Why am I suddenly so brave, Jason wondered. For some reason, the old man’s weakness made him feel stronger, as if it was now incumbent on him to be the strong one, to pick up the slack. Another point to consider at leisure—assuming that he lived through this night.
“I’ll go first,” Jason said. “Walk behind me.”
They started forward, Jason in the lead, both of them holding their torches aloft. As they approached the house, the pack drew closer together and the guttural, unworldly howling increased. Jason looked at his outstretched right hand, the one bearing the torch, and saw that it was shaking.
“Easy now,” Jenkins said. “I’m right behind you.”
It was both the shortest and the longest walk of his life. When he was within sprinting distance of the hellhounds, their stench filled his nostrils. It was more than a mere animal smell. It was a smell of decay. Suddenly Jason recalled another theory he had read about these creatures: their corporeal bodies were constituted from the dead matter of other, previously living things. They were built from carrion, but they were nevertheless very deadly in their own right.
One of the wolves darted forward, and Jason, not knowing what else to do, responded by extending his torch in the thing’s direction. To his surprise, the hellhound stopped within a yard of the torch and fell back, its red eyes leaving a trail of unholy light. It was just as Jenkins had said: They could be repelled by fire....