The morning after a full moon was always filled with laughter and pancakes in the Fletcher household. Lee's mum, dad and two brothers would talk at the tops of their voices and cajole with each other.
Lee could never understand their enthusiasm, and he wasn't sure if he even wanted to.
Just what was so great about being a werewolf anyway? The shift was painful, your brain didn't know if it was human or wolf and, if you were lucky, you wouldn't wake up with suspect meat in your stomach, giving you indigestion the whole next day.
As Lee pushed his pancakes around his plate, images came back to him. There was a girl who'd smelled familiar and he'd followed her.
Then there was...trouble...
Something had happened to the familiar girl...
Her scent hit him again and his brain slowly registered it.
"Ellie..," he said quietly.
"What, dude?" his older brother, Chuck, asked.
"She your girlfriend?" Dwight asked, laughing.
"No!" Lee answered quickly.
"Who's Ellie?" Dad asked, sitting down with a new cup of coffee.
"Uh, a girl at my school..."
"Do you like her?"
"What? No!" Lee sat back. It wasn't that Ellie wasn't pretty, but she was way out of his league and not really his type. "Something about last night. I shifted, didn't I?"
"Yes you did, son, and we're so proud!" Mum gushed. "You might well be regulating."
"What's that got to do with this Ellie?" Dad asked.
"I think... I think I followed her last night... She smelled like flowers and sparkled..." Lee thought hard. He knew something bad happened, but he couldn't remember what.
"She sparkled?" Dad repeated, putting the paper down. "What's her family name?"
"Cooper, isn't it?" Chuck asked, looking at Lee.
Of course Chuck would know, thought Lee. He noticed all the pretty girls at school! "Yeah, I think so."
"Hmm... Cooper..." Dad mused.
"Do we know any Coopers, Rolf?" Mum asked.
"Ethel and Al are Coopers aren't they?"
"Oh, yes! That nice witch couple we met all those years ago. They had a daughter, Morganna..."
"Wilda, that was a long time ago, we only had Dwight then too." Dad smiled.
"Her big sister's name's Morganna, I think?" Lee said.
"Hmm... Interesting. Why did you follow her?" Mum asked.
"I don't know. The wolf didn't know why I recognised her so it was curious I suppose. I think... I think something happened to her though..."
"What kind of something?" she asked, turning around sharply.
"I can't quite remember, a not good kind of something though." It frustrated him to no end that he couldn't quite remember what happened.
"Oh no. I wonder if we should contact Ethel and see if she's all right..." Mum said, washing the frying pan.
"They live on this side of town, don't they?" Chuck asked.
"Maybe we should wait until Lee remembers what it was. Maybe it wasn't that bad?" Dwight asked, stuffing his face with pancake.
"All right..." Mum said slowly. "Lee, try and remember darling; if it wasn't anything serious, we won't call."
Lee ate slowly and without his usual relish. He strained his brain, trying to remember what he had seen last night. No matter how hard he tried, he just couldn't remember.
Great, so the wolf takes over and suddenly I'm brain damaged and can't remember anything, he thought to himself unhappily.
His brothers finished eating. His mum washed the rest of the dishes and his dad read the paper as Lee got up from the table.
"Looks like vampire attacks have gone up this full moon," Dad said, casually flicking the page – not that the newspaper actually said that.
Lee stopped short as the image burst into his mind, as clear as if he was looking at it right there in the kitchen. His heartbeat quickened and he saw his brother smell the air.
"What's the matter?" Chuck asked.
"The vampires… Vampires attacked Ellie," Lee said.
"Oh, dear…" Mum put the plate back down again.
"Shall I give Al a call, dear?" Dad asked.
"We'll give them a few days peace, then we'll call to see if we can do anything to help. Do you know the vampire who attacked her?" She turned to him.
"I think I've seen him around, but I don't know his name," Lee answered. Like he'd know who every supernatural creature in town was!
"He'll be one of the local pack, no doubt." Dwight cracked his knuckles. "I wish we'd taken them out all those years ago…"
"Come now, Dwight," Mum chastised. "There's no need for that. Not all vampires are fiends; some try to do the right thing. We of all people can forgive an indiscretion or two, especially on a full moon. Although, a witch so young…" she sighed. "I'll put a basket together for Ethel."
"Charlie!" a female voice called out from behind the door. "You up yet?"
"Yes?" he replied, uncertainly.
"You all right?" the voice asked.
"Yes?" he said again, although not at all sure that he was.
"Okay, well come down for breakfast soon, or I'll come in there and get you out." A chuckle and then footsteps leading away.
Rather alarmed, he strained to hear what else might be happening in the house. It was like listening to an improperly tuned radio; the volume rose, fell, and dropped out altogether at times.
He sniffed, hoping his sense of smell was still intact, but it was doing the same thing as his hearing. Smells would be vivid one second and gone the next. He shook his head.
Speed would be hard to gauge in a house so he would have to wait until nightfall to go outside and see if he still had that or not.
"Why did I not listen to Tim and Red?" he asked himself quietly.
He flicked back the covers and climbed out of bed, wincing at the teddy bear boxers he was wearing. There was another door to the right of the bed, so he cautiously opened it and saw it was a small bathroom; shower, toilet and vanity with a mirror hanging over it.
He stepped forward, feeling for the light as he did so, to look in the mirror. The light was not as bright as expected and he frowned again. Leaning up close to the mirror, he stuck his fingers in his mouth and pulled his lips up and down and sideways.
He lifted his hair away from his ears.
He looked closely at his eyes.
No shine; nothing special to them at all.
He looked… Well… Human.
He retreated from the bathroom hurriedly, just as the other door opened and a middle-aged, brown-haired woman walked in.
"What-?" Charles started.
"Oh, for goodness sake, Charlie. Put some clothes on and come down for breakfast. Your father's about to leave and wants to say goodbye first," she said, walking over to the window.
As she reached up to the curtains, Charles yelled and covered his head with his arms. She pulled them open as she turned around, confusion written all over her face.
"Sunlight, it burns," he screamed automatically.
But, it didn't.
"Oh, stop being so dramatic!" she said with a laugh.
Charles pulled his arms away from his face and looked around in wonder. The sun was streaming into the room and, while it hurt his eyes a little bit, he was still standing perfectly healthily.
"Charles Dumphrey, what is the matter with you this morning?" she asked, making a 'tut tut' noise. "Hurry up and go and say goodbye to your father." She waved her hands at him as though she were shooing him.
How dare this human speak to him like that? If he were at full power! But, he was not and he knew it. He could tell something was very wrong. And, he had this feeling that, if he did not at least play along with what the humans asked, something terrible would happen. For some inexplicable reason, the word 'grounded' entered his mind unbidden and, for some even more inexplicable reason, filled him with dread.
He grabbed a shirt and pants from the end of the bed, pulled them on quickly and hurried in front of her, down the stairs and into a brightly lit kitchen.
"Oh, Mary, you didn't have to get him up!" a balding man said, hugging her with one hand as she walked in the door. "Honestly, Charlie, I told your mother not to get you up." He rolled his eyes at Charles as though there were some big joke afoot.
"Ah, that's okay…" he replied slowly, sitting down on the nearest chair.
"You all right, son?" he asked.
"Oh leave him be, Arthur. He's just waking up." Mary smiled.
"All right, then. Well, I'll see you two when I get home," Arthur said.
"I might be a bit late, dear. I need to pop by the shops on my way home." Mary smiled at, Charles assumed, her husband.
"No worries. Charlie and I can look after ourselves, can't we?" He winked at Charles.
"Sure… Dad…" he tried to smile at the two humans and remain calm, trying to adapt to his surrounds; he had always been able to catch onto human expectations and speech patterns relatively quickly, but his mind was working slower than usual.
"Okay, I'd best leave, too. Bye, sweetheart." Mary kissed him on the cheek and he fought not to recoil.
"Bye… Mum…" he said and waved as the two of them left the house.
Once they had left, Charles sank in his chair, running his fingers through his hair and trying to think.
Something had obviously gone horribly wrong in his life…
Unless, he was still asleep!
He slapped himself but nothing happened, other than his eyes watered and his cheek smarted.
It must have been the witch…
Charles had no other explanation, but he had no idea what she had done to him. He did not even know if she was alive or if he had killed her. If she was alive, he had no idea how he would find her. First on his list of priorities was to see where he was and what he could do.
He got up from the chair and explored the house. As he walked through the house, Charles looked at the photos, both on the wall and on surfaces. There were pictures of Mary and Arthur's wedding, and pictures of him with them. There were pictures of a child who could have been him – not that he had any points of references, pictures not being a thing when he was growing up – at various stages of childhood.
He stood in the middle of the formal living room, with its baby grand piano in the corner and fancy rug on the floor, and wondered what on Earth had happened.
Had history been rewritten? Had he been shoved into some other person's body?
But, no, he still looked like himself…for the most part.
Unless, he only thought he looked like himself?
"Argh…" He sank to the floor and cradled his head in his arms. "What the hell!"
He stood up again and resolved to stop feeling sorry for himself.
"First things first…" he muttered as he took the stairs two at a time. "Clothes…"
He rummaged through the draws in what he supposed he should call his bedroom. He found a pair of jeans and a dark green t-shirt. He threw them on, put on some socks and shoes and looked about.
"Keys…keys… Do I have keys? Money… A wallet… Need a wallet," he grumbled as he looked around his room.
Under a pile of what looked like homework – school? – he found a wallet and keys. The wallet held a picture of him on a student ID card, and the key ring had a charm with the initials 'C.D.' He thrust the keys and wallet into his pocket. Next to the bed, he saw a phone and he stuck that in his other pocket.
He went back down the stairs. As he passed the kitchen, his stomach grumbled.
Do I eat now? he thought.
At the thought of food, his mouth salivated over the thought of blood. As it did, his stomach flipped. He grumbled and strode out the front door, locking it behind him.
The sun glared down on him, as though it knew he should not be up and about during the day.
"I know, I know," he muttered at it.
He walked halfway down the front path and stopped. The house to his left was shimmering at the edge of his vision.
He turned to look at it properly and blinked rapidly; the house was incredibly out of focus. For one moment, he saw a rambling, three story cottage-like building, covered in roses and vines, and then it would shift and he would see a plain stucco two-story building. Even the front yards changed before his eyes. It was like trying to focus on two things at once – two things that were not supposed to occupy the same space.
He noticed a woman coming towards him and he took a few steps forwards.
"Well… You must be Charles…" she said, sounding curiously unimpressed as she crossed her arms. He wondered vaguely why she didn't know him like Mary and Arthur did.
"I… Yes… Hi…" he said as he tried to focus on her.
She was shifting between a nice middle-aged woman with dark blonde hair and a slightly younger woman with distinctly purple hair.
"What the… Ugh…" He grabbed his head with his hands. His head pounded and his stomach felt queasy.
"Ah, yes. That's what you'll get for trying to kill my daughter," she said, sounding almost pleasant now.
"I… What?" He looked at her again but his head throbbed worse and his stomach threatened to bring up whatever was inside it. He sank to his knees and rested his head on the cool grass.
"Oh, for crying out… Come here." The woman came closer. He saw her shoes shimmering next to his head.
"Oh, shit" he sighed feebly.
"No need for such language!"
Charles rolled his eyes; at almost seven hundred years old, he could swear how he liked.
"What is going on? Who is your daughter?"
"My daughter, Petronella… Not that you thought to ask last night when you attacked her. Pet's in the hospital thanks to you. Not only does she have serious blood loss, she almost killed herself cursing you! Stupid girl, though she hardly knew what she did…" The woman stopped rambling now, so Charles hazarded a look at her and regretted it instantly.
"What do you mean, she cursed me?" he asked when his forehead was safely back on the grass.
"Ah. Well, you see, Pet was pretty angry with you and, well, she cursed you… I didn't know what the curse would do until I saw you this morning. I can see the residual magic and Mary and Arthur didn't have a son yesterday, so I know it must be you. You are quite obviously human, now." The woman knelt down and he avoided looking at her. "I wonder how that feels for you, blood-sucker? To become your prey?"
"Witch, what is happening to my sight?" he demanded, clenching his teeth against the pain as much as in anger.
"No need to be snippy. I do have a name, you know," she huffed.
"What pray tell, is it, madam? That I might address you properly…" he groaned, but managed a healthy hint of sarcasm. He had no need of adapting to anyone's speech patterns right now and slipped into his old, familiar ways.
She chuckles. "You're an old one, aren't you? You could well be older than me!" She paused. "My name is Ethelred, but you may call me Ethel." She took his chin gently in her hand and lifted him up to look at her. "You have some penance to do, young man." She was just the middle-aged looking woman now.
"Ethel… What is happening to my sight?" he asked again, forcing politeness between gritted teeth. Her voice was grating on his headache and it made his stomach feel all the more worse.
"Oh, that!" He frowned at the happiness in her voice. "I would imagine it is your physical human body warring with you spiritual vampire body."
He closed his eyes and when he opened them she was the younger woman again. He squinted, ready to shut his eyes if she kept shifting, but she did not.
"I'm sorry," he said rubbing his temples. "Run that past me again?"
"You were a vampire, yes?"
"Now, you're a human, yes?"
"Obviously…" Although it had been over seven hundred years ago, the familiarity of the sensations of humanity was starting to come back to him.
"Right, well in essence, your spirit, which is still vampire, is warring with what your human body can do." Charles put on his best confused-looking face, like it was difficult, and she continued. "As a vampire, you saw through glamour, yes?" He nodded and felt like he had a good idea where this was going. "Right, well your human eyes can't see through glamour. Your human eyes and what your inherent vampire spirit can do are warring with each other. I imagine your hearing is on the fritz as well?" she asked and he nodded again. "It's the same with your human ears."
"How do you know all this?" Charles groaned, holding onto the Earth in case he fell off.
"I'm a very old, very well-educated witch, and I take very well-educated guesses," she replied flippantly. He heard the smile in her voice.
"Will it go away?" he asked.
"I don't know," she answered, sounding like she cared little. "It might and it might not. If it does, it could take ages or no time at all. You may have to learn to control it." He watched her check her watch and stand up, pulling him up with her. "Have you enjoyed life as a vampire?"
Charles hesitated, not sure what the right answer would be. "Yes… I did."
Ethel nodded. "I can understand that, not that I advocate it. I imagine this was the worst punishment Pet's mind could think up for you-"
"Can she turn me back?" Charles interrupted.
Ethel shook her head. "I don't know. The curse took a lot out of her. And, I do mean a lot. The blood loss alone was worrying enough… But, the cursing…" She sighed. "You owe our family, Charles. You will owe us more if she doesn't make it. She's strong and her magic is strong, so we have high hopes. But, the gods help you Charles Dumphrey, if she dies." Her face darkened and Charles was sure it was more than just in the figure-of-speech sort of way. She hopped over the fence and walked back into her house.
Charles tried to watch her go, but his eyes could focus on neither the real Ethel, with the purple hair, nor the glamour, with the dark blonde hair. He gave up, closed his eyes and lay back on the grass, hoping his head would stop throbbing.
The sunshine pulsed violently behind his eyelids. He groaned and flung his arm over his eyes. He was not meant for daylight, he had not been meant for daylight for seven hundred years. He was meant for moonlight and starlight and darkness.
His stomach grumbled and he groaned again. Human food held no enticement for him and he had no idea where or how he would get blood without his fangs.
What was he to do with himself?
He did not know how to be a human. For all but seventeen years of his long life, he had been through throes of emotions that had been horrendously worse than those first seventeen years and his first run through puberty. Now, he was back in a human body, and most likely going to be susceptible to human emotions and the thrilling end of puberty. He could already feel it all tugging at the edges of his mind, trying to override every instinct and thought as though the last seven hundred years had been nothing.
He had been happy with his life. He had known who he was and what his morals were, what he thought about humans and in what situations those thoughts would differ, and he knew what he would do with the rest of his life, however long that might have been. Now, he could hardly go around drinking human blood without people thinking there was something seriously wrong with him.
He had no powers and, more importantly, no fangs with which to procure blood without anyone noticing. He could not go on living on his own and only going out at night, where he was comfortable and knew how the world worked.
It had been seven hundred years since he had been in the light and the world had significantly changed! Now there were rules and schools and parents who held some mysterious sway over human teenagers, and-
There was a vibrating in his pocket that pulled him from his musings.
He pulled the phone from his pocket and saw that he received a 'text message' from someone called 'Cam the Man'. He sighed and wondered how many more people would be in his life that he did not know. He pressed the text message:
Cam the Man: dude, rents suck. no escape!
He dropped the phone on his stomach, not having any idea what this meant, what to reply to this person, who they were, where they were, and why there was no escape.
Last time he had been human, if someone had told him that here was no escape, he would have had some idea of what was going on. Seven hundred years later and he did not feel like he had a hope in the world. He supposed that was what you got for moving in the same circles for a couple of centuries; the last one had seen the most drastic changes and Charles had only kept up to a certain point.
Charles lay on the grass for a while longer, without knowing exactly how long he had been there, when he heard Ethel's voice call out to him.
"Why don't you get up and go inside? Your skin won't appreciate this amount of sun after so many years without it."
He propped himself up on his elbows, his phone sliding off his side, and looked at her. She leant against the fence and flickered less than the last time he saw her.
"Can I ask why you are being even this cordial to me?"
She sighed. "It's not that easy." She hopped over the fence once more and held her hands out to help him up.
Charles shoved his phone in his pocket and took her hands.
"Try," he said when he stood up. He squinted every now and then as he tried to focus his eyes, but she still flickered.
She sighed again. "I'm not young like Pet. I know you were only following your instincts, again not that I'm condoning your actions…" She looked at him and then looked out at the street. "I can't say you don't deserve what Pet did, despite the cost to her, but I also don't believe in making your life even more difficult for you. I'm a witch, Charles, as you well know, and I am bound to love all of nature. In one way, it is unfortunate for me that you're part of that nature. Maybe being human will be good for you, and if I can help you adjust then I won't count that as lessening your punishment."
Charles thought for a moment. "You do not like me much, do you?"
"Charles, you tried to kill my youngest daughter! Of course I don't like you!" Oddly and embarrassingly, he blushed at her comment and she smiled. "But, that doesn't mean I'm not prepared to get to know you and, if you show yourself worthy of it, to forgive you." She patted him on the shoulder and he felt rather awkward. "As I said, you have penance to do, Charles Dumphrey, but that doesn't mean I can't help you. If only to help Mary and Arthur."
"Uh… My thanks," Charles replied, smiling as sweetly as he could.
"You're just lucky you caught me in a good mood; it looks like Pet will be okay. If not, it would be a different story."
"Of that I have no doubt, Ethel, and I will do my best to make up for my crimes."
She laughed. "You have learned to use your powers well over the years haven't you? Your natural powers of charm and adaptability, I mean."
He found himself blushing again. "I am sincerely appreciative. Perhaps when… Pet's better, I can apologise?"
She frowned slightly. "Maybe." She looked back towards her house. "Why don't you go inside, Charles? Have something to eat, get better acquainted with the world?"
He nodded and she turned away. "Do you know exactly what this curse entails?" he asked.
She turned back. "I'm sorry, Charles, I don't. You'll just have to do the best you can."
He nodded again. "Thanks." She smiled and hopped back over the fence.
He sighed and walked back to the front door. As he opened it, his pocket vibrated again. He prayed silently and pulled the offending phone out of his pocket once more. It was another text message from that Cam person:
Cam the Man: dude, where are you?
Charles groaned and threw the phone on the kitchen bench. He shuffled to the fridge, took a deep breath and opened it.
An array of smells assaulted his nose – his heightened sense of smell was somewhat normal – and none of them were very enticing, as he expected. He smelled vegetables and dairy products, all a lot fresher than when he was last human, of course. The raw meat smelled slightly more delicious than the rest, but he was not sure how Mary would react if he ate all the raw meat in the house.
He stood there for a few more minutes, wondering what on Earth he should eat. A sandwich seemed the easiest and perhaps the safest. He found some ham, lettuce and mayonnaise – a combination that for some reason he felt was good – and found some bread to put it all together.
Sitting at the kitchen table, Charles looked at the sandwich. He felt as though he faced an unpredictable enemy. He laughed self-consciously at himself and pulled the plate towards him. He picked up one half of the sandwich and hesitantly took a bite.
It was certainly not as delicious and invigorating as a mouthful of warm blood would have been, but the mayonnaise had a zing to it, the lettuce was nice and crunchy and the ham had a satisfying, vague blood taste. The bread was not as exciting as he thought it would be after the centuries of progress; it was dry and filled his mouth like cotton wool.
He found a glass and filled it with water from the tap to wash down the bread.
He sat down at the kitchen table again to see if anything would happen. He smiled as more time passed and nothing did. After a minute or two, his smile faltered as his stomach roiled.
He remembered this feeling well, despite the centuries that had passed. This feeling preceded vomiting. He looked around in panic, not sure what the etiquette for vomiting was in a modern suburban house. He jumped up, knocking the chair to the floor, and rushed to the bathroom.
He washed his mouth out, again looking desperately for any sign of his fangs, and went back to the kitchen. He sighed as he picked up the chair and looked around the room.
If a sandwich was not going to suit his body, he certainly did not know what would. He decided to go upstairs to his room, quietly hoping that, like his vision, his human side would begin to win out and he would be able to eat something without throwing up before he starved to death.
His step faltered as he wondered if he should look for Red tonight and get the vampire to help him feed.
Although, he thought, asking Red for help as a human would not be easy. Or safe.