Mariel awoke in the embrace of a dead man, his body cold and rigid. It took her some effort to disentangle their limbs, and when she finally did she threw herself from the bed shuddering in horror. She lay on the floor for a time hyperventilating and weeping, even as she cursed herself for this loss of control. She had nearly regained command of her emotions when she caught a glimpse of her hands and saw they were covered in blood. As were her arms and much of her body.
She stumbled into the bathroom, retching in the toilet, refusing to look at what came up. Resting her head against the cool porcelain she closed her eyes and focused on her breathing, on being mindful of anything but the corpse on the bed. When she felt ready she got to her feet and washed her face in the sink. She tried to get some of the blood off her hands and arms but soon gave up. Only a shower would solve that problem.
Before she went back into the bedroom to face what was there, she looked up in the mirror. There was no reflection staring back. That steadied her, and with new resolve she walked into the bedroom to assess the aftermath of whatever had taken place the night before. The man lay in a contorted pose, the result of her efforts to free herself, his face darkened with bruises. There was blood everywhere, staining his flesh and the sheets. She felt her stomach tremble again and had to look away.
Her eyes fell upon the tangle of their clothes at the foot of the bed. It told another story, a prologue to whatever else had happened in the depths of the night. Mariel remembered none of it. Her head ached and her thoughts were foggy, as though from a hangover. There was a bitter taste in her mouth from bile and blood. She closed her eyes, sick at the thought. What had gone so terribly wrong?
It was some time before she summoned the courage to, but eventually she went to him and looked at his neck, confirming her worst fears. The bite marks were there.
“Damn it, damn it, damn it,” she repeated over and over, biting at her lip.
Studying the situation was no help so she went and had a shower and felt marginally better for it, though all her good feeling disappeared as soon as she saw the remnants of her evening’s feast in the toilet. She put her clothes back on hurriedly, trying not to look at him. A pang of hunger assailed her and, with the smell of blood still heavy in the room, it was all she could do not to turn and drink what remained of his sluggish reserves.
She went for her purse and in her haste spilled its contents on the floor. As she struggled to put everything back there was a knock at the door and she unable to stop herself from saying “Fuck,” aloud. She went still after that but to no avail. The knocking ceased and started again, more insistent now. A woman’s voice called out. “I can hear you bitch.”
Taking a deep breath, Mariel got to her feet and checked that she had everything. Ignoring the other woman’s continued knocking, she went to the kitchen and got a glass of water to go with the pill she had retrieved from the bottle in the purse. The woman was hammering at the door and cursing, her voice growing more frenzied and desperate. Mariel wondered how large the crowd in the hallway outside the door was now. Considerable, she guessed.
She put on her jacket and opened the door a crack so that she could slip out and shut the door behind her. The woman was in her face immediately. “Who the hell do you think you are spending the night with my man.”
“It was a one time thing, trust me,” Mariel said, already past her and walking down the hallway.
There were fewer people than she had expected poking their heads out from the doorway, but enough to worry her. She was careful not to meet any of their gazes and also elected not to risk waiting for the elevator and took the stairs. Halfway down the first flight she heard the woman’s scream.
The next minutes passed in a blur as she raced breathlessly down the stairs, intent on escaping, only to arrive in the lobby of the apartment building and see daylight streaming in through the door. Knowing she had little time before the police arrived, she went down the hallway and knocked on a door at random. She had already decided she would have to break in when the door opened and a bleary-eyed man stuck his head out the door.
“You again,” he said, throwing the door open and waving her in.
She entered slowly, not taking her eyes from him, trying desperately to recall just who he was and how she knew him. He shut the door and looked her up and down with a frown, clicking his tongue against his teeth.
“What have you done then?” He was wearing a bathrobe over a t-shirt and underwear and his hair was disheveled.
She hesitated. “I…don’t know.”
He nodded as though he understood. “You took the pill though?”
Her blood went cold at the mention of the pill. Why did I take it, she wondered? “Yes,” she said in a faltering voice.
“Good, good,” he said, rubbing his eyes and stretching out his arms.
“Who are you?” she said. “What have you done to me?’
He waved a hand at her, as though such matters were unimportant and started toward the kitchen. “I’ve always been your friend Mariel, surely you remember that.”
She struggled to think, the clouds still heavy in her thoughts. How much blood had she drank last night? But that was not the reason for the aether that seemed to be floating in her mind. She did not know this man. She could not even recall his name.
“The police…” she said and stopped. Could she trust him?
He looked back at her from the kitchen where he was making coffee. “Don’t worry, Mariel. I can handle them.”
She stood alone in the entryway, contemplating leaving. The police might be safer than whatever this was. The sun too. But she couldn’t find the will to escape and eventually he returned with two cups in his hands. He handed one to her and she saw that it was not filled with coffee.
“Drink up,” he said with a smile, taking a sip of his own cup.
She hesitated, staring at the dark liquid before taking a drink and then another. He held out his arms and she fell into his firm embrace.
In A Flash: read a new story every Thursday…
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