Issue 1
Church of Pain

Church of Pain

“Kill them all,” the wolf said. “Even the children.” The wolf had sidled into my kitchen one night, a grey starveling with muddy paws, and delicately lifted my supper off the table. I thought he was a dog until he spoke. I can’t say why his power of speech didn’t surprise me, except that trauma changes a person. We talked for hours: philosophy, gun laws. I drank half a bottle of nettle vodka.

My husband abandoned me because I was not well mentally. “I deserve happiness,” he announced, and let the woman with the mismatched eyes lead him to his doom. He left no forwarding address, but the wolf covered ground steadily. He found them in a town across the river where summer comes early and winter not at all. The almost-young woman had her children, Gabble and Licky. The one always talked and the other was a mad thing, licking walls and her mother’s sleeve and the underside of the table, thinking nobody saw.

I saw through the window, standing in the dark. The woman moved like she had bees in her veins. Her mouth slid around on her face, and my husband replied in his ingratiating manner. Eventually, she put the children to bed. My husband took off his shirt, airing his chest, then removed his trousers and stood proudly, penis bobbing like a flashlight in the woods when the police look for bodies. She came back out and there was a pause. I wanted to take scissors to the shimmer that existed between them. In the dark, the wolf nosed my crotch, reminding me that I was not alone. I tithe to the Church of Pain; who knows the true cost? My husband fucked my replacement the way he used to fuck me, with excessive vigor but no finesse.

He wasn’t handsome, but he smelled like the piney woods. The wolf said, “kill them all, even the children,” so I walked in the door and stuck a knife in his heart, remembering the illustrations in books: plump, cushiony chambers. The woman tried to fight, but the wolf snapped her spine. I chopped off her hands, both cold, one smaller. It wasn’t my idea, but I didn’t interrupt when wolf ate the children.

When the apartment was clean of all human detritus, the wolf told me it was time for him to go. He promised he’d return, years from now, to rip out my throat and toss it like a feather in the moonlight. I stroked the coarse hair behind his ears, a little achy. “Did I make you proud?” I asked, and he rested his big paws on my shoulders, held my face between his jaws for a while, leaving toothy indentations. I think I made him proud.

My mind is calm now. The sun sets in splendor, throwing off its golden skin, turning red as liver. I’m not afraid. The wolf was already there when my husband sat naked on our bed, his hairy bulk known, catalogued and forgiven. When he said, “How could I not always love you, my Jersey Princess?” his seed pooled like melted butter inside me.

One of the children is still here somewhere, parts of her. Like a mad thing.

Margaret Diehl has published a chapbook of poems, it all stayed open (Red Glass Books, 2011), two novels and a memoir (Men, 1989; Me and You, 1990; and The Boy on the Green Bicycle, 1999, all from Soho Press) as well as poems, articles, and book reviews in many publications. She works as a writer and editor in New York City.