Talulla Rising Page 65

Caleb’s knees buckled and he fell. Wilson turned, saw us. He was going to spring. I felt it coiling in his legs and haunches.


He knew me: I was the woman who’d fucked him and given him the mother of all lovebites; I was the werewolf voice in his head, the werewolf will in his limbs. The blood-glut weighed down the resentment he might have felt on an emptier stomach. Wulf had him, completely, from ears to claws. He stood upright and his cock arched up with him.


Caleb had found potable blood and was sucking it up from the floor. I couldn’t afford to let him take too much. Not just because we didn’t have time. I reached down and grabbed his arm. He flailed at me. I hoisted him and slung him over my shoulder. Quicker this way, at least until we ran into trouble. Walker was on his knees over one of the dead Hunters. His hands were by his sides, his body completely relaxed. He might have been about to commence a meditation. There was a machine gun (Sobel’s, throat bitten out, left arm off) within reach of my foot, so I kicked it across the floor to Walker. It struck the side of his leg.

Yes, pick it up. It didn’t need telepathy. (The commands to Devaz and Wilson were in a medium that wasn’t quite language nor quite pictures, available only in imperative chunks that had the feel, to those receiving them, of imposed instincts, forces that caught and moved them like an undertow.) Walker picked up the weapon, but made no move to get to his feet. In spite of everything else going on some part of me was considering the question of whether he was less of a man to me now. Yes, he was – too much of my human idea of masculinity was to do with power for it to be otherwise – but he was no less sexually interesting for it. This is how it goes, I realised. Once your own fundamentals start to morph and dissolve all the others matter less and less. Everyone should have a year as a werewolf. Like national service. Teach them not to be so hung-up on categories.

I have lost, I thought, mental appropriateness.

Wilson was already in the brightly-lit corridor accessed from the door across the hall, Devaz not far behind. A single leap took me with a feeling of deep joy clean over the cage (I remembered my dad lifting me up above his head when I was a kid, the ceiling’s remote landscape suddenly shockingly close-up). There were three more Hunters with missing throats, blood spattered Pollock-style on the gleaming walls. We ran to the end and, following Wilson, turned right into another, broader corridor that led to a metal staircase. A section of fractured floor-to-ceiling glass on our left showed a room with a bank of TV monitors and three or four desks with laptops. An agent, gashed from navel to throat, lay shivering in a thickening puddle of his own blood. His visible guts looked like a curled-up alien creature in quivering sleep. His eyes were open and full of incredulous life. We ignored him and ran to the staircase. Five steps up I nearly fell, turning an ankle on a human head, the body of which remained on the first landing. Devaz stopped again, bent, bit a chunk from the midriff and all but swallowed it whole.


Wilson was two flights ahead, but slowing. The meat-glut was catching up with him, an effect like over-oxygenated blood: you went fat in the vessels and veins, hands and feet full to bursting. I joined him where the stairs ended – another corridor, with a reflective vinyl floor that smelled of disinfectant – just in time to see two WOCOP agents disappearing up a second stairway twenty yards away. I looked back past Devaz. Walker was struggling up the steps. He looked as if any minute he might stop, sit down, close his eyes. I couldn’t wait for him.

A bullet hit me in the shoulder. Another struck Caleb in the thigh. A neatly muscled agent who looked about twenty, dressed only in red running shorts and blinding white sneakers and armed with a handgun, had sprung out of a door on our left, seen us and fired, though he would have known from basic training it was pointless without silver. Devaz caught him in three strides and spun him by his hair. The agent dropped to his knees, facing me. He got another round off – hitting a wall – before Devaz kicked the pistol from his grip. The young abdominals were beautiful things. Devaz yanked on the hair to get the head back, then claw-swiped the tautened throat, which waited a moment before splitting and sending out a thin arc of blood. It was too much for me. I leaped forward, dropped Caleb, slashed my lethal fingernails across the supple midriff, then fell to my knees and sank my teeth in just below the ribs.

A never-off-duty analyst in an alcove of my brain said: You’ll have to watch it, there’s a preference emerging for healthy young men. You can’t afford to establish a type. Establish a type and you establish a pattern. Establish a pattern and you get caught... Oh, but it was good. It was good to feel his life thudding into me (it wasn’t all mine; Devaz scored random chunks, having slammed his fist through the sternum and torn out the heart); the double hunger forced by last month’s pass made each fragment bright: his fair-haired mother and a sun-smashed white yard with a red pedal car and the peachy diptych of a brunette’s ass he couldn’t believe had got straight into a sixty-nine with him that one time and the guy passed out in a pool of vomit at a White Stripes show and all the remote giant sensations of childhood like that time the clouds were racing and if you lay on your back in the street it looked like the buildings were falling and his dad carrying him upstairs when he was ill and suddenly through his fever he’d known in the warm strong arms the certainty of his father’s love but somehow it spun away or diluted and so much of his head now was full of junk and TV and porn and he didn’t even want to join these guys but Nog said he could get him in and it would be a laugh—

Stop. Stop.

But I didn’t, immediately. Feeding cons you out of seconds, minutes, hours. The life-haemorrhaging flesh stretches time. Like a black hole. Just a few more seconds. Just another bite.

The corridor was qualitatively different when I raised my snout, as if someone had opened a sluice and all the noise and urgency had drained away. The fire alarm had stopped, but the silence had more to it than that. I turned and saw Caleb on his hands and knees lapping up the before-death blood. He was still weak, but there was a new tension in his bent elbows, new promise in his wrists. I got to my feet and grabbed him. He wasn’t strong enough to offer anything but comedy resistance but I wondered what would happen to me if he bit me, which, when I slung him back over my shoulder, I felt sure he was going to do. He didn’t, however.

Walker was at the top of the stairs, face rich with what he’d just seen: me, the woman who’d been fucking him with increasing nuance and dangerous warmth, down on all-fours eating an eviscerated human being. He was thinking of the times our eyes had met with profound recognition. Yes, that was me. And this was me. The woman was me and the monster was me. He hadn’t grasped it before. He’d conceded it, intellectually, but he hadn’t believed. Now here it was. Nine feet tall wearing blood evening gloves and winking gobbets of meat. The shock of it was a brutal refreshment. A possible paradigm shift into the future, since there was no route back to his past.

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