The Other Side of Me Preview
Written by Ted Nulty
The change took Pastor Eland Matthews overnight. He had been at a church picnic all day Saturday until the news of the terrorist attacks sent people into a mild panic. The gathering had broken up in an orderly fashion, as people went back home to make sure that their extended families were okay. Eland had stayed with Cory Monroe to help clean up, then load the church’s van. Sunday was spent calming the members of his congregation who came to the church for comfort. He had to have Corey and Julia make extra lemonade and sweet tea for all the people stopping by. The attacks seemed to have been relatively ineffective, there had been some casualties at the power plant where one of the planes used in the attacks had crashed, but none were from his congregation. He went to bed Sunday evening feeling a little warm. His ebony skin didn’t show the rash that was creeping up his neck.
Eland had served in the United States Navy as a Corpsman or ‘doc’ attached to a Marine Corps infantry unit. Although he had never declared himself a ‘conscientious objector’ he felt that he would best serve his country by saving lives instead of taking them. After completing his tour he had served in several roles at his ministry before becoming ordained and taking over. At just over six feet two, with smooth ebony skin, his features were handsome. His smile was a strip of pearlescent white that sent waves of charm out to his congregation. The musculature he had developed while serving with the Marines, and which he maintained with a rigorous workout regimen in the basement gym, filled out his Sunday suit nicely. There were few women who didn’t get butterflies when he spoke to them in his rich baritone voice. His grooming was capped off with a faint dash of cologne that tended to make people lean in closer to identify it.
The toxin that had been dumped into the city’s water supply was in the sweet tea he had been drinking. He had ingested enough toxin during the day, to overload his neural network five times over. While his body did its best to eject it from his system, the toxin still concentrated itself in his brain. During the night his saliva became a thick serum which held enough toxin to contaminate another person if they were bitten. His body temperature rose to 102 degrees and he began to sweat freely. He was tossing and turning in his bed when a commotion outside caused him to snap upright. He looked around at his small room, recognizing it as his, but somehow feeling that it was also not his. Another noise from outside his window turned his attention away from the room. He stalked over to the window which faced out towards 25th Street in Gulfport Mississippi. He looked down upon a woman who was backing away from a man. The woman had what appeared to be a large doll in her hand and she was swinging it repeatedly at the man. He finally caught her arm and bit into the doll.
Food the thought flashed across his mind. Other images of vandals on the street flashed in his head as well. He immediately became enraged at the activity and bolted out the door. His small apartment was attached to the side of the church and was above the kitchen. He ran down the stairs leading up to his loft and through the cooking area. He slammed into the door leading outside, and leapt down the short flight of four stairs. He charged towards the gate on the side of the church yard.
The sound of the fight was easily heard as he pulled open the gate and ran towards the sound of the conflict. Rounding the side of the church, he saw both the man and woman crouched in the street tearing strips of flesh off of the young child the woman had been carrying. The man had been able to grab the child’s leg and twist the torso away from the woman. She had maintained a grip on the arm however, and the already ravaged skin had torn as the child’s arm came off.
Eland saw that the male had the bigger piece, and instinctively knowing he posed more of a threat, Eland attacked him first. The two people were so busy chewing and growling at each other, that they didn’t notice that Eland was on them until it was too late. The impact of Eland slamming into the man’s back knocked him flat on his face and drove the air from his lungs. Eland easily bent down and bit into his victim’s neck, tearing out a huge mouthful of flesh before he could recover.
The woman had scooted away on her butt when Eland first ran into the man, but she darted forward and grabbed what was left of her son’s corpse as the one sided struggle played itself out. She threw aside the arm she had been chewing on and ran off down the street dragging the small body by the leg. Eland had growled at her for taking the child but there was nothing he could do while he finished killing the man underneath him. Once the body stopped twitching, he continued to tear at it for several minutes, grunting in pleasure as the hot blood filled his mouth, and the chunks of flesh filled his belly. The toxin which had been flowing in the man’s blood now sat in Eland’s stomach and was slowly absorbed.
After taking his fill, Eland stood up and looked around. There was a building on fire a few blocks over, and the sound of a siren could be heard in the distance. None of these things affected his immediate needs, so he ignored them. What he wanted was a drink. His metabolism was going overtime, and his body craved water to flush his system. The thick serum in his saliva was mixing with the blood coagulating in his mouth. He worked his mouth a few times and swallowed. He went back inside the church kitchen knowing that he should be able to get something there to satisfy his craving. He walked in and suddenly drew a blank on how to get a drink. He immediately became enraged and began slamming utensils into the shelves and counters. The fit took a better part of 10 minutes before he collapsed to the ground breathing like a locomotive.
Once he had calmed down he went exploring, and instinctively found the men’s restroom. He immediately began splashing the water from the toilet bowl up into his mouth. After rinsing the slime and blood from his mouth in one stall, he went to the next one and drank his fill. The fluids and meat were sloshing around in his belly as he stood up and wandered back out into the rectory. The early morning physical activity coupled with the lack of sleep and a full stomach were making him drowsy. He finally curled up in a corner of the chapel and fell into a troubled sleep.
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