Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Sleepwalkers



It happened that after seven years my marriage was over and I needed a place to live. I spent weeks hiding in cheap motels trying to figure out just how I would face the world. Whether that understanding came to me or not, and I am not sure it ever did, I had very little money and motels are expensive. Even the cheap ones. I had only the cash in my pocket and one paycheck. Everything else was in the bank account that was not my bank account any more.

After a fairly fruitless search, the only offer I had for a roommate was a friend of a friend with the unlikely name of Harry Seasons who, I was promised, had a regular job and paid his bills and was clean and quiet. At that point such was about all I could hope for. I would have accepted less.

Two days after it had been suggested we should live together, Harry and I met at a place downtown to get a feel for each other. I arrived early and sat at the bar so that I could see the front door. I was sure to have myself within sight of the television so that I could see the person coming in, but then be able to quickly turn to the screen so that it did not look like I was watching every person who came in the door.

He didn't look like anyone someone I knew would know. He wore a crisp buttondown shirt tucked into a pair of painfully blue jeans. His hair was cut and styled and still wet from a shower or hair products. When he came through the door he took off his sunglasses and squinted fiercely and craned out his chin and surveyed the room as he switched them out for his clear glasses which he kept in a leather case in his front pocket. After seven seconds I turned back to the television set having decided that this was not the man I was waiting for.

"Are you Jacob?" he asked.

His voice was slow and unwilling, melodic and stuffed up in that high, unoffending register like he expected to be back handed for speaking. I turned and looked at him, and though age had put some dents and creases in him, life chiseling him out a bit, I was struck by the thought of how he must have looked as a child. Like a cute Kermit the Frog.

"I am." I nodded.

"Good to meet you," he said and stuck out his hand so I shook it.

He sat in the stool next to me and edged himself closer to the bellybar with a few short hops and crossed his hands across the deeply eurothaned wood and ordered a beer from the bartender.

"So what do you do?" and the normal sequence of events unfolded over four beers and another handshake.

He wrote magazine articles about comicbooks and made a living from it. It was the only job he had. I, on the other hand, worked six days a week in a pizza shop and wrote stories on the side and had not published a thing, much less made any kind of living from it. He was a jew and I was atheist. He liked Elvis Costello and I didn't, but we both agreed on the Beatles over the Rolling Stones and also that that was a very ridiculous comparison to begin with. I was divorced and he never married. We both liked redheads and had never had any luck with them.

It wouldn't have mattered what he had been like. Barring him being a complete asshole, I would have moved in with him no matter what. I was desperate. I am also flexible. When we moved into our house a week and a half later, I had one box and a duffle full of clothes. He had a moving truck stuffed full.

I do not think it was right away, but it was not long before I started hearing the noises at night. Not knowing him very well, and as they were very vulnerable, unbridled offerings, I was embarrassed to say anything about it. The next morning he looked fine, not under any particular sort of stress, so I let it slide.

I was never awake when it started. It always cut through my sleep, pulling me up and out of a quickly deteriorating dream. I was then left in the night silence with no idea why I was awake at such an unreasonable hour. Then it would come agian. A thin moan that, as it was pushed through the vents and the walls of the house, seem to come from all around, but very faint as if there was a great distance between me and the mouthsource. It had the same stuffed up timbre that I knew was Harry's voice, but the first time it happened I wondered if he were not outside, maybe out in the street making this racket. I had the thought that I would have to spend my nights dealing with a sleepwalker who would eventually get himself killed wandering out in the streets or into some nervous neighbor's house. But then the sound changed — stole my attention back. It was a change so sudden and profound, it didn't seem like it could have come from the same person. It sounded as if whoever was moaning had been smacked with a club. There was a gut-wrenching release of air and sound like vomitous misery, abrupt and incongruous, and all of a sudden right in the next room and come up from the abyss to pull terror from me. And it was not done. There arose from my roommate, from the darkness of his room, the imperceptibility of his sleep, a rumbling growl so deep that it made my own chestcavity ache and feel as if it would shake apart. The sound rose up out of its otherworldly container and seemed to crack apart into two, three, four different voices (if voices are even an accurate descriptor of such sounds) all at once, hovering in the air somewhere and calling back down from where it came. A sound collage of a scream's gravel, but not with any real effort behind it. There was no real language. None that I could understand, but still it sounded like a communication of some sort if based only on its disjointed, syllabic nature. Like a language trying to push through the shear volume of terror.

Everything in me told me I should get up and investigate this thing, to save my roommate who I would have called my friend by then from this awful fright. Nonetheless I was glued to my bedmattress. There was fear in me, but I would not say that it was fear that made me unavailable. I never had the sense that I could not get up out of the bed at any time. It was something else completely. Something in the nature of the sound itself. There, in the hellish growl, that sorrowful moan, there was something so personal, so bare and raw, that it felt completely intrusive to do a thing about it. Whatever was going on in that room down the hall, it was Harry Seasons that was doing it. It was his voice, as impossible as its feats seemed, calling out and back in and pleading in that foreign, inhuman growl. And this was a thing I had never encountered before. A deeply personal effort for which I had no defintition. I had no frame of reference or ability to explain that could spell out a reason to do anything but listen. So thats what I did. I listened and I found myself hurting in the fear. Fear for the act and what it could possibly be doing to my friend. But, as I said before, the next morning there was no sign that anything had happened at all. Harry ate his eggs and read his comicbooks and we chatted as I struggled to rid myself of the fog of sleeplessness. Then he went off to his studio where he wrote about that otherworld of ink and drama and superpowers.

But I could not remain completely quiet about it. I had gotten to know Harry over the first few weeks as roommates and I liked the guy. Granted he mostly just talked about his books — things I had never really gotten into — superpowers and whatnot — but to hear him talk about it, I admired his passion. I found that I too cared about these strange universes, but not in the way that I wanted to go out and read them, but I wanted Harry to tell me about them. I wanted to experience that place through him. See it through his eyes and feel it through his heart. He had a whole lifetime folded up in those pages — something I could never have — and I found myself in anticipation of the next time we had a night at the house where he could relate a bit of it to me. We drank beers and we talked. We were friends. Sometimes at night our house was filled with a horror I could not ignore.

After one particularly brutal night of wailing, our morning could no longer be filled with our breakfast small talk. I said something passive and obvious like, "Had a rough night last night?"

"How's that?" he answered.

"Last night. You were making some pretty wild noises. You ok?"

"Really?" he said with absolutely no equivocation.

"Yeah. It was pretty intense," I said.

"Wow," he said. "I must have been asleep."

"Must have been a hell of a nightmare."

"I don't even remember it."

And that was where our first effort was left. After that, for a few weeks, he would ask whether he had made the strange noises at night, and I would be honest about it. He apologized profusely for the disturbance. I tried to reassure him that I was not all that bothered by it. I helped him with research about nightmares and terrors and everything told us that they would eventually go away. We tried to allow that, and perhaps it could have been successful had that winterevening not occurred when he actually got up and left his bedroom.

I had trouble sleeping that night as it was the first night we had the heat on and the air was acrid and dry with the smell of the dust burning out of the ductwork. I hovered somewhere in sleep's purgatory, fading with one hand still gripping the last threads of consciousness.

When the moaning began it slipped into the narrative of my halfsleep dreaming. I remember seeing Harry, his face writhing in inexplicable terror. In this abridged state, it was only his face out of a darkness, the flesh of it pulling on the skull, and the lips clinging tightly together as if it dare not let escape the thing they contain. And there was a light, slightly flickering or wavering, orange but almost white like firelight below him that, because of the pointed fear beaming from his eyes, was the obvious crux of his dread. And just as the eyes seemed they could see no more, as the flesh could not find its refuge and those pressed bloodless lips could no longer hold their secret, their was the screeching horror just outside my door and I was torn from this halfsleep and up and standing in the middle of my room as if pulled solely by the strength of my fright. It was a sound I would be hardpressed to believe capable of any human throat. The sheer cavernous roll of it seemed to make the ether itself shutter. Its terrible call seemed incapable of embodiment, to have no sane grip inhibiting at all. It was a cry absent of all mortal ambition.

I tried to gather myself in the darkness half-expecting the world entire to cave in on me. I threw open the door with the idea to gather up my friend so we could escape whatever awful beast was descending upon our house, but as I turned down the hall to his bedroom, there he was on his hands and knees, one hand reaching out to me through the darkness, his head thrown back, mouth agape, the deafening shriek rolling out of him as if he were merely a conduit to some deeper, unseen hell. I reached out for him thinking that maybe there was something after him, something I could not see through the darkness and disorientation. I gripped his wrist and pulled him down the hall to the living room. I shoved the sofa across the hallway portal to block this supposed beast from the rest of the house.

Harry lay curled in the middle of the room, sobbing now, in obvious pain. I tried to shake him out of it, to try and examine him for some sort of injury, but he was disconsolate. In trying to get ahold of his attention I kept one eye on the barrier I had created and the blackness beyond it for whatever it was that had attacked him. He was naked and covered in a thick sweat. His flesh was cold to the touch, but underneath it there was a feverish heat. I could not get him to rise up off the floor or stop his sobbing. There was such a sadness in him I found myself wanting to cry with him. He shook from his fear, his body periodically convulsing. All I could do was gather him up and hold him, trying to calm him, one eye on the dark from which we had emerged.

I thought I would stay awake until he was able to talk, to articulate something of what had just happened to him. His sobbing lulled but he would not stop whimpering and shaking lightly in the fold of my grip. Eventually the darkness on which I awaited to abate got ahold of me, and the whimpering of this man in my arms... they conspired against my watch and before too long, I was asleep.

The morninglight brought me to a different world. A deceptive world. One that was bright and golden and pleasant to the eyes, but a world in which the events of the night before existed and the eyes and the soul spoiled to the terror of things that could not be explained and would not go unresolved.

I woke up alone on the couch which had been moved more or less to where it had been before I used it as a bulwark against the dark. My skin and sleepclothes were still wet from his sweat; the thick, musty smell of our frightened bodies still hung in the air. There was a blanket over me which I threw to the ground as I made a frantic search of the house for my roommate.

The smell of his eggs was in the kitchen. The sickeningly sweet stench of toothpaste and cologne were still in the bathroom. It was even humid from a shower. I knocked on his bedroom door and did not get an answer. I called out his name and there was nothing in return.

It was the first time I had seen his room where he spent the majority of his time at home. I could say that it looked exactly how I thought it would, or, at least, how I thought it would any other morning. I expected that morning for it to be ramshackle. I expected the violence and horror of the night to show here where it had started. It was not. The meticulousness I had seen in him in such things as cleaning and yardwork were present also in his room. The bed was made, his blue comforter hanging equidistant on all sides from a floor swept clear except for the vertiginous mounds of comicbooks and graphic novels around his reading chair. The furniture shined in the lazy beams of noonday light coming through the window, their contents arranged smartly. There was even the tasteful hint of sandalwood in the air. Had the events of the night before not transpired, the scene would have been slightly endearing.

I did another check of the house and even looked outside. His car was gone. He was gone. I called into work and made some coffee and tried to make sense of it all.

The emptiness and mechanical quiet of the house was agonizing. The air was thick, impregnated with the deceiving, joyous light of a clear day. It cut through the curtains in angular white blades, fiery lines of pale blood spilled across the floor. I felt as if time would not move and I would be victim to this loneliness and confusion for an eternity with no chance for relief.

I resolved to shower, to renew myself with hot water and soap and deep lungfuls of steam. Once I was naked in the bathroom, standing in front of the mirror brushing my teeth, I noticed my skin. My chest and belly and upper thighs, the insides of my arms, were a raw pink color. The skin was raised just slightly and tender to the touch. I could not say why I had not noticed it before. Only that I had been so intent on finding my friend, of figuring out just what was going on that I had not taken the time to notice the nagging itch and sensitivity of my own flesh. On closer examination I realized that rather than the skin being pink all over, it was actually ruddy splotches of irritation around my pours and hair follicles, each of the openings swollen enough to be seen. I had to keep the water in the shower lukewarm unless my skin really start to burn. Delicately I washed down with soap, assured that it would clear up whatever it was that was irritating it. By the time Harry returned home later that afternoon, it had only gotten slightly worse.

I was in the kitchen when he got home. He came in and pulled a soda from the refrigerator and leaned against the edge of the sink and drank it and did not say a word.

"We need to talk about last night," I said.

"We sure do."

"So you remember?"

"Well, see, thats the problem," he said with no shortage of resentment and ire. "Thing is, I don't remember a thing."

"None of it?"

"I remember us drinking last night. I remember actually having a really good time, and then I wake up this morning on the floor naked and you wrapped around me and my throat hurts."

I could only stare. He really didn't remember any of it. "Thats all?" I asked.

"Yes, thats all! What did you do to me last night?"

It only took a few seconds to see things from his side and I could not help but laugh. He was not amused.

"No, no, no," I managed, "it was not anything like that."

He had not even cracked a smile. He set the soda can on the counter and crossed his arms and stared.

"You really do not remember at all?"

"No, I really don't. How about you enlighten me."

"Seas," I said, as that is what I had taken to calling my friend as we got to know each other. "Seas, it was nothing like that, but it was fucking horrible last night. So horrible I am having trouble believing you do not remember a bit of it."

"What happened?"

"It was after we went to bed last night. I do not know what time it was, but I was not completely asleep."

"Another nightmare?"

I related every detail. The look in his eyes was not the look of someone hiding what they knew but someone trying to take in these things they could not believe. I showed him the skin reaction I was having, which had now evolved into red islands in a sea of pink splotching. His skin was clear. Not a mark on him.

That evening I could tell my friend's mind was heavy. My descriptions of the night before had put him in a deep sadness and I felt sorry for the helplessness he must have been feeling. But I also had my own worries. The rash had developed into welts and tiny blisters by bedtime. I worried about how severe these night-terrors would become. What would happen to me? And there was also a sickness, a nausea in me, deep in my gut, like some sort of churning miasma. Thing is, I felt very alone in this - that it was up to me to resolve, though I know it weighed on Harry as well. We tried to have our beers and some sort of normalcy but it ended up that in a dreary silence we both retired to our rooms.

For a week, nothing happened. The rash devolved into a normal skintone leaving behind a rough, scaly length of flesh like chemical burn scars. The nausea inside me intensified until I gave up eating all together. I drank only a life-sustaining amount of water. The result was that I had no energy and a bad color. The languid air of the house, its bereft and poisonous feel, took over. It seemed to emanate from our dissolute spirit and eat up our world. We tried to comfort each other. We tried to continue like there was still hope left in us, but really we were poor shadows in a prolonged dusk waiting for the inevitable setting of the sun.

As I was the only witness to what was happening to us, Harry would ask the questions that had been ravaging his mind until he was sure he had no answer, but I had no answers either. I had divulged all I knew from the beginning and had had no further insight. The sickness in me consumed my time, my efforts. As Harry struggled to figure out what was in him, so did I, and there was not much left for either of us to give each other.

And then on a night in late October, stealing me away from one of my few moments of sleep, there was a knock on my door. I was too weak and groggy to get out of bed so I called out for him to come in. Harry opened the door slowly and announced himself in a whisper and slipped inside as if there were someone else in the house he may disturb.

He asked if he could stay in the room with me.

The boy part of me had to stifle a laugh. Surely it was a joke, which I thought was ill-timed and I wanted no part of it. But there was the sound of his voice that was veritably strangled with fear and loneliness. The young boy inside the man before me was stranded out on the edges and needed shelter. I wondered for a minute why he had come to me, but who else did he have?

I expected him to settle down on the floor, or maybe in the recliner in the corner where I spent sleepless nights scrawling out stories or reading, but the poor thing shuffled childishly toward my bed and curled himself under the blankets with me. I tried to give him room, but he wormed himself against me and settled fast into sleep.

I did not know what to think at first, but I could not deny the comfort of this man's body against mine. He did not snore but seemed to vibrate internally, and the motion of it eased the pain in my belly. The warmth of him fought away the cold of the coming winter.

I slept well and had a dream; a dream of myself outside of myself in observation. I could still feel everything inside me, but I was also another body entirely, both with one pair of eyes floating around the room with only a vague awareness of a body they served. That body was inside my own so that the flesh that I was used to, that I knew historically as my own, laid over it, a new flesh created but not unlike myself. What these strange, floating eyes were looking for was a way in. It was not this full, doubled (tripled?) version of myself to which it was seeking portage, but only the entity under the skin, the doppelgänger hiding just beneath this surfaceflesh. My spectral self did not resist any of this, for there was the sense that this was all me, simple fragments of the one, but there was also the sense that I should not help it along. If this third thing trying to find entrance should succeed, all would be lost. So the dream consisted of the slow, intimate perusal of my body and the rotating feelings of caution and acceptance, intrusion and curiosity.

Then I was one body again. I was in my bed and my friend asleep beside me, his back to me, sidled up against me. I realized that all those places where my skin had become irritated and then left scaly and scarred were attached to him by a thin glaze so that we were singular through this membrane. There was something transferring between us, from him to me. My body seemed to be fighting it, as it was indeed a foreign thing to my physiology, but there was an acceptance on a much more epicurean level that dulled the fight to mere worry, and inside me something grew that would soon be other than me and far beyond my control.

We did not spend another night together, but neither of us expressed any regret in the matter. Though we avoided sharing a bed, we did spend the majority of our nights in the living room talking or watching movies. My sickness lingered, got worse, slackened again, and then just became the norm. My friend took to being a caregiver, though nonchalant in nature. He would fix me dinner or fetch a drink for me or give me a hand to bed. I found myself growing very attached to him and I tried to show my appreciation as much as I could.

By the time the first snow fell, there were six different incidences of which I recorded on a handheld, voice-activated tape player. As per usual, Harry could not recall any nightmare. And still, there were no side effects of these growling horrors. Had I or the tapes not been there to testify to the events, he would have no clue as to them happening at all. It made me wonder just how long this sort of thing had been going on, but he said that no one else had ever mentioned anything like it. He was quite visibly shaken whenever we played the tapes the next morning. He would rewind and play them over and over trying to glean some sort of clue as to what was going on, but to no avail.

As the winter prolonged through December, my sickness found a stasis in only slight misery, but my dreams began to take on a sinister tone. In doing so, my mood soured. My sleep, strained with frustration, felt like no sleep at all; in my sickened state my tolerance for exhaustion was virtually nonexistent.

It became obvious that my dreams were one single dream trying to find fruition in my fitful sleep. My varying depths of consciousness afforded me only a piece of the puzzle here and there. The feeling of the mystery of my dreamworld, which I kept wholly from my friend, carried over into my waking. A general unsettledness took over me. Then even the dream itself started to leak into reality. There were nights I would come awake standing in the middle of my room, heading for the door with an obvious purpose, though once I was slipped back into consciousness, the purpose was lost. It would get to the point that I would find myself with my hand on the doorknob, midturn, and this was actually in my dream, then next thing I know I am awake right where I had been, but the reason for being there faded as dreams do fade.

I also kept from Harry the changes my sickness were having on my body. The grey, pallid color of my flesh I could not hide, and he was kindly concerned about it. What he could not see were my hands, which had grown raw and tender and sprouted long, hideous nails. They grew faster than they normally would and they grew thicker, tinged a jaundiced yellow with deep ridges like a raw wood grain. The joints of my hands became stiff and knotty, bulging and hardening. Whenever I was around my roommate, I kept them tucked in my robe's pockets. I kept my feet in over-sized house slippers, as the same was happening there. My robe I kept wrapped tight around my body, for there was a sore forming where my navel was. It was minor at first, like a blemish was forming, but then the irritation spread not unlike another rash, but deep and seeping as if it were growing as much inward as it was around. It grew further up and down than it did wide with thin, colloidal welts forming like a ridge along each side. In the center of it, a scaly, pus-oozing cluster of scabs formed and flaked away to expose a murky epithelium beneath.

As it was my own body and I am not short on egotistical preservation, I found it nearly impossible to deal with these changes both in my psyche and physical appearance. I held out the idea that all would work out on its own, that I had a strong constitution and my body would fight off this invading force as it had been so successful in doing in the past. Perhaps had all these things been a sudden occurrence instead of generating over a course of months, I would have been more apt to seek help. Maybe had Harry been able to see these things, and had he not the distraction of his own mysterious woes, perhaps he would have forced me to seek help. Maybe, given enough time, he still would have, but then there was the fateful night in question. The whole reason I am relaying these events to you in the first place. The night of December 23rd.

That night Seas had made a simple pasta meal for himself and a light broth for me, as he customarily had over the past few weeks. I customarily pushed it around the bowl until it became to cold to eat and he disposed of it for me. We talked delicately about the bills that were not getting paid and I made my promises to get work as soon as I felt better, and he agreed sweetly to continue to cover me until such time as I could. I was feeling particularly ill at ease so I skipped drinks afterward and the movie he had brought home from the library and made my way to bed.

I lay for hours watching the monotonous kaleidoscope of shadows played on the wall by the moonlight through leafbare trees outside my window. There was very little noise of Harry in the house. He was a very conscientious roommate. And in so, the world closed in on my own senses with little distraction: the very crib of a good night's sleep.

My passage into the dreamworld that night was unlike any I have ever experienced. Perhaps the mere fact that I am conscious of it and can relate its detail is proof of its unnatural essence. Where one might lose hold of consciousness, to enter a blackness and then find themselves in the particulars of their dream, for me that night there was no black. There was a physical change in the way I was perceiving the things around me which I would not mind describing as feeling like a dreamstate, but it was also not disconnected from the waking at all. I was still laying in bed and the winter shadows still frolicked across the room, but I was an other. An other that was the propriety of the diminished, insidious state of my dreams as of late. And though I knew myself, could recognize it as the being behind the eyes, the experiencer, there was another force within it. Within me. Connected to me. It propelled me from the bed, from the room, and down the hall toward Seas' bedroom. It was there, in the hallway, that I disrobed.

I could feel the thing in my belly begin to pulsate, to throb like an infection had set in. Anticipation? I let the elongated fingernails play against the brass doorknob which had the deep relief of an itch being scratched. I slid out of my houseshoes and the long arch of untamed toenails ticked mischievously against the worn wood of the floors. I collected myself, as the exultation of the moment threatened to send me into a delirium I may not have come out of. There was a peculiar wave pushing up from me, from in my gut where this hideous sickness had dwelt for so long. It washed out, over my body, adding something to my doubting flesh. It was a fear, but a fear that had all the fiery aspects of pleasure. Not the fear, but all fear. The whole history of it up and over me. Right then and there I had the sneaking suspicion that this engorging aspect to the thing we all hide from had always been there, and only the selfish trickery of biology had kept such a thing a secret. But it was a secret no more. It was freedom and I did absolutely nothing to inhibit its bloody fruition. Perhaps its that simple wrinkle in my cunning psychology that makes me a murderer, far all the rest was instinct, and what creature could be faulted for that?

I settled my claws, for indeed that is what they were, into the brass of the doorknob and turned it slowly and let the door fall open. The moonlight lay over Harry like a cold, silver curtain. He lay still in a deep sleep. He made no sound. Were it not for the slight, slow rise of his belly, one could have mistaken his pale, hairless body for a corpse.

I stood over him for some time. I could smell his breath. I could even feel the warmth emanating from his body. There was a part of me that looked over him and felt the ease of looking over a friend. In my struggle with my condition, he had indeed been all a friend could be. I looked over him because I could see that unnamable bond true friends can form. The unbreakable seal between two people that have shared so much. But also I looked over him in contemplation of how best to devour him.
BY:BR


In the small hollow of his chest, I rested a single claw, lightly, so that it didn't even depress the skin. Could I effectively part his flesh with it? Was my desire for this blood stronger than what had been an everpresent repulsion by it throughout my life? I pushed into him, and the skin part easily enough. He awoke. I can only assume he had not realized what had been done because he smiled at me and asked me, "Are you ok?"

"I am," I replied, and, "I feel much better."

I tried not to alarm him by looking at the blood running over his chest. The thin rivulet looked black in the moonlight. The smell was intoxicating.

Harry reached up to me and ran his hand over the flesh of my arm and squeezed and said, "You're cold."

"Indeed," I said, and with my other hand I slashed at his outstretched arm peeling back the flesh in four relatively identical lines.

The utter terror and shock that crossed his face as it was splattered with his own blood surprised me. It was a look I had seen before. It was a distraction that enabled him to pull himself out of bed and get past me. As he pushed by me I took a swipe at him and took from him a slippery steak of backflesh. Both pieces of him fell to the floor. As he tried to regain his feet and fiddled with the locked door, I speared the separated flesh with a clawfinger and examined its wet shimmer in the moonlight. It wreaked of rusty blood and the sweet softness of meat and I could not contain myself from having a taste. The feeling of teeth sunk into the freshly separated flesh had the undeniable euphoria of completion. My mouth was engorged with the feeling and the taste of it and it ran down into my body as if it were the first drink of water. My body became enflamed with the pure joy of it.

My excitation distracted me once again and Harry managed to get the door open and disappear down the hall.

The screams of his mortal terror and what the neighbors might hear pulled me to action. He had not made it far. He scrambled, naked and bloody, on his hands and knees. The blood pouring form his back and the piss leaking from between his legs made the wood floor slippery and virtually impassable. He reached out in front of him as if there were something there that might save him. The inhuman roar of his fear shook the very ground he crawled upon. I set on him like a beast. I set hands and feet on the ground, sunk my new claws into the woodgrain, and launched myself forward. In one lunge I was at his feet and I hammered a handful of claws into the bulbous, tight wad of his calf muscle. The flesh slit away and the black blood boiled over the curling rim of his wounds. He yelled out and convulsed wildly side to side and clawed at the floor.

I felt as if I were reaching a plateau, a supreme satisfaction like everything my being had been created for was being attained in this very moment. To be aware of it was a gift. The only gift this life could ever give.

Pulling myself up by the wound I had just administered, I gripped his thin flank and flipped him over on his back and placed myself over him. The look of disbelief pulsing in his face only told me that he had given up, that I had him. That the deed of purpose would soon be completed.

The throbbing of the wound in my belly had turned to an aching burn. It seemed to push me toward him as if the bloodpulse was a hand at my back, a magnet in the flesh searching for its bloody opposite. I pressed my elbows into the hollows of his shoulders and rested my hands over either side of the crown of his skull. I put my face right to his, slid against him, bellies wriggling together in a slick sheen of blood, sweat, and piss. The thing inside me, I could feel it pushing at the thin membrane that had formed over my navel. There was a sharp, slicing pain as it gave to the thing wanting out of me, but the excitement of the moment made it an exquisite pain I relished to my very core.

From the ovoid slice in my belly slid a tentacle-like appendage. I did not control its movements, though its slow squirming felt like my own muscle flexing. With the stuttering inelegance of a newborn creature, this thing wormed its way unsteadily toward Harry's chest. I could not see whether he was dead at this point. He had certainly stopped moving, but I was not the least bit interested in his state. I, at that point, was merely a vessel of the strange and horrible ways of life. The inexorable truth of living and dying and their disastrous means.

And that, sir, is what I have given you. The truth. The inexorable truth of the life and death of Harry Seasons - my friend.

It is unfortunate that when you found me, the changes I had gone through had reverted themselves. It is a shame that all of my friend that was available for you to examine was the unfinished blood all about me. It is a shame because it destroys the truth which you and those that come after you will never be able to accept, and I will regretfully never be able to relate to you. I see you scoff whenever I refer to Harry as my friend, but believe me, he was exactly that. He gave me the horrible, unimaginable grace that will keep me persistent in the cause of my life. His flesh may have become my prey, but the man was indeed my friend.



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