Talulla Rising Page 9

That isn’t going to be the problem, Lulu, I imagined my mother saying. The problem is going to be finding a man worth Turning...

I was shivering so badly now I couldn’t hold the journal steady. I set it aside and crawled onto the bed, hands swollen, body jabbering with cramps. Random memories detonated: lying with my face on the Brooklyn stoop watching a bee sipping a puddle of spilled Pepsi; my mother laughing at something grown-up; my first period, that warm trickle like a big teardrop but I put my fingers there and it was blood and Mrs Herschel saying in a smokey sisterly way you’re a young lady now Talulla, which just made me think of Lady Diana and creepy big-eared Prince Charles.

‘It’s time,’ Cloquet said from the doorway.

‘I know.’

‘As we decided?’


As we decided. We hadn’t decided anything. We’d made hypothetical observations. Outside would be easier to deal with. We shouldn’t forget we have sedatives. It would be better if I went out first. Behind these were bald specifics: Cloquet would give her a sedative. I would go into the forest. He would bring her out and tie her up. I would come out of the dark and take her life, quickly. Or as quickly as the hunger’s tastes allowed.

At the thought of which wulf gave me a jolt of demand that nearly threw me from the bed.

‘You better go,’ I said. My watch showed 16.42. Moonrise was 17.11. Twenty-nine minutes. I wondered if Kaitlyn was awake. What sort of life she’d be leaving behind. No one who gives a shit about me’s got any money. The sour-smelling jeans and the chipped nail polish and the trying not to see the contempt the guys had for her even when they were holding her head and going Oh yeah baby, that’s it, just like that, you could still tell it was contempt just beneath – but the hunger interrupted with a flash of her midriff punctured and the soft white meat opening with helpless obedience (the word ‘flensing’ suggested itself, though I wasn’t even sure I knew what it meant) and I couldn’t lie still any longer but got up and staggered with unstrung knees downstairs and watched Cloquet draw the sedative into the syringe and we couldn’t quite look each other in the eye.

‘Are you okay?’ he asked. I stood in the doorway, flesh heavy with the sordid basics of my needs. My old voice inside still sometimes objected: You can’t do this. It’s the worst thing. You have to stop. My old voice was a machine that didn’t realise its own obsolescence. Because while it went on the new voice eloquently didn’t say anything, knew it didn’t have to, knew the argument was already won. And in any case, this wasn’t the worst thing, killing Kaitlyn. I knew what the real worst thing was. I’d known since the night I met Delilah Snow.

‘I’m fine,’ I said. He’d left me blankets on the couch. So I’d have something between me and the cold when I stripped. Practicalities, like biology, endured.

‘I’ll go downstairs now,’ he said. Gentle. For my benefit. So I’d be kind to myself and not mind the murder.

When I change I change fast. The moon drags the whatever-it-is up from the earth and it goes through me with crazy wriggling impatience. I picture it as an electrical discharge, entering at my soles and racing upwards in haywire detonations that shock the bones and explode the neurons. The magic’s dark red, violent, compressed. I get random flashes of mundane memory – pushing a shopping cart around Met Foods; opening my apartment window; standing on a subway platform; saying to someone, No, that’s carbohydrates in the evenings – intercut with images of the kills: a white male body on an oil-stained warehouse floor; a solitary trailer with a storm lamp burning; a female thigh releasing a dark arc of blood; my clawed hand scooping out a still-hot heart. This is the Curse’s neatest trick: one type of memory doesn’t destroy the other. It’s still you. It’s still all you. You wouldn’t think you were built to bear such opposites, but you are. You’d think the system would crash, but it doesn’t.

Meanwhile, the freak biology show. My lungs expand, threaten to burst against the ribs – but never do. My spine elongates in three, four, five spasms and the claws come all at once, like speeded-up film of shoots sprouting. I’m twisted, torn, churned, throttled – then rushed through a blind chicane into ludicrous power. Muscular and skeletal wrongness at an elusive stroke put right. A heel settles. A last canine hurries through. A shoulder blade pops. The woman is a werewolf.

And she’s starving.

I stood, transformed (jaws open, tongue as thick as a baby’s arm, breath going up in signals of dreadful life), half a dozen trees back from the edge of the drive. Moments ago I hadn’t wanted this. Now I wanted nothing else. Same every time: you forgot the Curse was an exchange, took your speech and your mercy but gave you in return the planet’s dumb throb and your own share in it. Lilac shadows on the snow, the fine-tuned trees, the Eucharist moon and the victim’s heart like a song calling you home.

Kaitlyn wouldn’t see me waiting here. She wouldn’t see me until the last moment, but in all the moments before the last moment she’d know what she didn’t want to know, that the worst thing had come to her. The worst thing was a simple thing, an old thing, an ordinary thing – and here it was. She’d look for God, guardian angels, miraculous intervention – and get nothing. Just the trees and the snow and the moon – nothing from them either. She’d get the real universe, once, before the end.

The two of them emerged from the front doorway, Kaitlyn tranquilised, Cloquet struggling to hold her up. He’d dressed her warmly, hat, gloves, fleece. Reflex kindness. Or else he didn’t want the cold to undermine the sedative. A few steps past the Cherokee her left knee buckled and she went down, crookedly. I could see him considering fireman’s-lifting her, the effort it would take to carry her all the way to the trees. He settled for uncuffing her and taking her arm over his shoulder, wrapping his other arm around her waist, her head lolling. As they staggered towards me, I thought, Like a guy and his drunk girlfriend.

A voice with a weird accent said: ‘Twenty thousand years, you think you’ve seen it all.’

I jumped. It was right behind me (how the fuck?) – but when I turned there was no one there.

For a moment I stood still, breath moist and warm around my muzzle.

Then my waters broke.


As with all dreaded things, once it happened it felt inevitable.

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