“This doesn’t look good,” said Anita.
She and her sister Deedee stood to the side and watched, as their brother Tommy writhed on the floor. His face was contorted in a grimace. He growled, and snapped at the air around him, trying to bite something only he could see.
“What do we do?” asked Deedee. She cowered behind her old sister, clutching at her leg like a shield.
“I don’t know, but it doesn’t look good,” Anita repeated. “I think you were right: it was definitely a werewolf.”
Earlier that day, the siblings were out in the woods, playing their favorite game: Target Practice. The rules were simple: one person chose a target, and hit it with their slingshot. The other two had to hit the same target. Whoever missed was out.
Being the oldest, Anita had more strength, while Tommy’s constant practicing made him the accurate one.
“I can shoot a fly’s butt at a hundred feet with my eyes closed,” he bragged.
“What does a fly’s butt look like?” Deedee was the youngest. She was neither accurate, nor strong, nor fast with her slingshot. She spent most of their game looking under rocks, picking leaves, and jumping in puddles, content to be included in her siblings’ adventures.
Anita won most of the games, for one simple reason: she didn’t care about winning. It made her more relaxed and able to focus clearly, regardless of the pressure.
While playing their fifth game, with Anita in the lead as usual, Tommy heard a whining sound from behind a line of bushes. The three of them went to investigate, and discovered a dog stuck in a deep ditch.
It was a large, brown dog, with a barrel-shaped torso, and long skinny legs. It might have looked as menacing as a wolf, if it weren’t whining so piteously. It tried desperately to paw its way up the side of the ditch. But it was impossible. The walls were wet and muddy, giving it no purchase. It merely succeeded in digging small holes in the sides, and wasting its energy.
“We have to help him,” said Anita. “I bet he wants to go home. His owners must be worried sick.” She couldn’t bear the thought of a poor animal suffering alone in the woods.
“But he’s not wearing a collar,” replied Tommy. “How do we even know it’s safe to get near him? Maybe he has rabies.”
“What if he’s a werewolf?” Deedee crossed her arms as she peered into the ditch. “And how do you know he’s a he? Maybe he’s a she.”
“Fine then, she, whatever. I’m going to help her.” Anita climbed down, and slowly approached the dog.
The frightened animal lowered its ears and growled out a warning.
Anita wasn’t afraid. The dog didn’t show any teeth. She made a soft shushing sound as she approached it. When she was close enough to get bitten, she crouched down and offered the dog her hand, palm up.
The dog gave another growl, this time punctuated with a whine. Then it sniffed Anita’s hand, and allowed her to scratch under its chin. She stroked slow and steady for a few minutes, slowly working her way above the ears to pet the dog’s head.
When she was satisfied the two of them were friends, she got up and walked towards the ditch wall.
“C’mon,” she encouraged gently. “Let’s get you out of here.”
The dog followed, and began to whine again as it dug against the side of the ditch. Anita put her arm around it, and helped it climb.
With a few pushes, the two of the made it to the top.
“You did it!” Tommy whooped and gave a victory jump.
Frightened by the sudden noise, the dog leapt at him, knocking him over.
He cried out in pain as the two of them tumbled to the ground. Anita moved quickly and shoved the dog off her brother. The dog turned to snap, then paused as it recognized her.
The two looked at each other for a moment. The dog quieted, then slowly backed away, before turning and fleeing into the woods.
“Are you ok?” Anita extended her arm to help her younger sibling up.
“I’m fine.” He dusted himself off, and knelt to pick up his slingshot. He’d dropped it during the dog’s sudden attack.
“You’re bleeding,” Deedee said, pointing. A thin line of blood appeared on his forearm, slowly trickling from small cuts. He hadn’t noticed the dog had bitten him, but the teeth marks were clearly visible.
“I hope there isn’t a full moon tonight,” Deedee added. “Or we’re going to be in big trouble.”