The WereWitness

So it was my birthday last week, and I was not feeling quite celebratory the time it came around. It was mostly because I was starting to come down with a case of "the depressions," as the kids call it these days, but partly because I was lacking in time and resources to make a decent celebration happen. I've been in a funk these last few months, partly due to my current situation, partly because it inevitably  flares up from time to time. It's much better now, because time and perserverance and friends and coffee  and Adventure Time have a tendency to cure such things. Besides, things aren't so bad. Yes, my job is draining and terrible, but I've finally got the first reliable bicycle I've ever owned- a kickin' (that's the only way to describe it) black Kona named Beatrice-, I'm in this great Northwestern state with loads of potential, and I'm not starving to death. I'm ahead of most of planet Earth. Things will get better.

When discussing my lack of willingness to celebrate my birthday with my pal Valerie, she suggested that I might have become a Jehovah's Witness. They don't celebrate birthdays, apparently, because it's a pagan and/or Jewish ritual.

And since I'd been binging on that most excellent show Adventure Time recently (mayhaps a post about that later), and I had recently watched my favorite episode, the Hug Wolf, I immediately came up with the idea for the following short story. Valerie suggested I write it, so I did. It's silly and ridiculous and totally unpublishable, and that's how I want it.

I tried not to be too offensive against religious people in this one, so you should be fine reading this. Unless you're a Jehovah's Witness, of course. Sorry, that can't really be helped.


The WereWitness.


Giando Sigurani


The full moon is supposed to bring out the freaks. Crime rates go up, hospitals busy themselves with an increasing number of injuries and illnesses, and the world becomes generally more weird and dangerous.

I was not expecting to see an entire procession of Jehovah's Witnesses out and about on the night of a full moon, but then again, the Jehovah's Witnesses are exactly the sort of people who wouldn't give one Good God Damn about such things. I didn't know much about them, other than the fact that they seem really nice, that they somehow have that ability to make eye contact without actually looking into your eyes, and that they don't celebrate any birthdays, holidays, or, indeed, anything at all. So of course, full moons would be as absent from their calendars as everything else.

The Witnesses were in a small group of about eight to ten, tightly knit with an almost synchronized walking pace. When they saw me they smiled in their polite and harmless way, and started reaching into their pockets, presumably to arm themselves with Watchtower pamphlets. One of them, near the edge of the crowd, looked right at me. He was a bit more ragged than the rest, and was swaying oddly, with a weird grin on his face. He was sweating. It almost looked like he was ill. And then he lunged at me and bit me on the hand, drawing blood.

I knew they were Jehovah's Witnesses because they emerged from a local Watchtower church, entitledKingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses. I waved meekly as I passed them by. I attempted to slide harmlessly into the crowd, expecting to probably come out with a few Watchtower pamphlets and some empty-eyed but well-meaning stares in my direction, but instead I got something else entirely.

They smiled sweetly as I passed, and their empty eyes looked happily into mine. Or past mine. Whichever. None of it mattered at that time, because one of them decided to bite me.

The Witnesses weren't expecting that either, because they immediately fanned out in shock when they had witnessed one of their own attack me. They cast wide-eyed, accusatory stares at the attacker, and gave a veritable tidal wave of apology to me.

“... I'm so sorry...”

“... We are normally against violence in any way... unless forced into military service of course...”

“... John is new, you'll have to excuse him...”

“... Please, read our pamphlet for more information...”

I waved my hand to show that there was no harm, no foul. One of them seized the moment and placed a pamphlet in it. “It's all right,” I said, despite the trickling blood. “Really, I'm fine.”

“Are you sure?” one of them asked, sincerely.

“I'm sure,” I said, looking holding up my hand, which now had a Watchtower pamphlet skillfully entwined in its fingers. They were good, I had to give them that.

“Well,” one of them replied kindly, “We are really very sorry that John bit you. You can read our pamphlet for more information about how we're normally against that sort of thing.”

I took a look at John. There was something odd about him, even for a Jehovah's Witness. He had a look of apology on his face, yes, but I also saw- what? Reluctance? Fear?

Some kind of sense that he wasn't entirely in control of his actions?

“It's really okay,” I said. “It's okay, John. Don't worry about it.”

John squeaked, and then smiled. He turned around and the other Wittinesses followed suit.

* * *

That night, I felt ill, like I was running a fever, and the strangest urge I've ever felt in my life came over me. No, urge was not the word for it. It was a distinct non-urge... a complete attrition of enthusiasm.

“Hey,” said my roommate Jennifer. “Remember, we're celebrating my birthday tonight at the bar, are you coming?”

I'm the sort of person who jumps at any possible excuse to celebrate. Me and Jennifer frequently get into trouble, often drinking until four in the morning and waking up somewhere with strange hats on. But we always made sure that, no matter how intoxicated we might become, that neither of us did anything illegal, immoral, or dangerous. We looked after each other in that regard.

But something was changing within me. “No...” I found myself saying. “No... I don't feel much like... celebrating.”

Jennifer blanched at these words. “What?” she said, genuinely offended. “But... it's my birthday!

I looked into her eyes. She flinched. “Don't look at me like that,” she said.

“What's wrong with the way I'm looking at you?” I asked.

“I don't know, you're just looking at me all weird,” Jennifer replied. She was clearly confused.

“Go have fun on your birthday, Jennifer,” I said. “I'm going to stay... here... and... not celebrate anything.”

Jennifer was visibly hurt. “Fine, jerk,” she said. “See if I'll come to your birthday next month.”

“I don't feel like celebrating that one either.”

Jennifer shouldered her purse and stormed off. I did not feel, at that time, that I had done anything wrong. Couldn't Jennifer respect my reasons for not celebrating her birthday? It was only a birthday after all. You know who else celebrated birthdays?

Only Herod, the traitor King of the Jews!

I do remember feeling something though, and it was not guilt or shame. It was pity. And I didn't feel it for myself, I felt it for Jennifer. I had this overwhelming sense that by celebrating the time of her birth with friends, she was missing out on something far more profound.

That night, when Jennifer was celebrating with her friends and presumably trying on increasingly more silly hats, I felt some strange sort of craving. I could not determine its source, until I fished around in my pocket and pulled something papery out of it.

It was a Watchtower pamphlet. I thought I had thrown it out, but apparently I had it with me the entire time. The craving lit up like a fire within me. Yes... there was something about this pamphlet. I must copy it... I must spread it... I must...

I must!

The craving within me reached a furious crescendo, and it felt like I was about to burst.

I passed out.

* * *

“Dude,” came a voice.

I felt a prodding on my arm.

“Dude,” the voice came again.

I groaned, and sat up. The speaker was Jennifer. She was wearing a sombrero. Near her were three other good friends, Mercedes, Jeffrey, and Paul. And in each of their hands were...

What are these?” said Jennifer, holding up a stack of Watchtower pamphlets. She was visibly angry, practically vibrating with insolent rage.

“I... I don't know,” I said. “They're pamphlets I guess. Those Jehovah's whatsits... they give them out to everyone.”

You were giving them out to everyone!” Jennifer nearly shouted. “I caught you stuffing them into every hand you came across.”

I did not know what to say. “What are you talking about?” I asked.

“You were all over the place, dude,” said Jeffrey.

“You were like a ninja,” said Mercedes. “Every time someone held out a hand, pow, pamphlet. No hand was spared.”

“You wasted all my printer ink,” said Paul. “Not cool dude, those things cost fifty bucks.”

“I don't know what you're talking about,” I said, standing up. I felt a toppling head rush as I stood; I was exhausted. Every joint ached and burned, every muscle seized and cramped. It felt like I had done a triple marathon the day before.

“Ouch!” I proclaimed, holding a violent pain that had suddenly flared up in my back.

“What's gotten into you?” said Jennifer. The anger had gone from her, and it was replaced by concern. “I thought you were an atheist.”

“I...” I said. “I am an atheist... I think.”

“Well, what gives, man?” said Jeffrey, holding up his printed Watchtower pamphlet. “Did you get bitten by a radioactive Jehovah's Witness or something?”

“No... I...” And that was it. I came to a sudden realization. I knew what I had to do. “I... I have to go,” I said.

“Not until you stop and explain yourself!” said Jennifer. She adjusted her sombrero in an affronted manner.

“I will... I think. I just... I have to do something.”

“You can't use my printer till you buy me another cartridge, dude,” said Paul.

“I'm sorry,” I said. “I'll get you another one... just... Just let me do this thing!”

I managed to escape them and flew out the door. I knew what I had to do. I had to find John, the frightened Jehovah's Witness who had bitten me the day before.

I came to the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses, banging frantically at the door. An elderly Witness with kind eyes answered. “What is it, my child?” His eyes were kind, but he still managed to stare into mine as if there was something far more interesting dancing just behind me.

“I'm looking for someone,” I said.

“You have found him,” the Witness said. “God lives here, and He is all you need.”

I'll never figure out how the very religious manage to pronounce capital letters like that. “No, I'm looking for a person. His name is John. He... um. He bit me last night.”

At the mention of John, a spark of irritation flickered on the old man's face, which was immediately hidden by a glazed smile. “I... see,” said the old man. “Well, my child, I can't tell you the location of John. Because, my child, retribution is not a path available to a member of the Jehovah's Witnesses. Whether or not he bit you, I will not give you the opportunity to do something rash.”

“I don't want to do something rash,” I replied. “I just want to talk with him.”

“Oh?” said the old man. “In that case... I don't know exactly where he is. I just know he's spent a great deal of his time at the archival library lately.”

“Don't you keep church records or something?”

“We do,” said the old man. “But John... well, he was only with us for a few days, and last night, he quit.”

“He quit?

The old man lowered his eyes in disappointment. “We thought we had found a true convert in John, so dedicated was he,” he said. “But last night, he said under no uncertain terms, that he was done with us.”

“Which library?” I asked.

* * *

The archival library was one-floored and small. It would be no trouble at all finding John. He was pouring over a dozen large, dusty, complicated-looking books that smelled as stale as year-old bread.

“John?” I asked.

He did not look up.

I sat down across from him, and at last he looked up at me. His eyes lit up in relief.

“Thank God!” he said. “I was so worried I'd never be able to find you, but you came and found me instead.”

“What's going on, John?” I asked. “What are you researching? What do you know?

He held up the largest, most leathery, most worn of the books he had been reading. It had a drawing of a gigantic, bipedal wolf. The title, which was embossed in gold, read: Lycanthropy for thee scholasticallie stuntedde.

I gasped. “I knew it!”

“Yes,” said John, breathless. “I presume you had an interesting night.”

Interesting?” I burst. “I completely avoided my friend's birthday party. She was so mad. And... I... Oh god.” I buried my head in my hands. “There were pamphlets. There were pamphlets everywhere!

“And you knew it had something to do with me,” said John. “I'm sorry. I... I did not realize I had bitten you until after the deed was done.”

“I could see that,” I said. “I saw something in your eyes. Like you weren't in control.”

“Exactly,” said John.

“How did you find out about all this?” I asked.

“I'm Jewish,” said John. “Not practicing. I can't stomach matzah. But every month, on the night of the full moon, I kept finding myself joining up with the Jehovah's Witnesses and spreading pamphlets like the plague. A polite plague, but a plague nonetheless.”

“So that's what this is?” I asked. “The Jehovah's Witness religion... spread through bites? Like a werewolf? And it's the worst on the full moon?”

“Exactly,” said John. “LycanWitnessism.

“But,” I said. “I thought they were nice. I don't have a problem with them... not even when they give me their pamphlets. Mosts atheists aren't okay with that.”

“I don't think it's their fault,” said John. “I'm thinking it's just the modern strain of Lycanthropy, evolved into something much different, so it can survive in these modern times.”

“What makes you say that?”

“Well, nobody likes wolves killing people,” explained John. “But who's going to hunt down a nice, cuddly Jehovah's Witness?”

“Point,” I said. Then a thought struck me. “Wait, Witnesses are allowed to cuddle?”

“I... Uh, well,” stuttered John. “I dunno...” he blushed and looked down.

“Well, either way,” I said. “The question is, how do we stop it?”

“I don't know,” said John. “Everything in these books say that the only cure is a silver bullet. But that's werewolves, not WereWitnesses like us.”

“We'll find out the answer,” I said. “We'll come here every day until we find a solution.”

“Good!” said John. “With the two of us, we'll have this cracked in no time.”

* * *

For weeks we tried to find out a cure for our disease, but we did not get anywhere. Not a single book in the library mentioned LycanWitnessism. So we turned to more modern avenues.

The Internet, however, was just as unhelpful. It seemed that John and I were the only WereWitnesses in the entire world. It was starting to become hopeless.

There were hundreds of variations of lycanthropy, with just as many cures. There was lycanitchthyism (silver fish hook), lycanmusculism (silver mouse trap), and even lycanlepidoptery (silver butterfly net).

“You hunt a wolf with a gun,” I said. “How do you hunt a Jehovah's Witness?”

“You don't! That's not nice,” said John. “They're still people, just like you and me.”

“I'm sorry,” I said. “Back at square one, then.”

Our symptoms took a while to wear off, but we were out of the woods eventually. After a few headaches and some bad mornings, I was able to celebrate with friends, I found no idealogical conflicts with war or blood transfusions, and I had no wish to print or distribute a single Watchtower pamphlet.

It had been a few weeks since starting research at the archival library with John. We were still in the same predicament as before, with no known cure for our affliction. When preparing coffee in the kitchen one morning, I happened to glance at my watch, and noticed that it was my birthday in less than a week.

I don't keep calendars, but Jennifer does. She has one pinned to the refrigerator. Like most calendars, it had the phases of the moon. I glanced at the calendar, and met with a shock.

The full moon happened to fall on my birthday.

“Oh no,” I said aloud.

“What?” Jennifer asked. She had found it in her heart to forgive me for my transgression on her birthday, but there was still some resentment in her voice.

“My birthday's next week,” I said.

“What do you want to do for it?” she asked. “Not that I'm going, you jerk. You missed mine.”

“I...” A terrible thought struck me. “I don't... I don't want to celebrate it.”

“Oh, come on, dude. Have you gotten old or something? You're twenty-six, for God's sake.”

I put my hands on my cheeks. “I have no desire to celebrate my birthday!” I said, with horror.

“You're weird,” said Jennifer. “I don't know what's gotten into you--”

I ran to her and grabbed her by her shoulder. “You don't understand!” I said. “You can't... you can't... you must make me celebrate my birthday!” I said.

“Dude!” said Jennifer. She brushed my hands from her shoulders. “What are you talking about? If you don't want to celebrate it, I can't make you want to.”

“Let me explain myself,” I said. “Now... listen.”

And I gave her a thorough summary. I explained about John, about the bite, the full moon, and the fact that I was a-

“A WereWitness?” Jennifer said. Her face was completely unreadable.

“Yes,” I said.

Jennifer's face remained inscrutable for a few seconds. Then, her eyes crinkled, and her mouth curled into a smile. Then, she burst out laughing.

She guffawed for two whole minutes, shrieking and slapping her knees. I thought nobody slapped their knees. I frowned.

“Dude,” she said. “Dude! A WereWitness. Wait'll I tell Mercedes...”

“No!” I said. “Please... don't tell anyone. You have to believe me.”

“All right,” said Jennifer, but I knew that she didn't believe me. “Okay, fine, I'll keep your secret. But you have to throw your own damn birthday party.”

“But I don't want to!” I said desperately.

“I don't know what to tell you, dude,” said Jennifer. “I gotta go to work.” She pulled out her phone and started typing on it. “It's gonna look like I'm texting Mercedes... but... um... well... goodbye.” And she headed out the door.

As my birthday drew closer, my symptoms grew worse. I thought in scripture and started smiling more often than necessary. On more than one occasion, I got comments about my glazed smile.

“Is my smile not... adequate?” I said to Paul one day.

“Bro, you're calling your smiles ade quate,” Paul replied. “Something's not right with you, man.”

“Strange,” I said. “I don't feel any different. Say, friend, won't you let me use your printer?”

“Absolutely not,” said Paul.

On the night of my birthday, I could feel the transformation taking place. Jennifer, Paul, Mercedes, and Jeffery were trying to get me to go to my own birthday party.

“I simply don't see the need to celebrate it,” I said. “It is a day, like any other before or after it.”

“C'mon, dude,” said Jennifer. “I've got something special for you.”

“There is nothing special about this day,” I replied.

“I knew he was going to be like this,” Jennifer said. “C'mon.” She grabbed me by the arm, an started carrying me. Paul grabbed the other one. “You're going to this party that Jennifer set up for you, whether you like it or not.”

“But... But I cannot celebrate my birthday! That's for Pagans!”

“Uh, okay,” said Jeffrey, prodding me out the door.

“No!” I fought. I could feel the WereWitness coming out in me. “I must not... not party!”

“Good, goooood,” said Jennifer. “It'll be fun, dude.”

“I need to... I need a pamphlet,” I said. I was starting to break out in a sweat.

“No, you do not,” said Paul.

They carried me down the road. We knew better than to drive on a birthday. You don't need to appoint a designated driver if nobody drives, so each of us was allowed to drink as much alcohol as we wanted.

We came to a building. There was nothing special about it; just a white brick corner building with a plain door. There was a very shiny silver sign hanging above it.

“What is this place?” I said with an edge of suspicion in my voice.

“It's called the Silver Room,” said Mercedes. “Jenn found it.”

“The... Silver Room?” I said. The WereWitness within me roared with rage. Well, not rage. More like worry and concern for the unfaithful. “No... I... must... not... go!

“You're going and that's final!” said Jennifer.

I don't remember what happened next with very fine details. Jennifer, Paul, Jeffrey, and Mercedes shoved me into the Silver Room.

I looked around. Everything was silver.

There were silver chairs. Silver tables. Silver chandeliers, silver walls, even the bar was silver. The cups were silver, the taps were silver. I saw John's face as I stumbled in. He smiled meekly. And there was nothing glazed about that smile at all.

Then, I passed out.

* * *

I woke up with a pounding headache.

“Dude,” said a voice. I felt another poke on my arm. “Wake up.”

I moaned. I got up. Once again, I felt sore, but I also felt...

“My god,” I said, noting that I hadn't pronounced the capital G. “I'm... I'm hungover!” That could only mean one thing:

I partied.

And I did so because I wanted to.

“Sure are, party animal,” said Mercedes.

I looked at Jennifer. She was wearing a silver fedora and had silvery confetti in her hair.

“A silver birthday party,” I said. “Oh my god, that's brilliant.”

“It was Jenn's idea,” said Mercedes. “She told me all about your LycanWitnessism. We planned this party just for that.”

“You were definitely showing signs of a Jehovah's Witness,” said Jeffrey. “So we thought... Witnesses hate birthdays, right? Maybe a silver birthday party would cure it.”

“For... for me?” I said. My voice was quavering.

“And me,” said another voice. A shape stirred from the floor. It was John, and he was wearing a silver top hat.

“We knew that there was something up when you started running my printer for those stupid pamphlets,” said Paul. “We knew you weren't yourself.”

“You were sick with something,” said Jefferey. “And you know how Mercy is crazy for astrology. Of course she caught that it happened around the full moon.”

“Welcome back to party town,” said Jennifer.

I choked, and tears came out. Something fell from my head. Even with my hangover, I managed to catch and inspect it.

It was a silver porkpie hat.

I smiled a true smile, a pure smile. “Well, I don't know about you guys,” I said, “But I'm not done celebrating.”

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