5

I was certainly dreaming again. Gnarled giants of oaks, illuminated by dim moonlight, were glistening with rainwater and the earth smelled damp and mossy. My feet were covered in mud and I felt my footfalls impeded with the extra weight. Wet leaves danced around me and into my face and hair. I could hear their ghostly crackling as they glided along the ground in little torrents of wind. I seemed to be crawling up a steep muddy hillside. Clearly, I was running but fatigue did not touch me. I had just reached the top of the hillside and an iron grated fence knocked me hard in the stomach. I turned to the left but a tall pillar of granite blocked that direction. It was an obelisk, a grave stone.

I was in a cemetery, and the iron fence was the boundary I could not escape. I felt intense fear grip my throat in a choke-hold. The ground underneath my feet began to rumble and the earth gave way directly under where I was standing. A filthy hand reached up from the ground and clamped tightly around my wrist. It pulled harder and harder and I cried out "Nooo!"

The radio alarm whizzed into action. I was jarred awake by an annoying commercial for some new prescription drug.

"Sometimes I regret buying that thing" I said to no one in particular. The room was especially cold, and it is quite an unpleasant task to get out of a nice warm bed on a cold frosty morning. That coupled with having to go to class and I was ready to crawl right back under the covers.

Downstairs, the roommates were waiting for me. All three of them wore suspiciously sullen looks on their faces.

"What is this, some kind of intervention"?

Before the words were out of my mouth, I horrifyingly realized that it was.

"You didn't actually think we were going to let you go to class today, did you?" Nikita stood, tall and regal, the others quietly nodded their heads in agreement. She spoke only when it mattered, and those around her always listened with anticipation. A queen among her courtesans.

"Okay, what should we do then, since I'm wasting my money by not attending class?" I tried not to sound sarcastic.

"You can start by telling us what happened. Everything."

"Gee you guys aren't forcing me or anything"

"We're concerned, that's all"

Hmmph. I stared them down with my most annoyed look.

"Tell us Molly, ... please"

I could see this was going to either end in a bloody battle or a surrender. So I did. I told them everything. I told them about my classmate being murdered, about seeing the cougar-animal, about the nervous feeling I'd had when I'd been walking through the little patch of forest that day, and about being bitten by the damned thing. I even told them about the delusion I'd had of the weird little girl in my room that night.

The entire story spilled out of me like the proverbial flood, once it started in a trickle, the fountain had burst. Why did I always wear my heart on my sleeve? Proudly, I realized that I'd gotten through the entire regale without breaking into tears. I was in fairly good spirits, in fact. They all took turns hugging me as if they expected an emotional shattering at any moment, but it never happened. At the end of my strange account, I just broke off mid-sentence.

"Okay," began Nikita, "So what can we be sure of? First off there's some kind of animal out there attacking people."

"Yeah," Samantha offered, "And I do believe you Molly. So the best thing to do is figure out what's going on".

"Maybe it escaped from a zoo"

"But there aren't any zoos around here"

"I've remember reading on the internet about people who keep exotic pets in apartment buildings and stuff, it's pretty out there, but it happens occasionally"

"Hmm ... I suppose, but it didn't look like any animal I'd ever seen before- and Walter too, and he pretty much knows everything"

"Well he doesn't know everything, but yeah I'd say we need to investigate a little" corrected Nikita.

Investigation meant a morning of confinement at the Saint Bartholomew's campus library. Though five people were walking with me in broad daylight, I still insisted that we take the long way around instead of the shortcut through the woods. Better safe than sorry.

We spent the entire day at the library laboring more intensely than we would have for even a research paper. Every now and then Samantha would stand up and loudly whine that we could, nay, should be out partying and wondered why again were we wasting our time here. Walter and his roommate Tom were drafted into helping us out. We grabbed every book on the shelf which even slightly hinted at helping solve our mystery, and then took turns scanning through them for anything about strange black animals that bit people. It was nice to have friends, a motley crew of people working and laughing with me.

We commandeered a separate conference room on the second floor so that the glass enclosed tables afforded us some privacy. By mid-day three separate piles of books were stacked by the door, one dangerously close to avalanche. Samantha returned from the basement of the library, which contained the very oldest archives, dragging with her an enormous moldy old volume hardbound covered in ancient looking leather.

"Check this out!" she excitedly motioned to one paragraph.

I quickly glanced over the page she pointed to with the tip of her freshly-manicured finger and began to read it.

The paeleo Indians in the New England region, according to some records claimed to be plagued by hairy black quadruped creatures that could bestow humans with magical powers if bitten by said creatures. According to myth, the human would then take on superhuman qualities, but be possessed by the master of the animal. Several tribes boasted similar traditional myths well into the antebellum period, and this New World myth coincides with the Celtic-Eurasian fascination of the "werewolf". This is of course is, a distinct example of a paganism misinterpretation of biological function in the natural world, possibly passed on by Norse cultures during their early fishing voyages into Indian territory...

I thought back to my sophomore year history classes, which were really the only classes that had ever mentioned Indians. Suddenly, I wished I had studied harder. I couldn't remember what the teacher had said exactly, but I did recall her mentioning that most Indian myths, somewhere far back, are usually based on an actual event. Could that be possible for this? Holy cow, did I now have superhuman powers?

Everyone else in the room looked up at me as they finished reading. Walter and Tom looked excited. Nikita looked worried, Samantha looked bored and Joanna looked confused.

"Uh... that sounds like crap" Tom stuttered out, laughing.

"Oh come on", Samantha gasped, "What did you expect, it's a STORY geek-boy"

Nikita cleared her throat "Hunh, well it's not going to help anything by us arguing, or for us to scare the heck out of Molly for no good reason. I'd say the best thing is to keep researching it for a while. I'm not arguing with you Sam, but this library has only a limited amount of information available. There just might not be anything here to help us.

"Well, let's make a photocopy of this page in case we need it. It's probably nothing, but maybe we'll want to look at it later."

I grabbed the old volume and headed for the photocopy room down the hall. I was humming a happy tune. My mood was so damn good lately, I felt great. I balanced the book against my hip and leaned on the frosted glass door. Swinging my head into the door, and still singing like an idiot, I bumped head-first into Mr. L.L. Bean. Ow! His chest was as hard as a brick wall. My God, was he always at the library?

"Shouldn't you be in class right now?" He sounded annoyed at my presence.

"You know something? You're kind of a jerk." I looked him straight in the eye hoping that my assault on his manners would hurt him. He seemed completely un-bothered. His demeanor was, like always, completely dignified and cool. He stood as straight and unmoving as a statue.

"What are you doing here?"

"I could ask you the same question, but I don't really care. " That was a lie and he knew it. I could instantly tell by the slight movement of his upper lip that he was laughing at me, in his own silent way.

He sighed and suddenly his eyes became a little bit kinder.

"You're Molly, correct?" He smiled warmly, showing straight and perfectly white teeth. I had noticed how model-esque he was when he was scowling, but when he smiled he looked absolutely gorgeous. But now I hated him worse for being perfect. Arrogant brat.

"Yeah. I'm Molly. And you might be?"

"It's not important."

"Fine. Be that way."

"What way?"

"Like that. Jerk-ish."

"Do you think I care what people think of me?"

"Everyone does, a little. Deep down maybe."

"Whatever you say"

"Why the attitude? I don't get it"

"Actually, you're the one with the attitude"

"No, you are."

"Try not to cry about it"

I became furious. Who did this guy think he was?

"I need to make a photocopy"

"You need something alright"

At this point a completely random thought entered my mind. I was enraged with his pompous attitude, and there was the balcony, looming only inches behind him. I was sick of him, and sick of people like him. He needed to go. Now. He was very distracted with the self-righteous ballooning of his ego at the moment, and in a crazed fury, I took advantage of my position and I ran straight at him. For one horrifyingly awkward moment our bodies collided with a sudden gaping breathlessness. I wrapped my fingers around his wrists and began to lift him. His body was hard as stone, but I wasn't hurt. In a blur of white hot anger, I heaved him over the railing, and down he went, his face a shocked and bewildered mask. He grew smaller and smaller as he went down.

He hit the terra cotta tiles below, a heaped mass of flesh and bone, but quite intact and unharmed. He threw a very scornful look up at me and stormed away. I had never seen him slightly emotional, but he was definitely angry now. Out the door he went, without a limp or a scratch. Wickedly, I almost wished the photocopy room had been five stories high.

I was quite glad to see the back of him. After much foot stomping and heavy sighing in the now vacated photocopy room, I rid myself of the bad-vibes of mystery man. It was my form of progressive relaxation. I returned to the others without further incidence.

I returned to my comrades without a word. It was decided that we needed a coffee break after all that hard work, so we walked down to Mimi's cafe, about three blocks from the library. Mimi's wasn't a very popular choice in town because it was pretty expensive and highly overpopulated with high school and college kids. It was a very nice place though. The walls were all painted different colors; bright orange, yellow, red, and purple. The cafe counter looked like a post modern bar, and the place was full of mismatched comfy couches and multiple fireplaces where friends could hang out in privacy and nurse a five-dollar cup of Joe. There was always cool music playing.

Tom and Walter started playing a football-type game with a folded piece of paper. They flicked it back and forth to each other's outstretched fingers. The paper quite often flew out of control. Samantha looked completely embarrassed and went over to speak with some friends she knew from work. She kept glancing over to give the guys a reproachful, ashamed look.
Nikita pulled me aside and asked how I was doing. The thing is, it was almost like nothing had happened. Life was going on as normal, I was hanging out with friends, laughing, drinking some great fair-trade coffee. My life seemed perfectly in order.