The things we do to protect our pups.
It all happened so fast, and now, I’m looking down at my seven year-old son, sick to the stomach of what I have done.
Will Hell take back what it churned out?
Victor was screaming. The frozen slab of deer meat was not what he wanted. I want the other meat, mummy, this one is yucky. Fists balled, he shrieked and shrilled, his face the colour of ash. His wail didn’t worry me. It was watching his pupils changing and dark fur sprouting through his face that made my heart drop into my stomach.
My husband had been gone for over a week, longer than usual. The snow was thick when James left. From the mouth of the cave, I watched him slowly descend, boots sinking deep with every step. At the foot of the mountain, he’d find the spot where he parked our car, pull tree branches off it, pray that the engine still worked, and once the car roared to life he’d drive for three hours into town, back to civilisation, back to where he’d once belonged. There, preying would begin.
It was always the journey back up the mountain that proved most laborious, especially in the snow, especially with another body. It would have been easier to live among them, but that was no longer an option after the night our neighbours, who invited us over for dinner, found our five year-old Victor by the cot of their baby, who by then had been reduced to a pile of bones.
Since moving, we had been carefully measuring Victor’s cycle to ensure James had enough time to catch his next meal. But meals didn’t come easy. Gone are the days when they freely roamed the streets, played in the fields, built castles up the hills. These days their parents are warned, vigilant, scared. Sometimes James had no choice but to go after a skinny homeless instead of a child. At least that’d keep Victor from turning for some time.
The thing about turning is, you have three days to find food. After that…
No! Victor will not die. I’ve seen his life in my dream, the dream recurring night after night as I laid on my side and he on his, facing each other, the tips of our noses touching, his sweet breath weaving its way into my heart and sealing itself around each and every pulse, his little arm around my neck. In my dream, Victor will transform this place. In the new world, his race will rise. In the new world, my son will lead and rule for thousands of years, long after his father and I take our last breaths, long after humans are gone.
I had tried offering him my arm, hoping it might take the edge off his hunger. I don’t know why I did that as we never eat our own kind. I guess that’s just what mothers do. Watching your child starve to death, in return for something to feed him, wouldn’t you offer your own flesh? Bed a stranger? Lie and fight until there’s nothing left in you but the bond that forever binds a mother to her child?
Wouldn’t you murder someone else?
Or someone else’s child?
I went outside after chaining Victor down. By then, his cute little nose was a dark, broad snout. His soft lips disappeared as his mouth turned grey and stretched back, revealing long, sharp canines. His baby-blue eyes became yellow balls centered with black dots. He was growling. I had no choice but to chain him down before he fully turned.
As I scanned the slope of the mountain, James appeared.
A small body slung over his shoulder, he moved past me silently. Not a hello kiss or even a hey. We had stopped kissing and smiling at each other since the move. You can’t be loving and angry at the same time. And James was angry. Angry, exhausted, and broken beyond repair.
Nobody said parenting was an easy task.
He stopped and asked,“Is he chained down?”
Silence, and then, “I can’t do this any more, Lily.”
I said nothing.
“Don’t look at me like that.”
“You want to kill our son.”
“I can’t kill another child.”
“But you have been. Why are you giving up now? Please, honey, give our baby more time. He’ll learn to control himself as he grows. Please!”
He studied me. I hated myself.
“How do you know he’ll learn to control himself?”
I gave him a desperate, hopeless look.
“I’m not giving up,” he sighed finally. “But we have to find another way.”
And he entered the cave.
The next thing I heard made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.
“Lily!! Where is he? I thought you chained him down. I —”
And then, “Oh God! He broke the chain. He’s out! Lily! Run! Run!”
Then came more screaming and growling and ripping and snapping.
I whipped around and, without thinking, charged back inside.
I could have saved him.
Because I can be stronger, much stronger than he could have known. But he didn’t, because he’d never seen me turn. He never knew what I really am.
Had I turned, I would have saved James but killed Victor. James’ bullet missed, but my teeth would not.
I dry my tears, ignore the blooming pain inside my heart, and pick up my little boy, who has turned back but also passed out from two meals. Blood’s smeared all over his mouth. Bones are scattered across icy ground. I hug him to my chest as a guttural cry escapes my mouth. In my shoes, wouldn’t others have done the same? Why give us unthinkable jobs but ask us not to do the unthinkable?
When awake, Victor will ask for his dad. I’ll make up something. He won’t remember or find out what happened today. And I pray to the Gods, or demons who created my son and me, that he never will.