Groaning, Drew pressed the heel of his palm into his eye socket. A sensation akin to having someone grope around inside his skull had awakened him. With unfocused eyes, he glanced around the room.
The dresser, the drapes, the nightstand—all of it seemed ordinary and exactly as he had expected it to look since he’d moved into his apartment. However, one thing stood out in his mind: that nothing stood out in his mind.
He had no memories of the previous night. Clutching his head, he tried to recall even the slightest detail in vain, and after untangling himself from his bedsheets, he realized that his person was just as blank as his mind.
Glancing around his room, he tried to recall where his clothes had gone, but that memory, too, was missing.
With a grunt, Drew slid his legs over the side of the bed, stretching them until he felt the coldness of the hardwood on his soles. He wrapped an arm around himself as he headed to the bathroom, rubbing his shoulder for warmth as the chilly air assaulted his bare skin. Hardwood transitioned to tile, and he flipped on the light. The illumination revealed a pair of dark brown eyes staring at him from the mirror. The blackness smeared around them made the bags beneath them even darker. He touched his hair—it was mussed and tangled—then his lips. Still sticky with gloss, they were split and bloodied.
Brow creasing, he, again, scrabbled at the darkest recesses of his mind for even a fragment of an explanation, but he found only a murky haze that suffocated his memories, barring them from being dredged to the surface. His fingertips trailed down his neck until a smudge of red caught his eye. Hesitant, he leaned closer to his reflection, tentatively stroking the dried liquid on his skin. Daring to scratch some off, he pulled his hand back to find a ruddy crust beneath his fingernails.
Breath catching in his throat, he took a step back. The distance revealed more red, the splatters painting his chest appearing in the mirror.
“What the fuck?”
A jaunty chiptune sounded from the bedroom, and he leaned into the doorway, peering in the direction of the noise. He knew exactly who was calling; he received the same call daily around the same time. Retrieving his cellphone, he returned to the mirror to answer it, tapping the screen with a trembling finger.
“Hey,” he stammered, fixating again on the rivulets of blood. “What’s up?”
The tearful voice of someone saved in his contacts as “Bae” with two hearts and a kissing emoji replied, “Sammy’s dead.”
“What?” The sobbing in his ear made him freeze. “What happened?”
“I don’t know,” Uriah whimpered. “I put food in his bowl like I always do, but he never showed up to eat, and I went out looking for him and found him in the backyard.”
His own heart felt heavy with the news despite that the calico cat was never his own. “You don’t have any idea what happened?”
“Well…” Uriah sniffled, taking a deep, quivering breath. “There was this huge dog roaming the neighborhood last night. Honestly, it looked like a wolf. But I-I thought it was gone when I let him out.”
“Oh, sweetheart. I’m so sorry.” He shook his head, brow knitted tightly.
“I mean, it was still dark out, but he never even leaves the backyard. I thought it was safe.”
“It’s not your fault,” he insisted, voice a soothing coo. “I’ll come down in a little while. Do you want anything to eat?” He decided to shelve the mystery of the bloodstains on his skin and focus, instead, on cleaning it off so he could go visit his grieving boyfriend.
“Okay. Well, I’ll get ready and be there in, like, an hour, okay?” He licked his lips, cringing at the taste of something foul in his mouth.
He leaned close enough to his reflection that he was nearly kissing himself. “Just get some rest, okay?” His tongue traced something foreign, and he pulled back his lip to investigate.
“I’ll try. This just really fucking sucks. I had that cat for nine years.”
Drew was about to offer him more consolations, promise him that he would be there soon, but his every muscle stiffened at what he found in his mouth: a tuft of black and orange fur wedged between his teeth.
Images and sounds flooded his mind, of blood and viscera and the squeals of a helpless animal. He keenly remembered feeling hunger then delight, and excitement as fresh meat rolled across his tongue and into his gullet. The disgust and fear that overwhelmed him made his head swim and breaths shallow. Chills skittered up his spine like tiny spiders as his bulging eyes peered a thousand miles into an imaginary distance.
“Drew?” Uriah’s concerned voice brought him back. “Are you okay?”
“U-Um, yeah, I’m fine,” he blurted, stumbling over his words. “I just remembered I left something in the oven. Gotta go.”
“Drew? What?” he replied, but the other end of the line went dead. Uriah pulled the phone back, gawking at the screen. His puzzled expression remained even after he tucked his phone back into his pocket. A distinct memory surfaced in the forefront of his mind.
One month prior, as the leaves were changing and the air becoming cold, Drew had made him a birthday cake. Or, more accurately, he had tried to make him a birthday cake. He had failed to follow the directions on the box, and the middle of the cake collapsed in the oven. Drew actually asked Uriah for help in salvaging his own birthday cake once he’d arrived for what was supposed to be a surprise party. That was the first time, Drew told him, that he’d ever attempted to bake anything on his own. With the way his trash was always filled with fast-food wrappers, Uriah had no doubt as to the truth of that declaration.
“When does he ever cook?” Uriah mumbled, eyeing the air in front of himself suspiciously as if someone just as befuddled were standing there.
A little over an hour later, there was a knock at the door. Uriah pushed eagerly up from the sofa to answer it. Drew greeted him but was clearly distracted, eyes shifting up and down Uriah’s form. His lack of a skirt and other frilly things clearly betrayed Uriah’s dreary mood, but something else seemed to have Drew disconcerted. As he stepped into Uriah’s apartment, his freckled face lost even more color.
“How’s your day going?” Uriah asked, failing to hide the concern in his voice.
“It’s fine.” Drew offered a few jerky nods, which were vaguely directed toward Uriah, as he moved over to the sofa. However, he didn’t immediately sit. Something beyond the window, in the backyard, caught his attention, and he kept wringing his hands.
“Are you sure?” He padded over and plopped down next to the seat he expected Drew to take. “You look kind of distracted.”
Drew shook his head and sunk into the faux suede cushions. “I’m okay. I’m just… sad about Sammy.”
Uriah might have noticed how guilty Drew sounded if it weren’t for the reaction hearing his beloved pet’s name evoked. He wiped at his eyes and nodded, lips trembling. He felt the cushions shift, and Drew’s arm was around him a second later, pulling him against his side.
“I’m so sorry,” the redhead murmured, genuinely apologetic despite the stiffness in his gesture.
“It’s not your fault.”
Drew fell silent as death, and Uriah squeezed him until his tears dried and he could steady his voice, having swallowed the lump in his throat.
“Do you want something to eat?” he asked, trying to change the subject.
Drew shook his head. “No, um, I’m full. I just ate.” He looked like he wanted to vomit.
“Oh? You said you forgot something in the oven?”
“Yeah.” Drew waved his hands as if trying to fan that topic away from himself.
“What was it?” Uriah pressed, hiding his skepticism behind a familiar curiosity.
“Just a casserole. It was, like, turkey and green beans or something.”
He didn’t know what kind of casserole he’d made?
“Oh. Sounds good.”
Drew nodded, sighing a second later. “Sorry, I should have brought you some food. It’s just been one of those days.” He shook his head.
“I understand. Plus, I said I didn’t want anything anyway.”
After that, the room became unusually quiet. Drew wasn’t talkative to begin with, but they normally found something to chat about. Uriah wasn’t uncomfortable with silence, and found a movie for them to watch instead. Nevertheless, he couldn’t ignore Drew’s lack of interest. It was as if he wasn’t even in the same room, on the same couch.
The idea that Drew would be that upset over Sammy’s death simply wasn’t plausible, especially because he didn’t seem that upset. He was unsettled by something, but it wasn’t loss. It felt like he wanted to tell him something but couldn’t bring himself to speak.
Somehow, he still managed to find Drew’s presence comforting and soon dozed off on his shoulder. When he woke, Drew had shifted so that Uriah’s head was on his lap. Normally, they both snoozed together, but whatever was eating at Drew, Uriah noticed when he woke several hours later, had prevented him from napping.
“What time is it?”
“About 6:30,” Drew replied.
Uriah rubbed his eyes, feeling that he was forgetting something. The werewolf that howled from the old movie on the television reminded him.
“I need to go take pictures of the moon.” For his blog.
“It’s full tonight.”
The air became tense. Drew froze, dead silent for long enough that it would have stood out in Uriah’s mind had it not been so addled by sleep at the time.
“I thought that was last night?”
“Well, it’s technically full for three days in the cycle, but tonight is the actual full moon,” Uriah explained.
Drew’s eyes darted to the window. The sun was beginning to set, painting the sky a warmly-colored farewell. As soon as Uriah was off his lap, he jumped up from the couch, wringing his hands again and fixating on the door. Initially, Uriah didn’t pay him much mind. Drew could be very timid. However, the darker it became, the more Drew seemed to struggle within himself.
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah. I’m fine. I just think I need to get going now.” He let out a sharp sigh.
“Really? You’re not staying the night?” Uriah’s eyes looked hopeful, almost pleading for Drew to change his mind.
“Well, I have to get up early for work, and I’m sure you don’t want me waking you up.” He side-stepped around the coffee table, Uriah the only thing between him and the door.
However, Uriah moved with him. “I really don’t mind.” It wouldn’t be the first time Drew had slept over when he had work the next morning.
“I didn’t bring any clothes though, so…”
Uriah concealed his disappointment, but it was more overshadowed by concern. Drew moved past him to the door, slipping into his shoes. Uriah tried to glue himself in place, but he turned on his heels with a huff.
“I feel like something’s wrong. Please just talk to me,” he begged.
“Really, nothing’s wrong. I just have some things to do before bed.”
“I can tell you’re lying.”
Drew said nothing, head hanging in shame. He twisted the doorknob, but Uriah caught his hand before he could step outside.
“You know you can tell me anything,” Uriah reminded him, but Drew didn’t turn around. He intended to say next, “I’m worried about you,” but the syllables choked off in his throat. Drew’s fingers became a set of claws, digging into the meat of his palm.