Here’s this week’s challenge rules: “Five Words, Plus One Vampire”
A bloated insect lay upside-down at the bottom of Bryn’s beer bottle. After he vomited into the metal trash can beside Dana’s desk, he slumped back into his chair with a green-faced frown.
“You knew there was a cockroach in that beer, didn’t you?” Bryn said.
Dana’s thin lips strained into a smile like a taut rubber band, and she nodded.
Bryn returned a gesture of his own.
“This isn’t a cockroach,” she said as she tilted the lamp shade forward to illuminate the bottle. “Triatoma Sanguisuga, otherwise known as the Eastern Blood-sucking Conenose. I’m surprised you finished your drink without swallowing it,” she said with a nervous giggle. She rose from her chair and extended the bugged beer bottle toward Bryn.
“You wanted me to swallow the bug?” Bryn’s stomach churned.
Dana shook her head. “I want you to swallow it.” She rattled the bottle in front of his face.
“You’re crazy, I’m not eating a dead bug.” Bryn stood up too quickly and lost his balance. He tumbled over the chair and landed with a crunch on the floor. He screamed at the sharp pain in his ankle, and curled his arms around his injured leg.
Dana leaned over him and tapped the bottle against his skull.
Bryn looked up in disbelief. “What the fuck? Call an ambulance, I broke my damn leg.”
She shook her head. “Swallow the bug, then I’ll make the call.”
“Are you fucking crazy?”
Bryn leaned back cautiously and slid his hand into the pocket of his jeans. He shouted profanities at her while he eased his phone out, then dialed 911 with a triumphant smile.
The call ended before the first ring. Dana ripped the phone from his hand and threw it at the wall where it smashed into chunks of glass and metal.
“What’s your fucking problem?” Bryn shouted.
“Swallow the fucking bug,” she hissed.
Bryn grabbed the bottle from her hand and raised it over his open mouth. He felt the bug land on his tongue and grimaced at the crunchy, bloody mess in his mouth before swallowing with an exaggerated gulp. “Happy now?” he groaned. “Call the damn ambulance.”
“You don’t need an ambulance,” she said as she slid back into her oversized leather chair.
Bryn threw the bottle at her head, but flinched in surprise when he heard it shatter on the wall directly behind her head. With the trajectory it flew, it should’ve hit her between the eyes.
“How the hell -”
She smiled, then leaned forward in her chair. “You’ll be fast too,” she whispered. “Check out your leg.”
Bryn pulled his pant leg up to reveal a normal looking leg. No signs of swelling or bruising. “How?”
“The bug. Let’s just say, you have all the benefits of a certain blood-sucking monster, without any of the drawbacks.”
“Wait – are you saying that I’m a – vampire?”
“Don’t say that word,” Dana hissed, and her head swung back and forth as if a tennis ball had volleyed across the room. She held a hand up to silence him and they both froze for a few tense minutes. Then she relaxed and curled up beside him. “You never know if one might be listening. Just make sure you don’t use that word.
“Who’s listening -” he said, but she cut him off.
“Shut up and listen to me. You have unbelievable speed and agility, the ability to heal from any wound, and superior hearing and vision. Maybe some other perks as well, but you’ll have time to figure those out later.”
“So can I got outside or-”
“Yes, sunlight is fine. You’re not dead, like them. You’re just – different. Better.”
He ran a hand over his head, noticing his receding hair line had grown back a few inches. He stared at Dana in awe. “So the bug did this to me?”
“The bug fed on one of them. Don’t ask me any more, I can’t tell you anything. But we’re even now, okay? I don’t owe you anything.”
Bryn nodded. “Yeah, sure. Your unpaid tax documents have disappeared. No audit.” He stood up and brushed off his pants. “Why didn’t you just tell me? I would’ve swallowed the damn thing.”
“Just promise me you won’t tell anyone about this,” she said, extending her hand out to him.
He shook it and chuckled. “Yeah, sure Dana. Thanks, I guess.”
She ushered him toward the door. “You’re welcome. Now get out of here and don’t ever come back.”
He stopped before opening the door, and leaned in to whisper in her ear. “Am I in danger?”
“Of course not,” she said as she flashed him an overly-bright smile. “Just keep our little secret and we’ll all be fine.”
He nodded, then walked through the door of her office to the hallway outside. The fluorescent lights flickered overhead as the sound of his footsteps reverberated through the empty hall. At the end, he opened the door to take the stairs down to his car, and bumped into a black robed man coming through the other way.
“Sorry,” Bryn said as he stepped out of the way.
“Dana Joseph,” the man creaked.
Bryn’s heart raced. The cloaked figure smelled of rotten meat and dirt, and his voice creaked like a rusty swing set. Bryn pointed down the hall with one shaky finger, then he raced down the steps the moment the other man disappeared.