From the author: A young girl is held captive to be used as food and her only companion is the creature who kidnapped her.
Kaden mostly fed Sondra frozen meals and salads, though he made a point to buy her favorite snacks and desserts when she was behaving. She had a small kitchen in the basement and he would restock her food supply about once a week. When he left she would hide part of the food, in case she was punished by only being given bland food again. But no matter what, Sondra always had food, probably because Kaden wouldn’t get much nutrition when he fed on her if she was starving.
Sondra was reading Rabbit at Rest when she heard the locks of the door being released. She glanced at the page number and shut the book. She placed it back on the bookcase, so it looked like it had never been removed. She sat back down on the couch and stared at the wall as she heard the last lock unclick. Kaden entered and looked at her, then turned back around and set the combination lock.
He sat down on the other side of the couch and turned on the TV. They watched in silence while chefs tried to compete to make the best dish using tofu.
Kaden asked, “Are you hungry? I can order pizza.” Sondra just shrugged and Kaden frowned. “Are you still pouting?”
Sondra continued to stare at the TV and said, “I was sick for three days.”
“And you’ve been fine for four days. I had a one-night stand on Saturday, but I need to drink again. Are you going to be difficult?”
Sondra didn’t say anything but held out her wrist. He walked into the kitchen and dampened a paper towel and wiped her wrist even though it was never dirty. He sat next to her and Sondra felt his thigh touch her thigh. He brought her wrist up to his mouth and bit it. She felt his fangs sink in with a sharp pain before the sedative in his saliva dulled any feeling. For the first few months when he drank from her she wouldn’t even remember being bitten, but her body appeared to be building up an immunity. Now, although the pain was dulled and the bite would still heal quickly, she was aware he was drinking her blood.
He drank for a few minutes then pulled back with his mouth still unhinged and touching his chest, revealing his fangs. His fangs were like snake fangs and descended behind what looked like human teeth. They weren’t like a mammal’s fangs; they were thin and incredibly long. When they weren’t in use they folded into the top of the soft palate of his mouth. Once Kaden had showed her that he didn’t swallow the blood. When he fed he raised his tongue to block his throat and an opening below his tongue collected the blood. What happened after that Kaden didn’t say.
His dirty blond hair was disheveled and fell over his blue eyes that were practically gray. He looked like a grotesque parody of a human when he fed. Yet when his fangs were retracted he looked normal, though with more pronounced blue veins and thicker fingers. Most people would think he was handsome.
Kaden wiped the extra blood from Sondra’s wrist with the paper towel. The wound was already coagulating. He went back upstairs for an hour; when he came back he brought a sausage and pepperoni pizza. They watched District 13 then reruns of I Love Lucy until Sondra fell asleep on the couch. Kaden carried her into her bedroom and tucked her into bed. He left, locking up the soundproof basement apartment so Sondra couldn’t escape.
It had been 169 days since Sondra was kidnapped.
Sondra woke up in the middle of the night and put on her pajamas and brushed her teeth. She stared at her tangled hair in the mirror, but didn’t bother to brush it. Out of habit she checked the door to see if Kaden had accidently left it unlocked, and felt the familiar pang of disappointment. Then she went back to sleep and dreamed of walking down a never-ending corridor of a shopping mall.
Sondra slept for ten hours, and then forced herself to use the treadmill for an hour before she showered. She ate toast with honey and took out one of her notebooks and wrote down what she did for every birthday, including her 17th where Kaden brought her a chocolate cake and she cried the entire day.
After three months of fighting followed by two months of trying to forget everything that happened before, she realized she had forgotten the color of her dad’s eyes and couldn’t remember the date of her best friend’s birthday. Since then she asked for notebooks and had written hours on end about everything from her past, unsure if the information could put her family in peril, but also unsure if she could stay sane if she couldn’t look up facts in her notebook to reassure herself that her memory was correct and her mom’s perfume smelled like gardenias.
Sondra watched TV and read the rest of the day, until she grew drowsy and fell asleep on the couch. She woke up from her nap with Kaden studying her bookshelf. Without turning around he asked, “Do you require anything?”
She didn’t bother to respond. She couldn’t say “freedom,” it was an old argument and bringing it up again wouldn’t accomplish anything. He stroked her hair and left without feeding on her. The next day he arrived in the morning with a fresh bottle of orange juice and a new video game.
Kaden played the video game while Sondra watched. He had faster reactions than a normal human, but sometimes his actions didn’t make sense. During the game when the enemy was shooting at him, his character just stood there then attacked a member of his own team before firing upon the enemy. He didn’t laugh or even smile when he did this; it almost appeared calculated except there didn’t seem to be any benefit in the game.
He fed on her neck, his hand cradling her check as she stared at a spider crawling across the ceiling.
A week later he handed Sondra a large cage with what looked like a fat gray squirrel that had a wide face with large ears and a short tail. It was shivering in the corner of the cage behind its exercise wheel.
Sondra smiled and stuck her index finger through the bar to pet it. Kaden stood back and watched. He said, “It’s a chinchilla.”
She asked, “Are you going to feed on him too?”
She opened the cage door, but the chinchilla stayed in the corner, shivering. She spoke softly, asking a question that she had already asked dozens of times, each time Kaden hadn’t said anything. “Why didn’t you just get a bunch of animals to feed on?”
“We take on the aspects of what we drink. Like a sea slug that eats algae and can then perform photosynthesis, when we drink from humans we look human. If I were to drink from a dog I would take on those characteristics.”
Sondra didn’t move. She was frightened that if she said or did anything he would stop talking. In the beginning she used to always ask questions, hoping that the more she knew the better her chances of escape would be. She no longer thought that, but she was curious.
Kaden continued, “Whenever humans kill us, it’s because we stopped feeding on them and began to look like monsters. You killed the ones who took pity on you.”
He stopped talking and Sondra was silent for a few minutes before asking, “Who taught you this? Did someone make you like this?”
He ignored her and poured himself a glass of orange juice. He sat down and watched TV while Sondra fussed over her pet.
“I need to feed,” Kaden said.
Sondra pulled down her pants and laid down on the couch. He crouched down, cleaned her thigh and drank from it. He rotated what part of the body he drank from, but this was better than when he drank from her neck.
As he got up to go Sondra asked, “Are you going to turn me into a vampire?”
“Could you turn that chinchilla into a human?”
Sondra pulled her pants back up and picked up the chinchilla and placed it on the floor. It immediately ran under the table and Sondra spent the rest of the evening trying to coax it out with treats.
The plastic table was a replacement table for an oak table that once stood in the same place. On the tenth day after she was kidnapped she had broken the table and used a jagged leg like a stake. She stood by the doorway and when he entered she stabbed him in the arm, though she was aiming for his chest. He picked her up with one hand and pulled the makeshift weapon out and stabbed her in the same spot. She almost bled to death, and he fed on the wound while she cried out in pain. Now all the heavy future was gone and she didn’t bother to ask for cooking knives.
When Sondra thought about that attack, she didn’t remember the scar he gave her or the fact that he waited only three days before he fed on her again. She remembered that he bled when she stabbed him and the wound didn’t magically heal as soon as he took the stake out of his arm.
She made herself instant Mac and Cheese in the microwave and ate watching Animal Planet on TV. After an hour of silence the chinchilla left its hiding spot and explored the living room. Sondra resisted the urge to pounce on it and pick it up and pet it until she fell asleep. Instead she watched it twitch its little nose.
The next morning she stared at her reflection in the mirror. Her black hair was dull and her skin was pale. It wasn’t her, at least how she remembered herself. She didn’t bother to get out of her pajamas and spent the whole day watching her new pet.
Sondra woke up early the next day and jogged on the treadmill for an hour before writing one line in her notebook, “He notices that I’m lonely.”
She read the rest of the day and the chinchilla even slept next to her on the couch.
At 4am on Sunday Kaden came down to feed on her, wearing what she called “the hunting gear.” A nice button-up shirt with the top three buttons undone and black slacks with his hair styled into spikes. She often thought of trying to seduce him, then attacking him while he was distracted, but she felt sick each time she thought of kissing him, kissing those lips. Besides, she wasn’t sure if he was actually attracted to humans or if he only went to bars and nightclubs to feed on a woman after sex. They would believe they blacked out from alcohol or just fell asleep, never knowing that they had sex with something that wasn’t human.
Sondra named her chinchilla “Whiskers” and finished her book.
A few days later she stared at the bathroom mirror again, then grabbed her completed book and hit the mirror until it broke. She stared at herself in the reflection, it was as if she was trapped behind a spider web. She snarled and smashed the mirror until the shards fell onto the ground.
Three hours later Kaden came downstairs and they watched Mean Streets and ate Chinese food. After the movie she handed him her wrist. He didn’t react, though this was the first time she was volunteering to be bitten. Instead he just went through the ritual of getting a wet towel to clean it off.
When he bit into her wrist his eyes focused on her arm. She dug into the cushions of the couch with her other hand and pulled out a large sharp mirror shard. She had a paper towel around it so she wouldn’t be cut, but she held it so tightly it sliced her palm. She plunged it into the back of his neck and he reared back and crushed the hand he was holding. She heard her bones break but she didn’t cry out. She dragged the mirror shard across the back of his neck.
He jumped up, but she managed to hold on to the shard and as he moved away from her. It almost seemed like a red fountain had erupted from his neck. He was faster than her, but she followed him. He reached out and pulled on her wounded arm and she felt her wrist break and her arm pop out of place. He started to reach for her neck and she stabbed him in the stomach, before jumping out of reach. His fangs were still out and he hissed at her as he tried to strike her neck, but she stabbed him again and he collapsed on to the ground. He put his hands over one of his stomach wounds, but the back of his neck was still bleeding heavily.
She backed away and realized she was covered in blood and her arm was dislocated, but she didn’t feel any pain instead just a dull throbbing. She sat back down on the couch and stared at him. He laughed, “You killed me.”
“I wasn’t sure if you could die.”
“Of course I can die.”
Sondra didn’t say anything and touched her broken hand and wrist. She watched as he slumped over as his neck still spurted blood. She asked, “Would you have killed me?”
“Yes. When I had to move or if you got too sick or if you attacked me too often. I should have killed you when I saw you were still conscious while I was feeding.” He coughed up blood and said, “But you don’t know the combination to leave.”
“I have time to try every combination, if I ration my food I have enough for a month.”
“It could take you over a month.”
“It’s 3, 17, 9, 2.” He coughed again and blood splattered over his already blood stained shirt. “If you tell anyone about me they’ll kill you.”
She didn’t have to ask who “they” were. She frowned and asked, “Why did you tell me the combination?”
He didn’t say anything.
She nodded than stood up and walked over to him, her left arm was useless now, but she carried the bloodied shard in her other hand. She stood looking down at him, his dirty blond hair fell across his forehead and his eyes seemed unfocused. He was already sitting in a pool of blood. She slit his throat and stood over him for several minutes to make sure he stayed dead. Then she put Whiskers in the cage and left the basement.
This story originally appeared in Apex Magazine.