Daniel knelt on his bedroll and rolled it up the same way he was taught in basic training.  The dew hadn’t yet evaporated off the crinkled, dried leaves.  He stretched out his back muscles and stifled a yawn.  Ten minutes earlier, his sergeant ordered the group to decamp without another word.  When he had rolled over on his side to steal another moment of sleep, the sergeant had gracelessly slapped him atop the head and told him to stop being lazy or he’d have to do “crap duty,” a responsibility whose named encompassed its essence successfully.  Daniel had just enough time to scarf down a bowl of cold porridge that crawled down his throat like maggots before he was ordered to take apart the eastside tents and bedrolls.

He tied the tired old rope around his bedroll and secured it firmly to his saddle.  Finished.  Archimedes, ever the gentleman, didn’t balk under the increased load.  Daniel patted the old horse on his neck and reached his hand into one of his saddlebags and pulled out a handful of oats. They weren’t much, but the gentle old gelding had always been loyal and he deserved a couple of harmless treats now and again.  As Archimedes munched appreciatively, Daniel pulled himself on to the saddle and urged his horse towards the retreating line of soldiers.

Whenever his unit decamped and relocated, as a rule, Daniel took up the rear.  There were two reasons for this.  The first was the obvious- he had a touch with the dead, and zombies were not the kind of followers you wanted your military unit to know you had acquired.  The second reason, of course, was his unique condition.

Lunarae Lupinosis was privileged information, need-to-know.  He wasn’t the only werewolf in the Malaian Army.  In fact, there was a small pack of them, somewhere between twenty and fifty in number, but the army liked to keep them separated.  It was almost as though they believed the disease was contagious, and that greater numbers were more likely to cause an outbreak.  Or maybe they would stir inter-regimental violence.  Daniel didn’t know.  He didn’t care.  He had been given orders to look after himself.  He wasn’t even sure the sergeant knew about his condition.  But he did know one thing- with the rest of the troops in front of him, it was unlikely anyone would see his eyes when Faolchú emerged and they became yellow wolf’s eyes.

He shuttered in the early morning fog.  All the more reason to give Archimedes lots and lots of oats.  He was the only horse Daniel had ever come across who didn’t mind bearing a wolf on his back.  The old gelding swayed his head back and forth as he walked in the trampled path the other soldiers left for him.

Daniel pretended he couldn’t feel his bones trying to rearrange under his skin.  That he couldn’t feel the grey bristled fur pricking his vital organs.  He wished he could just pack it all away, let his soul decamp and move along, away from this constant struggle for identity.

Maybe in another lifetime.  For now, he wore the curse, and there was nothing his could do to ease the burden.

.

Word: Sergeant.  ||  Time: 15 minutes.  ||   Character: Daniel Hawthorne.

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something to think about

"You know, I don't know if you'll understand this or not, but sometimes, even when I'm feeling very low, I'll see some little thing that will somehow renew my faith. Something like that leaf, for instance - clinging to its tree despite wind and storm. You know, that makes me think that courage and tenacity are about the greatest values a man can have. Suddenly my old confidence is back and I know things aren't half as bad as I make them out to be. Suddenly I know that with the strength of his convictions a man can move mountains, and I can proceed with full confidence in the basic goodness of my fellow man. I know that now. I know it." ~ End of Act I in the musical You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown.

competing for the house cup

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