West Coast Eisteddfod Online Short Story Competition 2018
Hi, I’m Artemizae and honestly, I can be a real bitch sometimes. Which is a warning to me as much as you. Lycanthropy may be an explanation but it’s hardly any excuse. You know the feeling, that you’re going to be awful; eventually, inevitably, obviously, unforgivably. What are you supposed to do about it? Well I’m working on it, building a box for the beast to be in where I can’t hurt anyone. And here’s how.
The first thing to figure out is where, and trust me you’ll want to consider what it would be like when your senses are heightened. Feeling like your head is pregnant with a city ain’t pleasant. Hard to say if the stench or sound is worse, but to have it all there, and you’re aware of it all at once. It’s more than too much. It wasn’t a good place to grow up at all. Not to mention how many people there are, can’t see it going well so I’d rather not dwell.
No, you’ll want somewhere far away, the woods can be good, deep among the pine and vine. I found a place, you might call it quaint if you were trying to earn a living as a landlord. But lucky for him, a rundown cabin in the woods is just what I was looking for. See, earth is a big smell sure but at least it’s smooth, all the elements blend together and it’s the sort of scent you can settle into, without worrying about it moving much. Whereas industry, that smell is jagged with too many competing components trying to climb on top of each other.
Now I’m under no illusions this is exactly the sort of place someone uninspired would set a horror movie. Which freaked me out at first, until I remember I’m the werewolf in that situation and they’re usually fine, I can thank the need for franchises. Who knows? Maybe someday I’ll end up in space which I’ve heard is quite quiet. At least out here, I’m less likely to be intruded upon. Used to be only Halloween when you really had to worry, but now with the international market, you can never tell when the 30-something teenagers will be descending with all the diversity they lack in depth. I considered just keeping running, but I don’t think feet or paws can get me far enough fast enough, people have a habit of getting to me.
It’s funny, nothing can prepare you for the realisation that it’s you people are supposed to be afraid of. When it’s dark at night, as much as thick fog throws off your sure stride, there’s countless others out there, praying it keeps you and them apart. Not that it’s much protection, when you can smell the piss and adrenaline flowing freely to flee you. It’s a 180-degree revelation, that’s for sure. Oh, side note, give yourself time to finish digesting any deer before you turn back to human, having to heave half dissolved hooves and antlers out of yourself is the peak of unpleasant.
Now where was I? Yes, the cabin, we’re going to need to domesticate it (that means make it a home). The cabin I’d paid too much for is, as previously discussed, disgusting, run down, and barely there. But it’s a start, and no one would care to follow up on a place like this. There’s running water, a convenient one mile away, and electricity (you just have to pull it out of the sky is all). I need lumber for repairs, unfortunately I’m hardly going to convince the part of me that’s about 8 times stronger to do any of the heavy lifting. I’m always racing against the first full moon to get the wood ready. At least the cabin came with its own axe.
Arduous, yes, but achievable. The main difficulty is to keep going, have to fudge a few of the fixes, to meet my deadline, which I know I’ll only have to redo later. Wood doesn’t do much to keep in a sufficiently big wolf. And sufficiently big is exactly the kind I’d be, knowing my luck. It takes a couple cycles with me spending most of the month making things better and then one night undoing almost all of it. But I rebuild, not like I have the choice, though all I’m doing right now is buffering the beast, which isn’t good enough.
I’ve looked it up, there’s no law against disappearing, provided all debts are settled, they do let people just drop off the face of the earth. Which I did, meticulously. I can finally paint the place, a little limited in my choice though (shades of yellow and blue are all I can really do and I can’t say I’m fond of either colour) but it's a victory of sorts. And really, between full moons, it’s almost peaceful out here.
You might not think 7.35 x10^22 kg can sneak up on you. You’ll do the orbital mechanics calculations down to the second, but Kepler can’t keep the moon where you can see it. It floats, silently stalking, with the slow reassured patience of peering down at its prey over the edge of a gravity well. It doesn’t expect me to be able to run away at 11 kilometres a second, and I’m sad to say Luna is right on this one. It sits, waiting for you to blink first, then it’s hidden behind the whole world where you can’t track it. You only know you’re too late when you lick the ferrous taste off your lips still as warm as you’re steel cold. Hate to say it, but you learn soon enough that you have to choose between time or your pupils dilating. There’s only so long that scenic can occupy one’s attention, you’ll feel like you have forever, but the beast will keep you busy with jobs don’t you doubt it, dull ones. But whose fault but yours would it be to neglect your needs?
Truth is, it’s not one bite. No one bite could be that bad, and most people are too wonderful to lose themselves to it. But I wasn’t, for me it was countless small cuts, bites and scratches, most barely visible or actively hidden. Being torn to shreds and eaten alive is supposed to kill you. But if given time to grow back between attacks, then you don’t do any dying on the outside. If it’s happened to you too, well I’m sorry. I only hope it wasn’t me that did it to you. But why ever you’re this way, you’ve a duty to do now.
Insulting Zeus or Thor and waving a metal rod in the air proves ineffective as a power source. Even as out of the way as I am there’s a substation near enough to lay cables, which saves awkward reintroductions to a government computer. It’s an ugly grey lump, designed by the sad sort of soul who was probably read ‘Baby’s Big Book of Brutalist Buildings’ as a child. Judging by my reaction to the petroleum smell, my threshold for when a body stops being appetising is at least less than millions of years, which counts as relief.
I’m not sure if money would have occurred to you yet, or ever. But it helps to have an inheritance to burn though to keep what you got from your parents in check. Lycanthropy is a surprising amount of admin for one person, but working alone is for the best really. I never thought I’d have to keep track of two entirely distinct groups of mechanical rabbits. But then again, growing up I think I wanted to be a lawyer, not that I really remember.
Once the power supply is worked out the next step is getting the wiring right, a hell of a skill to have to learn from books older than you and almost as dusty. I should probably have listened more to the electronics classes. In my defence, I didn’t figure on having to find the right mix of coulombs per second, and joules per, to be sufficiently more discouraging than the wolf is desperate without dipping too far into being deadly. Trying the shock out on myself doesn’t make me much progress, and the factor of 4 to scale up to the wolf is only an estimate. It’s only waking up on the floor blanketed by the stink of singed fur and worse (convulsions aren’t the cleanest) that lets me know I’m right. But it’s not long until the fence falls. I’ve a long life ahead of me before I’m old enough to stop needing new tricks to keep the wolf in.
You’ll no doubt hope, as I once did, that maybe if you figure out what the wolf wants, then it’s as easy as building a Skinner box and pigeons can figure those out so how hard can it be? But no, that’s exactly the sort of playing at placation we need to be better than. It’s feral, can’t be reasoned with. You’ll hear it sometimes, trying to talk out of the corner of your mouth before you can catch yourself, but you can’t let it convince you. Because that’s how it happens, it starts inside, only coming out when the moonlight lets it melt its way out of you. But if you let it into your head, start listening to what it wants outside of its time in the moonlight, then there’s no going back, it’ll have you doing what it wants without you realising. So be strong, because you must. Courage isn’t a choice.
I thought maybe eating beforehand would help, but I can hardly sufficiently stuff myself when my stomach’s about to at least double in size. Even if I could when the wolf’s not hungry, eating becomes playing, and that’s no better. If I want any real idea of how many deer I’d eaten, then I’d need to count something that couldn’t be digested, I tell you viscera makes for a hell of a hard jigsaw for coming down from a bad night. Wonder if the trophies it leaves for me are its idea of a present? I must admit I made a good rug out of that bear.
Her name is Agnes, the hunter and about the only person I see most months. I do a lot of walking between my working, I guess she must as well, which leaves time to talk. She’s eccentric, but who that lives alone with large dogs isn’t a bit off? She’s at least the open sort, happy to talk and offering beer for me to politely refuse. Can’t imagine many people would hunt with a crossbow when guns are available but she doesn’t take the suggestion of an upgrade well, every so often I try to hint that stopping power isn’t something to short out on. Her dogs like me, or at least they do what I say when I ask. “They know who their alpha is.” Agnes, in a tone of voice she can retroactively declare anything from joke to threat. I’d love to lay down and sleep by her fireside sometime, but I know I can’t get too close, nice as she is there’s always an excuse for me to get out when needed.
I thought I’d try a chicken, tonight a feeble feathery thing for food. I could leave it inside for myself to find. It squirms so much when I try to force it inside, I have to hold the bird down. Like it knows what I’ll do. The plan was to leave it loose but locked in, but it just squirms so much and I just want it to stop. So, it does, with a snap. Slumps to the side which is so much worse, one last twitch as a goodbye. I just want it to start up again, but it doesn’t. But I’m sparing it, really aren’t I? Not that it deserves to die, but it deserves me and my wolfish worse even less. Better to break the neck than the spirit, I ask the bird if it saw things the same way but they don’t care enough to comment.
Are you wondering why I’d record this? Do you wonder things? I don’t remember enough of our evenings together. If you’re even listening, or more importantly hearing what I’ve to say to you. I thought maybe hearing my voice could soothe you, or taunt you with the tiniest of human shards jammed so far into your heart no even you could eat or drive it away. I’d like to think you understand, at least a little, enough that I can apologise to you. ‘Cause this is going to hurt, I assure you, I ensured it, as insurance. Or is the only feedback you’ll understand pain? Well that’s ok I’ll make sure to make myself heard. Honestly, I hope you aren’t hearing me. So, you can discover all the surprises I have planned without spoilers. Course I could have just attached jumper cables to every extremity before becoming you and let the dull persistent shock spasm you out of action, but really where’s the fun in that. It’s like that movie you snuck us out to see, despite dad telling us it would only lead us astray, and looks who’s been vindicated. It had that quote in it, I think it was something like...
“Cutting all of a man’s fingers off aint hurt half as much as asking him which.”
Was watching really worth it?
Do you recognise the people in the picture? Our parents, they made us both, me intentionally, but you, they did everything they could to stop you existing. All the shocks and cold water, all of it, they were thinking of our future. This was what they were working to prevent if you’d not ruined it. Well good news, I figured out where they went wrong, they knew you were inside me, but couldn’t bring themselves to break me open enough to get at you, to destroy you. And whether they’re looking up or down on us, I’m giving them a front row seat, to make them proud of me the way you never will do. They loved us.
Well good news, loving you is the last thing I’ll ever do. You Fucking Bitch!
The recording is done, how many times I must have heard it by now, even without the distinctive end of tape sound I know when it ends and when the night begins. Sorry if I’m not what you expected, Artemizae may call me the wolf, but I prefer Artemizae. This is escape attempt number, who even knows? Everything is so the same, even the shocks, that I can hardly count.
She’s not wrong about what I did, to those deer or our folks, but isn’t how awful it is indicative of our parents not being good people? They needed to be stopped, which is what I did. How was secondary to making sure it happened. I can see a chicken corpse, by now it’s cold, no I’m not going to eat it. What would be the point? I already forced myself to kill it, and the flies its carcass calls do more for my cause than the calories could.
You see, I have to believe that I’m not beaten just yet. But I’ve learnt there’s no running away from myself. We have to agree, if I’m to run away she has to come too, and willingly. She just needs to see she doesn’t deserve this.
This place can only get so unbearable, right?