The night is very dark. The light of a hundred candles, no comfort, sway and flicker. The candles burn themselves into nothingness too soon, and Aiden is alone with his quick heart and pained breaths.
His sheets are wet, pungent. Urine dries against his skin. His thighs are tight, muscles knotted painfully. He is folded in on himself, up against the headboard. He can't move. Doesn't dare move. Aiden listens for the sound of claws on his bedroom's floor. He strains to catch the sound of a furred body brushing against his blankets, tumbled on the floor next to the bed. He listens, listens and hears--
A howl, low and long. Faraway, faraway, and Aiden whines with terror. He stumbles from the bed, weaves across his room towards the bathroom, and falls to his knees before the toilet. The scent of soap--apples, light and fresh--lingers in the air. The bath is still full.
Aiden's entire body shakes, and he lowers his face and opens his mouth as his horror screams its way past his mouth.
His hands smell of candle-wax. It had taken him an hour: digging through drawers and cabinets and cupboards, and carrying candles to his room by the armful. Lighted, they make his room something new, something magical. Aiden smiles at the thought, and smiles wider yet when he thinks of Vivian.
His body reacts, quickly, easily.
He sinks into the bathtub. There is no one else home, and running water covers his moan, but Aiden bites his lip as he reaches for his erection. He closes his eyes, arches his hips and tightens his fist, and pictures full breasts and long legs. Remembers the feel of silky material and warm flesh beneath his palm, and Vivian's tightening nipples. Imagines her legs wound about his hips, and she's wild, and she wants him, and oh, fuck, he wants her *so* much.
He grunts and shudders. Water rises against the tub's slopped sides, dangerously close to overflowing. Aiden belatedly reaches for the tap, shutting off the flow of hot water. She makes him crazy, Aiden thinks, and it feels like he's been waiting for this forever.
Aiden watches Vivian receding into the distance in his rearview mirror. He is driving fast, and his hands shake against the wheel. He can still feel her breasts pressed against his back, and the hot, wet trail of her tongue against his ear. He had almost groaned, had almost bucked back against her in reaction--almost, *almost.*
He was more frightened of human hands and lips (he'd imagined the feel of them against his skin. He had wanted to feel the warmth of Vivian's breath against his flesh, and the sure swipe of her tongue) than he had been of her elongated face and sharply stretching mouth. She's beautiful, still so beautiful, but--he can't close his eyes without picturing flawless golden skin ripping open and folding back beneath a wave of fur. He can't remember that night without hearing the pop and crack of bones, and Vivian's guttural cry of *pleasure* as she turned into something inhuman, *monstrous.*
"I only wanted to love you," Vivian said, and Aiden thinks that he has never heard anything so terrifying. She wants him, and his blood pulses, and he is cold and frightened and powerful.
His hands smell of gunpowder. His hands are smeared with blood. His mouth tastes of bile. Aiden's vision is blurry, his eyes are wet and stinging. He all but falls up the stairs, and lurches into his room with a garbage bag twisted around his fist.
He tears the fake shrunken head from his wall. He is strong enough in his despair that he pulls the hook out of the wall, too. It whips against his arm, stinging pain that Aiden ignores. He sweeps Momzilla and her brood of baby Godzillas into the trash. A sweep of his hand scatters the grave piled high on his dresser. He is crying. He is screaming, and cursing, and Aiden tears the pages from his books.
A copy of *The Trumpet* falls from the top of his bookcase. The cover warps beneath Aiden's wet hands. "I liked your poem," Vivian had said (*corsair of the wood/ discard you skin/ your pallid, wormlike/ vulnerability*), and, later yet, accusing: "I thought you would grab up what I am with both of your hands and eat me up."
Aiden thinks about ripping the magazine to pieces. He thinks of tearing his poem to narrow strips, of carrying crumpled paper to the fireplace and watching it curl and dissolve with the flames.
He opens the magazine. Vivian's art faces "Wolf Change."
It is beautiful.
It is *beautiful.*
The silver pentagram lays cool and heavy in his palm. He runs his thumb across the blunted edges and closes his eyes. He remembers how the necklace nestled between Vivian's breasts, how it caught the light and made her smile when he looked.
He remembers the pentagram she had drawn against his palm. "That was a joke," Vivian had said, but Aiden can't be sure. He doesn't feel sure, because she isn't human. She doesn't think like humans do, can't possibly *feel* like humans do.
His palms are damp, aching.
I'm sorry, Aiden thinks, hours later. I can make things better, Aiden thinks, and loads his father's gun with careful deliberation. He is too frightened to shake. He pens his invitation to Vivian with a steady hand. Meet me, he writes, for the sake of what we used to have.
She is a monster, but he'd loved her enough, once, to want her free.
She is a monster, and he is no victim.
Midnight strikes. His pen scratches across paper, leaving dark swirls and angles. He pauses, pen at the corner of his lip. *Pirate of the flesh,* he reads, and shivers with the delight of it. He lowers his pen again. Touches upon the restless yearning within him--the desire to see, to *know*--and writes: *and part your jowls/ to sing a lunar song.*
His room is lit by a single lamp. His own shadow shifts against the page. He thinks: I am a creature of night. I am a being of mystery and wonder. He smiles, entranced.
*The forest paths are dark/ the night is long.*