It became enjoyable rather quickly. One minute he was flinching and the next there was a slow, sweet wave that dragged him down. It wasn’t like drinking booze or sniffing paint thinner, though he had tried both and discarded them as useless pursuits. It was a haze. The kind of haze you experience when your eyes are heavy and you are about to fall asleep, where your limbs feel tired, your whole body is weighed down, and there is this soft, pleasant sensation as you surrender to exhaustion.
Domingo closed his eyes. Geometrical patterns exploded behind his eyelids, shifting from yellow to orange to crimson until they turned black and there was nothing but a heavy, inky blackness around him.
He felt his knees buckle. The velvet darkness cushioned him. It held him tight in its embrace. He felt himself sliding down and the darkness helped him, sliding down with him.
He lay in this velvet blackness for a while before drifting into a dream.
Domingo awoke with a blanket against his cheek. He raised his head. He was still in Atl’s kitchen, on the floor, and the blanket was wrapped snug around him.
Atl was leaning against the refrigerator. She had her cup pressed against her lips. Her eyes were closed.
He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.
“Don’t try to stand up yet or you might vomit. I’ll help you in a few minutes,” she said.
Domingo touched his neck. He felt a bump, but it didn’t seem like a big wound. Good. He’d half-feared she’d torn a chunk of flesh off when she first bit him … or whatever she did. He felt light-headed and his extremities were jumbled. He waited quietly, not knowing if he was allowed to speak.
“My legs feel funny,” he said at last. “It’s like they’ve fallen asleep.”
“Mmm. Think of it as an anesthetic.”
“Is it gonna hurt later?”
“No. Your neck might itch a bit, but that will pass in a day or two. It’s like a mosquito bite.”
“Do you always do that?” he asked.
“What?” she replied.
“Do you change?”
Atl opened her eyes and nodded. She took out a container with orange juice from the refrigerator. She filled a glass with the juice.
“You can’t tell anyone. You understand?”
“I wouldn’t,” he said.
“Because I’d hurt you if you did,” she said.
Her voice held no obvious threat, but he knew she meant it. It was in her face, which had no blunt edges. A smart man might have been intimidated. He was curious.
“Do you think you can stand up?” she asked.
She reached into a cupboard and grabbed a plastic box, pulling out a handful of pills, which she dumped over the kitchen table. Then she turned to him and lifted him up with such ease—as though he were a rag doll—that it made him gasp.
“Are you all right?” she asked.
“Yes,” he said.
“You need to eat well. You need to drink foods rich in iron. I also have a few iron supplement pills for you. If you drink them with orange juice they’ll be more effective.”
She walked him to the table. Domingo had to lean against her. His hands trembled, but he managed to pop the pills into his mouth. He drank the whole glass of juice.
They stood together, Atl propping him up, for what seemed like a long while. The feeling had returned to his legs and the slight light-headedness that was plaguing him had vanished.
“Are you ready to go home?” she asked.
She walked him to the door, holding it open for him. He attempted to say goodbye, but she closed the door before he could speak.
She ought to have killed him. She should have drained him whole, broken his neck.
And then what would I do with a corpse, stuff it in the refrigerator?
It’s not like she knew the first thing about disposing of a body.
Izel would have known.
She wasn’t Izel and she couldn’t dwell on this. She’d done what she’d done. The boy would live. Let it be. No murder. It would not have been honorable anyway, he was no armed foe, nor the member of an enemy clan. Perhaps, considering that, Izel would have agreed it was best to let him go.
But you have no honor, a nagging voice that sounded like Izel whispered in her ear. Guilt spoke with her sister’s voice.
Atl stopped scratching the dog’s head and opened the bedroom window, letting in the night air. She felt strong. Alert. Giddy and brimming with energy. She thought about stretching her wings, sneaking along the rooftops.