Owls & Ashes


Yet each man kills the thing he loves ~Oscar Wilde

“. . . Hungry,” Jan manages to rasp out through a mouth of razor fangs. His face has elongated slightly in the last few nights since he was at Tiberius’ mansion. Claws show at the tips of his fingers . . . and, Violet notices, the toes of his boots. His eyes flicker red like motorcycle taillights at a distance.

“What’s happened to you? Come on, get inside, quick,” Violet says, stepping back warily. “Haven’t you fed?”

“Can’t. Tried. Won’t work.” Jan clambers in, on all fours for a moment, before rising on feet, hunched over. His gaze darts in all directions, measuring the kitchen and living room space. His gaze turns on her again, seeming to fix as his head moves forward, almost like a cat trying to get the scent of a nearby object.

“Won’t work?” Violet tips her head. “What do you mean?”

“Tried a, uh, a rat . . . a pigeon . . . tried a girl . . .” Jan says, voice low, somewhere between guttural and guilty. “Not enough. Still hungry.”

Violet sighs, and sits on the couch, baring her wrist. “So, maybe this’ll help?”

Jan’s eyes widen and he immediately moves to one knee before her in front of the couch. His hands close around her wrists and he gives her a curious look. She nods in assent, leaning forward, and waiting for him to sink his teeth in—which he does, hard. Violet winces a little, but relaxes as she feels his lips press to the bites, beginning to drink . . .

They’ve done this before, countless times, sharing a little at a time, a little of each other, and she can feel part of herself joining him in doing so . . . a little more . . . even more . . . a lot more . . .

“Alright, you can let go . . .”

She tugs at her wrist, suddenly feeling the Beast come to life, stirring a little as it has before, but almost like it did nights ago at the Prince’s, when she . . .

Violet yanks her wrist back harder at the sudden coiling within her, and hears a soft snarl, low in Jan’s throat, as his eyes flare carmine at her. Baring his teeth, each one edged in red now, he bristles at his meal taken from him, gaze gone flat and empty but for hunger. He lunges forward, shoving Violet back against the couch. Its front legs tip up and off the floor, and the sofa tilts crazily for an uncertain moment before thudding back down on its feet again.

As Jan growls, jaws parted, Violet shoves back at him. The memory of his one-time frenzy toward her, even brief as it was, surfaces—this time the thought of his bites and clawmarks as he pushes himself, and lost control, mingle with seeing what he had done to the Prince in moments . . . and now his claws are just as black and gnarled as they were then.

But her hands are iron. She remembers the way the Prince’s jaw creaked under her blows, even hazed as the memory is with her loss of control. And even now it wants loose; it won’t let another predator dominate it, and she can put down anything that stands in her way—even Jan.

“No! No!” Violet shouts, gaze locked with Jan’s, and that blood trick, that sense of terror or illusion she’s thrown on others, fills her voice. “No, you already did it! You already attacked me! You already killed me!

Jan suddenly halts his next snapping lunge, jerks backward so hard he falls off of the couch. Violet sits up, clutching at her wrist, and sees him sit up with awful slowness.

“Jan . . . ?” her voice is soft, halting.

Whatever he sees has rendered him speechless, expressionless.

“Jan, I’m right here. It’s okay! I’m right here!”

He shoves himself backward toward the kitchen, gradually pulling himself upright again, this time not hunched over, but bolt upright at what he beholds. He pushes himself away from the living room, claws of one hand tearing out a chunk of drywall at the corner by the kitchen.

“Jan, no—can’t you see me . . . ?” Violet pleads.

With that same awful slowness, he turns away, raising one shaking hand to his face, black claws curling inward as he begins to hunch over again. She doesn’t see it, but she can hear the sound of his talons, as he covers his face with his hand.

Rakes downward, slowly, deliberately, from brow to chin.

As his hand moves, a whimper sounds low in his throat, building steadily to wail, to a howl, to a shriek of outrage and dismay and guilt and fear and horror and fury.

Within Jan, something that has been gradually bending and weakening for nights, weeks, months, gives way and at last, tears loose.

Silent, from her perch on the sofa, Violet watches him flail from one end of the kitchen to the other, eyes and mouth wide open, tearing the room apart, throwing table, chairs, tearing doors off of fridge and freezer, bestowing random blows with feet and hands and forehead, tearing holes in the drywall and plaster lathing, smashing a window open and splintering its frame entirely.

With one last roar, he hurls himself through a second window and into the darkness outside. As Violet leaps from the couch toward the window, she hears the sudden heavy leathery flap under the tinkling and splintering of glass and wood. A pair of wings beat wildly as she sees the twisted form take flight above neighboring rooftops, before disappearing into the night.



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