(Better read "Brute, Part 1", otherwise you're going to be so totally confused.)
Leandra and I had almost not looked at one another during the two minutes we had been on the ground next to Jeremiah. I had been able to hear her alternately sobbing and screaming, but I hadn’t looked at her face. So I took this moment of calm to glance into her eyes. I’m pretty sure that I looked like a bug with eyes wider than my oversized sunglasses, but I couldn’t have looked more terrified than Leandra looked at that moment. The sick person came out in me again as I bet she was trying to figure out how to beg her way out of paying for the rest of her wedding dress.
Leandra’s eyes were open so far that for a second, I thought that my brain was playing tricks on me. I could see so much of the white of her eyes that I immediately thought of a spooked horse. Her makeup was almost nonexistent now, not that she had been wearing a lot to begin with, but now, instead of being around her eyes, it was smeared on her cheekbones and the front of her shirt.
“Is he…?” Leandra said, leaving the sentence half-alive in a forgotten mind-attic. I looked back at Jeremiah, shaking my head. His chest was still moving; it was moving so obviously that in a normal situation I would have teased my friend for not noticing, but I didn’t even think of doing so.
“I wonder if we should move him?” I said as I stretched out my hand to touch his arm. The neighborhood was quiet except for some cars driving down the street and the mumbled conversations of people a few houses down. How no one had heard the screaming and joint cracking, I have no idea. I guess people just don’t like to get involved. Jer’s arm moved when I poked it, but nothing else happened. Leandra, seeing that I could touch him sans probleme, reached out her own hand and placed it on his chest. She looked up at me and grinned, her brown eyes alight with hope.
“I can feel his heart!” she said. I just nodded, still slowly trying to decide what to do. No one had come to help. It was the two of us and a broken, unconscious body.
“Jeremiah?” I asked. I leaned above his face and spoke a little louder than I usually do, which is probably too loud anyhow. Leandra copied me, adding a “Honey?” to her query. “Jer?” I repeated. And then, suddenly, he groaned, and I could have sworn that I saw his lips move. I leaned closer, so that my face was just above his, and tapped his face with my palm. Leandra finally seemed to wake up; she raised herself up a little and moved to the other side of Jeremiah’s body by throwing one leg and then the other over his very, very quiet form.
I began to doubt whether I had seen him move or not. Leandra took my place above his face, yelling at him, moving his head, and covering his face with kisses. Yeah, definitely not an approach I would have undertaken. Everything that had been moving so quickly was suddenly still….too still. I looked up into the sky, noticing for the first time that it was evening, and a couple of stars were out, laughing and twinkling. Allowing myself a very short sigh, I looked over my shoulder. I don’t know what I was hoping to see. Maybe a firefighter or policeman or, at the very least, a walking, talking staple gun to prove that I truly had gone insane.
But the only thing I saw was the moon, slightly orange and hidden behind some clouds. Nothing interesting. I looked back at Jeremiah and Leandra. The soft light made everything look like it was spun out of springtime, and I was waiting for the baby bunnies to hop out of the corner of the yard, from under that aspen tree with its pristine, creamy bark.
Sighing, I heaved myself back into position. “Lea…maybe we should call someone?” I asked. Finally my brain was working quickly enough to come up with that solution. But to my surprise, she shook her head.
"No,” she said. “He’ll be alright. He’ll be up in a second.”“Leandra—“
“It’s OK, I’ve got him,” she said, and for the first time I wished I had kicked her out of the yard. This was probably worse than traumatizing. What could be worse than watching your fiancé die? I couldn’t come up with anything.
“Here, let me,” I said as I slid my arm under Jeremiah's shoulders. Leandra was trying to pull him up by tugging on either side of his shirt. His arms were splayed, and because every joint was out of place he had become a horror film version of Gumby, bendable in every way. Jeremiah’s head lolled sickly backwards, making me think of a million Catholic crucifixes full of broken figurines. With my arm just below his head, at least it didn’t look like it was going to fall off.
As I was pulling him up, grimacing because I could feel him sagging down and I knew it was because nothing in his body was truly connected, Leandra squeaked. My eyes darted up, searching her face.
“He moved! I felt it! He’s OK!” I didn’t really react to what she said; I just sort of looked back into Jeremiah’s face, which was oh-so-terribly-close, and wondered, yet again, what the heck was happening.
That’s when his entire body snapped together, throwing itself out of our arms like a rubber band. We both screamed. The force of the movement of Jeremiah’s body tossed us to the ground like dishrags; I felt my ankle crack, and my head hit the grass with a dull thump that was, without question, going to hurt for a long time. Leandra was on the ground nursing her right arm. She had been forced back so that it almost looked like she was purposefully reclining on the soft grass. I stared at her for a millionth of a second, then turned to Jeremiah’s body a few feet away.
It shouldn’t have surprised me that something weird had happened. I mean, seriously, he was writhing on the grass and his joints burst from his bones. Was I really expecting him to flutter his eyelashes and wake up, smiling, to us slapping his face?
Either way, I so was not prepared to find myself on my butt in my friend’s future back yard, staring at her fiancé, who was baring his teeth at me and growling. In the one split second that it took for his joints to heal and pull together, he had grown paws, a fine layer of brownish-black fur, and the build of the crazy child of a Rottweiler and a wolf.
That said, you can imagine my further surprise when Jeremiah, as impaired as he was by rippling black lips and razor canines, lifted an eyebrow and asked, “What in the world is wrong with you people?”