All of us have a great untapped potential - a potential for living. What we do with that potential, with that life, depends as much on our attitudes toward our physical desires as it does on the social programming of our minds. The struggle between mind and body is not a necessary one. It produces anger, frustration, the strain of modern-day living in a world that's moving too quickly toward its own annihilation. Stress results when we fight against our impulses, when we attempt to destroy the natural man or woman within us. Repression is the father of neurosis, of self-hatred. The Gift by Dr. George Waggner
Karen finally sleeps, and when she sleeps, she thinks she dreams.
She dreams of running through the trees in the dark, a fat, full moon sitting just above their sharp green tops. Pine needles break under her bare feet, and the smell mixes with sweat and her own sour sleep breath.
That doesn’t seem strange in the dream, when she’s been woken from a light sleep, drawn to the porch by the sound of something snuffling around the cabin. She doesn’t remember what happened between the porch and the woods. Dreams leap and twist, and hers are never linear.
The underbrush twitches near her, and she stumbles. Catches herself against the nearest tree, scrapes open her palms on the bark. She can smell the blood then, sharp and metallic, and leaves perfect, bloody handprints behind, too much blood to have come from scratches and scrapes.
Her feet feel wet. She looks back and sees dark marks where she’s passed. It’s night, and the trees rise thick around her. Even with the moon, she should not make out such detail.
The underbrush rustles again. Karen’s head shoots up. Her heart pounds. She stares into the darkness and sees only a flicker of moving shadow.
Karen runs again, fleet footed, longer and farther than she’s ever run before. She runs on two legs and then she’s on four, galloping along, hands and feet moving awkward but strong.
She wakes in her bed, Bill snoring next to her. She wakes to twigs and pine needles in her hair. She wakes to hands and feet that are bloody and bruised. She wakes to a body panting with exhaustion, overheated, twitching.
Adrenaline, maybe. Or, she thinks, desire.
Marsha watches her. Karen’s not sure, exactly, when it began, but now that she’s noticed it, she can’t seem to stop. Neither does Marsha. Marsha’s eyes glint even when her face is in shadows. Her lips are, sometimes, painted very red. Her nails are always long and sharp.
She paces Karen when she walks down to the beach. Karen wears layers against the cool fog. Marsha sheds hers and presses bare feet into the sand. Doesn’t even flinch when the waves lap at her toes.
Marsha turns her back on the sea one day so she can stare at Karen. The sun behind her catches copper strands in her brown hair, halos the thin dress she wears. Karen can see the outline of her body through it, the curve of her silhouette.
A sound echoes in the distance, falling through the trees down to the shore. It is a cry she doesn’t recognize, an animal calling out. Marsha tips back her head, baring the long line of her throat. Her mouth opens, but no noise escapes.
Karen’s body throbs, and she clutches her hands together and presses them against her stomach.
Her name is a whisper, scratchy, quiet. Karen spins in a circle, too quick, staggering, her feet unsteady among the pine needles and cones. She throws out her arms for balanced, and fingers close on her wrist, hold her up. The strength of that grip, all her weight on her arm, makes her cry out, and then she’s on her feet again, balanced.
The wind blows against her face, ruffles the branches, sends pine needles showering down around her. They settle in her hair and on her shoulders.
She is alone in the shadows under the trees.
Her name is a whisper, and her head spins and spins and spins.
She wakes, gasping. A body is next to her, burning hot and too close. Hair tickles across her bare shoulder, down her arm, and lips brush the side of her throat. Sharp points press into her thigh, five all together, then walk their way up toward her hip.
Karen feels herself grow wet even as pain sparks through her.
Fingers reach her cunt, nudge between her lips. They are sharp tipped and soft furred. Some of that fur slips beneath the hood of her clit. It's a strange feeling, and it makes her squirm. Another hand on her other leg, those biting points again, working their way up. Knuckles on either side of her clit, two fingers push inside her. Three. Fur rubbing her from the inside out, sharp claws catch sensitive skin. It's terrible, and wonderful.
Teeth bite into the skin next to her belly button. A long sweep of tongue soothes it after. Hot breath follows.
She wakes, gasping, bloody marks on her thighs and one hand stuffed between her legs.
Karen slips out of the cabin, easing the door shut behind her. Bill snores inside, moving in his sleep, whining a little when he rolls onto the wrong side and aggravates the bite wound.
She cannot sleep, but it is not for his noise.
At first, she thinks she’s alone, and then a hand settles on the back of her neck, warm and holding tight.
Any other time, she’s screamed Eddie Eddie Eddie whenever someone gets too close, even Bill, but this is not Eddie. She knows that on a level she does not understand. There is a scent, maybe, or a sound, or a feeling.
“Males,” Marsha says, and scoffs. “Satisfy their hunger and they sleep like the dead and are good for nothing else.”
“He’s hurt,” Karen argues. And there was no hunger satisfied, not tonight.
“Aren’t we all.” Marsha puts her cheek next to Karen’s. She smells like smoke and a musky perfume.
Karen tries to draw away, stand tall, but Marsha holds her still. “I’m fine,” she says. “Better than ever.”
“And yet you do not sleep.” Marsha’s breath is hot and damp against Karen’s skin.
Karen says nothing to that. There is nothing she can say.
Marsha moves her hair away from her neck with great care. A breath, and then Martha’s mouth closes on the side of Karen’s throat. She does not bite down, but Karen can feel the sharp points of her teeth and the warm, wet sweep of her tongue.
Karen closes her eyes and tilts her head to the side to give Marsha more room to work. She feels a low vibration along her skin, a rumble of sound. She cries out, but Marsha’s teeth close tight on her and the words are swallowed in the pained noise that follows.
Marsha chews, and Karen falls from her arms, hands clutching at her throat, sticky and hot.
She wakes, gasping, and staggers to the bathroom, stomach twisting into her throat. She makes it in time, hunches over the toilet, but nothing comes up. Her mouth tastes bitter, and her throat hurts.
When she straightens, she sees herself in the mirror and starts. Leans in close, stares at the deep bruise on the side of her throat, already blooming a deep purple, and within it, tiny spots where teeth pierced skin.
Karen twines a scarf around her throat. Outside, it makes sense, the weather has turned colder and damper than ever, fog sitting low, but she wears it inside, too, and has the lie ready, how she’s chilled through, how she needs scarves and a high-necked flannel shirt for sleep and how she burned herself somehow even though she hasn’t touched a curling iron in weeks.
She has no need of them. Bill doesn’t ask. Kisses the spot. Sets his own teeth to it. Takes her hand and pushes her fingers against his wound. His dick twitches, grows hard the more she digs into it.
He looks at her and at Marsha. He watches them with knowing eyes. Bites Karen's fingers the next time she rises from the bed. Lets her go.
Marsha watches her across the bonfire. Marsha’s draped in her dark hair and dark clothes, throat to top of her breasts bare, shadows falling into her cleavage. Karen can’t look away from the slope of her breasts.
Bill’s next to her, and then he’s not, and Karen doesn’t know where he’s gone.
Doesn’t care when, a heartbeat later, Marsha comes to her carrying meat and drink.
“Share with us,” Marsha says. Her voice is low and rough, and her eyes shine bright. Her lips are very red. Her teeth are very white. Karen’s pulse races, and she thinks Marsha can hear it even from a distance.
Marsha holds a piece of meat up to Karen’s mouth. It is rich and unfamiliar. She bites down and juice spills across her tongue. Blood. Marsha leaves her hand at Karen’s mouth while she chews. When she’s done, she licks each of Marsha’s fingers, chasing that flavor.
After, Marsha touches damp fingers to the side of Karen’s throat. To the mark that should not be.
She holds the drink still, a heavy cup, the rim chipped. It’s filled with something dark and thick. Karen takes Marsha’s wrist and raises her hand, steadying the cup as she does. Marsha watches her and waits. Allows herself to be held and moved.
Karen struggles, but manages to get the cup to her mouth, tilted so she can drink. She tries to watch Marsha over the top of it, but it is too large, the liquid spills into her mouth too fast, across her lips, down her chin. It’s sweet and sticky, but the aftertaste lingers and makes her stomach roil.
The cup drops to the ground. It does not shatter. Karen looks down at it, but her vision swims and her head spins. Marsha places three fingers under Karen’s chin, nails sharp, and pushes it up until their eyes meet. Marsha’s are golden, the only thing in focus as the world blurs and Karen falls down.
She wakes, gasping. There’s a heavy weight along her legs and a warm mouth working her cunt. Three fingers thrust inside and sharp points scrape her walls. Karen screams and thrashes. Teeth close on her clit, pain from the inside out, and she comes and comes and comes.
Karen watches Marsha slink toward her. It’s night again, early toward dawn, and the moon is gone. The stars are lost to fog rising among the trees, twisting higher and higher. It swirls around Marsha’s legs.
She sheds her clothes as she comes until she stands naked before Karen, dark hair tumbling over her shoulders, dusky nipples hard, the thick thatch of dark curls between her legs wet.
“I can taste you even now,” Marsha says and licks her lips. Her teeth are very sharp. Her eyes glow gold. When she holds out her hands, her nails are long and pointed, claws more than anything else.
She steps onto the porch and leaves bloody footprints behind. Human and then not. Five toes and a heel, then four and a pad. Clawed, always. Karen can’t stop staring at them, not even when Marsha stands before her.
She’s human, and then she’s not. She’s bare skinned, and then she’s not.
Marsha’s mouth slants over Karen’s, tongue too big, teeth too sharp. Her palms are hot and smooth against Karen’s bare arms and then rough. Karen puts her hands on Marsha’s shoulders to push her away, but finds herself holding tight, pulling her close instead.
“Come,” Marsha says. “Run.”
She wakes, and the orgasm tears through her, claws in her lower belly, fangs in her throat.
Karen goes in search of Marsha, padding barefoot across the pine needles, ignoring the sharp stab of them into her heels. Her bathrobe snags on a bush and she leaves it behind. Her shirt is too rough against her breasts and she tosses it to the side. Her legs itch and burn until she peels off her pajama pants and lets them pool on the ground behind her.
Marsha waits for her on a rock overlooking the ocean, wide enough and flat enough to be a table. A bed. An altar.
Karen climbs up to kneel in front of Marsha. Marsha lies back, spreads her legs, cuts sharp nails into her own breasts. Karen puts her hands on Marsha’s thighs, leans in. Breathes. Kisses next to her left knee and then the right, farther up her left thigh and then her right. Her left hip and then her right.
When Karen puts her mouth to Marsha’s cunt, she tastes salt and warm meat and animal musk. She licks, and Marsha claws at her back. She pushes her fingers inside, and Marsha kicks her feet. She bites Marsha’s clit, hard, and Marsha howls as she comes.
She wakes, Bill reading next to her. Karen feels empty, turned inside out, skin raw, eyes burning, mouth dry with thirst. She climbs out of bed. Her muscles are knotted and when she steps, her legs do not work the same.
“Where are you going?” Bill asks, but he doesn’t look up from his book. “You should be resting.”
Karen looks at him. His arms and legs are muscled. His belly is soft. Her mouth waters.
“I’m leaving,” she says. Her teeth feel too big for her mouth.
“That’s nice, dear.” Still, he doesn’t look up. "Run. Let her chase." Then, quiet, so soft she can barely hear it. "Run with us all."
She turns and pads barefoot out of the bedroom. Out of the cabin. Out of the clearing and into the woods.
Marsha waits for her there, dressed only in dappled shadows and sunlight and that wild dark hair. She smiles.
Karen bares her teeth. Strips. Stands, naked and proud and sure.
The bite on the side of her neck that cannot be real throbs. Her skin stretches taut. Her muscles shift. Her bones resettle.
Marsha turns from her and runs. Karen leaps. Follows. Tears through the forest on two legs, and four, dreaming and awake, running into the sunlight and the darkness and the fog and nothing at all.