Clean Blood


Rob Bass

I spot her the moment I walk into the club, the sinuous lines of her face cutting through fog and strobelights from across the room, thrill spike my heart sending my tongue into a drought, a desert. One of those songs from Trainspotting's playing. The middle of the room is seething with bodies, young urban professionals writhing away their boring lives, fueled by coke and vodka. I hate them, hate this club, this entire neighborhood. But I let her pick.

"That's her, huh? Damn." Thomas drags the last word out into two syllables, day-um. I watch him watching her; he’s not the only one. Plenty of men huddled around the tables enclosing the massive ovular dance floor are doing the same. I'm not jealous, can perfectly understand. We are drawn to that which quickens our pulse, our minds. The way she's dancing, an angel's marionette. Poetry.

Desdemona. Found her three weeks ago on the AABB boards. Actually, it was the other way around: she e-mailed me for a list of contacts to help her organize a blood drive for the local chapter of the Red Cross. I'm an intern at Cook County Hospital, home of America's first blood bank, established in 1937 by Bernard Fantus, who stole the idea from the Russians. I've been webmastering pages on the side since high school; when one of the Board of Directors of the American Association of Blood Banks happened across my work, an interactive home page for a local band, he cornered me. Thought I might see a promotion out of it, but so far it's just been a few hours per week of unpaid extra work. At first, I told myself I was building goodwill, earning brownie points; after a few weeks, however, I realized they just wanted to use me. I was weeks into ruing this when I first met her face to face, a late drink to celebrate the success of her drive.

"Eight hundred gallons," she purred, "that's a lot of fucking people."

"You can say that again," I clinked my glass against hers, laughing, smitten.

From that point on I was a man elevated, Hercules in both our eyes, bent over backwards every which way, nearly killed myself twice. I made it into work a couple maybe three days later.

"The hell happened to you, man?" Thomas snarled, gangsta in his own mind.

"A rare creature with appetite."

I had to pull four triples in a row to keep my job, collapsed into a heap for all of Wednesday, worked two doubles after that, then finally negotiated this Friday night open. To come to Babylon and see my new girl.

I stand, taking it all in, waiting for something, the big finish that'll never come, whole club now pulsing in motion with her. Danielle slopes in from off-right. Thomas takes her by the hip like he should and she launches right in, pugnacious bulldog terrier that she is. On and on incessant, all either of them wants to talk about on their own or together: the chupacabra.

I would have been content to stand watching her but can't take any more cryptozoological nonsense, Thomas saw a damn X-Files episode and somehow caught this idea plague, met Danielle at a Bigfoot convention and the crazy bitch moved out here two months later. Nine weeks, that's wrong.

I leave the babbling behind, cut my way through the masses, a douchebag scalpel. The smoke machines hiss junior high dances at me the second I get within range, irritating the shaving rash on my neck. I tug my turtleneck down to scratch and all the idiots part for me, Brother of Aaron. The monotony of the last beat finally dies and something new, propulsive, fades in syncopated in a way I can't understand but then the sight of her makes me crazy and I'm there grinding next to her, back on the Argo fighting the Trojan War, glory in every sweaty thrust. She rolls her eyes over to me, lustful and a pro, intoxicating me with a glance. I let her, give myself over to her, the dance.

"The Elmendorf creature, it's a chupacabra."

This bitch won't shut up.

"It's just like I've been saying since July."

Thomas is just staring at her with this abominated grin on his face. The ecstasy's kicked in now. Desdemona perched beside me, impervious, too vibrant for this chicanery. I realize she’s a kind of walking china doll, as delicate but somehow not as vulnerable. Danielle's nonsense continues.

"The official results are that it's a hairless coyote or canine but the corpses are missing! All three. What the hell is that?"

Desdemona descends to our level to engage Danielle. "You are speaking of the creatures killed by that Texas rancher last summer?"

"Outside of San Antonio? Right. The ones feeding on his livestock."

"A funny way of putting it," she laughs, tasting the word. "Feeding."

"It's the best way I know. There were multiple heads of cattle found drained of their fluids. Fed upon."

"Maybe they just saw something that terrified the life out of them." Something about her delivery, the cadence, the way she gazes across the table, sops up all the excess of Danielle that's such a burden. But she’s not going down without a fight, starts muttering facts, a petulant little girl.

"There's the lizard with quills, hops like a kangaroo flicking its tongue, don't forget the hairy cousin, then there're the beasts that got put down in Texas by men who'd lived a fraction of the time, it's the eyes, you can see it in the red eyes, they lull you, venom of the first bite paralyzes the prey until all the blood gets sucked out, that's what happened to those cows in Bexar County."

Desdemona's eyes flash Morse code at me, too fast to decipher, reflecting the strobes from the dance floor. She’s enjoying this. "And you believe chupacabra did that?"

"Yes. Yes, I do."

"How do you know it wasn't an alien? Don't they abduct cattle from ranches all the time? Especially in Texas?"

Danielle's recovering now, getting another wind. The intimidation from Desdemona's statuesque first impression is fading, the little chigger's ready to go another few rounds. I don't know how much longer I can hang around Thomas if he doesn't toss this one to the curb. "I don't know that it's not an alien. Chupacabras could be aliens for all I know! There isn't a firm -- "

Too much for me to keep silent. "Now you're just talking out your ass. Last week you were arguing that they're vampires in animal form, draining the souls of their reincarnated enemies out a bunch of beef stock. Van Helsing steaks. Hah, no pun intended."

"Best ones never are," Thomas offers, trying to get into the game. I ignore him.

"On and on about Puerto Rico and Mexico and El Vampiro de Moca slurping up the liquid contents of the birds and horses in the area --"

"And the goats!" Danielle cuts in. "Don't forget them. That's where the name comes fr-- "

"I know I know I know. Christ. It's all you two talk about morning noon and night during sex for dessert at the start of the movie during the previews! Damn! What are you even doing up here? Why don't you go down south where it got started, that little Moca village, wherever, I'm sure there are plenty of locals more than happy enough to tell a crazy white girl alllllll about how the goat that raised them got mauled in the middle of the night ten years ago by a winged alien vampire. Shit!"

That's been building for a few weeks now, and I'm delighted. Danielle's staring at me, lips pursed, resolute not to let anything fluster her further. Thomas, watching his ice melt, eyebrows raised. I turn to Desdemona and fall in love with her all over again, harder, this intoxicating creature who wants to make up for the first twenty-eight years of my life. I'm done with this club, these people. She can tell, eyes smiling more than her lips.

"You guys have a great time," I finish, standing up and throwing a five on the table even though I haven't had a single drink. I leave Danielle in the middle of a one-way staring contest with me, Thomas still fascinated by the ice's change in state, Desdemona just behind my right shoulder exhaling erotic little gusts at my cheek that trickle down into my turtleneck, give me goosebumps. I want this club, the entire city to burn, melt away, close my eyes touch taste and smell Desdemona. Only Desdemona.


My place is two stops down from Babylon. The wind isn't trying to steal our will to live like usual, so we walk the seven blocks to my apartment, a twenty-six story slab innocuously perched on the edge of downtown. She jumps me in the elevator and we are that couple, the passion-drenched twosome you always see in the movies who always wind up breaking locks and furniture. We don't even manage to close my front door, ride each other around my small living room for any and all passerby's entertainment. Fortunately, my entire floor is full of young professionals much like all the cavorting idiots at Babylon and not a soul is barricaded in their apartment on this weekend night. We finish up, or take a break, some time later. She shuts the door on her way back from the bathroom, after she’s cleaned up. I'm lying between my three-person couch and the coffee table wondering if getting up for a post-coital smoke is worth disrupting the euphoria settling into my exhausted legs. She sits on my chest, hands me a lit American Spirit. I want to inhale all of her into my chest right now, settle instead for another slow kiss.

"You are proficient beyond your years," she murmurs. "So much life burning."

"That's not all that's going to be burning if I can't keep my hands off you for a few more hours. Jesus."

Her lips stretch into a lean smile, just a hint of teeth visible. "I can't thank you enough."

Funny. "Well, this's been a pretty fair start. I figure another few weeks and we should be about square." I say it "squaw", like the kid from Southpark. Her expression doesn't change. People who sleep with movie stars must feel this way. Like they've tapped into something bigger, better, more alive than themselves.

She moves in to kiss my cheek, tongue darting out to taste me before taking the cigarette out of the way to brush my lips. "The names you gave me were all I needed. The Red Cross and I are in your debt."

"Nothing, it was nothing." My life doesn't have to get one bit better, ever, than it is right now, every muscle relaxed, drunk on her.

Quick dart of her head, eyes over her shoulder back at the coat rack next to my door, then back around to me.

"What?" I ask, so content I don't care about the answer. She leans in, starts back up with my cheek, pulls my turtleneck down to spread her warmth around. It's the only shred of clothing I'm still wearing. Takes her so long to answer, I forget the question.

"Your card. It's not on your keys."

Takes me a minute, running slow. "Card? My keycard? For the hospital?"

"Mm-hm," she exhales, my entire back pimpled with gooseflesh now. God, what she does to me.

"It's on…" so hard to focus "…on my dresser. In my room. With my credit card."

She pulls back and everything seems to coalesce, snap back into focus in some perceptible way I can't describe, like she was exuding pheromones, sex, into the room and just vacuumed them all up her pores, leaving me dazed but more lucid. She’s staring at me with a harsh sort of brittleness I've never seen, and for the first time I'm uneasy in her presence.

"Then I am afraid this is the very end," she says in a grave tone, "Take comfort in the knowledge that you are a credit to your species."

She falls on me, ripping off my sweater, attaches herself to my neck, my rash, it's all coming back, a recurring dream you only recognize or remember when you find yourself back inside: a slow warm rush all the way up my body draining out my neck, all my nerve endings tingling and firing, turning my whole body into a sex organ, pulsing for her, because of her, the rush rising. I remember swimming at summer camp in Maine, jumping off the roof and breaking my leg, Rocky Road ice cream, missing that free throw in the championship game, wrecking my Civic when I was seventeen, graduation college coeds Leonard med school furious Chicago wind always trying to get in at me. It was her, always has been, howling for me in the night but I wasn't smart enough to let her in, she had to fool me. My dick should be hard but there's no blood left, all of it shooting up my body down out of my brain, anything anything to sate her. I remember my keycard and the hospital and all the blood, the clean blood, they have stored in America's first blood bank, surely the point of all this. No doubt she prefers her prey live but who knows how long she’s had to keep this up or how the advent of all the blood-borne diseases of the past few decades has altered her feeding habits, and I remember Thomas and Danielle and wonder if Desdemona can change shape, if she isn't somehow related to the creatures killed outside of San Antonio or if it was her who first drained those goats in Moca and everything's slowing down now, my feet so cold, she’s drinking all of me out through two holes in my carotid and I have time to wonder if I'm going to wake up in a few days with an aversion to sunlight and garlic or if this is the last toll of the bell right here and then ice, darkness.


© 2006 by Rob Bass

Bio: Rob Bass lives in Austin, Texas with his wife Catherine and writes novels and comic book scripts as fast as he can. He dreams of one day rescuing Watchmen from development hell and will fly anywhere, at anytime, to see The Mars Volta in concert.

E-mail: Rob Bass

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