through the sinew of her shoulders. She could feel everything, all of a sudden. Everything and nothing all at once. The music poured into her veins and she felt the pressure building, bleeding from her nose and eyes and lips. She choked and inhaled omniscience. She knew and saw and spoke and tasted and heard and loved as she stood there blind and mute and dying. Charlie pulled away from Tristan, lips swollen. Felix pressed a kiss to Catherine’s forehead, tugging her closer. Tessa ran her fingers lightly over the inside of Lisa’s wrist, making promises. Sarah licked tequila off TJ’s stomach, laughing and gasping. Amy raised her glass in a toast, wine spilling from the cup to splatter her chest. May’s eyes snapped open. And the dark-haired stranger was there, right in front of her, lips dripping gore onto the floor. Heavy lidded eyes promising sex and lust and violence. Horns jutting proudly from his dishevelled curls, glistening white and deadly. Her stomach heaved. She was unravelling. She looked at her hands and they were paws, mottled and clawed. She could feel something lurching awake inside her, trapped beneath the arches of her ribs. It was hungry. But Alec’s hands on her shoulders bore it down, even as it seethed and writhed. They’re tearing me apart. ‘Fuck this, May. I’m getting you out of here.’ Alec sounded so human. She was wrenched away and hauled across the room, staggering. The grip on her wrists broke and the roaring in her ears increased a thousand-fold and then stuttered out as Alec jerked her through the crowd. She looked back over her shoulder and the stranger winked, smile twisting. Call me, he mouthed.
The door loomed before her like a mouth, open and hungry. I shouldn’t leave, she thought. I shouldn’t. Something bad will… She fought, but Alec was relentless. She collided with the night air and fell, hard, grazing her knees as the hands on her shoulders tightened to pull her upright again. He’d never been very kind. Cornflower hair and blue eyes like the summer sky, but cold. He had a temper. She’d seen him punch someone once. Smash his fist into their jaw without a second thought, his pretty blue eyes as icy as ever. There’d been blood and shouting and she’d just looked at his face. He’d scared her more than the blood had. ‘Are you alright?’ he asked. He looked like Alec again. Just Alec. But she knew she would never look at him again without seeing. Without knowing. Without seeing bows and black arrows and blood. She shivered. ‘I’ll be fine,’ she said softly. Not at all. ‘Are you drunk?’ He was accusing her now, she knew. Drunk girls get what they deserve. He reached for her arm with winestained fingers. She stepped away, wrapping her arms around herself. She’d left her jacket behind. The world was hovering between summer and winter, the moon hanging heavy and bloated in the night sky. The wind had teeth. ‘No.’ He didn’t believe her. ‘I’ll drive you home.’ ‘I can manage,’ she said. Quietly. Firmly. She wouldn’t fight him. But she wouldn’t get in his car, either, wouldn’t buckle herself into his chariot. Sit across from him while they both pretended to listen to the radio and the growing consciousness of him and her crept up between them. ‘Be reasonable.’ His lips thinned. He’d always been fond of reasonable. She took her keys out, resolute,
and he flung up his hands. ‘Fine, have it your way.’ ‘I’ll be fine,’ she said. ‘Stay away from him. He’s bad news. If I hadn’t seen you…’ ‘My hero,’ she snapped. They had never been good at civility. They understood each other far too well for that. She’d seen him with blood on his hands and he’d seen her with blood on her face and they would never be friends. He shrugged. ‘Whatever.’ He didn’t walk her to the car, but he stood and watched as she unlocked the driver’s door and clambered in. Her hands were shaking. She drove with the radio off, the digital clock flashing as the minutes dribbled lazily by. It was a long drive home, but she was accustomed. ‘I’m fine,’ she told herself softly. ‘I’m fine.’ The roads were empty. I’m everyone’s friend. ‘Are you?’ she asked. There was a soft chuckle from the back seat. Her panicked eyes caught his in the rear vision mirror and she froze, hands whiteknuckled on the steering wheel. ‘Of course, my dear,’ he murmured. His voice was dark. ‘I’m irresistible.’ She looked down and her wrists were dappled black and yellow, dark claws sprouting from the ends of her fingers. Her eyes met his again and something shifted inside her again, but this time there were no cold hands to push it away. She wanted to scream but her throat was full of thorns. Who are you? She thought. His grin widened. ‘I’m just a stranger,’ he murmured. ‘Make of me what you will.’ His horns glistened gold in the streetlight, and the red on his plump lips was too crimson to be wine. ◊
words: rebecca mcewen art: rohan cheong
THE FINAL ISSUE