope that my werewolf-episode would someday find a rational psychological explanation. But Sheena's stories were only cementing my fears that something supernatural was going on. Something that existed even outside my brain. That was a scarier prospect than giving in to the thought of being delusional. This was serious.
“I am a werewolf, Sheena.”
She just goggled at me for the next ten seconds. Then she started giggling.
“Great! Then we're enemies. Let's start a fight!”
I heaved a sigh. Of course Sheena wasn't taking it seriously. I couldn't blame her. Sheena was having a fit and couldn't stop herself giggling, rolling on the floor. I was aghast. This was no laughing matter. Sheena only laughed harder when she saw my serious face. Then it finally hit me, too. It was contagious. Here we were, best friends and yet branded to be deadly enemies by stories of the past. I tasted that thought: best friends. I looked at Sheenas round face. It was so familiar now. I was starting to be able to read in it. I wouldn't want to miss it. “Best friends” seemed an understatement. Yet, I was still obsessed by another face. The angelic one of Mandy. I stopped chortling and fondly smiled at Sheena.
“I think you made me pee in my pants now...” Sheena said when she had finally calmed down again. I think I saw her face turn pink but she had already turned away and started rummaging in her desk drawer. When she turned back to me she was holding up something that looked like a cigarette lighter.
“Shall we?!” she asked rhetorically. Then she grabbed the letter that she had thrown into the waste paper can earlier. “Perhaps outside in the moonlight...”
“Don't you want to read what your mother wrote you for your birthday?!” I asked perplexed.
“Look, what's the point? I will probably only get more upset. If it's about the Veela stuff, it will only destroy the good memories about my mother. I'd rather keep them the way they are.” Sheena said with a subdued voice.
I looked at the crumpled envelope in her hand and the lighter in her other hand.
“It could turn out to be important.” I said ominously. Sheena stomped impatiently with her left foot on the floor.
“Then, why couldn't she tell me when she was alive? Don't make this harder for me than it is, Ron.”
“Because you wouldn't listen to her... Sheena, I was being serious... My superhero episode was due to my transformation...” With a shock I realized what I should have long ago. The full moon was giving me powers. It had triggered my transformation the day I had turned sixteen, four weeks ago. I looked at the clock. It was already eleven thirty now. I gulped. Time was running out. At midnight, I needed to be out of the moonlight unless I was to turn into that hairy beast again. The beast that I had barely managed to contain the last time. Who knew how it would turn out the next time?
“What are you trying to say, Ron? You are as little a werewolf as I am a Veela! Look, my mom wanted to be able to transform into a real...” Sheena winked her fingers in the air, “...Veela for all her life. There is no such thing! I am finally trying to clear my mind from this. Please don't mess me all up again!”
I looked out of the window. I saw how the moonshine was illuminating the landscape. I was tempted to prove my point to Sheena by waiting out the last half hour of the day. But I knew that these were my bestial instincts trying to guide me. I needed to get away from Sheena before anything dangerous could happen. But I wanted to get any information that her mother had in store about this. What was Sheena to get prepared for?
“I know, Sheena. I wish there was a way we could just wind back and rewrite this but time is tight. I am a danger to people in my werewolf form. I transform at full moon and I need to know what your mother wants you to prepare for. No... actually, only you need to know...”
I slapped my forehead. Of course, I should not get to know about any Veela secrets. I was the bad guy. On the other hand, how could I be bad if I had no intention of being bad? Could one turn bad? How did one turn bad?
“Sheena, you have to promise me that you will open and read your mother's letter after midnight. I have to go... I have to be out of the moonshine before midnight.”
“This is completely ridiculous! Here! Why wait until midnight, there's nothing special about the clock turning twelve.” Then she quickly ripped open the envelope after straightening it out again. I watched in horror. Sheena held my wrist and read out loud,
“Happy Birthday, my dearest Sheena!
I know that reading this is inflicting pain in you but the cause is so important. Today is your sixteenth birthday and you will have found out by now that I was not a delusional crackpot. I do not blame you for thinking so and you must not blame yourself because it is only natural to refuse to believe in things that seem inexplicable.
You have the powers that I always dreamed of having, in my selfishness. I wish, I could share the enchanting moment of discovering them, for the first time. Not only to satisfy my own vanity but to be there for you. But what's most important, is, how you will use your powers. Unfortunately, it will be necessary for you to use them, all too soon. Baskerville is in danger. The werewolves are gathering and planning to strike once more. They have attacked me because they think that I am the last Veela that can protect the innocent people of my hometown. They were wrong but they do not know this yet. Therefore my death will give you the element of surprise.
But beware my little, beautiful child, they come in disguise. They are bound to lure you and talk with sweet tongues. The Myth of Baskerville must not be fulfilled. You must be strong, stronger than I wish you would have to be. And you must not let your beauty become vanity. Because vanity comes before the fall. How I wish I could be there by your side. But I find comfort in the knowledge that you will succeed. After all, you are the first true Veela in our family since centuries.
Love, your mom
P.S. Look after your father for me. He made a leap of faith when he married me and accepted my “insanity'' against his better judgement.''
We stared at each other, trying to comprehend what we had just learned. I looked at the clock. There were fifteen minutes left.
“I'm actually going to turn into a Veela?! She expected that I wouldn't read this until tomorrow. I'm scared, Ron. I don't want to become a ghost.”
Sheena didn't let go of my wrist but clutched it more firmly.
“This is madness, Ron. We're living in the 21st century, for crying out loud.”
“Sheena, you must let me go now! Time's running out. In ten minutes we will be trying to kill each other!”
“That's impossible, Ron!”
“You must believe me, Sheena! I WILL turn into a werewolf. I WILL become violent... Sheena, I...”
I looked into her eyes, trying to express what I felt for her but what I wasn't able to put into words. Sheena smiled,
“Me too, Ron! No matter what, we won't hurt each other. I know you couldn't do any harm!”
“Sheena, I become a different... person when I transform. I try to control it but there is no guarantee. The danger will be over by the morning... I hope.”
I finally slipped loose from her grip. Her eyes were still full of confusion and expectance.
“But what powers did my mother mean, Ron? For all I know, I might have to live in the water... I can't lose you now... And what about dad? Oh Ron, please help me!”
I backed away, slowly shaking my head,
“I'm afraid you will have to figure it out for yourself. Trust your mother's instincts. She was convinced you will succeed. I don't know how but you must destroy the beast in me, even if that means you have to...”
The clock was approaching twelve mercilessly. I knew I could make it back home in five minutes but then I had to leave immediately. Without warning, I ripped open the window and jumped out. Without looking around again, I broke into a neckbreaking pace. I was covering ground quickly, enough to quench my worst fears. The moon was now high overhead. I felt it's presence, the power it was supplying. I sucked in the energy. When I was half way home, I came to an open field in the woods. There were no houses around me, only nature. I stopped abruptly. I hadn't planned on doing this, it was an act of pure instinct. I stood still and flexed my muscles as I stood there. I raised my head and bent back my neck. I felt the bushy fur on my back.
Then I saw the moon above me. A mighty feeling rushed through my veins. It was the sweetest feeling I ever perceived. I knew time was running short, but I told myself that I would make it home nevertheless. Because I was fast, I was invincible. I felt like the ruler of the world. I would let nothing stop me. Nobody was to tell me what to do. If I wanted to drink blood I would take it. I would not abide by the moral nonsense that others had devised - pressed onto me. Suddenly, I was a beast again. Midnight had arrived and my animal instincts had taken over completely, my mind was a slave to them, twisting its logic to fit the needs of my desires.
When I moved again, I became aware of my bodily changes as well. I had transformed into a werewolf, more wolf than a man. Then the strongest feeling of all broke through: the longing for blood. Human blood. Better yet: the blood of a Veela, the eternal enemy of the werewolves. The ones who dared to stand in our way. I knew where to find her. I still could recall the enjoyment of the last time I had tasted her blood. That time, I had drunk it in my human form when my rationality had been interfering with my raw bestial instincts. I had stopped myself then, denying myself what I wanted deep inside. I would not be hindered tonight.
I started heading back. I felt anticipation. There was no clear image or plan, I merely followed my instincts, toward fulfilment of my immediate desire. I arrived at Sheena's house and went for the window. She would be easy to slay.
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