Such Sharp Teeth

Such Sharp Teeth

by Rachel Harrison
Such Sharp Teeth

Such Sharp Teeth

by Rachel Harrison

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Overview

Notes From Your Bookseller

A darkly humorous, and at times, romantic twist on the classic werewolf tale. Blending body horror with a monstrous narrative around identity, rage and transformation, it’s both cozy and terrifying. A compulsive read with bite!

A young woman in need of a transformation finds herself in touch with the animal inside in this gripping, incisive USA Today bestselling novel from the author of Cackle and The Return.

Rory Morris isn’t thrilled to be moving back to her hometown, even if it is temporary. There are bad memories there. But her twin sister, Scarlett, is pregnant, estranged from the baby’s father, and needs support, so Rory returns to the place she thought she’d put in her rearview. After a night out at a bar where she runs into Ian, an old almost-flame, she hits a large animal with her car. And when she gets out to investigate, she’s attacked.
 
Rory survives, miraculously, but life begins to look and feel different. She’s unnaturally strong, with an aversion to silver—and suddenly the moon has her in its thrall. She’s changing into someone else—something else, maybe even a monster. But does that mean she’s putting those close to her in danger? Or is embracing the wildness inside of her the key to acceptance?
 
This darkly comedic love story is a brilliantly layered portrait of trauma, rage, and vulnerability.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780593545836
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/25/2023
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 37,413
Product dimensions: 7.90(w) x 5.30(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

About The Author
Rachel Harrison is the author of Cackle and The Return, which was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel. Her short fiction has appeared in Guernica, Electric Literature's Recommended Reading, and as an Audible Original. She lives in Western New York with her husband and their cat/overlord.

Read an Excerpt

I

Moths flutter around the fluorescent bulb as it blinks into the dark outside the bar. I lean back and lift my gaze to the night. There’s no light pollution out here, and the stars are fierce. The moon is full, so I give it a wink.

“Did you just wink at me?”

Ian’s so tall he blocks out the moon. When he’s in front of you, there’s nothing else. He’s all there is.

“I did wink,” I say. “But not at you. Sorry.”

“All right,” he says. “Glad we cleared that up.”

“Apologies for any confusion.”

He doesn’t say anything else. He turns away from me to exhale, releasing a calm river of smoke toward the parking lot.

“Are you disappointed?” I ask him. “Did I give you false hope for a second there?”

“Well, yeah, but I’ve had false hope since we were thirteen, so I’m used to it,” he says, turning back toward the light so I can see his good-­natured grin.

It’s been so many years since I last saw that grin. My heart begins to thump mutinously inside my chest. Maybe his hope isn’t false after all.

All right, then. Time to go.

“I should head home. My sister will be jealous if she thinks I’m out having too much fun while she’s stuck home. Sober.”

“Tell Scarlett I say hello,” he says.

“I will,” I say, patting my pockets to check for my wallet, my keys. “Happy we ran into each other. Good to see you.”

“Yeah,” he says. “We should run into each other again while you’re still in town.”

I search for a cool, noncommittal response among the assortment I store readily under my tongue. I fumble. My lips part but offer nothing.

“Or not,” he says, shrugging his massive shoulders. He pushes his glasses up his nose, the same squarish black Ray-­Bans he wore in high school. Behind the thick lenses, his eyes are a striking, unusual blue. Cobalt.

“No, yeah,” I stammer. “I mean, yes. Of course.”

Horrifying.

“You good to drive? I can give you a ride,” he says.

“I’m good. One beer. I can walk in a straight line for you, though, if you like. ABC’s backwards.”

“Could you?”

“I’m shy.”

He laughs.

“All right.” I take my car keys out of my pocket. I slip my index finger into the key ring and flip them around. “Good night.”

“Bye, Rory.”

I’m curious if he’s watching me as I walk to my car. The restraint it takes to not sneak a glance over my shoulder. Shameful.

I’ll leave this part out when I tell Scarlett.

If I tell Scarlett.

Despite her current situation, she seems to have retained her position as a hard-­core romantic. She’s like Mom. If I tell her I bumped into Ian Pedretti, forget it.

I get into the car and turn the heat on, thawing myself from the October chill. I pull out of the parking lot, stealing a quick look in my rearview.

Ian is still there, finishing his cigarette.

I forgot about the mist. There’s an ever-­present mist that skulks around here like a townie. It tumbles down from the mountain, seeps out of the woods, and slathers itself across the dull suburban landscape. It might be the only defining quality of my hometown. Persistent mist.

Even with my brights on, there’s negligible visibility. I drive slowly around the winding curves of Cutter Road. I used to know it by heart. I could drive it in the dark no problem, but it’s been a long time since I’ve been back. I didn’t think it was something I could lose. I thought that the map of this place was etched into me, that I could navigate from muscle memory, but I guess time erases the things you least expect.

A yawn crawls out of me. It’s dramatic about it. The heat has me sleepy. I need to stay awake and alert for the five minutes it’ll take me to get back to Scarlett’s. Doesn’t seem like too monumental a task, but after years of being able to zone out on the subway, passively observing stops and the occasional kerfuffle, the additional attention required for driving seems like a big ask. I turn off the heat and crack open the windows, hoping the fresh air will keep me honest.

In comes the signature campfire smell of autumn, but also something else. Something more potent and less appealing. I sniff.

It’s wet animal.

The distinct scent of damp fur.

It’s overpowering. I consider closing the window, but then my phone chimes.

My eyes obediently flick over to the illuminated screen, and . . .

Thud.

Time leaps ahead, dragging me by the neck. It leaves me with my lungs convulsing, a hideous screeching in my ears. My seat belt is tight, at my throat like a knife.

My car is facing in the wrong direction. I inhale, and it’s just burning rubber.

I hit something.

I hit something.

The sound, that grievous thud, replays loudly in my head. It’s relentless, with a severe disorienting urgency.

I pull at my seat belt, attempting to loosen it, so I can breathe, but it’s dead set on anchoring me in this hellish moment. I feel around for the button with a trembling hand. I find it eventually, and the seat belt releases with a fast snap. I open the car door and stumble onto the road.

The cold pulls me out of the fog of my shock. I do a quick examination of my body. Extremities seem to be intact. I feel my face. Aside from the wide gape of my mouth, there’s nothing concerning. I move my neck side to side.

I’m fine.

Car? Not fine. My front bumper, the grille, whatever, is now so deeply indented, it’s the shape of a V.

What did I hit? What could possibly cause that much damage? A deer?

I clench my teeth and take a minute to allow the reality to fully set in, as much as I’d prefer to hang out in the cozy palm of denial. I brace myself for the inevitable cycle of emotions. Anger at myself for being an irresponsible driver, frustration at the situation in general. Remorse for the animal I almost certainly killed.

I wasn’t speeding. I was going only thirty, thirty-­five at most. But if the sound and the state of my car are any indication, RIP. I guess I should check to make sure I don’t abandon a concussed house pet, some freshly maimed family dog. If that’s what I hit and there’s a chance that it’s somehow still alive, that means there’s a chance I can save it.

I turn toward the road. Mist curls in all directions; it peels from the night like the skin from ripe fruit. There’s a glittering black smear on the road, mostly eluding the reach of my headlights. I step toward it, holding my breath, preparing my apology to Spot or Bambi.

My presence disrupts the mist, and between my headlights, aggressive starlight, and a cruel, gawking moon, I can see the mess I’ve made.

I can’t even tell what kind of animal it is. Or was.

It’s inside out. The impact must have skinned it somehow because there’s no evidence of fur. Giant worms of intestines unravel across the road. The wet abstract of organs contrasts against the pale shock of bone. It’s a shapeless horror. An absolute massacre.

“I’m sorry,” I tell it, searching for some hint of its identity. There’s a lot of it, whatever it is. Too much. Guessing a deer? I scan for antlers.

There’s a lump. I squint, stepping deeper into the haze. My eyes adjust, and I can see that the lump is fur. A neat mound of fur. Beside the mound, staring up at me with dead glassy eyes, is a head. I was right. It was a deer.

How is this possible? I was not going over thirty-­five. And even if I was . . .

Something possesses me to reach out and hover my hand over the carcass. It’s cold. There’s no heat coming off it, no warmth at all. I just hit it. If it just died, wouldn’t it still be warm?

I linger over the deer, wondering, until I realize I’m not required to turn in an autopsy report. It’s not a mystery I need to solve. I killed it. I feel bad; that’s it. My punishment is I’ll likely never be able to stomach meat again. I’ll be a vegetarian and a conscientious driver.

I sigh and straighten my legs.

I pause to listen. I hear something. Labored breathing. A sharp inhale followed by the slow rip of an exhale. It repeats.

I bring my hand to my chest. Its surf is steady. Rise, fall. Rise, fall. It contradicts the sound. But if I’m not making it, what is?

There’s an onslaught of darkness, confusing me for all of two seconds before I realize something has passed in front of the headlights.

Until I realize I’m not the one who killed that deer.

I turn around.

It eclipses the headlights, concealing itself in darkness. I can make out a vague outline, trace an enormous mass sliced from shadow. It suddenly shifts between the headlights, uncoiling itself. The light scalds my eyes, forcing a brief retreat into the refuge of my head. I’m tempted to let them stay there, to leave my eyes closed and maybe just never open them again, never face whatever it is in front of me. But something else—maybe survival instinct or curiosity—wins out.

I open my eyes, and at first they struggle against the brightness. All I can see is that whatever’s there, positioned between me and my car, it’s standing upright.

A bear. It’s a bear. It’s the size of a large bear. It’s got four limbs. A head. Fur.

I blink, and the scene comes into focus.

I’ve never seen a bear like this. Its proportions are weird.

It stands on the pads of its feet. They’re not really paws. They’re big but narrow, and they’ve got fur, only it’s sparse, and where there’s none, grayish skin is stretched tight over thin splinters of bone. Its toes are each about the size of my fist, and from them extend thick black nails, sharp, almost like talons. Its legs are long. Slim pale muscles slither around exposed bone, fur detaching in certain places, like around the knees. The legs have a disturbing bend to them. They’re not straight. They won’t straighten. They’re hind legs.

It’s slouched, concealing part of its torso. There’s fur missing there, too. Its skin has been pulled too taut; there are obvious rips where the thing is fleshless. I can see a sickening twist of ribs and spongy insides, but most of it is shadowed by the curtain of its arms. The thing pulls them forward but leaves them limp. They dangle down past its knees.

Its hands are marred. Leathery tangled mitts. Bones peek through recessions of fur. Its giant knuckles are bald. Its fingers have way too many joints; they bend and unbend and bend.

I look up at its head.

A whiteness escapes its wide-­open jaws. Froth pours through its fangs. Beyond its snout, two red eyes bore into me. The color of them, it’s unreal.

It can’t be real.

Did someone slip something into my beer?

I feel the skepticism creep across my expression, my eyebrows sinking, eyes narrowing as I study the thing standing in front of me. My doubt releases me from my fear, and for a moment the creature isn’t real and I’m safe.

It must sense this, because it rears back, head up, opening its chest to the sky, arms wide. I can hear the awful creak of its jaw as it unhinges to an alarming degree, the separation between its teeth staggering. It begins to scream. The torturous pitch funnels ice into my veins. It’s agonizing.

The scream splits, harmonizing with itself. It’s like there’s more than one voice.

Animals shouldn’t be able to scream like that.

It’s going on forever. I don’t know if it’ll ever stop. Should I run? Why haven’t I already started running?

The thing finally stops screaming. It collapses onto all fours. It turns to me, and the clarity of its red gaze is unnerving. I understand.

It’s angry. I hit it with my car. I interrupted its dinner.

And it’s starving.

I run.

I take off into the mist. I’m a runner but this is different. Running for your life is different. It sucks.

I’m vulnerable on the road. There’s nowhere for me to hide. If another car comes, it’s more likely to hit me than be able to help me. I veer into the woods.

The wet carpet of moss swallows my footsteps. I dodge branches, hop over rocks. I know it’s following me because it’s not stealthy. It doesn’t need to be because it’s huge and fanged and fast. It’s got that predator confidence. It knows it can catch me because it’s the predator. And I’m prey.

It’s not the first beast to see me this way. Might be the last, though.

My thoughts distract me. My run becomes increasingly reckless. A wayward arm smacks a cluster of low foliage. The rustle is thunderous.

I can’t think. I can’t think about what’s happening. I can’t stop to conjure the image of what’s hunting me, pause to marvel at the horror of it. No time for How? or Why? or What the ever-­loving fuck? Its snarls cleave the quiet; its hot breath is at my heels. Any hope of escape is obliterated. I’m not going to outrun the thing. I can’t. I’m not getting home to my sister, who needs me. I can’t go any faster.

Is this it, then? My final thought: This is as fast as I can go.

I spit dirt and blood from my mouth. The pain is disorienting. I’m facedown. The gentle creep of insect legs along my cheek is the only sensation I can decisively identify. The rest is just nebulous torment.

My ankle, maybe?

The brutal bloom of heat on my shoulder interrupts my analysis, and I’m flipped over onto my back. It’s done easily, like I have no weight, like it’s nothing, like I’m nothing. My body is not a factor, except right now I know it’s the only factor. I go rigid.

It looms above me, the moon providing a direct spotlight, a wraithlike glow. Honestly, I could do without it. Fuck you, moon. I don’t need my death by large inbred animal to have good lighting. Dark would be fine. Preferable.

I could close my eyes, but it’s kind of hard when the thing looks the way it does.

I can almost hear the chiding of my future self, if there were to be a future self. Or maybe it’s the chorus of outsiders who might someday read about what happened to me and wonder aloud, “Why didn’t she?” “Why didn’t she wriggle away?” “If it were me, I would have punched it in the face!” “I would have fought back!” “I would have screamed!”

Why didn’t I? Why don’t I?

Because I can’t.

I can’t.

It lowers itself down. It sniffs me, starting at my feet. It’s removed my boots, or they’ve come off somehow. Not sure. I can see now that my ankle is twisted, bloody. My jeans are torn to shreds. They were my favorite jeans, too.

The soft twitch of my grin meets a salty wetness. I’m crying.

Scarlett.

I’m grateful we never had that special twin thing. We were disappointed as children that we didn’t have that connection. She broke her collarbone at a soccer game, and I was across town having the time of my life sleeping over at Ash’s. Double-­fisting s’mores and dancing along to music videos on MTV. No phantom pain. No nothing.

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