The idea of hurting himself never crossed Jordan’s mind, as it never did with Ray and Jimmy, and as it never had with any of the beasts Brian had encountered in the other world. They were essentially animals, and carnivorous ones at that. The notion of wounding themselves was foreign to them, but the notion of causing agony to others was as natural as breathing.
Jordan was starving. Like Jimmy, he mistook the raging fire inside himself as a side effect of too many steroids. He stopped taking them, only to find himself angrier than before. Brian was the center of his anger, of course, but until things cooled down, Brian was out of reach. And he had to do something. No matter how much he ate and drank, no matter what drugs he took, he was overcome with some bone deep desperate craving that just would not go away. It had kept him awake the night before, and now, with both parents out, he was patrolling the dark house with red eyes and head full of angry bees.
He went outside and sat down by the washing line where Solly was tied up, sleeping on the hot bricks. He patted the old dog and he woke up and licked his hand, tail thumping against the ground. Good old Solly. Always there to make him smile when he was down, always there to lick his wounds, to love him when no one else did. Jordan stared at him for a long time, gritting his teeth until they ached. The arm that patted Solly grew tight with exertion, his hand shaking as though twenty kilos sat on its back.
Finally, he pulled back and struck Solly, not hard, on the side of the head. Solly squealed and pulled back, tail between his legs, and Jordan stared at his hand, horrified. ‘I’m sorry, buddy, I’m so sorry!’ Solly glared at him reproachfully, but allowed Jordan to embrace him a few seconds later, s tears wetting the fur on the back of the dog’s neck. ‘I’m sorry, man. You’re a good dog, good dog.’
But the feeling wasn’t going to go away forever. Not on the grounds of one little slap. Jordan got up and walked over to the other side of the garden. He looked over the neck-high rotted green fence into the neighbour’s yard. They had a big garden, and they kept five chickens in a little coop at the bottom of it. The house only had one tiny bathroom window at the back, made of mottled glass. Cats were known to kill chickens. Happened all the time.
The burn had become painful now, so much so that he could think of literally nothing else. Like being thirsty and thinking of nothing but ice cold water and coke and beer. He thought of looking for something easier, but there was just no time. If you were dying of thirst and there was a muddy puddle in front of you, you didn’t hold off to go looking for a pristine river, after all.
Jordan hopped the fence with an ease he could only have dreamed about a month ago, darted across the yard, reached into the coop and grabbed a fat brown chicken. He held its whole head in one hand and its legs in the other, ran and hurdled back over the fence, and headed straight for the garage. His heart was beating madly with anticipation, his parched lips just inches from that muddy, deliciously satisfying puddle.
Twenty minutes later, he sat on a pile of bloody newspapers in his garage, trembling with ecstasy, tears running down his face and the chicken carcass in his lap. A screwdriver lay beside him.
He wanted to vomit, but somehow managed to avoid it, and by the time he’d cleaned everything up he felt better. A lot better, actually. The burn had not receded, but it had completely changed. Now it was a warm, pleasant feeling, like the one he got after his second or third hit of scotch, only without the accompanying lethargy and foggy mind.
He put the chicken in a plastic bag and hid it at the bottom of the rubbish bin outside. Garbage day was Wednesday.