An excerpt from

I AM NOT A WOLF

Dan Sheehan and Sage Coffey

You’re scared. You knew today was coming, but you thought it would be easier to do what needs to be done. You thought you’d find yourself overwhelmed with adrenaline and ready to complete the task at hand. You know nothing happens without hard work. Your mother used to say that the only guarantee any living thing has is that each moment of its life will be spent in a desperate fight to justify its existence. If she saw you now, she’d tell you that you’re a coward. She’d tell you that if you were going to do this, you’d have already done it. She’d wonder why you were even bothering. But your mother isn’t here, and today you’re going to do it. Today, you’re going to take a shower.

You are a wolf. But this is something the world can’t know. Some people aren’t ready to know, some aren’t willing to understand, but most are just terrified of wolves for some reason. You’ve spent much of your life integrating into human society. You have a job, an apartment, several online dating profiles, and a terrible roommate. But human beings are expected to maintain a certain level of cleanliness that you’ve let fall by the wayside. You refuse to risk sacrificing all that hard work just because you fear running water. It’s time to make this right. You ease your paws over the shower knob and gently move it to the left. The shower sputters to life, spraying harmless water into the tub. You watch the water run into the drain and glance back at the showerhead. Harmless. You leap into the tub and the water strikes you. At first you bristle at the sudden warmth but you take a deep breath and allow yourself to relax. It’s just water. You’re safe and soon, you’ll be clean too. You don’t find yourself showering often and you’re certain that your roommate won’t miss a little bit of his shampoo, so you wrap your jaws around his bottle of 2 in 1 shampoo and conditioner. All you need to do is get a little bit of it on the floor of the tub so that you can evenly distribute it across your fur and bestow upon yourself the smell of “fresh rain” or at least its chemical approximation.

You squeeze your jaw shut to squeeze the shampoo when suddenly, the water gets hot. It shoots from a comfortable lukewarm temperature to something more along the line of hot knives and you suddenly feel extremely uncomfortable. Caleb must have run the dishwasher in the kitchen. Your jaw clamps down instinctively on the shampoo bottle with incredible pressure, causing your mouth to fill with a goop that tastes nothing like rain as the shampoo explodes into your eyes. You howl in rage and sprint out of the tub, blind. You run through what must be the shower curtain and tumble out of the bathroom and into the living room. Still completely wrapped in the shower curtain, you run towards what smells like your room and violently shut the door behind you. You escape the shower curtain and shake yourself dry, taking a moment to note that while you’ve definitely ruined the bathroom in a big way, you do smell less like dirt now. You really hope your roommate didn’t see that. Speaking of which, it’s time for breakfast and based on the nightmarish smell you’ve just caught on the air, Caleb is making his ridiculous vegan sausage patties again so you’ll be fending for yourself. As if that’s a new concept.

You pop up on two legs and begin the complicated process of getting ready for work. Once you’ve fully dressed yourself, you fiddle with the door until it pops open. You stumble into your living room, briefly dropping down onto all fours and forcing yourself back up again. You dart your eyes around the room to see if you’ve saved face and it would appear that you have. Caleb is too busy frying up impostor sausage and playing some sort of mobile game. Caleb is a frail looking young man. He is tall which often signifies strength in humans but his form is thin and to you seems malnourished. You assume this is likely the result of countless years of indoorsmanship. He’s a young man but seems to not have any sort of job. He often talks about a screenplay that he is “working on” or “workshopping” or “getting some notes on from his friend who works on Rick & Morty” but his day to day efforts seem mostly dedicated to binge watching Netflix shows. You are unsure where his money comes from but he occasionally mentions a temp agency. Caleb’s lifestyle and various non-traditional food smells are often annoying but Caleb has a quality that you value above all others: he has never asked you a single question about your personal life. You walk over to the fridge and wrap your jaws around a rotisserie chicken sitting on the top shelf.

You’ve managed to integrate into this world mostly because human society is too self absorbed to pay you much mind. Without any natural predators, the human race has become content to keep most interactions quick and easy. In fact, you’ve found that the more someone stands out, the more people tend to leave them alone. You recently saw a man dancing shirtless in the street in broad daylight. Not a single person even looked at him, let alone said his behavior was incongruous with that of a normal human. It seems that everyone is terrified that the person who seems “dance in the street” interesting might also be “secret murderer” interesting. You think for a moment that this is kind of sad before you remember that it also helps you ride the bus.

You gnaw on your morning bird and its bones crack loudly. Caleb’s face grimaces but he doesn’t avert his gaze from his phone. He doesn’t seem to care what type of interesting you are as long as you pay your rent. You worry sometimes that your relationship with Caleb could be better. You do not have many human friends and it would be nice to spend mornings and evenings in something other than an odd silence. You think today may be the perfect day to forge your first true human friendship. You are under the impression that true roommates communicate mostly through low-stakes arguments. You clear your throat and prepare to address one of Caleb’s many transgressions,

“HELLO CALEB GOOD MORNING I WAS WONDERING WHAT YOUR REASON WAS FOR LEAVING THAT BOWL OF RIGATONI ALFREDO IN THE SINK ALL WEEK WAS BECAUSE THE CHEESE HAS BEGUN TO SCAB IN A WAY THAT I HAVE PREVIOUS ONLY OBSERVED IN WOUNDS”

Caleb briefly looks up from his phone. You put on your best smile, which, if you’re being honest with yourself, is mostly just you leaving your mouth open and panting a little bit.

“Oh yeah. Sorry. I forgot about it. I’ll totally get it this afternoon, I just have a thing to get to this morning.”

Nailed it. Today is going to be amazing. Caleb walks away in a manner that you assume is more friendly than before. Caleb is a big time introvert, he talks about it almost all the time, so you know that your friendship may be slower to develop. And he does always have a thing to get to. But today was a big step for the two of you. Perhaps after work you can address the fact that Caleb has not purchased any toilet paper for multiple weeks. Interpersonal relationships are a whirlwind! You grab your backpack and head out the door.

You walk outside into the cool morning. You can already tell from the breeze and the scent of grass clippings in the air that it’s going to be a beautiful spring day. You’ve survived another winter and it’s time to be your best self. You ate your breakfast quickly and decisively, leaving you with ample time to get to the office. You could go to work the usual way, by taking the bus, but you consider the idea of saving yourself some headache by using a ride share app to save some time. As you mull this over, you feel a faint presence in your mind grow ever so slightly stronger. It’s a small, dull ache for something you can’t pinpoint. It’s a remnant of a smell from some summer in your early years. It’s the shadow of a home you’ve pushed out of your mind over and over again. You stare at the tree line beyond the edge of your yard and wonder if perhaps all of this was a mistake. If maybe you were never supposed to be living in a two-bedroom garden apartment. If you weren’t even supposed to have a Caleb. If maybe you weren’t supposed to have to worry about how to get to work. Maybe today is the day you finally give in to instinct and return to the woods. Perhaps it is today that you finally reclaim your long-rejected birthright.

-If you wish to take the bus, turn to page 7

-If you would like to use a ride share app, turn to page 14

-If it’s time to return to the woods from whence you came, turn to page 22