COURSE THREE: HORROR
Podraig Flanagan did not sleep well. It had nothing to do with the fact that he was a hired killer; he had long ago made his peace with his profession. He had never felt close to God, so he had no real concern for his soul, immortal or otherwise.
Rather, the Irish Wolfhound was restless because he was possessed of a mighty and persistent itch. It seemed that he had, at best, a few hours between scratchings. He was reasonably sure he hadn't gone diving into a patch of poison ivy. He'd heard of some poor blokes back home that couldn't wear wool because it made them itch all over, but he was wearing the same suit he'd had for years.
So why now, all of a sudden, did he ITCH so badly?
Hot baths seemed to offer some relief; perhaps it was just that toweling off was like a gentle scratching all over? With a generous fistful of cash in hand, the local shop owners were quite forthcoming with suggested remedies. Several suggested adding salt to the bathwater, though none could agree on which kind of salt worked better than other kinds. One suggested soaking in a bathtub filled with pomegranate juice. Podraig did not relish the thought of dying his skin bright pink. With his Irish complexion?
No less than two dozen remedies were suggested; half of which were purchased. None helped. Podraig was getting desperate; hot baths weren't helping anymore. The incessant itching was beginning to drive him bonkers.
Even more alarming than the maddening irritation was the hard lump that had formed in the pit of his stomach. “It's the cancer!” one woman shrieked as she made a warding gesture. If it is, I hope it kills me quickly ... not sure how much more of this I can stand!
Sheer exhaustion eventually won out over the discomfort of itching, and Podraig collapsed in one of Wallace Marshal's warehouses, sleeping through the night for the first time in more nights than he cared to count. When he awoke, he promptly wished that he hadn't. The mass in his stomach had tripled in size overnight, and a network of blisters had formed across his skin. He still itched terribly, but could barely scratch for the intense pain everytime he grazed any of the blisters.
Half-mad with frustration and searing pain, Podraig Flanagan stripped off his clothing. His knife, which had proven itself quite useful in slitting throats, now served as a lance for the blisters which seemed to be cropping up faster and faster.
Now covered in seeping, bleeding wounds, Podraig was free to scratch what skin remained intact. As he did, his skin shifted and slid under his fingernails. Thin pieces of his skin began to tear. Grabbing hold of this loose skin, he pulled. To his horror, the skin came loose from its moorings in his hands, more and more, until he was raw and bleeding all over. Finally, with a great tug, he pulled free the last bit of skin, that which covered the growing lump of his stomach.
What he saw would have made him scream, if he wasn't beyond such a sane reaction. The lump in his stomach was a mass of small bloody red ovals, like a bowl full of pomegranate seeds. Just as his brain began to process this, these pomegranate seeds began to crack open ... not seeds, but eggs! Spiders emerged from within, and began devouring the Irish Wolfhound as they crawled across his ruined body.
A single rogue spider skittered across the warehouse floor toward the door. Before it could escape, a waterlogged foot squished it beneath its shoe. A familiar voice was the last thing that Podraig Flanagan heard.
“I told you to keep away from me, boyo.”