There was a small food market outside the ramen shop. People were rushing to the stand where they handed out free dumpling samples. It looked like a scene from a zombie movie.
Maria shook her head. “What is wrong with these people?”
“They’re probably just hungry,” I said.
“You’re an animal.”
“No, I’m not.”
“Yes, you are,” I said. “You’re a human animal.”
Maria’s face turned red. I knew she always got angry over these childish back-and-forths. Her mouth opened, but she just stood there, like she was trying to find the right thing to say.
“You’re an asshole,” she finally said.
“And you’re a bitch,” I said. “Let’s go for some of these dumplings!”
“No way,” Maria said, but I was already walking away from her.
I pushed away some people that were queued up for free dumplings and made my way to the front. I saw it was Hisae from the ramen shop handing out the dumplings.
“Hey, Alex,” she said with a smile.
“Can I have two dumplings?” I asked.
I grabbed the dumplings and then turned around to see Maria standing behind me, looking pissed.
“What the hell, Alex?”
“What?” I said, shrugging my shoulders. “They’re free.”
“No, they’re not,” she said. “She’s just giving them out to attract customers.”
“Whatever I said” while stuffing one of the dumplings in my mouth. I offered her the other dumpling.
“No, thanks,” she said, turning her nose up at it.
I shrugged and ate the dumpling myself. It was pretty good.
“We should go,” Maria said.
“I don’t know,” she said. “Anywhere but here.”
“Okay, but let’s stop at that stall over there first.”
I pointed to a stall that was selling grilled skewers of meat. Maria’s face turned pale.
“No way,” she said.
“What?” I said. “They smell good.”
“No, Alex I’m not eating anything from here.”
“Why not?” I said.
“It’s unhygienic,” she said. “And the meat is probably not even fresh.”
“Whatever, I’m getting some.”
I walked over to the stall and bought a grilled chicken skewer. I took a big bite and closed my eyes, savoring the taste.
“God, this is good,” I said.
“I told you,” Maria said. “It’s probably not even safe to eat.”
“Stop being such a stuck-up bitch,” I said. “Live a little.”
“No, thanks,” she said. “I’ll stick to my ramen.”
“Suit yourself,” I said.
I finished my chicken skewer and then wiped my hands on my jeans.
“Let’s go,” I said.
As we walked away from the food market an elderly man bumped into me.
“Why did you push my daughter at the dumpling stand?” he asked me with a firm voice.
“I didn’t push her,” I said. “I was just trying to get to the front of the line.”
“You pushed her!” he said. “I saw you!”
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I didn’t mean to.”
“You didn’t mean to?” he said. “You just pushed her out of the way without even caring!”
“I’m sorry,” I said again.
“My daughter is pregnant,” the man said. “Do you know how delicate she is right now?”
I started hyperventilating, I tried to suppress the feeling, but the mutation slowly happened.
It started with my arms and legs. They began to grow and contort into animal-like limbs. My clothes ripped as my body expanded. I could feel my teeth sharpening and my nails hardening into claws. The man started to back away from me, his eyes wide with terror.
I lunged at him and sank my teeth into his neck. I tore open his jugular and started to drink his blood. I could feel the power flowing through me as I drank. The man’s body went limp in my hands and I dropped him to the ground.
I heard Maria screaming, but I didn’t care. I was hungry for more.
I started to walk towards her, but I was tackled from behind. I hit the ground hard and felt something sharp piercing my back. I screamed in pain as I turned around to see Hisae standing over me, a wooden stake in her hand.
“You’re one of them,” she said. “I saw what you did to that man.”
“No, please,” I begged. “Don’t kill me.”
“I have to,” she said. “It’s my duty.”
As she was raising the stake over her head for the final blow a deafening explosion came from the dumpling stand. Maria came flying towards us and landed on top of me.
“Maria!” Hisae shouted.
I could see the fear in her eyes as she looked at Maria’s body. Maria’s eyes were open, but she wasn’t moving. There was a large hole in her chest where the dumpling stand had blown up.
“No,” Hisae said, tears streaming down her face.
She dropped the stake and fell to her knees next to Maria. I tried to get up, but my body was in too much pain. I could see the look of horror on Hisae’s face as she realized what I was.
“You’re one of them,” she said. “You killed her.”
“No, please,” I begged. “It wasn’t me. It was the hunger.”
“No,” Hisae said, shaking her head. “It was you.”
She picked up the stake and drove it into my heart.
I awakened in a king-sized bed in what looked like a hotel room. I was disoriented and confused. The last thing I remembered was Hisae driving the stake into my heart.
I sat up and looked around the room. Maria was lying in the bed next to me, sleeping peacefully. I was relieved to see that she was alive.
I got out of bed and walked over to the window. I could see the food market down below. It looked like a scene from a zombie movie.
I turned away from the window and Maria stirred in the bed. She opened her eyes and looked at me.
“Alex, what happened?”
“I don’t know, the last thing I remember is Hisae driving a stake into my heart.”
“Hisae? Who’s Hisae?”
“She worked at the dumpling stand,” I said. “And she killed me.”
“No, Alex,” Maria said, shaking her head. “You’re alive. I saved you.”
“I don’t know, I just had this feeling that I had to save you. So, I went to the food market and I found Hisae. I told her that you were one of them and she had to kill you.”
“One of what?”.
“One of the vampires, I saw what you did to that man. You were about to do the same to me.”
“No, Maria,” I said. “It wasn’t me. It was the hunger.”
“No,” she said, shaking her head. “It was you.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to.”
“I know, but you have to promise me that you’ll never do it again. You have to promise that you’ll never hurt me.”
“And you have to promise that you’ll never turn me into one of them,” she said.
“I love you, Alex”
“I love you, too”