Clyde is a thing of creeping certainty; when an errant thought becomes a worry, and then a knowledge deep in your bones. He is a heavy thing, and a final thing. Maybe the last thing. Being married to him is the same as being married to an idea, like Death or Freedom. It's the same as resigning oneself to the notion that you will be executed for your beliefs someday.
When I arrived at home five years ago, I thought I would live and die and be buried in Adam. I couldn't imagine ever loving someone else, or for that matter anyone else finding it in themselves to love me. So we got married.
It was for Clyde we agreed to make an exception first. Every subsequent act of infidelity has required a confrontation, an argument, and an act of permission, but those steps over time have become well-worn and familiar, and in large part due to Clyde.
It's customary for the concubines Clyde cultivates like drive-thru napkins in a glove box to cool when they are involved in relationships which require exclusivity. Clyde doesn't mind, he just waits, heavy in the dark of their memories. Clyde has become giants and warlords for women, coquettes and porcelain dolls for men. The man of Clyde is a shadow smeared with a sleepy resignation and low drawl. He is painfully direct, physically brutish, disinterested in foreplay, and insane enough that he feels dangerous. The woman of Clyde wilts gently under a harsh light, speaks with soft embarrassment, and has striking eyes and a lurid mouth. She slithers quietly under things, lying naked, with her throat exposed.
When Adam granted me the permission to start a relationship with Clyde, we took on many incarnations, from men and boys and women and girls and all points in between, but settled into a place more comfortable to the both of us sometime two years ago that is easily mocked and hardly believed, especially in his moments of deeply defined masculinity. See, Clyde is my girlfriend. Smoking in his combat boots, swigging long from a bottle of whiskey as he drives, his dick getting hard watching the sweat stain the backs of the girls standing in line at the Dairy Queen, he's my girlfriend.
Not yet Halloween, Clyde casts over the house the pall of the holiday. Golden afternoons, cool but temperate nights, and a feeling of dread on the wind. Rosie warns me every day that it's Clyde. That something is wrong with Clyde. That Clyde can feel something coming we all assume is your imminent departure. I defend him to you the same way Rosie does - a symptom of closeness to him - by making the same assumption that this impending darkness is somehow your fault, and therefore can be corrected with your better understanding. As my girlfriend, I start to pick fights with you in the name of his honor.
But it isn't you.
As the days march toward Halloween, Clyde's hair turns black, his mood turns dark and demanding. His eyes become bottomless, and his boots become loud reminders of the presence of death behind us all. He begins giving me long looks in the Courtyard, which make Matthew scowl. While Adam has agreed to my affairs, Matthew merely tolerates what he sees as diversions from time spent with him, surely the only man I've ever loved.
But Clyde comes to the frozen light of my bonescape, boots padding soft as the wolf he is.
I know he uses my name, but what name he uses vanishes when it exits his mouth into the cold and becomes wild. The bottomless pit of his right eye shines yellow in the light. The other remains black, and almost closed when he turns a certain way. The leaves of the aspen trees at the River of Eden have yellowed, and at the end of their grove, he waits the way he does every year, but this time I wasn't there to see the autumn come. I was stuck in this snow globe with Ian, and so I had missed my death coming for me.
"Red," he calls me, and I answer him.
The black of his fur around his face shows a dusting of gray - ash or age. For time out of memory when this has come for me; this fairy tale coming to find me in my red hood; Bitter has always looked variously amused, haunted, or ravenous. Now I see love in his remaining eye. Something that might even be peace. His ears twitch soft against the black snow and cold wind. There are closed doors against the winter between us, loss and blame of a thousand vows betrayed to Adam and anyone else stupid enough to try and love us through a season. Christmas cards unsent, children aborted, lives ruined.
"Bt ths thyyym," he wonders, hearing my thoughts.
"I was supposed... to be safe from you here. On the moon," I tell him, choking a hopeless sob. "Adam... you can't tell him. He can't ever know this."
Clyde's snout lowers to the ground, to smell something that's fallen in front of him. We are 30 feet apart. I belong to him the way all of the girls always belonged to Charlie, the way a soldier follows the orders of only one directive, and the way we can wish impossible things and know at the same time they will never, ever change. Without speaking, he tells me what I've always understood but never verbalized: that the Woodsman will always try to stop Death because it's his quest for immortality as a Man that matters. And I will always die because if I don't, he wouldn't care.
"N b'sides, ehvrywon dize, Red."
Adam had once thought if I could be saved from mortality anywhere, it would be in a timeless dimension like the moon. It was the one thing that kept him sane, really; thinking he'd find a way to send me there eventually, despite Matthew's disappearance. But like all things, Clyde found it, and like all things thought sacred, I know he's about to swallow it. He's about to tell me that no matter where I go, and no matter what name someone calls me, there's a thing I am, and it's his to chew up.
Bitter licks his lips.
"You don't," I remind him, and he looks away, at a sound in the dry weeds.
"Eye w'll," he concedes. "N tym."
"But this time," I echo him, and he looks almost gently at me, his hackles raised in a kind of smile.
"Ien sez stahr gun fahl hit th trane."
"Yeah," I agree with him, remarking on Ian's letters. "Yes, he does."
"Mayk ahl the po-ets awf thmslves."
"So what?" I ask him, crossing my arms. His tail flicks happily, impatient.
"I downt die, Red. Nawt fer yew. But ey'll tayk yew tew th tranes t sea it unhinj."
"You... are taking me on a date?" I ask him, and he straightens the lapels of his jacket.
"I ate the whole world fer yew."
I stare at him in the aftermath of his words. There is nothing about Clyde that is metaphor. He wouldn't say anything to me unless he were completely serious, and I struggle to fathom in what capacity he might mean what he says. Yes, the Wolf has come for most of the world. Most of the world is not living, and the seasons die, and so must I follow it as the Spring itself, but he didn't say MOST, he said WHOLE.
"You did?" I ask him, whispering now although he's too far away to hear me properly. But it doesn't matter, because I am whispering from inside him, behind his ear.
"Yeah. Do you think that's a poem? I'm th onlee po-et in heer, Red."
He stands and crosses 10 feet of terrain to me with careful steps. Bitter is sly, and his eyes are careful. There's a story, I remember from somewhere, of the wolf that swallows the world, and I know this is the one I'm looking at. I can feel how big he is as he approaches. How big he is, really, or will be, when the train derails him from his skin.
"Now we kin dew whatevr we lyk."
If Clyde really swallowed the world, we could be remade in the warmth of his belly, in whatever form we see fit. I understand he's telling me that things are different now for us, in a way I can probably barely fathom. That he has consumed all of our fates, slicked them down with his saliva, and broken them down to particles easier for digestion. That we can shed those fates, or wash ourselves in them if we choose. He crosses another 10 feet. I can now smell the blood on his breath.
"No one will notice," he assures me. And they wouldn't, would they? Because there's no fire and brimstone in the creation or destruction of something the size of a world. There is only the seam in reality, and the stitches Clyde carefully uses to close it again, after removing the words he wants.
I realize whatever death I thought be might be bringing today, or this winter, has already come and gone. That while I was Annik, and hiding on the moon, what that had afforded me was simply a better view. The muse of me had inspired him to this grand gesture, and so had watched him do it, while waiting here among the icicles. I reach out my hand to him, and he licks his lips again.
"Come with me tewnite," he growls, moving fast and easy through the giant version of himself, to the poet wolf who eats girls and seasons and worlds alike, to my teenage werewolf boyfriend in his leathers.
"Will we see the train?" I ask him, and he nods.
I don't know where in the kaleidoscope he'd been before that, but it brought him here to me where he says he's swallowed the old world and now we can start it over. However you want the world, Jack, you might want to let Clyde know. He makes up the sky and all those stars you've been wishing on.