Tuesday, August 29, 2017
By Daniel Skye
As serious as a heart attack.
That was the first thought that popped into Brian Howell’s mind as the pain shot up and down his left arm. It had started as a slight tingle in his fingertips that spread to the palm of his hand. The prickly sensation quickly turned to sharp, debilitating pain that traveled up his arm, all the way up to his shoulder, and back down to his fingers in ruthless fashion.
Soon, the discomfort spread throughout his body like an infection, and his extremities throbbed and burned. Every muscle ached. His face was taut and constricted, like the man on the verge of a heart attack.
Brian’s knees buckled and he doubled over in pain, clutching at his chest. He immediately ruled out the possibility of heart burn. As a forty-year-old male, Brian was more than familiar with the unpleasantness of heart burn and indigestion. He tried to steer his mind away from the idea of a heart attack. He breathed steadily and put his mind at ease, told himself it was just a bad case of cramps. The worst case of cramps anyone had ever experienced.
Ever since the accident, Brian was 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 earlier. 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 Jeep 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 undo the seat belt, 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 called 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 an extreme case of good luck and sent him home the next day with a hefty bill.
It was the strangest thing though. Brian couldn’t remember much after swerving off the road. But he could swear as he was hanging upside down and rendered defenseless, something lurking 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 of 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 that night. Something that was more animal than man.
Brian’s thought was interrupted and he snapped back to reality when he felt his ankles pop. His knees buckled again and he dropped to the floor. A harsh, burning sensation filled his body. It felt as if every muscle was writhing and twisting beneath the skin.
He raised his head to try and call out for help, and caught a glimpse of the full moon through his bedroom window. By then, his eyes were glowing as bright as the moon itself.
Pain exploded through his body as he could feel his muscles and tendons tearing and reforming, bones shifting and grinding like tectonic plates. His body increased in mass, his legs swelled until they were as thick as tree trunks. His chest pumped out and the flesh could no longer endure. The skin ripped down the center of his chest, revealing a vest of blood-matted fur.
A hairy, wet, hideous snout forced its way out of his mouth, tearing the corners of his mouth and peeling back the skin of his face.
As he reached the final stages of his transformation, a voice called out from the hallway. A voice that terrified even Brian Howell.
The voice of his daughter.
Brian wondered how long he’d be able to control himself in this condition. He wondered if he’d have any self-control at all, or if his new body would take the helm and steer him on a course of destruction and devastation.
“Daddy?” Penny, his daughter, beckoned. She was standing in the threshold of the door, 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.