'Me and You and the Loup Garou' by John Duncan

It’s cold outside, and the east wind whines and snuffles around the door. It lays its bulk against the house, and scrabbles at the windowpanes.

“It’s just me, and you, and the loup-garou,” she says, and I think to myself what an extraordinarily dangerous place the universe can be. Of course, it’s dangerous by design: no-one gets out alive. But when you’re parked in a log cabin, a tiny fading ember on the winter’s edge of nowhere, and somewhere out there is a shuddering snarling mass of muscle and claws and ravening appetite ... I didn’t volunteer for this, by the way.

Let me introduce myself. I’m the protagonist; I’ve been cast onto the arctic spaces of this page for your assumed amusement. Maybe I’ll survive: who knows? I don’t like that crack about the loup-garou, though – a French werewolf, how very – and all the imagery at the start. I don’t think that bodes well.

What of my companion? Well, she throws a log onto the fire, so she has hands, and she tugs her parka around her, so she’s not naked ... I’ll admit to some disappointment there, but the set-up wasn’t really heading that way.

I know, I know; this isn’t the way a story goes. What we have here is one of your meatfictions.

Ah. That should be, “one of your metafictions”: “fiction which self-consciously alludes to the artificiality or literariness of a work by parodying or departing from traditional narrative techniques,” it says here. Our author is playing games, in other words. Sometimes you have to. Staring at all that white emptiness, it can turn you funny.

If this were a normal story, maybe I’d know that there are no such things as werewolves – at least, until our immanent presence comes barrelling through the window (he’s still out there, by the way; lurking in the as-yet-unrealised parts of the story). But I know I’m fictional. Whatever’s for me won’t go by me.

I can’t explain this to my companion, of course. She’s just a voice, a hand, a parka. Raw material. Do we have any food? Maybe that’s the story: terror keeps us penned in here, and we just starve to death. Maybe all that wolf-wind stuff at the start was misdirection ... but I don’t think this author is that subtle. We’ve got teeth and hair and claws coming; I can smell it.

The wind rises, battering at the cabin walls. The fire dips and jitters in the grate, hunchback shadows splash across the wall. It’s cold inside, now, too. But there’s warmth over by the fire. Warmth that’s red, warmth that’s wet and steaming. I know that now. We both know, don’t we?

Don’t look to her. She’s no help to you, she’s just a bit part, just bits and parts … I was inside your head all the time: that little voice, all cold inside. This is what you were waiting for. Now things are getting hairy.

Now it’s just me, and you, and the loup-garou.

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'Me and You and the Loup-Garou' was published in 2012 in a now-defunct online magazine, Spine Tinglers.

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