“Mommy, I’m hungry.”
Jane looked down at her son and smiled.
“Honey, I just put some peanut butter crackers on the table,” she said. Collin wrinkled up his nose at her.
“I don’t want that.”
She paused, the dirty dishwater still swirling around her rubber gloves.
“I thought you loved peanut butter crackers.”
Collin clutched his little swollen belly.
“Alright, alright. What can I get you?” she asked. Collin rocked back and forth on his feet.
“Can I have a roast beef sandwich?” he finally said.
“So soon before supper?” she asked. He nodded vigorously. The large orbs of his pupils nearly swallowed the irises.
She considered this and then said, “You know your father will be upset if you spoil your supper.”
It was true; her husband, Will, had been acting particularly testy as of late. He hid away in his makeshift lab. He’d said his work had gone to the dogs.
“But Daddy says I have to eat lots and lots of meat…”
“So you can grow up to be big and strong?” she asked. She went to pick him up, but he danced out of her reach. Jane furrowed her brow at his sudden quickness; he’d gone from two feet away to ten feet away in the blink of an eye.
“Are you okay?” she asked. Collin made a face and pointed at his stomach.
“Well…if Daddy says it’s okay, then I’ll make you your sandwich,” she said. He stood on the other side of the kitchen island, biting his lip.
“Can you ask, Mommy?”
“Why can’t you?”
Collin’s face whitened.
“I’m scared to go down there.”
“Daddy’s there, isn’t he? All the lights will be on,” Jane said. She herself hadn’t been in the basement in months.
Jane tried to come around the kitchen island, but again he bolted. This time, he put the dinner table between them. “Collin, what’s the matter with you?”
“Tell me what’s wrong,” she insisted. Collin raised a finger, pointing to the basement.
Backing away, Jane exited the kitchen. She went to open the door as her guts twisted into painful knots, coiling inside her like a venomous snake. Yanking the knob was useless though, as the door was locked.
“Will, are you down there?” she yelled. No response. A crash came from back in the kitchen. She ran back to find Collin’s backside poking out from behind the fridge.
The door swung open wider. Collin was stuffing handfuls of roast beef into his mouth, the pink meat overflowing in his fists. Slobber was mixing with the bloody juice on his chin. She watched with disgust as Collin finished off the container. Then he went for the package of raw hamburger.
“Honey, no!” she cried. As she stepped forward, he skittered back with the hamburger patties clutched to his chest. Then a terrifying sound ripped from his throat, a noise Jane would never forget.
“Did you just…growl at me?” she asked.
Lovingly, Collin devoured the first patty. He ignored her and ate, gulping each one down with a single bite. His tongue laved at the plastic coating until it dripped with his saliva. Thick gobs of it fell off in strings.
“Can I have some more?”
The basement door creaked open and footsteps trotted their way. When Jane turned her head, her husband stood in the doorway.
“Something’s wrong! We need to call an ambulance!”
Will inclined his head and contemplated his son. He did not answer his wife.
“Are you listening to me?”
“I never expected the symptoms to manifest so quickly.”
Her body went cold. Not like the midnight chill that creeps over you, but more like getting submerged in an ice bath and having your head held under.
“What do you mean?” she asked.
Will approached his son with caution, hands held out in front of him as defense. The boy was eyeing his father with the rabid look of a hyena. Small, sharp teeth were bared as Collin’s growling grew more threatening. When Will reached a hand out, as if to pet his son, Collin’s teeth snapped at him and nearly took off his fingers.
“My God, what is wrong with him?”
“Darling, it’s all under control,” he said. “You were the one always telling me to bring work home.”
Will took another steadying breath, this one a bit ragged.
“Can’t you see, Jane?” he asked. “He needs to eat.”
Howls filled the night.