It was still snowing when I stepped out into the street. Vehicular traffic was poignantly stupefied and Earl's Court Underground was closed. For a moment I stood adjusting to the air's fierce innocence. I hadn't known the Berliner, but what was he if not kin? He'd had a near miss in the Black Forest two years ago, fled to the States and gone off-radar in Alaska. If he 'd stayed in the wilderness he might still be alive. (The thought, "wilderness," stirred the ghost animal, ran cold fingers through the pelt that wasn't there; mountains like black glass and slivers of snow and the blood-hot howl on ice-flavoured air...) But home pulls. It draws you back to tell you you don't belong. They got Wolfgang twenty miles from Berlin. Ellis cut his head off. The death of a loved one brutally vivifies everything: clouds, street corners, faces, TV ads. You bear it because others share the grief. Species death leaves no others. You're alone among all the eerily renewed particulars.
Tongue out to taste the cold falling flakes I got the first inklings of the weight the world might put on me for the time I had left, the mass of its detail, its relentless plotless insistence. Again, it didn't bear thinking about. This would be my torture: All that didn't bear thinking about would devote itself to forcing me to bear thinking about it.
I lit a Camel and hauled myself into focus. Practicalities: Get to Gloucester Road on foot. Circle Line to Farringdon. Ten minutes flailing trek to the Zetter, where Madeline, God bless her mercenary charms, would be waiting. I pulled the woollen cap down snug over my ears and began walking.
Harley had said: Grainer wants the monster not the man. You've got time. I didn't doubt he was right. There were twenty-seven days to the next full moon and thanks to the interference Harley had been running WOCOP still had me in Paris. Which knowledge sustained me for a few minutes despite the growing conviction - this is paranoia, you're doing this to yourself - that I was being followed.
Then, turning into Cromwell Road, the denial allowance was spent and there was nothing between me and the livid fact: I was being followed.
This is paranoia, I began again, but the mantra had lost its magic. Pressing on me from behind was warm insinuation where should have been uninterrupted cold: surveillance. Snow and buildings molecularly swelled in urgent confirmation: They've found you. It's already begun.
Adrenaline isn't interested in ennui. Adrenaline floods, regardless, in my state not just the human fibres but lupine leftovers too, those creature dregs that hadn't fully conceded transformation. Phantom wolf energies and their Homo sapiens correlates wriggled and belched in my scalp, shoulders, wrists, knees. My bladder tingled as in the too fast pitch down from a Ferris wheel's summit. The absurdity was being unable, shin-deep in snow, to quicken my pace. Harley had tried to press a Smith & Wesson automatic on me before I'd left but I'd laughed it away. Stop being a granny. I imagined him watching now on CCTV saying, Yes, Harley the granny. I hope you're happy, Marlowe, you fucking idiot.
I tossed the cigarette and shoved my hands into my overcoat pockets. Harley had to be warned. If the Hunt was tailing me then they knew where I'd just been. The Earl's Court house wasn't in his name (masqueraded instead as what it was perfectly equipped to be, an elite rare book dealership) and had hitherto been safe. But if WOCOP had uncovered it then Harley - for nearly fifty years my double agent, my fix-it, my familiar, my friend - might already be dead.
If, then... If, then... This, aside from the business of monthly transformation, the inestimable drag of Being a Werewolf, is what I'm sick of, the endless logistics. There 's a reason humans peg-out around eighty: prose fatigue. It looks like organ failure or cancer or stroke but it's really just the inability to carry on clambering through the assault course of mundane cause and effect. If we ask Sheila then we can't ask Ron. If I have the kippers now then it's quiche for tea. Four score years is about all the ifs and thens you can take. Dementia's the sane realisation you just can't be doing with all that anymore.
Excerpted from The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan. Copyright © 2011 by Glen Duncan. Excerpted by permission of Knopf. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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