Exit Exam, Section III: Survival Skills, Question #7
7a) You are a werewolf. You kill and eat people. You are a vicious animal. Even before the moon is full you begin to feel a hunger, bristling and lively, which twists low into your gut, like a spring. It flexes and groans and grinds in the cradle of your hips. By the time the moon shines full and blue across the neat backyards of your neighborhood, by then the hunger has swollen full, a bubble of nothing that swallows you: You are one great, naked hunger. You're standing on your porch. A car swishes by through the light snow and you're gone into the velvety, bracing night.
Afterwards you are sick. You wake up curled in a ball at the back of your closet, cosied into a nest of your own shredded clothes. You're sticky with blood-- it's under your finger nails and ground into the wrinkles of your palms and knuckles. It coats your face. It's tangy in your mouth.
You are disgusted -- you know that the you that courses through the yards and flower beds, the you that tears cats in half, the you that leaps through bay windows and sinks its teeth deep into the nape of old women's necks and young boy's thighs -- you know that you isn't the same you, the real you. You go to church. You volunteer at a soup kitchen two Sundays a month. You love your nieces.
But there's another you -- a you that's as foreign to the 27-day you as it is to everyone else in the world. And that you is a very, very bad thing.
Question: Are you morally obligated to kill yourself?
7b) OK, you're not a werewolf.
You've never killed anyone, you've never eaten raw meat-- not even oysters or sushi or a bug. Not even on accident.
But you can feel the brittle glass hunger turning low in your gut. You've felt it for four months, now-- it grows with the moon. In September it was almost just a thirst-- an itch at the back of your throat. October, too. But in November, in November it was so strong-- by the end of the month you found yourself staring long and hard at the cooler cases at the grocery store. You found yourself thinking strange thoughts, salivating as you stared at the ground beef, the sides of ribs, the thick steaks. The blood.
Now it's December, and at night the hunger swells so large that, sometimes, it almost makes your eyes roll back. You stare fixedly out the window, and wonder.
You've got eight steaks thawing on the counter, in your biggest mixing bowl.
You have no plans to invite anyone over.
You aren't warming the oven.
You are very, very scared.
You aren't so worried about this month, but January and February and March, and then spring and summer and fall and next year, and the year after and ... well ...
Question: At what point are you morally obligated to kill yourself?
7c) You're not a werewolf. Werewolves aren't real. No one's a werewolf.
But something's wrong, now. Since August, maybe. Suddenly there is a brittle, glass-sliver hunger-- well, not quite a hunger. But it growls like a hunger, and grinds, deep in your gut. Or maybe a little farther down than your gut. Deep and low. It's a low feeling.
You've never been a man who leers -- or even looks -- at women. You aren't that kind of guy at all. Not to say you're "funny" or anything -- you date and stuff. You like women.
But you've been noticing girls, recently. Young girls. Noticing, and not in a "nice" way. Suddenly there is something sticky about them: a girl passes and your eyes are dragged to her, trail after her, following her legs, her arms, her ... Her.
This isn't you, you say; you're not that kind of guy. You're positively not that kind of guy.
But last week your were filling in for Terry Trumble at the daycare down at the Rec Center. You were sitting in the indoor playground, leaning against the wall and staring through the monkey bars and past the slide, out the big bay windows, watching the snow lazily tumble down out of the cotton-batting sky. A little girl-- knee-socks, pleated skirt, peter pan collar-- was playing on the slide, riding down then sprinting back around to the ladder, then down again.
Over and over and over and over
You don't know her, precisely. You're pretty sure you saw her take first communion two Sundays back. Pretty sure.
Down&around, down&around, down&around
You're looking out the window, but not looking out the window.
Down&around, down&around, down& --
She stumbles, comes down hard on her hands and knees -- her skirt flips up and there's a glimpse, a glimpse, a moment of ... well -- and she begins to cry.
You jog up to her, asking if she's OK. She rolls over and cradles her knee. There's an angry, sticky rug-burn.
Oh, you say. That's not bad. You'll be fine.
But she's still crying, still upset, and you kneel next to hear, put your hand on her shoulder. It's OK, you say. It's OK, sweetie. You lean forward -- you lean deep, because she's so small under you, in the shadow of your hulking shoulders. It's OK, see? I'll kiss it -- and you plant your lips on the raw, salty, exposed skin -- the skin under her skin -- her deep skin. See, all better.
You lean back and look at her. Her eyes are wide and red, but she's calm. She sniffles, twice, deeply, and says thank you, then runs off to the giant blocks.
You stand stiffly and mince back towards the wall. A shiver-- like glass in a high wind-- runs through you, up and down your trunk from jaw to heels. A vicious cramp twists in your gut --
Well, that's a lie, it's not so high as your gut, but you aren't admitting that to yourself and ... and it isn't precisely a cramp. When you were a teenager you had a name for that kind of "cramp", but you refuse to even allow the name to surface in your mind, the hint of the idea of the hunger that knots deep in your --
You ask Jan Switz to keep her eyes double peeled, on account you need to visit the men's room.
You pound out the door, stagger into the hall, into the jon, into the only stall.
You sit on the can and cry uncontrollably, inconsolably, your fist jammed against your teeth to prevent anyone from hearing your hysterics ...
and to keep in whatever it is that's twisting and growing within you, whatever glassmonster has burrowed in and is now burrowing out.But.
But, of course, you know that even that is a little bit of a lie, right? Nothing burrowed into you. This is you, this is what you are, and soon you'll be out in the world, pounding through the night like a slat-sided dog, or a wolf in the brush, quietly moving along the groomed paths, waiting for little girls dawdling on the way to grandma's house ...
Question: Are you morally obligated to kill yourself?