It took all of Ben’s resolve to stop from rushing to the grill and eating right off the rack. He was fidgeting so wildly, he accidentally ripped a big chunk of skin off of his left shoulder. The physical pain gave a mild mental reprieve.
“What’s happening to me?” Ben pleaded as Jed brought the cooked meat over with some roasted potatoes on two plates.
“You’ve heard all the myths, the folk stories, heck you’ve even seen the Hollywood movies I’m sure… you know, Werewolves, Lycanthropes, shape-shifters and whatnot. Well every legend has to start somewhere” Jed explained as he sat down and then quickly blessed himself.
“So you’re saying I’m some kind of werewolf? That’s ridiculous!” Ben interjected angrily and pounded both hands down on the table in frustration.
“Ridiculous? You moron. That grizzly darn near ripped yer entire face off. You were shot and beaten to a pulp and yet you don’t have a single mark on you to show for it. You chased down and killed a full-grown buck with yer bare hands and ate over a hundred pounds of meat on two consecutive nights. You can run, jump and move a hundred times faster than you could a week ago, or did you forget you were a superhero? I suppose that’s all fairly normal for you city-folk right?” Jed shook his head in disappointment and then with a sigh, tried to speak more sympathetically.
“Young fellers these days… No I’m not saying you’re some kind of magical Hollywood beast. Well, not the way you see on T.V. anyway. Truth is, I don’t rightly know what it is, I just call it the curse” Jed paused to cut up a piece of meat and gulp it down while Ben waited patiently for him to continue. “Most people, probably ninety percent but maybe more, just die from it. Start foaming at the mouth, convulsing. Darn right disgusting way to die” Jed shook his head.
“And the others?” Ben asked. It was nearly impossible to stay calm. He felt like he had an entire colony of termites burrowing into his brain.
“Well, those ones, they end up slowly losing themselves. They become feral. Lose their minds. Day after day of changing forms, constantly needing to hunt and feed. They lose their humanity, become more beast than man. Eventually they just change and never change back” Jed explained as he chewed the tender meat. He had spoken in between bites at first but decided to forgo the manners on account of Ben’s impatience.
Ben just sat quietly staring at the meat on his plate. He could feel the truth in Jed’s story. Each night he lost himself. He could feel himself fading along with his conscience and his desire for a more civilized life. He wanted to devour the meal and then bolt out into the wild and start a hunt. His instincts yearned to just run free.
“There has to be something…” Ben started his thought and then stopped as a feeling of being truly defeated swept over him.
“There is the odd one. Every once in a while…” Jed glared at Ben. “One that manages to keep control; to change at will, to defy the hunger and fight back the rage”. Ben began to perk up as Jed spoke. “But that’s one in a million at best. I’ve only seen it twice in all my years. And it’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s gibberish when it comes to this stuff. It’s all trial and error…” Jed mumbled as his thoughts tapered off.
“What can I do?” Ben asked but didn’t get an answer. “Come on… Jed, you have to help me, please!”
After locking eyes and staring for a moment Jed shook his head and picked up the plates. “Even if I wanted to help, I ain’t promising nothing. You’re just as likely to try an’ eat me in the middle of the night… Alright I’ll help. But not for free. You’re going to have to do some work around here. Fix up the back. Hunt some food. I’m getting too old to take care of this place by myself. Getting too old to worry about being eaten too. If I’m going to help you, you listen to every single word, follow every single order without question, got it?”