Don’t Tell

I’ve never told anyone this before. It’s one of those stories that’s been locked up in of me, tucked into some crevice behind my heart so that nobody can ever get to it. I don’t open up easily. Nobody sees what’s in my insides, and usually I forget to look. It’s much easier that way, if I just pretend that all I have in me is the dark twisting coils of intestines and brains. There’s nothing but blood and guts in there. No truth, no hurt.

When I was thirteen my best friend was Ann who lived three floors up. She was two years older and I followed her around everywhere. I’m sure I was like a little puppy, just tagging along hoping for a rub on the head and an affectionate word. We’d been friends for ages, and it didn’t used to matter as much. That is, she’d been the cool older girl but when she was younger she had played mother, pretended to take care of me and laughingly protected me from the terrors of the swing set or the fire escapes. When we got older she didn’t want a kid to take care of when she was hanging out with her friends. I would tag along, yes, but I sat and tried not to be a bother while she did whatever it was that cool older kids did. She got these new friends in high school, Eric and Jay especially, and she spent a lot of time with them. Something about them made my skin cold and my shoulders hunch.

Eric seemed to have a thing for Ann right away, and she almost but not quite teased him about it. She would give him that sidelong glance and her eyes slid right over to him and her lashes curved in just such a way that they only did for him, but for ages that was all. He pined after her, putting an accidental hand on her waist and absentmindedly playing with a strand of her hair, while she demurred. I think even she got bored of flirting with him like that. Anticipation can run on so long that you’re not tense with it anymore, you’re just tired.

Once she had the boys over, Eric and Jay, just like always, and I left to go downstairs and do some of my homework. I knew she didn’t really want me there because she sent little jabbing glances at me. I stood their pricking for a while and then, stung, I left. When I got into my own apartment my parents were out and my little brother was at a friend’s, so I really had to do homework. I sat and did my math problems, itchy with anger, until I gave up because I couldn’t concentrate. I went back up to Ann’s and her mom let me in and then retreated back to the kitchen. She always did hide from her daughter. I walked down the hall and then I froze.

The hallway was long, with the rooms all branching off to one side. Ann’s room was at the very end, and the door was ajar. Through it I could see a sliver of her bedroom, and in the sliver I could see her and Eric. Jay’s laughter was snaking through the crack in the door so I could tell he was in the room, but I didn’t even think about that until later. I could just see Eric, leaning over Ann where she was against the wall, his hands pressed against the wall on either side of her, his face close to hers. She was smiling in a funny sick way, her mouth in a line. Eric slid his hands down to her shoulders and pressed closer, put his face into her neck. Ann said no, Eric, come on. Look Jay’s right there. Stop it. He didn’t stop. He just pushed closer to her.

I was standing in the hallway, my whole body cold and my face hot. I burned and froze there, unseen, until my mind came crashing back and I turned and ran. I don’t know if they could hear my feet pounding away but I didn’t look back, I just left. I don’t know what happened after that. When I saw Ann the next day she didn’t act like there was anything wrong. Eric and Jay ignored me like usual.

I could have interrupted them, maybe. At least the annoying kid from downstairs might have made them stop, but I didn’t. I stood frozen until I ran like I’d been scalded and I had to get away and never go back, but I could have done something.

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Survivor

Oh god, sometimes I wake up at night seeing the gleam of his teeth in the shadows lurking in my bedroom and my throat is too tight with terror to scream. He’s coming closer and I can’t make him go away, I’m too afraid, my blood is running cold and my muscles all seize up and my heart is beating a rapid message, telling me that this is new, this is wrong, all of a sudden I’m prey. The adrenaline surges and tries to make me leap into a run but he’s already on me, already lacing his cold cold fingers over my shoulders and drawing me to him. His mouth is cold on my skin but then blood spurts and it’s hot, burning against my skin with his icy lips like brands clamped on me.

I knew it was wrong when I saw that shine. He was already baring his teeth, the monster, already unsheathing the fangs when he slunk closer. He got excited, I guess, he made a sound, a growl that rumbled and muttered in his throat and then he pounced. He grabbed me and just bent me back, like I was a doll or a rabbit or something small and helpless that he could just throw about. Like a packet of ketchup. I was, I guess. I was small and helpless to him. I’ve been small and helpless ever since.

He let me go before I died. They must have to do that, otherwise the people wouldn’t survive, they’d all be left as cold bloodless corpses in the alleys and the corners of the city and the beasts would have to start feeding on rats and pigeons until there was no life left anywhere, and then I don’t know what would happen. I don’t go anywhere by myself anymore, I’m too scared. The next one might let me die. Even if he didn’t, I’d rather he did. I don’t want to be limp and hurting on the ground again. I don’t want to be clasped in freezing hands that dig into my flesh like something human, almost, except that doesn’t know I’m a person. There are more of them these days, stalking the city. They spot a flash of exposed flesh of a pulse beating in someone’s throat and then they hunt. They follow you, soundless in the shadows, until they can smell your fear because you know that you’re being followed in the part of your brain that knows it’s prey. That’s when they come for you. When the terror is rising, they shuffle closer. They slip through the dark and put cold hands on your warm living flesh. When you are afraid, when they can see your eyes go round with horror, when the shivering crawls in murmurs on your skin and your breath is coming short, they get you. Then they bite.