The Hound is Still Dead III (v1.3)

Dec 14th, 2014
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  1. Tags: exposition, monstrous transformation (not described)
  3. George woke up before Bloodhound and slipped out from under the covers in her morning fugue. The former hero had stopped holding her in the middle of the night and had rolled away, so it wasn’t hard to disentangle herself from the bed.
  5. There were no clocks around, but it was definitely seven AM. She could tell because her abdomen ached, and not only because of sex the night before.
  7. Her bag was on the floor and she crouched to start going through it. There were five pills and a shot to take, and she did her best to keep the orange bottles from rattling as she twisted the childproof caps open one by one and fished out the technicolor capsules. Bloodhound didn’t stir while she swallowed them and put them away, but when she rejoined him on the bed he reacted as if she had put a rotten fish on the pillow next to him.
  9. She heard him sniff. “What is that smell?” he asked, and sat up. His face was wrinkled in disgust, which baffled George--she didn’t like the bitter pills, but they barely had a scent to them that she could discern.
  11. “Nothing,” George muttered sleepily. “I take pills, it’s just them. They kinda make me sick for a while after, though.”
  13. “It smells like death,” he said, and George was embarrassed that it roused him enough to make him get up. He wasn't graceful when he nudged her away and stood up and shambled off the bed to investigate her bag. Every step he took brought him closer and closer to that... that smell. It felt like he was using all of his willpower just to press closer to that bag on the floor. Once he finally got his fingers on the bottles, he looked at the labels.
  15. The tiny orange container rolled from his hand, clattering upon the metal floor. The name on the label of George's little medicine bottle stung in his mind.
  17. “Property of BellCorp,” it read. “For use only by Georgia Pierce.”
  19. It was no common label. There was no name of a prescribing doctor, no list of side effects, and no instructions for George. The only other information was a phone number and instructions for any law enforcement officer who was concerned about what those pills might be to call.
  21. Bloodhound panicked and looked at the girl on the bed. What was she? Was she an antidote? Did they send her to find him and kill him? Win his trust and…?
  23. He didn’t feel like he had time to think any further. He pulled the blanket off of George and grabbed her by both of her biceps to pull her up and make her look at him. She was a deadweight of skin and bone in his grip, trying not to let that quick motion make her feel ill.
  25. “You got those from BellCorp. Why?” Bloodhound nearly screamed into her face, and his words rang and echoed through the train.
  27. She inhaled and started to shake and try to twist feebly. But with nothing to hide it was easy to explain. "I tested something for them… Please, you’re gonna make me sick…”
  29. He snarled, an actual sound like some animal coming from the back of his throat instead of it being a simple motion of his lip, and dropped her back onto the bed. He wasn’t certain he believed her. Brimming with too many big feelings, he punched the wall. “God damn it.”
  31. George thought he was angry because she was sick. It wasn’t something she advertised or talked about, but it was impossible to hide. If he hadn’t already noticed things off about her, she would have questioned his perceptiveness. It hurt--to be judged viciously for something so out of her control as illness, but she didn’t say anything.
  33. “I’m going to blow off some steam,” he shouted, staring at the ground and breathing heavily to try to calm himself down. Getting worked up in a small space like this was always a problem. “Come out and talk to me when you aren’t going to puke.”
  35. He nearly sprinted out of the train car, away from the girl who smelled like poison. He still wasn’t wearing anything.
  37. George waited horizontally on the bed and stared down the line of doors out into the blackness of the subway where no light from the sun could reach. She cried bitter tears of rejection and hopelessness and time wasted as she tried to think of how to explain it to him so he would understand her situation. She felt she had to make him understand, he couldn’t tell her to leave now... Her sickness was the undoing of her own life, it shouldn't have also been the undoing of her attempts at saving him.
  39. A colossal smash of metal and concrete echoed down to her. She heard creaking of metal again and the rattling of glass shattering. George held her breath and listened with bated breath. Metal scraping on concrete, a high screeching sound. Then some quiet. Then another heavy impact. There was no yelling or shouting.
  41. It sounded to her like car crashes, but with no sounds of motors.
  43. She pulled her clothes on, more for warmth than because she was ashamed of being naked, and walked as quickly as she could without aggravating her nausea to investigate the sounds. The train shed enough of its internal lighting to help her find another “5 MIN” button on the wall for her to press, and when the lights came on she hauled herself up to the stairs to the cars. It was like scaling a mountain. She heard the deafening crashes a few more times, and discovered the cause when she reached the top of the stairs.
  45. The corpse of a white sedan hurtled through the air in front of her and slammed into a far wall like a fly into a windshield. The side of it that impacted crumpled flat, and then it fell down into three empty parking spaces. She looked back where it had come from.
  47. Something, twelve feet long and entirely inhuman, loped toward it.
  49. “Holy shit, oh my god,” George sputtered uncontrollably. Her hands snapped up to her face to cover her mouth while small sounds of shock continued to issue from her lips.
  51. Bloodhound, but not himself. Who else could it be in an alien body? He was too many things at once to make sense to George.
  53. He heard her sound and turned his snout towards George in the doorway, hesitated. He stopped pursuing the remains of the car that he’d been tossing into walls and stood on all fours, alert with ragged ears erect. He wasn’t too pleased to see her so soon, but maybe it would be best to get their complications over with. And if she was here to kill him, he could tear her in half.
  55. George couldn’t pick a likeness for him out of the library of animals that she knew of. He wasn’t any one thing. His skin was pink, purple, warm blue now in senseless blotches, shiny in some places and dimpled in others. Tiny stubs and knobs and tendrils of flesh stuck out of him in places over his eyes and around his jaw and all along his six foot tail like the camouflage of a leafy sea dragon, but his torso and arms had maintained something like a human shape.
  57. When he turned and moved on hands and feet towards where George was in the doorway he did so by putting all of his weight on his hands and then swinging his legs forward, all front-wheel drive.
  59. George assessed his face and snout and flip-flopped between comparing him to a bear or a wolf, and finally decided that he had more in common with paintings that she had seen of Chinese dragons, who always managed to have very expressive and intelligent eyes. Bloodhound was no different in that regard. He reached George and stopped about five feet from her.
  61. He was far from the only person who changed in the world of people who wore masks and fought crime, or in the world of people who were crime. He could probably have named twenty others across the country and George could have named twenty more who could shapeshift in some capacity, but he was the only man as bitter about it as he was.
  63. She still smelled like poison. The large nostrils at the tip of his snout flared open when he breathed.
  65. “This is what BellCorp did to me,” he told her. His mouth of sharp teeth and his lips with too few muscles to make sounds clear mangled his words badly, but he could be understood.
  67. “Are you going to die?” George asked, removing her hands from covering her mouth. As many video clips of monsters as she had seen on the forums online, it did not compare to one in front of her. Thinking of her own experience with BellCorp, death was the first thing that came to mind, seeing him misshapen like this, hearing disdain.
  69. “I don’t think I am,” he said, and thought about all of the pill bottles she had. He angled his head interrogatively. He’d put enough together about the woman in front of him. “What about you, Puppy? Are you going to die?”
  71. “Yeah,” she said. Her voice gave out half way through the word and she cleared her throat to get her voice back. “Yeah, I’m pretty fucked.”
  73. Bloodhound sat down, feline in this position. A cat on a bookshelf, a lion on a rock. If she was telling the truth, he felt bad for her. He was quiet, and George filled the conversational gap.
  75. “I have a genetic defect that ruined a lot of my organs a few years ago. But I'm poor. I did some tests for them--they study me and I test new ways to keep me alive. Money is really good. But it uh..” she indicated herself as a whole. “It screwed up pretty much every part of me all at once even though I'm living longer.”
  77. He gave her time to speak, in case she had more to add, but George had stopped volunteering information for him to pick at, so it was his turn again. “I went to them for some very simple drug tests, I wasn't sick. But twenty years ago.” Twenty years and he was still almost as angry about BellCorp as he was about dying.
  79. “So this…” George gestured at his alien body. “This has nothing to do with you dying?”
  81. “I died human and I woke up like this in a BellCorp building.”
  83. “The Deck, though.” She protested. “Spades stabbed you so many times, Hearts shot you in the face… and you turned human again.”
  85. He didn’t need her to remind him how he’d died, or who had been involved. Skin on his snout tensed and wrinkled with all the hideousness of a dog with mange.
  87. “And now I turn into a fucking monster whenever I feel sufficiently shitty,” he snapped, and the louder he became the more his words slurred into nothing more than roared vowels. “I’m sure it’s all part of something twisted. You are too, BellCorp doesn’t just make mistakes like that.”
  89. George didn’t see how his situation was such a hardship compared to her own. She wondered if he knew he sounded spoiled to her--she had come to bitterly despise it whenever she overheard anyone complain about health flaws like having a cold, finding it nearly impossible to sympathize with anyone who wasn’t suffering on her level and sliding towards an inevitably painful death. One that she had come to accept that she would not be returning from, unlike the man in front of her.
  91. She offered him more of her story in a stony and robotic voice. “I went in and said I’d also do a trial for my eyes because my vision was really bad.”
  93. She paused and pointed to her green eyes. “That was the only thing that worked perfectly. I see great now. But you wanna know something? They were brown when I was born. Not even slightly green. I went in and took a few pills for them. Got sick from that, fucked up an already fucked up kidney somehow. Then they put me under to solve that problem.”
  95. George turned and lifted her shirt to show him the scar on her back that indicated that she’d been operated on there. It wasn’t the only scar. “I was unconscious for more than a week. They had to do a lot of surgeries.”
  97. “Why didn’t you investigate? That sounds suspicious,” he said critically.
  99. “Well now that I see you it does,” she laughed angrily at him, and how he was judging her so casually. “I’m not a doctor, I don’t know this stuff. I trust them. I… I did trust them. They’ve kept me alive since then, they really seem to want to help me.”
  101. Bloodhound still glared. “Quasimodo runs all the upper level crime in the entire city. Look at me. Do you really think his company is just doing regular tests?”
  103. “They do real tests, too.” Living in their building with doctors who had seemed so dedicated to keeping her alive had made her sympathetic to BellCorp, and George had a hard time thinking that they had really intended to kill her. If they wanted her dead, there was no reason for them to keep her alive.
  105. “And then they turn people into monsters on the side. There have got to be others. Whatever mistakes they say they make are intentional.”
  107. She leaned back against the wall because standing had become too much of a chore when she was being berated. Yes, now she knew better than to trust BellCorp. Only now that she was relying on them to slightly extend her life. Their CEO, Quasimodo, was a notorious criminal (but just like plenty of other CEOs around the country), and while she had known that going in she had not imagined that his white-collar crime and street-level crime would affect the drug trials of the pharmaceutical branches. She said, “I don’t remember what I thought. I know that I spent a year in a hospital bed in their building because of it. I know I’m dying. Beyond that? I don’t know much of anything.”
  109. George crossed her arms and used one hand to shade her eyes, like the light was too bright. Mostly she just needed to look away so she didn’t get dizzy.
  111. He felt guilty seeing the sick woman lean on the wall and cry, and he got up to take a few hesitant steps forward until his head on its long neck was near her. “They did it, they can undo it. I have plans. Someday I’m going to get them to undo… me. And they can fix you too. And we can get back at them for using us like toys.”
  113. “Why do you need this undone?” she snapped. “You’re alive. You can walk around and… and fight crime. You can throw cars! Why are you so upset?”
  115. From the look on his face, he hadn’t decided until that moment. “I’m mad they didn’t give me a choice.” I’m mad they didn’t let me die.
  117. She caught his tone, and she was unkind. “You could always undo it with a gun or something.”
  119. A ripple passed down his skin like an invisible, enormous hand had stroked his spine. “But then where would you be, Puppy?” He asked.
  121. Georgia knew he hadn’t stuck around because of his fans. She loved The Hound and as vast as her naivete was she was not foolish enough to fall for that lie.
  123. He went on, “I’ll fix me. And we can fix you, and we can get even.”
  125. “I don’t care about revenge on them,” George said, exasperated. “I didn’t come to you for revenge. I came to you because I wanted to meet The Hound and I wanted to draw your comic.”
  127. “You wanted hope,” he said sternly, perhaps even slightly begrudgingly for dredging up that thing from his past. Hope, perhaps written with a capital H, had been The Hound’s bread and butter, and hesitantly Bloodhound said, “You can have hope in me, Puppy.”
  129. She smiled sadly with red-rimmed eyes at the concrete ground. "I've had hope in you from when I first started reading about you. I just don’t have hope for me."
  131. He didn’t say anything to that overly sentimental and sad line, but let her lift a hand and touch his head along his lumpy jaw and feel over the misshapen growths that protruded there. It occurred to Bloodhound that, somewhere along the way in this conversation, he’d stopped being suspicious of Georgia.
  133. His skin felt human still to the pads of her fingers, despite the irregular shapes. “Why don’t you change and fight crime? There’s a hero on the west coast who has some way of shape shifting, and he grows extra legs and antlers, and--”
  135. “It is very unpleasant,” he said curtly. “And every time I do, all of my hair falls out.”
  137. “Been there,” George said competitively with a smile, but Bloodhound gave no immediate indication of amusement. She withdrew her hand and swished it through her short hair with a smile, and sniffed.
  139. A few moments later, Bloodhound’s misshapen mouth pulled at the corners into an unmistakable smile, albeit a grim one. “Go back to sleep,” he told her. “You need to rest and I’m going to demolish the rest of this car. If you wake up, start drawing last night.”
  141. He pulled away and went back to the car, careful not to strike George with his long tail.
  143. The woman left him alone.
  146. When The Hound destroyed cars, he thought about how he had paid off his loans. College had been cheaper when he’d gone through it, but he’d also gone to a private school and done more than his fair share of post-grad work.
  148. He’d always attributed the hyper-sensitive sense of smell to BellCorp, but it had been there his whole life and in reality BellCorp had only augmented it slightly and unintentionally. He couldn’t even remember what the test was supposed to be for. But they had paid well. They’d paid off everything he owed and then some, and all he had to do was put up with the knowledge that most smells out there were bad smells.
  150. He pounced on the car to smash in the roof with his weight, then rolled it and tore into a tire with his teeth. Bracing with his hind legs he pulled the soft rubber away from the metal and hurled it like a wobbly frisbee.
  152. He thought about The Deck. He hated them and always would. A man in black and a woman in red who took their stupid little themed criminal team too seriously. The Hound had been absolutely no match for them, and the thought of the fight was embarrassing to him. Years of preaching hope, years of trying to dethrone gang leaders, years of fighting crime, and it had meant nothing.
  154. The Hound had stood with his staff, fought Spades with it. That black-haired man and his half-mask had not blinked nor emoted while swinging swords. Sometimes Bloodhound wanted to think that if he had only ever had to fight Spades that he might have had a chance to win that fight, but every thought that could have led anywhere other than misery was always disrupted by the sound of Hearts with a sawed-off shotgun.
  156. He remembered waiting in the street with a splitting headache and burning lungs. Blood in his eyes so much he couldn’t see anything if his eyes had even been there at that point, and a sensation--the opposite of a spark, the opposite of ignition, a collapsing mass--of death. With a monstrous claw he tore the steering wheel from the dashboard.
  158. And sometime after he’d died he’d woken up in BellCorp.
  162. Georgia sat in the single chair at his desk and drew. She’d done enough pages at home that she was at least halfway through telling the story of how they had met.
  164. Normally she wasn’t a particularly vain artist. She signed her work on the back of the canvas, almost never on the front. When she’d been well enough to have shows she had advertised them, but never tried to brand herself. Her sense of movement and light were what people said they liked about her most, and even these days the few large paintings she worked on sold well online. Her portfolio website was the first thing to show up if anyone looked for her online, and many people did.
  166. Comics were a different kind of art. They demanded a certain consistency, they needed to be clear to tell their story. The only reason her thesis work hadn’t been comics-related was because she hadn’t discovered their beauty until she’d fallen ill.
  168. One of the BellCorp doctors--Lewis, she still remembered his name, he’d done blood work--had given her comics about The Hound. Stuck in a bed, The Hound had been her world, and so had the art.
  170. To her frustration, but not against her expectations, her first sketches were not masterpieces. They didn’t evoke the emotions she wanted them to, and almost every panel needed to be drawn twice until her right hand trembled.
  172. She fell asleep trying to draw.
  174. Human, naked, and absolutely bald, Bloodhound walked back into his train and picked up the stack of papers on the table, pleased.
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