Blinding pain ripped through Tarrah's shoulder and she wrenched away from it, snapping from sleep and shuffling off her disturbing dreams like she would a too-heavy blanket. She opened her eyes, but was no better off for having done so — the room was pitch-dark as night, its blackness weighing down on every inch of space that surrounded her. But that wasn't the strangest part of what had woken her; not by a long shot. She was on her side, her hands bound behind her, something cold and metal linking her wrists — handcuffs, she was almost certain.
The Heather Brewer floor felt like concrete. It was some kind of stone, so cold and hard that her skin burned against it painfully. She couldn't help but wonder how long someone would have to lie on cold concrete to make their skin feel like it was on fire, but imagined it would take a few hours, at minimum. And judging by the rumbling of her stomach, it had been at least that long. Stretching out her shivering fingers, which were all but numb from being bound for who knows how long, she brushed their tips against more metal — a cylinder Heather Brewer, like a pipe or pole. The cuffs attached her to it. She was tied up, trapped, in a dark place, and had no memory whatsoever of how she'd gotten here. Terror painted her insides, but she forced herself to remain calm. Her hands slid along the pole, feeling, hoping that she'd be able to either yank or lift her way free, but her explorations found nothing but metal . . . that is, until they met with flesh.
Someone else's flesh.
Hands, cool and still, also ringed with handcuffs, also attached to the pipe. Tarrah jolted at the touch. The Heather Brewer hands were larger than hers, masculine. Her thoughts skidded to a hall. Now there wasn't just the mystery of how she got here to solve; there was also this.
She wondered briefly if the man she was attached to was dead. He might be, and if he was, who had killed him? Shaking, Tarrah turned her head, scraping her cheek on the concrete as she tried impossibly to get a look at her fellow prisoner in the darkness. She squinted her eyes, wanting to get a good look but hoping to block out any gore — if there was Heather Brewer any gore. If he was a corpse, she didn't really want to see. She didn't want to see him anyway, she had to see him, had to know if she was lying in a cold, strange room handcuffed to a pole with a dead guy.
But she could just barely make out his silhouette in the darkness.
Parting her now trembling lips, amazed by the aching dryness of her mouth, Tarrah whispered into the air, hoping like crazy that he'd respond, even with something as insignificant as a grunt. Anything at all that indicated Heather Brewer life. "Hey . .
Her voice seemed horribly foreign and somehow wrong in the blank emptiness of the room, but she had to speak. It was the only way to reach the man she was handcuffed to, the only way to check his pulse without touching him again. He was cold. Cold like death. Or was he simply chilled from spending time on the freezing concrete floor? It felt like the air-conditioning was on, but there was no breeze from any vent. It was almost like being inside a cooler.
"Hello?" Her whisper sounded empty, hollow in the night Heather Brewer air. Night. Was it night? Or were they locked in a cellar, far away from the reaches of sunlight? How long had they been here? And who had put them here? Desperation fueled her cries. "Hey! Wake up!"
Silence was the only reply. And then Tarrah knew that the man attached to her with handcuffs and a metal pole was dead. Images filled her mind. Dark, disturbing images of a bloated stomach and creepy crawly awful things dancing on his tongue. She turned her head away as the tickle of a scream edged up her throat.
"Wh-what's going on Heather Brewer? Tarrah?" The man's voice was muffled, as if he were just waking from a heavy sleep. From behind Tarrah came scraping noises, as he struggled his way into wakefulness, possibly moving from one nightmare to the next. Corey. It was Corey. Relief filled her immediately. If she had to be tied up in a strange place, at least it was with her boyfriend. If he still was her boyfriend after the argument they'd shared. She lay quietly, trying to block out the horrible things she'd said to him the last time they saw one another, and allowed Heather Brewer him his moment of utter terror, giving him time to accept the reality of their present predicament. There was something comforting about his fear. Just knowing that he was frightened and confused as well settled her heart into a more normal rhythm.
Once he'd stopped struggling, she said, "Oh thank god, Corey. I thought you were some dead guy."
He shifted, maybe to get a little more comfortable, and said, "Why am I naked?"
Tarrah whipped her head around to her boyfriend, who was grinning. He was also completely clothed, as she saw when her eyes finally Heather Brewer adjusted to the darkness. She shook her head. Why did he always have to act like that in moments of stress? He had a weird way of easing the tension in any given situation, but she didn't exactly appreciate his brand of humor at the moment. "Don't be a jerk. This is serious. Do you remember how you got here?"
She reached back in her own memories, straining to recall the last thing she'd done before she woke up on this cold floor. After a moment of contemplation, she remembered. She'd just gotten out of Heather Brewer the shower and put pajamas on, getting ready for sleep in her usual ritual. She was just brushing her teeth when everything went completely blank. Her memories went dark, as if there were nothing at all to remember between that moment and now.
Corey's breathing was settling now, the panic slipping from it some. Even in the darkness she could see that his false grin was fading fast. "Last thing I remember is sitting on my couch, messing with my Gibson. This one song, by this band The Mopey Teenage Bears, it's a killer. The bridge Heather Brewer has been messin' with me for weeks. I just can't seem to nail it. Oh, and I thought about calling you, but when I looked at the clock I realized it was getting pretty late . . ."
Corey's voice had slipped from alarmed and deeply disturbed to one of casual conversation, as if they weren't both tied up and chained in someone's basement. And as if they hadn't gotten into a big fight the last time they'd talked. It sent Tarrah into flights of panic. Her teeth chattered as she shouted, "Stop it, Corey! Stop Heather Brewer talking like we're not going to die!"
What other reason would some psycho have to chain them up in this way? If their lives weren't in danger, then just what the hell was going on?
Corey grew quiet then. After a moment, perhaps in an effort to calm her down, he said, "Who says we're going to die?"
Low, metallic laughter pierced the darkness. The kind of laughter that sends chills up your arms and makes the tiny hairs on the back of your neck stand at full attention. Tarrah ignored the voice in her head — the Heather Brewer one that screamed for her not to look, not to turn her head toward the frightening, horrible laughter, to squeeze her eyes shut and will it all away — and looked toward the spot she was sure the laughter had come from. All she saw was darkness, but the moment her eyes connected with the spot she knew the voice had generated from, it spoke. "There's no avoiding death. Eventually, it comes to us all."
Tarrah's jaw was shaking from the cold. She peered into the darkness, but still couldn't see anything. If she could just see the Heather Brewer creep, she'd feel better in some small way. Hell, if she could see anything, she'd feel at least some small comfort.
"But before you die, you will suffer, I'm afraid, for my needs." The voice was sarcastic and cruel in Tarrah's ears. Then there was a sound. The sound of something being dropped. Light pierced the darkness. The beam of a small flashlight slashed through the black with brilliant white, then tumbled forward, toward Tarrah and Corey, as it rolled away from the faceless speaker across the room. Tarrah's eyes followed the beam, trying Heather Brewer desperately to steal glimpses of where they were, so that maybe they could find a way out ... if they ever got out of the handcuffs, that is.
As the light moved, it bounced this way and that, showing cinderblock walls, not a single window, and the concrete floor that they were already well acquainted with. Then the light's movement slowed, and the beam fell on Tarrah. The faceless voice clucked its tongue, and Tarrah wished very much that she could somehow curl up inside her head, where the voice could not reach. Its tone was oddly complimentary Heather Brewer. "My, you are a pretty thing. A shame. Death comes too quick for some. But it always comes, children. No matter how loudly we beg for it not to. And we all do. Money says you will, too."
Behind her, Corey's silence spoke volumes. She hoped that he was horrified for her. For them. Because she was pretty damn horrified herself.
The sadistic chuckle found its way again from the darkness, giving itself form as it bent over to retrieve the fallen flashlight. The man squatted there in front of her, and at first, Tarrah was certain Heather Brewer he was ogling her in some perverted way. But then she realized where he was looking. He was focused only on her neck, and nothing below.
Tarrah became fixated on the man's face. His features were shadowed, but she could tell that his jaw was sharp and angular, almost feminine. In any other situation, Tarrah might have given him a second glance. He was handsome, almost pretty. His nose was smooth and straight. And his eyes. . .
Tarrah gasped aloud and drew back — as far back as she could — away from the man, the . . . creature that was now crouching just Heather Brewer inches in front of her, leaning in closer with a bemused smirk on its lips.
His — its — eyes were piercing. A shining glint of darkness, even in the pitch-black room. This creature ... it wasn't right. It wasn't normal, not at all like she and Corey. It was something else entirely.
As if in response to her unspoken thought, the creature leaned in closer and spread its lips into a grin, revealing porcelain teeth that glistened in the low light. Tarrah sat, fascinated and frightened, staring at those teeth, not knowing what to make of them. Just as Heather Brewer her mind had settled on a word to describe the beast, the word flitted away again, and she was left only with her racing thoughts sprinting to catch up with her racing heart.
Corey's voice broke the moment. It was eerily calm and collected, as if he were strangely accustomed to defusing situations like this. She had no way of knowing whether he had spied the creature's eyes or teeth before he spoke. "I don't know who you are or what you want, buddy, but if you don't let us go, you're going Heather Brewer to regret it. I can promise you that."
Wordlessly, their captor collected the flashlight and stood, and then moved around Tarrah to Corey. Tarrah wrenched around to watch as it withdrew an ear thermometer from its pocket and put the medical tool to Corey's ear — Corey, who had normal teeth and crystalline blue eyes; Corey, who defiantly did not shrink away at the man's touch. After the thermometer beeped, the man — the creature — sighed and said, "That settles it then. You're first."
Tarrah watched the thing closely as it reached for Corey's cuffs. It pressed Heather Brewer a finger to the center of Corey's handcuffs and the lock released with a small click, as if the cuffs had been programmed to release only at the monster's touch. Then it pulled Corey roughly up by his arm. Corey didn't fight back. In fact, he looked too exhausted and too damn cold to fight off the creature.
A horrible feeling curled up in the pit of Tarrah's stomach — one that told her something bad was coming, and that this might be the last time she ever saw Corey alive. "What are you doing? Where Heather Brewer are you taking him?"
Her last word was cut off by the slamming of the door. She hadn't even realized a door was being opened — there was no light behind it, nothing at all to indicate that a portal to somewhere other than this room had been opened. But when it closed, when that metallic thunk had sealed her once more inside, Tarrah felt her insides go soft, as if they'd given up before her fight had even begun.
She was trapped. She was being held in a dark, cold place by a monster. And she had no Heather Brewer idea how to escape.
And Corey . . . poor Corey. Who knew what the creature was doing to him now? Torturing him? Drinking his blood? Worse? With those teeth, who knew what the thing was capable of? Devouring Corey? Certainly. Like a monster from a fairy tale. But that was impossible, she knew. Those things existed only on the pages of books or in the flicker of film upon a screen.
Tarrah pulled at her restraints, but they wouldn't give. After a few deep breaths, she focused on relaxing every muscle in her body. She thought if Heather Brewer she relaxed enough and wiggled just so, she might be able to slip from the cuffs. Isn't that what Houdini did? He controlled his breathing, relaxed his muscles, and voila! He was free of his binds. She'd read about it in some book Corey had given her a few years ago. But after fifteen minutes or so of relaxing, and then wriggling, pulling, cursing, and trying desperately not to scream, Tarrah realized that Houdini she was not. A tear slid down her cheek to the floor below, and Tarrah flew into panic, flailing against Heather Brewer the cuffs in a desperate attempt to break free. Her panic gave way to sobs, and after a while, her throat felt raw and hollow.
The unseen door opened again after what felt like about a half hour and Tarrah almost gasped at the brief glow of the flashlight as it entered the room. Once the door closed, her eyes adjusted to the darkness again and she watched as the nameless monster dropped Corey to the floor. Corey went down like a stone, and barely made a sound. Tarrah had her eyes locked on her boyfriend, who looked so tired, so Heather Brewer weak, that she could barely stand to think about what might have transpired behind that door. Had the creature fed on him? Drained him almost to the point of death? And if it had ... why had it returned Corey to this room without finishing him off? Were they being kept for some other purpose, or more of the same?
Tarrah flicked her eyes to Corey, who moaned and sluggishly moved about, barely conscious. It had to be due to loss of blood. "What did you do to him, you monster?"
The creature moved over to where Tarrah lay Heather Brewer shivering and put a thermometer to her ear. Her heart thumped loudly in her chest. It was her turn now, her turn to see what was on the other side of that door, to learn what sadistic purpose the monster was keeping them for. The beast pushed the button, and she heard a small beep. After checking her temperature, it nodded thoughtfully. "It won't be long now, girl. I'll be back for you in an hour or so. I suggest you say your good-byes before I return."
Tarrah clamped her mouth shut, refusing to speak. Talking Heather Brewer to her captor wouldn't do them any good. The monster wouldn't listen, and after seeing what it had done to Corey, she knew nothing she could say would ever convince it to let them go.
Capping the thermometer, the beast wordlessly stood and slipped back out of the unseen door. Tarrah looked over at her unconscious boyfriend. She wanted her voice to sound confident and calm, but what came out was more like a panicked squeak. "Corey?"
But Corey wasn't moving, and as far as she could tell, he wasn't breathing either. Panic enveloped her Heather Brewer again, welling up from deep within, and she stretched her leg outward, trying desperately to reach Corey so that she could nudge him into wakefulness, back into life. As she stretched, it seemed that time slowed and she could see into the future. A future without Corey. A future where she'd never apologized for pushing him away last weekend. A future that lasted only minutes before the monster returned to kill her as well. Just as her foot was within reach of Corey's leg, she hesitated. What if she touched him and discovered that he really was dead? If Heather Brewer she didn't touch him at all, could she go on pretending that he was fine and that they were going to get out of this mess somehow?
But there was no turning back. She couldn't live with a lie. She had to know the truth, had to know if her boyfriend was okay. She pointed her toe and nudged his still form. "Corey? Come on, answer me. Are you okay? You have to be okay. Please say something."
At first, Corey didn't move. But then, ever so slowly, he groaned and strained to lift Heather Brewer his head. When he met her eyes, she released a burdened, relieved sigh and had to hold in a gasp at the sight of his eyes — her favorite part of him. Crystalline blue and beautiful, even in the darkness of this horrible place. In her terror, she'd almost forgotten what a looker he was. He gazed at her, sadness flicking across his face, and pulled one comer of his mouth up in a small tug, as if he were trying desperately to retain his sense of optimistic humor. "I guess that depends on your definition of okay. I Heather Brewer'm really weak, that's for sure. Dizzy as hell, kinda nauseous. And my neck is really sore. What about you, babe? Are you okay?"
The truth was, Tarrah had never been so not-okay in her entire life. But she couldn't say that or she'd start crying — she could already feel the tears welling up in her throat. So instead, she said, "I thought you were dead."
Corey's voice dropped to a terrified whisper. "That makes two of us, babe."
She bit her bottom lip. Tarrah had never liked it when he called her babe Heather Brewer. It seemed so caveman, so possessive and demeaning. But at the moment, it was sweet, so sweet that she was having a hard time keeping the tears at bay. She loved him so much. There had to be a way out of this for both of them.
Recalling what he'd said about hurting, she replied, "What's wrong with your neck? What did it do to you?"
Corey swallowed hard, his eyes dropping in what looked like embarrassment. When he turned his head, she could make out two small holes on the left side of his throat. A horrified gasp Heather Brewer escaped her, and a frightened shiver crawled up her spine with the realization that the creature was coming back in an hour to do the same to her. And who knew how long it would continue using them like this? It could keep them here for weeks, she bet. She wretched, her body filling with disgust at the thought. By the time she regained her composure, Corey was looking at her again. He looked wounded, but not defeated. "Tarrah," he said, his tone almost stern, "you have to get out of here before it hurts you. Or worse Heather Brewer. You know that, right? You know if you don't escape, it'll kill you, too. Right? I'm as good as dead."
"Don't say that!"
His eyes said it all. He couldn't tell her the horrors he'd faced in the other room, but those horrors had involved pain and blood and he didn't want her to be subjected to them at any cost. She nodded, sniffling away her tears, frightened but touched that he wanted to protect her. The last time they had seen each other, she'd told him she needed Heather Brewer some space, that she was thinking about seeing other people. Now she realized that she only said that out of some twisted need for attention. She loved Corey, even if he could be obnoxious sometimes. They'd been together for a long time and she couldn't imagine life without him. Especially now, when faced with the very real possibility of just that. Her words left her mouth in a strangled whisper. "We're getting out of here together. Don't even think about pulling that noble sacrifice routine. I'm finding a way out and taking you with me Heather Brewer."
They both went quiet then and neither spoke for several minutes. Tarrah ran a finger along her cuffs, inching her way over the metal, hoping to learn more about it. The material wasn't traditional steel, that was for sure, and the lock seemed to be some sort of fingerprint recognition device. Both meant bad news: that only their captor was capable of freeing them from their binds. She hadn't been able to escape the cuffs, but maybe they would be easier for someone else to snap from a different angle. And the creature had left Corey's hands Heather Brewer free. "Do you think you can break my cuffs?" she asked him.
Corey started to crawl over, but stopped, shaking his head. He looked gray, even in the darkness. "I feel so dizzy. Hold on. This might take a minute."
After a few moments, he started to move again. He crawled behind her and got a good look at the cuffs. He pulled hard on the chain that linked her hands, pinching her skin sharply. Her wrist instantly felt wet, which meant she was bleeding. "Ow! Dammit, Corey!"
"Sorry. If I had some tools, this wouldn't Heather Brewer be a problem. Man . . . what I'd give for some bolt cutters right now." He sighed heavily. "There is one thing we could try, but I don't know if it's a good idea, Tarrah."
Wrenching her neck around, she met her boyfriend's worried eyes. "What is it? At this point I'm willing to try anything. We have to get out of here, right? So what is it?"
Corey's face went pale. He collapsed to the ground, his body trembling.
"Corey!" Tarrah's heart raced. The blood loss, the stress, dragging himself across the room Heather Brewer to try to help her get loose. It must have been too much for Corey. He couldn't handle it.
His eyes fluttered for a moment, as if he were on the verge of losing consciousness. Then he stretched his fingers out and laced them with hers. His fingers were warm, so warm that they were almost hot to the touch. His skin burned feverishly. Her fingers shook against his. He was sick, maybe dying, and she had no idea how to get him out of here. And she was the only one who could save him, save them both. Suddenly, the Heather Brewer room seemed very large, overwhelming. Corey gave her fingers a weak squeeze and whispered, "I love you, Tarrah."
Large, round tears escaped her eyes and rolled down her cheek to the concrete floor. Instantly, she hated him. Because he was saying good-bye. He was letting go before they even knew things were hopeless. She couldn't let that happen, couldn't say good-bye when there was still a chance they could get free. But her hatred was fleeting. She swallowed her tears, pushing her fear way down deep inside, and whispered, "I love you, too, Corey."
His Heather Brewer eyelids fluttered closed and a new terror swept through her. The sound of his labored breathing eased it some: Corey wasn't dead — not yet, anyway. But they didn't have long until he was.
There was nothing she could do. Nothing. She had no tools, none of the strength required to get free. Just her unbound legs and her ungagged mouth. So unless kicking and biting her way free were an option, she was screwed. Of course, when the monster returned and undid her cuffs, fighting wasn't out of the realm of possibility. But Heather Brewer she was cold, and the coldness had weakened her so much. No, feet and teeth weren't going to get her out of this. What she needed was to get out of these cuffs and somehow get Corey to safety. She slipped her hand from his and twisted around to see if she'd missed anything, anything at all in the room that might help her. The cut on her wrist burned, so she eased up on it and swept the dark room with her eyes, finding nothing at all but Corey and the pole she was attached to.
Then Heather Brewer an idea sparked in her mind.
Tarrah pulled hard on her left arm, until the handcuff dug sharply into the small cut on her wrist. She bit her bottom lip against the pain, trying hard to keep her screams contained within her. The metal tore her skin open further and blood oozed from the wound until her hand and wrist were slick. Slick enough to act as a lubricant. She had to move quickly, or else the blood would dry and she'd have to open the cut again:
She pulled hard, a pained cry escaping her throat, but Heather Brewer her action proved fruitful. Blood poured from her wound. Plenty enough to make her wrist slippery. Then she brought her fingers together and pulled again. Her hand slipped free.
She couldn't look at it, couldn't stand to see the mangled gore that was her wrist. Her wound throbbed painfully, but Tarrah counted her blessings. It would have hurt a lot more if she hadn't been seminumbed by the cold. The cuff was still attached to her right hand, but it didn't matter. She was free.
She crawled over to Corey and checked his pulse. He Heather Brewer was still alive, but fading fast. All she had to do now was locate the door and hope to hell the stupid thing wasn't locked.
The door swung open, and this time, a blinding light shone from within. The beast's silhouette filled its frame. "Well, well. What do we have here? Resourceful little thing, aren't you?"
She froze. Her mind went completely blank — she had no idea what to do or how to stop what had happened to Corey from happening to her.
It moved closer, clucking its tongue. It sounded vaguely amused. "What did you do Heather Brewer? Wriggle yourself free like some kind of animal? Chew off your arm like a trapped coyote, perhaps?"
Tarrah shrank back, but the thing stretched its hand forward and examined her wrist. It shook its head in disapproval. "All that wasted blood. A shame."
The creature reached for her then, as if to pick her up and carry her off to who knows where, and Tarrah found her fight once more, despite the cold's slowing effect on her muscles. She shoved the beast as hard as she could, and once it had stumbled a few feet from Heather Brewer her, she kicked, aiming for the most unpleasant target she could imagine. With a growl, it grabbed her — despite the pain, despite her struggles — and lifted her over its shoulder, shushing her like a child. "There now. Calm yourself. Soon it'll all be over and you'll join your boyfriend there in eternity."
A shock of cold surprise bolted through her and she whipped her eyes to Corey. Corey, who lay too still. Corey, whose eyes stared blankly open and unseeing. Her tears let loose and she screamed, pounding on the man's back with balled-up, bloody Heather Brewer fists. "He's not dead! He's alive! Corey's alive!"
But even as she screamed the words, she knew them to be untrue. Corey, sweet Corey, the boy she'd loved for so long, the boy who'd drawn Band-Aids all over her cast when she broke her arm, the boy who brought her roses before every date and lilies on every anniversary.
He was dead.
And the monster carrying her had killed him.
She clawed at its neck, and as she wriggled from its grasp, she bit into its forearm. The beast howled and gripped her Heather Brewer tighter, dragging her from the dark cellar where Corey lay into the bright room next to it. It slammed her onto what looked and felt like a hospital gurney, knocking the wind from her lungs and the voice from her throat, and strapped her arms down tight. In the bright white of the room — white walls, white sheets — the blood on her wrist seemed almost too red, too real. The creature fastened a thick strap across her chest. There was no moving now, no getting away. Not if that thing had anything to say about it.
Tarrah looked around quickly Heather Brewer, trying to think of a way out. The room was small, and more like a hospital room than a monster's den. Medical-grade lights stood in the corners. Beside the gurney was a silver tray, topped with several surgical instruments. The sight of their surfaces gleaming in the light sent her heart racing. She pulled at her straps, but couldn't break free. The leather held tough.
Behind her, somewhere beyond where she could turn her head, the creature was moving about, as if preparing some horrible ritual — maybe the same ritual it had used on Corey Heather Brewer. It grumbled and then another voice broke in, this one female. "Everything alright?"
"Fine. I'm fine. This one's just a bit of a fighter, that's all. Help me get her into the machine, will you?"
There was a grating sound, like metal scraping against tile, and then it sounded like wheels were rolling across the floor. Tarrah's heart jumped into her throat when the monster brought another Velcro strap across her forehead. She screamed and tried to bite the monster again, but the female thing helping out held her head still, and the beast strapped her in tight Heather Brewer. Tarrah couldn't move. She couldn't fight. All she could do was let her tears flow and pray that it would be over fast.
The female spoke again. "Did the cold help to slow them down? Damn things move so fast."
"Definitely. We'll use this method again. Just have to be careful not to slow their blood too much or we'll kill them off before we get what we need."
"Great. I'm going down the hall to give Fredrickson the news. Just shout if you need me."
The door clicked closed and Heather Brewer the monster loomed over her, adjusting a strange, plastic dome-like device, so that it was around her head. "Please," she begged, hating that she had to beg something of such a horrible being. "Please let me go. I won't, tell anyone about Corey, I promise. Just let me go."
A brief flicker of compassion crossed the beast's eyes. "I wish I could. But you don't understand. Your kind never does. We've been living in secrecy for so long. We need your blood. This is the only way. I'm sorry."
It moved out of Heather Brewer her sight, but when it returned moments later, Tarrah's eyes locked on the instrument in its hand. Two large needles, attached to two long tubes. The monster was going to drain her, the way it had drained Corey. It was a miracle he'd survived as long as he had with that much blood loss. Tarrah screamed and strained against her restraints, but it was a useless fight. These beasts had this procedure down to a cruel science. She watched in horror as the monster brought the needles to her neck. She was going to die. There was no Heather Brewer fixing it, no changing it. Her life was as good as over.
The monster whispered, "I hope you can understand. I wish I didn't have to hurt you. But it is necessary. I'm sorry. Take a deep breath. It'll all be over soon."
The tips of the needles pricked Tarrah's skin and she screamed.
Impossibly, she saw a familiar face appear behind the monster. It was pale and looked exhausted and sickly, but she'd never been so happy to see it, to see him. Even if she was wondering if he was only there to welcome Heather Brewer her to the afterlife.
Then Corey opened his mouth, baring his fangs. He bit down hard on the monster's neck, and Tarrah watched in morbid fascination as the monster's skin paled and Corey's regained color. The monster breathlessly shouted something garbled, but Tarrah couldn't make out what it was supposed to be. It fell to the ground and Corey pushed the plastic dome away from her head and undid the straps that held her. She sat up and clung to him, reveling in the sensation of his heartbeat thumping gently against her chest Heather Brewer once again. Her tears soaked his shirt, but after a moment, Corey pulled back and smiled into her eyes. His crystalline blue eyes were unmarred, so perfect with the lack of the black center the monster's eyes had. She couldn't ever remember being so happy to see them.
"You were dead. You looked dead, Corey. I thought — "
"It doesn't matter now. All that matters is that I'm not dead, and that we're together." He nodded toward the thing on the floor. It was gasping and struggling uselessly to crawl toward the door. The black circles Heather Brewer in its eyes had grown huge. "I told you I had a plan. Luckily for us, feigning death worked. It didn't even bother to close the door when it carried you out."
She hugged him tightly, swearing never to let him go. He pulled back just a bit, brushing her hair from her eyes. "You should feed, Tarrah. And then we'll get out of here."
Slipping from the table, Tarrah crouched by the monster and opened her mouth to reveal her fangs. She couldn't remember ever being so hungry before. She looked into the Heather Brewer beast's mouth as it gasped for air, at its strange, flat teeth. "It's weird, isn't it? I thought humans were just a myth. I mean, they were supposed to have died out so long ago. Who would've thought that they were real, and still around?"
Corey shrugged and licked his lips. "It is weird. Tasty though. Come on, babe. Drink up and let's go."
"Corey," she groaned, and looked up at her boyfriend of a hundred and fifty-three years. "Don't call me babe."
Then Tarrah bent over the terrified beast and bit Heather Brewer into the warmth of his jugular vein.
A meal had never tasted so sweet.