Keiran Meeks is a stay-at-home mother who loves writing about monsters, ghosts, and anything spooky. She attended Northwestern State University for a bachelor’s degree in English Literature and lives in Louisiana with her husband, two children, and three fat cats.


by Keiran Meeks


Fuck Angie Redfield and her stupid party.

It’s the only thought that clouds my mind every time the doctors come in their big rubber suits to draw more blood, collect more teeth, fingernails, and patches of skin that have fallen off, and photograph what is growing back. Fuck Angie Redfield and her stupid party.

I shouldn’t have been there in the first place. I’m too old to still go to house parties and Angie Redfeild is damn sure too old to still be throwing them. I don’t even like going to parties, the older I get the more depressing it is to watch high schoolers get drunk, fall in love, and break up in the span of five hours. I don’t even know why I pretended I could have fun when I had to be at work at five AM the next day.

I shouldn’t have gone but I did and now I’m here and one of my goddamn eyes is swelling and puffing up and I just know it’s going to be the next thing that falls out. Whatever grows back in its place will have all the little doctors and their scientists gathering around tittering and I’m so over it.

The lights in this room hurt my head. I can hear the fluorescent buzzing. I told them the bulbs need to be changed and they just hum and make notes on their clipboards and bring in machines to test my hearing. My hearing is just fine. I can hear the way their heart rates increase when I look at them. I can hear the way their voices waver when the drool pools in my mouth and drips down my chin because these new fucking teeth make it hard to close my mouth. My hearing is fine.

This room just sucks. Everything is white. Every time I peel a long strip of skin off it stains the crisp white sheets that smell like bleach then I have to stand in the corner while a team of hazmat housekeepers comes in to change them.

I shouldn’t be here. I know why I’m here. You can’t just start turning into a monster and not end up in a hospital cage. I just shouldn’t have been in the situation that got me here. It’s all Angie Redfield's fault. If she could just grow up and accept the fact that high school is over and statutory rape is a real thing then I would have never been driving home that night at the exact wrong place at the exact wrong time.

The doctors are back. There’s a rotating door of different people who want to gawk at me lately but these two–Dr. Ross and Dr. Kai–were the first faces I saw back on my first day. They are the only ones who still tell me I might get to go home someday. Ross pokes at my swollen eye and makes an apologetic face when clear stuff begins to ooze out. He says I’m probably going to lose it like I don’t already know.

Dr. Kai asks me how I’ve been sleeping but I can’t remember the last time I slept. They already know. They watch me from behind the glass and through the camera in the corner of my room.

Dr. Kai says I need to sleep. I know her heart stutters when I reach for her but she lets me tug her closer by the front of her yellow suit. None of the others let me touch them.

She puts her hand on mine and squeezes. The rubber makes my skin crawl, the dark gray flesh that peeks out from the torn strips of flesh flinches like a horse scaring away flies. I press my face against Kai’s chest and rub my itchy forehead there. When she pulls away a scrap of skin pulls away with her.

Dr. Ross tells me they are going to give me something to help me sleep. He tells me it’s been three days. I used to love to sleep, would come home from work, and pass out in my clothes. I would complain if I had to be up before noon on the weekends.

That last night at Angie’s party I left early so I could sleep before work. When they found me a couple miles away two days later I think that blank space in my mind was the best sleep I’ve ever gotten.

I barely feel the needle prick the bend of my arm. They’ve poked and prodded me so much since I’ve been here, I’m getting used to it now. Or maybe this new skin just doesn’t feel pain like it should.

My eyeball is squished on the pillow under my cheek when I wake. I never thought much about eyeballs, if I had to guess I would say they were filled with water, but the stuff caked on my bed and face is like clear jelly. It doesn’t smell that bad, thankfully, not like the strong metallic blood scent that filled the room when my fingernails peeled off or even the salty meat smell that assaulted my nose for days when my jaw began splitting and expanding. It smells a little salty but mostly just like water. The sack is gray and shriveled like it's already rotten.

With slow and shaking fingers, I touch the hole where my eye once was. Something hard has taken its place. I can still see fine, better than I ever could. I can see the heat of my fingers. One wall of my room is a mirror but after the third fit I threw when forced to look at myself, they put a curtain around my bed. I don’t want to look in the mirror now so I stay in bed.

It’s not long before the doctors return to take the eye and photograph my new face.

Interesting, they say. Curious.

Can you tell me how many fingers? they ask, after asking me to cover the eye that has already begun to swell and puff.

One, two, three,I slur around teeth too big and a jaw that is still sore.

Interesting, they chitter.

My mouth is big now. My new jaw unhinges like a snake and can split down the middle, I could grab things with hooked teeth on either side. I bet I could fit a person’s head in my mouth if I tried.

I don’t tell the doctors this. I smile and watch the color drain from faces and listen to their hearts thump thump like rabbits.

I don’t tell them at my weekly How is Your Mood talk either. I don’t like these talks. The doctor who has these talks with me only comes once a week. She tells me she is a psychologist. She tells me she is there to help me. She shifts in her hazmat suit a lot, uncomfortable. She doesn’t like to look at me. She smells like sour, nervous sweat. I tell her I’m happier than I’ve ever been in all my life.

She scribbles on her clipboard for a long time before she reminds me I can tell her the truth no one else is listening. I tell her I believe her.

But there are four heartbeats on the other side of the glass.

Dr. Ross says my saliva has become highly acidic. He has me spit into three special tubes and jokes about being ladylike. I stick my tongue out at him; it’s fat and black now like a dead frog and nearly touches my chest. Ross laughs. His heart is steady.

Not long after is the first time I spit on one of the scientists. They come to test my dexterity. My fingers are twice the length they used to be now, with four knuckles on every finger and thick curved claws that grow back thicker every time they are cut.

I don’t like the scientists, they aren’t as nice as the doctors; they never talk directly to me and only refer to me as Subject 1F. After the third pin needle they stick down my fingertip and then make me squeeze a ball, I tell them I’m ready for lunch. Lunch is always at 12:15. It was 12:25 and they still had an entire tray of needles and various things they were going to force me to squeeze.

The scientist ignored me and continued talking into their recorder even noting, subject 1F has begun exhibiting signs of frustration. So I spit right on the chest of their rubber suit. The suit begins to sizzle immediately. The rubber begins to warp as the scientist stumbles back and slams their gloved hand on a red button beside the door.

Sirens blare, and red lights flash. A team of black hazmats and guns swarm my room to escort the scientist away. I don’t move from my bed and the guns slowly back out. The last man grabs the tray of instruments but leaves the needles still embedded in my fingers. I pull them out one by one with my teeth then watch as the skin closes around the puncture wounds like magic.

Now you see it. Now you don’t.

Lunch isn’t served until 1:15.

Dr. Kai comes the next day to explain to me why I can’t do things like that. She tells me it's dangerous. You wouldn’t want to hurt anyone, would you? I know you’re frustrated but we’re trying to help you. Please just work with us; we’re doing everything we can to get you home, okay?

I’m tired. My head aches. I tell her I’m going to take a nap and she frowns. I don’t watch her leave but I know what that look in her eyes means. Disappointed. That one I’m real familiar with.

My head really does ache. My scalp itches. My hair was the first thing to go and after—however long I’ve been here—I thought for sure nothing would ever grow back. But I can feel little nubs pushing against my skin. I would claw at them sometimes, scratch myself bloody. I have to wear mittens now, the kind someone else has to take off for me before I eat. I itch. It gives me a headache. Everything in this damn place gives me a headache.

Man, fuck Angie Redfeild.

One of the other doctors lets it slip that other people have been infected with whatever has infected me. Not everyone has been so lucky, she says as she photographs my ribs, they have begun to swell and push against my skin sharply. I don’t feel very lucky. When I tell the doctor that, she scoffs. You’re alive aren’t you?

Am I alive?

When I ask Ross about the other people who were at the party, he frowns. He asks me which doctor told me but I don’t know the names of any other doctors. Ross tells me not to worry but I do worry.

Are there others like me?

Ross pats my shoulder. There’s no one quite like you.

I meet Graham after the second time I spit on a scientist. There are two of them in the room–new protocol Ross explained–but one is young and nervous. He isn’t even doing anything particularly annoying, I’m just frustrated and lash out at the closest person who smells like fear. Ever since the quill-like growths began to break through the skin on my scalp, I was itchy more than ever and the mittens were useless. No one would take them off no matter how much I begged and I was begging shamelessly that day. The poor scientist tells me it is for my own good and that is the last thing I want to hear so I spit right on his faceplate and kick him in the chest.

The second, more steady scientist catches him before he hits the floor and then presses the panic button—but not before pulling a little metal gun from a pocket in her suit and shooting me with two little darts of electricity that have me on the floor before the door opens. I pee myself and lay there in my own embarrassment even after the darts and pain are gone.

I don’t move until Kai and Ross come. They help me stand and tell me with their big sad eyes how I let them down. I bare my teeth in Dr. Ross’ face which only makes him sigh big and sad like a tired dog.

You can’t keep doing this, they say.

Actions will be taken, they say.

That poor scientist, they say.

I want to go to bed, I say.

But they won’t let me. Instead, they tell me to shower and change. Once I’m out of the shower and dressed I see a black hazmat has brought in a wheelchair with handcuffs on the arms and legs. They strap me in. They place a flat muzzle mouth plate on me and order me to behave. I let them secure me to the chair before I begin to thrash and scream with no real intention of escape or anything really—mostly just because I’m bored and angry about missing a nap.

They wheel me out of my room and my struggling stops instantly. I am never let out of my room. I wasn’t conscious when they brought me in, for all I knew nothing existed outside my little white room, and yet here it was. A long white hallway that echoes with each step. White walls with metal doors on each side. A world outside the one I’d been in for—for so long.

We realize isolation is a contributing factor to your drop in mood, someone says. Oh, it’s the psychologist. I don’t remember when she got there. Was she always there?


Surely not.


We’ve been trying to devise a course of action to allow you more interaction outside exams and tests.

Exams and tests, exams and tests, exams and tests, that’s all my life is now. I used to work and sleep, work and sleep, work and sleep, and sometimes go to parties I shouldn’t be at because I am too old. But not anymore.

Are you listening?

My other eye fell out a while ago, and now I see in shades of red and orange and blues. I can see places on the wall where someone touched, the heat they left behind.

This is a privilege that will be revoked if you cannot control yourself.

The psychologist is redder than the doctors Kai and Ross. She has a fever. Nobody realized she was sick.

Do you understand?

I don’t understand. I don’t understand why god would allow something like this to happen to me. I’m not a bad person, I lied sometimes, sometimes I was selfish or greedy but I always tried to be nice and I prayed sometimes.

The double doors we stop in front of require a key card to get into. Kai unlocks it and after a loud buzz the doors swing inward and I am pushed forward. It’s another white hallway but we take an immediate left into a smaller metal door that requires a pin code to enter.

Inside is a small room. One wall is made up entirely of a large window and metal door. A metal table sits butted up against the window. All of this takes second place in my mind as my breath stutters in my chest and my heart rabbits.

On the other side of the glass is a person. If he has noticed our arrival he doesn’t show it, he continues doing push-ups in the middle of the white bedroom that matches my own. He’s shirtless with only a pair of baggy shorts that are not the flimsy scrubs that I’m forced to wear.

His name is Graham, someone says. He was at the party, but I don’t think you know him. He’s—shy but once you become familiar with him, he’s—I think you’ll get along.

We’ve made the glass two-way for your visit.

Graham doesn’t look shy or interested in getting to know me. He still has hair, which is unfair if you ask me, but no one does. It’s long and curly and yellow blonde, piled high on the crown of his head. His skin is a bruised purple-gray color without any bloody strips of soft flesh still clinging. Thick cords of muscle squirm and pulse underneath. A sharp bony ridge follows his spine from the waistline of his pants up to the middle of his shoulder blades like some sort of dinosaur.

Graham, someone says, maybe the psychologist, her voice is gravelly. She’s here. Like we talked about, remember?

Graham pauses his push-ups and stands. His front is flat and muscled; a thin layer of sweat makes him glisten like the sun off pond water. His eyes are too large for his face, frog-like, with black sclera and white pupils. His face bisects in a ridge-like someone folded his face lengthwise too many times and left a crease. His teeth don’t bulge out as mine do but when he sneers real mean and nasty at us, I can see they are small and needle-like.

Graham grabs a backless chair from his little writing desk and drags it to the window until there is nothing but about three feet and a sheet of safety glass between us. He drapes himself into the chair, filling up the space like water, legs sprawled, shoulders dropped, not a care in the world.

Kai presses an intercom button on the wall. Graham tracks her movements and then presses forward to do the same on his side.

“Hi.” I say from behind my faceplate. My words are muffled.

“D’you bite someone?” Graham asks. He has a nice voice, deep and raspy. It echoes through the tiny speaker like distant thunder.

“Spit,” I tell him. “It can burn things.”

That makes Graham laugh, a deep giggle that bubbles out from his chest and fills the room with the eerie sound of violent delight. “No shit? Fuck, I can’t do that,” he finally says.

“What can you do?” I ask.

The psychologist presses the intercom button and Graham bares his teeth at her back. Let’s stick to friendly topics, the psychologist says.

Our conversation gets stopped only one other time when Graham begins to explain how he caught the government's attention and ended up in the hospital. His transformation was already well on its way and it wasn’t until he—

That’s as far as he gets.

I like Graham. He isn’t someone I would ever talk to in my normal life—he’s loud and crass and talks with his large clawed hands and bares his teeth like an excited dog—but I feel connected with him now.

He doesn’t have to wear mittens. He laughs when he notices mine. “Reminds me of those cones they put on dogs after they cut their nuts off,” he says.

“I itch,” I tell him.

“Fuck. Yeah, I about clawed my face off when this bitch happened,” he says, gesturing to the ridge in his face.

“It opens?”

“Want to see?”

I tell him I do want to see and the ridge begins to split. His entire face breaks open right down the middle and opens like a vertical Venus fly trap. There are teeth on the inside. Thousands, rows, and rows of tiny needle teeth. It’s beautiful. I tell him this when his face closes again.

He smiles, and one of his eyes drifts to the side to track the psychologist’s movements as she collapses. Her fever is cooking her brains.

I have to go back to my room after that. While everyone is scrambling to help the psychologist, a black hazmat wheels me away from her convulsing body. I’m followed from the room by the echo of Graham’s cruel laughter. It’s warm and fills my belly like static.

I don’t get to see Graham again until after five rounds of drug-induced sleep. Ross and Kai are the only ones who come see me now. They tell me the psychologist didn’t make it, but that means she’s dead. Boiled from the inside. I ask why she died but they won’t tell me. They won’t tell me why the scientist and other doctors won’t come or why they’ve started taking more of my blood than ever. They both have fevers. They smell like rot.

Dr. Kai pushes me to Graham’s room this time. They don’t stay to monitor our chat and Graham tells me he killed three people before the government caught him and put him in this cage. I tell him about the person who bit me at the party. Graham told me that person went total psycho and bit everyone. We talk about Angie Redfeild, and he agrees that she fucking sucks. I tell him about the two days I don’t remember and about being found in the woods face down in the entrails of some poor hiker.

He asks me how strong my spit is. I tell him about the melted hazmat rubber and faceplate. He asks me why I never just melted the mittens. I don’t know why, I tell him.

“It’s ‘cause they told you to keep them on,” he says, real low. “You still think they’re trying to help you. They’re not. They’re using you. Trying to make a vaccine. You’re nothing but a lab rat.”

One day Dr. Kai doesn’t come back. I don’t ask and Dr. Ross doesn’t offer any information but I know she’s dead.

Things are getting bad out there, I say. My voice is deeper than it used to be, I barely recognize it as the girl who was too shy to say no.

Yes, they are, Dr. Ross croaks.

My skin has stopped peeling at this point. My whole body is a dark gray color, the quills have finished growing. They’re sharp and stick out from my head like slicked-back hair. Dr. Ross has taken my mittens off without much convincing. He’s very tired these days and doesn’t smile or joke anymore. He takes me to Graham’s room, still strapped to the chair but without my faceplate. He collapses in a chair and falls asleep almost instantly.

“He’s dying,” Graham says.

“Yes,” I tell him. I wish he wasn’t; I don’t want anyone else to die, but I don’t tell Graham this.

“There aren’t many left,” Graham says. His tongue is long and thin and flicks out like a snake. Tasting the air. “They’ve had to start piling bodies in the breakrooms.”

“They’re not going to find a vaccine, are they?” I ask.

Graham throws his head back and laughs. “No, I don’t think so.”

Dr. Ross’ heart stops beating.

I spit on the straps on my arms and watch them dissolve like wet paper. Next, I do my feet. I take Dr. Ross’ keycard and unlock Graham’s room. He’s barefoot like me but his feet are narrow and thickly padded on the bottom, the ankle extends up his leg like a dog’s. He sniffs me when we are close enough to touch. He smells like sunshine and bleach.

He pulls me close by the front of my scrubs and rubs our foreheads together. He’s bigger than me, tall and solid. I want to burrow into him like a tick, safe and protected underneath his thick skin, I want to live off his voracity.

I can hear three other weak heartbeats as we walk down the long white hallways but we don’t see anyone. Nobody tries to stop us as we walk to the elevator. I scan Ross’ keycard and we ride up. The elevator opens into a hospital lobby that was once sterile but is now contaminated with bodies. Some are on gurneys parked in the waiting room and down the halls; some are slumped over tables and chairs. A phone is ringing somewhere.

Outside is dark and quiet, not even the sound of traffic can be heard. Empty cars are crammed into the street; some have the remains of people inside. The whole world smells like rot and sickness.

“Think there are others like us?” Graham asks, soft and very young. He is still tall and solid but he is me and I am him. We are both victims to our circumstances, reluctant survivors.

“I hope so.”

Together, we begin to walk.