Extended Story – Comedy by Amy Fox

You know it's strange, I never liked the taste of coffee, and yet, I love the smell. That probably has something to do with its strength. Bitter and strong, but sometimes with a hint of sweetness, like a chocolaty undertone, it does well in covering up some of the other horrific smells of everyday life. And when you have a nose like mine, you take every relief you can get. As I walked into the coffee shop, I almost purred with relief. I had been all but gagging on the fumes of petrol, cigarette smoke, body odor. Honestly, don't people know that gorgonzola and garlic should simply not be mixed? Not unless your aim is to cause a worldwide olfactory homicide.

I swept my eyes over the café. It was tastefully decorated, soft leather bench seats on either side of quaint wooden tables. It was small and cozy, warm lighting, fun Latin music playing in the background. Behind the bar counter was an impressive collection of old liquor bottles, short and stout as well as long necked. I wonder how long it took to empty them?

As I cast my eyes further around the room, I saw that the man with whom I had an appointment was seated in the far corner, sipping from a coffee mug. To the casual observer he might look relaxed, but I have never been accused of being the casual observer. The muscles in his neck were strained ever so slightly, and he was holding his fingers stiff, as if he were restraining from drumming them. His eyes were fixed on the door, watching for my arrival. Of course, I hadn't told him what I would look like, so he saw, but dismissed me from his list of suspects. How naive. I checked my watch. 3:47. Hmm. I suppose I had said to meet at half past. Keep 'em waiting, as my mother used to say, although I'm not sure she had this situation in mind.

I strode over and sat down opposite him, settling into the dangerously comfortable seat. If I relax too much I may never stand again. His eyes widened, eyebrows shooting up his forehead, reaching escape velocity.

"I'd catch your eyebrows if I were you, before they go into orbit," I said lightly.

Before he could stammer a response, a waitress appeared and beseeched my beverage preferences. I sent her away with a humble request for a latte, never taking my eyes off my friend whose eyebrows, despite their best efforts, still remained firmly attached to his face.

"Excuse me, not to be rude," he said with every intention of rudeness, "but, do you think you could, um," he paused, probably searching for an alternative word that wouldn't get him slapped. He eventually settled on, "leave? It's just that I'm waiting for someone." His voice was deep and husky; it washed pleasantly over my ears. But patronization is never a pleasant tone.

"I sit here before you," I said grandly, bowing my head and spreading my arms on either side. A pause. I looked up. He wasn't impressed. One eyebrow had given up the fight, but the other was still raised a full inch above his eye. I dropped my arms. "Feel free to faint in awe." The eyebrow remained unmoved. "How about a gasp of shock?"

"Look, I don't have time for this, so if you could just..?" He left the question hanging.

"You've been waiting here for," I looked at my watch, "nineteen minutes, and when I finally arrive, you're sending me off?" I shook my head in disbelief.

"You're telling me that you sent that e-mail? From what it said I was expecting someone more…" He stopped awkwardly.

I sighed. "Just like a man. What, you didn't realize someone like me could be female?"

His eyes widened. "So you're serious then? You really are a-"

"Sure as the hair on my chinny chin chin. Wait, no, it's the pigs that say that in the story, isn't it? Not the wolf." I grinned, showing off my canines. I've always been proud of them, sharp as they are. And what a fitting name. "Get the hint yet?"

The tension shattered with the arrival of our waitress and my latte. I took the cup, inhaled the smell and set it on the table, ignoring her perplexed stare. When she had left, I turned back to my companion. "Where were we?"

"You were telling me about your, um-"

"I believe the term is lycanthropy." He stared in disbelief. "How about I just tell you about it, hmm? I'll give those eyebrows of yours a real workout"

I checked the clock on the dashboard. Ten minutes. My pulse quickened and I broke into a sweat as a floored the accelerator. Damn moon. The road ahead was dark, but my eyesight compensated. A rabbit hopped across the road. A snarl rose in my throat and it took all my will power not to follow it. The urges get so much stronger the closer it gets to the full moon. I never understood how exactly it affected me. What am I, the tide? Strange to think that the simple waxing and waning of a celestial body could force the change upon me.

The dark clouds drifted across the sky like boats on a calm sea, the light of the moon not yet visible through their soft folds. I turned the corner onto a dirt track, the gravel crunching under the tires of my modest little sedan. My body vibrating, I turned off the car and all but leapt out, slamming the door behind me. I took off into the woods.

Normally, I wouldn't have to go to these measures to change; it's actually quite a simple process. But the full moon throws another ingredient into the mix. Her call is impossible to resist, and she pulls my second form from me, against my will.

Dark evergreens rushed pass me, my bare feet pounding the cool soil. I ran until I was a fair way into the forest, then slowed to a trot. Any minute now. Any minute and I would be free of the boundaries of a human body. Free to run, maybe chase some rabbits. Or some quail. Mmm.

I was pulled forcibly from my reverie when I almost plowed through a couple's romantic picnic. I skidded to a stop inches from the dip. Hummus, really? No expense spared.

They looked at me in shock; the man's sandwich paused halfway from the plate to his mouth. I stuttered an apology and disappeared between two pine trees.

When I was a relatively safe distance away from the probably confused couple, I halted, and, with a nervous glance over my shoulder, started to strip. The soft fabric slid over my skin easily, and I was left standing awkwardly, stark naked, in the middle of a clearing. The wind brushed by and I shivered. The moon rose from behind the clouds, bathing me in her light, and I sighed with relief. I sank down onto the rough ground, kicking away some dead leaves as I did so, and braced myself.

My whole body vibrated, and I watched as my nails grew rapidly, turning to sharp claws. Fur slid over my skin, deadening the cold breeze. In less than a minute, where I had been crouching a magnificent black wolf now stood proudly, eyes glinting with anticipation. I raised my head and howled, answering the moon's song with one of my own. A distance away, I heard the couple cry out in fear and start to gather their picnic up. I tried to chuckle, but all that came out was a strange gurgling growl, which just made me sneeze.

The sweet scent of rabbit drifted across my nose, and I momentarily lost control. I tore off into the forest, close on my prey's fluffy little tail. After a brief chase I had it in my jaws, and with a quick flick, its neck was broken. A tip for hunting small animals like rabbits, you can't focus too much on what you're doing, otherwise the human side of you will probably feel some sort of compunction over killing (and consuming, raw) a fluffy little thing that you consider a pet. So, with all human thoughts out of my mind, I settled down for a midnight snack. I took my first bite, and almost immediately regretted it after choking on a mouthful of fur. I coughed up most of it, making a mental note to go after something less hairy next time.

I raised my eyes and was met in kind by my acquaintance's amazed, yet still a little skeptical, stare.

He pulled himself together.

"Come on, you expect me to believe that? You could've easily made that up."

I shrugged and pulled myself, with mild difficulty, from the comfortable chair.

"Hey, believe what you want. Now, if you don't mind, there's a full moon tonight, and it's a long drive to the woods."