He was trapped.
Devon opened his eyes and peered through the thick glass container that secluded his body. Although he was familiar with his surroundings, something seemed different. Intermittent darkness settled inside the familiar science lab, but enough light infiltrated the room to let Devon glance around. Still, he could not place his finger upon the abnormality that suppressed his thoughts.
As usual, a breath cloud was framed upon the glass, tempting Devon to break out of the case and wipe it off the exterior. The stain mocked his freedom. He loathed that somebody had stood and stared at him for the sake of staring, for the sake of studying, for the sake of science. Devon was a test subject.
A soft whimper echoed throughout the room. Devon immediately glanced up. Across the room, he noticed a petite girl trapped within a similar glass cylinder, unconsciously mocking his situation. As he stared at her, much like somebody had stared at him, he began to feel a pinch of optimism. The girl looked innocent and beautiful, the kind of beauty that only a young child could wear.
Devon became unsettled. He felt as though he knew the little girl. However, in the months since he had been captured, Devon had never seen her.
A sudden desire caused Devon to reluctantly place his hand upon the glass cage, covering a breath stain. Without warning, the girl stirred. Devon quickly drew his hand back in surprise.
He looked down to inspect his hand with bored interest. Much like himself, his hand was obviously a different being, something he did not immediately recognize as his own. Since his treatments began, his entire body had changed both physically and emotionally. His hand was no exception.
Where a strip of white skin should’ve been, a brown patch of hair covered his knuckles. His fingernails had grown much longer and sharper, allowing Devon to cut through anything except the glass cage that surrounded him.
Staring at his monstrous claws, Devon fantasized about the destruction he could inflict with them. He imagined tearing through his captor’s flesh and painting his nails with crimson. Although it was a mad desire, Devon wanted to satisfy the animal that roamed his personality.
Suddenly, a door at the end of the room snapped open, breaking Devon out of his reverie. A short man strode into the room, clad in a white lab coat and round spectacles. A smirk pierced his face, and he stared at Devon for a few moments before exclaiming, “It’s a great day to be alive!”
Devon did not respond; he simply stared at the scientist. The old man’s voice annoyed him. Although it was thicker than a normal man’s body size, the glass cage did not muffle sounds. Modern technology seemed to mock Devon.
After a few moments of silence, the scientist trotted over to the glass that held the little girl. “This is Prim, our newest…helper,” he casually remarked. Noticing Devon’s indifference, he continued, “Since you are a veteran of this program, Devon, it’s only fitting that you watch what happens to a helper while it is unconscious. You—“
“Prim is a girl, not an it,” Devon interrupted with a slight hint of anger.
Once again, a smirk appeared on the scientist’s face. “Yes,” he sneered. “Either way, you are still privileged. Not many souls have witnessed an experiment. Still, I will allow you to watch me turn Prim into a butterfly!”
Trying to collect his thoughts, Devon bit his bottom lip with one of his fangs. A stream of blood spilled out and dripped off his chin. Silence engulfed the room.
Finally, he asked, “How do you do it?”
The scientist smugly answered, “Recent technology has provided me the opportunity to combine animal DNA with nuclear radiation. The combined energy seeps into the helper and creates mutations that are similar to the animal that was mixed in. I have sought to control these transformations to achieve what I want.”
Once again, silence corrupted the room for a moment. Finally, the scientist exclaimed, “I can turn humans into animals, Devon! I can make them soar like birds, sprint like cheetahs, and sing like crickets! I can do whatever I want! Now watch.”
He trotted over to a control panel that was built into the side of Prim’s glass cage. Without preparing the systems, he started the process of mutating the girl.
Devon swept his eyes across the room. Again, something about the girl unsettled Devon. His eyes darted towards her perfect face. He gasped. Prim’s eyes were open.
“Wait!” he shouted, causing the scientist to hesitate for a split second. “She’s not unconscious. The treatments could hurt—“
The scientist laughed. “Devon, my friend–that will only add to the excitement! In fact, both of us will have the opportunity to witness something new today! I have never treated a conscious helper before today. Let the fireworks begin!” He chuckled again before adding, “And you thought you were special.”
A deep hatred aroused within Devon’s beastly soul. “Don’t you question the motives behind these experiments?” he growled.
“I don’t ask questions,” he curtly replied.
Desperately stalling for time, Devon claimed, “This isn’t right! Prim is only a child! She has a family…a dad that loves her…I loved my daughter, but you stole me from her! Don’t steal Prim away from her dad. Let her go! Let her go back to her family!”
Crushing Devon’s spirit, the captor merely shook his head and pressed a small button on the control panel.
Devon stared into Prim’s beautiful eyes. In them, he became mesmerized with raw innocence. He immediately thought of a perfect life filled with flowers and a light heart. In Prim’s eyes, Devon saw an angel, cloaked in a sparkling white dress with wings sprouting from the back. In Prim’s eyes, Devon saw heaven.
Suddenly, her eyes reflected the scientist. The angel transformed into a devil, preparing to kill any person brave enough to sneak a glance at the girl. Prim began to writhe in pain as her cage filled with a colorless gas which suffocated her with forceful violence. She screamed, trying to release the fumes that invaded her precious body. Still, Devon stared at the devilish creature, beckoning Satan to attack his sanity with every imaginable evil.
Devon finally broke.
“Stop it, stop it!” he yelled. Without thinking, he punched the glass in front of him, trying to break free. He clawed at the cage, creating a chilling screech that caused him to shiver. However, his efforts were fruitless. The glass could not be scratched. Meanwhile, the scientist moved in front of Prim, laughing with the madness of a hyena. As he bellowed, a breath stain appeared on Prim’s cage, growing with each chuckle, growing like the maddening laughter, growing like Devon’s anger…
The gas stopped pouring and Prim hung limp. Once again, she looked innocent and beautiful.
“She is certainly unconscious now,” the scientist assuredly remarked.
Anger swelled within Devon. “God will make you pay for this.”
Slowly, the scientist turned his gaze toward Devon. Once their eyes locked, he deliberately said, “Devon…I am God.
With that, he strode toward the control panel. “Your turn, veteran.” He pushed a button. Gas poured into Devon’s cage.
With a thoughtless mind, Devon stared at his claws and thought about his life.
He was a human, but evil had corrupted him into a monster. He was Devon, a simple man in a prior life, but no more. He was a confused animal. He was not going to become a slave to science. He wanted to travel with his pack. He was a werewolf.
He forced his hand up to his neck. The fur that stood on his knuckles rubbed his chin. He thought about death. As the gas poured into his cage, eternal rest seemed imminent either way. It was his time to go.
Suddenly, Devon stabbed his claws into his neck, causing blood to spray across the glass.
Darkness closed upon his eyes, surrounding his physical body much tighter than the glass structure. However, he felt free. The scientist was saying something, but Devon did not care. The old man meant nothing to him anymore.
Devon hunched over and breathed his last breath. As he fell to the ground, he saw one last stain on the glass cage. However, this stain was on the inside of the glass, not the outside. It did not belong to the scientist. The breath stain was his.
So it happened. Devon was a created monster, but his morality overcame every science that had enslaved him. He was no longer an animal to be captured and studied, but a soul to be remembered and cherished. The scientist may have lived longer than Devon, but werewolves are allowed to stalk their prey among butterflies and primroses with nothing but a perfect day upon their breath.
*Originally published in Ben Klayer’s debut poetry collection, Over the Hills*