Winter Rain, part 66

I run harder, tearing the soil with each step, spraying little chunks of the dark black earth and old leaves into the air behind. I hear them smack wetly into tree trunks, onto dead leaves. Behind.

That son of a bitch.


Who the FUCK does he think he is?

I bank hard around a tree, and then another, down, toward the river, toward the wet-smelling air. There should be a steep climb on the other side. I hope. A nasty, vicious, impossible-to-take-at-a-run climb. Something I can go straight up. Straight up at this speed. Straight up at this speed if it kills me.

That son of a bitch.

I hear Garvey bark, but only faintly. When did he fall so far behind? I look quickly back as I launch over a wide pit—the nearly-rotted carcass of the uprooted tree that created it lying off to the left—but I can’t see him any more. I look forward again and land with beautiful, controlled force.

Faster. Recklessly fast. Suicidally fast.

I like the sound of that. I laugh at the idea as I smash through a narrow gap between two trees.

Fuck it. Nobody can touch me when I run.


The whiskey is starting to hit—not much, not enough, but finally, there, in the back of my head, at the base of my skull. Warmth and softness. Melting in. I can feel it in my legs, too. Just a tiny disconnect between action and perception. I’m moving, but just a little bit ahead of my body. I let it in, and focus past it, through it. It’s my periphery, I’m the centre. Sharp inhale; front, front, back together; exhale. Harder. Again. Up, over. Land, and off again. Through.

Nobody can touch me when I run. Not even my asshole brother. That son of a bitch. And after what I did for him.


Don’t I deserve just the tiniest bit of respect?

Don’t I?

Behind my back. Behind my fucking BACK! Like I’m a fucking pup. Like I didn’t just . . . .


Like I didn’t just . . . .

That son of a bitch.

Yeah, well, fuck him.

I change my mind. I jump and twist in the air, landing hind-feet-first and push off to the right, away from the smell of water, along the valley, away from the house, away from Brennan and his backstabbing little lies.

Has he been laughing at me all fucking day?

All fucking day!

Yeah, well, fuck him, too.

I smash through another gap, and tear moss and rotten bark off a lying trunk as I scramble over. The ground rises sharply ahead, but I push forward. I’m not done yet. Not even by half. Not even if I puke my guts up after from running so hard.

Yeah, because running is what you do best.

Shut the fuck up, asshole.

Yeah, whatever.

Son of a bitch.

My breath is growing ragged in my chest, but I don’t care. I don’t fucking care. I can run forever.


The whiskey is asserting itself, like a wave washing over me—like a soft, fuzzy, heaviness, spilling down from the top of my skull.

I almost trip on a branch. Almost. But it’ll take more than that.

Yeah, six more. Good thing you already drank them.

Laughter wells up—giddy, maniacal laughter. But only a hairsbreadth from something else.

And my stomach doesn’t like me any more.

Somewhere far behind, Garvey barks again. It’s a deep sound, but sad. Like I’ve abandoned him. And I guess I feel bad about it. It’s not his fault he’s just a dog.

But the something else is growing. I can feel it, like a bad taste, like a bad smell, somewhere back there in my brain. Disgust.

Or pain.

I crash over another downed tree, and over another depression, but my landing isn’t quite right. I’m starting to slow, too, in spite of myself. The world isn’t reacting to me quite as fast as it usually does. Or, perhaps, it is me that isn’t reacting quite as fast. But everything is starting to feel just a tiny bit out of sync. Like I’m dreaming this.

If only that were the true.

Where am I going? Shouldn’t I know where I’m going?

Son of a bitch.

That’s such a weird thing for me to say. That’s such a human thing for me to say.

I can’t do this any more. The alcohol . . . . I can’t stay in this form. Not with this much whiskey in my stomach. I know it. I knew it when I drank it, when I changed. I knew what would happen.

Fuck, I wanted it.

But my feet keep running. In spite of my jagged breaths. In spite of my aching muscles.

In spite of the growing fog in my head.

Come on, Tiergan, you have to stop. You have to change back. Before this goes too far.

That was way too much to drink, you idiot.

I don’t care. I don’t care. I don’t fucking care.

Yes, you do.

No, I don’t.

Yes, you do.

No, I don’t. I fucking don’t!

I did what I did for my family, goddamnit! I did what I did because I had to! I did what I did because I had no other choice!

You’re such a fucking coward.

Fuck you.

You are such a fucking coward.

Fuck you!

You are such a fucking coward.

My left front foot catches on nothing at all, and I spill forward and change. I throw my foot/hand in front of my face as I fall, and smack hard into the uneven ground. My stomach rolls, and I forcefully puke out a nasty mixture of acid and barley mash, then heave twice more before it is done.

You are such a fucking coward. You are such a fucking coward. You are such a fucking coward.

I crawl forward, away from the stench I’ve left on the ground, and curl up at the base of a tree. My skin is soaked with sweat, and the air is suddenly freezing. I pull my legs close and start shivering.

Garvey barks in the distance, and I suddenly feel sorry for him. “Here, boy!” I call, but I know I’m not doing it for him.

Because I am such a fucking coward.

Because it’s so fucking obvious to me, all of a sudden.

I didn’t end it for Faolan’s sake. Or for that of my family. Or anything noble like that at all.

I ended it because I was afraid. Because I am afraid. Of what he’ll do to me. Or of what Aiden will do to me.

Because I am such a fucking coward.

Because, deep down, I know that she’s better off without me.

And this isn’t just the alcohol talking. It doesn’t lie to me. It just makes me stop lying to myself.

Fuck, I’m cold. I wish I hadn’t left my clothes back near the house. I could really use them now.

I could change back—it would certainly be warmer.

But I’m done with this feeling. I need it gone. Now. And that means this form. It will last forever in the other.

And I’m so tired. I just want to sleep for a while. Until this is gone. Until I’m sober again.

But I’ll probably freeze to death out here.

Fuck. Way to plan ahead, Tiergan. You fucking idiot.

The world isn’t spinning, but it feels like it wants to. And I just want this to end.

I hear Garvey crashing through the forest, approaching. His breath is hard and ragged. I guess I really did push it a little hard there, for a while. Poor guy. I hope his pride isn’t too hurt by his not being able to keep up.

I giggle, this time obviously hysterically, even to me, but it quickly turns to a snarl. Not at Garvey. And not at Faolan, either—or Brennan.

I can’t blame them for what they are.

No, there’s only one person I can really have contempt for . . . . Only one person whose choices I control.

I am such a fucking coward.

“Hey, boy,” I say sadly, as Garvey comes into view. He seems both happy and reproachful as he approaches. He stops to sniff at my contribution to the local flora, before jogging over to me. I wrap my arm around this neck and pull him close.

“Do you think you could keep me warm for a while?” I ask—pathetically—like he can understand me. “I just want to sleep for a while, okay?”

He doesn’t respond, but then I guess it’s to be expected. I giggle again, as tears start to spill from my eyes, and I pull him close. “You’re a good dog,” I say, and sink back into the tree trunk. “A good dog.”

And I am such a coward.

I almost laugh out loud.

It’ll be sundown soon. This is a bad idea.

But it’s not like it’ll be the first time.

Yeah. A really bad . . . idea.

I squeeze my eyes shut, but to no effect. Useless tears continue to flow.

I’m just going to . . . just close my eyes . . . for a few minutes . . . .