Talulla Rising Page 8

Just at that moment Cloquet looked up and saw me.

We didn’t speak. He didn’t turn or try to conceal himself, but I knew from his look – part sadness for what was dead in himself, part relief to be free of it – that werewolf Commandments or not, he wasn’t going to be my lover. Someone had killed or broken the sexual man in him, though not, I knew, the need to submit to something he believed bigger than himself. (I knew who ‘someone’ was, too: Jacqueline Delon, gamine billionaire occultist femme fatale who’d stopped at nothing to get what she wanted. What she wanted was immortality. The non-figurative kind. She wanted to live forever and never look a day older. To which end she snared (and bedded) Jake Marlowe with a view to turning him and his prized sunlight-resistant blood over to the vampires, in exchange for their brand of eternal life. Cloquet had been her unhinged lover. He knew if she got what she wanted he’d lose her. So he’d tried to kill Jake. Twice, with farcical results. He needn’t have bothered. Jacqueline’s deal with the vamps never went down. Mid-transaction at her Biarritz retreat, WOCOP, who’d been tracking proceedings, launched an assault. Madame’s corpse was last seen playing human shield to one of her Undead business partners. From then on Cloquet stopped trying to kill Jake and started trying to kill the man responsible for Jacqueline’s death, WOCOP werewolf hunter, Eric Grainer. Life’s generally artless, Jake wrote, but it does get these occasional hard-ons for plot. It connects things, nefariously, behind your back, and before you know it you’re in the final act of a lousy movie. A lousy horror movie, usually... Cloquet did kill Grainer – but not before Grainer killed Jake. On a night of full moon, five months ago, in a Welsh forest, where, when the carnage and death and vengeance and loss had done their thing to us, I offered him my hand . . .)

I turned from the bathroom doorway and walked away, embarrassed. Phoned an escort agency and selected a guy who received in-call clients and took a cab to his apartment (we were in San Francisco at the time) and had two hours of depressing muscularly efficient professional sex, sans conversation. The next morning I went to Cloquet’s room. He was up and dressed, standing by the window, apparently doing nothing, apparently waiting for me. I said: I’m sorry. He looked at the floor and said: I’m your friend. It’s a great thing in my life, to have a friend. Then he looked up at me and suddenly he seemed the saddest, gentlest man I’d ever seen. There was a suspended moment in which we both knew this was a chance to separate as well as a chance to continue, then the awkwardness dissolved between us and we knew we were past what had happened. I said: I’m glad we’re friends. I understand. Now let’s go have coffee.

After that I’d got organised, brought to libido the same management skills I’d applied to the restaurants and delis – until pregnancy and the Hunger started their war and my sex-drive died, albeit with the warning that it wouldn’t stay dead for ever.

Two hundred years, you get around to it... Would I? I’d never had sex with a woman, though it worked often enough as a fantasy. Women together in porn turned me on too, although in the desperate days jellyfish together would have turned me on. (I knew what was wrong with pornography. But the part of me that knew was weaker than the part of me that didn’t care as long as it worked. Of course it was depressing – and responsible for making the question every twenty-first century female was sooner or later faced with Will you put in your mouth something that’s just been in your ass? Back when I might have wanted the cheap thrill of a guy’s contempt or the dreary high of self-degradation, maybe; but since the Curse I found I wanted different things... But when you needed to get yourself off it was hard to take the long view. Harder still when the long view in question was four hundred years.) I might have slept with a woman already if ubiquitous male coercion hadn’t put me off. (Richard, my ex-husband, made a monotonous art of it, allegedly mitigated by what he thought of as glamorously brutal honesty: I don’t want you to want to do it, for God’s sake. I want you to go down on a woman in spite of not wanting to. Jesus, where’s the fun in it for me if you want to? I thought everyone knew that.) Jake would’ve added his share, if he’d lived. He was wulf, but sufficiently wer so that he’d soon enough have been angling for a two-girl-one-guy fuckkilleat if my being the only female lycanthrope on earth hadn’t made it impossible.


I don’t just like it, I’d confessed to Jake. I don’t just like it. I love it. (And his hand between my legs had rewarded me. We’d exchanged horrors like wedding vows. Love and a shared nature could make any ugliness beautiful. Which left what was left when your lover was dead.) That was the inconvenient truth: killing and eating a victim felt very (pause) very (pause) good. And killing and eating a victim with someone you loved? It was as the heroin addicts said of their drug: if God made anything better, He kept it for Himself. The memory of the kill with Jake at Big Sur bubbled stickily around everything else in my head, caramelizing my brain. It had been bliss. That was the word: bliss. You don’t forget bliss. Especially when you know you’ll never have it again. Even if I got my appetite back it wouldn’t be the same. The Curse insisted there was no solo route to heaven. You needed a partner in crime. Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. Really? It didn’t feel like it facing four centuries of never draining the filthy Grail again. My mother once told me she thought hell would be nothing more than being given a glimpse of God – then having it taken away, for ever.

Which thought led me back to the question I’d forbidden myself from asking, and which I couldn’t stop asking, and which I’d been asking since the first days after Jake’s death: Couldn’t I make myself a companion?

Werewolves don’t reproduce sexually, the journal said:

Howler girls are eggless, howler boys dud of spunk. If you haven’t had kids by the time you’re turned you’re not having any, get used to it. Lycanthropic reproduction is via infection: survive the bite and the Curse is yours.

But here’s the thing, the old news, the stale headline: no one is surviving the bite any more.

Thanks to a virus. For which WOCOP had found a cure. A cure they’d shot into me the night I was bitten. (The organisation had had an internal crisis: with werewolves at the brink of extinction the Hunt had all but cancelled its own paycheck; the guys who did their job so well they did themselves out of a job. Certain members had realised this and resolved on getting monster numbers back up. The World Organisation for the Control of Occult Phenomena found itself facing an insurgent offspring, the World Organisation for the Creation of Occult Phenomena. The ideologues and old-schoolers, horrified, reacted by coming down hard on the rebel faction, but in the interim I’d been darted – accidentally – with what turned out to be an efficacious version of the anti-virus. I was bitten, I didn’t die, I changed.) So if any of my victims survived, wouldn’t they become werewolves too, the old-fashioned way? In theory it was as simple as finding a guy I liked then taking him for a moonlit stroll at that time of the month. If you go down in the woods today... Except of course for the minor snag of how his feelings towards me would change once he realised that every full moon he’d have to transform into a monster and rip someone to pieces and eat them. I know you hate me for doing this to you, but trust me, once you’ve experienced fuckkilleat you’ll be glad I did... Not a good start to a relationship. But what was the alternative? My libido was dead now but resurrection was only a matter of time. There was no kidding myself I was going to make it through the next four hundred years effectively – by werewolf standards – celibate.

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