Thursday, 31 October 2013


At times of stress, I've had a tendency towards nosebleeds. Sometimes, I'm immediately aware of it, when the pressure behind my sinus builds until it feels like it pops and drains, and the red warmth spreads down from my nostrils. Other times, I'm not even aware of it until I feel the coppery, tangy taste on my lips, glance down and see the tell-tale drops on my shirt or my shoes or the floor.

The worst one was the day our daughter died.

Months old, lying in the cot, and I was woken by my husband's screams. I remember opening my eyes, and I remember standing with him by the cot, but I don't remember actually getting out of bed. I only remember standing there with him, looking down at her, and registering somewhere in the base of my skull that I was barefoot.

I hate being barefoot. I always have. Usually, when I get up, I plant my feet into a pair of slippers, and I obviously hadn't done that. The screams had made me move with a primal urgency, but when I got there, when I stood there with him looking down, my brain wanted to think about something else rather than admit what I could plainly see.

She lay still, her eyes unfocused and staring without seeing. My husband was crying, and touching her hand.

"She's cold," he said, and then he wrapped his arms around me and squeezed me so hard that it hurt. "I'm sorry, Annie. I'm sorry. I'm sorry."

I wanted to push him away from me and hit him and hurt him and blame him, but I couldn't do that because it wasn't his fault and it was hurting him as much as it was hurting me. I just wanted someone to blame. But I let him hold me. For a short while, and then I made him let go so I could touch her and hold her for myself.

Her skin being cold felt wrong, but the lack of any movement felt more so. My fingers pressed into her side as I lifted her and it felt like I was handling a large piece of meat rather than my daughter.

As I held her against me, I didn't feel the pressure popping. I didn't even notice the wetness spreading down my face, as it was mixed with tears of anger and sorrow.

"Annie!" My husband shouted, and I looked down and realised that the blood had poured over her face and babygro, making it look like an obscene blessing. I put her back in the cot, as quickly as I could.

"I'm sorry", I said, cupping my hands to my nose. "I didn't know." I fled to the bathroom to clean up, and the main thing I could think of was how much I hated being in bare feet, the cold lino against my skin.

As I washed, I heard him shout again, and ran back, blood and water still down my front.

"She's... she's..."

Her mouth was opening and closing, as she fed on the blood. Her eyes were moving, and as we watched we could see her skin grow warmer.

We just watched for a few minutes. Neither of us moved. I could feel the cold bloody water on the front of my pyjama top.

"We can't tell anyone," I said.

He looked at me and, after a moment, nodded.

We soon learned that she wouldn't eat anything else other than blood. We tried other options. We tried blood from animals (sourced from the local butcher), but she wouldn't go near it. We heated it up, and that almost worked - she accepted it, but couldn't keep it down, vomiting up a lot of creamy blood.

It needed to be human, and it needed to be fresh.

For a while, we took turns. We bought razor blades, and kept them carefully sterilized. We would cut our arms once a day, and drip feed the blood into her mouth. He took mornings. I took evenings. Sometimes, she would gurgle happily while she drank it. Other times, she would accept it grumpily. It depended how hungry she was.

But after she fed, those hungry small little eyes would look sated and sleepy.

We took to wearing bandages on our arms, covered up with long sleeves. The skin became a little weaker and would break more easily, so we had to be careful otherwise people would see the blood seeping into our clothing.

After a while, I took to using the razor blades to slice the skin just above my nipple. I had to do it deeply in order to produce enough blood, but it also felt a little like she was latching on and feeding normally, and for just a little while, I was able to feel like a proper mother. I would watch her scrunch up her eyes and concentrate on suckling.

Changing her should have felt more grotesque than it was. The thick, clumped blood that she excreted was messy, but (as with all emissions at that age) it felt more like an extension of our own bodies, so we just quietly got on with it.

It exhausted both of us. It took quite an amount of blood each time to sate her, but she was healthy and comfortable, and that was the most important thing.

It wasn’t long until she started teething, which was obviously painful, but it did, at least, make her gums bleed sometimes, which appeared to be something that let her ignore the pain at times and stop crying.

But it was when she moved onto solids that things became difficult. Her teeth had grown in enough for her to clamp down and bite, and it was with a sense of wanting to feel her close to me again that I sliced the skin above my nipple (easily gouging into it enough for blood to flow now – fresh scar tissue is thin and tears easily). She clamped and bit and slowly tore, and it took all of my love not to ball my hand into a fist and punch her to try to get her off me.

When she finally let go, and thankfully with not that much flesh torn off my breast, she swallowed and then laughed happily. I held her and patted her back as she brought up a little bit of blood. Thankfully, no flesh came along with it. It was the first solid thing that she kept down.

I performed first aid on myself, and my husband stitched the skin back together when he got home. It hurt and I cried and I swore.

We tried meat, and we tried everything we could think of, but she either wouldn’t eat it or (in the case of raw pork heated in the microwave), she wouldn’t keep it down. We were reduced to drip feeding her again, but she was getting angrier and more hungry.

My husband talked of cutting fine slices from his leg, but I pointed out that she was only going to need more. He wouldn’t be able to heal fast enough, and I wasn’t prepared to lose anyone in this family in order to keep another part of it alive.

We drove around the streets of our city, in the early hours of the morning, looking for the homeless. We didn’t look too much in the centre, from fear of hidden cameras. Instead, we looked for those who sought privacy themselves.

The first was a young man, drunk and high and asleep on a park bench covered with a blanket. He looked thin and gaunt, and we were able to carry him to the car with the promise of taking him for some food. When we got him to the house, we took him to the cellar and we killed him there, and cut a large strip from his thigh. Almost panicking, my husband held the warm, bloody meat to our daughter’s mouth, and she carefully ate it and we held her and we told her what a good girl she was and we cried out of relief. We had enough from him to last her weeks.

Or so we thought. Actually, after two days, she wouldn’t eat it any more. We managed to get her to eat a little more by heating it, but after another day, she couldn’t keep it down any more. It had to be fresh.

We became ghouls, tracking down the homeless and abducting them, taking them to our cellar and keeping them drugged and gagged as we crucified them against the wall. We would give them enough food and drink to keep them alive, and we would do our best to keep them clean, even though there was so much blood, so much more than we ever thought could fit in a person. Once, our daughter sat underneath the stream and played. It was the happiest we had ever seen her.

We could keep them alive for weeks as we carved as much flesh off them as possible to feed her. Men and women. Old and young. Sometimes younger than we imagined. Runaways and homeless.

But she fed and she grew stronger, and, given a break from being the sole source of her blood, we grew slowly stronger as well.

She’s been crawling recently, and beginning to make words. We have gates against the stairs and anywhere where we might sleep. But we are scared of what could happen when she grows old enough to totter and move quickly. She looks at us greedily, and it is frightening to be looked at by someone you love so much as they balance their love and their instinct. We are beginning to be scared of sleeping, and for now, we do it in shifts, but we won’t be able to do this forever.

I’ve been ill recently, and it took me over a month before I realised that I hadn’t checked my cycle. I’ve never not thought about it before. I don’t even remember the last time my husband and I had sex. We have had, but it happens as instinct rather than love, and sometimes I’m not fully awake. It doesn’t happen often, but it happens.

And now I know I’m pregnant again. It’s too early to feel it, I know that. But I imagine that I can. I can imagine it inside me, growing and feeding from me.

And it is hungry.

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