Talulla Rising Page 62


Walker slept. Eventually, at a quarter after seven (sunrise in the world outside, presumably), so did Caleb. Then it was just me and the clock and the hunger – and the two new questions.

The first new question was: what would Konstantinov do if he really had escaped? It was thrilling to imagine him gathering a team to come and get us – thrilling and unrealistic. He didn’t owe Walker. Walker owed him. All Konstantinov cared about was getting his wife back. Besides, there was no team to gather. Walker had already tried that for the Italian trip: only three takers – and they were all dead now. Any way I looked at it Konstantinov free was no more use to us than Konstantinov locked up. Which didn’t stop me looking at it all the ways, repeatedly.

The second new question was: what would happen to Walker if my plan didn’t work, if the theory it was based on turned out to be wrong, if I lost the big bet?

The answer was: I’d kill him and eat him. If not this month then next. If Murdoch was bent on Walker’s death-by-werewolf then sooner or later the hunger would give it to him.

There was of course a drastic way out for Walker, if my theory was right. But if my theory was right The Plan would work. And if The Plan worked he wouldn’t need the drastic way out. If I offered him the drastic way out now and he took it (which he would, the state he was in) and The Plan worked, the drastic way out wouldn’t seem like a way out at all...

Meanwhile the hunger went comprehensively about its business. Wulf paced its human cage, sometimes flung itself at the bars. The bars got the bruises. My blood packed. As always there was nothing to throw up. As always the dumb guts kept trying. As when I was in labour, no position was any good. The minute any part of my body realised I was lying on it it started to protest. I wanted a warm bath, painkillers, booze. Cloquet would have his hands full with Zoë. Assuming he hadn’t dumped her somewhere. I pictured a garbage heap with her bare leg sticking out, flies swarming around her foot.


I let myself examine the thought of both my children being dead. Wulf didn’t like it, slashed me from the inside. The monster bitch wasn’t ready to admit maternal defeat even if the human bitch was.


I saw myself with my fangs in Walker’s shoulder and my fingers palm-deep in his thigh. Wulf pointed out the obvious: You’d be doing him a favour. What time is it?

Ten to three in the afternoon. The hungrier I got the slower the clock hands moved and the faster the monster paced her cage. Soon the nausea would pass and I’d be in the full-of-beans stage. Then I’d be on my feet, pacing with her. A cage with an animal in it that was a cage with an animal in it. An unsavoury version of a babushka doll.


Walker woke up for a while and didn’t move anything except his eyelids. He stayed curled up on his side, watching me.

‘Are your ribs broken?’ I asked him.

He blinked, slowly. He wanted out. Of existence. Every waking-up now was a waking-up to disappointment that the dream he’d been having was just that, a dream.

‘Listen to me,’ I said. ‘When the time comes, I won’t be able to speak. You know that, right? You won’t believe it’s still me inside. You’ll think I don’t recognise you. But I will. When I change you have to remember I’ll know it’s you and I won’t hurt you.’

When he spoke his throat was so dry nothing came out. I got up and gave him some water. Kindness was cruelty to someone who wanted to go out as much as he did. Quite go out, go out, go out beyond all doubt.

‘You’ll do what you do,’ he said, quietly. The dirty brown and gold beard made him look like John the Baptist.

‘Yes,’ I said. ‘I will, eventually. I’ll be able to hold out for a few hours, but sooner or later, if nothing happens, I’ll kill you.’ I leaned close and whispered in his stinking ear. ‘But something is going to happen. Trust me.’


He opened his mouth but I put my fingers on his split lips. ‘Shshsh,’ I said. ‘Don’t talk. Just rest.’

Which was all well and good, but the smell of his flesh and the heat of his blood wasn’t doing wulf any favours. ‘Just rest,’ I repeated. ‘It won’t be long now.’

I got to my feet, arms wrapped around myself, and looked down at the clock.

Two hours and forty-five minutes to go.


In the fuzzed and jiggling seconds before transformation Caleb woke, much worse. His skin was almost transparent. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see the twitch or shiver of an internal organ. The circulatory system was black and throbbing, a look of non-negotiable outrage.

‘You forgot to feed him, Mr Tunner,’ Murdoch said. ‘When we came in earlier and I got my verbal slap.’

I was on my hands and knees at the back of the cell. I’d thought there would be more spectators, but it was just these two, both in black combat pants and t-shirts, both with side-arms, Tunner with a nightstick.

‘It drove it clean out of my head, sir,’ Tunner said. ‘Such was the shock of it.’

My fault, in other words. Without the inner chaos I might have cared. As it was even my strategist’s flailing reminder that we needed Caleb alive was lost in the self-wrestling blood. Obscure instinct (to meet death standing?) had forced Walker to struggle to his feet against the bars. He couldn’t straighten up properly. The ribs. ‘Don’t forget what I told you,’ I said to him. ‘Look at me. Don’t forget. Trust me.’

He smiled, faintly, out of his wrecked face.

‘Trust me,’ I said again – then froze.

The alarm clock went off.



The moon had found me, laid its ownership in the roof of my mouth and down the length of my spine and like a firm and expert hand between my legs. There was a little laughing admonishment in its touch, that I’d allowed myself to go down into the earth; a little mockery of the earth, too, that must know no matter how deep it swallowed me it would never break my lunar lover’s hold. Wulf breathed deep, crushed my lungs. Eventually, if nothing happens, I’ll kill you. Yes, the bitch reminded me, I will. She was the volatile adult, I was the child with the game it was mildly amusing to play along with for a while – until suddenly it wasn’t. I’ll be able to hold out for a few hours. That, she pointed out, was a foolish claim. She’d missed – had I forgotten? – her meal last month. She was already overdue. She was already owed double.

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