“You didn’t even let me—“
“Please…listen. Please. Hear me out.”
Kate quickly hung the phone up on the receiver. She ran her hands through her hair in a panicked state, ‘when will he ever stop calling?’ she turned back to stirring her now tepid cup of coffee. She didn’t need the drink anymore, she was wide awake now, but the stirring help her calm herself. This was the fifth time he’d called her since she woke up, he always seemed to know exactly when she’d wake up in the morning…well, of course he would, they’d been dating for months until about a week ago…till the Sunday she’d never forget, the Sunday she wanted to forget. Now…’now…forget what you’ve seen, how many sugars had you added into the coffee?’ Kate shivered, and added another teaspoonful of sugar into her black coffee, just in case—
She wanted to throw the phone at the wall, to her the cheap plastic snap and break, to end this game of cat and mouse. But, somehow, she just couldn’t do it. Instead she hesitantly answered the phone, “…Alan…I…”
Once again she hung up the phone and, after a moment of consideration, added another spoonful of sugar into her cup of coffee. As the phone began to ring once more she turned away and brought the cup of coffee to her lips; it was cold and sweet.
She couldn’t believe that, there he was, sitting there across from her…she couldn’t believe that she was there sitting across from him! That he’d talked her into meeting at the café they used to go for a bite. She averted her gaze in favour of looking at the potted plant beside her, pretending like she wasn’t actually there with him. He just sat across from her with his usual stupid ‘glad-to-be-here’ content smile on his face. His hands folded neatly together…like she hadn’t seen...that Sunday, what she’d seen him doing. Like she was going to forgive him, like she wasn’t supposed to be afraid of him.
Kate snapped to full attention as she faced him. He was talking to her, she realized that it had been a mistake to meet him here; it was so easy to refuse him on the phone…he was at her mercy…but once she gave him the time of day, meeting him face to face in person. She was a fish in a barrel and he had a cocked and loaded gun. It scared her to think he held so much influence over her, just by being himself, being all that he was. She’d never been so scared before. Not when a dog chased her through the neighbourhood as a child, or when that drunken party goer got up in her face. Not even when that mugger broke her leg when she was a teen. She had been brave and stared those situations down with smart choices, not losing any of her pride in the process. Only when she had become his ‘fool’ had she become scared of what she’d seen, and what she possibly still didn’t know.
“What, Dougal, what?”
“…You’ve never addressed me by my last name before, please, just keep calling me Alan.”
Kate had suppressed most of her initial fear, only to be unable to contain her annoyance at the triviality of where the conversation seemed to go, “What? You wanted to meet me here to discuss how I address people, is that it? Can I go now?”
“You know I called you here for a different reason.”
“That seems to be the only thing I know about you.”
“…How about some polite conversation before we get down to business, how has your week been?”
“Poli—Polite conversation? Polite conversation! We are passed polite conversation! Polite conversation is for little old ladies, not your pissed off Ex!”
“Kate…please—” He begged, begged with both the tone of his voice and the look in his eyes.
“Yeah, and you know what? This conversation is bullshit! This isn’t going anywhere, don’t you know it? Because, heavens, don’t I know it!”
She shot up from her chair to leave, but he grabbed her hand to stop her. She hesitantly looked back at his face; he looked desperate, pitiful even. And yet she was scared of him. His hand, strangely smooth for a man his occupation, had many faint stretch marks marring the flesh of his hand, among other places.
‘Christ, help me.’ Kate shook off his hand and fell back into the chair and composed herself. If she finally calmed herself down and if she played her cards right she might be able to have a civilized conversation and end all this trifling, as good friends. At the very least he’d finally leave her alone…she hoped, but she knew this wouldn’t be the case, mostly due to the fact she couldn’t control her frustration.
“What do you want? To beg for forgiveness? You’ve lied to me, you’ve lied to me…You think I care about you anymore? To hell with your wants! You think I really fucking care? After what you did? After what you put me through?” She knew she wasn’t usually like this, but her anger and confusion made her bitter, and her bitterness made her cruel.
He nodded his head at this raw display of anger of hers, not as an answer, but to himself like he actually understood what she had been through. This made her angrier. “Look, it’s not that. This week I’ve been attempting to reconcile with you over our—my differences. It hasn’t worked out so far…with any hope, it might…but I’m not here to talk to you about repairing our relationship. At the moment you are one of the only persons I can go to for help. One of the only persons qualified. Kate, you must be curious.”
“I…just…” she breathed in to calm herself, finally calm herself, and then whispered, “What are you? Please, just what are you?”
She knew and feared what she’d have to hear next.
“I’m still the man you fell in love with.”
She shook her head, “That’s not what I meant…though, the man I fell in love with should never have lied to me like he did.”
“I never lied to you; the right moment to tell you just never presented itself.”
“That’s pretty flimsy; besides, the man I loved would have shared all his secrets without a second thought.”
“Maybe you don’t truly know that man…yet.”
“And now maybe I’ll never want to.”
With that, that side of the conversation was over; Kate still refused to meet Alan’s eyes.
“Well…” Alan cleared his throat before beginning, “…do you remember what happened that Sunday?”
It was an early morning that Sunday; Kate hadn’t even had her fix of coffee yet, nut she thought that she should probably return Alan’s cell phone before he leaves to go visit his relatives’. And now here she was on the lawn of his house. His car wasn’t in the driveway where he usually parked it, so she figured he probably left already. His garage’s light was still on, indicating that he had activated the automated door less than an hour ago. Logic told her to leave, but curiosity reeled her further, and she found herself looking through its window, his car was still in there! She steered herself to the front door to knock a couple of times, no answer. Ring the door bell, no answer. Maybe…she’d been mistaken? Maybe Alan really had left already. Kate was about to leave when she heard a faint ‘thud’ sound from inside the house. She knocked again, no answer. Impatience turned to worry.
‘Maybe he’d fallen and couldn’t get up’ she joked to herself. He had closed the curtains of his front window, so she’d have to sneak to the back of the house to further investigate. As she did so she saw that the there was a small window probably for the basement, that it was painted black from the inside as if something needed to be hidden away. Whatever, she’d ask him about that later. She continued to the back of the house and saw that the windows were closed as well. A new ‘thud’ sound drove her curiosity ravenous, awaiting satisfaction that lay inside this house. The fact that she’d never been to his house before drove a strange urge to burst through the back door and investigate. She was about to use her good leg to kick down the door when she realized that the door knob was rather old. Hell, back when she was a kid her grandfather had the same sort of door knob for his tool shed. One twist it didn’t open, two twists and it still wouldn’t yield, three twists: nah dah. But rattle it around, back and forth for a minute and it would unlock itself. Doing just that, the door swung open for her to enter.
Inside the house was neat, homely. A comfortable living area and kitchen, yesterday’s newspaper on his coffee table and an empty soda can. A place her Alan was living in. None of the lights were on, and the curtains made his house seem especially dark, Kate almost forgot that it was still morning. It was like a whole other world, no, it was just dark. She wasn’t going to turn on the lights, she was only here for a peek, and she didn’t want to arouse the suspicions of the neighbours. She went up a floor and found his bedroom empty, ‘nothing suspicious’ and she found herself asking ‘why am I even here’. Was she worried or just too damned curious? It wasn’t too late to leave; she’d tell him tomorrow that she’d broken into his house when he went to work. He’d be somewhat angry, then concerned for her mental health, then they’d have a laugh about it a week from now over bottles of beer or glasses of wine...‘make that tall, really tall glasses of wine’. Then a ‘thud’ sound came from the basement, and Kate quickly made her way down two flights of stairs, passed the darkness of the living room to the direction of the sound. She opened the door and was met with dim lighting, the ragged sounds of hoarse gasping. And there it was a horrific sight. Something she would remember for the rest of her life.
Before her lay Alan, thrashing around on the basement floor like a madman in pain, making tormented breathing sounds. She scream was caught in her chest and her legs were locked into place. She wouldn’t have recognized him, but somehow she knew it was him, yet it wasn’t the same Alan from just yesterday. Her Alan was a tall handsome twenty-something guy, with black hair and deep blue eyes. Not something bloated and naked. Bloated like a days old dead corpse, eyes bloodshot and rolled to the back of its head. It was nothing more than some twisted corpse like thing, and it omitted a rancid scent, like rotting meat forgotten in a box with a smell accumulated and finally unleashed. It twisted and thrashed its strangely discoloured limbs quite animatedly. The sight of this thing that couldn’t be, shouldn’t be Alan caused Kate to collapse onto her behind. She’d have thrown up if she’d eaten something in the morning. She stared and it soon stopped moving. She was paralyzed in a state of starring and barely remembering to breathe when the corpse-dead thing jerked upwards, causing her to further fall back onto her hands.
Its midsection jerked a couple more times; Kate clearly remembered the hard cracking sound of bones breaking as a small, strange glowing creature burst forth from the corpse, like monstrous jack-in-the-box covered in gore. It was a translucent humanoid, luminously glowing gold. It was human shaped for sure, but its body was much like a jellyfish in a way, as its flesh and skin were translucent yellow. Four oddly shaped flaps stretched out from its back, and Kate realised they were some form of wings, like a dragonfly’s. She could see its organs, it had no eyelids but she saw its eyes and brains from inside its head. Thin fragile looking bones and its long sharp teeth like that of a fish. She finally found a voice to scream with, but it was over shadowed by the creature’s own shrieks as it saw her.
As she trembled in fear but unable to look away, it instead turned away from her and began to eat the corpse from which it burst forth from. Then, right in front of her, it began to change. The sounds of bones crunching and of flesh being torn from the corpse and chewed quite hastily filled the room. The thing was growing rapidly as it fed. Its bones expanded in its translucent flesh. Its flesh and muscles grew, and begun to become an opaque of reds and pinks under the translucent skin. Its translucent skin losing its supernatural golden glow and becoming an opaque peachy skin tone. Its ears and a nose defined themselves, and quite rapidly it sprouted atop its head a full head of black hair. Its wings shrivelled and fell off. As its body grew to full size its skin tore from its own rapid growth, only to heal itself up just as quickly as it grew. Two tears in its head formed eye lids. Finally, in front of her was a bleeding, gore covered Alan, still omitting a faint glow from his body.
He turned to her and said, covered only by bits of decaying flesh and blood, quite simply, “Kate, this is what I am.”
The rest was a blur. Kate vaguely recalled throwing his cell phone at him to buy herself some time to get up, that he put his hand on her shoulder and said something to which she replied with a scream and some terror induced incoherent babbling. She then kicked him square on the chest with her good leg, getting out of there as fast as her legs were able. The week that followed involved Kate avoiding him at every turn, even taking sick days off work. He’d call; she’d ignore, or hang up quickly. He’d send her gifts that she had once thought of as sweet, now little commemorative objects of what she had seen. As far as she was concerned, they were over.
Alan had visibly paled at Kate’s recollection of what she had seen, from his own experiences the ‘rebirth ritual’ was quite normal for a half immortal such as himself, but coming from her mouth it did seem quite frightening. He composed himself a bit.
“I am what some would call a ritual immortal. I’ve come to terms with my condition and identity, and was hoping that you’d understand. I’m sure you’ll understand one day, because for me…you’re still the one I’ve been searching for. The ritual must be held at least once a week. It involves me gorging myself obese, dying, being reborn from my corpse as what you could call a ‘nymph’ or ‘fairy’, and then feast on my own dead corpse. I need to do this to give myself strength to transform to my old mortal form. The whole process is much like a hermit crab shedding its old exoskeleton. I could regenerate lost limbs, as well as renew my youth, and potentially live forever.”
“That explains the stretch marks.” Kate mumbled to herself, she looked down at the table in front of them, she felt sick. She felt numb. She didn’t know he felt just as numb just from seeing her reaction, “Why did you ask me to meet you here, if not to try and repair this fucked up relationship?”
“It was never…not till…forget it,” he sighed in frustration, “I need to do the ‘ritual’ again. Last Sunday I sped up the process too much because of your …unexpected ‘visit’, so I could show you what I was. Now, I am in need of your protection this time.”
“What? Protection? Why?”
“You heard me. You are a Taekwondo expert and the only one I can entrust with my secret…well, you found out on your own…but it really can’t be helped now.”
“What do you mean ‘it can’t be helped now’? Don’t beat around the bush.”
“I’m not the only supernatural creature out there. I am vulnerable during the ‘ritual’, I’ve been lucky…too lucky, avoiding them up until this point. There are other immortals that aren’t as…‘self-sufficient’ as I am. There are some who will need to feast on a vulnerable ritual immortal like myself, in order to maintain their own immortality, and now they know I’m here. I need you to protect me from the beings that will be coming for me soon. As simple as that.”
‘He just finished explaining his big secret after keeping it from me for months, asked me for a huge favour like we’re still together, and now he drops an even bigger bombshell like its no big deal?’ Kate nearly fainted at this. She remembered the pain from getting her leg broke by the heavy crowbar. She remembered the pain of betrayal from finding out that the man she loved wasn’t quite what he seemed.
“What. The. FUCK?!”