Thursday, July 6, 2023

“A Whiff of Brimstone” • by Bruce Bethke

“Hi, my name is Ryan, and I’m a werewolf.”

[Group: “Hi, Ryan.”]

“This has been a rough week for me. Most of the time I do okay, I guess. It’s been months since I’ve even thought about taking a little nip. But this past week I got hit with a double-whammy. Monday night was the supermoon, of course, and that always puts me on edge. Then Tuesday, well—

“Look, I don’t like to admit it. It’s this whole hyper mucho mega-macho thing, I think, because I’ve yet to meet another werewolf who will admit it. And it really does peeve me, because I still remember how much I used to love the Fourth of July when I was a kid: the sparklers, the snakes, the bottle-rockets, the ladyfingers; sitting on the blanket in the park by the lake with my parents, watching the summer night sky explode in fireworks. But now...

“I tell people it’s the smell of the brimstone—the sulfur. Everyone understands that. People with ALPS, everyone knows we have extremely heightened senses of smell, and all sorts of common things can provoke unpleasant reactions.

“Except the truth is, it’s the sound. I can’t understand why. On an intellectual level, I know exactly what that sound is, and I know it’s mostly harmless. But on some deep, visceral, primordial level, the sound of firecrackers exploding scares the screaming bejeebers out of me and makes me want to—oh, I don’t know. Dig a hole and hide under the refrigerator, or something. New Year’s Eve, Cinco de Mayo, the Fourth of July: I’ve spent entire nights hiding under my bed, curled up in fetal position, wincing every time a firecracker pops in the distance and begging God to make it rain so that the fireworks will stop.

“If it was just one night, I think I could handle it. But the little bastards down the street never settle for just one night, do they? No, they start up sniping with bottle-rockets and Black Cats about a week in advance, and by the 3rd they’ve hauled out the serious artillery and are keeping up a steady barrage of heavy mortar shells and screamers. Then there’s the Fourth itself, with ordnance going off pretty much nonstop from dawn until two or three the next morning, followed by the 5th, when all the local morons go into ‘use it or lose it’ mode and try to burn up everything they have left over. So by the time we get around to the 6th—

“Well, let’s just say it wasn’t bad enough yet to warrant calling my sponsor, but I was definitely way overdue for this meeting. And I have to tell you, I really like it here, with you folks. I feel safe. I feel understood. I feel…

“Hey, what’s that smell? Can’t you all smell it? It smells like—

SCOTT! So help me God, if you so much as touch that lit match to that fuse in here I will rip your worthless gizzard out and serve it as an appetizer! Are we clear on this point?

“Now where was I? Oh yes, well—why thank you, yes, I would like another cup of coffee. Decaf please. I’m trying to learn to relax.”



is best known for either his genre-naming 1980 short story, “Cyberpunk,” his Philip K. Dick Award-winning 1995 novel, Headcrash, or lately, as the editor and publisher of Stupefying Stories. What very few readers have known about him until recently is that he actually started out in the music industry, as a member of the design team that developed MIDI and the Finale music notation engine (among other things), but finished his career in the supercomputer industry, doing stuff that was absolutely fascinating to do but almost impossible to explain to anyone not already fluent in Old High Unix and well-versed in massively parallel processor architectures, Fourier transformations, and computational fluid dynamics.

In his copious spare time he runs Rampant Loon Press, just for the fun of it.

Bruce promises that this is the last of his “Curse of the Were-Weasel” stories that will be running on SHOWCASE—unless you really want to see more.


If you like the stories we’re publishing, subscribe today. We do Stupefying Stories out of pure love for genre fiction, but in publishing as in tennis, love means nothing. To keep Stupefying Stories going at this level we need to raise at least $500 USD monthly, and rather than doing so with pledge breaks or crowd-funding campaigns, we’d rather have subscribers. If just 100 people commit to just $5 monthly, we can keep going at this level indefinitely. If we raise more, we will pay our authors more.

Please don’t make me escalate to posting pictures of sad kittens and puppies…  


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Made in DNA said...

Day 6, still rolling hard with decaf.

GuyStewart said...

SO happy you're in therapy! It's made a world of difference since those times when we first met!

Karin Terebessy said...

Great characterization and voice. This character is both complex and natural - the most endearing werewolf I've ever "met." Scared of fireworks...