Thursday, November 26, 2015
By Daniel Skye
Brian Howell thought he was having a heart attack.
Shooting pains ran up and down both arms. It had started as a slight tingle in his fingertips and the palms of his hands. Then the sensation traveled up to his wrists, his forearms, his biceps, his shoulders, and back down to his hands.
That tingling sensation quickly turned to sharp, debilitating pain. Soon, the discomfort spread throughout his body and his extremities throbbed and burned. Every muscle ached. It was the worst case of cramps he’d ever experienced. His knees buckled and he dropped down, doubled over in pain.
Ever since the accident, Brian had been prone to cramps and muscle spasms. But it was never this excruciating, this intense. He tried his best to remain calm. If it was a heart attack, it wouldn't do him any good to freak out. And he didn't want to think about the worst possible scenario. As far as he knew, this was just an intense bout of muscle cramps. The sharp pangs could even be from pinched or damaged nerves that the doctors might have missed.
Brian had been on the road a month before. He’d swerved to avoid hitting a deer. It was dark that night and he hadn’t even seen the buck crossing the road until it was too late. He cut the wheel and his car veered off the road, sailing into a ditch.
It took Brian a moment to realize he was hanging upside down. He was stuck in that position, the blood rushing to his head. None of his bones were broken, which was a genuine miracle. But he’d been banged up something awful in the accident, and his arms and legs were killing him, not to mention his back. He tried to reach up and unclick the seatbelt, but his arms were too weak to stretch that far.
He weaved in and out of consciousness until a fellow traveler of the night saw his headlights from the ditch and phoned 911. The paramedics arrived and freed Brian from the wreckage, took him to the hospital where he was kept overnight for observation.
The doctors were amazed he was still alive. They marveled at his condition. Bumps and bruises aside, Brian was perfectly healthy. No broken bones, no permanent neck or spinal damage, not even a concussion. Brian's case was a medical anomaly. The doctors had no explanation for it. They wrote it off as luck and sent him home the next day with the bill.
It was the strangest thing though. Brian couldn’t remember much after swerving off the road. But he could’ve sworn as he was hanging upside down and rendered defenseless, something in the night had run up and attacked him. The attack was brief and he could only recall it in pieces. But the scratches on his arm were a telltale sign that there had been a struggle. However, the doctors wrote it off as cuts caused by broken windshield glass.
Brian wasn’t buying it though. Even in his semiconscious state, he had felt something in his presence. Something that was more animal than human.
He snapped back to reality when he felt his ankles pop. His knees buckled and he dropped to the floor. His arms were bent at unnatural angles. A harsh, burning sensation filled his body. For a moment, he was convinced his insides had been set ablaze. It felt as though every muscle was writhing and twisting beneath the skin.
He glanced out the window of his bedroom, and saw that the moon was full. And by then, his eyes were glowing as bright as the moon itself.
His shirt ripped in half as his body inexplicably increased in mass. His back and shoulders expanded. His legs had swelled to the size of telephone poles. His chest grew and stretched until the skin could no longer sustain. The flesh ripped down the center of his chest, revealing a vest of blood-matted fur.
A big, wet, hairy snout was forcing its way out of its mouth, peeling back the skin of his face.
Just as he reached the final stages of his transformation, a voice called out from the hallway. A voice that terrified even him.
He wasn’t sure what he was capable of doing in this state. He wondered if he’d have any self-control at all.
“Daddy?” Penny, his daughter, beckoned. She was standing in the doorway, clutching her doll in one hand and rubbing her sleepy eyes with the other. “What’s going on? I heard a funny noise.”
But Brian was incapable of responding to his daughter. Not with words.
All he could do was howl. And he was howling at the top of his lungs.
Howling at the bright, piercing, sinister moon above.