A Skulk – Part IX
by Timothy J Jarvis
Part IX of ‘A Skulk’. The first part can be found here.
Then, one night, following a week of muggy weather, there was an electrical storm. Waclaw, woken by thunder, got up from his bed to watch the glaring knouts from his window and to smoke. After a time, the clouds burst, and it began raining hard.
A moment later, Holly’s bedside lamp came on. By its faint light, he could see her sitting up in her bed, naked, wan, wracked, shaking, sweat-drenched. Her mouth gaped, but her yowl was lost to the rain’s dinning tattoo.
Then her eyes rolled back in her head, her face went slack, and she slumped against the headboard. Something within the bulge of her swollen midriff writhed. Waclaw gaped on, as drum-taut skin split, and something tumbled out from amid her ravelled guts. She roused then, sat up, howled; this time, the rain having eased, Waclaw heard her cry. He could also hear the snarling of the thing that worried her unspooled innards. It was vulpine. Its fur was gore-matted, sparse; it was bald in cankered patches. It was snaggletoothed. Its eyes were jetty orbs. As Waclaw watched, it left off gnawing Holly’s entrails, turned to the window, leapt at it once, twice, pounding with its skull, webbing the glass with cracks. On the third spring, it crashed through, tumbled in the air, landed, a writhen heap, on the gravel beneath. The girl, insensible once more, lay sprawled on her bed, weltering in blood and filth.
A twisted limb kicked out. Though all awry, it seemed the vile beast lived on. It snarled, showing perished-rubber gums, keened, high and eerie. Then got to its feet, reared up, tottered on hind legs a moment, fell back to four, darted off, up the embankment. Waclaw, turning his head to watch it go, saw someone on the tracks, stark against the city haze. The foul thing ran to her, nuzzled.
He careered downstairs, unthinking, out the front door, and round to the back of the house, barefoot, one arm in a sleeve of his coat, the other flailing for an armhole. After clambering up the embankment, he looked left and right, sighted his quarry a little way down the line, fleeing towards Tooting Bec Common, hallooed, gave chase.
Something in the pocket of his coat bumped against his hip as he ran. His mobile ’phone. He took it out, called the emergency services, told them he’d seen a bad birthing from his window, gave them Holly’s address. He doubted they could save her, found he didn’t much care either way, didn’t feel any guilt over it.
He ran Melanie to earth on the common, in a ramshackle shelter bodged from half-rotted timbers and hidden in a stand of thorn bushes. He followed her inside. The place reeked of damp. Fox skulls were nailed all round the walls. In one corner was a threadbare, broken-down armchair, in another, a pallet of stained rags. There Melanie knelt, front of her shirt-dress gaping, suckling the monstrosity.
Here a swathe of my memory is gone, reaped.
When I came to myself, I was sat in the armchair; Melanie lay on the pallet, her neck broken, her brain pan stove in, her fetish beside her, slathered with blood and matter; and the creature was curled up on my lap. I looked down at it with paternal pride.
Some time later, I fell asleep. And I dreamt I woke, still sitting in that fusty chair. Sore thirsty, I went outside to find some water. The shelter stood alone in the midst of a waste strewn with fox bones. The sun was low in the sky, feeble, with a reddish taint, sinking. I picked my way across the plain for some time, but found no watersource.