Harlan once ate a roadside burrito trying to impress a twink that he had picked up at a literary conference in Austin and had suffered the resulting twenty miles with a stomach that kept trying to escape through either end of his body whilst Greg had cracked open a window and plastered a fake smile that became a grimace once the soundtrack of Harlan’s dyspepsia reached the volume of a heavy metal gig and the scent of an orgy at an Insane Clown Posse show.
He was reminded of that because what was happening to him as he drove with his altered senses screaming at him that where he was going was REALLY FUCKING BAD was probably worse. There would be points of sheer primal bliss as his body adjusted to the effects of his brother’s gift.
He caught the scent again, a rich, greasy stink that made his lips curl back over his teeth with an atavistic horror. A decaying angel left by the side of the road at the height of summer. He gasped as bone spurs punched through the tips of his fingers, spraying the dashboard with blood until a surge of endorphins kicked in. Then his back would spasm and he had to stop the car and focus on his breathing until it passed. Cars passed him by as he sat hunched over the steering wheel, lost to an animal elation that was hell and heaven in the same instant.
It was a turbo charged puberty, until he tasted wet pennies in his mouth and looked in the rear view mirror, saw how his gums were bleeding and with a cautious prod of his tongue, found that teeth were growing in, a perfect predatory array of sharp, wide teeth. Whatever was happening to him, did so without concern for appearance and propriety. He started the car again, following the bad trail whilst he could still think human thoughts.
He knew it at the periphery of his consciousness, alongside the frailties and doubts, the thoughts that pointed out every flaw and faux pas with a vicious accuracy. Harlan knew that he was his own harshest critic, and the criticism he turned outward, disguised as flippant disdain, was a pale shadow compared to what he thought of himself. The new bolus of thoughts though, offered a crimson certainty, a warrior call that his body was slowly transforming around, in order to answer it’s clarion call.
He drove on, faster but not enough to outrun the pleasurable oblivion of consciousness that became insistent with each beat of his heart. He told himself that he was a writer, and he could handle a deadline or two.
He was there after a few more miles, the stink had become unbearable and when he stopped the car, he had to lurch out of the side to vomit up the scent that was hanging in his nostrils and the back of his throat. Beneath the open sky, he looked up, saw the wavering traces of daylight and wondered if he would ever look at them in the same way again.
The first spasms of transformation wracked his body with agony. A thickening tension and the riotous alchemy of bones lengthening and muscles increasing forced him to his knees, and he knew that the change in his consciousness was not an atavism but an adaptation. The pain came from the resistance, and so, for the first time since he had looked at Eddie back at the Ogden Fair all that time ago. It was fitting that his last thought as a man was of him. He went down into himself, letting the transformation go on, like taking a breath after a long time starved of oxygen.
Harlan was not there, but he was. A passenger inside a vessel of tremendous and terrible power. He knew what Avery felt, and he would have envied him but the trade off was that he surrendered petty and venal thoughts. All there was now, was appetite and the fight, and the appetite for the fight. The aurora of scents mingled and coalesced before him. The stink became almost unbearable, but on all fours, Harlan padded forward, muzzle low to the ground and began to follow the lead scent down the hill.
The house cast a shadow and Harlan could smell the wrongness here. A hundred thousand years of malignancy left to grow unhindered. The packed, rotten stench of a life spent dealing out pain and misery without accord. His lips pulled back over his teeth, and he began to lope forward with more speed than haste.
He thought of Eddie, then his brother.
For the first time, Harlan was going to war.
Not as a soldier, but as a weapon.
TO BE CONTINUED
For previous entries (and where you have been, things are kicking off massively, go here