Loren, a werewolf, was in no headspace to play “Werewolf” during game
night, but the charm of Armand’s excitement persuaded him to
The rules were simple: each night/round, the werewolf picks somebody
from the village to kill, and in the morning the surviving population
votes on a player to eliminate, in hopes of defeating the werewolf.
Armand dealt a role card to each player. Loren turned his card over,
keeping it close to his chest.
“The village of Billiamsville is small,” Armand narrated. “Those who’ve
lived in small towns know that you know everybody, so we’ll start with
introducing our characters.”
One player took the persona of Pascal, a defrocked priest who moved to
Billiamsville with a wife who later left him for a virtuoso timpanist.
Another played an angsty pre-teen who resented her parents for naming
her Aubergine. Armand’s attention fell upon Loren. “And you?”
Loren, a shy college freshman who’d been enamored with Armand ever since
meeting at the Acts of Kindness Club’s ice cream social, pieced together
a response. He modeled his character’s backstory after his mom, Meryl: a
single woman trying to make ends meet as a Chili’s line cook.
The round began. Everybody bowed their heads in sleep. “Werewolf,”
Armand commanded. “Wake up.”
Loren opened his eyes and met Armand’s gaze.
“Point to who you’d like to kill.”
Loren hesitated with the command. He first chose the realtor. When
Armand tried to confirm his decision, he switched to the security guard,
then switched again. Eventually, Loren settled on the CalArts Claymation
student visiting home for Christmas break.
“Okay, werewolf,” Armand said. “Go to sleep.”
The game continued. Everybody who lived through the night woke.
Accusations flew. The graveyard shift security guard defended herself.
“I couldn’t hold this job if I were a werewolf!”
The realtor was accused of emptying homes to flip and sell to corporate
land developers. Aubergine was accused of hiding her changes under the
guise of puberty. However, Loren’s silence marked him as a suspect. A
one-vote lead put him to death.
Loren awaited a new role for round two. Given that his mom would often
sit in the hallway during full moons, assuring him in a soft voice with
things like, “No matter what happens, you’ll always be the sweet, caring
kid I know,” he prayed to be the Pacifist.
The next game began, and Loren’s new card made his heart sink: Werewolf
This time—determined to impress Armand with a victory—Loren
fabricated arguments against the prosecuting attorney, the travel
blogger, and the arborist while simultaneously devising an order for
elimination. With each kill, his senses spiked. The dorm floor’s
compounded smell of pepperoni pizza and cheap weed flooded his nose as
he eviscerated the sheriff and accused the arborist. “He knows these
Despite Loren’s sudden, visible excitement for killing innocent people,
nobody believed any accusations against him. “A werewolf twice in two
games?” the majority argued. “It isn’t probable.”
Probability, combined with measured tactics, helped Loren win. The
losers groaned and laughed. Loren eased off on wringing his hands.
However, the third consecutive round as the game’s villain felt
suspicious to Loren. He refused to look up at Armand, who’d taken a seat
beside him on the loveseat armrest. Longing to be something different
from himself, Loren attempted to throw the game. He even made his
character another obvious offshoot of his mother: Errol, a caretaker
charged with a lonely child.
The round ended again in his victory. Some players voiced their
skepticism about the game’s integrity. Armand insisted everything was
chance, and Loren chose to believe him since—in the next round—he
received the Doctor card, a role that gave him the chance to save a
player while the others slept.
Still, Billiamsville’s population put Loren to death immediately and
unanimously. “We have observational data,” somebody half-joked.
Killing Loren first as a precaution—treated humorously by the
party—evolved into ritual. Loren felt helpless and frustrated. He
wasn’t being given a chance to role-play with Armand, to contribute to
the joy that revealed itself on his crush’s face as the game progressed.
He spoke up after several rounds. “It’s true: I’m the werewolf. Spare me
or kill me; do whatever. I refuse to hide it anymore.”
The others deliberated, then voted instead to hang Jorie, the
Surprised that it worked, Loren tested his confession again and again.
His unflagging declaration—with occasional flairs of improvisation and
confidence—made him impossible to read.
At the night’s end, Armand walked Loren across campus towards his house.
Little was said, except that Loren liked the pride pin on Armand’s
backpack, and how grateful he was to be invited. “Sorry if I was weird,”
“Don’t be sorry,” Armand said, laughing. “As a theater major, I’m very
familiar with weird.”
The two parted at the west end of campus. When Armand vanished from
sight, Loren sprinted through the woods towards home, startling his mom
by bursting through the back door. “I did it,” he said, out of breath,
collapsing onto the kitchen tile. “I told somebody what I was, like I
always said I would.”
He was too exhausted to explain the context. Meryl—furious and
frightened—grounded him. She only brought it back up weeks later, as
she unpackaged and plated a half-dozen slabs of thawed ground beef she’d
stolen from work. “It might have been a game,” she said, “but what you
did was reckless.”
Loren didn’t argue.
“Need anything else?”
He shook his head. His mom barricaded his bedroom door from the outside.
As the moon’s shadow moved to reveal itself at its fullest through the
boarded windows, Loren’s phone chimed with a barrage of texts from
Loren didn’t have enough time with fingers to reply to the bumbling,
typo-riddled-then-corrected-request for a movie date, but all night he
felt the answer inside him taking shape.