Chapter Two: Carson Behavior

I opened my eyes to the sight of trees towering over me. Rays of sun trickled through the branches and leaves, creating golden beams of light that lit the forest. It was a beautiful sight.

The morning after was the best part of the change: waking up beneath the canopy of trees with the morning light giving everything a warm glow. The only sounds were the birds singing, a rustling breeze, or a river close by. Peaceful sounds that most people forgot even existed. Most times, I would just lay there and listen. Forget the chaos of life and lose myself in nature. There was also a sense of relief the day after. Every time I woke after the change, it was as if all my burdens had been lifted from my shoulders. I could think clearer, breath easier. I never really understood why, but it always gave me something to look forward to. I wanted to lay there forever. Just relax my body until it became one with the forest floor. But there were things that needed to be done, people to see, life to live.

Time for home.

I sat up and looked around. The shack wasn't too far. I could faintly make it out in the distance. I sighed with relief. There had been a few times when I ended up walking for several miles before I got back to the shack. Those had never been fun mornings.

As I walked back, I inspected my body. The usual amount of dirt and scratches. A bruise on my leg. Nothing too serious. I rubbed my chin and mouth to check for blood. Nothing. My junk? Still between my legs. For some reason, I always had a slight fear I would wake up neutered.

So far, so good.

The door the the shack was ajar. The top hinge was no longer attached to the wall. Stepping inside, I noticed that the amount of scratches on the floor and walls had increased. I ran my fingers along a new set on the lower part of the door. A memory flashed before my eyes:

Scratch. Scratch. Scratch. 'LET ME OUT.'

I gathered my clothes and got dressed. As I put on my shirt, I noticed a hole in the front of it. I put my finger through it and wiggled it around. It must have happened after the change. I sighed and slipped into my hoodie. I'm sure I could patch it some how. I had a needle and some thread somewhere in my apartment, seeing as I'm always tearing up my clothes.

The walk back to my apartment seemed shorter than the walk to the shack last night. I got a few glances from the people I passed, but I kept my eyes lowered to avoid their gaze. I imagine I looked like a homeless bum to them. Another runaway misfit living the street life. Not that I could blame them with how dirty I looked.

I dug into my pocket and fished out the key to my apartment. I slipped it into the keyhole of the barred front door of the apartment complex. The key slipped easily in the lock. When I turned it to the right, it made a satisfying 'CLICK.' I pushed open the door and stepped inside.

"Jesus, yer a mess. What the hell ya been up to? It ain't drugs, is it?" Steve, one of the front attendants asked me. He was an older gentleman with black and silver hair. His milky blue eyes were hidden behind large, thick glasses. His face was wrinkled with age. I always smiled at him because he reminded me of a bobble head with his disproportional head to body ratio. "Ah, just a late night hanging out in the forest." Steve frowned. "Hangin' out? What are ya, part bat? The hell ya doin' in the forest in the first place?" Steve often gave me a hard time about my odd habits. "Oh, you know. Just getting away from civilian life." Steve gave me a dismissive wave. "Ya don't have to hide anythin' from me. I was a young once. I had my party days..." He laughed and did a little dance. I did my best not to laugh at how ridiculous he looked. "Where's Joe? I though he was working today," I asked. "Ah, Joe. He's one sick puppy. I told him to stay away from 5th street, but he don't listen." I got into the elevator and shut the gate. "He'll learn one day," I replied. I waved good-bye and hit button 3.

I could hear jazz music blaring from apartment three-zero-six B when I reached the my floor. When I stepped out of the elevator, I could see that the door was open. They occupants had pushed all their furniture to the walls and were using the open space as a dance floor.

Mr. and Mrs. Rodriguez were a young, and very attractive, Hispanic couple that taught dancing classes every weekend from six-thirty to eight-thirty. They were often having parties and playing their music so loud that it could be heard through the walls. Of course, their front door was always open when they were home. Often times, I would come home from school or work and I would be hit with the smell of delicious food. They had offered some to me once, but I declined.

I paused for a second and watched them dance. Their bodies moved perfectly with the music. They looked so alive. Smiling and laughing. I couldn't help but notice Mrs. Rodriguez in her short red dress. It hugged the curves of her body and then flared out at her hips. I felt my face flush and I turned away.

Three-zero-eight: my home. I entered the apartment and shut the door quietly behind me. The first thing I noticed was that the living room was a mess. Papers, clothes, dishes, and dvds were strewn about. Guess I was cleaning today.

"Heeey wolf boy. What took you so long?" A voice sang from the kitchen. I looked over to see my brother sitting at the table, sunglasses on, his short brown hair sticking up in every direction. His jaw was lined with over grown 5 o' clock shadow. He was dressed in only a white wife-beater and blue striped boxers. "Morning Carson," I greeted with a bit of a bitter tone. "Hungover?" I asked, motioning towards his sunglasses. An odd giggle slipped from his lips. "Nope. Still a little toasted." I made an 'Ah' face. This was typical Carson behavior. Whenever he got the chance, he would go out and get drunk. Depending on his mood, he would sometimes get so wasted he would black out and wake up in random places. He could almost be labeled as an alcoholic.

Almost.

"Do you work today?" I asked, glancing at the clock. 7:06 AM. It was still earlier enough to get him cleaned up. 'Pleasesayno. Pleasesayno,' I chanted in my head. Carson has gone to work drunk a few times. Luckily, they had only given him warnings. I'm not sure he could afford another one. "I can't remember," He replied with a laugh. Sighing, I wandered over to the calendar on the kitchen wall. I found the date. "No, you don't," I told him. "Thank goodness..." I muttered under my breath.

"Hey, you going to make breakfast?" He turned and looked at me. I scratched my head. "Can't you do it yourself?" He frowned. "Come on, wolf boy. Help a brotha out," He whined in a phony gangster voice. "Don't call me wolf boy," I growled. He chuckled. "Awww, but I thought you loved that name..." I punched him in the arm. "Make your own stupid breakfast." He groaned. "I can't cook shit, little brother."

"Sucks to be you," I answered as I walked to the bathroom. He followed after me. "Why are you always pissy? Not getting enough vagi..." I cut him off, "Please don't be so crude. Right now, I'm dirty enough as it is." Carson put his arm around me and pulled me close. "Are you really my little brother? Your lack of perversion disturbs me." I shoved him away, getting more irritated by the second.

I should have stayed in the forest.

"Look, I'll make you breakfast if you stop pestering me. I need a shower." He put his right hand up, as if swearing an oath. He then reached out and pushed my chin. "And shave that fur off your face. You make me feel like a little boy." He wandered back to the kitchen.

I made sure to lock the bathroom door behind me. Carson had a bad habit of playing "pranks" on people when he was drunk. I should trust him, but I've learned over the years to never leave a door unlocked when he is in a "fun mood." I've been through many "stylish hair cuts" and crude drawings on my body.

I didn't hate my brother. He was just...difficult.

A sigh escaped me. As I was stripping off my hoodie and shirt, I caught a look of my reflection. My dysfunctional hair cut was starting to grow out. The sides were still pretty short compared to the top, but not as short as before. I felt the facial hair that ran along my jaw. It thickened near the back and blended with my side burns. I smiled, enjoying the fact that I could grow more facial hair compared to my brother, who was several years older than me.

Once I was stripped bare, I jumped in the shower. I scrubbed until I saw pink flesh and freckles. My hair was harder to wash. I kept finding leaves and clumps of dirt tangled in it. I even managed to get something indistinguishable in my ear.

It must have been one heck of a night.

When I was sure I had cleaned every bit of myself, I turned the water off. I stepped out and looked at myself in the mirror. I could finally see the spray of freckles across my cheeks and nose. My hair had returned to it's normal shade of light brown. I shaved and combed through my hair.

There was one thing I could never get over every time I looked at myself in the mirror: my eyes. Ever since I was attacked, they had become a brighter, more clear blue. Leaning against the sink, I watched my pupil slightly expand and shrink.

The lack of noise began to bother me. Throwing a towel around my waist, I tossed my dirty clothes into the hamper and went out to check on my brother. I found him sprawled out on the couch, sleeping. His sunglasses sat on his face haphazardly. I wasn't surprised that he had fallen asleep. I went over to him and pulled them off his face. He didn't notice. I placed them on the stand next to the couch.

I wandered back to my room. It had gotten pretty messy over the past few weeks. Clothes, books, and papers covered the floor. A few dishes cluttered my little desk. It appeared one of my posters had gotten knocked down.

I went to my closet. I still had some clean clothes left. I picked out a white t-shirt and dark jeans. Once I was dressed, I began to sort out my room. Not long after that, I was in the bathroom cleaning. I paused ever little bit to see if my brother had awoken. Each time, he was in the exact same position.

The living proved to be a little hard to clean with my brother's limbs hanging off in all different directions. I did my best to keep quiet and clean around him. He only moved a few times while I was cleaning. I wish he would have gone to his room. It would have made this a lot easier. I would have to wait to vacuum until he was either awake or gone.

When I was done in the living room, I went to the kitchen. It was a little past ten. I started making breakfast for Carson. He's favorite was small pancakes with eggs and bacon. He usually complied the food together to make a sandwich. I checked to refrigerator to find that we were low on supplies, but had enough for at least today. I gathered what I needed and got started with the pancakes and bacon.

Carson woke just as I had started the eggs. I could hear him shuffle his way to the bathroom. "Bet you're feeling it now..." I muttered. I could hear objects dropping and angry groans. "Yep." I finished up the eggs and put everything on a plate.

A couple of minutes later, he was at the refrigerator, pulling out the milk. "Good morning, sunshine. How's that hangover now?" I asked, holding back a laugh. He looked at me with a glare. "Where's my breakfast?" I didn't answer because he saw it before I could say anything. He shuffled over to the table and plopped down. "Don't drink straight from the..." I looked over to see him already chugging away at the milk. Typical. I shook my head and started cleaning.

He was quiet while he ate, which I figured was because of the massive headache I'm sure he was supporting. I finished and sat next to him. He glanced over at me. That's when I realized something was different. He stopped eating and starred at his plate.

"I waited up for you..."

I blinked, not really sure what he was getting at. "Why would you do that?" I asked. He looked at me. "I worry about you." I starred at him, shocked. Carson rarely showed affection in any shape or form. I tried to say something, anything. But no words came to mind. "I know I can be insensitive, but every time you leave for your..." He swallowed, as if forcing the words back down his throat. As if he was afraid to say them. "I wonder if you'll be back." He looked down at his plate. "I mean, somebody's gotta make me breakfast." He smiled, but it was forced. "I'm going to go shower. I smell almost as bad as you!" He got up and walked away, leaving his breakfast unfinished.

Typical Carson behavior.