It was like the feeling before you jump off a bridge. The actions are so small, so simple. No problem in themselves, but in context everything changes. Even if you know it's safe fear takes over and it's impossible to move, you just stay there, in place, doing nothing, trying to will yourself to go. But if you don't know it's safe, if you aren't sure of the depth of the water, if you aren't sure what's going to happen, then it's worse.
It was like that, until finally I said it, "I know what you are," and I was in free fall, no idea how long it would be till I met the water, not idea what would happen when I did.
"What am I?" Edith asked.
And I was back on the bridge. All the tension was back. It drew out for too long, the situation was too heavy for me, so I said, "A werepanther," and retreated into levity. Edith laughed. Then I said, "Shapeshifting purple mongoose."
I definitely felt more comfortable when she was laughing. It took her a bit to manage to ask, "A what?" through the laughter.
"You've never heard of the tale of the purple mongoose?"
"That's because it's too terrifying to tell. It can't be put into words. It's literally unspeakable." She actually giggled. Edith Cullen giggled. The time was as right as it was ever going to be, so I jumped: "You're a vampire."
It wasn't that she became serious exactly, she didn't look stern or angry or even emotionless, when she spoke it was in a friendly inquisitive tone, but the humor had definitely gone away. "What makes you say that?"
"Besides the fact that you are, you mean?"
"I mean, how did you reach that conclusion in the first place?"
"You avoid sunlight the way members of my family avoid direct communication, your body is too cold to belong to a live mammal, your canines are longer than I'd expect on a normal human being, you move as fast as the Six Million Dollar man, you actually recognized the out of date reference I just made, you sleep in a coffin-"
"I do not sleep in a coffin," she said, presumably honestly.
"Well I say you do," because I already felt absurd saying she was a vampire, so why not have some fun? She rolled her eyes. I'd lost the roll I'd been on and we were back to silence.
She motioned for me to go on, "Your skin is light enough that cave dwelling life forms would welcome you as one of their own," saying that one worried me, especially since I totally failed to say it in a non insulting way. I didn't want to be hurtful but it just sort of came out that I said she looked like a troglodyte, thankfully she didn't seem to take offence and I continued, "you share multiple unusual physical characteristics with people whom you have no genetic relationship with and as for your eyes ... I've got nothing. Nothing at all. You're a vampire who is inhabited by a Goa'uld maybe?"
"I'd hope for Tok'ra at least," Edith said. It was a good point.
[A random out of story note:]
I ran a search for purple mongoose and was surprised by what I got. I wasn't surprised that I found no reference to what I was thinking of, the non-story spreads via word of mouth, instead I was surprised by what I did get. The very first result is ... yeah, um... given that it's apparently also the part of the title to a children's book maybe a nsfw entry on urban dictionary isn't the best first hit for google to have.
There should be no need for context, but if anyone wants it anyway, here it is:
At a summer camp they'd tell the campers that the purple mongoose story was too scary to tell (the last time someone their age was told it resulted in the child being to afraid to sleep and having to return home, or something like that) so they'd say that they would only tell the campers when they were older. Naturally this resulted in the kids begging to be told the story, but it was always refused. Every time the campers were told it was too scary, they simply weren't old enough. Sometimes the counselor would add that if it were up to them they'd tell it, but there were strict orders.
Of course by the time the kid really did reach the magical age limit (if they were still coming to the camp at that point in time) which I think might have been CIT, they'd probably long since figured out on their own that there was no such thing as the purple mongoose story. It was just a trick played on the younger campers.