The Lennox Brothers

After a flat tire lands brothers Ricky and Kai Lennox in a pitch black country lane on their way home from work, they are attacked by a beast, one which they can only describe as a 'five foot tall canine'.
In the morning, Ricky is shocked to find they are both still alive, but can't help but wonder why the beast didn't finish them off.

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2. Surviving

Six hours was too soon to be waking up from this. All I could discern was that my shoulder was burning madly and the cold I could feel soaking through the cotton of my t-shirt was a mix of my own sweat and blood. The burning, however, was not how I remembered it when I passed out. It was much duller than I recalled, which was odd because out here in the woods, it should be developing some sort of infection, not healing up. Although, the nausea was much more prominent now - I was resisting the urge to flip myself over and throw up on the grass. Finding minute amounts of strength stored in my system, I lifted my khaki green shirt away from my shoulder, but it was sticking to me like it were covered in thick, red syrup. I released the shirt, letting it sink into the tender wound on my upper chest.


    I could hear only birds. This was enough to prompt me to open my eyes, and after I forced them open, I saw something I had thought I never would again. Daylight. Daylight had broken over the forest and I could see the sun, bright and young, peering through the trees at me, bathing me and waking me. It was morning. I had made it until morning. Somehow. I had no idea how I could still be alive. With the wounds I had received last night, I’m certain I should have bled out by now. I had definitely lost a lot of blood last night, but it seemed it was not enough to kill me. At least, not yet anyway. So, I would have to move if I wanted to live and I would have to move now. And I did want to live. I had lasted this long after that thing mauled me, I wasn’t going to give up now.


    The second my stomach muscles tensed for me to sit up, I remembered the seething, burning, piercing pain of my injuries, incapacitating me again and pushing me back down to the ground.


    “Ohhhh-kay,” I exhaled through bitterly clenched teeth. “How about we try that again, Ricky. With less stupid.” Speaking to myself, I could only whisper, breathing quick past the burning pain.  Next, in a swift motion, I pushed myself up to sitting and although unable to contain my anguish over the pain and hollered out to the skies, the brunt of it was over in about ten seconds. I had progressed. I was sitting up. I was sitting up and that was half the battle over. But then I looked over and saw my brother lying motionless in the grass, his white t-shirt drenched in red syrup at the stomach and the middle of his chest, and suddenly the pain didn’t matter. I moved faster than my body wanted to over to Kai, crowding over his body on all fours.


    “Kai! Wake up, Kai, don’t you do this to me, you dick! Come on.” I grasped his hands, droplets of blood dripping slowly onto his t-shirt, the red startling against the white background. “You can’t die in a forest, that’s just stupid, Kai, just wake up, bro, come on.” I dropped a hand onto his torso and felt that the blood on his clothes was cold. Kai, if he were awake, would be freezing. I tore off my jacket and laid it over my brother like a blanket. The cold nestled onto me, chilling the blood seeping out of my own lesion, but my brother was so much more important to me right now to deprive him of a warm jacket, especially seeing as he didn’t have one of his own.


    In spite of being knelt almost directly underneath the sun, I was shivering. I searched desperately through Kai’s pockets like a looter, searching for his phone. I found it in his jeans pockets, a small crack in the glass on the front where he had been flung around like a rag doll by that monster. Reading the screen, I saw it read ‘Emergency Calls Only’, which was perfect because that was my exact requirement of it. Promptly, I dialled 999 and thrust the phone to my ear, awaiting an answer. When I heard another human voice, I almost cried.


    “Hell-” the voice on the other end of the line never finished the word because the phone, low on battery and left on all night, shorted out, completely devoid of power.


    “This is not happening to me!” I cried out, in vain, fists clenching. I was close to throwing the damn thing at the ground in a bout of anger, but I quickly composed myself with deep breaths and sat on my feet beside Kai, palming my wounded right shoulder. Initially, I had thought my wounds were worse than Kai, since I had been able to hear Kai shuffling and moving before I passed out, but looking at the blood splattering his t-shirt, I now realised how badly the beast had harmed him before I shunted it out of the way.


    Although every movement in my arm caused searing agony in my shoulder, I managed to remove my t-shirt and did my best to tie it around the gash to try to hale some of the gradual but constant flow of blood. Not all of it was blood. Some of it was a clear-yellow, sap-like liquid that I didn’t want to address at the moment. The cold engulfed my body but disbelief at my circumstances kept me numb. “I can’t lift you, Kai,” I told him, apologetically, and cradles my own chest in an attempt to gather warmth.


    “Put some clothes on, you freak.” The gravelly voice was coming from the lifeless husk of a body lying beneath my leather jacket. Kai was awake! His eyes were still closed, but the lids were smooth, not creased, leading me to believe that he was not in pain. Which was good. Presumably, he had flashed his eyes open, seen me here semi-naked and closed them again.


    “You’re alive! Thank God. You’re okay. Are you okay?” Despite the fact he had spoken mere seconds earlier, he was worryingly still. The only real movement in his body seemed to be the slow but visible pulse through the vein in his neck. “Kai? You okay?” I asked again.


    “Burns.” Wheezed Kai, before his eyes snapped wide open. “Where the hell is it? Where is that-… that thing?!”


    “I don’t know, Kai, but it’s not here. That’s what’s most important. If we don’t move now, we’re going to die, bro.”


    “Me more than you.” He groaned.


    “Exactly. Come on. I cannot lift you. I know you’re hurting, but I need your help.” Best I could, I took hold of Kai’s shoulders and he released a tortured groan when I tried to pull him up. Looking at his wounds, I could only imagine the tenderness. Laying out in the middle of the woods all night could have done us both nothing but harm, the wild outdoors promoting infection and advertising us as an all you can eat buffet for parasites like mosquitoes and gnats. “God, I know it hurts, but we need to get that nasty thing checked and cleaned out. And mine.” As soon as I tried to push myself up, supporting Kai, I realised I should probably have practiced standing up by myself a few times before trying to do so with Kai in my arms. A laborious task worsened by my throbbing chest and throbbing pulse, but after a few minutes of agonizing pain for the both of us, we were both on our feet. Upon seeing it for myself, I did my best not to allow Kai to catch sight of the pool of blood on the floor underneath where he’d been laying all night. The grass had been stained a deep burnt umber by it.


    “This is not going to be fun. And it’s going to be more painful than anything you’ve ever gone through. But I don’t want to die just yet. Let’s take this slow.” And our journey back home began. Well, continued. It was just over ¾ of a mile to our apartment from here. I suppose one thing the beast did do for us was helping us run a bit closer - and punting us both closer, too.


    Before Kai’s phone had run out of battery like an anti Deus Ex Machina, I had managed to catch sight of the time being 5:43am. That meant that since about 11pm last night, no cars had driven by and if they had, they didn’t care about the abandoned car in the road and probably didn’t even see the two boys lying half dead in the woods adjacent. Usually, the two of us could walk this distance in about 20 minutes, however not like this, both with our chests torn open and one of us so close to death the reaper was following him with a stopwatch. At least now I had been enlightened to why hardly anybody took this shortcut. It was Phoenix’s own Bermuda Triangle.


    “Where did it go?” Huffed Kai, and for a second, the way his voice gave out made it sound like he were about to erupt into tears, but from watching his face, there were none. Just a look of utter distress. I hated doing this to him, making him walk so far when he was so injured - I wasn’t enjoying it much myself - but it was either I have him in torture and survive or let him relax and lose him forever. But Kai seemed to forget the question he had asked seconds ago and moved onto another tangent. “You saved me. That was really brave of you.”


    “You’d have done the same for me.” I spluttered, suddenly coughing. When I did, I felt more blood pump out of my chest.


    “I don’t know if I would.” He replied, not without shame. I knew it was not out of dislike for me. Rather, Kai did not think that anything was really worth his life. Of course people would always say that they would take a bullet for ‘insert person here’, but Kai told the hard truth, that actually, maybe he wouldn’t be brave enough to do so. Either way, that didn’t change that I would do it all over again to save his life if I had to. “But if I were ever to throw myself in front of a bullet or a train or, a…. giant dog, for somebody… it would be you.”


    “Think warm thoughts.” I encouraged gruffly, pulling my jacket more secure around him, the two f us hobbling down the country lane like we were in a Cormac McCarthy novel. I remembered how there was a small, standard first aid kit in the car. I hated having that knowledge. Being at the halfway point between the car and the flat sucked ass. But, at home, there were painkillers, there was a better first aid kit, there were radiators and a warm, comfortable bed. And a working phone. Home was where Kai and I were more likely to survive.

 



    Along the journey, I felt Kai get weaker, and I felt it because he started to become more of a burden on my tired shoulders. To be honest, I had hoped that this would happen in retrograde, that Kai would gain more strength as the walk went on, him losing strength concerned me. I think he was slipping further into the delicate space between consciousness and unconsciousness.


    “Kai. You can’t give up when I can see the flat from here. Buck up.” I tensed my biceps to keep my grip on my brother, hiking him up slightly.


    Kai’s dark caramel eyes were drooping. He hadn’t opened them much at all since I woke him, he was counting on me to lead him home.  The rising sun was beaming down on us. My desert sand hair was drenched in sweat, splattered with blood and dusted with dirt from the road we had finally walked out of.


    Now on the main road, nearing out apartment block, a car zoomed past us. I remembered what day it was: it must have been Thursday. Kai had whined last night about it being a week night and us having to work so late, although the pay check cheered him up and made up for that. Yo anybody unlucky enough to be driving to work this early on a Thursday morning, Kai and I probably looked like two drunks stumbling home - that is, if they didn’t notice the blood. I wished to high hell that’s what we were, just two drunks. The only thing I tried to think about was reaching the door, although the memory of what was inside that front door: three flights of stairs waiting for me and my semi-conscious brother, thanks to the out-of-order elevator, was not a relief to my sense by any means.


    “My teeth hurt.” Kai told me, his neck giving way and dropping against my chest. I clenched my teeth past the painful thud of his skull on my skin. My teeth were hurting, too. It wasn’t a sharp pain, like toothache. It was dull, it was a dull, consistent pain in all of my teeth and gums. But there was no reason for either of our teeth to hurt, not even grinding caused this type of pain, which I was not unknown to occasionally do. It felt like… teething. I had the urge to bite down on something, something with a rubbery or leathery texture, I felt that would relieve the discomfort.


    “We’re almost there, Kai. A few more steps, okay?” It was considerably more than a ‘few more steps’, but we made it, and with an overwhelming sense of triumph, I pushed open the door to our flat.


    “You’re amazing.” Kai told me, in response to which I just quietly laughed, thought I don’t think I would be able to consider myself amazing until I had solid proof that we were both going to survive.


    It was approaching 8am now. I eased Kai onto the sofa where he passed out and I collapsed onto the maroon carpet like I had just completed a marathon.


    “Show me.” I panted, tugging at the leather jacket still wrapped about him. Kai pulled at the jacket and it slid off of him onto the floor with a rustle of fabric. Huffing, I pushed myself to kneeling upright again to look at Kai’s wounds. “How is it? Are you okay?” I examined it closer. “I’m no doctor… but I do not think that should look like that for another week.” The wounds on his chest were close to healed. The skin was covered in blood, but only stained. The slashes below it, from the jaws and claws of the canine hell-beast were healed, only dark, dried blood scabs remained. “This isn’t-…”


    “What’s wrong with it?” Kai moaned, not bothering to open his eyes. “It itches.”


    “Well, don’t scratch it! For the love of god, don’t scratch that, man. It’s not open anymore. That’s not normal, that’s not possible, it should be pouring with blood! Well, maybe not pouring, but it shouldn’t be that far healed. Does it hurt?”


    “It burns.” My chest was burning, too, but I hadn’t looked since I wrapped it up with my t-shirt and I didn’t want to. “Wh-, what do we do? Ambulance, police? Do we report that thing?”


    “Maybe we give it a couple of days.” I suggested. I wasn’t really thinking about the car. I would go back to get it when the room wasn’t spinning. There was something not right about that wound healing up so fast without any infection or need for stitches.


    When I tried to disinfect it, Kai reported no pain, just the burning of his injured skin and the tenderness of his teeth and I had to admit, there was little sharp pain coming from my shoulder. There was definitely nothing natural about that animal. And I had a horrible, horrible feeling that Kai and I were no longer natural or normal, either.

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