Chapter 1: Just stopped by for a visit, Mum!
Copyright © 2017 by Brian Bixby.
So I go home to see my Mum, and what meets me when I walk in the front door? A talking dog. I can see it’s going to be an uphill struggle for this weekend to turn out okay.
The dog’s a poodle. It tells me, “You don’t want to go into the kitchen.”
I don’t need a poodle telling me anything. Those dogs are an offense to nature, especially the toy ones. This one at least is a bigger edition, coming up to my waist. I brush by it, head toward the kitchen. I call out, “Ma, why have you been playing with pets again?” Like the mathematical Siamese wasn’t bad enough. Damn creature gave me running calorie counts when I was dieting.
The dog trails after me. “Daphne, you really don’t . . .”
I open the door, step into the kitchen. “. . . want to go in there,” the dog lamely finishes.
I come to a dead stop. There is blood all over the kitchen, like everywhere. And there are hunks of flesh in shredded clothes on the floor.
That is probably my mother.
I throw up, drop to my knees, almost lose my balance entirely, if I hadn’t been leaning against the stove. Blood. My mother. Blood everywhere. My mother, my mother, my mother.
“I told you not to go into the kitchen,” the dog reminds me.
I grab the animal by its throat and squeeze. “You stupid, ignorant bitch!” I scream.
“Darling, what’s wrong with you?”
I look toward the voice. It’s my mother, coming in from outside, carrying a pair of hedge clippers.
There is no blood anywhere. There is no dismembered corpse on the floor.
I let go of the dog. I stand up. I look around. Nothing. The kitchen looks perfectly normal.
Well, not quite nothing. My vomit is still on the floor. Charming.
My mother is looking at me as if I’m running a fever. The dog decides to chip in, “I may be a bitch, but I’m not stupid or ignorant.”
“Daphne, what’s wrong?” My mother’s facial expression has changed from alarmed to concerned to puzzled.
I look at her dress. Red print on white background. That’s the same design the body on the floor was wearing.
I get a very cold feeling. How much time do we have? Talk fast. “Mum, vision, you on the floor in that dress, dead.”
My Mum’s no fool. The shears glow in her hand, now ready to attack supernatural creatures if they come in the door. She spins about, steps sideways so she’s in the middle of the kitchen floor, capable of turning to meet whatever threat is coming for us. “Any idea of what it will be?” she asks, her voice tense.
“You were ripped apart.” I think, and then turn toward the dog. “Why wasn’t I supposed to come in here?”
I can’t read dog’s emotional expressions in any detail. They left that lesson out of my education, sloppy them. So I don’t know what it’s feeling. It matter-of-factly tells me, “Your mother’s been cooking cabbage.”
I sniff (mistake), pick up the smell, and almost lose whatever’s left of my breakfast. I can’t help myself, but head back through the door into the living room, start taking deep breaths to get rid of the smell, and land on the sofa, on the verge of hyperventilating. The smell of cabbage does that to me. Guess my mum wasn’t expecting me to come home this weekend.
My mother comes out of the kitchen with a glass of water and a wet paper towel, kneels down in front of me, cleans the vomit from around my mouth, and gives me the water to drink. Seeing I’m going to be all right, she stands up. “Now to clean up that vomit you left on the floor,” she mutters while turning away.
“Stay the fuck out of the kitchen, Mum. I saw you dead in there, dressed the way you are now. We don’t have much time.” I practically shout at her. I notice she isn’t carrying the shears anymore. Probably left them in the kitchen while getting me water. Why do you have to be so damned helpful, Mum? And why do I have to repeat everything?
My mother stands halfway to the kitchen door, irresolute. She looks at the dog, which followed me in and is now sitting beside the sofa at my end. “Rufus?”
The dog shakes its head. “Nothing. But Daphne was really shaken by something.” And then the dog howls. I don’t know dog howls any better than dog faces, but to me it sounds as if Rufus is in pain. It keeps howling, and suddenly I know where the threat is coming from. I jump from the sofa, throw the glass of water at the dog (as if that will do any good) and back away toward the glass doors that lead out to the garden. My mother wisely does the same, so we stand, side by side, looking toward the sofa.
The dog is howling as it starts changing. Poodles are ugly, but it’s getting uglier, its hair getting coarse and bristly as it starts expanding. A godawful smell of something musky and filthy drifts over to us. The eyes turn red, the snout grows longer, larger, with great fangs erupting out of the flesh. It struggles to stand up as its hind legs grow thick, powerful, and afflicted with mange. The howl as it finally stands is terrifying. Its forepaws now resemble hands with what look like six-inch claws protruding. Its head bumps against the “cathedral” ceiling, making it about eleven feet tall.
My mother asks, “Daphne, you didn’t happen to see how we kill this thing, did you?”
Only now do I realize I’ve pissed myself in fear. I look over to my mother, who’s looking at me. Her eyes are glowing with the moons in them. I shake my head.
The creature growls. My mother says to me, “I wish you hadn’t thrown the glass of water at it.”
The creature charges.