Saturday, August 28, 2021

SHOWCASE: “Doctor to the Undead” • by Guy Stewart


The micro-miniskirt, while the height of current fashion, felt both ridiculous and degrading. I pursed my lips—I’m sure it would have been cute if I could have seen my reflection in the restroom mirror—and sighed. Turning, I went back out into the hospital.

No, not exactly a hospital. The University of Minnesota’s PEDIATRIC BLOOD AND MARROW TRANSPLANT & CELLULAR THERAPY PROGRAM was my current assignment.

My Fitbit twittered. Another sigh. But the payoff was close at hand, so I once again tugged the hem of the skirt down and hurried. The badge bouncing on my modest chest—I’d always abhorred massive mammaries—noted that I was S. Zalissia, MD. Unlike some of my ancestors, my degree was real. In fact, my great uncle had paid for my education at the eighth best global university in Molecular Biology and Genetics. I went there mostly because it was cloudy sixty percent of the time. Me and the sun are not good friends.

I stepped into the lab a few moments later. Dr. Bertrand Seward looked up, grinning. “Sori!”

I hated the diminutive. I put up with it because he was the best blood geneticist in the world. We’d had him thoroughly vetted, and I’d made a study of his career, habits, likes, and dislikes. But he’d designed what my people have wanted for centuries: a reliable, clean, and non-violent Human blood supply. “Dr. Seward,” I said, nodding as coolly as I could. There was no denying that he was attractive, for a Human. His long neck was topped by a boyish face and an unruly mop of dark hair. He was an ardent biker and had competed at the University of Minnesota, so he was lean and hard. Rather like me, in fact. If our latest collaboration panned out…

He interrupted my thought by saying, “I think this is it!”

I stepped up to the suspension tank and leaned forward. In the center, a muscle-wrapped sack floated in amniotic fluid. A glance at the monitor told me it was an AB negative Blood Transfer Module. I was hungry and hadn’t eaten for two days. If I’d had a stomach, it would have growled. “It’s beautiful,” I breathed, unaware I’d said anything.

Bernard was looking at me, worried. He said, “You okay, Sori? You look hungry.”

Without looking at him, I licked my lips, willing my fangs to retract. When I straightened up, I smiled. “I haven’t been eating much for the past few weeks. I’ve been too excited.”

He snorted, nodding. “I completely understand! Hey, if this batch checks out, how about dinner tonight? My treat?”

I’d known this was coming. He was sweet, absolutely good-looking, and it had been some time since I… Ahem. I headed off that line of thought and said, “Possibly. Let’s see how this checks out.”

He looked wildly hopeful and I almost closed my eyes and shook my head. On the other hand, it was the most encouragement I’d given him since we’d started working together. As lead researchers, we’d co-author a paper that might put us up for a Nobel Prize. The last time someone in our field had gotten one was over a hundred years ago. Landsteiner’s work on identifying the blood groups had been confirmation of what my great-great-great grandfather Vlad had known all along: Human blood was both different from animal blood; and came in flavors…also known as groups. Dr. Seward said, “Then let’s get to work!”

We first reduced fluid flow to the BTM, then added a constricting enzyme that caused the vessels to close off, sealing the final product—AB negative blood—in a transfusion bag-sized module with a thick, protective skin. We drained the tank, then stared at the BTM sitting in its cradle. Dr. Seward and I had designed the nanomachines that built the blood from the same components a Human body used to manufacture blood. He looked at me and said, “Do you want to do the honors?”

I couldn’t help smiling, “Together, maybe?”

He popped one seal, I did the other, then we each reached in to pick up the warm, slightly slippery BTM, lifting it gently and setting it on the examination table. We stared at it for several moments, then looked at each other. I found I was holding my breath. When he puffed out, I did the same. We laughed.

I said, “And now, to work.” He nodded and we began an exhaustive array of tests designed to see if the BTM contained real Human blood that could eventually replace the dwindling number of blood donors worldwide.


Hours later, we sat back, both exhausted and elated. I said, “Now we pass it on to our colleagues. They’ll try to find something we missed; something that’s wrong.” I paused.

He grinned tiredly and said, “But they won’t.” We sat in silence. Most of the associate staff and grad students had gone home to await our announcement. He leaned into my shoulder. “So, how about that celebratory dinner?”

I almost refused, but if I’d had a stomach, it would have given a mighty rumble. I said, “I’d love to have dinner with you. How about tomorrow night?”

His face fell, then he took out his cellphone and snorted. “I don’t suppose there are any first class restaurants open at 3:38 in the morning.” He paused, “How about seven tomorrow evening, at Manny’s Steakhouse?”

I laughed, “How could you possibly get a reservation there that soon?”

He shrugged, “I have a connection.”

“Let me guess,” I said, “You worked your way through med-school as a waiter there?”

His smile was enigmatic as he said, “Something like that. How about we meet there?” I couldn’t conceal a bit of unease. He read my concern and held up both hands, “Nothing but a meal to celebrate. No strings attached.”

I nodded. “Wonderful. I don’t need strings right now. We’ve only just begun.”

He lifted an eyebrow, “Carpenters, released August 21, 1970.”

“A golden oldie.”

He stood and bowed, “See you there tomorrow night.”

“At seven,” I stood and bowed back.


I took the day off—first time in years—to get ready. If I’d had a stomach, it might have been cramping by now. As it was, I was probably unusually pale. My people had long ago figured out how to get by with alternative blood supplies—blood banks, primate breeding centers, even outright ‘artificial blood’ in emergencies. But this? This was going to change everything.

Who knows, we might even be able to finally integrate into the core of Human society. One of us might even run for the job of president, premier, king, or whatever! The possibilities were endless, if BTM technology proved completely viable.

I was at Manny’s shortly before seven. My pulse pounded in my ears, a sign that alternatives weren’t going to be able to stave off the suspension coma I’d slip into if I didn’t eat soon. We’d evolved it to survive lean times and persecutions, but we’d never been able to be entirely free of that curse. It had also left us vulnerable in ancient times to mass murderers.

“Sori!” I turned to face him, smiling.

“Bert,” I said, nodding.

A look of delight lit his handsome face. “You called me Bert!”

He’d invited me to do so, so many times it was a joke now. I asked, innocently, “What? I was supposed to call you Ernie?”

He laughed, offered me his arm, and said, “Shall we?”


The meal was superior in every way, and a truly magnificent bottle of cabernet sauvignon did wonders to loosen him up. After the talk petered out, I said, “I need to get going.”

He lifted his chin then nodded, “Thank you for going out with me. It was a wonderful night.”

I stood.

He stood and said, “I’ll walk you to your car.”

“I just live down the street.”

He looked vaguely disappointed. “You been here before?”

“Don’t worry. People are always surprised when I tell them that I’ve never been here.”

He smiled. “Then may I walk you home?”

I considered, not letting my emotions float across my face. I waited several beats, then said, “I’d like that.”

He nodded and offered me his arm. I took it, and we left the restaurant. We stayed away from the ‘main drag’ of Marquette. I lived in Bolero Flats, so we walked down South Ninth, turned onto Second Avenue South, then turned onto South Twelfth Street. We stopped at the tennis court. I said, “I cut across here.”

“Sorta dark,” he said.

I shrugged. “No one’s ever bothered me.”

He nodded, sighed, and when he leaned in for a kiss, I was pretty sure he believed he had what he wanted.

I was pretty certain I had what I wanted. I hadn’t told him that I’d done an extensive Internet search on him a long time ago and had set up a program to keep me updated on his movements, involvement, and anything else he did on the internet. Our people also had plenty of agents on the ground. I knew exactly what he wanted. My acting skills would be proven effective or ineffective in moments.

His suddenly twisted to prevent me from biting, but I was ready and I’d seen a quivering shadow near the towel house on the court. I could handle myself and didn’t need reinforcements. I clamped his arm behind him, twisting hard and driving him onto the court. “Thanks for the help. I love you, Doctor Seward, but Van Helsing isn’t going to save you this time,” I whispered into his ear then bit down, a moment later drawing up the last blood I’d ever have to curse a Human for.


Guy Stewart is a husband supporting his wife who is a multi-year breast cancer survivor; a father, father-in-law, grandfather, foster father, friend, writer, and recently retired teacher and school counselor who maintains a writing blog by the name of POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAYS ( where he showcases his opinion and offers his writing up for comment. He has 72 stories, articles, reviews, and one musical script to his credit, and the list still includes one book! He also maintains GUY'S GOTTA TALK ABOUT BREAST CANCER & ALZHEIMER'S, where he shares his thoughts and translates research papers into everyday language. In his spare time, he herds cats and a rescued dog, helps keep a house, and loves to bike, walk, and camp.