Hematophogous Creatures

[fiction]

Fleas drink fifteen times their body weight in blood every day. Seems greedy since it’s more than they need, but they give the extra to their larvae. They live two to three months and are believed to have helped cause the bubonic plague. 

Bed bugs are little assholes that can consume up to three times their weight in ten minutes. They live six to twelve months and their favorite colors are red and black. Their least favorite: green and yellow. 

Leeches aren’t as bad as fleas or bed bugs. They don’t leave behind an itchy bump. Not all leeches are hematophagous creatures, but the ones that are can eat up to five times their weight in blood. In mediaeval times, leeches were used to cure infections. Today, they’re used in microsurgeries and to treat black eyes. It would be helpful if they could leech the iron out of someone’s blood, but I haven’t seen any research to suggest this is possible. They can live up to ten years. 

The vampire finch lives in the Galapagos Islands and feeds on seeds, bugs, and boobies. The boobies are surprisingly patient as these little bastards peck into their flesh and cluster around their dripping wounds the way my kids clamor at a drinking fountain: pushing and shoving to get their turn and, inevitably, one of them yelling, Mom, Caitlin (or John or Danny) won’t get out of the way. The lifespan of the vampire finch averages around seven years.

Oxpeckers have an unfortunate name, but they deserve it. These birds perch on large mammals like oxen and dig into sores with their sharp beaks. Oxpeckers rid the larger animals of ticks, but it doesn’t seem like a fair trade-off. Sometimes the cure is worse than the disease. The lifespan of the oxpecker is unknown.

My body demands two units of blood every two weeks. It’s a far less intimate process for me than for my fellow blood suckers: I never meet my hosts. My body uses the blood to replace the faulty hemoglobin and red blood cells it creates. My white blood cells are crap, too, but there’s nothing to be done about that. As I produce fewer and fewer functional cells, my body requires more and more blood. Unlike other vampiric creatures, this blood makes my body stronger and weaker at the same time, leaving me with a dangerously high level of iron. I have recently bought a scooter. Not the kind you can use to zip around town, but the kind senior citizens drive around Costco. I’m thinking of starting a scooter gang with the old people on my block. We’ll cruise the neighborhood in matching vests and terrorize rabbits. My life expectancy varies depending on who you ask. Statistics put it at two more years; doctors say there’s no way to know; my husband won’t talk about it; and my kids think I’ll live forever.

Melinda Bezdek received her MFA from New Mexico State University. Her work has been translated to Italian, was featured in the RiStory festival, and will appear in the upcoming anthology Terror at 5280. She currently lives in Denver, CO, and works as an instructional designer.