She kissed my neck and I felt my life slip away. Just a little bit, but enough to let me know who was boss.
Not that anyone knows, but if they were to ask me, I would have said that marrying a vampire slug beast was never really one of my life’s ambitions. I’d always kind of wanted to be a journalist – root out the truth behind stories, bring democracy to the people, uncover tiny, humanity-defining stories from life’s nooks and crannies and bring them to a wider audience – and perhaps be quite good at playing the guitar. Part of me always wanted to learn to bake, though I’d never admit it out loud if I thought anyone important could hear me. But giving my life to a vampire slug beast, and all that little sentence entailed, was always pretty low down the list.
You see, I didn’t know at the time. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I knew that I loved her, and I knew that I always wanted to be with her. I just didn’t know that once we got married, she’d metamorphose into a mutant alien and start to suck my blood. My mother always warned me to use protection, but I always thought she meant rubbers and stuff; the whole "carry a pistol because she might turn into a three-storey fang-toothed alien, with an unquenchable desire to sup on your soul" aspect had never really been brought up. Had it not been for the whole risk of death problem, I probably would have eventually let mom know, but that’s the way of things sometimes. Your parents can’t know everything, after all. Stolen kisses, sitting cross-legged and sharing bad joints in damp student dorms, boozy nights sat in bars, romantic entanglements with homicidal aliens you’ve been coerced into marrying. There’s a line.
At the time we met, she was called George. Short for Georgia, like the state, or the eastern European country. She had beautiful blue eyes and a smile to die for; the kind that would twinkle and somehow set butterflies shivering in your stomach. I’d spend hours just talking to her, and when I wasn’t with her, I’d spend hours thinking about talking to her. I was in love, alright, and it bothered me to no end. I wanted to be thinking about engineering, and economics; concentrating on my studies, getting out of college with a career and a future. But try as I might, all I could think of was my future with her.
After months of dilly-dallying and not really doing much of any real importance, I asked her out over a barbeque chicken pizza at Dan’s Deep Pan-Galactic ("You Outer Make Space For Our Pepperoni Combo"). She looked at me, those twinkling eyes ablaze like shooting stars, and her smile won me over like a tractor beam. From then on, we were inseparable: two peas in a pod. Or as my friend Arnold had it, usually between mouthfuls of beer at Fey’s Bar three blocks down, she was the peas and I was a ham. That may be, I always said, poking him in the belly with my index finger, but together we were a full, hearty meal.
The day we got married, the air was dreamlike and warm, but undercut with a breezy bite cool enough to remind me that this was real and happening. My grin was wide, but George’s was even wider; together we looked like a pair of cheeses, stood at the altar getting blessed by our statesman-like pasta, the earthly representative in a house of cod. Our marriage was a smorgasbord, I joked later, before George transmogrified at the end of our bed and started to suck the lifeforce from my arteries.
I suppose I first thought something was wrong when her parents failed to show. She was always talking about them: my daddy said this, ma said that, wasn’t it hysterical? But they didn’t come to the wedding. She said there had been something wrong with their travel arrangements, and they wouldn’t be able to join us until a couple of days after. I said that was sad, and maybe we should think about postponing the whole thing, because a marriage is almost as much for the family as it is for the couple concerned – but she waved me off, said it was fine. They’d come and we’d have a private little dinner party; the caterers and so on had already been booked, and it’d be a shame to waste all that money when we didn’t need to. So I agreed, not really giving it another thought, to be honest with you.
Pastor Rick gave a great sermon, and before long we’d had our first dance, the speeches and all the rest of it, and we’d made our way out of the hall where we’d organized the reception and found ourselves at home. She looked at me with those beautiful eyes of hers, smiled that smile which could disarm nations, and said to me, matter-of-fact: "there’s something I need to tell you."
This isn’t necessarily what you want to hear on your wedding night, was what I was thinking. But I gave her the benefit of the doubt and followed her upstairs anyway, by which time her smile had fallen into something more nervous than I’d seen her before. Whereas normally she was a summer day, a real, truthful ray of light, her face was cloudy. There was a storm brewing behind her eyes, and I could tell that if she didn’t tell me whatever it was she had to say right this second, it was going to tear her up inside.
"It’s okay," I whispered to her, as tenderly as I could manage. "Don’t worry. This is the happiest day of my life, and whatever it is that’s clouding you up, I’m going to stad by you regardless. What’s bothering you, George?"
She could barely talk. "I’m not who you think I am," she said, quietly.
"What do you mean?"
"My name isn’t George," she whispered.
"Aw, George – Jemima, Felicia, Mary-Ann, Chanelle, it doesn’t matter what your name is. I’m going to love you all the same."
"It’s Z’tardon Delta 9 Omni Omni Kwaht," she said.
"Well, my goodness," I said. "I can see why you call yourself George."
She smiled a little again, just at the corners of her mouth. "There’s something else."
I looked at her earnestly. "I can’t imagine anything that would make me love you any less," I said.
That was when she took my hand and, without saying anything more, led me into the bedroom. Quietly, she shut the door, and I could see immediately that something wasn’t right: her skin was turning an earthy sort of clay color, and it was like her skin was bulging at the seams, as if something was inflating her like a bouncy castle. She was getting taller, and wider, too; her clothes ripped and lay in shreds at her feet, which congealed into one. Her eyes melted and reset on stalks at the end of her head, and her mouth grew wider and full of the most incredibly pin-sharp teeth. It was as much as I could do to stand there and not wet myself, I can tell you.
"I am of the slug people of Grathon 4," she boomed at me.
I stood there by the bed, goggle-eyed. I don’t know what stopped me from running; I guess maybe it was the thought that underneath all that giant toothy slug, somewhere there was my George.
Unfortunately, then she bit me.
It was an odd sensation, like being gently suckled on by a sink disposal. I can’t say it was too pleasant the first time, although having done it at least a couple of thousand times since then, it gets better with practice. It’s just one of those things, I guess. It went on for an age – maybe half an hour, maybe more – and at the end of it she wiped her mouth with a sluggy tendril and exclaimed, "ahhhh, that’s better."
I would have run away then, had I not lost so much blood, and if another slug beast hadn’t crunched through our bedroom wall with its tendrils and eyestalks flailing, blood dripping from its mouth and a trail of slimy destruction behind it.
"Pa!" George exclaimed.
To be continued …