For Iona Andrews’ BDH…
It’d be tonight. Friday night. Every thirty goddamn days. I needed to hang back and relax this time. The afternoon sun glared through breaks in the trees in front of the office windows, adding a little life to the sallow office and cube walls. I carefully dragged document A to process bucket B, then opened the next Agile team’s retrospective report. A worked slowly and methodically, my favorite pace, everything properly done.
Around my cube, the hyper chatter of fellow werebeasts, identities hidden from the public by HIPAA, waited for their monthly break from the hell that was Process Algorithm Paradigms, Ltd. I knew who they were, at least in my office. My nose was only human now, but I imagined I could smell the excitement in the air over the scent of printers and heavy, musky, deodorant it seemed everyone slathered on in the office.
“Ogden, you coming to our den for a visit?” Amy called over her cube, cater-cornered to Aaron’s. At the moment she was a five foot scrawny nothing. Later she’d be a 300 pound, red-furred werehyena. She wouldn’t be happy a week from now, when the cops brought every missing dog—or person—report to her.
I saw the fear in Ogden’s eyes. Today he looked like a competitive weightlifter. Looks, among weres, were deceiving. “Oh. No, no,” he said. “I’m carcass hunting with Mitch and Grover in Postprocessing Analytics.”
“Pity,” Amy said, in a husky, deeper voice. ‘Coward’ was the subtext everyone heard.
Ogden blanched; Amy chortled. Ominously, I thought. We weres always returned to the state we were in the last time. She was in heat. I was… well, it wasn’t worth mentioning.
The life of a male werehyena was no fun; always at the bottom of the pecking order, with females mercilessly running the pack. Not fun for me, either. Weres of my kind had our own issues.
I heard laughter from Marketing as people geared up to carouse as a conspiracy of werelemurs. Not much of a change from their normal office-pranking, bar-hopping antics.
Marissa, from HR, darkend my cube entrance just as I rejected a scrum master’s report that hadn’t been signed in the right field.
“How are you doing, Aaron?” she asked.
Whenever the moon swelled to full, Marissa prowled the office in full corporate regalia.
I gave her a nice corporate smile. Always be polite to the grizzly. Especially when she could climb up and get you where you lived. “Fine.”
“You’ll be out tonight?”
“Yes,” I sighed.
“Good.” She smiled, turned, and walked away.
I shuddered, then looked at the clock. I’d ruminated away only two minutes.
I walked down the aisle to get a drink. Dry mouth from nerves.
Weretigers were weretigers, silently sneaky even in human form.
I plastered a smile onto my face. “Have you looked at the expense report I sent?”
Her smile was bereft of fangs at the moment, but the message came through anyway. “Yes, I did. Not that I’ll be able to do much about it now, but I’ll get back to you with fixes when I can.”
Human citizens of Moon Hill, Texas locked their doors and hid with their pets as we weres enjoyed an ADA-mandated, two-night rumpus. Well, most weres enjoyed it. On the r/unWereFit chat forum wereduckbill platypi and weremolerats frequently sang the sad songs of their people, so I shouldn’t complain.
As a kid, I’d tried hiding from the Change. Tried being in another state, but Florida was as unforgiving as Texas, save for the werealligators seeing me as a snack food. Not that they’d do it; murder was murder no matter the person’s were state. I went hundreds of feet underground in New Mexico’s Carlsbad Caverns. It was cool and damp. Too cold for the were me. Also, no trees.
By five the parking lot was empty. I drove home. In the shower I used a garage-mechanic strength-exfoliator to clean my back. Then a colon flush. Raw and empty. Maybe it’d help. But so far, when magic hit, I was as trapped as Amy in my were’s state. Not that she’d be any pleased if she did get laid as a werehyena. One look at a mating description and I was queasy for a week.
When the town’s sirens went off, I walked into the rising moonlight to a tree at the edge the wood, near my house. Other weres changed deeper in. I stripped, reluctant to lose my human shape, worried I wouldn’t be fully naked when I Changed. That happened once when I was distracted. Hard to climb a tree while wearing socks.
It started with pain radiating from my fingers and toes as they merged, and talons the length of a tiger’s pushed out of their tips. My face was next, my skull flattening, sinuses and eyes migrating at a speed my screaming nerves still felt. Mounting waves of searing heat announced every joint, muscle, and organ body transforming. I’d scream, but by now all I could manage was a low, growly hiss.
It was done. At least turning back was painless. Until I fell, of course. Always a great way to wake up. All color drained from the world, and the town behind me was too bright to behold. Th moon had moved some by the time I got to my tree. Yesterday I’d put down baking soda, peppermint oil, and wolfsbane. And catnip, just in case. The moon was halfway across its arc by the time I’d climbed to a branch thick enough to support me.
I’ll be able to just watch the world go by for a change.
My back itched. Damn it! Never figured out how moths and lichen somehow came with my Change. The curse of “you shall be as your animal was” apparently extended to symbionts. I only hoped the other weres had parasites to go with their form.
Over the next hour the feeling in my gut intensified from nuisance to sharp, stabbing pains. Empty colon be damned.
I started down for the ground. Throughout the woods, were-everythings moaned and screamed and fucked and fought. My vision wasn’t great, but I was pretty sure Marissa came past me at some point, climbing a nearby tree as I was heading down. I made the ground by dawn and, with a sigh, turned right side up and grabbed at the tree. Shitting: finally. Which was the cue for moths in my fur to flutter off and lay eggs in the warm balls of my stool. So much for the exfoliation.
It took me until after dark to get up another tree, away from my, ah, donation. Somebody—I smelled Marissa—had greased at least that trunk. Other trees near me had that weak, glistening shine, too. Goddamn HR weres. Damn it. Although, to be fair, I’d started it by lighting salmon-scented candles in her office one night last week. So maybe I couldn’t blame her.
Finally, I got back to my branch and hung out on a nice, solid, limb. Bliss. No moths. Empty bowels. Time for a well-deserved–
–fall through the dawn air, hitting the ground on my back as a human.
And someone stole my shorts.