“One sip,” said the witch, “one sip and you’ll be cured forever.”
The blue Lupe took the vial and wrapped his paw around the cork. It wouldn’t budge. No matter how hard he tugged at it, it wouldn’t budge. It was cemented in place. He looked up at the green Ixi, his body trembling, his face quivering.
“Not without a price,” she said, “not without a price.”
He held out the vial, asking her to take it back.
“It’s yours now,” the witch said. “You took it willingly. You didn’t wait to hear all I had to say, and now the burden is yours.”
He shook his head, offering the vial again.
“I can’t take it back. It is yours now. All it carries is yours. Remember, Lupe: one sip and you’ll be cured forever.”
He shook his head again and opened his paw: The vial clung to his fur and refused to fall. He shook his paw violently, but the vial stuck to his blue fur like a burr and still refused to fall.
“It’s yours now,” the witch said. “It can no longer be denied.”
He swallowed uneasily and slammed his paw upon the floor, cringing as the vial shattered, shards of glass stinging his paw as blood and potion spread across the ancient stone floor. He smiled, victorious, and looked up at the witch.
She shook her head.
He looked down at his paw: The vial was whole again. The shards and the sharp gashes in his paw remained, but the vial had reappeared in his grasp entirely unscathed.
“You took it,” the witch said, “and it has become you. Every choice you make becomes you. Think wisely: one sip and you’ll be cured forever.”
He shook his head and tried to pry out the cork again.
“It cannot be opened,” the witch said, “with only the intent to pour it out.”
He stared up at the witch’s snickering face, then down at the fluid in the vial. He reached out again, wrapped his claws around the cork and pulled as hard as he could. The cork popped out and the potion sloshed around inside.
He inverted the vial, but the potion refused to flow past the vial’s mouth and pooled there as if the cork still restrained it.
“It cannot be poured out,” the witch said to him, mocking him now, “with the only intent to spill it out.”
He stared up at her and then stared back at the potion. He inverted the vial again--the fluid inside sank back to the bottom--and brought it near his face. He sniffed it, thought it smelled like straight water. He gulped and placed the vial to his lips, shutting his eyes, and tilted his head back to let the fluid fill his cheeks. It tasted like the straight water.
He looked up at the witch. The witch looked down at him.
He smiled and spit the potion on the floor. But she didn’t seem affected at all, as jeering as ever.
He looked back at the vial: It was full again.
* * *
He was a blue Lupe by nature. But because of nature, he was a Werelupe by night. By moonlight. The stars were already out and the sky was dark, but he hadn’t transformed yet. Only when mother moon looked down upon him would he turn. Her silver soul slithered just beneath the horizon now, her silver surface glowing, showing just above the earth, and he shivered.
He still held the vial in his paw. He hadn’t let go of it since he’d left the witch’s tower. He’d tried to put it down a dozen times, tried to leave it be forever, but she hadn’t been lying when she said every choice he made became him.
“Seek the seer,” they’d told him.
No one wanted a Werelupe in their village, so he listened. He sought the seer and approached her.
A red orb shone in the Usul’s hands. “Speak your desire,” she said.
To be cured. To be free. To be he.
“Seek the sorceress,” said the seer. “Speak to her your desire. Take her vial. Pass the test.”
Said nothing of a price, so he sought the sorceress instead.
“Step closer,” said the witch. He followed as told, stepping up to her glowing pot of boiling brew. “Hold out your hand.”
The brew’s steam rose beneath his paw and wet his fur. She clipped his first claw and let it fall into the cauldron. She cut a patch of fur from his paw and dropped it in afterwards.
“Speak silent your deepest desire,” the witch said to him, “like a dream, a deep thought. Close your eyes.”
He heard her hand plunge into the boiling brew.
“This shall be your salvation,” she said.
He opened his eyes, short of breath, as she held out the vial.
“One sip, one sip and you’ll be cured forever.”
* * *
To be cured. To be free. To be me.
One sip to be free.
One sip to set it all behind me.
The bite, the bruise, the blue moon threatened to rise over the horizon. He sat watching atop a rock atop a hill atop the world, all the world that he knew at least. Haunted woods to his west, shadows shouting at him through the darkened trees. Civilization to his east, spitting fire at his flesh. Pitiful. Outcast. Disgrace to society.
Monster. Demon. Beast.
He eyed the vial again. It could all be gone in a single sip.
“Your greatest desire,” the witch had said as he left, “shall be your truth. Your truth shall be your key.”
* * *
Silver moonbeams shone across the sky to speak to him. Mother moon was coming. He had to drink the potion before it was too late, or in his rage it’d meet an end from which it could never return.
Blood was his only desire past moonrise.
Blood would be his truth; his truth would never set him free.
His truth would simply cease to be.
Waves of rising moonlight caught the vial and turned the potion into light, white light that shimmered and shone in its glassen captivity.
He turned to his right and gazed towards his village in the distance. The houses were all dark; it was a shaded blotch against the moonlit land. No lanterns burning, no eyes watching out for him.
They’d abandoned him.
They had shoved him to the streets and sent him asunder in pieces he could never put back together again.
And for all of this, for all of them, he would drink the potion and return. Sideways glances and slurs behind his back. Worried parents shielding their children from his gaze. Might still be poison, they’d say. Might turn at any moment.
He looked back at the vial, how the potion undulated in the moonlight. Serene. Softly lit and softly spoken. Like a dream, a deep thought.
He looked up at the horizon: A few inches more, mother moon would look down upon him and he would turn.
He looked back at the vial and made his decision. He wrapped his claws around the cork and pulled it out with ease. He swirled the potion around inside, listened to the softness of its chime against the vial’s glassen sides.
Then he held out the vial and turned it over. The potion poured onto the ground and the glass vial followed from his paw. It shattered. Sank into the earth and disappeared.
Mother moon crested the horizon and he looked up into her eyes. Hers met his and brown iris turned yellow. Blue fur turned brown. Scrawn became brawn as he rose on his hind legs to greet the night.
His howl echoed across plains and shook the village he had once called home. They slept through his cry. No longer cared for his despair.
He turned toward the forest. Home is where the heart is, they said. His heart lay in the forest, bathed in moonlight, in rain and snow. In peace, serenity. In freedom.
The truth had set him free.
To be me.
The end is but another beginning.