"Holy shit," Star gasps. She takes a step back from Devin.
My stomach turns with nausea, and I grit my teeth.
"Devin, are you okay?" America asks. He reaches a shaking hand out to him before drawing it back and taking a step away.
Devin coughs again, and then he reaches to his mouth. Grimacing, he pulls another tooth from his upper jaw. He gags as the incisor releases with a pop, a trail of blood running like a cord back to the roof of his mouth.
"Do I fucking look okay to you?" Devin swats the sticky red string away as he shoots a glare at America. He pinches his eyes shut for a second. When he opens them, lines of translucent, reddish-brown tears run from their corners like rusty water leaking from a pipe.
A guttural scream releases from his throat. He throws the teeth to the ground and reaches to his eyes with clawed fingers, pulling at the lower lids. The streaks of rust thicken, and their color deepens to vermillion.
"Oh my God!" Devin cries. His hands shake as he scratches at his skin. "What the fuck is happening to me?"
America grabs me by the wrist. His fingers tighten around the sleeve of my space suit, and he yanks me back. My pulse races, throbbing in my temples. My legs shake beneath me.
"What the fuck?" Devin moans as blood leaks from his eyes. He staggers back a few steps. He loses his balance and stumbles off to the side, bracing himself against the wall of the cave to keep from falling.
A cough shakes through his diaphragm, and his entire body shudders. His mouth gapes into a silent, pained howl. The remaining teeth in his upper jaw hang loose, ready to release. Within one of the bleeding holes in his skull where a tooth once was, something twists and squirms. A tiny spiral worm wriggles its way out like a maggot crawling through raw meat. A second one follows, inching its way between the tiny bubbles of blood and saliva.
My breath stops in my lungs. The entire cave freezes. The only sound that remains is Devin's pained panting.
He inhales heavily, and then a roar of anguish explodes from his throat. The scream pounds through the cave, echoing down the maze of tunnels. His head snaps around. Blank, empty eyes focus in on America and me. Even though my light shines directly into his eyes, his pupils dilate to the point that his irises disappear. Lines of bloodshot capillaries spiderweb out across the whites to the corners.
His bloody tongue runs over his remaining teeth. One of his canines loosens, swinging back and forth twice before releasing and falling into his mouth.
He doesn't even flinch. Instead, with a gulp, he swallows it like a pill.
"Devin," I gasp.
He takes a shaking step towards America and me. His bloody eyes are empty. His jaw stretches wide. Worms squish their way out from the holes in his gums, crawling between his teeth.
The pain in my ankle barely registers as I take another step back.
"Devin," America says, his voice tense. He holds one shaking hand out in front of him, like he's trying to get a rabid dog to stay. He releases his grip from my wrist, raising that arm in front of me and forming a protective barrier.
Devin bares his remaining teeth at us. He lets out a single barking croak, and he charges.
He collides with America and me, knocking me to the side with his elbow as he grabs America by the shoulders. My injured ankle buckles beneath my weight, and I fall. My hip strikes the rocky floor of the cave, sending pain shuddering through me.
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Down UnderScience Fiction
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