Romulus and Rhema. Part 1.

Everyone loves werewolf stories. This one came to me last week and it was so compelling I stopped another story to catch this one while I could. I wrote a short for Wendig’s latest Challenge but really, that one was pretty different to this story.

I’m not a huge fan of following a formula; I’d rather write an ordinary story than a derivative one, and this is no exception. It’s not your usual boy-meets-girl, boy-eats-girl werewolf story. I wanted to see what it would be like to tell the story from the werewolf’s perspective. There are a few twists and turns, but I like this one. It’s a long story at around 8,000 words so I’m splitting it into four or five instalments. Pull up a chair.

Enjoy Romulus and Rhema.

***

Romulus.

Lucid dreaming. I know I’m in the dream and my senses tell me I can change it if I want; I can direct the movie. However, even though what I’m seeing is vaguely unsettling, I want to know where it’s taking me. I give up all thought of control, and I let the dream be whatever it wants to be.

I’m floating forward at a great height. Wherever I am, it’s silent, still, and with just the faintest edge of chill. I’m not sure which ‘me’ I am in this, and I can’t see myself to tell. Many miles below and in front of me is the crater of a dormant volcano, a thick and impenetrable ring of cloud hugging against its sides. Thinner cloud washes out from it but it’s still too dense to make out anything beneath it. I feel myself getting closer, and then suddenly I’m on the ground, looking out from under palm fronds up into light muted by a taller canopy.

I know who I am now. I’m on all fours, and I can clearly see my right paw extended in front of me. There are things about me that make me unique in both my species, Human and Were. I have no scent and I can move like the wind without making a single sound, as if the thick pads of my paws absorb sound itself. Both have saved my life on occasion, and more often lately I’ve been wondering what they saved it for.

Given a clear choice between being all Human or all Were, I would take Were. When you’re a Human, you never really know who the enemy is. A Were has no such confusion; we are solitary, and what we do is driven by necessity. Humans have low and confused morality, highly situational and usually self-centred. They take without asking, destroy without compunction, and manipulate without shame. Shame. I know that feeling. Its present when the Were in me is not present and I’m unwillingly thrust back into my Human form.

Long before she comes into sight I sense her, walking quietly through the underbrush. I can already tell that she’s small and light. She’s confused but not scared. I wonder if she’s real or if our dreams are somehow intercepting each other. There she is now, stopping in a small clearing fifty yards from me. She is little, and young. Seven, I sense; no more or less. She’s a pretty little thing, all pale skin and long deeply red hair. Her left hand touches a small whitish flower, as if that might help her with whatever she’s thinking about.

I’m moving now, silently, as I break left and run out in a wide arc to get behind her. My stride is long and confident; my paws know where to fall without me even having to look at the ground. I’m behind her now, a mere twenty yards from her, and then I move a little past her. Something tells me not to come at her from behind and in a straight line, and I honour that instinct.

Right behind her now, so silent she hasn’t heard a thing. My kind is large, much larger than Wolves, and this little girl’s head doesn’t even reach up to the small of my back. She takes a small step backward, gently bumping into my side, and my head swivels to look at her. Her head turns and she’s looking directly into my eyes. She smiles a little; a pretty little girl smile, and my heart leaps as pure love passes between us. We are both safe, for now.

***

I woke from that dream, disturbed. That little girl and I had spoken without words and it seemed so natural it was like we’d done it before, or forever. “Amy,” I whispered her name. That’s who she is. She had touched my face with her little hand and called me Romulus. No one had called me that for thousands of years, and yet the shame of it could still bring me undone. I had killed my brother, Remus, but not for the reasons myth had recorded. Remus had gone mad, slowly poisoned by the minute silver traces he’d eaten and drunk in the hope of building homeopathic resistance to it, and thus to achieve unfettered immortality.

My first enraged swing at him missed and toppled a whole wall of the temple he’d built in his honour. My second found its mark, and it separated his head from his body. The silver in his blood was minute but still enough to make my shoulder and forearm sizzle where his blood spattered me, and my paw burned then as it has burned every second since. Across the millennia it has served as a reminder of how close all species came to the consequences of mad evil.

I had his skull entombed in a cube of solid silver, and with a ship full of trusted Holies we sailed it out to the deepest ocean trench, where I flung it overboard. Remus would not rise again, in that life or any other. Being in proximity to that amount of silver for so long had taken a toll on me. I was sick for the whole journey out, and at death’s door on the journey back. I survived, of course, long enough to see Rome built and a Senate installed, but the trickery and treachery of Humans still appalled me. Will ever enough be enough for a Human?

The legends say I died. I had planned and planted them very well indeed; they stood the test of time until they changed into legends, then fables, and then myths. Now, they are studied by few as curiosities of the anthropological history of superstition.

***

I should say that I don’t hate Humans, although at times it may seem so. I just get so frustrated with them. They’re almost at the top of the evolutionary chain and still it takes little to uncover the worst in them. How can those who can be so much lower themselves to be so little? My species, the Were, could I’m sure overrun Humans if we chose it, but we’re solitary by nature and not given to empire building, Rome notwithstanding. That was the way Remus and I thought we could bridge the gap between our species, but we were wrong.

How does one become a Were? The myths and bedtime stories designed to frighten your children enough so they’ll stay under their sheets are generally wrong, with only a very small footprint in fact. We’re born this way, the same way Humans are born that way. Its possible for us to ‘turn’ (I hate that word) a Human into a Were, but why would we want to? Short of saving the life of a loved Human, I can’t see a benefit to either species.

To turn a Human takes time, patience, consent, and pain. We don’t run around biting people and then suddenly they pop up as Were. If we did that there’d be rather a lot of them, wouldn’t there? It’s true that some Were developed a taste for Humans, but that was largely because the Were are by nature predatory and because in some locations they’d been mercilessly hunted or simply forced out of their habitat. If you can’t roam widely, forage freely, and you are contained by a vicious predator, and if you have the strength and opportunity, one day you’ll change from prey to predator yourself.

I have turned three Humans in my life so far. I loved each one of them dearly, and they knew full well I am a Were. Two were dying of old age and one was in a catastrophic accident. I had their consent and I’m not sorry I helped, even though I knew turning them would lose them to me. I’d told them that, and even through their protestations of undying love I still knew I’d lost them. Were are solitary, coming together only to mate. It’s a quirk of nature that a Human turned Were is sterile. Similarly, a Were mating with a Human will not produce offspring. When we’re not Transformed, we look Human, but we are not quite Human.

When we turn a Human, as I said, it takes time and pain. Were have special sacs located under their cheekbones that over months can be filled with a specific fluid that causes us great pain to metabolise and store. It’s not saliva or semen or unfertilised eggs. I’ve seen it under a microscope a few times during my life and it looks like double helix DNA. I can’t tell you anything more than that because I simply don’t know, and it’s probably not a good idea to ask a Human scientist. I’ve heard there are several hundred Were who are biological or evolutionary scientists in the Human world but I’ve never heard anything about them testing Were DNA.

Probably the last thing to say for now is that Were are not some comic book half-animal that can’t control its bloodlust or anger. When I look like a Human I can get just as pissed off as you can, but it doesn’t turn me into a Werewolf. When I feel the urge to be free, or to follow my primal instincts and hunt, I do it consciously. Oh, and I rarely get sick and cuts heal very quickly. Silver is about the only thing that can really do me damage but I’ve learned over a long time to live with the nauseating effects of a little of it at close quarters.

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6 thoughts on “Romulus and Rhema. Part 1.

  1. Pingback: Romulus and Rhema Part 2. | Periodically Demented

  2. Pingback: Romulus and Rhema Part III. | Periodically Demented

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