Talulla Rising Page 7

Heart of Darkness.



Conrad, not Chandler. Literary snob to the end. I sneaked back into Manhattan in a blonde wig and red-framed sunglasses. Stevie was a pudgy young guy with bleached hair and rosacea and a stare that said whatever your particular brand of assholery he’d seen it a thousand times before. He wore a Pearl Jam t-shirt and a white nose-stud I mistook at first for an enormous zit. Customer paid for this five months back and told us to call you on the specified date. As in yesterday. Didn’t leave a name but said you’d know.

Pages three, eight, fourteen and seventy with corners turned down and digits circled. 3,8,1,4,7,0.

A big risk, but I took it.

Alone in one of the bank’s secure rooms I opened the metal case. Fifty-three journals, crammed with Jake’s tiny italic handwriting. Little black Moleskines in the recent years, further back calfskin or cloth bindings, half a dozen with broken jackets bound together with elastic or string, two or three water-buckled and freckled with mould. Some entries dated, others not. Long periods – decades, sometimes – when he gave up writing altogether.

There was a sealed envelope placed to be the first thing I’d see on opening the box. On the envelope it said:

In case we didn’t have enough time.

Love you.


Inside were instructions on how to access six Security Code Only bank accounts in Switzerland, plus a list of half a dozen names, phone numbers and services, headed: People You Can Trust. I didn’t recognise any of them.

In case we didn’t have enough time.

Love you.


Until that moment I’d been in bereavement’s phase of smiling idiocy: I’d see him again and we could laugh about all this together. Now, suddenly, it was over. I sat down on the floor of the booth with a feeling of fracture in my chest. Life tolerated weeks, months, years of your denial – then snapped out of it and turned on you with contempt: You dumb shit. He’s gone. You’re never going to see him again. You think there’s a reward for not crying? You think if you hold grief in long enough death’ll be moved to let him back in to life? Wake up, sister. Last werewolf or not he was one more scrap of paper on its way to the furnace – and so are you. So shed the tears and get up and stop kidding yourself that death – or life, for that matter – gives a fuck.

It was a bleak, detailed time in there under the fluorescents, inhaling the chemical smell of the carpet and the sad old odour of the books. Jake had made life bearable. Jake was gone. Draw the obvious conclusion.

Every time I thought, Right, get up, stupid, I found I couldn’t, but instead closed my eyes and wrapped my arms around myself again.

Eventually, I did get up. I had to, or wet myself where I sat. Biology’s indifferent to your big moments. Knocked-up biology doubly so. I had nothing to carry the journals in. Had to put them back and return with a wheelie case to collect them. (Silver-suited Miles Porter reacted to all these manoeuvres with barely restrained delight at their sanity.) You’d think I would have locked myself away and read the lot chronologically, but somehow I couldn’t. Going from start to finish would confirm that I’d had all of him there was to have. Instead, over the months, I’d dipped in at random. More like having a conversation. More like having him there with me.

I keep thinking I should give Harley sex before I go, I read.

I have, after all, had sex with men. Two hundred years, you get around to it, along with everything else you get around to. By the end of the 1800s I’d done what I could to render myself completely AC/DC (Oscar Wilde was in the dock, so my buggery acquired political credentials) and I pride myself as few men can on having given it the old college try. But by the dawn of the twentieth century I was forced to concede, nobly elastic of anus though I was, that I had an abiding soft spot, which is to say hard spot, for the girls...

Until the second trimester turned my body into a war zone it had been sexual business as usual. A dirty business of diminishing returns. There was no arguing with Curse libido (really, no arguing with it) but most of the time it was like drinking when you couldn’t get any more drunk. I got sick of come-stains and the loveless smell of condoms and curtains drawn in the afternoon and guys who either didn’t know what to say or couldn’t shut up. Aunt Theresa’s pronouncement nudged me like a dog who didn’t understand I wasn’t its owner any more. Even as a child of the post-moral age I felt slutty and miserable a lot of the time, visited at moments – face twisted on the pillow, ass in the air, mouth slurring fuck me... fuck me... fuck me – by a vision of my doe-eyed dad (never my mom) standing in the corner shaking his head in sad disbelief. As a substitute, presumably, for him standing there shaking his head in sad disbelief when I yanked someone’s kidneys out and swallowed them like vol-au-vents. It didn’t take long for me to start relying on escorts, who at least didn’t expect smalltalk and left when they were told; but even that wasn’t straightforward. For one thing I didn’t have Jake’s knack of getting turned on by someone I thought was a moron. For another, the male nastiness that used to get me guiltily wet lost its erotic clout when I pictured these men meeting me in my other form. It was tough to take a guy’s cock-swagger seriously when you knew just the whimpering baby you could reduce him to come next full moon. Along with fear of what excessive screwing might do to my baby all this meant I ended up masturbating. A lot. Enough for a black comedy, if it hadn’t made me so lonely and miserable. At least, I told myself, when I could dredge up wryness, I wasn’t in any danger of falling in love.

Jake never slept with Harley, as I knew now I wouldn’t with Cloquet. I’d found out the hard way, caught by Curse lust one evening only a couple of weeks after Jake’s death. Cloquet was taking a shower and the bathroom door was ajar. I was passing. I stopped. I looked. He stood in profile with his palms against the cubicle wall, head bowed, eyes closed, water pounding his back. Tall, pale, thinly muscled body, a tattoo I couldn’t decipher on his left hip. His cock (circumcised) wasn’t erect, but it wasn’t fully flaccid either. Wulf grinned and licked her lips. I pictured myself walking in, opening the cubicle door, his face, surprised, the moment of mutual visibility, my hand reaching through the steam and him rising, rising for me—



I knew it intuitively, and, since these were the days before Delilah Snow, I took it as evidence of a werewolf scheme of things, an unspoken catechism. A werewolf shall not enjoy carnal relations with her familiar. The bond had to be unequal, maybe specifically required unrequited—

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