“So it’s something you would recommend?”
“Certainly. It’s pretty creative.” As if anticipating another question to follow, Alex continued. “The subject matter may be odd, but the game can be whatever you want. Mystery, action, horror…”
“So there’s no…actual magic in this?”
Hearing that sentence got Alex to avert his eyes for a second, if only so he could quickly roll them. “Games like those? No way. I mean, you can make up chants for effect and stuff like that, but that’s it.”
Deciding to nip the issue in the heart, Alex began talking. “Just don’t let the name fool you. Mage is harmless. Same with D&D, despite the media hysteria back in the 80’s.”
“You remember those days?” the father asked.
“Not really. I wasn’t born then. My friend who got me into RPGs told me about it, and oh boy. Not much has changed.”
“Something’s got to be in the news though, right?”
Seeing the father smile a bit, Alex relaxed in response. “Gotta get ratings somehow, even if you have to lie.”
“Well, thank you for your input.” The mother’s tone was sincere but still wavering a bit. “I think we’ll pass on Mage for today, though.”
“That’s OK.” Alex said, despite feeling a bit defeated. “Glad to help.” With the stack of comics in his arms, he walked the couple up to the register and resumed his floor job afterwards.
The hour to follow was much slower, punctuated by only two customers doing window shopping and picking up reserves. With Trevor off for his break during that time, Alex plucked a single issue off the shelves that caught his eye. A first issue with a Lovecraftian kind of cover, touted as part of ‘The New 52.’
Flipping through the pages of the comic, titled Animal Man, he soon reached a part that made him remember the conversations with his friends and his parents. Running through all their reactions in his head, the part that stuck out most was how frightened, or at least unsettled, they all had been.
As much as he understood because of how unreal werewolves had been to him before, at the same time, he had to doubt that all of it was justified. Much less in relation to himself. Aside from his folks now being aware that he had eaten a live animal, and a few parts of what his friends had seen, he hadn’t openly done anything that would make others act so frightened of him.
With the flow of customers coming back into a regular pace soon after, Alex made time to think during the downtimes. When he went back over the reactions again, his flesh felt sheets of cold coming on. However, the more he thought about it, the more he was reminded of how he had also felt during those same times.
Being able to smell fear and hear the increased rhythms of heartbeats.
Seeing how his friends and family had reacted.
During those times, he’d felt relaxed. If not far better than when he was hiding what he had become. And then, he’d been in such a position that he was easily able to dominate the conversations. The reverse had been true when he’d come under attack. One look at the other werewolf in bright light and he was quivering like mad. Unable to say anything until he felt he was about to die.
“Catherine did say she was worried about how many killings were going on.” Alex thought. Were his friends afraid he would follow that same route? Unless he shifted more than he had done already…