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In Crimson, In Moonlight

Stefan Slater is a writer from Los Angeles. His work has appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Mermaids Monthly, and The Arcanist. Follow him @StefanASlater or visit stefanaslater.com.

It's mutual when the werewolf and the moon break up. They box up the cabin they shared together. Pack their separate cars together.
Grey-haired with eyes gleaming silver, the moon is off to the city, because all light is welcome in the never-dark: she'll find a place among the sleepless traffic signals, humming neon signs, always-burning spotlights.
Short with too many teeth and knotted scars, the werewolf's off to a ranch. Not to tear sheep apart, but to herd them, like an aspiring good boy.
There's little to say, save quick goodbyes, briefest of hugs because they're still horrifically in love: There's only one celestial body for a werewolf, only one reason to ever change; and though thousands yowl and howl to the moon with wonder, only one sings to her of crimson, spurs midnight to shiver and shriek, windows to shatter and gunshots to ring out, just for her wonderful light.
But the cost for a good night was just too steep: too many hungover mornings in a cheap motel, too much broken glass to sweep up, bloodstains to bleach away, another body to bury, another car to steal, another new town, new job, new identity, over and over.
"Sunlight never has anything to hide," the werewolf says, holding her stardust hand for the last time. "I want that for you too."
She doesn't want a silver bullet to find him. But she doesn't say that, instead she says with a kiss, "I want you to sing for more than just me."
So, they try.
The moon climbs the corporate ladder easily because she never sleeps.
She loves to be the last one in the office, hurling emails like comets, because it gives her the chance to see her light reflecting off the windows of her corner office like some perfect pond. Loves the high-rise view, loves knowing that the sky belongs to her at all hours, even when the sun burns brightly.
But at night, when she walks to her apartment, she takes in that sea of bloody brake lights, hears the wail of sirens and strays barking, and can't help but think of him.
The werewolf takes to herding well. Has even learned to wag his tail. Enjoys the wide-eyed fear of the sheep but feels comfort knowing he'll never have to hear the click-clack of the rancher's rifle. He lets the rancher pat him on the head--hell, he starts to relish the feeling too.
He avoids the night, never glances up when he gets to work early, just in case she might still be awake before the sun. But he's exhausted and curled in bed at the end of each workday, completely drained so he can't be troubled by her memory, won't feel the need to salivate and growl.
On his time off, he never wears tattered flannel, and he only eats his steaks well-done. He adopts a cat, doesn't panic when he turns on the vacuum, finds he never dreams about running between trees anymore, only about driving fast on an open road, windows down.
Sometimes, though, he wakes in the middle of the night, thinks of opening his curtains, thinks of looking up, of never looking away from all that silver shining.
They'll blame it on Halloween.
She sees children dressed as werewolves running on the sidewalk, howling at the night.
He sees little astronauts going door-to-door, talking of candy and deep space.
There's a pull then, like gravity.
She turns her out-of-office message on, says she's leaving the city for a mountain retreat. "To refocus," she tells her boss.
He just runs away, feels no guilt when he thinks of the rancher putting up lost dog flyers on telephone poles.
They meet in the parking lot of a desert motel.
"Hey," she says, glowing silver, eager to hear his voice.
"Hey," he says, bathing in her light.
Before they get a motel lair together, they make an agreement, right there on the asphalt, that they will try their best to be good.
"I'll try, I really will," he says, lying through his sharp teeth.
And she knows fully, like a rising tide, that this will all end terribly, but she only offers her silver smile as she says, "Me too."
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, August 24th, 2022
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