J. Wint is an architect by day, and, well… an architect by night. He averages three hours of sleep, lives in the city of Kvatch with his wife and medium sized dog, Gretel, and enjoys daydreaming about sleep.
When I got back to Pop’s aquarium, it was teetering on the edge of the shelf, about to fall onto the floor. The guinea pig was gone.
“Shit!” I whispered. There was a pile of exactly that on the polished vinyl floor. It smelled like hell. The first description that came to mind was tar mixed with vegetable oil, and the consistency was no better. It oozed and ran. I nearly puked.
I stood and grabbed the paper towel roll (extra strength Brawny, off course) and spun promptly half of the roll out. I used the two-inch-thick mitten of paper to scoop the pile into the trash and threw the bag in the corner, finally taking a breath. Kendall had been right, what had that thing been eating?
My store wasn’t big, but it was big enough for a twenty-six pound guinea pig to hide out in. But I had no patience for it tonight and looked at my watch. What if someone came in and the damn thing scampered outside? I walked hurriedly over to the front door and bolted the deadbolt with a resounding click.
The amount of glass in this part of town was limited, to reduce the amount of break-ins. Still, I had installed a large steel grated door after the second break-in. Several juveniles--who had later been caught and spent sixteen months in a detention center--had stolen all of my ferrets. Why they had wanted them, I had no idea. Regardless, I had elected to install the metal security grate. I decided to go ahead and lock it, too, just in case it took a while to locate the furry rodent.
I pulled the security door down, the iron grating squeaking and groaning in displeasure. I bent down and locked it. That’s when the smell hit me. I turned, slipped in a pile of crap, and hit the back of my head on the iron grate. The last thing I remember was a pair of red, beady eyes staring at me. I swear they seemed to smile.
Christmas morning: 1:16 a.m.
My blurred vision focused in. Then it focused out again.
I tried to sit up but slid back down the metal security gate. I knew right away that something was wrong. I had tasted blood once when I was a kid. Jimmy Counsil had decked me when I was in the fifth grade. It was for no good reason (although later I think it was because of Jenny Goodson). The taste of blood has a sweet, metallic flavor to it; iron, I’m told. I had a good deal of it in the back of my throat; enough to make me sick to my stomach.
I dropped to my knees and vomited right there on the front door. When I tried to wipe my lips, my fingers brushed against my teeth. My lips were missing.
There was a sudden ringing inside my head, like I had been hit by a playground ball, one of the big, red bouncy kind. My hand went immediately to my face to verify what my brain was telling me wasn’t possible. But the gaping void there was undeniable. When I tried to scream, nothing came out but a muffled choke. My tongue was gone, too.
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