Samuel turned quiet at that because Hank was making some very valid points that he couldn’t argue. Not that he felt comfortable with what Hank was saying. He didn’t, especially because it was making very clear his own faults and wrong-doing and the truth that he really did not have the right to judge another.
Martha was quick to speak, however, in order to salvage something of the situation and a bit of her husband’s ego as well. “You’re right, Hank. Everyone here is family, including Aberly, though he has no biological connection to us. And you’re right that he’s never caused any of us harm, nor our parents, or their parents. I can’t speak any further back from that, but three generations are enough to know that he’s a good man. And I will say, man, because maybe the term does encompass more than Adam and Eve’s line.
I don’t know. Samuel and I don’t feel comfortable with taking on this change ourselves, but we won’t stop anyone who does choose that for themselves, nor belittle them. We will, however, pray for your souls, not because of what we believe, but that God will watch over you and your souls. So, no matter what physical form any of you take, you will still be family to us.” Samuel nodded in agreement with his wife, feeling relieved that she had put into words that which he had been too proud to say himself.
Aberly spoke when Martha was done after he saw the Pastor nod. “As I said before, no one has to choose today, and even if you choose today not to accept this offer, but then ten years down the road you change your mind, the offer still holds. However, once changed, there is no going back. The change is permanent. Living a long time has many benefits, but it also has many negatives as well. As a non-aging immortal, you will see many people who you might care about, who are mortal, age faster than you and pass away. And sometimes you may simply grow weary of life. Though that feeling doesn’t typically last long in the larger scheme of things as life almost always offers something interesting to experience. I have seen and experienced many things, some which made me excited or elated and some which made me sad and depressed. That won’t change from what you experience in life now, however, the length of time you experience that will grow immensely. You may become regenerative, but you can still experience physical, emotional and mental pain in life. So, please consider that as well.”
Peter spoke for himself and his wife. “Abigail and I would like some time to consider your offers, just as Hank has asked, but I agree with Martha. No matter what choice we make, you are all still family. I don’t care what physical form you have. Nothing is going to change that in our minds.” Abigail nodded in agreement to what her husband was saying.
Adeline spoke since Jonathan had already made his decision based on his brother’s need. “I will stick by my husband and go through the change as well. I know he will never abandon his little brother, and I am his wife. So, I will remain at his side for as long as he’ll have me.” Jonathan smiled and put an arm around his wife, pulling her close to indicate that he did want her, and always would, which in turn made her smile up at him.
Buford finally spoke after a long moment of silence. “I think I’d like to experience being a were-creature. I never really had much urge in life to be more than a deputy, and that was only because my father wanted me to be. But this is something new and something that has caught my interest. For the first time in life, I feel a little bit of excitement. I’ve never felt that before.”
Lance, of course, was out of prison now and back home, but he wasn’t sure that it was right for him to make this choice. Not for the pastor’s reasoning but because he ultimately had been the one responsible for what happened to the boys. So, he spoke, “I’m not sure I deserve this offer as the rest of you. Though most of you went along with what had been decided years ago about not involving outside authorities into our matters, I was the one ultimately responsible, which is why I took responsibility and turned myself into the FBI. I don’t feel worthy of such an offer. I understand that it’s being made to the rest of us in order for the boys to continue to have a family but they don’t need me in particular in their lives.”
Buford cut in, “But I do, daddy. I don’t want to see you grow old an die. I know ultimately in time you will, but I don’t feel that you deserve less than the rest of us. You took responsibility and served your sentence. It wasn’t a life sentence. So, please reconsider. I already lost one parent. I’d like to keep the other around a bit longer.”
Lance was silent for a time. “Give me some time to think over the matter. Maybe I am trying to punish myself by turning the offer down. Maybe it’s my guilt that’s pushing me toward that decision, though I am guilty. I can’t deny that. My poor decisions hurt those boys, and there really had been no real risk, other than Floyd being charged with child negligence. We shouldn’t have considered his needs over the boys. At the time, we thought we were considering both, by protecting Floyd and letting the authorities place the boys in a better home environment. But that didn’t happen. We should have let things happen naturally by obeying the law, not play around with it for our own benefit.”
Doc spoke last. “I, like my brother, would like a bit more time to decide, but I do have a question. Over time people are going to notice that we’re not aging. At the moment, it’s just Aberly. So, it’s not really a noticeable thing with it only being one person and this being such a small town with few visitors. But if we all, or most of us, choose to accept Aberly’s offer, won’t it become more noticeable to the outside world that no one is aging?”
Aberly shook his head. “Not really when you consider how small a town this really is, and how infrequently people stop through. Even if someone were to stop through regularly over a course of years, by the time they would start wondering, they’d be growing old themselves and likely die before it really registered with them. Even if a new resident were to move in, and I’ll use Matt as an example since he was for a time a member of this town, but agreed to sell the station back to Floyd when he got out of detox. He might have noticed over time, but he would have eventually passed on himself, even if he was suspicious of something odd going on. It’s only if we get ourselves in a situation where there are long-term and frequent guests where we need to consider questions being asked, but you always can use the same excuse that I do, that I have an unusual regenerative condition. Also, since this land belongs to me, I have the choice of who I allow staying here. I don’t see allowing anyone else at this point, other than through marriage perhaps.”
Doc interrupted, “I’m curious. What if one of us who accepts this change marries a human. What would the children be in that case? Human or were?”
Aberly answered, “That is a very good question. In the case of two weres mating, the children are always were-creatures but again unique in regards to type. When a human and were mate, then the child is always human, but typically with stronger physical abilities; better hearing, sight, smell, stronger, faster, but not too far outside the human norm to stand out as anything inhuman. However, the power to shift to a hybrid form does not get passed on. In a situation where a were marries a human and they have children, the were would have to bite their mate and children to pass on the were genetics entirely.”
Aberly also added, “Also, there is a safe haven where non-humans can go should things become dangerous living among them; an island called Sanctuary. So, if it ever came down to that, we would have a safe place to go where we can live in peace. There are some non-humans who live among humankind as I do, but the majority live on Sanctuary. And just so you know Samuel, non-humans have been living among humankind since the beginning and very rarely have we caused any harm to your kind. In fact, it has almost always been humans who have caused us harm. I’m not saying that there aren’t individuals of all races who are violent or do bad deeds, because there are, but the majority of those who are not strictly human, just want to live in peace.”
Caroline suddenly spoke, “If I were to be changed into a were-creature, would I be able to have children? As I am now I can’t, due to… injuries.” Caroline didn’t go into any detail, as Hank was the only one who knew about the rape.
Aberly responded, “If the injuries were the cause of your inability to have children, then yes, when you change, it will be like getting an entirely new body, fully functional. If your inability to have children is genetic, however, then the change may or may not be corrected because, though your genetics are being altered, there are some base genetics that will be remaining the same.”
Caroline nodded her understanding. “It’s due to injury, not genetic.” She then looked over at Hank who put an arm around her waist and said in a soft tone, “It’s up to you. All I want is to spend the rest of my life with you, whether a normal human life or longer. That, and for you to be happy.” Caroline leaned against her husband. “I’ve always wanted children…” Hank kissed the top of her head. “Then we will take the change if that’s what you want.” Caroline smiled and nodded. “I do.”
Hank then looked over at his brother who was standing nearby, but Doc shrugged. “I don’t know, Hank. Though I am realizing that if all or most of you do change, I guess my services here in town will no longer be needed. So I’m not sure what else I might spend doing for the rest of my life–even a normal life–let alone an enormously long life.”
Aberly cut in, “When you have lived as long as I do, you learn to find hobbies and interests, and you will likely always have a passion that you carry throughout your life. I’ve always been a druid, which has made me very close to nature. It is why I bought up such a large tract of land, in order to maintain a bit of that interest. I care for this land. I help to keep it healthy and alive, and in return it sustains me. If healing is your passion, you can still heal those who need healing. It might mean going to the city to do so. Or perhaps you’ll discover a new passion. The point is, that living a longer life is not based on what you are doing in one part of your life. You can have one passion and carry it through, or you can sample and develop many passions over time.”
Hank spoke to his brother, “I’d like you in my life for as long as possible, brother, but regardless of your choice, I will be at your side for as long as I am able. I don’t want you to feel pressured, because Caroline and I are deciding to take Aberly up on his offer. Just as I respect Samuel and Martha’s decision, I will respect yours.”
Abigail finally spoke, “Well, hell Peter, if the rest of the family is going to do this, then I think we should as well. I don’t feel like it’s a sin or going to send us straight to Hell. I think it’s merely a choice that we are being given, and I agree that it’s how we live our life, not what skin we live it in, that matters.” Peter shrugged. “If that’s what you want, then I will be at your side. For better or worse, for sickness and in health, until death do we part.” Abigail smiled and hugged her husband. “Thank you. I love you so much.” Peter nodded and kissed the top of Abigail’s head as Hank had done with Caroline. “I love you too, babe.”
Abigail suddenly straightened up and asked, “Does the bite hurt?”
Aberly shrugged. “It’s a bite. There is going to be some pain. I have to get my saliva into your bloodstream which means I need to break the skin in order to do that. However, Doc could give you pain relief before I was to bite any of you to minimize the pain. The change itself takes twenty-four hours to complete, but due to the nature of the changes, being at a genetic level, your body will go into somewhat of a stupor state where you are mentally unaware. So, though the changes you will be going through are drastic physiological changes, you won’t feel any of it. And as I said before, the shift itself doesn’t hurt. It just happens, as if you simply are willing yourself from human form to hybrid. There’s no breaking bones or flesh tearing like the werewolf movies you’ve seen.”
“Do you ever accidentally turn into your hybrid form?” Abigail asked.
Aberly shook his head. “No, it’s by intent, never accidental. And there is a basic survival instinct that will come into play if you are trying to intend on turning in front of humans where it may not be safe. You can, of course, but it takes more effort to change under those circumstances. In order for me to change in front of you today, I had to make a much harder mental effort than when I change in private. That difficulty is to ensure that you truly want to shift, to make you hesitate and ensure that it truly is safe, or if it’s not, that you truly want to do what you’re attempting to do.”
“What about the children? They may not have the same self-control as an adult where it comes to changing in public,” Adeline pointed out.
Aberly nodded. “That is true but were-children are taught from a young age how dangerous it is for them to change in front of uninformed humans. And I think these three boys understand what dangerous means. They also know what captivity means, as well as the threat of death.”
He then turned to the boys. “If you were to change in front of humans who do not know of or approve of our kind–those who would cause us harm–then you need to know that there are people who will want you dead or who will want to take you captive and perform experiments on you. That is just a reality of this existence, and it is something you need to be keenly aware of, and know that it won’t change until humanity as a whole change to where they accept beings who are other than human.
However, that being said, as I said earlier there is the isle of Sanctuary where you can live in peace without that fear. The island is protected by technology, mental science, and magic which keeps it hidden from humanity. Here in Land’s End, however, it is also safe because strangers are infrequent and don’t typically stay more than a brief visit, so you wouldn’t be in any danger as long as you use discretion in regards to when and where you change to your hybrid form. You have plenty of woods here where you can change and play in your hybrid forms out of view of humans. I’ve lived on this land for a very long time without any problems. I’ve lived among humans, your own relatives for generations without them knowing what I was. I think you boys know how to keep a secret of this nature. Right?”
All three of the boys nodded, and Aberly knew that they truly did.
Jonathan suddenly spoke out, “What about Jarrel? Sometimes he doesn’t have the sense God gave green apples.”
Aberly nodded. “True, a closer eye would need to be kept on him for sure. But again, it’s not a busy town, and remember he’s been classified as insane. So, there’s really no concern with what he tells people. We only need to be careful and get through to him how important it is that he doesn’t change in front of strangers. Can you understand that, Jarrel? Can you keep this secret to just your family and friends here in Land’s End? This is not something that you can share with strangers. It’s very dangerous.”
Doc added, “Remember that loose lips, sink ships, Jarrel. This is one of those types of secrets.”
Jarrel smiled and nodded. “I can keep a secret and no changing in front of strangers. I promise, Jonny. I’ll be responsible with it. I’ll only change when I’m in my mad room or out in the woods playing. I won’t do it in town. Cross my heart, hope to die, stick a needle in my eye.”
Jonathan tried not to smile from the memory of the childhood rhyme that he and Jarrel would say to one another, except that Jarrel had never been able to keep his promises for keeping a secret. Still, if there was a chance that this change might cure his insanity, then he wouldn’t have to worry about Jarrel’s safety. So, he decided he still wanted to do it. “We’ll just keep a closer eye on Jarrel if need be, but perhaps the change may help with his mental condition.”
What about the social worker though?” Mike suddenly asked. She’s going to be making weekly visits. She’s going to notice that we’re not injured anymore.