Harlan loped towards the house, his muzzle wrinkled with disgust. The insistent onslaught of his increased senses became a mixed blessing, in that for all the wonder that could be divulged from the scent of good earth and fresh air, as he got closer to the house, it was all underpinned by an irrevocable stink. It stunk like if cancer released a celebrity fragrance and it made him growl with guttural horror.
The parts of him that were still, notionally Harlan watched the events with a terrible awe, but his consciousness blurred like civil twilight, into the crimson rush of his animal self. Things were simpler there, all nuance and ambiguity washed away in the tumult of appetite and acuity and for a life spent in perpetual anxiety, alleviated only by the occasional orgasm, moment of tenderness or the intoxication of writing, it held him between it’s teeth.
There was only the fight here, and Harlan discovered that his appetite for it dwarfed everything he had believed about himself. What it did not dwarf was the perpetual unease of what lay in wait.
The stink, the waves of emotion that he sensed as bursts of intense, terrible feeling all spoke to something that had been made to fight, fuck and hate. Not, the witticism came to him, necessarily in that order either.
He scampered onto the porch, following the scent trail to it’s apex. He gave a wet cough, vomited something warm and meaty onto the floorboards before continuing on, surprised by the sudden urge to taste it. He brushed against the doorway as he slipped inside, some fur on his hind legs giving way like a firm brush had been stroked against his flanks.
The stink was overwhelming and he whimpered, his ears flat against his skull. He heard it shift, a seismic vibration that he sensed more than heard. He padded through, disgusted by the flecks and sprays of unknown matter on the walls. He could not tell if it was organic, but it carried the same, awful stench.
A different scent drew his attention, and he moved towards it. It was fragile, greasy and pitched towards decay but it was fragrant in comparison to the overall bouquet of disgust. It was like being God’s suppository in here, and he wanted to tear whatever was causing it apart without tasting it. It was up the stairs and he moved with haste towards it, slinking through an open door into a bedroom that hung with the compact ammoniac stink, layers like varnish or amber, of old and new waste, never cleaned but merely sprayed over or ignored.
The woman gave a smile that caused her pain, the hair on her head reduced to wisps of white hair that moved in the breeze.
‘Good dog.’ she said.
Her voice was brittle, rusted with disuse and Harlan put his forepaws on the end of the bed. The sheets crunched, and he heard the wet wrench of something wet underneath being disturbed by his actions. Her skin was translucent and yellowing, bruises that were fading like sunsets all over her face and arms, and cracked, flaking lips that held tight, bubble gum clusters of herpes sores in the corners of her mouth. Her eyes were sunk and darken to the point that Harlan wondered if death would be a kindness.
Her smile, though, made him rear back and growl. It was not a smile of weakness, dignified or otherwise. Her head rolled back on her shoulders, and a small black tongue began to dance in the air, swelling and bloating on contact before extending into the air past the limits of biology. It whipped around and Harlan barked at it, the fur raising on his hackles as he snarled with anger and terror.
It struck and he leapt, not to the side but forward. He snapped his jaws around the woman’s throat and sunk his teeth in before drawing back and letting the shredded wad of cartilage, tissue and venous matter plop onto the woman’s fragile, heaving chest. The woman sat up, her emaciated arms twisted with distended ropes of vein and artery, ragged nail fingers seeking purchase in his fur but Harlan was too fast for her. She moved forward, tucking her legs underneath her as her stomach began to distend through the blackened cloth of the nightgown and the tissues of her stomach. Harlan did not stop to see what emerged. He heard its birth, and behind the veil of his animal consciousness, wondered faintly why she did not scream at such a violation.
This was a house made to feed off screams, he told himself and kept running. He heard the gelid swish of something moving, a pseudopod that adhered to the walls and undulated towards him with unnatural speed. The clatter and smash of frames being flung in its path added urgency to his flight and when he leapt down the stairs, he yelped at the sensation of a tight grip being taken on his hindquarters, perfectly lassoed and he scratched his forepaws, barking and howling in panic as he heard whatever had him breathe like an old furnace.
He hoped that it would be quick.