Clouds scudded across the full moon, bright here, almost a mile from the meager lights of town.
‘This was the wrong job for me,’ thought Dr. Ben Billing as he gazed out into the night. ‘I need to get back to a city. Any city. Three months of nothing more interesting than moonshine overdoses or lawn mower accidents and I’m already going out of my mind.’
‘How many times can I give a charcoal treatment, or try to sew on some toes someone carried in here in a Dixie cup? This ER is killing me.’
The hospital (if you could call it that) sat on the outskirts of Iggerton, what Ben like to think of as “a podunk little shithole”. The place was so small they only required one person to man the ER overnight, and tonight that person was Ben.
“Well,” he said aloud, “it is Halloween. Maybe one of the hicks will go nuts and I’ll have a nice stab wound to suture or something.”
He turned from the window and took two steps before falling back with a gasp.
There was a boy.
Half-way down the corridor that had been empty when Ben had walked to the window, sitting on the one gurney the tiny Emergency Room sported, was a curly haired lad of about 15, in jeans and a t-shirt. There was a sheen of perspiration on his face and he was doubled over as if he were trying to warm the arms he held across his stomach.
“Hi! Uh… Hello?”
The boy ignored Ben, staring past him toward the window. Ben took a cautious step forward, realizing it was a little late but trying to sound authoritative anyway.
“Can I help you, Son?”
The boy rocked slightly and muttered something in a low voice, still staring. Ben paused and looked over his shoulder to see what it was that so fascinated his visitor. All he saw was the window. And the swollen moon. He turned back to the boy.
“Sorry, I couldn’t make that out. What did you say?”
The boy finally looked at Ben, his eyes dark and large, liquid with unshed tears.
“Hurts…” the boy growled, clutching his stomach even tighter. “…It hurrrts…”
“Your stomach? Did you eat something?”
Ben put his hand on the boy’s shoulder and felt him trembling.
“Can’t eat. Hurrrts…” Seined through gritted teeth, everything became a growl. He pried one arm from his abdomen, extending it toward the window to point a shaky finger.
Ben looked to the window. Saw nothing but the moon. That sparked a recollection, but he was distracted by the boy’s exposed arm. It was covered with thick, dark hair.
“Oh my God…”
He gripped the wrist, turning the arm over in a sort of daze.
‘I’ve never seen anything like this before! I wonder if…’
The inside of the forearm was bare, but there was hair growing on the boy’s palm, fine and dark. That recollection returned, but the boy pulled his arm back as if embarrassed.
“Is that, uh, new?”
“Yes,” gasped the boy, eyes squeezed shut. “The hair… the pain…what’s happening to me?”
Ben shook his head.
“I don’t know. Come with me, please. Here, I’ll help you.”
Ben assisted him into the next room and onto the sheet draped exam table. He looked at his patient. His hair was thick, and his ears seemed strangely pointed. His forearms were covered with a thick mat of hair. Ben felt a prickle of unease, remembering something he’d read long ago, as a child…
“Wait here,” Ben said. “I’ll be right back.”
He went up the hall to the front desk and grabbed his stethoscope. He was on his way back to the exam room when a high scream of pain stabbed out of the exam room, freezing Ben where he stood. He gaped for a second, then ran down the hall, bursting through the exam room doors.
“My God, what’s going—”
He froze again, this time in terror. Before him stood the boy — at least, he thought it was the boy. Hair covered him from crown to toes. The sneakers had been kicked off and the shirt torn to shreds, and there was hair everywhere! White teeth bared in a fierce snarl, hairy fingers hooked into talons, he howled at Ben.
All those childhood recollections, the books, the movies, it all came back to Ben in a rush. He felt a liquid warmth in his crotch, and he had time for one panicked thought:
“Wolfman!” he screamed as he spun and fled from the room. He sprinted up the hall to the exit. He ran through the parking lot blindly, no thought of his car. He aimed for the town almost a mile away and he ran and ran.
* * * * *
Behind the hospital two boys climbed into a large truck, one covered with hair, the other smooth skinned. They were laughing as the engine started. Across the hood was painted the words“Haradan Bros. Circus”, and each door was emblazoned with the words “Los Lobos - The Wolf Brothers”. The smooth-skinned one scratched his face as he held up a small video camera.
“This is going to itch like hell while it’s growing back,” he said. “Next time we switch, and you shave, okay?”
“Deal,” replied the hairy one. “But wasn’t it worth it?” He laughed again.
“Oh, definitely,” said the smooth one. “Who would have thought hypertrichosis could be so much fun!”
He pointed to the playback screen on the camera as, on it, the doctor burst into the room. The viewpoint was low, from beneath the exam table, and showed off the doctor’s groin to advantage.
“Watch, watch! This is the part where he wets his pants!”
The truck was put into gear, and rich laughter rolled out behind the truck as they drove through the night.
* * * * *
Hypertrichosis (also called Ambras Syndrome) is an abnormal amount of hair growth on the body; extensive cases of hypertrichosis have informally been called werewolf syndrome - See Wikipedia Entry