Something horrible is afoot
The moon reigned high and enormous in the Louisiana night sky, a full moon, first of three technical phases. Nathan Bordeaux arrived at the strip mall, cold sweat dripped from Nathan’s forehead as he wiped at it with his shirt sleeve. Dizzy, bleeding and it was getting hard for him to see the road now, but the florescent lights of the 24-hour drugstore in Royal Bay glowed brightly, to his relief he arrived at his destination.
He put the truck in park and left it running as he got out and staggered across the parking lot towards the store. He rummaged through several thoughts in his head as he entered through the automatic sliding doors.
What was that monstrosity? He wondered. I shot that beast center mass, or did I? What was it? A large dog? A boar? But it had stood up! What if it was some kind of Sasquatch? No. This is real life, he told himself. It was probably a deformed bear or something. Wracking his brain he thought, did I leave anything to tie me to the scene of my dead friends? After all, though, he hadn’t been the one to kill them; they were all out there poaching illegally. Why do I feel so shitty? Was it rabies?
No, rabies would not have manifested itself so quickly; it would take days to get sick. Maybe I’m just extremely anxious, he reasoned. That would explain most of my symptoms, right? After all, the bite on him didn’t happen that long ago. What he did know was three of them were dead for sure, and there had been seven in the group, six? No there were eight in their group, wasn’t there? He wasn’t sure now, unsure about everything else too, as a headache began clawing its way into his head. He stumbled into the pharmacy stopping at the counter and leaned onto it, cradling his head in his shaking hands.
“Good evening, what can I help you with tonight?” The overworked clerk yawned, her eyes never looking up from the romance novel she held on her lap, never looked up to notice his unusual posture. He looked like a question mark in appearance as if Quasimodo had burst out of the silver screen.
“Neosporin, a shit load of ibuprofen and some acetaminophen,” He said hoarsely to himself.
The clerk just pointed to the first aid aisle without saying a word. He muttered some curses under his breath then pulled out a shopping cart for added stability before setting off.
Moving in and out of consciousness now as he wheeled around and, with the help of the cart and his hands holding onto shelves, he slowly moved down the aisle. Shaking as he picked up some bandages and tried to straighten his back, feeling like his head was about to implode. His vision blurred and then cleared as he shuffled down the aisle, snarling to himself.
He hesitantly stopped by the sunglasses display to look at his reflection in the mirror; he didn’t even recognize what he saw looking back at him. His once bold blue eyes were puffy slits, the whites bloodshot. His well styled shoulder length brown hair matted and unkempt, once plump youthful cheeks now looked white and taunt. His dry cracked lips parted to reveal receding gums and blood trickled from the corner of his mouth. He gasped and staggered back, trying not to black out.
“Son, are you okay?” A concerned elderly man, stopping his work stocking the shelves asked, coming over to help.
He reached a hand out to steady Nathan. His half-closed eyes widened immediately, as he registered the closeness of the old man. The stockman started to ask him again if he was alright, but seeing Nathan’s fierce gaze, he let his words trail off and dropped his hand to his side. In the flickering bright lights, it appeared that Nathan’s eyes were glowing, and he coughed and let out a warning snarl. The old man eyed him as he backed up another step and concern quickly dissolved into open disgust.
“You stupid drunk, pay for your stuff and get outta this store!” The gray haired old man spat, then grabbed a nearby broom and readied it as if it was a weapon.
Nathan paid him little attention. His body was on autopilot as he staggered once again up to the counter. The woman reading looked up at him for the first time. Taken aback by his disheveled and ghastly appearance she gasped, putting her hand over her chest. She shook it off, got back into her professional, albeit lax, manner, and checked him out with a forced smile. She and the gray haired old man whispered nervously to each other as Nathan staggered out the door with his bag.
The dark calm of the parking lot outside comforted his throbbing headache, dulling it a little, and his eyes began to open wider and focus. A fog had lifted from his mind. Confused, Nathan looked at his watch. He didn’t know how he had gotten on the sidewalk outside. Last thing he remembered was looking at the mirror inside the drugstore. He glanced down at the bag in his hand.
Almost to his vehicle when the flashing lights and wailing sirens of an ambulance shrieked by on the highway, disorienting him, until he stumbled further out into the parking lot putting him directly in the path of an oncoming car.
Rubber transferred onto the asphalt permanently as the driver stomped on the break, tires shrieking. The bumper was about to smash Nathan’s knees, but he miraculously leapt out of the way.
Nathan twirled around and rested both hands on the side of the hood. The driver flew out of the driver’s door uttering obscenities. He did not hear the boy’s grousing, however; too busy watching his cuticles recede, bleed and grow. Nathan could not believe what he was seeing. Time seemed to slow down while he considered this new symptom. Are they growing? No, impossible, he thought. A wave of nausea ran through him, knocking him down to his knees. He rested the side of his head on a hot tire and then violently vomited, proceeding to black out.
“What the fuck, man?” Bobby the driver looked down at his vomit spattered shoes and kicked Nathan in the side where he lay unresponsive.
His friend watching from inside the safety of the car could not believe his eyes as Nathan sprang up like a lunatic and scratched at his friend. Nathan’s bloody fingernails mixed with the boy’s own blood as Bobby clutched his hurt arm to his chest and held onto the open car door. The other kid leaned over the center console to yell to his injured friend.
“Hey Bobby, get your ass in the car! Something’s wrong with this guy, he’s on fuckin PCP or something.” The passenger, Terry, yelled as his friend cried out in anger and pain.
Nathan’s body reeled around to meet the sudden sound of Bobby’s friend, Terry’s voice, from the passenger seat. With his back turned to him, Bobby seized the opportunity and quickly made a break for the driver’s seat. Pulling his door shut hastily he dug in his pockets, searching for his keys.
“Let’s get out of here man, this guy must be tweaking and we don’t wanna die for a soda pop, Terry.” Bobby said as he started to put the key into the ignition blood dripping onto the steering wheel.
Startled they both jumped when Nathan hopped up on the passenger side of the car door, and lunged for Terry’s hand hanging out the open window. He snagged Terry’s fingers with his bloodied mouth and clamped down with a death grip. Punching out with his free fist, Terry hit Nathan in the face and yanked his injured hand back as a frenzied Nathan reeled back in pain and surprise from the blow.
“Go man! Go! Let’s get the fuck outta here!” Terry squealed, holding his bloody fingers in his lap, covering them with his good hand. Bobby did not have to be told twice, he put it in drive and hit the gas, his arm aching and stinging still. He didn’t slow down until they were to the far end of the deserted parking lot, and he pulled out his cell phone and punched in 911, barely having the nerve to check his rearview mirror. He almost expected to see the nut job in the back seat of his car. Nathan Bordeaux was just a shadow in the distance now.
Nathan came to from a dream-like state again; confusion setting in, but curiously… his head was not hurting anymore. His colored vision unexpectedly turned a spectrum of black and white, surprising him. He could no longer see in color but the world looked unexpectedly crisper and brighter to him. In the distance, he could hear sirens blaring coming closer and closer to him. Background noises seemed louder and clearer to him now too, he thought as he blacked out again, and his body instinctively fled.
Nathan ran from alley to alley on all fours, in his teeth he still clutched the purchases from the pharmacy in the plastic bag with drops of vomit and blood on it. He ran toward a residential area brimming with unsuspecting people snuggled up in their homes.
“Hey, Dad!” Chance yelled out for his father as he noticed a strange man from out the window in his bedroom. “There’s somebody in our backyard.”
Chance ran through the hallway yelling, “Dad, Dad, Dad!”
Watching the pay-per-view boxing match which Gene Francis had been waiting all day for, he barely paid attention to his child, Chance, when he vied for his dad’s attention. Chance shook his dad’s arm, spilling beer in the process.
“What, buddy?” He tried to divide his attention between the fight and his son. The fight was winning, as the man in the black striped shorts knocked out the man in the white shorts with three more rounds still to go.
“There is a man in the alley, I saw him under the streetlight, and I think he’s in the backyard now.” He turned his father’s head to his get him to look towards the window.
“What?” He was up off the couch, peering out the kitchen window when he saw a figure in the darkness. “Hey buddy, got your bat with you?” He edged closer to the back screen door to get a better view.
Chance ran into his room and came back with bat in hand, and handed it to his father. “Are you going out there?”
“Yes, stay inside please.” He said while peering out the mesh of the back screen door.
He readied the bat, holding it like a sword, and slowly opened the door as he motioned for Chance to stay put.
“Be careful, Dad.” Chance whispered, impulsively clutching his sleeve.
He motioned for Chance to be quiet as he stood still, cocking his head slightly, listening for any sounds of movement. It took a moment or two before Gene’s eyes adjusted to the darkness outside, and he slowly crept a little further out the door, glancing back to be sure his son stayed in the house. He cringed as the grass and leaves rustled with every footfall, until he finally made it to the tool shed. There were no signs of an intruder anywhere; confidence building he strolled out into the alley.
A sudden growl erupted from behind him, causing him to twirl around, and standing before him a thing that just barely resembled a human man. He was bleeding out of his ears, his eyes sunken and black, glowing from the dim streetlight above him. His nose looked stretched and flattened, with yellow mucus streaming out from both nostrils. His mouth and lips were grotesquely elongated, as if someone had stretched them downward. He was breathing rapidly; spittle had pooled at the corners of his mouth and dripped down the front of his two sizes too small camouflage shirt.
Nathan’s ribs were visible under his shirt since his chest was heaving and larger than an average human’s and he had an unusually extended and exposed abdomen with thin fine hair all over it. Gene’s eyes trailed down to the thing’s waist. The button on Nathan’s camouflage cargo pants had popped off and Gene could see his quadriceps pushing tightly at the seams of his pants. His obscenely small pants exposed his engorged calves and his boots were torn to the sole, leaving Nathan’s toes exposed. Gene blew out the breath he had been unconsciously holding when he heard his son’s panicked call.
“Dad?” Chance had strolled outside, halfway from the safety of the family’s house, halfway to this deformed lunatic, and yelled into the darkness.
Gene spun around to his son, one hand still gripping the bat; Gene flapped his other arm frantically to keep Chance from coming any closer. When he turned around again he was suddenly face to face with the thing, staring into wet gleaming eyes. He almost felt sorry for this thing; his eyes were so full of pain and confusion. There they stood eye to eye, both of them motionless. Nathan relaxed his bulging shoulders, drooping and seeming to shrink a little, and for a moment something inexplicably human could be seen in its eyes.
A few miles away, an ambulance screamed into the night and Nathan’s mild demeanor altered drastically, grinding human teeth were snarling again as he stretched and twisted around his neck until it gave an audible “pop”. Gene could see the lunatic’s distended neck and a racing pulse that he could almost hear throbbing. Gene, torn between subduing this crazy man now and keeping his boy from harm, frozen still, called out to Chance in desperation.
“Chance, get in the house now!” Gene raised his bat in a readied stance.
He had no time to react, in a split second Nathan jumped toward him; the weight of the madman toppled him to the ground, the bat clattering away from his reach. He beat Nathan on his back with his fists as hard as he could, but to no avail, as sharp teeth found his wrist before he could land another blow. Gene cried out in pain as Nathan bit into flesh. He wrenched his head around as the pain began to register; hoping that his son had ran inside. He saw Chance standing stock still, his mouth hung open in helpless horror. Gene tried to shift, but he did not prevail, completely pinned to the ground under the crazy man.
“Daaad!” Chance cried pitifully.
Gene was getting light headed now; his strength leaving him as his blood soaked into the gravel and dirt. He didn’t know it, but he was incredibly lucky as the tearing teeth had missed an artery; two centimeters over and he would have bled to death. Suddenly the weight pushing him down lifted as Nathan hopped up. Gene struggled to sit up, to find the madman, to protect his son. He struggled to his unsteady feet but the darkness overcame him, crashing into him like a wave, he collapsed.
The lunatic sprinted down the alley, again looking for a dark safe place to hide. He came upon a homeless man huddled in a torn coat, clutching a bottle of gin. The conflict ensued again until he fled off into the night again, he ran until he came upon a nursing home on the corner of a quiet and dark street. The yard was serene and poorly lit. He scaled easily over a privacy fence, tired and scared, and found the perfect hiding place in the L-shaped brick building. No one would notice him here, he thought, as he nestled into the dark nook with the wall to his back. Although still in pain, he felt secure enough to drift off to sleep. As dawn approached he dreamed of a wolf.