The Fiction of Philip Kaveny
If you missed Part I visit here
Illustration by Theo Howard
She smiled. I hated the way women could always tell about me. As she said,
“It was also something that you have not done for quite a while.” She was slightly taunting, but a little compassionate in the way she said it.
“I can tell when a guy likes it so much that he loses it like you did last night, you were off before we started, but that’s okay.”
I became petulant and said,
“And something you do regularly with total strangers at every opportunity,”
I felt stupid saying that. It sounded like a fifteen year old who has just had his first fuck. For the life of me, as I looked at her, I had the image of two stars pulling past each other and then bursting into a terrible explosion of silent light. This is not my idea of the way you think about a one night stand. My life was in danger, my world was about to collapse and I felt as if a cannon ball were exploding inside of what had been a life of introspection.
She answered, “Not very often, as a matter of fact. Of course, you know that it is easier for a woman to get laid. It would only take me a couple hours if I wasn’t choosy. You, I would suspect would take a couple years.”
She sort of laughed as she said it and I knew that she knew she had me pegged. I wondered what happened next. I didn’t need to wait for long. You come to expect terror in the middle of the night, not in broad daylight as all conversation ended.
Suddenly it was just standing there in front of us. It the size between a small bull and an exceedingly large mastiff. Its head was its most astounding feature. It had a neck as thick as Jane’s waist, its jaws were short and powerful, more like a human’s than a wolf’s or a dog’s. At first it simply stood there blocking our way. Its muzzle was bloodstained and it looked as if it was about to attack. My worst nightmare was standing in front of me in the cold winter light. Quickly, I looked at Jane who was standing a little behind me. The whole incident took place in much less time than it takes to tell it.
Jane walked towards it and it bared its teeth and rolled it gums back.
“You god damn fool, step back, it will rip you to pieces.”
She was now only about ten feet away from it. I picked up the broken board with a large spike in it, it must have been me with the two by four in my hand, as I seemed to look at myself from the outside. I was sure it was useless; nevertheless I thought I had to try. I grabbed her waist with one hand and sprang to drive the board into the creature. As I sprang towards it, everything around us disappeared. There was no light but we could see. We were inside the maelstrom, and we were moving outside of time, all time, past and future, seemed to be part of us. We were inside that blue light. We landed on a solid ground. It was not cold, it was not the east side. We saw the stars as if there were no clouds, the sky seemed to pulse, yet that blue light was constant and unblinking.
We seemed to be on an obsidian floor that reflected our feet and the sky back into our faces.
Then it was in front of us again, but this time it was not the ugly monster I had seen face us in the lot of the cement block factory. This creature was three yards long with steel blue fur. Noble beyond description, it moved almost like a cloud flying across the pale full moon. Its fur seemed to glow with an inner light while the light of the unblinking stars was caught in his pale blue eyes. Then it moved, half bounding, half running. For an instant I had forgotten Jane, as I looked for her, she was gone, but in front of me following the great wolf I saw another wolfish figure which Jane became, or had been always.
Rot in hell, my silent voice screamed rot in hell you filthy bitch. You changed. You left me. I felt lost, abandoned and desolate. Was I to die with out hope in this cold chrome lit world?
Then a childhood dream came to me. I had dreamed that if I willed it I could extend my jumps by wishing, and my jumps would become flight. I jumped and jumped until my four feet hit the floor. I was a great wolf. My nails scratched but did not mar the mirror surface. As I looked at the floor a wolf head looked back at me. I ran and jumped and bounded until I was with the two and we were three and we were one then three again. Then I ran with them, side by side. Now we seemed to be running back against a screen, a bubble of time. We ran back past human time, the stars were now like flashing lights as timeless movements streaked like meteors across boiling skies in an early august night. I felt as if continents moved under my feet, I saw all the animals as if they were spread out in some time-lapse window or, cyclorama. We ran back to the origins of life and time, back to a salt sea. Then back to a time when some mad scientists say the earth and moon were one in unity. We watched the first tides rip across as the earth gave birth to the moon from the womb of the Pacific Basin. Other tides then splashed up the tops of great mountains and we felt those same primal tides cast us out. As we ran forward in time, the sky became leaden with acid rain and trilobite-like creatures crawled out of oceans saline as our blood. Then we spun forward again, and I could move with them, effortlessly chiming across time. We ran in lush green fields, nipped the heels of twelve-foot sloths and side stepped woolly mammoths.
Then there were only the two wolves, she and I. She waited for me and we fucked as wolves, time held still and death cared not. We bucked, and bit, and fucked, and pistoned in and out ‘til we both exploded. We howled and screamed and ruled the worlds, even over time and death.
We stopped, panting, as our tongues and our feet sweated again. Was this it? Was this heaven, cried my human mind in my Dire Wolf’s body? Was I simply to be taken through some cosmic transmigration? I did not have to wait long for my answer, for the wolf king returned and now we ran forward in time. We saw the first man ape figures huddling around the flames from the lightning struck trees. We seemed to fly above a world where forest stretched from salt sea to dark ocean. We were one with the forest as our foot pads softly landed on pine cones. We saw the great battles spread before us.
We sat on the edges of time as the Roman Emperor Cesar Augustus general Varus marched his three legions into Tutetoberge veld. We watched the Germans and the woods rise up against them and rip them to pieces. I knew the rest the German tribes had sent Varus’ head beck to Caesar in a Jar of honey.
I tried to speak to Jane, but the words were formed in my mind not made with my lips. Where the fuck are we, my mind screamed out? What place is this?
But I did not scream, I howled and she howled back. Twice more we saw battles. We saw the waves of Mongols break from the east as they gashed into the darkened pine forests. We saw an army go mad and rip itself to pieces as sharks in a blood feast.
Once more, as modern time ripped the dark wood, we saw a terrible wave of tanks break from the west against bottles full of gasoline. We saw tanks die in the woods as the lines held and held, yet we still ran against obsidian turf and felt its cold against our feet.
Then the woods died. As we ran through nightmare cities instead of prey we saw all manner of human suffering. Instead of the wood’s cathedral ceiling, we saw vast empty canyons of buildings. My man’s mind ran in wolf body. I felt what it meant to run and howl, to be free. But, why this knowledge for me? To know what it meant was the story. Why do gods choose whom to speak to? I found no answers as we ran ahead to our own time, back to my own east side.
Then a wall crashed against my wolf’s skull as my left forepaw was caught the jaws of a monster bear trap. I fought as man and wolf. I howled and cried to the moon but there was no answer. The trap and chain made me material and substance. With all my strength I pulled. My paw sheared and ripped as the trap snapped me back and held me in an eternity of pain. There was no way free and I felt my self drowned in distant human voices.
No way out but one, my wolf’s brain screamed, else I’ll die like this. With what strength my great jaws had left, I bit through the fur, flesh and bone ‘til my jaws crashed together in a crescendo of pure agony. But I was free as I limped on three paws. I could bleed or freeze to death in this strange body as the tabloids screamed of record cold and record wolf. I did not freeze, I did not die, but there is a chunk of time which can never be accounted for. Sometime I may read the report that was filled when the rescue squad picked me up. If I read it, I don’t think it will tell me any more than I remember. I awoke as a man, my fingers tingling, burning and itching. As I tried to scratch them, I felt a woman hand on my left wrist.
“Don’t do that,” she said, “you will only start the bleeding again.” Time realigned, I was home. She looked at me with her black eyes, as I lay wondering what future I would have as a one handed bartender.
It was Jane; there next to me in my place, I was not alone. I turned on the radio one last time. The godammed thing always seemed to be on the same program, with the same host and the same guest.
“Chuck, can you tell us anything about the rumor that something really big and weird was caught in a bear trap four or five weeks ago?”
“Can you be just more specific, Don, you know that there are lots and lots of rumors around?”
The announcer, sounding like he thought he was Larry King, pushed the Detective, as his voice got shrill.
“Let me read this report to you. It’s from the Department of Comparative Anatomy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It indicates that the left forepaw found in the trap could not belong to any living canine carnivore. It further indicates that the animal’s size would be twice as large as even the largest mastiff. It states that the paw represents either a genetic defect or a living representative of a type of animal now commonly known as the dire wolf, thought to be extinct since the third inter glacial period”
“Come on Don, what are we trying do here, promote a horror movie or start a panic? These things go in cycles you know, sort of like the moon and tides. We have not had a killing now for the last several weeks.”
“Turn it off Jane and try to explain to me what a bartender without a left hand does for a living. Did that thing happen to me? Was that my hand in the trap?”
She looked at me and shrugged, “I’m going off to work at the AIDS clinic. I guess that whatever it was, it needed to tell someone something about what it feels like to run free across time and what it feels like to be caught in a human trap.”
I screamed, and held up my hand. What was left of the stump had almost healed.
“Why the fuck me? Why the fuck me?”
She shrugged again and I wondered if that was the only gesture she knew. I think she sensed my irritation but she was just too confident to care.
“The gods choose who they talk to. In any case, you will not be simply playing your hand out like you expected. It seems you will have to find something else to do with your life.”
I wondered if she was one of them. I wondered if it was all in my mind. But as the door closed I felt that she would be back, and I cared about that.
It takes longer to dress when you have one hand and a stump; I had to be particularly careful how I closed my fly, for example. I thought with a little practice I might get used to it. I could still type with one hand and now maybe I did have something to shout at the world. It took me a little while to get used to locking my door with one hand and I noticed I was holding a lot more things in my teeth. It was now the first week in February, and the temperature was above freezing, so maybe the world was getting another chance, and there were six weeks of my life which I could never account for, and I ran with a Wolf king I never, never wanted to see again.