Mallory was underneath me, grunting in pain.
“Have another one. You like it,” I said. It’s my voice, but it’s not really MY voice. It doesn’t sound right.
“No,” he said through gritted teeth. “I don’t.”
“You said you’d occupy me for a while. So occupy me.” I shoved another pairing knife into his hand. It looked like a pincushion made with thin bladed pairing knives. I kept stabbing them into his flesh, just deep enough so that they would stand up on their own. It amused me.
There were bigger blades were scattered all around us on the floor.
I had plans for those.
“Stop. You don’t want to do this.”
I looked at my hand. It was covered in a slick glove of his red, red blood. Liquid velvet. Sweet like fire. I took another sip from the glass. It’s two-thirds of the way full now. I bled him out, like a keg of beer, except it wasn’t beer, because he’s human.
Not like me at all.
Just a man. A fragile sack of meat and bone. A canteen of blood, just for me.
I laughed. “You’re a canteen.”
He stared at me in horror. It made me smile wider. My teeth were so sharp, they effortless bit into my lower lip, and I didn’t care. I could bite him. Make him moan under my lips and teeth. Under me.
A wisp of a memory floats to the surface. He moaned under me once. Both of us naked. Sweating. Writhing. Limbs entwined. Hips thrusting. Shoving into him faster and faster until the sweet, sweet release. It felt so good.
But that was a long time ago. I can’t do things like that anymore. Not really. Didn’t have the urges. Didn’t even care about that. Why was I remembering it now?
What was I doing again? Oh. That’s right.
So many knives. So little time. But if I use them all I’d kill him. I had to save some for later.
I stood up and Mallory curled up around his poor pincushion hand. All the little paring knives were stabbed through his palm in a little cluster of plastic handles. Red and blue and green and white and yellow. All together like pick up sticks or sparklers.
“I had sparklers once. During the fourth of July. I waved them around and they sparkled and spit colored fire everywhere and landed on people and the ground, and clothes and the dog and then he beat me for it. He beat me. I think he was my dad. Or step-dad. Or maybe my mom’s boyfriend or something.”
“That is a horrible memory.”
I shrugged. “It won’t be around for long. There’s plenty I’ll never remember. Plenty I forget as soon as I recall them. It’s just the way it is now.”
I drank the rest of his blood, emptied the glass. Then picked up a nasty looking carving knife and looked down at him. He grimaced in pain and curled up like a fetus around his poor bloodied hand.
“No more. Please. You’ve had enough.”
“You know, you’re right. This job is hazardous to your health.” I crouched down in front of him and twanged the tip of the blade with a finger. “Good thing you got insurance, huh?”
Crying. Always crying. Why the fuck do you always cry you little piece of shit? Fists come down on me like baseball-sized hail. He smelled like liquor. Like booze. Like pain. I hated him. I HATED him! That’s why I ran away. That’s why. Bastard.
Did I go back for him? After I died and became this way? Did I kill that sick fuck? If I did, did I do it for the satisfaction of it? For revenge? Would I even remember it if I did?
“Tell me about your father.” I knelt beside him, grabbed his hair and pulled his head up while holding the knife point just inches from his eye. “Tell me about him.”
He pulled his head back away from the blade, and I let him. If I hurt him too much he’d scream and then he wouldn’t be able to talk to me. I liked talking to him. He listened. No one else listened. No one.
“My father?” he asked, his voice light and airy.
“Yeah. Your dad. Tell me about him. Go on. Do it.”
“Let go of me first.”
He nodded. I let go of his head and kneeled on his shins. They’re bony but I don’t care.
He sat up slowly, and I saw that there was another knife in the center of that pairing blade pincushion. A long, gently curved fish filleting knife. It had gone through his hand and into the floor. He couldn’t raise his hand without sliding it further up on the blade. So he kept it down on the floor.
“My father was a good man. He meant well, and worked long hard hours. But he was never really there for me. Or my mom.”
“What happened to your mom?” I asked. Don’t know why I did that, but I did.
“She died in a car accident. Drunk driver did her in,” he said.
His words sounded hollow, haunted, like he had carried the weight of her death for a very long time.
“Who was it? Who killed her?”
“My dad. He died too. Drove right into her car. Swerved into the opposite lane, head-on collision.”
For some reason, it made me incredibly sad to hear that. I didn’t even know his parents. But, still. It meant that he was alone. Just like I was. Just like I had been for a very long time. Longer than I could even remember now. Or would be able to remember, later on.
“You used to being alone then?” I asked.
He was in so much pain, and I felt fantastic. That bothered me, now that I could think clearly again.
The empty glass on the floor had a thin residue of blood in it. His blood. I drank the whole thing. It felt good. Haven’t drunk my fill in a while. He was starving me. Making me beg for food. Making me wait and wait and wait for his blood. I was sick of it. It drove me mad. So I broke out. And now I was finally full.
My entire body was zinging. I felt ALIVE. Like I could do anything. Take on anyone. My soul and my mind were on fire. Burning so bright. Words and memories and feelings and scents and flavors, everything was racing through my mind at 1,000 miles per hour. It was beautiful. I loved it. And I knew…I knew that this was as good as it got. Once the buzz wore off. Once that high was over. I wouldn’t remember any of this. Hell, next time I might not even remember my own name, let alone who Mallory was.
Damn. I liked him. I asked him for help. He let me come here. Let me stay with him.
And what did I do? I hurt him. Bad.
He was just trying to help.
What was wrong with me? Why did I do that to him?
There were long thin cuts running up his arms. His shirt was ripped open. I bit him, almost took his left nipple clean off. But that didn’t strike me as funny now. Back when I did it, I laughed. He screamed in pain, a sharp high-pitched sound of agony and I laughed so hard that I couldn’t breathe. I had to compose myself before I drank from his wound. Before I grabbed a glass from the kitchen cupboard and filled it with his blood.
But now, I was just sad. I wanted to cry. I wanted to scream.
I stood up. I was so angry. At myself, and at him, for letting me do that. Why did he let me do that to him? Doesn’t he care what happens to him? Doesn’t he know how dangerous I am?
Mallory shifted his weight and turned very slowly to face away from me. The way you would if you didn’t want an enraged dog to rip your throat out.
“Don’t ever offer to occupy my time again. Next time you do that, I might not be able to stop myself. Next time, I might wake up to find that I’ve turned you into hamburger. Understand?”
He nodded. Didn’t take his eyes off the floor the entire time I spoke. He was terrified. Cowed. A feeling of complete and utter submission came off him in invisible waves and hit me like a slap in the face. I could almost smell his fear. I could almost taste it on the air.
I moved the knives away from him, shoved them across the kitchen floor. They hit the walls and scattered in every direction.
“Why do you have so many knives? Are you stupid or something? Did you not think that I wouldn’t use them on you? Seriously Mallory, you should’ve prepped better. You should’ve made this place safe for you to keep me in. I’m nothing more than animal now. You know that right? Pretty soon, I won’t even be yelling at you, just growling and snarling and biting the shit out of you. Hey, I’m talking to you. Say something damn it!” I kicked his leg.
He grunted and sat there, staring at his hand like he was trying to figure out how to take the knives out as fast as possible, even though it would hurt to do it.
I sighed and wrapped my hand around all of them, and yanked them out in one sure motion. He screamed and curled up into a tight ball, cradled his hand to his chest. His blood flowed down it in rivulets. Such a waste. I did that.
I wasted him.
It made me sick to my stomach.
I tossed the knives in the kitchen sink. Disgusted.
What to do, what to do?
Let him die
Let him lay there and cry like the pussy he is
Eat him whole. Devour him, body and soul. Do it! Do it now!
“Shut up,” I muttered to the voices in my head. They were getting louder every day. They weren’t my thoughts. They were someone, or something else’s thoughts, being transmitted into my brain from somewhere nearby.
Paranoid, I looked around the apartment, out the security peephole, everywhere. There was no one else here. No one but myself, and Mallory. Just the two of us. No one else.
I sighed, licked his blood off my hands until they were clean. No sense wasting it. Then I figured out what to do with him.
“Looks like it’s my turn to patch you up,” I said, and grabbed the First Aid kit.
I wasn’t as good at it as he was. But I tried. Put those butterfly closures on the huge hole going through his hand, and wrapped it in gauze. Taped it on. Covered the bite wound on his chest too. And the cuts on his arms. Then I squatted on the floor next to him. Mallory just sat there, mute, pale-faced, wide-eyed, shivering uncontrollably. A puddle of urine formed beneath him on the floor. I could smell the ammonia. I smelled it before I knew that he had pissed himself.
He was scared. He was so scared he couldn’t think. Or maybe he was thinking. Thinking that he was in way over his head. That I’d kill him before he could save me. That maybe it wasn’t worth the pain, this love.
He’d be right though. I wasn’t worth the pain. I wasn’t worth the suffering. I wasn’t worthy of his love. I wasn’t. Not at all.
I picked him up and took him into the shower and rinsed him off. Poor thing. Most people did that when they were tortured. But I guess some do it afterwards? Was he in shock now? Wouldn’t know.
Maybe I did.
He was embarrassed and ashamed and in pain and I did this to him. I hurt him. I did it. It was all me.
I didn’t want to. Didn’t mean to. Couldn’t control myself. Didn’t even remember getting out of the restraints or the room or going to the kitchen and pulling out every single drawer and dumping them on the floor and then hitting him in the face with one as he walked in the front door. He dropped the bags he was carrying. Milk spilled on the floor. Shit. I needed to clean that up too.
“Why?” he whispered. “Why did you do that? Why are you doing this now? I don’t understand.”
“Hush. Let me help you.”
He was shivering uncontrollably. His teeth were starting to chatter. Wait…was the water too cold? I didn’t think it was but it’s all the way over on the coldest setting and I didn’t even notice. I turned the shower handle the other way and the bathroom began to steam up. Ah. It was ice-cold water. I remembered to turn it down after a second so that I didn’t burn him. I didn’t want to hurt him anymore tonight.
I didn’t want to hurt him ever again.
“Is that warm enough?” I asked.
I couldn’t stand to see him so upset. I couldn’t say anything to make it better. How could I? What could I possibly say? That I was sorry? How the hell would that make anything any better?
I took off his clothes, got him naked, and washed him off the best I could. I was clumsy about it, like I hadn’t used soap or shampoo in a very long time. I stood there staring at the shampoo bottle for a few minutes before I remembered that to open it you had to flip the top up. I shook my head, poured out what looked like enough and lathered his hair up. Then I realized that I should’ve taken the bandages off BEFORE starting the shower and soaping him up.
I felt so stupid.
I rinsed the shampoo out, left him sitting in the tub, hugging his knees to his chest with the nice hot water pouring over him, and grabbed some scissors from the other room.
When I walked over and held them up, his eyes grew wide and he backed up until he ran into the shower wall and could do no further.
“No. No. No more. No! Please. No more!”
“Easy. Easy now. I need to cut off the gauze I taped around your hand. It’s getting all soapy and shit. That’s not good for wounds. Right?”
I gestured to his hand.
He blinked, like my words took a moment to register and then he nodded and held out his hand. I took it gently and cut off the gauze. I removed it from his arms and chest too.
“Don’t…don’t put soap in them. It’ll burn.”
“I’ll try not to.”
He nodded and let me finish washing him up.
“There’s hydrogen peroxide in the cabinet. Use that on my wounds.”
I opened the mirrored cabinet over the broken sink. I did that. I broke it with my bare hands. Slammed my fists down on it, slit my throat with a razor sharp shard of porcelain. I wanted to die. He wouldn’t let me. He sewed my neck back up. Restrained me. Cleaned up in here and covered the sharp broken off ends of the sink with masking tape.
“This one?” I held up the brown bottle.
He let me pour the strange fizzing stuff on him and I watched, mesmerized. I waited until it was done bubbling and rinsed him off. Then I wrapped him in a few towels, dried him off and redressed his wounds.
He just stood there in the bathroom, staring at the wall.
“Come on.” I gently pushed him by the shoulders. He stopped walking when his foot hit the wooden floor beyond the bathroom. I picked him up, he didn’t protest. He felt so light to me. Like I could carry him all day and not even get tired. I set him down on the couch, and pulled the thick comforter over him.
He was in so much pain. And so very tired. He was physically and emotionally drained. That much, I understood. And I knew that it was all my fault. All of it.
I mopped up the floor, swept up the mess from the spilled groceries. Put everything back in the drawers. Picked up as best as I could. The entire time he watched me move.
He said nothing.
I said nothing.
There was nothing I could say about this.
I was a monster. I wished he would accept it. I wasn’t human anymore. And I never would be, ever again.
I pulled a chair over from the kitchen table and turned it around. I straddled the seat, rested my arms over the back and just watched him. We stared at each other for a while, before he teared up and turned his back to me and started crying uncontrollably. The way I wished I could when I was angry and hurt and didn’t want to live anymore.
It made my chest ache, seeing him sob like that. He grabbed the back couch cushion and shoved it into his face and screamed into it.
It broke my heart. Shattered it into a million pieces. It felt like all those knives I had stabbed into him, were now lodged firmly in my chest.
The comforter fell to the floor. That’s when I saw that he was still naked. I forgot to get him clothes.
What the…How could I forget that?
I should do something. I should give him comfort. Did I even know how? Don’t know. Not sure. But I should try to do something. Anything was better than sitting here letting him cry like that.
I sat on the edge of the couch, slowly reached out a hand and put it on his back.
“Don’t touch me!” he screamed. “Leave me alone. Just…leave me alone.”
I pulled away and stood up.
I really fucked up this time. I really, really did.
I shoved my hands in my pants pockets. My clothes were soaking wet. Didn’t bother me. Didn’t feel the cold anymore. Hardly notice the heat, save that it made me move better.
“You’re lucky I didn’t kill you.”
Is that how I say it when I'm mad?
It hurt. His words hurt me. Something caught in my throat. I think it was sorrow. I shook my head. No point feeling that way. It’s not like I could cry anymore.
“I remember now. My name is Jonah,” I said and turn away from him to go pick up some things I missed that were still on the kitchen floor.
“What?” he asked and sat up. His face was red and blotchy, wet from crying.
“My name,” I said and bent down and starting throwing stray utensils in an open drawer. “It’s Jonah. Like you said.”
He stared at me. The words took a moment to sink in. His brain was slow from being worked up like that. He clutched a worn couch cushion to his chest and sighed.
“Jonah,” he said in a soft voice. “Such a nice name.”
“If you say so.”
He stood on shaking legs and shuffled over to me. His every step sounded painful. I straightened up. He stood there with the comforter wrapped around him. He looked like a caterpillar.
“I need painkillers.”
I nodded and looked around. In drawers, under things, until I found a bottle of aspirin.
“Is this okay?”
“It’ll have to do,” he said with a weary sigh.
He wanted something with more kick. I could tell.
“What you really need is morphine, or strong shit like codeine or something.”
He glared at me and held out a hand, the wounded one was gripping the comforter, holding it up.
“Give me the damned bottle Jonah.”
“Fine. Take it.” I shoved it into his hand. He couldn’t get the top off. Not while trying to hold the comforter up around his naked body. Not with his mutilated hand. The hand I turned into a pincushion with pairing knives.
I took it from him and opened it and poured out a good handful.
“How much you want?”
“The whole bottle,” he muttered.
“Uh, won’t that kill you?”
“Sarcasm. Learn it,” he said and grabbed almost half of the mound I poured out into my hands.
I put the rest in the bottle and set it on the counter.
“Sarcasm. Got it.”
He shuffled to the sink tossed the pills back in his mouth and drank water straight from the tap.
God this was pathetic. I need to do something. We need to get out of here. Before this place consumed us. Before I consumed us.
I wonder where my car ended up…
I looked around.
It was about an hour before sun up. We had been at it most of the night. I had around forty minutes before the sun started to rise.
I threw on my boots and took his jacket without asking. He whirled around when he saw me putting on clothes.
“Where are you going?”
He sounded panicked. Scared. He knew he couldn’t do shit to stop me.
“Out. I’ll be back.”
I put my hands on his shoulders. “Just down the street. Got any cash?”
“You need something stronger than aspirin. Don’t tell me you don’t. And you need something to eat,” I said and pointed to his stomach. It had been growling for a few minutes now.
“I have cash in my wallet.”
I found his pants in the bathroom, pulled the wallet out, took the money out and paused. There’s a picture in it. It’s of him with a guy. They’re posed together on a bench in front of a fountain. It’s a nice, sunny day. Summer time. They look happy together. Bermuda shorts, flip flops, healthy tans, white tank tops with open Hawaiian shirts over it. The ones with the bright tropical floral prints. Mallory’s is blue, the other guy is wearing a red one.
Mallory has his arm around the guy like he owns him. Like guys do with their girlfriends when they pose for pictures. The man looks familiar. Have I seen him somewhere? Those hazel eyes. That trendy hair cut, light brown hair with dyed blonde highlights. His big smile. I knew that man.
Who was that?
Mallory popped up in the doorway. “You’re running out of night-time. You better hurry.”
I dropped his wallet and the picture. Not on purpose. I tried to act like I did though. I mean, why should I care if he sees me staring at a picture of him and his…
Wait. Was that me?
No. No way. That couldn’t have been me. Could it?
“Don’t be gone too long,” he said.
“Yeah, yeah. I’ll be back.”
“Don’t get lost. I mean it.”
“I won’t. I’ll be back before sunrise.”
It was the first time I’d been out in months.
The night air smelled great.
We were in a city. It was fall.
Huh. I didn’t know that much time had passed. Last I remembered it was spring.
Dead leaves skittered across the street while more fell from the trees. I walked past people. Most didn’t even give me a second glance, if they bothered to look up while they walked. City people. Don’t ask, don’t look, don’t get involved. Rules of the concrete jungle.
There was a blue sign with an H and an arrow pointing down the road. I remembered that it meant that there was a hospital that way.
I followed the signs.
That guy, in the picture, he looked familiar. Couldn’t remember where I saw him though. His face nagged at me as I walked down the sidewalk. Maybe that was me. Maybe that’s what I looked like before IT happened.
I slipped in through the emergency room doors. I didn’t want to be noticed. No one did. Not when they were about to steal from a hospital.
I fell silent. I didn’t even breathe. I willed myself invisible to them, and no one saw me. People looked right through me. Every once in a while someone stepped out of my way or shivered as I passed by, but no one said a word.
I followed the signs and eventually I found what I was looking for; the nurse’s station with the medicine cabinets or the drug supply case. Whatever they call it. That’s what it was.
I took a box of syringes, one of those red plastic things you’re supposed to put them in when they’re used, and shoved them in my jacket pockets. Then I grabbed an empty box from the top of the garbage and shoveled as many little tiny vials of morphine in them as I could. I took gauze, bandages, even antibiotics. I also nabbed two big bottles of codeine, shoved them in the box and closed it up. Then I walked away like I knew where I was going. Like I belonged there. Like I was just doing my job.
“Hey! Hey you!”
I turned around.
An orderly glared at me. “Help me with this will you?”
His hands were full and a food tray was about to fall off his cart. I pushed it back up.
I slipped out of there. Ran across the street, down the block, back to his apartment. It was easy. I just followed his scent. I knew where he lived from his smell.
I stopped at the front door. Damn it.
He needed food.
I looked up at the sky. Almost out of time. I could feel the night starting to end. The sky hadn’t quite begun to light up yet. But it would, and soon. Daylight scared me. I couldn’t remember exactly why, but it did. I needed to make this quick.
I rushed over to the convenient store at the end of the block. I grabbed frozen dinners and an armful of junk food. I tossed them on the counter. The girl at the register seems unfazed by me. She rang me up, slowly.
“Hurry up,” I growled.
She raised an eyebrow but didn’t move any faster. I was getting antsy. The sun was starting to rise. I needed to get back, get indoors before the sun warmed up the world.
“That’s thirty-six seventy-five.”
I threw the money at her, snatched the bags and headed for the door.
“Have a nice day asshole!”
I smiled and waved, and ran right into someone walking into the store. He smelled like wet dog. The girl next to him smelled like a cat in heat. The other guy behind them smelled like he just got done having sex with a goat. The guy I ran into looked like he was about to kick my ass. He was twice my size. But I didn’t care. I had to get back to Mallory. Fast.
I stared the guy down. Gave him the meanest look I could muster and his eyes widened. The hairs on his massive muscular arms stood up, and he backed away, put his hands up and stepped to the side.
“Hey, sorry about that man,” he said.
“Get out of my way,” I said and shoved passed them.
“Jesus H. Christ. Did you get a look at that guy?” the girl asked her two friends.
“Yeah. Creepy. Let’s get the hell out of here.”
Creepy. I’ll give them creepy. They’ll drop a load. That’s how creepy I’ll get.
I rushed back and ran up the stairs and into his apartment and slammed the door behind me. The sun was just starting to rise. But I made it back in time. And that is all that mattered.
I leaned against the door for the moment in relief and sighed. I made it.
“Hey I’m back. Hey Mallory? I got you food.” I knew he was there. I could smell him. “Mal?”
I put the food on the counter and walked down the small hallway. He was in the bathroom, huddled over the picture, the one from his wallet. He was crying as soft as he possibly could. Like he didn’t want to be heard.
He didn’t look up when I softly knocked on the door and stepped in.
“Mal, I got you some food and medicine.”
“Hey,” I said crouched down in front of him. “Who’s the guy in the picture there with you? He looks familiar. Do I know him?”
He nodded slowly.
“Who is it? Is that me?” I pointed to the guy next to him on the park bench.
Mallory’s face crumbled and he clung to me and sobbed. It was different from before. Before it sounded angry. Now, it sounded like his entire world had ended and he was left with nothing but an ocean full of sorrow and regret. I didn’t know what to do. So I let him hold onto me and cry until he couldn’t cry any more. By that time I was getting tired.
I yawned. The sun came up sometime while we were sitting there. I needed to sleep, but I didn’t want to. I was afraid of what I would wake up to. Of what I would do before I realized what I was doing.
It scared me.
“Come on. Let’s get you fixed up,” I said and helped him up. He was so weak, his knees buckled. I took his arm and put it over my shoulder and helped him walk over to the couch.
I pulled out the box of syringes and the red plastic thing and the other box full of medicine.
“Jonah, where did you get this?”
“You stole it?”
“No one noticed me. I didn’t want them to, so they didn’t.”
“Are you sure about that?”
“Yeah. Even helped a guy who worked there. No one noticed me take it. I swear.”
“All right.” He didn't sound so sure but he wasn’t in any position to argue.
“I got what I thought you might need.”
“There’s a lot of medicine here.”
“Yeah,” I said and sat down next to him and watched him fill the syringe up with liquid painkiller.
“Why’d you get so much?”
“Just in case. You know…”
“Mmm…” he said and injected it into his arm in a practiced motion.
“Look, I…I’m sorry. I know that it doesn’t change anything, and it doesn’t make what I did any better, but I really didn’t mean to hurt you like that. Honest. I never,” I sighed. I didn’t have the right words for this. Maybe I never did.
“I know. And I forgive you. I’ll always forgive you.”
He set the syringe and medicine down. He laid down on the couch, his legs draped over mine.
“Because I love you,” he murmured and just like that, he fell asleep.
Shit. I should’ve asked him if he knew what he was doing. It’d suck if he O.D.’d on me. It’d really suck.
I watched him sleep. I tried to stay up as long as I could. I lasted until 10:30 in the morning. The sun was up. I could feel it, like the humidity in a heat wave pressing in on my chest. I let my head loll back on the couch, and closed my eyes. I needed to figure out what the hell we were going to do next. He wouldn’t survive another attack from me. The next one would be worse. And they would continue to get worse until I killed him.
Could I trust myself? Could I trust him to keep me locked up when I needed to be caged like a wild animal?
Don’t know. Not sure.
I don’t want to sleep. I don’t want to lose this. I don’t want to forget who I am. Please God, no more. I’d rather just die than slowly lose myself like this. Please, Mallory.
Just let me die.
Part 6: Undead Rat in a CageComic books.
I liked comic books.
I was picking up the place and under the couch was an old ragged copy of a Batman graphic novel. You know, the one where he’s like sixty and comes back for one more round of vengeance and all that?
I sat there, staring at it, flipping through the pages, remembering how excited I was when I first got it.
"It’s been a while," Mallory said.
"Since I’ve seen you smile. It’s been a long time."
"Oh," I said and absent-mindedly flipped through the pages.
"What were you thinking about?"
"Nothing, just remembering buying it," I said.
Mallory sat next to me, close but not close enough for skin to touch. He was still a little shy since our last "incident."
He scooted over to the opposite end of the couch and leaned against the arm rest. His hand was wrapped up. Bandages covered the multiple thin slits I had cut into his skin. He was still taking morphine.
Not as much today as the past couple. But still taking it. All my fault, that.
The way he sat there, cradling his hand. Was he doing it on purpose? Can’t tell.
I wanted to ask him how his hand was healing up, but I thought better of it. I was the one that cut it all to hell. I had no right to ask about it. At least, I didn't think that I did.
"Jonah, there's something you need to know."
"Oh? What's that?" A thousand pissed off hornets buzzed in my head. My vision when black and white: gray-scale. Like those old crappy cathode ray TVs. Hissing white noise in my ears, voices came at me from all directions, loud then soft, like a train speeding past.
The broodlings. The others. They come. For what? Your heart. Your soul, what’s left of it anyway. He’s trying to bring it back. He’s trying to cheat death. SHE won’t have that. SHE won’t have any of that. SHE is coming. SHE will soon be here.
Those eyes. Those red, bleeding eyes with pits as black as death incarnate, staring at me from the darkness of my mind's eye. That thick oil sludge for blood, being forced into my mouth. She pried my lips open with ragged clawed fingers, pinched my nose shut. Made me swallow it. I wanted to throw up.
A warm hand on my shoulder.
"Jonah? Are you alright?"
"Fine," I grunted and slapped the comic book down on the coffee table. He jumped. Gun shy. I eyed him, said nothing.
"What?" he asked. "You were talking to someone. Just then. Someone you could see, but I couldn't. Who was it?"
"Don't want to talk about it. You're better off not knowing."
"I can't help you if I don't know what is wrong."
He was right.
“We shouldn’t stay here too long. They’re looking for me."
"Who's looking for you? You were followed the other night when you went out, weren't you?"
"No. I wasn't. I would've smelled them if they were that close. They weren't."
"Yeah. I'm sure. I might be crazy, but I know when a predator is stalking me. I haven't lost all of my senses yet."
"Good to know."
"The ones I was talking to...they're the Others."
"Broodlings. The Others. They’re coming. They don’t like what you’re doing to me."
"Others, like me. But, not like me. They…" How the fuck do I even know this? "They obey her. She tries to control me too, but it stops after I feed. Not sure why. Don’t really care. As long as it stops."
"There’s more out there, like you? More...vampires?"
Is there more of us? Is that what I’ve been hearing? Their whispers? Gnawing at my ears with tiny little needle teeth?
I sighed and rubbed my eyes, tried to focus. The voices were getting so loud now. They were talking over Mallory. I didn't care for that. Not one bit.
"Yes. There’s more. She’s making them and sending them to fetch me. That’s why…"
That’s why I’ve been on the move for so long. I’ve been running from them. From HER. I was a mistake. I’m like SHE is, more than I am like them. They’re worker ants, I’m a what? What the fuck is the word for a male ant? Drone? Ugh. Who cares.
"Is that why you ran off? I looked for you for months you know."
Did I know that?
I did. I could smell him. That’s why I kept running. I didn’t want him to find me because I wanted to eat him. Not in the sexual way, in the feeding way.
Once I craved pleasure from his flesh. But now, now the only urge I have, is to eat. I missed the other urges, the animal ones. The lusts, and desires, the blissful feeling of flesh pressed up against flesh, of shoving things into warm, soft, wet cavities and pumping away until I blew a load in him.
We did that? Really? How much?
Don’t know. Don’t care.
"What is it? Why are you looking at me that way?" he asked, rubbing his wounded hand.
"I want to know something."
"All right. Ask away."
"Who’s that guy in the picture with you? The one that was in your wallet, that picture. Who is that?"
"The picture in my wallet…" He frowned and looked at the floor. "Jonah, that’s you."
"No way. I look like shit."
He chuckled. "You hated having your picture taken. You always said that."
"I never could figure that out."
"So… you and I? We were—"
Fuck. I was right. He did love me. That’s why he was still here. That’s why he came back for me. And that’s why I can’t bring myself to just kill him and move on with it.
"Yes," he said. "We were. Once. You and I. But that was quite a while ago. Then one night, we had an argument, you went out by yourself and you never came home."
He was waiting for me.
Oh my God. That’s why I remembered him. That’s why I first approached him after I was made like this.
He was my…
I loved him. He loved me.
God damn it.
He fucking loved me and I could just rip his head off, fill several empty milk cartons with his blood, and leave his corpse to rot. Maybe you should. Or you could make him like us.
I stood up, paced the small apartment. Clenched and un-clenched my fists.
It'd be easy you know. Just grab his head, slit your wrist and make him drink until he can't swallow anymore. He'll die, and come back, and he'll be just. Like. Us. Then, you won't be alone. You'll be together forever. Wouldn't that be nice? No. No. Nononononononono. No. I won’t. I won’t. I won’t do it. I won’t! You know you want to. FUCK!
I couldn't stop pacing, muttering things to myself under my breath, biting my nails off and making my fingers bleed, oozing that nasty black sludge that filled my veins now.
"Hey. Are you all right?” He’s sitting there, scared, hurting. And yet, still caring about me. The dumb ass. "Jonah? Speak to me. What are you thinking about?"
"Nothing. It's nothing. Just," I waved the voices away, like annoying horse flies buzzing around my head. "They won't shut up."
"Mal...I can hear them."
"Hear who?" He got up, looked out the window in the kitchen, then through the peep-hole in the apartment door. "There's no one here. Just us."
"I know. But that doesn't stop them from talking to me. We're...connected. Somehow. Through HER."
"You keep mentioning a woman. Did a woman do this to you?"
"Yes...I think so. Maybe? Fuck, I don't know." I could feel the frustration building. I wanted to punch a hole through the wall. I wanted to rip the place apart. I wanted to kill anyone that got in my way. I just wanted to HURT something. And hurt it bad.
Mallory kept his distance, moving out of my way as I paced circles around the couch.
"They're following me. That's why I've been on the run. All this time. I knew it, and yet, I didn't. How does that work?"
"They don't like us being together Mal. They don't like it."
"Because you make me feel alive. Don't you get it? I can't feel alive. I can't keep parts of myself. If I do, I won't fully turn into a broodling. I won't be a worker ant. I'll be my own self. I won't listen to the Queen. I won't obey. I'll do what I want. I'll put their nest in jeopardy. SHE knows this. That's why she sent the warriors to get me. We're like fucking ants Mallory."
"Are you 100% sure of this?"
"No. Honestly? It feels like I'm going insane. I lose huge chunks of time. I forget where I am, what I'm doing, why I'm here. Who you are...and, I'm afraid that one of these days I'll wake up, and I won't even be able to think anymore. I'll lose all my words. I'll lose myself to this abyss that is growing inside me. There's a blackness in my heart, a wild, nasty, horrible monster, and it's devouring me from the inside out. Eating my memories, eating my soul. There's not much left of me. Not much at all. What am I going to do when I lose myself Mal? What's going to happen to me? What's going to happen to you? I can't bear it. I can't."
"Well, you haven't lost yourself yet. In fact, the longer you stay here with me, the more you act like your former self."
"Don't just say things to try to make me feel better. I hardly feel anything anymore. Just hunger, fear, and sadness. I know you think that you can help, but this isn't temporary. This is permanent. What's wrong with me, isn't a disease with a cure, and you know it."
"I do. But--I have to try."
"Aren’t you afraid that I’m going to kill you?"
"Well, that’s fucking stupid."
The sun rose two hours ago. No wonder I was so agitated. It was getting hard to focus. My body started to feel heavy. Arms and legs like lead. It was like I was about to collapse right then and there. I stifled a yawn.
"You're tired. You should rest."
"Yeah...You gonna be okay?" Mallory shrugged. Non-committal. No eye contact. No words.
"Maybe you should tie me up. Just in case I wake up, you know, hungry and out of my mind? Like last time?"
"Last time you did that, it was because you severely injured yourself. You aren't a threat unless there's something seriously wrong with your body that needs healing. That's my observation at least."
"All right. You sure about that?"
"Yes. Get some sleep. I'll be fine."
I sighed and wandered off to the bedroom, shut the broken door best I could, curled up in a ball on the bare floor and closed my eyes. The still cold darkness enveloped me and I drifted off to sleep.
Whispers, half-remembered dreams, a knocking on the door.
Who is knocking? What time is it?
I got up, peeked out the door. It was still daylight. Mallory was sleeping on the couch, dead to the world.Whoever was knocking on the door, wasn't going away. They were just getting louder.
"Mr. Mallory? It's your boss, Doctor Graves. We're here because we're worried about you? Hello?"
The knocking continued. Intensified.
I closed my eyes and focused. One heart beating. Two. Three. No. More than that. Six men outside the door. I could smell gun-metal. They were nervous, agitated. Breathing fast, shallow. Ready to fight.
"Open the door Conrad! We know you're in there! Don't make us use force to get in."
I crawled over to the couch and shook Mallory's shoulder.
"Hey, get up," I whispered. He murmured something and swatted my hand away. I could smell the morphine in his system. He had taken a lot. I guess he just wanted to sleep. But...the door. There was no easy way out of the apartment. We were on the second floor. No place for me to hide, either. Nowhere that they wouldn't find me fast. It wasn't exactly a very big place.
"Mallory, come on. Get up!" I hissed and shook him vigorously. His eyes fluttered open and he looked at me through a lazy haze of painkillers.
The apartment door shattered under the force of a metal battering ram. I grabbed Mallory and dove behind the couch as the men rushed in, guns raised. One of them was barking orders, telling them to spread out. I didn't have much time. I had to move. I had to get us out of here.
KILL THEM ALL.
Rip off their heads, drink your fill. You know you want to. You know what you have to do to survive. To keep your precious Mallory safe. So do it.
I smiled, felt my teeth grow longer, sharper. Felt my nails extend and form into thick claws. The muscles of my body tightened, coiled like rip-cord and ready to release in a flurry of action. I felt. ALIVE.
The first one came around the side of the couch and I grabbed him by the leg, lifted him straight up off the floor-- holding him upside down by one ankle. I tore off his free leg, like pulling a turkey leg out of it's socket. The man screamed. A fountain of fresh, warm blood sprayed all over my face, my body, the floor. I licked my lips and shuddered at the taste. His fear was delicious.
I tossed the meatbag aside and threw its leg at the next one closest to us.
There was a barking of gun fire. Bangs and flashing muzzles and hot gun powder and bullets whizzing straight through my flesh and embedding into the wall and floor behind me. Mallory staggered forward, looking around, dazed. Unsure what was happening, if it was even real at all.
I shoved him behind me, let them fire more rounds into my flesh. Bullets tore ligaments, muscles, a hole ripped through my cheek, air on my tongue and teeth where it shouldn't ever be. It pissed me off. I growled and lunged at them, tearing through uniform fabric and his bullet proof vest with my claws, biting deep into him, ripping a chunk of flesh off the front of his throat, blood spilling everywhere. It smelled so good. I couldn't help it. I had to eat my fill. And I did. I didn't just drink the prey's blood, I was eating its flesh like raw steak. Gobbling it down. It was...satisfying. Warmth grew in my belly, spread through out my body. I could feel myself growing stronger, faster. More alert. Maybe I should eat them whole more often. This was fantastic. I felt like I could run and leap across rooftops, no problem. In fact, I really wanted to do that, right then.
"Honestly Conrad," the boss man said. "You brought that thing here? What were you thinking?"
"I don't...How did you find me?" Mallory slurred. He held himself up with a hand on the couch, trying not to sway as he looked around.
"My God. Look at you. You've been feeding it? What's that you're taking? Are those bottles of morphine? Unbelievable."
"Get out. Of my. Home." He was having trouble with his words. The drugs did that. I knew that it was like, not being able to think straight.
"You're a mess Conrad. You stopped answering your phone. You never replied to text messages or email. I was dispatched to see if you were even still alive. And here you are, on death's doorstep, living with a wild, uncontrolled animal."
"He isn't an animal. That's my--" The big man slapped Mallory. The sound of his head snapping back from the force of the blow got my attention. I glared at the man, from where I was crouched over a meatbag. I swallowed the muscle I just tore off its shoulder.
That man. He was in charge. He was the dominant predator. He was the threat.
The others, the ones that didn't enter the apartment were standing in the hall, waiting for him to tell them what to do. I am going to kill them all. No one hurts him. No one. That's MY Mallory.
"Open your eyes and look," the boss man, Graves, grabbed Mallory by the chin, forced him too look at me. "See that? That is not a person any more Mr. Mallory. That is a vampire. It's a creature to study. Nothing more, nothing less. Understood?"
"Yes," he mumbled. Cowed.
"YOU," I said. My voice, guttural, deeper, more sinister. Almost not-quite human anymore.
Sharp teeth cut into cheeks and tongue. The hole in the side of my mouth sealed back up as I stood. Bullets pushed out of the holes they made in my skin and fell to the floor in a rain of tiny thumps.
"Cute. You taught it how to speak. Maybe you can tell the boys at the lab how do managed to do that while you detox and go through quarantine hmm?"
"No. You can't. Don't take him there. They'll kill him!"
"My dear. That thing is killing you. It took out half of my men with its bare hands. I really wouldn't worry over much about it."
I stalked towards him, ready to pounce.
"I'm going to rip your head off, tear your heart out through the gaping hole in your throat and eat it while it's still beating."
The man laughed. He was terrified, yet he was laughing. Why?Something wasn't quite right...
I had forgotten about the last man who entered the room with him. He hadn't attacked, so I ignored him. That was a mistake. And a deadly one.
I heard his booted feet move towards me, I turned to attack and was shot point-blank in the chest. Metal spike. Through the heart. A jolt of pain ran through me. I screamed and fell. I tried to pull it out but my arms weren't working quite right. They flopped around, my hands spasmed as my whole body went numb and stopped moving in one shuddered gasp of movement.
It burned. The metal burned me. It hurt, almost as bad as the pain that caused my entire body to go rigid. I was paralyzed. Frozen in a grimace of pain and rage. I couldn't even close my eyes. They were stuck open. The man stood over me and smirked.
"They always fall like that. Every time. It's the damnest thing," he said with a laugh. "Shoot it in the head. Let's get this over with. We need to bag and tag it before we can transport. The sun will destroy any usable tissue if we don't cover the body first."
They picked me up. I was screaming in my head, but no sounds escaped. I couldn't move. I couldn't do anything as they shoved me in a black body bag and zipped it up. Sounds were muffled. It was dark. So dark.
Mallory was yelling. I couldn't make out the words, but someone hit him and he shut up.
Then I was carried out.
Blackness came and went.
Saw things. Sometimes. Back of a truck. Metal operating table. Body cut open, skin splayed apart. Muscle separated. Black sludge blood drained, human blood put back in. Woke me up. Healed me. They cut me again. And again. And again. And again.
Woke up naked on the floor. Cold ceramic tile. Cement. Basement. Chained now. Not ropes. Chains. Metal collar on neck, metal cuffs on ankles and wrists.
Where? Not sure. Don’t know.
Back of truck. Strung up like meat on hooks. Hosed down. Needles, sensors, flashing lights. Holy water. Garlic. Silver crosses. Different types of steaks shoved in my chest. Someone making notes of results.
Covered in scars now. Some fresh with black crusted scabs that reek like tar, some healed over silver skin on pale flesh.
Naked. No clothes. Cold. So cold. So HUNGRY.
Door clicked open. Boots walked over.
Ball gag in mouth now. Teeth growing. Sink into the rubber like it’s butter. About to bite right through. About to attack and get food.
"Behave or no dinner."
I looked up. Not brown eyes. Not HIS eyes. Not at all.
"You’ll do as your told or no dinner. Understand dog?"
Cold blue eyes. A nasty scar curling up the side of his mouth, another on his neck. Short hair. Lots of little silver rings on his ears. Knew a kid with a lot of those once. Snapped his fucking neck clear off his shoulders and practically drowned in the shower of his blood. He tasted good. He was the first. There were so many others after that. But you always remember your first. Kind of like sex.
The man made a disgusted sound and raised a shiny boot.
"Drool. No one told me that your kind drooled. That’s disgusting."
He pulled off the gag and stepped away quickly. Like the zookeepers that fed the crocodiles. Fast so you don’t get bitten. Fast so you’re not next on the menu. Fast so you can live another day.
Life. What a joke. I didn’t have that anymore.
Slapped, hard. Not with fist, not with hand. With black hard stick. Teeth cut inside of mouth. Black sludge blood oozes into it, tastes like shit. Spit it out on floor. Oil slick puddle near his boots.
"Get that shit on me, and I won't feed you. Understand?"
Nodded my head.
"Good. All right, bring them in."
Door buzzes, clicks open. Bare feet on the floor. Tilt head, looked up. Scared little rabbits, lined up in a row. Naked. Shivering. Cold. Scared. Hearts beating so fast. Dinner.
The man left the room, there was another clink sound. Something behind me unlatched and I fell forward onto ground. Cold, hard. concrete. Metal collar on neck. Held up on the wall, but not now. Now let go. To eat.
Rushed up, grabbed the first kid. Skinny. Not much meat on him. Balls hadn't dropped yet. He whimpered, fainted. I deep into this neck and drank, and drank and drank, but didn't get full.
Something was wrong. All these people tasted the same. They weren’t supposed to taste the same. Was like eating lab rats. Hard to focus. Too much the same. Not good. Not what I need. Don’t need lab rats. Need real live blood. Real people. Real problems to spice up blood. Not this shit.
Tossed the kid aside. The limp body hit the shatter proof glass window. Left a nice person-sized smear of blood on the glass. I licked it off. Heard others on the opposite side of the mirror make sounds of disgust.
I was a circus act. The Geek that ate the live bats on stage.
Someone, no several someones were watching me. These kids weren’t the only lab rats here. Three. No four people. Four. Three guys one gal. Gal’s not bleeding. Hasn’t for a while. Not pregnant. Just too damned skinny.
I punched through the mirror. They started screaming. I hopped over the wall, through the broken two-way mirror. They were shouting to each other as I headed towards them.
They will taste good. Except for the gal. Save the gal for last. She’ll taste the worst.
Someone dropped from the ceiling onto me. Bolt of white-hot pain through chest. Fell down.
Couldn't move. So close. So close. Door was right there. Right there. Could've walked right out. Could've gone and found Mallory.
Moved. Moved! They moved me.
Cold steel table. Restraints on wrists and ankles. On neck, in mouth. Eyes pried open. Lights too bright. Makes eyes water. Can smell them. All of them. Sweating, stinking men. Food. Right there. Hungry. Can’t break free. Need to eat. But can't reach it. They shoot me up with things. Inject things. All sorts of things.
Why? Why? Murderer. Murderer! You killed them. You killed them all. Sucked them dry and for what? Five minutes of warm blood in your veins? Five minutes of your heart pumping again, moving that black oily sludge around giving you a chance to pretend you’re not dead, even though you are? Is it worth it?
Don’t know. Not sure.
In hell. In hell with no way out.
One of the damned now.
One of the damned.
Welcome it says.
The void answers, echoes my screams.
It hurts. It hurts!
Everything was cold. Eyesight blurred. Muscles too stiff. Couldn't move. Just stuck, sitting on a hard tiled floor.
Voices beyond the door.
"Let me see him! He’s my patient for Christ’s sake!"
"Conrad." A woman's voice. A scuffle in hallway. "No! You can’t he’s not stable."
"Let me see him or I’ll call the Board of the Health and get them on your ass! I have a right to check on his condition! Do it or I’ll call."
She sighed. "Please. You don’t understand. He’s not stable. He’s not human any--"
"Shut the hell up before you say anything that you’ll regret. Open this damned cell. Now! I didn’t authorize his movement to this detention center. I know what you people do here! You all are sick! You know that?"
Door opened. Light in room. Can’t lift head to see. Faces blurry. Bodies blurry. Everything blurry.
"Oh my God. What have they done to you?"
Can’t see. Can’t talk. Can’t move. Only thing can do is hear. Can't even smell them.
"Get this off of him this instant or I’m calling the authorities. You have no right to do this! Not to anyone, not even him."
"Conrad. He’s a murderer. A serial killer the likes of which the world has never seen before. He killed and devoured what, thirty, fifty people in one day? He has to be studied. We have to know what’s wrong with him. What’s driving him to kill."
She was a blur of blond hair and white lab coat. He was a blur of brown hair and white lab coat.
A gentle hand on shoulder. Hand so hot to touch it burned. He jerked hand away.
"Jesus! He’s an ice-cube! When’s the last time you fed him?"
No answer. They stood there, over me. Angry blurs pumping blood through their veins.
"You have to understand. He killed fifteen of our guards. Ten lab assistants. Three doctors. This was the only way to keep him from harming anyone."
"By not feeding him? By freezing him solid? That’s cruel, inhumane!"
"So is he. You weren’t here. You didn’t see what he did to those people. How he killed them. I can’t even sleep through the night anymore."
"Join the club,” he muttered.
Did I know that voice?Can’t focus. Can’t see anything more than blurs of color and shape. Can’t move. Can’t feel legs. Can't feel anything. Just cold.
How long been here? Days? Weeks? Months? Don’t know. Not sure. Don’t care.
"I’ll get you out of here. I promise," he said, then left with her so that they could scream at each other out in hallway.
Then, silence. More movement. More needles. More lights and beeps and things pumped into me. Screamed. Am screaming.
World is on fire. Body shakes, seizures? How many now? Five? Six? Twenty?
Maybe gave me the Chair and just lying in a coffin somewhere, waiting for lid to decay so can claw way out and begin feeding again.
Water dripped down cheeks. No. Not water.
Black tears. My tears.
Something happened. Woke up. Not on bed. Not on metal table. Not on cold cement floor or ceramic tile.
No. No! Shit! Don’t bury! Don't bury! Not dead! Not dead!
Zippered roof opens and pulls down. Fuzzy face above.
"I told you I’d get you out. Sorry about the body bag. It had to be done." He help me sit up.
Stiff. So stiff. Cold. HUNGRY.
Grabbed him, shoved him down, sank teeth into his neck. Blood. Sweet. Blood. So good. Flows down into stomach, so hot. Liquid gold. Fills me up fast. Starts to thaws me out. I licked his blood off of my lips. Delicious. My favorite flavor.
I know this taste.
I know it. Wait. No. No! Not him!
I shoved him away and scurried to a corner of the room and pulled into a ball and shivered. Cold. So damned cold. I looked over at him. He was slowly getting to his feet. His breath rapid.
He was excited. I could smell it. Blood flowed down his neck from where I bit him. It seeped into his shirt.
"It’s all right. I know what you want. I know if you have a constant supply you won’t be forced to kill. You told me that yourself."
He walked towards me, arms out to his sides. He was defenseless. Totally unarmed. Completely naked to me. I could kill him in a heart beat. But I didn't want to for some reason. I didn't want to hurt him.
"Come. Drink your fill."
Warm glow from food gone fast. Cold again. Hunger burning hole through stomach, but didn't want to hurt him. Hunger tearing me apart. Soon, would not be able to fight it.
"It's me. It's Mallory. Remember?"
Eyed him closely. Still couldn't focus to get good look at his face. Eyes hurt. Couldn't blink the blur out. Too dry. They’re too dry.
He kneeled by the bed. Face near mine. I pulled away.
Don’t want to kill anymore. Don’t want to kill anyone anymore. Just want to die. It hurts so much. The cold. It hurts. So hungry, but don't want to kill him.
Made noises. Mewling sounds. Like sad baby kitten.
"Shh...It’s all right. No one’s going to hurt you. You're safe now."
He picked me up, walked me to a bed, and lay me down. Threw a comforter on me.
"I’ll put on a fire. It’ll help raise your body temperature. They kept your room at ten below zero. The bastards."
Nodded and closed eyes and sank into warm bed. Felt good against stiff body. I sighed.
His hand on my head. Could hear the blood pumping through his veins. The familiar woosh, woosh woosh sound. Like a lullaby.
"It’ll be okay.”
A scar on his palm. A jagged one made by a knife. Right through the center.
He crouched down so that his face was eye level. Brown eyes. I knew those eyes.
His blood was warm. Sweet like chocolate. Like love?
I reached out a hand.
My fingers were blue and numb, but I managed to touch his face.
I nodded. I went to speak but no words came out. Like they cut my vocal chords.
"Once you warm up your voice will work again. Just relax and let the fire warm you up. I had to dig but I found your belongings. The stuff you were wearing when they took you from me. I’m so sorry about that. I was hurt and wasn’t thinking clearly."
He sat down in the chair next to the bed.
"I hope you can forgive me." I nodded.
His voice. So soothing. Not harsh like the sound of that saw cutting through my bones, or my teeth chattering so hard that they shattered. Nothing like that at all.
"They didn’t believe me. That you have an addiction. Not a normal one by any standards mind you. But it’s still one all the same, save yours isn’t at all found in nature. I stole all of their notes. I wanted to know what sick studies they performed in the name of science and research. I wanted to know what they did. So that we could get our revenge."
I closed my eyes.
Revenge. I liked that word.
Listened to the fire crackle. Let it lull me to sleep. Not afraid to sleep anymore. Not afraid of anything. Not with him right here. Watching over me.
My guardian angel.