Benjamin Kyle had attempted to build up some sort of a normal life again for some time now. Without a social security number, it was pretty hard to obtain work, even after producing the various news reports and psychologists' sworn statements spelling out his current predicament. He even had his own Wikipedia page for crying out loud! None of it had helped, however. He'd tried interviewing with various potential employers, but even though the interviews had always gone well, nobody had been able to hire him without his being able to produce the proper documentation.
It was often very frustrating not knowing who he was. The furthest back he could remember clearly was waking up delirious in a hospital. He was told that he'd been found unconscious and sunburned behind the dumpsters of a Burger King restaurant. Officers had searched his person and the scene where he'd been discovered, but hadn't found a wallet, a phone, or even a grocery receipt to help identify him. When the nurse asked him who he was, he simply couldn't remember. In fact, he couldn't remember his age, let alone how he'd gotten back behind those dumpsters or even what city he was currently in.
The nurse told him that there were depressions found in his head that the paramedics said might indicate blows by a blunt object. He'd run his hand along his balding head and found sensitive areas that were still sore when touched. Whether it was the beating that caused him to lose his memory or if it was dissociative amnesia from some terrible event that he'd tried to block from his mind as one psychologist had suggested, he had no idea. The strangest part was that by the next day, his head was completely healed.
Eventually he found out from another nurse that he was in Richmond Hill, Georgia, but that did nothing to jog his memory. After being released from the hospital, he had to rely on the kindness of others to provide food and shelter while he continued to job hunt. Having no form of ID made purchasing and even traveling inconvenient at best, and impossible more often than not. During that time he'd been trying in vain to remember who he was.
The local media seemed fascinated by his story; how could anyone not remember who they were? They interviewed him for details about his life to try and see if the mystery could be solved. He could only remember bits and pieces here and there. He remembered growing up in Indianapolis, though he couldn't bring the faces of his parents or his family (if he had one) to the surface. He remembered seeing the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument, and seeing movies in the Indiana Theater. He also remembered grilled cheese sandwiches for a quarter and glasses of milk for a nickel at the Indiana State Fair. It went on like that; meaningless, sketchy details that gave only pinpricks of minute detail that gave no real clues to unravel his past.
He remembered spending a lot of time in the halls of the University of Colorado at Boulder, but nobody there had come forward to identify him after his story was announced to the entire student body. A few interested people had done enough research about the Denver-Boulder area to indicate that—based on the few memories he'd been able to recount—he must have been there sometime in the in the late 1970s to early 1980s.
Other than the fragments he could remember and the details uncovered by others, everything was a blank. He had no memories as to why he was at that particular Burger King in that particular state; he didn't remember his original address, his parents, or even his own name. He didn't know why he had an intimate knowledge of the operations of the food service industry, but that indicated he must have worked in the food service industry at some point. That should have explained why he was found where he was, but of course nobody at that restaurant had recognized him.
Eventually his luck took a positive turn; after months of negotiations with the US Department of Workforce Services and the Social Security Administration, the same Burger King in Richmond Hill where he'd been found had been permitted to hire him on as the manager for the store. He was allowed to fill out the forms under his current pseudonym which was based off the initials of the place he'd been found (BK for Burger King, which became Benjamin Kyle).
Fast forward 3 months. Benjamin had been working as the manager doing an excellent job and earning a comfortable living. The question of his missing identity still plagued him daily, but it was easier to deal with now that he had a place to settle in.
One Tuesday afternoon during the usual lunch rush, he was peacefully lost in the work of training new supervisors and helping make sure everything ran smoothly. He reveled in the intricate dance of that was the process of filling the never ending flow of orders. Each customer would ask for something a little different than the last, and he found comfort in the patterns of his workers churning out the carefully and yet swiftly wrapped items while making sure all the raw ingredients were sufficiently stocked in the various food preparation areas to keep the system going. Work was the only thing that put his mind at ease from wondering who he was.
At this particular moment, he was busy instructing a supervisor how to properly document and store incoming shipments. One of the register attendants, an acne-ridden, lanky teenager named Jared, whose schedule was Monday through Thursday 11:30-5pm (he could remember the name and schedule of every employee that worked at his store, so he knew his mind was fine when it came to remembering things) came to the back to tell him there was someone at the register specifically asking to speak with him. Benjamin sighed and asked if he'd already spoken with a supervisor to see if he could handle it; he had, but the customer continued to insist on speaking with him. He sighed again, and with an apology told the supervisor he'd been working with that he'd be back in just a minute.
As they arrived at the front counter, Jared pointed out the customer. The individual on the other side of the counter was most mysterious indeed; he had an air of someone you didn't want to take lightly. He had dark hair and a muscular build, appeared to be in his late thirties, and looked nothing like any of the locals. It was hard to describe, but there was something about him that made Benjamin's hair stand up on end; something that suggested a kind of a familiar, long forgotten kinship, though he couldn't place it. Shaking himself mentally, Benjamin half smiled and--in the politely detached voice that anyone who'd worked in customer service learns to adopt--asked, "Can I help you?"
The customer simply stared at him with piercing eyes—one gold and the other icy blue—before shaking his head in what appeared to be confusion. Not knowing what else to do when he continued to remain silent, Benjamin spoke again.
"If you don't need anything, I should really get ba—"
"We've been looking all over for you!" interrupted the stranger incredulously. "You really don't recognize me?"
"Um, no. I apologize but I don't think I've ever seen you before."
"Unreal. Man, what did they do to you?"
"I—I don't understand."
"They'd been chasing us for months, but we'd always been a step ahead."
"Sir, I'm going to have to ask you to order, or you'll have to leave."
"At least, we were. Until one of them caught up to us and hit you over the head."
"Wait. What did you say? You know about…what happened to me?"
"Yeah, of course I do! I was there. They knocked your head pretty good and you went right down; I had to leave or they would have gotten me to. Not sure where they took you after that."
Startled shouts from the back of the long line of customers waiting to be served cut their conversation short. The stranger whirled in shock, then turned back to Benjamin just as fast.
"Come with me," he commanded without further explanation, stepping through the little "employees only" swinging door and around the counter to grab Benjamin's arm. The stranger was as strong as he looked; despite his weighing about 240 pounds he effortlessly drug a flustered, sputtering Benjamin in his wake to the back of the restaurant despite his protests.
"Is there a back door in here somewhere?" asked the stranger, pausing to sniff the air once they were in the food preparation area. Benjamin nodded and pointed to the left, so he continued on.
"Where are you taking me?"
"They're here, we have to leave. Now."
"The ones who are trying to kill you."
"Kill me? But why?"
"Are you serious? I know they hit you pretty hard back at that rest station, but don't tell me you've even forgotten that?"
Benjamin's blank look indicated the affirmative.
"Unbelievable. Next thing you're going to tell me is that you don't remember your name, you have amnesia, blah blah blah."
"Well, actually I—"
"Ah, forget it! We can talk later. Come on!"
The stranger continued to tug Benjamin past the shocked supervisor he'd just been training and through the back exit. They seemed to be going towards a lifted black Jeep there waiting in the parking lot with the engine still running. The stranger released Benjamin's arm and jumped in the driver's side, then leaned over to throw open the passenger door. Now was his chance to leave if he wanted.
"Can you at least tell me your name first?" The stranger gripped the steering wheel and dropped his gaze to his lap in impatience, then sighed.
"The name's Tyler. Now get in if you want to live!"
Since this was the first real glimmer of hope he'd had in finding out his origin, he threw caution into the wind. Curiosity beating out fear and uncertainty, Benjamin finally jumped in and closed the door, and they were off. Tyler peeled out of the parking lot and took them northeast on highway 17, taking the on-ramp for Interstate 95 heading north. He was constantly checking the rear-view mirror to see if they were being followed, but after a while he saw that nobody was pursuing them and finally relaxed.
From there, they took the next exit to head north east on highway 144, but after that Benjamin lost his hold on where they were going as Tyler turned from the highway to go off road. They'd been driving for about 20 minutes over the washboard-like uneven dirt trail when Tyler turned off into a small clearing and cut the engine, hidden in all directions among the trees.
"Ok, now we can talk," said Tyler, jumping out of the Jeep onto the leaf-strewn ground. Benjamin followed suit.
"So Dave, you really don't remember anything at all?" he shook his head, but then stopped, confused.
"Dave?" he asked. "My name's Dave?"
"Yes, your name is Dave. I can't believe you've changed so much. I know you're—what, 65 now? Still, you're big as a watermelon and look all out of shape like you've been eating nothing but fast food for the last few months!"
Admittedly he had; his employee discount usually meant he'd down a Big Mac meal every night after work, which had caused him to gain weight.
"We've been friends for as long as I can remember, and you're still my favorite wolf to this day," said Tyler while pacing around. Benjamin, or Dave, raised an eyebrow.
"What do you mean, ‘your favorite wolf'?" Tyler's mouth fell open.
"I can't believe it. You've forgotten just about everything, and of course it's icing on the cake that you don't even remember that." He sighed, and grabbed his head in his hands, shaking it softly back and forth. Tyler stopped pacing and stood up straight, as if preparing himself to do something unpleasant.
"Ok, you're a werewolf. I can tell you more about who's chasing us later, but it won't mean anything until you at least understand that."
An airplane buzzed overhead, then faded away. Finally, Dave broke the silence.
"I'm a Werewolf? Are you out of your mind?"
"Oh, come on. Even after forgetting everything, there's no changing basic physiology. You can't tell me you've never gotten those primal urges to just get away from people and do some running outdoors?"
"Well, everyone must feel like that from time to time I'm sure. I did what anyone else would; I took a camping trip."
"Ok, fine. But what about the beast inside of you longing to get out? The feeling of something more within begging to be released?"
"Yes, but being a good Christian man, I've learned that natural impulses—no matter how appealing or strong—are things to be suppressed and ignored."
"Being able to smell and hear things better than any human ever could? Cuts and bruises healing faster than they should?" countered Tyler.
"After waking and up not knowing who or where I was, not remembering anything about how life is supposed to be anyway, and knowing nothing different than I do now, how would I know what's normal or not?"
Tyler grunted. "You've always been the reluctant one, even from the very beginning when I first bit you all those years ago in Colorado."
"I find it hard to believe anything you're saying," scoffed Benjamin—after all, that really was his name. Not Dave. This guy was probably just some outsider who'd caught wind of his story and came to mess with him.
"Fine. I guess I'll just have to show you then." Tyler immediately started stripping down until he was wearing nothing but his skin. Oh great, thought Benjamin. Not only is this guy a nut job, he's also a pervert! He started backing towards the Jeep to try and put some distance between them, when suddenly Tyler bent over double to crouch on the ground on all fours. He started shaking, and his whole body began to ripple and pulse as hairs started to push out from every surface of his body. Tyler's face elongated and grew fangs as pointed ears rode up the sides of his head. His heels lifted from the ground and pulled higher up his legs while claws slid out from his now paw-like feet. With a final cracking sound, a bushy tail pulled out from his behind.
The whole experience probably only took seconds, yet it seemed an eternity to Benjamin as he tried to take in what was happening. In place of where Tyler had stood was now a huge furred, wolf-like beast with a human-shaped torso standing on its two back legs!
Benjamin fell backwards to the ground in shock.
"Do you believe me now?" growled the wolf creature.
"I-I-I..." was all Benjamin could manage. In a comically human-like gesture, the giant wolf rolled its eyes and shook its shaggy head.
"Come on now. Your turn."
"But I don't... how would I even..." he stuttered.
"Just find the wolf inside and embrace it. Your body will do the rest."
Benjamin shook his head while muttering about how unbelievable this all was, but then complied. He cautiously embraced that carnal side of himself he'd been successfully repressing all this time, and gasped as he felt the changes begin.
It was like one long, luxurious stretch really. The kind where you've been sitting down for too long and decide to stretch heavily before getting up—all the blood rushes to your head and you almost feel a sense of euphoria as endorphins flood your system. The only difference was that instead of getting all light-headed or going numb, his body felt more alive and powerful than ever as his hearing and sense of smell increased tenfold in strength.
It was over just as soon as it began. He opened his eyes that he didn't remember closing, and saw the ground around his new paws littered with the remainders of his clothing. He looked all over at his new body appreciatively. It didn't feel foreign at all; in fact he felt more at home in this form than he had as a human.
"You're still pretty chunky, but a few more shifts will cure you of that," chuckled Tyler.
"You weren't just pulling my leg after all," he said in awe. "Dave. My name is Dave, then, and I'm a werewolf."
"That's right! Now, come run with me. The exercise will help burn off some of that fat, and I'll get you caught up on everything else."
With that, the two werewolves turned tail and headed off into the trees.