Ben Silver is an average American teenager. He loves basketball, pizza, and bingeing the latest popular series on Netflix. His schoolwork is so-so, but that doesn't seem to bother him very much. He's more concerned with his friends, basketball, and who's dating who around school or on TV. All in all, he has a pretty average life.
Or at least he was pretty average, until a late-night run changed his life.
Ben isn't so average anymore.
His life has been turned upside down by a terrible fate that he must keep secret from the world. Luckily, no one suspects a thing...
"I think there's something up with him," Rose said to her brother, Grim as they sat on a bench outside of school watching the other students come and go. As usual, they sat alone, being the resident weirdos at Bailey High. Rose more so than Grim, but he was still weird-by-association and his name really didn't help matters. His real name was Graham, but he was christened Grim when a very young Rose had trouble pronouncing her new baby brother's name. So she called him Grim and it stuck. It turned out to be a fitting name, as his moods could turn dark rather suddenly.
Grim sat with his face in his arms. "Up with who?" he grumbled.
"Do you know that guy in my class, Ben Silver?"
"There's something up with him." She twirled a strand of her long, black hair around her finger.
His head popped up and he wore an impish grin on his face. "What? Are you in love with him?"
"No, you idiot. Something else. Something weird and unusual."
"Oh, so he's in love with you?"
She punched him in the arm. "You're so dumb. I'm being serious here."
His face turned sour and he rubbed his arm. "Seriously deranged. Is this like the time you thought the neighborhood cats were forming some sort of secret society?"
"Those cats were up to something," she muttered. "But for real. I need to find out what's going on." She was interrupted by the bell before she could get much further into her suspicions.
Ben hung his backpack in his locker and grabbed his books for his first class.
As he closed the locker door, he caught a glimpse of Lacey Talbot out of the corner of his eye. He turned just as she passed by. "Hey, Lacey," he said with a wave.
She glanced over her shoulder and gave him a smile. "Hey, Ben," she said, but kept walking on to her class. It was the smallest gesture, but it sent butterflies fluttering through his belly and made him a little dizzy. He watched her walk down the hall and meet up with a group of friends.
He leaned back against his locker and lost himself in a daydream where he was part of that group and it was his neck Lacey was wrapping her arms around, not Chad Edwards.
Looking at them together, he could feel the butterflies wither and die.
Oh, Lacey, he thought to himself. You could do so much better than that meathead.
"Yo, Ben." He was pulled back to reality by a clap on the shoulder. "Off in La La Land again?" his friend, Ryan, asked with a chuckle.
"No, no," Ben tried to recover. "I'm just…uh…making sure I have everything for my next class. Don't want to forget anything in my locker."
"That's why I don't use a locker; I just carry this around all day." He lifted a backpack that looked as if it were about to burst at the seams. "Got all my books and everything I need in here."
"That looks pretty heavy. I think it would break my back if I tried to wear it."
"Yeah, it's a beast." His face was growing red from the strain of holding it up and he dropped it to the floor with a heavy thump.
"Keep that up and you'll be the buffest kid in town by the time we graduate."
"Ladies love a buff bod." The morning bell rang and he hoisted his bag over his back. "Catch you at practice after school," he grunted.
"See you, man." Ben turned back to get one last look at Lacey, but she was already gone. He sighed and closed his locker to head to class.
Rose found Grim in the halls between classes and pulled him aside. "So, did you find anything out about him?"
Grim groaned in annoyance. "About who?"
"Ben Silver, you moron!" She said this a little louder than she'd intended, attracting a few glances from passing students. She looked down and smoothed her skirt with exaggerated nonchalance before turning back to her brother.
"Yeah, keep it down, loudmouth." Grim tried to walk ahead to create some distance, but she soon caught up with him.
"Haven't you been keeping an eye on him? I can't watch him all the time."
"Of course I haven't. I told you, I don't even know who he is."
Rose huffed and stamped her foot. "Were you not listening at all to what I was saying this morning? There's something weird going on with Ben and we need to find out what."
"To answer your question, I rarely actually listen to what you say. Whatever – if anything – is going on with him, it's none of your business. Besides, you just said you thought there was something weird, you never asked me to keep tabs on him."
"I thought that was implied. I don't see how that wasn't clear from the start."
"Is anything ever clear with you?"
"Crystal clear, to anyone who actually uses their head. You need to help me out on this."
"Will you get off my case if I say I will?" He tried to walk faster hoping she would break off and leave him alone once he got to class.
"Only if you get me some evidence."
"Evidence of what, exactly? What are you looking for? A strand of hair? Some blood? Do I need to get a stool sample?" He giggled at that.
"None of that…yet. Right now we're just on reconnaissance and looking for anything out of the ordinary."
"Look in a mirror," he mumbled, then a bit louder: "What do I get for helping out?"
Rose scoffed. "The satisfaction of knowing you helped. I think assisting in uncovering a mystery is enough."
"I think money is more satisfactory. Or taking chores. Is my help worth cleaning my room for a month?"
Rose's mind flashed to her brother's room. The kid was a pig and she didn't think he'd cleaned his room in…ever! The piles of clothes, the stacks of comic books, the minefields of food. "It would take an army of maids to clean your room. I'll do your vacuuming for a week."
"Vacuuming and dusting for a month."
"Deal." He had no intention of doing either of those chores anyway, but now he was totally in the clear. "I'll keep an eye on your boyfriend."
"He's not my boyfriend." Her face reddened at the accusation. Her interest in Ben was purely academic.
"There would have to be something seriously wrong with him if he were." He ducked into his classroom before she could smack him.
Ben's eyelids felt like lead and the minutes seemed to take hours when he was in Mr. Brambles' Social Studies class. The old man just stood in the front of the class and droned on and on about...well, Ben wasn't really sure, he was so bored. There were some good teachers at Bailey who at least put some effort into trying to keep the students interested, but not Mr. Brambles. His voice never even changed tone, it just rolled on and on and on and on…
"Psst…" Ben's neighbor, Andy, hissed. "Wake up, man," he whispered.
"I don't know if I can," Ben yawned.
"I got something that might wake you up. What are you doing this Friday?"
Ben shrugged. "Nothing so far. What's up?"
Andy dug two slips of paper from his pocket. "Tickets to The Supernova Sisters over in Ogdenville. They're yours if you want them."
That really did lift his spirits! He had tried to get tickets to their show, but they were already sold out by the time he'd convinced his parents to let him go. "For real?" In his excitement, that came out a little louder than intended and he shrank down in his seat. Mr. Brambles didn't seem to hear, as he continued droning on and on and on and on… "Why are you giving them away?" he whispered.
"I have to go to my aunt and uncles." Andy rolled his eyes. "I won them in a contest, but now I can't use them."
"Heck yeah, I'll take them." He plucked them from Andy's hand and stared at them in disbelief. He read over the show and seat information over and over making sure this wasn't a joke or a dream. "Thanks," he said when he was convinced they were legit.
As little attention to the lesson as he was paying before, now he was completely tuned out. This is going to be so awesome, I can't wait. Who should I give the second ticket to?
A little voice in the back of his mind gave him the obvious answer. Lacey Talbot.
Yeah, right. I wish.
Why not? This is the perfect opportunity. Who could turn down a free concert? It will just be you and her, none of her friends.
What if she says no? I'll look like an idiot.
Dude, it's perfectly fine to ask her. It will just be two friends seeing a show. You couldn't ask for a more perfect way to start on turning your friendship into something more.
He had to admit that his brain was convincing. That settled it; he couldn't argue with his own logic. The rest of the class period was spent daydreaming about her reaction to the ticket offer and then how perfect the night was going to go. The end-of-period bell snapped him out of his reverie and he floated out into the halls on cloud nine.
The moment had come. It was time to ask Lacey to the concert. She was at her locker, for once not surrounded by friends. Ben stood back and took deep breaths, rallying his courage to approach and talk to her. He took a step forward and his stomach tossed, but he shook it off and took another step.
You can do this, he urged himself forward. There's nothing to be afraid of.
Before his doubt could get the better of him, he pushed forward until, he found himself right behind her and the words came out of his mouth, "Hey, Lacey."
She turned and smiled and his heart melted. "Hey, Ben." She tucked a strand of blonde hair behind her ear. "What's up?"
He shrugged, trying to appear casual. He shoved his hands in his pockets to hide their shaking. "Not much. Just...you know, same ol' same ol'." You're starting to lose it. You need to just ask her before you fall apart.
"Yeah," she giggled. "I know how that goes."
"Cool." Do it! "So…uh…I was thinking…wondering what you were up to this Friday. I got a couple tickets to The Supernova Sisters and thought you might be interested."
Her eyes popped and she grabbed his arm. "Oh, my gosh, Ben! That is so thoughtful of you! I would love to!"
Fireworks exploded in his head and he thought he might pass out for a minute.
"But…" she said.
The fireworks died and landed like a ton of lead in the bottom of his stomach. But? Why but? But what?!
"I already promised Chad I would go to a movie with him."
And there it was…the end of the world. His heart that had melted just a moment ago now shattered into a million pieces. "Oh, okay. Cool," he somehow managed to say. "No problem."
"Dude, I seriously wish you had asked me this morning. I absolutely love The Supernova Sisters and really wanted to go to that show."
"Yeah, they're pretty awesome. Andy gave me the tickets in Social Studies. If he had given them to me earlier maybe we could have made it."
"That would have been amazing. But, hey, if you stumble across some tickets next time they're close I would totally go with you."
"Okay. Yeah. Cool. I'll remember that." As soon as he had the chance he was going to do everything within his power to get tickets to the next show.
"You'll have to tell me how it was," she said. "I'm totally jealous of whoever you find to go with you. I'll see you around."
"I'll fill you in all about it. Catch you later." She gave him one last smile and turned away, tucking another strand of hair behind her ear. As she moved, her earring came loose and fell to the ground, unnoticed. Luckily, Ben saw it.
"Oh, hey!" He called and bent to pick it up. "You dropped your—OW!" When he touched the earring, a shock of pain shot up his arm and through his body. He jumped back clutching his hand to his chest.
"Are you alright?" Lacey asked, concerned.
"Yeah, yeah," he lied. "I must have stabbed myself with it."
"I'm sorry." She bent and picked it up. "Thanks. I would never have found it."
"Of course." He waited for her to turn back around before he examined his hand. Coarse, brown hair had sprouted and his fingernails had begun to lengthen into claws. The earring had been pure silver and the touch of it burned his fingers, the pain triggering his transformation. He took a deep breath and willed away the pain to stop the change. His hand was already returning to normal. Nothing to worry about.
"Did you see that, Grim?" Rose hissed. They had been trailing Ben all day, keeping back just far enough to be inconspicuous. As Ben had approached Lacey, they hid behind a corner watching and listening.
"Yeah, he stabbed himself," Grim said. "All that proves is that he's a klutz."
"I don't think that was it. I think his reaction was caused by something else."
Grim looked up at her. "Were you dropped when you were a baby?"
"Don't be dumb. If you're not going to help me then just go away."
"See you!" Grim turned and walked away. Rose grabbed him by the collar and pulled him back.
"You need to take this seriously."
"You just told me to go away."
"Forget that. You need to focus and help me out with this. If my suspicions are correct, we're in a lot of trouble. This whole school is. Heck, this whole town is. Heck, this whole world is!"
"What are you rambling on about?"
Rose drew in a deep breath and blew it out. "Okay. I think I can tell you now."
"Tell me what?"
"The whole reason I've even started this investigation."
"So, it's not just because you're insane?" He flinched away from the smack to the head that he knew was coming, but failed to materialize "Knock it off and listen to me. I wasn't going to tell you this before because I knew you really wouldn't believe me and then you wouldn't help me. You already think I'm crazy and I didn't want to give you a half-cocked idea that could really make you think I am.
"Anyway, I'd noticed a couple weeks or so ago that Ben was acting strange. I don't know much about him, but he's always been one of the more popular kids in my grade and always hung out with all the other popular kids. But a few weeks ago, he started acting different and being off by himself."
"Who wouldn't? Those guys are all jerks."
"I think this was different. It's like he was hiding something.
"Over the next few days he started to act more like himself, but not all the way. He was still...I don't know, different."
"Since when did you become a psychiatrist?" Grim interrupted.
"If I'm going to be a behavioral scientist, I have to be aware of the behavior of those around me, Grim. Can I go on now?" Grim waved her on. "So, yeah, he seemed to be getting better. That was until I saw him playing basketball yesterday and something unbelievable happened.
"I don't understand basketball so I didn't really know what was going on, but at one point things got a little rough and Ben was knocked down pretty hard. Everyone else's attention was on the ball so they didn't see what happened next. But I did." She paused and prepared her next words carefully, sure she was going to lose Grim when she said it. "When he got knocked down, something happened to him. His ears got pointy, his eyes turned black, and I swear his teeth looked sharper."
Grim stopped and looked at her, but said nothing.
She pressed on. "And what happened just now when he touched her earring. I think it happened because…" She paused and then went on, "Ben Silver is a vampire."
Silence hung in the air. Grim said nothing as her words processed in his head. He finally opened his mouth. "Are you sure you weren't dropped when you were a baby?"
Now she did slap him, though only on the arm. "I'm serious, Grim! I'm being for real."
"Okay, you know what?" He held up his hands and took a step back. "I could call you all sorts of names right now, but I'm not going to. Mostly because I already have, but also because I'm starting to really worry about you."
Rose rolled her eyes.
"If Ben was a vampire, how could he be out in daylight?" he asked. "Shouldn't he have burnt up?"
Rose scoffed and folded her arms across her chest. "That is just a myth propagated by Hollywood."
"Sounds like something you would say…"
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"That you're a psychotic freak!" Grim hissed.
"I'm not a freak and I intend to prove it. Tonight."
"And how exactly do you plan on doing that?"
"Oh…I have a plan."
Despite the recent attack and subsequent curse of werewolf-ism, there was nothing quite as refreshing to Ben as a good late night run. The air was cooler, crisper, and cleaner and the empty roads were a nice, quiet reprieve from the hectic daytime rush. This was his chance to let his guard down and relax and not worry about something causing him to wolf out in public.
This particular night found him jogging through some back streets and into the city park.
He was so lost in his own thoughts that he never considered he might not be alone.
"How do you even know he's going to be here?" Grim asked. He and Rose sat crouched behind a bush just off the jogging path, decked out in all black clothing.
"I've been studying him," she said. She sat on her knees, peering just over the bush with a pair of night vision goggles. She'd saved up her allowance, birthday, and Christmas money for nearly three years to be able to afford them. "He records and shares his running history on Facebook and his path almost always comes through here. And seeing as he runs pretty much every night, there's a very good chance he'll be here tonight."
"Stalker," Grim muttered. "And what is your plan when he does show up?"
Rose crouched back down and pulled her duffel bag over. She reached in and brought out two sharp wooden stakes and two crosses, handing one of each to her brother. "When he gets near, I'll jump out and confront him. While I'm doing that, you're going to sneak behind him and cut off his retreat. The cross will keep him from attacking you and then it's just a matter of driving the stake through his heart."
Grim stared down at the objects in his hands. "How long did it take you to think up that plan? And where did you get these stakes?"
Rose shrugged and picked her goggles back up. "I cut up the rake handle. I'll have to buy Dad a new one."
"Yeah, I think he would be a little mad. This looks like it's really sharp. Like it could really be dangerous."
"Well, duh. How do you think we could stab him with a dull stake?"
Grim thought this over in his head. She was being serious about this. He thought she was just being her normal, weirdo self, but she was actually out here to kill someone! "Uh…Rose—"
"Quiet!" She waved him down and ducked back down. "Here he comes." She picked up and cross and stake and drew in quick breaths. "You ready for this?"
"No!" Grim hissed. "You can't-"
The beat of footsteps drew closer until they were right on the other side of their bush. Rose roared a war cry and jumped over the hedge, cross held out like a shield.
Ben was completely caught off guard and fell to the ground with a frightened yelp. "Prepare to die, monster!" Rose shouted. "Grim, now!"
Confused, Ben turned around at the sounds of rustling limbs. Grim stepped out, shoulders slumped and looking embarrassed. "What is going on here?" Ben asked as he hurried to his feet.
"We know what you are, you evil demon of the night," Rose spat. "We're here to stop your reign of terror."
Oh, no! Ben thought to himself. How do they know? How did they find out? And then a more curious thought occurred to him: And why are they using crosses and stakes to stop a werewolf? "Okay, I don't know what you're talking about," he said. He held his hands up defensively.
"Of course you do. I've seen you and there's no way I can let you hurt anyone or spread your curse you wicked vampire!"
"I don't know what you've seen or think you've se…wait…did you say vampire?" Even more confusion rushed through him. He turned to Grim. "Did she say vampire?"
Grim rolled his eyes. "Yeah. She's nuts, I know."
"Don't you talk to him! In fact, the time for talking is over. It's time to DIE!" Rose dove for Ben, stake raised high, ready to plunge down into his heart. Ben got his hand up to block her arm, but she bowled into him with all her force and knocked him to the ground. His knee scraped hard on the concrete and his head whipped back and cracked on a rock. He vision exploded into stars and darkness.
"Rose!" Grim couldn't believe that she'd actually attacked him. He dropped his own instruments and grabbed his sister around the waist. She kicked and fought, but he was able to pull her off of Ben.
"What are you doing?" She shouted. "We have to kill him!"
"You can't do this."
"It's what we came here for. You knew that. What did you think was going to happen?"
"I was just following along so you would shut up. I know I called you weird and a freak, but I didn't know you were actually A CRAZY MURDERER!" He dove at her to wrestle the weapons away from her.
"Get off!" They pushed and pulled and fought for control.
The ear-shattering howl sent a chill up their spines and froze them in place. Slowly, their wide eyes met then turned to the source of the sound. Ben Silver was gone. In his place stood a beast of fur and claws and fangs. It stared at them with raging eyes as black as the abyss and growled menacingly.
Grim's lips trembled. "He's…he's a w-w-w-w-w-"
"Werewolf," Rose finished, her voice a mix of fear, wonder, and macabre excitement.
Ben took a step toward them and flexed his claws. One would think he was about to attack them, but he was silently praying they would just run away. He didn't mean to wolf out, but the pain of the fall had been too much, so now here he stood, his secret revealed to the world. Or, at least to these two weirdos. He was angry, furious at the girl, but more so, he was terrified of what this meant for his future.
But the siblings didn't budge. They were frozen in place with their jaws hanging open. Scaring them off wasn't going to work so he turned and ran. This seemed to snap Rose out of her daze. She shook her head and shouted for him to stop. When Ben ignored her, she leapt to her feet and took chase.
Even as a regular human Ben could run laps around her, so there was no way Rose could catch up to him as a werewolf. He hadn't fully tested the extent of his newly-heightened abilities, but he knew he could see, hear, and smell exponentially better and he was much faster and stronger. Even so, he needed to get away so he ran as fast as he could and hoped to lose her in the woods, just past the foot trail ahead.
He jumped a bush and landed on the path...and nearly onto Lacey Talbot. Turns out he wasn't the only one that liked quiet nighttime walks. They stood there, frozen in time. Their eyes locked, neither believing what they were looking at. Ben's mind raced trying to decide what to do; did he try to talk to her and explain things or should he just keep running. When she let loose an ear-piercing scream, he went with the latter and bolted.
Rose burst from the bush a moment later and found Lacey on her knees, shaking and sobbing. "Dang it," she muttered when it was clear Ben was long gone. The best she could do now is save this girl's life before the monster returned to devour her. She crouched down and put a hand on Lacey's shoulder. "It's okay. He's gone and you're safe now."
"Wh-wh-what was that?" Lacey sobbed.
"A werewolf." She said it like it should have been as obvious as the nose on her face. "But you're safe now with us." She helped her to her feet and led her back to where she'd left her brother. "Come on, Grim. Let's get her home. Grim?"
Grim still stood where he was, frozen in shock.
The kids of Bailey weren't the only ones stirring that night. Across town, in the cemetery, a dark cloaked figure glided silently between the tombstones emitting a distinct aura of cold malevolence.
Weaving its way throughout the grounds, it came to a stop in front of a single, crumbling tombstone. Worn as it was, the last name was illegible, covered by lichen, but the faint outline of the first name was still visible: Robert.
The figure raised a gnarled, grayish-green hand and spoke in a low guttural intonation. The language was not of this Earth; it was an ancient, evil language that chilled the bones and made the heart race. The hooded figure spoke a few ineffable phrases and then the words began to take on the rhythm of a chant. . A tremor passed over the ground. The chanting rose in volume and the shaking grew stronger. Louder and stronger, on and on, until the ground burst open and a horrific, unspeakable terror emerged.
At school the next day, the story of Lacey's "attack" was spreading like wildfire. She told everyone that she was out for a late night stroll when she was cornered by a rabid dog. She gave Rose credit for scaring the animal away and escorting her home. She, however, did not tell anyone that Rose thought it was something a bit more serious than a rabid dog.
This fact seemed to rub Rose the wrong way. "Look at her," she said. She was leaning against the locker next to Grim's as he dug his books out. "Can you believe she's telling people it was just a dog?"
"What is she supposed to tell them? That she was attacked by a werewolf? People would think she's as crazy as you are."
"Yeah, well, not for long. Not when I show them proof."
"How are you going to do that? Ask Ben to just admit to everyone what he is?"
"If only it would be that easy. I plan on using these." She pulled a handful of small metal objects from the pocket of her dress and displayed them to her brother.
He was rather unimpressed with what he saw. "Rings? Are you going to bribe him or something?"
"No, you dolt. These are silver. You know, extremely painful for a werewolf to touch."
"Oh," Grim said.
"Oh, is right. I'll torture the truth out of him."
"Well, that doesn't sound sadistic at all."
"He's a monster, Grim. He needs to be put down. We just have to find him first."
"Are you sure about this? I mean, he didn't hurt you last night."
"That's probably just because he knew he was outnumbered and we were armed. If he got the chance, he would take us out." Grim started to argue again, but she waved him off and refused to listen any further.
Ben was going make that as difficult as possible. He'd considered staying home, but for one, he needed to keep his attendance in check to stay eligible to play basketball and, two, he figured he might need to be there to defend himself against the wild accusations that were sure to start flying around the school.
So far, he'd managed to avoid Rose and her brother by walking at a near run, ducking in and out of classrooms, and even wedging himself behind walls and vending machines. He'd heard of Lacey's story through friends and was relieved that she was claiming to have been confronted by an everyday rabid dog. He had yet to be approached by people asking if he really was a bloodthirsty creature of the night, so either Rose hadn't talked or, even more likely, no one believed her.
He wondered how long he would have to play this game and hide from that weirdo. Forever, if I have to, he told himself. Or, at least until I graduate. He wasn't too concerned with Rose telling people he was a werewolf. After all, who would ever believe her? He was more concerned with her coming after him with a new set of weapons. Last night she'd attacked him simply because she thought he was a monster. What's going to stop her now that she knew for sure?
He caught a glimpse of her through the crowd, walking in his direction, and he quickly ducked down another hallway. He peeked around the corner waiting for her to pass so he could make his escape. She stepped into his line of sight and his heart lurched, but she kept her eyes forward. She was almost out of sight and he was about to let out the breath he just realized he'd been holding when a voice rang out behind him.
"Hey, Ben!" Kevin Long called out cheerily.
Rose's head snapped to her left and she locked eyes with him. With a gasp, he turned tail and started to run away. Well, not run so much as walked as fast as he could as to not draw attention to himself. The shouts and grunts coming from behind him told him Rose didn't show the same restraint.
He crouched between a trash bin and a recycling bin and tucked his legs up to his chest. With any luck she would run right past him.
He had no luck. She loomed over him with a look of triumph. "Found you," she leered.
"You can't do anything to me," he said. "Everyone would see you."
"Oh, I'm okay with waiting." Her smile was wicked and almost frightening. "There will come a time where you're all alone. Then, no one will hear you scream."
Ben gulped. He tried to keep his voice level and as brave as possible. "You're crazy, you know that? I haven't even done anything."
"And I'm not going to ever give you the chance to." The bell rang. "I have to get to class. The time will come, Silver."
He decided right then and there that he would never give her that chance. Even if it meant barricading himself inside his house or never leaving home without someone by his side, he would do it. And so began Ben Silver's new life.
Later that night, he'd decided he'd already had enough of the hermit life.
For the rest of the school day he had been able to keep himself in with a crowd and he rode the bus home to keep himself surrounded by people.
The plan was working fine...until he got hungry. Nothing in the house was appealing to him. "I need to get out," he muttered to himself. "I'm hungry and I'm bored and the cabin fever is starting to set in." Only one thing sounded good to him: a couple of chili dogs from Hot Diggity Dawg's.
He checked his front yard and saw no sign of Rose or her brother, but the sun was going down and the shadows obscured the view. He would just have to risk it. He opened his front door, half expecting to get shot with a silver bullet, but all was quiet. It was quiet to the end of his driveway. It was quiet to the end of his block. It was quiet to the end of his neighborhood. It was quiet all the way to Hot Diggity Dawg's.
By then the sun had set and stars twinkled overhead. It looked like he wasn't the only one in the mood for hot dogs; the place was packed. This wasn't unusual; Hot Diggity Dawg's was one of the most popular joints in town. A small, old-fashioned place with a pick-up window and outdoor picnic tables. It was only open seasonally, so people made a big deal of the place when it was.
Ben was already pressing his luck being out of his house so he opted to get his food and get back home instead of finding a table. He thanked the young man behind the counter as he took his food. He pulled a plain hot dog out of the bag and peeled off the wrapper. Chili dogs were messy so he would save those to eat at home, but he needed something to tide him over until he got there.
"Oh, Chad," a voice giggled behind him. He turned to see Lacey and Chad further down the counter. Chad was leaning on the counter, flashing his picture-perfect smile.
Suddenly, Ben's hunger vanished and he wanted to puke. He dropped his hot dog back into the sack and walked away.
As he passed corner of the building, a voice spoke to him out of the darkness. "I've got you now," it hissed.
He jumped and took a step back. Rose stepped out of the shadows, on her face a strange mix of anger and victory. "H-hey," he stuttered. "You can't do anything to me here. Look at all these people."
"Witnesses to the unmasking of a monster." She lifted her hands and revealed what she had planned. In her right hand, she held a long silver chain from which dangled various pieces of silver jewelry she had gathered. In her left was a silver butter knife, sharpened to an edge.
"What are you going to do?"
"With this," she held up the chain, "I'm going to force you to transform. Then, once everyone sees what you truly are, I'll end you with this." She held up the knife.
"Where's your brother? You didn't talk him into this too, did you?"
"Oh, he's around. You didn't think I wouldn't have a backup plan did you?"
"Yeah, a couple double dogs and a large soda." Rose stopped with a jolt and looked over Ben's shoulder. Ben chanced a glance as well. Grim stood at the window waiting for his order.
"Grim!" Rose stamped her foot. "What are you doing? This isn't the plan."
Grim looked them over and shrugged. "Your plan was lame and I got hungry."
"I'll deal with you later. And you're not getting any credit for this." She turned back to Ben. "Okay, so no backup plan. I'll just have to make sure this works."
Ben tensed for an attack that never came. Just as Rose was about to rush him, a scream stopped everything. He turned to see Lacey frozen in place. Beyond her, shambling out of the darkness was a gaunt figure with pale, greenish skin, and black, soulless eyes. The first thing Ben thought was "zombie," but that was impossible...then he remembered his own situation and it got a lot more possible.
The zombified Robert groaned, his mouth full of gray gums and rotting teeth. He lurched toward Lacey with his arms outstretched. She couldn't move, but at least she had Chad to protect...Chad was suddenly nowhere to be seen.
"Is that a...a…" The word would not escape Rose's lips.
Grim, now at her side, finished it for her. "Zombie." The thing crept ever closer to Lacey. Everyone around them stared in shock. "What do we do?"
"I-I-I…" Rose stammered.
Ben rolled his eyes. "You have no problem coming at a werewolf." He clenched his eyes and flexed all his muscles, willing himself to transform. "But you draw the line at the undead?" It only took a moment and he was in full beast mode. Luckily, the newest monster in town provided excellent cover for his secret.
The zombie was only a few steps from Lacey. He reached out to grab her when Ben leaped over her, landing a kick straight to Robert's rotting face. The zombie stumbled back and fell to the ground. Ben kept up the attack with a kick to the ribs and a blow to the monster's putrid face.
Rose had finally come to her senses and rushed forward to pull Lacey back. "Looks like I get to save your life again." Lacey was still in too much shock to respond, allowing herself be pulled away without any struggle.
Ben glanced back to make sure she was safe, giving Rob the opening he needed. With surprising speed and strength, Rob jabbed Ben in the stomach then stood and let into him with a haymaker.
Ben stumbled, but kept his feet. Rob was reaching for him, his rotting fingers like claws. Ben kicked him and swung his arm, hitting him with the back of his fist.
Rob answered with a thunderous headbutt that made Ben go cross-eyed for a second. He shook it off a split second before the zombie could bite at his throat and clocked him with an uppercut that sent him stumbling back. He slashed him with his claws, ripping thin strips of flesh from his chest, but that didn't seem to affect the undead monstrosity. Fists and feet seemed to work much better. The zombie was faster and stronger than Ben would have thought possible, but when met with a flurry of blows, he couldn't get any hits in. A well placed chop to the back of the neck sent Robert back down to the ground.
"Ready to stay down, dead dude?" Ben growled. Rob the Zombie only answered with a groan.
The wail of police sirens started to grow in the distance. "Cops?" Ben said to himself. "My time to go." Everyone else was gone, so he didn't feel guilty making a quick exit.
It wasn't until he'd walked through his front door that he realized his bag of chili dogs was still laying on the ground back at Hot Diggity Dawg's.
Once again, the school was abuzz with Lacey's latest brush with danger. This time her attacker had been a mentally unstable homeless man and not the truth of a zombie. Chad had made sure he caught up with her before school to try to explain his actions so she wouldn't spread the word of his cowardice. She had agreed not to talk about it, but avoided any other interactions with him.
Everyone that had been there last night had a variation on the story and each one gathered flocks of people to them to hear their side.
"It was a werewolf!"
"It was just a big dog."
"It attacked this sick, homeless guy."
"It saved Lacey."
"That creep was trying to kidnap her."
Ben avoided everyone as best he could and silently prayed no one knew he had even been there. The fact that no one seemed to notice him in all the excitement told him he should be safe.
Well, almost safe. "Let them talk. We know exactly what happened last night." Rose snuck up behind Ben while he was busy searching in his locker.
Ben slammed the locker shut and quickly looked around for an exit from this confrontation. Rose raised her hands in a show of surrender. "You're fine. I'm not here to do anything to you."
"Is this some sort of trick? Fool me into putting down my guard?"
"No, it's nothing like that. After last night I took a step back from everything and now I see things differently."
"You mean you came to some sort of sense and reason?"
"Something like that. I mean, you haven't done anything to hurt anyone. In fact, the only thing I've witnessed you use your...ability for is to help people."
"Wow, like I'm a normal, decent human being."
"Exactly!" Rose was evidently immune to sarcasm. "Plus, your mere existence is a miracle of nature and it would be a horrible disservice to deny research into your condition."
"From a werewolf to a guinea pig." He turned back and closed his locker. "I appreciate your not trying to kill me anymore, but I'm not a lab experiment."
"No, I know. That came out wrong. I'm not going to go all mad scientist on you or anything." Although, the thought had crossed her mind. "I'm just saying, we're cool." She extended her hand out to him.
He stared at it for a moment, wondering if she was telling the truth. With a little hesitation he took her hand and shook it.
"You're still not fooling me." They both turned to see Grim, his hands on his hips. Around his neck, he wore a rope of garlic bulbs, reeking to high heaven. Everyone around them was plugging their nose and giving him looks of disdain. "I won't let you get close enough to me to even try anything."
"Um…" Ben raised an eyebrow. "Isn't garlic to keep away vampires?"
Grim's face fell. He huffed a deep breath and turned away. "I hate you guys."