Chapter 1: In which the Vampire introduces himself and attempts to give an idea of the nature of his obsessions.
I moved to the city so that I could be around people. There is nothing I like better than being in the midst of a great throng of strangers, being able to inspect their manners of walking and talking and the ways in which they survey their surroundings. I’m not an outgoing man, so I rarely engage any of these strangers in conversation, unless they are a clerk behind a counter and I am in the process of purchasing something or, as often happens, somebody stops me to ask for directions. Although I am new to the city, I think that I exude a certain level of comfort which persuades people to ask me for help. My level of comfort comes not from any particular knowledge of the city, but only from the fact that there is nowhere I’d rather be than within that throng of strangers.
But I also have deeper longings which, not incidentally, are the bane of my existence; for when I have lingered all day in the city, getting food at road-side stands, drinking at public water fountains, night inevitably falls on me unawares, and that is when my desires – and I mean the following phrase absolutely literally – turn inside out. That is, my enjoyment of strangers’ outer appearance dissipates and is replaced, or overwhelmed, by a longing for their blood. I am something of a vampire, you see. I thirst for human blood. I confess this, I think, in just the same way that somebody confesses a sexual perversion. Nowadays everyone wants to confess these kinds of things, and so why shouldn’t I? It is the truth, and I am to be pitied for it, not reviled.
I have very light blonde hair, almost white, which is receding, making my widow’s peak more prominent. I wear thick glasses in gold wire frames, and my eyes, which are blue, have a tendency to bulge out of my head, the way a person’s eyes do when they are preparing to belch — I’d be fooling myself if I were to suggest that the effect is at all attractive. My nose is sharp and pointed, my mouth small and nearly always pinned-up. My canine teeth are not too frighteningly long and pointed, but they are certainly overly large, in the tradition of vampires. Although my family comes from Chicago, I have done some research and found a whole cluster of ancestors from Romania, including many from the area formerly known as Transylvania. It’s silly, I know, but discovering these blood-lines (pun, I admit, intended) solidified me in my belief that I am indeed a vampire of some sort. I should point out at this point, however, that I can stand the daylight, and I love garlic, and I can see my reflection in a mirror. I think these characteristics associated with vampires are complete superstition, and the only thing which really characterizes a vampire is his or her desire to consume human blood, which, if you think about it, (or if you don’t), is in itself enough cause for alarm.
The next thing you’ll want to know is how I gratify my desires, but for me there was a long road between recognizing my desire for human blood and actually procuring some. I am not a violent person. I am a shy and gentle person to whom the idea of prowling the night in search of pretty young victims seemed not only absurd but absolutely frightening. I knew immediately that I wouldn’t have the heart to do it. I had to look for alternate methods.
My first thought about getting blood was actually going and asking for it. I thought, “I can just go to a blood bank and make a withdrawal.” The idea tickled me, of course, but it also appalled me. I thought of receiving a chilled bag of blood. It would have to be warmed up, probably by placing the bag in hot water. It would be best around body temperature, of course. Why “of course”? I say “of course” as if everyone goes around drinking human blood.
So I telephoned a blood bank to inquire about purchasing some blood. The girl on the phone showered me with questions which obviously assumed that I was from a hospital. I told her, growing uneasy, that I was not from a hospital or a clinic, that I had no medical affiliation whatsoever, and would that be a problem? In short, I found out that it would. I hung up the phone wondering what I would need to convince them that I was from a hospital, how I might fool them into giving me some blood. I am not good at deception, though. I am an exceedingly honest man and have never practiced the art of pretending to be someone other than myself. I was sure I’d get caught. So that problem along with the revolting idea of drinking blood from a plastic bag made me give up, for the time being, on the blood banks.
Where to go, then? I found myself in hospital lobbies with no real hope of finding some blood to drink but only relishing the possible sight or smell of it.
I once saw a young woman left unattended on a gurney. She was freckled and chubby, her red hair dirty and damp. On her neck was a single patch of gauze, perhaps two inches by three inches in size, in the center of which was a darkening in the cloth which was her blood trying to get out.
Do you understand what I mean when I say, “trying to get out?” It probably makes no sense to you. But blood is always plotting its freedom from the human body, which is by comparison a stiff and insensible organ, mechanical in its actions and limited in its shape. The blood is different … the blood, I am speaking figuratively now, is our hopes and dreams. It tries to free itself from the body in much the same way the human race tries to free itself from the earth. Does it still sound crazy? When we look up at the sky, what is it in us which makes us think that we can reach it? What is it makes us think we can fly? Not the outer dried husks of our bodies, that’s for sure. They are intractable, they are lazy, they are fragile. The blood which courses through our veins, on the other hand, is more than organic matter. It is potentiality itself. It could, alone of all parts of our bodies, nourish a new organism without dying. Without hindrance, without stopping, it might ascend from body to body, climb the sky like a double helix, through bodies with larger and larger wings, with sleeker and more aerodynamic skulls! What I mean to say, and what I am expressing very badly, is that when we dream of the heavens, we don’t dream of metal and rubber spaceships based on blueprints. We, in our blood, dream of inhabiting and nourishing a greater organism, a more elaborate husk of matter which can do justice to our blood’s ambition. We belong on wings. We belong in the skies. And so, only in desperation do we look through our telescopes and draw up blueprints and send rockets pulsing through the epidermis of the sky.
To get back to the hospital lobby and the ruddy young girl on the gurney. I was leaning against a somewhat sticky spot on the white enameled wall, allowing something like the above thoughts to run rampant through my mind, still fixing my eyes on the dark damp spot in the gauze. It occurred to me that human skin is a permeable gauze only a little more substantial than that piece of cloth on her neck. An image came to mind of a person betrayed by the permeability of her skin, whose blood began to seep out through her pores. I pictured myself wrapping her body constantly in white cloth and seeing again and again the darkening beneath the surface which was her blood trying to get out. “Let it go,” I told my day-dream self, but I kept on wrapping with the gauze.
The girl finally looked over at me. “Are you a doctor,” in a sleepy, half-conscious voice. The question was ludicrous. I was dressed in an old sweatshirt and jeans. I didn’t look anything like a doctor, but perhaps there was something in my gaze which brought the poor girl to this conclusion.
“No,” I said quietly, but pushed myself from the wall and approached her, my hands hanging straight down at my sides and my eyes dancing between her face and her neck.
She seemed not to have heard me. She seemed, in fact, to have heard me say, “Yes.” She closed her eyes, swallowed, and said, “My neck itches. I wonder if you can change the bandage … it will probably still itch … but … it will feel better.”
My hands were shaking as I raised them slowly. “Okay,” I said. I raised them slowly towards her neck, shaking.
My arm was grabbed suddenly and I was shoved aside by a man in a blue shirt. He looked at me in an annoyed and disbelieving manner. “Get out of here, man,” he said. “Go home.” I nodded and gulped and left the hospital. I didn’t go back to that hospital.
Some time later, I found out that I could witness an operation at the university. Open heart surgery. I was nervous and excited before the event. Do you believe it? I got dressed up, as if going on a date, and I was appalled to find the students in attendance with t-shirts and torn jeans. The whole thing was a disappointment, however. Too antiseptic. In hospitals I had gotten used to the precision of doctors, who were skilled in keeping the blood at bay. It was clean and efficient and clinical. The students took notes as the surgeon paused to narrate his carefully rehearsed actions. I was breathless thinking the surgeon’s hand might slip and blood would squirt in his face, and he would call for a clamp from a frantic nurse. Then I realized that that was exactly what I had come and hoped to see. I escaped the surgical theatre at that moment for some fresh air and had to sit with my head between my knees for a minute or two.
When I had fully recovered, far from being spent or exhausted, I was exhilarated. I don’t know why. An idea had come into my head. I rushed home to my apartment. It was after dark. I put on some music, lit a candle and turned off all the lights. I then sterilized a needle in the candle flame and proceeded to prick my fingers one by one and suck on them. It was wonderful. It really hit the spot. I have engaged in this activity many times since then and of course the level of gratification afforded by it varies greatly. It shouldn’t be looked down upon, however, as a method of procuring fresh human blood. Whatever gets you through the night, I say.
Notwithstanding this form of release, my desire often grew much too strong to be so easily satisfied and sometimes approached the status of an obsession, occupying my mind for days at a time. I would manufacture elaborate fantasies which would end in my taking a great swig of human blood, usually from a pewter chalice. Much more frightening were my dreams, in which I would usually end up gratifying my desires through violence, which is contrary to my nature.
In one particularly disturbing dream, I stepped out of an alleyway in the middle of the night to intercept a young woman. She was a short little thing, with long black hair and large, sharp-edged cheek bones. She gazed up at me in alarm and with her tongue showing sensually on her lips. I grasped her by the wrists and forced her towards me. I lifted her up in such a way that her small body folded itself around me, her calves crossed behind one of my thighs, and I heard her say just two words in a girlishly earnest voice, “Oh, sir,” before expiring in a sigh. I then opened my jaw like some inhuman beast and completely enclosed her delicate neck in it, and with one long inhalation I felt the liquid warmth of her body flow down my throat and fill my stomach with a feeling of terrible and heart-rending fulfillment. When I was done, I dropped her shriveled body on the pavement and began to cry.
I awoke from this dream shaking and nauseous. I threw up in the toilet and then spent the rest of the sleepless night really crying, for the feeling with which I awoke would not leave me, as if I had been caught in one particular emotional instant. Oh, God! It’s gruesome, isn’t it?