Size / / /

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The spiral staircase takes me to the door
with the cartoon wolf sticker, just like
the Craigslist ad said. The moon is full
tonight. Tires sloshing across wet snow,
the scent of burning wood, firetrucks blaring
in this Côte-des-Neiges neighbourhood.
I knock and wait. Watch the children play,
earflaps bouncing, hockey sticks spitting up
ice, snow glittering like stadium lights.
Their cheeks are crisp with blood—
but the pills blunt my hunger.

Robin opens the door. Beard braided,
sooty-faced, shoulders broad from
the construction site. He scoffs at my stationary store
nametag—Bonjour! Je m’appelle Florian—and pulls me
inside. It’s a studio apartment. Candlelight, unmade bed,
guests on the shaggy carpet. There’s Marguerite, head shaved
with tarot cards, a long way from the fille du roi without
a livre to her name. I wave at Alexandre, who nods
by the couch, eyes spidery with mascara, bass guitar
out. And on the terrace: Célia. Dark fur shining like tar
in the moonlight, snout long and wrinkled.
When she crawls, she growls, kisses me
with a hot, feral mouth.

It’s our 350th anniversary.
Survived the Atlantic Ocean, scurvy, blizzards
and riots in the streets. Tourists from Expo 67,
debating separation on TV, bike lanes expanding
on every street. Through it all, we hunted,
howled and mauled, lived like exiled gods.
Meet up once a year to commiserate,
to celebrate: another year alive,
another year survived.

Now none of us have hunted
in over a decade. Modern life has
that effect on us, dulls instincts,
tucks tails between legs. Even when
the moon swells, we take our appetite suppressant
pills and masquerade: as store clerks, construction workers,
glum-eyed bass guitarists and professional psychics. We eat
thin-crusted pizza, sip bitter IPAs and chat—how Robin’s
drinking buddies side-eye his lack of aging, Alexandre’s fear
of intimacy, Marguerite’s entanglements with criminal
underlings—when we should be out hunting.
Even tonight, there’s not a prey in sight: just black bread
shiny with butter, sweet potatoes braised in wine and oils,
crepes stuffed with strawberries. Célia nibbles on scraps
under the table, yellow teeth flashing by my ankles. So old
that pills don’t work on her and she drools without knowing.

« Elle se sent seule. » Marguerite tells me.
Fireworks bloom across the street, but Célia
remains a shadow under gold streaks. Célia,
the original loup-garou, lonely? We watch
her watch the children’s faces ripen
with blood as they fight over the puck.
She licks her jaws and Marguerite’s eyes
grow wide in warning. « Elle a faim aussi. »

What if Célia snaps?
What then for her?
For us?

To cover our tracks, we have
to go back. Become ourselves
for one night—that’s enough.
We take Robin’s pickup truck into Trois-Rivières,
into remote villages we lived in when we were human.
Snow falls, melts on Célia’s plum tongue. Her lips curl
into a yellow smile, and I can see it so clearly now:
the pupils thinned, the zigzagging pawprints, the clawing
off of parts, the bullet-riddled aftermath. By sunrise,
we’ll go our separate ways. Some of us will come back,
some will meet our graves.

For now, we howl in unison,
as synchronized as a celestial
alignment. Before we split up,
we look at each other one last time.
There’s awe and terror,
profound sadness,
laughter. How amazing, to have known
each other. To have lived for so long
and still feel our existence is just a blink
in a cold, ancient universe. How brief
and dizzying, how we won’t change
a thing. How grateful we are for
all of it, to have been together,
moonlit.



Millie Ho’s work appears in Lightspeed Magazine, Nightmare Magazine, Strange Horizons, Uncanny Magazine, and others. She was a finalist for the 2019 Rhysling Awards, and lives in Montreal. Find her at www.millieho.net and on Twitter @Millie_Ho.
Current Issue
28 Nov 2022

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