ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem is a sidestep from the October 20, 2015 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] fred_mouse and discussions with [personal profile] dialecticdreamer. It also fills the "transformations" square in my 10-1-15 card for the [community profile] trope_bingo fest and the "race against time" square in my 10-2-15 card for the [community profile] ladiesbingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It follows "Wolfsboon" and belongs to the series The Moon Door.


"Opening the Door"


Hilla spent the whole second month
as a werewolf studying lycanthropy.

It was a race against time,
but not all the same time.

She was studying herself
and Randie and the cycle of
the moon, but in the back of
her mind, a roomful of clocks
were ticking away the seconds
of all her friends' lives and
their chronic conditions.

Hilla learned everything she could
about the pros and the cons
of her new condition.

She had forgotten what zero pain
even felt like, but now she rediscovered it.
She had so much energy that she hardly
knew what to do with all of it -- she
could work the whole day away if
she wanted to, and loved it.

Adjusting to the changes in
her sleep pattern was hard.
She slept in naps, no more
than a few hours at a time,
especially after a big meal,
and more during the day
than through the night.

Her heightened senses were
both pro and con in turns --
she could tell when the milk
was just starting to go bad,
but just leaving the cover off of
the garbage can made her barf.

Randie tried to help, but she
didn't know much more about being
a werewolf than her own experience.

Her mentor had turned her accidentally, and
only stuck around long enough to teach her
the basics before disappearing for good.

It was hard, so hard, to wait a whole month,
but Hilla made herself do it anyhow.

When the moon grew full and
the second transformation came,
Hilla was ready for it.

The pop of joints and
stretch of muscles still hurt,
but it wasn't as disorienting now
that she knew what to expect.

This is some really patterned pain,
Hilla thought as her body pulled itself
slowly apart. What's good for that?
Oh, Lamaze! Felice said it's great for
rhythmic cramps. I should learn Lamaze.


She had only fleeting awareness
of her time as a wolf -- how the sounds
changed whenever she moved her ears,
and she couldn't stop moving them;
how the smells got even stronger
while colors faded away like
madras plaid in hot water.

In the morning, Hilla could still
remember the night she had spent
locked in Randie's basement.

The memories weren't particularly clear,
but they were there: enough to give her
hope that she could learn how to
hold onto more of herself
when she was a wolf.

Knowing that she would
have whole weeks of zeros
to look forward to, Hilla
coddled herself through
the day of level-three pain.

When it dropped down to nothing,
she went out to a meeting.

Heads turned when Hilla walked in,
and she knew it wasn't just because
of two months' absence and Randie's
badly phrased attempts to wrap up
Hilla's life so people wouldn't
hunt them both down.

It was the lightness of her step,
the fluid motion, the open pleasure
on her face instead of pain.

Then she stopped short of the circle
because they all stank, her nose
wrinkling as the smell of sickness
pouring off the other women.

"What are you on and where
can I get some?" Felice asked.
She was wrapped in heating pads;
the endometriosis must be flaring again.
"I don't care about the costs or legality
or possible side effects. I want some."

Some of the other women were nodding,
and Hilla hadn't even said anything yet.

Well fine then, she thought,
let's just introduce it this way.

Hilla recalled a long-ago yoga class
that hadn't helped her flexibility as
promised at the time, but would
come in handy now. She bent
into Downward Facing Dog,
held it for a long minute, then
flowed into Upward Facing Dog.

"Jesus Christ," said Lucille.

"Two months ago, I was attacked
in the park and bitten," Hilla said.
"I don't have multiple sclerosis
anymore. I have lycanthropy."

"Werewolves aren't real," Lucille scoffed.

"Those yoga poses are real," said Felice.
"That's all I care about. Sign me up."

Hilla held up a hand. "Wait. I know
it's hard, but you have to wait and
hear me out. I made myself wait
a month so that I could give you
a fair idea about the advantages
and disadvantages of lycanthropy."

"I'm listening," said Felice. "Hit me."

"First, it's hard to control," said Hilla.
"I got turned because Randie broke out
of her basement lockup. I've managed
to retain a few foggy memories, but I
still wouldn't trust myself outside.
I think that will get better in time,
but I can't guarantee it."

She went on to explain the changes
in her senses and the other odd effects.

"Now give us the good parts," said Felice.

"This is my pain chart for the month,"
said Hilla as she unfolded the page.
"Transformations really suck -- that
reminds me, Felice, can you get me
the number of your Lamaze coach?
You said she was really good."

"Sure." Felice passed over a business card.

"So it's a day of feeling restless, then
increasing crappiness with a few minutes
of childbirth-level pain, a night of mostly blackout,
and finally a day or two of hangover," said Hilla.
"The rest of the month, no pain at all."

"Sounds fantastic," said Felice.

"I'm not sure I'd want to be
a wolf," said Lucille.

"You have a month to decide,"
Hilla said. "Lycanthropy is
only contagious in animal form.
I can't help anyone for a month."

"Then why did you wait so long?"
Sigfrieda said, her voice cracking.

She wore the red silk sleep mask
over her face again, which meant
her eyes were hurting again. She had
primary-progressive multiple sclerosis,
and it left her fully disabled.

"If you'd told us sooner, then
we could have made the change --
what, yesterday," Sigfrieda continued.

This was exactly how the issue with Lucille
had blown up, and Hilla didn't want
to waste time on arguments.

She explained again, carefully,
the need to observe the pros and cons
so that people could make an informed decision.

She reminded them about Catherine's
ill-advised adventure with some drug that
her doctor had recommended and turned out
to be far more trouble than it was worth,
which could have been discovered
with a little more fact-checking.

She pointed out the challenges of
transmitting the disease -- or cure -- safely,
given that Randie had torn her arm off.
But Felice was an engineer and
insisted that the logistics could
be managed somehow.

There were quibbles and quarrels
throughout most of the meeting, but
they were no more than eddies
in a deep, rushing river.

In the end, seven out of the twelve women
wanted to try it, and some of the others
were still debating the merits.

There would be enough of them to form
a pack, to continue the support network
that was so important to all of them.

Maybe that would help them learn
how to cope with the cranky parts
of lycanthropy, how to stay sane
in the full moon, how to remember
what happened in their wolf-time.

They had carried each other
through agony and diagnoses
and medications that might or
might not help and often had
horrendous side effects.

They could handle lycanthropy,
even with other degenerative diseases
nipping and snapping at their heels,
because now they had a way
to turn and face the harriers.

Hilla looked around at the women
for whom she would soon be
opening the door of the moon.

In a month, they wouldn't be
racing against time anymore.

They would be racing each other.

* * *

Notes:

Wolves are primarily nocturnal, although they may be active in daylight sometimes. They sleep a few hours at a time, especially after a heavy meal.

Originally developed for childbirth, Lamaze methods work well for any rhythmic pain.

Classic Madras plaid is known for fading into a soft, weathered look over time.

Yoga poses include Downward Facing Dog and Upward Facing Dog.

Multiple sclerosis signs and symptoms may differ greatly from person to person and over the course of the disease depending on the location of affected nerve fibers. Sigfrieda's typical symptoms are italicized.
• Numbness or weakness in one or more limbs that typically occurs on one side of your body at a time, or the legs and trunk
Partial or complete loss of vision, usually in one eye at a time, often with pain during eye movement
Prolonged double vision
• Tingling or pain in parts of your body
Electric-shock sensations that occur with certain neck movements, especially bending the neck forward (Lhermitte sign)
• Tremor, lack of coordination or unsteady gait
Slurred speech
• Fatigue
• Dizziness

• Problems with bowel and bladder function

There are different patterns in the disease, and Sigfrieda has primary-progressive multiple sclerosis (PPMS). This is characterized by steadily worsening neurologic function from the start. Although the rate of progression may shift over time with occasional plateaus and brief, minor improvements, there are no distinct remissions or flareups. About 10% of cases are diagnosed as PPMS. Sigfrieda's pattern looks like this.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-10-26 01:02 pm (UTC)
capri0mni: A black field crossed by five parallel lighting bolts in blue, gold, green, red, and purple (Default)
From: [personal profile] capri0mni
I'm glad Wolfsboon is opening the door to a new series.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-10-26 02:32 pm (UTC)
helgatwb: Drawing of Helga, holding her sword, looking upset. (Default)
From: [personal profile] helgatwb
I like this. I feel sorry for Randie, though.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-10-26 05:35 pm (UTC)
redsixwing: Red-winged angel staring at a distant star. (Default)
From: [personal profile] redsixwing
Lovely, just lovely. The hope and joy in the last stanzas are very exciting.

And thank you again, for not pulling the punches of what they're facing now.

Re: You're welcome!

Date: 2015-10-27 10:01 pm (UTC)
stardreamer: Meez headshot (Default)
From: [personal profile] stardreamer
However, this is a progressive condition. Now that people are aware a solution is available but it has side effects, they can make their own decisions as to when they've gotten bad enough that the cure is no longer worse than the disease.*

The thing that Hilla is going to have to watch out for, and stomp on quickly if it occurs, is people who have taken the lycanthropy losing empathy for those who have decided that it's not for them, or not for them yet. There's going to be a tendency to react to complaints about physical problems with variations on, "Well, you know you could FIX that, if you really wanted to." That is absolutely the reverse of being supportive, and will have to be nipped in the bud. (Pun intentional.)

And that would be a very good place to start introducing the tools for responding to verbal emotional abuse into this storyline.


* "Cure worse than disease" is one of my favorite aphorisms for people who offer helpy "solutions" to some problem or other. It also expands out of directly medical issues; for example, it's my standard response to someone who answers a computer question with "get a Mac" or "install Linux".

(no subject)

Date: 2016-01-14 07:52 pm (UTC)
thnidu: my familiar. "Beanie Baby" -type dragon, red with white wings (Default)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
I read and enjoyed "Wolfsboon", but somehow missed this when it came out. I like the way this is moving.

«Then she stopped short of the circle
because they all stank, her nose
wrinkling as the smell of sickness
pouring off the other women.»

That's going to be a problem. No way a show-stopper, but as werewolves in human form, all day/night they'll have to deal with the downside of sharper senses.

→ wrinkling at the smell of sickness
Edited Date: 2016-01-14 07:55 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2015-10-26 01:06 pm (UTC)
ext_3294: Tux (tux)
From: [identity profile] technoshaman.livejournal.com
Circle. Just what kind of circle, with 13 women, meeting in the three-day window around a full moon? >:-)

(no subject)

Date: 2015-10-26 04:09 pm (UTC)
ext_3294: Tux (tux)
From: [identity profile] technoshaman.livejournal.com
Circle. Just what kind of circle, with 13 women, meeting in the three-day window around a full moon? >:-)

*laugh*

Date: 2015-10-26 07:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
I had not actually thought of that aspect! :D

RE: *laugh*

Date: 2015-10-26 07:43 pm (UTC)
ext_3294: Tux (tux)
From: [identity profile] technoshaman.livejournal.com
Right. I suspect anything that *organised* isn't your thing?

Me, I grew out of it.

Re: *laugh*

Date: 2015-10-26 07:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
Pretty much, yeah. I almost never find talking about problems useful. I like Pagan groups if they have good people, but it's a nightmare trying to hold them together.

But can you imagine the fun, after the thing goes public, if one of them snaps at a fundie, "We're not witches, we're werewolves! Keep your bigotries straight. Maybe you should buy a bead box to keep them all in."

Re: *laugh*

Date: 2015-10-27 04:21 am (UTC)
ext_2068: (* cat - pentacle - djinni)
From: [identity profile] seticat.livejournal.com
Organizing pagans is like hearding cats. ;}

Re: *laugh*

Date: 2015-10-27 04:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
... and getting money out of them is like trying to milk geese.

Good for Hilla

Date: 2015-10-26 05:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] book-worm5.livejournal.com
She really does seem to be thinking this through - she was probably one of the best people this could have happened to, given her mindset and self-awareness. I'm glad to see the friends planning together.

Re: Good for Hilla

Date: 2015-10-26 07:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> She really does seem to be thinking this through - she was probably one of the best people this could have happened to, given her mindset and self-awareness. <<

:D Harnessing a difficult must often wait until the right circumstances and the right person. Lycanthropy has been around for ages. But it usually happens to people who wind up alone or in small groups, who think of it more often in negative than in positive terms. There have been occasions when someone already sick or injured contracted it and got better, but they tended to hide it or move away. How people with disabilities are treated now is pretty new -- and that changes the impact of lycanthropy.

>> I'm glad to see the friends planning together. <<

This is probably the first time that a new werewolf had not only a support group, but one consisting of people who would probably like to jump the moon with her. They're used to helping each other plan for health-related things and compensate for the challenges. They just have a really great toolkit for handling lycanthropy, and it's not something that many people would have had in the past, especially not networked together like this.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-10-26 06:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] westrider.livejournal.com
I love these so much. The actual thinking through of all the consequences, positive and negative, the potential for so much healing from what's usually thought of as a curse, all that.

Thank you!

Date: 2015-10-26 07:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> I love these so much. <<

Yay! :D

>> The actual thinking through of all the consequences, positive and negative, <<

I dislike the way that modern entertainment tends to oversimplify some things and overcomplicate others. So I really wanted to approach this from a health perspective -- what are the pros and cons, how do you live with what you have and compensate for its drawbacks, etc.

>> the potential for so much healing from what's usually thought of as a curse, all that. <<

And of course, I wanted to take a different perspective on lycanthropy.

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2015-10-27 04:22 am (UTC)
ext_2068: (Default)
From: [identity profile] seticat.livejournal.com
I have the feeling that I would be one of those who would jump at the chance to gain at least part of my life back, wolf or not.

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2015-10-27 04:27 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
*hugs* Feel free to prompt for that, then. I would love to get input from my friends with chronic illness.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-01-19 08:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lb-lee.livejournal.com
This series is so COOL!

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