Five hours ago, this story didn’t exist. I wrote the first sentence, then the next, and before I knew it…boom!…”No, I’m Wesley.” Guess I’m feeling the Halloween spirit! Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
“Come back!” I yell. “It’s not dead!” But either Travis can’t hear me or he’s too scared to listen. He disappears into the woods, back the way we came, swallowed by a cloud of swirling autumn leaves, and I’m alone with the thing’s twisted, bloodied body. Its smell lodges in my nose, sickly sweet: copper, feces, and there, beneath it all, the cold musk of death.
I crouch down, keeping my distance, too fascinated to feel frightened. Lying there on the ground, fur matted, the thing looks exactly the way my dog, Buddy, did when he got run over last spring on this same stretch of road behind my mother and step-father’s property.
But this is no dog.
The thing whimpers. It’s hurt and I want to help it, but I don’t know how. I watch helplessly as its eyes loll in its head and its long, blue tongue drapes from its mouth, puddling on the pavement. With each ragged breath, its end seems to draw nearer.
“I’m sorry,” I say, even though I’m not responsible for this. I wish I could think of something better to offer, something that might help, but I can’t.
Its body convulses and for a moment, I think it’s over, that life has deserted it, but then it takes a deep breath, its massive chest rising like a mountain, and locks its cold, black eyes on me. As it exhales, it whispers, “Help me, boy.”
At first I think I’m hearing things. Its voice sounds like the wind rustling through dead leaves, dry and brittle. But then it lifts its head off the pavement and speaks again, this time in a deep, rumbling growl. “Help me.”
Shivers run down my spine and the hairs prickle on the back of my neck. I rise and take a step backwards. “Wh-what are you?” I manage.
“What are you?” it croaks, coughing and sputtering.
Without stopping to think, I answer. “I’m a person. My name is Wesley.”
“I’m a person,” it echoes. “My name is Wesley.”
“No, I’m Wesley. I’m a person.”
“No,” it says, lips curling into an obscene smile, revealing rows of rotten, yellow-black teeth. “I’m Wesley.”
I’m no longer fascinated. Dread pools in the pit of my stomach, and now I wish I’d left with Travis. For the first time since finding this thing by the side of the road, I’m aware just how alone I am out here, the pale October sun plunging toward the horizon, the bare, topmost tree boughs reaching up to snatch it with skeletal fingers.
Run! screams my mind, but my legs won’t listen. I’m frozen, scared stiff.
Coughing, the thing slowly rises from the pavement, untwisting itself. I hear its bones popping and crunching, but it seems to feel no pain. Its cough becomes laughter, bitter and hollow, and its eyes ignite with animal hunger.
I stumble backwards and lose my footing in the road’s soft shoulder. The ground rushes up to meet me and for a split-second, all I see is the blood-red sky, cold and empty. Then the thing is on me, crushing me beneath its weight, bathing me in the warm stink of its breath. I scream, but the thing swallows the sound as it leaves my mouth. I try to fight, to wrestle free, but no matter which way I turn, the thing’s face follows, inhaling. Always inhaling, stealing the air right out of my lungs.
As it breathes me in, suffocating me, I watch in horror as its face shrinks, its snout receding, its black, matted fur sucked back up beneath pallid skin. Its rotten teeth fall out onto my chest one by one, ousted by gleaming white replacements. And its eyes fade from obsidian to pale blue, the same as mine.
Its transformation complete, it throws its head back and laughs. When it looks back down at me, I’m looking at myself.
“No,” it says, “I’m Wesley.”
Then it finishes what it started, and my world goes dark.