The Clinic- Moonshade blog is at http://q-and-archy.blogspot.com/ on Twitter @jwdreamkeeper
It’s ten below, but I’m sweating under my coat. I have to get out at the far end of the parking lot—it’s the closest I’m going to get without hitting the mob of sign-toting protestors in front of the clinic, but I’m starting to wonder if I should have bothered. The harassment starts before I get out of my car. First an assault of eggs, then a scream about murder and life is sacred topped with—whooda thunk—a brick, which narrowly misses my head.
I wonder who thought that one up. Hey guys, let’s preserve the sanctity of life by braining a stranger in a parking lot! For all they know I’m here to make a delivery or something. My enormous coat absorbs most of the impact, and I push my way through the mob to the front door. My hands stop shaking as I fight the human tide—the more they try to force me back, the more determined I am to go through with this. I’m half inclined to thank them, just to see the looks on their faces, but I’m stopped with an egg to the face.
My mouth was open and everything. I can taste the sulfury goo all the way in the back of my mouth. It makes me gag, but there’s nothing in my stomach to vomit up—I took care of that before I came. When I breach the front doors the assault stops. These guys are all tough out in the open, but nobody wants to set foot inside. Cowards.
Just inside stands a pretty redhead with a big washcloth in her arms. She wears a medical-ish uniform and a look of genuine concern as she presses the cloth into my hands.
“I’m sorry you had to deal with those people,” she says without showing her teeth. I start wiping the egg off my face. “You’re a real trooper.”
“Is that what you call it?” Pieces of eggshell crack between my molars as I speak, and the crunch makes me shudder. It feels too much like my own teeth are breaking apart. “Can I get you some coffee?” You’ve got to hand it to the lady—either she’s genuinely this sweet, or else she’s really good at playing the part. I’d rather not think about which one it really is.
“Mm… yeah. Sure.” I can’t help it. She just looks so eager to do something nice for me. She flashes a quick smile and disappears behind the counter, giving me a chance to look around. Bright colors—lots of blues and purples and gold accents—and squishy pleather furniture, with a small television softly flashing the local news in the corner. The only red is on the row of pamphlets on one wall. They’re covered with pictures of people with soft smiles and hopeful eyes, and big bold letters that say things like Is Donation Right for Me?
“Cream?” the redhead asks from behind the counter.
“Sure,” I say. “And two sugars.” I pick up one of the pamphlets and rifle through it. Under a What to Expect banner: Your final moments will be pain free, guaranteed. Patients often experience a pleasant euphoria before drifting into a gentle sleep. I wonder how they’re planning to honor that guarantee, but I let the thought pass. I didn’t come to a suicide clinic looking for a refund. The redhead brings me a Styrofoam cup full of coffee, but her eyes keep flitting up to the television. On the screen is a charcoal husk of a building, over a glowing red headline: SUICIDE CLINIC BOMBINGS CONTINUE
.“Don’t worry, that sort of thing won’t happen here.” She flashes me a reassuring smile. For the first time I can see her teeth, and her long canines stand out against her too-bright lips. “Are you ready to talk to the doctor?”
That catches me by surprise. “Don’t you need me to fill out forms or something first?”
“No, of course not,” she said. “Filling out forms makes it feel too final. First we want you to talk to someone—you know, make sure this is what you really want. The actual procedure won’t happen for another two visits.”
Count on vampires to be patient. But they’ve got all the time in the world, especially when they can say they’re performing a public service to willing participants.
A man steps out of the back rooms—he’s got a square face and a bright white lab coat, but a hint of yellow in his otherwise brown hair tells me he had to fight through the mob outside earlier. He flashes me a toothy smile and shakes my hand before leading me to the back hallways. This clinic’s a lot more popular than I thought—I see half a dozen other vampires milling around, carting bags of blood, pushing sheet-covered gurneys, and carrying clipboards full of paperwork from one room to another. The hall is windowless, and through a few open doors I can see that the rest of the building is, too.
I don’t even realize I’ve stopped until the doctor raises his voice.
“Are you feeling all right?”
What a funny question.
“You look a bit warm. Would you like me to get your coat?”
I almost laugh out loud. I unzip my coat and peel it back, revealing a neat vest of explosives underneath. I don’t even have a chance to blink before the doctor tackles me to the floor, his hands searching for a detonator. The other vampires make a break for it.
My toes curl around the trigger.
“Really?” he asks, ripping off my coat in a panic. “Suicide bombing a suicide clinic? A bit counterproductive, don’t you think?”
“I’ve got nothing against suicide.” Maybe it’s his searching fingers tickling me, or maybe I really am getting that euphoria they promised. I feel like laughing. “I just really hate vamps.”