The tales of lock-down (2)
If you haven’t read « the man and the wolf », go and read « the tales of lock-down », which I have renamed from « the confinement tales ».
Eight month earlier…
Pierre was coming home from groceries shopping when he noticed the wolfhound. It was early for him, but what surprised Pierre the most was that he was sitting next to the front door of his apartment building, as if he was waiting for someone.
When the wolfhound came up to him, he understood that that someone was him.
“Hello you!” Pierre greeted him whilst scratching him behind the ears: “You were waiting for me?”
The dog wagged his tail in an happy manner. He had beautiful golden brown eyes. Pierre stored that information at the back of his mind. Strangers met in shops don’t turn into wolfhounds. Anyway, that sort of things doesn’t exist, right?
“Come on, Let’s go upstairs and I’ll call the vets in the area to try and find your owners. They could have put a collar on you…”
The dog climbed the stairs staying close to him and Pierre was surprised with his behaviour. He acted as if he was his dog.
They reached the landing, Pierre set his bags on the floor whilst finding his keys and they were soon inside.
Pierre made his way to the kitchen space to put his shopping away – he had a small flat with one bedroom and one room “for everything” as he called it. It suited him, he was quite solitary and wasn’t planning on inviting people.
That’s when he heard a slight cough. He turned around, and it was lucky that he already put his bags down as he would have dropped them otherwise.
A man with brown hair, about 6 feet tall and with golden brown eyes, was standing stark naked in front of his front door.
The dog had mysteriously disappeared.
Whilst one part of his brain was trying to take in those informations and organise them in a logical way – which it usually knew how to do very well – the other part was trying to understand what the stranger was asking him.
“I’m sorry to surprise you like this, and I will explain everything, but can I borrow some clothes, please? We can’t keep them on when we change.”
In automatic pilot, Pierre guided him towards his room, showed him his wardrobe and stood there, slightly bewildered .
“I’m borrowing a pair of boxers, sweatpants and a t-shirt. I’m always hot so I’ll be fine like this.”
“Erm OK?” mumbled Pierre.
The stranger got dressed, took him by the hand and brought him back to the lounge. He made him sit on the sofa and went to the kitchen.
“I’m going to make you some tea, it’s the best remedy in that kind of situations.” He paused for a second. “Actually, it cures pretty much everything.”
He grabbed two mugs, found some tea and held the box above his head, it was tea with peach – “Great, you bought this one! It’s good, isn’t it?”, to which Pierre answered by a vague noise – and put the kettle on.
A few minutes later he had brought the mugs and was sitting with Pierre, who was looking at him as if he was a ghost. Or any type of creature that wasn’t supposed to exist and had just made him question his – limited – understanding of life and the universe.
“I assume that’s when I explain everything?”
Pierre finally managed to speak in an almost coherent manner:
“This isn’t possible! The dog… You… I… It doesn’t exist!”
The stranger smiled.
“If I wasn’t who I am, I wouldn’t believe in my own existence either, I assure you. My name is Alaric Shaw, and you are Pierre Dubois.”
Pierre merely nodded. Of course the man – or the wolfhound? – knew his name, it was on the letter that had found its way to his mail box.
“We don’t know how to explain this phenomenon, and yet we have been doing researches for a long time. Some of us are skilled scientists, but even they haven’t been able to understand the mechanism that allows our body to … reorganise itself, in a way.” He stopped. “Should I keep going?”
“We are not sure either of what determines which animal we change into, even thought there are family lines. For example, two wolves will have a wolf cub, but in the case of a wolf and a tiger – I know such a couple – it’s a surprise. They have a little panther, by the way, really cute. However, the animal sets the body mass, or the other way around.”
“So there are no domestic cats, for example?”
“No, but rather tigers, panthers, lions… A bit big for a cat living in a flat!”
They smiled at each other.
Pierre was starting to accept what he had seen, or not, actually, but needed one last proof:
“I didn’t see you change. Show me.”
Alaric didn’t ask him if he was certain, he could hear it in his voice, and he knew it was necessary to go through this.
He undressed – Pierre was surprised to find he enjoyed the view – and … changed.
His body reorganised itself, the term was perfectly chosen, but there was no other way to describe it. There were no sound of broken bones or other unpleasant sounds, as written in stories about werewolves, and Alaric didn’t seem to have felt any pain. He simply had now the shape of a wolfhound.
Pierre looked up from his laptop and looked at the man seated at the other end of the table, himself also on his laptop, who was sighing.
“You too?” asked Pierre.
Alaric looked up.
“If I have to do that request one more time, I will scream.”
“It’s not the full moon, though, is it?”
Alaric looked at him partly annoyed and partly amused. His partner’s humour could be bit repetitive, but routine can be nice.
“Which reminds me that I forgot to tell you that we are meeting at the park on the next full moon with my friends. Will you come?”
“In the middle of a lock-down?”
“They are not going to control a pack of wolfhounds.”
Pierre looked at him for a while until Alaric added:
“You are allowed to walk your dog when he needs it, within the time limit of an hour and in a radius of 1 km around the house. The park is 500 metres away and we are not going to spend the night there, and the moon comes out early at the moment , so we’ll be fine.”
“You thought about everything.”
“I’m used to thinking about that kind of things.”
“I’ll come, unless it rains.”
“OK, I’ll go on my own in that case.”
“And I’ll wait for you with a towel to dry your wet paws.”
They smiled at each other, and Alaric thought it had been a good idea for him to take the risk of revealing himself to Pierre.
Who was thinking something along the same lines, partly because spending a lock-down with someone could be a lot more pleasant – providing one got on well with the other – and that a park 500 metres away was really nice.
Speaking of which…
“I’d love to go out for a walk and get some fresh air, you’re coming?”
“Yes, I need it too. Dressed, I get to use my daily authorised walk.”
About the were-wolfhound / shapeshifter’s name: my mother says the mount Alaric (in the south west of France) looks like our old dog did when he laid down flattening himself. As for Shaw, it has an interesting etymology that you can read about on the Wikipedia page.
Also, Pierre Dubois means Peter Wood.