“Mom… don’t you smell it?” I whispered, my voice cracking in anger.
She shook her head and rattled Frankie’s rotting arm in her hand. “There’s nothing here, Aiden. Frankie’s fine.”
Flecks of foul flesh spackled the dried grass and dirt. Black and red specks sprayed her blouse and skin. I nearly vomited as I got caught in the spray myself. Frankie hadn’t said a word, he seemed to be unconscious. The violent jerking of his arm had no effect on him.
I started crying. Mom glanced at me and I didn’t recognize who I was seeing, she seemed different, somehow. I didn’t know why.
She picked up Frankie and began to walk toward the boat. I still sat in the dirt and grass, confused. I watched her walk off in silence.
It was then I noticed her ankle… putrid blackened rot seemingly creeping up her leg, under the leg of her capri pants. I took a harried and grasping stumble backward on all fours as a thick layer of deadened skin sluiced off her leg and onto the dirt.
“Mom! Are you okay?”
She paused with Frankie in her arms. She turned her head ever so slightly, not looking at me.
“I’m fine, Aiden. You need to calm down. Come on the boat.”
Not sure what else I could possibly do, I followed. I was still crying, and I wiped tears and snot from my face as I made the trek to the boat. I had been walking slower than I had thought because Mom had taken Frankie on board already. I saw her standing toward the bow… Dad was there, too.
I made my way up the small ramp and trudged my way toward the front in silence and dread. I felt the boat rock slightly, but the water looked too still – it looked thick. Silvery. I heard nothing but lapping waves – thick, chunky slaps against the wood. No birds, no splashing. I was shattered by the past few minutes already – the silent stillness just made it worse.
As I approached the bow, I saw that Mom had Frankie on the deck. Frankie was silent and still. Dad stood there, fishing rod in hand, looking down at Frankie like he was a catch that puzzled him.
As I crept closer, I noticed the drips and splatters on the deck… rotting flesh. I followed the trail with my eyes to my mother’s leg – the whole foot, now, was beginning to slide off the bone. Within a moment her ankle snapped in a spray of gunk and she hit the deck, hard. She said nothing. Dad stood there, in silence.
I stood, shaking, and watched her pick her body up enough off the ground to climb up on her legs with a struggle. I saw her rest her weight on the mashed stump as though nothing had happened. She stood lopsided and had I not been so frightened it would have been strange. Now, it simply terrified me.
I approached my parents and my younger brother. The smell of rot grew stronger the closer I got.
“Mom? Dad?” I whispered.
My Dad looked at me and I could see how that his left hand had become an oozing curtain of rotten skin. He smiled as though nothing had happened.
“Looks like Frankie is really tired, huh?”
Mom stood, lopsided and wobbling, staring at Frankie. Frankie’s hand was now starting to resemble my father’s.
“Oh, Aiden,” Dad smiled and gestured toward me with a finger, “you’ll like this. Your dad is quite the fisherman.”
He gestured to the cooler chest behind him. I leaned to look just past him at his catch, already knowing what it was. The chest was full of shimmering, coiled jelly. A twitching tentacle hung over the side, slapping idly at the plastic.
“Who knew your father could catch something so big, huh?” Mom chirped.
“Frankie is going to love it when he wakes up,” Dad added.