“Oh, Justin, you know I don’t like you drinking those things!”
Justin Parker grinned with the sheepishness only a fifteen-year-old boy could muster, the long, tubular metal can raised halfway to his lips. In the sun falling through the sliding glass door to the porch, he was radiant, like an angel, and Julie Benson’s heart filled with love.
“Sorry, mom,” he said, “but I was thirsty, and I all I had was seventy-five cents.”
“That cost seventy-five cents?” Julie asked, disbelieving. She knew all about those damn energy drinks. Three and four dollars a pop. Filled with sugar, caffeine, and God only knew what else.
Justin only nodded. “Yeah. It’s new. Some sale or something.”
Julie held out her hand. “Let me see it.”
Sagging a little, Justin handed her the can over the island and she examined it. BEAST the red lettering said, and below that, a slogan: BRINGS OUT THE BEAST WITHIN.
Sighing, Julie handed her son back the can. “Those things kill people all the time. I don’t like you drinking them.”
“It’s fine, mom,” he said, taking a long sip. When he was done, he threw his head back, let out a satisfied ahhh, and smacked his lips. He looked like a drug addict.
Setting the can down, Justin came around the island and pecked her on the cheek. “I’m gonna go do my homework.”
He was already racing through the living room and up the stairs. Since when did her son run to his homework?
Never. He was probably going to go text with that Krissy Mathers girl.
Julie sighed. As long as his work was done and turned it, it didn’t really matter, she supposed. When she was a kid, it was homework now.
Justin was a good boy, though. He always had his assignments completed, so Julie tried not to ride him too hard. She remembered being a teenager herself, and even to this day, she harbored just an ember of resentment against her own mother for the way she rode her.
Shaking her head, Julie picked up the can, felt the telltale slosh of one last sip, and paused over the trashcan. She rattled the can back and forth, lifted it to her nose, and sniffed.
The fruity odor was pleasant, but tinged with something else, something she couldn’t quite place. Wet dog sprang to mind, but that wasn’t it either.
What does he see in these things?
Justin and all his friends obsessed over energy drinks. First it was Red Bull, then Monster. She remembered how Justin used the green clawmark logo as his cellphone screensaver for years. He would also peel the stickers off the can and slap them on his wall, next to the Tony Hawk and Slipknot posters (she hated Slipknot, though Tony Hawk seemed a little shady too). Every time she took Justin to the grocery store, it was, “Mom, can I have a Monster?” “Mom, look, Monster four packs are on sale!” “Mom, I’m so thirsty, I need a Monster!” Monster, Monster, Monster, like it was the coolest thing in the world. When she was a girl, smoking cigarettes and listening to U2 was what the kids did when they wanted to feel grownup, now it was drinking Monster. She supposed she and her friends looked as juvenile and contrived as Justin and his friends sometimes seemed to her.
She raised the can to her lips.
Let’s see what all the fuss is about.
The warm liquid splashed onto her tongue, and a wave of nausea washed over her. Jesus Christ, it tasted like wet gym socks!
She dropped the can into the trash and went to the sink. She took a glass out of the cabinet and filled it with water. The taste was still there after a quick gurgle, so she started up the stairs. When she was done brushing and mouthwashing…
A crash on the second floor stopped her.
Justin cried out.
“Justin?” she called, worried.
Julie took the stairs two at a time. When she smashed through Justin’s door (ignoring the big red plastic stop sign and the “Parents use exit door” placard), she caught a quick glimpse of him falling into the gap between his bed and the wall.
She started around the foot of the bed, but before she could reach her stricken son, her leapt up like a shot, landing on the bed and starling her so badly that she stumbled back a step, her hand flying to her racing heart.
Only it wasn’t Justin.
It was a…a…
The werewolf howled.
Julie couldn’t move. She was petrified.
“Woooooohw!” the werewolf screamed. It used Justin’s voice. “I feel great!”
It did a little dance.
It’s eyes fell on her.
Julie’s lungs shriveled.
“Hey, mom!” the werewolf said excitedly, “I feel awesome!”
The room spun and Julie fell back; luckily the wall was there to catch her.
“Do you feel it too?”
Her mind couldn’t compute.
Seeing her terror (and puzzlement) Justin said, “Your hand.”
She raised her hand.
It was covered with bushy fur.
“Isn’t it great, mom? Wooooohw!”