It took the pair of them to get Avery into the house. Mary sobbed as Avery’s fingers split and peeled away to reveal razor sharp claws that slid back and forth until the ends looked like hamburger meat. Harlan focused on breathing and getting his brother inside the house. When they had achieved that, he would decide what the next thing to do would be.
‘Is he going to hurt us?’ Mary said as they looked at him. His anatomy ran riot before returning to the pallid, slick musculature of a human chest and arms.
Harlan’s thoughts were a thin whine of feedback inside his head but he caught her meaning enough to shake his head.
‘What’s wrong with him?’
He laughed and looked at her.
‘I only know that he’s my brother, and he’s sick. What the fuck else matters?’
Her face twisted into a grimace as she folded her arms around herself, eyes heavy with tears and her voice small and tight. An upset child looking to another child for guidance, figuring out what to do before their parents came home.
Harlan knelt in front of his brother. He asked Mary to go to the kitchen and get him a towel, run it under the faucet.
‘How’s that going to help?’
He shut his eyes and sucked in a deep breath, fuel for the fire inside him.
‘It’s probably not, but I’m at least doing something other than complaining.’
She was back in a minute, and he took it from her, remembered his manners and said thank you. He wiped Avery’s head down with the towel, which was rewarded with a smile and a sigh of unencumbered delight.
‘Jesus, what the hell happened?’
Avery opened his eyes, ran a yellowing tongue over his sharpened teeth and looked at his brother. Harlan had to turn his head from the rotting furnace of his breath.
‘Bad meat. Need. Doctor.’
Harlan looked down the length of his brother’s body, twisting and warping without his awareness.
‘Seems like you might need a -‘
He had his phone in his hand, searched for the number and dialled it.
‘Hi, Ogden Veterinary -‘
‘Madeline, it’s Harlan. I need you to come over, with whatever you’d treat a big dog with for poisoning.’
‘Excuse me, Harlan? Is it one of the dogs? Why isn’t Avery calling?’
All the questions and the time taken was dug out of Avery’s rotting and twisting flesh.
‘Please. As soon as you can. I’ll explain when you get here.’
He put the phone down. He turned bodily to Mary.
‘Take my car. Go home. Nothing happened here that you want to talk to your husband about. Did it?’
She stared into his eyes, white with the emotional and physical overload.
‘Did it?’ Harlan said, louder than before.
She shook her head and took the keys from him with hands that were numb and shaking.
She passed Madeline on the way, going faster than the speed limit but everything was so fast now. Loud, fast and incredibly close.