Shannon and Tiffany
It tickled just a little when Tiffany licked Sharon’s arm. Sharon did not think it tickled for any other reason but that Tiffany—her eight year old bull terrier—kept on licking the same spot. It was right above the elbow. Sharon tried to continue typing. She waved Tiffany away. The lamp teetered on the corner of the desk casting a shaft of pale brightness on the computer and the books strewn to the left of it. Sharon was reminded of riding on a New York subway train.
Her elbow was bleeding.
Tiffany had been lapping at her blood for the past forty minutes while Sharon studied for her psych exam. It tickled when Tiffany tried to not just lick but drink the blood from the cut on Sharon’s arm. It made a pathetic little sucking noise.
The cut might have come from anywhere; tripping and brushing the edge of the table before dinner, her shirtsleeve getting caught in the car door—it was no use to remember.
Tiffany was a blood fiend and Sharon was studying psychology. Sharon wondered if dogs had mother complexes, and then decided she needed sleep, having earned little.
Sharon told the receptionist at the veterinary clinic, “My dog is Dracula.”
The receptionist chewed gum and lowered her jaw to look at Sharon, or maybe to look past her to the parking lot, or maybe she just chewed her gum. Sharon’s elbow itched.
“Are you sure?,” the receptionist said in a voice emitted from between her teeth, a voice that sounded as though it was stored in the substance of the gum.
Tiffany wiggled in Sharon’s hands as she lifted her onto the counter. The receptionist dialed a number and told Sharon to have a seat and wait.
Mustard leaked from Sharon’s ham sandwich onto the pages of her psychology textbook. She had made it as far as Chapter Four, when she should have been on Chapter Twelve. She cursed, punched the floor and wiped up the mustard violently with a paper towel. Tiffany winced. Sharon missed the tickling sensation on her arm. Tears swelled in her throat. It was the studying, the impact the six essay questions of the final exam would have on the remainder of her mortal life, the hour—12:51AM—all permissible reasons to be an emotional wreck. She patted Tiffany on the head. The wire contraption fastened to Tiffany’s mouth did not resemble muzzles from the old movies. It looked like futuristic braces. Sharon could not look at it. Tiffany’s right eye watered.
The phone rang. Tiffany barked, seemingly an instant before the phone rang. Vampires must have a prescient sensitivity to noises and vibrations. Sharon’s lower body took flight into the air. Her hands tumbled in front of her and she laughed. The phone startled the tears out of her throat, like vinegar turned into an ice cream sundae.
There was a second of breathing, and then dial tone. She hung up.
It rang again and did not startle her. She held it to her ear and sat down.
“Do you remember or do you pre-member?,” said a male voice. “Because remembering is normal, lots of species have memory, but only a few have foresight, what I call pre-memberance, and only one species has after-sight, which would be post-memberment, which is kind of like dismemberment-”
Sharon said “You’re drunk,” and hung up the phone.
Tiffany winced in the corner. Sharon closed the textbook and made herself an ice cream sundae. Tiffany continued wincing, looking up at the bowl of ice cream. The chocolate syrup had a crimson tint in the lamplight. That was when the walls’ wood surface peeled and curled like newspaper in a fire.
Her eyes burned from reading too much text in too much dim light. She closed her eyes against red fuzz. Her moist eyelids felt like her mouth when she bit into too much wasabi. She wanted sushi. She didn’t deserve to treat herself to sushi; she needed to study more. Her stomach shifted like loose gears spinning, their teeth clicking but not engaging. She was hungry. The moment her eyes shut, she felt sick. Her brain twisted and bobbed in her skull like a child’s body in a waterslide amusement park ride.
Sharon’s whole body, organs, muscles, bones and all wanted to heave and vomit itself out of her skin. She could not move. The hair on her arms and legs shook and seemed to grow. Her eyelids parted. She tried to control her breathing.
Tiffany walked in circles, making breathy squeaks, chasing something tiny and nonexistent on the floor, and then lifted her head and looked at Sharon. Her right eye glistened with liquid again.
She knew now what the human body goes through when it
contracts the disease, if it could be called a disease. This was what it felt
like, the transition stage of becoming a-
She moved through hallways of dizziness. The hallways had no floors, and no clocks. She floated in silky dizziness. If a clock were to be hypothetically hurled into the hallway, its hands would spin around like fan blades until friction wore away the mechanisms and they ground to a halt, the minute hand wrestling the hour hand. She drifted. There were shafts of light, and silkiness. No sound and no clocks. No final exam. No sleep. Just the tickling point on her arm, and the hallway. The dizziness.
Sharon sunk back into herself. Her heart rhythm slowed to normal, and time resumed. The nausea in her stomach stabilized. Her lungs felt sore and strained, but she could breathe normally. She wiped dew from her eyes and pressed her palms into the carpet.
She picked up the phone and called him back. She told him what was happening.
He asked if Tiffany had, at any point, sunk her teeth into Sharon’s flesh. Sharon answered that she had not. He paused before asking his next question, and Sharon could hear the rustling of pages on his end. He asked if Sharon had experienced any sensitivity to direct sunlight. Sharon answered that she had experienced no such sensitivity. He said that he was sorry but he could not validate the conclusion that Sharon had come to.
The cardboard sign hanging cockeyed from the tiles, pulsing with the vibrations from the revolutions of the ceiling fan, read “Vampires Anonymous Support Group.” When she saw that everyone there was dressed in black and dancing to music with a bass-heavy electronic beat and in a minor key, and that at least half of the attendees were engaged in sexual acts, she knew that she had come to the wrong place. Sharon did not have a fetish for folklore of any kind, although, having just completed the final examination for her psychology course, she was prepared to settle for any form of celebratory rapture readily available. She thought twice before turning around and walking back out the door. She took a backwards step and thought a third time about leaving. And then she left.
At home, she poured herself a glass of wine just in time to for the phone to ring. The sound was the same volume as it should have been, but it felt soft on her skin and in her stomach, not jarring like it should have been. She raised the glass. Her lips flexed involuntarily.
She answered the phone, salivating, and then drank, and then spoke. “Hello?”
“Everything is normal.”
And it was.
Sharon started smiling while still on the phone and was still smiling at the grocery store. Her face was getting tired but she couldn’t stop. She wondered if chronic smiling was a medical condition, like when teenage boys got erections that lasted for several hours and they couldn’t make it go down and it was a medical emergency—she had read about that somewhere, she couldn’t remember where.
Her teeth were changing. She felt the metallic bubbling of saliva around her canines.
She was not a vampire, any more than the people at the support group were vampires. She wondered if there were any support groups for lycanthropes. If she called him back, he would probably skim through a book about werewolves and tell her she had surmised wrongly on her self diagnosis again. She wondered if there were any support groups for people who did not know what they were. She could not call him and ask him that or any question that was not of a fantastical nature, because if she did, then she would beg him to come over, and they would sleep together, and she would not get any studying done, and then she would hate him again, and her elbow would still itch, so she kept smiling.
Tiffany did not need a muzzle, so Sharon took it off. Tiffany perched on her hind legs and growled. Sharon petted the fur behind her ears and said soothingly, “I betrayed you.”
Tiffany crawled to the optimal position to lick Sharon’s elbow and stared at it, panting. Tiffany scraped off the scab with tweezers and punctured a fresh hole which Tiffany proceeded to lick, wagging her tail. That meant apology accepted.
Sharon wanted to explain the fact that she was going through changes, but could not understand them herself, so she became a highly paid therapist.
| COPYRIGHT 2006-2011
Portland Fiction Project
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED