HOWL - RICHARD GODWIN
They had almost finished eating when he felt it. Like someone pulling at his sleeve, drawing him away from human company into the shadows.
Rachel leant across him, the edge of her blouse brushing his arm and she glanced briefly at him as her breast pressed against him.
‘Lou, would you like more wine?’ she said.
He held her gaze and knew the question that flickered briefly in her eyes and looked over at Don and saw the tired signs of a marriage that had hit sexual zero.
He read her skin like a secret map.
Outside the moon beat light into the room and a beam broke across the carpet.
‘I think I’ll go,’ Lou said standing.
‘Bit early,’ Don said.
Rachel put a hand on his shoulder.
‘Yeah, come on, Lou.’
‘You know, I’ve got things to do.’
‘It’s another woman, right?’ Don said.
Rachel glanced in his direction.
‘Shut up, Don’.
‘No, I really must go.’
He went to use their john and it hit him. The taste of bile like rusting metal in his gut and the shadow of blood across his veiled cyanic eyes in the mirror.
And so he left them standing on the porch staring after him.
He tried to get home knowing he didn’t have much time, not wanting them to see the change and know him, not wanting to be found out by those who dwelt in his day world, the world he tried to navigate as best he could when the sickness was not on him.
The light was now surreal and the shadows altered in the trees and he knew he was among the resident forms of darkness and their attendant feasting had begun.
And as he turned the corner the smell of flesh hit him in some avalanche of sensation and the craving was too strong.
He stopped by the bar and the murmur of voices hummed into the street and above them he heard the trill of female laughter.
He found himself among strangers who looked at him with a sullen hostility that he could taste.
‘What can I get you?’ the barman said.
‘I’ll have a Bloody Mary.’
‘Now there’s a man after my own heart.’
He looked at her.
A fading beauty with urgency in her veins, a smile that told of half forgotten pleasures, and he could see the tear marks in her skin and he could smell what it was she was thinking.
‘Mirabelle,’ she said, extending a hand.
As he held it he felt the surge of her within him and what it was she wanted to feel and he could smell that she was fertile.
‘I like the name,’ she said, ‘get me another.’
He watched as the barman tipped tomato juice into the vodka and had to still himself, the smell was so strong.
Mirabelle was talking but he couldn’t hear what she was saying and he noticed a guy over in the corner scowl and look away.
He wore a faded denim jacket and swigged his beer with resentment.
And it built in Lou.
Mirabelle was moving her mouth but all he could do was smell her.
‘What do you think?’ she said.
‘What I was saying.’
‘I think you’re on heat.’
She burst out laughing and drunkenly wagged a finger in his direction.
‘Now you have a point,’ she said.
The guy in the corner got up and walked out, casting a hostile glance in Mirabelle’s direction as he left.
‘Know him?’ Lou said.
‘Ah, forget him.’
He tried focusing on what she was saying but she was speaking a foreign language and he felt lost among men and hungered for the dark.
It was too much and the blood was rushing into him in a torrent.
He stood up.
‘Where you going?’ Mirabelle said.
‘Take me with you, honey.’
She stood up and staggered after him, her heels clopping on the tiles and she found him bent over breathing heavily, hands on his knees.
‘Are you OK?’ she said.
‘Just leave me.’
‘Take me somewhere nice.’
He was about to say something when he heard the bottle smash at the edge of the car park and Mirabelle turned and it was too late because it had started and he could taste the blood and he smelled the woman and the man in the denim was moving towards him with the broken glass in his hand.
‘Git Mirabelle,’ he said, baring his teeth at her and Lou felt it then, seeing his lips curl back.
She screamed but it was Lou she was looking at as the scream rose in her throat and he saw her run from the car park as he heard the swish of bottle in the air. He ducked.
His attacker lost his balance and Lou grabbed him by the throat and saw the ripples of blood gather and trill there in some lunar melody and he tore his shirt from him and tasted him and defiled his body there as the light suffused the car park with some predatory glow.
And he drank of him and rose.
His mouth was awash with the fluids of the man who fell backwards now as Lou sank his teeth deep within his chest and pulled his heart from him and felt its rhythm beat against his teeth, the sharpness of razors in his mouth and some implacable hardness within him that drove him to penetrate deeper.
He held his head back until he did not move and he shook his heart from his mouth.
And then he rose his head towards the gibbous moon that lay lacerated by some trees deep in that alien sky and he howled.
BIO: Richard Godwin lives and writes in London, where his dark satire ‘The Cure-All’, about a group of confidence tricksters, has been produced on the stage. He has just finished writing a crime novel. His writing appears regularly at Disenthralled and Gloom Cupboard, among many other magazines. He has a Twitter account and can be found there under the User Name Stanzazone.
The Irish Times’ Crime Fiction ‘Best Of’ 2018
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