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Wild and Deep, the Moon and Blood

Rebecca is the author of the Shards of History series, The Necromancer's Inheritance series, and The King of Ash and Bones, and Other Stories. Her short fiction has appeared in publications such as Nature, Flash Fiction Online, and New Myths, and she is a graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop. When she's not writing, she's running or practicing kendo to stay prepared for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. You can follow her on Twitter at @rebecca_roland.

"Menopausal lycanthropy," the doctor said.
"What?" I asked, scratching at my armpit where my hair had grown nearly a centimeter since last night's shower. And let's not mention my legs. I had to change out of my favorite leggings this morning because it looked like I was walking around on two porcupines.
"Meno. Pausal. Lycan. Thropy," he said slower.
"I know what the words mean," I snapped, barely holding back a growl. The doctor stepped back. "I mean, how can they possibly belong together? And what does it mean for me?" I'd come in thinking I just had anemia or whacked out hormones.
He looked hardly old enough to drink, let alone be helping me figure out what the hell was going on with my body. He smelled like Axe body wash and wintergreen mints, and the combination almost gagged me. "It's a rare genetic disorder leading to the onset of lycanthropy during menopause."
The doctor dug around in a drawer and found a brochure that he stretched out to me. I snatched it from his hand. In the first picture, a middle-aged woman smiled blandly at the camera, arms around her adult kids while her adoring husband stood behind her, his hands on her shoulders. In the second was a massive wolf, howling at the moon. In Helvetica font--so easy to read, and as bland as the woman in the photo--it said, "Are you going through the ultimate change of life?"
"There's hormone therapy," the doctor said, slowly inching his way toward the exam room door.
"And if I do nothing," I snapped.
"Then you become a werewolf every full moon for the rest of your life."
"But I can't. I've got a job, and two kids I'm helping put through college, and an aging father to take care of, and... I don't have time to run around like a wild animal!"
"You can schedule your first injection before you leave today. Some people even say the hormones make them feel more calm and peaceful than they've felt in a long time." He eyed my fingers digging into the edge of the exam table, and I unclenched them. "The hormone therapy works best if you start it before your first full transformation." He was reaching for the door handle. "I'll let you get dressed."
"But are there side effects?" I said. "I don't want that either."
He grimaced. "Take some time to think about it. But the full moon is two nights away." And he left.
I stared at the smiling woman on the brochure. She looked like the sort to have all her ducks in a row, to put everyone's needs ahead of her own. I stared at the wolf, head thrown back, howling without a care. She looked like she didn't give a fuck.
Werewolf lycanthropy. I had to admit, it rolled off the tongue quite easily. And here I just thought my chin hairs were getting out of control. Pluck, pluck, pluck every morning, and more of the poky little bastards showed up every day.
I laughed, but when it turned into a bit of a howl, I shut my lips tight, got dressed, and left, but not before scheduling an injection for the next afternoon.
After dinner, I curled up beside Greg on the couch, one of his hands resting on my hairy leg. Bless the man for not caring that his wife was nearly sporting more body hair than he was. He smelled like the steaks he had cooked on the grill, and I pressed closer to him.
"It's non-violent lycanthropy," I said. "It's not like I'll rip out anyone's throat."
He sighed. "Not even the neighbor's yappy dog? That's a shame."
I punched him on the arm. "The side effects of the hormone therapy aren't great. Lethargy. Brain fog. Osteoporosis."
"Mm, hmm," he said noncommittally.
"But some people also experience extreme calm on the therapy. They're almost zen-like during the entire full moon. I haven't been calm since--" I broke off. When the hell was the last time I'd felt calm? Definitely before the kids were born. Before college. Before high school. Hell, maybe not since I had been a zygote.
"Look," Greg said, gently rubbing circles on my leg. "Whatever you decide, I'll support you. If you want to do the hormone therapy, we'll figure out the side effects if they happen, and I'll try not to freak out if you end up a zen master."
Another punch on the arm, and he winced. "Sorry," I said. "Apparently I can expect to get a little stronger, too."
"Yeah, watch it there, Tyson. Anyway, as I was saying, it's for you to decide. Calm sounds great. But maybe it's great to let go and howl at the moon, too." He let out a yawn. "I'm heading to bed. Coming?"
"I'm gonna stay up for a while."
He kissed me on the forehead and went upstairs. I slipped outside. I did my best thinking on the swing in the back corner of our garden. The roses had never smelled so sweet, thanks to my lycanthropy. I could pick out more scents, too, some pleasant, like the neighbor's lavender, and some unpleasant, like their spaniel's poop.
I read through the brochure again. I was always so busy. I couldn't spare one or two nights a month, plus a day to recover. Dad needed me. The girls might be away at college, but they needed me. Work needed me. Greg... Greg was the only one who never made demands, who just loved me.
My eyes kept going to the wolf, singing to the moon. The image stirred something wild and deep in me, something that scared me, but if I looked just a little deeper, something that thrilled me, too. And I wanted that thrill. I just didn't have time for that thrill.
The waxing gibbous moon slid out from behind clouds, its light falling softly on me. My heart slowed, and I sank into that deep space inside myself, and in that deep space I felt something primeval stir. Alive. I felt so alive.
The neighbor's back door opened, and their dog came charging to the fence, barking at me. I swear I felt hackles rise, and I let out a low growl. The yaps turned into a solitary, terrified yowl, and the dog ran back to the door, scratching to be let in. I grinned.
With a few taps on my phone, I cancelled my injection.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, December 6th, 2022
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