The Cynical Werewolf
The great thing about being a werewolf, he reflected, is that his immunity to physical harm meant he didn't have to hold back on his sarcasm. True, he wasn't invulnerable; werewolves don't live forever. But it takes some serious effort to kill one, and what are you gonna tell the judge, huh? "You see, Your Honor, he was being kind of a dick, so I fired a silver bullet through his head." Yeah, that's gonna go over real well with a jury of your peers, every single one of whom will be thinking uncomfortably of that one time they were kind of a dick to that guy who totally deserved it, but damn, what if he'd had a gun and a bad attitude? Nobody's going to want to set that kind of a precedent, just like we're never going to see genuinely harsh laws against drunk driving as long as our nation's lawmakers have a taste for alcohol and doing stupid things after drinking it.
It wasn't the only advantage, obviously. Being a wolf felt awesome, to put it plainly; to put it poetically, being a wolf was charging through the night woods just a foot or two above the ground, the sweet, damp air filling your nose with an unimaginable banquet of scents that carried more information in a second than your human mind could process in minutes. It was ears, cocked to catch every sound in the darkness; nose, pointed into the onrushing night to drink in the symphony of smells; eyes, beautifully suited for picking out a path between the trees and bushes of the woods you're flying through like a furred homing missile.
The first day after he'd spent his first night as a wolf, he fumbled through the day feeling like a broken automaton, the top half of his body tottering along, arms hanging clumsily with nothing to do, the whole mess awkwardly balanced on spindly legs that were having to put in a hard day's work just to hold his weight up. He was convinced something had gone horribly wrong in the reversal of the moonlit transformation. Surely he couldn't have spent his whole life as a stumbling scarecrow without even noticing? Gradually, though, the intensity of the night's memories dimmed and familiarity returned, and he realized that this was just what humans were like. He longed for the next full moon, to once again be that compact bundle of muscle and sinew springing effortlessly across the ground, haunches bunching beneath his fur as his legs worked in fluid concert, paws barely touching the soft soil of the woods before launching him forward again.
He shook himself out of his reverie. So, yeah: werewolfhood, totally kick-ass, despite the downsides. The downsides being, of course, apart from a tendency to wax poetic from time to time, societal prejudice and, he hated to admit, one's fellow werewolves. Both of which generated in his heart a powerful urge to strike out with a flurry of verbal barbs, the kind that got his ass kicked regularly all through school. Now, though, things were different. He no longer had to worry about the targets of his rapier wit taking offense, because he was fully equipped to handle himself in a fight. He could take on most ordinary humans with ease, and even if a fellow werewolf kicked his ass, he would recover with supernatural speed. The stirred-up memories of high school plagued him longer than any injuries. Still, as it turned out, being able to give free reign to his tongue didn't do a whole lot to make the world more bearable.
Societal prejudice wasn't so bad. Most people took a live-and-let-live attitude toward werewolves. Literally -- if the werewolves let humans live, then humans would let the werewolves live. One guy turns up in Golden Gate Park with his guts ripped out and bite marks on his throat, though, and it was time for a run on silver bullets down at Uncle Grubby's Hunt'n'Kill Emporium, and the werewolves knew it. Has any creature in the long and storied history of the Earth withstood a pack of pissed-off humans determined to wipe it out? They'd exterminated species they didn't even know existed! What could they do against one that basically had an off switch, crippled by even minor wounds inflicted by silver?
Still, they kept it to themselves, but werewolves weren't exactly chafing under the unspoken rule. Seriously, what kind of an asshole do you have to be to take it into your head to hunt a human being, of all things? Take a young deer. Break one of its legs, remove half its brain with a chisel, blindfold it, drop it into a forest it's never set hoof in before and duct tape a boombox playing Andrew WK party anthems full blast to its back. You'll still get a more challenging hunt than you would out of the average human. No insult intended, of course -- he himself could compare his ability to move through the woods as a wolf and as a human, and knew there was just no contest. They weren't even useful for training cubs to hunt, because no other animal in the forest was going to act like a hunted human. Possibly a drunk raccoon with a severe concussion and OCD, but even that was a stretch. Maybe give it a phobia of worms or something as well.
Some people would not tolerate even peaceful werewolves, though, and the only thing that sort of person hated more than werewolves was keeping quiet about werewolves. They tended to be religious fundamentalists of one stripe or another, so they were already used to having a divine sanction to tell everyone else what to do, and when it came to something as obviously supernatural, and thus Satanic, as a werewolf, every fleeting anti-werewolf thought that sparked to life in their brains immediately burst into the world through their mouths at high volume, like fireworks burning pure stupid. As far as they were concerned, all right-thinking people would agree with them, so there was no need to worry about who might hear them.
He'd grown used to delivering a verbal smackdown when he overheard someone starting on such a rant, feeling it his duty to correct misinformation. And hey, if by doing so he got to scream at an idiot for a while, well, that was just a side benefit, honestly. By now, he had literally heard everything they were ever going to say on the subject a hundred times or more. He was pretty sure he could deliver the rebuttal in his sleep. There was so little variation in the spiel from person to person that his subconscious would need only listen for one of the keywords -- "unnatural," say, or "demonic” -- and the appropriate response would come spilling from his sleeping, snarling lips.
And why would they ever need to vary their rants? It's not like there were teams of theologians, philosophers, and Bible scholars hard at work dissecting the moral quandaries posed by these humans who could transform into wolves, their intellectual labors bearing fruit in the form of incisive new arguments to deploy in the war of ideas. It didn't help that, as with the other two favorite bugbears of the fundamentalists, abortion and gay marriage, the Bible was disappointingly mum on the subject. No, if the argument hadn't already been raised against either interracial marriage or homosexuality at some point in the past hundred years, you wouldn't be hearing it from them. There were slight changes, of course -- the rutting beasts were literal beasts instead of gays this time, but the pamphlets recycled the same demon clip-art, though the message was the same it had always been. We're right, you're wrong, please die.
Social prejudice was a constant, nagging pain in his and every werewolf's ass, but it soon turned into background noise. Depending on where you were, you had to learn to live with things like sudden thundershowers or tornado warnings or some random douchebag getting in your face. It was a part of life. What really got on his nerves, what could really drive him crazy, what made him grateful every day that he was hard to casually kill, was his fellow werewolves. Holy crap, what a motley pack of freaks they could be. He sometimes wished he had never been bitten.
He lived in a very rural area, genuine wilderness blooming not terribly far to the north. What in his opinion was a quite dismaying number of his brethren up here were into all that blithering hippie bullshit about communing with the Earth and harmonizing with Mother Nature and calling yourselves each other's "brethren." He had no time for nonsense like that. He didn't want to hear about your special bond with Nature. You tore ragged, red chunks out of Nature every time you went out and hunted by the light of the full moon. One lousy night a month spent running through the forest does not turn you into the Eco-Messiah or the next Speaker For The Forest or even make you especially interesting. If the Forest had anything to Speak to you, it would be "Stop eating all my defenseless deer, asshole. Go buy some fucking venison at Whole Foods."
It wasn't just the masses of back-to-Nature flakes that bothered him though, oh no. There was also the plain fact that plenty of werewolves were idiots. It seems to be inevitable with humanity -- pick any arbitrary way of assembling a group of people, and a good chunk of them will be idiots. Werewolves were no exception. The wolves they became were idiots too, of course, but at least it somehow seemed more bearable then. Probably, he supposed, it was because there's very little an idiot wolf can fuck up.
And then there were the gatherings on the night before the full moon. Deep down, though he felt like it made him a poor specimen of werewolfhood himself and he sublimated the guilt into anger, he hated the gatherings. He didn't mind that humans imagined these werewolf get-togethers as some kind of feral cocktail party, the itch of the change crackling in the air as the time ticked closer, alpha predators stalking through the crowds, cold eyes calculating, assessing, searching for that perfect one who can withstand the heat of your animal passion. No, it was the annoying fucking wilderbag werewolves who thought their get-togethers were like that that drove him so crazy. How the hell could people who were actually werewolves come across like such lame pretenders? Parties? You know where the actual alpha predators are right now? They're off in the woods fucking because they don't waste their time going to ridiculous gatherings like this one!
He came within a hair's breadth of shouting the last half of that sentence out loud. With a stifled sigh, he thumped his beer down on the wobbly card table that held an almost insultingly skimpy assortment of snacks. F this S, as his mother would have said. Fudge this sugar, she would have clarified if pressed, but he admired her for making the token effort to keep up with the times. F this fucking S indeed. It was time to go home. Tomorrow night's full moon was still too far away. He ached, he itched, he burned to feel the shift begin, knowing that within minutes he'd be on all floors and hurtling like a spirit across the land, heading for the deep woods. This, all this added-on bullshit was a waste of time, a waste of energy, a waste of magic. He wanted the experience for itself, not for what it made him, or what he could pretend it made him.
Time to go home for sure. He didn't think he'd be able to keep anything approaching a civil tongue in his head, and while he might not be mortally vulnerable, pain is pain, and he didn't want to find himself picking glass fragments out of a scalp wound because he needled someone until they broke a bottle over his head. Three times was enough. He walked unsteadily to the front door, randomly grabbed a few left shoes and hid them on the top shelf of the coat closet just to be a dick, and headed off into the chill darkness that didn't smell like anything in particular.