Angelina had arranged for them to take dance lessons which he thought was bizarre but bizarre was now the new normal in his life. When he arrived at the tango classroom on the other side of the building, having navigated a labyrinth of hallways and closets, he felt like a cow that had been milked too soon. He suspected Angelina was not romantically interested in him and was just using him to open an account at the local sperm bank. He recounted the times they had had sex in the thirty minutes it took them to traverse the building’s corridors. Once in the lab, another in the janitor’s closet, just outside the doorway to the lab, again, at the other end of the hall, and a final time in the men’s lavatory at the top of the stairwell.
At twenty-two years of age, he had experienced similar bouts of sexual activity but never in such rapid succession. It was the serum, he concluded, he could still feel its heat in his veins, making him feel more alive, extremely virile and hungry.
He guessed Angelina’s age to be about thirty and found her statement that she was sixty-four proof that she was pathological liar among other things. He always felt like she was observing him the way a scientist watches a rat go through a maze. She could turn on the sex appeal when she wanted, as he just found out…for the fourth time.
His head was reeling and he was no longer certain of his sanity. In the past 72 hours he had watched a woman torn to shreds by zombies, taken three bullets to the chest courtesy of the Philadelphia Police Department, was brought back from the dead and turned into a human sex machine. He wondered what was going to happen next?
Dance class, he mused, how dangerous could that be?
The guest instructor’s name was Drusilla Arcula. She was from Argentina. She had thick blond hair that flowed halfway down her back and was constantly pulling on it, shaping it into a ponytail and letting it go. Her accent was thick but she took time to enunciate each word clearly. Her voice was deep and powerful, even when she was speaking softly; it was seductive.
He noticed she was very shapely and found himself lost in thoughts of lust as she guided the class into performing molinete, the very heart of tango. Each student moved around a private, imaginary rectangle, pivoting, stepping sideways, all to the beat of the music and under the instructor’s constant attention. When they began moving to half-beats and quarter-beats, Zach noticed some of the pupils struggling to keep up.
An hour into the lesson, Drusilla had the students pair off into couples and practice today’s movement: the volcada. If one of the partners had trouble, usually the leader, she would interrupt and assume the appropriate role, man or woman’s, so the other could experience the perfect response.
Zach couldn’t keep his mind from wandering into the triple X theater when she paired up with one of the ladies. Once, when she was holding a lithe young woman with curly-brown hair in close embrace, she caught him looking. She locked onto his eyes with hers. It seemed to him as if the whole room fell silent.
She whispered to him, eyeing him intensely with her dark brown eyes, “You like this?” Her eyes darted to the girl and back to him.
He was surprised by the question and glanced around the room to see if anyone was paying attention to what she said but they were oblivious to the question.
“Yes?” she queried. It was such a simple word, yet she loaded it with sensuality.
He felt himself being drawn to her like the moon's pull on the tides. His heart ached for her and the blood rushed from his head to parts south.
“No?” she asked, almost playfully, the other woman’s head buried in her chest as she led the movement.
Zach tried to respond, he even opened his mouth but no words rolled out, not even a guttural chirp. His arousal was beginning to become noticeable.
With a deep, sinister laugh, the instructor said, as she looked downwards, “Yeeeesssss, you do.” Her voice rumbled like a gentle thunder from heat lightning in summer.
He had to get out of there. Angelina spied the bulge in his pants and smiled at him, knowingly. In a moment he was in the hallway, sitting on a bench.
He sat there trying to think of something to calm himself down. He was distraught. He struggled not to think of the Drusilla’s thick blond hair, the sound of her voice, the compelling look in her eyes. Five minutes passed and he still had not regained his composure.
The door opened. He was not surprised to see it was her. He stared at her and could not turn away until her eyes darted to a doorway to his left, just past a wall-mounted water fountain. The sign on it read, “JANITOR.” He followed her eyes and looked to the sign, then back to her. She smiled broadly.
Grabbing his hand she led him into the closet, like a little boy going to the zoo. Inside there were no cleaning supplies, instead it was outfitted like someone’s secret hiding place. It was furnished with a reclining chair, a television and a small refrigerator. Drusilla sat in the chair and pulled him into her between her legs.
He moved instinctively, propelled by the serum mixing with his blood supply. Her breasts popped out of her shirt. Soon he was inside her. He felt her full lips on his neck, her warm, moist tongue pressed against his throat. He was enthralled and she consumed him. He experienced a sharp pinch and felt her fangs sliding into the meat of his neck. He could feel the blood being drained from him, yet he did not resist: he wanted her to have it.
Ms. Arcula paused for a breath of air and said, “My dear boy, I should probably restrain my appetite but you are so, so…..tasty.” The last word rolled off her lips with glee. “I have never tasted blood so….spicy! I’m so sorry, but I am going to need more…a lot more!”
With those words, she bared her fangs and sunk them into Zach’s juggler. His body spasmed as he felt her drink him in, her tongue, hot and wet, pressed firmly against his skin. Once more he was falling into unconsciousness. What little light there was in the room, began to fade.
Suddenly, everything was illuminated. The door was open and there stood Angelina.
“Zach!” she cried, sounding disappointed. “she’s a vampire!”
Drusilla removed her fangs from her victim, dripping blood, and hissed at the woman standing in the doorway. Cat-like, she lunged. Angelina, with the skill of a kung-fu master, deflected her, rolling onto her back and planting her foot firmly into the instructor’s chest. When she hit the ground with her back, she used her momentum to toss the vampire across the hallway and into wall on the other side of the hallway.
The blond-haired woman hit with a loud thud and the vibration shook the whole building. She collapsed in a heap, her hair covering her face. Angelina guarded the entrance to the closet with her body. She stood there for a moment before turning and going to the young man’s aid.
“Zach,” Angelina said. She grabbed his arm, preventing him from falling over. She wiped the blood away from his neck to reveal two small holes, “my poor, dear lab rat. You shouldn’t mess with vampires. You can get AIDS! They really are dirty people, honestly….” Her voice trailed off as she led him out of the enclosure.
The classroom door opened and other students, alarmed by the loud bang of Ms. Arcula’s body slamming into the wall, poured into the narrow hallway. Drusilla looked at them and then to Angelina, blood still dripping from her lips and her chin. Her eyes flashed with anger, then confusion. She fled down the hall and into the stairwell.
Angelina met the confused stares of her fellow dancers and said, “Ahhya guess she weren’t woman enough to take my man!” She cocked her head side-to-side, lifted Zach and led him away. Reaching into her tiny purse, she produced a chocolate bar and handed it to him.
In the lab, he sat on the edge of the cot while Dr. Jones retrieved a jar of Boolean Glue. In silence, she applied the green gooey substance to the wounds on his neck. The loss of blood made him feel light-headed. The pain the glue brought was intense but darkness overcame him quickly.
His sleep was restless. Strange visions of symbols and equations filled his dreams. Masked shamans hovered over him on the cot. He awoke, briefly, to find Angelina sticking a needle full of serum into his arm. His hallucinations turned into scenes of volcanoes. Pools of lava spilled over the rim and ran down hillsides in bright orange streams. Even in his deepest sleep, he could feel his body convulsing with spasms, it was as if every bone in his body wished to detach itself from his muscle.
He awoke with fire burning in his veins. It was too hot on the bed so he lay on the floor. The cool cement felt good on his back. Out of habit, he began to do situps. He was amazed at how easy they were. He looked at his body in awe. He could see the outline of every muscle group and each was perfectly toned. He had never been in this great a shape before.
The professor walked in as he was doing pushups.
“No need for that,” she remarked, “the serum is based on a new type of steroid, hopefully you won’t get brain cancer.”
When he heard that, he stood up and faced her, clad only in his white wool pants. She stared him up and down and smiled with satisfaction. His eyes narrowed as he saw her delight. Anger grew inside him, his posture straightened. His blood boiled, yet he fought to remain calm when he spoke.
“I’m nothing more than a walking, talking science experiment to you, aren’t I?” He said, grabbing her by the arm which she quickly pulled away. “At what point are you going to start removing my body parts and storing them in a jar, like you do my sperm? Do you even enjoy taking it from me?”
“You know,” he continued in his rant, “ever since I’ve met you, my life has been one big catastrophe. You did a good job in scaring me into staying after the police shot me but I’m not going to take any more of your crap. Do you hear me?”
Her expression turned serious. She seemed to be studying his demeanor, his flaring nostrils, his reddened face. She looked to the door and bolted.
In one leap, he cleared the marble tables and caught her. He grabbed both her arms and pinned her against the wall, face first. He leaned his head forward to whisper in her ear and her hair brushed his face. He thought it smelled of apples, or grapes. He felt hungry. He was getting aroused. As he became engorged, his fury grew and he used it to justify what he knew, instinctively, that he must do.
He ravaged her while keeping her trapped against the wall. Her breathing quickened but she did not scream. She’s trying to figure out how to turn this situation into a productive ‘session’, he thought, and grew even more angry. He was determined not to let her have the satisfaction.
With his free arm he savagely ripped off her clothes. His face contorted into a snarl as he ground his teeth to keep his resolve to do what he must do. What he had to do.
He orgasmed inside her and threw her across the room like an empty milk carton. He walked to the door and departed. He went upstairs, to the janitor’s closet, where the vampire had taken his blood and his seed.
Closing the door he sat in the chair, brooding. In the silence of the dark, Zach listened to the vibration of the world outside. He could feel the hum of the steam generator that provided heat and electricity to the entire campus. The sound of traffic on Chestnut Street soaked through the walls to his hidden throne in the alcove.
The absence of light helped him to see beyond the walls. His other senses reached beyond the space of his one-room kingdom, to the interstate beside the Schuylkill River. Water pushed against a low-overhead dam by the Philadelphia Boat Club, he was surprised that he was aware of the water's weight upon the structure. He saw shadows moving in various places in the city’s center, on 15th Street, in alleys, in an abandoned building on Buttonwood Street.
He concentrated on the shadows. They seemed to be people but he knew they were not. They were listening to a sound. As he became more aware of them, he could hear what they were hearing. The noise was familiar to him. It was music. There were violins and it was sad. It was tango music. It was something more than music, it was a message. It was a command.
"Find them," it said.
Find who, he wondered? Who were they searching for? Innately, he knew, part of what made them what they were, was inside him, in the Boolean Glue. In the darkness, the answer came to him: zombies.
He had to find them.
It was nighttime when he went outside into the street, shirtless. The chill winter air felt good on his hot skin. The fire still burned intensely within his veins. He felt better now. He had a sense of purpose. He needed to find them, the zombies. A voice inside him told him he could help them, that they needed him. He knew how to find them, he had his own ‘string’ to guide him, a connection to the dancers from the night before that existed in another dimension he couldn’t put a name to.
Cars honked at the strange half-naked man walking barefoot along Chestnut Avenue, towards center city Philadelphia. He was a sight to see, his skin tinged blue from the frigid temps, his hot breath creating thick clouds of steam in the air, his muscles rippling as he moved like a creature from a comic book artist’s drawing.
He found them in an abandoned storefront on Ludlow Street, near Independence Hall. Tango music was playing. He found it extremely soothing. The fire in his veins became more bearable. It seemed as if he could think more clearly, now that he was with them…he was home.
In the back of the room was a long countertop from an old barroom. At the end was a Victrola, spinning a record. It sounded tinny. The tin sound struck a chord that aroused a passion within him.
Inside, he waded through the throng of zombies, unafraid. They seemed normal, except for the blank expression on their faces. Their skin color was lightly tanned. Most of them had black hair. There were about forty of them. There were more males than females.
Zach jumped up on the bar and sat with one foot on top, his knee bent on which he placed his chin, his muscular arms wrapped around his left leg. Watching the zombies mill about to the music, he noticed one was out of place. He was old, his hair was white and he wore a smile of delight on his face. In his arms was a dark-haired beauty. He couldn’t see her face for it was buried in the old man’s upper chest, in the nook of his neck, between his collarbone and his ear. His right hand was roaming all around her back and her butt.
This man would be lunch soon, Zach thought. He sensed the crowd’s hunger for flesh but did not share it. The time to feed was getting close, the zombies paired up and began to dance. He was so completely in tune with the zombies, he could tell they were all beginning to drool in anticipation of dinner.
He saw the clock on the tower at Independence Hall in the reflection of a window
across the street. It was fifteen minutes before midnight. Then he noticed Angelina in the doorway. He just stared at her, expressionless. In her hands she held a large cup of coffee and a bucket of fried chicken. She was smiling, meekly.
When she came over to him, she said, “Extra strength, quadruple espresso from Starbucks. Cost me a fortune. I’m not sure if you’re developing a taste for flesh so I brought the chicken, just in case.”
He grabbed the coffee and drank it in one gulp. It wasn’t hot but the caffeine quenched his thirst. Opening the bucket, he reached in and pulled out a leg. He devoured it in a few ferocious bites. She leaned against his leg, her back to him, facing the throng.
Zach said, in a soft voice, “You should go. They’re about to feed.”
“I think I’ll be okay with you,” she replied. “I think you have a bond with them now. Normally, one of the men would have offered to dance with me. Something is different now. I can feel it in them, I can feel it when I touch you.”
“I’m sorry,” he confessed. He was glad she was here with him now, the warmth of her body felt good. He felt regret.
“That's okay,” she said, “I know, men are monsters,” she paused for a moment before continuing, “you weren’t a monster when I met you. I’m sorry, too, but you’ll soon see, I had no choice. Time is running out.”
La Cumparsita began to play. Halfway through the song, the victim began to realize something was wrong. The woman in his embrace began to gnaw on the skin of his collarbone. The dancers had him corralled with their bodies. Their flesh turned ash-white. Their skin was torn in places, on their face and hands, but the meat inside their wounds was dark. The man began to scream as the zombies pulled at his clothes and put their teeth to his skin.
Zach explained to Angelina, “I can tell what they’re thinking. They like to hear the scream. It even makes me feel good. I think I can help them.”
The zombies had the old man on ground. He was naked now and they were eating him slowly, not like they did to the young lady Zach knew as Nina days before. They ate the skin on his back and his genitals, rolling him around with their mouths, like a rotisserie chicken having its skin torn off. They ate his nipples and eyelids and his nose. When they tore out his eyes, one of them tossed them out the window.
“Zach,” Angelina asked, “can we go? My stomach’s strong but I can’t take this.”
He replied, “Yeah, I know what I’ve got to do now. Besides, someone will hear the screams, eventually, because they’re gonna eat him slowly.” He hopped off the counter, grabbed the bucket of chicken and said, “C’mon, let’s go.”
As they walked past the ravenous horde, a man reached out and grabbed Angelina’s leg. Zach turned instantly, crouched down and hissed at him, his eyes aglow. The zombie released its grip, reluctantly.
Impressed, Angelina said, “It seems you are at the top of the pecking order.”
“Yeah, seems so,” Zach answered, “they think I’m their king, now. Go figure.”
They walked out the door as the bells on the tower clock began to chime. On the
twelfth ring, the screaming became muted.
“I think they’re eating his lips,” Zach said.
Angelina pushed her head into his shoulder and said, “Zach, please….T-M-I.”