The wolf growled.
You curl deeper into your blanket, fingers tightening in your hair
Don't let it out.
Your head throbs, though, and there's a snarling in your ears and it's vibrating your throat breathe breathe breathe.
Let the air hiss slowly from between clenched teeth. Inhale, now, carefully, not gulps. Keep it even.
Think. Animals don't think. You're not an animal. You're not an animal you're not an animal. Not. An. Animal.
The growl is louder this time, borderline painful as it tears through your vocal cords. The human throat was not built with sounds like that in mind. Hell, the human world wasn't built with sounds like that in mind. Not anymore, at least. Your world is all snug, clean apartments, spotless gleaming stainless steel, surgical fluorescent light reflecting from waxed linoleum floors, filtered water with a whiff of chlorine filling sanitary disposable cups of waxed paper, and this sound is as primal as the blood which roars through your veins in a blazing crimson tide. Blood always tells, you think, thoughts coffee-black and bitter, tinged with a bit of desperation as you feel your sanity slipping from your fingers like a dream of springtime in midwinter.
Your feet hit the floor with a soft thump, the wood cool under your feet. You pad to the window, placing a hot palm on cool glass, a halo of condensation soon outlining the digits. Snowflakes whirl against the glass as the wind howls, and you fight the urge to fling open the window and howl right back.
Not an animal.
But something in you twinges during the winter. Your sense of smell becomes that much sharper, your eyes rove to and fro, your feet pace restlessly. The frost in the air sends a whisper of fear up your spine, because food is scarce in the winter, isn't it, and you must eat whatever you can the weak the sick the old and the urge is overwhelming to just killdevoursmash. But food isn't scarce in the winter. The glaring lights of fast food restaurants shine from dawn to dawn, if you liked that sort of thing, and pizza is just a call away, if you enjoyed pizza. Your sleek stainless steel refrigerator still has cold sole meunière from Saturday night's dinner with Noor.
You seize upon the memory gratefully, glad to focus upon anything but the beast clawing at your heart. Dinner had been a languid affair, prepared with Noor's arms draped around your waist and her nose buried in the nape of your neck, her breath warming the skin just above your stiff-pressed collar. You had the scent of her (an oddly compelling mixture of sandalwood perfume, ink, and the lingering odour of green tea and stale biscuit at three) filling your nostrils and gradually imbedding itself in your nasal passages. It was nice, the minor inconvenience of lugging her around the kitchen balanced by her warmth and the feel of her breasts pressing into your back. She would occasionally murmur a line from literature from her studies that day; you recall that she had been studying American poetry; Frost, you think, something about fire and ice. You had detached yourself from her just long enough to set the wine--Muscadet, 2012--out on the windowsill. It hadn't yet started to snow then, you remember, but it had been cold enough to make Noor shiver, though that was no feat. The barest chill made Noor shiver, and nothing but the pursuit of knowledge had led her to 'glacial England', as she termed it. You laugh at her, tell her of spit-freezing Christmases spent in the windblown mountains of New Hampshire, and she rolls her eyes at you and says to let her mourn the death of the sun. You always do. Noor had insisted upon turning off every light in the house for dinner. She'd lit candles and set them on the table, then watched the flame flicker off antique silverware and chipped china. The only electricity she'd allowed was her iPod, and she'd plugged it into your speakers and put on some Coltrane. You don't like jazz; never have, never will, despite your uncle's determination to the contrary. You'd been more interested in the light's mirroring in her dark, dark eyes, and you sweep her headscarf off and watch it play upon the flood of her hair. She'd snatched it back.
"A good Muslim girl never bares herself to men," she had said, all stiff piety, though there was a devil's laugh lurking in her voice.
"You're an atheist," you'd reminded her.
"I am trying," she said, taking a sip of wine, breath clouding the crystal and turning it opaque, "to stay true to my heritage."
"Trying to please your absent father, and if that's the case, you'll give me your wine."
She'd laughed openly then, tied the scarf round the delicate curve of her waist and ate her fish. Watching her eat was a joy. Watching her do anything was a joy. She moved like a dancer, did Noor, all sensuous allure. She was fully conscious of it, in a shy, retreating way at times, bold and flamboyant at others. She had a smile like a supernova and eyes like galaxies, with all the layers and nuances and unexplorable complexity of the latter and all the mad excitement of the former, and you loved her the way you loved quantum theory and astrophysics and Newton, the way an explorer loved the rainforests and rivers and unsounded depths of the ocean with the thrill of discovering what no other had discovered before, the thrill of planting a flag on the dusty surface of the moon and saying, with one quick downward jerk of the wrist, mine, mine, all mine, mine to do anything and everything to claim and devour and rip her throat out and--
You jerk your palm back from the window. It is numb with cold, flushed pink with it. You wish your whole body was numb, wish your brain was numb, but it is reeling with horror and shock and revulsion, and you just want to curl up in some distant corner and hide from yourself...no, not yourself, it. It's not me, you remind yourself, firmly, but there is a sort of quivering disbelief underlying your outward confidence.
Another snarl rips through your chest, and your hands drop to the windowsill. You hunch over, shoulders shaking, knuckles whitening. The woods digs into your palm, until there's a sharp snapping sound as the sill gives way beneath your strength. Splinters send quick little jabs of pain dancing across your nerves, but you ignore it, though you stiffen at the smell of your blood, so iron-sweet and you want.
It's coming soon.
Your gaze slides past the swirling snowflakes and focuses on the clawing black winterbare branches outside. Breathe, you think. One breath in, exhale, repeat. Inhale, hold it in, feel your lungs expand.
"Materiæ vis insita est potentia resistendi," you murmur, words quick and frantic, voice a bit hoarse, "qua corpus unumquodq; quantum in se est, perseverat in statu suo vel quiescendi vel movendi uniformiter in directum."
The muscles of your shoulders ripple and throb.
"Vis insita est pot-potentia."
A whimper escapes your lips.
"Resistendi," you grunt, feeling your vocal cords strain. "Qua corpus..."
You throw your head back and snarl, veins bulging and tendons straining against the skin. Stepping back from the window, you back into your bedroom, shaking fingers fumbling at the buttonholes. Glancing down, you see that your bitten-down fingernails (bitten so that blood showed dark and dried on a few, index, middle, thumb on your right hand; index only on your left) are growing. They just miss being claws...
You return to your efforts at removing your shirt. It's a crisp button-down; a deep, dark aubergine. Armani. Custom-fitted. A gift from Noor, who always gave such expensive presents. It fitted your shoulders nicely, didn't sag like your clothing did all too often. You like the way the fabric feels against your skin, cool and clean.
It's silly and frivolous and even ridiculous, but you don't want to ruin your shirt. You're about to turn into a raging monster straight from the most primal nightmares of mankind, a beast that would have caused your simian ancestors to huddle in terror inside their treetop nests, and you fear about the state of your button-down.
Lycanthropy does tend to set one's priorities straight.
"Unumquodq," you rasp. "Quantum in se...quantum in se est--"
Your breaths come quick and harsh through your roughening throat. The shirt is off; your thin, pale chest is bare, heaving up and down. The skin above your heart is visibly pulsing. The heartbeat is booming in your ears. You're reminded of drums which history books say were beaten during human sacrifice. Was this how the unfortunate victims felt? This helpless inevitability?
If anyone asked (not that anyone would, because there was no such thing) you what the absolute worst part, the penultimate scourge of lycanthropy was, you would tell them that it was the anticipation. Not the dread of silver (in the best of times, it made your skin prickle uncomfortably; in the worst, it was a burning agony which resulted in oozing blisters), not the bone-crunching, organ-shifting, skin-shredding torture that was shifting forms, not even the hideous lack of clarity of thought, the bestial mental fog.
Far worse was knowing that these things were ahead, and that nothing but a silver bullet to the brain could stop it.
"Perseverat!" you growl, voice breaking in the middle.
You tear your trousers off, tossing them to the side.
Not an animal.
The doors are locked and bolted. You've hung all of your silver (very fine antiques, purchased from a local pawnshop) from the front door. Silver is only an irritant most of the time, except when it has control, and then it is an agony. But you'd rather burn your hands off than wake naked on the street with a stranger's blood coating your tongue and splashed on your face caked under your nails making you madferalwildhowlingcrazed no no no nononononocrushthemallSTOP.
When you open your eyes, you're on your hands and knees on the floor. The dark oaken boards are unforgivingly hard against the thin skin of your bony knees. The grain of the wood is slowly being etched into your palms. If you inhale, you can smell lemony wax.
"...In statu suo vel," you whisper. Your voice is shaking. Pathetic.
Your intestines are searing, they're white hot and pain pain pain painpainpainpain. Bones are breaking and crunching and expanding and you can't take it anymore why can't it stop stop please god let it stop please please.
"Qui...quiescendi!" comes your scream, so high and sharp and it's hardly your own.
Not an animal stop it.
"--Vel movendi. Uni. Uniformi. Vel, vel--"
You throw your head back and scream scream screamscreamscream until it's not a scream it's a roar oh jesus fuck it's a roar godgodgod.
Please god don't make me be an animal.
Your heart is bursting and twisting and why aren't you dead yet if god was real you would be dead why aren't you dead your heart stop stop stop please stop please.
Inhale exhale inhale exhale please god let me die.
The boards are a splintered mess underneath your claws, digging under into the flesh but pain is nonexistent and you are floating and your teeth and claws and in your bones is the hunting song and it's in your throat in your blood and you throw back your head and keen, and godgodgod this is wrong this is wrong this is
Animal animal animal.
So right you were born for this and it's right right wrong right twisted up inside you wolf and student scholar beast canis lupus bump in the night claws teeth black hole interstellar. What are you not human not animal yes animal no. Stop no stop.
Not an animal yes you are you are you are you are. not. an.
But you are and it's a raging flood of incoherency and you can't keep afloat anymore and you embrace it and you're gone gone gonegone.
When you wake, it is to silence. The snow is deep outside. The grey light of early morning is bathing the room. Your pillows are shredded. The feathers lie scattered about like little white snow geese. You give a sudden shuddering breath, and a flock of them scatter, skimming over the scratched floor. Splinters are imbedded under your nails. It hurts. You hurt. Your whole body aches as a whole. You turn and almost throw up. There's nothing left. You can smell that you've already vomited. You're lying in it. Naked. It's pathetic. You can't get up yet. It still hurts. Not an animal.
Through your mouth, of course.
Your mouth is as dry as cotton wool. You can only just swallow. Your throat is sticky. Your tongue tastes foul with bile.
Not an animal.
You cough. It hurts to talk. There's blood smeared on your lips. You can taste it. There's no allure remaining to the taste, not now. Your voice is ravaged, still trying to get used to forming vowels and consonants.