By: Steven Bruce
Elijah Hill pressed his forehead against the pane of his bedroom window. It was halfterm, and the orange glimmer of jackolanterns dotted the night shaded village. A thin stream of sweat ran down the side of his face. He wiped it off and, in the faint glow of the lava lamp, confessed.
God, I am bored out of my skull. Why does nothing entertaining ever happen here?
The majority of his classmates washed cars, windows, even dogs, to save money for the annual trip to the city. This year, Mr Bartini had organised a visit to the National Insect Museum.
Once Elijah discovered he had to wash his clothes by hand until Harry fixed the machine, he regretted not working for the trip.
Even a weekend with old Fartini would be better than staying in this shithole, he thought.
The boy crept through the silent blackness of the landing. He passed his mother's room, moved down the staircase with precise steps. A rapid, white light flashed through the house as he crossed the hall. He peered out of the living room window, expecting to see his stepfather's truck, but the drive was empty. He moved on, grabbed an old torch from the cupboard, and pulled the revolver from beneath the couch.
The back door staggered open, he picked up his fishing net and made his way out into the airless night. When he came up to Billy Wagaman's house, he kicked his jackolantern to pieces.
"Fucking Wagaman," he said, running off.
Torchlight oscillated the tall stalks of corn either side of the farmer's dirt road. The moon retreated behind a chain of black clouds. Elijah made a sharp left, parting the thickets of corn. He shined the light on the face of a towering scarecrow in a sinister clown mask. He pulled the revolver from his waistband, aimed at the scarecrow.
"Move, and I'll blow your fucking head off," he said, creeping by.
When the boy arrived at Oakdale Farm, Cedric, the old guard dog roamed the garden. The black clouds cleared, making a searchlight out of the moon. Elijah decided to go around the farm through the woods.
It felt a little cooler walking under the trees and, in parts, the moonlight lit up the leaffilled floor. The sudden hoot of an owl came from above the boy's head. He started to climb the tree but froze when he heard footsteps hurrying towards him. Elijah pointed the revolver and torchlight in the direction of the footsteps. His hands trembled. There was a short silence before a man in a grubby white vest tumbled out from behind a tree. He stood, swaying, and spewed up a tsunami of yellowish bile and fell face down into the sick.
The boy recognised him. He was clutching an almost empty bottle of homemade hooch.
"Ray, the hell are you doing out here?" The gaunt farmer rolled onto his back and began to spout drunken gibberish. The boy crouched and tried to push him onto his side.
"Come on, Ray," he said, "Rollover, you don't want to choke to death." He almost had him over when the farmer grasped the boy's collar, and his eyes bulged like two pearl onions.
"Did you see it?" Ray asked.
"The light, did you see it? He's back for us. Isn't he, after all this time?" The boy studied the surrounding woods.
"Ray, who's back, what're you talking about?"
"He's back. We won't suffer any more," he said, and his eyes overflowed with tears before closing.
Elijah elbowed him onto his side and searched his pockets. He took his wallet, a pack of cigarettes, and drank the last of the hooch. Ray's drunken gibberish began again, sobbing, and apologising to God for his mistakes. The boy got up and strolled on.
A sickly green glow illuminated the creek. A dense, sulphurous stinking steam wafted over the surface. Elijah gawked at the display, heeled off his shabby trainers, rolled up his jeans, and waded into the creek. He gazed into the water. Something vast and leechlike danced in the light. He caught it with his net and carried it to the creek's bank.
The torchlight revealed a milky creature with greenish veins pulsing from its gooslick hide. He leaned closer to get a better look at it. The creature jumped and burrowed into the boy's mouth. He grasped at the tail, but it slipped from his fingertips. It slithered over his tongue and squeezed its way down his throat, leaving a gritty, bleachlike discharge behind.
Elijah raised his head from the pillow. His mouth dry, and his throat raw. The afternoon sunlight penetrating the curtains irritated his eyes.
He got out of bed, slid a pair of thickrimmed sunglasses on, and made his way to the kitchen. His mother had left a bright yellow note on the fridge door, it read:
Gone to meet Harry, back tomorrow night. There's money for pizza on the counter. Keep off the dirty channels. xx
Elijah opened the fridge, grabbed a can of beer, and a halfeaten chicken carcass. He bounced onto the couch, switched the TV on, and shoved a chunk of cold chicken into his mouth.
His greasy lipsmacking came to an end when he noticed his classmates on the news. There was some talk of a competition. The winner, a smug, pimplefaced boy, stood waving his prize. Elijah peeked over his sunglasses.
"Billy fucking Wagaman," he said, shaking his head.
He switched channels, lit a cigarette, and slumped back on the couch. A slight pain rose in his gut. He thought about the hooch, thought about the creature from the creek, picked up the beer, and guzzled it down.
When six o'clock came, he rang the Crispy Crust and ordered a large meat feast pizza. At seven twentyfive, the food arrived. Elijah opened the door to a fat man holding a pizza box with his hand out.
"That's eightninety," he said.
They made the trade.
"Keep the change," said the boy, opening the box. "Hang on, what the hell's this?"
The fat man looked into the box.
"Well, I'm no gourmet chef, but my guess is pizza."
"No, I can see it's pizza, but this is pepperoni. I ordered a meat feast."
"Well, kid, you don't always get what you ask for."
The fat man hopped onto his scooter and zipped off into the plumcoloured evening.
Elijah shut the door, retreated to the couch, and switched on the xrated TV channels.
Man, this is the life, he thought.
The boy flipped the box open and bit into a slice of pizza. The inside of his mouth erupted with agony. He spat the halfchewed food out on the coffee table and rushed to the bathroom.
"Fuck, fuck, fuck," he said, sucking in cold water from the tap.
He swished and spat it out. Several teeth and lumps of bloody flesh plopped into the sink. He screeched at the mirror. His tongue slid off and slapped onto the white floor tiles. The boy's eardrums exploded, and yellowbrown pus oozed out. A furious itch ran over his body. He scratched, fingertips shredding the skin down to the bone. His blue eyes popped out of his face and sprouted upwards like slug antennas.
Elijah's mother entered the house. Her eyes scanned the living room in disbelief. Empty beer cans on the floor, cigarette butts on the couch, and chewed up pizza on the coffee table. The TV displayed a buxom redhead in the midst of an orgasm.
"Elijah, you little shit. What did I tell you?" she yelled and bolted up the staircase.
She slipped at the top, landing in a mound of flesh and blood and hair. She turned her hands over and glared at her palms.
A fivefoot, leechlike creature emerged in front of her. She attempted a scream for help. The monster's fetid mouth smothered her entire face. There was a struggle, muffled gasps, and the sound of sharp teeth sinking deeper into flesh. The creature pushed her down to the floor. It began to drain her body juices as she writhed under its swelling, blubbery mass.
Harry came into the house with his hands full of shopping bags. He dropped them on the hall floor.
"Marie, I thought you were going to help me with these bags," he called out, making his way into the living room. He looked at the mess. "Lazy little shit," he said.
He stepped over the shopping bags and glanced up the staircase. Marie's feet twitched on the top step. He raced to the landing and froze for a moment. The creature had become reddishbrown, doubled in bulk, and continued to swell. It was down to the dregs of her body.
Harry shoved the creature with his boot. It swung around and hissed out ropes of bloody drool. He staggered back, ran down the staircase, tripped and landed on the bags. He scattered into the living room and reached beneath the couch.
When Harry returned, revolver in hand, the landing was empty, except for Marie's scrawny body. He knelt at her side.
"I'll fucking kill the bastard," he growled.
Bloody drool dripped onto Harry's neck. His eyes shot up towards the ceiling. The creature lunged for him. The gun dropped to the floor. The monster bit into one half of Harry's face, he kicked and roared as the creature sucked his eyeball from the socket. He clawed for the revolver. Harry shoved the barrel into the creature's head and fired until the chambers were empty. It released him, and they both flopped to the floor.
A dozen leechlike creatures emerged from the monster's wounds. They wriggled across the floor. One burrowed into Harry's unconscious body. The rest moved on, looking for a host of their own.