The box that had my name on it needed a key. I guess I could have broken it open but, obviously, the box itself was most likely the gift so I didn’t want to do that. I told myself even though it was empty, I still wanted it to be able to open. But what I was really thinking was there just might be a false bottom. Not likely, it was too small. I was just letting my stupid imagination run amok. But I still wanted to be sure. To do that, I had to find the key.
Grandpa once showed me a hidden place. He called it an attic but it was simply access to above the ceiling. There was no floor, just insulation and ceiling joists. He said it would support a person walking around as long as they stayed on the joists. He used to hide a bottle or two up there and sometimes it was where he would shift when the need came on him. Told me I could use it too. But when my need came on me the desire was to run. Fast. Free.
The opening itself was in Grandpa’s bedroom closet. That cousin, or whatever he was, looked up there too, all for maybe thirty seconds. The idiot harrumphed, something he did a lot that day, when he dropped the thin square piece of wood that covered the opening back into place and then climbed back down. Stupid ass really thought he had discovered something, too, when he saw it. Couldn’t get a chair in that tiny closet fast enough to get his fat head up into that hole. I laughed when he swore because he couldn’t see a fucking thing. He dug in his pocket for his keys and used some little light he had attached to it to gawk around in the darkness. Obviously, he saw nothing of value.
But then I was standing in that same closet, minus the chair, holding a flashlight and a bucket. Standing on tiptoe on top of that bucket I was able to get my fingers under the rim of the cover and haul myself up. I had stuck the flashlight in the waist of my pants and once I pushed the cover to the side and made myself secure on two of the ceiling joists, I pulled it out and turned it on. There might have been nothing to see with that idiot’s little key light but I had a high-power LED beam that reached out and chased the darkness pretty much clean out of the attic. Of course, I had no idea what Mr. Moron was trying to find because the fucker never told me. If it was something big then his stupid little light was probably just fine.
I, on the other hand, was looking for something tiny.
Basically, a needle in a haystack.
I ran the light all around the walls thinking he might have stuck the key in a board or duck taped it to a two by four. But short of crawling around the entire parameter of the place I didn’t see anything. I’m not sure what I expected really, maybe a flash of metal or a sparkle or something. That’s what happened in the movies. But I had as much luck as freak face did, my search just lasted longer.
Maybe it would be somewhere else, like under a kitchen drawer or in a ceiling light fixture. I turned to jump back down, turning the flash at the same time and reached to shut it off when the glint caught my eye.
Well, I’ll be damned. It actually does happen that way.
I flipped the light back on and right there, taped to the top of the cover, with scotch tape, mind you, not duct, was a tiny key. Just big enough to fit a small wooden box lock. I reached out and pulled it off the board thinking it was not really hidden all that well. But then grandpa had never been impressed with my deductive reasoning skills. Obviously, he wanted to make sure I found it.
After one more look around the empty house I hurried back to my bedroom and dug out the box I had shoved under my bed. I never told mom I had it. I was too worried that, if I was right and there really was something inside the box under a false bottom, it might be about shifting and there were just two things I needed to keep to myself. My ability to become a wolf, and the fact I whacked off to the sight of penis’ and balls, not pussy and breasts. They were the only two secrets I had from her. Hell, the fact I was gay I never talked about with grandpa either.
The key fit. It turned hard but it clicked open and I lifted the lid.
Damn. It was filled with bubble wrap.
Really? But when the pimpleheaded jerk opened it, it had been empty. Even I saw that. Now it was full? How weird was that? I pulled out the wad and unrolled it slowly. The first ring that appeared, flashed what I thought at first was a really weird light but it was probably just catching the glow of the moon from my window. I had not turned on the lights in my room, afraid mom would wonder what I was doing in the middle of the night. It didn’t matter though. I could see just fine by the light of the moon. The ring I found was large. Except, instead of a band that would hug the finger, it had five claws, like an animal’s paw… no, a human hand. Maybe it was a combination, with the thumb holding a blue stone that looked like the moon itself. The thing was actually cool and creepy at the same time.
I placed the ring on the floor beside me and turned my attention back to the bubble wrap. I unrolled it further and another ring appeared. This one winked lightly at me, falling out and rolling into my lap. Picking it up I saw it, too, was large, and weird. This one had a traditional thick silver band, shiny and heavy. It had a boxy chopped kind of top that held a what I will call silver inlaid stone. It was shimmery, white and black at the same time. it seemed to be almost transparent, almost an optical illusion of great depth. They were probably the same type of stone. It was a trick of the moon light again is what I thought. Oddly enough, though, when I moved the ring a certain way, the stone would go dark, as if it rejected the light. I thought that effect was pretty amazing.
Curious, I put that second ring on my middle finger. I knew it was too big, it would just slip right back off, but that was when something I could not blame on the moon happened. It sucked itself in, hugging my finger tight. Scared the fucking shit out of me. I ripped it off my finger and threw it across the floor.
Breathing heavy, like I had run a mile uphill, I watched it roll away. As I watched, it returned to its normal size. It fucking changed, right there, lying on the floor.
The damn thing shifted.
I glanced down at the even larger ring lying next to me. For some reason, I didn’t even want to touch it. I set the box and bubble wrap aside and crawled over to where the other ring had rolled and picked it back up. This time when I slid it on, I knew what it would do, so kept it on my hand when it sucked itself in to hug my finger. Still scared me shitless but I breathed through it.
It felt tingly. Maybe it was my imagination, but I felt a little weird with it on. Lightheaded. Breathless. I wanted to shift and run.
But I had school in the morning and running would have to wait. So, for just that night, I pulled the ring off, wrapped both of them up in the bubble and stuffed it back inside the box.
The next day I was up early, finishing my chores like a madman and all before I headed off to school, too. My mom was impressed.
“See what not complaining every time you turn around can do? You actually get stuff done.” she said.
Yeah, I would give her that. Mainly because I didn’t want to have to stand around yapping with my mother and the fact I didn’t want to come straight home after school. I needed to get out to the woods.
With the ring on my hand.
Something told me things would be different with the ring on my hand.
And oh, fuck, they were.
All that talk about moms knowing shit without being told, the ‘eyes in the back of her head’ thing, wasn’t really true. At least, not for my mom. But it wasn’t as true with kids who you spent all day, every day, with. Greg and Maggot, I never did know the asshole’s real name, were two of the worst bullies our school ever produced. Neither one of them were all that big which, of course, never made any difference with me. Some of the girls were bigger than I was. But those two ran the school like dictators and if you were in their radar, you were toast. That year I was always in their sights. From having my head shoved in the toilet one of them had peed in, to lunches, the really juicy ones, being dumped on my head, I never knew what to expect.
One time they found me in the boy’s bathroom, grabbed me and hauled me out to the hall. Somewhere they had gotten some rope and they tied my hands together around a pole near the lockers. Then they stripped my pants off and burned them. Right there on the fucking floor. They took out a lighter and set them on fire. Then they high tailed it out of the school before it set off the fire alarms which sent every kid in the school into the hallways. Most filed past me without making comment but not all of them did and soon I had an audience standing and laughing and pointing. I didn’t really know how many because I tried not to look up, but there were a lot. I was absolutely dying of embarrassment. Finally, some stupid idiot teacher took pity and threw his jacket over me. I know the hallway cleared due to someone else being a drill sergeant as two others tried to untie me. Someone from my class was dispatched to find my gym clothes which had mysteriously turned into a set of girl’s clothes, damn it, but I had nothing else. I had to wear them.
They called my mom, made it out to be my fault. I didn’t correct anyone. Fuck, they didn’t even ask who tied me up. I figured they knew. They gave me three days off for all the trouble I supposedly caused. I was to use that time to “think about my future”.
I was this messed up little kid who could shift into a wolf at will and fantasized about sucking dick. What future?
The afternoon after discovering the rings, I didn’t know I had been followed. I should have. Grandpa always said the nerves of a wolf were so much more sensitive than a human. Hell. I was clueless. I had pocketed the second ring, the one I had already tried on, when I left for school that morning. Laying as low as I could all day, I hopped my bike not three minutes after the last buzzer.
I rode fast out to Graham Park which was a large nature preserve. It was where I shifted and ran whenever I got the chance. I locked up my bike in the deserted parking lot and fished out the ring. I let it snug up on my finger, that same fear/thrill making my heart lurch, and took off toward one of the trails. I would have to strip and I wanted to make sure to hide my clothes.
I have to admit, I had been getting careless. No one ever went out there much, sometimes at night, but never during the day. Besides, I usually ran so far out into the woods no human would have followed me anyway. Looking back, however, I really had no one to blame but myself.
I stashed my clothes behind a tree stump about three steps into the woods from the path. Unless you knew they were there, you would never find them. People could pass right by it and never have a clue. But evidently Greg and Maggot saw me put them there. I never even had a tingle or anything alerting me to their presence. Maybe it had to do with my being so jazzed about the run and the fact I was wearing that ring. I knew there was something different about me with it on. I didn’t know what it was but I was determined to find out. I looked around, but obviously not well, and seeing no one, I turned my naked body toward the deep wood and starting to jog. As I jogged I let the change come over me and within a couple of seconds I dropped to four paws and stretched out. I was going to keep it short, just an hour or so, but I also knew how I could completely lose track of time when I was in my wolf form. The sky was starting to darken by time I made it back to that stump. I was slightly disappointed nothing had happened while wearing the ring. I didn’t seem to run any faster, didn’t take on any extra strength or sight. After a while I realized I totally forgot I even had it on. I only just noticed it again as I morphed back into my human form as I walked up to the stump.
But my clothes were not there.
Shit! This was the stump, right? I walked out to the path and turned around a few times. Yes, damn it! It was the stump. I went back and checked again, thinking I simply missed them, knowing of course I didn’t. Praying they would appear anyway, like they were playing a trick on me or something. I even dug in the leaves thinking they could have buried themselves.
Shit. I was in trouble.
I stood there feeling like an idiot. What the fuck did I do now? I sure as hell couldn’t ride back to my house, a good six miles through town, stark naked. I wrapped my arms around myself wishing for even those girl’s gym clothes.
“You looking for these?”
The voice was unmistakable. It was Maggot. I had been standing with my back toward the trail, watching the stump as if by some magic the damn thing would chuck up my clothes. I quickly turned at the sound of his voice, cursing my so called “wolf senses” which obviously were absolutely useless. I should have at the very least heard someone approaching. Even my human senses should have been able to do that.
But it wasn’t just Maggot. I knew it wouldn’t be anyway. Right beside him stood jerk off Greg with a big ass grin on his stupid face. They were standing about ten feet away, just up the trail. Greg was the one holding my clothes.
My first thought was to cover myself but the only thing I had to do that with were my hands and it was a little late for that anyway. My second thought was the fact they had to have been there the whole time, waiting for me to come back. Other than my bike in the parking lot, a non-descript rusty old thing, entirely without any kind of personal mark on it at all, I had a hard time believing they knew I would be here. They had to have followed me from school.
My third thought was – how much did they see? Just me getting naked to run in the woods or did they see me change. Even if they hadn’t seen me shift when I first set out, I hadn’t even checked for bystanders when I arrived back. I shifted like it was the most natural thing in the world.
But they must have seen me the first time. They were way too calm to have only seen that shit now.