art by Shot Hot Design
by James S. Dorr
She had always been somewhat pale in complexion. But now, as she stood before me in moonlight outside my front door, she seemed positively without color at all.
I do not mean her lips, of course. Drusilla's lips have always been a deep, blood red. Some say she does not even need to use lipstick. And her hair, dark chestnut, which some say she dyes, reflects as well as much a notion of violence and death as it does of healthy life.
Dru is, in short, a bit odd in demeanor. An experimenter. A sampler of whatever seems new or offbeat to her. "Gothic" in taste, somewhat, but her own woman too. Not one to follow, but rather lead fashion.
An interesting person.
But it was late at night, well past midnight--I, a night bird as well, had been up studying. "Dru," I said, "come in, please."
I saw a glint on her skin as she swiveled past me. It was summer, so she dressed lightly, in shorts and a halter, the former quite brief and the latter no more capacious than decency and local law required. Both garments were white, scarcely paler themselves than the flesh they strove to conceal.
We had once been lovers, Dru and I. Sharers in tastes, as well, for what those less imaginative might term the outre.
I smelled her perfume, a musk scent she exuded mixed with the slight tang of perspiration, the night being quite warm. And also as she passed, I heard what seemed like a faint sound of crinkling.
"A glass of wine, perhaps?" I asked, as, closing the door, I motioned her toward the couch. "Perhaps something chilled--an amontillado?"
She nodded, then smiled: "That would be delicious."
Her voice sounded metallic.
I smiled in return, then excused myself and strode to the kitchen. It had been some months since Drusilla had last called so I selected a carafe of my best, then arranged an assortment of fine cheeses on a tray, bringing these out with a pair of lightly-frosted champagne flutes.
I set these down on a table between us, sitting where I might watch her as she delicately sipped her sherry, then nibbled, with tiny, sharp teeth, at a square of a delightful, aged Swiss.
"Excuse me," she giggled, selecting now a cracker with a Danish Fontina. "I do have an appetite."
"The 'munchies'?" I asked. I giggled as well.
"Perhaps," she said. "I've been through a bit tonight. But I wanted you to be first to see me."
I nodded. I looked. I had already seen that, directly beneath the light, her skin seemed more silver than ashen. And--I almost reached to touch her--it glinted of hardness.
She may have read the look on my face. She was good at that kind of thing. "Yes," she said. "The difference in my skin. I had myself silvered."
"You what?" I said.
"This afternoon. It seemed like a good idea at the time. You know how I never go out in sunlight--my skin peels so easily. We used to laugh that I might be a vampire? Well, this afternoon, the sun was so bright, and yet I had to go out to do errands. So all I could do was try to be brave--prepare myself for it, you know what I mean--then swaddle myself up from head to toe, in ducks and a long-sleeve blouse, a shawl and a hat. And even a parasol.
"Just to walk two blocks.
"And then I remembered an ad I saw in last Saturday's Free Press. You know the kind, on the classifieds page, along with the offers for rolling papers and hydroponic garden supplies. Laminated 'Miranda' cards--to have with you just in case. Anyway, there was this ad, so I called the number. I made an appointment for just after sundown--"
"To have yourself 'silvered'?" I interrupted.
"It really isn't so strange," she said, pouting. "Did you know that in Victorian times, when infant mortality was still so high, if a rich family lost a baby the fashion was sometimes to have it bronzed? You know, like some families used to do with baby shoes. That way, even if it had died, the family would have it to keep for their memory."
I shuddered. Oddly, I had known this--as I have said, Dru's and my interests were often similar--that is, about Victorians having their lost babies' corpses coated in metal to keep as a sort of grisly souvenir. Chacun a son gout, I suppose. As Dru said, in more modern times parents of live babies had their first pair of shoes dipped in molten bronze. But only after the shoes had been outgrown--and the baby's feet were no longer in them.
"And so you had yourself dipped--"
"Well, not all of me, silly. As you can see, my hair was bound up so it wouldn't get coated too. And, as instructed, I kept my lips above the vat's surface--I did have to breathe. But the rest of me, yes."
"And this was molten silver?" I asked. "But wasn't it painful?"
"Well," she said, "perhaps a little. They warned me about that. But it's so quick, it's almost over before you can feel it. The thing is, your body perspires the moment before it goes in--even the air just above the vat's that hot--and that little cushion of water is what protects you from being too badly burned.
"And, not only that, I had sort of taken an anesthetic before I went in--"
"An anesthetic?" I asked.
She nodded, this time grinning. "You see, I had just scored this killer marijuana"--she reached in her handbag and pulled out a small pipe--"this really rad pot. I brought some with me." She reached in again and retrieved a baggie, about a quarter full. "Like I say, it seemed a good idea at the time. And, as they explained to me, having them dip me in silver really didn't cost all that much more than bronze would have."
I did touch her this time, helping her with the pot and the pipe--noting the hard, yet yielding feel of her skin. Tamping a pinch in, then striking a match and puffing until the bowl of the pipe had achieved the proper glow.
"You see," she said, "the silver coloring reflects better too. The sun, I mean. So when I have to go outside in daylight, I'll still be okay, because the heat and the light will just bounce back--"
She took a toke herself, while I reflected: It was really killer stuff. Just like she said.
"--and not only that, but think of it as a fashion statement. 'You people with tattoos, or metal studs or rings, just eat your hearts out!' You know what I mean? And not only that--"
She stopped and giggled. We shared another toke, then paused and sipped amontillado, its pale, nut-like flavor exploding in our mouths. Sampled, this time, the sharp salt of a Cheddar.
"And not only that," she went on in a moment, "but it's providing for the future. A sort of protection against global warming, reflecting the sun back. And it won't corrode--the gold was too expensive, but silver's good that way too. It'll keep off the rain--"
I nodded. Our lips met.
I was beginning to see things as she did. Despite my misgivings, at least those I'd had at first.
To think the way she did--just like old times.
"It ought to protect against werewolves as well, the silver, I mean," I suggested. "Nights when the moon's full."
She kissed me back. "Yes," she said.
This story was first published on Tuesday, August 9th, 2011