Roseus Lupus by Janielle Love Williams
short story

I’m the descendent of a lineage of lycanthropes. As far back as we can trace, the Martins have shed their human coats at midnight of the full moon and roamed the night in packs. Shape shifting is an ability granted only after puberty. Needless to say I spent my childhood in anticipation. I begged my parents to stay up late on the full moon nights to watch them change, to see where they went and what they did. When I was about eight, I convinced them to let me join them on an outing.

It made me thrilled to see who I’d become one day when I saw my parents and older brother sprout hairs all over their bodies, and their teeth grew to resemble ivory blades. Dad threw me on his back before storming out of the house and into the night with the rest of the family. I watched with wide eyes as they sunk their teeth into small animals that they caught in the forest near the house. That night they caught a couple of people. I was young then but presume they were college kids getting drunk by the lake. Pops warned me that with human prey you had to be careful and quick, and to leave absolutely no evidence.

You have to eat the entire body, Chase,” he told me.

And they did. Ma, Pop, and Joel finished off two people between the three of them. I’ve never forgotten that night. I sat cross legged on a tree stump in my pajamas and watched my brother and parents in darkness pierced by light of the moon, and in silence accentuated by the smack of their tongues against their mouths and the crunch of bones.

By age 11, I was running the tip of my tongue along my canine teeth hoping that I felt a millimeter of growth. Every day I practiced growling and showing my teeth in the mirror. I puffed out my chest and searched my face, back, and balls for hair.

Every day I practiced growling and showing my teeth in the mirror.

The hair did grow in eventually. My neck thickened, my chest broadened, and my voiced deepened, but moon after moon I failed to become a wolf. It wasn’t until a week after my 16th or 17th birthday that it happened. Joel came over for the monthly family outing. I sat on the sofa with my eyes on my watch. At 11:59PM hair started to cover Ma, Pop, and bro. I felt something odd, like the nerves in my body were fault lines before an earthquake. Our family dog jumped from my lap and ran under the kitchen table screeching. I stood up from a pain not unlike needles protruding from every pore on my body. I clenched my teeth and closed my eyes, moaning as I started to shake.

Ma and Pop looked on and smiled. I was finally transforming. The next thing I felt was something like two invisible palms pressed against either side of my face and pulling on my neck the way I used to play with taffy. My arms pressed themselves to my sides. A searing pain went up and down my legs and feet. My own scream reverberated in my ears before silence fell on the living room.

What the fuck?” my mom said.

Dad and Joel just stared with blank expressions. With added effort because my legs felt so stiff, I turned around to the mirror above the sofa. I was met by a large, pink bird, a flamingo to be exact. For centuries my family became wolves but I, by some divine anomaly, had become a flamingo.

We all got used to it nonetheless. Our nocturnal hunts were some of the best times of my high school and university years. Although I preferred stooping down to nibble on insects or dipping in the lake for fish to feasting on the meaty delicacies of my parents and brother, I was one of the family.

I’ve since moved out but join Ma and Pop once in a while. They ask me if I’ve got my eye on any wolf ladies, but don’t give much pressure because they know I’m still young enough to play the field.

Even though she wasn’t one of us, there was something about her, a human by the name of Catherine. I got turned on every time I’d hear her stilettos clacking down the hall of our office. It’s like she’s taking vengeance with every step.

I liked the way she took charge and acted first on our mutual attraction. The date fell on a full moon night but I accepted her offer anyway. We decided on drinks at six, enough time for me to make it home before midnight.

But drinks became dinner, dinner became more drinks, drinks led to her tongue down my throat at her apartment, and suddenly I was sitting at the edge of her bed naked with no concept of time. What guy checks his watch when lips are wrapped around his cock?

My breath quickened and just at the point of eruption she screamed.

My breath quickened and just at the point of eruption she screamed. I looked down and saw that she had a mouthful of pink feathers. She moved away and then dropped like a sack of potatoes. I pushed a pillow underneath her head and then paced the room.

Should I go? I should stay here. But what if she wakes up?

I couldn’t think, being so famished. I went to the kitchen and pried open the freezer and fridge doors, and proceeded to devour a bag of frozen shrimp, a tuna steak, and package of smoked salmon. I fell into a food coma and woke up to the first rays of light coming through the kitchen window, and a bitch of a cramp in my standing leg. My fit human body had come back with the morning.

Shit did she see me? I thought.

I wiped the shrimp juice from my mouth and ran into Catherine’s bedroom. She was fast asleep in the bed.

How did she get there?

I got in with her and put my arms around her. She stirred.

Oh you’re still here. I thought you’d skipped out on me you prick,” she’d said half asleep.

She said she’d woken up alone in the night on the floor and that she saw a flamingo in the kitchen on the way to the toilet. I told her to go easy on the tequila next time. I didn’t see the need to let her in on the secret scribbling that peppered the story of my genes, not yet.

illustration by Verena Spilker

Janielle first read this story at Queerstories #8 at Another Country this October. I hope you enjoyed reading the story as much as we did listening to her read it for us!