You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. And you shall not lie with any animal and so make yourself unclean with it, neither shall any woman give herself to an animal to lie with it: it is perversion.
It would be a long time yet before I understood this feeling as love. All it was then was need: a need to experience the rush of joy I felt every time she was near, an addiction to the warmth of her hands in my fur, the sound of her laughter, a protectiveness of her that radiated from the center of my chest outward, so dense it could choke me. I wanted everyone on earth to disappear so that the only thing left was her. And as this feeling grew, so too did my disconnection from my form. I cringed to see my paws against her slender fingers, tensed each time she touched my horns. I began to hate my lord-master for the body she had given him, one that might embrace her without breaking her. I cursed the Creator for the cruel joke that was my existence.
I couldn’t see her often. Only when Mesh tied me up outside, when I could unbury the key she had made, fumble around with my teeth and paws to unlock the binds and slip off into the night. It was funny that he thought it a punishment, leaving me outside, so I made sure I was always on my worst behavior. Within reason, of course. It would have been foolish to let him realize I was tormenting him on purpose. Mesh’s straightforward nature worked against him in that regard; for all his faults, he didn’t have a liar’s bone in his body, and therefore couldn’t recognize it in others. But me, I was built to know every sort of manipulative mind--it was easy, then, to develop one of my own.
Testing Mesh’s limits became a game: I conducted judgments when he asked them of me, feeling enough sense of duty to honor my purpose; yet when the sinners were all either jailed or eaten, I would find ways to get under his skin. It started small, ripping up the curtains over the window in the room he housed me in, or maybe I would piss right on the door so that it puddled underneath, where Rig would slip in it when he fetched me in the morning. I wasn’t above using bodily waste to prove a point. He treated me like an animal, so animal he would get. I would shed fur over his fine clothes, smear my own blood over the walls, anything that he would have to clean himself was usually a one-way ticket to the pole.
Those crude tactics didn’t work for long, unfortunately. As his tolerance improved, I had to adapt. I discovered I could be punished for appearing to be inept, as if being chained to the pole could be some kind of teaching tool. If he gave me a simple instruction, say to “bite off her right hand,” I made an enthusiastic lunge for the left. Or maybe it was “carry him to the crate of thorns,” and instead I would drop the boy into the pit of snakes. Mesh was only too happy to assume that he had overestimated my intelligence and was doing me a favor by pushing me to his level. Obviously, this became my preferred means of escape.
A rare day when I was chained before nightfall, I found her again in Eden. The sun was sinking behind the horizon, casting the sky in colors almost as beautiful as she. She was kneeling by the spring at the base of a large tree, using its reflection to braid a flower into her hair. I was reminded suddenly of another flower I had seen in the jungle, their blooms full and rich, red as blood--there were none like it in her garden, I realized. I got it in my head somehow that if I brought her one, something magical would happen.
She hadn’t spotted me yet, allowing me to creep back into the brush without disappointing her. I remembered the scent of the bloom: sweet, velvety. I thought how Mesh would mock me for using my tracking ability for something so pointless. I followed the scent past a pack of goats that fled with shrieks, down into a valley of willowy trees and shrubs. So focused was I that I didn’t notice it mingled with the scent of the angel A-nu, who had beaten me to the clearing. That strange man stood holding one of the thorned flowers I sought, smiling at me, as if he had known all along I would come.
“Gabriel’s furry friend,” he greeted. “You look frazzled.”
My hair stood on end. I had few pleasant interactions with angel-kind, so even A-nu’s twinkling eyes could not placate me. He had always struck me as strange. The rest of the angels were a serious lot, even Enme tending more towards somber reflection than smiles (though for me, she did give plenty). A-nu though, outside of the chapel where he communed with the Creator, was mischievous. From Mesh I had the impression that The All-Knowing was as strict and unpleasant as he, yet the one who knew Him best was neither of those things. Even I who was born to pass judgment could not understand this man.
“Calm, Beast. I won’t tell Michael of your whereabouts,” he soothed. “Go ahead with what you came for. I come to observe.”
I bore my teeth, like that might frighten him off. He grinned. I snarled, approaching the blooms.
There were six flowers in this bush, each protected well by the dense thorns along the stem. Without thumbs my paws weren’t much use in grabbing them, forcing me to snag the one I had chosen with my teeth. It hurt, but I wouldn’t let the pain stop me. I managed to bite through the stem as one of the thorns pierced the roof of my mouth; I swallowed blood willingly as I drew back with the prize. I felt A-nu watching me, but I didn’t care to know how he would mock Mesh’s clumsy beast. I reared back, planning to run back to Enme, when his words stopped me.
“Father knows how much you suffer for her,” he said, almost kind. “He wishes you to know you both find favor in His eyes.”
I stared, trying to understand the joke of it. He was earnest. There was no stench of a lie about him, nor anything revealing in the way his arms were folded against his vest. Why would he tell me this?
“I wish I could say your suffering was almost over, but I’m afraid it never will be, so long as you’re together. You know that, don’t you?”
When I did nothing, didn’t even breathe, he took this as license to continue. It was as though this terrible prophecy were a casual musing between friends.
“It’s a strange sort of selfishness between you two. Selfishness focused on the other. You would not protect yourself from harm, but either one of you would tear creation apart if it meant the other would be saved. Father does not usually condone selfishness, but your kind--perhaps because it’s the first of its kind. The seeds of your all-consuming devotion fascinate Him. He wants to see where it will lead you. How deep into the crevasse you’re willing to follow one another.”
Blood from the wound in my mouth began to leak to the ground as I tried not to bite through the stem. I could have dismissed A-nu’s words as nonsense, but they sounded like truth. It was a dreadful future he hinted at. Did I doom her with these feelings? The promise of my own suffering was meaningless to me, but I could not bear to bring her undue grief. Yet, what else could come from caring for one such as I?
If A-nu’s purpose was to rattle me, he was successful. I could not feel my paws against the ground as I fled his words. There was only the dull sting in my mouth and taste of blood soaking my tongue.
Enme was just where I had left her, though the dimming sky had her packing her basket of fruits and flowers. She turned suddenly when I arrived--I worried my haggard appearance had given her a fright.
“Beast, you’re bleeding.”
She dropped her basket and went to me, taking the flower from my mouth--I was disappointed she didn’t remark on it, but her concern was touching--and opened my jaw to see the damage.
“Stay still, this might hurt...”
She placed two of her fingers against the broken skin in the roof of my mouth, leaving me so flustered I doubt I could have moved if I wanted to. There was a jolt of pain which made me wince, before it faded to dull warmth. When she removed her hand, my tongue felt along where the cut had been, finding only smooth skin.
With me healed, she finally noticed the flower. She lifted it as she stood with a look of surprise, then softness. She rest her hand between my horns as she examined it, her thumb gently tracing the thorn that had pricked me, some of my blood coming away on her skin.
“It’s beautiful,” she said at last. “I can’t condone you wounding yourself over it, but...this might be the most beautiful thing I’ve ever been given.”
Her smile made my heart sing. The tears she blinked away formed pinpricks in her eyes, and I longed for hands capable of brushing them aside. She knelt again before me, arms wrapped in my mane as she pressed her face into my cheek, her breath warm as her laugh. I whimpered, nuzzling against her, so very happy.
We walked back to her home together, I on all fours, her with her basket on her hip. My flower was placed atop the rest of the bounty, the petals even redder in the moonlight. She let me into the hut first, always careful not to let others see me. I observed as she separated the contents of the basket on a table, fruits arranged by kind, flowers ready to be pressed in a scroll or set aside to make wreaths for the children. I beamed with pride when she placed my gift in a glass vase on the windowsill, where she would see it each day.
As she continued to sort and store, I sat by the flower, indulging in the sweetness of its scent. I tried not to think of A-nu’s prophecy, what little I understood of it. I had done no harm. I would do no harm. It couldn’t be wrong, just wanting to be near her. I told myself that, and told myself that.
“You don’t mind if I bathe, do you?” she said suddenly. I turned to see her summon a fire beneath a large tub of water beneath a pump, rigged to fill like a well and then drain back into the ground when the stop was pulled. Humans bathed in the river--I wondered if this contraption was how all angels bathed, and if it was just too complicated to teach man how to do it.
My grunt and a head shake must have looked enough like a no. Of course I didn’t mind. Granted, the only people I had seen naked were humans being whipped to ribbons on an iron slab, so I had no reason to think I should be wary of seeing her bare. Yet when she unwrapped her dress, exposing every inch of her elegant form, I was stirred in a way I could not have anticipated. Her hair loosed from its braids, the flower falling, I stared with heightened awareness as her locks shifted across soft white shoulders, tickled the pink peaks atop breasts whose size I hadn’t realized before then. Why was it exciting to me that they were large, like melons--why was it arousing to know that they would grow ever larger if filled with milk, that those peaks would drip with the slightest touch? Why did I want to touch the downy hair between her thighs, to taste her feminine folds?
I do not know if it was fortune or further embarrassment that animals are often pointlessly excited, so the sudden emergence of my member from its furry wrapping inspired only a whiff of annoyance from Enme, but no remark. I laid quickly on my stomach to hide myself, mortified. I turned my head away. My docility must have calmed her, because she relaxed enough to fold her dress, setting it aside before dousing the flames. She sank into the tub, resting her head against the iron rim, closing her eyes. I was surprised when she reached her hand towards me.
I came at her call. I always would. My erection finally fading, I pressed my head into her hand, and warmed when her palm came to rest beneath my chin.
“I wish you could tell Michael to leave me alone,” she said, a dull laugh in her tone. “He grows...impatient.”
She sighed, staring at the ceiling.
“Maybe I’m in the wrong. Maybe it is my duty to give him a child, because I assumed this body. Maybe it’s my duty to give them each a child...”
She passed a wet hand down her face. I watched each droplet collect on her cheeks, her lashes, her lips, trembling before they trickled down to bury themselves in the crook of her neck.
“Is it right, though?” she asked. “This isn’t our world. This is man’s world...we’re their teachers. If we have children...who’s to say we’ll be able to control our children? They’ll be new souls, shaped from the matter of my body--not even I know what that will mean. What if they decide to conquer humanity, make them servants? What if they’re worse than man? It’s too big a variable to introduce because Michael is impatient. I shouldn’t...”
She thought too much, but I knew she must. She was a queen. It hurt me that she had no one but a speechless beast to share such thoughts with. I did my best to listen, because it was all I could do. I wondered if she knew how well I listened. I remembered everything she said, I replayed her every musing in my head whenever we were apart. I liked to think I could soothe her, amuse her, if I could respond. Sometimes I even imagined things I might have said in response to her, in a world where I was like her.
“What do you think, Beast?” she asked, resting her cheek against my curved horn. “If I were bound to Michael...I would be your mother, in a way. Our babies would be your siblings. That wouldn’t be so terrible, would it?”
My growl rumbled deep, not loud enough to scare her, but enough for her to know I didn’t approve. What did I think? She asked.
What did I think?
I thought that her heart was too good for him. I thought he would treat her terribly because he already treated her terribly. He would turn her into an object because he didn’t know how to behave towards anything that he didn’t first turn into an object. I thought he could not love her, because he claimed to love me, and I would not wish his love upon any other being. He could not stand that she was strong, wise, kind, and adored. He would break her, like this world had broken him, and there could be no joy in such a union.
That is what I thought. But with the tongue he gave me, all I could do was growl.
“That bad?” she asked, amused by the sound I made. When she kissed my muzzle, my heart tumbled. “I’ll remember that you don’t approve.”
She eased back into the tub, leaning back, distant from me in thought.
“I wish that Father would speak to me, again. But He’s gone cold to me...to all of us. All but Remiel...”
A-nu. I tensed with memory of him and tried to hide it.
“Do you hear Father’s voice?” she asked. “I’ve always hoped that the beasts might still hear Him, even if we can’t.”
I didn’t know if all beasts were like me, but I could hardly give her a nuanced reply. I shook my head. She seemed disappointed.
“It’s unfair, for Father to leave us here alone. The last thing He said to me was that it would be wrong for Him to interfere, but would it be wrong for Him to stop me from doing something disastrous? Why couldn’t He just tell us what He wanted before He closed off? We’re supposed to be His messengers, His angels, but we’re just as blind as these apes...”
She pressed her hand over her eyes. For the first time, I saw her truly shaken. Longing to comfort her, I leaned into her neck, lapping up the droplets along her jaw, down to her exposed collarbone. My nose lifted her chin, and slowly, her smile returned.
She draped her arms around me, caressing my fur until it grew damp. I found my head against her breasts, those mounds somehow both firm and pillowy, inviting against my cheek. Careful of my horns, I became brave. I licked softly at her peak, savoring the sensation of the nub puckering under my tongue. Perhaps she thought the action innocent, because she allowed it. Yet by the way her hand tightened in my fur as I continued, it’s just as possible that she sensed what I was doing--but that thought seemed too much like a dream.
I kept on, until at last she pushed me away, her face a color I thought angels couldn’t turn. She sank deeper into the water, refusing to look at me.
“Go stand by the door, Beast,” she said. “I’ll walk you home when I’m done.”
Ashamed, I did as I was told. I curled up on a rug, focusing only on the twitching of my own wolfish tail against the pattern. In that moment, I truly felt like some dumb, filthy animal. More so when I realized that I would do it all again.
I had enough self control not to watch her dry herself. I even kept my eyes to the floor while she wrapped herself in a sleeping gown, knowing now that I could not be trusted to observe her raw shape. I was afraid that she hated me, but she showed no sign of it. She walked me home, just as she always had, and reluctantly chained me to my pole.
Before we parted, she surprised me with another kiss, against my cheek. She said nothing. She left me only with the ghost of her lips and that heat in my chest, now burning like fire. When she was out of sight, it welled into a howl, a howl that carried through the night. Mesh would assume I was finally sorry for what I had done but he would be so very wrong--I was alive with desire. I would hear no reason, A-nu’s prophecy fading from my memory, replaced by a promise to myself: I would make her mine.
In the morning, Mesh brought me inside. Having served my time and healed from the lashings, I usually had a measure of freedom in the tower the day after punishment. I could go where I wanted within its walls, so long as I came running at my lord-master’s call. Usually, that meant I slept and sulked within the room provided for me. Today, however, I was in no mood to sleep.
I found myself in Mesh’s room. He lived at the highest point in the tower, across from the room where the archangels had their meetings. His chamber was plain: a bed, a wash basin, a chest of clothes, and a full-length mirror. Everything was clean, yet dour. Like his personality.
I knew the punishment would be severe for trespassing in his space. It was unusual enough for me to risk punishment two days in a row, let alone risk it doing something so...stupid. But I wasn’t in my right mind. I was sick with longing, heartsick like the foolish humans I had watched from afar all these years, pursuing their women like dogs in heat.
I knocked over the chest of clothes to spill them, then prodded through the pile until I found Mesh’s large, black cape. I lifted it with my teeth and dragged it to the mirror, where I allowed myself to raise onto my hind legs. It wasn’t hard to stand on my hind legs, though I wasn’t built for it--I managed to keep upright by being very aware of my tail counterbalancing my broad torso. As long as I kept my arms roughly to my sides, like a man, I could stand this way with little effort. I felt somewhat more at ease when I did.
I managed to shake the cloak around my shoulders, positioning it with some effort, paws only able to grip so much. It was almost like being clothed. At last, I was brave enough to look into the mirror before me...and was left cold. I saw there a great monster, teetering on unstable legs, playing dress up. I don’t know what else I expected to see. The monster stared back at me with its red eyes, staring out over that wolfish muzzle, parts of his mangled mane escaping the cloak. His horns arched around the hood, terrible to behold. The monster snarled: you are not what she deserves.
In a rage, I bashed my head into the mirror. The pieces shattered to the floor and in my eyes and I roared. I must have been bleeding, but not even blood could drown my fury. Why had I been born like this? What had I done to deserve this torturous existence, to be alone but never alone, to be hated without cause, to have a body incapable of doing the one thing it had ever desired? I no longer cared how much I bled. Better that I was blind and dumb and unable to ever know how much I wanted her.
I heard Mesh coming up the stairs, brought by my bellowing. I didn’t care. I just laid there in the bloody mess I had made of his room, waiting for my punishment. There, I first tried to speak to my Creator.
Make me like her, I begged. Father, I want to be whole.
Through the red haze, I saw Mesh in the doorway. He already had his whip in his hand, his lip curling with such disgust to see me in this state. I expected no reply from the Father. Mesh kicked me where I lay and when I didn’t move, the switch ripped down my back. I finally howled, and he whipped me harder for it.
I had forgotten my prayer when I heard a voice echo within my mind: