applespice: it is a sparkly fairy ([girls] messy updo)
How About Them Apples? ([personal profile] applespice) wrote2011-04-05 07:07 pm
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LJ Idol - Week 20 - Whisper

Exhibit X: The First American Werewolf in Captivity!

She could see the sign over the tops of the trees, emblazoned in red letters that looked like dripping blood. Beneath the words, her face. It wasn’t a face she recognized, but it was hers all the same. She felt it inside her, twitching under the muscles in her cheeks and lips and jaws.

The enclosure was circular and open, like an amphitheater, ringed on three quarters of its circumference by a thick wall of transparent plastic. It was made up to look like a piney woods, all mossy boulders and little gullies and bristly, transplanted trees that struggled to live in the foreign soil. And there were the faces, always the faces, shimmering like phantasms against the plastic barrier, staring at her wherever she turned.

Her name was Hazel, though nobody called her that anymore. The name emblazoned on the plaque in front of her enclosure was Lupe, though most people didn’t call her that, either. She was the freak, the monster, the wolf girl, nothing more. She had been in the zoo for two years.

Every day she was awakened at seven o’ clock, an hour before the zoo opened. They used a cattle prod to shove her out of the back of the enclosure, where she slept in a plain, dark room on dirty blankets. They fed her - mostly raw beef and things that she couldn’t even name, animal parts, pink and shining in the pale morning light. She refused to eat these, though she had learned to choke down the beef. Sometimes she thought about refusing it all until she shriveled up and disappeared, but she knew they’d never let her die. They’d shove tubes down her throat and force her if she didn’t do it herself. She was the star attraction, after all.

In the beginning she had tried to talk to them. She tried to tell them that this was wrong, that she was human, at least most of the time. Some of them had even talked back at first. Then, slowly, the talk dried up. Their eyes changed. She wasn’t Hazel anymore, or even Lupe. She was just another animal, dangerous and dirty and stupid. Her own voice dwindled and died away until it was little more than a whisper.

Sometimes she tried to talk to the people who came to see her, too, though she knew they couldn’t hear her through the plastic. She found the ones with pity in their eyes and whispered, “Help me, please,” her slim brown fingers pressed against the barrier like a prayer. But they only lowered their eyes and walked away, and the rest crowded in with their cameras and hungry smiles while a zoo employee crowed over the noise, “It’s your lucky day, folks! Lupe is usually shy – she must see something she likes out there! I’d keep your daughter close, ma’am, she might smell like lunch!”

She still combed her hair with her fingers, though it was filthy and thick with grease, and washed herself with her drinking water every night. It seemed futile, but she couldn’t stop. She couldn’t give up what little was left to her of Hazel, who had once been a pretty girl. She still felt like Hazel, in some deep quiet part of her mind, though the other thing was there, too, snarling around in the darkness like a half-remembered nightmare.

When spring began to melt into summer, she realized that she was nearly nineteen years old. If she thought about it hard enough, she could still imagine a white frosted cake crowned with a tiara of flame, the kind she’d had before the thing happened and she had changed. Her mother had always baked Hazel’s birthday cake herself. “They never get the icing right,” she said of supermarket bakeries.

Hazel hadn’t seen her mother in three years, since she had signed her over like an unwanted pet. The memory still burned in her gut like acid.

In the third week of May, men began erecting high metal bleachers around the enclosure. She knew, then, that the full moon wasn’t far away. She could already feel it humming through her nerves, at the roots of her teeth.

The zoo celebrated the full moon each month by opening the gates after sunset. At moonrise, a crowd gathered around her like shadows, mounting the bleachers eagerly in search of the best seat. Stadium lighting slammed on around her, moths swirling through the fluorescent beams like spinning constellations, and she began to change. It was always painful, the creak and snap of bone, the tearing skin, the sudden stretch of tendon and muscle. But worst of all was the shame, hot and thick like the saliva that filled her mouth, like the scent of blood in her nose.

When she changed she wasn’t Hazel. She wasn’t anybody. She didn’t remember, afterward, only dreamed of it, and the dreams left her shattered and shaking. She buried the bones with tears in her eyes, the shreds and shards of animals they released into the enclosure with her when she was not herself. In her dreams, she heard the delightful squealing of the crowd, felt the juicy burst of flesh under her teeth.

When she saw the men building the bleachers, her stomach twisted. She couldn’t bear the thought of being their monster again, of killing and running and snarling and howling for them. She retreated behind the trees and ignored the sounds of disappointment from the faces behind the glass. The part of her that was still Hazel whispered her plans, but nobody was listening.

The next morning, she awoke before the cattle prod entered her pen. She lay in the cool darkness, tingling from her fingertips to her toes, and waited. It wouldn’t be long.

At seven o’ clock, a small panel opened at the back of the room. A muscle twitched in her flank as she watched. The prod slid inside, and behind it she could see the face of the man that held it. He peered into the gloom, trying to find her with his weak, watery eyes.

The movement flowed through her like liquid silver. She sprang to her feet and reached out suddenly, her fingers closing on the plastic shaft of the prod, behind the crackling end. The man did not expect this; she had always been docile, sluggish and cringing. She jerked him forward, the muscles in her arm contracting. She heard the soft clunk of his head hitting the exterior wall, and felt the sudden slackening of the prod. Flinging it away, she dashed at the panel. It was small but so was she, half-starved as she was. Her hips banged against the rough stone as she came through, but she didn’t feel anything but the man’s skin under her hands. Her teeth closed on his throat before he could scream, and she tore it out with a single jerk of her head. Blood gushed into her mouth, and just for a moment she savored it, before the part of her that was Hazel flooded back and pushed the body away.

She stripped the corpse and zipped the jumpsuit around herself. It was far too big, puddling around her wrists and ankles, and there was a wet bloodstain at the shoulder, but it would have to do for now. The man she shoved into her pen, twisting and breaking the body to make it fit. She couldn’t do anything about the blood on the floor but hope that it would be a few minutes before anyone found it.

The narrow corridor behind her pen opened up on the far side of the tiger enclosure. She was at the very heart of the zoo, surrounded by winding paths and habitats and cages. Her nostrils flared. She smelled the zoo employees moving around her, the animals, the grease from the food carts. The part of her that was not Hazel could see it all like a map, laid out in a pattern of heat and scent.

It was easy enough to avoid the zoo employees at first, though the blood on the jumpsuit unsettled the animals. She spotted an abandoned merchandise cart in front of the reptile house and stole a t-shirt and a pair of running shorts, undressing right there to pull them on. As she left the cart, an alarm began to shriek – they had noticed she was missing. Her loping run carried her over the dirt paths so fast she barely felt the ground under her feet. She could sense people running around her, toward her, and heard their frantic shouting. The animals growled and whickered and whined.

The perimeter wall loomed in front of her, but it was decorative and low. She almost laughed as she vaulted over it. She landed in a crouch on the other side. Behind the wall, she could still hear the faint shouts of zoo employees. They didn’t realize she was outside. They didn’t realize she was free. She began to run again, her stride eating up the sparse grass. She didn’t look back.

“The popular Exhibit X attraction at the Westport Zoo closed last Friday, after the escape of ‘Lupe,’ the first American werewolf in captivity,” a television chattered over the counter. “Authorities are currently searching the surrounding areas for the werewolf, but have no comment as to the whereabouts of this dangerous beast. The full moon rose last night…” A photograph flashed onto the screen – a crouching girl with filthy, matted hair and flashing eyes. She was clothed in only strips of blanket.

“Scary, ain’t it?” The man behind the counter shook his head. “Hope they catch the damn thing.” He turned toward the girl with the shining blonde hair, who was perched across from him on a red vinyl stool. She wore a floaty summer dress that was just a little too big for her and speckled with small flecks of mud. He thought she must be a gardener, what with the mud and the tan. Her thick-lashed brown eyes were fixed on the television. “So what’ll it be, hon?”

“The breakfast platter, please,” she whispered, barely audible over the television. “Extra sausage and bacon.”

“Speak up, hon,” he chuckled, silently deciding to add a couple of pancakes to the girl’s plate, on the house. She looked a bit underfed. “Pretty girl like you shouldn’t ought to be shy.”

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