Saturday 15 June 2019

'Werewolf Sanctuary' by Phoebe Wagner

It’s my last week, my last change before I’m moved to a regular prison. The big bosses are afraid one of us might get attached. See them as just dogs, and maybe they’re right. I can’t shake the eyes. Not the human eyes, but the wolf eyes—the full moon gaze. The guards aren’t supposed to stray from the computer screens on those nights in case there’s a breach, in case a wolf slavers for our throats, but I find some excuse for fresh air and watch behind the fence as they dance or wage war. Their howls stroke a fearful nerve, and I cover my ears.

Now and again, they come to me. Some are more human than others. They lumber to the fence, monkeylike. I want to grip the links, but all guards know stories of fingers scissored like cigar ends. I lock my hands behind my back and close my eyes as they howl, deep-chested and ice-sharp, calling for star paths and lunar-bright forests. Their bristly throats hitch for words.

After the moon swells to newness and the werewolves become taut-skinned and soft-spoken, I return to my regular work: helping the different packs in their duties of clearcutting, milling, welding, cooking, cleaning.
The first week, wolves joke with each other, even with me as I watch them weld fences another pack will later place around the compound. Week two, the fights start. Omegas get sick of the good-natured ball-grabs or ass-pinches and start throwing punches, demanding human respect.

Last week, an omega heaved a tray at a beta during dish duty, and I kicked them apart, but the omega had his throat torn out the next night. Human teeth don’t cut very clean.

Today, my last, the Detroit pack alpha has a seizure during lunch, a muzzle trying to push between his teeth. As I help drag him to solitary, he keeps screaming: “Your skin is mine! Tonight, your skin is mine!”

I tell the other guards the poor thing was just moon-mad. I wasn’t scared.

When I creep from my barrack, avoiding the night lights that claw the ground, my blood pulses as if trying to escape my veins. Their howls are silver. Long vowels scrabble at the stars, and I start to connect the words.

The werewolves are waiting at the fence. Some stand, some sprawl, some sex. I try to meld into shadows, but they net me with meteor-chip eyes. I am staked to the spot as they nuzzle the fence, press their sides against it, swipe pink tongues through the links.

Then they howl:

Swing low sweet moon
Take me close.
Swing low sweet moon
Swallow me whole.

Then I am hollowing, shrieking for the moon to wrench me into the cold silence where gravity equalizes us, where all voices are one in quiet, where each path is decided by planets. And the wolves are coming for me, with their guns, their tan skins rippling, and I am being torn apart.

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