A swaddled silence would be over the island, nights like that: if they complained, or had to cry for some lesion or cramp, it was baffled by the thick mists and all you heard was the tide, slapping ever sideways along the strand, viscous, reverberating; then seltzering back to sea, violently salt, leaving a white skin on the sand it hadn’t taken. And only occasionally above the mindless rhythm, from across the narrow strait, over on the great African continent itself, a sound would arise to make the fog colder, the night darker, the Atlantic more menacing: if it were human it could have been called laughter, but it was not human. It was a product of alien secretions, boiling over into blood already choked and heady; causing ganglia to twitch, the field of night-vision to be grayed into shapes that threatened, putting an itch into every fiber, an unbalance, a general sensation of error that could only be nulled by those hideous paroxysms, those fat, spindle-shaped bursts of air up the pharynx, counter-irritating the top of the mouth cavity, filling the nostrils, easing the prickliness under the jaw and down the center-line of the skull: it was the cry of the brown hyena called the strand wolf, who prowled the beach singly or with companions in search of shellfish, dead gulls, anything flesh and unmoving.


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