In Final Girl, Season 3 by Evelyna Ekoko-Kay

The morning that her symptoms appeared, Tally woke up ravenous. Laying next to Sarah in bed, she was struck by an urge, electric in its force, to lick the skin of Sarah’s sleeping throat. 

So she did. A quick, wide swipe from clavicle to chin. Whole tongue extended, flattened to the flesh, Tally felt every raise and sag of skin. The tiny twin lines from years of staring at screens, head pulling forward slightly. She returned to them on her second lick, running her tongue horizontally through the whole length of the top crease.

“Whuh…” Sarah mumbled, shifting slightly in her sleep. 

Tally sprung away from Sarah, back to awareness. Somehow, she had gone from laying beside Sarah to crouching over her, knees planted in the mattress, elbows propping herself up. 

“Weird,” she said aloud. 

Sarah groaned, but didn’t wake up. 

“Sorry,” Tally whispered, and pushed herself off the bed. “Just hungry.” 

Opening the bedroom door, she was greeted—and almost tripped—by Chocolate.

“Jesus Christ,” Tally spat out, catching herself by the door frame. Chocolate wound around her legs, purring, and let out a little “mrrrp!”

“Okay, okay.” Tally crouched down and gave Chocolate a quick head rub. “Gotta eat,” she told Chocolate, standing back up. Her stomach growled and clenched painfully. 

In the kitchen, Tally set the oven to 425 in preparation for the hashbrown patties she ate every morning. But as she reached for the freezer door, she paused.

“No,” she said, “this isn’t what I want.”

Salt. Wheeling around,Tally crossed the small kitchen in one stride and tore open the bottom cupboard where the nonperishables were stored. Chips. Half a bag of Lays Classic, a fresh bag of Miss Vickie’s Salt & Vinegar. She started with the plain chips, but a few bites in, a sharp pain shot through her chest. No, not pain. Rage

Dropping the first bag on the kitchen island, Tally tore open the Miss Vickie’s so forcefully that it exploded in her hands, chips scattering across the floor, a few hitting her arms. There was a strange sensation in her throat, a lump like a pill swallowed wrong. Tally crammed her hand into the bag, came up with a fistful of chips, which she shoved into her mouth all at once. She barely chewed before swallowing, and the sharp edges added to the strangeness in her throat. Another handful, then another, and it wasn’t enough, it wasn’t enough, it wasn’t what she wanted but she didn’t know what was—

“Babe, what the fuck?”

Tally whirled around, chips scattering from her. Sarah was standing by the fridge, wide awake now, staring, face caught somewhere between amusement and horror.

“I–Uh—” Tally started, aware suddenly of the mess on the floor, the crumbs all down her chin, her chest. 

Shifting a little from foot to foot, Sarah looked Tally up and down, then laughed, with only a hint of trepidation. 

“Hungry?” she asked, letting out another little laugh. 

Tally offered a laugh in return, two short barks. “Just a little,” she said. She reached down to scoop up a chip from the floor, and darkness rushed in from behind her ears and met itself in a staticy wave before her eyes.


The first thing the nurses made Tally do was open her eyes. It will seem bright to you, they told her, but it isn’t. And you’ll need to be able to handle more light than this if you want to go back. 

Light hurt. Even the dim lamps of the closed ward where Tally was strapped to the narrow metal bed.

The other thing Tally learned was that she would have to stay here until her bloodlust was under control.

Bloodlust. The nurses said the word as if it were a medical term. In a way, Tally supposed, these days it was. Bloodlust. Hers. Possessive. Possessing. 

“There’s been a mistake,” she tried to explain, when they finally removed the bar from between her teeth. “I don’t have bloodlust.”

But according to the nurses, the symptoms were conclusive. And the rapid test had been positive. 

She was fortunate, the nurses said. She hadn’t eaten anyone. 

“And with treatment,” one nurse, a tiny blonde woman a little younger than Tally, said cheerfully, “you should be able to return to your normal life within a few weeks.” 

For Tally, lucky Tally, whose case had been caught early, treatment would consist of weekly iron infusions. And ferritin pills, 35mg, three times a day. 

And raw meat. Red.

“But I’m a vegetarian,” Tally protested, weakly. 

Perhaps that was what had saved her, she thought, laying awake at night when the ward was locked and dark. I thought I wanted salt because I didn’t know what it was that I was really craving. There wasn’t any evidence, really, to support the thought, but she clung to it anyway. 

In the dark, she went over the numbers.  

Mortality rate: 2.5-3 percent of infections. Worse than the 1918 flu pandemic or the 2019 SARS-COV-2 pandemic, but a good sight better than Ebola, Marsburg, Smallpox, MERS, Hantavirus….

Tally shook her head. “Not helpful,” she said out loud. In the bed to her left, the patient, a short man in his 40s, jolted, snarling. 

“Sorry,” she said, more quietly. The man jolted again a few times, brown skin mottled with yellow, drawn tight across his skull. His nails scrabbled at the mattress, long, ragged.

2.5-3 percent mortality, but it’s not just mortality, is it? Even with treatment, even with luck, she knew that normal was gone. 

Food. That was gone. No more falafel, no more daal and rice, no baked potatoes smothered in butter, salt and pepper. No more chocolate, no more baguette. No wine. No chips. 

Raw meat. As fresh as possible. Tally couldn’t seem to fit the thought of that inside her. Since birth, she’d been a vegetarian. 

“It’s not for ethical reasons,” she’d tell people, putting them at ease. “It’s just how I grew up.”

Meat. All her life, she’d seen people preparing it, slicing, crushing, seasoning, turning, basting, grilling. It had never registered to her as food. When she went to restaurants, or read cookbooks, her eyes glided right past all the meat dishes. Not for me, her brain said, and moved on. 

It was for ethical reasons, she thought now. Why wouldn’t I ever admit that?


By the time Tally was deemed fit for release, she had mostly gotten past her squeamishness about the meat. 

“Harm reduction,” she muttered to herself before eating. 

Meat was like nothing Tally had ever known. Not just the taste, metallic, but otherwise mostly flavourless, but the texture. The closest texture Tally had experienced was mushrooms, but they weren’t the same. They gave more easily. Meat, like mushrooms, was slimy, but it had a firmness to it that disturbed and fascinated Tally in equal measure. This was alive, she thought every time. All food was at some point and in some form alive, of course, but this was alive the way that Tally was alive, and Sarah was alive, and Chocolate was alive. This had moved, had chewed, had looked up above itself, had stared at its feet, its hooves, the ground below them. This life had made sounds.

“You’re still contagious,” the discharge nurse had warned, not sounding very concerned, “But it should be fine. Just wear a mask around uninfected people and keep on top of your iron levels.”

It seemed too easy, the release. Tally kept expecting someone to come running after her but no one did. She walked out the doors of the hospital, dressed in the pajamas in which she had arrived. No shoes or socks—just little plastic booties with halfhearted rubber treads. She didn’t have her cellphone, but Sarah had arranged a cab. 

Sarah. She’d been infected too. But thanks to Tally’s little tumble, her case had been caught early. Treated in an outpatient clinic before symptoms could emerge. Though she knew she shouldn’t, Tally had felt a small tug of relief when she heard. At least, she had thought, we can still be together

The driver of the cab startled slightly when she approached, scrambled in his dash for a shitty blue surgical mask.

Useless, she thought, but didn’t say. Surgical masks only blocked out about 30% of viral matter. But her mask would protect him. If anything, she thought, as he drove, glancing nervously back at her in the rearview mirror, he’s probably safer with me than with most other passengers. At least Tally’s infectiousness was visible, her gaunt, sunken eyes marking her otherness. Most transmission, she had read, happened pre-symptomatically. 

“Oh, my baby!” Sarah cried when she opened the door. Sarah was changed too, although less perceptibly. A little thinner, perhaps, and her eyes seemed to glow in the dim light of the streetlamp through the window. Like a cat, Tally thought.

“Where’s Chocolate?” she asked. 

Sarah shifted slightly. “She’s still with Jeff,” she said at last. Their downstairs neighbour. “I wasn’t sure….I read….” She didn’t finish the sentence. Didn’t have to. Tally had read too. 

“I think,” Tally replied, trying to project confidence, “I think as long as we stay on top of it….”

“Yeah,” Sarah said. “I’ll—I’ll message Jeff tomorrow. Let’s just—” She reached out, a little hesitant, and took Tally’s hand, drawing her inside and closing the door. 


People stared, of course they did, when Tally walked in through the glass door of the restaurant. At the hostess station, her coworker Callum jumped back a quarter step, then tried to act like he hadn’t.

“Hey,” said Tally.

“Hey,” said Callum, stepping backward again, scurrying to the bar to grab a surgical mask from the box beneath the till. “So you’re—Uh—”

“I didn’t want to come back,” Tally said, feeling a bit defensive. “They made me.” 

“Oh yeah, oh yeah,” Callum replied, voice a bit too high. “Jenny’s back too.” 

Jenny. The virus had hit her hard. Hard enough to make the papers. Subway Vamp Bites Three, Kills One. That had been eight months ago. The story probably wouldn’t get a front page spread today. If it bleeds it leads, Tally’s dad had said when she was still in her journalism internship. But that was before. Now, bleeding was too commonplace. 

Tally went to the back to collect her apron, moving clearly and deliberately. It was difficult, since infection, to move in ways that didn’t alarm the uninfected. There was a twitchiness to her now, a predatory speed. For the next hour and a half, she worked very hard to be friendly through her respirator, always keeping at least three feet away from Callum. When his shift ended, and Jenny came in, Tally sighed and loosened into herself. When the heavy door thunked shut behind Callum, Jenny turned to Tally and laughed, and Tally laughed too, neither of them saying anything. It was a relief, she realized, to be around another of her kind.


“How are you feeling?” Tally asked Sarah, laying next to her in bed. 

“Hungry,” Sarah replied. 

Hungry. Yes. Tally felt it too. Felt it always. Even when there was enough meat, even when she gorged herself on it, the hunger remained. A few weeks after being discharged, Tally had chanced a bite from a half-eaten Dairy Milk bar found tucked into the drawer of her desk. A remnant from before. She’d spat it out immediately, retching. It was like trying to eat a clod of earth. Worse: it was sour, rancid, every component separated from the others. Vegetable fats. Emulsifiers. Flavourings. 

“Yeah,” Tally said to Sarah, stroking her forehead with one finger, pushing back a curl from her temple. Sarah closed her eyes. Even in the blackout curtain dark of the room, Tally could see every detail of her lover’s face, down to the individual lashes. 

“Do you think,” Sarah said at last, plaintive, “do you think maybe you could—After work—”

“Yeah, I’ll try again,” Tally replied, already knowing the question. The shortages were getting worse. The last two times Tally had gone, there had been nothing, not even a mushed up pack of hamburger meat. She’d eventually resorted to buying two frozen meatlover’s pizzas, from which she had painstakingly removed the toppings, placing them in a bowl. 

“Chocolate needs to eat,” Sarah said. Tally extracted herself from the covers. In the kitchen, she poured kibble into Chocolate’s dish. Two days ago, she’d scooped a handful of the kibble into her own mouth, hoping that maybe—

It hadn’t worked, of course. Not enough meat in it. Not pure enough. She’d spat out the half-chewed sludge into her hand, wrapping it in a paper towel before disposing of it in the trash can. Embarrassing. She didn’t want Sarah to see. 

Now, she shook Chocolate’s bowl. Chocolate came running, but stopped short a few feet from her, ears back, tail low. Tally sighed, setting the bowl down and retreating to a safe distance. Chocolate approached cautiously and ate without ever taking her eyes off Tally. 

“Fair,” Tally said softly, trying not to let the ache inside her take up too much room. At least Chocolate still came to them sometimes at night, laying in the blanketed dark between their legs. 


Every week at their iron infusion appointment, Tally counted. The people in the waiting room, the people in the infusion chairs, the number of infected nurses. And there were a lot of those now, most no longer bothering to mask. 

“What’s the point these days?” one of them had said to Tally when she ventured to ask about it. “Everyone’s going to get it eventually. It’s endemic now, and at least it’s not severe anymore. Not like back when it started.” 

Yes, the start. That had been bad. No treatments, no one knowing what was happening. But still—

“What about reinfections though?” Tally had asked, keeping her voice unthreatening. “I heard—”

“Oh, that’s rare,” the nurse said, cutting her off. “And it’s usually milder anyway.”

Tally didn’t know about that one. Since her infection, she had joined several forums for infected people, as well as for people who had managed to avoid infection and were trying, with increasing desperation, to keep it that way. 

Look, said one poster, my mom was okay after her first infection, but after the second one, shit got really bad. After the first one, she was still herself, but after the second one—

Two weeks later, when Tally and Sarah arrived at the hospital for their infusions, they were greeted by a pink notice taped to a standing display sign at the entrance of the waiting room.

In response to new guidelines from Public Health Ontario, the sign began, the free iron infusion program will be shutting down effective March 21. For guidance going forward, please speak to your family doctor about

“Shutting down?” Sarah cried out, disbelief filling her face. “What do they mean, ‘shutting down’?” 

“March twenty-first?” asked Tally, equally incredulous. “But that’s two weeks from now. What—”

Googling the matter on Tally’s phone confirmed the sign. Improving health indicators, said the public health announcement, including a decrease in virus-involved assaults resulting in death or serious bodily harm, and improved public awareness of at-home treatment options, allows for the end of emergency orders related to—

Tally had to stop reading there. Her vision was blotting out and there was a light, dangerous feeling in her head, like hydrogen about to ignite. Careful Tally.


March 21st arrived quickly. Less than two weeks later, the first sores began to form; thick and scaly, mostly red, but with a yellow tinge to the crust that formed around the edges. They started on the extremities, but soon crept up the arms and legs toward the centre of the body. Within another month, they were forming on the face and neck as well. Tally covered hers with bandaids, and although mask requirements had been dropped along with the infusions, she dutifully continued to mask, at least in part to hide her face.

Sarah was having a harder time with the sores than Tally. 

“It’s fucking stupid,” she said one night, body shaking with sobs that could no longer produce tears, “I know I’m being fucking stupid, and vain, but—”

“I know,” Tally said. “I know, baby.” 

At least it’s not just us, Tally thought as she rode the bus to work. She shook her head sharply to dispel the thought. No, she told herself, no, that’s not good. None of this is okay.

At work, Emmett, the manager, greeted Tally with a gaunt smile. 

“There you are,” he said. “We’re just gonna have a team meeting in the kitchen before opening.”

In the kitchen, Tally looked around, taking in carefully the faces of her coworkers. 

They’re all infected, she realized with a start. How had she not noticed it happening? Even the cooks were infected, and one of them, Mike, had a sore on his cheek, its centre raw and wet. No one but Tally was masked.

“We’re gonna be pivoting our focus in the next few weeks,” Emmett said, when he was sure of everyone’s attention. “Got word from head office this morning. We’ll be changing up the menu to…better reflect the preferences of our clientele. That means cutting our vegetarian and vegan options and adding more raw meat dishes. Yes?” he asked, seeing Tally’s raised hand.

“Sorry,” Tally said, “Are you saying we’re going to serve—”

“Vampires, yes,” Emmett said. “With most people infected, at this point it just makes sense to—”

“But we’re not going to have any options for people who haven’t been infected?” Tally asked. “Isn’t that a bit—”

“It’s not like non-vamps are eating out much anyway,” Emmett said, and several of Tally’s coworkers snickered.

“Yeah,” snorted Mike, “More like getting eaten.” Everyone except Tally laughed. 

“Now,” said Emmett, raising a hand to quiet the team, “I know it might be tempting for you all, but no stealing. That includes scraps. You can use your employee discount for one meal per shift as usual. Anyone caught stealing will be fired. Is that clear? Good. Okay, so….”


It was painful, serving food from the New Menu. With every armful of plates, laden with thick flanks, delicate slices of breast, glistening flesh arranged tightly around an exposed nub of bone, Tally’s stomach tore at her esophagus. The New Menu was expensive. Even with her 40% discount and her tips, Tally couldn’t usually afford it. Occasionally, when she thought no one was looking, she risked slipping scraps from the plates she bussed into her apron pocket. Ate a bit in the washroom and brought the rest home to Sarah. 

Sarah. She was getting worse. She’d stopped going to work. Got fired. The sores were growing, spreading, taking over her body, her sweet brown face. And she was getting weaker. Spending more time in the safe darkness of their room. 

“I’m so hungry,” she told Tally one night. “I’m so hungry, I catch myself thinking….”

She wouldn’t finish the thought, even when Tally begged. 

At the restaurant, the clients were happy—even smug. 

“It’s so nice to be back to normal,” one woman said, reaching out to Tally with an arm strung with rubies. “Oh, are they still making you wear that?” she added, gesturing to Tally’s face. 

“No,” Tally said, pulling back to avoid contact. Something cold flashed across the woman’s face. The others at the table turned their heads in unison, all staring at Tally. 

“No, sorry,” she added, uncomfortably, “I just uh….” She left without finishing the sentence. What could she say? That she didn’t want another infection? That she felt bad for the uninfected people posting online, asking each other over and over why nothing was being done to protect them? That part of her, the stupidest fucking part of her, was still hoping for some kind of cure, and she wanted to hold onto as much of herself as possible until then? 

One night, working the hostess stand, a man in a mask came in for a delivery order. Before she could even process why, Tally’s mouth welled up with saliva. A hush fell across the tables nearest to the stand. The man shrank.

Oh, she realized. Oh no. 

“Order number?” she said aloud, pulling softly at her breath to keep it from escaping her too forcefully. Careful Tally

The man squeaked out the order, looking wearily around. It had been a long time, Tally realized, since she’d seen an uninfected person up close. He looked so warm, so bright, so smooth. She wanted to get close, breathe him in deeply, lick his throat, his chest, bite—

She handed him the order from the bar behind her. 

“Be safe out there,” she said, nodding slowly, furrowing her brow in warning. 

“I uh—Thanks,” the man mumbled, backing hurriedly out of the restaurant.


“Can I talk to you in my office for a minute?” Emmett asked one night. Nodding mutely, Tally followed him in and let him shut the door behind her.

“There’ve been some complaints,” Emmett told her, sitting down in his office chair with a thud. Tally stood uncomfortably in front of him. 

“Complaints?” she asked, when it became clear he was waiting for her to speak.

“Yes,” Emmett said, “From clients, mostly, about your mask. It’s…” he tapped his fingers, raw with lesions, on the desk, “it’s not very welcoming. Makes them feel like you don’t trust them, you understand?” 

“Um,” said Tally, “Okay. So are you saying….”

“Look,” said Emmett, “this isn’t from me. I don’t care personally, but you have to understand how it can be received. And in this industry….”

“Okay,” said Tally, “I get that. But I’d rather keep it on.”

“Why?” Emmett asked, and there was a flash of something sinister across his face. He covered it quickly with a smile. “You’re already a vampire. And it’s not like those things ever worked really. Otherwise you wouldn’t be one, would you?”

“Well,” said Tally, “There’s still, sorry…there’s still the possibility of reinfection though. I read a study recently, and it said every subsequent infection increases your risk of….”

“That’s just one theory,” Emmett said abruptly, and there it was again. Something flashing across his face—Or no, underneath it. Tally was aware, all at once, of the closed door behind her, their proximity, the way her legs had tensed involuntarily, preparing to run. Careful Tally

“No, yeah, totally,” she said, keeping her voice light. “I just, you know, I’d prefer to mask all the same.” 

Emmett stood abruptly. “Right,” he said. “I’ll have to speak to upper management. You can keep wearing that thing for now.” 

For now. For the rest of Tally’s shift, the words hung in the space behind her shoulders. She brought them home to Sarah on her back. 

“So you’ll quit, then,” Sarah said, her voice somewhere between asking and pleading.

“How?” Tally asked. Sarah couldn’t answer. They were barely making rent as it was, barely eating. The meat situation at the grocery store had not improved. Mostly, the news didn’t acknowledge what was happening at all. Not directly. The sensationalist headlines from the first few years about vampire attacks had all but disappeared. If it weren’t for the excess mortality stats that Tally checked weekly, and the forums she still frequented, she could almost believe that nothing was wrong. 

Two weeks after the conversation in Emmett’s office, word came from upper management. No more masks at Leggera. Good service, the new signs in the kitchen said, begins with a smile

Within a month, Tally got sick again, and Sarah with her. No hospital this time. No straps to hold them down. No iron, save the Ferrogluconate from Rexall. No meat, except the scraps that Tally had brought home in her apron. Just Tally and Sarah, alone together in the bedroom in the dark, door closed, furniture piled in front of it from inside. 

“We need to feed Chocolate,” Tally gargled out, three days in. Her lips were dry, her skin cracked and weeping. It hurt to move, even to lay still. And she was so terribly hungry.

“I can’t….” Sarah whispered. “I….”

“What?” Tally whispered back. 

“Do you think….Do you think we should let her go?”

“What?” asked Tally.

“Chocolate,” Sarah said, voice like a rake scraped over garden stones. “I think….” She paused for a long time. “I don’t think it’s safe anymore. For her. Here.” With us

“And it’s safe out there?” Tally replied, flinching at the sound of her own voice. “We’re not the only ones….And she’s been inside since she was a baby. She wouldn’t—”

“I know,” Sarah said. “I know, but Tally….”

“No,” Tally said. “No. I can feed her.” 

Tally got up forcefully, pushed the dresser, the desk, the chair, the disused lamp aside, and opened the bedroom door. 

Chocolate was nowhere in sight. Hiding. Tally got Chocolate’s dry food bag and shook it into her bowl. Then kept shaking. Let the food pile over the sides and spill onto the floor. At least someone in this house should eat


Somehow, they made it through. Tally emerged five days later, thinner, weaker, hungrier, but still alive. 

Going back to work was harder this time. The light was brighter, and her head spun whenever she turned it to the side. The new sores, which had taken over almost every bit of skin, didn’t heal. But this was normal now, she realized, looking at her coworkers, the guests. No one stared at her raw face, her cracked red hands. 

“We’re introducing a new menu option,” Emmett told them one night before the dinner rush. “It won’t be for another couple weeks, but we can start talking it up now. It’ll be called Soddisfazione.” He pronounced the word in an exaggerated Italian accent. “Satisfaction.”

“What kind of meat?” Tally asked. The thing under Emmett’s face rippled momentarily. Annoyance. Contempt. Danger.

Tally knew. She knew. But she had to hear it anyway. 

“What kind of meat?” she asked again.

“It’s legal,” Emmett said. “Health Canada has approved it, and it’s all donation-based, of course. Mostly from developing countries, so it’s not—”

“Not what?” Tally asked. The kitchen was silent. She could feel the eyes of everyone on her. Careful Tally. 

“We’re not doing anything that any other restaurant isn’t,” Emmett said. 

“That’s not the point,” Tally said, forcing herself to look Emmett in the eye. 

“Is there a problem?” he replied, staring back. 

Don’t blink. Tally could feel the discomfort building around her. In her peripheral vision, she saw, dimly, two waitresses giving each other a look. Oh, here she goes

“Yes,” Tally said. “Yes, there’s a problem. You want me to serve people to rich fucking assholes who destroyed anything resembling a public health response so they could dine out. And I won’t fucking do it.” Tally was shaking, every muscle in her body tensed, teeth bared, sores breaking further open on the backs of her clenched fists. Behind her, someone snickered.

“Well then,” Emmett said. His body was tense too, readying to pounce. “You’re free to leave. Have fun finding a job that caters to your morals.” He spat the last word out as if it tasted bad. Wordlessly, Tally tore her apron off and let it drop to the floor. A couple coworkers jeered at her as she left to grab her coat from the basement, but most just stood silently, watching. 

It was only after, storming down the street with her coat open, that Tally remembered the scraps of meat abandoned in her apron pocket. 

Fuck,” she hissed, but kept going, not looking back once. 


Finding a job proved as difficult as Emmett had suggested. Infected employers didn’t want to hire her because of her mask, and the few remaining employers who had not been infected yet didn’t want to hire a vampire, no matter how well she masked. 

“No, no!” one bookshop owner cried when he saw her in the doorway, resume in hand. She hesitated in the entrance and he threw a book weakly in her direction. It landed on the floor between them. Tally looked at the book, then at the man. He flinched backward. “Please,” he whimpered. “Please don’t.”  

Tally left, wanting to cry. Unable to. She couldn’t blame him. They’d both felt it: her hunger, her rage, tangible as a body in the space between them. 

Three months went by, and Tally and Sarah’s bank account dwindled down to nothing. Rent was due. They couldn’t pay it. Sarah was worse than ever. Her sores were deeper now, flesh eaten away, leaving holes. Every part of her was raw and open, and in her mouth, her gums had receded so much that the roots were fully exposed, looking like narrow pegs hammered into thin, dry soil. 

“I’ll have to unmask again,” Tally told Sarah when the first eviction notice came. “No one will hire me masked.”

She got a job at The Bay folding clothes for display. Smiled gumlessly at the gaunt, unmasked customers who browsed her section. Most of them smiled back.

“God, it’s so good to see smiles again,” one customer said, as if masks had been required until yesterday. 


“It’s all so bright today,” Tally said to the street. The words came to her unbidden, demanding to be spoken. It was early afternoon, so the street was mostly empty still. A few gaunt people here and there, wearing sunglasses. 

She was almost at work when Sarah called.

“I was feeling—And I took a test—” Sarah said, her voice sounding frayed. “It’s positive Tally—You have to come home right now—”

On the sidewalk by the mall doors, Tally stood frozen. 

“Tally?” Sarah said. “Baby? Are you—”

“Yes,” said Tally. “Yes. I’ll be—But I’ve got to hang up now. I—” She hung up without finishing. 

“Morning Tally,” said a cheerful voice behind her. Her manager, Meagan. Tally wheeled around.“I’ve got to go,” she said.

“What?” Meagan asked. “Go? But—”

“I’m sick.” 

“Oh, but couldn’t you just—We’re already down two today and—”

“I’ve got to go,” Tally said again, and walked stiffly, rapidly away.

By the time she got home, her nails had cut curved, bloodless wounds into her palms. She fumbled with the lock, hands too tense for dexterity. Finally opening the door, she slipped through and closed it in one jerky motion. 

“That was—But I did it. I made it.” At last, she let herself loosen. Let the hunger rise inside her. “Baby!” she called out, “Baby, I’m—”

Tally froze. Chocolate was standing in front of her, only a few feet out of reach, pupils blown wide, leaving nothing but darkness. Tally took a slow step forward, eyes fixed on the cat. Chocolate stepped back, fur on her tail fanning up. 

“Hey, Chocolate,” Tally murmured, trying to sound gentle. Failing. Her tongue was dry in her mouth. She took another step forward, boot falling softly on the hardwood floor. 

“Tally?” a voice called out. Tally wanted to look up. Found she couldn’t. She took another step forward. Chocolate stepped back. Another. Chocolate turned, began to run—

It was over before Tally could register that she was moving. She was standing, one foot before the other, in the entranceway. Then, she was crouched in the place where Chocolate had been. 

And Chocolate was no longer Chocolate. Just the body of a cat, dangling limply by its neck from her hand, its throat fragmented, splinters of bone encased in a narrow tube of sinew, skin, fur. 

Tally brought the throat to her mouth. Bit through. Tore. Sucked. When the fur got stuck in her teeth, she growled, and with one quick motion, tore a long strip from the body and spat it on the ground. Now, the viscera exposed, she could finally, properly eat

A hand reached out, grasping at her kill. She snarled, clutching the body to her chest.

“Please…” a voice said. Tally looked up to find Sarah crouching on the floor before her. 

“Please,” Sarah said again. “Please, Tally, I’m so hungry….” 

Tally stared at Sarah for a long time. Sarah stared back. At first, all that Tally could see in Sarah’s face was hunger. Gradually, more meaning came to her. Desperation. Longing. Horror. Grief. Tally looked down at last. Down to the blood on the floor between them. Down at Chocolate, desiccated, cradled in her arms.

There was a sound now, in the room. A rapid, uneven clicking. Teeth chattering. Her own. Then another sound. A low, rough noise, the kind only found at the bottom of a throat. Hers or Sarah’s? Perhaps both. 

She couldn’t look at Sarah now. Chocolate hung silently, her ribs visible and open. Tally lowered her to the floor between them and slowly, painfully, let go. 

Sarah’s hand reached out again. Hovered in the air. For a moment, Tally wasn’t sure if it was reaching for her or for Chocolate, but eventually the hand lowered. Caressed, briefly, Chocolate’s little head. Then, lowering further, it reached between the open ribs and tugged the heart free.