The park was empty by the time pink streaked through the sky, signaling the beginning of the sunset. I eyed a boy hunched over a book. His dark eyes darted upwards every so often. His foot tapped against the sidewalk beneath him, and his spidery fingers worried the edges of the pages. Every so often, he sniffed the air as if smelling something foul.
I had my own book in my hands, and I’ve always had a knack for being unnoticed. My quick glances were nothing like the stares the boy occasionally cast in my direction. Once, he licked his lips, as though I wouldn’t notice. I clutched my book tighter and held it closer to my face. This was my reading spot, and I wasn’t going to give it up just because some weird kid wouldn’t stop staring at me.
A group of kids approached him from somewhere in the trees. A pocket watch dangled from a silver chain in front of one of them. The fading light caught it, and a bit of reflected light blinded me for a moment. When I recovered, they had surrounded him like a pack of wolves, laughing and shoving him. His book lay on the sidewalk, and one of the boys stepped on it as he leaned in close.
I recognized them from my school—Jane, Malcolm, Leo. Those were their names. I’d seen them bully plenty of kids in the hallways, but I’d never seen them on the prowl. My curiosity overcame me. I had missed the first part of the conversation, but I closed my book and approached them just as Malcolm shoved the watch against the boy’s face. He howled—an inhuman, horrible sound that grated on the ears—in his pain. He doubled over, panting and whimpering as he rubbed at the spot on his cheek where the metal had touched his flesh.
“Werewolves are burned by silver, right?” Jane asked.
Malcolm nodded, a grin splitting his face.
“Come on, Zach,” he said. “You’re not a fucking werewolf. There’s not even a mark on your face.”
“It hurts,” Zach said. “You’ll be sorry. You’ll be so sorry. Just hang around after sunset. You’ll see.”
Leo picked up the book, waving it in front of Zach.
“Lycanthropy for Beginners,” he said.
He ripped pages from the book with slow, deliberate tears. A wolfish grin complemented the sadistic spark in his eyes. Malcolm smirked his approval, and Jane’s hand flew to her mouth to cover a smile.
“He’s insane,” Jane said.
She giggled behind her hand, casting a nervous glance toward Malcolm. Her lips held a thin layer of shimmery lip gloss, and I wasn’t entirely sure that she had been expecting to hunt that evening.
Tears streamed down Zach’s reddened face. He rubbed at his cheek, moaning. Part of me wanted to walk over and slap him, shake him, tell him to stand up for himself. But he was the wounded deer—weak and frightened and pained. He wouldn’t stand up for himself, and I was growing tired of the pack’s games.
“Leave him alone,” I said. “He was just sitting around, enjoying his book. So what if he thinks he’s a werewolf?”
“I know you,” Leo said. “From my chemistry class. Nora? Nancy?”
“Natalie,” I said. “Did you hear me? Leave him alone.”
“You’ll be sorry,” Zach said.
His voice had deepened into a growl with the darkening sky. The three kids seemed hesitant for a moment, as if weighing the pros and cons of ticking off a kid who thought he was some crazed beast that appears during a full moon. He looked up at them with eyes that burned with hatred. His gaze shifted to me, and he licked his lips again. His tongue retracted behind canines that looked a bit long in the fading light. I took a step back.
Malcolm kicked him in the side. He fell over, curling in on himself as Malcolm continued to kick him.
“Stop it!” I said. “He didn’t do anything!”
I reached over and tried to pull Malcolm away, but there was a new fire in his eyes, the same burning hate that Zach had tossed at him. He kicked over and over until blood trickled from the corner of Zach’s mouth.
“Okay, I’m done here,” Leo said.
“Me, too,” Jane said.
The two ran off as I tackled Malcolm with my full weight. He barely budged. Zach twitched and jerked just as the full moon materialized in the sky. He shook, eyes rolling back. Malcolm stopped, his wide eyes watched Zach’s movements. They shifted from the sky and back to Zach in rapid jerks. The silver watch slipped from Malcolm’s fingers, landing inches from my feet. Finally, he turned and ran.
I knelt beside Zach, turning his body to a position that would best handle the seizure that shook him. I’d seen the signs in my own mother, so I knew exactly what to do.
Once he stopped shaking, I grabbed the watch and took off in the direction that Malcolm ran. I knew he couldn’t be that far away. He was heavy, and I was used to running. I caught up to him in a matter of minutes. He leaned against a tree, panting and gagging a bit from the exertion.
I tossed the watch to him, and it thumped against his shoulder before falling to the ground.
“You forgot something,” I said.
He just glared at me. The same hatred from before burned in his eyes, and he spat his next words like sparks from a raging fire.
“You tell anyone about this, and you’re dead.”
He stared me down, and I averted my gaze. I ran my fingers through my long hair, my eyes rolling up toward the moon.
“Silver doesn’t burn,” I said. “It itches. It burns after a while, but it’s more like an allergic reaction than touching acid.”
I turned my palm to him, showing him the reddened skin as my body contorted. My final word was a rumble from deep within my chest.
“See?” I asked.
He screamed as I lunged for him, sinking my fangs into his throat.
Keily Blair is a creative writing student at UT Chattanooga, where her nonfiction won the Creative Writing Nonfiction Award. Her fiction has appeared in Nth Degree and Five on the Fifth, and is upcoming in Night to Dawnand Trembling With Fear. Her nonfiction has appeared in Breath & Shadow and On Loan From the Cosmos. She is currently at work on a fantasy novel and a collection of essays about being a person with bipolar disorder.