The Last Werewolf Page 8

Not that I could hold either line for long. It had been ten days since I’d fucked Madeline. Ten days takes my kind to the edge. On the Curse you’re desperate for sex with a She (if you’re straight, that is; there are, naturally, gay werewolves—one resists “queerwolves”), while off the Curse your regular libido’s amped up by the frustration of not having had sex with a She. It’s a numbers problem. Infection rates for females have always been low, WOCOP estimates one to every thousand males. As you can imagine, we don’t run into one another. I’ve never met one. In Buffy there’d be a howlers’ singles bar or dating agency. Not in the real world. The Internet’s no help: WOCOP’s set up so many entrapment sites (infamously, from which they wiped out almost a hundred monsters—all male; no females, if there were even any left, responded—in one month back in the mid-nineties) that no one dares take the risk. For the longest time the romantic explanation for low rates of female infection endured: Possession of a womb, it was supposed, conferred a gentleness which simply could not bear the viciousness of a lycanthropic heart. Female werewolves, masculine idiocy maintained, must be killing themselves in crazy numbers. First full moon they’d Change, devour a loved one, be unable to live with the guilt, slip away somewhere quiet and swallow a silver earring. It’s quite extraordinary, given the wealth of historical evidence to the contrary, how long this fallacy of the gentler sex lasted, but the twentieth century (years before Myra and the girls of Abu Ghraib put their two penn’orth in) pretty much did away with it. Now we know: If women don’t catch the werewolf bug, it’s certainly not because they’re sugar and spice and all things nice. Whatever the reason, there have never been enough Shes to go round. It’s one of the universe’s great sexual tragedies. It’s one of the universe’s great sexual farces too, because none of this souped-up concupiscence serves an evolutionary purpose. Werewolves don’t reproduce sexually. Howler girls are eggless, howler boys dud of spunk. If you haven’t had kids by the time you’re turned you’re not having any, get used to it. Lycanthropic reproduction is via infection: Survive the bite and the Curse is yours.

But here’s the thing, the old news, the stale headline: No one is surviving the bite anymore.

According to WOCOP not for at least a hundred years. Mauled victims die within twelve hours. It’s a mystery. I was turned in 1842 and it’s possible I was the last werewolf made. WOCOP, giddy with scientific incredulity, has captured werewolves and given them victims to bat around—without successful transmission. For the last century the species has been on a fast track to extinction, with or without WOCOP’s exterminatory zeal. By the year of the Great Exhibition we were down to fewer than three thousand. By the time Queen Victoria died just under two and a half. And by the time of the first moon landing we were a list of 793 names. Within WOCOP the Hunt’s become a joke, the guys who did their job so well they did themselves out of a job. Yearly their funding dwindles. A veil of melancholy has fallen. You’ll be Grainer’s swansong, Harley had said. His late masterpiece.

I turned the shower off, voluptuous from the heat and the perceptible pulse of Madeline’s waiting body. One hard straight fuck, allegro , to kill the fizz and settle me, then the second, third and fourth movements, adagio, ritardando, grave . This is acute desire and acute boredom in the same glass. I do what I do with the glazed despair you see in the superobese as they chomp rhythmically through their tonnage of chocolate and fried chicken. One of the things I’ve been hanging on for is the death of my libido. I’ve lost interest in everything else, so why not? But it just keeps, as it were, coming.

A pre-coitus glance in the mirror showed the drearily familiar calm dark-eyed face (every time I see it these days I think, Oh, Jacob, do yourself a favour and stop ) then I joined Madeline on the bed, where at my request she turned the TV off and lay on her back and opened her white-stockinged legs and placed her arms slave-girlishly above her head and for some fifteen minutes endured the increasingly painful realisation that I wasn’t going to get an erection, while simultaneously doing everything in her power to give me one. Eventually, emphatically soft, I accepted defeat. “Hilarious though this sounds,” I said, “we’ve just made history. This has never happened to me before.”

Her professional self was miffed, and not very good at hiding it. After a clipped exhalation and a flick of the blond hair off her clavicle she said: “Do you want to try it another way?”

It’s official.

You’re the last.

I’m sorry.

It’s called delayed shock for a reason. Until getting on top of her I’d been ethereal with not having taken it in, or with having doublethinkingly taken it in and rejected it at the same time. But I’d put my hands on her waist and felt her nipples touch my chest and the softness and heat of her breath had in the way of such mysteries returned me to full and nauseous mass. It was as if I’d been ignoring a shadow on my peripheral vision only to turn and find it was a thousand-foot tidal wave, heading my way. You’re the last.

“Maybe later,” I said. “It’s not you, incidentally.” She pulled her chin in at the absurdity of that, glanced away to the invisible documentary-maker who’s always with her. Madeline’s narcissism reconfigures awkward moments as opportunities for into-camera astonishment. Er, he llo ?

I’d slid to rest with my head on her thigh, and now lay inhaling the smell of her warm young cunt with its wreath of Dior Addict. The last image before I’d quit flubbing her was of flak-jacketed Ellis holding up Wolfgang’s giant severed lupine head while a Hunt colleague filmed the whole thing for the WOCOP annals.

“How about I give you a massage?” I said. If this was Hollywood I’d be dismissing her fully paid and heavily gratuitied in preparation for a night’s heroic solitary brooding, a sequence of fade-shots wet-eyed Pacino would do with baleful minimalism, staring out at the city, lit cigarette, bottle and glass, the face tranquilly letting all the death and sadness gather with a kind of defeated wisdom. But this wasn’t Hollywood. The thought of being alone all night released dizzyingly wrong adrenaline and a second phase of denial. It didn’t bear thinking about. I removed Madeline’s stockings.

“Is that nice?” I asked, a little while later. I’d turned the lights out but left the blinds open. It was still snowing. The yellowish grey sky and white roofscape yielded a moony light, enough for the glimmer of her earrings and the oil’s sheen on her skin. I had her left foot in my hands and was working it gently.

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