Surprisingly my second group session with Dr. Grant went unexpectedly well. Everyone was alert. I was buzzing with energy. Everyone was. I didn’t faint this time. Nobody did. Only a few days into the trial and I feel like I’m making a lot of really solid progress.

Today he shows you some images. Lots of fun, bloody pictures and videos.

You should find the media set you view on Wednesday utterly disturbing; yet you do not. The photos and video you view are basically a reel of “greatest hits” hand-selected with care by the selective hands of Dracula.

Here is where you see a toddler playing in a puddle of sticky blood. His bib is complete with messy red handprints; some of which are dried and crusty brown. You are unphased. Here is where you see a video of a man who is showering and the water coming from the shower head is not water at all, but a waterfall of deep, dark red. He smiles widely as it splatters his face, turning his white teeth pink. You are unphased. A photo of a mousy teenager grins at you while slurping it from a glass bottle. A video: A steady stream of yellow splashing the back of a urinal slowly turns into a splatter from a murder scene. A photo of a woman smiling in the bathtub with her wrists slit. She is scrolling through Facebook on her phone. You and she and the baby and the teen and the man with his pink teeth are all smiling and unphased. You find that you are laughing, actually.

Briefly, you wonder who took these photos and what is wrong with them? More importantly, what is wrong with you and the rest of your group? Nearly everyone has spent a good deal of this session giggling hard and deep. You notice a few people are crying tears of laughter. Of course they’re bloody and they’re being smeared into streaks of rouge on their cheeks. You know you shouldn’t find this so amusing; but that doesn’t stop you.

Dr. Grant checks everyone’s progression with marked enthusiasm. He excitedly tells all of you that the third session this week will involve actual donated blood. The kind that comes to hospitals in those intravenous-bags. The kind that comes for a transfusion. He might let you open them up to get a real “feel” for the actual thing. You’re excited. The man with the horned-rim glasses cheers because he can’t contain himself. This prospect fills him with unabashed joy. You feel the same way, but you are more reserved in sharing your delight about this so openly. Every one of your strange peers has varying levels of open and reserved excitement.

At work, Richie tells you that he and his group watched a video of spiders eating a man’s eyes right out of his skull. They watched them hatch out of a pimple on a woman’s face. They were shown a photo of a giant poisonous arachnid hiding underneath a toilet seat. You both laugh and laugh about how remarkably the treatment is working. He tells you on Friday, his group gets to handle a live tarantula. He seems jealous when you tell him you get to play with the blood.

“Awww that’s so fuckin’ cool.” he mutters sadly. You do not think handling a giant spider is cool, but you try to reassure him that you do, in-fact, think so.

You think that playing with a bag of tomato soup, of sap, of raspberry jam that leaked out of the head-jar or arm-can is soooo much cooler. It’s understandable that he’d be jealous that you’ll get to splash around in the blood like kids playing “cook” in a high school home-ec class. You lick your lips absently.

You tell him that his eyes are still bleeding. His ears too. His teeth and mouth look like he’s an extra in a zombie movie. He reassures you that he can see a pair of banana spiders spinning a web over each of your ears; a black widow is preening her long legs above your right eyebrow. Your own mouth is filled with their tiny babies weaving webs like floss between your teeth.

On Friday Dr. Grant tells everyone that this will be your final group session. Excitedly playing with the bags of blood, most of the five of your group are barely listening to a word he says. He wanders around the group, his hands filled with pocket sized moleskin notebooks. You and the man in the horned-rimmed glasses are painting stick-figures in the puddles of red on the table-top. The bald man watches the two of you, cautiously giggling. Dr. Grant hands you your notebook. The inside page is typed with your name, some official jargon related to the test and a number denoting the group you are in.

“After today,” he begins, unsuccessfully vying with the painting for your attention, “I will be reaching out to each–” he pauses to ask the woman with the bad breath to refrain from putting her bloody hands into her mouth. “Here is a towel.” he warns her to wipe her hands and be careful not to stain the pages. They will be harder for him to read if the bloodstains cover them…

“After today,” he begins again, “I will be reaching out to each of you personally to set aside time to meet in my offices.” You are told that you will reiterate the rest of your experience in private sessions. He will be reading over the journals and discussing all side effects you encounter. You don’t like the idea of this man, who you’ve met three times, reading your private thoughts. You find the idea of it on par with the girl with the cheap dye-job downstairs looking at you naked. You are told that you will be required to continue taking the medication for the next four weeks. After, he will evaluate and verify the results for the month following completion of the clinical trial.

“Miss Bryant, I’ll ask you again to not put your hands into your mouth. It’s not sanitary,” he says. He seems exasperated. While he isn’t looking, you dip your index finger into a bloody puddle on the table and then into your mouth to see what all the fuss is about. He yells at you also and jots something down in his notes. This probably means that the next group of participants will not get to enjoy this Friday playdate with Dr. Grant.

You thought you were being discreet but he must have seen the red in your teeth. It doesn’t taste like raspberry jam…but you still think it’s not bad.