Subterranean Press Magazine: Spring 2012

Sic Him, Hellhound! Kill! Kill! by Hal Duncan

1.

I wake curled up at the foot of the bed again, back snugged tight into the crook of my boy’s legs –tight enough to be on top of them really. He groans, slaps the alarm clock off, tries to pull the quilt over his head. Doesn’t work with me weighing it down, clambering up to lick his face.

–Get up, I say. Get up get up get up.

He shoves me away.

–Get down, he says.

I roll off the bed, grab whiffy boxers from the floor.

–I’m hungry.

He groans.

A boy and his werewolf. Truest love there is.

#

–Breathe. Then eat, he says. Or eat, then breathe. You know you can’t do the two together.

I raise my head from the bowl of cornflakes, give another cough as I lick milk from my lips then dive back in. I don’t have to look to know he’s shaking his head, smiling wryly. Hey, he knows it’s all part of the method anyway. Guzzling food, snuffling crotches, rolling in things he has to hose off. And that’s his part of the deal –to deal with that shit, to handle it, handle me.

Every agent has a handler, don’t you know?

#

They tried it without handlers, I hear. Like, back in my alpha’s day, back before he became a recruiter, some bright spark figured they should try letting us off the leash. A lone hellhound on the road –he’d just be one more drifter, right? Like Kung Fu. Or maybe The Littlest Hobo. Things got kinda messy though, it seems; there were a few incidents; cops got eaten and, yes, they were fascist pigs, but it just wasn’t on.

Don’t know why they were worried about the handlers in the first place. Like I’d ever let anything happen to my boy.

#

He sits on the edge of the bed, flicking through the file, glancing up now and then as I run the water in the shower.

–You’re actually using the shower gel this time, yes? he calls.

–Absolutely, I shout.

I stand behind the half-open door, peeking at him through the crack. After ten minutes, I duck my head under the water, turn it off and come out towelling my hair. He puts the file down, open at the photograph, the missing kid. Dead kid.

–I know you didn’t actually wash, he says. My sense of smell isn’t that bad.

#

2.

–You got your cover story down, right?

I pick up a sleeveless tee, give it a sniff to make sure it’s good and stinky, then pull it on.

–Yes, boss, I say.

It’s the same story as ever, just different monickers: we’re poor orphaned brothers, just moved to town to be near an aged aunt. I got ADHD and other issues. Impulse control. Drugs. He’s the older bro sworn to raise me on his own, put me through school and all.

With the regeneration that comes with the shifts, you’d never know I’ve got…well, a few years on him.

#

I got bitten as a pup, see –bitten in the metaphorical sense, that is. I mean, forget what you think you know about werewolves. Silver bullets? Came in with the silver screen, dude. Wolfsbane? Man, that’s poisonous to everyone. And all that contagion crap? Not how it works. No, how it works is ritual and magic –a wolfskin coat, a hipflask of dirty water drawn from lupine pawprints, and a bit of blood and dancing under the full moon. Being bitten might help, but it’s all in the mindset. Shifting is a fucking skill, motherfucker. Not something you can catch.

#

When exactly I got bitten –in the metaphorical sense –that’s a hard question though. Cause I remember a dream I had, age nine or so, of running across an old viaduct, a wolf pack at my heels. But I wasn’t being chased, dig; I was at the head of them, one of them. When I woke up sweating, it wasn’t with fear but with excitement. Was that when I got bit? Maybe it was years later, when my alpha took me in off the streets, turned this teenage stray into an initiate. But even at nine I had…that dream.

#

Reckon we’re born this way, my alpha used to say. It was important to him, the gruff old fuck, and I can kinda understand, what with every movie at the drive-in painting us as cursed abominations, beasts with monstrous appetites. Fuckin unnatural? he’d growl as he scratched his chest tat through the leather vest. This is who I fuckin am.

Me, I’m sort of a bolshie bastard about it. No quarter. Ask me if it’s nature or nurture, and I’ll tell you it’s a choice. I’ll tell you it’s my fucking choice to make, right? So deal with it.

#

3.

I pull the wolfskin on over the tee. With the leather pants too, it’s gonna be hot as hell, but it’s a necessary part of the whole kit and kaboodle. Besides, the ensemble has a rockstar-cum-hustler bad boy chic that tickles my fancy. It doesn’t do me any favours with the PETA-loving emo kids, but it’s just awesome for starting fights with small town dickwads who think queer is an insult.

M

My boy scruffles fingers through my hair, scratches my ear. I wonder what those dickwads would make of our rough-and-tumble playfights. Or sleeping arrangements.

#

I grab the car-keys from the coffee table and bring them to him, hold them out, take a step back as he reaches.

–Give, he says.

–Take them, I say.

–We don’t have time for this.

He makes a grab and I snatch the keys away, turning so he has to reach round me, try and prise them from my hand.

Give.

I give them up. He’s the best handler ever, my boy, swear to God. There’s no way what happened to the Louisiana team will happen to us. That was a bad werewolf, a weak handler. We’re invincible.

#

I knew it from the first day he came to the Pound, the way the truth didn’t even faze him. I mean whatever run-ins they’ve had with the nasties we track, the handler candidates always come out of it with a fucking iron will, else they’d wouldn’t be joining the cause; but usually the whole secret agency thing leaves them at least a little what the fuck? But he just strolled down the line of pups and returnees till he came to me. I saw it in his eyes.

–What’s your name? he said.

–You decide, I told him.

#

–You ready?

As he pulls the car up at the gates of the school, I bring my head back in from the window, grin at him and throw my hands in the air.

–Rub my tummy!

–Behave, he says.

I give him my best puppy eyes.

–Not. Now. You have a job to do, so go on. Git.

I climb out of the car, bathtime slow. When he drives away, he’ll be abandoning me, like, forever. He sighs, knowing what I need.

Where’s the vampire? he says. Go find the vampire, boy!

And suddenly I’m as keen as his voice.

#

4.

One hundred million hours later –one bazillion trillion hours of History and French, or Maths and Geography, or fucking whatever later –I’m sitting in the school cafeteria, on my own at a table in a corner, eating burgers out of the buns and trying my best to be human about it. Not standing out is a lost cause –I’m the new kid, and a weird one at that –but we’re still in the avoidance stage; the freaks and geeks aren’t sure if I’m one of them yet, and the alpha jock’s still working up to his challenge.

Then they arrive.

#

I take a furtive sip from my hipflask, not enough to spark a shift, but enough to boost my sense of smell. Because she’s all flowers and soap and chocolate and Bibles and need –so much need, so deep an aroma of insatiable yearning that it almost masks his stench. The smell of her longing fills the room, fills the school; shit, I’ve been smelling it all day, that perfume of victimhood. Without it I wouldn’t have to go through this bullshit to catch his trail, so I don’t think it’s too harsh to give a little growl, is it?

#

So, OK, hers is a scent of sickness, not in a twisted-and-malicious way but in a patient-in-a-hospice way. I should pity her. But she’s got…that classic Mary Sue look –that’s what my boy calls them –all nice and normal, a little plain, a little plump. A cross round her neck, or a crucifix maybe; I can’t tell from here. She’s not pretty enough to be popular, not strange enough to be an outcast, just a mannequin of mediocrity, blandness and banality, desperate to be made more by her Ghoul Boyfriend Forever.

As fucking ever.

#

As for him? Yeah, he’s got the boyband looks…if you trust your eyes. Which ain’t a good idea.

Truth is, ticks got a sexy rep these days, all that Byronic bullshit, teen girls swooning over brooding tortured souls, but if you think vampires are hawt, you ought to read the motherfucking lore. These are corpses, fuckhead, my alpha told me way back. Rotted, stinking, fetid corpses that walk as men. Shit, it takes them years of feeding to even get to that.

So this tick sure looks like some pale poetic catwalk cutie, but I can smell his soil.

#

5.

Here’s how this vampire started. It started with some manipulative leeching bastard dead in a grave, some kiddy-fiddler or wife-beater, some Ponzi scheme merchant –or, worse, politician. It started with someone so deep into using people they couldn’t stop even six feet down with maggots eating their tongue. It started with their ghost haunting the people they’d abused, feeding on them even from the grave, sucking this…energy –chi, my alpha called it, or kundalini.

It was just a spectre at first, dig? No fangs, no frilly fucking cuffs on flouncy shirts. Just a mindless parasitic poisonous miasma.

#

There’s a stink of the pulpit on this one, oak and ink, sermons scribbled by lamplight. It’s old; shit, the victim probably wasn’t even born when this fucker came seeping up from its silk-lined coffin to carry on its spiritual vocation, polluting the living with dreams of death, fears of the flesh and all its sordid passions. It’s the smell of chickenshit, that stench, of something so gutless in the face of life and death it can’t face either, has to deny them both. There’s nothing uglier than the mockery of a human being you end up with then.

#

Fuck, let me tell you how much of a heartthrob the first tick I tracked was. Baby, my alpha took me to a cemetery, and I could smell the fucker from the gates, smell the stench of misery, even before this reanimated rotting corpse –this ghoulish, mummified, zombie thing –came digging its way up out of the earth with the bones of its fingers. It was more filth than flesh, blood-sodden graveyard dirt packed round bones, and the first thing it did was make a bee-line for a nearby field, to feed on a fucking cow.

Real romantic.

#

–Stage two, said my alpha. If your vampire can feed enough as a spectre –suck juice from some debt-ridden fuck till he blows his own brains out in the depths of depression, or drive some insomniac mother to drown herself and the sick child she doesn’t have the strength to care for –if the tick can bleed just enough vitality from the vulnerable, it can dance its own corpse like a fucking muppet.

–Only ticks look even half-human are stage threes plus, the ones who find some sad bastard, eat their insides out, wear them as a motherfucking skinsuit.

#

6.

The tick and the Mary Sue sit down at a table over near the door, holding hands, gazing into each other’s eyes. They’re the centre of their own little world –scratch that; they’re the centre of everyone’s world. You can smell the delusion wafting from them, the psychic smokescreen that lets a tick like this walk into a high school without a single question. Me, I got fake transfer papers, but all a tick needs is confusion and conviction. The glamour that makes everyone buy his new kid bullshit. Give him time and he’ll have the whole town believing it.

#

You see…fuck, the reason most ticks don’t come out in the daytime is cause you can see the skinsuit’s stitches even with the glamour. Yanno why ticks and mirrors don’t mix? Really? Because even stage threes puke at the sight of themselves.

But then there’s these stage fours.

–A tick can pass, my alpha told me, if they can just find some human sick enough to swallow that glamour so commitedly they put every ounce of their own energy into bolstering it.

An amp for the signal, dig? With a Mary Sue beside them, that tick can fucking dazzle.

#

So he looks just like our missing kid, just like the victim, but creepily…'’better’. Ice-blue eyes and blond hair, cherry lips, skin smooth and spotless as an angel’s ass. Fingernails manicured to metrosexual perfection. Every girl in the cafeteria, or near enough, is either gazing at him with wonder or looking daggers at Mary Sue. Some of the guys too, though they’re shiftier about it; one of the indie kids over at the till is outright obsessed, the poor fuck, stinking of adolescent lust. No shame in his spicy scent, at least, but he’s way out of luck.

#

Another high school job, a few years back, just before the…accident that sent me back to the Pound and a new handler, to my boy –which was totally a great thing in the end, really, cause there’s no way that sort of thing would happen with him –I got into a beef with these football fuckwits. They were yacking on about how their girls were all into tick-lit.

–Vampires are totally gay, one of them said.

So, yeah, I kicked the crap out of him.

These days, for most ticks, there should be an ex- in that sentence.

#

7.

Jared Swift. That was the kid’s name. Not the tick’s name, mind. You think I give a fuck about this motherfucker’s name? No, I’m talking about the kid in the photo, grabbed by the tick some night, in some dark place the boy wasn’t meant to be, dragged off into the woods to be devoured. And worn.

Quiet kid, the report said, sorta sensitive. No girlfriend. Journals and sketchbooks found after his disappearance indicate suicidal thoughts.

Jared Swift. That’s the only name that matters here. Not the tick’s or the Mary Sue’s, not mine or my boy’s. Just Jared Swift.

#

What monicker the tick’s going by here isn’t worth shit; he’ll have snatched it from Mary Sue’s dreams while she was sleeping anyway, as he lurked outside her window, jonesing over her emptiness, or crawled in to crouch by her bed, whispering bitter nothings in her ear, watching himself glow radiant with glamour in the mirror of her dresser. If he did it over enough nights, he probably fucking glittered by the time he showed up as a late transfer in school to take her breath away. She, of course, being the only girl this gorgeous hunk had eyes for.

#

I can smell what little of Jared Swift is left in the skin worn by this ghoul. I can smell the shreds of soul in it, the despair and desire the tick has strung together into a semblance of self –behaviours born of terrified restraint, habits of shame –the salt of tears and spunk that tinges the tick’s own bloody stink. I can smell a fucking moment, the words oh, Jared’s not really interested in girls yet echoing as Jared casts his eye across a different cafeteria, fixes it on a different girl. Someone unattainable enough he’ll never need to…

#

This would be the point where I realise I’m snarling, top lip curled back, teeth bared. Not that it matters in a blowing-my-cover sorta way; ticks don’t have the wits to even know there might be hellhounds on their trail, and if the Mary Sue notices, all caught up in the glamour of her Ghoul Boyfriend Forever, she’ll likely just write me into her self-centred story as another possessive potential, out to own her like her beloved does, jealous of the competition.

It does finally spur the dickwads into action though.

–Freak.

–Faggot.

Fuck yeah. At last!

#

8.

I ignore the detention because, well, you know, the principal’s bad puppy voice just doesn’t carry the tone my boy’s does; like I’m gonna play cowed to some yapping cur thinks he’s top dog. Besides, we’ll be out of here tomorrow if we get the job done tonight. So, out by the parking lot, skulking out of sight behind a dumpster, I watch them climb into a car that reeks of her –him in the driving seat though, naturally. And as they pull away, I take a deep slug from my hipflask. Strip the t-shirt off. Unbuckle my belt.

#

They always play it as painful in the movies, like some hideous Jekyll and Hyde transformation, man being remade as beast in wrenching agony. Shit, it’s more ecstasy than agony, and I mean that in the chemical sense, a fucking buzz. Skin-tingling shudders running up and down your spine, every inch of you alive with sensitivity. It’s not so visual, natch, but if you can imagine a psychedelia of smell, that’s how it rushes in on you when you turn wolf. When my alpha took me through my first shift, man, I thought he’d spiked the punch with acid.

#

Bones crunch into new shapes, muscles shift, and wolfskin furls tight to my form, binds to my naked skin, becomes it. No doubt my boy’ll bitch about me leaving the leathers in a dumpster yet again, but it’s the handiest hiding-place, boss, and it’s either that or a halfway wolfman look that’s bound to sparks some stares loping down the streets and through the woods after the car. Whereas I might get away, in this form, with just a few confused souls wondering if they really did see that motherfucking massive…husky? Cause it couldn’t really be…could it?

#

I run like that car’s a supercharged stag but I got a turbodrive in my adrenal glands and a hankering for venison. I run like I have a whole pack at my heels, betas splitting off to flank the quarry. I pound the tarmac with paws that move so fast, so light, they barely make a sound. I leap walls to cut through yards, crash through bushes and fences, pace never slowing, gaze cold and keen as steel on my prey as long as it’s in my sight, flared nostrils directing me when it’s not.

I fucking love chasing cars.

#

9.

I’m kinda disappointed when he parks the thing at her place –he opens the door for her; hugs her but baulks when she moves in to kiss him; spins her a spiel about how he’s scared he’ll hurt her; strokes her cheek –then sets off on foot for his hidey-hole. I’m kinda disappointed cause ticks move slow as humans, mostly –slower even, sorta floaty –which is just plain boring. Stalking is OK, but it’s nowhere near as much fun as chasing.

If it wouldn’t lead to a seriously stern bad werewolf! scolding, I’d take him down here and now.

#

But no. I got my part of the job, and my boy got his. If the ticks are a fuckload less impressive than some would have you believe –if they’re feeders not fighters, if they don’t tend to offer that much in the way of struggle once you’ve torn their limbs off, decapitated them with your teeth, and spat their head across the room –well, there’s putting them back in the grave and keeping them there. So there’s all that clean-up afterwards, with the garlic and salt. And quicklime. Handler stuff.

And there’s the whole…loyalty thing. I suppose.

#

So I prowl through the brush behind gnatboy, hanging back in the shadows of early evening, following him to a fancy house out past the edge of town, all clean-lined concrete and glass…real modern. Swimming pool out back, and an SUV out front. I can smell rotting bodies inside, but not so’s I can make out how many. More than two, I reckon. He spider-crawls up the side of the house and in a window.

After a quick sniff and a piss-tag on a tree, I turn, lope off.

Lassie come home, motherfucker. It’s chow time.

#

–Hello hello hello hello! I love you!

–Yes, I know. I love you too.

–But I really love you! I missed you so much!

–And I missed you too. Yes, I did! Oh, yes I did! Now, down you go.

–But I missed you!

–I know, but we have work to do. Did you find the lair?

–It was easy! Come on. Grab the gear and let’s get this tick squished.

–OK, hang on.

–Hurry up!

–You know, maybe you should put some pants on.

–Don’t need them. Hurry up! Come on!

–I’m coming.

–Come faster! Hurry up!

–Stop. Pulling.

#

10.

The last guttural purr of the engine as we pull into the driveway; soft clicks and thuds of doors opening and closing; crunch of gravel underfoot; snick of the trunk unlocking: my ears pricked even in human form, all of it’s acute, carved in the quiet like radio play sound effects.

He pulls my spare hipflask from his pocket, hands it over, starts loading up with his own kit –crucifix, holy water, carbon-quarreled crossbow, gun with silver bullets. None of it actually means shit, we figure, but every tick’s so convinced of their damnation these empty symbols mostly work.

#

–Ready? I say.

He nods, closes the trunk on the canisters full of disposal substances, and we look into each other’s eyes for a moment, saying something that can’t be put into words. Somewhere in there is the story of how he signed up for this gig, how he got sucked into this weird world, how he came close enough to living death to spit in its face. But you don’t have to hear that story. All you have to know is that it’s maybe something like Jared Swift’s, but not.

I’ll fucking never let it be that story.

#

Soft and easy, padding on feet half-human, half-wolf, I take point, leading my boy in through the splintered front door, muzzle twitching, senses taut. I can hear the flies buzzing, count the corpses by scent, even before we hit the dining room. I can even tell that the tick isn’t in there; but we go in anyway, to remind ourselves why we do this.

Rippling with maggots, Mom and Dad and three kids sit at the table, the family dog an autopsy or feast upon it. Both.

Sanity is the first thing a tick takes from its victims.

#

The Zoroastrians have this ritual, you know; when someone dies they bring a dog to the corpse, and no matter what the doctor says, no matter how it looks, the person is only declared truly dead when the dog treats it as such. Way I hear it, it used to be one of us. Way I hear it, that might even be how the agency started –werewolves and their handlers brought in to make sure the dead will stay that way –but no one really knows the grand story of the origin. Or cares much.

We care about the corpses.

#

11.

I follow the stench into the basement, my boy at my back all the way. I know he’s thinking about Jared Swift, about the thing that’s wearing his skin now, the ghost become a ghoul become a glittering glamour of humanity, cold and dead inside, empty as the not-so-pretty head and hollow heart of a Mary Sue who can’t read between the lines. Can’t see what’s under this sketchy fantasy of self-denial and overwrought passion.

In the broken concrete of the floor, a dirt mound marks where the tick has burrowed, its grave.

I piss on it.

#

–Softening the earth? says my boy, but I’m already snarling, ripples of the shift running up my spine as I hit the dirt with furious claws, in a shape barely hominid, scrabbling, tearing, rending the earth. You could call it digging, but that would be like calling a hurricane breezy. The scent of vampire rot is so rich it thickens the air, turns my stomach. I want to tear this fucker up from his sleep, rip him apart, and roll in the filth of what’s left so I will stink of his ending.

A white hand bursts from the muck.

#

The rest of him follows in an explosion of dirt, an eruption of flailing inhumanity, leaping for the walls, the rafters, a corner of the ceiling, to cling there, hissing and hollow-eyed. Still glamoured to fuck, it’s every inch the smooth Adonis, skin of white marble and blue veins, lithe and limber as a fucking cat but its twisted perching a mockery of a true predator. This is a fucking parasite, a tapeworm from the bowels of humanity, a leech with limbs and a face. Spitting, thoughtless, ravenous loathing.

–I will eat you and shit you out, I say.

#

–Really, no, says my boy. I’m not cleaning up that– -

And in the second I turn, it’s fired itself at him, over my head, not baseball-fast, but fast enough; and his quarrel goes wild, but at least the holy water doesn’t, like acid in its face, stripping glamour to raw horror. And by then, I’m launched, hitting the tick just as its jaw opens like a snake’s. A glimpse of ragged shards, broken bone for teeth. I slam into its side, slam it the fuck off my boy and into a concrete wall. There’s a sick thud, splattering gore.

#

12.

The fucker’s already broken though, been broken since before it was dead, and it rolls away, scuttles back and whirls. Its lolling head snaps back into place, for all that its brains are oozing down its back. Fuck, it’s a tick; whatever brains it has it likely scavenged from sewer rats, just so’s it could ape the life it fucked up when it had the chance. Its eyes lock on my boy again, and I’m thinking, fuck, I hope it didn’t get a taste of him there –at the exact same moment I scent his blood on the air.

No.

#

Then the smell of him is rich in its scent. I can hear him fumbling, cursing, losing the trust in himself to handle this, handle anything; I can smell the fear of failure, smell it in the tick’s breath as it sucks it in, shrieks it at me, a searing mockery, cause if he can’t handle this, he can’t handle me, he’s just a boy, not a boss, just a boy, not my boy and– -

I snarl as we leap, the tick and I, my claws ripping through the air, rending its belly, swatting the fucker clear across the basement.

#

I come down hard, something stolen from me in the touch. Shit, the smell of panic is so fucking physical, I stumble. I shake my head but I can’t get rid of it, look to my boy but that’s where the fucking problem is. He’s choking, collapsing, and if he’s weak, I –I don’t know what to do. I want to snarl in his fucking face. I need you, you fucking fuck, need you to fight for. A boy and his werewolf, motherfucker. Loyalty. I need your fucking purpose, need you and fucking hate you for it.

Fucking bitch ass…

#

And then the tick is on my back, clamped tight; and it’s not fangs or a feeding tube –it’s not physical at all –but I can feel the bite at the back my neck, at the base of my skull, feel it reaching in to shred my thoughts and suck them out. Loyalty? I’m a fucking freak of a beast of base desires kept in line by a lie. There’s no love here, only need, the need to follow, to fawn, to be favoured with treats and scraps of attention, the need to be needed, to be needed to need —

#

13.

And I’m turning, growling at this fucking wretch of a weak handler on the ground in front of me, this fucking faggot kid on his back, his throat exposed like the craven whelp he is, just some backwoods bottom boy who opened himself up to a tick once before, no fucking wonder he let it happen again. All I can smell now, as I crouch to leap, is his fear and my anger, his weakness and my power.

I don’t know how he manages it, the roll to one side as I jump. The crossbow smashing down on my nose.

#

–Don’t you fucking dare, he says.

I’m still growling.

–Off! he shouts.

And he’s bringing the gun up even as I go back and down, firing it once, twice. The bullets don’t hit my skull, but it feels like they might as well have as the tick is blasted off me. There’s a scream of pure despair that hits my boy hard. I see the gun barrel turning, pointing up, towards his chin, but he’s my boy again now, and –I’ll apologise later for nearly biting his hand off.

I whirl to spit twisted steel at the tick. And howl.

#

I howl as it scrambles upright, limbs clicking back from ragdoll dislocations to roughly human placements. I howl as it backs away, scuttles to this side and that, looking for a point of attack. I howl at the tick from all fours, standing over my boy, guarding him as he hauls himself back and up. I howl like Cerberus at the gates of Hell as he stumbles to his feet beside me, lays a hand on my back, a hand that steadies as I howl, as purposed as the one that’s raised now, pointing.

–Sic him, boy, he says. Kill!

#

I hit the tick as a berserker, slashing chest and belly, tearing through one leg’s hamstring as it spins, wrenching the other leg off at the knee. I catch it by the wrists as it flails, raise it in a cruciform and tear its jaw from its face with my teeth, spit it into the grave. Half its head follows in a crunch of bone. Then the rest. With a foot on its chest, the fucker’s arms pop from their sockets like chicken wings.

When I’m done shaking it in my teeth like a stuffed toy, there’s not much left.

#

14.

Still, there’s something left. Fingers twitch and grapple at air. Toes curl. Wherever there are joints intact, they jerk and spasm. This is the creature in its natural state, I reckon –a set of clutching convulsions, twitches and shudders, driven by a brainless impetus to play out its travesty of existence. I crack open its ribcage, chew out the brown lump that passes for a heart and drop it in front of my boy, like a ball. He empties a full chamber of silver bullets into it and dissolves what’s left in homeopathically-diluted holy water. Eventually, everything is still.

#

My boy stands there with the empty gun still dangling in one hand, looking down at the mess of the creature that ate Jared Swift. The scent of a moment of crisis is still on him, and for all the grim determination summoned by a bloody-minded howl of defiance, there’s a hint of shame too. He’s not happy, and it’s my fault, I know. Don’t know why, but I know it’s my fault.

Then he looks at me, and something changes in his eyes, and he says two words and everything changes.

–Good boy!

And I am motherfucking magnificent.

#

I shift back to humanity, feeling slick and shiny, and I don’t just mean with the viscerae. I feel fierce. Every shift is a remaking, after all, and if the transformation to wolfman unleashes a beast in me, well, so does the return to this human form. Like humans aren’t beasts too? I grab his hand as he moves toward the stairs, towards disposal chemicals and rubber gloves and all that jazz, pull him in to lick his face, exuberantly. Hey, it’s cleaning, sorta. He stops me, wipes a sleeve across my mouth.

–Like people, he says.

And we kiss.

#

So maybe I get a bit carried away as we’re washing the gore off each other with holy water. Maybe it’s the wolf in me that ignores the protest of not here. Or maybe it’s the human in me that says, especially here. So you think we’re both monsters? A hellhound and a human so offay with carnage we don’t see how fucked-up it is to let the passion loose here and now?

I say it’s life, to fuck as humans in the ruins of death.

As living, breathing, eating, shitting, fucking human beings in the ruin of death.

 

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