by | Aug 8, 2023 | Fiction, Issue Thirty-Four

The doe was definitely dead. Of that, Sean could be quite certain in his diagnosis. Her eyes rolled in their sockets, glassy and cold, her neck skewed backward at a disjointed angle, and her tongue hung out her open mouth, resting on the tarmac.

But her belly was swollen, and twitching.

Sean walked back to his car, past the dented bonnet, and stopped at the boot, which sighed open as he pulled the handle. He took his kitbag out, and returned to the doe.

As he stared at the lifeless corpse, he told himself, over and over again, that it wasn’t his fault. There was no way he could have seen her as she lurched out of the woods, crazed, almost possessed.

Reaching for his stethoscope, and placing the ends in his ears, he pressed the round metal disk against the belly of the corpse. The sound of a faint heartbeat swelled through the bulk of the doe’s hide.

Gloves snapped onto his hands, and a cold, sharp knife slipped through fur and skin. As Sean started to slice, a feral hissing emerged from inside. He drew back, but the moment the sound seemed to start, it had gone. Shaking his head, he clenched his fists, and continued his work, shivering as the night stabbed through him. He didn’t stop to look at her ankle, where an open wound was glowing an ever-brighter sickly green.

But as the cut widened, the hissing started again, louder this time, accompanied by a guttural rattling sound. Before Sean could stop cutting, a claw burst out of the gap, slashing his right hand. This time, he raced back to his car, leaving his equipment. He didn’t stop to see what was tearing through flesh and sinew until he’d locked the doors and windows, and turned the keys in the ignition.

As he rested his right hand on the wheel, he saw the cut, blood seeping out, torn skin an angry, pulsating purple. Out of the window, something shadowy, misshapen and far larger than the dead doe that had birthed it staggered into the woods.

The moments turned to seconds turned to minutes. Finally, Sean caught his breath and turned the car around as quietly and gently as possible, until it was facing the opposite direction to the path the creature had taken. Then he started to drive, slowly at first, then quicker and quicker until his foot was flat against the accelerator, and the road, made closer and tighter by the night, raced past uncontrollably. He kept his eyes fixed on the road, and didn’t notice the faint green glow flickering under the skin of his wounded right hand, or the twitching sensation in his belly, as if something inside him was growing, stirring, feeding.

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