My new gothic novel Lune is now on sale at Amazon.com.
An excerpt of the novel can be found below.
The night of the next full moon arrived. Invisible waves radiated from its surface and passed through cosmic lifetimes before descending over the northern forests. No cover of clouds could block them. The waves fell upon trees, rocks, and cabin walls alike, penetrating every crevice, passing silently like wandering spirits. Jean and Marie-Claire Comeau were blind to the force that slipped into their home and altered every supple cell in their daughter’s infant body.
Marie-Claire thought Marie was suffering from a fit of hunger when the girl began wriggling in her arms. Yet the struggle soon grew much stronger, and Marie-Claire glanced across the dinner table to find her husband furrowing his brow at the bundle she held. Slowly, he was overcome by an expression she had never before seen from him. His pipe fell from his lips and chipped its bowl against the floor. She swallowed and lowered her eyes.
A changeling! It was the same creature from a month before. Yet it no longer possessed the closed and helpless eyes of a newborn cub. It wore a full coat of fur and peered upward through abysmally black eyes. Marie-Claire yelped and hurled the bundle into the air. The animal landed on the kitchen table and sprang from its bonds. Here was a beast with no natural mother, one whose young animal mind had appeared in only an instant amidst the facts of existence. It made a chirping squeal and ran for the edge of the table, yet instinct told it that it could not leap from the ledge without injury. It ran about the table’s perimeter, checking the distance to the floor from every side. Monsieur Comeau wasted little time before snatching up a cast iron frying pan from the kitchen.
Little Jacques emerged from his bedroom with sleep-crusted eyes. He spotted the grey figure that scampered across the kitchen table and screamed when he saw his father raising the pan to kill it. Forever a child of the wilderness, Jacques rushed forward and wrapped his arms around his father’s knees while his mother struggled to take the pan from the man’s hand.
You cannot harm this creature! shouted Marie-Claire.
You saw what happened, answered Jean. That thing transformed in your very hands.
It was at this moment that Jacques became aware of his sister’s absence. He scanned the room for an indication of where she might be, yet even during this search, he could already perceive the truth behind what his father had said. He released his grip on his father and looked toward the wolf cub, which was kneading the edges of the table and still gazing with uncertainty at the drop to the floor. Jacques cursed himself for having interfered with his father’s efforts to destroy the thing.
Marie-Claire gave no ground between her husband and the animal. She is your daughter, she shouted, and you would burn in the fires of hell if you murdered her!
She is a demon sent by Satan and it is my Christian duty to destroy her, answered the man, who took a step forward.
Marie-Claire set her feet more widely apart, bracing for a struggle. You know that she will not be like this for long, Jean. Soon, she will change back into her beautiful Christian form, and I will not have you murder her in this way. You must confront Marie not as an animal, but as your daughter. Only then can you decide whether you can murder her.
Resignation flickered inside Jean after Marie-Claire had finished. He paused to gather a fresh wave of anger, hoping that its crest would heave him into action, yet the sensation came and went, and he felt only a further weakening of his resolve. He could not help but love the daughter he had baptised himself—the girl he had failed to protect from the wild spirits of the forest.
When will this transformation occur? he asked.
In the morning.
Just as Jean felt the approach of calm, a fresh darkness overtook him.
How do you know this, Woman? Have you known about this monstrosity all this time? Is this the complication Mademoiselle Tremblay spoke of on the night this—this thing was born?
Marie-Claire held his eyes.
So you planned never to tell me of what happened? Is that it? Jean stepped toward her again. You were going to keep this a secret? You would have me give sanctuary to a demon without my knowing? The Bible tells of a man who was tricked by a woman, and for this they were banished from Paradise forever!
He struck Marie-Claire across the face.
Seeing the blow, little Jacques rushed forward and rammed his fist into the softest, most numbing place he could reach on his father’s body. The man felt his legs buckle as he collapsed onto the floor, choked with pain, aghast that his son would strike him where he had. Marie-Claire regained her footing, and when she saw the crimson-blue mixture of anguish and rage that engorged her husband’s head, she threw the swaddling sheets over her daughter and spirited her into the bedroom.
Jean watched from the floor as his wife slammed the door behind her. When he had recovered enough strength to regain his footing, he leapt after her and pounded against the barrier with his fist. He promised God that he would kill the demon-child before dawn, and this pledge reminded him of the axe that was lodged in the wooden stump outside. He turned to leave the cabin, but only to find his son Jacques still standing in the middle of the room, a look of hatred on his face.
You will pay for what you have done, boy.
Jacques recognized from the look in his father’s eyes that he was in mortal danger. He rushed away from the man and hurled himself through the cabin’s front door, sprinting toward the black forest. He could hear his father pursuing him, and knew that it was only the meagre speed of his seven-year-old body that stood between him and death. He led his father deeper and deeper into the woods, passing through tangles of brush that not even the full moon’s light could reach through the canopy of trees. He had spent most of his life among these woods and was adept at navigating them in blindness. He listened with triumph as his father cursed at the same brambles and soft patches that he evaded with ease. Yet his blood froze at the thought that he was leading the man farther away from his little sister. What if the man became so exhausted that his temper cooled, and he no longer possessed the strength to return home and kill that sickening creature?
It took a severely twisted ankle for Jean Comeau to give up on catching his son. He turned to grope his way homeward, and it was only after an hour of blind wandering that he finally arrived there. He glanced wearily toward his bedroom door before collapsing onto the floor in a dreamless sleep.
Just as Marie-Claire had hoped, the next morning brought the miraculous return of her daughter’s perfect human form. Yet she knew she would not be able to protect the poor girl from her husband forever. If the man wished to kill her, he was bound to succeed. Marie-Claire held the infant tightly to her chest, and with tears in her eyes she left the bedroom and stepped toward the body of her unconscious husband. This would be the best and perhaps only chance she would ever have to save the girl’s life. She stood over her husband, and when she looked into the man’s sleeping features, she tried to convince herself of his fundamental decency. She knew that Jean’s zeal could rival that of Abraham, but there was nothing left to do but test his love for his family, to place her daughter’s fate completely within his brutal hands and to confront him with the face that would haunt him forever if he dared to rob it of life. Marie-Claire knelt and nestled her child into the crook of Jean’s sleeping arm. Tears had run to the corners of her mouth, and she could taste the salt that swam within them.
Monsieur Comeau moaned like a man possessed as he emerged from sleep, and he stiffened when he felt his daughter’s face resting next to his own, her skin brushing against his stubble. Little Marie giggled and reached for his nose. He blinked and glanced about for some sign of Marie-Claire, but being unable to find her, quickly understood the decision she had thrust upon him. He cradled the child in his arm and rose from the floor to press her against his chest. The thought that a child like this should suffer such damnation filled him with a rare pity. Yet the raging flames of Christian duty had not expired within him, and thus it was with great regret that he made his final resolution. He walked to the door of his bedroom, and finding it unbarred, went inside to meet his wife.
Marie-Claire sat at the edge of the bed with her eyes toward the wall. When her husband entered, she knew from his breathing that he would allow their daughter to live. He handed her the bundled child without a word and turned away. She stared after him as he went, and once he had disappeared, she moved to the window and watched him approach the wooden stump outside that held his axe. Her heart leapt in terror, yet calmed again when Jean brought the blade down on a nearby log. He was chopping wood to warm his family.
Jacques Comeau had not returned home the previous night, but had found a sunken place on the forest floor and had lain there to drift in and out of a tortured sleep until dawn. It had been a warm night for that time of year, yet despite this luck, he began his homeward walk with a deathly chill in his chest. Not even his young rhythms and hot blood could keep his teeth from chattering wildly. His joints cracked like an old man’s. As he stumbled over the final distance toward the cabin, he spotted his axe-wielding father in the backyard and wondered how much time still lay between him and the next world.
Jean paid little attention as his son crossed the yard and staggered icily toward the front of the cabin. He figured that the boy’s sorry state was punishment enough for his insolence on the night prior. He began working away at a new piece of wood. It was not kindling, but a long and hard trunk that he planned to hew into a seven-foot timber. His daughter would not always be an infant, and therefore would not always transform into a mere cub. She would soon grow into a juvenile wolf, and it would be madness to keep her within the house beyond a certain point of maturation. This concern impressed Jean with peculiar gravity, for he did not yet know what unseen force had provoked his daughter’s curse. If Marie Comeau were going to live, the cabin would require a special place for her.