The high school disco hall falls dim again.
Throngs of dancing teenagers—clad in leather, denim, sequins—groan. Some switch on their phones while the rest lean toward their friends, cursing the school management. The scent of excess deodorant clogs the air, concealing an undertone of adolescent sweat and insecurity.
Nobody’s gaze lingers on Nate, which is a good thing, of course. It means he blends in; he belongs. He too is wondering when the blaring music will restart and thunder in everyone’s chests like a giant heartbeat. He too is tired of the school’s recurrent power cuts.
The crescent moon winks at him through the window. It’s not full yet, he tells himself, looking away. Not a full moon.
A teacher teeters onto the small stage, clutching a mic. “Um, kids, please be patient, the lights and the music will be back soon. Until then, uh, you can enjoy a book—in the reading corner.” He grins nervously and points at the bookshelf at one end of the hall. A few kids sit beside it, focused on tattered copies of Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings.
Everyone scoffs. Everyone rolls their eyes.
Leaning against a wall, Nate takes out his phone and squints at the bright screen. Finds messages only from his parents. He sighs, while notifications buzz from other phones across the hall. Contemplates sending a meme on a group chat. Decides against it. He texts people too much anyway.
A girl and a guy pass by, the guy’s arm slung around the girl’s. Reina and Max. The kind of kids who go out often, post on Instagram daily, still receive brilliant grades, and are guaranteed an acceptance to some prestigious university. The kind of kids who remain human kids. Reina smacks Max, laughing, and tightens the sweatshirt tied around her slim waist.
Nate waves at them, ready to drop in a “How’s it goin’, guys?” But his smile gets stuck halfway—they aren’t even heading toward him, they’re interested in the louder group near the center of the hall.
Lowering his hand, Nate pretends he hasn’t seen them when Max calls out, “Nate! What’s up, bro?”
Reina smiles a red lipstick-smile, while Nate tries to brainstorm a cool enough reply. See, he is enjoying this party. People do want to talk to him.
“Hey!” he says. That sounded enthusiastic enough, didn’t it? “How’ve you guys been? Oh, also about that—”
But Max is already jogging off to a guy who came to greet him. They thump each other’s backs, laughing about some movie they watched together last weekend.
Reina follows them. “See ya, Nate,” she says. But she never will.
“Yeah, see ya,” Nate says.
He watches as the group shares groans and gossip and casual touches with each other. Turning away, he looks out at the moon—a pearly white grin in the sky. It reminds him of another grin—teeth like knives on a full moon night over a week ago, the searing heat of a bite in his shoulder, the blur of brown fur and blood. A night when his dismal thoughts about school were pushed away by a greater, more hungering terror; but here he is again—worrying more about how alone he looks on that dance floor, about having no exciting gossip to share, no courage to greet anyone, no girl to date.
Or boy. Or anyone else on the gender spectrum, really.
Nate shakes his head, his eyes searching for any cool high schooler who might pay a little attention to him. But the moon grabs his sight instead. Look at me! it seems to laugh, burning bright. And look at yourself. Its words feel real—more genuine than any other words exchanged between him and the other high schoolers that day.
It’s not a full moon, though, Nate thinks, there’s still time—many days.
He takes a deep breath and exhales, walking away from the window. Adjusts his spectacles and grins when three guys absently glance at him. He too is wondering how much longer this boredom will last—how long before the speakers blast on songs again.
Everyone sighs. Everyone mutters about their school’s lame party arrangements.
Nate ends up sending a hilarious meme to a group chat. In five minutes, everyone has seen it and he’s been left on read and it doesn’t seem so hilarious anymore. He shoves the phone into his pocket and presses his lips together.
The night offers a slight autumn breeze, drawing him back to the window.
Everyone groans. They’ve been waiting for so long.
Nate stares at his hands—alien skin stretched over his bones. He looks at his feet—perfect for walking with the crowds in school hallways. I shouldn’t keep them waiting any longer.
He remembers being sprawled near the woods’ edges that night—how the gnarled, wrinkled trees had seemed to hunch over him as if questioning: What have you become, boy? What? He’d clutched his shoulder and turned his face to the ground. I get it, okay? he’d thought, the stench of his blood overwhelming him. I’m some sort of mistake. Imagine going out for a pitiful walk at midnight in the woods to wallow in your loneliness and your confused feelings about . . . about everything—mainly your choice of crushes, the rift opening up between you and your parents, your damned future with no plans—only to end up getting bitten by a werewolf. And apparently, those freaks do exist. Wow.
In the end, he’d stumbled home and cleaned up. Steadied his thoughts. One day a month. I can handle that, right? At least I won’t be Changing on the day of the dance.
He almost laughs at his priorities now. But the questions remain: what has he become? A monster? A freaky loner desperate for friends? And what do the others see him as? Or do they even see him?
Is he the only one who sees himself? Who is he? As he searches for the answers deep inside—under the desperation—he realizes he feels like he’s always felt: himself. Out-of-place, awkward, but himself.
Nate leans out of the window and lets the moonlight drip over his face. His body prickles. Stiffens. A burning sensation tugs at his bones.
No, he immediately thinks, this is a bad idea. He imagines how the next few minutes will unfold, his mouth going dry.
Everyone will freak out watching his transformation. They’ll scatter away from him, screaming at the sight of the creature he’s about to change into. At least before he blended in, nodding to other kids in the hallways. At least they did greet him before passing by.
But they didn’t see him.
It feels like his head is floating away. He can’t think. And he can’t breathe. And he can’t—
An animal roars to life in his chest. The night breathes new air into his lungs.
Blood thrums through his body, surging, pulsating against the shocked silence in the room. His skin presses tight against his frame. As his eyes slit, he sees everyone with more clarity—Max’s hair gel that hides hours of staring distastefully into the mirror, Reina’s lipstick smile that’s made only of cosmetic chemicals.
Nate’s phone slips from his grasp. Its screen shatters. And he grins. His chest feels free.
Gasps and shrieks surround him as he feels himself extend. Brown fur spurts from his skin, ripping the shoes and clothes off his body. The school seems to shrink.
Open mouths, wide eyes, screams—the reaction he’d expect from anyone after they see a nearly invisible kid at school transform into a werewolf.
“But—but it’s not a full moon night,” whispers a guy—super cute—who is passionate about cyberpunk and usually goes unnoticed. The others stare at him like he’s an idiot to be playing along with this werewolf thing, probably willing him to scream with them, torn between terror and denial. But he continues, “Werewolf Changings only occur on…”
Nate nods. Changings occur only on full moon nights. But he can Become himself on any day he chooses.
He bends his legs, howls, and leaps out of the disco hall into the night, leaving only a cracked phone on the wooden floor.
Tejal Doshi is a teen writer from India whose work is published or forthcoming in Paper Lanterns Lit, Echo Literary Magazine, Blue Marble Review, and elsewhere. Find out more about her at tejaldoshi.carrd.co