Sunday, 20 May 2012

Wolf like me

(Wolf Like Me - TV On The Radio)

I can tell you exactly how it started. It started the week after my father died, in some lonely woods in County Durham.

When all of the arranging and burying and crying was done, I knew I needed to get away. It felt like something had changed in my life, that a gear had slipped and suddenly I was going in a very different direction, even if I didn't yet know what it was. I needed to be away from people, away from phones and condolences and tax forms, so I packed a rucksack and went wandering.

Some nights I stayed in pubs or B&Bs, but when I could I made a bivvy out in the open and slept under the arch of the sky, letting the wind blow everything out of my mind. The night it all happened, I had picked the wrong place to camp, too low, too damp, and I was tired of slapping at midges. I packed my rucksack, and decided to head for the higher ground that rose up to the west behind the woods. I could have skirted the woods, but it was the long way round, the moon meant that there was plenty of light to find my way, and I was tired and maybe it wouldn't have made any difference anyway.

It all happened very quickly. I was well into the trees, picking my way through brambles and fallen branches, when I thought to myself: there's someone else here, then I thought to myself: they're very close, and then the bushes thrashed and I was on the ground and it was on me and I can't remember much more other than the rank, animal smell.

I woke up in the morning, lying on the forest floor, and I hurt everywhere I had something to hurt.I checked myself, but couldn't find any wounds. I checked my rucksack, but nothing was stolen. I wondered if I had simply walked into a branch and concussed myself and imagined it all, but I couldn't find one. I walked out of the woods, and I sucked in the cool air of early morning, and although I didn't know why I felt as if my life had jumped track again.

I found out why, four weeks later, when I changed.

I won't tell you about it, because I cannot put it into words. Everything is ripped from inside you, and forced into new shapes. It hurts beyond belief. But then the changing stops, and you breathe in the air, and you smell a thousand warm, living things, and the hunger is on you and the hunt begins.

After the first time, I was sick for days, and it was only a string of family pets that I had taken. After the second time, I thought about suicide, because I loped around a corner, and there he was, and he was probably a good man and maybe he had a family but the hunger was on me and the hunt was in me and didn't take very long at all. After the third time, I decided it was the way I was, and there was no changing that, and we were all just prey in something else's food chain, and I would follow my nature until I was caught and killed. I think that I wanted that mercy, because I did not do much to avoid getting caught.

In the end though, I was, cornered in an alley full of litter and puddles and beaten with a scaffolding pole until the beast left me and I turned back into what I had been. There was shouts then, amazement and horror, and then they beat me more, just in case, and kept on doing it until darkness flooded my thoughts, and I let it in, never expecting to see light again. 

But I did.

The scientists wanted me, of course, to probe and analyse and sample and attempt to understand something that according to their thinking could not possibly be. But the scientists didn't have as much money as the entertainment business, so they had to watch from the sidelines and argue theories amongst themselves. The men who captured me were poor and smart, which is a dangerous combination. Rather than take me to the police, they took me to a man who dealt with the tabloids on behalf of celebrities caught doing what they shouldn't be doing, and he made a phone call to the reality TV impresario and it all rolled out from there. The police sniffed around frustrated, but with no evidence to link me to things that everyone thought I had done which were, by and large, the things I had done. The government made noises about the need for scientific investigation and a Minister called to have me seized but then the tabloids got the hunger and the hunt and when they were done, he was politically dead and the rest of the government pretended that he had never been. I howl and I change once a month, and the rest of the time I live in a 'secure environment' and I have internet and X-box and chef-prepared food, and it's only when the moon is about to be full that they stop bringing the food in and start passing it through an elaborate cat-flap.

A man who was very religious and who called me an abomination tried to break in one day to kill me. He'd bought a replica gun which had been converted to a real one, and made his own silver bullet by melting down his mother's tea service, but the people who own me pay for the very best of security, and he got nowhere near me. He probably has less freedom than I do, now. I shift a lot of merchandising to teenagers, who more than anyone can identify with frightening changes to bodies and impulsive behaviour, but many authors of vampire fiction hate me because that's now so last year and romances of the wolf are now the big thing.

When I change it's the centrepiece of a live TV production that is syndicated around the world. I thought people might grow bored of me, but that hasn't happened yet. We have light shows and guest singers and dancers dressed as wolves, and some kind of quiz show element that I don't really understand, but when the contestants win something they have to howl. I change and the audience gasps and I snarl and charge at the plastic walls, but I can't get anywhere. 

Later, when the audience are gone and the cameras are off, they throw chickens and mice into where they keep me, and I eat them but they do not satisfy my hunger, and one day they will make a mistake and I will get out into the audience, and there will be a hunt that day, the last hunt, but the best.

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