The Lorelei Signal
My Time of the Month
Written by Judith Field / Artwork by Marge Simon
I lumbered along the deserted night-time pavement. Although I’m a big bloke (don’t call me fat or I’ll get you arrested), the glossy black fur stretching over my body held in my stomach, making me look as long and lean as the shadows the streetlamps cast. I reached the door of a terraced house. The clouds parted to reveal a gibbous moon. The creatures of the night snuffled and howled.
A cyclops stuck its head out of the upstairs window a few doors down. “Oi, Roger!” it bellowed, “you’re three days early. Full moon’s not till Tuesday.”
Holding my policeman’s helmet on my head with one paw, I looked towards the cyclops. My jaws opened. I gave a howl, to show him my forty-two jagged white teeth. In the moonlight I saw him roll his eye and he slammed his window. With a fumbling paw, I took a key out of a pouch hanging next to a set of handcuffs on a belt round my waist. I’d planned to break down the door to add a note of authenticity but after this display of premature lycanthropy, I just wanted to get inside. Bloody almanac. Wrong again.
I slammed the front door behind me, stepped into the hall and I hung my helmet on a coat stand, next to a bag of cotton wool. Off came the lanyard round my neck, onto which I’d clipped my police radio. Next to go were the epaulettes, attached to my fur with double sided tape. Then, three stripes, two letters and my number. I was out of my uniform—a lot less to it than the one I wore for the rest of the month.
I clasped a front paw round each side of my jaw, tugged and twisted at the same time and pulled off my werewolf head. It was a tight fit. I hung it up, wiping the sweat off my forehead with the back of a paw. After a tug at the concealed fastening I wriggled out of the body suit. I dropped it, scratched myself and walked into the kitchen. At least I’d get a few hours’ unbroken sleep. Doris, my twin sister and housemate, would be going out soon. She worked the night shift. Permanently.
She came downstairs and stood in the doorway. I was glad I’d kept my boxers on.
“It’s not full moon is it?”
“Got the day wrong.”
“I told you to get this year’s almanac.” She parted her lips and ran her tongue round her gums. “Here—these dentures are killing me. I’m sure the witch gave me a man’s set.”
She came into the kitchen, grabbed my hand and dropped a full upper denture into my palm. The canine teeth were an inch longer than the others. “Hold them for a minute while I sort my uniform out.” She stared at me and raised her eyebrows. “Nice underwear. Very classy. Hoping you’ll get lucky?”
“What?” I looked down. I’d grabbed the first pair I could find in the drawer and shoved them on that morning, without looking. They were neon green, printed all over with the caption ‘Love a werewolf. We’ve got our own teeth and hair.’ I shook my head. “Marie’s not that kind of girl.”
“We all are, if you know how to release the sex goddess within. How do I look?” She wore a black one-piece shiny leotard with a low-cut neckline and a pair of tights, wrinkled round the ankle. Pointed black shoes with six-inch stiletto heels completed the outfit.
“Terrifying. Especially the wrinkly ankles.”
She put her tongue out at me and yanked at the tights. “Don’t leave your werewolf costume on the floor,” she said. “It wasn’t cheap. And think yourself lucky, you only have to get dressed up once a month. Or, in your case, twice a month. I’ve got to squeeze into this thing every damn night, and I can’t sit down, it’s so tight.”
“You shouldn’t be sitting down, you’ll be late for work,” I said. “Think about your bonus.”
She sighed. “True. It’s not giving out parking tickets I mind. It’s the arguments, afterwards.”
I patted her shoulder. “You know how to handle them.”
“Yes, but biting motorists tends to be frowned on by senior management. Especially if you draw blood.”
I followed her into the hall. She looked in the wall mirror by the front door and added another layer of dark red lipstick. She took the cotton wool from the hook and stuffed wads down the top of her leotard. “Have I got these right?” She turned sideways and looked at her reflection. “A vampire with heaving, but unmatched boobs won’t have the effect I’m looking for.”
“Do you think so?” She tugged at her tights again, whisked a full-length cape off the coat stand and wrapped it round herself. “I need to look scary. Well, and sexy as well. Scary and sexy. I’m gonna knock them dead if they park on a double yellow this evening.”
“Got your lunch?”
“Yes.” she showed me a packet marked Instant blood—just add hot water. “This stuff’s great, fools them every time. Tomato soup, really.”
“You want to be careful, one of your colleagues might ask for a sip.”
“No danger of that, I’m the only vampire. There’s only one of each species on the team. Empowerment, government targets and all that.” She ticked them off on her fingers. “There’s me, then Lynda (she’s a medusa). Willie the kelpie. Steve’s a bunyip. And Lucy—nobody parks in a loading bay when she’s pounding along the pavement. I haven’t had the guts to ask what she is—I think she’s some kind of chimera.”
She shook her head. “Don’t get a look in. We’re the outsiders now. Gotta be a monster if you want to make it in this town.”
She reached out to open the door.
“Don’t forget your top set!” I waved the denture at her.
She smacked herself on the forehead, grabbed the teeth and clicked them over her own top set. Her reflection vanished from the mirror. She slung her bag across her shoulder and swaggered out of the house.
~ * ~
“Monster” was not considered politically correct language. When riots broke out between the different species, the government decided that more must be done to redress the past discrimination that had led to feelings of marginalisation, sidelining and disempowerment in the non-human community. The answers lay in affirmative action: active measures to ensure equal opportunities, especially in housing and employment. Our street was a model of diversity, with cyclopses (with and without up-to-date diaries), fish-men, gorgons and a few humans living within close proximity.
But, a year after leaving college, Doris and I were still unemployed. It was the species monitoring form that went with every job application that finished it for us, every time. We’d tick the box marked ‘human’ and back would come a rejection. Google had thrown up Baba Yaga, the witch. The XXXL sized werewolf costume she sold me was unlike anything I had seen. I’d expected something looking like a piece of fake fur, hanging off me, but it was skin-tight and moved when I did. The headpiece had jaws that moved when I opened my mouth. The paws felt like tight gloves, and I could move my fingers as well as I could without them. Within a week, I got a job with the Metropolitan Police. Promotion to sergeant followed quickly. Baba Yaga sold Doris a vampire costume—it was a logical step for her to became a traffic warden.
Now, I had bigger problems than turning a blind eye to minor infractions of the law or an out-of-date diary. I was in love with a librarian. I’d fallen for Marie the instant we met, when I was called in to arrest a zombie caught leaving parts of his body on the library shelves. His arms fell off when I tried handcuffing him.
“Come on, mate, we’ll get someone in to stitch them back on at the station,” I said.
Marie gave a slight smile. “You’re a compassionate man, constable.”
“Werewolf sergeant, ma’am,” I said, already under her spell.
The police national database told me she was human. She had the face of an angel, who might turn into a devil if you didn’t return your books on time. One look from her was enough to transform a group of noisy demon kids into junior librarians tidying the shelves, in silence.
I went back to the library to take a further, unnecessary statement from Marie, and asked her out. I felt calm when I was with her; she seemed to radiate purity, and a contagious goodness that made me resolve to be a better person. But not so good I could tell her the truth about myself. I couldn’t run the risk of losing her.
“If you love her, tell her.” Doris said, as I moped around the house months later. “Tell her about you anyway, leave me out, say you were adopted or something. If she loves you, she’ll understand why you faked it.”
I asked myself, what would a wolf do? He’d be brave. I invited Marie round on a Saturday evening, the day after the full moon. It meant I needn’t wear my costume. Doris would be out getting cars towed away—we’d have the place to ourselves. I blew all my savings on a ring with a tiny diamond. I stashed it in the pouch I wore with my costume, hoping it’d act like some kind of amulet.
The night before, I sat alone in front of the television, picking at biscuits in a Tupperware box. The doorbell rang. I struggled into the werewolf suit. The bell rang again. “Hang on!” I shouted, ending in a snarl, for the sake of authenticity. The growl died in my throat as, through the glass in the door, I saw the familiar shape I loved, brown hair done tightly up in a bun, white blouse buttoned up to the neck, ankle length skirt. Sensible flat shoes, with pointed toes that curled up at the ends, added a touch of edginess.
“I know I’m a day early, Roger. I just had to see you.” Marie stepped into the house. “There’s something I’ve got to tell you.”
I clasped her hand in my paw. “I’ve got something to tell you too.”
She recoiled, with a shudder, pulling her hand away. “I’m so sorry. I can see it’s your time of the month. I’d better go.”
“No, please. I promise not to hurt you.”
She frowned, but followed me into the living room.
“Marie, I love you.” The words tumbled out.
“Please, let me finish. I’m afraid I haven’t been totally honest with you.” I dragged the werewolf head off mine. She gasped. I pulled off the paws. I peeled the suit, down to my waist.
Her face reddened and she moved towards the door. “Look, I can’t—”
I ran across the room “Please. Just hear me out.”
“No, you listen to me. I—”
“Hang on.” I picked up the werewolf costume and rummaged in the pouch. I pulled out the box containing the engagement ring out of a drawer. I got down on one knee, holding out the opened box.
“Marie, I love you. Marry me!”
She shook her head. “I’m afraid I haven’t been honest with you, either. Roger, you are the love of my life. But I can’t marry you. We can never be together.” She dabbed at her eyes with a small handkerchief, edged in lace. “I don’t want to marry outside my species, I’m so sorry.”
Did she think I was some sort of werewolf-human hybrid? “Don’t worry, I’m all human.” I peeled the rest of the werewolf suit away. I stood in front of her, wearing only my ‘love a werewolf’ boxers.
“O Roger, Treasure of my Soul, you do not understand.” She loosed her hair from its tight bun and shook it down over her shoulders, where it fell in iridescent chestnut waves. She undid the buttons at the front of her blouse and took it off, revealing a jewelled short-sleeved cropped top that stopped just under her full breasts.
I gasped. Was this what Doris meant by ‘releasing the sex goddess within’?
She unzipped her skirt and slid it down her hips, past her jewelled navel. Under the skirt she wore harem pants. Her legs narrowed and curled to a pointed wisp of vapour where her feet should have been. She hovered above one of her own shoes, which lay on the floor.
I felt my jaw drop. “You’re a genie! Aren’t you supposed to say ‘your wish is my command’, now that you’re not trapped in your—er—shoe?”
“We prefer the name djinn. And won’t get any wishes out of me—that’s one of the many speciesist lies people tell about us. We’re not trapped, we can get out any time we like. We don’t have to show gratitude to you humans for releasing us.”
“Sorry, please forgive me, it’s just that I’ve never met one of you people before—I thought you all lived in north London. In lamps.”
She rolled her eyes. “Stereotyping again. We can live in anything—lamps are good, especially for large families, but many prefer bottles, rings or even shoes, like I do.”
I took the engagement ring out of its box. “Marry me. Live in this ring. We can work something out.”
Her lower lip wobbled. “I can’t. There are only a few of ‘us people’ and we live in places where there are others like us. Some ignorant humans say we stick together so we can conspire to take over the world, but we keep to our own communities so we can be with those who understand our traditions.” Tears rolled down her cheeks.
“But Marie, I’ll respect whatever you need to do. I’ll go to your church. You can eat what you like.”
She shook her head. “Church. Food. That’s what I mean, there’s too much of a gulf between our civilisations that can never be crossed. I wanted to break away, so I faked my own computer record. I know you’ve looked at it. Nobody knew my true identity. But there will always be someone or something that reminds me, someone who only sees me as a djinn, as ‘you people, thinking you’re better than us’.”
“I would never say that. Why can’t we live together? Diversity’s great.”
Her mouth curled into a sneer. “Oh yes, you lot always say that. But soon, it’s ‘I’m a bit short of cash. You people are clever with money, can you rustle up some treasure?’ Then comes a magic spell, and next thing you know, we’re stuck in our vessel.”
“But I can’t do magic.”
She stamped her foot. “Doesn’t matter. I said no.” She sighed and patted my hand. “It’s not like in the movies. Only other are djinns understand. It’s better you and I don’t see each other anymore.”
“But, Marie, can’t we—”
“—and my name’s Zohara the Afreet, the Splendid One. Goodbye, Roger.”
The vapour that was her legs shrank into the shoe. She disappeared into it with a snap and a whiff of Turkish delight. I picked up the shoe and kissed the curled toe. I grabbed the empty Tupperware biscuit box and dropped the shoe and the ring into it and snapped the lid shut. Zohara’s voice buzzed inside like an angry wasp, saying something about the father of my father, and a donkey.
“Got you bang to rights, Miss Splendid.” I pressed my mouth close to the Tupperware box. “How’s this for affirmative action? I love you too much to let you go. By the time you get out of this box, I’ll have worked out a way to make things work.”
~ * ~
“Good evening, class,” the teacher said, hovering above her dented brass lamp. “The ways of the Djinn are esoteric and your path to knowledge will be long and hard. But know ye that although the roots of conversion are bitter, its fruit is sweet. Now, who’s been practising since our last lesson?” She looked round.
I raised my hand.
“Ah yes, Roger. You get extra help at home, don’t you? Very well, show us what you’ve learned.”
I stood up, and began the ritual.
“Observe, class,” the teacher said. “While this isn’t quite how it’s done, Roger deserves full marks for effort.”
Through glass, I saw heads turning round. Some students had more than one, others turned theirs right round till they faced backwards. But all of them looked to the back of the classroom, where my legs and feet waved, upside down, from the top of a milk bottle. A bottle big enough for two. Where Zohara was waiting.
Judith Field was born in Liverpool and lives in London, UK. Her short stories, mainly speculative, have appeared in a variety of publications in the USA, Canada, UK, Australia and New Zealand.
Judith's grandson inspired her first published story (here in The Lorelei Signal!) when he broke her laptop keyboard. Unlike in the story, a magical creature didn't come out of the laptop and fix her life.