Eastern B.C.; nestled in the heart of the thick-treed Kootenays; a small, mountain town; winters cause hands to callous, to bleed.
Twenty minutes from town there is a small log home. A child and a lycanthrope live there. She is small, ashen, could disappear into the snow if it weren’t for her dark hair. They once lived with a woman, too. The woman didn’t know what the little girl knows, that the man they lived with turned into something uglier and beastlier when the white moon grew fat.
Not very long ago, the child and her mother ate breakfast together, and read together, and learned together. Then the wolf ate her up. Enormous, meaty bites. Three giant gulps and the woman was no more. Tucked in a dark corner of the house, the little girl covered her ears and hummed. The lycanthrope and the child packed their things and moved. Winter came, spring followed, summer. Winter again. Her skin cracks dry; his lips chap. The child bleeds.
She is surprised and uncomfortable. Using rags wrapped in mint, she tries to disguise the smell. She fears that he will smell it and want it. She’s heard stories; she has the books the woman left her. For twenty-nine and a half days, there is nothing for the wolf to eat. He starves and starves and grows gaunt and hollow; ink-colored spots bleed from the skin beneath his eyes. The child sits and counts his ribs over supper: one rib, two ribs, three ribs, four. She makes a song of it. Usually, when the round moon comes, the wolf retreats to the forest.
Not this time.
The child wakes up to the wolf’s grizzled, matted snout in her cunt. Warm, bright blood dampens the fur on his face. Despite her protections, he has come anyways. She screams. She screams. She screams. Her bellows are so loud, so achingly dire, that she is heard from miles away. The townsfolk travel quickly, but by daybreak the wolf is gone.
The man meets them at the door. We have rats, he says, gesturing at the log home. They’ve infested us. They’ve gotten into the potatoes and they leave trails of piss all around the home. The townsfolk grimace appropriately, perturbed, apologetic. The man shuts the door. My, he says to the child, what big ears they have.
The child bleeds off and on; she knows now it will come every two or even three fortnights. Unpredictable, yet consistent. When the moon grows large, her blood often arrives. She leaves bloody footsteps in the snow on morning walks. In the evening, she hears claw and wood; the wolf-man arrives and bloodies his thighs, his nose. She screams. She screams. She screams.
She is hysterical, the man says somberly to the crowd when dawn arrives, we need to find her a head-doctor.
The townsfolk agree. A wrinkled man with three warts on one cheek and knobby knotted knuckles comes to the log home in the heart of the valley, but says the girl is not hysterical. There is something else wrong. He does not know what. When the full moon comes again, the child screams. She screams. She screams.
There is a wolf-man, the child whispers, low yet confident, when the crowd has gathered again. He comes when the moon is fat. He has hairy haunches and a drooping man’s belly and weak man arms, but long wolf claws, and a wolf’s terrible snout, and he eats me and soon I won’t exist.
One lady in the crowd has a shawl around her hair and a heavy coat. The child cannot see her eyes, but she can see a faint smile on her lips. The child thought all older women were hags, perhaps turned into witches when their breasts begin to sag, but this one does not look like a monstrous illustration in one of the man’s old fairy-tale books. She looks, eerily, impossibly, something like the woman that the wolf-man ate.
It is a possession, corrects one old, craggy man with nicotine-stained whiskers. They call for a minister. The child watches him hang crosses in her room and hang one around her neck. For your protection, he says, and sighs knowingly. Like sour milk, the moonlight seeps into her bedroom, spilt across the crosses on her wall, the wooden floors, the panelled walls, her chest and face. The minister tells her that she has a demon inside of her.
I do have something inside of me, she says, guiltily, shamefully, thinking of the man-wolf in her room, in her.
The minister blesses the log home. He blesses the child. He leaves. Hard balls of ice and snow rattle against the logs; the sun sets midday; the cold is unforgiving, ubiquitous.
And so the child is alone again.
The wolf-man comes, expectedly, now. She screams. She screams. She screams. No one comes. They believe her to be a friend of the devil, hording an evil beast in her belly. The lycanthrope throws back his head and howls.
Her walks are frequent; from afar, she is invisible, dark hair bobbing in the snow. On moonless nights, she is allowed away from the log cabin. She stays out late, enjoying the full dark. She misses the woman. Is there any way to bring someone back from the dead? she wonders. If a man can shift his shape, can grow wolf legs and snout and impulses, surely there must be a way to grow someone back alive.
A tawny cat arches her back; the child almost misses her, but trips over the feline’s body instead. She falls face-first into the snow. Ochre in the dark, moonless sky, the cat looks ominous. Her fur is darker around her ears and eyes, like a shawl, so dark she looks to only have a slit of a mouth, upturned so the child can see her crooked teeth. Yet when the child looks in her hooded eyes, she does not see something baleful but something judicious. When the child has brushed herself off and stood up, the cat is gone. She clucks her tongue, wanting her friend to return, but to no avail. At the end of the woods, a package awaits her. She unfolds it carefully and slips her prize inside her gown.
When the next gorged moon comes, so does the man-wolf. He flips her over, snarling, and she plucks the blade from beneath her bed. She waits only until she is on her back again before thrusting it into his throat, his stomach, his thigh. The child slices the lycanthrope’s snout off; it falls to the floor, bounces once, bloodied and dead. He screams. He screams. He screams.
The silver is covered in his blood. She licks it clean.
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