Talulla Rising Page 61

The uselessness of saying anything was with us in the cell like a grinning genie. Walker ran his tongue over his cracked lips. His aura was meagre and wrongly concentrated, an effect like the bad breath of very ill person. All the charm and the glimmering history of the women who’d desired him was gone. It was as if someone had found the last hidden gold of his boyhood and ripped it out of him. I thought of him saying my name that night in the dark, unguardedly – Talulla? – the tenderness and delight that had ambushed me. I wanted to put my arms around him and I knew it was the last thing he wanted me to do. He didn’t want to be touched by anyone ever again, except perhaps brutally, to honour the vicious god who had visited him.

‘You’re going to kill me,’ he said, still not looking at me. ‘Tomorrow. That’s why I’m here.’

I didn’t bother saying, What do you mean? I knew what he meant. I’d known while he was still saying it. Live victim. Premium entertainment. Maximally sweet for Murdoch, who’d watch, maybe bring his wife in and make her watch. Here’s your lover. Take a good look. Science would wait till I was back in my human shape then roll me in for another session. So far they’d had the chance to study the empty-bellied werewolf. Now they could learn all about her when she was full. They’d electrode me up to see what was going on in my brain while I watched the footage of myself killing Walker.

‘No,’ I said. ‘I’m not.’

‘You won’t have a choice. And anyway I—’

‘It’s not going to happen. You’re not going to give them the satisfaction.’

Satisfaction. Bad word-choice. So many words now would lead him straight back to what had been done to him. He closed his eyes and drew his knees in to his chest. ‘You won’t have a choice,’ he repeated.

‘There’s always a choice,’ I said, quietly, gently. (Yes, there was. But it was always the werewolf who got to make it. Ask the victims. Ask Delilah Snow.) I wanted to wrap him in quietness and gentleness, let him sleep for a long dark season next to me. Except of course tenderness was cruelty to him now, anything that reminded him of the personhood that had been broken and defiled. He didn’t want to be invited back into caring whether he lived or died. If you care, then what they do to you – what they’ve done to you – counts double. I got an image of Murdoch’s face, a look of rage so resigned and extreme it appeared as mild boredom. Because destroying a person wasn’t enough. No matter what you did it wasn’t enough. You were still there after the last of the person’s dignity was gone. You were still there, unsatisfied, like God.

Caleb retched, shuddered, jammed his jaws together, subsided. ‘Kill me while... you’re... at it,’ he said. ‘I can’t... stand this... any more.’

‘I’m not killing either of you.’

‘Oh, yeah,’ Caleb gasped, ‘I forgot. You’re getting us... out.’

Walker’s eyes opened, but only to stare at the floor.

‘She can’t tell you how,’ Caleb said. ‘Because they’re... listening.’

I’d had to assume they were listening. It was why I hadn’t risked telling Caleb what I had in mind before Science carted me off. There was no point saying anything now. If my plan worked they’d find out soon enough. If it didn’t then I’d spared them having their hopes butchered.

‘Mike got out,’ Walker said, still staring at the floor.

‘He did? How do you know?’

‘Overheard them...’ He paused, seemed to drift off. The word ‘them’. Certain pronouns had been reinvented. ‘They’, ‘them’, ‘he’, ‘him’. They stalled him, these words, reminded him he wasn’t himself any more. ‘Overheard,’ he said. ‘“The Russian got out.”’

I pictured Konstantinov drinking from a forest stream like an animal, his flesh white in the green gloom.

‘When?’ I asked.

Walker’s eyes closed again. It was an incalculable weight for him to lift, this talking as if nothing had changed.


‘A week, maybe more.’

‘What about the others?’


The vault door opened. Murdoch and Tunner entered, bow-legged Tunner with his trademark ape-grin and delighted muscles, Murdoch placidly winding up an alarm clock with his large headmasterly hands. The clock was the old-fashioned kind, with twin half-bells on top. I used to have one just like it in my bedroom when I was a kid. Walker, haemorrhaging adrenaline, curled tighter in the restraints, face shut, trying to find a place to hide deep within himself. I pictured him naked, cuffed hands to feet, held by two Hunters in black while Tunner jammed a bloody nightstick in and out of his ass and Murdoch took a cellphone call and continued observing.

‘It’s nine minutes past three in the morning,’ Murdoch said, quietly. ‘Full moonrise will be in fourteen hours and two minutes.’ He put the clock on the floor, facing us, then stood over it, hands in his pockets. ‘At that time, of course, Ms Demetriou will change into a monster.’

‘A ravenous monster, Nuncle,’ Tunner said.

‘Ravenous, as you say, Mr Tunner.’

‘Bereft of morality.’

‘Bereft of—’

‘Here’s a thought,’ I said. ‘Why don’t you skip the vaudeville and fuck off?’

Caleb laughed, wheezily. It was the first time I’d heard him laugh. I got a small detonation of pleasure from it, and from the effect of the interruption on Murdoch, whose mouth stalled for a sweet second or two. Then he said: ‘That was very well done. Like getting a slap. I’m slightly embarrassed.’

For a few not-so-sweet moments no one spoke. Murdoch had a power over silence, like mine over the wolves. He could summon it and make it an extension of himself. In it we saw the smallness of the point I’d scored against the size of what was coming to us.

‘Anyway,’ he said, when he knew long enough had passed, ‘I’ll be back in time to see everything. So until then I’ll say cheerio. Mr Tunner?’

When they’d gone, Caleb said: ‘Can you reach the clock?’

‘No,’ I said. ‘Why?’

He swallowed. Another throatful of crushed glass. ‘That ticking... ’ he said. ‘Going to drive me... fucking mad.’

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