ALL THE MAGICAL THINGS
by Dani Herrera
I am turning into a werewolf.
I know this before it even happens even though I didn’t know it when the first full moon of the year rose.
My hands are shaking as I lock the bathroom door. I press my face into a towel to muffle my screams. But it isn’t shrieking, it’s musical and forlorn, a howl. I turn to the toilet and instead of vomit it’s just black fur.
I think that the fur will run out. The howls will quiet. And I’ll be able to go back to the living room with my family and smile and never tell.
But all the things inside me don’t run out. I feel my chest thumping and my throat closing as I climb out the window.
And I run, through the night and spotlighted under the full moon, through the rows of those perfect bare trees, I run.
I cry when I turn.
My human sobs turn into animal whimpering then suppressed beastly howls.
It happens amongst all the snapping of my bones.
And I thought it would be painful, this transformation, this eruption. But it’s not. It doesn’t hurt at all. It’s like bending an elbow or extending a leg. It’s weight being stripped and replaced, layer by layer so it doesn’t crush me.
What hurts is how I feel myself slipping away.
My human worries start to melt and drip off my tongue with my saliva. My ears turn and pivot and it just becomes instincts. Flinches.
I spend the first few minutes of the full moon running in mad circles. I sniff in the places where I was, looking for me.
Some part of me knows I’m not there, I’m in here. But I wince because wolves are pack animals and there’s no one there, not even me.
I wonder why I made myself so hard to find.
One turn doesn’t make me a werewolf. That’s what I told myself this past month. That’s what I tell myself as I see the full moon in February.
The first time I changed was impossible to comprehend. When I dare to reach into my memories I don’t recognize myself.
But this time is so much worse. Because it’s all happening again and I’ve lied to myself thinking it could turn out different.
I sneak out of the house as I realize it’s just the beginning and I can hardly stand it, this new forever.
I’ve heard of werewolves, goblins, mermaids, elves. But I never met one.
Reports are starting to come onto the news. They’re always begging as they’re being carried away by police. Because not all magical things are pretty. And not all magical things are good.
The world has locked them up and away so they can continue to believe these things don’t happen.
I have a lot of magic in me. I figured that eventually, someday, I would run out of it, this other inside me.
And maybe I’ll be dying or left hollow, once it’s all gone.
But maybe I would be able to rest. I don’t know what I would be then.
I sneak out to perfection.
I avoid all the creaking floorboards and pull doors closed while holding my breath.
I call where I spend my full moons “forests” but really it’s just orchards. Orchards next to roads, orchards next to houses or schools. Almonds, cherries, peaches, apricots.
Not very rural at all.
So my human cries and wolf howls should alert people. But I guess no one has heard.
The corpse trees are blooming.
I lie on the ground and let the white petals cover me, almost like comfort, as I whine and howl.
I wake up as the sun rises and my body reverts back. Simple as a sigh.
I sit on my bed till I hear my sister wake up and walk to the bathroom.
Her forehead creases when she sees me.
“What is that in your hair?” She is combing her fingers through my knotted curls, pulling out petals, flowers, clumps of dirt, and twigs.
And she looks so scared.
I wonder if this is listed on the news as a red flag of a magical thing.
She walks back to her room and says I can shower first. Even though my days are paused since I took a leave from college. Even though she is still busy and has a long commute to work now that she temporarily moved back home to “keep me company.”
She says I can shower first even though we both know I don’t shower in the morning. It makes my hair frizzy.
I start to wonder if maybe my family knew about my sneaking out.
Maybe my sister had chased after me one night, but couldn’t keep up. Maybe my dad has checked my empty room and waited for me to come back, then thought better of it and went back to bed. And maybe my mom has stayed up, pacing the kitchen, worrying.
I know that’s a lie.
I used to stay awake, crying. I would cry in a way that makes me embarrassed. With body shudders and aftershock hiccups. I hoped someone would come knocking to check on me.
It never happened.
The forest is clothed in leaves and fruits and almonds.
I’m mid turn.
I hear footsteps and it’s a glowing bit of a girl. A crescent moon in front of me. She looks at me and wipes her face — either her eyes or her mouth— and says, “I knew I’ve been hearing someone.”
My new best friend is a vampire.
As the moon sits bright she sits next to me and lounges under the moon. She says she misses the light.
I tell her how I got here. That just 4 months ago I couldn’t breathe so I jumped outside and ran.
And she tells me how last year, when her mom left her and her four little siblings after slamming the kitchen door, she didn’t run. Instead she crouched outside a house and waited. He was beautiful, the boy who would ride his bike past her house. Just 10 minutes later she wiped away his blood from her lips.
For a second I wanted a beautiful boy to be laying, dying, in my arms too but that’s not what werewolves do.
I look at her pale skin reflected and I watch my black hair cover my body.
We never plan when to meet again, this vampire and I.
But on the next full moon she is already waiting in the forest.
“I just watched the moon and waited for you,” she says when I walk up.
She has a bag of large grapes that she offers to me. I throw them into my mouth. She holds one between her fingers and sinks her teeth into it till the skin pops.
“My teeth start to ache, when it’s been a while.”
I don’t fully understand this but I don’t think I need to.
So I say, “When the moon starts to grow I can’t stop shaking so I drive around at night and sing along to every song I know.”
I sit with her till the tides in my body respond to the full moon.
I accidentally grip her with my elongated nails. She doesn’t flinch at the pain. And in return I don’t question how her skin crawls to cover the wound.
People think werewolves and vampires are so different but we’re always the only ones out at night, keeping each other company.
I live in a world of fields and forests and have the fear of a wolf running through the rows of trees, keeping pace with my car.
The wolf never breaks eye contact, running row by row, tree by tree, disappearing and reappearing in flashes.
I’ve imagined it for as long as I could remember, so me being a werewolf didn’t start on the full moon this past January.
Sometimes I can still see it, out of the corner of my eye. But now the wolf doesn’t stop when there is no cover of trees. It runs through yards, through store fronts and parking lots, down the hallways of my house.
And when I wake up to my heart pounding and panic choking my throat, I can see the wolf’s snout sticking through the bottom of my bedroom door.
I thought it was because of a story I heard as a child, mid dream.
The one with the tricky wolf who ate a golden canary and carried a boy over a wall.
Sometimes, when I’m drinking, I will find a boy and sway in his arms and say, “Did you hear the story of the boy and the wolf, like I did?”
No one ever knows what I’m talking about.
I know I didn’t make it up.
So maybe the first time I actually turned was this past January.
But that wasn’t when it all started.
It started in the shaking, the trembling. In the panic and the breathlessness.
It started when I was just a girl and would scream till my parents came to find me rocking on the floor. And I would say, “My chest hurts and I can’t breathe.”
The vampire is waiting for me under the trees when I become human again.
“He hasn’t come back?” I ask.
“No. I would tear his throat out if he did.”
“Did you go to the police yet?”
“I doubt they would be able to find him.”
She stands up, brushes herself off, then leaves before we have a repeat of the last time we had this conversation. When she broke down and said, “He’s been around for hundreds of years, I’m like a child to him. How could he do that to me?”
I rubbed her back and told her he had probably done it to other girls, she is not alone, she did nothing wrong, she is not stupid for being tricked by a devil.
But those words don’t change the fact that she’s now a vampire.
A werewolf was found in South Carolina.
She is seven years old. One of the youngest on record.
Her face was all over the news and at first I thought she was dead and murdered but it turns out she was just a werewolf.
The way everyone talked about her, I wanted to say, “That’s not so bad. That’s not so scary.”
Because see, they found the little girl mid turn. And that’s the scariest and roughest part and humanity at that point seems impossible.
But that won’t be her forever.
It’s just her between moments.
“Millie was doing CPR on me the other night,” the vampire says.
“She says she thinks my heart died and when I fell asleep she checked my pulse.”
“Don’t have one?” I asked.
“Haven’t in a while now.”
It’s scary learning about vampires sometimes. But I imagine it’s scary learning about werewolves too and she still sits next to me.
She says these things as if they’re not important and I guess in our world there are more important things than little sisters thinking you’re dead.
But the thing is, we never talk about those more important things. There are threats and secrets and survival, but all she can think to tell me is how scared her little sister is for her.
All these important things are the fine china of our lives. We keep them safe and when we’re all alone we wash and polish and make sure they shine bright, only to lock them away.
Wolves are pack animals but all I ever hear about is the lone wolf.
The lone wolf, the sickly wolf. They never last long, the separated They.
I wonder if werewolves are pack animals or just silent humans.
I’m not sure how sound the vampire’s logic is.
She says she can’t turn in the man who made her a vampire because she can’t explain that he— and she— are vampires without everyone turning on her.
“He attacked you.”
“He made me a vampire, who would feel sympathy for me?”
“I do,” I say.
“Coming from the werewolf.”
I wait till the ice in her voice melts a bit. “You know, it’s not as uncommon anymore.”
She just sighs out my name.
I think it’s supposed to be disapproving but instead it just sounds like she feels bad for me.
“And what about you?” she says, “Why don’t you go announce yourself?”
“That’s different. No one made me this way. Something is just wrong with me.”
“So you’re never going to tell anyone? You hungry hungry hypocrite.”
“How do I explain to my parents that I did this to myself? And it doesn’t even feel like myself. Because I hate this me.”
I’m a werewolf and my best friend is a vampire and we never got to know each other when we were just two sad girls.
I wish we did though.
As summer starts to creep in I spend my time in the backyard.
It feels natural to walk barefoot, with dirt under my fingernails.
I can see my sister staring out the sliding glass door. And remember how sometimes during the full moon I take off running and pace the back patio of our house. Just a lone blur in the moonlight.
I think I’m waiting for my parents and sister to break out of their skin.
I pace and whimper. My black curls flattened to the back of my head as black ears.
No one has ever heard me. No one has ever joined me.
Deep down I know no one will. So I return to the vampire and find her wiping her mouth with a dead gopher nearby.
Today is Saturday and my sister sits me down on the toilet cover to do my makeup.
We are going to a bar, I’m told.
When I ask why all she says is, “I’ve missed you.”
She usually tells me to close my eyes. It’s easier to do my make up that way. And it makes her nervous when I look at her.
But today she grabs my chin and lifts it up so our eyes align.
We have the same eyes.
Later we lean over the bar, swerving out of guys’ outreached arms.
“Hey, remember that story mom told us about the wolf?” I ask. I know there are some things I shouldn’t say. But they always seem to be the most important things.
“I never thought of her as a wolf,” she says.
I see the colored lights change her skin, her sheer top, her hair. But it doesn’t change the look on her face.
She stays looking at me. And I don’t expect her to repeat herself because people hardly say the important things even once.
“I never thought of her as a wolf,” she says again.
The next few days I lock myself in my room and I blame the wolf.
There must have been a point where instead of keeping pace beside me, the wolf caught up.
And maybe the myths and legends are mixed up and the wolf turned into a bat in the sky and caught up and drained my blood and I slipped down the fur of its muzzle and rose from the dead.
I’m not sure what that makes me, if it makes me less of a human.
Or some other that people can’t explain or even understand. They will have to make up new words for what lives inside my head.
I can hear my parents whispering, coming up with not new words but familiar words, familiar diagnosis.
The vampire calls me and says, “It’s not him.”
I don’t know what she means and I’m afraid to ask.
“The vampire they found.”
This one wasn’t all over the news.
A vampire was found. He was a man of forty five. He had attacked five women and turned them into vampires.
“They don’t know what to do. They say he didn’t kill them so what can they do? It’s not like it’s murder,” she says.
“But it’s still wrong. It doesn’t matter if it’s not murder.”
“It’s not him.”
“But it could be,” I say.
My vampire best friend says nothing.
See, she’s not ready to talk about it.
I step out of my room and walk to my parents’ bedroom, like I did when I was little and needed to throw up.
I kneel and rest my head on the mattress. I cry.
And when I cry I can feel the whines and howls trying to erupt but I hold them back.
“I don’t think I’ve ever shown you this,” my mom says.
In the hallway closet is my mom’s old ballet folklórico costumes and boxes of family pictures.
The costumes are a soft black velvet and I run my fingers along the ruffles and wonder if this is what my fur feels like.
“You’ve been so restless.”
I rub the dust off my fingers and onto my shorts.
“I don’t know. I’m just me.” I say it with an eyebrow quirk. That way, it can’t be serious.
“You. But restless.”
She hands me a box and runs her fingers through my hair.
Then, when her fingers are at the top of my head again, she gives a quick pet, a stroke.
So quick I nearly miss it.
In the box was a true 50/50 of Poloroid pictures.
Some too bright or dark or just pure blurs.
But one was unmistakably my grandmother, young.
She had tendrils of black curls surrounding her face. I almost thought it was me.
My grandmother was hunched over in the photo. I traced her sharp incisors speaking out from her lips. I could see the pointed ears, lost in the curls, and her glowing eyes.
I knew I was looking at a werewolf, even if everyone else just saw blurs in the moonlight.
On bright sunny days the vampire stays home.
She tells her mob of siblings she is sick.
I stay with her on these days; she stays with me on full moons.
But I would stay inside with her even if she didn’t.
Because that’s the thing with werewolves and vampires, we tend to find each other when we have nothing else— half turned and wiping someone’s blood off our lips.
One of her little brothers comes into her room to drape blankets over her. Her aunt peaks in twice, just to see how she’s doing.
And each time someone leaves they blow kisses and tell her to feel better.
Maybe they suspect something, maybe they can’t understand. But they try to take care of her.
I tell her,
Once, there was a big grey wolf that approached a wall to the outside of the palace. There was a little prince inside.
All day the little prince watched over a golden canary in a cage. Because he was told to.
The wolf convinced the prince to bring the canary on a journey.
The little boy wasn’t sure if this was the tricky wolf everyone warned him about. The wolf that cheated and feasted on its enemies.
But the wolf made promises of happiness. Maybe not safety, but happiness.
So off rode the little boy on the wolf’s back. Through the winters and deserts till they arrive back at the palace gates, where a battle was taking place.
The wolf swallowed the golden canary. Then the little boy. The wolf then ran through the battle field and leapt over the palace wall.
The wolf let the prince, with tattered clothes and dirty skin, crawl back out through its mouth.
The wolf then offered up the golden canary, but the prince let the bird go.
And they called the boy wild so he crawled right back out the window, where the wolf was waiting.
There are more complex ways to tell this story. But these are the parts that matter most.
It’s the December full moon.
When I’m turned I dodge through the rows of corpse trees, then stop.
I sit in the center of four trees and look up. I let my fur ruffle and sweep my tail around me.
Finally, I howl and howl at the moon.
I imagine houses flickering on and people peeking through blinds to find this lone lost wolf. I imagine calls being made, people saying, please someone go find this wolf, go find this poor girl.
And I must keep people up all night but I don’t stop.
When the sun comes up I take off running again, this time in a straight line because I don’t need to look anymore.
The outside lights to my house are on.
My howls gurgle into animal whimpers and by the time I get the door open they are human sobs echoing through the house. But they don’t need to go far.
I stumble, dirty and blue and shivering, as everyone comes crashing downstairs.
And my sister has a blanket and my parents fall to the ground with me and first I’m crying and then I’m telling the story of the wolf and the boy and then I’m telling the story of a werewolf and a vampire and it feels so good to howl
BY DANI HERRERA
Dani Herrera lives in the simmering Central Valley of California and is currently pursuing an MFA in Fiction at St. Mary’s College of California. She writes for Chasing Shadows Magazine and her work as been featured in Crack the Spine, Not Deer Magazine, Moonlight Magazine, Goat’s Milk Magazine, and Aika Literary Magazine. You call see all her writing through her Instagram @dani.herreraa or through her website www.danidherrera.com