“Aw-ooo! Aw-ooo!”-18th century Bulgarian Werewolf chant
It was his first day and Tom was going to be late. The campus was deceptively sprawling and he already spent 10 minutes wandering around the wrong building. A patient janitor explained to him that there was a Chaney Hall and a Chaney, Jr. Hall. His class-Constructing & Deconstructing the Werewolf Other in Film and Pop Culture-was in Chaney, Jr., where he was now heading at a healthy sprint. Tom spied the square brick building, burst through the double doors, and took the stairs to C312. His tawny fur was covered in sweat and he was panting heavily like some common mutt. Tom gave his hair a perfunctory brush and delicately opened the door, hoping to sneak in unnoticed. To his dismay, the door opened into the front of the room, where the heavy set instructor was sitting on his desk lecturing. The students were all in stadium-style row seating and they all saw him come in.
“Well hello. Thanks for joining us Mr….?” The instructor lowered his eyes and searched for a roll sheet.
“Oh, it’s Dillon. Tom Dillon. Sorry I’m late.”
“You look as though you’re being chased by a gaggle of torch wielding villagers.”
The class laughed. Tom forced a laugh.
“Yeah. Villagers.” He was sweating again and hastily climbed up the wide steps to find a seat towards the back. There were no seats on the aisle, so he awkwardly, feeling many eyes on him, worked his way into the center of the row. With great relief, he took a seat.
“Phew. That was an ordeal. I went to the wrong hall,” he said to the pretty were-girl in the plaid skirt next to him. She rolled her eyes.
“Freshmen,” she said with contempt. The were-girl next to her giggled.
Its official name was the innocuous sounding Bludstone Prep, but everyone called it Werewolf Academy. Founded in 1893, by a Scottish steel baron driven from Manhattan when his true identity was revealed by a muckraking journalist, Bludstone was both the only and the most exclusive school for lycanthropes.
Tom’s parents enrolled him shortly after his werewolf tendencies emerged, as they usually do, with adolescence. The turning point was when a group of boys discovered Tom changing in the locker room and spied his fantastically inordinate amount of chest hair. At first they admired him, envying his healthy and flowing locks, but soon they came to resent his unusually hirsute frame, which coupled with Tom’s other eccentric behavior (the occasional raw sheep sandwich, flea powder instead of deodorant), turned him into a prime target. On Halloween night one year-the year where Tom won best costume at his youth group-they jumped him and savagely shaved most of his hair. It grew back in only a few days, but Tom’s concerned parents withdrew him from school and since then had moved three times in to conceal his difference.
Every time his mother would tell him, “Remember Tom, you’re special. You’re not like everyone else. And they can’t understand you.”
“I don’t want to be different!” Tom would scream. “I hate being a werewolf!”
“Don’t say that Tom! You are who you are. Don’t you ever be ashamed of that.”
A few months after they settled in rural Connecticut, they received a flyer for Werewolf Academy in the mail. Given their financial status and pedigree, Tom qualified for a minority scholarship and, against his initial protests, they went for a visit and Tom was accepted.
“Finally,” he though to himself as he strolled the well groomed lawns. “A place for me. A place where I’m not a freak.”
But now he wasn’t so sure. He hadn’t made any friends over orientation week, he didn’t get along with his Spanish roommate Lobo, and he felt self-conscious about his lighter hair and splotchy fur when he looked at the imposing upper classmen with their gleaming coats and snow white incisors. And this lecture was confusing him.
“The egregious Underworld was the latest example in a long line of the dominant homo-centric hierarchy to pit two marginalized groups against one another. Though we have had our differences with vampires, such pop trash exploits these rifts for the entertainment of an ignorant audience who only want caricatures of what they see as inferior species battling one another. I’m not violent by any means, but I wouldn’t mind giving the filmmakers a Howling style beat down.”
Laughter. Tom’s favorite movie was Teen Wolf, which he hadn’t heard mentioned. The bell rang and class was dismissed. Tom was ravenous, but the dining hall wasn’t open for another 30 minutes.
It was a sunny, though cool day, and there were a lot of students out on the central quad. Tom scratched his head and wandered around, looking for a familiar hairy face. He found a bench and sat, looking over his schedule. Later today he had Lycanthropy in World Folklore, and The Silver Bullet & other Misconceptions of Were-culture. There was a kiosk next to the bench and Tom noticed the posters for the upcoming Full Moon Festival, which was W.A.’s big fall event.
Across the quad he spotted Nancy, a fellow freshman, with whom he had talked briefly during orientation. Though there were flutters in his stomach, he picked up his books and walked over to her.
“Hey Nancy.” His voice came out squeaky.
“Oh hey Chris.” She smiled, revealing powerful teeth.
“Um, it’s Tom.”
“Oh, sorry. I knew that.” She smelled of freshly killed meat. Tom was intoxicated.
“Really good. Thanks.”
“That’s good.” She smiled again. They stood without talking for a minute.
“Um, I know we don’t know each other that well, but I was wondering if, well, maybe you’d want to go howl at the moon sometime?”
Just then a large werewolf in a letterman jacket, who looked more bear than wolf , came up to them.
“Hey Nancy, is this creep bothering you?”
“Hi Lance. No, we’re just talking. This is Tom.”
Lance took Tom’s paw and gave it a bone shattering shake. He pulled Tom close and whispered. “Stay away from my girl pup or the only howling you’ll be doing is from the beating I’ll give you.” He let go, grinned, and put his arm around Nancy. “We’ve got the big game against Nosferatu School for Vampires tomorrow. Those guys suck. Seriously. You should come pup. We’re going see whose bite is worse.”
Lance steered Nancy away.
“Bye Tom. See you later.”
“Bye Nancy,” Tom said feebly. As he watched them walk away he felt that he’d just lost and he gave a despondent kick to an empty blood can. Even here, there was no escape from bullies and Tom knew he had a lot to learn before he’d ever fit in
“Man I hate that guy,” said a wolf who had been sitting on the grass. “He thinks he’s an Alpha. I’m Jack, by the way.” They shook paws. Jack was wearing a Chewbacca t-shirt that said “Wookies do it harrier.”
“Yeah, he’s a jerk. Oh, I’m Tom. This is my first day.”
“Don’t worry. You’ll do fine here. Do you like Wolf Parade?”
“They’re a band.”
Tom shrugged. He had been confronted with too many things he didn’t know today.
“I’ll let you borrow it sometime. Well, I got Advanced Prowling now. See you later Tom. Keep your chin up.
“OK. Thanks.” Tom smiled. Maybe today wasn’t so bad after all. He walked to the cafeteria with a newfound spring in his step and a determination to make a name for himself at Werewolf Academy.
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Portland Fiction Project
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