My contribution to the Show Me Yours Blogfest is an excerpt from my 2010 NaNoNovel, The Gift (working title).
A brief bit of background: Alex and Emma work at Outlaw Books. Together they talk pop culture, philosophy, and play a game called “it’s your turn,” as they dare each other to deal with the weirder customers the store always seems to attract. When Emma mocks a customer whom she and Alex have dubbed Johnny Brittle, she triggers an ancient curse that makes her a target for all things evil.
Emma isn’t alone in her new role as monster magnet. Alex is attacked in a park near Emma’s house by a man with tentacles for a face. Although Alex survives, he becomes physically ill after the attack. He asks Emma to help him get home, and to stay in his apartment overnight to make sure he’s okay. After she falls asleep on the couch, he wakes up to discover he isn’t okay after all. This scene takes place after he manages to stumble into the bathroom and turn on the shower.
“The school” is Alex’s name for his five pet fish.
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In the mirror, his face looked grey. His lips were white and dry. He stuck his tongue out. It was covered in a sticky white coat. He cleared his throat. Something was in his mouth. He reached in with his fingers and pulled out long cords of sticky mucus, dropping them into the sink.
He looked again at the elbow. The sharp edge of panic rose up in him. Was that something black, there in the centre of the wound? Congealed blood? Something else?
The steam from the shower was starting to fog the mirror. He stripped off his shirt and pants, and climbed into the shower.
The water on his face, all over his skin, felt better than it ever had. He opened his mouth to the stream. Hot water gushed in. He swallowed mouthful after mouthful as thirst hit him like a hammer. He reached around the shower curtain and grabbed the glass that sat on the edge of the sink. Filling it with hot water from the shower, he drank, then filled and drank again.
He felt his elbow. There was no wound at all there now. Had he hallucinated it? He scrubbed his face hard with both hands.
He picked up the bar of plain white soap and sniffed it. He needed to wash, but he felt reluctant to use the soap, almost repelled by it. He lathered it anyway and rubbed it under his armpits.
He stifled a scream as his hands, underarms and sides began to burn as if he’d applied acid to them. He rinsed off the soap, but the damage was done. All down both sides and on each hand, thick red welts appeared.
Despite the pain, he felt better than he had since before last night’s attack. Maybe a shower was all he’d really needed. He turned off the water and reached for a towel.
After gingerly patting himself dry, he used the towel to wipe the steam off the mirror. He was still pale, but there was a pink, well-scrubbed look to his face. The welts were already starting to go down. He wrapped the towel around himself and headed back to the bedroom to find some clothes.
In the living room, he paused. The gurgling sounds of the aquarium filter seemed too loud. He realized he hadn’t fed the school in a couple of days. He felt sure that he could cross the thick brown carpet of the living room and drop some fish flakes into the tank without waking up Emma. He held the towel for extra insurance and stepped carefully across the room. After he fed them, he watched the fish, the four orange ones and the black one, as they ate.
He loved that black fish, with its googly eyes and shiny dark scales. It always seemed so mellow compared to its faster orange buddies. Its plumed tail floated behind it as it swam up to the top, took a piece of food, and then returned for more.
Emma’s voice came from the couch. “Alex? What are you doing?”
He looked down at his hand. The black fish lay curled in his palm, flexing its small, muscular body, its round mouth trying to suck oxygen from the air. The lid of the tank was lying on the floor by the balcony door, five feet away.
He knew without a doubt what he’d been about to do: put the fish in his mouth and swallow it. He was so hungry. Only the tiniest part of him felt sorry about it.