ames checked his watch again. 4:39. Two minutes since he'd last looked at it. He looked back up, staring at himself in the mirror of the dressing room, breathing a loud sigh. He scrubbed his muzzle with his paws, trying to get rid of the surrealness of the situation. Less than 24 hours to go, that was all he could think of now. Things are really going to change.
A voice from behind startled him from his isolation. "Mr. Porter, are you ready to go?"
James looked behind him. There stood the floor manager, in his standard flannel and jeans wardrobe. "We only have the studio for one more hour, and we haven't even done any sound checks yet."
"Uh... yeah," James replied. "I think I'm all set."
"OK." The floor manager brought his headset to his mouth. "He'll be out in a minute."
James got up from his chair and exited the dressing room.
The studio set wasn't very elaborate: just an armchair and some potted plants in front of a blue curtain. They brought in a desk, but he decided at the last moment not to use it; that might convey a more imposing image than he wanted. Tomorrow, millions of werewolves across the country was going to reveal themselves to the public, and the last thing he wanted to do was look like a dictator about to ask for a ransom or anything.
He sat down on the chair, and the floor manager handed him a microphone.
"Clip this on your tie, Mr. Porter."
"All righty," said James. He put on the lavalier, trailing the wire under his shirt and attaching the receiver to his belt. The director entered the studio soon after, holding a clipboard. "What do we have, Carl?"
"We put your script on the teleprompter, James. Only thing is, we had to change around a few of the words. You might want to run through them a couple times before we roll tape. We're gonna need audio checks, too."
"You changed the script?"
"Just a few words, yeah. We need this thing to run under two and a half minutes, so I reworded it in a couple places."
"I wish you'd have told me something before you did that," sighed James. "I was up all night last night try to make thing as soft as I could."
"I know, I know. James, you've got to stop being so paranoid about this. By the time this thing hits the air, everyone's already going to have made up their minds about us. Using a different word to say something isn't going to make that much of a difference."
"I hope you're right, Carl. I just don't want to incite a riot."
"Well, take a look at it on the prompter. See if you like it."
James looked forward at the camera, the text of his speech scrolling up in front og the lens. "Let's see. 'Ladies and gentlemen, good evening.' I sound like I'm introducing a circus."
"We can flip that if you want. Keep going."
"OK." James continued skimming the new speech, nodding every few seconds, lip-synching to the words that blurred across the glass plate in front of the lens. "Jesus, Carl, you butchered the whole thing. Just about the only thing left out of what I wrote is 'good night'."
"We timed your script, James. It was four minutes. If you don't want the audience to get bored, it shouldn't be any longer than two and a half."
"Bored?" James asked. "These people will have just watched millions of werewolves reveal their lycanthropy to the public for the first time in centuries, and here's a guy who's going to explain it all to them. 'Bored' is not a word I'd use to describe the situation. 'Scared out of their mind' is more like it."
"If you're that worried about it, we can do two takes."
"No, no, it's OK." James sighed again. "I just wish I had a chance to look this thing over more carefully."
"I'd give you more time, but we have to strike the set in half an hour."
"Let's get going, then."
"OK. Good luck, James." Carl turned around and made his way to the exit. "OK, Tony, we got the tape in already, right?"
James grabbed the water glass beside his chair and took a drink. He watched the crew shuffle along, each doing their pre-assigned duties. They were all werewolves, from the cameramen, to the floormanager, to the stagehands. He had hand-picked this crew with the help of the director. After all, tomorrow was going to be the day that the secret would be uncovered; no sense in jumping the gun.
"Quiet on the set!" the floor manager commanded. All the bustling amongst the crew stopped.
"We're ready to roll tape."
James could see the inside of the control room from his chair. There sat Carl, accompanied on either side by his assitants, eyes fixated on two television monitors that were black for the time being.
"We're rolling," the floor manager announced.
Soon after, the studio monitor was emblazeoned with color bars, and the oscillator tone permeated from the audio room. The bars and tone continued for half a minute, then were replaced by a computer-generated slate.
"20 seconds, people."
James took a few deep breaths, settling the moth that was flapping its wings in his stomach. It was time to send a message to the rest of the world.
"Ten. Nine. Eight. Seven. Six." The remaining numbers in the countdown were silent, the floor manager with his finger in the air. James' lupine image appeared on the studio monitor, and the floor manager pointed at him. Showtime.
"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. My name is James Porter. I am the head of an organization known as the ALR, or the Association for Lycanthropes' Rights. Today, across the country, people have seen an event unfold that will forever change our view of America and the world. All the myths have fallen by the wayside, to be replaced with the truth. And that truth is, the existence of lycanthropes. Or, to apply the term most commonly used by the public, the existence of werewolves.
"I, as you no doubt can tell, am one of the six million lycanthropes that call America home. We have been planning this day - the day that all werewolves across the world come out of hiding - for quite some time now. Many of you are probably confused. Some of you may be scared. None of you, though, should be alarmed. We lycanthropes mean you no harm in any way. We have existed amongst you since the beginning of civilization, and have never been a threat to normal humans.
"Why did we decide to do this? There are several reasons. For one thing, we long to return to a time where humans and werewolves could exist side by side without fear of persecution. It has only been since the 14th century that we have had to isolate ourselves from humans. Before then, we coexisted peacefully with them, and we hope to do so again. Also, many of us have grown tired of being unable to participate fully in many things that normal humans take for granted. Working late shifts, for instance, or serving our country in the military.
"The main reason we have revealed ourselves, however, is that we have so many questions about our existence. How did lycanthropy come into being? What makes the moon influence our transformations the way it does? Is there any way to reverse this condition? These are questions we have asked for a long time, and we cannot answer them by ourselves. We need the resources of the government and the private sector to research these issues, and we had to go public to make them aware of out presence.
"Again, I reiterate: I, along with all the other lycanthropes across the country and the world, are not the bloodthirsty monsters we have been portrayed as in movies and on television. We are regular, law-abiding citizens like yourselves, and we hope that you learn to accept us as who we are. We understand that you may not be comfortable with us now, but we hope that changes over time. I thank you for listening, and wish you a good night."
A few seconds of silences hovered over the studio.
"We're out," the floor manager shouted. "That was great."
"Not too long?" James asked.
"No, it ran 2:26. That's perfect. And on the first try, too."
"Great. So we're done?"
James got up out of the chair and walked off the set. Carl walked back into the studio.
"You nailed it, James!" he said in a jubilant tone. "That was fantastic. Gary could take a few notes on your performance there."
"Thanks. Oh! That reminds me, I was supposed to call him when I got done. Do you mind if I step outside for a minute?"
"Sure. I'll let you see the tape when you're done. OK, guys, let's take down the set."
James took a deep breath, throwing the mental switch that allowed him to regain his human form. He walked outside of the studio building, and dialed a number on his cell phone.
It rang twice, then was picked up on the other end. "Hello?"
"Hey Gary," James greeted.
"Oh, hi James! How're you doing?"
"I'm fine. I just got done with the tape."
"Great. How'd you do?"
"I think you better keep a close eye on your job, I might just come in and steal it out from under you."
Gary laughed. "I'm not that bad, am I?" The laughter settled down. "So, you all ready for tomorrow?"
"Yeah, I guess so. I think I'm going to stay at home and watch the carnage. You'll be able to speak to the media, right?"
"I should be. Which form do you want me in when I do interviews, anyway?"
"Stay human. You said you were going to be a ten-percenter anyway, right?"
"Yeah, that's right. So, how do you think everyone's going to react?"
"Well, either we're going to be welcomed with open arms or we're going to see a lot of lynchmobs. I don't see any middle ground here. I'm hoping we get lucky, though."
"No turning back now," Gary thought aloud.
"I know. I only hope I haven't just led the werewolf population of the world to the guillotine."
"I doubt it. We live in a much different world since the last time we went into hiding. It's all about diversity now. We're probably going to see some flare-ups, but nothing disastrous." Gary sighed. "Well, good luck with this."
"You too. I'll call you tomorrow."
James turned off his cell phone. He walked back into the studio, where the whole crew watched the tape from master control. James came in just in time to see the ending. "We understand that you may not be comfortable with us now, but we hope that changes over time. I thank you for listening, and wish you a good night." From there, the screen faded to black. The crew applauded lightly.
"Are we all set to go, then?" James asked.
"Yeah," Carl replied. "I'll go make a few copies of this tape in the editing room. We'll deliver them to all the news stations tomorrow."
"Good. Before everyone leaves, I just want to say something."
Everyone in the room turned to face James.
"I want to thank everyone here for helping me out. I have a feeling that this tape is going to help a lot of people accept us. Remember, 12 noon is the witching hour. Try to shift at that time exactly, if you're not in a crowd. Otherwise, go in a restroom or someplace where you can be alone before you do it. If anyone asks you any questions, answer them to the best of your knowledge. Don't play around. No howling or shouting 'Boo!' or anything stupid like that. This is the world's first real chance to see us up close and personal, so let's not screw it up. Any questions?"
Nobody made an effort to ask one.
"All right. Let's hope things work out for the best."
James and the studio workers all filed out of the control room and exited the studio. He looked at his watch again. 5:21. Waiting was going to be the hardest part, he was sure of it.