Here's where things stand with the next segment of Cascade.. (sorry about the length)
"And from that...you knew?” Roy couldn’t truly see a concrete correlation. “It was a dream.”
Danny, looking down, averting his eyes, replied. “I have it all the time though.”
“I’m sorry, buddy. You were right to, kinda, read into that.” He sighed. “It’s just, when I was your age, I had a dream, too. A little more graphic and when you’re older I might even tell you about it.”
“What was it?!” Danny looked as if a huge clue to who his father might really be had just landed on the table in front of them.
“I’ll tell you, someday, I promise, but right now, look at that sun.” Though the peaks of the mountains the red setting sun could be seen. “It’s beautiful. The way it picks up the top of the pines and just illuminates everything. Truly amazing.”
“Will it hurt.” The voice was small and suggested a healthy amount of fear over the impending night.
“Buddy, I wish I could tell you it won’t but I can tell you that, given time, you’ll get used to it.” He held Danny’s hand with both of his own, now. “Most of the time you won’t even remember changing. It’s like when you fall asleep, you never remember the moments just before, you only remember waking up. Sometimes, though, sometimes you’ll remember and I think those are the nights that it probably hurt the worst.” He gripped the hand harder. “Look at me, buddy.”
“Yeah, dad?” Danny was crying.
“I still don’t think it’s only the dream that tipped you off.”
“Grandpa told me, last year.” He cocked a smile. “He said to keep it a secret, even from you, until the time was right. I’m guessing, the time is right, now.”
“That guy.” A sudden rush of emotion came over Roy. “I miss him.”
“Me too.” Danny rolled his head around his neck, stretching. “I feel tight.”
“That’s how it starts. Like all your muscles are clenched.”
“I knew it would be this full moon.”
“How’s that, buddy.”
“Last time, my foot got way long.”
They both laughed over this image. “How long did it get?” Roy asked.
“Way long, like it just stretched out. After that I knew I only had until the next month to be normal.”
“You never said anything.”
“Well you and mom always go away, to Aunt Cora’s. And nothing happened after that, so, I just didn’t think about it.”
“You’ll still be normal.”
“No I won’t.”
“Yeah, buddy, you will. We’re normal, we exist. It’s not like we were created in a lab somewhere with nanotechnology or gene splicing, and I know you’ve seen enough movies to know what I’m talking about. We’ve always been around. There’s cave art from thousands of years ago that show us on the walls. I’ll show it to you someday. Normal is relative. You’ll see, you might not understand now but it’ll come to you, one day.” The last bit of sun was peeking through the mountains, sending light straight at them. “It’s funny, in the movies, when they’re filming, they call this magic time, because the lighting is so good. I’d have to agree with them, though, it ‘is’ magic time. It’s this happy spot between two worlds, not quite day anymore but not yet night either. This is where we slip into our other skin, when we realize what we can be. I wish I had some advice for you, like don’t run to far away from here, or don’t eat this or that, but once you change you’ll be something else. Part of the reason, I guess, that we don’t remember much of it. It’s usually just a couple days in a row, the most for me, once, was four, and then the moon waned again.”
“That’s a lot of nights, in a row.”
“It’s not so bad, once you get used to it. The best part are the nights just before and after, when the moons almost full but not all the way yet. Those nights are when our bodies are at their strongest and fastest and everything seems sharper and, well, just better. Those few nights of the month are an easy price to pay for having all those gifts, the rest of the time.”
“And that’s why I can’t play sports?”
“It would be unfair but also it wouldn’t be practical. Imagine your big game was tonight, the whole school is in the bleachers waiting for their star player and here you are, out in the woods, about to change. It just wouldn’t work out.”
“Kay.” The look of resignation, deflated Roy’s heart.
“There’s other things, more fun, to do anyway, you’ll see.” It couldn’t be all doom and gloom, Roy thought. “Just try to relax, remember there’s nothing you can do to stop it from happening.”
Suddenly Roy felt the heat. Courses of it running up his legs, down his arms, through his bones, charged through his body. “It’s happening, Danny. I love you and just remember that it’s going to be okay. I’m going to change first, because my body is used to it, and you’re going to go second. I’m going to head off, into the woods, now. I don’t want you to follow me, though. I think you’re scared enough about all of this and I don’t want seeing me change freak you out even more.” He said the words as if they were humorous but neither of them laughed. “Just breath, relax and let it wash over you. The best advice I have.” Then the fire in his bones was too much, he couldn’t focus on talking anymore, so Roy got up and jogged off into the woods, leaving his thirteen year old son sitting at the table, behind him.
He had only just made it, when he doubled over and began to vomit. True to his words, he wouldn’t remember it in the morning. The pain, so intense that he couldn’t scream or even breath to scream caused him to toss up his lunch into the bushes around him. And, then, the real work began, as his body began morphing.
Danny sitting, back at the table, unmoved, could hear his father’s grunts and moans and the stumbling in the forest. He began to wonder if, maybe, he had been wrong, maybe it wasn’t his time, it could be that he had another month to go before it was his turn to change. But then his legs and arms got warm. It was a strange sensation. Not entirely uncomfortable, quite the opposite, he recognized. This felt nice, like he was back in the lake and the volcanic, thermal, action was warming him up. His hands were splayed out before him, and he could see his fingers stretching out, bit by bit, the grain of the wood under his fingertips was pushing past as they slowly enlarged. If it hadn’t been for that definitive sensation he might have just thought it was his imagination or his eyes playing with him, in the dimmed evening light. When they stopped lengthening his fingernails seemed to inflate, becoming thicker, and lengthen too. All this, he acknowledged, wasn’t painful. Again, it was warm and comforting, like he were falling into his true self, like he was discovering who he was, after years of frustration, like fitting the final piece into a jigsaw puzzle.
He got up from the table, looked up at the full moon. When had it gotten so full? So bright? How long had he been sitting at the table? His body moved with an elegance that he had never imagined. Watching the Olympics, that summer, he had been amazed at the motion a human body was capable of. He now felt, as if, he could do all those same things, that every nerve and muscle in his body could be manipulated individually to create all the beautiful artwork a body had the potential of creating.
His father was before him, now. Of course his father looked nothing like his father but Danny found him recognizable, if only by scent. Then his father bounded off into the woods, a howl ensued.
When he woke up the next morning he wouldn’t remember doubling over in pain, just after seeing his dad. He forgot about crying out and screaming and holding onto the root of a tree for some form of comfort. When he woke up the next morning his feet and hands had scuff marks all over them, even bleeding in some spots, but more than all of that, he felt great. As if the weight of a thousand fears had been lifted from him. It wouldn’t always be like this, he would find. Sometimes it felt like he had a hangover and other times he had trouble waking up, he would just wanted to sleep and sleep. This time, though, as if to reaffirm that this was always his body’s full intention, he was rewarded with the feeling of complete comfort and awareness. His father’s arms were around him, they were huddled up together, lying next to a different lake. He got up and he walked into the water, heated, as well, by, perhaps, the same thermal spring that heated their lake. He walked into the water and cleansed the dirt from the forest from his skin.
Teenage Dream –
His father had been right. Sports were out of the question. What his father had been wrong about was that Danny would miss it. Before puberty there had been an understanding that Danny would want to continue playing sports to push himself into that field like most of his peers were doing. After the change, Danny could care less. What was sports when there were so many girls to flirt with?
This turned out to be his true frustration. Like sports, girls were off limits too. His father was always there to remind him of how a teenage pregnancy was dramatic enough without the baby being born with twisted DNA. For Danny it was frustrating in a hundred different ways. It was exacerbated by the fact that, with his condition, his body was a chick magnet. Not only did he have muscles to spare, without having to work on them, but his body also produced a strong pheromone that not only worked on the teenage girls he attended school with but most of the teachers as well.
Ms. Stewart would always fawn over him, keeping his eye contact for that couple seconds too long. He understood that the same could have been said about him, he didn’t turn away her affections or refuse to keep that eye contact going for those few seconds too long. Instead he accented to it with his silence. If he couldn’t have ‘Suzie Cheerleader’ then why couldn’t he have, some, attention from ‘Hot For Teacher’. Or, at least, that’s how he saw things.
She was tall, long brown hair, with a complexion that hinted at her age but was still fighting to keep it a secret. Out of the adults at school that had ‘accidentally’ flirted with him, three teachers, one teachers assistant and the gym coach, she was the only one that he had been interested in. Ms. Stewart, with her mature curves and confidence. When she kept those looks and flirted with him, in her ways, she was never apologetic about it, like the others were. The others would say or do something then, immediately, a look would come over their face, a vacant stare and a color to their cheeks, but Ms. Stewart would just go back to doing whatever she was doing, without missing a beat.
She was also his drama teacher. Without sports to guide him through the norms of high school socialization he had decided to, instead, do become better at something he was already quite good at, acting. He walked around all day with a façade upon his face. Never letting anyone get to know him, completely, and always hiding the dark secret that manifested on a full moon.
Danny was seventeen and in his senior year. The previous years, after that autumn night at the lake, had gotten easier and easier, even if only begrudgingly. That first year was hellacious, he could remember. He felt bad for his parents, what was worse than raising a teenage boy going through puberty? A teenage boy who had his hormones turned up to eleven and a sister that had closely followed, two years later. For all he knew, though, it was all payback for his parents. They had gone through the same thing with their parents and who knows what all they had gotten up to. His pity, though it was real, came with conditions, he recognized.
The trouble with being the biggest, best looking, most athletic kid who pumped out the most overpowering pheromone was double fold. On one hand you had the sexual attention from the women and on the other you had the bullies wanting to tear you apart for no other reason than you were the guy at the top of the high school food chain. In high school there was one thing you never wanted to be, good at too many things. Targets could be placed on your back for failing too many things too. It was at either end of the spectrum that terror lived. Like yin and yang, the goal was to keep it in the middle, somewhere. For Danny and his sister though, this was impossible. How could he keep it in the middle when he wasn’t even trying? His body was doing so much of it on his own. He had no pimples because his skin was flawless. It healed with ease. A scrape in the morning was gone by lunch. A cut in the afternoon would be gone by his next lunch. His and to eye coordination was above average and his ability to read people’s faces had come in handy on more than a couple occasions. These were all things he couldn’t stop, if he tried.
In the end he had come to a quiet resignation about all of this. The same way a person that lived outside of the normal, probably did. He imagined, back, in the day, when those first black children were allowed to go into a ‘white’ school, instead of being segregated, that that was what it must have felt like for them, as well. You couldn’t hide who you were when it was plain as day. Danny could hide the big part but most everybody knew there was something special about him, even if it was only that they thought he was going to be the one lifted from their class and graduate to star status someday, as a movie star or something.
A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream, wouldn’t be the play that lifted Danny across that threshold, he knew, but it meant more time with Ms. Stewart and he liked speaking in a pentameter.
“More strange than true: I never may believe
These antic fables, nor these fairy toys.
Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,
Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend
Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend
More than cool reason ever comprehends.
The lunatic, the lover and the poet
Are of imagination all compact:
One sees more devils than vast hell can hold,
That is, the madman: the lover, all as frantic,
Sees Helen's beauty in a brow of Egypt:
The poet's eye, in fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;
And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen
Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.
Such tricks hath strong imagination,
That if it would but apprehend some joy,
It comprehends some bringer of that joy;
Or in the night, imagining some fear,
How easy is a bush supposed a bear!”
He said the words, from memory, as he walked through the autumn air. Leaves fell as the wind kicked them off the trees, nature’s eviction notice, in reds and oranges and browns. Here and there, he could spot, some still green, mixed with the others. Danny would kick small hills of leaves that same wind had formed, sending them back into the air, for, possibly, the last time, before they decomposed and ran off into the nearby river.
“Hey, D?!” The voice came from the park. It took a second for Danny to see its source. In a tree, halfway up, was his sister, Lanna.
“Do I want to know?” Danny was walking toward her.
“Act like I’m not here.” She replied.
At fifteen, he knew, she was still knee deep into wolf territory. Things were still hard. It was hard to hide the dramatic effects of puberty when you had that, as they had come to call it, twisted DNA. A normal boy has his voice breaking, every so often. A boy with twisted DNA might go to jump up on a log and find himself clinging to the side of a tree, fifteen feet up, accidentally. “You’re hiding?” This seemed unlike her.
“Only until first period is over.”
Though he wasn’t looking up at her, from his peripheral vision he could see that she had propped herself between two branches and had a school book opened in her lap. “I think the purpose of cutting periods is that you don’t have to open a book. Seems strange to climb halfway up a tree, to get out of a course, but then still sit there and do your homework.”
“Yeah, yeah.” She broke off a piece of branch and threw it at him. “Have I told you how much you’re ‘know it all’ attitude annoys me?”
“If I forgot this morning, I remind you now.”
“SO. Back to the hiding.”
“Sarah and that group were outside the school this morning and I just wasn’t feeling up to the whole, public humiliation thing.”
“What was it this time?”
“Does it matter?”
“I suppose not, it’s all the same anyway, isn’t it?”
“I look and act normal, most of the time.” She smiled. “But it doesn’t matter, it’s that group mentality that something’s different about me, so they make fun of my clothing, my hair, my height and whatever pops into their scrawny little brains.”
“Yeah, it gets old, I agree.” He turned back to the road. “See you at lunch, then.” She muttered yep and he kept walking.
He imagined that in twenty years things would be different. He just wasn’t sure how, yet.
The football coach caught him, as he walked across the field. It was always hard shooting him down, knowing how his pheromones worked on people. This time, though, the interruption happened to be about football. “Danny!” Coach Baker ran up to him. “Danny, I have a proposition for you.”
“Coach, I’ve told you…”
“No, no, no, I’m serious, this time.” There was the brief hint of anxiety and embarrassment upon the Coach’s face. “How well do you know football?”
“I can’t.” Danny kept walking.
“It’s a free spot on the team, we need someone your build and with your strength.”
“I can’t, I said. I’m sorry.” It hurt more than he could say, having to turn down a free spot on the team. He kept walking and Coach fell into the background.
Private school, Danny thought. Why aren’t my parents sporting for private school or home schooling, seriously what about home schooling, he asked himself? Instead they felt he needed the people skills. ‘You two, more than anyone, need to know how to get along with others, properly.’ His mom had told them, one night. He supposed it was true. Already he was prone to bouts of anger, hence his not being able to play football. Sure, his father had told him, back in the day, that it would be because he would run circles around all the other guys, but what his father hadn’t told him is that before he ran circles around them he would beat them into a bloody pulp, pile their bodies into a mound, and ‘then’ run circles around them. It seemed like he spent half of the day talking himself out of getting into an altercation, of some kind.
The periods went by without much ado. History was a droning voice in the background. Algebra had more of a nasally twinge and Health was just ridiculous. He had never asked but he assumed all the same things happened with them as happened with regular people. He had been a sick a few times and taken regular medication for it. A few trips to the doctor hadn’t raised any eyebrows and as far as the sex education part of the Health course his anatomy and his experimentation with his anatomy hinted that sex would work out the same too.
Finally, Drama, the last period of the day. His lines, he had rehearsed all day.
Ms. Stewart was sitting in the front row. “Could you lean forward more? Look more engaged.”
Danny obliged. “Like this?”
“Yes, and when you’re talking with her, look at the spot between her eyes. It gives the impression that you’re looking into her eyes and not looking back and forth between the left and right eye, individually.”
“I can do that.”
“Good. Let’s call it a day then. I don’t know about you, all, but I’ve had an exhausting day and I’m ready to get out of here.”
It wasn’t the first time she had let them go just before the bell rang, to end the period. Danny loved when she did this, it was nice being able to get to your locker, grab your thing, and head home before all the other kids caught up. He imaged people that worked a nine to five shift felt the same when they left at four. “I can do that, too.”
This time he knew he wouldn’t be leaving early, with the others. Something over the course of the last few weeks was hitting its stride and he knew that it would be culminating tonight, whatever it was.
He took his time packing his things.
Ms. Stewart remained in her chair, making notes on her copy of their script.
Finally they were alone, the theatre silenced and only the low rumbling of the furnace remained to keep them company.
“Is there something you wanted to ask?” Ms. Stewart looked up at him, her head still tilted down towards the script in her lap.
“It’s just.” Danny climbed down from the stage, facing her, then used it to lean up against. “I feel you keep wanting to say something to me but something keeps getting in the way.”
She looked thoughtful for a moment, perplexed, as if she were trying to secure the proper words for the situation. “I suppose, I have.”
It was difficult, for him; knowing what it was that drew her to him but not able to fully disclose it. His father had explained once that he would have to be stalwart against the tide of affections he would receive in high school and college and university and the rest of his life. What was youth, though, without a few indiscretions, he thought? “I’m not a kid.”
She was taken aback, his heart raced, he thought he might have said too much, right out of the gate, but then she smiled and then she laughed. “That I’m sure about.”
“But? But, you’re not an adult either, Danny.” She got up and began collecting her things. “I won’t say you’re not a man because I’m sure, you are. The body matures before the mind. It’s a conundrum faced by many an educator before me and, I’m sure, it will continue to frustrate individuals for years to come.”
“I don’t follow.” He tried to figure out what she meant, thinking there was a double entendre in there somewhere.
“That, Danny, is the problem. It’s not so much an issue of using one for their body but of using one for their lack of maturity. That’s the disparity, you see?”
“I get it.” He nodded and walked towards her. “I just don’t care as much as you, I guess.”
“You will when you’re older.”
“I’ll be upset I didn’t grasp what was in front of me.” He took a few more steps. “One thing I’ve learned, here at this fine institution of knowledge…” he held his arms out to his sides. “…is that you all seems to regret not doing the things you could have done, while you were in high school.”
“I’m just making sure I don’t make your mistakes. Isn’t that an education a little more valuable than remainders and whatever?”
“Remainders and whatever?” She finished putting the script in her brief case. “Look, I’ll tell you this. I had crushes on teachers and to be honest when I regret about high school is waiting so much of my time wishing I could have out with Mr. Lopez, my Science teacher and quite the looker. Instead I wish that I would have focused on the guys that were actually into me, at that age.” She tilted her head, he auburn hair fell on her shoulder. “I get it, I do. It’s complicated, more complicated that you can think.”
Danny thought to himself, how it can be more complicated than my life already is, I don’t know. “I wish I could tell you more, show you that it’s not as ‘out there’ as you think it is.”
“I think that’s the end of our conversation.” She didn’t seem uncomfortable, to Danny. I just felt as though she were saying the right words for the situation, to him.