Turn Skin

The lycanthropic pathology is savage. The afflictedman assumes the characteristic behaviors of hisenvironment's most threatening predator � wolves,historically, in Europe. Wer-bears once stalked theRussian steppes. Wer-tigers and Wer-jaguars plaguedequatorial villages on opposite continents. In the ageof reason however, the supernatural yields to thescientific; lycanthropy yields to banal schizophrenia.The man is imbalanced - not cursed by wolf's baneblooms. Despite science, despite considered diagnosis,and despite pharmacological potions, the instincts ofthe modern lycanthrope remain savage. The afflictedman consumes what he craves.

Consider Eddie Scales, once bitten on the job, whoseschizophrenia was documented by his social worker butwhose lycanthropy had only recently been rumored. Hewas a quick and thin man, slight as yesterday,graceless, doomed to live perpetually at the peripheryof the consciousness of his neighbors (even if onestood directly beside him one might reckon onlysomething vague � a bird, a dog, something there thengone.) Consequently, he worked in a solitary vocation;he'd spied her there, while on his deck withbinoculars at his eyes.

And what was she but a perfect aggregation ofeverything he'd always demurred to or been denied,gone walking along the shore path for exercise, abrisk and ample buffet of breasts and legs and neckand belly - a caramel-skinned half-exotic ofunknowable ethnic extraction. While her eyes suggestedplayful pi�ata whimsy, her mouth seemed primarilysuited and genetically cast for Tagalog lament - allin all, an improvident invitation to Eddie Scales whoclosed his eyes and dared fate to turn him out again.

The moon revealed itself slowly, like an upturningface, and all of Eddie that wasn't primitive wassloughed and shed until nothing remained that wasn'tstalk or capture or consume. But there was somethingnew too, for the first time, like a bully just movedin, and this would be the first appetite to be sated.Eddie left the deck even before the change was done.

He was upon her then - she, improbably within hisgrasp and somehow had by his mouth at her shoulder.His impact had thrown her fully from the path to thebeach and Eddie, immediately conscious of theindiscretion of his attack and gasping for breath,smothered her beneath his body and rolled with herthrough the sand and toward the surf. Although thecries of pedestrians came at once and the alarm wasraised and mobile phones lit along the pathway likelittle phosphor torches, there was no pursuit; Eddieand she slipped beneath a concealing wave.

They swam together to an undulating bed of flora andhe held her there, belly to belly, among the fronds ofkelp � and it was as she promised, pi�atas andlaments. When she'd at last let the water in,curiously, and then lustily, he took her in his mouth.

Eddie awoke at dawn on the deck of his trawler andrubbed scaled salt from his face. He retrieved hisbinoculars from the wheelhouse and raised them to hiseyes. On the beach, weary officials sought thetide-eaten trail of a fin-backed man and his suddenlover.

About the author:

Kenneth Darling is grateful that Suffolk Downs is open for the season because Wonderland spared him no love.