House of Wolves

Edge of Cowtown.

Horny and temporarily flush from the Vanness thing, Markfeet knocks on the door. Grill snaps open and a pair of bloodshot eyes glare down at her from underneath an overgrown unibrow. “You a cop?”

She stares back, outraged. “Do I look like a fucking cop?

The eyes huff a laugh and the door swings wide. Railthin woman with thick black hair on her arms and a star tattoo on the web between her thumb and forefinger. “Upstairs,” she says, so upstairs Markfeet goes, after paying her the fifty bucks.

Afterwards, she lays back, a little raw, a little bloody, smokes a joint and watches him wash himself, face, hands, feet, mouth at the little tap. He hums tunelessly. Shakes himself dry, pricks his ears at her curiously. “Sure,” Markfeet says, “we got plenty of time. Make yourself comfortable.”

He grins and lies down next to her, suddenly much hairier, a comfortable, friendly warmth next to her legs. Markfeet stretches luxuriously and curls around him.

The Edges of Empire

Every day was some new apocalypse, some looming end of the world drifting through the sickly orange of the sky like fine ash: invisible until it piled up on rooftops and car hoods and skin, notable mostly for how it dragged at their lungs like running. Plague and fire and flood; civil wars and the rumors of wars, dead spots in the sea, deserts swallowing fertile land, birds falling from the sky, whales washing up on beaches. Bones in the street.

They are at home here, if lonely, too wild for humanity, too human for anything else, an outcast in more stable times, but now just one more wary shape on the empty roads. They sloughed their skin years ago when the winter drove them west, a refugee from blizzards, simoons, tornados. The west is a thin skin of green atop a bottomless lake of desert, but it’s still bearable, for now, a heedless island of smug superiority even as the rivers run dry and the cliffsides collapse.

Coming down from the mountains, overgrown and ripe, they meet another exile, face impenetrable behind a layer of road filth. They circle each other, wary as dogs, sniff the air, weigh the options before edging in. They come together without relief, but for a moment the pall of doom is lightened.

Gentle Hands Red With Meaning

A hunter’s eye, that sees nothing and misses everything but fear: he sees green, hears water, smells footprints. Beaten by the sun griddling off the concrete. He is out of his time, once a slave, once an owner of slaves. Reeks of grave earth and urine, wolf hair and adonis; beneath the heavy coat a belt of coral pinches at the hard flesh of his belly. Borrowed nipples heavy with milk, he longs for empire builders.

He kills by daylight, clears a wide circle around the trash and train-swept rumble of his domus, steel and leather. The noise and metal of the trains frustrate and bore him, but there are olive trees growing beyond the fence, and that is familiar. Olive trees and sea air: he remembers stories learned soldiering of a wager between gods.

Nights he is a wild thing, one with raccoons and coyotes, feral cats, drunkards. Brings deer down in the middle of the high road and leaves an accusatory finger of entrails pointed straight at the heart of downtown: I am Caesar’s, no one else may touch me.


Once taken up, the mantle is not put down so easily. This belt of moonstone bites deeper and deeper into my flesh with each passing cycle. Ah, that I had not ventured to the crossroads! Not struck that deal with the man dressed all in blue and black! I have bartered my birthright for a mess of pottage, and no blessings remain to shower upon me, the rightful heir, firstborn son.


Clumsy in the night, tail dragging heavy and awkward, crashing into trees, torn by bracken, mouth full of thistles and dew. No beast of the fields, I, nor the woods–outcast and shunned by man and wolf alike, a mercenary in the endless war of all against all. I feast myself on mice and carrion, and wake, one week out of four, retching, retching, Roman girdle biting always deeper into my thighs.

Ah, that I had not been so foolish!

Young Andrew

She was sometimes a wolf, and sometimes a woman. Not one and then the other; rather, the way a picture of a candlestick is also the picture of two faces in profile. In either shape she had the same fretful, warm brown eyes.

His legs were broken. It was maybe the pain from that that kept him confused.

She sat next to him and leaned her head against his shoulder. Her hair had a dry, dusty smell, like rotting leaves. “What does it mean?” she asked. “Why did they break your legs?”

Andrew sighed. “I did a filthy thing and this is my punishment.”

She thought about that while he struggled to stay conscious. The day was fading and he wanted to see the sunset. “And your arms? Why are they tied?”

“Because I did not repent the filthy thing I did and instead threw it in their faces. Therefore am I bound.”

She went around the tree behind him, her skirt or tail brushing against his side. “And this good red gold? Why did they leave it thee?”

Andrew wept. “Because this was the reason for the filthy thing I did, and so they left it me.”

The sun had set and she came around the tree again, all wolf now.


Her brothers, waiting at the edge of the forest, wondered at the silence over the woods.