"All the Pieces of My Heart" by Dianne M. Williams is original fiction from the anthology Speculative Story Bites. Get the whole anthology from Amazon, Kobo, or World Weaver Press.
Tonight is going to suck. My girlfriend’s birthday falls on the full moon this year and it’s time to let her in on the truth.
Last night’s fight was bad. That’s the third or maybe the fourth time we’ve fought about the fact that I can’t be there for her on certain nights and it keeps getting worse each time. She stormed out on me and hasn’t picked up my calls since. But I need her to listen.
Claire is The One. I trust her. I want to spend my life with her. My secret ruins every good relationship I’ve ever had. But I’m going to tell her everything tonight, one way or another. I talked it through with my support group. I tried writing it out. But I’m too much of a coward. I can’t tell her face-to-face. I just can’t. And this doesn’t feel like something you can explain with a text.
I’m a werebear, you see. That’s what we call it. But it sounds way cooler than it is. The only kind of bear I can turn into is a teddy bear. The stuffed kind. About two feet tall with big ears and brown fur and a stupid pink nose.
I’m a wereteddy.
I adjust the giant gift bow that I’m tying around my neck and add the tag. “I’m sorry I can’t be with you tonight. I’ll explain everything in the morning. Please accept this replacement until then,” it says. I figure the best way to explain it all without sounding nuts is to show her. With any luck, we’ll wake up snuggling in bed together and it will all be clear. Whatever happens, she’ll find me in the morning after I change back into a person. She’ll laugh and I’ll laugh and we’ll get past it all.
I hope I don’t wake up jammed behind the dresser, again.
My phone warns me a few minutes before moonrise and I rush over and plop myself down in the middle of her bed. She’ll be back from her birthday party in an hour or so and find Teddy waiting for her. Things are out of my hands once I change. I can’t move or speak in my bear form. I’ll experience the world as a passive observer only.
My arms stretch out in front of me as my fingers fuse into stubby paws. The smile on my face becomes Teddy’s embroidered grin. My ears pull themselves up to the top of my head and synthetic fuzz breaks out all over my body. The butterflies in my stomach abate as my guts turn to stuffing.
I don’t have much concept of time as Teddy, but after a while I hear the front door open and close downstairs and the jangle of her keys as she tosses them on the table beside the door. It sounds like she’s been drinking. A lot. And it sounds like she goes to the fridge to keep drinking. My head starts to get heavy and I fall backwards onto the bed. Stupid bear form.
Her footsteps are muffled by the comforter as she paces the living room downstairs. She’s mumbling to herself again. Back and forth and I want to shout down to her: Come upstairs. Come and see what I am! I want her to wrap her arms around me and I’ll know that everything will be okay.
I hear her footsteps on the stairs. They’re slow. Deliberate. And growing louder as they approach the top step. She’s on the top floor now and I could kick myself for not propping my head up better on a pillow or something. I won’t see her face the first time she sees this form.
I hear the door creak open. She should put some oil on the hinges. It thuds against the door stopper and then a sweater lands beside me as she starts to undress. She hasn’t even spotted Teddy there on her bed. If I had the parts for it, watching her undress might excite me. But stuffed bears don’t have the blood flow for that kind of thing.
Staring up at the ceiling, she comes in and out of my peripheral vision as she wanders the bedroom. Brushing her teeth. Taking her makeup off. I get tossed a bit as she sits on the bed to take off her boots and now I’m stuck on my side, pointed in the wrong direction to see much of her.
She throws the sweater to the floor and starts to crawl into bed, and that’s when she finally sees me. The fuzz on the back of my, well, everything, stands on end as she lifts me from the bed. I watch through Teddy’s dull, plastic eyes as she reads the tag around my neck. This is it. She’ll see me like this and then see what I am in the morning. And we can put this all behind us.
“Accept this substitute? What the fuck?” she mumbles.
She turns me around and I can’t see the expression on her face. But that tone doesn’t sound too happy.
“A fucking teddy bear? Do you think I’m some goddamn six-year-old easily distracted by cute toys?”
She turns me around and we look at each other, face-to-stuffed face. “It’s not even that cute,” she mumbles.
Something has gone terribly wrong with this plan. This isn’t what I meant to happen. I want to shout it at her, but my mouth is sewn shut in this form.
“Leave me alone on my birthday? We’re fucking through, buddy,” she says.
Teddy’s stitching stretches as she yanks my arms and I hear the sickening sound of fabric ripping. That’s not good. She pulls harder. I can feel some of my stuffing slip out. I can’t turn my head to see the damage, but there’s going to be a huge wound in my shoulder in the morning.
She’ll put me down now, I think. She’s taken her anger out on the bear and I won’t start bleeding for real until the moon sets and I turn back to my human shape. I can get myself to a hospital in the morning. It’ll be okay.
But she doesn’t put me down. Or throw me across the room. She grabs me around the stomach and pulls the loose arm, yanking the paw, tearing the fabric, until the whole thing comes free from my body.
I want to be sick, but I can’t open the stupid smile stitched to Teddy’s face. There’s a gaping hole in my body and more stuffing slips out of me. I don’t have the nerve endings to feel much pain, but oh god, my brain knows what’s happening and it fills in the missing impulses.
“Stupid bear. Stupid boyfriend. Ex-boyfriend after this, buddy,” she mumbles as she switches her hands and starts to pull the good arm. She’s got the hang of it this time, and it comes off faster. I hear the arm land on the floor and now I have two gaping holes in my torso. Stuffing is stuck in my throat and I wish I would just black out already. I don’t even know if I can.
I feel her fingers slide into my chest. That’s not a good feeling. She wraps them around the fabric at one armhole and her other hand plucks at the fabric of my chest to steady it. I know what’s coming. I can’t even close my eyes to it. Teddy’s fuzzy little ears hear the tearing sound as she rips my torso open. My lower half lands in a pool of my own stuffing as she drops it to the floor. She sets my head down on her nightstand like a fuzzy war trophy. I’m left there, staring at her alarm clock as the minutes click by.
The moon won’t set for hours, when everything will change back. I won’t make it to the hospital like this. Oh God. She’s going to find me here in the morning.
Dianne M. Williams is a speculative fiction writer living in Lawrence, Kansas. She enjoys finding the humor and horror in everyday things. You can follow her on Twitter at @diannethewriter.
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