“Something bit me on the knuckle,” I said, rubbing at the growing welt.

“Let me see,” she said, putting her book down and taking my hand. She lifted her glasses off her nose, pushed them back into her hair, and peered at the red mark. She tutted. “Probably a mosquito. I think I’ve got some cream for that in my bag.”

“Nah,” I said, and snatched my hand back to inspect the mark for myself. It looked like a little blister just to the right of the index finger’s biggest knuckle bone. It was white in the very center, and a mottled oval pool of red was growing around it, warped by the wrinkled skin above. I rubbed it again, and for a moment the entire patch turned white, then flooded once more with red.

“Well then don’t rub it, and don’t whine about it if you don’t want help.” She huffed and returned to the book she’d been reading since the start of our little getaway. The cover looked like a Harlequin romance, but as I’d never read one I couldn’t be sure, and I was too nervous to ask her about it. I never read anything, and that bothered her to no end. I always felt like our relationship teetered on the brink of ending whenever she mentioned it. I scowled at the man on the cover of her book, irritated by his flowing blonde mane and open shirt that exposed glistening musculature rarely found outside of anatomy studies.

A sharp pain shot through my hand just then. It felt like someone had shoved a knitting needle between my index and middle fingers, deep enough into the palm to tickle the wrist bone. I shrieked.

“Seriously?” she asked. She must have thought it was one of my pranks. I often liked to scare her, jumping out from behind corners or sneaking up on her from behind. I don’t know why I did that, and I probably shouldn’t have, but the fact that her startled bitterness had always turned into playful laughter had made me think it was something she’d enjoyed. Only now I wasn’t playing, and she noticed it immediately. She dropped her book and pressed her face closer to mine, trying to catch my eyes which were rolling in agony. “What’s wrong?” she asked and took my wrist. For a moment her cool touch seemed to chase away the grating pain. “Oh god,” she said.

I regained my focus long enough to look down at my hand and found that it had swelled to nearly double its usual size. The skin around the bite was so taut that it shone in the afternoon sun, gleaming with the same bright passion as the romance novel cover-man’s bulging pectorals. The central bump of the bite now popped out like an erect nipple, puckered in the center where whatever that had inflicted it had inserted its cursed proboscis. Hard raised lines like veins traced away from the swelling and ran down my forearm. “Is it infected?” I asked with dumb astonishment.

“I don’t—,” she said, her face alternating between revulsion and shock,”—I don’t know. It’s not good, whatever it is. We need to get you to a hospital.”

“That’s a good idea,” I said, then my arm started burning, as though I had shoved it, shoulder deep, into a blazing hot oven. Thin pincers of pain nipped at my heart, and my breath came in short gasps. The edges of my vision blackened.

“Stay with me,” she said, fishing her cell phone out of her bag. She dialed with frantic, shaking fingers. “Hello? Emergency?”

It was then that I had an overwhelming urge to bite her, to feel her flesh rending between my teeth, to claw and rake at her pale skin until it hung in tatters. I needed to consume her, to somehow put her essence inside me. The thought that she was alive, that her soul still moved her body around, enraged me.

Without hesitation, I began to tear her to pieces.

2015.01.04 – 2023.08.05

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