Chapter 11 – Dosed
“Doug,” I started to say. I felt I had to say something. Goodbye, perhaps. But he cut me off.
“Just do your job, boy. That's the best any of us can do. Do what is expected of us.”
I composed myself and nodded, then switched on the fan we had rigged in the window. I looked him in the eyes, and gave him a dose of the gas. It was perhaps a little bit more than rabbits had gotten, but this was pretty crucial.
His face contorted and changed at an alarming rate. He didn't transform, as such, or anything like that. But it was nevertheless some Jeckyll and Hyde shit.
Hate. That's the best way I can describe it. His face became a mask of hate. There was a primal sort of animism to it. Less than human, or what we consider human, might be the best way to describe it. Students of Freud might say he became a creature of pure id. Another way to say it was that he regressed to the reptile core of his brain. There seemed to be little left of his being other than his fight or flight response.
Except he had no interest in flight.
The sounds he made were chilling. There were no vowels or consonants, nothing that could be considered speech, as such. It was effective communication, none the less.
He wanted to kill.
After the growls and howls ceased, he began to assess his situation. Tommy and Shannon were at the door staring, astounded. We all knew what to expect, but still. When you see a long-time friend change into someone else entirely, well, how can you prepare for something like that?
Thank fucking God we erred on the side of caution. Doug was coon-ass tough, solid and wirey, but he couldn't really be considered a big guy. Nothing compared to Shannon's gym-manicured physique, or Tommy's natural country boy build, really.
Even so, if you could have asked them neither one would have wanted to be in a fight with Doug before the gas. After the gas, I don't think we wanted to be in the same parish.
Like I said, we had him strapped down pretty good. He jerked his arms and shoulders, trying to move his hands up. I had to back away even further. He craned his neck forward as far as he could and snapped at me. I've seen some shit, but I think that single act was the scariest thing I've ever encountered.
Despite the handcuffs, and the chains holding down to the floor, he tried to get up. Don't ask me how, but he managed to get his ass up off of the floor. When a few of the secondary nails we had driven began to straighten, Shannon unholstered his pistol.
He's big on open carry, and he packs the most lethal combination allowed, a Remington 1911 .45 with 10mm Black Talon bullets. His copkiller, he calls it.
None of us wanted to see Doug die, but it pert near happened anyway.
Shannon's a pro. He never actually pointed it at Doug, or fingered the trigger, but he was ready. I held my hand up to tell him to hold off. But if a few more nails had straightened, it would have been over.
And not just for Doug. Without him, we never would have moved forward. I don't think we would have even known how to proceed. Plus, we'd have killed our own buddy. Even if we had somehow gotten away with it, which was possibly, as absolutely no one else knew what was going on, that's a hell of a thing to have on your conscience.
Another scary aspect of what was going on was that, despite the loss of his speaking ability, it didn't seem to be from a loss of intelligence. Doug's eyes were wide and bright, almost glittering with cunning.
He struggled a bit more, and then gave up when he ascertained that he wasn't going to break free. In my mind, this was a clear-cut sign that his cognitive abilities weren't impaired.
Later on, with others, we learned his wasn't necessarily the case. But I'll get to that when I get to it.
The gas was long gone, so I took my regulator off. Tommy and Shannon came inside, keeping a respectful distance. Doug's eyes moved from one of us to the next. There was nary a hint of recognition there. Only, like I said, hate. He looked at us as a predator would prey. A hungry predator, at that.
If he could have spoke, I daresay he would have said, “I'm gonna kill you motherfuckers as soon as I get out of here.” I could almost hear him say it.
In retrospect, I wish we had filmed it. We learned a lot, and I'd like to have shown him. Again, we did film a few transformations later on. It's all for shit now, of course. Video is not really a thing anymore. But what happened next was unexpected, and made me panic. A nearly fatal mistake. Again, we learned something crucial that we were able to apply later.
His eyes passed over each of us once more, and then he started bashing his head against the wall. Violently. By the looks of things, he was trying to crack his own skull.
Before I could even react, a bloody spot appeared behind him, the size of a softball. So I had to act quick.
It's just something you would never expect, outside of the insane, I suppose. But ordinarily, if you think of suicide, bashing yourhead against the wall would be pretty low on the list of possibilites.
So I did the only thing I could think to do, I ran and got a pillow. Like I was saying, I panicked, and it almost got me killed. Or, all of us, really.
I rushed back in, and as I got near him, I tripped over my own dumb feet.
As I fell, I heard his teeth snap inches from my ear. We weren't sure then if it was communicable in humans or not. But we assumed it was. I landed across his legs, and I'm not gonna lie, I nearly pissed myself.
The one upside was that Doug was momentarily distracted. I crawled away and screamed. Shannon kept watch, pistol in hand, and Tommy put the pillow behind his head. It didn't stay put for long, though.
“Goddamn it,” Tommy said. “You almost lost your fuckin' ear.”
I stood up and actually checked to see if I had wet myself.
With the excitement over, Doug had resumed his banging, the pillow now getting soaked in blood. He wasn't doing much damage, though. I still winced every time his head hit the wall. Chances are he might have abandoned this as well, after a time. But of course, the pillow started to slip.
“We gotta do something,” Tommy said. “Our boy is gonna have a fuck of a headache in the morning.”
“If he comes out of it,” Shannon added.
I didn't like the sound of that. “What can I do?” I asked, as much to myself as to them.
“You're the engineer,” Tommy said.
So I went to the bedroom and got the thickest comforter he had, and more pillows. Doug's toolbox had a big stapler.
“We put the pillows behind his head, cover them with the blanket, and then staple them to the wall.”
“Not bad,” Tommy said. “But we can't get that close to his body.”
“I got somethin',” Shannon said. “Cover him.”
He handed me his pistol and went to his truck.
“No turnin' back now, is there?” Tommy said.
“I reckon not.”
Shannon came back with a battery-powered nail gun.
“Check you out,” Tommy said.
Doug's relentless bashing continued, now against the bare wall again.
“Ready?” I asked them.
“We are,” Shannon said. “You're out of this one. Just keep him covered. And if you point that thing at me, or touch the trigger, I'll knock you on your ass.”
Not much I could say 'bout that. Them boys were wild, but gun safety was serious business to them. They grew up shooting. But even piss-drunk, they never violated the cardinal rules of gun handling. Gun control, to us, meant a steady aim and a clean shot.
But it went okay. I gotta say, getting that close to Doug took real balls. The nail gun gave them a little extra distance. Tommy held the pillows in place, and Shannon shot a few quick nails, first to one pillow, and then another one on top of that.
The blanket was probably overkill, but they hung that next, and managed to get it between his head and the pillows.
Once they were far enough away, Doug knocked his head against the wall a few more times, but it was no use. He seemed to sense that, and gave up.
He actually leaned his head back and relaxed, studying us with the same relentless intensity. I noticed for the same time that he never seemed to blink.
“Who's got first watch?” Shannon asked. “I'm ready to go to sleep.”
I looked at Tommy, and he shrugged.
“I guess I do,” I said. “I can't sleep anyway.”
“Wake one of us up in three hours. Don't try and push it. We don't need you noddin' off too, and putting us all at risk. I don't trust this evil motherfucker for a minute. For all we know, he's bullshitting us.”
“Give me a minute,” I said. “I have an idea.”
I came back with a white rabbit in a cage.
“I want to test for communicability.”
“He's got a point,” Tommy said.
“Can you do it without fallin' over?” Shannon asked me.
I ignored him, and opened the latch on the cage. As I grew closer, Doug snarled and snapped at me again.
I let the door fall open and moved it close to his head. He actually calmed down for a moment, and flared his nostrils. The unsuspecting rabbit did the same. But when it was close enough, turned away from him, he lunged forward and bit it in the side. Hard. I mean, I heard ribs crack.
The rabbit screamed. They make a terrifyingly human sound when they're in pain. The only thing I can compare it to was when one of my kittens fell asleep on my engine block one winter. I started the truck, and the fan mostly severed it's front paw.
The cat ran around howling on three legs, which was bad enough. But I had to put it out of its misery. I grabbed some welding gloves and managed to catch it. The only thing I could think to do was drown it. So I put it into a five-gallon bucket full of rainwater, and put a lit on it.
Its dying screams as it drowned sounded way too close to human. It seems a terrible thing to do, but it wasn't done maliciously. Intent has to count for something.
Anyway, the rabbit screamed, and turned and bit Doug on the cheek.
He just crunched down harder, and then it fell dead.
I moved the cage away, and Doug looked at us, grinning. Blood ran down his cheek as he chewed and swallowed, bones and all.
“Motherfuck,” Shannon said, dumbfounded.
I closed and latched the cage with the remains of the rabbit inside of it, just in case, and threw it outside.
When I came back in, I said, “Results inconclusive. I think any rabbit would have done that, given the circumstances.”
Tommy and Shannon had to agree.
“Welp,” Shannon said. “On that note, goodnight.”
Tommy and I smoked a joint, and then he too went off to sleep.
We rotated shifts through the night, which thankfully proved to be uneventful.