Transition Phase

Submitted into Contest #92 in response to: Write about a character who thinks they have a sun allergy.... view prompt

63 comments

Contemporary Fiction

I still remember walking through the park near where I worked. I loved looking at all the towering evergreen trees and the much shorter flowering bushes. The smell of cedar all around me was intoxicating. I couldn't remember it being so strong before. There was another scent, though. An unfamiliar one. Maybe the gardeners had planted something new and unusual. I shrugged and continued on my way.


Walking past the pond, something struck me from behind. I hadn't heard any footsteps or the sound of bicycle wheels or rollerblades. One minute it was fairly quiet, the next minute I was sprawled face-first on the ground and someone or something was groping at me. No, not groping. They were hauling me toward some bushes. I was going to die. Why else would they try to hide my body from view?


Once we reached the bushes, I could hear heavy breathing and hot breath. I felt something sharp press into my lower neck. A knife? No, a knife didn't feel like a needle or pin. Lying there, I could only hope that my assailant wouldn't steal my wallet while I was unable to defend myself.


Moments later, something leapt over me, landing several feet away from my head. I saw a worn pair of basketball shoes and above that a pair of seriously muscular and hairy legs. I felt almost feminine in comparison with my considerably less hairy legs and a slender physique I wouldn't dare called muscular. Like the difference between a grizzly bear and a cougar.


For a moment, I thought I'd been attacked by a dog wearing a pair of shoes. But that sounded ridiculous. Dogs don't wear shoes. And most dogs aren't as heavy as this person or thing was.


As I lost consciousness, I vaguely saw whatever or whoever half-run, half-bound toward the nearest tree and rapidly climb up its trunk. They disappeared from view seconds later.


----------


When I came to, I was lying half-hidden in a row of bushes about a hundred feet from the pond. It was daylight and the sunlight was brighter and harsher than before. I shaded my eyes with my left arm. I'm normally pale-skinned, but the sun had rarely threatened anything worse than a sunburn. Checking myself, I didn't see any sunburned skin. Then why did the sunlight hurt so much?


Someone spotted me and hurried over. “Hey! You okay? You hurt?”


I tried to look at them, saw a shadowy figure crouching there with the sun behind them. Shaking my head, I said, “I think I'm okay. My neck is a little sore, though.”


“Maybe you should go to the hospital and see a doctor,” the unknown person said. “I know a really good doctor at the hospital.”


“Is she beautiful?” I asked stupidly.


“Wait until you see her,” they said. “Her name is Dr. Mirabella Medici. She's originally from northern Italy.” A pause. “I'm dialing the hospital right now,” they said.


“See if they have anything for sun allergies,” I said.


“They probably do,” they said. “I doubt that's what you have, though.”


“Maybe the doctor should decide about that,” I suggested.


“Good idea,” they said. “The ambulance is on its way.”


While we waited, I was puzzled to find that I was hungry. Very hungry. And not for food. I kept looking at my rescuer. They didn't meet my eyes, though.


What felt like several minutes later, I heard the sound of approaching sirens. Ambulance, not police car or fire truck. I didn't struggle as I was put on a stretcher by paramedics and slid into the back of the ambulance. They were trying to help, after all. The rear doors closed, and the ambulance sped away, sirens wailing.


---------


At the hospital, I was immediately put on a gurney and taken to the emergency room. A male nurse came over and the paramedic explained what had happened. Including my complaint about a sun allergy.


“It's odd that it would suddenly start affecting you if it never did before,” the nurse said. “When did it begin?”


“When I regained consciousness this morning,” I said. “I think I was mugged at the park late last night, only they didn't take my wallet.”


“Anything else?” the nurse asked.


“Whoever or whatever mugged me also bit my neck,” I said. “It's still a little sore. Do you want to see where it happened?”


“No need,” the nurse said, which surprised me. “We have a doctor here who handles unusual cases like yours. She's the best and knows exactly what to look for.”


“Is she beautiful?” I asked.


The nurse nodded. “You've heard of Dr. Medici?”


“Indirectly,” I replied. “The person who discovered me this morning told me about her.”


“You won't believe your eyes when you see her,” the nurse said. “She must've been very popular in medical school in Bologna, Italy, but she didn't let it go to her head. She graduated in the top 3% of her class.”


“Smart lady,” I said.


Very smart,” the nurse corrected me. “Let's get your information sheet filled out and find you a room while we let Dr. Medici know that she has a new patient. We don't have many available rooms these days because of the COVID pandemic, but maybe you'll get lucky.”


“I hope so,” I said.


“All right,” the nurse said. “Full name?”


“Manuel Tomás Bartolomeo Roberto Enrico Gonzalez,” I replied.


“That's quite a mouthful,” the nurse said.


“It is indeed,” I said, trying not to stare at him.


Why did he have to mention anything to do with eating? Maybe he hadn't meant to. I closed my eyes and tried to remain calm. Just one little bite – oh, shut up!


The nurse noted the rest of my contact information then went to the nurse's station, leaving me on the gurney, wishing that there weren't so many people in the emergency room. Too many to choose from.


---------


My hospital room was on the fourth floor. Someone had thoughtfully pulled down the shades and angled the slats so that they blocked the incoming sunlight. I wish that they'd chosen a hospital room that was on the north or east side. But maybe those were already occupied by COVID patients.


A nurse – female this time – entered, carrying a tray of food and drink. “This should help your hunger pangs,” she said. “There's even some tomato juice.”


I looked at her. “You don't think I need anything more substantial?”


“You'll have to discuss that with your doctor,” the nurse replied. “I'll be back in half an hour to take your tray back to the kitchen. Enjoy.” She turned and left the room.


She smelled nice. Even nicer than my rescuer had. Was it the perfume or just maybe soap and water?


I wouldn't have minded sinking my teeth into –, I thought, but forced myself to eat and drink what was on the tray. The tomato juice didn't taste like tomatoes, though. It had a sort of salt-and-rust flavor to it. Maybe the tomatoes were an unusual variety, not the kind you can grow in your back garden or get at the grocery store. Probably imported from another country. It did satisfy my hunger pangs, though.


The nurse duly returned, approved of the empty plates and glass. “The doctor will be here in a minute or two,” she said and left with the tray.


What had gotten into me? I wasn't just thinking of kissing her. I was thinking of biting her. And not in the usual places.


Come on, Mannie, I told myself. Control yourself. You're a mature human being. Start acting like one. Not like some wild animal.


---------


Despite the serious expression on her face, I couldn't keep my eyes off of Dr. Medici when she entered my hospital room. She wasn't just pretty; she was gorgeous. In fact, she looked more like a movie star or supermodel than a doctor when she calmly picked up the folder hanging from the end of my bed. She read the contents, nodding every so often, then put the folder back on its little hook.


“Good morning, Mr. Gonzalez,” she said pleasantly. I could still hear her Italian accent. Almost musical at times. She could've been speaking gibberish and I would've happily listened to her. “I'm Dr. Medici.”


“Interesting last name,” I said.


“Family name,” she said. “I'm descended from the Medici family. From Lorenzo the Magnificent, in fact.” She smiled and shook her head. “He always did have such an overinflated opinion of himself.”


“What made you immigrate to America?” I wondered.


“I wanted to practice medicine; the family wanted me to go into politics or finance,” Dr. Medici said. “The only way to get out of that poisonous atmosphere was to completely leave Italy behind and go elsewhere. I do miss the old country sometimes, though.” She sighed wistfully.


“Have you ever gone back?” I asked.


She shook her head. “Some things have improved in my absence, some are just as bad as before. I'd rather be here instead. Now, then. No more questions for a few moments.” She sat down next to my hospital bed and leaned in close to me.


I pulled back a little, uncertain what she needed to do.


“No, I'm not going to kiss you,” Dr. Medici said.


“How disappointing,” I said dryly.


She briefly smiled. “Just relax. I want to check for something.”


“Will it hurt?” I asked.


Dr. Medici shook her head.


I relaxed as best I could. As I did so, she pulled my collar away from my neck. She aimed the beam from a pen-light at my lower neck, a few inches above my collarbone.


“That's very interesting,” Dr. Medici said when she'd finished with her inspection.


I felt frustrated. I'd expected her to understand but she was treating it like she'd seen this sort of thing enough times to get jaded about it. Wouldn't anyone take my condition seriously?


“I wish that someone would believe me,” I said. “I have a sun allergy. Honest and truly.”


“Of course you do,” Dr. Medici agreed.


“You're just humoring me,” I said.


She shook her head. “There are two bite marks near your carotid artery. The skin hasn't healed yet so they're still visible.”


“What does it mean, though?” I asked.


“It means that you've been bitten by a vampire,” Dr. Medici said. “You're going through the transition phase. One of the side effects is an aversion to direct sunlight. Nothing to worry about.”


“But vampires don't exist,” I said.


She stood up, went over to the bedside table, and picked up something flat and metallic. When she came back to me, she held a mirror in front of me. “See anything?”


“The bed I'm lying in,” I said, “and the wall behind it.”


“Is anything missing?” Dr. Medici asked. “Anything important?”


“Oh,” I said when the truth finally hit me. “I'm missing.”


“That's right,” she said. “Now tell me, when did you first notice a change in your appetite?”


“This morning,” I said, handing the mirror back to her. “After a visit to a city park. I got mugged and woke up with a sore neck. I thought maybe the mugger had tried to strangle me. I checked my pockets but my wallet was still in my front right pants pocket.”


“And there was a full moon last night,” Dr. Medici said.


I nodded.


“Normally that shouldn't matter,” she explained. “From what I've read in the medical literature, you can be bitten at any time and if you don't die first, you have a very good chance of turning into a vampire. But in your case, it was during a full moon. A rare conjunction of two events.”


“What does that mean?” I asked.


“It means that you're a half-breed,” Dr. Medici said. “Half-vampire, half-werewolf. When you're a vampire, you can't bear to be out in the sunlight. When you're a werewolf, sunlight doesn't affect you.”


I looked down at my hands, where they lay in my lap. “So – most of the time I'm a vampire, but every night of the full moon, I'll turn into a werewolf.”


“Correct,” she said.


I looked back at her. “And you're not afraid of me? I thought you'd be trying to get as far away from me as possible. Unless you're suicidal, of course.”


Dr. Medici leaned toward me and pulled the collar of her white jacket aside. “See anything?”


“Two bite marks,” I said. “Like the ones you said that I have.”


She straightened and nodded. “That's why I'm not afraid. I'm just like you.”


“That's how you know about what I've been through,” I said.


“Correct,” Dr. Medici said. “If you're willing to learn, there's quite a bit that you'll have to learn. Unless you want to go it alone.”


I shook my head. “No thanks.”


“Then, my apprentice, we're going to be spending some time together,” she said. “Usually out in the woods, usually at night. Teaching you how to handle your condition in both your shapes. A little self-control can keep you from sticking out like a sore thumb. You wouldn't want to be overly suspicious, after all. You know. Leaving bodies drained of blood everywhere you go. I have several centuries of experience that you could benefit from. Any other questions?”


“No, mistress,” I said.


“Good,” Dr. Medici said. “We begin tonight at midnight. Meet me in the middle of the woods near here.”


“I'm still a patient, though,” I said. “I won't be able to meet you there.”


“I'll sign you out so that you can leave,” Dr. Medici said.


“One more thing: is there a cure for what we have?” I asked.


She shook her head. “But I think you'll enjoy the learning process. I had a very good teacher when it was my time to transition. They made sure that I knew everything I needed to know. Of course, it was much more dangerous back then. Not just feuding families, but feuding cities. Because of the hunters, we couldn't just meet at night; we had to meet in abandoned buildings and in the sewers. Necessary, but rather unpleasant.”


“I'll try to be a very good student, then,” I said.


“I think you'll do just fine,” Dr, Medici said. “See you tonight, Mr. Gonzalez. Oh, and you'll love the warm-up exercises.” She gave me the ghost of a grin and a wink, then left my hospital room.


At least I didn't need any medication for my sun allergy … except for regular doses of Types A, B, AB, and O, of course.

May 01, 2021 23:53

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63 comments

Valerie June
01:00 May 03, 2021

Your MC really does have quite the name. Hospital food, ugh. I know that he's now a vampire so change of diet and all, but I can relate. I love how you avoided the cliche of involving romance and drama in the whole turning-into-vampire thing. The twist with Dr. Medici also being a half-breed was unexpected.

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Philip Clayberg
01:20 May 03, 2021

Once I knew what the doctor's last name might be, I searched online for possible Italian girl names. "Mirabella" seemed to fit best, because she was beautiful. I think the hospital food in my story was probably atypical hospital food: specifically chosen by the hospital staff because they knew it would help reduce the hunger pangs of a vampire/werewolf (they would've already been aware of the dietary requirements of a vampire/werewolf). The "tomato juice", for instance, likely had no tomatoes in it at all, though it was still red in colo...

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18:17 May 02, 2021

A mild mannered vampire story. Most vampire stories are overly romanticized or horror related, but this one plays out as though it is every day life and just happens. I have to say, it is a good take on it. Have you looked at my stories yet?

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Philip Clayberg
18:49 May 02, 2021

My story seemed to want to go in a different direction, away from all the angst-ridden, romantic vampire stories that have been written and published since "Twilight" was published. I wanted to describe what it might be like *during* the changeover from human to vampire (or in this case, vampire/werewolf) and that it's not always smooth. There will be confusion, misunderstanding, change in appetite (and diet), and a very strong desire to want to know what in the world is going on. Would it happen overnight, though? I don't know. At firs...

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Asha Pillay
15:15 May 02, 2021

Though I don't like to read vampire stories ,but honestly I liked this one ,you incorporated the vampire in the story so well,that, I didn't even realize that I was reading a vampire story Good work as usual.

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Philip Clayberg
15:23 May 02, 2021

I normally don't, either. But this inspiration for this story (beyond the weekly story prompt) had a slant to it that sounded different and more interesting than most vampire stories. Otherwise, I wouldn't have bothered finishing it after I wrote the end scene first (as I said in my response to Palak Shah, I started writing this one out of order). Also, I liked that the narrator is experiencing the change from human to half-vampire/half-werewolf and all the confusion/doubts/etc. that might go with it, whereas almost everyone else takes it...

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Palak Shah
15:00 May 02, 2021

Great story :)) I loved the way that it flowed and I enjoyed reading it. Well done !!!

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Philip Clayberg
15:13 May 02, 2021

Thanks. Hope your story goes well, too. Btw, it might not be obvious, but this story was written somewhat out of order. I wrote the end scene first and then went back to the beginning and tried to figure out how to get to that end scene. Then I tweaked the story here and there during the editing process. I liked the ending because the more literal-minded readers will probably say: "I don't get it. What does he mean by 'Types A, B, AB, and O' at the end of the story?" But I think that most readers will get it. ----- Update: I was j...

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Palak Shah
08:36 May 03, 2021

Yeah, I like how it was not in order and how the end was written at the beginning, I do understand what you are saying with the types

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Philip Clayberg
10:35 May 03, 2021

I'm not sure if it'll happen again that way in a future short story, but if it does, at least I know that I can still work out what leads up to that last scene. Neil Gaiman wrote in an essay in his nonfiction collection, "The View from the Cheap Seats", there are three ways to start writing a story. He says middles are great (once you get there, you have quite a bit of momentum built up to carry you through the rest of the story) and so are endings (once you have an idea about how a story will end, you just aim in that direction and it mig...

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Francis Daisy
11:13 May 03, 2021

It is so interesting to know that stories evolve in our heads first, before they even reach the keyboards - or notebooks. Or, in some cases, around the campfire or bedsides as we tell them to our children as we tuck them in at night. I am never sure when a story will take off. I will definitely have to look up that essay by Neil Gaiman. I have seen other quotes from him, but never actually read anything by him. Thanks for bringing him to my attention! :)

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Philip Clayberg
12:32 May 03, 2021

In my case, it isn't the story that builds itself in my head. I tend to "hear" characters talking. Almost as if I was around the corner or sitting at a nearby table and listening to them. Then I have to figure out where this scene is taking place in the story (the beginning, middle, or end?). I'm not used to writing the ending scene first, though. It was an interesting experience because then I had to figure out what led up to that ending scene. You're welcome. Glad to refer fellow readers to books that I like. Btw, if you can afford...

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Palak Shah
12:02 May 03, 2021

Personally, I prefer to start from the beginning because I find them so much easier to write. I have never actually started my story from the middle because it would be hard to do, and I think it would also disrupt the flow. I would really like to write some horror in the future and built up the tension but for the time being, I will stick to my soppy romance and Sci-Fi stories lol :)) Yh, our stories do evolve in our head and I find that so cool because I daydream a lot and that makes it easier to write my stories nevertheless sometimes I ...

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Philip Clayberg
12:39 May 03, 2021

Same here. But, for some reason, this time I didn't know I was in the ending scene until I reached the end of the story and thought, "Wait a minute. If this is the end of the story ... what happened *before* this ending scene?" Personally, I wouldn't consider "Transition Phase" a horror story (at least, nothing like "Frankenstein", "Dracula", or the like). I think it has more humor in it than most horror novels seem to have. I'll probably go back to writing my usual sort of stories ... unless, of course, someone asked me for a sequel to...

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10:55 May 14, 2021

Great story! Did not think the doctor was a vampire! 🏥

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Philip Clayberg
13:44 May 14, 2021

Very happy you liked it so much. Actually, half-vampire/half-werewolf. The more I think about it, the more I get the feeling that not only are most (if not all) of the hospital staff half-vampire/half-werewolf, but the town itself is probably in a transition phase between being human and being half-vampire/half-werewolf. Once they're all half-vampire/half-werewolf, I'm not sure what will happen next. Maybe it'll spread to other towns and cities? Will someone try to create a vaccine to keep humans from being changed into half-vampires/ha...

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15:45 May 14, 2021

Oh, I did not even think of the whole hospital being half-vampire/half-werewolf. I was just worrying if the doctor drank all of her human patient's blood!

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Philip Clayberg
17:41 May 14, 2021

I thought that the hospital staff must be mostly (if not entirely) half-vampire/half-werewolf since they're taking Mannie's reactions so calmly. Almost as if they've been there (or through it) before. It's possible that they have human blood stored somewhere in the hospital to serve as "tomato juice" to anyone going through the transition phase. Where did they get the human blood? I'd really rather not know. Hopefully from volunteers during an annual (or monthly) "blood drive".

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Rayney Day
14:41 May 13, 2021

I'm so glad this wasn't a stereotypical vampire story with romance and angst and terrible terrible fiction. I didn't even clue into the fact that he was a vampire until he was served "tomato juice" in the hospital lolol

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Philip Clayberg
16:10 May 13, 2021

Same here. I wanted to focus on the transition itself: the confusion and the misunderstandings. It's something that I rarely (if ever) see in YA fiction about vampires or werewolves. Too often, as you said, it focuses on the romance and angst and ends up with the reader thinking, "Oh no, not another one of these. Can't anyone write better than this? I don't want another 'Twilight' novel wannabe. I want something different, something interesting." I did like the sprinkling of clues. The change in diet being a big one (if not overly o...

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Rayney Day
16:15 May 13, 2021

i think it could definitely be a standalone story, but it also DEFINITELY has the potential for a sequel. You did this brilliantly, perfectly portraying the confusion amidst the transition, and it is so refreshing to read a vampire book that's not another Twilight novel. If you write a sequel, let me know!

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Philip Clayberg
20:21 May 13, 2021

The problem is: I can't think of much for a sequel to "Transition Phase". It's not really my usual kind of story anyway (I prefer not to write about vampires, werewolves, horror, etc.). If you (or anyone you know) can think of ideas for a sequel, feel free to send those ideas my way. I cite inspirations whenever possible, so you and/or they will be credited.

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Rayney Day
20:30 May 13, 2021

Will do! Even if you don't end up writing a sequel, this story is fine standing alone. And bravo, considering you don't write this type of thing very often, you did it better than most.

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Philip Clayberg
20:54 May 13, 2021

Glad to hear it. Thank you for liking it so much. When I first submitted stories to this website late last July (or early August), I thought that they could only be standalone stories. But then I kept seeing sequels to previous stories, and thought, "Well, if *they* can, why can't I do the same?" That way the 3000-word upper limit isn't as restrictive. It just means that you can continue the overall story in a sequel or multiple sequels. One of them has nine "chapters" so far. Over the last several decades, I've read vampire and werew...

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Ryan Lm Colli
17:03 May 10, 2021

Join this: https://www.guilded.gg/i/0k80xDmk Oh no... ouch. I definitely teared up by the end. I really can’t say enough good things about this story. I’m a Chinese-American young woman - who has a fondness for Mandarin scattered throughout English - so it especially hit hard for me. You captured so many bits of the culture incredibly well: 哥哥, 妈妈, offering food as a comfort tactic. All of it feels so loyal and true to real life. I absolutely love the tie-ins to other Chinese characters too. It’s a funny language. (I created...

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Philip Clayberg
19:06 May 10, 2021

I"m a little puzzled, because the ending of this story isn't sad in any way. Maybe you're referring to "Power Problems" instead, which mostly takes place in southwest China (both in and near Kunming)? But that doesn't have a sad ending, either. Also, this story doesn't have any Chinese characters or anything Chinese in it, that I'm aware of. But "Power Problems" does. It sounds like you're responding to "Power Problems", not to "Transition Phase" (though you also mention things that don't seem to be in "Power Problems" at all). I'm gla...

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Francis Daisy
11:07 May 03, 2021

Oh man, and here I thought I was Team Jacob up until today. Now I am definitely Team Philip! LOVE this story! If you don't win this week, I will start the protest. This story pulled me right in! Happy May! :)

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Philip Clayberg
12:24 May 03, 2021

I didn't know people still used the term "Team ..." I guess that shows how far out of touch with "Twilight" fandom I am. I have the book, "Twilight", but didn't like the other books and didn't really like the movie adapted from "Twilight" (it just seemed hopelessly overly dramatic much of the time). Glad you liked the story so much. I wanted to write something different from all the Young Adult books about vampires and werewolves I've seen in bookstores and on Amazon's website. Something that actually discussed what it's like *during* t...

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