The acrid, metallic smell hit me from outside the room, and I didn’t want to go in. My stomach roiled at the thought, threatening to empty its contents if I went in. Likewise, my eyes threatened to squeeze themselves shut to keep whatever was on the other side of the door out of my mind.
I took a deep breath, trying to calm myself. I opened the doors to Nikki’s apartment and walked in.
The smell became more intense, and it redoubled again because of the haphazard red on carpet and furniture. Nikki’s private bedrooms were a sanctuary of white, the only color found in some of her artwork, and the bookshelf along one wall. A body draped on the white divan, and it shifted, sparing me the fear that the line had been crossed. More bodies in her bed also stirred and moaned. On the couch not far away, I saw the blood-smeared neck of a young woman wearing fishnet clothing over underwear. Fortunately, she was also breathing and the bandage on her neck hadn’t soaked through.
I turned away, heading to the book case, seeing blood on the wood to the secret passages. One led to a more public bedroom, which I suspected held even more people in this blood orgy. The other opened to the bathroom. I hit the catch and walked in.
Nikki sat in the tub, huddling in against herself as hot water streamed down on top of her; she had one of those rainforest shower heads in the ceiling. Here, nothing was smeared with blood except the faint traces that still swirled in the bottom of the tub. Nikki was staring at me, eyes wild.
She didn’t speak, didn’t even open her mouth.
I sat on the edge of the tub, leaning my back against the wall. “I had a double root canal one year. My dentist gave me Vicodin. I had never had the stuff before, so I did what most people do and follow the directions for that stuff.
“By the second dose, I was left loopy, foggy, and completely unfocused. I couldn’t form coherent sentences, really. I just existed in this floating haze. No, that’s not right. I felt like I was drowning in it.
“I called the dentist, asking for something different. I didn’t want something that left me like that. And I’ll never forget what he told me. ‘Most people really enjoy that feeling. That high feeling is why people want narcotics in the first place.’ I made do with over-the-counter stuff after that, working my way through the pain.
“Point is, I can only guess that the floaty feeling is something similar to what you experience with blood. Blood is probably a thousand times better or something, though. Doesn’t matter. What I know is that you’re close to losing control. Something happened, and it’s been gradually affecting you more and more, and now you’re at a tipping point. Whatever this thing is, this bloodlust run amok, is about to consume you, completely.”
I turned off the water.
“Halloween is right around the corner, Nikki. What will happen to your bloodlust, then? Whatever this is combined with the power of Halloween is . . . well, it scares the hell out of me. If you do something like that,” I jerked my thumb towards her bedroom, “are you going to be able to stop yourself from killing people? Do you care about that?”
I held up a hand. “Sorry, I don’t want to judge that. I just want to say that if you want help with this, I’m here. I’m offering, but I’m not pressing. I just thought . . . well, I thought it might be easier if I came here to offer instead of just phoned it in, I guess.”
Her eyes flicked away from mine, but then they refocused over my shoulder on the towel rack. I passed one over to her. She reached out, but instead of taking the towel, she took my hand.
“Help me, Matthew.”