A Work of Fiction
The Autumn air was chill. The moon was full. The line to get into the auditorium was wrapped around the building. A group of young androgynous men awaited entry. The night was electric.
Angel was nervous about the F. U. Rawlins book signing. Everyone knew about the controversy. Everyone’s favorite author was on the social media chopping block. Florence Umbridge Rawlins had found fame writing the Salem High series. It was a dream come true. Films, amusement parks, and the adoration of millions of children all over the world. Then she joined Twitter.
F. U. Rawlins had some unorthodox views about transgender people. She didn’t believe transgender was a real thing. She thought it was made up by communists. She thought anyone who said they were transgender was brainwashed by communists. She said so on her twitter page.
Stephen pulled out his phone. “Get this: War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength, trans women are women. This bitch is so dead. Using Orwell like that.”
“Orwell didn’t like gay people,” said Angel.
“You say something?” asked Stokesie.
“Never mind,” said Angel.
Angel was a lifelong fan of the Salem High series. Rawlins bigotry was a betrayal of the deepest magnitude. Yet, it wasn’t exactly surprising. Rawlins had inserted several “canon gay” characters after the fact. She was clearly pandering to gay people in an inconsequential way. Any romance was featured on screen in mediocre sequels that never had any relevance to the main series. This political stunt was viewed with cynicism and scorn which had been voiced on the internet for years now. Rawlins’ grievances seemed born of bitterness.
Stephen, Alex, and Stokesie were beyond offended. Angel suspected this was because they were communists, and besides being accurate reflections of Rawlins gripes, communists made it their business to be offended. Angel had caught them discussing the Little Red Book in depth one night. He didn’t join in the conversation. His family had enough communism in Cuba.
Angel learned at the furry convention that trans people can take things too far. That didn’t make him want to go back on his transition. Angel had found a whole new world as a man. Angel didn’t feel defined as a man either. Angel was just Angel, and life was a strange journey. He even liked that trans people took things too far. Not always. He was here tonight because he didn’t want his friends to get hurt.
In a strange way he understood Rawlins. She had every right to be afraid of the young wild energy of these boys. They were new to the Testosterone. They hadn’t adjusted to the rage. The sexual drive was all new. She even had them dead to rights politically. Angel had to give her some credit. That didn’t make him want to defend her.
That night, only a year ago, under the full moon, at the furry convention, Angel had chosen his side.
“So, what’s the plan, one more time?” asked Alex.
“Jesus, Alex, you think these people are fucking deaf?” asked Stephen.
“I just want to be sure,” said Alex.
“Go easy on them,” Angel tried to sound soothing.
“I messaged it to you, read it, keep quiet!” Stephen hissed under his breath.
“Payback,” Stokesie grinned.
Angel remembered the anger well. The humiliation of the binder. The humiliation of the wrong body. People resisted the cliché. But that’s what the feeling was. The wrong body. All of that changed with a simple chest surgery. Now Angel was cool. It only cost several thousand. No insurance would touch it. Angel was lucky his familia loved him. No one loved these boys except Angel.
When Rawlins took the stage there was an eruption of applause. The Salem High series was still very well regarded. People loved those seven books.
“Look at all the sheep,” Stephen hissed to Stokesie.
“Go easy on them,” Angel repeated to Stephen.
Rawlins’ accent was thick. She was from southern Arkansas. She didn’t apologize for it.
“A bestselling author, she sounds fucking stupid,” Stephen wondered aloud.
Angel rolled his eyes at this. He remembered his madre’s thick accent. English was not her first language. She didn’t apologize for it either.
After Rawlins had told some anecdotes from her childhood, the line began to form for the Q and A. That was Angel’s cue. He left his friends behind to fulfill his duty.
Angel reflected on the oath they took. That night under the moon, outside the convention center. They had sworn a pact. They were each other’s family now. There was nothing they would not do for the other. This went beyond blood, politics, or fandom. This was real.
Angel waited his turn to ask a question. Angel had learned patience. He had learned many things since he learned to read on Salem High. He had learned to not trust authority. He learned that love made authority. Angel had learned to not trust love. Consider this woman on the stage. Angel was convinced he loved this complete stranger for most of his adolescent and adult life.
“What fools these mortals be,” Angel said to himself.
Angel approached the microphone at the correct time.
“Ms. Rawlins I’m a lifelong fan of Salem High,” this got a round of applause.
“Thank you,” Rawlins replied from the podium.
Then Angels voiced dropped low, not quiet but down to a snarl that roared with blood and thunder, “I just have to ask...”
“Yes,” came Rawlins’ timid response.
“Are we not men?” As he asked, he put his fist in the air. The people looking at him swore his eyes turned yellow.
“Excuse me?” came the author’s flabbergasted reply.
“Are we not men!?” Angel roared even louder as Stephen, Alex, and Stokesie rushed the stage.
“Are we not men!?” shouted Stephen with his fist in the air atop the stage.
The boys started to chant the question. Then one from the crowd. Then several. Then a mob. Two security guards rushed the stage. Then everybody froze. The boys had started changing.
The yellow eyes reflecting the hard lighting were the first clue. Then the boys started to grow fur. Their hands became claws. Their noses snouts. With a howl the pack revealed itself. Stokesie slashed one of the security guards with his claws. Little nervous Alex pounced upon the other and tore out his throat. Stephen went for Rawlins. Angel just watched.
The pack carried the screaming woman away from the crowd. Away from the auditorium. No one stopped them. They carried her to their vehicle. A vintage blue Ford Anglia that was retro fitted to have the wheel on the left side. She wouldn’t stop screaming. Alex tied a gag around her mouth before they bound her hands and feet. They put her in the trunk.
They outran the cops. Stephen was an expert driver. It helped that he didn’t need to use headlights to see in the dark. They drove deep into the woods. Angel felt like they were leaving the world of man far behind. It was a good feeling. The pack howled along to Warren Zevon on the radio. Drool was pouring from their snapping jaws as they sang along.
They arrived at a spot off the side of the road. They carried their prey to a clearing. Angel kept watch over Rawlings. Stephen, Alex, and Stokesie started gathering sticks and logs. An especially long piece of lumber was driven deep into the earth to make a stake. The gathered materials were piled around it.
Angel had so much he wanted to say to Rawlins. He had dreamed of this moment since he was a child. He was alone with the author whose books taught him how to read. It was not long after that he encountered the writings of Thiess of Kaltenbrun. Thiess understood the truth more than any teller of tales. Thiess knew the true nature of gods and men. It was to Thiess that the boys swore their allegiance, under the moon, outside the convention center.
“I just want you to know, your work means everything to me,” Angel told the captive woman, “I hope you understand, this isn’t personal, our gods demand a sacrifice. I know you are Christian. I read everything about you. Be comforted that you will soon meet your God,” Angel smiled. He hoped it was a reassuring smile. Immortality awaited his favorite author. He envied her, just as he always did.
Rawlins looked as if she wanted to say something to Angel. Angel removed her gag as the pack did the work. He had waited years just to have this conversation with this woman. Rawlins did not say a word. She simply laughed.
She kept laughing as the pack tied her to the stake. She laughed as the flames enveloped her. Howling laughter gave way to shrieks of pain. Stephen read the rites of Thiess over the racket. The pack howled at the moon. Their voices rising to the stars, like the sparks of their flames. Fading to so much nothing.
The choir of howls continued until the flames had burned to ash.
Stephen looked at Angel and said, “her books were too goddamned long anyway.”