Chris, Raymond, and I scrambled off the sofa at the same time, and fell in a knot on the carpet. Another scream split the air. We untangled ourselves and ran for the stairs.
My heart flopped in my chest like a mouse trapped in a box. The scream sounded like Sabrina, which meant Dad was back, which meant she must’ve seen the book bag emerge from the TV. It didn’t even cross my mind they might witness the experiment. Once again I failed to think the whole project through.
I’m so stupid!
Raymond took the steps two at a time. I followed him, with Chris behind me. The smell of fried chicken wafted down the stairwell, mingled with a sickly sweet odor. I wrinkled my nose and my stomach churned. It smelled awful!! Dad was always trying something new in the kitchen, and by the smell of it, tonight’s dinner was another one of his infamous trials.
When Raymond reached the top step, he jerked to a halt in mid stride, and I plowed into him. My nose twisted against his shoulder. Then Raymond screamed. I don’t think I ever heard a boy make that kind of sound before.
The hair on the back of my neck stood on end. I couldn’t see around him, or tell what he was yelling about. Denise kept a broom under the stairwell, and suddenly I wished I had it for protection. Raymond crumpled over the side of the banister like he might fall, or throw up, giving me a clear shot of the living room.
What I saw made my gorge come up, and I swallowed repeatedly so as not to spew the acidy fluid. A smoldering, black blob had poured out of the TV like vomit and puddled on the carpet. The smell wasn’t from one of Dad’s abominable dishes. It came from the oozing mass on the shag rug. I knew immediately what had happened.
How could’ve I been so greedy; so thoughtless? So careless? We thought nothing could go wrong; so insulated from evil by our parents, and church, and the four walls of our homes. We took life for granted and assumed nothing could ever fall apart like this. Bad things happened to other people. That’s what I believed.
Sabrina stood beneath the archway that separated the kitchen and the living room, her hands covering her mouth, her favorite doll forgotten at her feet. Her face was as pasty white as biscuit dough, and her eyes were like two muddy puddles.
I wished I never laid eyes on the teleporter, wished I’d listened to Chris, and called the police like he wanted. It was my fault. In my haste of wanting my parents reunited now, I had killed. Dad said my generation was the NOW generation. He was right.
In the split second that Raymond turned the knob and set the teleporter in motion, Pecos must’ve sensed the danger and leaped at the teleporter to protect us, and was sucked into the vortex that I had struggled against. Pecos had been expelled out of the TV like Raymond’s phlegm, and just like Professor Strunk’s mice.
Chris pushed at me, and I remembered he was behind me. I quickly turned and tried to block his view. “Don’t look! You don’t want to see!” But in my turning, Chris bobbed to the left and gained full access of what was left of Pecos. I felt him freeze beneath my hands.
“No, no, no, no,” he moaned. Chris climbed over Raymond and me, and crawled to the mangled remains of his beloved dog. The vinyl red and yellow book bag had melted, and looked like mustard and ketchup in his fur, bones, and flesh.
Dad hurried into the living room from the garage, coming behind Sabrina. “What’s all the screaming about?” He carried my sleeping brother. He stopped when he saw the mass on the carpet, and Chris crying over it. He grabbed Sabrina by the arm and swept her past us, and down the hallway. He didn’t scream, or yell, or demand answers. Dad knew how to take control, even if he didn’t understand the situation.
I was glad he was my dad at that moment. Occasionally, he messed up my life with his choices, and put me on the spot in front of Denise, or Raymond, or embarrassed me in front of my friends. He was often unreliable and a push-over, but beneath that passive exterior, he was a strong, take-charge kind of man that sometimes knew exactly what needed to be done. Despite his failures, I loved him. He was there when I needed him.
My heart squeezed sharply as I realized how Mom must feel to wake up everyday to the crushing realization that she no longer had Dad to talk through decisions that had to be made, or calm her fears, or turn on the light when she was scared. No matter how unreliable he was, or how much he embarrassed her, or how bad his choices were, she still loved him the way I still loved him, and Dad would never be there for her again, the way he was there for me.
Dad returned from down the hall like a Tasmanian whirlwind. “What is this?” He demanded sharply. He knelt on one knee beside Pecos, touching Chris on the shoulder.
Chris hiccupped. “Pecos,” he managed to whisper.
Dad looked at Raymond and me on the stairs. “What happened?” He charged.
“We heard a noise,” Chris said thickly, answering for us. “We heard a noise an-and thought it was you. We didn’t pa-pay any attention until Sabrina screamed. We thought-we thought…” He ended weakly.
Dad didn’t push for a better explanation. He got a box out of the garage and gently moved Chris out of the way. Chris shoved the transmitter with all that dog goo on it, into his waistband, and pulled down his shirt. With a dustpan and broom, Dad scooped Pecos into the box, and carried it out the backdoor. The sickly sweet scent lingered near the discolored, wet spot in front of the TV.
Raymond and I made Chris come downstairs with us. We heard my dad upstairs, spraying the spot and brushing it vigorously. Chris was crying. I couldn’t blame him, and it made me feel worse.
“I told you to destroy it!” Chris accused angrily, tears running down his cheeks. He threw the transmitter and it smacked me in the chest. Dog gooey stuff splattered my face.
“I’m sorry, Chris. I didn’t know this would happen, and you didn’t either.” I rubbed my cheek and nose vigorously.
“Why don’t we call a council meeting of The Force?” Raymond said. “This is bigger than us.”
“No,” I cried. “They’d ban all of us for using the teleporter, and for killing Pecos!”
I killed Pecos. Me.
I shuddered. What was happening to me? How many of the Ten Commandments had I broken---just today?