by Naomi Clark
Ah, mon pere, you’re
back. I enjoy your visits; they break up the monotony of this dry, dusty cell. All I can see from my window is fields and,
on the horizon, the roofs of Bordeaux. Locked up here, away from other men, is it any wonder I am considered deranged? With
only you, mon pere, for company – irregular company at that – is it any wonder you all think me mad? Men
need the voices of other men, mon pere. We need to know we’re not alone.
You bring water, I see, and
bread. Tasteless water and stale bread, no doubt. You monks are bland aesthetics, aren’t you? Do you ever crave a drop
of the wine you make in your vineyards? Do you ever hunger for meat, raw and bloody and rich? No, no, I see in your eyes that
God is your wine and meat. Your faith in His word satisfies all your appetites. I wish I were so easily sated.
Oh, wipe that nervous look
from your face, old man. Do you think I’m a barbarian, ready to leap on a holy man and rip his throat out? My appetites
are far more refined than that, mon pere. I am not that desperate for meat.
You ask, in a voice trembling
with fear and curiosity, if I repent yet. If I regret the summer of 1602, hot and endless and filled with rusty red grass.
If I regret the children. No, mon pere, I do not repent yet. I do not regret. What sin did I really commit, after all?
To live, to be human, is to hunger. As you satisfy your needs with faith and chanted prayers at dawn, I satisfy mine with
the tender flesh of little girls, the hot jet of blood in my throat.
My only regret is Maguerite
Poirer, my unfinished supper. Such a pretty girl. Hair like flax, pale and wind-torn by the night air. She shone like pearl
in the light of the full moon. If only she hadn’t screamed. If only she had stayed quiet. Those peasants came pouring
from their homes like a plague when they heard her. Dozens of them, crowded around but unwilling to actually help her. They
stood, pitchforks raised to defend themselves, and moved not a bit as I fell on her. They screamed in horror when I ripped
her throat out, but they didn’t try to save her. Little Maguerite’s salty blood and sweet flesh meant nothing
to them, clearly, if they weren’t prepared to try and save it.
Ask them now, and they will
tell you they saw a wolf, not a man. They will describe me as monstrous, a horror spawned by Satan himself. They will speak
of glittering black eyes, ragged claws and bloodstained teeth. And they say I am mad! It’s all lies, of course. I have
never pretended to be a wolf; I have worn no guise borrowed from the devil. I was that night, as I am now, a man. They tell
you I was a wolf, a monster, a demon, to justify their cowardice. We did not save Marguerite, they will tell you, because
she was in the grip of a monster.
But the story took hold, mon
pere, and the rumour of a werewolf spread through Gascony like fire through a dry wheat field. I revelled in my infamy,
although I regretted being unable to finish my meal of Marguerite. An audience at dinner is an unpleasant thing, mon pere.
I have never enjoyed company whilst eating.
So I took to the forests and
stalked the unwary in privacy. Ah, the taste of a young girl, mon pere, you cannot imagine it. For all your talk of
God, you know nothing of Heaven. Heaven is the feeling of blood drenching your hair. It is the crunch of bones splintering
in your mouth; it is slippery marrow sliding down your throat.
You are giving me that look
again, mon pere, the look that says I am a madman. Am I mad to indulge my desires? To satisfy my cravings? I think
not. I think, rather, it is mad to deny them. Would you deny a starving man food? No, of course not. Just because I starve
for human flesh and blood, and not the meat of cows or sheep, you think me mad. It is not so.
How many did I eat? I don’t
know, I never kept count. Nor did I keep trophies, like some arrogant hunter. I know that plump little girls are the best,
that boys’ flesh is stringy and sour. I know that I tried animals too; draining farm dogs and cattle of their blood
when I couldn’t catch a child, but it wasn’t the same. Fat little girls, mon pere, they were always the
I know that the authorities
accused me of witchcraft. They asked me about pacts with the devil and pagan gods they hardly dare name. They looked for a
supernatural explanation, presumably because that suited them better. Like the peasants too cowardly to help Marguerite, the
authorities were too cowardly to face a real man. They were happier dealing with a monster. That, mon pere, is truly
madness, don’t you agree? No? Ah well, you are a man of God. Doubtless devils and witches are your preferred enemies
They accused me of feeding
my delusions by donning a wolf skin to hunt in. This, they said, was the crux of the matter. I was mad. I thought myself a
wolf and that was why I killed and ate their juicy little girls. That was my real crime, the authorities decided, madness.
My crime and my salvation, for who could hold a madman responsible for his actions? I was just a pitiful lunatic, barely capable
Do I regret their verdict,
mon pere? No more than I regret my actions. I had no desire to burn on the Inquisition’s fires. No, I would rather
while away my days in this arid little cell, locked away from human company and human flesh, then die condemned as less than
human. No fiery pyre for me, mon pere.
You are leaving
already? I suppose you grow tired of my story. Or you still do not believe it. Yes, I still see doubt in your eyes, mon
pere. You still think I’m delusional, like the rest of them. You would still rather I was a wolf than a man, insane
rather than rational. Am I easier to look upon, mon pere, if I am a deluded animal? Do you understand me better if
I am a crazed devil-worshipper? Yes? Then I apologise, mon pere, for simply being a man of unusual appetites and not
a monster of acceptable ones.