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On The Road to Catmanduel

It's Halloween. You pick up a hitchhiker. What could possibly go wrong?
By S. Arthur Yates

As I entered the Mini-Mart, the rain-soaked hackles on my neck leaped to attention, yet a perfunctory glance of the store revealed only the clerk and a young woman wandering an aisle.

            From the side, the woman appeared to be in her mid to late twenties and was dressed in a skin-tight black cat suit for Halloween.  At about 5' 9", we were close to the same height, but unlike me, she was thin – at the most 120 pounds.  Her three-inch heels did a fantastic job of showing off her lithe form and the perfect butt.  However, it was her hair, a tossed salad of colors, that refused to let you ignore her.  Punkish spikes of red, yellow, blue and green wrestled for attention on a jet-black pixie cut.

Trying not to be obvious, I kept an eye on her as I approached the counter.  The attendant cleared his throat to get my attention and looked at me, questioning.

            "How much for a coffee and donut?" I asked.

            "$3.15 plus tax," came his automated reply.  I guess he got that question a lot.

            "Okay, here's $27.65 – all I've got.  Put the rest on pump three."

As I watched him ring up my purchases I sensed a rising of tension from the clerk followed by a tap on my shoulder.  The woman was right next to me.

            "You wouldn't be headed my way, would you?" she purred.

            That first view of her face took my breath away.  The short hair framed a face of alabaster, a turned-up nose, thin lips – in a passionate red – and a smile that screamed playfulness.  Emerald eyes that seemed to glow in the dark made it perfect.  Drop.  Dead.  Gorgeous.  I had to swallow a couple times before I could reply, "North on 280 to Pregnant, then on to Delivery.  Why?"

            "Well, I need to get to Conception, and as it's on the way to Pregnant, I was wondering if you could give me a lift," she asked, a frisky glint in her eyes.  "I'll pay for your snack and a full tank of gas if you give me a ride."

            The clerk gave me a warning look, but this was too intriguing an offer to pass up.

            "Sure," I said in the most comforting voice I could muster.  "Glad for the company."

She must have been anticipating my answer because, quick as a cat, she slid a hundred to the clerk and pushed my money back at me.  When our fingers touched for just an instant, the hairs on the back of my hand tingled like static electricity.

 As she sat in the car, out of the drizzle, I filled the tank and went inside to get the change from the pre-pay.  When I got back, the radio was blasting an electric dance tune.  I turned down the volume to a more conversational level and handed her the change.  It disappeared – I'm not sure where, as she wasn't carrying a purse.

            As I pulled onto the highway, I glanced over and asked her name.

            "Kathleen, but my friends call me Kitty.  And you?"

            "Rex.  But my friends call me Rex."

            Her infectious giggle brought a grin to my lips.  This was going to be a great trip – in so many ways.

            "So, how did you get stuck at the Mini-Mart?" I asked.  "And why would you ask a complete stranger for a ride?  That's not a very smart thing to do in today's environment."  I used my most paternal tone.  "Not that you have anything to fear from me.  I'm really just a puppy dog."

            "I was hangin' with my girlfriends when they called me catty," she purred.  "In my stupidity, I said that I didn't need them and could get along on my own, which just started an argument.  They decided to prove me wrong.  So here I am.  And I'm not some helpless little girl.  I've been taking care of myself just fine for a number of years."

            "Well, why didn't you call someone to pick you up?"

            Starting at her head, she swept her hands down her body.  "Where would I keep a cell phone?  I was just lucky to have some cash hidden away."

            As I followed the movements of her hands, it was clear there wasn't any place to keep a phone with that outfit.  It seemed to be more a part of her than something she wore.  I had for force my eyes back to the road.

            "No pay phone?  The clerk wouldn't lend you his cell?" I asked.

            "When I asked, the jerk just laughed, pointed to an empty spot on the wall, and then asked what it was worth to use his phone.  If it hadn't been raining so hard I would have just left."

            "Wow.  That takes big ones."

            As we continued to chat, she told me she was studying to be a veterinarian at a College in Conception.  I told her that I was a free-lance trucker.  That's why I was on my way to Delivery – I had found a load and had a delivery to make.

            I was having a great time.  Kitty smart, well read, knew current events, and seemed to always have a laugh or smile on her face.  She was going to be a great catch.

* * *

            We had been on the road about forty-five minutes, had just passed Foreplay and were still a half hour from Disappointment, when I pulled into a rest area.  The sky was clearing, and the moon had risen full.  It was time.

            "Hey, what are you doing?" she demanded.  "You'll regret trying anything with me.  Bigger men than you have tried – much to their chagrin."

            Again, my hackles sprang to attention.  That had never happened before when I changed.  She was making a statement, without any hint of fear.  Something wasn't right, but I couldn't stop.  Much to my shame, I never can.  The only way I can live with it is to embrace it.

            Quickly, while I could still be understood, I turned to her.  "You really seem like a great girl, and I am sorry about this.  But my advice to you is – run!"

            The change was underway, and she just sat there, laughing.  No one sits there laughing when I change.  As my face agonizingly morphed into full canine – snout extending, teeth protruding, saliva dripping – she casually opened her door and stepped out.  No panic, no fear.

            I stumbled out of the car as my new body ripped through my clothes.  My back arched, legs pulled in and down, dark brown fur where once there was pink skin.

With the change complete, I bound onto the hood of my car, ready to hit the ground running.  I was shocked to see her still standing there, a Cheshire grin lighting her face.

            "Oh, this is too good to be true," she said.

            Seeing her standing there, head tilted to the side watching my transformation, made me pause in my pursuit.

            "What's the matter, cat got your tongue?" she teased.

            With that, she changed.  While my metamorphosis is hard and violent, she just settled into her new shape.  It was like I was forced into this abomination and she was returning to her natural form.  Where there was once a beautiful woman, now crouched the most graceful creature I had ever seen.  As she took a step to the side, it was as if she was gliding, every muscle in symphony.  The light from the metal halide streetlamps glistened off her fur, darker than night.  If it weren't for her eyes – her fantastic, beautiful eyes, that seemed to radiate as if lit from within – she would be almost invisible.

            What were the odds?  In the whole world, there may be a few hundred werewolves.  And here I was, confronted by a were-cat.

            My instincts overcame my wonder, and I pounced.  When I landed, she wasn't there.  Sharp claws pierced the thick coat on my back.  I spun and turned my head to bite, but she was gone.

            She stood a few feet away, head cocked to the side, that wonderful grin still there. 

            Then, the contest was joined for real.  Growls and hisses echoed off the few surrounding buildings and trees.  I got a quick bite on her hind leg but released it at once as a paw of five knives slashed across my eyes.  She sunk her teeth into my haunches, but I shook her off without much effort.  We circled each other, feigning attack, just to back off.  I rushed in and she leaped aside.  She tried to get behind me, but I spun faster than she could run.  She tried to pounce on me but flipped away as I jumped to intercept.  And she always landed gracefully on those beautiful paws.

            The fur was flying.  At times I thought I had her, only to find my jaws clamping air.  She was getting the better of me and I got frustrated to the point that I didn't care if my howls drew attention.  I was stronger, but she was faster.  Much faster.  I faltered – I'd gotten soft over the years.  It had always been so easy.  I'm used to a two-minute chase and five or ten seconds to finish the job.  This was work.

            Bloodied, tongue lolling, rain rolling off my coat, I made a desperate lunge to finish this quickly – while I still could.  But I slipped on the wet pavement and I hit my head on the curb.  I wasn't out, but dazed.  In no time she was on me, teeth bared for the killing bite.

            I closed my eyes as thoughts of my long, bloody, life flashed through my mind – the horror of my first kill; the uncontrollable blood lust as I fought my destiny; the thrill at the first person I turned into one of us.  Perhaps this was the way it was supposed to end.  At least it would be quick.  The curse would end this night.

            Then I felt it.  A sheet of wet sandpaper on my face.  I opened my eyes just in time to see her long pink tongue make a second pass of my muzzle.  Before I could figure out what was going on she was gone, devoured by the night.

            I lay there a while, thinking about what had happened.  I had certainly taken a licking.  Another thing was certain – I would be back at that mini-mart the next full moon.  And on Halloween – full moon or not.

* * * *

(Wasn't that the purrrrrrfect story?)

 

 

 

 

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