::It’s working so well, mijo.
“Well, two months of sticking myself with malaria every other week had better do something good for me!”
::Your metabolite health markers are so different, unrecognizable. No doctor would be able to deduce your mutant background. Without a genetic test, of course.
“Good to know.” Matteo squeezed the last bit out of a stolen blood bag into a flask.
::You’re going to have to get blood on a regular schedule from some place if you want to keep living. I recommend making unos cara-a-cara supply contacts. Be subtle, ask for access to hospital supplies, not access to blood. And I know you want to keep this up because all your porn viewing looks like Concha.
“I mean — yeah, you’re right.”
::Tu eres sinpatico. And you will live for a very long time. You now have all the time in the world to find Concha.
“That’s an excellent observation. I want her now, though,” he said.
Matteo spent the next few weeks collecting physicals and selling their data at Loteria. Among the friendly and unfriendly people in the crowds, he struggled to make connections and when weeks turned to months, he felt a growing seed of anxiety in his gut. Not only was he failing at getting blood and saving his own life, but Concha was proving extraordinarily difficult to run into, or LUFAW for that matter.
And then one day he came across a TI-83 memory card with an interesting bit of information on it:
18 yo m
Han shot first
No Mist, hmu via physicals
Followed by a grainy photo of his senior year picture.
Underneath that, he had caught two replies.
20 yo f
Must like vintage bball games, chicken-on-a-stick and Selenas ;)
Msg 4 free Mistss!!! No citizenship? No problemo! NOT A SCAM!!,! FOR YOU.
“Well, it worked. It took a while — but it worked!”
::You are a visionary. Como se dice en Ingles? Un “early adopter”?
“Well, I didn’t adopt message board communication. I resurrected it.” Matteo blushed with someone else’s blood in his cheeks.
::Que humilde! Sabes que? Tengo una idea. I know where you can get easy blood.
The 20 year old knew what she wanted to get out of Matteo before they’d even met. “I program for Mist. Yeah, I know, I know. You probably see me as the enemy.”
“And you probably see me as some kind of backwards anti-technology luddite,” said Matteo
“I don’t! You obviously know how to program. And I promise I won’t try to stick a tracker on you, ha ha. You know, I’m curious what kind of people are doing this physicals dating. I’m actually writing a blog about the culture, just to be upfront about things. But who knows, I might end up really digging you!” Half of her face was perpetually hidden by the waves of her long brown hair but a sly smile clearly visible and enticing.
“Oh, there’s more than just us doing this? Then I bet you they are the coolest people ever. I take it back. They’re unoriginal posers,” he said and smiled.
“I think it’s romantic. I mean, what is romantic anymore, right? Just a super short bio about yourself and just one photo, usually it’s not detailed ’cause it has to be under fifty megabytes since most old physicals can’t store much. It’s so different than Mistmatch, where everyone knows your contacts and where you went to school and everything. Takes the…”
“Mystery out of it,” he said.
“Yes, exactly. Hmm, sounds like a line to me, actually, ha ha. You’re much taller than I would’ve guessed,” she said.
::Her pupils are dilating. Es una buena senal.
Over the course of three drinks tempered over two cigarette breaks, she invited herself to his place. The setup seemed easy to Matteo. Getting the blood out of her body, on the other hand…
She lowered her head a bit to get in through the door. “I really thought you were joking, but wow, you do live in a mobile home, like a Winter Texan or something!”
Matteo was finding it difficult to position himself naturally around her in the small space. She sat in the kitchen, he on the living room couch, less than five feet between them.
“Well, it’s definitely efficient. I definitely save some Byte on a/c. Doing my part to save the planet, I like to think!”
“It’s almost like you’re an adventurer, too.”
::You’ve wasted so much time already on this one. And it’s only the first date! Do I need to remind you that you are dying? Muevate!
She looked so innocent. Matteo cleared his throat. “So, uh, I was thinking… you know where I can get some medical supplies? Or like, blood?”
::You are joking!
“What?” Silence. She stiffened and Matteo saw a tiny text window get pulled up on her Mistview. “No. I don’t. Hey, just remembered I have to get to the other side of town soon. I just got a text.” She looked around the trailer, anxiety on her eyebrows. “Can I… uh, use your bathroom, real quick?” Matteo wondered if she would write about this on her blog.
::She obviously pulled that text up herself. Que estas haciendo!
“Uh… yeah, sure. Hope you don’t mind miscellaneous lab equipment, heh,” he said.
She put her hand on his. “Can you wait outside until I come out?”
“Yes… Yeah, sure.”
She used the bathroom and got out as quickly as she was able.
“Well, see you around, then. Pleasure meeting you… or something,” he said as soon as she stepped past him, sounding like he had rehearsed it a hundred times in the span of the five minutes she took to pee.
“Yeah, sure,” she said, whizzing by him in the direction of her car.
Alone again, he took stock of his face in the bathroom mirror. Not a day over twenty, he thought while brushing his teeth. It’d been a week since his last injection. Without new blood, would he would he start to age normally from a more youthful starting point? Or would he age rapidly, his body making up for lost time quickly, wrinkly blood ripping through a crumbling frame?
::Maybe you wouldn’t have to worry about aging if you had the balls to do something back there. I’ll give you a hint, though, you can get a few microliters of red blood cells if you hurry. It’s enough.
::From the trashcan.
::She left a tampon — pero tienes que apresurarse.
Matteo willed himself to make good eye contact with the woman on the walk to the bar. “And I’ll tell you, my good friend, who inspired me to apply myself to science, you know, showed me I’d been wrong about the best part of it all. It wasn’t discovering new curiosities and facts about living things. It was bending the laws, controlling them, you know, for the hell of it.”
“Interesting way to introduce yourself. Hi, I’m Maria,” she said.
“You’re kinda odd, aren’t you? We did meet on physicals after all. What should I have expected,” she smiled, holding back laughter.
“Yes, well. Anyway, this elixir I invented, it can extend your life. I just don’t know what to call it yet… What was your name again?”
“Maria. It’s ok — I’m nervous, too,” she said.
“Maria, how could I forget? It’s so easy to get caught up in avatar names. I like the sound of Maria. And how old are you?”
“Twenty-three. I’m also five foot nothin’ and if you want I can get you a verified scan of my Mist ID.” She had spunk.
“Don’t need it. What if I told you I was ten years older than you?”
“Oh! You look much younger…” she said.
“Hearing that never gets old, let me tell you, heh heh.”
“You don’t look at day over a hundred. I promise. And I have young eyes, still.”
“Ha, ha. Very funny. I am, though — ten years older.”
“Yeah, ok. I get it. I mean, I did see the ‘created on’ date on your bio’s metadata.”
Matteo quieted, unsure about what to say next.
“And I did the math…” she said.
“Well geez, what do you wanna hear? I think we look fine together on this first date! Has it been awhile since you’ve met a woman? Nobody is going to judge a ten years difference, anyway.”
They walked through a grassy field towards the blue building. The sun was finally set.
“Franky’s? You’re taking me to Franky’s! Oh my god, I have so many embarrassing stories at this place! Ok, maybe not so many. Like one. They don’t check your age here at all. Here I was starting to second guess going out with a stranger. You literally just made up for that introduction, ha ha.”
“Oh? I know exactly what you mean. Too many things have happened here I would prefer to keep secret,” he said.
“That one time, I threw up into a — ”
And he draped her over his arm, and stabbed her with a tranquilizer. He lowered her limp body into the overgrown grass. Her carotid artery visibly pulsed. He stole about a quart of blood before putting a small butterfly bandage on the nick.
Matteo whispered, “I feel so bad, almost.”
::Dejame decirte. If you found this girl laying here, sick, and she needed your blood and you had healthy blood, would you give her some?
::Ok and why are you so sure that you would? It’s porque eres una buena persona.
::If you didn’t take her blood, it would be like saying she would not help you if she found you sick, lying there in a field. It would be like calling her a bad person.
“Heh, yeah. I guess you are right, as always.”
He stood, straightening his shoulders and left Maria laying the field.
Matteo’s face blazed orange and shadow as the LED on his vape responded to his suction.
“Sorry, bad habit. You don’t know me, but I was short of breath my whole life, at least when I was younger,” he said.
“Oh, American Spirits brand vape oil. Those are like good for you, right?” his date asked, vacant.
“Ha, ha… maybe! Doctor says I’ve made some kind of recovery, so, you know, thought I’d give this a try. You only live once!”
“Totally. It’s so good to see they’re doing something, you know?” She spoke with a sense of charity.
“The Indians, duh!”
::Remember when you felt guilty about this? Que chulo. La sangre de estas necias is better off in your veins.
And a few drinks later, she said, “How is a strapping young man like yourself not single?”
“I don’t meet anyone worth being crazy over, I guess,” he said.
“You’re funny.” She prodded the center of his chest with one finger.
“Do you hear yourself? You want someone to be crazy about? To be crazy? That’s crazy!”
His expression relaxed. “Heh. You know what? You’re right.”
Twenty minutes of empty conversation later led them back to his trailer. And as he drew a hunters knife instead of whiskey from his mini liquor cabinet, he said, “I guess we’re all a little crazy.”
“Nervous? You shouldn’t be.” She had a way of gazing that demanded his attention.
“Do I seem nervous? No. I don’t know. I’ve been on many of these things that didn’t end well. Well, not that many,” Matteo said and coughed into his sleeve.
“Oh, I’m sure they’re not all bad. I’m sitting here with an open mind, taking you in. So far you don’t seem like a killer, at least! That puts you leagues ahead of my ex,” she said.
“Oh, another killer? Maybe I know him.”
“NOT funny, guy!”
Behind the trees, from the direction on the other side of the zoo, a trolley bell rang. He felt himself say something. A rehearsed line that was probably older than the girl, the woman he was walking next to. Or he could’ve been nodding along. It was getting harder to tell.
“Cool. So tell me about yourself… you have family here?” He was sure he said.
“What? Why? What did I…”
A wide set stare from beneath golden bangs. The kind that would’ve crushed him twenty years ago, before he was really a man.
“Well what else do you expect me to say? Am I this out of touch. I’m so old. I’m from like, another era,” he said. “You knew what you were getting into.”
“Unbelievable. You know more and more people come from tubes — ”
He’d said something about cloning, hadn’t he? “Jesus! I didn’t know! Your generation is so difficult.”
::I told you to stop giving your opinion on clones!
“Yeah, and that’s part of the problem, asshole. I can’t even, you know, if I need sex, I will convince myself someone is alright until I no longer want any, but wow I am not this desperate to fulfill my old dude kink. Thank christ I didn’t delete Mistmatch, there’s still 6 hours left on this Friday night.” She turned off the pathway.
“Well… nice to meet you, too. BYE!”
“I don’t owe you a bye, either!”
He let her walk for several steps, then chased after her, grabbing her by the wrist, and ducked them both behind the chimpanzee cages.
This one was not used to being so much as tapped on the shoulder. Or asked what her problem was. Nope not used to that one bit, or anything more pressing. The chimps shrieked and jumped. Matteo licked a small bit of blood off of his old hunting blade. Blondes were a consistent favorite.
::You’re bleeding too many. You will get caught.
He found himself transfixed by the way her white skin lightened playing out to the quieting of her pulsing blood across different parts of her body.
::Estas escuchando? You’ve killed so many girls in the same city for decades. And now you’re \ — there are four dozen people within a 200 foot radius in this zoo! The current NOW says the Rangers suspect you’re a group of predators. And I haven’t had the heart to tell you, pero, well, you’ve had to have noticed it’s getting harder and harder to find women? There aren’t many that are so easy to… get… estos dias.
“Ok, ok, yah! What are my options here?”
::Don’t add to that body count. There’s a really simple way. Bleed one… no mas uno, for more.
“This is my ninetieth kill only. Even if I bleed them to death and keep all the blood I can get it only gives me an extra week or so. Blood goes bad fast.”
::It’s more than ninety, mentiroso, way more. And that’s not what I mean.
“Oh… I keep her alive. Of course!”