The jelly began to ooze silvery pus, puddling in strange beads like mercury from a broken thermometer over the surface of the mud where the tentacle had fingered its way out of the grime. The bubbles seemed to emerge from within of their own accord, gathering around the swollen gleaming surface.
Frankie started howling and stared at me with wide-open eyes, his finger beginning to blister and swell rapidly. Veins of silvery black traced beneath his skin from his fingertip towards his hand and wrist. No sense in calling him stupid now, the situation had progressed beyond a casual jab and had begun to be genuinely alarming.
“Do you really think it’ll fall off?” he cried, falling to his knees and staring at his hand in disbelief.
I was starting not to be so sure, wishing I’d never made such a flippant comment. The black silvery tendrils spreading beneath the skin’s surface continued to thread and fan out but had slowed somewhat, pooling in necrotic-looking lumps. His fingertip was wholly black and had started to dry out, as if it was turning to charcoal and might flake off with any sudden movement.
The houseboat was a good ways off, yawning lazily as always, leering at us from afar like a fleck on the far side of the lake. My bicycle stood sentry over my brother’s, which had sunk into the mud and would require more effort than it was worth to pull out, especially given the change in circumstances. Frankie didn’t seem capable of riding back anyway.
I glanced back towards the jelly, perhaps hoping to find some sign of what was happening or anything logical or sensical that I could grasp on to, to tell me what was going on. It just pulsed there, continuing to ooze silvery pus as the tentacle shrank its way back into the grime, either being slurped back into the mud or spilling forth its contents to the surface. The silver beads began to move independently, congregating and trickling towards us.
Frankie trembled and continued to howl, eyes wide begging me to do something. Anything.
I tore off my shirt and wrapped it around his hand and wrist snugly, scooping him up. I had no idea what his finger or hand looked like in its wrapping but I knew I needed to get him back to some kind of civilization… Immediately.
“Hold on to me,” I ordered. “Tight!”
Frankie clamped around my neck, his grip tightening like a trap that had been sprung. I raced back to my bicycle, my little brother in tow. Together, we awkwardly mounted my bicycle and wobbily sped out of the mud pit towards what had once been the shore of the lake, leaving his bicycle sinking in the grime.