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Stories from Members
Rusty Keele

Disease Management

I can hear her screaming. The walls and door do little to muffle her high pitched voice. In between her howls of agony she yells my name... then curses it. She goes quiet, but just for a moment, then beats futilely against the door.

It is difficult to control my emotions, and I squeeze my eyelids hard as the tears begin streaming down my face. Why did it have to happen to her? Why! There are so many others in this world that would be more deserving of her terrible fate. Why my little girl?

No - I stop myself. I can't allow myself to descend into that train of self-destructive thought. We'll deal with this... we'll make it... we'll get through it somehow.


***


It was such a short time ago that we sat in the doctor's office. Our little Katie was playing with some plastic farm animals from the box of toys on the floor, oblivious to how her world was going to change. Blond locks of hair kept falling in front of her eyes and she kept pulling them back behind her ears and smiling up at Joan and I. Joan was doing good - she would at least smile back. I knew that if I didn't concentrate on holding my composure I would surely lose it.

The doctor sat on his stool and looked at us through those fashionable glasses. Then his eyes dropped to the floor and I could hold it in no longer. Tears were forming, and the lump in my throat made talking slow and laborious.

"What is it doctor?" I finally muttered. He took off his glasses, wiped those weary eyes, and set the yellow folder on the exam table.

"I'm afraid that I have bad news... the worst kind."

Even Joan's brave facade came down at those gut wrenching words. I heard her soft sobs as she buried her face in her hands. My world went blurry.

The doctor plowed on, "There is some medication we can give her, but it will only help with the pain. My best guess is that she only has two more weeks."

He went on, but I heard nothing else.


***


The next two weeks were terrible. What else can I say? That feeling of dread and sickness knotted up in my stomach 24 hours a day. I hardly slept, lost my appetite, and often found myself sick to my stomach.

We all tried to put on brave happy faces for Katie's sake. We would smile those plastic grins and make cute voices as we played with her favorite dolls. There was nothing to do but make the best of the little time we had together.

At least we had the benefit of knowing the exact time that it would come. Joan and the boys had spent the entire day with her, and as dusk approached Katie and I went into the back yard, while Joan put the boys to bed. Katie sat next to me on the concrete step. She wasn't looking too good.

"Where's Smoky?" she asked.

"I put him in, we don't need him bothering us tonight."

"But I wanted to play fetch with him." She looked up at me with those soft blue eyes.

"I..." the lump was there in an instant, "Maybe later honey. How is your shoulder feeling?"

"It really hurts, dad."

I lifted up her left sleeve to peer in at the gauze and bandages that covered the vicious wound. It didn't seem to be getting any better – in fact it looked worse. "It looks ok" I lied.

"It hurts, daddy. When can we take the bandages off?"

"Soon" I said. It was slowly getting darker, and I looked up at the mountains. The sky was already beginning to brighten around the peaks - there were only a few minutes left. "How are you feeling?" I asked.

She was holding her stomach and leaning into my side, her face white as ash. I stood up and gently laid her on the grass. My face was contorted with effort to restrain my emotions, but it was no use. I started to cry like a two year old - letting out a deep howling sob as the tears flowed. But it didn't last long. She rolled onto her hands and knees and threw up.

I looked at the sky near the mountain peaks again. There it was – the full moon – arching over the top of Mt. Tiberius. I quickly reached into my pocket and pulled out the gun. I looked at Katie again and was surprised how fast it was happening - already her arms and neck were covered with an ever thickening coat of fur. Her teeth were growing right in front of my eyes! She began to rip at her shirt, going wild with rage and pent up energy. I'd heard that the first time was the worst, and I believe it after seeing her transformation.

I had to force my attention back to gun the as I fumbled to load it. I could hear the sickening sounds of flesh, bones and fur growing and changing at such abnormal rates. I kept my eyes down and tried to focus on the task of loading the gun - but my shaking hands were making it difficult. Finally it was loaded and I looked at my former daughter one more time. It was astonishing. There in front of me was a sickly looking white wolf - not quite an adult, but still big enough to freeze my blood. It was looking at me with blazing red eyes, baring its teeth as it growled. I raised my gun and pointed it right at the wolf's head.

There, at that pivotal moment, you would think that I would destroy the thing that had destroyed my daughter, but it wasn't so easy then to pull the trigger. My hesitancy was obviously not shared by the wolf, it lunged at me and I just managed to dodge it at the last possible moment as it flew past me. I dropped the gun, out of fear or inability to shoot my only daughter I don't know. It turned again, and I knew I too would join the pack this night.

There are several reasons I love my spouse, but that night she proved herself in a way I never would have imagined. Both the wolf and I looked at the house as the screen door flung open and my wife, showing no reluctance what-so-ever, came out with guns ablaze! She held not only her gun, but obviously one of the boys as well as she unloaded on the white monster in front of me.

I slunk to the ground with my hands over my head as the wolf howled and screamed in pain. It didn't take long before it was all over and the bloody beast on our lawn lay in silence beneath the recently risen full moon.

***

We are more careful, now, to have our tranquilizer guns with us as the full moon approaches. But like other normal people we sometimes forget or make mistakes. That is why we built "the room" for her. Now, when that time of month draws near we lock her in it and one of us always stands guard - just in case something happens.

I never like taking my watch, but I do it, and with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat I always remember the beginnings of this dreaded disease. But, like other families, ours is adapting and learning to deal with lycanthropy.



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