Alpha

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Note this one gets quiet violent

 

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I woke up slowly in an unfamiliar place.  I was once again naked and dirty, but this time I wasn’t in the woods.  Most alarming though was this time I wasn’t alone.

“Mornin’ sunshine.”  The gruff male voice said.

I sniffed at him.  I was unsure why for the past few months, I had started doing this, sniffing at people, feeling like I could tell so much about them just from a whiff of their odor.  He smelled different, almost familiar, but yet scary.  He was a rather average looking guy in his late 20s or early 30s, with buzzed short light brown hair.

“I’ve been looking for you for a while.  I knew we’d turned a new one, but you’ve been elusive.”  He said.  

I sat up on the rough wood floor, curling myself up as I did, instinctively covering my most vulnerable feeling parts.  I’d almost gotten used to waking up naked and alone every few weeks, I had stopped panicking each time.  It still bothered me, but I’d stopped panicking.  Waking up not alone was actually scarier, but just maybe it would come with an explanation.

“Where am I?”  I asked cautiously.

“At the pack’s main lodge.”  He said, his tone suggested that he didn’t expect it to mean much to me, of course he was right.

“How did I get here?”  I asked.  

“What do you remember?”  He turned the question back to me, not offering any helpful information.

I just shook my head.  The things I remembered made no sense.  I’d been compelled to pull my truck over, take off my clothes, and  wander out into the woods by something I didn’t understand.  And then there were the crazy dreams.  Dreaming I was some animal running through the woods.  That part was the same as when something similar had happened a few weeks ago, almost a month ago.  Last night’s dream, though, included finding a pack of wolves, and growling at one.  Growling at one who smelled strangely like the man who was casually circling the room.  The whole pack of them circling me, almost herding me.  Steering what direction I went in.

“Who are you?”  I asked.

“Alpha.” He answered confidently, smiling and showing his white teeth.

“That’s not your name.”  I answered just as confidently.

“It’s my title.”  He claimed.  “My name is Jerome.  Now you owe me your name.”

“I don’t owe it to you.”   I told him.  “It’s not a secret though, so I will share it freely.  I’m Hannah.”

“Welcome to my pack Hannah.”  Jerome stated in a tone that carried some threat, it was clear this wasn’t simply an invitation.

“Your what?”  I felt my forehead wrinkle.

“My Pack.”  He stated with pride.  “My werewolf pack.”

“Werewolf?  Is this some kind of joke?”  I laughed, though oddly he smelled like he believed what he was saying.  “Werewolves aren’t real.”

“Really Hannah?”  He chuckled menacingly.  “You seem smarter than that.  I thought you’d have figured it out by now.”

“Figured what out?”  I could hear how defensive it sounded, could feel in my mind I knew where this was going even though I couldn’t accept it.

“The attack, what was it eight or nine months ago?”  He said, nodding at the not quite fully healed scar on my leg.  “Then the urge, the uncontrollable urge to be out in the moonlight started the next month.”

I started shaking my head fearfully wishing what he was saying wasn’t true.

“Waking up naked and dirty once a month with your hair all matted up.”  He chuckled looking at me.  “I’m surprised you still keep it so long.  How many times has the dirt included blood?”

I just kept shaking my head at the more truths I had been trying to not accept.  The things I had been trying to ignore. 

“The blood is usually rabbit or squirrel when we hunt alone,”   he told me calmly as if it were just a matter of fact thing.  “When we hunt in a pack, we take down deer.”

“I took down a deer last month…” escaped my lips.

It was something I remembered from a dream, and the blood I had woken up covered in smelled like deer.  In the dream, the memory I wanted to be a dream, I remembered the panic in the small bucks eyes as I felt the warm arterial blood spurt on my face.  I hadn’t been hungry the way I usually was when I’d woken up.  The next day I’d found the carcass where I remembered stashing it for later in my dream, under a bush at the edge of the woods just past my yard.  It was what I think was a 4 point buck, though I wasn’t really into hunting, the throat ripped out and it was half devoured.  I’d buried it.  

“Very impressive Hannah.”  Jerome said surprisingly genuinely.  “And how do you think you managed that?”

I just kept shaking my head.

“Do you think a simple human could do that?”  He reasoned with me.

“I’m not a werewolf.”  I growled.  “There is no such thing as werewolves.”

“Did you used to have a pet Hannah?”  Jerome asked.  “Did that pet suddenly become very very afraid of you right after the attack?  Did they run off, or did you have to give your pet away?”

“It’s just temporary.”  I tried to convince myself as much as Jerome.  “Knight will come home as soon as he forgets whatever spooked him.”

“You spooked him Hannah,”  Jerome told me.  “And you will spook him again.  That isn’t going to change.”

I was still shaking my head as tears flowed from my eyes.  Somehow I knew he was right and telling me the truth, but I still couldn’t just accept it.  

“Come Hannah,”  Jerome stopped circling finally,  squatted down, and talked to me in a suddenly much gentler tone.  “I’ll show you to the women’s cabin.  They can help you get cleaned up and find you something to wear.”

Jerome reached out his hand, I hesitated, reluctant to take it.  Taking his hand felt like admitting it was true.  Admitting I was a werewolf, admitting Knight would never come home.  Admitting what was happening on these nights was not just wild dreams, but reality.  I didn’t want to accept the truth, I didn’t want to accept his hand.

Jerome patiently squatted there, his hand just waiting to be accepted.  I swallowed hard, reached up and took it.

 

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Though the walk to the women’s cabin was short, it was the most uncomfortable walk I had ever taken.  We encountered several people along the way, they stole glances at us, but then they looked down.  I got the feeling the looking down was about Jerome though, not about me or my unwanted nudity.  They smelled familiar, just like Jerome did, but unlike Jerome, they didn’t smell scary, they smelled scared.  

“What is this place?”  I asked as we walked past the third old run down cabin.

“It’s the pack’s compound.”  Jerome informed me.  “About 50 years ago, it was a summer camp, but it closed down and was abandoned till I found it.  I was able to buy it cheap.   There’s enough land that it’s reasonably safe to change here.  We rarely encounter people, we’d gone quite a distance the night we encountered you.  What were you doing out that night?”

“What night?”  I asked in confusion as I tried to avoid stepping on any sharp rocks or twigs in my bare feet.

“The night you were bitten.”  Jerome clarified.  “The full moon night you were attacked by a wild animal.”

I took a ragged breath remembering it.  “I was changing a flat tire.  I’d taken a shortcut along an old logging road.  Fortunately I had just finished and was putting the jack away when I heard the growl.  If it had been a few minutes earlier, I’m not sure if I would have been able to make it into the seat and drive myself to the nearest house where they called 911.  I’d lost a lot of blood and was nearly passed out when I made it there.  I don’t think I could have finished changing the tire before passing out, and I had the tire iron handy to swing at the animal that bit me.  If it had required more than just dragging myself to the driver’s seat.  I probably wasn’t really in any shape to drive, but I had no cell reception, so I didn’t have much choice.”

“You are an impressive woman,”  Jerome smiled.  “You will make a very good addition to the pack.  The pack is way too male heavy.”

“Impressive?”  I snorted. “It was just pure adrenaline.  And I’m not sure if I want to join your pack.”

“What else would you do?”  Jerome asked, obviously viewing the idea that I was simply now a member of his pack.  “It’s a few hundred miles to the next nearest pack.  Besides, we changed you, it makes us family.”

“Did you do this to me deliberately?”  I asked, suddenly stopping, thinking about the hell my life had been these last few months.

“Did you kill that deer last month deliberately?”  Jerome asked with a shrug.  “The wolf does what the wolf does.”

We walked on in silence.  I had mixed feelings about everything.  In some ways, it was a relief to finally have an explanation to what had been happening, and possibly some support.  On the other hand, I did not trust this man, or like him at all.  

 

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When we entered the women’s cabin, the quiet conversations died.  The women were mostly in various states of undress, some wet from the shower, others obviously still waiting a turn.  Only a few had on dresses and were working on combing out their hair, or helping another woman with it.  They were all obviously working on getting ready for the day, but that activity was paused.

A few small children hid behind mothers, they were all small children and babies, no teens, or even any that seemed to be above about 7 or 8.  The women all carefully avoided making eye contact with Jerome, some almost hiding themselves, cautiously glancing out at us.  A single woman walked up to Jerome with a bowed head.

She was around my age,  30ish.  She wore a kind of out of style dress that had seen a lot of hard wear and not too gentle laundering.  She was probably average height and weight. or maybe even a bit over, but was obviously trying to look small.  Her sandy blonde hair was cut in a blunt just above the shoulders length bob with eyebrow grazing bangs.  I looked around and realized that every single one of the women had the exact same haircut.

“Victoria, is the female Alpha,” Jerome told me about the woman in front of him, then turned to her.  “This is Hannah, she needs to be cleaned up and given something to wear.  Please take care of that Victoria.”

And just like that, Jerome left me with the women, who watched him warily as he left.  The heavy odor of anxiety in the air began to dissipate ever so slightly once he was fully gone.  Hushed conversations began again, and the women and children started to resume activity, which seemed to be mostly cleaning themselves up, helping each other comb out their hair, and getting dressed. 

“Hi Hannah.”  Victoria said in a gentle voice once Jerome was gone.   “The other women just call me Tori.   There’s a shower this way.”  

Tori gently took my arm and steered me towards the back of the building and through the open door to a room with a wall of sinks, 4 toilet stalls and 2 shower stalls.

“Thank you,” I said to the woman as she handed me a nearly threadbare towel.

 

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I felt much better, once I was no longer caked in dirt.  I wasn’t super happy about the thin floral cotton dress I was given, explaining that I was much more of a t-shirt and jeans kind of gal, but they said they only had dresses.  I just put it on, figuring beggars can’t be choosers.  I also was given a pair of flip-flops that provided minimal protection for my feet.  

“Come sit Hannah,”  one of the women invited me to a chair.  “I’ll help you get that hair untangled, get the mats out.”

“Thanks, but you have already done so much, I don’t want to take up more of your time.”  I declined the offer.  “I can manage, if you will just let me borrow a comb.  I have very easy to untangle hair.”

I was actually down playing the untangling being easy part.  The reality was that my hair was nearly tangle proof.  Most people didn’t realize it looking at me, but I had a Japanese grandmother and had inherited her extremely smooth straight hair, and each individual hair was thick.  My hair was a dark brown instead of a shiny black my grandmother said hers had been before it went gray, but it had the texture that made it nearly impossible to tangle.  Though I had been waking up these last few months with my hair the most tangled it had ever been, it wasn’t as bad to comb out as I knew some people’s hair could be on a pretty regular basis.

“It will be much quicker if you let me deal with it,” the woman promised me, “this is how we do this.  We can’t go to breakfast till everyone is ready, so it’s best to just get it done and over with.”

I sighed, I didn’t want to hold all the other women up even if I would rather just take my time and comb out my hair myself.   I sat down in the chair, and waited to be handed a comb to start working on the front while the woman behind me would work on the back.

Instead of being handed a comb, and feeling the woman behind me choose a few locks to start combing, I felt her pull all of my hair back and wrap her hand around a large bundle and hold it taught against my back.  It just didn’t feel right, and I could smell her too.  Her anxiety level had risen.  Something was wrong.

I pulled away, got up and turned around.  Instead of a comb, the woman was holding a long pointy pair of scissors, like the pair my mother had in her sewing basket.  Belatedly, she tried to hide the shiny silver implement in the fabric folds of her skirt.  Her smell changed to embarrassment and fear.  She hung her head, in a similar way to the way they all had when Jerome had entered the cabin.

“WHAT THE HELL!”  I accused her, as I pulled my hair over my shoulder to make sure the long bundle was still intact.  “Were you planning to cut my hair?!”

The woman simply looked down, and let out a very soft whimper.   I stroked my hand over my hair, trying to calm myself.  I looked at the floor, and didn’t see any strands on the floor.  She was obviously trying to look small as she avoided eye contact and glanced over towards Tori.  Tori seemed to have heard my raised voice, not that that was surprising considering the women and children in the cabin seemed to mostly talk in hushed tones.  

“I’ll take care of this Penny,”  Tori said, taking the not well hidden scissors from the scared woman, who scampered away as soon as she was dismissed.  “Sorry Hannah, I should have explained to you that we all keep our hair shorter because of the tangling.  Don’t worry, we don’t cut it severely short like the men’s, just a longish bob.  Alpha, Jerome, likes us to look feminine.” 

I looked around again at the women with their nearly identical shoulder or a little above the shoulder length bobs with bangs.  They were rather blandly cut, though not uneven, very flat and blunt.   They were lacking the crispness, subtle layering, and careful angling that marked a well executed professional haircut.  It was obvious they’d simply been giving each other identical haircuts.  I thought back to all the people I had passed on the way to the women’s cabin.  They’d mostly been men, they’d all had very basic buzzcuts, of course the one or two women I’d seen had had the same bobs.

Of course the quality of the haircut wasn’t really the issue, if it was, I could simply plan to get it redone at my salon in a few days, I didn’t want a haircut, any haircut.  I liked that my hair reached my tailbone, I liked the slight layers my hairdresser gave me.  She trimmed my hair carefully with razor sharp shears to prevent split ends.  I looked at Tori, she wasn’t giving up and leaving, she was waiting.

“Sit, we’ll get rid of the matted hair.”  Tori said.

“No thanks. I’ll just comb it out myself.”  I simply said, trying to slip away, but finding a couple of women had blocked me in.  

“That’s not very practical.”  Tori said.  “This isn’t just a thing our pack does, other werewolves outside our pack keep their hair short, usually shorter than here in Jerome’s pack from what I’ve seen.  I had a pixie cut before Jerome found me.  Our hair just gets matted up worse and worse each month with all the debris from our fur during the change.  Cutting out the mats just makes your life easier.”

“I’ve been managing just fine,”  I told Tori.  “My hair doesn’t really mat.  So again, NO thanks.”

“Alpha is not going to be happy.”  Tori told me in a warning tone.

“I don’t care.”  I stated, and began to push my way past the other women.

The other women looked unsure about letting me go, and looked to Tori.  Tori just shook her head though, and the women, who had been blocking me in, let me pass without a fight.

 

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Breakfast was enlightening.  I mostly hung back observing.  

I watched as a small group of men, who seemed to hang close to Jerome,  pushed all the women and children, as well as many of the other men, aside as they took what they wanted of the packaged breakfast food.  They would growl at others, as they took as much of the precooked bacon as they wanted from the package they’d torn open, leaving nothing behind but the wrappers for others to clean up.  They emptied a couple of boxes of name brand cold cereal, and a few cartons of whole milk.  Left behind was mostly store brand cereal and skim milk.

After that, the remaining food was taken by those who could elbow in and grab.  I observed as the women who seemed to be the mothers of the children, were only able to grab about the same amount as the other women and some of the men, not getting anything extra for the children, and then would split what they had with the children.  

It was obvious there was a rough pecking order being followed, with Jerome and his pals at the top, and the children at the bottom.  The food was not so plentiful that there was enough for everyone to get their fill.  It was obvious from how the ones who were getting to grab last looked thin, stressed, tired and down trodden, that this was probably how every meal went.

I was hungry, just as I always was on the mornings I woke up naked and dirty in a strange place.  I wasn’t so hungry that I was going to take food from the mouths of babies though.  So I just watched.  Wondering why this was happening the way it was.  

When the food was all taken, I observed as those who had gotten the least, were the ones to begin to clean up.  Tori stood directing and telling women what to do.  Jerome and his inner circle relaxed.

I guess I did something to catch Jerome’s eye, because he looked over and stared at me, looking me up and down.  I met his gaze and stared back.  He looked over at Tori, who nervously averted her eyes as she continued to make sure the clean up was going smoothly.  Then Jerome looked back at me, his expression mostly curious.

“Victoria!”  Jerome called her to him.

“Yes Alpha.”  She came to stand in front of the lounging men with her head bowed.

“I told you to get Hannah cleaned up.”  He reminded her.  “Why does she still have long tangled hair with god only knows what disgusting things at the center of the knots?  That’s not really cleaned up is it?”

Though he was talking to Tori, during the whole exchange he was observing me.  He had a cold expression, much like a judge at a dog show.

“She refused to let us cut her hair.”  She told him.  “I didn’t want to push her too soon.”

“Are you female alpha?”  Jerome asked her.

“She’s new, she hasn’t figured out what that means yet.”  Tori said defensively.  “Just give it time.”

“I expect you to take care of this.”  He ordered blandly. 

“Yes Alpha.”

 

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After breakfast, the pack broke up, everyone just wandering off.  Some of the men went to their cabins and started napping.   Others went off to do other things.  I heard one woman ask her two children if they wanted to go look for huckleberries before they wandered into the woods.  Some started working on chores.

I was planning to simply leave at that point, but a bit unsure how.  I didn’t remember exactly where I’d pulled my truck over, just needing to be out as the sun set.  I figured my keys were still in my pants pocket.  I had a vague memory of taking them off a few feet from the truck door I think I left open.  Then a worse thought crossed my mind, I couldn’t remember turning the headlights off, and how there’d been beeping in the background as I struggled to get out of my bluejeans as my hips were stretching.  Fuck, my battery is probably dead.  Maybe I could use my phone to track down its location, but of course my phone would be in the other pocket of my bluejeans.

“Hannah.”  Tori said to me in a tone of authority.  “The mats in your hair need to be gone by lunchtime.”

She held out a comb and pair of scissors, obviously expecting me to take them.  She had a no nonsense expression on her face.  I was happy to be given a comb, but also didn’t really want to still be here by lunchtime.

“Thanks,” I tried to be polite, even though I wasn’t reaching out to take the comb and scissors.  “I’d just like to get going though.  Can I borrow a phone so I can call an Uber to come get me and take me home.”

“There’s no cell reception.”  Tori stated looking frustrated.  “We can discuss arrangements after lunch.”

I sighed, “Can someone drive me to somewhere with reception?”  

“Everyone is busy now.” Tori stated, even though I could see Jerome and his circle were just sitting around an unlit fire circle in adirondack style chairs.  “We’re all pretty tired the day after a full moon night.  You’re going to have to stay with us for a little while, and you can’t show up at lunch with stuff matted in your hair.”

I decided that for the moment at least, it was best to just go along with what Tori told me, I just had a feeling making a fuss might not be the wisest move.  I couldn’t explain why, but the feeling was strong.

“Thanks,”  I just said and took the comb.  “I don’t need the scissor, my hair is very smooth.”

“The mats need to be completely out, and it can’t take days.  Just cut anything solid..” Tori stated as she pushed the handle of the scissors into my hand.  “You can ask one of the other women to help you even it out when all the mats are gone.  Penny is pretty good at it.”

I knew I did not need the scissors and there would be nothing to even out after I was done, but I just nodded.  It didn’t seem like it was worth arguing over, considering how very tangled my smooth hair was each time I had woken up after the full moon, I understood why someone with finer hair would think dealing with it required scissors.

I took the comb and the scissors and walked off towards a quiet bench I’d spotted behind the womens cabin to deal with the mess.  I sat, and started at the bottom.  The comb glided through the bottom 3 inches, dislodging a bit of grass that fell to the ground,  I worked my way up gradually, removing the usual twigs and bits of squirrel fur.  

It took about a half an hour, but my hair was pretty smooth by the end of it.  I began to braid the long shiny hair, wondering what I was going to do for an elastic.  I just held the bottom of the braid in one hand, while I grabbed the comb and scissors in the other one and headed inside the women’s cabin figuring they’d have something that would work in there.

“Hey,” I spoke to one of the women who didn’t look too busy as she carried a laundry basket of towels.  “Can I get an elastic to hold this?”

She looked at me as though I had asked her to get me the Mona Lisa.  “We don’t have any hair elastics.”

“It could be any elastic,”  I clarified.  “Or a tie or clip of some kind.  I’m not fussy.”

I smiled, trying not to seem too demanding as she stood there thinking.

“Would a clothes pin do?”  She asked.

“Yeah sure.”  I said even though that sounded pretty weird.  

I put down the comb and scissors on the nearest table, and followed her out the door to an area where a few of the women were hand washing piles of laundry, and another couple of women were hanging the dripping washed clothing and sheets up on the long rows of clotheslines in the sun.  She put down her basket of towels near one of the women who was scrubbing things, and walked over to the nearest clothes lines, and plucked one of the clothes pins off and handed it to me.

“Thank you,” I said as I clipped it to the end of the braid I was glad I could finally let go of. ”Why isn’t there a washing machine?  Or you could go to a laundromat.”

“Jerome says it’s expensive and unnecessary.”  She had a slightly bitter tone as she answered.  

“I guess.”  I sort of vaguely conceded.  “Couldn’t everyone just take their own laundry home with them to wash.”

“This is home,”  She said, her tone even more bitter.

I looked around at the tired women, wondering for how many of them that was the case.  I decided not to ask though.  Instead I just kept following the woman who had dropped off the laundry basket of towels as she grabbed an empty plastic basket.

“Want a hand?”  I asked.

“Didn’t Tori assign you your own task?”  She asked with confusion.  

“I finished it more quickly then I think she thought I was going to take.”

“I guess grab a basket then.”

I followed her to a different cabin, and into the bathroom.  There were dirty towels and men’s underwear and clothing just dropped all about the floor, instead of being put into a hamper the way it had been in the women’s cabin.  The woman simply started picking up the dirty clothing and towels and putting them in her basket.  Though I didn’t particularly want to touch some unknown man’s dirty underwear, I had offered to help, so I did anyway, filling up my own plastic basket.

 

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“Where did you go!”  Tory accused when I arrived at another one of the men’s cabins to pick up the dirty towels and clothing that had been discarded. 

“I’ve been helping Kim gather laundry,” I simply said, lifting my empty blue basket slightly to show her.  “You said that I had to wait till after lunch before anyone could take me somewhere to make a phone call, so I figured since I had time to kill, I might as well do something useful and repay some of the hospitality.”

“You were supposed to be dealing with the matts in your hair.”  Tory said mildly angrily.  “You can’t go to lunch the way you did to breakfast.”

“I took care of it.” I responded as calmly as I could, considering how on edge I’d been since the attack, especially on the day after I guess the full moon.  I put down the empty laundry basket, and pulled the long braid with the clothespin clipped to the bottom over my shoulder.  “It’s all combed out and I braided it.”

 “You didn’t cut out the matts and debris?”  Tory sounded a bit incredulous even though she could see the evidence that I had simply managed to comb my smooth hair.  “How?”

“I told you it’s very smooth,”  I reminded her.  “It’s pretty much tangle proof.”

“But the matts are so solid…” Tori’s voice had a slight awe to it, then she just took a deep breath and accepted the reality that my hair truly was unusually tangle proof.  “I guess that will do then, and you can keep helping Kim with the laundry, till lunch time.”

 

——————————————————————-

 

I watched once again at lunch, as Jerome and his friends started to grab all the food that I knew they hadn’t helped prepare.  I decided to not simply watch this time.  I pushed my way in and started gathering a variety of foods, grabbing an especially large helping of coldcuts and bread.  Jerome looked over with a mostly curious expression.

When I had as much as I could carry, I took it to one of the far tables.  I gestured to various children to come over.  At first they all shyly clung to their mothers as the mothers waited their turn to get food.  I slowly began to eat, and continued to invite children over.  When one of the mothers finally went to pick through the leftovers, her child came over to me.  I let the child sit next to me, and handed her a slice of bread with a piece of ham on it.  Soon another kid came over, and I let them pick something too.

I looked over at Jerome, who had a curious smirk on his face as he watched me. He looked away, and gestured to Tori, who was eating surrounded by a few of the women.  Jerome gestured to her to come over.  Tori nervously got up and went over.

“Victoria.”  Jerome said with a slight challenge.  “Are you sure you are the female alpha?”

“The women follow me and don’t challenge me.”  Tori said with a certain tiredness.

“Hannah’s hair seems to still be long.”  Jerome stated the casual observation in a way that felt a bit like a criticism.

“It’s completely unmatted and all the debris has been removed.  Which is what I told her to do.”  Tori said obviously tamping down her temper.  “You say you like us to have longer hair, you complain if I let any of the women cut their hair too short.”

“Yeah, I do like long hair.  I’d want the rest of you to keep your hair longer if it didn’t get so disgusting.”  Jerome leaned back and smirked slightly, the way he looked at me as he said it made my skin crawl.  “Makes her stand out a bit though.  I don’t think she really understands what a pack is.”

Tori turned to really look at me, as I handed another one of the kids a slice of bread with turkey on it.  A look of annoyance spread across her face.  She let out a deep breath.

“I think maybe next month we’ll have a new female alpha.”  Jerome taunted her.  “I’ve been thinking there’s something wrong about a female alpha that never has puppies anyway.  For now though, she needs to understand pack order.”

“I’ll take care of it Alpha.” Tori promised as almost a growl.

Tori had a sour expression as she walked away from Jerome’s  table towards mine.  When the children sitting around me saw her coming, they all got up and scampered away, taking unfinished food with them.

“What are you doing?”  She hissed at me.

“You invited me to lunch.”  I reminded her.

“Why are you feeding the puppies?”

“You mean the kids?”  I clarified.  “They looked hungry and their moms looked tired.”

“They need to follow pack order.”  Tori growled.

“Why?”  I asked.

Tori didn’t answer, just scowling and flicking her eyes toward Jerome who was watching coldly, then she just repeated in a somewhat more measured tone.  “They need to follow pack order.”

“Ok” I agreed, understanding that this wasn’t in her control.

 

—————————————————————————

 

“Tori!” I jogged to catch up with her as she headed off after lunch.  “You said someone could drive me somewhere with cell phone reception after lunch.”

Tori stopped walking, and sighed.  

“I said we could discuss arrangements after lunch.”  She clarified, repeating the vaguely familiar wording from earlier.  “I got a couple of the women to set up a bunk for you.  Though I assume you are going to feel the need to be out in the moonlight all night, it will give you a place to nap this afternoon, and go to when morning comes.”   

“I just want to go home.”  I said.

“As I said, there isn’t anyone to take you.”  Tori said in a tightly controlled voice.  “You’re going to have to stay with us for now.  It’s better to be out in the moonlight together this close after the full moon anyway.  Now I need to go check on things.  Go to the women’s cabin, Mary should be there to show you which cot is yours.  Since you finished your morning task plus got extra done, you can take a nap.”  

Tori started walking away, obviously viewing the conversation as over.

“I really need to get home.”  I complained as I followed her.  “I have a job, I have work to get done, and I have to figure out how to find my truck.  I can’t just stay here.”

Tori paused, looking angry and frustrated, smelling scared.  She almost looked like she was going to lash out, but instead she just growled.  I stood, just waiting for it to pass.  Finally, she calmed enough to take a deep breath.

I…” she emphasized, “can’t do anything.  I am not the one in control here.”

 

———————————————————————

 

I decided to head back to the center of camp, and speak to Jerome directly, even though I didn’t particularly want to be near him after the way he had been looking at me during lunch.  He seemed to be in charge though, so I figured he was the one who could get me to somewhere that I could call a ride from.  I found him and his buddies sitting around the old fire circle as they had been in the morning.

“Jerome.”  I said plainly.  “I need someone to take me somewhere I can use a phone and call an Uber to take me home.”

“Are you not grateful for the hospitality my pack has extended to you?”  Jerome asked me.  “We have fed and clothed you.  You didn’t wake up alone and lost.  You finally know why this happens to you each month.”

“Thank you.”  I said, though I wasn’t sure how much I meant it.  I wasn’t totally sure I believed that I was a werewolf, I just didn’t have a better explanation.  And if it was true, they were the ones who made it happen, and I sure as hell wasn’t grateful for that.  I sort of appreciated the dress and shower.  I sure as hell hadn’t appreciated it when Penny had tried to cut my hair.  The food thing I had so many complicated mixed feelings about.

“Now,” I continued, trying to keep my temper in check, which had never been a problem for me before the attack 9 months ago, but had become difficult since.  “I would very much appreciate it if someone could drive me to a phone so I don’t have to impose upon you hospitality further.  Please.”

“We can’t spare anyone to drive you right now.”  Jerome said cooly, smelling like he was lying.  “And we don’t mind at all extending our hospitality for a bit longer.  Especially for a bitch as pretty as yourself.”

I could tell by the way they all smirked and smelled, that trying to reason with them would get me nowhere.   I decided my best bet was to go rest, so I would be up for trying to walk back to my truck tonight.  My sense of smell would be better in the moonlight, I should be able to track it down.  With any luck, either my truck battery or my cell phone battery would still have a little power.

 

————————————————————-

 

Dinner went about the same as breakfast and lunch. This time, I just waited watching.  I had fortunately eaten more than I had planned at lunch, since the kids I’d been sharing with had gotten chased away.  If I was hungry later, I had a feeling I could catch a rabbit, though as soon as the thought crossed my mind it disgusted me that I would just eat it raw.  I’d wait to see if there was anything left after the obviously hungriest pack members got a chance.

“Better grab something before it’s all gone.”  Jerome came up to me, wiping his face with a paper napkin.  

“I have plenty of food at home.”  I told him.  “I’ll just wait till I get there.”

As soon as I said it, I could smell his scent change.  I looked at him, and he had a greedy glint in his eye.

“Now that you’re part of the pack, you’ll be sharing.”  He told me.  “Give us the address, and I will send a few boys over to gather it and we can all eat well tonight.”

“I’m not letting strangers go into my house, and go through my stuff.”  I informed him, incredulous that he had asked, well not really asked, more simply ordered me.  “I’m not giving you permission to take food from my home.”

“Packs share.”  Jerome said.  “And THIS is your home now.”

“Fuck that.”  I said and just walked out of the mess hall.  

As I walked away, it struck me, if they had people free to drop everything and go to my house to help themselves to my food, they had someone who could drive me to a phone.  I wasn’t a guest, I was a captive.

 

—————————————————————————-

 

“HANNAH!”  Jerome shouted out as I hid in the bush down the stream bank.  “WE CAN SMELL YOU.  THE STREAM ISN’T HIDING YOUR SCENT.”

I took a deep breath in.  I knew he was telling the truth, because I could smell him too.  I also smelled the Beta and the Gamma.  

Maybe running more through the stream would work.  One of their biggest advantages when they chased me was that they had real shoes, sneakers or hiking boots, not the damned flip-flops.  The stream might mitigate how much of an advantage that was.

I got up, ran the 2 feet back from the bush to the stream, and stepped in.  The frigid water swirled over my feet up to my ankles.  I started to run, downstream away from where I had smelled Jerome and his pals.  I prayed that it wasn’t cold enough to cause frostbite as my toes became numb. 

I was running as fast as I could, which wasn’t very impressive.  My frozen feet were clumsy.  The water that splashed up, had wetted the skirt hem of the dress so the fabric clung to my legs binding them together slightly and hobbling me.  If I’d had time to think it through before I had entered the water, I would have tied the skirt up.  As I ran, I was just concentrating on not falling.  

It took me by complete surprise when the large arms just suddenly wrapped around me, grabbing me from the side.

Even though the logical part of my brain knew it was futile, since the man carrying me up the stream bank was about 6 inches taller than me and out weighed me by at least 70 pounds, probably more, I fought back, kicking him with my numb toes and scratching at him. 

At the top of the bank, I was dropped at the feet of Jerome.  I just sat there feeling cold, bruised, and defeated.  Soon though, Beta and Gamma were grabbing me and pulling me to my feet, which made me aware I had lost one of my damned flip-flops.

“Thank you Delta,” Jerome praised the large man who had grabbed me.  “My don’t you look like something the cat dragged in.  Let’s get you home so the women can get you cleaned up.  Gamma, let Epsilon know where to meet us with the truck.”

Jerome then simply turned and started walking through the woods in the direction I could smell oil suggesting there was a road.  I had little choice but to start following  as Beta and Gamma shoved me along.  After about 20 yards, Beta seemed to grow bored with my limping pace, so he just lifted me up and tossed me over his shoulder.

At the road, I was roughly tossed into the back of the pick up truck.  Jerome went to go sit in the cab, but Beta, Gamma, and Delta climbed into the back after me.  I just lay there shivering for the bumpy ride as Delta complained to Gamma about his soggy boots and socks.

When we pulled up in front of the women’s cabin, I was roughly dragged from the bed of the pick up, and tossed at the women waiting there, who all stank of fear more than usual.

“Geeze, she’s soaked and shivering.  You could have given her a blanket.”  Tori complained as she and the other women kept me from falling.

“You need to keep better track of her, Victoria.”  Jerome ordered angrily.  “This is the fifth time my boys have had to go out and get her back.  Five times in one week, Victoria.  Look at how wet and muddy Delta is, he needed the blanket.  Maybe being cold and wet will make her think twice before running off again.  There’s going to be consequences this time.  No breakfast for the women in the morning.”

“Can the mothers please get food for the puppies,”  Tory pleaded with Jerome, who stood there silently contemplating, so she added.  “Most of them are your puppies.”

“The mothers can get food this time, but next time they are included.  I’m not cruel, but I do need to keep order.”  Jerome conceded.  “Delta deserves a reward  tonight, so find a volunteer who wants to spend the night at the honeymoon cabin with him.”

“Thank you.  Yes Alpha, I will see who is interested.”  Tory responded humbly, then turned to me.  “Let’s get you out of these wet clothes, and into a warm shower.”

Inside, Tori and one of the other women led me to the back, stood me in front of one of the shower stalls, and started stripping me.  I just stood there letting them peel the thin wet muddy fabric that clung to me away.

“Mary,”  Tori spoke to a third woman who had followed us in as she unfastened the buttons of the dress.  “Ask around to see if anyone likes Delta enough to volunteer to go to the honeymoon cabin with him.  If no one does, draw straws, and get whoever gets the short straw into something pretty.”

“I’m sorry”  I finally whispered through chattering teeth.

“I don’t blame you, but now that you understand the consequences, you know why the rest of us don’t.  Just please don’t try again.”  Tori said with weariness as she pulled the dress up over my head.  “We’ll get you into a hot shower now.”

“I’m sorry,” I repeated through the still chattering teeth.  “I didn’t mean to hurt the others.”

“I know.”  Tori said as she felt the water to see if it had warmed up yet.

 

——————————————————————————-

 

“Did you ever try to leave?”  I asked Tori as I sat next to her sorting the men’s t-shirts by size and how ripped they were, of course Jerome and his crew got the nicest ones set aside for them.

”At first,”  Tori shared in a weary tone.  “but after a while you give up.   Occasionally I dream of getting us all out of here, but between the way Jerome controls things like the truck and cars, how we can’t leave the puppies behind, and stuff like that, it feels pretty impossible.  The big thing is though, to a certain degree we all just have this strange desire to please the alpha.  You don’t seem to have developed it yet, I think it takes time smelling his pheromones and stuff.  Or maybe it’s just Stockholm syndrome.”

“I don’t think I will ever care what Jerome wants.”  I said, not really understanding why anyone would want to please that jerk.  “How did you end up here?”

”When I was turned, I just tried to escape my old life.  I bought a small teardrop camper, hitched it to my car and started traveling.  I would change with various packs each full moon, stay for a few days, and then move on.  Most packs don’t live together full time like this.  It was about a week before the full moon and I was at Walmart grabbing a few things when I smelled Jerome.  He invited me to come.  I figured it would be the usual week I was going to stay.  That was a few years ago.”

“If you have a camper and car shouldn’t that make escape easy?”  I asked, feeling mildly confused.

“By the time I realized I wasn’t just a guest, Jerome had them listed for sale pretty cheap and they were gone before I could do anything to stop it.”  Tori’s bitterness was clear in both her tone and scent.  “And then I was trapped.” 



———————————————————————————-

 

I stood there as Jerome, who sat in his usual adirondack chair, finished going over some financial papers with Gamma.  Jerome fancied himself the CEO of the little woodworking “company” that he had all the men working at.  They made rustic carvings that Jerome sold online.   Really it was the Omegas doing all the real work.  Omegas, which is what Jerome called all the men other than Beta, Gamma, Delta, and Epsilon, were the unpaid labor that made the barely profitable business possible.  Jerome simply skipped over the rest of the Greek alphabet considering anyone past Epsilon not important enough to be sorted further, so the rest of the men were just collectively referred to as Omegas.  Aside from Female Alpha, the women didn’t get ranked.

”Hannah,”  Jerome said as he finished playing successful business man, and turned to me,  “Thank you for waiting.”

”If I’d had a choice I wouldn’t have.”  I informed him grumpily.  “What did you have Beta drag me here for?”

”You were ordering around a couple of the Omegas earlier.”  Jerome explained.  ”You ordered them to stop leaving dirty towels on the shower floor.”

”Yeah, so?”  I grumbled since I didn’t think that just telling them to put the damned towels into a basket by the bathroom door was a problem.  It was a perfectly reasonable request.

”Hannah,”  Jerome continued in a patronizing tone,  “you are probably going to be female alpha after the next full moon.  At that point you will outrank the other girls.  However, that doesn’t mean you will outrank the men.  Any of the men, including the Omegas.”

”What does that have to do with the fucking towels?”  I grumbled, not wanting to get into an arguement about how I had zero interest in being the new female alpha, I was just trying to find a way to get the fuck out of here without screwing over the rest of the women.

”In this pack, we follow pack rank.”  Jerome said in his damned selfimportant tone.  “This is a full time real pack.  Not some part time wannabe pack like the Jaager Institute.  You need to not overstep your authority.  Am I understood?”  

I just stood there, my arms crossed over my chest, because I seriously did not give a shit about pack rank.  I met his eyes, not looking down the way the others do.

”Hannah,”  Jerome continued.  “I will punish all the women if I have to.  Now, am I understood?”

”Yes,”  I spit out through gritted teeth, “Alpha.”

 

———————————————————————————

 

“Come with me,” Tori said as I worked at my morning chore.  “I need to show you something.”

“Ok,” I said as I left my task and began following Tori.  

She took me to a patch full of low growing plants that looked a bit like mint.  I looked down at the carpet of plants and picked a leaf.  The air was immediately filled with the smell of mint, but there was something off about it.  I suspected that 10 months ago I would have just thought it was regular mint, but now my nose was more sensitive.  I gave Tori a curious look.  

“It’s pennyroyal.” she stated.  “Are you familiar?”

“Only sort of.”  I admitted.  

“The men don’t understand it and its purpose, it’s best to keep it that way.  You have to be careful with it.”  Tori instructed.  “Too little and it’s ineffective, but too much and it can kill.  We usually err towards the ineffective.  Though I’ve been a bit less careful on myself a couple of times and made myself sick.  I’m not sure if I’m alive because I didn’t overdose too badly or if it’s because I’m a werewolf and it takes more than it does to kill a human.”

“Why are you showing me this.”  I asked.

Tori sighed.  “Because it’s part of taking care of the women.”  

“I don’t take care of the women, you do.”  I pointed out.  

“The next full moon is in less than a week.”  Tori stated.  “You’re the real female alpha, everyone knows it, everyone can tell.  On the night of the full moon your wolf will challenge my wolf.  Next month you’re going to be responsible for the women.”

“I don’t want to be female alpha, I just want to go home.”  I scoffed at the idea.  “I have zero plan to challenge you.  I like you, I would rather be your ally than your adversary.”

“When we are in our human form, we can talk and work together,”  Tori explained, “but the wolf is not a rational creature.  When we are in wolf form, we will just do whatever instinct tells us to.”

“Why do you think our wolves can’t just be friends like we are?”  I asked her.

“Because you’re going to be alpha, and I’m alpha now.  As much as I don’t care as a human, wolves don’t just give up power willingly very often.”  Tori sighed, “You may kill me, and you need to be ready to take care of the women.”

“You think I’m capable of murder?!” I felt offended.

“How many squirrels and rabbits have you killed?”  Tori simply pointed out.  “What else have you killed as a wolf?  Was any of that a choice, or did your wolf just act on instinct?”

“That’s different, those are prey animals.”  I said as much to convince myself as Tori as I remembered the feel of the warm blood spurting through my whiskers onto my face.  “I wouldn’t murder a person.”

“Jerome has killed 4 challengers to male alpha,”  Tori informed me.  “I hope that my lack of actually wanting to be alpha means I’m not going to challenge you, but I can’t control what my wolf is going to do.  I need to spend this week preparing you to take over.”

”Did you try to kill the other female alphas in the packs you visited before you got stuck here?”  I asked, still feeling doubtful that Tori and I were going to fight to the death.

”Well, no,”  Tori admitted.  “But I was never there very long, so I don’t think I ever started to feel like an alpha at those places.  You’ve been here a whole month.  Everyone feels your dominance.”

“You’re the alpha now, you don’t think you’d just put me in my place?”  I asked, not wanting to think about becoming alpha.   “Won’t the other women stand with you the way Beta, Gamma, Delta, and Epsilon stand with Jerome?”

“No, they’ll stand with you, if it comes to it.  Most of the time these fights stay one on one, anyway.  We generally only come to each other’s defense occasionally.  If any of them try to defend me, others will feel  a need to defend you and stop them.”  Tori said confidently.  “You will be female alpha.  You don’t really follow me, you just go along with what I ask of you for the sake of keeping the other women safe.  The other women are listening to you more and more.  You care about them and protect them just as much as I do and they know it.  Heck a lot of the omega men listen to you.”

“Jerome is pissed that they do.  Don’t the omega men listen to you?”  I asked her.  “I’ve seen them do what you tell them.  And Jerome takes the shopping list you give him.”

“They only do what I say if it is coming with the implication it’s originally from Jerome.  And Jerome only takes my shopping lists because he doesn’t want to have to figure out what we need himself.  If I had any sway over the omegas, their underwear wouldn’t be strewn around their cabins.  I’ve seen them do stuff just because you told them to.  They just look like they respect you in a way they don’t respect me.  The women will back you, not me.  Plus Jerome knows you’re the new female alpha and will back you.”  Then Tori took a very deep breath.  “Talking about which, Jerome wants you in the honeymoon cabin tonight.”

“You have got to be kidding.”  I looked at her, she didn’t look like she was kidding.

“You have to show up, but what happens in there is between you and him.”  Tori said.  “If you don’t go he’ll take it out on all of us.”

 

——————————————————————————————

 

I sat in the not particularly romantically decorated honeymoon cabin.  It was admittedly comfortable.  It had been furnished with a few old armchairs, and recliners.  There was a TV with a DVD player.  It had a little dining spot with a minifridge and a microwave.  And of course it had a real bed instead of an old cot. 

As I sat waiting at the dinette table, I fiddled with the lace trim of the dress I’d been put in.  My hair was loose, and hung around me like a cape.  I thought they’d be putting makeup on me, but they said the fragrances in it bothered the men just as much as it bothered us, so my face was just bare, washed with unscented soap.

I heard the door knob click, and Jerome walked in without knocking.  He carried two plates of food.  My nose told me chicken nuggets and  mac’n cheese.  Somehow it didn’t surprise me that Jerome’s version of a romantic dinner was kiddie food.

“My don’t you look pretty.”  Jerome said when he entered the cabin.

I just glared at him coldly, since I didn’t particularly want his approval.  Being pretty for him hadn’t been my idea, it was his.

“You know it’s polite to say ‘thank you’ when someone compliments you.”  Jerome chastised me, then waited as I continued to glare at him silently.  “I was hoping for a pleasant evening.”

As he took the seat across from me he put one plate on the table and the other into the microwave.  I continued to glare at him silently, as the food spun slowly in the microwave.  He ignored my glare, and simply went along as though we were about to have a nice dinner together, talking pleasantries.   When the microwave beeped, he took the hot plate of food out and placed it in front of me, then heated the other one, putting it in front of himself when it was ready.

“You should eat before it gets cold.”  Jerome stated as he began to shovel his own food into his mouth.  “I know you’re hungry.”

He was completely right, I was hungry and the smell coming off the food was making it worse.  I sat there ignoring the food anyway.

“You can’t save it to take to the puppies later.”  Jerome informed me.  “If you don’t eat it now, it’s just going to go to waste.”

As much as I hated the idea of wasting food, I resisted and continued to sit in silence.  

“Fine.”  Jerome just finally said when it was obvious he wasn’t going to be getting dinner table banter from me.

I watched Jerome eat his plate, wondering what was going to happen next.  He simply ignored my glare as he ate in a completely relaxed manner.  When he finished, he got up and went over to the pile of DVDs.

“We’ve got a selection of porn and rom-coms.  I’m not really a fan of the rom-coms, but I know it sometimes gets you ladies in the right mood.  Porn wise, we’ve got my personal favorites, girl-on-girl, but we’ve also got the more classic stuff, if you want to see men.”  He informed me as he flipped through the pile of cases, and occasional loose discs.  “What do you want?”

I continued to just scowl silently when he looked over.  After a few moments he gave up waiting for an answer.

“Girl-on-girl it is then.”  He announced as he put the disc in the slot and picked up the remote.

I vaguely glanced at the screen where a pair of women, both of whom had ‘90s hairstyles kneeled in front of each other giggling in negligees.  As I looked away, I noticed Jerome was watching me not the screen, I guess more interested in my reaction than the actual video.  I turned my back to both the video, and Jerome’s gaze.

“If you’re not interested, we can just skip it.”  Jerome said, shutting off the video then coming back over to me, where he began to fondle my loose hair.  “Considering how pretty you are and how good you smell, I don’t need it.”

Jerome continued stroking my long hair, picking up a long lock and sniffing at it, before letting it flow through his fingers.  I sat stiffly, trying not to think about how grossed out I was being touched by him.

“This feels like silk.”  He informed me.  “None of the other women can keep such long hair without it just being too disgusting to be worth it.  I gave in to letting them cut their hair after having found a mouse tail in Anna’s hair one time.  Now that was a mood killer.  A bigger mood killer than Anna having short hair.” 

I guessed that was why Anna, who had a toddler, got away with keeping her light brown curls a bit shorter than the rest of the women.  I continued to sit stiffly, just letting Jerome play with my hair even though I hated it.

”Let’s get comfortable,”  Jerome finally suggested as he released the lock of my hair he’d been playing with.

Jerome went and sat down on the farside of the bed.  He kicked off his shoes, swung his legs up, leaned back on the headboard and got comfortable.  He looked at me expectantly.  I just continued to sit at the table, trying to ignore the smell of food and hoping Jerome couldn’t hear my belly growling.

“Come on over.” Jerome issued the invitation, I ignored, sweetly.  

When it was obvious I wasn’t moving Jerome switched to a much less sweet tone and ordered me, “HANNAH, COME HERE!”

To his frustration, I continued to just sit in the same spot I had been in since before he entered the cabin, silent and stone faced.  He huffed out in frustration, got up from the bed and came over.  He roughly grabbed my wrist and pulled me to my feet.  He pulled me close to him and breathed into my face.  Beyond the main smell of anger, there was a stench of mac’n cheese, chicken nuggets, and anxiety.  The smell of anxiety was faint, but distinct.

”When the Alpha tells you to come.”  Jerome growled at me in a low voice.  “You come.”

He pulled me towards the bed.  Everything in me wanted to fight, but I tamped it down, knowing there would be consequences, and possibly not just for me.  Jerome pushed me down onto the mattress, and finally let go of my wrist, I suspected there would be bruises there tomorrow.  He then casually went around to the other side of the bed and climbed back in.

“There, now isn’t this more comfortable,” Jerome had returned to his sweet voice, as he reached out and began stroking the side of my face.  “You are very pretty.  I know you’re going to be female alpha.  Just think how special our puppies will be.”

I closed my eyes, completely repulsed by the idea of having Jerome’s children.  Children he insisted on calling puppies.  Children I suspected he would treat much as he treated the other children he’d fathered, though maybe he would see them as slightly higher in the pack order since they would be from someone he thought was going to be female alpha. Of course maybe he was wrong.

“It’s so nice how feminine you look.”  He whispered into my ear.

I shuddered when I felt his rough fingers in my long hair.  Then I felt his wet lips against my face, and I couldn’t take it anymore.

“NO!!!!” I yelled and got up, pushing him away from me.

”What do you mean ‘no?’” Jerome genuinely seemed a bit confused.  “I’m Alpha.”

”NO!”  I just repeated, and went back to the chair at the table.  

“I’m Alpha, what I want is what the pack wants.”  He told me as though I was going to just suddenly change my mind because he was claiming to be Alpha.  “You should want to make me happy.”

”I’m NOT part of your damned pack!”  I growled.

”Yes you are.”  Jerome growled, as he got up and stomped over.  

He once again pulled me to my feet, this time just starting to put his arms around me right there, instead of dragging me back to the bed.

DON’T TOUCH ME!!!” I screamed as I pushed him off me, slapping his hand away.

Jerome stood about a foot from me looking a bit angry, a bit shocked, and a bit confused.  The scent pouring off him had the distinct tang of anxiety and fear.

”Tonight, we are human, and we follow human rules so you can say ‘no.’”  Jerome spit out angrily.  “On the night of the full moon though, wolves do what wolves do.  My wolf will take you then.”

Jerome turned and stomped out of the cabin.  I stood there for a moment, shaking slightly, just trying to process what had happened.

 

————————————————————————————

 

Beta pushed me to stand in front of the fire circle.  He’d come and gotten me from the kitchen, where I’d nominally been helping prepare lunch, but had mostly been learning how to make pennyroyal tea.  He’d roughly grabbed my arm, just assuming that if he simply asked me to come with him I’d argue.  Not that it was an incorrect assumption.  I stumbled slightly into the familiar spot where I always stood when Jerome summoned me to talk to.  Beta went to go sit in his usual spot in the adirondack chair just the right of Jerome’s.  

Jerome wasn’t in his usual spot in his chair, though.  Instead Jerome sat on a low stool set back a bit further from the unlit fire circle.  He was relaxed as he sat getting a haircut.  He had one of the thread bare towels draped over his shoulders as one of the omegas ran humming clippers over his scalp.

”Hannah,”  Jerome began, “do you feel like part of this pack?  Do you feel like part of my pack?”

I just stood there silently with my arms crossed over my chest.  There was no need to answer, he already knew how I felt.

”I spent some time trying to figure out what I could possibly do to make you feel more like a part of the pack.  We’ve given you food and shelter, and welcomed you with open arms.  I even invited you to share the comfort of my bed.  I know that you can smell how we of the pack are the same as you, how we are family.  But yet you still think of yourself as different, as other.”

I stood there, mostly bored wondering when Jerome would get to whatever his fucking point was.  Of course, part of this was putting on a show, since half the pack was in earshot.  

”Then this morning, it was 5 days before the next full moon.”  Jerome informed me of what I already knew.  “Do you know what one of the things the men do to get ready for the full moon is?”

I simply continued to stand there silently, knowing playing a guessing game was not going to make this go any faster.  

“We all get haircuts.”  Jerome casually stated.  “All of us, including me.  Nice short practical haircuts to make it easy to get the debris out of our hair.  The important part is that we all get the same haircut, a number 2 buzz.  Nobody is an exception just because their hair is less difficult to comb out.  Beta and I don’t get more fashionable haircuts just because we go into town…”

As I listened to Jerome prattling on about all the reasons he was important enough that he would be totally justified in not getting the same haircut but did anyway as a cold dread came over me.  I swallowed, trying to convince myself he wasn’t about to do what I suspected he would.  I knew if I panicked and ran, he definitely would, but maybe if I just stood listening he would just order me to get one of the women to do it, and I knew I could just not actually ask any of the women to give me a haircut.  So I stood trying not to panic.

”….. So you see Hannah,” Jerome finally seemed to be getting to his point as the Omega who had been cutting his hair took the towel off his shoulders.  “I made a mistake when I just let you keep that long hair instead of getting it cut the same length as the rest of the women.  I admit it, I’m not infallible, and I was just way too distracted because it is pretty.  Feeling like part of the pack, is more important than being pretty for me though, isn’t it.”

I stood waiting for him to tell me to go to the women, but also part of me was tensed and ready to run.  Jerome stopped talking, turned slightly, and took the cordless clippers from the hand of the suddenly even more nervous looking omega.  With the clippers in his hand, I knew that Jerome wasn’t just going to order me to get one of the women to cut it.  I turned and started to run.

I didn’t get very far though.  Gamma and Delta had been waiting for me..  They grabbed me and started dragging me back.  I struggled and fought as they held my arms.

”NO!!!” I screamed at them as they pulled me back   “No! No!”

I felt Gamma’s foot kick the back of my leg, and I was suddenly down on my knees.  I continued struggling and screaming as Jerome removed the guard from the end of the clippers in an unhurried manner.

”ALPHA,” I heard Tori interrupted.  “This is a women’s thing.”

”Victoria, stay out of this,”  he ordered her as he walked over to me,  “or you’re next.”

”No, no please,” I begged as I felt Jerome wrap his hand around my thick braid.  “No.”

I heard the click and pop as Jerome turned on the clippers.  They began to hum.  I tried to pull away but Gamma and Delta pressed their weight against me and Jerome had a firm grip on my braid.  I closed my eyes as I listened to the humming clippers in Jerome’s hand.

Then it began.  Jerome pulled back on my braid holding it taut.  The clipper’s hum changed as the blades entered the hair at the base of my braid.   I felt the tug of the blades as they bit slowly through the thick hair.  

After what felt like forever, the hot blades finally touched my scalp high above my neck.  That was when I realized that either because he didn’t really know how to cut hair, because my struggling had made it hard, because he was deliberately punishing me, or maybe just because he didn’t really care, he was cutting my hair much shorter than the long bobs of the other women.  

Jerome pulled the still humming clippers away, the whine sounding less strained than it had as the clippers had been pushing through the braid.  It seemed that he had only cut through a portion of the braid though, since he was able to pull my head more to the side by the still attached hair.  He held me firmly, my head forced to the side.

I listened as the humming clippers once again approached my head from behind me.  This time I felt the corner of the blades touch what could either be considered the very top of my neck or the side of my nape just behind my ear.  The tone of the clippers changed again as the blades entered my long hair.  I started to feel the pressure of Jeromes hold on the braid release as the strands were severed.  I felt the vibration of the clippers and Jerome’s knuckles move across my neck as he pushed the blades through the braid, twisting it as he went.  When he got to about the middle he pulled the blades back again.

When he pulled my head to the other side, the tug on the hair that hadn’t yet been severed was sharper and more intense since it was spread over a much smaller portion of my scalp, just on the side he was pulling me to expose.  Then once again, the blades of the clippers entered my hair, this time from below, first scraping up through my nape, cutting what I assumed was a path of stubble from the hairline up a couple of inches before pulling away from my scalp and beginning to gnaw through the last strands that formed a bridge between my braid and my scalp.  When the very last strand was finally severed, my head sprung forward.   

The cut edges of my hair slid forward, and hung around my face, making plain the damage Jerome had wrought.  Then Jerome tossed my long sleek braid to the ground in front of me.  It lay there, the tip still held together with my clothes pin, the base of it tasseling out.

I let out a little whimper.  My heart pounded with hurt and angry rage.  

I tried to pull free again, assuming that this time Gamma and Delta would release me, but they didn’t.  The constant hum from the clippers hadn’t stopped either.  I was a bit confused, since Jerome had gotten what he wanted, my beautiful hair was bobbed, just like the other women’s, actually even more severely than the other women’s.  I was looking down when I saw Jerome’s boots come into view.  He reached down, and lifted my chin up so I was facing him.  I just stared up at him angrily.

Then Jerome lifted the hair that was hanging over my forehead and I remembered that all the women had bangs.  He held the handful of hair straight out in front of my face.  

I watched as Jerome pushed the clipper blades into the hair above his fist.  The short locks gradually fell unevenly to my forehead.  Some bits fell longer, the ends hanging in my eyes, but much of it felt like it didn’t even reach my eyebrows.  It was obvious this was a deliberately brutish haircut.

Jerome again pinched my chin and tilted my face up towards his.  He turned and tilted my head as he looked down at me.  He seemed to be calculating and contemplating as he looked at the uneven mess he’d made of my once beautiful hair.  The clippers were still humming away in his othr hand as he thought.

”If you’d just let the women cut your hair, they’d have given you a bob.”  Jerome stated.  “I think you need to spend a little time with less than them.  That way you will appreciate how it feels to have what they do when it’s grown back.”

Jerome released my chin.  He then simply grabbed a handful of the hair that hung over my ear, once again just pressing the blades of the clippers into the bundle above his fist.  The hum of the straining machine roared right next to my ear.  When the blades emerged, they made the cartilage of my ear vibrate.

I watched as Jerome dropped the new bundle of shorn locks to the ground in front of me.  The pile of deep brown hair growing, leaving me wondering what was left on my head.

He grabbed another handful of hair from above my other ear and sliced it off this time cutting up and outward from my ear with no concern that cutting in a different way was going to make the haircut even more uneven.  He was being rough, pulling the hair as he cut it.  He dropped the bundle of hair onto the pile.  

He then gathered up another handful of hair, I figured probably the last hair that was still long enough to grab in a fist, mostly from the very top of my head.  I listened as he used the clippers to saw carelessly through the bundle.  I couldn’t tell exactly how far above my scalp he was cutting.  I wasn’t sure how much it even mattered at that point, considering that I knew the blades had made it all the way to my scalp in the back anyway.

Jerome finally turned off the clippers and dropped the last fistful of hair in front of me.  “There, now maybe you will stop thinking you are too special to be part of the pack.”

Gamma and Delta released me finally, Delta adding a push that sent me sprawling to the ground where the debris of the haircut lay.  The hair stuck to the scraped palms of my shaking hands as I pushed myself up.

Part of me wanted to dust the hair off my hands, but a bigger part of me made me feel like doing that would just drive home that what had been a treasured part of me just a few minutes ago was now garbage, so I just stayed there half propped up on my hands, half sprawled.  My heart was pounding and my whole body was shaking, and for the first time in my life, I truly understood the saying seeing red wasn’t just an expression

I felt a light hand on my back.  I sort of knew Tori was talking to me, but I couldn’t really sort out the words in my head.  I don’t know how long we were just there on the ground, before another woman came over.  The new woman, I think Erika, simply lifted me up, and started carrying me.  Some instinct made me lean into her shoulder and cling to her as she took me back to the women’s cabin.

 

————————————————————————————

 

“Are you up for getting out of bed?”  Tori asked as she gently stroked my back.

She was still in the ragged oversized t-shirt she wore as a night shirt when she slept.  I was still in the dirty dress I’d worn yesterday.  The early morning sun shining through the window lit her golden bobbed hair, reminding me that mine was just hacked off.

”Getting out of bed isn’t the hard part,”  I said miserably,  “facing people is.  I’m embarrassed by how much I overreacted.  It’s just hair, all the other women put up with having their hair cut.”

”We all know what happened and understand.”  Tori assured me.  “And we don’t put up with having our hair cut, we put up with longer than we want haircuts, because Alpha punishes us if we cut our hair as short as most of us want to.  The rest of us were brought into the pack with already short hair, or ready to cut it because the mats were insane.  We know this was different.  We could smell the rage.”

“I know this is vain of me,”  I said more softly, “but I don’t want people to see me like this.  Not that I’m really sure what it looks like.”

“We can get Penny to even it out.”  Tori promised me.  “It won’t be nearly as bad once it’s evened out.”

 

—————————————————————————————————-

 

About fifteen minutes later, I found myself standing in front of one of the bathroom mirrors, as Tori and Penny talked in hushed tones.  Even seeing the clear evidence of what had happened while looking at myself in front of the mirror, it was hard to really accept that this was what I looked like now.   Much of my hair stood up away from my scalp.  

I tried to smooth down the tufts that stuck out a few were 4 or 5 inches long.  As I did I felt the spots in between them that were so much shorter.  When my hand made it to the back, it encountered patches that were just stubble.

”I can’t even it out when there are bald spots unless you can get the clippers and I just shave it all off.”  Penny informed Tori.

”Just do your best to make it look like it was done a little less brutally.”  Tori responded in a desperate whisper.

”You know I’m not a real hairstylist.”  Penny reminded her.  “There’s a reason I give everyone the same haircut, a bob is the only one I know.  I could make them shorter bobs if Alpha would allow, but I only sort of understand layers and stuff.”

”You can’t make it worse than it is now.”  Tori pointed out.

I considered whether or not I thought she was right as I tried to hide one of the shorter bits in the front with the longer tuft next to it. I decided to try wetting it down.  First just that one tuft, but then I just stuck my whole head under the faucet.  As I did, Mary arrived carrying a chair, Debby followed behind her with a towel, comb, and scissors.  

While Mary set up the chair and Tory continued trying to boost Penny’s confidence, I once again tried to smooth down the now wet uneven hair.  Even wet, the hair in many places still stood up, pretty much anywhere that it was less than an inch.  And of course that made it hard to hide under the longer tufts, which weren’t really being cooperative anyway.

”Here we go.”  Mary said as she placed the chair.  “Hannah come sit and Penny will get you all fixed up.”

I didn’t really feel like another haircut was necessary or going to fix anything, but I had a feeling it might make the other women feel like they had a little more control over the situation.  I went and sat in the chair.

“Thank you for wetting it.”  Penny said as she started spreading the towel over my shoulders and tucking it into the collar of the dirty dress I wore.   

I just nodded slightly acknowledging the remark of gratitude, though I hadn’t been thinking about what would make things easier for Penny when I had done it, just that I wanted to try to get the uneven hair to cooperate.  The smell of anxiety pouring off her reminded me of the first time she had tried to cut my hair on the morning after the full moon.

Sitting in the chair, I could just barely see myself in the mirror above the sinks  as Penny began to run the comb through my hair.  She ran the comb this way and that, with her lips pursed, obviously unsure how to begin.  Penny looked over at Tori, Mary, and Debby very unsurely.  They all gave her encouraging smiles, and Tori nodded.

Penny finally seemed to gather enough courage to begin.  She combed up a longer tuft from just above my left temple.  She swept it between the pointer and middle fingers of her other hand along with a bit of the shorter hair next to it.  Then she moved the fingers just a bit away from my scalp till the ends of the shorter hair lined the very tops of her fingers.

Penny raised the open blades of the scissors, and rested one side of the silver metal against her middle finger.  She began to close the blades.

Ssshhhhhnup.

Slowly strands of hair began to fall.  a few hitting my face, but most scattering to my lap.  Penny released the hair between her fingers, it didn’t fall back to my head, but instead just stood up like the bristles of a brush.  I stared at the expanded patch of hair too short for gravity to affect it, and  suddenly realized that soon my entire head was going to look like that.

I looked away from the mirror down to my lap where the severed strands had fallen.  I shut my eyes tightly and covered my face with my hands.  Then I began to sob.  Wailing I couldn’t control came from my  throat as tears began to wet my fingers.

“Should I stop?”  Penny asked, it sounded more like she’d turned to ask the other women than directed at me.

”Just keep going.”  Tori told her.  “It’s for the best.”

Without asking me, or trying to convince me to sit straighter, I felt Penny comb up another longer lock, this time on the back of my head.  Her gentle fingers were pressed lightly against my scalp when I heard the blades begin to bite through the soft strands.

Ssshhlick.

I felt the cut strands land on my neck, prickly and itchy.  I kept sobbing, remembering how my long hair used to feel like a soft scarf on my neck.   I felt my body quiver as i was racked with another round of sobs.

Penny stank of anxiety, but started working faster instead of pausing again.  I guess she was just aiming to get it over as quickly as possible.  She combed hair towards her fingers, clamping it and swiftly snipping it off.

Shnip, shnup, ssshhhnick, click.

I listened to the blades snapping through the longish tufts that had been left here and there.  I felt the strands of hair falling all over me and Penny repeatedly gathering the hair into her fingers that were mostly pressed to my scalp.

After what felt like a long time, and my sobs had turned gentler, Penny slowed her pace.  She spent more time rubbing her hand over my scalp and feeling the hair before combing a bit here or there into her fingers and snipping at it more carefully.

Eventually, I felt her just lightly stroking her palm over my head as she announced, “I don’t think I can get it any more even without the clippers.”

I cautiously lowered my hands from my face and looked up at the mirror.  My head was covered in what was better described as bristles than locks of hair.  It was a simple uniform length in many places, but there were patches here and there that were missing the bristles, instead covered in stubble, or even with what was just a shadow of hair.  

I didn’t look like me, I looked like someone small and weak and broken.  Part of me knew that it was better than what Jerome had left me with, but looking in the mirror and seeing the haphazardly cut mess had felt too unreal to really register.  Seeing my head fully shorn but still uneven drove home the reality.  The reality of what happened, the reality of my situation, the reality of how little control I had.

I buried my face back into my hands again, my sobs taking on a renewed vigor.  I felt warm arms wrap around me, and begin to gently stroke my back.  I could smell Tori’s familiar scent as she began to make soothing sounds.  

“I’m sorry I couldn’t do better.”  Penny apologized miserably. 

“Shh, shhh,” Tori said calmly. “You did fine Penny, she’s upset that it needed to be evened out because of what Jerome did.”

I wanted to tell Penny what Tori said was true, but I couldn’t stop sobbing long enough to catch my breath and speak.  Instead, I just  buried my face into Tori’s belly taking what comfort I could.

 

————————————————————-

 

A group of us women sat in a semi-circle, Tori next to me.  We were all pretty much naked, but wrapped as best we could in warm blankets.  The little kids were all running around excitedly.  The mothers with infants had placed all the babies together in a nest of blankets that they sat next to.  We all watched as the light of sunset grew dim.

I was the only one who wore anything, a scarf I’d made from the skirt of an old dress on my head to hide the uneven crop.  It was uncomfortable and I was fighting an urge to pull it off.  Part of me still didn’t quite believe we were werewolves, but I couldn’t fight the need I had to be outside.

I looked over at Penny, who was sitting with Joanna.  When she realized I was looking, she hung her head and looked down with shame.  She’d been doing it since the day in the bathroom that she’d recut my hair.  I think she mostly felt bad that she hadn’t been able to really make it all better for me, but it didn’t help that Jerome had punished us women for it. Tori and I had been trying to get her to stop feeling like any of it was her fault, but she blamed herself anyway.

As the last rays of sunshine faded, the pain of my stretching out body began.  As I stopped resisting the urge to pull off the scarf revealing my shorn head, baby cries suddenly changed to puppy whimpers.  I looked over, and the nest full of babies had been replaced by a pile of tiny wolf cubs.  The little kids were quickly changing, looking like they weren’t at all uncomfortable like I was.  Soon the giggles and shouts of the children turned into yapping.

I looked down at my hand that I felt the need to put to the ground, it had turned into a paw covered in soft brown fur, I tilted my head back and let out a deep howl.

 

——————————————————————-

 

I was curled up on top of one of the blankets, Tori was pressed against my back.  We were both covered in blood.  The other women around us were also mostly covered in blood.  The only ones who weren’t were the mothers who were all curled up tightly around the nest of infants with the puppies.  

I sniffed at the blood, it was wolf blood.  The blood I was covered in was mostly Jerome’s, just a little of my own and Beta’s.  Tori was covered mostly in Beta’s blood, but also a fair amount of her own.  I had a vague memory of licking her wounds the night before.

”Are you ok?”  I asked her as she stirred awake.

“None of my injuries are too serious,” she told me.  “I’m more worried about Mary, I think I remember her getting tossed against a tree by Delta.  I think she hit her head.”

”Go check on her, I’ll start checking on the others.”

It took us about a half hour to survey all the damage, but it didn’t seem like anyone was badly injured enough to need to go to the emergency room where there would be difficult questions.  

The main thing though was Jerome was dead along with his buddies.  I was pretty sure I had killed Jerome myself while Tori had held off Beta. While Jerome and I had fought, Erika had held back Gamma, Mary and Debby had together held back Delta, and the women who weren’t just protecting their cubs had held back Epsilon.  The omegas had mostly just stayed back, until Epsilon had tried to turn tail and run, at which point they had blocked his escape from the women,    I remembered the feeling of Jerome’s hot arterial blood splattering on my face very much the same as the time I had taken down the buck.

”Ok, everyone.”  I announced to the group of dirty people who were gathered around the central fire circle mostly wrapped in blankets.  “It’s all over, get yourselves cleaned up, and we can all go home.”

Instead of a giant cheer and everyone heading off to get ready to go home, mostly people looked around at each other looking unsure.

”Alpha, I don’t really have a home other than here.”  Kim reminded me of what she had told me on my first day here.

“How am I going to explain to my parents where I’ve been for the last 9 years?”  Anna asked, then hugged her napping 3 year old a little closer to her.  “And how do I explain Billy, Alpha?”

“Jerome sold my home,” Tori reminded me. “Alpha.”

”Please, Hannah,”  I said as I looked around, suddenly feeling a whole new burden.  “I’m just Hannah, not Alpha.”

”Hannah,”  Tori said gently, “You are Alpha now, we can all feel it.  Not female alpha, just alpha.”

”It’s true,” one of the omegas spoke up to confirm.  “You’re Alpha Hannah.”

I sighed very deeply looking around realizing I had inherited a responsibility for all the people who had had their lives ruined by Jerome.  I may not want to be Alpha, but when I had killed Jerome, I had become alpha anyway.

”I can be alpha,” I conceded, “but please just call me Hannah.”

There was a general murmured agreement.

”Ok, mothers can take the puppies to go get breakfast first, while everyone else gets cleaned up.”  I ordered, then added specifically addressing the mothers.  “The puppies can have whatever they want to eat, just make sure they don’t make themselves sick, ok?”

”Thank you Alpha,”  Anna said as she turned to carry her sleepy child towards the mess hall.

“When the rest of us are all cleaned up and  the puppies have had a chance to get food,” I went back to addressing the group,  “the rest of the breakfast food will be divided equitably.  Today we can just rest a bit.  Tomorrow we will have a pack meeting, and start planning how to get our lives back on track.  Ok?”

There was a murmured general agreement, but then Erika spoke up.  “Alpha-Hannah.  Can we ask Penny to just cut our hair instead of trying to untangle it?  It hurts like hell trying to get the mats out of my hair.”

”Yeah sure,”  I simply said.  “Of course you can.  Do whatever you want to.”

A bunch of the women started asking Penny if she could cut theirs too, so they wouldn’t have to endure untangling the hair that reached their shoulders..

“I’m not a real hairstylist.”  Penny reminded us.  “I totally messed up Hannah’s hair.”

I self consciously ran my hand over the short dirty uneven hair that barely covered most of my scalp.  I suddenly realized that as alpha, I wasn’t just going to have to face the pack like this, I was going to have to face the world.  As much as I hated the idea of it, I needed to finish what Jerome had started.

“You did fine Penny,”  I assured her again.  “It is so much better than what it was.  And it’s not your fault you didn’t have clippers to really even it out.  You know what, ask the men for the clippers, and make this really even for me.  Not today, because mine isn’t urgent, and it sounds like you’re going to be pretty busy already, but tomorrow or the day after. Ok?”

Penny kind of nodded nervously.

”Excuse me,”  the omega, who had been buzzing Jerome’s head before Jerome had hacked off my long hair, spoke up.  “I guess I can loan Penny the clippers, but I actually was a professional barber before I became a werewolf, if you want me to fix it.”

I felt the back of my head again, my finger going to the spot that had been bald a few days ago, but now had a bit of velvety stubble, as I thought.  Maybe a professional barber could do something better than just buzz off what little hair I had left which is what I figured Penny would be doing.  I looked between the barber and Penny.  The  barber looked like he was very eager to please me.  Penny looked like she needed redemption though.  Penny needed to let go of her guilt way more than I needed a better haircut.

“Thank you.” I stated,  ”but I feel more comfortable with Penny.  I just know and trust her.”

”Ok.”  The barber said with just a touch of disappointment.

 

—————————————————————————-

 

“Are you sure you want me to do this and not the actual barber?”  Penny asked as she tucked the not totally threadbare towel into the collar of the t-shirt I wore.

I sat on a stool in my bedroom, facing the full length mirror on my closet door.  I was so much more comfortable in my own clothing.  Though I wished I looked more like myself.  The severely cropped hair was just too different for me to really recognize myself.  And of course I looked a bit gaunt from the weight I had lost, and was covered in scrapes and bruises from the fight with Jerome.

Of course maybe the change was helping me not just pretend the last month hadn’t happened, the way I had pretended for several months I wasn’t a werewolf.  Though the gaggle of children running around my backyard was a pretty concrete reality check.

In many ways the last few days had been way more work than the month under Jerome had been.  Tori had gotten in touch with some of the other werewolf packs she’d met when traveling.  None of them had crazy cult compounds like living situations the way Jerome’s pack did, most of them lived reasonably normal lives between full moons, just getting together for a week or a few days each month.  A lawyer who was part of Adam’s pack was going to be arriving in a few days to help us start to sort things out.  

Fortunately when Jerome had sold Tori’s car and RV, he’d signed enough papers claiming to be her spouse that she could easily claim to be his common law wife, which meant she’d inherited ownership of the camp where most of the pack was still calling home plus the other assets the pack needed.  I had just brought the mothers and children to my house.  Even if eventually, nobody was treating the camp as home, it would always be a good gathering place for the full moon.

Surprisingly, I hadn’t lost my job since they believed I’d simply been lost in the woods for the last month since the police had found my  truck and cell phone on the side of the old logging road after I’d been reported missing.  They’d just assumed the truck had broken down, though they were a bit confused about why I’d taken off my clothing and left my phone.  Having a decent income still was a good thing considering how much support the pack would need, though several of the omegas wanted to continue the business Jerome had them in, but now sharing the meager profit equally.

Jane’s pack, which was the one closest to us, was helping us out with several things, including explanations of my reappearance.  They a person who worked in an ER close enough to where I had gone missing that we were able to get away with faking that my sudden reappearance had been there where I showed up severely dehydrated.  The person there had been able to fill out all the paperwork and billed my insurance.  And between the fight I’d been in with Jerome, and the weight I’d lost, I sure as hell looked like I’d been lost in the woods for a month.

Of course, the cherry on top of the cake that was the story of my disappearance was that they’d had to shave my head in the ER because my hair had been filled with pinesap.  It wasn’t a great story, but was the best we could come up with to explain what had happened to my hair.  I looked at the mirror and sighed,

”I don’t want to be touched by someone I barely know right now,”  I assured Penny.  “I want you to do this.”

”Ok,”  Penny agreed nervously and picked up the clippers.

Penny placed a gentle hand on the side of my head steadying it as she turned on the same clippers Jerome had assaulted me with.  I wished we’d had a chance to replace them, but it just hadn’t been that high a priority compared to making sure none of us would be charged with murder.  Fortunately, the bodies we buried hadn’t looked human, so even if they were ever found they wouldn’t be identified.

As the sound of the humming clippers approached my head, I clenched my jaw.  They had the smallest length guard on them instead of bare blades this time, because Penny thought my hair had grown out enough that the guard length might match what had been bald patches a week ago.

I held my breath as Penny placed the vibrating clippers against my temple and slowly pulled the blades back into the cropped hair.  A soft rain of brown bristles fell to my shoulder, as the clippers cleared a path leaving behind a fine stubble.

I watched in the mirror as Penny brought the clippers back to the front again, the second pass going over one of the bald patches Jerome had caused, the stubble blended in well.

As much as I hated that I had lost my long hair that had been so much a part of who I was, losing the uneven bristles felt different.  Somehow going to practically bald made me feel like people would just know when they looked at me that it hadn’t a strange choice to impulsively chop off my own hair carelessly I’d made, or part of an act of violence like it had been, but something that had simply happened for some practical reason.  And of course, this should look much neater and sane.

The vibrating machine kept going, the plastic guard combing through the bristles before the blades cut them off so that they rained down all about me.  Penny softly nudged my head this way and that as she guided them over my shorn scalp.  She steered them slowly and  carefully around my ears.  Penny tilted my head down and started running the clippers up my neck and over my nape.  The tines of the guard, mildly reminiscent of fingernails, felt kind of good as long as I didn’t think about the fact they were leaving me next to bald.

After a while, the clippers weren’t so much combing through my hair, but really just gliding over my bare scalp, just occasionally encountering a spot that was barely longer than the  rest and cutting away what looked like sand as it fell.  I watched as Penny tilted my head down going over spots where the slight dark shadow over my scalp was very slightly darker than the rest of my scalp.

Penny spent several extra minutes running the clippers over what looked like pretty even stubble as the blades never made that slight change in tone that suggested they were actually cutting hair, before she finally tuned them off.  She lightly brushed her hand and looked at me with an apologetic half smile.  

I raised my own hand to my bare scalp, feeling the soft stubble.  I gave her a little smile.  It wasn’t my long hair back, but it was so much better than what Jerome had done to me.

”Is it ok?”  Penny asked in a small voice.

”It’s more than ok,”  I assured her, and thought of all the truthful good things I could say about it, since she would know if I lied.  “It feels very nice, like velvet.  It’s all evened out.  It fits the story of my disappearance and reappearance.  I don’t look like someone hacked my hair off brutally.  You did great Penny, ok?”

Penny nodded as I got up, and took the towel off from around my shoulders.  I wrapped my arms around Penny and gave her a hug.  The smell of anxiety, that had always been a constant from Penny, was finally gone, instead she simply smelled content.   As I gently stroked Penny’s back I thought about how the whole pack had been similar, smelling scared and anxious before the night I’d killed Jerome, but having gradually started smelling more calm these last couple of days.

As much as I’d had no desire to be alpha, the growing happiness of the pack made me glad I was now.





6 responses to “Alpha

  1. I remember seeing an interview with Steven Moffat who at the time was the showrunner of Doctor Who. He said that he knew an idea for an episode was worth doing when he thought “there goes that feature film idea”, and I feel like that’s the level you’re on here, I mean this has the legs to be a whole novel! It was a fun and interesting read too, and what a fresh idea for a hair story!

  2. I loved this story and the overall world you’re building with the various werewolf packs, the institute, etc. It’s great to see such visceral writing. This story deserves to be out beyond the confines of this site since its only tertiarily about hair and the use of it is limited enough to sidestep being labeled as fetish content.

    That being said, Hannah’s mournful howl when her hair was cut was a really powerful moment with a beautiful depiction.

  3. What a story! A great hate-able villain, a badass reluctant protagonist, and plenty of side characters to love. Plus some solid unexpected comeuppance for Jerome. I don’t know how you’d make more hair related content for this, but if you could figure out how to make a sequel, you should! Or, like the other commenter said, just make a full length novel of course.

  4. Thanks everyone. It’s not going to become a full length mass market novel anytime soon, but I am flattered at the suggestion. I have started a sort of prequel/sequel/companion piece, that is Tori’s story. It’s starts about a decade before this story, but unless it takes an unplanned curve (that happens to me sometimes) it will end shortly after this story.

    Of course I have 3 other stories in progress too, because my brain just doesn’t ever focus on one thing at a time. There’s another from the Nicklas & Nichole Barbershop cast of characters, Mistress Cathrine this time. I so need to go back and tag the N&N stories even though they generally work separately. There’s a stand alone about a lesbian couple who buy a used yacht to live-aboard, it’s getting long but nearing it’s conclusion. Then there’s another that really is just an opening set up I’m not totally sure where I am going with.

    Plus, I do have a day job, a side hustle, parental and community responsibilities, other hobbies, etc. So don’t expect it to be done tomorrow, or necessarily be the next story I put out.

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