As Hilla adapted to becoming a werewolf,
she began to take interest in life again,
including some things that she had not
been able to enjoy for several years due
to multiple sclerosis eroding her health.
She loved hiking and other outdoor activities,
just rambling around to look at the animals
and plants that she found along the way.
It felt so good just to be able to move again,
without paying for it immediately or later
with increased pain and decreased function.
For ages, Hilla had been restricted to
slow strolls around a park, or on the worst days,
watching the scenery as her health aide
pushed her in a wheelchair.
She made herself take it easy,
even though she didn't want to.
She started by exploring the area around
Randie's home, the wide sidewalks
and the little pocket parks.
There was one beside a hotel
made entirely of ovals with
a long looping path.
"I'm going for a walk,"
Hilla said to Randie, "and
you're welcome to come with me."
The other woman shook her head.
"The last time I was in a park,
it didn't end well," said Randie.
Hilla disagreed, because
even though the attack had
been terrifying and painful,
she loved being a werewolf.
Then she moved up to a park
with a nice mix of walking trails
that ranged from short and easy
to longer and more challenging.
Hilla made it last by splicing
the sections of trail together
to create a longer walk.
The park had picnic spots too,
so Hilla had places to stop and
rest or eat a snack, smelling
the lingering smoke from
other people's fires.
"Are you sure you don't want
to come with me?" Hilla said
to Randie. "It's two weeks away
from the full moon, perfectly safe."
"No thanks," Randie said,
so Hilla went alone.
From there she advanced
to a larger park in the wilderness,
whose trails followed the lines of
a ridge system and its network
of river and feeder creeks.
These trails were longer,
and while some were easy,
many of them were steeper.
Hilla hiked up and down,
around and around, reveling
in the feel of her body.
She found herself falling into
an easy, loose-limbed gait
that gobbled up the distance
but made little noise.
Hilla got hungry, and not even
her snacks helped -- she went
through all the fresh fruit, jerky,
and trail mix that she carried.
The squirrels high in the trees
were starting to look ... tempting.
The smell of smoke drew
her attention to a side trail
that ended in a tiny campsite,
where an old man had built
a fire in the stone horseshoe
which served as an oven.
Coming closer, Hilla could smell
the mouth-watering steam from
cooking meat and something sweeter.
The wolf within rumbled a growl
that did not reach Hilla's lips, but
reminded her that Randie's worries
were not altogether without cause.
"Hi there," the fellow called. "I'm Amos.
Would you like to stop for some food?
I always wind up making more than
I can eat, so you're welcome to it."
"You are a lifesaver," Hilla said,
sitting down on a log seat.
"Forgot to pack snacks for
a day hike?" he asked gently.
She shook her head. "No, I brought
plenty of food -- I thought -- I just
ate it all, and I'm still hungry!"
Amos chuckled. "Hiking
works up a strong appetite."
"Yeah," Hilla said. "I'm not
inexperienced, just ... out of
practice. I was sick for years,
so I couldn't get out very much.
Now that I feel better, I'm trying
to get back in action, but I keep
making these dumb mistakes."
"Ah, it can be hard to keep up
when your body changes on you,"
Amos said with a knowing nod.
"So very true," Hilla agreed.
Then Amos used a forked stick
to fish out two bundles of tinfoil
from the coals of the campfire.
"Here you go," he said, passing her
a jumble of chopped sausage
mixed with vegetables.
Hilla was drooling --
no, actually slobbering.
Embarrassed, she snatched
a napkin from her pocket
and wiped her mouth.
She'd never had that problem
with MS, although many people did --
her problems had always focused more
on her limbs -- but here it was now,
entirely unexpected and mortifying.
"Well, that's flattering," Amos said
as he handed her a fork. "Tuck in."
Hilla wolfed down the food,
even though it was piping hot
from the fire. It tasted delicious,
rich with spiced meat and
The breeze blew smoke over them,
and she squinted as it stung her eyes.
"The food is fantastic," she said.
"Thank you so much for sharing."
"Meal's not over," said Amos,
digging industriously in the coals.
"Wait until you see dessert."
It turned out to be peaches,
halved and slathered with
caramel and pecans, resting
in petals of charred foil.
Hilla devoured her share,
feeling like a complete mooch.
"Is there anything I could do to help,
in return for you feeding me?" she asked.
"I would not turn down an offer to refill
my water jugs; I'm about out," said Amos.
"There's a creek down thataway, with
a hand pump for clean water."
So Hilla hiked to the creek, trail jugs
in hand, and pumped them full.
She enjoyed having her body back,
and wondered if it might be even more
athletic now than before she first got sick.
Becoming a werewolf had changed her,
but in some ways it just seemed
to make her more of herself.
Returning to the campsite,
Hilla said, "I hope this is enough."
"It's plenty, thanks," said Amos.
They said their goodbyes,
and Hilla made her way home,
refreshed as much by the company
as by the delicious food.
"What did you roll in, you smell
amazing," Randie said as
she snuffled at Hilla.
"I didn't roll in anything,"
Hilla said. "I went hiking, and
a guy named Amos offered
to feed me. It's been a while
since I met any trail magic, but
it sure is nice to have it back."
"Trail magic?" Randie said.
"Help that you don't expect
or have to ask for," Hilla said.
"If it smells that good,
maybe I'll come with you,"
Randie said, "some time."
"I'd like that," Hilla said.
* * *
Trail magic is unexpected, but welcome, help or food.
Hilla has pale skin, dark blue eyes, and short white-blonde hair.
Hiking is a fun hobby with many benefits, whether you go alone or with company. Know what to take when you go hiking.
Trails can be found through various guides. You can also make your own, especially on private property.
Trail activities include birdwatching, identifying plants, and learning geology. Educational apps for a smartphone are lighter than a backpack full of field guides! No, they will NOT make you lazy, people learn through repetition. If you keep pointing your phone at things to identify them, eventually some of that info will stick.
Pocket parks are small green spaces in a city that service an area of just a few blocks. The one by the hotel looks similar to this. A neighborhood park may have a modest network of interconnected trails, each one only a fraction of a mile -- but if you walk along the linked network, the distances do add up.
Anxiety, depression, and other problems can lead to social isolation. Randie's safety concerns are valid, but her coping methods are not ideal. There are ways to overcome social isolation. Among the best ways to help a depressed or anxious friend to reconnect is simply to keep asking. They may only accept 1 out of 10 or 20 invitations, but every one is a win.
Large parks may have miles of meshed trails, usually with different levels of difficulty. Sometimes they are divided into trails for walking, mountain biking, and/or horseback riding.
Wolf packs have extensive territory. Their anatomy lends itself well to traveling long distances. Wolves have ground-eating gaits, and for werewolves, that carries over somewhat into human form.
Trail food for day hikes includes homemade snacks such as trail mix and jerky. Many werewolves adore jerky because it is pure meat and fulfills the chewing urge.
Campfires may be made in an impromptu stove of stones.
Campfire cooking has its own techniques and recipes. Tinfoil is indispensable for making main dishes such as sausage packets. It also works for desserts like roasted peaches.
Drooling is associated with some dog breeds, notably Alaskan malamutes who are very wolflike. It can also happen to humans, especially people with multiple sclerosis. Some werewolves have increased salivary response even in human form; it's not a defect, just a quirk that can be embarrassing. Hilla knows about MS drooling but never had to deal with it, because her disease manifested in arms and legs instead of her head. There are ways to deal with day and night drooling.
Amos -- He has fair skin, blue eyes, and gray hair. He enjoys hiking, camping, and cooking in the wild. He always makes more food than he can eat, and invites strangers to share it.
Parks often install a hand pump near a natural water source, as a way to provide water that meets sanitary standards. Takes a bit of elbow grease to get your water out, but not much when the water table is right below the surface, and it requires no electricity.