Feeling well-born, yet fallen from grace, the Duke needed to pretend he was someone other than the Duke, rather than face the shame. Someone ordinary. However, he drove a long black car, which, tangentially, was a more dangerous activity during daylight hours than at night, for the not so obvious reason that people’s first reactions were geared in inverse ratio to their pupil size. Also, he passed himself off under the name Ralph, for no other purpose than to further his non-descriptness. David and Charles and Peter were such commonplace names that well-grounded suspicions would have been engendered in others from their misguided suspicions as to his pecking-orders of bluff.
His Royal pedigree was so deep-seated, Ralph had given up doubting it. Yet the very act of non-doubt could often lead to smug acceptance which was in turn a precursor to plain forgetting. He did not even bother to rubber-stamp his identity with the requisite self-recognition when he eventually woke every morning after the seemingly interminable night. Certainty, as ever, was tantamount to ignorance.
And such ignorance forced him out some nights, instinctively fearful as he was of waking up as someone completely different. Yet, it was an instinct common to all werewolves, particularly those with noble blood in their veins, incubated somehow within the dark side of their natures: and, like all instincts worth their salt, it failed to touch the actual consciousness of the beast.
Ralph’s forays were, of course, upon fullbright nights, when the less catalytic white moonrib, that betokened birth and beginnings, was merely a memory that had slipped through the mental grasp like a bloody stake through an amateur vampire-hunter’s hands. No, it was the yellow-engorged ripeness of a mother-fucked moon that drew such creatures as Ralph from his bed. His skin became a pelt of costly ermine or mink that had escaped the fur-haters’ hate; eyes like crown-jewels; cloak a murky mane of miscegenate majesty. His courtiers, the suburban fox and other critters that townsfolk inferred from upturned dustbins, followed in his wake. Cats with pinprick eyes of druggy green - tired of pretending to squeal in long drawn-out pain after sparring and spitting with each othe - did open deep the pink of their throats to return colour’s favour that day had granted them. All had their place and duty. Nature meant giving as well as taking. As a man with his body.
Yes, today of all daybright days, Ralph feels fur unfurling, tip-toeing from the deepest pockets of ancient puberty. This is the first time the transfiguration has occurred outside of night’s jurisdiction. He staggers garageward to find his car still black as the rods and cones in his sleepy eyes. He needs to drive and drive - until it is night. The courtiers of his dark dukedom are curled in a sleep as unstirred as death within dens that day-timers can never suspect, let alone discover. So, with no followers, the Duke is his own rebuke.
He cannot believe his dreams are day-dreams nor the nightmare true. He is a werewolf of the old school. Not the next best thing to a King. The steering-wheel shudders in his hand, even before the engine has choked into life, as if man-made beasts have souls to speak of.
He twists his head with an instinct born from dullness. There is a passenger of sorts laid out in the back like a casket - handles and epaulettes of gold, silver cross, carved vine-leaves, heavy nailed lid. The casket’s woodwork is so close to its dark Spring, there sprouts, not foliage, but rich fur itemised like human hair. A coiffured coffin.
He fears that his duty has always been to drive the town’s only premature burial hearse - and, today of all daybright days, he is to be both undertaker and corpse. A sad outcome for a Duke, since, only at night, could there have been the full regalia of a Royal funeral, him being, at the beginning of the day, nothing but a pauper, a down-and-out, a cloudy-eyed dosser. Poor in spirit and - (he feels his head) - yes, completely bald. Like most of us, he has died too late, with no pomp and certainly no circumstances. But, happily, nightmare is king.
(Published ‘The Darklands Project’ 1997)