104.2 Degrees Fahrenheit

This actually happened. Honest.

I awoke in darkness. Of course it was dark: Light would kill me. My eyes creaked open tiny slits, recoiling from a dark grey rectangle that must have been a window to the evening sky. Where was I, and what fool had dared to place me in a windowed room? Even the slightest fading twilight would burn like hellfire.

Hell. I’d have given anything at that moment to just go to Hell. Waking from the dead is quite painful. Mortals have no idea.

These surroundings were unfamiliar — I must have been taken from the sarcophagus. But my captors had left me a meal: A black dog, snoring at my feet. A mere morsel, but enough to regain my strength and sweep into the night clouds in search of real blood. I could hear myself groaning, and the dog stirred. I was too weak to move. I must have been unconscious for hundreds of years.

“Hello?”

A woman’s voice pierced the darkness, shattering my brittle consciousness. The voice was familiar. A descendant of my last housekeeper, perhaps? Had the family been so loyal as to preserve me all these centuries?

“What year is it, pray tell?”

“You’re scaring me.”

“You will tell me the year and then you will leave my presence if you know what’s good for you!” I roared. She was stupid, obviously. Perhaps she could be my feast. I inhaled deeply to detect her warm beating heart, her blood. But my drawn breath elicited only a rattling spasm of coughs.

“OK, something’s not right,” she muttered to herself.

“Of course something’s not right, idiot! Come here so I can take you …”

The woman stuck something into my mouth and held it shut. Fool! Were I not so weak, she would not dare! I would …

“Oh dear. One hundred and four. We need to get you to the bath to cool you down.” She pulled me up, then left my side for a moment, clicked something. Searing light burned the darkness away. I screamed.

“Stop that!” She was near hysterical, but forced calm gripped her voice. She had practice handling the waking dead, I discerned.

“I will follow you, woman.” She said nothing and guided me through a garishly lit and yellow-papered hallway. I shielded my eyes from its ugliness. (Obviously time had not been kind to what was once considered taste.) She pulled me into another horrifying room, this one painted a pallid green and featuring a large, white, porcelain bath. A bath? Was this where I was to feast?

“Sit in the tub. NOW.”

I sat, perplexed but feeling a slight increase in strength. The black dog was in the doorway, panting. Stupid beast, it awaited death happily. I suppose that is the best way to go if you’re going to be eaten. But why did it insist on licking my face?

The woman turned on the water and shooed the dog away. Lukewarm liquid slowly filled the tub and I sat, immobile, the water chilling me but somehow washing away a muddiness and shadows that had stuck to my brain like burnt sugar.

Presently I looked around and called out, “I’m hungry!”

My mother answered from the next room where she was rummaging around.

“Are you feeling better? Do you want to read your Anne Rice books again while you bathe?”

“I want steak.”

Mom was quiet for a moment.

“It’s 6 o’clock in the morning, sweetie. How about eggs?”

“Okay.” I shivered and made my first attempt to get up. The effort sent me reeling back and elicited a look of alarm from Woodstock.

“I am not well,” I said to my faithful dog. Her tail thumped on the yellow rug that was shaped to hug the toilet. I pulled myself up again, unable to stop her from her licking bathwater off my feet. I was starving but relieved that she no longer looked the least bit appetizing. I patted her head.

“Good girl,” I said. I gestured at my feet, and she went to work on my left ankle.

Article © 2013 by Marshall J. Pierce