“You want me to take you someplace dark?”
— Abel Ferrara
The Addiction

I'M RUNNING DOWN THE INTERSTATE in the middle of the night. The air around me is simmering, and I can hardly feel my legs but I can see for miles. Mist fills the city and turns headlights into wide, shining beams that illuminate me and surround me with floating wisps of water and light. I’m doom-driven, I'm eternal, and I’m hungrier than I’ve ever been in my entire fucking life.

I cause an accident on a quiet exit ramp in Annandale. I throw myself in front of a little white Toyota and the driver has less than a second to react. He manages to swerve a little, maybe slams his brakes. It doesn’t matter. The car collides with me at sixty miles per hour. The right headlight blinks out as it shatters against my stomach and the grill crushes inward like foil. I bask in the heat of the engine while the hood tears away and the car’s mechanical guts wrap around me. I wish this moment could last forever. Then the car veers to the side, spinning and rolling, and settles smoldering near the noise wall.

Blood hits like a hot rail. You so much as get a whiff of the stuff, and your whole body goes hard. I rip the door clean off. The driver’s legs are both broken and his body bends at the wrong angles, but he’s still alive. He’s a white guy, middle-aged, driver’s license says his name is Walden Polk. He’s got a shaved head and one of his ears is pierced. When I reach inside, moans and little animal sounds escape him. I pull him out onto the road and he looks up at me with green eyes. I touch his skin. I try to hold out for a moment longer, to really savor it, but he’s soft and red and wet and I need him so badly. I tear into his face with my teeth. I rip his jaw off. Blood spews from his throat and I guzzle it down. When I’m done, there’s nothing left. I eat him whole and I eat his little silver earring, too.

I hear a police siren a few miles out and take off over the wall. I’m at a crucial stage in my development, a sort of metamorphosis. I’m dangerous and I’m vulnerable. I’m new to all of this, actually, but there’s hardly any point in telling that bit. It was a casual side thing, kosher—I had mine, god knows Luka's had his. This time it was me and a man I'd never met, and lots of cash and lots of blow. He said he liked me so much he had to do something bad to me and now I’m different. He didn’t stick around and he didn’t apologize. He didn’t explain himself, as there was no need. By then, I had guessed what he was—what I’m to become.

I’m still hungry when I get into the city, so I follow the smell of liquor into an alleyway. A drunk, stumbling in the dark. I don’t get his name; I devour him before he can even cry out. When I’m licking his blood off the sidewalk I can taste his gin. I’m rabid. I think this is part of the transition, or at least I hope it is. My appetite is insatiable; this man is the sixth one I’ve eaten in the past two days. I’m trying to keep a low profile because it seems like the right thing to do. I know killing six people in forty-eight hours doesn’t sound like keeping a low profile, but I’m doing the best I can. The compulsion is unreal, completely impossible to control. There’s no lust more primal than that for blood.

I hole up in a damp cavern beneath a derelict water treatment plant on the northwest side. Luka kept calling me so I threw my phone in the Potomac. I’ll kill him if I see him now, and that terrifies me. I hold on to that fear. I’m not stupid—I’m in no denial about the state of my humanity. I know I’m changing and nothing I do will stop it. But if I hold the fear close, maybe there will be something in me worth salvaging after this is through.

Thinking about Luka right now makes me sick in an awful way. My love for him has become corrupted. My desire for his body exceeds common carnality. All the men I’ve eaten so far, all that pleasure and sustenance—it’s nothing compared to how it would feel to consume him. Nothing, nothing at all compared to him. They’re surrogates. They don’t matter to me in the slightest. I’ll wolf down every man in this city before I touch him. I try not to linger on the fact that he’s probably at home right now, and to ignore the way his address is branded white-hot on my hypothalamus. The way his apartment number is repeating itself in my head at every waking moment, which is all of my moments because I can’t sleep anymore. Maybe now you understand the sheer force of will I’m exerting. I have to kill so many in his place.

I puke up a wet mush of bone and hair on the ground and then I lay in it because that’s what I deserve. Something twinkles—the earring.

I wait out the day in the catacomb. I’m starving. My only relief is a young urban explorer with long brown hair and thick-rimmed black glasses who wanders in with someone I assume to be his girlfriend. She watches me rip his head off before she starts running. For a few seconds I can’t pull myself off of him to go stop her, but I manage it. I could give her a five minute head start, for all it matters. She can’t outrun me; nobody can. I catch her and grab her by the wrist.

“Sleep,” I say, and her body goes limp. She slumps over on the dusty ground. I have no compulsion to eat women—there’s some solace in that. If the thought of it weren’t so humiliating, I might go visit my mother. Still, I can’t let the girl leave until the sun sets. I may have to flee, and the light makes me ill.

I go back to my meal. I wake the girl up once it’s dark out, but she doesn’t run. I can hear her heartbeat. She’s terrified. She knows.

“You can go,” I tell her. I don’t compel her, I just say it in the human way. She still doesn’t move. She looks at the dark stain behind me. I’m uncomfortable. I feel vaguely that I’ve done something wrong. It’s a disorienting feeling and it frightens a diminishing part of me, and then suddenly it’s as though I’m awake and I realize what I’ve done to her.

“I can make you forget.” I say, and finally she meets my gaze. “I’ve never done it before, but I think I can. Will you let me try?”

It turns out making her forget is as simple as making her sleep. It’s child’s play. Afterwards it’s like she can’t even see the bloodstain on the ground. She actually smiles at me, and I have to beg her to leave because I’m about to vomit again. Her name is Nebraska. She’s nineteen. I think about the fact that I will outlive her. I think about what I’ve taken from her, and I think about what I have yet to take.

I get out of the city and go west. I get worse and worse. I travel at night, but even in the dark I’m sick. I intentionally starve myself by staying out of populated areas when I can. When I can’t, I eat. There’s no way around it. I do try—I catch a white-tailed deer and tear into it, but it’s like eating sand. When I’m not otherwise occupied, I think of ways to kill myself. In the rolling green hills of West Virginia with the moon hanging low over me, I fashion a stake from some formidable timber and attempt to plunge it through my chest. All it does is break against my body as though I’m made of stone, turning to splinters and sawdust and fluttering to the dirt. I stand there feeling like such an idiot. I’m unbreakable. To my own hands, though, I still feel soft. With that comes a terrible realization, and I begin to unravel. I lose my sense of reality. The nights all bleed together. I crawl on my hands and knees through dark, wet woods. I start to believe I’m wrong about all of this—that there is no metamorphosis, that the hunger will never ease, and that this is the sole state of my existence. I worry that my understanding of what has happened to me is fundamentally incorrect. I go over my fragmented memory of that night. Is there such a thing as a vampire? Is this something else? Does it matter, when I know what that man’s teeth looked like? When I remember what it felt like when he tore me open? Even so, I fear it was for nothing.

I find an abandoned hovel at the center of a clearing out in the wilderness; walls of reeds woven by dextrous hands, some half-buried piles of trash, a makeshift fire pit outside but no evidence of a fire. Abandoned enough, so it seems as good a place as any to give up. I go into the hut and I lay down and stop moving. My body doesn’t want to cooperate at first, knows my plan and rebels against me. It takes great coaxing to forgo the desire to move, to live, to keep going. Practiced as I am at starving by now, it still takes everything in me to defy the hunger. At times it possesses me almost entirely, raising me like a puppet, and I have to pound myself back into the dirt. I stop breathing—I was only doing it out of habit, anyway. I focus my will and go completely still. I feel the grass grow over me and then I feel the blades go rigid, encasing me at the touch of the first frost. Ice covers me and melts again and again, making me dewy and blue, and when it storms the reeds billow and hiss in the wind but the walls stand. If they fell, I would be just as content buried beneath them. Over time I manage to stop thinking. I stop registering the changing of the light, the days and nights passing. It’s kind of nice. I could really get used to it. I could just waste away, grow decrepit and shriveled and lie still until I’m made of nothing but atrophy and my mind is long-gone, and I never see or think about flesh or blood or Luka or anything ever again. This is good. This is what I’m meant for. In fact, I plan to do this forever.


I’m not listening.

“Oh, fuck. Hello?”

I’m sleeping.

“Holy shit. What the fuck—”

Then, goddamnit, I smell his blood and it annihilates whatever tranquility I have left. He’s leaning over me and fumbling for his phone when I open my eyes, and then he screams. Some fucking hiker granola outdoorsy type. I barely register him. I’m pissed because he woke me up and because I was doing so well and now I’m going to have to kill him. I won’t be able to get to sleep again. I can hear the blood moving through the veins in his throat. He’s inches from me, the idiot. I can smell every fucking part of him. I’m nothing but a predator with an empty stomach, roused from its slumber by a fool. I think I need him.

Then, with a sensation so new it’s nearly unintelligible—something clicking into place in my mind with so much force it almost knocks me back into the earth—I realize that I don’t. Something has changed. It would be so easy, and I want him, but something is different. I don’t need him. I start laughing.

“What the fuck,” he says. “I thought you were dead.”

I laugh even harder. Buddy, I thought you were dead. I ask him for the date, and I’m relieved to learn my hibernation only lasted less than a year. I’m amazed by the way I’m sitting with him and talking to him, looking at his skin, smelling it and his blood beneath. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, for the moment when it becomes unbearable and I leap across the hut and rip him limb from limb, but I don’t. It never happens. I can barely keep a straight face telling him that I’m a backpacker and I was just resting here before going back to my campsite. There’s absolutely no way he believes it, but he doesn’t question it further. He doesn’t know what I am but he knows I’m something. He tells me his name is Jude. He tells me it means blessed by God.

I just about fly back to the coast. I stop for nothing, sometimes not even the sun. It hurts but I power through; I’ve wasted enough time as it is. Luka—I’m frantic. Where does he think I am? What does he think I’ve done? I pray he thinks I’m dead because he’ll be less angry with me that way. I eat nothing on my journey home. Suddenly I don’t notice the hunger much at all. A different energy fuels me now, but I take no time to question it. The sunset is like it’s never been, whirling, casting waves of purple and gold across the sky, and I don’t even glance up. What the hell am I going to say to him?

Out of the wilderness, warily, I reenter the world of man. With every step I fear rampage. I try to relax. I try to breathe but I find that I’m no longer able. Everyone is fucking staring at me and then I remember with faint horror that I’ve been in the wild for the better part of a year. I’m covered in several people’s blood and a burial’s worth of dirt, and my clothes are a pile of scraps heaped over my wasted body. I don’t want Luka to see me like this so I skulk into a Walmart the size of a small village and grab a T-shirt, a pair of jeans, some sneakers and a 12-pack of white briefs. At the checkout counter I instruct the cashier to simply give them to me, and he does. I realize that I’m no longer able to issue a command that can be disobeyed. I would take his agency without trying.

I bring the clothes into a single-stall bathroom and look in the mirror. I see an empty room made of dirty brown tiles with various scribbled and spray-painted tags on the walls. The sharps container is overflowing with needles, someone’s taken a knife and carved “B MINE” into the cloudy mirror, and I have no fucking reflection. I start laughing and I can't stop. I’m filled to the brim with an anxious, rising energy like fire filling my useless lungs, and I don’t know what it is, and I’m afraid. I get completely naked and try to scrub the dirt and blood off in the shallow metal sink, then I dry off hastily with brown paper towels and throw the new clothes on. I leave the sink running and eleven pairs of clean white underwear in the trash.

I need to get the fuck out of here right now. I’m too fast for the automatic door so I walk straight through it, shattering the glass and eliciting various exclamations of shock from everyone around me. I just have to keep moving. I’m on full autopilot. I think I’m having a panic attack and all I can do is move faster. I’m convinced my new resolve is about to break, and the next person whose blood I smell is going to have it taken from them. Then I realize I’m hardly smelling anyone around me and I’m not hungry at all. It's not hunger—it's simply like I'm about to fucking explode. I try to stop and collect myself only to find I can’t keep my legs from moving. My god, I’ve completely lost control. My conscious will has no power. Luka’s apartment number is in my mind like it never left, blazing solid white and drawing me to its flame. It’s only then that I grasp what my compulsion has metastasized into and what purpose my so-called self control serves. Only then do I understand my selfish nature, my transformation, and what that man said to me, his teeth shining in the moonlight, when I was so ashamed I couldn’t speak.

How terrible, to love one so much I must make a monster of him.

The night is young and lively and I’m racing at inhuman speeds down crowded sidewalks. I’m close. I can smell him. If someone gets in my way I’ll break them in half.

I knock the door of the apartment complex down and leap to the top of the staircase. His scent is utterly overpowering now. I need to warn him, get him out somehow—but all I can do is moan his name as I force his door open, choking on the syllables like air means anything to me. I want to tell him to run but I can get no more words out. I hear dishes clinking down the hallway and the sink turning off. I hear his footsteps. I hear his heartbeat quicken.

“Babe?” Luka says. This is the moment I will replay for the rest of my endless life. Even now I try to turn back, to make it all stop, but of course I can’t. When he turns the corner he doesn’t see the tears welling in my eyes. When I go for his neck he thinks I’m going in for a kiss.


House Memory
Castor's Walk