(all errors are my own, added to the final, post-beta draft)
Pairing(s): George/OFC Millie
Character(s): George, Annie; OFC Millie.
Rating: Mature (nothing much more graphic than the pilot; but just to be sure...)
Disclaimer: None of them are mine, except for Millie, who I’d be happy to share with the scriptwriters of Being Human.
Disclaimer 2: While the Golem is part of Hebrew folklore, this version is entirely my invention so far as I am aware.
Warnings: Mention of biological and historical processes.
Summary: How George became a werewolf.
(possibly implies elements of “Primeval” owing to one detail – or not)
Author's notes: Part of this story came about because I asked myself “surely it can’t be that every infectious species is transmitted by bites, like the vampires”...
References: Book ‘The Song Of The Dodo’ by David Quammen.
Lo! with might runs the man:
My heel is swift like the fire,
My heel is indeed swift like the fire.
-- part of a translation of a song by Fanny Cochrane Smith, 1903.
An Hour Ago:
“What’s it like?” Annie asked before they’d reached the halfway point in their hike. More than a third of the way, mind.
“Painful,” George said.
“I can see that.”
“No you can’t.”
“Well, I haven’t, not yet.”
“Can’t. Even I haven’t seen it.”
Annie frowned. “How’s that possible?”
“I know it hurts,” George said, “because of how I feel. Because of the time it steals from me.” Because of whom its stolen from me. “But I’ve never seen it happen.”
“So you could be jus’ blackin’ out an’ not turnin’ into a werewolf at all, then.”
George tried to smile at that – he knew Annie meant it in jest – and damned if her idea wouldn’t have been preferable. “I’ll just…” and sighed. “Ever play the piano?”
“Did you. Ever play. The piano?”
“Coupla times. Never anything serious, though. You?”
“Yeah, when I was little. You know how, when you get really good at playing a simple set of keys, how you can do that on automatic, without being aware of touching the keys?”
“Yeah.” I’m not that much rubbish at the piano. Though since I died, I’ve had ta focus even on repetitive things like making tea – I do it over and over, always focusing, and it settles me.
“Same. I stop being aware, but that doesn’t stop me – or my body at least – from searching for a safe place. I don’t even know I’m taking me clothes off.” At that, Annie raised her eyebrows. “Well I don’t.”
Addressing the open air, “Dear ma,” Annie said, mock-penning a letter; “today I met a guy who never notices his clothes falling to the ground.”
“Ha ha. And it’s true.”
“Ever find them later?”
“Sometimes. A few times.” Answering the unspoken, “And yes, they’re whole and unscathed…except for where I’d walked through blackberries and wild roses.”
“One more pain for afterwards.”
“And even that doesn’t sting?”
“Not at the time. All autopilot.” I don’t even know how long it takes. Even when I watched Millie, I lost track of time.
No sign of Mitchell. He had told them he’d rejoin them here – told them that after they’d finished dealing with that ghost in the Cottswalds an hour and a half ago – and he plainly wasn’t here.
Annie flickered – concern for her friend, one of her bastions in the world – and steadied herself with the knowledge that he’d be okay. He was Mitchell. Vampires couldn’t die, after all…this was reality, not some movie.
“You okay?” George asked her.
“I’m fine,” Annie said, whole and nonflickering now. Unlike that other ghost, the one with the clay hands, there were no gaps or seams in how she appeared. Unlike the other ghost, she had no desire to usurp a body – flesh or soil – just to feel and breathe and drink again.
“We should get on,” George said.
“But he said -”
“He says a lot,” George noted dryly. “He knows where we’re going.”
Okay, Annie thought.
After a while, as the sky overhead threatened rain, “Do you ever hate it?” Annie asked. Heavy dark clouds were gathering, the occasional clap of thunder…but, thus far, not a droplet of rain.
There was only one thing that he could think of that would engender such a question. “I can’t,” George said. She’s back on what we were talking about earlier.
“Can’t? Or won’t?” simply curious.
“Won’t…I don’t dare to.”
“Why not?” turning around to better watch his face as they walked – he forwards, she backwards.
…or tried to, as George promptly turned her back around so they faced the way direction. That done, his hands dropped from her sides, and he said, “’Cause it was the last thing she told me.”
You’re not hating being a werewolf – refusing to hate all that pain and agony you go through – just ‘cause some bird asked you not to? Okay, deathbed request, I get. “Oh?” hoping he’d tell her. The two of ‘em were far enough out in the woods that even vampiric ears weren’t in earshot.
“Millie. My…” and let it hang. “Never really bothered to find a word for what she was to me. She’s just Millie.”
TWO YEARS & a Week AGO:
George looked down at the - gift? – on the back porch of the cottage. The rabbit was mostly intact, though the cracked skull and snapped neck wouldn’t be providing anything to tonight’s menu.
And his eyes followed the faint trail of blooddrops back to the space beside the shed. There was something there.
Pretty sure he didn’t need to call 999 or anything, and reminding himself that he was all alone here – part of a graduation present – George stepped around the rabbit, and out to the shed. He stopped before he was a meter away from what he was dead certain was a wolf.
A big wolf.
One with glazed-over eyes and a body full of life, one clawlessly pawing at the ground and barking silent screams. George was transfixed, wished he remembered the number for the area veterinarian, wondered if there was anything he could do.
And before his eyes, the wolf stopped being a wolf
…and became a woman.
“Oooh, I get it now, I see,” Annie said, dancing around and ahead of George, never straying more than a few paces away. Couldn’t. Wouldn’t.
“You do?” George asked.
“Aye, I do. No wonder you broke it off with that Julia.”
Oh? “Why’s that?”
“Ya took up with a werewolf lass, is why. One I bet you fancied lots.”
“What makes you say that?”
Softly, quietly, “Cause she’s why you ain’t hatin’ your curse,” half thinkins she was wrong.
George balled his fists and thrust them into the depths of his pockets, careful not to rip the jacket apart. It was a couple of yards’ length before he said, just as hushed as she’d spoken, “You’re half right.”
Falling in beside him, “If you don’t want to talk about it, that’s alright. I shouldn’t’ve pried. I’m -”
“S’okay. We was mates quick. She laughed at my jokes – but not all o’ them. That meant more, that she discerned between them,” not laughing at all of them – fake laughter, the sort I got when I was a boy. “Twas the start of the sixth day – the end of the fifth day’s evening,” he converted for Annie, “that we first kissed.”
Annie smiled. “Sounds like some mate.”
George looked up at the interwoven branches. “That she was.
“Millie was smart, witty, funny…” The candle that burns brightest. That’s our lot in things…all things. “She was welcome company, companionship…” George sighed. “Everything.”
“Your soul mate,” Annie ventured.
George looked at her, then ducked his head. “Possibly,” feeling the knife in him. “When the Moon rose next, she didn’t change.” She – we – were busy, otherwise engaged.
Two Years & Three Days Ago:
“You haven’t asked me,” Millie said, one finger stirring a half-cup of hot chocolate that George suspected was lukewarm by now.
“What?” George asked, washing the plates from lunch.
“You haven’t asked me whereabouts I’m from.”
“London?” he guessed.
“With my accent?” she asked, unable to bring herself to even mock-snappishness at him.
“Good point. Brisbane?” Before she could answer, “But what does it matter?”
“I suppose, ultimately, it doesn’t,” Millie said. “But it does to me – and Brisbane’s a lot closer than London.
George looked at her skeptically.
“Clearly.” He knew the differences between the two.
“And you believe in werewolves?”
“Only because of you.” Because I saw you…change.
Couldn’t roll her eyes. “Rest assured that there’s a lot more than just me – Aboriginally-speaking. You lot didn’t kill us all.”
“I – I didn’t…”
Millie smiled gently to him. “I know you didn’t.” If you had, I’d have killed you instead of the rabbit I left at your back door. “So, what’s for dinner?”
“Well, I was thinking; maybe we could have some rabbit.”
George smiled. “Kidding. How ‘bout we go out for some fish’n’chips?”
George stopped, taking a seat on a fallen bole. He’d told Annie most of it, omitting the special parts, the close moments.
“So you’ve got a mottling?” Annie asked.
“Right here,” pointing to his left ear.
Annie leaned over, peering in. “Yeah, there it is. Right on the inner folds.”
“Millie said we all have them, she wasn’t sure why…maybe it marks us as separate, as a way of identifying us before we can rip someone’s throat out.”
“Sounds positively Third Reich,” she quipped.
“Not really – ever see Mitchell’s eyes?”
“Yeah,” not sure where he was taking this.
“He can,” George said, “turn his eyes pure black. Probably enlarges the iris.” Like with horses – so little whites to the eye, that to a casual glance the whole eye seems to be pupil. “Obscurable difference. Plainly and often overlooked by a casual glance at any but just the right moment. A distinctiveness so easy to hide…”
“Like me drinking,” Annie offered.
George smiled. “Like you drinking,” he agreed.
Two Years Ago:
Just above her ankle, a patch of skin paled – an abrupt line in spots, a fading set of shades in others. Dark spots freckled the paleness. “There,” she said.
George leaned over and kissed it, not knowing what else to do.
She smiled at him. “Tried burnin’ my heel,” Millie said, “to get it to look plausible, consistent. Didn’t work,” even as George winced, an empathy she appreciated. “Dipping in boiling water and cooking oil were likewise failures.”
“So you were bitten,” George asked, “and that’s what causes it?” Like with vampires.
“Hell no. I’d’ve turned half the kangaroos in Perth into werewolves were that the case.” I wasn’t much good at hunting when I started out – even wolves need to train, as do the wolves in us. Settling back down into bed, “Sex,” fully ready for him to leap out of bed with fear in his eyes.
He didn’t. “It’s great. I mean, you’re great. I mean-”
“Thank you,” stroking his cheek and kissing his lower lip. “But I mean it’s passed along through sex.”
George’s eyes went wide, but he didn’t flinch away. Didn’t panic, didn’t scream. Didn’t hit her or spit in her face.
Millie appreciated that.
“You were lonely,” George did say.
He meant it as a gesture to show he understood, but to her it was a stab to the gut. “Yes.” Immensely so. “So I’m sorry.”
“I don’t mind.”
And, in a move that she cursed herself for its clichéd nature, she placed the tip of her index finger on his lips to shush him. Cliché or not, it worked now. “You’ll blame me, which I can understand – there’re times I blame the guy who gave it to me – but I want you to promise me that you’ll never blame what you’ve become.”
“I promise to never,” George said, “blame my werewolfness for…”
“Your lot in life.”
“For my lot in life.”
She closed her eyes, breath coming more relaxed now, even as she ran her hand up and down George’s side.
Opened her eyes. “So?” Millie repeated.
“So where should we go first? I mean, they might not be too exotic, but would ya fancy a trip to Cardiff? Or the Orkneys? How ‘bout we visit London?” I’ve never actually been on one of those tour buses before.
The knife returned, twisting. “This is why I apologized to you,” she said softly to him. “We can’t go anywhere.”
He frowned. “Why not?” Not angry. Simply confused. A touch hurt.
“Every species has a different way of maintaining its population. Ours is that there’s only the one.”
“Yeah, but now there’s two of us.”
She tasted longing in her mouth. “Only until I die.”
“Then there’s no problem. You told me you’re practically immortal.”
And so I did. And I was. “Any damage I get, my body repairs, yes. But I don’t have that protection any more.”
“Why wouldn’t you…?” trailing off as his gazed lowered – from her eyes, down to look at his own chest. “Me?” his voice holding disgust and the sense of being sickened by something.
“You promised,” Millie reminded him.
Voice calmer, saner, “But why?” not sure he could look her in the eyes, not now. “We could’ve had a good time – hung out, gone on walks -” wincing when that particular set of words came out. “Sorry.”
“No worries. I know what you mean. And I’d love to have more time with you, George. This past week has been wonderful.” In a small voice, one that was almost a whimper, “But I’m tired.”
George met her eyes, a question in his.
“I’ve been this way for eight years, George,” Millie said. “By the standards of our kind, that makes me a venerable ancient.” Most don’t last more than two or three years before the urge gets too strong. She sighed. “I’ll miss the sun, but not enough to have not done this.” I’ve missed the Full Moon longer.
“’Miss the sun’? What do you mean? You become a vampire or somesuch, now that you’ve passed it on to me?”
“No. No, I’ll simply melt into a mound of ash and dust in a few days. You know a vampire?”
“Yeah – just the one, though. We’re mates.”
Millie looked at him, into his eyes appraisingly. “And this is important to you, yes?”
“Then, to preserve that friendship, I advise you not to tell him what your role is.”
She nodded. “Predators are always outnumbered by their prey. In every healthy ecosystem, that’s the case. This is a curse, never doubt that…but we the cursed have a special role.
“We thin the herds of vampires.”
‘Herd’ made a certain amount of sense -- they, he and she, were wolves. And wolves prey on beasts in herds. On animals. Tearing them apart, ripping them open. George could almost smell the blood and esophogal air rushing out into his lungs.
When George and Annie arrived home at Bristol House (as they’d taken to calling it), they found a note from Mitchell: Don’t worry. I got here, you weren’t here. I’ll be in by morning. Mitchell.
Since they’d grabbed a bite and a (pair of) drinks on the way in, that left only one thing to do: bed.
Lying down on her bed, “Well, at least we don’t need to worry about you dying any time soon,” Annie told him.
Tucking himself in, “Well you are pretty,” George said.
She bit her lip to keep from blushing. “You’re drunk. And besides, it would go right through me.”
“Maybe,” taking it as an intellectual puzzle to solve, rather than as something to do. She was his friend, after all.
“There’s a reason I don’t drink.”
“You can open doors.”
Rather than let her mind play with the possibilities, “Good night, George,” rolling over and shutting her eyes. She didn’t sleep, but the routine was comforting.
On the other bed, “G’night, Annie,” George said.
And, for this while, nature didn’t win.