Talulla Rising Page 63

‘I think, Sir... ’

‘Be quiet, please.’

The hospital smock was intolerable, suddenly (and in any case there was the thought like a sputtering torch that I’d need it if The Plan worked), so I pulled at the fastener and tore it off. Naked. Bizarrely, it felt empowering. Tunner’s Murdoch-imperatives jammed: should he make a joke? Laugh? Pretend it hadn’t happened? Gawp? As it was he remained still, mouth slightly open, odour gone zooish. Murdoch, on the other hand, absorbed the gesture with barely a twinge in his aura. Sex’s money was no good there.

Blood hurried, backed, stopped, raced, broke its own laws to find non-existent room for what was coming. The first shock jerked my backbone. A precipitate canine shot through my upper gum and punctured my bottom lip. Hair sprang with a crisp sigh from the skin on my back, thighs, arms. Bone did what the Curse told it to. Imagine all those Plastisine figures you made then casually pulled and twisted until they were something else; imagine each one had a nervous system. Snapshots between spasms: the French widower shaking his head violently no, no, no, as his mouth filled up with blood; my mother fastening the strap on a pair of high-heeled shoes and then raising one eyebrow at me as if satirising her own glamour – then pulling a cross-eyed retarded face that made me laugh but at the same time slightly terrified me because the beauty momentarily disappeared; Jake’s hand next to mine in Drew Hillyard’s torn-open chest while America’s Next Top Model sobbed and yammered on the blood-covered screen; Richard coming up the stairwell in our old apartment building the day I found out about his affair, the little nautilus whorl of his crown and me emptily knowing that whole part of my life was over; the Mexican pimp’s face struggling to contain the horror of what he was seeing...

My skull stretched – stopped – stretched, a sudden fluid distention, the squeaks and snaps of which were tiny firecrackers in my head. All the claws came simultaneously, a feeling like ten big boils bursting at once, the only unequivocally pleasurable part of the whole routine. Lengthening thigh bones pushed me upright. There was space, at last, for my lungs. The hairs on the tips of my ears touched the ceiling. The final fang came up with a ludicrously intimate wet crunch.

‘Jesus,’ Tunner said, in spite of himself.

Walker stood, bent, looking up at me from under his brows, beat against by my new heat.


Caleb was watching me with a look that said he’d never seen this trick before. Even in his state there was room for wonder. Don’t die, I sent him, though I knew he wouldn’t get it. Hard to focus under appetite’s total eclipse. Here, after all, were three human beings, warm and succulent and bursting with edible life, the nearest cuffed and bound and completely at the mercy I shouldn’t have promised. I took a step towards him. I could feel the first bite coming all the way up from my soles, a movement like a tennis player’s service action: the wind-up; the toss; the ball or my snout’s frozen zenith – then the descent and jaws striking like the racquet’s smash. Why had I thought I’d be able to hold back?

But wulf, it turned out, had her own divisions. My children were her children too – and she wanted them back.


Partly to discharge the piling-up energy and partly to hold the Hunters’ attention, I threw my head back, opened my throat and howled. Good for me (the last trapped human bubbles burst), not good for them: the small space contained the sound terribly, mauled the human animals, roughed them up. Tunner’s zoo-stink had changed again, some past-caring pheromone that said fear was flooding out. I leaped, snarling, at the bars. Tunner couldn’t stop himself jumping backwards, though the gaps between the uprights were too narrow for me to get more than a hand through. Murdoch didn’t flinch. I pictured myself on top of him, one hand pinning his throat, the other dangling his casually torn-off cock and balls just above his face. His flesh would hold all the flavours of his violence and the plaintive reek of his inverted life. Wulf wanted him, the furious energies crowding his blood, the occult childhood, the mysterious heart, lonely as the Devil’s. She wanted it the way I (and my mother before me) always wanted to look, whatever the horror, if looking was possible.

Meanwhile Murdoch stood suspended. He’d been expecting me, I supposed, to start in on Walker the instant transformation was complete. Now the glazed blue eyes admitted slight confusion. I made a great show of snarling and gnashing and flailing about for a few seconds – then stopped, abruptly. Went completely silent and still. Stared at Murdoch. Yes, I have this under control. No, I won’t be performing on cue.

He lifted his chin, slightly, a gesture to reinforce his position as overseer.

With pantomime exaggeration, I gave him the finger.

Caleb laughed, though it sounded as if the exertion might kill him. Tunner laughed – or started to, but was cut off by Murdoch whipping out a knife (it must have been behind the gun holster), springing forward and plunging it into Walker’s shoulder.

Even by my monster standards it was a fast move, one jab, in, then out. Murdoch didn’t say anything. He just stood with his hands on his hips and his hawk’s look of unhinged concentration, waiting to see the effect of his action.

And, oh dear, there was the effect, the smell of fresh blood that hooked my nose like a cartoon potion. My nostrils opened and in went the scent of the body’s precious red liqueur. Compelling detonations in the belly and the brain, a dirty loosening into animal joy. Everything reduced to one two-headed fact: I was starving, and I could eat. Walker had fallen to his knees again. Now, in geriatric increments, he lowered himself onto his side, laid his head on the floor and closed his eyes. Do it. I’m finished anyway.

I might have, too – if a very loud electronic alarm hadn’t gone off.

Tunner covered his sticking-out ears. The sound was almost unbearable to me, with my hearing.

‘Fire alarm, sir,’ Tunner shouted, grimacing.

Murdoch’s eyes closed for a moment in sublime irritation. He opened them, took a deep breath, then gestured with a nod for Tunner to go check it out.

Tunner swiped his card. The door chirruped, gasped, unlocked – then flew open to the sound of screaming and the festival smell of slaughter.


Time did what it does at these moments, expanded and slowed, created a space within which to observe the details – Tunner looking up, Murdoch turning and fumbling for his gun, Walker lifting his head as if from a nap he’d never intended to take, Devaz’s arm – hairy, massive, blood-dipped and reeking of his new raw werewolf material – reaching in and wrapping its fingers around Tunner’s throat –

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