When they finally reached the campsite, the first thing they did was pitch three tents. Lucas almost always ended up with his own tent while the others paired up in the remainder. This time, without argument, it was Tony. Despite his complete inability to help them set up, not one of them wanted to share sleeping quarters with him. He was giving off a smell lately, extremely unpleasant.
"You smell like someone grilled up some dog-shit," Mark told him.
The three tents were set up in close proximity to a fire pit, with Tony's just a little furthur away from the others. The campsite was along a small stream, which Tony's tent seemed to teeter on the edge of.
Scott was pissed. "We forgot the fucking fishing poles."
They didn't bring much for food, a few cans of baked beans and bread. Traditionally they went fishing on the first full day of the trip, and consumed the catch over the weekend. This was Scott's favorite part of the whole trip, other than perhaps the excessive drinking. He loved fishing, and more-so, he loved eating fish.
It was Jesse who suggested they take the rifles down to the fishing hole. "If you pop one in the right spot, it should float right up."
This idea was absurd to Scott. BB-gun-fishing. He wanted nothing to do with it, but Jesse insisted and Lucas found the plan quite entertaining. He knew Jesse to be a crack-shot, never missing his target. Jesse and Lucas went off to blast some fish, while Scott and Mark stayed behind to get a fire going and drink most of a case of Milwaukee's Best. Tony sat on a stump near the fire-pit with his head hung, and never said a word.
The fishing mission was more than absolute success. Just like he had planned, Jesse sat on a rock on the bank of the stream and sniped himself six trout, which all tipped their bellies to the sky and floated up, convulsing with a BB in their skull. Lucas had taken a few shots, but never hit anything. One shot ricocheted of a rock and whizzed by Jesse's head. Jesse started finding odd tree branches and the like for Lucas to shoot at instead before slaughtering his six fish.
On their walk back to the camp, Jesse had to bring up Tony.
"What the fuck is going on with that kid?"
"I thought he was just really fucked up, hungover, whatever... But jesus-fucking-christ he is a mess. "
"He's like the fucking walking dead. He hasn't said an actual word in who-knows how long. And man, that fucking stink coming off him."
"When I worked at the restaurant we had a similar smell in the kitchen." Lucas crunched his nose at the memory of it. "It took us days to find a family of rats snuffed out under a box in the walk-in. It was the smell of their death that filled that kitchen. He kinda smells like that."
"I don't know nothing about the smell of rat-death, but there's a bit of that compost smell in him. That shit my neighbors flood their yard with at the beginning of spring. Fucking gross."
They went on, offering various diagnoses of Tony's bizarre condition, until Lucas stopped them. Like a soldier he dropped to one knee and his right arm went up signalling to Jesse to stop.
Jesse laughed, "Spotted the enemy, have you?"
"Shut the fuck up asshole, I hear something."
Jesse crouched down as well, still chuckling. Lucas' sight was fixed at one point just beyond the tree-line, and he was readying his rifle.
Jesse didn't see it. He was about to open his mouth again when the shot went off.
"GOT YA FUCKER!" Lucas shouted and headed off the path.
He came back a few seconds later, with a gray ball of fur in his hand and a look of pride smeared across his face.
"Maybe I can't hit a fish," he explained, "but I'll be damned if I'm gonna let a rabbit get away."
He had, by the ears, a small bunny in his hand. It twitched a bit before he smashed its head onto a rock. Jesse was impressed. Sure he was busy talking or whatever, but he hadn't seen or even heard the hare. Lucas had become an elite special-ops soldier for a moment, and taken the target out with one shot.
"We're eatin good tonight."
Scott didn't care about the rabbit. He grabbed the bucket full of water with the trout and cleaned them, putting them on ice. Mark, on the other hand, was impressed and couldn't wait for Jesse to start gutting the thing.
Jesse set the rabbit out on a rock next to the fire. Lucas was telling the story as if he had been in Vietnam and bagged a gook. When Jesse made the first incision, Tony lifted his head.
The blood. Tony smelled the blood again, stronger than ever. His mind was buzzing and he felt electricity behind his eyes. He looked at the rabbit and his stomach growled. His intestinal noise was loud. He didn't process any thoughts of action, but nevertheless he pounced on Jesse, wrestling the animal away from him.
Like a dog, Tony dove face first into the flesh of the rabbit, feasting. He tore at it with his insufficient teeth, tossing fur and blood around him. All four of the other boys stood up, alarmed, and stepped back. They could only watch as Tony devoured the insides of the rabbit, until he bit into its smashed skull.
Lucas whispered to Jesse, without moving, "He's eating its brain."
Jesse, per usual, was the only one to react. He smacked Tony in the back of the head and tried to free the rabbit from his jaws. Tony turned his head to Jesse and hissed like a wild animal himself, and Jesse backed off and let him back at his meal.
Somewhere in his mind, Tony gained realization of what was happening, but could not stop himself. He was too hungry, and the meat of the animal was too satisfying. When he finished, he just sat there holding the corpse, glancing around at his friends surrounding him. He fell back on the ground, and stared straight up into the sky. Blood covered his face and the front of his shirt, and dripped from his lips.
Jesse and Lucas dragged Tony into his tent, and zipped it behind them. He seemed to be unconscious, but his eyes remained wide and staring. Mark was freaking out, Scott was shaking his head, cleaning fish. The four of them sat around the fire, and Mark was the first to react out loud.
"Something ain't right with that motherfucker."
There was no arguing there. Mark once again got to do his impression, reminding them of when Tony had stopped breathing in the car. Jesse mentioned the wound in the back of his head after the fall outside of the car. Then there was the incident in the pond with the moose. Now, he lay covered in blood after savagely gorging on the raw flesh of a smaller animal. This made Jesse wonder, What if he had made it out to the moose?
It was Mark who offered , "Do you think he's turning into some kind of vampire or some shit?"
This brought some laughter, but it was the kind of laughter you force when you are actually processing the possibility of a statement. The evidence was there. He did seem to be in some sort of 'undead' state, and was definately hungering for blood or flesh or whatever.
"If vampires were at all real," Jesse said, "I'd slay that fucker right now."
More laughter was forced.
The sound coming from Tony's tent was a combination snore-moan. Maybe a growl. It was unpleasant. It very much seemed like some kind of monster was coming out of that kid.
The four of them went on discussing Tony and the situation, eventually concluding that whatever his condition, he was in no shape for this weekend. Of course, no one wanted to take the responsibility required to handle it. It was (guess who) Jesse who suggested, and offered to carry Tony back out to the car in the morning and get him to a hospital.
Tony moaned again, his loudest yet. The four boys looked at his tent, hair raising on their arms. Lucas asked Jesse, "You sure he's gonna make it 'til morning."
Mark, Scott, Lucas and Jesse all looked at each-other thinking the same thing, but it was Mark who said it:
"It ain't him I'm worried about."