Young Adult Hal Johnson Immortal Lycanthropes

ISBN 13: 9780547751962

Immortal Lycanthropes

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9780547751962: Immortal Lycanthropes

"A shameful fact about humanity is that some people can be so ugly that no one will be friends with them. It is shameful that humans can be so cruel, and it is shameful that humans can be so ugly."

So begins the incredible story of Myron Horowitz, a disfigured thirteen-year-old just trying to fit in at his Pennsylvania school. When a fight with a bully leaves him unconscious and naked in the wreckage of the cafeteria, Myron discovers that he is an immortal lycanthrope—a were-mammal who can transform from human to animal. He also discovers that there are others like him, and many of them want Myron dead. “People will turn into animals,” says the razor-witted narrator of this tour-de-force, “and here come ancient secrets and rivers of blood.”

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About the Author:

I don't think Hal Johnson is a very unusual sort of a guy. He's just -- well, the average American citizen and family man, the kind that are the backbone of the nation. I admire him and like him. I like his attitude. Until, that is, he gets behind the wheel of an automobile. At that point he changes. He changes from a careful, considerate citizen—to a menace.
–"Driven to Kill," 1948 driver's safety film.

Teagan White is a freelance designer and illustrator from Chicago. She lives and works in Minnesota, where she received a BFA in Illustration from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. Visit her website at www.teaganwhite.com.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

1.
   A shameful fact about humanity is that some people can be so ugly that no one will be friends with them. It is shameful that humans can be so cruel, and it is shameful that humans can be so ugly.
   It would be easy to paint a sob story here, but I am trying to remain objective. So: Myron Horowitz, short, scrawny, and hideous, had no friends. The year before, in eighth grade, he had three people he used to eat lunch with. They had perhaps been his friends, but one had moved away over the summer, one had transferred to a private school, and one had gone through puberty and come out popular. Myron Horowitz had not only not gone through puberty, he had not grown an inch in the last five years, not since his accident. People viewing him from behind assumed he was eight years old; from the front, a different set of assumptions came into play. His face had been partially reconstructed, and it was probably very well done, considering what was left to work with. But it was still a twisted, noseless face, and Myron ate alone now. Worse than eating alone, though, was the walk home. At Henry Clay High School, students who took a bus home passed from their locker through the gymnasium to convene in the parking lot; students who walked home took a different route, through the cafeteria and out through a side door, along a wooded path to the sidewalk. Very few students walked home, but Myron did, and so did Garrett Bercelli.
   Garrett was not overly large for a freshman, but compared to Myron he was a heavyweight champion. His hands especially were large, and, as they say, sinewy. He probably had reasons for his antisocial behavior, but, frankly, they don’t concern me. He can die and go to hell for all I care, once he has served his purpose in our narrative.
   There are disadvantages, I am aware, to beginning our story this fast. Perhaps I should have given Myron a few scenes at home, curled up with his adventure books or bumping elbows with his parents at their cozy breakfast nook. But really, who wants to see that horrible face eat? And anyway, we have places to go. Myron, two years ago, had had a fourth friend, but he died; that part is pretty funny, when you think about it, and if you are heartless, but I barely have time to mention Danny Fitzsimmons. We have places to go. People will turn into animals, and here come ancient secrets and rivers of blood.

   It was on a crisp October day in suburban western Pennsylvania, beneath the golden panoply of leaves some people find so charming, that Garrett Bercelli introduced himself to Myron by picking him up and playfully throwing him into a pricker bush. Two days later he cut right to the chase and punched Myron in the stomach. That was a Friday. On Monday, Garrett really went wild; he forbore (so he explained during the course of the beating) to touch Myron’s horrible face, but he pummeled the rest of his body quite mercilessly. At last Myron spat up some blood, and Garrett ran away.
   Obviously I cannot literally enter Garrett Bercelli’s head, to observe the shadow parade of his thought processes, but I have investigated the matter enough that I believe I can produce a fairly accurate reconstruction. Garrett ran home, convinced, I believe, that he had killed or maimed poor Myron. This fact in itself did not concern him, but the risk that he would be caught, and punished, was enough to send him hiding in his bed, the way he had as a child. He hadn’t meant to kill Myron, after all, and this should be taken into account. It had all been juvenile high spirits, and things had just gone too far. Garrett could hardly remember the beating, he could just remember the feeling it had given him, the rushing sound in his ears and the reckless abandon. Whether it gave him an erection I do not pretend to know, but let’s assume the answer is yes. The idea that anything as wonderful as the emotions he had undergone in the course of that afternoon could land him in the reformatory was intolerable. He went to school the next day filled with righteousindignation and a healthy dollop of fear (he had, in fact, tried to feign sickness, but his mother would have none of it). Imagine his relief when he saw, in homeroom, Myron at his desk, alive and apparently hale. The relief would have quickly turned to excitement. You may recall the feeling you have had on first discovering that the author of a favorite book had written a dozen more, perhaps under various pseudonyms, the feeling of a world of possibilities opening up. Garrett did not know what that felt like, because, as best I have been able to determine, he had never finished a book not assigned to school, and few of those. As I said, he probably had reasons for being so violent, reasons that do not concern us. But what Garrett felt at that moment was analogous to a reader’s joy. Here was something he could do, something he was good at and could get away with.
   “ Tuesday, fish sticks; Wednesday, spaghetti; Thursday, meat loaf . . .” the loudspeaker was intoning for the week, when Garrett leaned down a half inch from Myron’s ear.
   “If you miss one day,” he hissed, referring either to school or to their meetings after and behind it, “I will kill you.”
   Myron was less pleased with the arrangement. His entire body still ached from yesterday’s pummeling, obviously, and there had been blood in his urine. He considered telling his parents, his adoptive parents who had taken him in after the accident. Dr. and Mrs. Horowitz were good people—you don’t adopt a deformed eight-year-old unless you are reasonably unselfish—but it’s no use pretending they understoood him. They made a game effort, but a child who never grew an inch from the moment he had been found crawling dazed and torn up along the Maine coast five years ago never really made much sense to them. When Myron looked upset (for example), they cheerfully tended to remind him that at his next birthday he’d be allowed a cell phone, unaware that his true worry was that he’d have no one to call. They were always unaware. I don’t want to have a pity party for Myron Horowitz. He ends up okay, and I have frankly had worse days than his that week. But I have not had many days worse than his worst. Myron was scared, and he was too scared to admit to anyone that he was scared. He had thought about carrying a knife, and had even packed one to bring to school that day, a steak knife from his mother’s kitchen, but it fell out of his knapsack somewhere between home and school, which may have been for the best. Tuesday was a long, slow day; every day at school is a long, slow day, but this one was somethingspecial.
   That Tuesday afternoon, after school, Myron decided to try leaving by a different route. From his locker he slipped downstairs and into the lobby, the one with the trophy cases and the door to the administrative offices. If he could go out the school’s wide front door, he would be on a busy street, where Garrett would, presumably, be unable to make his assault. Myron may have been a little afraid that Garrett would make good his threat, his threat to kill him, but he was absolutely terrified of another beating like yesterday’s. He knew it would be shameful to cry, but he was afraid enough that he could feel the tears welling. He was often called “Baby” by his peers, just because of his height, and he was desperate not to have the nickname lengthened to “Crybaby.” “Chip” was the nickname he had selected for himself and that no one used. Garrett’s nickname for him, which was catching on around the school, was “Faggot.”
   As Myron approached the front doors, he heard a voice behind him, saying, “Young man”—the vice principal’s voice, he realized, as he turned around.
   Myron said nothing in response.
   “Where do you think you’re going? ” asked the vice principal, a Mr. Zaborsky, famous at the country club, perhaps, for his slice, but known at Henry Clay primarily for having hair in his ears and a butt crack that peeked over his belt like a mischievous gremlin when he was standing up, only to leap forth with a yawning maw if God forbid he should bend over. This is all terribly unfair to the man, but Myron was so terrifyingly ugly that it is sometimes necessary to remind those of his acquaintance that ugliness is all around, and not limited to that hideous face. Right now, in fact, there is something ugly happening under a rock nearby; if you are near a rock, turn it over and you will see a worm going to the bathroom. Ugly things are happening in your intestines as you read this. A million million ugly microbes are crawling on your skin. Have you even been in a dim room and seen, in the one ray of light that lanced some distance away through the window, a sparkling miasma of dust motes? And have you then thought to yourself, Thank the good Lord I am not on that side of the room, in that sunbeam,—for if I were, every breath would require the inhalation of that furry, filthy air? It’s just as dusty where you’re standing, of course, but you are able to pretend it is not. That’s the kind of deception you’re apt to put over on yourself when you see Myron. Perhaps that was what Mr. Zaborsky was thinking as he wiggled his hips and tugged at his pants.
   “Home? ” Myron asked.
   “Home? Home? Don’t you know,” Mr. Zaborsky intoned, rather enjoying the moment, “that all those not taking a bus are to exit through the cafeteria? ”
   “I didn’t think it would matter,” Myron said, in a very quiet voice. “This way is closer for me, is all.”
   “Closer for you? ” Mr. Zaborsky rather began to strut. He hooked his thumbs in imaginary suspenders. It is likely that in his mind he was a great orator, and he only on occasion had the opportunity to employ the art that was his secret calling. “The exit to which you are headed is reserved for faculty, staff, and visitors. Students are privileged with their own twin exits, one through the gymnasium and one through the cafeteria. Now, what would happen if we all decided to ignore the rules, and just go our own merry way? Anarchy, that’s what! Do you know what anarchy is? ”
   With infinite patience, and, doubtless, not without kindness and wisdom, Mr. Zaborsky perorated about the benefits of a law and the pandemonium of lawlessness. When he finally watched Myron turn and trudge back to the cafeteria, he beamed with the saintly face of someone who has “made a difference.” But don’t be too hard on him. It is no easy thing, never to have made a difference; and, to be fair, when he heard the news the next morning, he momentarily wondered if he could have done anything to prevent it. Quickly he concluded that he had done all that was humanly possible, but he did have that moment, and that moment is something.
   Nervously, to himself, Myron hummed as he entered the cafeteria.
   You have perhaps already anticipated that Garrett Bercelli, tiring of the wait, unaware that his date had been held captive by Zaborsky’s endless lecture, had been himself drawn into the cafeteria, where he was standing, awkwardly, when Myron entered.
   The cafeteria was a foolish place to try anything, because, although the room was empty now, the internal wall facing the hallway was nothing but a row of large windows. Across the hall were the windows of the nurse’s office, and the nurse always stayed late; she could easily see anything untoward happening in the cafeteria, if she just looked over. But Garrett was too excited to waste time dragging his prey outside.
   “You know you’re going to have to pay for making me wait,” he said. He was smiling as he said it, and it was a genuine smile. He was so happy, his hands were shaking.
    “Leave me alone,” said Myron unconvincingly. He was a very tiny boy, I hope I have stressed, as well as an ugly one.
   “What happened to your face, anyway, faggot? ”
   “I don’t remember,” Myron said, which was true. He remembered nothing of the accident, nor of his life before it.
   “I’m going to give you something to remember.”
   After that some other things happened, and then there was a loud crashing sound. The nurse, and then several teachers, came running. (Mr. Zaborsky was in the bathroom.)
   As a safety precaution, the school had some years before begun installing shatterproof glass, the kind with hexagons of chicken wire inside it. Then new safety advisories had indicated that the chicken-wire glass was in fact more dangerous than regular glass, for reasons that should become clear soon, and the school had stopped the replacements; but it had never gotten around to undoing what it had done.
   This bit of history, dug up and reported in the local papers that week, is necessary for an understanding of how it was that Garrett smashed through the regular windows between the cafeteria and the hallway, and smashed into the reinforced shatterproof windows of the nurse’s office. He became caught in the chicken wire, several feet off the ground, and hung there, bleeding.
   And there in the cafeteria—it was weird. All the tables and chairs, all of them, were tipped over and scattered to the periphery of the room. And alone in the center lay Myron, unconscious and totally naked.
They never found more than a few strips of his clothes, although the air was filled with wisps of cotton and loose, tumbling threads.

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