Talulla Rising Page 43

We both fell silent – hit silence, actually, because what she’d just said had brought her kill from that first time – the teenage boy – into the room with us. We looked at each other – one moment of absolute transparency (yes, we knew what we’d done; yes, we really had done it) – then away, not embarrassed but shocked at the dirty thrill of mutual admission. I could imagine the first incestuous touch between siblings being like this. I also thought – had been thinking, practically from the first moment of recognising what she was: Should I let this be my first sex with a woman? What would fuckkilleat be like with her? Would she even want to?

‘Something’s wrong with you,’ Madeline said.


‘Something’s happened to you. What is it?’

Superficially I’d held back from telling her about the kidnapping to put wulf intuition to the test, to see if she’d pick it up. Not superficially because telling her would bring the totality of my failure back. Failure as a woman, as a mother, as a She. My own disgust had been bad enough. Now there’d be species disgust to contend with as well.

Heat swelled between us. The moment stretched. Our eyes kept meeting then looking away because neither of us was sure we were ready for the rough telepathy on offer. I was thinking of the Alaskan wolves, the way my will had gone into their shoulders and haunches and jaws and feet –

‘Stop it!’

She’d tensed in the chair. I thought the glass was going to break in her hand.

‘I’m sorry, I didn’t real—’ But there she was, in the back of my neck and forearms, a shocking counter-intrusion.

‘Wait,’ I said. ‘I’m sorry. I didn’t know that would happen. Take it easy.’

We stared at each other. The panic and revulsion was human. Meanwhile wulf eased into delight. We balanced like that for what seemed a long time. Then both of us – out of a mix of embarrassment and sudden reciprocal trust – laughed. We withdrew simultaneously, a sensation like the thin dissolving edge of a wave receding over the sand. Shshsh.

‘Is it like that with the others?’ I asked her.

‘Yeah, it is.’

‘It takes getting used to.’

‘Tell me about it.’

‘I want to meet them.’

‘What, now?’

‘Well... No, wait. We’ve got to think about this. We’ve got to be careful.’

‘How d’you mean?’

‘What you said before, about there being something wrong, about something having happened to me? You were right.’

‘What is it?’

Zoë made a little staccato noise in her sleep, kicked her legs a couple of times, went quiet again. It started raining. I hated the words. Each one was like a big live insect in my mouth.

‘My son’s been taken,’ I said, sitting down on the edge of the bed. ‘I’ve no idea where he is. They’re going to kill him.’


I told her everything and she told me everything. Dusk deepened. The room became a secret place, with our voices speaking quietly. Our kills burgeoned through our blushes in silence around us while we talked. I knew she’d made the shift, recognised guilt as pointless since here she still was, in spite of what she’d done, what she’d kept doing, what she knew she’d go on doing. Here she still was in good clothes and Dior Addict, with money in her purse and people in her life. You tore into terrified human flesh, saw the satiny heart and rubbery liver, all the body’s hidden things it turned out obeyed the laws of your violence. You broke the bones and guzzled the blood. You took a life and the theft went unpunished. God didn’t strike you down. The sky didn’t fall. The morning after, you turned on the faucet and water still came out. Ad jingles still stuck in your head. It was still good when you raised your arm for a cab and one came towards you out of the flow like magic. You did things that were supposed to end you and found they were only things that changed you. It was a disappointment and a revelation and a bereavement and a new thrilling nudity. It was the basic prosaic obscenity: you kept going.

Impossible to know if she’d ever been the one-dimensional dolly Jake had portrayed her as, but either way the Curse – to state the obvious – had altered her. According to Jake her entire personality had been driven by insecurity: the vanity, the materialism, the tabloid clichés, the celebrity fixations and cosmetics lore. The whole thing was a nebula that had to be kept swirling protectively around a core of fear. Not any more. The vanity was still there, as was the impoverished vocabulary and complete absence of reading. But wulf, if it didn’t make you mad, made you smarter. Whether you liked it or not every victim forced you to absorb a stranger’s life. Your vision broadened. Strange perspectives became available. New sympathies surprised you. You deepened. The victims were the reading. She had an appetite for it now, this expansion she never knew existed.

Lucy, ‘the accident’, was a thirty-eight-year-old recently divorced ophthalmologist at Moorfields Eye Hospital who’d come out of the settlement with, amongst other things, a detached cottage in Wiltshire, where she’d gone for a solitary weekend three months ago. Madeline, with nous enough not to kill on her own doorstep, had been in the area, had watched the house, had got in through an upstairs window. Then been interrupted. ‘I heard a car and people getting out right outside,’ she told me. ‘I panicked.’

And fled, leaving would-be victim Lucy with a nasty bite, a horror story and a brand new constitution. ‘That’s how I found out how it worked,’ Madeline said. ‘Lucy tracked me down six weeks later.’

Yes, assuming no virus, that was how it worked. You got bitten, you survived, you Turned. But here was Madeline, positive she hadn’t been bitten. How could that be?

Trish was a friend of hers since elementary school who’d ended-up in thrall to tosser Alistair. Alistair had a very simple system. He got teenage girls hooked on heroin then forced them into increasingly extreme porn to pay for it. He’d put Trish in hospital a dozen times, most recently with four broken ribs and a miscarriage. When Madeline went to see her, Trish asked Madeline to lend her the money to have Alistair killed. Madeline made a her an offer: She’d get someone to put an end to Alistair if Trish promised to get off the drug.

Arrangements weren’t difficult to make. Alistair had been trying to get into Madeline’s pants for years.

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