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Vampires: The Truth Behind the Legend
(reprinted with permission from the author)
Real vampires are everywhere. Your school, your workplace and even your home. Recent surveys suggest that one in every thousand people is a vampire, which means everybody probably knows, or has met one. They look like ordinary people, they are often born of human parents, and for some, the mask is so convincing that they themselves are actually a vampire and are unaware of it.
There are two basic types of vampire; the born and the turned. Vampires by birth have inherited the extremely recessive vampire gene from both their parents. This doesn't necessarily mean that her parents are vampires, in fact, they rarely are. Vampires often have to trace their ancestry back for tens of generations before they find evidence of the source of their condition. These vampires go through childhood unaware of what they are, possibly even unaware that their kind exists. All they are sure of is that they are different. They are outsiders. As a result, they feel lonely and isolated even among friends. As they grow, the symptoms of vampirism become more and more pronounced until, late in puberty, they begin to experience the Thirst. I shall come back to this later. For now I will concentrate on the general symptoms.
The tell-tale signs of vampirism begin to emerge at the age of 14 or 15. The child experiences severe, unexplainable stomach aches. Doctors are unable to find a cause, and similarly a cure, for these pains. She develops a strong interest in vampire culture - art and literature. She begins to feel increasingly outcast from society, despite knowing she is generally accepted, something inside her tells her that if people knew what she was really like inside, she would suffer. Often, the young vampire seeks companionship in other groups who shy from mainstream society, such as Wiccan or Pagan covens, Live Action Role Playing groups, or the gay scene. They realise that they feel emotions differently from other people, and become fascinated by "normal" human behavior which seems foreign to them.
Then, although they cannot identify it, or associate the symptoms with each other, they begin to feel the Thirst. The Thirst, on a very basic level, can be defined as symptoms including headaches, insomnia, lethargy and depression. I'm sure everyone reading this can identify with most, if not all, of these symptoms, but under the influence of the Thirst they become severe. Severe enough to cause suicidal tendencies in many young vampires. If they do not feed, the vampire may find herself in hospital, a mental institute, or even dead. I even know a vampire who only discovered blood was her medicine on the verge of death, when she put her lips to the wound on her wrist found herself "miraculously" recovered from not only her mental, but also a great deal of her physical pain.
* * *
The 'turned' vampire is created my another vampire. The vampirism virus, as with Hepatitis and AIDS can be transmitted by the ingestion of infected blood. For many vampires, the scientific side of their condition seems to dissolve the romanticism of it all. But, it appears to be the only way to convince humans of their existence. The virus, which is protein based, ingests portions of viral DNA into missing sections of human chromosomes, altering the personality and genetic make-up making the vampire prone to stomach aches, headaches, depression, and the other symptoms I have mentioned.
As blood comes into contact with the air for just a moment, a compound forms. There has not yet been enough research done to discover exactly which elements react to form this compound, but we do know that if the blood is allowed to remain in contact with the air for too long, the compound begins to denature, and is useless to the vampire.
The new compound is introduced to the body when blood is ingested, and acts as a barrier between the viral DNA and the human chromosomes, thus easing the symptoms. After a week or so, the medicinal properties of the compound deplete, and the vampire needs to feed again. If she does not, the Thirst will grow worse and worse until she decides to give in to her urges.
When a vampire allows a human to drink her blood, she becomes infected with the virus. In effect, the human becomes a vampire. The change can take as little as a day or as long as a week, for which time the human/vampire experiences flu-like symptoms. Within a few months of the turning, the new vampire will begin to experience the Thirst.
Blood, the vampire's medicine, is obtained only from the most willing 'donors' or 'sources'. Only small quantities, a few drops, a spoonful at most, can tide a vampire over for as long as a four or five weeks. The traditional bite in the neck is legendary, but impractical. A popular alternative is a lancet (the small blades used by diabetics to take small samples of blood from the fingertip), which is easy to obtain, and disposable.
* * *
Life for a vampire, born or turned, is more complicated still. Not only do they have to face prejudice and fear of rejection by anyone they chose to confide in, but in many cases are forced to take on a hunter. Hunters, although more common Stateside than in the UK, spend their time hunting down vampires for two main reasons: Firstly, religion. Many people, usually Christians, believe that all vampires are primarily evil creatures, and therefore the slaughter of a vampire is a righteous act in the eyes of "The Lord". Secondly, there are the misguided among us who believe that vampires all are murderers and their destruction is imperative to the continuation and longevity of the human race. Of course, neither could be farther from the truth. A vampire is no more an evil monster than its human neighbor, and no more a killer than its human parents.
On the contrary, vampires have even stronger reasons not to kill than humans. To risk arrest is to risk exposure, and with exposure comes hatred, prejudice and fear. A murderous vampire who is released from jail amidst full public knowledge of his condition would be further persecuted by society, and a return to the protective prison from which he has just been freed would almost be welcomed.
* * *
In this article I have merely scratched the surface of vampire culture. There is so much more I could tell you, but either do not have the words, or the permission. A very large proportion of vampire are uneasy about letting "normal" people know they exist, and for valid reasons. Imagine the danger they put themselves in every time they feed, and they have all had their fair share of experience with hunters. The reason so few people know the truth is no doubt due to the fact that so few vampires are any more than reluctant to tell any human their secret. And with the persecution homosexuals were forced to face in the 1950s and 60s, I for one don't blame them.
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