Mr. Feinstein herded his high school students through a set of crooked gates rising from overgrown weeds. He’d hoped the park opening during the day, just for this occasion, would excite his students. But the lack of cell phone signal this far away from town was an agonizing ordeal for them. Only four of his fifteen students were remotely eager to participate in the field trip.
Paranormal Science Theory wasn’t a popular elective. However, it earned science credits. And Riley had failed chemistry and physics. Her best friend Calvin convinced her that paranormal science was her last hope if she wanted to graduate on time. Calvin was one of said students enthusiastic about their field trip.
A stout man came out from behind the ticket booth. He wore a khaki uniform more fitting for a safari. “Welcome to Paranormal Park!”
“Thank you for making an exception for our class. I’m Mr. Feinstein.” The teacher towered over their greeter.
“My name is Stanley Stubnick.” He lifted his wide-brimmed hat to swipe a red bandana along his thinning hairline. “Let’s get right into it.” He gestured for the group to follow his waddling steps into the park. “I understand you’re from the high school in Somerset?”
“Yes,” answered Mr. Feinstein. “I teach a class on paranormal science theory.” He tugged his brown suit jacket as he squared his shoulders.
“Theory?” Stanley looked over his shoulder. “The paranormal is a valid field of science.”
The high schoolers laughed. Mr. Feinstein frowned.
Stanley wagged a finger at the group. “Skeptics call paranormal studies a pseudoscience. But everything about Paranormal Park is a part of nature, just beyond the acceptable realm of scientific understanding. We have poltergeists, vampires—”
“What’s scientific about vampires sucking down somebody else’s blood?” interrupted a student.
Calvin brandished a well-worn park pamphlet. “You have a real vampire here? In the brochure—”
“Of course.” Stanley grinned, creating a third chin.
Riley sighed loudly and rolled her eyes.
“We have a werewolf, too, young lady,” Stanley addressed her.
Riley looked left and right. “And why would I care?”
“Aren’t teenage girls doing some Team Jacob hashtag?” He divided his gaze between Riley and the other girls.
“Oh, my God, that is so old,” a girl behind Riley sneered.
Stanley cleared his throat, his cheeks pink. “Well, Werewolf Benny is first on the tour either way!” He threw an arm into the air and picked up his pace.
“Werewolf Benny?” Riley angled her head at Calvin.
“Vampire Ted is probably next.” He tapped his brochure.
Riley ran her hands down her face.
Stanley led the group to a slanted shack with a large glass viewing window. He gestured for the teenagers to look inside and began explaining werewolf lore.
“It’s just a dude,” Riley whispered to Calvin.
“It says here, Benny has been a part of the exhibit for five years.” Calvin studied his pamphlet. “He was the caretaker of the previous werewolf and accidentally got bitten.”
“For Christ’s sake,” Riley groaned. “He’s just a guy with poor hygiene.”
Benny sat in a recliner in front of an outdated tube television. A small table beside him was covered in food wrappers and crumbs. He wore blue drawstring pajama pants. No shirt. He was thin, his chest thick with hair, and his jawline scruffy. The dark hair on top of his head jutted out in several directions, unkempt. As the students looked in on him, he turned from his television to wave at them.
“That’s a good sport, Benny,” Stanley said.
Benny belched and returned his gaze to the television.
“This isn’t a paranormal park. It’s a trailer park,” said Riley.
“You’ll have to excuse Werewolf Benny, my dear.” Stanley wiggled through the students and stuck his round belly out at her. “He won’t look the part until tonight.” He turned to Mr. Feinstein. “I understand you weren’t permitted to have an evening field trip. That’s the usual time to visit the park.”
“School regulations.” He shrugged.
“Well,” Stanley addressed the group of high schoolers, “you’re more than welcome to come back with your parents another time. We’re open late, past midnight!”
Stanley led the group onward, but Riley lingered at the werewolf exhibit. Calvin circled back to her just as she was knocking on the glass. “Hey, Werewolf Benny!” She knocked again.
Benny stood up, stretched, and scratched under his chin.
“What are you doing?” Calvin hissed.
“I have a question for him.”
Benny passed by the glass and dug out the seam of his pants from his crotch. He continued to a curtain camouflaging a door. The latch made a loud clunk, and Benny appeared from the side of the small structure.
“Hey, pretty little thing.” Benny grinned with exceptionally white teeth. “What can I do for ya?” He sucked on his teeth and leaned a shoulder against the glass window. His hands went into his pockets.
“Are you an actual werewolf? This is all bullshit, right?” Riley put a hand on her hip.
Benny looked her up and down and wet his cracked lips. “If you really want to find out, come back tonight.”
“We’re on a field trip. We—”
“Here.” Benny reached into his pajama pants and tossed a set of keys at Riley. “Big brass key is for the side gate.” He pointed at an iron fence. “Skip the ticket booth.”
Riley stared at the keys in her hands.
“You’re not seriously…” Calvin shook his head at her.
When she looked up, Benny was back in front of his television, laughing at the screen.
# # #
The crickets were singing, and the full moon painted everything with a silver glow when Riley and Calvin returned. She rushed to Benny’s exhibit and banged on the glass. The room was dark. The park looked deserted.
“I knew it was bullshit!” Riley crossed her arms.
“We could leave his keys—”
Riley was at the little shack’s door before Calvin finished. The latch clunked, and the hinges whined.
“We shouldn’t.” Calvin gripped Riley’s shoulders.
“You both came?”
Startled by the voice behind them, Riley and Calvin spun around with a gasp. Their mouths remained open as they stared at Benny’s freshly washed, confused face.
Werewolf Benny stood half-dressed in a wolf costume. He had a scraggly tail pinned to the back of his pajama pants. A set of fuzzy ears were crooked on his head. He wore a pair of hairy gloves with rubber claws on the fingertips. In one hand was a leash. The other was holding a large bottle of lube.
“I mean, yeah, I can dig it, I guess. Come on in,” Benny continued.
“Oh, God. NO.” Riley dropped Benny’s keys in the dry grass, covered her mouth, and ran for the gate.
Calvin followed behind. “Eww! No. No. No.”