Night Moves by Robert Pope

When I first realized what had happened, I was terrified. I felt strange and out of place. What would my friends and family say, if they knew? I mean, I was still in high school. Slowly, I began to enjoy the added strength I experienced, even the bulk through the chest and shoulders. I had a newfound confidence in my physical abilities, and this extended to the mental arena as well. I just felt better about myself, knowing what I could do. I felt less judgement from others—including my Pops, who used to take the belt to me. When I started crawling out my window on a full moon, I guess what I’m saying, it made me feel free.

It took me a few months before I relaxed enough to walk down the sidewalk at night or cross the street in my altered form, but I began to feel proud of my body. I didn’t care who saw me, and sometimes I wanted to be seen, even or especially if I scared people I passed. I didn’t have to growl or feint toward people with my fingers clawed to scare them either. They saw me, they flinched, or crossed to the other side of the street, and I enjoyed that. I could feel them shivering. I could hear my muscles singing, the blood coursing through my veins

If I said something simple, like, “Hey, now,” even very quietly, which had no effect once upon a time, people jumped out of their skins. I once said, “Hey there, baby,” to a woman, and she took off running, which gave me a real, genuine laugh. I actually had to stop and slap my knees. I had no intention of chasing her down, though I could have, easily, but she showed she was scared enough not to think rationally. I mean, a guy that looked like me could obviously grab her on the street and carry her off over my shoulder any time I wanted.

But I hadn’t done anything like that. Not yet! I was so young then. I guess you could say that I gained a lot going weir. I didn’t always like it, as I’ve sort of indicated before. I mean, when that thing saw me on my bicycle, heading home from a few hours of playing Dragon Bait in my friend Henry’s basement, I knew I had found the kind of trouble you don’t come back from, not easily. I thought, this is going to mean a few years of rehab. And I was not far from wrong about the trouble. This woman—it was a woman who bit me—came after me so fast I couldn’t think of changing gears, just pedaled like crazy.

Bang, I was on the ground, her face shoved in my shoulder and my neck. She had a huge head, and just one or the other could not accommodate her. I can’t tell you what it felt like when she sank her teeth and nails in me. I screamed so loud I couldn’t think straight, and then she flipped me and bit my right butt cheek so hard I peed myself, like immediately. I still have the bite marks. She rolled me over a few times, but I couldn’t see clearly because I lost my glasses in the initial attack. At the time, I thought she was playing with me. Now, I know she was.

There must have been something she liked about me even then because I heard her laughing in among her roars, and I knew she liked scaring me as badly as she did. I was like a pebble tossed in a huge ocean wave or something, and this woman-creature laughing and growling and spinning me. She took special pleasure in twisting and mangling my bike. I had this idiotic thought it would take me an hour to get home now, without my bike, but only because the pain hadn’t sunk in yet. I hadn’t had time to feel it until she loped off on all fours, then went to her legs, and I could still hear her laughter.

I know now she was a relatively new weir—she got off too much on her powers. You take an older weir, especially an Old One, the real thing, they don’t enjoy it the way she did. I understand how she felt, because though it took me a little while to feel good about it, I did, and still do, as a matter of fact. There is something awesome about taking a chomp out of someone so scared they wet their pants or worse. I mean, it’s hilarious. You have to experience it to appreciate it. At first, I was a bit squeamish, because I felt bad hurting someone I didn’t even know, but you start realizing that when you have seen one human being you have seen them all. It’s like a species change.

Some of the shoulder growth became permanent, and I have to believe I am several inches taller than before. I needed an all-new wardrobe. My Mom went with me when she saw I had gotten a late growth spurt—I was a junior in high school at the time. I used to dress in jeans, pullover shirt, and tennis shoes, but now I favored shiny shirts where I could leave a top button or two open. I got two pairs of leather pants, and one thing I noticed right away is that girls took a look at me now, some because I frightened them, some because they liked what they saw.

My long-term goal was to own a Harley, but at this early stage, I was digging on the speed of my legs, the ground I covered just walking. My stride was longer. The real change came the day I saw that weir that bit me, the last day of my human life. Don’t ask me how I recognized her, but I did, and was she glad to see me? She was a black-haired beauty with big dark eyes, and she had to be five or ten years older than me. “You are coming along nicely,” she said.

“And you,” I said, “are one foxy lady.” She threw back her head and laughed, and I could see her throat muscles working. I blew off school and went down to the river with her. By nightfall, once the moon came out, I had said a fond farewell to my virginity.

School and I parted ways. I never went back and no one complained. My mother worried, but she seemed relieved when I moved out of the house and into Vanessa’s basement apartment, which had padding everywhere, where we could flop when tired, play when required. We never went to the grocery store, like normal folks. We liked a balance of what we called fast food and slow food, by which we meant how long we took to eat it. If we got hangry, we’d go for fast food, or what we liked to call take-out, by which we meant something snatched off the street and brought in. Slow food was more fun, though we gauged this by our mood. We gauged everything by our mood.

Once I saw this young nerd on a bicycle, like me at one time, and we took our time. She liked the mangling of the bicycle, to terrify him if nothing else, and while she worked, I held him by the back of his shirt as he pumped his legs trying to run away. This caught her eye and distracted her so much she fell on the ground, pounding the earth with her fists and howling with laughter. Since I had him by the shirt, she took his ankles, and I slipped him down so I had his wrists, and we swung him like a jump rope, laughing ourselves sick. She had this inspiration to take off his pants, which was difficult for her in the state she was in, working his belt and all and laughing, and then we let him go, just to watch him run like that.

We got ourselves in such a hysterical state we worked up an appetite. By morning, we were home and groaning, our bellies distended, and a pile of bones in the middle of the living room! Good times. But I think we both knew this couldn’t go on forever. You see, neither of us had ever been one of the Old Ones, and we just couldn’t keep it up.

The weir started wearing off after a couple of years. We could see it happening. We enjoyed a few more wonderful nights together before we started going back to who and what we had been. My shoulders dwindled, and I lamented to see I had a little pot belly. She had gone to flab, not a lot, just by comparison, and we looked puny. Our clothes hung off us, and we had to invest in new get-ups, something suitable for the workplace once we had to eat the same way as everyone else.

But, you know, it all works out. We’ve been together over a decade now, and we still care for each other. We reminisce about the old times, when we could scare the piss out of anyone we met. We both decided it was time to get on now, so I passed the G.E.D. for the high school equivalency. She finished college and became a nurse. We took up a workout regimen, to stay in shape. It hurts too much to go to seed once you’ve gone weir.

But I swear, if either of us saw a weir again—which we haven’t, not for years—be it a new or Old One, we would love to be bitten all over again just to feel the rush, to hear the blood coursing our veins, to howl at the moon like it belonged to us. What I wouldn’t give to feel that once again, and she’s the same on that score. Though, I do have to admit we are doing all right for ourselves. We have a little house, and Mandy is preggers now, and we’re happy, by human standards.

It’s just that sometimes, when the moon is full, we can’t help but dream we are back where we were, two crazy kids who had the world by the tail, and the tail in our teeth.

Robert Pope has published a novel, Jack’s Universe, as well two collections of stories, Private Acts and Killers & Others (2020) and a chapbook of flash fiction, Shutterbug. He has also published stories in journals, including The Kenyon Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, and Fiction International, and anthologies, including Pushcart Prize and Dark Lane Anthology.

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