Chapter 8

"Narcisse? Hello? Are you there?" I whisper into the dark apartment space, hoping that he really wasn't. Maybe he decided to run to the next state. Maybe he died! Ha. My life's not that charmed. I clutch my bag full of sabotaged entrails and try not to let my knees knock together. "I'm back.." I can smell his blood, lots of it. That's promising?

A dry, dusty whisper tinged with hope answers me. "My little cuckoo?"

I flip on the light as I enter the room, the odor of decomposition burning my nostrils again. Narcisse is laying on his ratty twin bed, curled up in brown-red stained cartoon character sheets. He flutters his eyelids and moans in pain. "He hurt me. Little Mirri. I hurt." His voice trembles and he sobs gently, pitifully. I actually feel a little sorry for him, even though he is a vicious monster. Well, I suppose I'm not that much better.

"Can I see?" I keep my voice calm and quiet, like I'm talking to a wounded animal. "Shhh, let me look."

He whimpers and acquiesces to my request, lifting the sheets away from his torso. Forbo didn't die easily. Narcisse is split from his navel to his sternum, leaking blood and visceral fluids, his guts held inside by strips of clothing. Any human would be dead by now, I don't know how he's still conscious. "So hungry." He shivers in shock, but I know he'll heal from this if he eats. He's so vulnerable right now.

I shush him softly, "Don't talk. I'll get you food." I dig in my bag for one of the drug-laced intestines, "I'll take care of you. We're family." I don't know why I said that, but its a little true and that's scary. I put the bloody organ against his lips, praying that he won't notice the taste of the pills.

He rolls his orange eyes back in his head and opens his mouth so wide that his jaws must have unhinged like a snake's. He chokes back the meat without chewing it and it slides down his gullet. He gasps and feebly reaches for more. Happy to oblige, I give him the next section and soon he has nearly devoured my zipper bag of drugged guts. His wound is starting to seal now. I'm shocked at how fast he heals.

"Oh little cuckoo. You are my little guardian angel. We shall be so happy together with our little family and we shall dominate the humans and make them our slaves to be nibbled and sampled at our pleasure and I feeeeeeeel funny..." He starts to sound like Zola at the end of a bar crawl. "I just want, I just want to tell you, something... Something..."

I lean over and stroke his forehead, like an indulgent nurse. "What? What do you want to tell me?"

"Smile for me. Smile Mirri, show me what it looks, what it looks like to be happy?" His eyes are not tracking well and cross randomly. I paste a big, fake happy grin on my face. He casually back-hands me across the mouth, whip-crack loud and I nearly fly against the wall. I can taste my own blood filling my mouth, I spit on the floor and try to clear my ringing head. I think I'm going to die pretty darn soon.

"I've aaaaaalways hated your human teeeeeth." Narcisse slurs. "Now, now you will have ghoul teeeeth. And if you don't-" He sits up and bobbles from side to side like a toddler's toy. "I shall hit you some more until you loook like meeee and then we shall take pictures and have our portrait painted and we will be SO HAPPY together that we willlllll-" He falls off the bed and lands in a face-first pile on the floor. I try to not choke to death on my own blood, my mouth full of broken teeth, stifling sobs of pain.

I grab Forbo's knife without hesitation. I could use the gun, but I don't want anyone to hear it and frankly, I don't know really how to shoot one. I'm going to learn how to shoot a gun and use many, many kinds for weapons, if I survive this. How do you kill something that heals so fast? Well, he needs blood so that's a good place to start. Eliminate the blood.

That sharp, sharp blade slices into his flesh and severs neatly the arteries at his wrist. First one, then the other. He's not bleeding out fast enough for my inexperienced tastes so I draw the knife across his throat, pretending that I'm just carving up some leftover turkey at Thanksgiving. La la la. I'm not really murdering anyone, la la la, this is self-defense. He starts to gurgle and I panic, pushing harder and harder until his body spasms and shakes and I'm still cutting until the blade gets caught in his neck bones. I feel sick to my stomach, my blood is metallic and coppery tasting, dribbling down my chest and soaking my scrub top.

He didn't have as much blood as I expected, thanks for that Forbo. He's not breathing, I can't feel a pulse, but I'm not going to take any chances. I stand up and give his body a few hard kicks. I'm not your dearie, I'm not your sweetie, and I am so not your family.

My mouth really, really hurts with an intense, eye-watering throb and I think he's broken my jaw, possibly part of my cheekbone. I need to eat so my healing can start. I might as well take advantage of the one good thing that being a partial monster gives me. There's one piece of Forbo left in that bag. I stare longingly at it, but no. I'll take my chances with what's in the fridge. I don't know these remains, but somehow it's easier to suck on a random piece of a random person than to give in to eating that man. And I'd rather die than eat nasty bitter Narcisse bits. Just that thought threatens to make my gorge rise. So I grab a tidbit from the fridge and slump down on the floor, cutting tiny bites off the meat after wiping off the blade on some curtains. The sink doesn't work and I'm glad I never had to use the toilet. I guess the water bill didn't get paid. He doesn't seem to be coming back to life, but I still don't trust Narcisse, not even a presumptively dead Narcisse.

I decide to toss the place, slipping on some gloves. He collected junk from his victims like photos and clothing mostly, but I find a wad of cash stashed in a pile of used women's lingerie. Gross. That's why I wear gloves, right in a nutshell. I also find a small book, beautifully bound in a pale pink-brown fine grained leather. The pages are hand-lettered in beautiful copperplate handwriting. I pocket it as well. I've got a collection of freaky, psychopaths' journals now. Lucky me. I also take a large locked ornate jewelry box. Hopefully it won't have rotting body parts, locks of hair or some other kind of nasty trophy. Best of all, I find a working lighter and a small container of lighter fluid at the bottom of a dresser drawer. I flick the flint and grin at the small, steady flame.

There's no shortage of tinder in this building. I find yellowed newspaper, piles of junk mail and magazines piled to the ceiling in several units. This place is a firebug's dream. I build a funeral pyre for both Narcisse and Forbo, dragging the latter upstairs on a tarp-covered toboggan. I don't know if it's ghoul-power or adrenaline, but I easily get them both dragged onto the bed. I drizzle them with lighter fluid and soak the tinder under the bodies with some gasoline I found in the trunk of Forbo's car. Then just like Dad taught me at Bible Camp, I light the fire in several different places and watch the flames grow with a hungry roar.

I run down the stairs, my loot in tow, after making sure that the fire was steady. I take the really long way home. I can see smoke in my rearview mirror, BIG smoke. Huh. I guess the fire sprinklers were shut off too. I hope I haven't set my workplace on fire too. Oh well. Can't be helped now. I can hear many different emergency sirens now echoing against the hills.

I pull over into a parking lot and change my scrub top, wiping off my face as best I can. I look terrible, the bruising on my jaw is as dark as a ripe plum, but I'm healing. I cautiously bare my battered teeth, pulling back my split and bloody lips with my fingers.

I'm missing my upper canine on the left side and a bicuspid next to that. Why the hell did I even bother flossing all these years? My teeth were just about the only feature that I actually took pleasure in. Now I look like a proper hillbilly or a soundly defeated prize fighter. I probe the empty sockets with my tongue and I feel a razor tip poking out of the gum that cuts my tongue with the slightest of pressure.

Well, I guess there's not going to be any deep French kissing in my future. I roll my eyes, like that's going to be an issue. Just one more thing to practice hiding from the humans. I catch that thought and squash it. I'm still human too. Partly. Mostly. Probably.

Leaning back my seat, I angle the rearview mirror so that I can watch dirty black smoke billow over the horizon. It mingles with the sunlight and stains the sky dull red, red as congealed blood on a concrete floor. I smile with battered lips, busted out teeth and a much, much lighter heart.