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Blue Moon

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Raven looks up as the door chimes. It’s been a slow day in the shop, just a few tourists browsing through the stuff that Raven has specifically set up for them – all harmless, all not remotely magical. Scented candles, incense, pentagram necklaces, crystals too fragile to enchant, that sort of thing. Knickknacks you can find in every occult shop from here to Europe and beyond. Because, let’s face it, most people who come to an occult shop really aren’t looking for real magic. They want to feel a taste of the taboo and then leave sniffing their patchouli incense, happy in the primal knowledge that they are superior beings for not believing in any of it.

A woman with short-cut blonde hair stumbles through the door, looking up to see Raven before stalking right past the tourist traps, weaving her way among the tables of slightly more unique – but still harmless – esoterica. As she gets closer, Raven picks up on a few things. The stranger is tall, slender, dressed in the classically Canadian combination of torn jeans combined with a jean vest of a slightly different color denim, pocketed and unbuttoned over a black button-down and, hello , equipped with a rainbow flag pin on the left chest and some metal spikes arrayed on both shoulders. Her boots are brown lace-ups, and she has a red paisley bandana wrapped around her neck. There’s a bike clip holding the neatly-rolled right leg of her jeans up to about mid-calf, and enough to see the sprinkling of fine, blond hair above the ankle.

But Raven notices something particular after she locks eyes with the stranger, gazing into slate-blue eyes that are curiously dark against her light skin and hair. Namely, she notices that this stranger is hot.

Oh, my.

Raven clears her throat. Down, girl. No more mundane mortals, you promised yourself after the last time. That’s why you moved to the Ghost River Triangle, after all. Look but don’t touch.  

"Welcome, stranger. What can I help you with today?

The stranger skids to a stop in front of the counter, looking agitated. She fiddles with her fingers, biting her lip. “Uh, hi ... I'm–”

Raven narrows her eyes. She likes this part, likes the game of figuring someone out. Even if they are untouchable from a dating perspective. 

“Hold on! Let me guess!” She turns, rummaging through the shelves of jars and odd items behind her. “You're looking for a love potion to attract a special someone?”

She immediately regrets the guess. No no no, you're too cute for that.

“Scratch that! Maybe what you need is something to ward off the unwanted attention of men. Who needs that, amiright?”

The stranger lifts both hands. "Heh, no. Actually, I, uh, was wondering if you might know anything about ... curses?"

Raven’s heart sinks. Damn, it’s a shame you’re into black magic. "Sorry, honey, I don't sell curses. Too permanent. Huge legal headache – they’ll come after you for that kind of stuff around here."

The consequence of living in a society that acknowledges magic is being regulated by that society. A small price to pay to avoid a witch hunt.

The stranger shrinks a little, shoulders hunching. She bites her lip, hesitating even as she shakes her head. 

“No, um ... it's me. I think ... I might be cursed. My name is Sam, a friend told me you might be able to help? You are Raven, right?”

Raven’s heart sinks even more. Oh boy, here we go, it’s gonna be one of these. Still, it's important to stay professional ...

“Yes, I’m Raven. Cursed, hmm? What kind of curse exactly?”

“It’s kinda a long story …

 

Double, double, toil and AWOOOOOOO

 

Twenty-eight days ago:

Sam loves today. She loves every day she can get outside, honestly, and today she has the entire day off to hit one of the new trails on her list – a really old one she found on a geocaching site, way out of the way of other people. Just her, alone in the wilderness. She’s been out here for four or five hours now, meandering through the woods and across small streams, lunching at a beautifully flat rock she found out in the sunshine. She even got to stop and look for salamanders, finding a few and carefully setting them back in their hidey-holes after she took pics to send to her old boss – when she got back to cellular range, that is. 

Out loud, to herself, Sam says, “Ah, what a lovely day for a hike.” Yeah, okay, that’s kinda dumb, but it makes her happy and it’s not like the squirrels are going to judge her for it.

Not that she’s seen any squirrels lately. Birds either. It’s been quiet for a little while. Huh . She shrugs it off. 

It’s getting toward the time to head back to her car – she’s carefully kept track of the route she’s taken, and that unerring sense of direction she’s had since childhood is helping her out, along with the compass she keeps for backup.  

At a certain point, however, the trail starts to look less and less familiar. Sam stops, surveying the route ahead. The trail is marked, little plastic ribbons tied to tree branches, but she could swear that she didn’t remember coming this way before. The hill slopes quite steeply down to her right, studded with sparse trees and floored with deep drifts of fallen leaves, while to her left the ground escalates at an angle that makes her tired legs ache to think about. The trail is fairly level, though, even though she can’t see any path under all the leaves.

Shrugging her backpack into a better position, Sam decides to proceed. The direction of this odd slice of trail is pretty much where she’s going anyway, and there’s still plenty of sunlight before she’ll have to worry about having to haul ass to get back to her car. 

She’s about half an hour in when everything goes awry.

Sam doesn’t even see the tree root that hooks her foot, but all at once she’s tumbling, rolling, and sliding down that damnable hill, back and knees and forearms taking impact after impact as she instinctually tucks into a ball and tries to protect her head. Then her head slams into something. Blue lights spark through her brain, dancing behind her eyes, followed by darkness.

...

Sam wakes to dimness, the haunt of twilight. Not day, not night. She feels … weird. 

“Ack,” she says, bringing a hand to her forehead. The ache is profound , something worse than any hangover she’s ever had. Her fingers are wet, and there’s something dark in her right eye. She wipes it, tears flushing the thick stuff away, and blinks, looking around as she continues to probe the cut on her scalp. It’s not awful, she thinks, but fuck it aches. 

There’s a low stone slab near her, about two feet by four feet, held up off the ground by a single layer of smaller, rounder stones arranged under it like some slice of a wall from before the invention of mortar. Sam tries to lever herself up and winces at the sharp, shooting pain in her shoulder. There’s something wrong with her hip as well. She grits her teeth, ignoring how it intensifies her headache, and cajoles herself into a sitting position.

On the stone slab, in the middle of nowhere, in the murk of dusk, there’s a stone … something. Two somethings. Sam reaches out and pulls first one, then the other closer. It looks carved, but there’s a fresh, jagged edge on one side of each. There’s also a smear of blood right in the middle, smudged onto both items. Hers, probably. From when her head hit it?

“Damn, did I break you?” Sam tries to put the pieces together, squinting in the poor light. “What are you? A wolf?”

The world rumbles. Sam’s gaze is wrenched unnaturally upward, away from the stone carving in either hand, up to the first gleaming sight of the moon. The giant, pulsing, blue moon.

A hissssss fills the space around her, and all at once the moonlight isn’t the only brilliance shining upon her. From below, an electric blue radiance fills her, humming and zapping in her hands, and then it’s filling her vision, washing out the trees, the forest, the sky, and the moon at the horizon.

Sam screams. At least she thinks she screams. But it’s pouring into her, hot and fast, through the eye she banged on the stone sculpture in her hands, filling her from the crown of her head to the tips of her toes.

She staggers to her feet, dropping the stone with a clatter, and screams, throwing back her head. Or … she tries to scream. 

It comes out as a mournful howl. 

Awoooooooooooooo!

Pain, pain, pain rushes through her, seething along her skin, crawling along every inch of flesh. With one mind, she struggles to shed her clothes, desperately trying to stop that spine-tingling itch swarming up under her shirt and jeans. The shirt and vest are off in a moment, buttons flying, but she tangles in her jeans and goes down to the leaves. The boots take too long and then she’s ripping, clawing at her pants, voice sobbing in warped agony. 

Snarling with the pain, Sam wrenches her feet out, but then the pain changes, going deeper, and she can’t shed her flesh like she did her clothes. Sam rolls, clawing at the leaves and dirt, sight still obscured by brilliant, blue, electric smoke. Her bones crack, her spine wrenching in peculiar agony, everything hurting so badly at once that she can’t think, can’t breathe, can only writhe in exquisite torment until, mercifully, it begins to end.

Sam doesn’t believe it could just end, so as the relative relief of her body’s condition slows her breathing, she doesn’t open her eyes. Eventually, she realizes that she doesn’t feel the leaves under her ribs, or her hips, or her face. She feels gently around, terrified that any movement will restart the pain. But the pain doesn’t return, and her hands feel … weird. Almost desensitized. 

Is this like, nerve damage? Will I never be able to feel again? Was I struck by lightning?

Cautiously, slowly, Sam cracks her eyes open. It’s curiously bright, shadows falling dark among silvery light, but she can’t see her hand very well amongst the leaves. It looks weird, dark and big and–

As she tilts her hand, studying it, the moonlight glints strangely off the soft coating on the back. It looks like ...

Sam bolts upright, staring down at herself.

In the bold, bright light of the full moon, her body ripples with dark, shiny hair. When she runs a hand over her stomach, the big, meaty hand sinks, cutting deep channels in the plush depths of her pelt

“What the fuck, ” Sam says. 

The rumble that comes out of her throat isn’t hers. Sam whines. Something’s wrong with her tongue, with her teeth. Sam makes that canine sound again and probes her face with that rough, desensitized hand.

“Thith is too weird, what the fuck, what the fuuuuck .”

She has fangs. She almost cuts her thumb on one. And her nose is weird, wet and rough. There’s a soft coating of fur on her face, too, and her ears are big and furry and they move!

The carving!

Sam crouches, balancing on toes gone too wide and sharp ( Oh fuck, what, I have paws , holy shit, what is this?) and scrambles in the leaf litter, looking for the stone thing that she’d seen glowing. A carving of a wolf. But it isn’t there.

Sam throws her head back and yells, but all that comes out is another spine-chilling howl. 

 

Abracadabwoooooo

 

Raven crosses her arms over her chest, enjoying how Sam’s eyes dart to her cleavage despite the fact that this story is getting more unlikely by the moment. That’s the point of this dress, after all, for her girls to be seen and appreciated. The lacy, low neckline, barely see-through fabric, and black bra are there to make a point. Even the long, thin, gold necklace is there to pull the eye where she wants it to go. (If she’s interested in a person. If she’s not, they’re just not at all attracted to her. If you’re going to be a witch, why not enjoy the perks?)

“So, let me get this straight. You stumbled onto some mystical altar out in the wilds of Canada, broke a little stone sculpture, and now you’re a werewolf. The carving disappeared, and you haven’t had any furry nights since the last full moon. Tonight’s a full moon, so you’ve come to me to try to get me to remove the curse.”

Sam nods, eyes big and blue. Raven wants to believe her, she really does, but this one is too fantastical to believe.

“Okay, well, Sam was it? Why don’t you come back tonight, right before dusk. I live upstairs and you can have a nice, comfy, safe spot to change forms and then we can get to the bottom of this.”

“Ohmygod, thank you so much!!!” Sam’s gratitude is intense, effusive, and Raven finds her hand being shaken up and down in the hands of this blonde puppy. “I’ll be back around, um …”

“The sun sets at 9:45ish tonight,” Raven supplies. “Come at 9:30.”

“Okay! Thank you, thank you, um, I’m gonna go home and, uh, I don’t know. Do I, um, need anything?”

“You could bring a bottle of wine?” Raven suggests, then internally scolds herself. This is not a date!

“Um, will do! I guess I’ll see you then?”

Raven watches, bemused, as the golden retriever in human form somehow manages not to knock anything over on the way out the door. On the back of her vest, in a black T-shirt cutout within the denim, is white lettering: “FUCK TERFS.”

Her first thought, Damn, what a babe! is swiftly followed by, Raven, what are you doing, werewolves don’t get made from breaking weird stone carvings! This is just another person who did too many drugs last month. You’re going to be disappointed!

Raven gets out her supplies anyway. After all, her Mom always taught her to prepare for the worst and the best, since most things will fall right in the middle.