Ghosts of the Barbershop

Ghosts of the Barbershop

“Your wife?

“Yup.”

“And you’re a barber?”

“You know it.”

“Sometimes I wonder. Your wife, and you’re a barber…”

“I cut men’s hair, not… okay, I’m not good with men’s long hair either.”

“So when she saw it, what happened?”

“She divorced me. After six months, no less.”

“It is less, man. If it were, maybe two years…”

“Well I don’t really blame her. She looked like an Asian pop star when I got done with her locks. The nutty kind, not the classy kind.”

“They’re all nutty in Asia, man.”

“Well…” Alex paused.

“What, man?”

“She’s the reason I haven’t passed on yet. I just want to cut a woman’s hair right, once. I know I could do it.”

Kurt levitated a pair of scissors. “Like I don’t know that? I want to cut anyone’s hair using only scissors, but I’m a freakin’ razor guy. It ain’t gonna happen. No one’s been down here since they carted away our bodies in ’11.”

The barbershop was underground, but the only sign of damage to the place was the large block of ceiling that crushed the pair of barbers. Kurt lamented not tipping the contractor.

“We’ve been cutting hair since the mid-2000’s, right?”

“Yeah, man.”

“Who cut the long-haired customers’ hair?”

“Uh… Tony.”

“Oh yeah, good ol’ Tony. He was out with mumps that day.”

“Lucky sunnuva…”

Rattling came from the outside. Someone was tampering with the locks.

“KURT.”

“ALEX.”

A high-pitched voice echoed in the stairwell. “Okay, we’re in the Barbershop of the Damned. Remember, breaking and entering into abandoned places is illegal, but fun.”

This was it. A woman for Alex to practice on. Or for Kurt to use scissors on.

“And here’s where Alex Monty and Kurt Segar died. Remember, if you post it on your YouTube show, it’s not illegal.”

“It is, though.”

The woman spun around. Nothing. “Who said that? Get out here!”

The barbers materialized in front of the YouTuber. “Hello,” said Alex. “Can we cut your hair?”

“What, are you trying to scare me? I’ve seen ghosts before.”

“Man–er, ma’am, we need to move on. Can we cut your hair?”

“Are you… Alex Monty and Kurt Segar?”

Alex chuckled. “Guilty as charged. Look, sorry to bother you, uh…”

“Liz.”

“Miss Liz. Can you take off the hat and sit in the chair? One of us would like to practice on you.”

Liz turned her phone off. “I don’t think…”

“No need to think,” said Kurt. “Just choose who’s hotter,” he pointed at himself, “and let them play with your hair.”

Liz hesitated as she took off her hat to reveal…

“You’re bald.”

“Yeah, no, I have cancer and chemo. Sorry to disappoint you.”

“No,” said Alex. “We’re sorry to have imposed on you.”

“What about a wig?” asked Kurt.

“I think they’re itchy and represent a patriarchal concept of women needing to be beautiful. Mostly itchy.”

“No, ma’am. I mean would you be willing to wear a wig and we cut that? We don’t have a wig head, so we couldn’t cut them right, but we do have wigs in the back room.”

Liz rolled her tongue. “Fine. But I want the cute one to do it first. Alex.”

Alex pumped his fist, or the spectral version of it. He picked up a brunette wig that went down to Liz’s shoulders. He picked up the scissors and went to work. After a half-hour, Alex was finished with his masterpiece.

“Is this me?” asked Liz.

“Yeah.”

“It looks great.”

Alex faded away with a big smile on his face.

Kurt stroked his astral beard. “Looks like he’s a real barber.”

“Next. Your turn, scissors guy.”

“No thanks. I actually don’t care that I suck with scissors.”

“Then you must have another reason for still being here…”

Kurt thought. “Oh yeah. The Nintendo Wii U came out after I died. Was it a success?”

Liz forced back a laugh. “N-no. Not even a little.”

“Good.” And then he vanished.

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Call Us Javelin F

Call Us Javelin F

“Stop. That’s the worst piece of crap I’ve ever bled out of my ears to.”

Javelin F wasn’t having much luck auditioning lately, and the Battle of the Bands was about to reject them.

“You guys need more female representation,” said Ida, the singer.

“Just chill out a little, alright judges?” muttered Lisa, the guitarist.

“I can play music on my nose,” giggled Katya, the keyboardist.

“Or I can punch you with ol’ Grinder,” threatened Gina, the drummer.

“Zis is not mine idea uff fun,” moped Svenja, the violinist.

Did you catch all the details of Javelin F’s band members? Good. Let’s proceed.

“We have nine all-female bands,” said a female judge.

“Like, we are chill,” muttered a hippie judge.

“Nix on the nose, madam,” giggled a hipster judge.

“Punch me and I’ll SUE you with ol’ Sue!” threatened an angry judge.

“What kind of name is Javelin F anyway?” asked a nondescript judge.

Javelin F thought for a minute.

“Like, what does the F stand for?”

“Feminism,” said Ida.

“Freedom,” said Lisa.

“Feeeeeeeeeeeeet,” moaned Katya.

“Fists? Flailing? Fire? Freak-out?” pondered Gina.

“Frankfurt,” whispered Svenja.

The bassist who founded the band named it “Javelin Fart,” but the original drummer threatened to quit if it wasn’t changed. She, along with the bassist, left the band around the time Ida and Katya joined.

“Sorry, but you’re just no good,” said the female judge. “You downright suck, actually.”

In the van, the women of Javelin F continued to squabble from where they left off.

“I told you we needed a new bassist.” Gina was right, a new bass guitar player would balance their sound out. It was the only thing they all agreed on.

“I think I said that,” mused Lisa.

“No, I did, and that we need more plush giraffes!” burst out Katya.

“You vomen vill be ze death uff me,” bemoaned Svenja.

Ida screeched. “That’s enough! This is why we suck, because we lack unity!”

The van fell silent and grew purple. The vibrations from the van rocked larger than usual.

“Um… gals?” Katya’s tone became uncharacteristically normal that everyone turned to look at her. “We’re not on Earth anymore.”

Ida laughed nervously. “Oh my nonexistent but totally female Goddess. It has to be Earth, Katya! Sweetie, you’re dreaming.”

“If she’s dreaming, zen I am dreaming as vell.”

“I don’t think this is a dream.”

“Where the hell is this craphole?”

As the band leader, Ida felt the need to calm everyone down. “Javelin F, stay in the van and we’ll get home soon. This purple mass of space-time can’t hurt us if we–”

“Toke up?”

“Put on a pine cone puppet show?”

“Punch the space-time?”

“Go back to Deutschland?”

“Remain. Calm.” Ida was feeling very uncalm.

The van disintegrated around the five women.

“Can we panic now?” Katya asked oddly lucidly.

“Do you have pine cone puppets?”

“No. I was bluffing.”

“Then yes, it’s panic time.”

Javelin F started to scream and scream, annoying the purple field behind them.

“Excuse me. Are you Javelin F?”

They stopped screaming.

“Who wants to know?” asked Gina.

“I’m a purple field from the land of suns. I need your help. I’ve been terrorized by a toxic water monster for the past ten years. See, I summoned you girls here.”

“Girls?” groused Ida. “Women.”

“How can we help?” asked Lisa.

“See, there’s the rub. I– Oh, GOD!”

A scaly monster dripping with toxic sweat rushed out of the bushes.

“Take this!!” yelled the monster, plucking the field harshly.

“What do we dooooo?” wailed Katya. “You think the field is made of hallucinogenic plants?”

“Only one way to find out,” grinned Lisa.

“Toking up won’t help,” said Ida.

“Then vhat vill?”

Katya pummeled her keyboard in frustration. Gina kicked her drums in the same respect. The monster kneeled and clutched its ears.

“That’s it!” realized Ida. “Or music sucks so bad that it frightens the monster!”

“Hooray for us,” the other four said in monotone.

The members of Javelin F pulled out their instruments and started to play like garbage. The monster flopped over to the ground and begged for mercy.

“Please, ladies… I am not able to withstand your terrible music. I beg for mercy.”

“Well…” Ida twirled her hair. “Hey. Are you female?”

“I happen to be, yes.”

“Can you play bass guitar?”

“Do you have one?”

Ida tossed her a bass guitar.

“Name’s Lxcu. I’m just trying to get some medicinal herbs for my father.”

“Is that all?” Javelin F glared at the field.

“You could have asked,” said the field. “Take some of me, please. Then never return.”

Lxcu pulled at the strings and made it sing. The band had its bassist.

After they healed Lxcu’s father, the field sent the six women to Earth.

Problem was, they sucked really badly. They failed a second audition for the Battle of the Bands because even though each woman was skilled in her instrument, together, they were discordant.

The sextet gave up playing music professionally and became gardeners instead, eventually becoming CEOs of their own vegetable company. Lisa sold certain plants on the side, while Katya sold the pine cones she found.

But even after all of their misadventures, they still played music together in a private room underground, where only they could enjoy the terrible musical styling of Javelin F.

The Woman Who Wouldn’t Laugh At Death

The Woman Who Wouldn't Laugh At Death

“Debbie, you have to see this episode of Family Guy. It’s a murder-mystery!”

Debbie frowned at her father, which was par for the course with everyone. “I hate Family Guy. They treat death like a joke.”

Her father was living with her since his heart attack and the death of her mother. All he watched were crass comedies where people died a lot.

“Then I suppose you don’t want to watch A Million Ways To Die In The West,” he asked.

She slammed her door and locked it.

“Why do dumb boys like Daddy insist that death-humor is funny?” She screamed at the top of her lungs. “IT’S NOT FUNNY! IT’S NEVER BEEN FUNNY!”

A swirling black cloud manifested in her shoe closet. Red light poured from the walls.

“Hello, I’m Death. I want you to come with me.”

Debbie shook her head wildly, her hair flying every which way.

“Never! I’m never going to go with you!” she shrieked.

“Jesus Christ, dial it back a little, you snip.”

He touched her floor and they transported to a palace with checkerboard flooring.

“Nice floor, right? Jesus is my carpenter. Handy guy, even with the holes in his hands.”

She had to admit, it was gorgeous.

“It’s okay, I guess.

“You love it, Deborah. I need your help.”

“Me? Why would I help you?”

“I’m Death. I can kill you early.”

She thought for a minute. “Let’s strike a deal.”

Death grinned. “Ooh, ambitious! What is it?”

She took a deep breath. “I want to know how I die.”

Death laughed. “That’s all? Sure! I thought you’d ask me to make a meeting between you and your mother!”

Crap. She should have held out for more.

“I want to make you laugh, Debbie.”

Debbie clutched her belly.

“NO tickling! I’m super ticklish and I will break your jaw!”

“No, no. This is laughter of the verbal variety. We’re roasting God and I want to top Satan’s jokes.”

So God was real. Debbie was still not going to be religious.

“Okay, I’ll do it.”

“Wonderful! Take a seat!”

A seat manifested out of thin air. Debbie slowly lowered herself onto it.

Death pulled up a microphone. He opened his mouth and…

“So I was talking to God and Germany fell out of his mouth!”

No response.

“Hey,” asked Debbie. “Why me?”

“Um… you’re kind of a stick-in-the-ass about death humor. If I can make you laugh, I can definitely make God laugh.”

“I thought God laughs at man’s plans.”

“He laughs at a lot of situations. But I think if you found one of my jokes funny, He would too.”

“Okay. Try me.”

Death breathed a sigh of relief. “Okay… God loves the religious. But he really loves cotton candy!”

No response.

“Dog is God backwards. But Cat is Tac backwards!”

Debbie bit her lip in anger.

“Two terrorists walk into a bar…”

“STOP!”

Death sat on the floor. “Forget it. I can’t make you laugh.”

Debbie stood up. “You still have to tell me what my death is.”

“Right. So you die in the forest from heat stroke.”

The corners of Debbie’s mouth turned up. She giggled. She laughed heartily.

“I, I hate the forest! I’d never set foot in one! Ha ha ha ha ha!”

Death beamed. “Did it! God’s gonna love the Cat-Tac bit!”

Debbie woke up in her room, a little more light-hearted.

“Dad, wanna watch The Truman Show?”

Two years later, Debbie was running from the police on the grounds of illegal drug use. She spotted the forest nearby. She hid there, but the police spotted her footprints. This was not where she died.

Four years later, sober for three years, Debbie walked into the same forest where she had hid from the police. She still disliked forests, but she hoped to find a locket that she dropped that her mother left her years prior. She found it in thirteen hours, where she promptly collapsed. She was revived by a park ranger. This was also not where she died.

Nine years later, Debbie woke up in the forest, stiff and sweating like crazy. She couldn’t lift herself from the earth, nor could she figure out how she got there. After all, she stayed away from forests.

Death loomed overhead. “I told you this is how you’d die, and I made it so. Sorry. On the bright side, God cracked up at my jokes. Made Satan look the fool.”

Debbie frowned. “Not… funny.”

Death guffawed. “Oh, and there’s no Heaven.”

Her eyes bulged.

“Just kidding! You’ll see your parents soon.”

Debbie’s voice faded. “Not… funny… at… all…”

Sourswirls

Sourswirls

The land of Sourswirls was no longer the rich, lush community it had once been. Since the hydra came, the people lived in fear and many starved. The beast ate many crops and just as many inhabitants. The stocks were down and many feared the worst.

Once, the hydra wanted a child sacrifice. When the people presented a watermelon dressed in children’s clothing, she whipped all the children in town with her massive tail, scarring them for life. She ate two of them, as the other five heads weren’t hungry.

The community rallied for a hero, so they sent a letter for one to the Knight’s Guild in Quireton. The knight the Guild chose was Orrick the Ready, who was ready to have his first battle with a serpent. The Guild corrected him, saying a hydra is a hydra, not a serpent, but Orrick just rolled his eyes. “Still ready to fight this creature,” he muttered.

He rode for six hours on the back of an ostrich, until he parked it over at The Ole Ales, a favorite of Orrick’s. Six more hours and he was ready to leave. The ostrich started to flail wildly.

“Sire, this isn’t even the right way to Sourswirls. Must we make this detour each time?”

Orrick laughed heartily. “Trust me, a good ale is what ails me!”

“Ails means it troubles you. Does the drink trouble you?”

“Shut up, steed. Just ride me to Sourswirls.”

The ostrich sighed. “We’ve lost 12 hours and we went in the opposing direction. Get it together, sire.”

“Mmm.”

They rode back and came upon a cliff.

“Okay, steed. FLY!”

“I can’t fly.”

“Just flap those wings.”

“I can’t fly.”

“Run back and–”

“I can’t fly!”

They waited for an idea to form.

“I’m climbing down. Toss down my armor.”

“Sire! It’ll get damaged like that!”

“Do you have a better idea?!” he snapped.

“No, sire. I’ll toss it down first so it doesn’t hit you.” He wanted to hit Orrick.

An hour later, Orrick was on the ground, picking up his helmet, cape, sword, and various pieces of armor.

“The people of Sourswirls need us, steed. We can’t be concerned with ourselves.”

The ostrich raised an eyebrow, if it had them. “What about the detour with the ale?”

“That was confidence-boosting alcohol, steed. I’m… nervous, yes? I don’t know how to defeat the hydra.”

The wind rustled. The ostrich was at a loss for words.

“Let’s get some shut-eye, steed.”

They rested.

In the morning, a swarm of bees loomed overhead.

“Did we sleep under a beehive, steed?”

“I think so.”

A woman wearing yellow and black leggings danced over to them.

“I am the Bee Queen!~” she sang. “I know how to kill a hydra!~”

The companions looked at each other in excitement. “What do you want for this information, your highness?” asked Orrick, gleefully.

“Oh, I didn’t even think about a reward!~ But now that you mention it, I’d like The Flute of Bees!~ It summons bees at your beck and toot!~”

“Where do we find this flute?” asked the ostrich.

“My stupid sister has it.~ She won’t let me have it!~ Find my sister, find the flute.~”

The ostrich whispered to Orrick, “How are we supposed to find this person?”

“Wait, steed. Doesn’t it look like she already has a flute?”

The Bee Queen began shaking wildly. Hair covered her eyes.

“I’m the sister you seek. Malinda’s the name. I will give you the flute in exchange for something.”

“Multiple personalities,” said Orrick, and his steed nodded. “What do you want, Malinda?”

“I want the head of a hydra,” she said. “Bring me one and I’ll give you the flute.”

The companions wandered off.

In the village of Persolia, Orrick asked around if anyone knew how to kill a hydra. No luck, no kindness. Some children made fun of Orrick’s stance and one threw a rock at the ostrich. They left quickly.

The outskirts of Persolia had renegade knights loitering in alleys. “Hey, you been askin’ around about hydras?”

“Yes! Do you know how to kill one?”

“What? You don’t know? Wotta loser!” They laughed at him.

“Thank goodness we don’t have to save this town. Let’s never look back,” said Orrick.

As they stepped outside the town boundary, the entire village of Persolia sank into the ground.

“What was–”

“No looking back, steed.”

Finally, Sourswirls was in view. The hydra’s back was also in view. She was quite large and in charge.

“Time to battle. My sword.” The steed handed him his sword.

“Sire, is this wise? We don’t know how to kill it. And cutting off one head grows two more in its place!”

Orrick laughed. “What a fairy tale, steed. Two more heads. I’ll cut off all the heads and we’ll see–”

“See what?” said the hydra.

The hydra’s body was giant. Giant, yellow, scaly, and each of the seven heads looked exactly like Paget Brewster, but no one in the world could have known that. The heads grinned menacingly at Orrick.

“So, they hired a hero. Tell me hero, do you want to die?” Each of her seven heads spoke in perfect unison. Orrick trembled internally, stood resolutely externally.

“I’m not going to die. You are!” He ran up to her second head and sliced it off. Two more grew in its place. “In a couple of hours. Wait here.” He picked up the head, mounted the ostrich and fled.

“What are we doing, sire… no, not sire. You idiot! She’s bound to take her rage on those townspeople!” He flapped wildly.

“I have the head. See, we give it to Malinda, who gives us the flute. The Bee Queen then tells us how to kill the hydra.”

The ostrich thought about this. “Brilliant.”

“I know,” he smugly beamed.

As they passed through the wasteland of Persolia, confused, the steed gained newfound respect for his master. Finally, they found Malinda.

“You have the flute?~” asked the Bee Queen.

“Where’s Malinda?”

“I’ve never seen her, actually. ~ She just leaves me notes.~ Nice head.~”

“Oh, great. We don’t know when she turns into Malinda.”

“And then we have to wait for her to turn back.”

The Bee Queen looked at the head. “It’s very pretty.~ I’ll tell you the secret for the head instead.~”

“Yes!” they said together.

“Bees.~ A swarm of bees stinging the hydra.~”

“Oh great,” moped Orrick. “Where are we supposed to get and control…”

“The flute!” shouted the ostrich. “May we borrow it?”

“Oh, well…~ You mean this yellow and black flute?~ Sure.~”

They rode back to Sourswirls and Orrick whipped out his sword.

“Attack!”

He then remembered the flute.

“Bees, listen to this!”

He played a jaunty tune as the bees began to swarm the hydra.

“What are you doing, human?”

“Bees are your weakness, right?”

“No. Cut off my middle head and I go down. And I’m only telling you this because you’ll never manage it. I think you’re pathetic. Small. Weak.”

“Heroic!” He screamed, and jumped off the ostrich, diving into the center of the hydra. He split her middle head in two, down the center. The beast collapsed.

The people of Sourswirls cheered. The brave hero had done it! The two were lifted in the air. The priestess approached them.

“Brave sir Orrick, you have saved this land. However, we heard that the Guild also lends aid to devastated towns by supplying them with clean food and water, medical aid, clothes…”

“Oh, uh. That’s not really my department. You have to talk to someone in HR about all that, okay?”

“I see. Well, thank you again, Sir Orrick and his ostrich steed.”

As they walked back to the Bee Queen, Orrick whispered to his ostrich.

“Can you believe the nerve of that lady, putting me on the spot like that?”

“She doesn’t know our ways. We need to put out a Q&A or a handbook.”

They angrily returned the flute to the Bee Queen and headed home.

Vampire The Deejay

vampire the deejay

So tired. Always so tired. Aco hadn’t fed on a female in a week and a half. His blood levels were low, too low to be deejaying. And he spent his mornings trying to hire a prostitute, since he couldn’t leave until sunset. Problem was, prostitutes didn’t make house calls to vampires. They had a history of bleeding dry.

What was he going to play tonight? Perhaps some Skrillex? No, too mainstream now. He thought about the elf. Maybe she liked College. He played “Teenage Color” and swayed a little, partly due to enjoying the beat, partly due to the fact he was going to collapse any minute. He really had trouble standing. Aco hoped she’d be coming tonight.

Night came and the monsters rushed in. Gorgons, yetis, werewolves, even Frankenstein’s monster’s great-great-great grandson. He desperately glanced around the room. Was she here? Was she alone?

Aco played an awful lot of College songs, but no one was complaining. For a moment he forgot her, but she never escaped his mind.

Then she, the Asian elf with chestnut hair, spun into the room. Not just her dancing, but her very footsteps, spun. She also brought her rock-monster coworker, but he didn’t register her in his mind.

An hour passed as he watched her. He felt drowsier than usual. He shot up awake when she walked up to him.

“Hey man,” she had a bratty voice that he liked in a woman, “Can you play ‘A Real Hero?’ That one’s like, my fav.”

“Sure, I like that one too.” He smiled, exposing his fangs. She pretended not to recoil a bit, but he caught her. He closed his mouth, crestfallen. The elf pouted.

“I didn’t mean to get scared. Thanks, DJ Blooddrive.” She looked at him closely. “Like, are you okay man? You’ve been swaying a lot.”

Aco crouched. “Just fine, miss. One Real Hero, coming up!” He fell over.

“The name’s Karis.” She realized he was unconscious on the ground. “Hey, mister! What about my song?” She set her priorities straight. “Hello? The deejay fainted! Someone help!”

An hour later, Aco woke up. He had a sweet bloody taste in his mouth. Did someone puncture themselves on his teeth?

The paramedic tapped him on the shoulder. “You were very lucky. It’s not often an elf donates her blood for a vampire.”

Aco’s jaw dropped. “You mean the Asian elf with chestnut hair?”

“Karis, she said her name was.” He handed Aco a ripped shred of paper. “And she wanted you to have this.”

It had a phone number with a small heart on it and a note that read “Call me if you ever need blood!”

Aco grinned at the slip of paper. He didn’t feel too embarrassed about his fangs anymore. He did, however, wonder if he should call her up for a date.

Two years later, they were married. Aco and Karis had a mess of cute skeleton dogs. Aco never went hungry and, carnally, neither did Karis.

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.”