I want him before he wants me. I am twenty-three years old and sipping mint juleps from red plastic cups when I see him. His polo shirt is stained with the brown of a chocolate stout, and his hair smells of vague lotion and barber soap, and the seams of his shirt are pulled too-tight against his chest. I finish my drink sloppily and find him standing in a circle around beer-stained playing cards, and when I give him my name and number, and I see the lights dance in his eyes, I know he is mine.
When he first holds me in his arms, we have been dating for twelve hours and I want him. We sit in the squeaking-rocking seat of a Ferris wheel and watch the city lights flash like fireflies beneath us. I tell him about wildflowers and macro-photography, and he tells me about hydroelectric dams. Then I tell him to stop talking.
He asks if I believe in ghosts.
No, I say, there are no ghosts here.
He wraps his arms around me, and I taste the soft smile on his lips. When he takes me home that evening, he opens the door like a gentleman, and he shakes my father’s hand with a firm grip, and I know we will marry.
We do, or we will, but first, he takes me camping.
We take small sips from water bottles as we ascend. The backpack rubs heavy on my shoulders. My legs ache, and the sun brings blistering red on not-sunscreen-painted forearms. In the heat of summer, the sultry air is thick with mosquitos and tastes of earthworms. Here, a kingfisher dances on branches and watches the river for the flash-tail of a trout. There, a porcupine snoozes in the curled lump of a spruce branch.
We pitch our tent atop pine needles and moss.
Do you like the moonlight, he asks.
Yes, I say.
Do you like the crickets and the frogs, he asks.
Yes, stop talking, tell me you love me. Love me.
The bushes stir. Coupled in his arms, I wake, hear the chittering and groaning of rocks and leaves and the world. A twig snaps. An owl hoots and flees and leaves the camp in stunted silence.
Did you hear that?
Wait I think—
When the claws dig into the plastic of the tent, I scream. He jumps to a crouch and reaches for a hunting knife. But the claws have done their work and the eyes of the creature are red red red. It howls, growls, and the sound from its throat is twisted and beautiful and terrible. It lunges, and its claws bring a spurt of fresh blood and I scream and scream and kick and bite and scratch.
It does not matter.
At the end, he is bloody and his throat is ripped raw and I hold his hand until the last, until he is warm but unmoving and the floor of the tent is slicked with blood. The creature he stabbed fled into the night. A bite mark on my shoulder stings and burns and throbs with pain not natural, and I know that I am forever broken.
They tell me about lines.
Two, they say, means pregnant.
When I tell them my would-be-husband is dead with a ripped throat in a closed casket they smile and give condolences and say things they think matters. Nothing matters. The moonlight starts to hurt and makes my skin crawl like a hundred spiders are beneath my skin, burning, pulsing.
The moonlight burns, I say.
Yes, they say, I’m sorry.
At home, I paint the crib a beautiful pastel blue and read parenting books until I can stack them twelve-high on the counter. I take pictures from the walls, share photographs with my would-have-been-in-laws. They hold their tears with mine and we go through scrapbooks, baby photographs, embarrassing prom pictures.
You were his first, they say, you were special.
They say they’ll help with the baby.
I say thank you and goodbye and think, why couldn’t the creature have taken me instead.
When my son arrives, he brings a pain I cannot describe through words alone. The doctors pump my spine with an intravenous drip and tell me to push, to breathe. They hold my hand. My father and father-in-law wait outside and make small talk in the way only wounded parents can.
Please, I tell my son, behave, be kind to me.
He is not.
In the end, my lips are bloody and my legs lose feeling and the doctor hands me the small lump of flesh that cries and coos. I hold his hand, and his small fingers curl around my thumb, and at that moment, I know he is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.
There might be problems, the doctors say, complications.
My son is covered in a thin veneer of fur.
My shoulder pulses with phantom pain.
The virus might have spread to him, they say.
He might not be fully human.
I don’t care; I love him I love him I love him.
My son grows like a pup. In a year, he can walk and run and speak in short-stunted sentences. He stacks blocks in his crib and giggles whenever the top block falls. He sleeps curled in a blanket, and he bats his hands at the mobile above him.
Your father would have loved you, I say, he would have, he would have.
He says mama and mama.
I force the pills down his throat and mine whenever the moonlight is strongest.
He tells me about school. The class made fingerpainted pictures and I hang them on the fridge. I tell him he is talented and brilliant even though the image looks like a monstrous tree. There are streaks of red in the stomach of the stick figures. The sun in the corner is colored silver.
I ask him if he is hungry and he nods.
I feed him steak and cut and season the raw cubes with salt and pepper.
He says he wants chicken.
We eat it raw.
They come for him in the daylight. They take him on his walk home, and he squirms, and he screams, and I tell myself he fought them to the last, though I cannot know the truth.
They say, money money money.
They say, pills pills.
I tell them to go fuck themselves.
When I speak to the police, I beg and plead and tell them every detail I think will matter. Then I pace the floor of his bedroom, count the colored pills in the bottle, and check the calendar. One week until the full moon. I stare at the magnets on the wall. I picture the monster in my mind’s eye, the glowing eyes and dagger-white claws that ripped and tore and took my husband from me.
I’d like to think the beast was scared, afraid, not in control.
I’d like to think it had no choice,
I’d like to think it died slowly after my husband plunged the hunting knife into its still-beating heart. But I know it survived, because no steel can kill it.
I tell them about money. I don’t have it yet, I say, I won’t have it for a week. I ask to speak to my son and they put the phone against his ear.
He says, mommy I’m scared.
I ask if they’ve been feeding him and he says yes, though I do not know if he means cooked meat or raw, and I do not know if the men understand what he is, what we are, and what we can become.
I have never seen my son changed, I do not know if he even knows what the raw moonlight will do to him. I need to buy time. I need to breathe. I need to think. None of the twelve parenting books stacked on the counter have prepared me for the inevitable fear of losing a child.
I’ve lost one man, and I cannot, will not lose another.
The police will never know the truth.
I learn about moonlight. Beneath my skin is a thousand needle-pricks. It waits in my blood, my bones. It stalks my footsteps and hunger beneath my eyes. It waits. I pull a hood around my head and travel to the park. They come with my son wrapped in a shawl. They come with guns. I do not think guns can stop me.
I think, blood flesh rip tear
I think, wolf wolf wolf
I remove my hood and the moonlight hits my face and the screaming starts.
I hold my son in my arms. He cries because he does not understand. He asks what happened, and why the men screamed, and why it hurts so bad. I tell him to drink water and take the pills and wait. I tell him that I love him.
I wipe the blood from my chin.
I rip the bullets from my arm with a pair of tweezers. They go plink-plink on the tile and I wipe the blood away with a rag. I’m not sure whose blood runs innocently down the sink.
I tell my son I love him, and I hold him, and I tell him his father would be proud, that he was so brave. I tell myself those things too. I try to believe them, even when I cannot.Recommend0 Simily SnapsPublished in