Mountain Trail

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“Are we almost there yet?”

The rough shadows took a moment to converse, silent in their furious mimic, perfectly following the wild gestures of their physical companions. It was a near-perfect autumnal Thursday on the side of the mountain. The only deterrent to go outside would be the volatile grousing of the woman.

“We’ve been walking all day. I’m exhausted. We should’ve gone to the public rest stop like I wanted.”

Her figure said Embrace me; her face said Try it and die. Her mouth said more than enough to believe her. She was a striking auburn-haired lady, hips that moved to a symphony, and a henpecked manservant who once agreed to live together, even getting her a gemstone to commemorate a once-considered happy occasion.

“My back hurts. Did you bring enough bullets? Wipe that look of nostalgia off your face.”

He needed her to shut up. Cowering worked well, but it was his wife’s birthday. He wanted to bring her out of it, like every year. Yet for the past five years, he failed again and more. Once, he had been a young man of sixteen, but her nagging lips (which had brought him to fall for her) aged him prematurely. His once flowing brown hair turned ashen, his eyes no longer sparkled with buoyancy, the smoothest skin in high school looked even worse than Jeremy Finklemeyer on picture day.

“There’s only six bullets in here. What more could I expect of you?”

Worst above his other grievances, no one would believe him when he said he was only twenty-five. If he were to be reborn (and he prayed he wouldn’t), he hoped he’d remember to never marry his high school sweetheart.

“You need to do it. My eyes hurt too much.”

“Yes’m.”

She pulled out a soothing lotion and rubbed it on her feisty yet milk-kissed arms.

“Augh. I’m beat.”

She brushed aside her hair and pressed more lotion into her skin. She opened her mouth; rather, she finally closed her mouth and immediately opened it, only for nothing to escape.

“What?”

“What what?”

“You wanted to say something?”

“Oh, it’s nothing.”

It had to be something. She was loud (though never a screamer) and honest and never one to shut up. This was a breakthrough. A kind emotion might be hiding. He couldn’t press her, lest she bottle it up entirely.

“If you say so. At any rate, we should reach its campground in an hour or so. Then I can shoot it for you.”

“It what?”

She was seriously asking? Was she being coy? No, flirtatiousness and facetiousness were far behind her. They’ve been doing this for five years. Did she somehow forget mid-trek?

“You know… it?”

“Just say werewolf. Seriously, there’s no need to use pronouns. It’s just us.”

He felt dumb but relieved. Yet also enthusiastic. Her harsh and hoarse voice wavered a little when she said “werewolf.” He would wait for further developments.

“Yes, the werewolf. I’ll shoot it, cook it, and, well…”

“DON’T EVEN SAY IT.”

Her voice reached too high a decibel and rebelled on itself. He stuck a green bottle in her mouth. She calmed down, allowing him to press it against her lips for three minutes. When the bottle was emptied, she shoved him off. She shook and wobbled and cleared her throat. Cold tears streamed down her face.

“Don’t you say it. Every time we try this, you say it and I get my hopes up. Let’s just go and never say it.”

“It what?”

He was oddly defiant towards her tonight. Perhaps the annual journey gave him resolve.

“That… I can be cured of it.”

That was enough for him. He couldn’t consider hurting himself by asking her “It what?” again.

“Okay. We’ll find out sooner if we head out now.”

He was almost positive that she’d never return to how he remembered her. It hurt to remember her, but it was worse to forget.

“Don’t forget to turn the safety off this time.”

She was his Biology teacher when he was a sophomore.

“I’ll get it, I’ll get it.”

His friends said that she wasn’t calling him out in class because she wanted him; he was just stupid.

“You did manage to forget two years already, so let’s not make it three.”

When she held him after school one night, he never trusted his friends’ judgement again.

“You know, it’s a nice night out. Full moon. Your birthday.”

Everyone disapproved.

“No.”

His family shut him out.

“Just checking.”

The school fired her.

“You knew it was no.”

The legal system imprisoned her, but she was eventually on the street again with a ring on her finger and a husband in her pants.

“Sue me for asking.”

She tried giving him a nasty glare, but she started wobbling again. He forgot the woman he loved again. He bent over his wife and picked her up.

“Do we have anything left to drink?”

“It’s all gone. I’m sorry.”

She coughed bitterly. He wept like a boy.

“This curse ruined your life. I’m, I’m sorry.”

Her voice rumbled within.

“It’s my fault. I should have let you live a normal high school life, not force you from your ways because I wanted you.”

At that, her body went limp. Her pale fingers twitched slightly, the rust-colored liquid working its way back up and falling from her mouth.

Everything went silent. Then everything in the trees made a cacophonous turmoil. The skirmish of the animals left two people and one creature the only remaining members of the mountain trail.

Still in an uncontrollable fit of loss, he laid her across their gear. He reached his gun and aimed at the werewolf. The darkness didn’t bother his eyesight. He could make out a hairy figure, hunched over and about to die for the woman he still loved.

He pulled the trigger.

The safety was on.

Collapsing onto his knees, he prostrated himself in defeat, nothing new but the sense of regret lingering in his heart.

“Tommy? Tommy Cleavers? What are you doing up here, man?”

Tommy stood up to face the werewolf, oddly taking the form of a man. It hit him.

“Jeremy Finklemeyer? What… why…”

“I live here, man! Also, I go by ‘Jerry’ now. Like, I’ve been hiding here ever since I got turned into a werewolf.”

Jerry had clearer skin than Tommy recalled, but it was buried under mounds of body hair. He was rounder and taller and smelled better than ever, despite living in the wild and technically smelling horrible.

“Who’s she?”

Tommy turned around.

“My wife. She… look, we’ve been trying to get a cure for her curse, and we read on the internet…”

Jerry smirked.

“Let me guess. Werewolf blood, huh? Like, I get it. Some couple’s been trying to kill me for four years to save the woman.”

“Six years, Jeremy.”

The half-conscious croak made Tommy clutch his chest, then look at Jerry, then curl into a fetal position.

“Nah, get up. I said I get it. Like, hold on. Is she… Miss Eden? That’s our bio teach, Gertrude Eden? WOW. Like, no, congrats, but wow.”

“Hello Jeremy. I expected more in this report than cheesy fingerprints.”

“Well, maybe I can get an extension? You know, like the one Tommy got from you in his pants?”

“This was the final…”

“Excuse me, can we not do this now?”

Jerry looked up at the moon.

“Yeah, no problem. Good thing you got the wrong day. The moon is still Waxing Gibbous. Pick up Gertie and follow me.”

After a few minutes, they reached a cabin with a sign blaring “WEREWOLF BLOOD” in red letters.

“Not keen on the name, man, but it brings them here. See, when I got hunted by people like you, looking for a cure, I realized I could help them. I researched various cures and this year I finally feel ready to open shop. So what’s the curse?”

Jerry looked her up and down.

“Pale skin. A muddy-looking drink you need. Youthful features. Haggard partner. You have something on your skin. Lotion? Also, you’re crankier than I recall. I’m guessing you were bitten by something beginning with a V…”

“It’s not vampires.”

“What? Of course not, man. They don’t exist. I was going to say, like, vegan.”

Tommy nodded. Gertrude remained nonfunctional.

“People mistake the two a lot, so it’s cool you get it. When a vegan gets too hungry, they’ll bite a human because they won’t hurt animals. That drink has to be a protein drink, right? And the lotion is just her pale, meat-deprived skin acting up. But what’s with you?”

“Stress.”

“Well, like, werewolf meat works, but so does gorilla meat, whale meat, I do have shark meat. Anything with strong meat.”

“I’ll take the shark brain for 400, Jeremy.”

“I’m doing this for free, Miss Eden.”

“I think she’s doing a bit.”

“Ah. Eat up.”

“Thanks, Jeremy. And that’s Mrs. Cleavers to you.”

——————————

Tommy was overjoyed. His wife has bright tanned skin again, her voice cleared up, and her heart found him once more.

“Tommy, thank you for sticking with me. I think I would’ve shriveled up if you weren’t with me.”

Looking at the mirror, Tommy saw his features brightening up. In a few days, he figured he’s be hot again.

“Well, you know, I love you, so I stayed. And Jerry, how can we repay you?”

Jerry leered at a visibly annoyed Gertrude.

“I want you to fix my grade. When you got fired, the perma-sub teach hated me and I flunked. It still bugs me, y’know?”

Gertrude smacked the wall.

“Not only do I not have the authority to do that or the permission to be within thirty feet of the school, but I can’t believe you didn’t even ask to do things to me!”

“Ask your husband to do that, man! I have a lover already!”

Jerry pet a raccoon.

Gertrude looked down at her hiking boots.

“We have a lot of lost time to make up, Thomas.”

Tommy smiled.

“Yeah… a lot. Since you’ve been distant, I’ve been looking up videos of–”

Jerry and the raccoon howled, but for different reasons.

“Okay, nice catching up, guys! See about that grade, Gert!”

As the couple walked off the trail, they heard the shrieking sounds of questionable love.

“I didn’t mean just our love-making, you know. I think I’m ready for you to meet my parents. I want to see yours too.”

Tommy imitated the raccoon.

“Gertrude, it’s been almost a decade. We can’t go see them now!”

“That’s exactly why. I don’t want any regrets if something were to happen to you.”

Tommy giggled to himself, then burst out laughing, followed by Gertrude laughing heartily, the two of them going to the roads of the future.

“By the way, what did you want to ask me earlier right before we were talking about the werewolf?”

“Oh, that? I wanted to know if you had any tampons. Then I realized it was a dumb question.”

“Oh. Okay then.”

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