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The Taste

Christina Vogel

     The man who had been sitting next to me was now performing a wild ritual (one that should have been done in private) with an untamed young woman.  She ripped open his black button down shirt and took the beverage the man had ordered and poured it on his chest.  As the dark red liquid trickled down to his stomach, she hungrily and fiercely licked it off.  The man, undoubtedly aroused by the woman whose face was now smeared with the liquid which is the substance of our life, unzipped his pants and pulled the woman onto his lap.  I turned the other direction and tried to keep myself distracted from what was going on behind me.
     Once more, I scanned my whereabouts.  People, the kind that you would normally see as extras on a horror movie like The Night of the Demons, decorated the dreary, basement-like building.  Smoke and the pure aura of darkness clouded the room.  Everything was black.  Black and red.  Black couch, Black mini bar, red bar stools, black and red outfits, black and red tiles and carpet.  What I found most disturbing about this place was the color of the carpeted steps: a deep, blood red.  Everything cast off a cynical, almost satanic atmosphere.  I looked down at my own clothes and instantly felt out of place in my black silk shirt and boot cut blue jeans.  I wish he would have told me that I was supposed to dress like a psychotic freak.  At least I was wearing some kind of black.  I tapped my fingers against the bar as I waited for him and studied the band, which looked like a group of insane walking zombies.  The music intensified as the singer's eerie whisper choked out each word. 
     Why, again, had I decided to come here? 
     I sighed as I watched the group on the dance floor jerk like a bunch of malfunctioning robots..  I looked at my watch.  It was eight now, the time he was supposed to be here.  I'll give him ten more minutes, then I'll leave.  Why was I insisting on staying in this place? I wasn't sure.  Curiosity?  Stupidity?  Shock?  Whatever the reason was, it was stupid, but I just couldn't bring myself to leave.  It all started with Dr. Stone.  I wished I had never seen him last Tuesday. It had to have been the worst day of my life.  I knew things would never be the same as soon as I stepped into his large, disorderly office.

     "Lucille Jackson?"
     I nodded as I sat on the plush blue chair placed across from him and his cluttered desk.  Somehow, the scattered papers, notebooks, and pens eased the tension I was feeling.  I knew this was the day I would find out everything I wanted to know, but even after all my searching to find out, something told me I didn't really want to know.
     He fished a small, green notebook from underneath the pile on his desk and studied it for a second.  "It says here that you have some severe burns?"
     "Yes."  I held out my arms and pulled back the long-sleeved yellow shirt I'd had on to reveal the hideous black and dark brown burn marks that ran along my light brown arms.  At some points, the burns rose above my skin like small, irritated bubbles.  Beyond these fresh burns were older, more faint scars from another sunburn incident I'd had when I was eight. 
     Dr. Stone took my arms and studied them for a few minutes, turning them over slowly.  His large, brownish-red hands felt rough against my skin.  He raised an eyebrow as he released my arms.  "That's pretty bad.  I see you've got some more peeking out from your turtleneck."
     I nodded again and pulled down the heavy, choking turtleneck to reveal more hideous scars.  He leaned forward over his desk to get a closer look.  As he leaned over, his long gray hair parted and I could see faint scars on his neck that crept upward towards his right ear, similar to my older scars.  "Looks like you've been out in the sun a little too long.  You should know better, Lucille."
     "I know.  I use sunscreen every day and wear sunglasses and a hat, but last week I was in a hurry to get to bio lab on time, so I put on my roommate's suntan lotion by mistake."
     "Lucille, now you know you need to be more careful with your type of condition."
     "Yes, condition."  He pulled out a desk drawer and started to search for something.  "You're lucky I've got some ointment left to take care of those burns."  He finally pulled out a small, clear bottle that contained a white, thick liquid.  "Put it over your burns every six hours."  I hesitantly took the bottle, turning it over in my hands.
     "I'm sorry, I know I've got a condition, but I don't know what it is," I said. 
     Dr. Stone raised his eyebrow again, his light gray-brown eyes meeting my light brown ones.  His face was a display of complete surprise.  "How old are you?"
     "I'm eighteen," I replied uneasily. 
     "Eighteen?  Eighteen and you don't know?"
     "Know what?"
     He sighed as he leaned back in his chair and clasped his hands together.  "I can't believe you don't know," he muttered.
     "Know what, Dr. Stone?" I asked impatiently.
     "You came from a small town, didn't you?"
     "Yes.  My parents had me tested for everything imaginable when I was little, but—"
     "Tested!" he exclaimed, throwing up his hands in frustration.  "Tested!  Yes, no wonder you're so pale and weak."
     "Just tell me what's going on, Dr. Stone."
     He sighed as he continued to lean back in his chair.  "How can I explain this to you, Lucille?" he muttered, more to himself than to me. 
     I gripped the bottle of ointment tightly as I waited.  This couldn't be good.  Was it a rare form of skin cancer?  A strange, almost unknown disease that only a handful of people had? 
     "Let me ask you this, Lucille."
     "Celie."  I needed him to be as informal as possible with whatever it was he was going to tell me.
     "Ok, let me ask you this, Celie."  He paused a brief moment, then spoke again.  "Do you wear any silver earrings?  Necklaces?  Rings?"
     "What does this have to do with anything?"
     "Why don't you wear any jewelry, Celie?"
     "Silver makes me break out.  I guess I just didn't care to wear any other types of jewelry in case I broke out from that too," I mumbled.
     He nodded knowingly.  "What happens when you eat anything with garlic?"
     "What is this?  Why won't you just tell me what's going on?"
     "Because, Celie, I have to ease you into this.  You won't believe me until we go through this, step by step.  Now, what happens when you eat garlic bread?"
     "My-my throat…swells up…and…I can't breathe," I whispered.
     He nodded again.  "Are you taking mental note of this?"
     "What happens when you don't wear your sunglasses, Celie?"
     "I get headaches and I can't see."
     "What does pizza taste like?  Chicken?  Strawberry ice cream?  Sprite?"
     I paused and looked at him questioningly, but knew that my questions wouldn't do any good.  "Hot and gooey, warm and flat and sometimes a little dry, cold and smooth, rough and fizzy."
     "No, Celie.  That's what they feel like, not what they taste like."
     "Well, I know that!  But they don't taste like anything but that.  Just different temperatures and textures of air!"
     "Calm down, Celie.  I'm not trying to question your intelligence."
     I sighed, already worn out, and slumped back in my chair.  I didn't care what he was doing as long as he got to the point some time soon. 
     "Have you ever really tasted anything before, Celie?"
     I shook my head.
     "Think."  He pointed to the Snoopy band-aide on my right index finger.  "That must have hurt.  What's the first thing you did when you cut it?"
     I remained silent.  I remembered the slight taste on my tongue after I instinctively stuck that cut finger in my mouth.  It tasted slightly sweet, I think, and a little bitter.  It didn't taste very good, but it was the only thing I'd ever tasted.  I had an idea where this was going, but I couldn't link everything together.  Something didn't fit, and it certainly wasn't making me feel comfortable. Just then, I recalled some of the vampire movies my dad loves to watch.  This all seemed familiar, too familiar.  I definitely didn't like where this was going.  This couldn't be real.  There was no such thing, right? "What are you trying to say?  That I'm a vampire?"
      He stood up and crossed the room, passing the miniature palm tree by the window, several of his diplomas, and a brightly colored picture of a sunset.  "I'm glad I didn't have to say it."
     I turned around in my chair and watched him take something out of the miniature refrigerator in the very back of his office, my whole body shaking.  "What?!" I exclaimed.  "So I'm…"
     He pulled out a forest green mug and set it in the microwave that was sitting on top of the mini fridge.  "A vampire?" he finished as he pressed the small buttons on the microwave.  "Yes, you could say that."
"You-you could…you could say what?"
     "Yes," Dr. Stone repeated.  The microwave beeped and he retrieved the mug.
     I watched him walk towards me, unable to comprehend or believe anything he'd just said.  "You've got to be kidding.  This isn't real, this can't be real." 
     He stopped in front of me and held out the steaming hot mug.  "Drink."
     "Drink?  You just told me I was a vampire and you're telling me to drink?" I took the mug from his hands.  "This better be poisoned."
     He chuckled lightly as he walked back to his chair.  "No, not poisoned and not drugged.  Sorry to disappoint you, you're my first client to ever request such a thing."
     "It's not like I can taste it anyways," I muttered, ignoring his sarcasm.
     "Just drink it," he said, slipping back into his chair.  "You'll see."
     I sighed again and closed my eyes, not really wanting to see what was in there, and took a sip.  A sweet sensation lit up my taste buds and awakened my thirst.  I had never tasted anything so sweet, not even my own blood.  I drank until I had gotten every possible drop.  I set the mug down and wiped my mouth off with the back of my hand.  As I set my hand down on my lap, I noticed a trace of a dark red liquid. 
     "It's- it's blood," I stammered.  I nearly dropped the mug in shock.  I was disgusted and angry with Dr. Stone for giving me blood, yet my tongue longed for more.  "Why did you let me drink this?"  I slammed the mug down onto his desk and picked up my purse to search for a kleenex.
     "Whoa, calm down.  I did that because this information is too overwhelming to process and believe.  You need proof, such as this."  He leaned back in his chair again and paused for a minute, his eyes still close on me.
     "So, in order to keep me from being overwhelmed, you give me blood?"  I wiped the last traces of the blood from my hand with a crumpled piece of paper I had found at the bottom of my purse and slammed it into the trash can placed at the side of his desk.  "That makes a lot of sense."
     "No, don't misread my intentions.  Just trust that you needed to drink that blood.  Now listen carefully."
     "Ok," I said slowly.  "I'm listening."
     "A form of vampires do exist.  It's a ‘medical condition' called vamzemia, caused if both parents carry the gene.  There's no cure for it.  Vamzemians have a deficiency of just about everything in their blood, which causes sensitivity and allergies to things such as silver, sunlight, and even garlic.  This hinders the taste buds as well, causing you to taste nothing but blood.  We don't know why blood can be tasted and nothing else.  Some think it's because the body craves for blood that doesn't lack anything.  In fact, vamzemians need outside blood in order to live.  This explains why you, Celie, are so pale and weak." 
     I felt like I was sinking into my chair.  It just wasn't real.  It couldn't be.  "But why do  we have to drink it?  Why not just get blood transfusions?" 
     "Our bodies don't need the extra blood, only the nutrients.  It has to be digested like normal food." 
     "Well, how come none of my doctors knew about this condition?  Is it so rare they couldn't pick up on it?"
      "We aren't rare.  There're many people who carry the gene to make us."
     "Then how come there hasn't been anything on the news or 20/20 about us?" I asked, trying to find any reason at all to make his explanation of my condition invalid.
     He laughed.  His incisors, as sharp as mine, showed, giving him an almost monstrous appearance.  "Do you really think this kind of ‘disease' would be accepted in a world like this?  Our earlier kind discovered that we could never be accepted when they tried to set up their own little villages.  The outsiders feared them and called them sinful creatures because they drank blood and avoided sunlight. This fear soon turned into hatred and outrage and the outsiders invaded and massacred the villages.  Their weapons were hand-carved wooden knives.  They used decapitations, fires, and drownings to kill.  Their worst form of torture was to chain people to the ground in the middle of the day and let them burn to death.  In attempts to purify and save the souls, a crucifix was branded onto each victim's forehead.   The survivors of the massacre created mythical tales of dark creatures called vampires in order to cover up any further knowledge of our people.  We began to live as a sort of secret society, planting ourselves throughout the normal world.  Now we are planted from butcher shops to high-tech medical research teams in order to support each other. "
     This was way too much to take in all at once.  I wasn't just a girl with a mysterious sickness, I was a creature, an impure thing who had to drink blood to survive.  And we had a society?  I knew I couldn't really be one, but what else would explain my taste for that blood Dr. Stone had given me and my scorching sunburns?  I didn't think I could take any more information, but Dr. Stone wasn't finished.
     "Once the body completes puberty, the aging process begins to move ten times slower than the normal body, leaving us with an incredible life span.  This is why you still look like a fourteen year old.  You'll be 140 and still look this young." 
     All I could do was stare at him with my mouth wide open.  My life would never be the same again.  What would I tell my parents?  How would I get through life without telling anybody of my condition?  How would I be able to tell if anybody else had my condition?  Did this mean I had to live over 140 years drinking pig's blood and lying about my age, my      condition? Question after question charged through my mind, but I couldn't bring myself to ask them. 
      "I understand your reaction.  It's all quite overwhelming at first."  He opened a drawer in his desk and took out a large, white bottle.  "Here, you'll need this along with the ointment I gave you.  It's a better, thicker form of sunblock. And it can't be mistaken for suntan lotion.  You'll need to come back every month or so for a refill.  I want you to see me again next week once you've gotten used to the idea so I can answer any of your questions." He took a card out from his desk and handed it to me with the bottle.  "This is the name of our local butcher.  Go to him as soon as you get out of here and pick up some blood."
     "Thanks," I mumbled, my hands shaking as I took the bottle and card from him.  I had put the ointment in my purse earlier, but this bottle was too big to fit, so I just stuck the card in a side compartment.  Great, now I had to walk down the halls with this huge white bottle for all the medical building and the city to see.  I stood, wanting to leave, but again, he wasn't finished explaining. 
     "Lucille," he said sternly.  "Sit down.  I have one more thing to tell you."
     Still shaking, I slid back to my seat.  Now what?  After all of this, what else could he possibly tell me?  I didn't know how much more of this my mind could process.
     "There's a group of us called the Dark Vamps.  They began as a group of orphaned teenagers and widowed men and women after the massacres.  They retaliated by invading villages and killing people, especially the youth.  They tortured the murderers they recognized from the massacres by tying them up and killing their families in front of them.  They drank the blood of the slain and burned others alive.  Many of the vamzemians didn't approve of this behavior and 
     shunned them, branding them as the Dark Children.  The Dark Children continue to thrive among our people secretly, drinking the blood of humans.  About fifty years ago, their name switched to the Dark Vamps.  I'm not sure why, the old name must not have been catchy enough." 
     "You're telling me there are people who drink human blood?"  I exclaimed weakly. 
     "Why?  What…" 
     "The taste of human blood is very addicting.  It's the best thing we can ever taste, supposedly far better than animal's blood.  After this Dark Children ‘Revolution,' those who had drunk from the humans became addicted to the taste and introduced the idea of drinking human blood to the majority of us.  Very few have been able to resist the thirst once they've tasted.  I've seen what can happen to people who've tasted and tried to stop.  It's worse than drug addiction.  No form of rehab can cure the cravings.  It drives you crazy, makes you do things you normally wouldn't do."  He sighed.  "I know I have patients who are a part of this group.  I have my suspicions about some, could be totally clueless about others.  All I can tell you, Celie, is to stay away from these people if you know they're no good.  Don't drink the blood.  Not even a sip."  He rested his elbows on his cluttered desk and put his head into his hands, as though he were drained.  "That is all.  You're free to go."
     I looked towards the door.  I didn't want to go out in this new world I'd just learned about.  But I had to.  I sighed and reluctantly stumbled out of the chair and exited, shutting the door behind me.  My mind was stumbling along with me as I shuffled down the hall towards the elevator, my thoughts spinning so fast that I didn't even know what I was thinking about.  As I waited for the elevator, I studied the heavy, white bottle Dr. Stone had given me.  I turned it in my hands as I turned over the thoughts in my mind.  Never the same again…
     The elevator door opened and, still immersed in my thoughts and studying the bottle, I took a step towards the door, stepped on a foot, and ran right into the chest of the foot's owner.
     I looked up into a now slightly amused and very handsome, smiling face. His smile was very…seductive.  He looked young, perhaps 15 or 16, yet he appeared to be older.  He was tall and slender with smooth, caramel colored skin.  He had contacts that made the outlines of his 
     eyes white and his irises a faint shade of light stone blue.  A pair of black sunglasses (to match his all black apparel) rested upon his of neatly braided cornrolls.  Something about him sent sinister vibes throughout me.  If he was one of us, he would definitely be a part of the darker side.  "I'm sorry," I mumbled, ducking my head back down towards the floor.  I tried to walk past him, but he stepped right in front of me. 
     "It's ok," he answered in a deep voice. He looked down at the white bottle in my hand.  "Ah, you've just seen Dr. Stone."
     I nodded and tried to walk past him again, but again, he blocked my path.  "Why so shy?"
     I didn't answer him.  I wanted nothing to do with him and nothing to do with anybody having to do with vamzemia.  I just shrugged.
     He gently touched my chin and raised it, forcing me to look at him.  His fingers traced down my chin to the scars peeking out of my turtleneck.  "Damn, girl!  You got burned up bad!"  He slightly pulled back the turtleneck to take a closer look, but I pulled away.  "Not to mention you're pail as hell.  What do you drink?"
     I shook his hand away from me and took a step back.  I wished he would leave me alone.  "I didn't drink ‘til today.  I'm going to the butcher shop now," I said quietly and coldly, still keeping my distance from him.
     "The butcher shop?  Girl, that stuff ain't shit compared to what I can hook you up with.  And in your condition, you're gonna need some of it."
     "That's quite all right.  I don't need any of your stuff."
     He laughed softly as he began to fish in his pockets.  "Let me guess, Dr. Stone just gave you ‘the speech' about folks like me, huh?  I bet he's still sittin' in his office with his head in his hands."  He pulled a piece of paper and a pen out of his pocket and quickly scribbled something down.  "Here.  Friday night at eight.  Look for me."  He gently took my right hand and, before I could jerk it loose from him, tucked the piece of paper into my fist.  "By the way, I'm Lamonte', but you can call me Mont."
     I watched him as he sauntered down the hall towards Dr. Stone's office.
     I checked my watch again.  His ten minutes were up.  I sighed as I leaned against the bar.  Maybe five more minutes? 
     "Sorry it took so long to take your order.  We had a situation in the back.  What can I get you?" asked the man behind the bar, leaning over the countertop and smiling almost straight into my face.  He was a greasy young/old man— I don't know how old he was, he could have been anywhere from 16 to 200— with a missing front tooth and scraggly brown hair.  His pale, white skin was dark from dirt (I wondered how often he took a shower). 
     "What kind do you have?"  I didn't think there was more than one flavor of blood.
     "We have young blood; teen blood, but we're runnin' kinda low on the male teen blood tonight; and adult blood.  It's all fresh.  You might wanna start on the young blood and then work your way up."
     I was slightly taken aback, but somehow I answered.  I don't think I quite understood what I was saying.  "Um, sure…" 
     He winked as he started to walk away.  "Young blood it is.  Good choice, cutie."
     I rested my elbow on the countertop and put my chin on my palm.  If he wasn't here by the time I got my drink, I would leave.
     "Hey, glad to see you made it after all.  Hey Emilio!  Get me the usual!"
     Startled, I turned around to stare right into Mont's hypnotic-like eyes.  "Look who's talking.  You're late,"  I remarked.  I nodded towards the couple next to me.  "Thanks for letting me know what kind of place this was."
     Mont took the seat on the other side of me and waved a hand, dismissing my stunned reaction.  "My bad, babygirl.  Now, you know you wouldn't have come if I had told you all the little details."
     "Most likely not."
     Mont smiled.  "Besides, it ain't a big deal around here.  That's what happens when you try to resist the cravings."  He laughed lightly. 
     I smiled tightly, not sure what to say to that.  "Uh huh." 
     He laughed again.  "You're somethin' else, you know that?  So why'd you decide to come?  The way you was actin' earlier, I didn't think you'd show up."
     I shrugged.  "I got bored," I said sarcastically.
     "Bored, huh?  You know what, you're kinda cute when you get sarcastic.  I'm sorry, I didn't catch your name."
     "I know."
     "Aw, come on.  You came all the way to this place, you may as well stop tryin' to play hard to get and tell me."
     "Lucille, Celie, whatever," I mumbled.
     "Whatever?" he laughed.  "Damn, babygirl, you ain't very pleasant to be around."
     "It's been a rough week."
     Emilio set the drinks down in front of us.  "Enjoy."
     Mont put his arm around me and smiled.  "Well, Celie, this stuff right here's gonna make you feel all better.  Trust me." 
     I stared at the thick liquid sitting in the clear beer glass and hesitated.  Did I really want to taste this?  Become dependent on human blood like it was a drug? 
     Mont pushed the glass closer to me.  "Better drink before it gets cold."
     I continued to stare at the substance.  It came from a life.  A young child's life.
     Mont lifted his own glass to his lips and slowly drank.  "Don't be scared, babygirl.  It ain't no good cold."
     I didn't know what to do.  I was torn between my morals, my (usually) good judgment, and my curiosity.  It wasn't that I cared about what Mont would think of me, I just wanted to know what it tasted like.  How different was it from the butcher shop blood?  I knew it could be addictive, but one little sip couldn't possibly get me hooked, could it?  And that wasn't the biggest of my dilemma.  This drink came from a child's life.  Could I live with myself for contributing to this child's death?  I sighed as I lifted the cup to my lips.  The kid was already dead anyway, whether I drank the blood or not.  And one little taste wouldn't hurt.  Besides, I had good self-control.  I wouldn't get addicted.  A drop entered my lips and I realized it tasted better than the blood I had been drinking for the last few days.  I raised the glass and drank, relishing each blood cell.  Suddenly, I could see a bright pair of green, innocent eyes staring at me.  It was a little red-haired girl with a deep cut across her throat.  She reached a pudgy hand out to me, a single tear dripping down her cheek…  I jumped back and let go of the glass.  It shattered on the ground and the blood splattered across the cold, black cement and lightly dotted my and Mont's shoes.
     I jumped off the stool, stepping through broken glass and spilled blood.  The glass crunched beneath my ankle boots.  The taste lingered on my tongue, but the flash of that little girl lingered in my mind.  I couldn't believe what I had just done. 
     "What are you doing?  What's wrong?" Mont asked, setting down his cup.
     I slowly backed away from him.  I could feel the blood sticking to my shoes.

     "Celie, where are you going?  You're going to get blood everywhere."
     I stopped and looked down at my blood-soaked boots.  I felt horrible.  Tears began to stream down my face.  Silently and furiously, I unfastened each boot, slid them off my feet, and threw them at Mont.  I turned around and ran through the zombie crowd towards the stairs.  Through the crowd and the loud band, I could hear Mont's voice calling out to me.
     "You'll be back, Celie!  You ain't gonna be able to hold back your cravings!  I'll be waiting for you, Lucille!" 

     That night I dreamed of them.  The little girls and boys playing on the playground.  The teenage girls and boys getting ready for prom.  The older men and women spending time with their children and grandchildren.  A dark red liquid slowly trickled down onto the images of the people, smearing their faces and possessions.  It trickled slowly at first, like a light shower, then slowly increased until it became a relentless blood storm.  The little girls and boys hid under the slides and merry-go-rounds, the teenagers screamed as their prom attire became soaked in blood, and the men and women ran for cover, trying to protect their children and grandchildren.  Thunder rumbled and red flashes of lightning streaked the sky as the people became drenched in red.  It began to pour down so heavily that deep red pools of blood formed on the ground and soon the children drowned in them.  Blood flowed through the streets like raging flood waters and began to sweep everyone away.  My vision became nothing but a haze of blood until the downpour turned to a veil of thick, red wetness.  Their screams echoed through my mind and pierced my eardrums.  I could see a faint shadow moving towards me through the thick red screen.  The screen parted as though someone were pulling on a curtain string.  Before me was Mont, walking towards me with a clear glass of that savory liquid in his hand.  He held it before me and powerless to stop myself, I snatched the glass and greedily drank from it.  "I knew you'd be back, Lucille." 
     I woke up in a pool of sweat, my heart beating rapidly and my breath shallow.  I looked all about me.  Faint red spots were still in my vision.  I could still hear their screaming, still see them sinking beneath the dark red puddles… 

     When my roommate came home, she found me lying on the floor in the silent darkness.  She flicked on the lights and tossed her keys onto the cluttered coffee table.  I grabbed a zebra patterned pillow from the couch, rolled onto my stomach, and put it over my head.  "Celie, get up off that floor!" Nafria commanded.  I could hear her shuffling through my scattered shoes, clothes, books, and backpack.   I saw a crisply ironed leg of blue jeans step in front of me.  "What's wrong?  You don't normally act like this!"
     A week had passed since I'd gone to that club.  At first, I felt nothing but guilt and saw nothing but that dream I'd had.  But now, I was craving.  I couldn't drink any of that blood I'd gotten from the butcher shop that was now shoved in the back of our refrigerator in a white bag marked "Bio Project."  It wasn't enough.  All I could think of was that small sip of blood I'd tasted at the club.  I didn't care who it came from.  All I cared about was having it again.  I rolled 
     onto my back to stare up into Nafria's concerned face.  "Nothing's wrong," I mumbled, closing my eyes.  I rolled on my side.  "I just need time to think."
     Nafria shrugged as she walked over to her clean desk and set her purse on top of it.  "You need to get out, girl.  It's Friday night!  Did you even go to class today?"
     I shook my head.  I hadn't gone anywhere lately.  I hadn't called my friends.  Why go out when I couldn't focus?  I couldn't call my parents—not after all that I'd done.  How could I tell them anything?  I couldn't return to Dr. Stone, not after my stupidity of ignoring his warning.  A tear streamed down my cheek as another craving hit me.  My body began to shake violently.  I tried to fight the convulsions, but it only made it worse.  A sob escaped my lips and I curled into a ball, rocking back and forth.  I was stupid, so stupid for what I'd done.  How could I possibly think that I was invincible to the cravings?  I cried out in frustration, threw my leg against the floor, rolled over onto my stomach, and shoved my face into the pillow.  Nafria ran over to me and yanked me up into a sitting position.  "Celie, what's wrong?"  She looked at my bloodshot eyes, studied my pale face, and gasped.  "Lucille!  Are you on drugs?"
     I barely heard her.  I was looking at her neck, studying her jugular vein.  I wondered what her blood tasted like. I tilted my head as I watched the vein.  I could hear the blood rushing through it, calling my name.  How sweet was it?  Did it have a metallic aftertaste?  Would it taste better fresh from her neck than it would if it were heated up in a microwave? Were my teeth sharp enough to bite her or should I get my knife and just slice her throat?  Or should I go for the vein in her wrist?  Or should I just go for it all and slice both?  Surely I wouldn't be able to get all the blood from her body from just one place.  Yes, the neck and the wrist should be enough.  Should I go for both wrists?  What about her ankles?  Where's my knife?
     "Celie!"  I felt a violent jerk and it tossed my vision and my mind away from Nafria's veins.  "Celie!  Do I need to call a doctor?" 
     I blinked as I slowly pulled my mind back into focus.  I couldn't take it anymore.  I pushed her aside and ran out the room.  I could hear her calling after me.  "Celie!  Celie, where are you going?  Come back!"
     I ignored her cries as I ran down the hallway, up the stairs, and out into the crisp, fall night air.  I continued to run, my mind on nothing but that sweet, satisfying taste.  I could see it right before me, smell its sharp scent, taste its sweet cells, and feel its thick texture flow down my throat.  A burst of arousal rushed throughout my body as I threw the heavy, black door open. 
       I bolted through the doorway and nearly tossed myself down the stairs.  Sitting at the bar with a glass in his hand and a smug smile on his face was Mont. 
     "I knew you'd be back, Lucille." 
     Not saying a word to him and oblivious to the crowd, I walked up to him and ripped his shirt open, snatched the glass out of his hand and poured its contents down his chest and stomach.  I licked every blood-covered inch of him and fished out the blood that was hiding in his navel.  Some of it smeared onto my cheeks, chin, and the sides of my lips and Mont raised my head up to his face to lick it off.  He unzipped his pants and reached beneath my skirt, tugging at my panties.  I stepped out of them and sat on top of his lap as I licked the last trace of blood from his chest.

 First I want to thank Terry for presenting this story to the class to work on and many thanks to the entire class for reading it all the way through and giving me all the helpful comments and suggestions. I also want to thank my roommate Becky for reading each revision of all of my stories and telling me what worked and what didn't.  Oh, and also a very special thanks to Heather for listening to me read all eight and a half pages out loud (thank you so much for your patience).

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