Note to the reader: This story contains graphic elements, and may not be suitable for those with overly delicate sensibilities.
I watched with a kind of detached fascination as the needle came out of my arm. The crimson drop on its slender tip was a stark contrast to the cream latex glove that held it.
I kept staring, feeling the burning tingle in my arm begin to ease. I hated having blood drawn. It made me nauseous. To think back on that now, getting queasy at such a piddly thing... God, I was weak.
I looked up into the eyes of my big black orderly, who was double-checking the measurement on the syringe. 10cc's, not a drop more or less. He glanced down at me and gave me the half-smile parents give an annoying child.
"Can you fall in love with life again?" I asked him.
Did I mention that I was out of my mind at the time?
He cocked an eyebrow, but didn't respond. No one ever did. They probably thought I was contagious. Little did they know...
I had spent the last six months here at the scenic Tabutte Rest for the criminally insane. Of course, few among those of us doing the 'resting' ever got to see the 'scenic' part. They generally preferred that we stayed in.
They were running blood tests on me every day now. The doctors still had no clue why I was the way I was. The psychiatrists were sure I was bipolar, schizophrenic, or both. The clinical folks didn't buy it, but they didn't have a better answer. The staff thought I was a vampire, despite the fact that I slept at night, had no problem with daylight, loved garlic, and got queasy at the sight of blood.
I could hear them talking sometimes, when they hung around the nurse's desk down the hall. They'd say things like 'I heard he killed her with his own teeth. Tore her neck out.' Hence my mysterious vampirism, I suppose.
My orderly shoved a small handful of pills down my throat, then poured half a pitcher of water on top of them to force me to swallow. That, to me, was sufficient explanation for my mental state in and of itself.
Still, I did have something of a problem. I really did kill a woman, though I had no memory of how or why. I didn't know who she was, where she came from, or how she managed to get into my apartment. But none of that mattered. The bottom line was that on a lovely Tuesday morning, the police found me covered in blood with bits of flesh stuck in my teeth.
It wasn't the first time I'd woken up that way, either. Twice before, I'd woken up next to a corpse with no idea how it had gotten there. Both times, I had reason to believe that I had been directly responsible for each body's present state.
Any guesses why blood upset my stomach?
The orderly sauntered out, leaving my tiny room to a dreary monochromatic fate. I wondered if it had occurred to anyone that making a person stare at a blank white wall for six months can make him loony, whether he was before or not.
After a while - I don't know how long; no clocks - a doctor I'd never seen before wandered in. She was tall, dark, and, well, I didn't know yet whether she was handsome; a surgical mask covered her face. From her eyes, I guessed she was from the Middle East.
"Well, hello there!" I chirped, "Always good to see a new face!" Or, rather, some new eyes.
"I bet you are," she said in near-perfect English. "Can you tell me about last night?"
"Right to business, eh?" I said. "Well, I seem to recall sleeping. It's a bad habit, I know, but I don't have a lot of options here."
She raised an eyebrow. "You recall sleeping?"
"I did have a nice dream about a pretty doctor who came to see me. I must be quite the interesting case, what with so many of you folks dropping by to look in on me. Mind telling me why that is?"
I could tell she smiled by the way her eyes crinkled around the edges. But she didn't take my bait.
"Do you actually remember any of your dreams?"
"Not really. They're just dreams. I haven't remembered them since I was a kid."
"Hmm," she said. Then she thought for a time.
I got impatient, probably because I was nothing but a patient. "What's my prognosis, Doc?" I asked.
"Frankly, we don't know. That's why I'm here. Honestly, I don't know that I'll have any more luck than any of the others. But how often do you get a case like yours?"
"I'm a study in studies, is it?"
"I'm sorry. That was rude of me, to dehumanize you into nothing more than a case file."
"No worries," I said, cheerful as ever. The pills, I think. "You can make it up to me and take me out to dinner tonight."