Miranda’s apartment was just a mile walk away. Maybe I should have tried to talk her out of bringing me home, but neither of us was in any shape to walk home alone. Miranda didn’t seem to notice that I wasn’t talking. She was just going along with what Nick had told her. I thought I knew why, but I didn’t know why I knew why.
Some things you don’t forget, but when you search your memory for them they aren’t there. Your mind put them in locked drawers labeled “Fabricated” or “Unaccountable” or just “Wrong.” But they aren’t gone, even if you never see them.
My brain was off in another place, trying to follow a thread of sense-memory backward from that moment of sick-making déjà vu at the bar. The thread led back to another decade, another coast, to my lost summer.
My junior year of high school had just ended. I’d passed my driver’s exam on the first try. Even though the weather wasn’t right yet I was excited to drive down to Jones Beach and meet some friends. That was the day when, on one of the too-short merges onto the Southern State Parkway, a red GT came up in my blind spot and rabbit punched my parents’ Corolla into the noise barrier.
I heard the driver yelling at me until the ambulance doors slammed shut behind me.
I’d broken both arms, my right leg, and part of my face. I spent a month and a half in the hospital.
Afterwards, when people asked how it had been, I told them I’d had a bad reaction to the painkillers the hospital had given me. I didn’t go into details. I didn’t tell anyone else about how, when my parents visited—the first time I was lucid enough—I had cried and begged them to get me out because at night, the hospital was full of monsters. I never talked about how, even after they’d switched me to morphine, the hallucinations didn’t go away.
I’d managed to not even think about that since I’d moved to Seattle.
My thoughts had gotten that far before Miranda kissed me, just inside door of her apartment. She kissed me like she wanted to, and I kissed her back because I did want to. Then we were following our momentum, not thinking about why anything was happening.
It was not my finest moment.
I fell asleep on her couch afterwards. I dreamed of dark hospital rooms, and a red-eyed night janitor who slipped in from the hallways without turning the lights, whose teeth cut skin and who drank from the patients’ wrists. I saw the disconnected look on an old man’s face in the bed next to me as the thing drank him, and on the nurses’ faces as the thing told them to come back later.
I dreamed of the feeling behind that expression, when the night-drinker looked into my eyes with his eyes and said, “None of this is real.” And in the dream his face was Nick’s face, and my face was Miranda’s face, and I myself was watching, unable to do anything because my arms and legs refused to move.
I started awake, killing the dream. But until I fell asleep again I remembered how once I had known that vampires are real.
Submitted by Corodon Fuller