“Does anyone else smell fish?” James asked.
“I can smell your vagina, if that’s what you mean,” Harry said, before turning back to the TV, thumbs working furiously at his controller.
“No, seriously,” James insisted.
In the game, something exploded. Mark, the host, threw down his controller, dead. His parents were both working. It was school holidays.
“Close the window, then.” Harry said.
James got up, dusting chip crumbs off his lap, and Coco, Mark’s little bitza dog, raced forth to snuffle them up. “I will. But does anyone else smell it?”
I joined a chorus of nopes.
“Maybe you’re having a stroke,” Harry said.
“I have one of those every night before I go to sleep.” Mark was smirking. He had taken back his controller and was now on a kill-streak. James shut the window and returned to the couch. Coco hung around and smelt him with interest.
On the TV, I was being stabbed in the gut. I turned to James and held out my controller. “Want a go?”
“You fucking dog cunt, Harry!” Mark cried. Harry had just thrown a hand grenade into the hover tank Mark was commanding. “That’s fucking it, gloves are off now.”
“Oh, I’m soiling myself,” Harry deadpanned.
“I can still smell it.”
“What?” asked Mark, “the shit in Harry’s dacks?”
“No, the fish. You guys seriously can’t smell it? It’s so strong.”
I took a big sniff. Clean carpet and deodorant. Nothing oceanic. “I think it’s just you, mate.”
“Fuck, weird.” He chewed his bottom lip. “I actually think it’s making me sick.”
Something in the game exploded. Coco scampered off into the backyard.
“Hey where did James go?” Mark demanded. “This map’s too small for hiding, you pussy!”
“Don’t call him that!” Harry yelled. “Then you’ll have to explain to him what it means!”
“Well he’s got one, doesn’t he? You said so yourself just before.”
“You guys really have to decide whether I’m a woman or a faggot,” James said, groaning.
I got up and went into the kitchen for a glass of water, Harrison and Mark kept at it.
“Maybe you’re a lesbian.”
“That’d be pretty hot.”
“Nah he’d be one of the muss ones.”
“Hairy, feminist, lesbian bitch.”
“No matter what he is, he’s not getting any.”
A little choked sob came from the couch.
“Fuck, James, we’re just joking,” Mark said.
“Yeah, dude, no need to be a girl about it.”
I came back into the lounge room. Harry and Mark hadn’t looked away from the screen. James’ pudgy body was convulsing. His back arched, rigid. His eyes rolled into the back of his head and drool dripped into his lap.
“Holy shit,” Harry breathed.
Something in the game exploded.
A moment later, so did James’ chest.
Eight tentacles erupted from his torso. Long, white, and thin, all slick with his blood. They whipped around the room, frenzied, overturning vases and bowls of fruit. Outside, Coco howled. And then the tentacles calmed. They clasped with wet suckering sounds onto the walls and fixtures. The mass of gore at the centre of James churned. Something was moving in there— something was dragging itself out.
Now, yes. Now I could smell it.