26 October 2001

"All men desire to be immortal."
   - Theodore Parker, A Sermon on the Immortal Life

We are lost in our dreams, gone to places only we know exist. I think I might have been in Lyons, or St. Malo, last night. There were tall, imposing battlements of dark, heavy stone looming around us. I wasn't alone. I had a brother who'd been recently released from a sanitarium; he was suspected of being given to violent and uncontrollable fits of temper. A murder was committed. My job was to protect my brother by getting rid of the evidence. We were up on the Quai, and I had to contrive some way to dispose of any evidence which might incriminate him, and at the same time, ensure I did not incriminate myself. He had a girlfriend -- an insipid, bourgeois little girl who was determined to marry him, no matter what. He was edgy while she was around, becoming more and more agitated by her endless stream of inanities, until finally, in a seething fury, he grabbed her, drew her close, and throttled her. He was purple with the effort, and all the while, he was muttering, "I love you. I'll show you. I love you. I'll show you."

I caught him just before it was too late, and he released his hold on her neck. She opened her eyes and mouth wide, and although she looked like she was screaming, no sound came from her. She ran away from us, heading into some dark alleyway, where she thought we couldn't see her. She was wrong. After my brother returned to normal, he went to fetch her. He found her lying huddled and shivering on a cotton pallet in the shadows. He sat with her, and even though she still seemed very frightened by him, she let him put his arms around her and draw her close to his chest. She quickly returned to mouthing her simpering stupidness at my brother, who seemed to enjoy it. I was finally so sickened by them, and by the girl's blandishments, I walked away.

The detectives we’d worried about soon arrived. I had to explain my whereabouts and my actions over the preceding day -- including the reasons for them. When they asked, "Why did you bring a wetsuit with you?" I faltered, but recovered myself sufficiently to answer, "I needed to retrieve my watch. I dropped it into the water earlier, and had to dive after it." As ridiculous as this explanation sounded, it seemed to satisfy the detectives, and they left.

Next, a man joined me on top of the parapet and asked me if I'd eaten. I noticed I had fresh blood on my leg and foot. I knew the blood was not my own, but I didn't understand his question. "How old are you?" he asked. I told him I was much older than perhaps he thought from just looking at me. He invited me to join him.

We walked along the Quai in the dark until we spotted a solitary person. My companion attacked the man, and after bringing him to the ground, invited me to partake in his meal. I hesitantly knelt, but was soon transported with pleasure by the richness and the biting tang of the victim's blood. My normal squeamishness about gore was gone, and I felt silly for having denied myself what was rightfully mine for so long.

After eating, we walked away contented -- no traces of the activity were in evidence. I felt wonderful, but also confused. I asked, "How can this be? How could I not have known this about myself before now?"

My companion just laughed, and said, "You've known me for many, many years. Do I look any different from the way I did the day you met me?" When I admitted that he didn't seem to have aged, he said, "That’s because years and generations don't mean the same thing to us as to the others. You'll have to get used to it. Governments rise and fall, men are born and die, but we continue, and nobody is the wiser for it."

I asked if there were others like us. He told me there were, but except for very rare occasions, we tended to be solitary in our pursuits and our hunting. This was partly due to the fact we didn't always remember others like us existed. My companion and I arrived at a fancy restaurant, where the maitre d'hotel, a tall, darkly elegant, smiling man, admitted us. My companion asked him, "How old are you?" The dark man answered, "I'm nearly eighty, sir."

I was astonished. The man appeared to be strong, vigorous, and certainly no older than in his mid-thirties. He said, "I’m not so old. My father is the sommelier, over there." At a nearby table, another attractive smiling man was offering a newly uncorked bottle to a seated couple. "He's at least twice my age.” The sommelier apeared even younger than his son. I realized that chronological age can be extremely deceptive -- and that unless you ask the question, you can't know the truth.

Much later, we were in the countryside, near an old chateau. A woman had just been given the deed to the place, and although she was excited about owning it, she was overwhelmed. The heiress, a large, shapely woman, was hugging herself tightly, humming a tuneless song. Her companion, a thin, dour-faced woman, was peering about furtively, calculating the cost of the furniture. The big woman was tired, and said, "I need to sleep." The thin woman asked her where she intended to stay. The big woman said, "Why, right here, of course."

At this, the thin woman launched off on a tirade, ending her screed by asking if the other had ever been unfaithful to her. The heiress replied she hadn't, whereupon the thin woman exclaimed, "Well I have, and you never will!"

I thought this was cruel of her, but the large woman took it in her stride, saying, "Maybe, but this is my house, my room, and I'm the one writing the books, so get out, and wake me in a few hours."

I laughed as my ageless companion and I exited the room, leaving the women to their petty battles. I later learned the heiress’ book was finished. It was a treacly, overdone, overwrought potboiler, filled with gothic images, the prose too sweet by half. When I heard this, I knew they were vampires, too.

And the next thing I knew, I was kissed into consciousness, my beloved’s warm lips on my sleeping brow. As I opened my eyes, all I could see were lips and teeth.

Excuse me. I'm off to find myself some warm tomato juice.


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