The Vampire Facial Horror Short Fiction By Anna Fitzgerald Healy

The Vampire Facial: Horror Short Fiction By Anna Fitzgerald Healy

Anna Fitzgerald Healy, author of The Vampire Facial, works in fine art. Her writing has been featured in or is upcoming from the Hoxie Gorge Review, The Centifictionist, and Brigids Gate Press. Anna lives in Los Angeles in a decrepit castle and is currently working on her first novel.

*****

I wake up and brush my hair. Put on some makeup. Pull on my new leggings with “butt-lifting technology.” Take a selfie for my admirers. Stumble into the living room and collapse onto the sofa. Turn on the television. Draw the first vial of blood. Grin at the host of well-wishes and flattery from my following. Faint.

Walk unsteadily to the refrigerator, grabbing onto the bookshelf, table, and kitchen island as I go. Open the door and frown at the untouched sushi, Thai, and Indian takeout, then opt for a kombucha and some crackers instead. I will eat something substantial tomorrow. Careen back to the couch. Drink half of the kombucha while trying not to gag. Turn on the television. Wave weakly at my assistant when she comes in to take the first tube of blood. Order some platinum-infused night cream. Draw the second vial. Pass out again.

When I wake up, my television is a single point of brightness in the dark abyss of my apartment. The days pass so quickly at this time of year, it seems only an instant before everything fades to black. There is a movie on the television screen featuring a vapid ingenue and a man with dark red lips who (I assume) wants to suck her blood. The vampire is pale and perfect, just like me.

There was a time when I could walk down the sidewalk, and no one would give me a second look.

What is a vampire? A person with a neck fetish and pointy teeth? A creature that feasts on others? But aren’t we all parasites in our own way? I get a rush of endorphins from each like on TikTok, you might require frequent praise at work, and she might crave constant attention from her boyfriend. We are all nourished by our engagement with others. Many of us have someone who feeds us and, in turn, someone who is fed.

There was a time when I could walk down the sidewalk, and no one would give me a second look. When I could spend months working up the courage to speak to my crush in the elevator, only to have him blink and frown as if he’d heard a whining piece of machinery. At the art gallery where I worked, my blank expression blended in with our bare white walls.

At my apartment, I faded into the scenery as well, becoming one with my cream-colored sofa as I drank pale yellow wine. The only thing about me that wasn’t inoffensive and off-white were the shows that I watched on television. I loved movies about monsters because they knew the loneliness of a Friday night and the terror of having no plans on New Year’s Eve. They understood isolation and rejection. Their stories threw a splash of color into my solitary, beige existence.

But my color palette changed forever when the cosmetic surgeon walked into my life. His Crocs squeaked across the varnished floors as he gazed uncertainly at the pop art and abstract expressionism lining our walls. His teal scrubs and bewildered expression looked out of place in such pretentious surroundings. “My wife sent me to pick up a painting for her,” he explained.

“Thank you for your work,” I said as I rang him up. “I admire people in the medical profession. You are an everyday hero.”

“I’m not that kind of doctor,” he replied with embarrassment. “I’m an aesthetic surgeon.”

As I wrapped up the canvas in bubble wrap and brown paper, the surgeon showed me the Instagram account for his clinic. He scrolled through an impressive array of surgically enhanced breasts, buttocks, and hymens. The photos featured bouncy cheekbones, cute noses, and pinned earlobes (which I hadn’t even known was a thing). Then he set down his phone and gazed at me.

“You could almost be beautiful,” he said, gazing at me with surprise. And that “almost” echoed in the air around us: unkind, unwitting, and unforgettable. That word had haunted me my entire life, trembling silently as it waited for someone rude enough to speak it out loud.

“Guilty as charged,” I replied with a sad smile as I tied twine around his purchase.

The surgeon reached out wonderingly to stroke my face. His fingers traced a wrinkle across my forehead and then dove down to caress the crow’s feet at the corners of my eyes. His fingers were thoughtful and inquisitive; it was as if he were blind, and my face was covered in braille. My skin preened under his touch. “You could wait a year on Botox, but you need to start generating new growth now. You need a vampire facial,” he said judiciously, then dropped his business card on my desk. He scooped up the painting and strode outside.

That night I examined my face, frowning at wrinkles I hadn’t known were there. What was a vampire facial, and did I really need one? I turned away from the mirror, poured a glass of pinot grigio, and turned on a vampire movie for “research.”

There was an aggressive minimalism to the white Barcelona chairs and clear glass coffee tables of the Atlantis Cosmetic Surgery. The clinic was fresh and pristine as if it had come straight from the factory and were still sealed in plastic. The painting from my gallery was the one dash of color in the monochrome interior. It was your classic Jackson Pollock knock-off, with gory splotches of red, rust, and mauve that looked like a splatter of blood across the ivory wall.

A woman in a tight black dress, corset, and tottering heels showed me to the examination room. Her face had an ageless quality that made my skin crawl. “Thank you for selling my husband that painting,” she said, motioning for me to sit down. “He doesn’t understand the finer things in life.”

“We will start with the collection of blood, then my assistant will begin micro-needling,” the surgeon intoned as he breezed into the room. “I will use a centrifuge machine to isolate the platelets in your blood, activating them to form a rich plasma extract. Then we will infuse your face with the PRP concentration through reneedling the skin. You may experience slight redness and irritation, but come tomorrow, your face will look like a million dollars.”

“So you’re going to puncture my face and smear it with my own blood?” I clarified.

“Yes,” he beamed. “Exactly.”

“What is your blood type?” the wife asked as she tied a band around my upper arm.

“My mom said that it’s RH-negative. Is that even a thing? I’m sorry, is something wrong?” I asked, the “assistant” had gone pale. “That’s not even a blood type, is it?”

“Oh no, something is right,” she shivered with relish. The sting of rubbing alcohol against the inside of my elbow, followed by the imperceptible pinch as she slid a needle into my vein. “RH-negative blood is extremely rare, only about fifty people in the world have it. It lacks all of the antigens in the RH system, making it a universal donor.

They call it ‘golden blood’ because it is actually worth its weight in gold.” We silently watched the first glass tube fill up with my ‘golden’ blood, then she pinched it off and inserted a second. Her husband came in to collect the blood samples, and she began micro-needling, stabbing my face over and over with infinitesimal pinpricks. I tried to convince myself that this was luxurious. I was being pampered right now. I almost believed it.

At the coffee shop the next morning, the barista did a double-take. “I’m sorry, but are you ten times more attractive than you were yesterday?” he asked. “Am I losing my mind? You are the same girl who comes in here every day, aren’t you?”

The next day I received a call from the surgeon. “I’m just checking to see how you’re doing,” he said. His tone was pleasant, but there was a slight edge to his voice.

“Am I losing my mind? You are the same girl who comes in here every day, aren’t you?”

“So far, so good,” I replied, examining my face in a hand mirror under my desk. I’d been hypnotized by my own reflection for the past 24-hours. There was nothing “almost” about my beauty anymore—it was as if a flower bud sleeping inside of me had finally blossomed.

“I’m not sure if I should tell you this,” the surgeon coughed uncomfortably, “but your blood type is rather uncommon, and your plasma has unusual properties. It doesn’t just generate new growth, it reverses the aging process. Your platelets remove twenty years of eye-bags. They erase scars, lift cheekbones, and tighten jowls. Your blood is like natural fillers.”

“But how could you know that?” I looked around the gallery uneasily, as if the surgeon might be hiding in a corner, spying on me. “You haven’t seen me since our treatment.”

“My assistant may have withdrawn a little extra blood . . . just in case there were any issues with the centrifuge machine, you understand,” he stammered, then hung up.

I put down the phone and gazed at my startled, flawless face. So the surgeon had smeared my blood across his wife’s skin and determined that I was human Botox. I guess that was a compliment?

My social calendar went from non-existent to overflowing within the space of three weeks. My elevator-crush asked me out, the VIP clients from my art gallery suggested we grab drinks, and a clique of girls who had always been rather mean to me at Vassar suddenly wanted to ‘rekindle’ our relationship. I knew they were only interested in my newfound beauty, but I didn’t care. They were curious about it, and, to be honest, I was curious, too.

The parties were lavish, the brunches exquisite, and the rush of new friendship intoxicating. I was at the center of the spinning merry-go-round of Manhattan, and I didn’t want to get off. I was out from dusk to dawn, on a nocturnal scavenger hunt for delight. And strangely, everything was free. The meals were expensed, the black car service paid for, and the impromptu, 5-star getaway to Cambodia wasn’t: “The kind of thing you have to pay us back for,” Willa assured me. “You’re doing us the favor by coming. It wouldn’t be any fun without you.” But what she meant was that it wouldn’t be any fun without my face. My RH-negative blood was the arm-candy, and the rest of me was just along for the ride.

Neither my data plan nor my wardrobe could keep up with the bandwidth of my popularity, so I maxed out my credit card in one week. I wanted to dress like my new friends, to work out like them, and drink the same collagen-infused smoothies as them. My disguise worked: New York’s elite embraced me with their emaciated arms and dug into me with the tips of their acrylic fingernails.

I went in for my next facial a month later. I couldn’t see the bags under my eyes, but I knew they were there. Being adored was an exhausting activity. The surgeon’s wife licked her lips as I walked through the door, then withdrew six tubes of blood before I could object. Her plastic face had a glow that I hadn’t noticed before, and her cheekbones were more prominent. I was just about to inquire after her new skin-care routine when I fainted.

When I woke up, the surgeon was already micro-needling my face. I couldn’t see him because of the protective goggles over my eyes, but I instantly recognized his touch. “I’m sorry that my assistant withdrew so much blood,” he whispered. “I was wondering if the clinic might buy a few vials from you. For emergencies,” he said with a hint of desperation. “We would give you you’re your next session for free. As a show of thanks.”

“But isn’t my blood worth more than that?” I asked, feeling strangely offended.

That night at Zero Bond, I outlined the situation to my girlfriends. “So you’re a walking beauty counter?” Beatrice asked when I finished my story. “You are human fillers.”

“I mean . . . yes? Maybe? I just know that they’re taking advantage of me.”

“How awful,” Colette said as she sipped her wine. The Opus One stained her lips like blood.

When the girls approached me, I couldn’t say no. I was addicted to their friendship and would do anything to keep it. And at the end of the day, it was just blood, right? My body produced it naturally, so there was no reason to horde it.

Kimmie arranged a weekend getaway to her family’s hunting lodge in Upstate. Her French Normandy chateau was sprawling and ostentatious, tucked away from the prying eyes of the world. The party was BYO-cosmetic-surgeon. A physician’s assistant withdrew my blood while another micro-needled the girls in the next room. I fainted after the eighth vial of blood but recovered when they told me that it had been enough. Just barely. I was so relieved. I didn’t want to let anyone down.

That evening we had a celebratory dinner of oysters and caviar. “I love that oysters are still alive when you swallow them,” Willa regarded me over the rim of her dirty martini. “Consuming a living creature is such an invigorating experience.”

Kimmie reached over a platter of foie gras to squeeze my hand. “We’re going to be best friends forever,” she said, gazing into my eyes hungrily.

I stumbled upstairs and slept fourteen hours. When I awoke, the house was deserted, and a thousand dollars was on my nightstand. For your Uber back to the city, Colette texted.

Friendship poured over me like blood from a fresh wound, and I basked in the warmth of it. We flew private, raced yachts, and rode in Elon’s favorite Tesla. We were young, ravenous, and growing more insatiable with every passing day. We partied in mansions so stately that Versailles itself would be jealous. There were half-remembered confidences and half-believed lies. Men watched from the periphery as we took photos of each other in the shallows. I found peace at the bottom of a bottle of Dom Perignon and ordered redemption with my eggs benedict. I’d always felt like an outsider, but here at the VIP table, I finally belonged.

But one night, my Louboutins faltered. I clutched onto the sofa to steady myself and glanced guiltily at the television—it was so lonely without me. A dusty fixture of the living room. Before I could stop myself, I’d kicked off my stilettos, grabbed the remote, and nestled into the blankets. I took a selfie and sent it to my girls. Sorry, ladies, staying in tonight. 😴 💋 I hoped they wouldn’t mind. Willa had just paid the $50,000 initiation fee to join Core Club, and I didn’t want to offend her.

A cavalcade of support flooded in. You even make that couch look good, Colette responded. Stay in and get your beauty sleep (not that you need it 😈).

And I was still just as pretty, still beaming and flawless, but now I was also lazy. I was weary from the depth of my arteries. I called in sick to work and skipped social functions. When Kimmie proposed a trip to her hunting lodge, I mustered all my strength, but grew dizzy as I walked out the door. Can we do a rain check? I texted as I clung to the doorframe.

Silence for one agonizing minute, then Willa texted, Sweetie, don’t you think that you’re being a bit selfish right now?💕

Your car is already on its way over, Beatrice piped up. All you have to do is get down to the street. We’ll take care of the rest.

I slept the entire way to Kimmie’s estate, then fainted after the fifth tube of blood. I woke up to the incandescent faces of my friends. “You guys are so cute!” I murmured happily.

“No, you are!” they twittered, then scooched in for a group photo. “You are so pretty.” And it was true, even convalescing in bed, I still looked good. Especially with them beside me.

I don’t work anymore—I’m a socialite. Although the socializing that I do is highly selective. Only the crème de la crème are ever graced with my presence. I only visit the most exclusive establishments that cater to the most exclusive clientele. I could never fit work into my busy schedule, so my loves set up a fund so I can conserve my strength for what matters most. My RH-negative blood has given me everything I ever wanted: a dynamic social following, overflowing bank account, and wonderful friends.

I don’t work anymore—I’m a socialite. Although the socializing that I do is highly selective.

Cost is determined by comparing supply with demand. So if your average vampire facial requires three ounces of blood and the supply is ever-diminishing while the demand ever-increasing, then the price multiplies. Nothing increases value quite like scarcity. My “golden blood” is actually far more valuable than gold (which vacillates between $1,600 to $2,000 per ounce) and falls closer to the current price of Bitcoin (which hovers around $40,000, and grows more limited with each passing day).

I don’t leave my apartment much anymore, I’m way too VIP for that. I mostly just lounge around and watch Netflix. I bought my own centrifuge machine, so the surgeon can do house calls. Then every two weeks my loves help me to the car for one of our “spa” trips. Of course—I am the spa, but that’s alright with me. Because at the end of the day, we all just want to be wanted.

Sometimes I think about the 49 other people in the world with RH-negative blood. I wonder what their social calendars must be like.

*****

If you’ve enjoyed The Vampire Facial, you can visit our free digital archive of flash fiction here. Additionally, premium short fiction published by Mystery Tribune on a quarterly basis is available digitally here.

For online archive of short fiction (longer pieces) on Mystery Tribune website, you can visit here.

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