Just finished Carrie Vaughn's collection of short fiction, Kitty's Greatest Hits. As you know, I'm a Kitty fan and this collection was a great read! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.
And thanks to the folks at Tor Books, here's an excerpt from the short story titled "Il Est Né."
Hugging himself, shivering, David curled up under the reaching bows of a pine tree. A moonlit drift of snow glowed silver just a few feet away, outside his shelter. More snow was falling, and he was naked. If he simply relaxed, he wouldn't be that cold. But he was afraid. More afraid every time this happened.
He didn't know where he was, but that didn't bother him so much anymore. And how strange it was, that something like that didn't bother him. That was what bothered him. Not knowing, not remembering, had become normal. He didn't know where he was, but he knew exactly how he got here. It was getting harder to claw his way out of this space, to keep this from happening. He was losing himself.
The fire had taken him again. Blood rose and changed him. In a helpless surge, another body of fur and teeth, claw and sinew overcame him. The hunter, the wolf. He couldn't stop the Change. He could flee, stumbling into a wild place where no one would see him, where he wouldn't hurt anyone. Better that he stay here, because the pull was getting harder to resist. Easy to say that this was where he belonged, now.
Sometime in the last year, since this curse had landed on him, his thinking had switched. He wasn't a human who turned into a wolf. Instead, he was a wolf trapped in human skin. The wolf wanted to run away forever. Might be easier, if he just never returned to human. But he did.
At some point, he drifted back to sleep and woke to bright sunlight gleaming off the snow. Blinding, almost. It would be a beautiful day, with a searing blue Colorado sky, crisp snow, chilled air. And he couldn't really sit here under a tree, bare-ass naked, confused and depressed, all day.
Ultimately, that was what drew him back to civilization. He was still human, and the human grew bored. He'd walk, find a road, a town, steal some clothes. Figure out the date and how long he'd been out of it this time. Wander in the company of people, until the fire took him again.
* * *
Just because Kitty couldn't go home for Christmas didn't mean she had to be alone.
At least, that was the reasoning behind forcing herself to spend part of the day at a Waffle House off the interstate. It was the holidays, you were supposed to spend them with family, with voices raised in celebration, toasting each other and eating too much food.
Not that any of that was happening here. It was her, a couple of truckers, the waitress, the cook, a glass of middling non-alcoholic eggnog and Bing Crosby on the radio. All in all this was one of the most depressing scenes she'd ever witnessed.
She was reading Dickens while sipping her egg nog. Not the obvious one, which hadn't lasted long, but Bleak House. The title seemed appropriate, and at three inches thick would last her a good long while.
Just a couple more hours, she thought. Long enough to have supper in the company of other people--no matter that no one had said a word to each other in half an hour. Then she'd go to her rented room, call her family to wish them happy holidays, and go to bed.
The music cut off, and Kitty looked up, ready to complain. The Christmas carols had been the only thing making this place bearable. How pathetic was that, clinging to old-school carols piped through the speakers of a cut-rate stereo? Behind the counter, the waitress pulled over a footstool and used it to reach the TV, sitting on a shelf high on the wall. She popped a VHS tape into the built-in slot.
As if she felt Kitty watching her, she--Jane, according to her name tag--looked over her shoulder and smiled.
"It's a Wonderful Life," Jane said. "I play it every year."
Oh, this was going to make Kitty cry.
The fact that Jane had spent enough years here to make it a tradition, not to mention she had the movie on videotape rather than DVD, somehow added to the depressing state of the situation. That could have been a lot of Christmases. Jane wasn't young: wrinkles formed around her eyes and lips, and her curling hair was dyed a gray-masking brown. Waitressing at Waffle House didn't seem like much of a career. A stop-gap maybe, a pay the bills kind of job on the way to somewhere else. It wasn't supposed to become your life. No one should have to work at Waffle House on Christmas every damn year.
Kitty set her book aside and leaned back in the booth to get a better view. There were worse ways to kill time. She'd watch the movie, then blow this popsicle stand.