As promised, the story post.
What’s happened so far: Dr Jerry Butterfield finds a very strange patient having made a complete mess of the blood bank. Now she is in his car.
2. Inviting the Devil
As Doc Jerry opened the front door to his bachelor flat on the eighth floor, he became, simply, Jerry. That wasn’t to say that all his medical knowledge deserted him, not in the least; only, he stripped off the persona of permanent responsibility and relaxed.
He moved to the fridge and fetched himself a beer, and then glanced back at Nadia in puzzlement. She was still waiting in front of the door.
“What’re you waiting for?” he asked.
“You have to invite me in,” she said patiently.
Jerry frowned. “Course! Where are my manners? Do step inside!” He ticked one more item off a mental list. Psychiatric patient stuck on little rituals. He didn’t know enough psychiatry to be able to place the symptom into the correct cluster; but he’d be mentioning it to Dr Manning.
“Too kind,” purred the girl and stepped daintily across the threshold.
Jerry felt as though the temperature in his place had suddenly dropped, by a degree or two.
“Like some coffee, or a beer?” he offered. “I don’t really have much else, I was planning to…” He petered off. There was no way he could drag a case into his sister’s house on Christmas Eve! She’d potentially endanger the children; at best she’d be an inconvenience and an embarrassment to his sister.
“Planning to…?” she prompted.
“To go out,” he completed. “But I think we’ll have a little Christmas in, don’t you?” He took a second beer out of the fridge and opened it for her, and handed her the can. “Please, Nadia: Make yourself at home.”
She glanced around the single room with the fold-out bed and three beanbags – that was because Dr Jerry had two best friends who’d come over and play cards with him quite regularly, or just spend the evening chatting and joking. And she selected the black beanbag, the one his young niece Danielle, who was only sixteen, usually picked. And she curled up in it and idly studied his abode.
Jerry toasted his beer at her and took a sip, trying to find the entrance to the conversation in his head.
“So, Nadia, where is your family tonight?”
“Out hunting,” she said. “Like every night. We don’t do Christmas.”
“Hunting,” he repeated. “At night?”
She smiled and inclined her head. “Let’s just say… they are quite savage.”
He shrugged in irritation. Fine, so she was living some sort of fantasy. He was not going to encourage it by making her elaborate!
“Nadia, you’re part of some sort of cult?”
She shook her head. “No need for that.”
“So what were you doing in the blood bank?”
“Having Christmas dinner,” she said. “You interrupted me. I’m still a bit hungry.”
“What were you eating?” he asked quizzically. He had cleaned the mess up, but there hadn’t been any kind of food amongst the splatters.
“Are you daft?” she asked. “I was drinking the blood!”
Doc Jerry shuddered. He couldn’t help it.
“That is disgusting! Girl, do you understand what is meant by biohazard?”
She shook her head innocently.
“Any human product, from blood through to sputum or urine samples or anything that comes off a person, is highly dangerous. People harbour diseases. You could catch a dread disease and die!”
“That is funny,” she commented. “You keep the blood bank specifically for putting that blood into patients!”
Jerry’s speech went missing for a moment. “Yes, but not for drinking!” he burst out then. And noted her cynical little smile. She was toying with him.
“So how many pints of the stuff did you drink?” he asked sternly.
“Six or seven,” she said, making puppy-dog eyes at him. “Sorry. I was thirsty.”
“Next time jolly well drink water!” he snapped.
“It’s not the same,” she said.
Doc Jerry got up and vanished into his bathroom. He actually felt sick. But after a few deep breaths he decided that in all likelihood she was the one who would be sick soon, so he located a bucket and returned to his one-room room.
“What’s that for?” she asked, pointing at the bucket.
“For in case,” he replied. “Nadia, I have to get you home to your family. How old are you anyway?” She looked just too old to be in school but too young to be in the work force.
“Three hundred and fifty-seven,” she said.
He groaned and reminded himself why he hadn’t bothered studying psychiatry, and why the clinic was paying through its nose to have the specialist, Doc Manning, as a functioning staff member.
“That’s nothing,” elaborated Nadia. “You should see Uncle Vassja. He’s over a thousand years old. One can see it.”
“Look, Nadia! If you’re not going to tell me where your family is…”
“They’re out hunting! I said so!”
“… then I’ll have to take you back to the clinic with me,” completed Jerry. “My break is over. In the early hours people will come in from road accidents.”
“You don’t do Christmas either?” she asked, surprised.
“I was going to,” said Doc Jerry irritably. “But clearly I’m not. Come on, drink up your beer…”
She pulled a face and took a careful sip. And another one.
“This will give me a sore stomach,” she predicted.
“It will not. Did you know that beer is the oldest human beverage? They made it by chewing the grasses and spitting them back into the pot. I suspect the original fungus that helped to make beer was Candida.”
Nadia eyed him suspiciously.
“And I’m sure here and there someone bit his tongue and his blood got into the beer too,” Jerry added, fed up with her little fantasy.
She glanced at the beer and downed it, and burped.
“Of course today that’s all different,” said Jerry maliciously. “No human hand even touches the hops and malt. It’s all machine-made, and chemical.”
She used the bucket then.
Doc Jerry arrived back at the clinic with a washed-out Nadia in tow. All the pints of blood she had swallowed back at the blood bank, had been washed up along with the beer. She didn’t only look sick; she looked drained, even paler than she had before. So pale she almost looked blue.
He made her lie down on one of the beds in the ward. Mike came closer, curious about this patient. Doc Jerry took him aside.
“Mike, you go home to your fiancée and celebrate Christmas. I’m taking over here.”
“But your family, Doc…”
“Don’t worry about it. I’ll call them. They’ll just have to understand.”
Half an hour later when the first Christmas casualties came in, Nadia lay dozing, with a drip in her arm, transfusing, in a strange twist of irony, blood into her veins. Doc Jerry had also infused her with a strong sedative.
Two further hours later Doc Jerry was too inundated in setting casts and taking X-rays to realize that his patient had escaped.
Four further hours later when he noticed this, at dawn as his first nursing staff arrived back, the first thing he checked was the blood bank. It was still locked, and when he checked inside, it was clear that it had not been disturbed.
Annoyed, he waited around until the day-intern put in his appearance, then headed off home to catch some sleep.
He opened his apartment’s door a half-hour later. And closed it behind himself, automatically locking it, and made a straight line for his bed. And stopped in his tracks, nearly howling in exasperation.
There she was, sleeping quietly in his bed… looking dead, in fact, so much that he checked her temperature. Her skin was cool to the touch, but she was breathing. There didn’t seem to be any further symptoms, so he placed the clean bucket next to her bedside and pulled two extra blankets out of the cupboard, draped one on the floor between the beanbags and lay down on it and covered himself with the other. Luckily it wasn’t cold. Christmas wasn’t a winter issue here in the Southern hemisphere. And he went straight to sleep, exhausted.
“Vampolf” is a first draft, a manuscript in the growing.
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