Gender: Male Age: 29 Location: San Francisco.
|Introduction: Desire leads to obsession, and obsession leads to something truly inhuman.|
"Careful,” said one dancer to another, "the freak is here.”
Andrea pretended not to hear them. She let her eyes adjust from the afternoon glare outside to the dim interior of the club, then took her regular seat. She was already looking around for Leila, but it seemed she wasn't on the floor yet, so for now Andrea watched the stage. A dancer she didn't know was on, gyrating to the music as the lights throbbed red, then blue, then green on her naked body.
The waitresses and other staff ignored Andrea. They usually did, since she so rarely ordered anything. She used to tip them anyway in an effort to be nice, but that just seemed to confuse them, so she stopped. She rarely tipped the dancers either, and for the most part they ignored her too. Everyone knew she was just here for Leila.
Andrea heard the DJ announce Leila's name, and her pulse began to race. Leila appeared, all legs and smiles on the stage, and then she put her back against the pole, sinking to her knees with head bowed, eyes closed, listening to the music, picking up the rhythm and slowly, very slowly, falling into it, swaying in front of the mirrored backdrop, the flashing colored lights silhouetting her in the dark. Andrea felt herself sway too.
She tracked the swivel of Leila's hips and the angle of her limbs, the arch of her back as she writhed and the sculpted glory of her naked breasts as the lights covered her. The men in the club sat forward in their seats. Leila's movements, in all of their languid grace, made a statement: "I love to dance," they said. "I love every motion of my body. What could be more perfect than just to dance?" She looked aloof, as though she didn't even realize that the audience was there, and didn't care one way or the other. Leila was a world unto herself.
When the set was over she started her rounds. A table of well-dressed men sat up front and she started there, sitting on the lap of the closest one. Andrea felt a stab of jealousy, but pushed it down. It's her job, she told herself; this is what she does.
It was almost an hour before Leila approached. No other dancers had bothered to come to Andrea's table in the meantime, though one or two gave half-hearted waves and smiles as they passed. Leila sat down opposite her and scooted forward, so that one of her knees was positioned between Andrea‘s, a bare glint of skin-to-skin contact.
"Hi baby," Leila said. "Did you like the show?"
"Desire is on next," Leila said, looking at the stage.
"I don't care who's on if it's not you," Andrea said.
Leila smiled. "You're always so sweet. You're the best part of my day, you know that? I look forward to seeing you all week."
Andrea bit her lip. She loved hearing that, but she doubted that it was true. Leila probably said that to everyone, and Andrea knew that in all likelihood Leila saw her as just another customer, an easy mark for a $20 lap dance when the afternoon lull came on. But even if she was just a customer, maybe she could still be a favorite customer, someone who made Leila’s day a little easier? It wasn't what Andrea really wanted, but it was a kind of affection. It might be good enough.
But she was never certain whether anything said between them was sincere.
Leila leaned in and stroked Andrea's leg a little, smiling that tight-lipped smile that made it seem as if she knew exactly what everyone else was thinking, always. "I have to finish my rounds and go back onstage soon," she said. "Would you like a dance? It would really help me unwind before I have to perform. It's always so much nicer when it‘s you."
Andrea produced a folded $20 bill that she'd singled out for this very purpose. Leila took it and led her to a dark booth off to the side. She waved at a few customers and other dancers along the way. Andrea just watched Leila. In the confines of the booth, Leila danced just for her. Andrea watched, captivated, as her pale, naked skin reflected the faint light, so that she seemed luminous. The phantom glow and the grace of Leila's movements made her unreal.
Leila sat her perfectly rounded cheeks on Andrea’s lap and reclined against her, then turned her head and put her mouth right up next to Andrea’s ear, and that's when Andrea heard the little "Mmph," noise; part moan, part gasp, part sigh. Andrea had never heard Leila make that noise before, and it sent a jolt through her. Leila’s hot breath stung.
After the song was done they sat together for a moment, Leila stroking Andrea’s hair and leaning against her shoulder, legs draped across her lap. At times like this it was easy to imagine them curled up together after a long day, neither of them speaking but just enjoying each other's touch, falling asleep in one another's arms. Andrea felt almost happy thinking about it.
"I've gotta go, baby," Leila said.
Andrea nodded. "I know."
"I'm really glad you came to see me though," she said. "Come back again. You're my favorite, Andrea. You know that, right?"
Andrea said nothing. Leila almost kissed her cheek, stopping with her lips a scant space away. Andrea ached as she watched her leave.
Normally Andrea would have left then, but today she lingered for some reason, watching the dancer on one of the side stages. The girl looked distracted, and Andrea thought she might be having a bad day, so she dug a few bills out of her wallet to tip her with, and that's when she heard voices behind the nearby partition:
"Were you dancing for the freak again?"
Andrea paused. She knew the voice; a dancer named Alexis.
"Don't call her that," said Leila. They were both behind the screen where the dancers stood when coming on and off the stage "She's my customer. She's harmless. You do dances for women all the time."
"Not like her. She's creepy. You know she's all in love with you. She's probably planning to kidnap you and make a mask out of your face."
"Stop it!" said Leila, but she giggled a little.
Andrea's fingers trembled and she dropped the bills, scattering them at the dancer's feet. The girl looked startled. Andrea turned to leave. She got as far as the door before she felt a weight drop in her stomach and went cold all over. Oh God, she thought, not now.
Maybe it was what Alexis said, or maybe it was that sound that Leila made in her ear, that soft little "Mmph" noise that sounded like every dark, unspeakable act she'd dreamed about them doing on soft sheets in the middle of the night. Either way, something had gone wrong, and now It was happening.
She almost ran out of the club. It was gloomy outside now, the afternoon sun hidden by clouds. The doorman glanced at her, but said nothing as she lurched away. She half-ran for a few blocks, her image reflected over and over in the glass facades of the office buildings, then took shelter in a bus station. A woman in an expensive pantsuit was waiting for the 14-Mission, looking up from her phone as Andrea sat down. She gestured to her own umbrella.
"You be careful," she said. "It's going to rain. It won’t be fit out for man nor beast then."
Andrea stood and kept running.
She lay on her couch in her tiny studio, staring at the ceiling and waiting for It. Her windows were open and cold air rushed in along with the first few drops of rain, but she was covered in sweat. The room was sparse; she'd only moved in a few weeks ago, and would soon have to move back out. She never stayed in one place longer than that.
It was getting dark out. Three stories below, on Valencia street, things were happening; the thick, oily air was roiling and the crowds were turning out for the nightly revels, the menagerie of students, artists, hipsters, and street kids mixing with the old immigrant families not yet pushed out to poorer neighborhoods, and the outliers of the gangs who would move further south down Mission as the night progressed but for now lolled on their stoops, nodding at nothing as the crowds went by.
Inside, in the dark, Andrea dug her fingers into the couch cushions and waited. Every time she blinked, phantom images flashed behind her eyelids for a fraction of a second. Her vision fluttered and she saw-
Leila naked on a bed, pale skin stark against black sheets, limbs writhing, lips parted, throat moving up and down as she drew one panting breath after another.
Andrea opened her eyes. Her body temperature was rising. Outside, someone laughed too loud, and glass broke, and she heard the old woman next door yelling from her fire escape. Andrea blinked and saw-
Leila's hands moving across her own body, fingers caressing sensitive flesh, touching hips and thighs and breasts, lolling and gyrating, arching her back, luxuriating in the raw, panting, needy essence of sex. She licked her lips with a red, red tongue and mouthed words that Andrea couldn't hear but still understood:
"I need you. Please. I need you."
The vision of her opened its arms, and Andrea imagined them twining around her, pulling her in, trapping her, nails running through her hair, fingers massaging her scalp. She thought about her own lips, so close to Leila's, lips that trembled and waited and wanted so-
Andrea felt the walls closing in. Something was pounding in her head, like it wanted to get out. She was going to split open. Outside, car horns blared and the thunder was coming in, and she heard the thrum of rain on the pavement. She gasped, trying to suck air down her throat even as it closed up. She went to the window and stood, naked, in the roaring wind and the icy rain. Voices in English and Spanish called out below.
Their lips met, electricity leaping between them as Andrea's body sank down next to Leila's, limbs twining around each other, falling into the kiss. The sheets were cool, and Leila was warm, and everything was soft, and Andrea felt the tightness in her chest start to fade, washed away in-
Andrea's chest clenched, her heart fluttering like a trapped bird. She doubled over in pain, screaming through clenched teeth, "Oh God, help me!" She squeezed her eyes shut through tears. It was too much. Andrea felt her limbs twisting. It was starting. She tried to scream but a ragged howl came out instead, and she knew she'd already changed inside.
She watched her hands and fingers stretch and twist, gouging the hardwood floor (already so worn from other nights like this). She felt her spine roll and snap into a new position, keeping her on all fours. Her skin was stretching. She felt the heat inside of her expelled, rolling out over everything. Someone screamed below, a high, frantic, laughing scream. She returned it. The dream vision crowded behind her eyes in even as it began to fracture under the weight of It.
Leila's hands moved on Andrea, tracing the length of her naked back, touching the soft curve of her shoulders, cupping her breasts, thumbs glancing against her erect nipples. Andrea pulled her in even closer, not wanting a single inch of space between them. Their bodies fit together, and Andrea's lips sought out Leila's throat, then slid down across her collarbone. Leila purred.
She pushed her mouth to Leila's breasts, kissing them one by one, fondling her. Leila was languid, almost helpless, in her embrace. Their hips girded together and Leila began bucking, a slow, fruitless grinding and rutting motion. Andrea touched the inside of Leila's thigh, and Leila moaned. It reverberated through them.
She itched all over, like her skin was burning, but she knew it would stop when the hair was done growing in. Her jaw protruded into a muzzle, and her tongue lolled. As the change came over her she forgot her name, forgot her voice, forgot words at all, and the world became a shifting kaleidoscope of sensations, each layered on the other. She threw herself against the walls, clawing the plaster, barking and gibbering and howling to get out. It was time. The animal was lose. It wanted something, and it would have it.
Andrea put her mouth to the crux of Leila's thighs, kissing, lapping with her tongue extended. Leila trembled and Andrea pulled her in, and they burned against one another. Andrea tasted Leila's wet desire, taking a mouthful of it, savoring it, moving with the rhythm of Leila's grinding hips and twisting body. She held the moment still as long as she could, drawing it out, making the perfection of each second last and imprinting it on her memory, so that some part of her would be remember it always, and still, for the rest of her life.
But then the vision was gone.
She clamored out the open window, dropping off the fire escape into the alley below. The rain whipped her pelt. It was miserably cold and the wind seemed intent on carrying the city away. She ran, howling at the black sky. It really wasn't fit out for man nor beast.
But it was perfect for Her.
She prowled the streets for hours, following the scents of passersby. She stayed in the shadows and stalked, but never for very long. Any one of these people would have made easy prey, but there was someone particular She was looking for. She could not remember who it was, or why, but She remembered the scent, the touch, the warmth she was after. Oh yes, She wanted to feel warm again.
But She was hungry too. Very hungry.
She came to a place She knew, a place She associated with the person She wanted. Yes, this building was the place to wait. She hid in the shadows of the parking lot, watching the exterior. Was Her prey here now, or was it too late? How long to wait? She barely had a sense of time. Everything was the present.
There was movement nearby. She heard the sound of heels on the asphalt. There was a familiar scent. Yes, She knew this one. She crouched behind a car, waiting, hugging the ground and crawling on all fours. The rain had stopped, but the ground was wet, and icy water soaked Her pelt. She didn't mind. She would be warm again soon.
There. The quarry had walked right past Her. She slipped out and followed. The woman was alone, and there was no one nearby. She heard the jingle of keys. The woman was distracted. It was almost time. Another second, just another half a second, and the moment would come. Almost...
She pounced, and the woman screamed, and the air between their bodies became tight and hot, and the hunger rolled inside of Her and the ache hurt so bad, and She wanted to taste it; blood and raw flesh. She collided with the woman and they both rolled to the ground, and then Her jaws snapped shut, and then-
Andrea woke up on the floor of her apartment. She was lying in a pool of icy water that had blown in through the open window. The room was a wreck, and she was naked; scratched, bleeding, and shivering. She felt sick to her stomach. She ran to the bathroom and stuck her head in the toilet, but nothing came up. Usually she vomited blood the morning after It happened. Sometimes other things too; fabric, jewelry, bones, once part of a foot. But this time nothing.
She curled up in the tiny shower, turning the hot water on and letting it scald her. She tried to remember the previous night, but it was mostly a jumble of sensations. She remembered a woman though, and-
The club. She had waited outside the club. And the woman was someone she knew. Oh god, Leila?
Andrea turned the hot water off and dressed. She spent an hour mopping the rainwater off the floor with paper towels and debating what to do. Finally she decided that she would have to go to the club and see what had happened for herself. And if it turned out Leila was hurt, or worse? Well, then she would make sure that last night would be the last night that It happened, one way or another. A long swim in the Pacific would fix that. A very long swim, with no end, and no bottom.
Andrea wanted to run across the club and hug Leila as soon as she saw her, but held herself back. She sat at her usual table, jiggling her foot in anticipation.
The club was crowded, mostly full of businessmen from the nearby office buildings here to enjoy the show on their lunch breaks and take advantage of the buffet. She watched a table full of women up front throw singles at the stage. She was always curious when she saw other women in the club. It wasn't as unusual as people would think, but she still wondered what they were doing here. Did they just like the show, or were they like her, here for a reason? Did they all have a Leila, someone special they came for?
After half an hour Leila spotted her and came over. "Hello," she said, talking over a particularly obnoxious song the DJ put on. "I didn't expect to see you again so soon."
"I had to see you," said Andrea.
Leila smiled, but it was a quick smile, and easy to miss. "You're sweet. I'm having kind of an off day here. Everyone is."
"Why?" said Andrea. She fought the urge to scream every second.
Leila hesitated. "One of the girls was attacked last night. Alexis. She was working late, covering someone else's shift. When she got off, she went out to her car and..."
Andrea leaned in. "Is she okay?"
"Yeah. I mean, she's in the hospital, but she's not hurt that bad. She said it was some kind of animal. Like a wolf, she said. The police are calling it another wild dog attack."
"Wild dog attack?"
"Yeah, you know, like the kid who got killed in the Tenderloin two weeks ago."
Andrea got up and turned away. She felt sick to her stomach again. Leila put a hand on her shoulder.
"Hey, don't go," Leila said. "I'm sorry about all that. We aren't supposed to talk about it with the customers. Why don't we-"
"No, it's okay," said Andrea. She pushed Leila's hand away. The place she'd touched felt cold, somehow. "I have to go. It was nice seeing you."
She put some money into Leila's hand, unsure how much it was, and left. Halfway down the block she looked up at the glass and steel skyscrapers and became dizzy, and she had to stay still until the world stopped spinning. Crowds passed around her in human waves. Eventually she caught the bus and locked herself back in her apartment, where she paced the floor and thought.
That was it then. That was the last time she could see Leila. She'd gotten lucky last night; if it had been Leila who worked that late shift, what would have happened? Hurting Alexis was bad enough, even if she'd never liked her. It was one thing always wondering what she'd done to strangers, but she couldn't bear the idea of hurting someone she knew. It was the whole reason she stayed away from people in the first place.
So this was it. Never again.
Her heart broke, but she stamped the feeling out. It doesn't matter anyway, she told herself. She's just some dancer, some stripper, and I'm just some customer. After a week she'll forget all about me. It doesn't matter. It doesn't.
She tried to take a nap, but tossed and turned instead. She put on music and sat at the window, listening to Valencia street outside and watching the clouds try to decide if they wanted to rain again. The speakers warbled:
"All the lonely people,
Where do they all come from?"
Andrea wondered if Leila ever felt lonely. She wondered what Leila thought about when she did. She cried, and stayed in the same spot at the window, and when it got dark she didn't bother to turn any lights on, preferring to just let the room go black.
The first week was hard. The second week was hell. By the third she felt dead inside. She wanted to see Leila more and more every day, but the garbled, red-tinged memory of Alexis' screams kept her away. As more weeks went by, she began to imagine that the pain would eventually diminish. It hadn't yet, and she couldn't guess it would anytime soon, but it at least seemed possible.
And then she saw Leila.
It took them both a while to notice each other; Andrea sat in the corner of the cafe, not drinking her coffee. Leila sat in the center of the room, sipping her drink slowly and looking out the window at the nighttime sidewalk outside. When Andrea saw her she thought she was hallucinating, but no, that was really Leila, really sitting over there. She looked different, of course, outside the club, but it was her.
Andrea froze. What should she do? Her stomach was in a knot already. She knew she should leave, but the only way out was right past Leila's table, and if Leila saw her...
But Leila did see her. She was looking right at her, and now Leila was beckoning her over and, somehow, she was walking, and sitting, and looking at Leila face to face, and Leila was even smiling, not the knowing smile she used at work but a strange, quirky kind of smile that Andrea had never seen before, a smile that said, "This is just between you and me."
"So it's you," Leila said. "I haven't seen you in a while. I missed you."
"I haven't been coming in," Andrea said. "Work's been slow."
"You know, I don't think I ever even asked what you do?"
"I'm on disability."
"And that's been slow, has it?" Andrea's face burned, but Leila smiled and touched her arm in a way that made it okay. "It's strange seeing you here."
"Yeah," said Andrea. And then she blurted out, "I was just thinking about you."
"Were you?" said Leila. "You know usually when a customer shows up out of the blue it means they're following me. That happens sometimes. But I don't think that's what you did."
"No," said Andrea. "I was trying to stay away."
Leila shook her head, but gave no explanation for the gesture. She drank the rest of her latte, and looked out the window some more. Andrea shifted in her chair.
"Do you want to know what I'm doing here?" said Leila, whispering. Andrea hesitated, then nodded. "I'm hiding," said Leila, and actually giggled. "I stood up my date tonight. I was supposed to meet him an hour ago, but I came here instead."
Andrea said nothing, and Leila watched her, as if trying to guess what she was thinking.
"He's a customer, you see," said Leila. "Dating a customer is a serious no-no at the club, and all the girls will tell you it's the worst thing you can do, but that's not why I didn't show up."
"Why didn't you?" said Andrea. She licked her dry lips; she'd left her drink back at her table but now did not want to go back for it.
"I just can't think of him as anything except a customer. Like, it feels like he's trying to buy me, no matter what he does." She sat back in her seat. "It's too bad, because I think he's really a nice guy. I think he really does want to get to know me. But I can't get past that one thing."
Leila started a little, realizing what she was saying. "Oh, but I don't mean all customers. You're different." She smiled, too big.
"I used to do that," said Andrea. "Pay for it, you know?"
"Not anymore, but when I was younger. I was really screwed up, and I couldn't accept that I was attracted to women, so I figured that if I made it a business thing then it didn't count. Does that make sense?"
"A little," said Leila, tilting her head.
"It was a mistake," said Andrea. "If you put off what you want for long enough, it does bad things to you, inside. I learned that too late. I'm still trying to get over it. I have bad nights, still. Really bad nights."
Leila looked into her empty cup, saying nothing.
"Anyway," said Andrea, "that was a long time ago. It's not the same as what you're talking about, really."
"It is, a little," said Leila. "That's what gets to me. I feel like-"
Andrea leaned in and kissed Leila.
It just happened, like a lightning strike or a heart attack; one minute everything was normal and the next minute it happened, and it seemed as though no time had passed between the two events at all. Only when she leaned back did Andrea realize what she'd done. The people at the next table were staring. Leila looked stunned. Andrea wiped her mouth without thinking about it.
"Oh my God," she said. "I'm sorry. I didn't...I'm sorry." She got up and went to the door, leaving Leila, amazed, behind. Outside, she stepped off the curb and almost got run over by the 38-Geary. Stumbling back, she felt someone grab her hand.
"It's all right," said Leila.
Andrea looked at her. "It is?" Her heart rate slowed.
"It is," said Leila,. She took both of Andrea's hands and said, "Do you want to get out of here?"
Andrea tried to talk but her mouth went dry.
"I do," said Leila. "Let's get out of here. Come on."
They got as far as the parking lot and then Leila pushed Andrea up against the side of a car, leaning her into it, standing on tiptoes to kiss her. Their lips brushed one another's softly at first, but then Leila leaned more into Andrea, and soon they were in each other's arms, lips parted, tongues tangled. The humid night air clung to them. They barely had time to get the car door open and to sprawl out on the back seat before Leila pushed Andrea's hand between her legs.
The leather upholstery was freezing, but with Leila on bottom the interior of the car soon heated up. Andrea looked back at the door, still open a crack. "You don't keep it locked?" she said. Leila sat up a little, looking confused.
"You mean this isn't your car either?" she said.
They stared at each other, and then fits of giggles overcame them. Leila pulled Andrea on top of her and guided Andrea's hands along the lines of her body, her skin hot under the thin fabric of her dress. Their lips met again, dancing, and then Leila pulled back, teasing a little, nipping her lower lip.
Is this really happening, thought Andrea? She felt Leila's perky breasts under her dress; she had seen them many times, of course, but somehow they looked more alluring than normal, barely concealed by the lacey black neckline. Leila growled a little, and at her encouragement Andrea's touch became harder, more insistent, and eventually even rough. Their bodies ground against one another, and the close confines of the car quickly became humid with their combined desire.
Leila pushed Andrea's hand lower, between her legs, glancing against the inside of her thighs. Leila whispered in her ear: "I have a confession to make; when I left the house, I was planning to do a lot more than just have dinner with that guy. A lot more. No underwear, see?" And she pushed Andrea's hand up higher, until she felt wetness, and then Leila made that noise again, that moaning-gasping-sighing noise. Andrea felt her pulse go into overdrive, and for a moment she was worried about what might happen, but after only a second she realized there wasn't any danger. Everything she wanted was right here, finally and really right here, no need to go hunting for it.
Andrea kissed Leila's neck, her tongue lapping at the soft curves of flesh while her fingers moved up, rubbing the inside of Leila's thighs and then touching her in the spot that made Leila gasp and tremble. She wriggled her ass against the seat and bit her lip, moaning under her breath: "More, please..." Leila's arms wrapped around Andrea's waist, hands caressing her hips and then grabbing her ass with both hands, pulling them into one another. "More, please," she said again.
Andrea slid one finger inside, then two, and Leila went wild, thrashing her head back and forth and beating on the car door with one hand. "Oh God!" she said. Andrea pushed them all the way in, then twisted them, once, and Leila cried out "Oh God!" again.
"Do you want me to keep going?" said Andrea. Leila nodded, biting her lip to keep from screaming again. Andrea pushed up, and Leila's body jerked, and they writhed together, and then she did it again, and her other fingers splayed on the outside of Leila's sex, and touched her at the most sensitive spot, and Andrea thought that Leila's body might break apart with as hard as she shook. Leila's lips found Andrea's again, and then they were on her neck. Leila's hands moved up Andrea's body, pushing her away just a little so that she could feel Andrea's small breasts through her shirt, thumbs glancing over erect nipples.
Leila's hands reached around and cupped Andrea's ass, squeezing. She gave Andrea a quick smack, and giggled as she jumped. She was whispering over and over, "Take me, take me," and Andrea pushed against her harder, almost pinning her down. Leila's eyes rolled and she moaned again, and the purred, and bit her lip, pushing her thighs open as far as they would part.
Leila's voice was rising incrementally, a low moan becoming a keening wail with each movement of Andrea's probing fingers. She was becoming wetter and wetter, and her own ever-insistent hands were now trying to slid between Andrea's legs even though the position of their bodies in the cramped car made this impossible. Andrea twisted her wrist, turning her hand over, twisting inside of Leila, and Leila screamed. "Oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck....again!" Andrea did it again and Leila screamed herself ragged. Much more of that and she'll set off the car alarm, thought Andrea, but she continued for as long as Leila kept moaning.
They were sweating together now, and Andrea's head spun around and around. She had a feeling inside that she couldn't account for, except to think of it as the opposite if It. She kissed Leila in an attempt to smother the other woman's rising screams. Leila, out of control, clawed at her, and bit her, and pushed herself so hard against the door on that side that Andrea was afraid it would pop open and spill them both out onto the asphalt.
Finally Leila reached a point where she couldn't speak, and signaled to Andrea to stop by beating her on the shoulder with one little fist, over and over, as her body jerked and twitched, eyes rolling back, mouth open in a constant, silent scream. Andrea was sweating and panting as well, the vibrations of Leila's convulsing, orgasm-wracked body creating friction, until the inside of the tiny car was like a furnace and the two of them were roasting together in the heat of one another's bodies.
They lay together for a minute after Leila came back down, and then, awkwardly, they untangled themselves, straightening up. Leila looked away. Andrea sat back until she caught her breath. Leila stared at nothing, a strange expression on her face.
"You okay?" said Andrea.
"What? Yes, I'm fine. I just...don't know what to think," Leila said.
Andrea shifted in her seat to look at her, and put a hand on Leila's shoulder. Leila flinched. "I've just never done...that, before," Leila said. "And I didn't expect to. And I don't really know how I feel, just now."
Andrea went numb. Leila wiped a hand across her eyes. "It's not you," she said, too fast. "I just wasn't ready, and I really don't know what came over me. I was thinking about what you said, about repressing the thing you want, and how I'd stood that guy up tonight, and I didn't want to let something just go by again and regret it later, but now I think...can you just leave me alone for a while?"
Andrea opened the door and almost fell out of the car. She scraped her knee on the asphalt. Leila followed, looking alarmed. "Wait," she said, "don't go if you're upset. Like I said, it's not about-"
"Leave me alone!" said Andrea. She clutched her insides. It was happening again. "Just get the fuck away from me," she said, and ran. She ran until her knees ached and her throat was raw, but no matter how far she went she couldn't outrun herself. Everyone she passed stared, their eyes wide and glassy under the streetlamps. She didn't stop until her lungs were about to burst
When she looked around she was on O'Farrell street, near Van Ness, the same neighborhood as the first "wild dog attack." She leaned against a wall, surrounded by stupefied vagrants, chain link, barbed wire, trash and empty bottles in the gutters and the gang tags on the walls. The building she leaned against sported leering gargoyles, showing their teeth. Across the way a marquee with flashing lights featured pictures of alluring women and the slogan: "Where the Wild Girls Are!" She stumbled toward it, and the man at the door looked her up and down.
"Normally there's no cover for ladies," he said, "but I can't let you in looking like that."
I need to run, she thought, I can't let anyone see me, not like this, not with what's about to happen. But instead she laughed and said, "But I belong here."
"Come on," said the bouncer, whispering. "You're all fucked up. Go home and sleep it off. You don't want to hurt yourself, do you?"
Andrea tried to answer but instead collapsed into peals of hysterical laughter. She rolled on the filthy sidewalk, laughing and laughing, and inside her guts twisted and acid burned through her belly, and she laughed through the pain. The bouncer looked away for a moment, disgusted, then tried to help her up. She grabbed his hand and pulled him down with, and put her face right up to his and laughed, showing her teeth. "Get off of me, you fucking freak!" he said, standing.
She tried to stand too, but couldn't; her limbs were twisting and her elbows snapped back as her shoulder joint changed shape. It was too late to run now. Her clothes shredded, and she tore at the sidewalk with her paws. The bouncer stared, eyes wide, face a sheen of sweat. "What in the...what in the fuck?" he said.
She rolled around, tossing away the ragged remains of her clothing. Her spine stretched and her jaw protruded. She was hot all over, and she knew that coarse, matted hair covered her hide. She bared her fangs at the large man and slouched forward. She smelled his fear. He stood transfixed. "This isn't happening," he said. "This can't be happening. This isn't happening."
Just then two drunks left the club, hitting him with the door as they did, snapping him out of it. She lunged, and he turned to run, pushing the smaller men in his wake. They objected for a moment, but then they saw Her too and ran in after him. The door slammed shut and She threw her body against it, howling. She felt the strain of all three men holding it on the opposite side, but She knew they weren't enough to keep Her out. Not when there was something She wanted.
Her weight knocked the door off its hinges, and the three men fell out of its way. She charged in, and at first She was dazed by the bright lights, the loud music, the overlapping scents, the screams of the patrons as she charged through the lobby. The kid at the front desk looked up from his magazine, frozen in shock. She leapt onto the counter and snarled, and he ran. Rather than follow, she tracked a scent; someone had come this way just a minute ago, a woman...
She followed the scent to a private booth and battered the door. The bouncer from outside was still in the lobby, screaming into a phone. She saw him reach behind the counter, fumbling for something, but then she heard voices from inside the booth saying, "Get lost, this one is full!" She hit the door harder and it splintered. A woman, naked except for thin blue panties, screamed, and a fat man jumped up, hitting his head on the ceiling.
She filled the doorway, cornering them in the small room. The man stood frozen, and the woman huddled on the floor, screaming, hands covering her head. She pushed Her muzzle forward, inhaling. It was not a scent She recognized. This was not the one She wanted. But the hunger was there, and this one had nowhere to run. She bared her teeth and snarled, ready to lunge.
A roar shook the air. When She tried to take a step She fell over instead, and then there was another roar, and She felt white-hot pain all over. She smelled blood and realized that it was Her own, and then she realized-
It was over. She was herself again. But she still couldn't get up.
Andrea looked down at herself. "Oh my God," she said, through bloodied lips. "I've been shot." Her legs were limp, and she felt nothing from the waist down. "I've been shot," she said again, and collapsed. The bouncer reloaded the shotgun, but it wasn't needed anymore.
Andrea stared up at the lights in the ceiling. She saw a crowd of people around her, some still too frightened to come close. She counted each of her own, individual heartbeats as they came slower and slower.
"It's all right," she told the people (or tried to). "Nobody got hurt. Nobody's hurt. Just me."
She heard voices all around: "What happened?" "Call an ambulance!" "Where did the dog go?" "It wasn't a dog, it was a-"
Andrea picked out one face in the crowd that was different. It was someone who was smiling, and who made her feel relaxed and peaceful. Was it Leila? It couldn't be? And she saw now that it wasn't, but also that if she looked at this person a certain way, and thought about it very hard, she could look like Leila again; Leila, smiling, serene, holding out her hand.
"Leila," said Andrea. The crowd muttered. Who was she talking to? "Leila," she said, "I never noticed before. How could I never have noticed? Do you know what you look like? You look just like an angel."
The crowd murmured again. But then Andrea closed her eyes, and slept.
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