The old man smiled down at the sharply-dressed young man. “Move along. If you don’t see it by now, you never will.” He flicked his tongue along the gap left by one of his front teeth. “Move along.” he clucked, his voice droning. When he laughed, it was like the sound of a braying mule as he slapped his knee.
The old man’s daughter emerged from the house. “Papa, stop it.” she scolded as she hooked an arm through the other man’s elbow. “Let’s go, dear. We’re already late.” With those words, she rose to her toes and kissed him playfully on the nose.
The man laughed. “Alright, Josie. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to afford to take you somewhere really nice. Let’s enjoy this until they boot us out.” His grin was wide and bright, and distorted his cheeks. He was a thin man, and when an iron pipe slammed into his head, he fell easily.
When the man woke, he looked around. “Josie?” he called dumbly. His fingers felt as though they were filled with lead. They refused to move. He felt a strange pressure on his arms, legs, and waist, and tried to get up. Nothing moved, save that he could flail his shoulders and elbows, and jerk his hips around. Again and again, he tried to get up, to move. His wrists moved forward, only to slam back down onto the cold surface beneath him. “Let me go!” he shouted. The echo almost deafened him. The man closed his eyes tightly and jerked his arms. Each time, he felt like he would pull his hands off, rather than free them.
It did not take long before the flesh on his wrists was raw and bruised. He laid back, panting. “Josie?” he called as he finally looked around. “Josie?” He paused as he took in the shadowed interior. There was a painting of a young, rich man on the wall opposite him that seemed to watch. It was framed in dark wood, and looked like it was from colonial times. The rest of the room was covered in metal. He could barely make out the edges of cabinets over his arms, but besides those, the walls around him were bare steel.
“Josie!” he called, more desperately. The sound attacked his ears once more, but he ignored it. “Josie!”
Time moved on slowly, and he fell asleep murmuring her name. Where was she? Where was he, for that matter? Was she safe, even if he was locked away in what could only be some serial killer’s basement? Those thoughts slowly faded from his mind as sleep demanded its turn in the fore. It’s dark embrace met him with no resistance, and he soon witnessed fevered dreams of strange people or things hovering over him. When he looked down, his torso was wide open– a gaping hole filled with organs. He was too dizzy and sluggish to react, and it didn’t scare him enough to wake him.
When he finally woke, he was in a room filled with white. The bed was stained in blood, and he felt like he had just run a triathlon while carrying fifty pounds the entire way. He could hardly remember anything from his sleep, nor from those hours before it. He looked around, then tilted his head. It looked like the same hospital room he had gone to recover in when his appendix was removed. He was silent a long while. “Nurse?” he called as he looked for a call button.
Finally, he found it and pressed the button with shaking hands. He waited for a long time, and eventually fell asleep once more. This time, it was an exhausted rest, filled with only warm darkness.
He next awoke to find nothing was changed, save his bed sheets. They were pristine, as they should have been before, and he felt a fresh soreness in his abdomen. He slowly rolled the sheets away, then looked down. There were so many stitches. The deep cuts formed a “Y” that began at his chest, and ended just above his groin. He frowned. Normally, surgeries were meant to be non-invasive, and cuts were minimal. This wasn’t right.
He threw the blankets off and was met with air that felt icy against his pale flesh. He slowly walked to a door labeled with a toilet image. He turned to look in a mirror, and saw a face that was far more thin than it was when he left to pick up Josie. His flesh was pallid and looked almost translucent. He looked down at his body again. The nude flesh was stripped of all fat, and quite a bit of muscle. He looked bony, gaunt, and like he should have been dead a while ago from malnutrition.
He turned to return to the bed as he felt more exhaustion threaten to overwhelm him. He stared at the metal rod that held IV fluids. Was it attached? He looked at his arm and saw the needle, firmly taped in place. The wheels must have been well-oiled, for him not to notice at all. He grabbed it, thankful for the added support, and walked to his bed. He felt like it took ages to move that mere twenty feet, and when he looked up from the floor, he saw a nurse with a rubber tube. She looked like Josie.
“Josie?” He squinted. She looked too old.
“Just lay down, +____. I need to reinsert your catheter.” she urged. Her voice was unmistakable.
“Josie, what’s going on? I thought you were a teacher, not a nurse.” He reached for her. While he was more thin, she felt more solid, as though she had gained weight. He gripped her shoulder tightly, although his grip was truly more like a day-old kitten’s.
She pushed his hand away, then helped him onto the bed. “Just lay down and rest.” she urged. “You’re in good hands.” She forced a smile at him.
As he looked her face over, he desperately tried to find some hint of what was happening. “Josie, what happened? We were on our way to dinner.” He trailed off as he watched her expression become pained for a small moment, before it became stoic.
“Not now. You need to put your effort into recovery, nothing else.” she squeezed his hand gently, then deftly inserted the catheter. “Get some rest, ____.” were here final words before she left.
He shook his head. “Josie, wait!” he called feebly. He could already feel sleep garbling his speech, and could give no resistance to its embrace as he faded once more.
He woke to the ugly face of Josie’s father.
“Look at you.” he cooed. “Look at, look at you. Didn’t I try to tell you?” He grinned. “They don’t let kids like you two stay happy for long. It would have been better to leave.” He laughed hoarsely. Despite his appearance, he still sounded strong. “Now, she’s stuck in a nursing job. Stuck looking after you, because you didn’t go home and try to court someone more like you.” He laughed. “She’s being punished because you tried to date someone with old blood.”
“What?” ____ frowned and squinted. “Your breath reeks.” he managed tiredly.
“You are dying because someone put cancer in you, to get you nice and dead. Old blood doesn’t need someone weak.” He cackled. “After all, what good is she to the vampires, if her children are weak like you?”
“Vampires? Those aren’t real.” He trailed off, panting. “Get out of my room.” he begged slowly as he reached for the nurse call button.