Thursday, August 25, 2005


The cold rain was falling outside, and the windows rattled with the force of the wind. Tiny shards of rainwater slid silently down the clear glass. The rains were in the height of their intensity in this time of the year. To Jacob it seemed merely a portent of darker things to come.

At least it was night, he thanked the stars. Jacob never went out at night. Everyone who knew him understood that. Jacob did not understand exactly why he disliked going out at night. But it did seem that the reason always skirted naughtily around the contours of his mind; though he never could remember. His nights were...strange. He was always terribly sweaty after a night's sleep; sometimes he would also seem to sleepwalk. Once he distinctly remembered dozing off in the sofa without changing out his officewear, which was surprising in itself because he rarely retained such memories; and when he woke the next morning the dandelions were dead, and he was back on his bed, hair matted with sweat, wearing only shorts, and his face covered by a sheen of oil. He would try to grasp at the memories but they always went away.

And a new day would dawn.

Always punctual, always industrious and driven, was Jacob the office worker. In his drab cubicle in one of the ubiquitous office blocks of the city, he would compile office reports, summarize documents, prepare spreadsheets, type official letters - and he never went overtime. Not once in his eight years of work did Jacob step out the office later than was necessary. And when it came to promotions, Jacob had already refused thrice, always professing family pressures when he had none. His superiors were all bewildered at his eccentricities, but Jacob had his own, unknowable reasons. But he had brought the promotion letters home, had them laminated on a weekend, and placed them up on the wall. He often took to staring at them in times of idleness, wondering.

Jacob reclined on his chair. His bare feet were hitched up on the coffee table. Outside the rain continued beating on; like all other constructs of nature it was blind to mortal needs and whimsies. Jacob's eyes were fixed upon the ceiling, examining a small spot of grit. His hands fiddled idly with a coin, rolling it about with nimble fingers. The coin read "Lycantropa Ringardia" on the front and was wreathed with embossed motifs of flowers.

Jacob felt a strong sense of deja vu, a faint rememberance on the edges of memory of the same scene repeated over and over again in the course of his life. In that etheral memory he was always rolling the coin between his fingers. Come to think of it, he didn't know exactly why he had begun playing with the coin in the first place. He delved into inner thought, trying to recall where and when he had picked up the coin. Or why he owned it in the first place. didn't even know where it came from.

He frowned. Try as he did, he could not dredge out the irritating memory from the depths of his mind. It was a frustratingly familiar sensation. He let out his breath in a long slow sigh. All at once, he began to hear a soft, subdued voice yammering faintly at him
from the corners of his consciousness . Disconcerted, he sat up, in abrupt attention. As he waited, tense, the tiny voice grew louder, and he could make out words. He wondered if he were finally going mad.

As the voices grew louder and more insistent, Jacob jerked up from the sofa. His knee knocked the coffee table over and sent it toppling to the side, spilling the assorted magazines and books onto the floor. Jacob clenched his fists and looked wildly around him, searching for a foe that was not there. His hands flew to his hears and clamped down hard on them. "GET OUT OF MY HEAD!" he roared. Spittle flew in all directions. "GET OUT! GET OUTTT!!!!!" Sobbing, he loosed a wail of fury and despair. But the voices were oblivious, and like the beat of wardrums they bore down on him. Jacob collapsed on his knees, squeezing his eyes shut. Tears spurted forth nonetheless. He felt as if his head were about to explode with the grisly force of nattering voices, filling his soul with gargantuan rage and despair. Jolts of pain lanced through his head. Once again deja vu pervaded his awareness. He'd experienced this before.

Beside him, the coin lay on the floor, unheeded. The inscribed words glowed a faint green. A livid purple suffusion began to shine fiercely from the rest of the coin, bathing the room in a lurid violet light. And as if from some distant place beyond the bitterest seas a titanic but infinitely soft voice could be heard, intoning the words Lycantropa Ringardia in tones both grand and filled with a certain saturnine satisfaction.

On the floor, an agonized Jacob let out a last piercing shriek that changed pitch to an animal growl. His teeth melted into fangs; rank slaver filled his mouth. His face elongated into a muzzle and sprouted coarse hairs. His eyes glazed over and turned an angry red. His body was twisting and rippling, proportions changing, legs and arms growing claws and thick hides. His clothing disappeared into his body, revealing the agile new creature that now crouched on the carpeted floor. And once-Jacob growled, baring his teeth in a savage snarl.

In the sky overhead the clouds parted and the rain finally stopped, and the full moon emerged, huge and white and glowing with suffused light, hanging low over the night sky flecked with sparse stars.

Jacob dropped on his legs and let out a mournful howl that shook the earth. With one powerful leap he - it - bounded to the window, opened it with his powerful claws, and escaped. On the floor, the coin shimmered and the lurid glow faded away, and the room was left bathed in all the normal colours of modernity.


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