Jarod was driving to his father’s shop, wanting to drop off the van and check for damage. I still could hardly believe what had transpired. Werewolves, or whatever someone wanted to call a creature that could take the form of a wolf or man at whim, were real. Part of me wanted to deny it, to say that we were somehow drugged, but I had found a blurry picture of a wolf on my phone when I took it out. I had apparently taken a picture by accident when I was sticking it in my pocket. Jarod had been recording video on his phone when the wolves were approaching me and had me see how it turned out while he was driving. We only had evidence of wolves, but what transpired after seeing them would stay with me till the day I died. A werewolf had been reaching toward me, probably intending to kill me. The world would never be the same again, and I had to rethink what my place in this world would be.
“I want to know who those people were. Did you see how they handled the things? How did they happen to have a tire in my size?” I could see conspiracy theories flying through Jarod’s mind as he continued asking question after question. This probably was the best thing that could’ve happened in his opinion. For me, this was another big decision dropping in my lap. My business required me to continue meeting new people, and now I knew that some of those people could be shapeshifters, to avoid the term “werewolves.” This very possibility made my business far more dangerous than I had ever dreamed, and there were so many inherent dangers in associating with strangers day after day. If my parents had a clue about what was out there, they’d want me to close my business immediately, possibly even live at home indefinitely as well.. When one legend came to life, how could I be remotely certain that another one wouldn’t appear any moment.
As Jarod continued talking about his different conspiracy ideas, I was listing off monsters in my head. What if there were cerberi that ran through the city at night, devouring three people at a time? There could be a minotaur in the sewer which navigates the maze-like passages. Trolls could truly live under bridges and steal away those unfortunate enough to cross their path. There could be fairies in the parks playing pranks on the visitors, which would explain what happened to my second sandwich two years ago. Regina had sworn up and down that she didn’t take it. Regina, if we were still talking, would never believe any of this without hard evidence, and I wouldn’t blame her for being skeptical even then. There was a chance Emma might believe us, look at the photos and hear us out, but Emma seemed to take most everything with a smile and the best of humor.
We finally arrived at the shop and started looking the van over only to find nothing. There were no scratches, dings, or bullet holes as evidence of what happened. The new tire was a perfect match for the other three in brand and size. We decided to check the inside of the van in the light for blood, hair, or anything else which would place the werewolves there. Instead, we found that the carpet over the spare tire had been moved and that the spare had been taken, explaining how the people in black happened to have the right size. I wasn’t honestly surprised that we had missed those strange people taking the tire out, since Jarod and I were both preoccupied with what we had witnessed. Who would have been prepared to see nightmares made flesh inches away? The sound of a text message arriving from Emma brought me back to the moment. I pulled out my phone and checked what she had to say.
“Hey, Jarod. Emma’s nearby. Care if she comes here?” He was looking a bit glum, still searching the carpet for even a hair, when I asked, but he perked up at hearing that Emma was coming. “Of course, she can come! This will be awesome!” I rolled my eyes as he started rehearsing his version of the story and told Emma where we were. She showed up within a few minutes to my surprise, hobbling along on her crutches. “Hey, James, would you mind carrying something for me?” she asked. Jarod followed us out to her car where a large box was sitting in her trunk. The thing had quite a bit of weight to it, so I was wondering how Emma managed to get it in there. “What is in this thing, Emma?” I inquired as we went back into the shop. I set the box in the back of the van, since Jarod had left the back open. She ignored my question, since Jarod was already warming her up for an incredible story. “Ok, Emma. You’ll need to sit down for this one.” She leaned her crutches against the van and took a seat by me on the bumper.
“So I was sitting there, staking the place out while waiting for James to finish his deeds with the girl.” He paused with an enormous smile and waggled his eyebrows impressively, leaving no doubt in my mind how he wanted things portrayed. “At last, James slipped out and started down the street, casually walking into danger without a care in the world. In an unbelievable show of nonchalance, he sat at the bus stop and pulled out his phone to look at it as this guy walked out from behind the bus stop. BLAM!” He punched the air for emphasis. “James let the guy have it right in his gut, seemingly unaware that reinforcements were coming. But these reinforcements weren’t people. They were highly trained wolves, or so we had thought. Seeing that he was going to be overwhelmed, I put the petal to the metal and raced to his rescue, trying to run over the wolves in the process. James casually hopped in and was going to shut the door when the things TRANSFORMED.”
Jarod was making elaborate motions of being a horrific monster, apparently not caring how ridiculous he looked. “Then we heard muffled sounds of gunfire and the creatures started to die, one of them losing its head completely.” Emma interrupted him at that moment, looking concerned. “What sort of bullet could rip someone’s head clean off?” Jarod turned to her and spread his hands. “BIG ones! Then people dressed in black bodysuits showed up and started cleaning the mess up. They even changed my tire!” Emma interrupted again to ask, “What happened to your tire?” Jarod smiled and spread his fingers wide, attempting to make his hand look like a claw. Then he made a swiping motion as he said, “One of the things shredded it with a single swipe! Anyways, I kinda lost your video cameras to them.” At this point, Jarod was looking downtrodden and apologetic. Emma brushed his concern off with a wave of her hand.
“I’m just glad that you two are alright. When Jarod said you were going after werewolves, I was worried.” Jarod and I were both gaping at Emma, who so casually had said “werewolves.” She went onto explain in complete earnestness “My dad was killed by a vampire when I was little. Ever since then, I’ve kept my eyes open for other strange things.” She lifted the lid off the box to show countless folders crammed with paper. “When you say vampire, you literally mean a blood-sucking, undead spawn of hell?” Emma nodded and said, “Pretty much. I was there that night. My family and I were living in a different part of the city at the time. She was out picking up groceries, so dad I were playing hide and seek in the house. He was in the same room as me when the thing suddenly appeared behind him and bit into his neck. He couldn’t even scream, but I did. I don’t know why the thing didn’t come for me. The vampire tossed my father like an empty sack, and then walked over to me. I’ll never forget his face, almost compassionate. Mom found me hugging dad’s body, asking him to get up.”
I hugged Emma as she brushed a tear from her cheek. Then I asked her why she hadn’t mentioned any of this stuff to us sooner at the same time Jarod asked, “Why didn’t you warn us about the werewolves? We were not ready for that!” Emma smiled wryly and said, “I wanted to tell you to stay away, but can either of you say that you would have believed me? This box contains everything I’ve been able to gather from newspapers and magazines, but none of it is hard evidence. There are just constant oddities that are briefly pointed out and then dismissed.” I shivered as I thought again of the werewolves. If Emma had actually seen a vampire when she was little, I couldn’t help wondering how she had dealt with it. How does one witness the death of one’s father and recover? If vampires were too fast to even see when they moved, how could anyone defend themselves?
“I must confess there is one thing I could have shown you to help you believe, but this isn’t something for everyone. There have been people who have attempted magic without being ready and didn’t survive their own failings at it. Also, magic has a tendency to draw the attention of other things, like vampires, which is probably part of the reason my father was attacked.” Jarod and I looked at one another, mouthing the word “magic.” Then a glowing blue light started dancing between us. We both looked at Emma and then back to the light, Jarod reaching out to pass his hand through it, but the light vanished. “If you see something that may be a spell, don’t touch it.” Jarod shrugged, spreading his hands, and said, “Sorry. But.. wow. What else can you do?” Emma smiled and told us to stay put for a second. Then hit the heel of her cast against the ground and ran to her car as the cast fell off. Jarod and I were left gaping again. She was back before we had time to really look at the electronic gizmos inside of the faux cast.
Emma came skipping back, now carrying a clay pot filled with dirt in her hands. I pointed at the cast and to her leg, and she told me “Sorry about the deception. My leg’s been healed for a week now, but I need to pretend otherwise to avoid attention. I’m not honestly great with many types of magic, but I am good with plants and can do a bit of healing.” To emphasize the point, she touched the dirt in the pot and slowly raised her finger. As if following her fingertip, a green plant rose out of the pot and then bloomed into a pink flower. Jarod and I were staring at her, completely dumbfounded. This night had become far stranger than I would have ever dreamed. “Pretty cool, huh?” is all she said to us. After a moment, Jarod said, “I want to learn! Can you teach me?” She smiled but seemed somewhat sad. “I hope. Unfortunately, not everyone is capable of using magic. Mother, for example, can’t do a thing with it.” I wasn’t honestly sure that I was ready for this, but I said, “Let’s give it go. I can’t hide from this now that I know what’s out there.”