By Bill Thompson
(reprinted with permission from the author)
VAMPIRISM–WHAT’S IN IT FOR YOU:
You’ve seen the brochures and the posters, you’ve watched “Interview With the Vampire” sixteen times, and you’ve decided that the undead lifestyle is just the thing for you. Why not? You’ve heard that vampires are wealthy, powerful and sexy, not to mention immortal and magical. Quite a package, isn’t it? You can’t wait to get your vampire kit and put on that black cape!
Wait. Stop. Think.
Becoming a vampire is a lot like buying a car. You want the fastest, shiniest, sexiest machine around, with all the options. Oh, baby, it’s gonna be so *kewl* when you cruise downtown in it! But then you discover sticker shock. The better something is, the more it costs. And the upkeep! There’s insurance, gas, repair bills and parking fees. Plus, if a cop doesn’t bust you because you couldn’t control the urge to put the pedal to the metal, you can count on someone stealing your car, stripping it and dumping the chassis in Hoboken.
Okay, you’ll settle for a used car. The up-front price is lower, insurance costs are minimal, and not even the little old lady from Pasadena would steal that rustbucket of a Pinto. Of course, it only gets three miles per gallon, it breaks down every week, and the best girls wouldn’t be caught dead riding in it. Bummer, dude!
And that’s just for cars. The lifestyle decision of joining the ranks of the undead is an even tougher call. Does it surprise you to hear that the movies don’t tell you everything about what it’s like to be a vampire? (*Why* does it surprise you? Most movies are wrong about police work, medical care, war, the Wild West, race, religion, romance, sex, science, history, writing, and even about the movie business itself–so why do you expect them to get it right when they do vampires?) What to do?
Why, you need to test-drive a few kinds of vampirism before you take one home and put it in the garage! So, welcome to Honest Igor’s Used Vampire Dealership! We have everything to meet your needs, from the flashiest Count-cape-and-castle style of vampirism to the economical blood fetish. There are at least fifty different types of vampirism, as described in the alt.vampyres FAQ, so we can find something to suit *your* needs. Let’s start with a look at a few of our more popular models.
You say you want nothing but the best? High-end vampirism, just like in the movies? Good choice! You get immortality, the power to hypnotize people and turn into a bat, and the chance to look tortured while Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata plays in the background. No one can resist you; you can collect a bevy of brides, gigolos and demented servants. You stride through the ages while lesser mortals wither and die. I haven’t even begun to list all the options on this baby!
The upkeep? … since you ask …
First, you will never age or change. Sound good? Well–if you don’t like your mortal appearance, don’t expect much improvement. Fat? Scrawny? Weak chin? Huge ears? Those things are now forever. And if you are, say, fifteen, you will *always* appear to be fifteen. Fake ID won’t do you any good. What’s worse, you will always appear to be a vampire. Impressive fangs. People tend to stare at them. And you thought you felt self-conscious when you had your first pimple? How would you feel about looking like Max Schreck in “Nosferatu”?
Next, you hunger for blood. Bloodlust is every bit as real and urgent as a mortal’s need for three square meals a day. You have to plan your existence around that fact. Are you good at planning? Can you identify several good places to find victims? Can you find a victim there and take blood without attracting undue attention? Can you do this night after night for the rest of eternity? Can you think straight while the gnawing hunger drives you mad? You’re still mortal, so practice this by not eating for a couple of days. Then go hunting in the woods and kill a deer or squirrel. Or buy a live chicken at a poultry farm. Then clean it, cook it and eat it. If you can’t successfully do that to a dumb animal, how can you hope to take on a mortal? Which leads to the next cost–
Killing. How do you feel about killing people? Not just your mean old math teacher or your annoying boss, but anyone and everyone? You may *think* you can control the hunger, but the plain fact is that it controls you. Once you start drinking someone’s blood, you may not be able to stop. Can you take the guilt of killing a friend or relative? Or even a total stranger who never did you any harm? You’re about to embark on a career which will leave behind an ever-growing number of widows, orphans and other bereaved people. You may have to spend eternity running away from your acts as a serial killer. Stop–do *not* answer this question by killing someone to see how it makes you feel.
Wealth. Are you already filthy rich? No? Well, don’t worry. You can wait a few centuries while your investments mature. Meanwhile, can you afford to be a vampire? Can you pay the rent? Bribe the authorities into ignoring your depredations? Can you even find and keep a job that allows you to avoid detection as a vampire? No? Then you had better get used to poverty–moving around, hiding your coffin in storm drains and abandoned buildings, wearing ill-fitting clothes that you steal from your victims, and otherwise not impressing your potential victims with your fashion sense. Of course you’re only interested in blood, so you won’t care about existing in squalor.
Sunlight. As a vampire, you may not be able to tolerate sunlight. Bram Stoker’s Dracula could do that, but he didn’t like it and it took him centuries to develop a tolerance for sunlight. Many vampires are either immobilized by sunlight, or seriously harmed by it. You may have to spend your days–every bit of them–lying like a corpse in your coffin. Alternatively, you may be able to remain awake during the day, but only in rooms and other chambers from which all sunlight has been cut out–windows covered by thick, heavy drapes, doors always closed, and so on. This is a problem in the summer, when (give or take a half hour in the USA, depending on your geographical location) the sun rises at six in the morning and doesn’t set until nine that night. Can you plan your night and finish your shopping so that you can return to safety before dawn? If you think you have a clever means of moving about in the daylight, is it reliable enough to risk your existence? Is it something that won’t attract undue attention?
Society. While you’re lying in your coffin, society goes its merry daylight way. Then the sun goes down. The “Closed” signs start to appear in windows, people go to bed and things get quiet. Yes, some things still happen at night. There are restaurants–but you don’t eat, so you aren’t a welcome customer. Plus, most people find it extremely awkward to have a meal while sitting at a table with someone who does not eat. Clubs–but you’re there to satisfy your wild craving for blood, not to make friends. Things are slow at three in the morning, and even in New York or Los Angeles you may find your social life limited. There’s probably no one around to see how romantic you look in your loneliness. Imagine every dateless Saturday night you had in high school and you begin to get the picture.
Of course, the common European vampires exists only for blood. Once he’s fed he returns to his grave, even if it’s well before midnight. All he cares about is blood, so he doesn’t mind the boredom. A damnably dull and dull-witted fellow, but if you’re lucky you might find a more active and exciting model at our dealership. Too bad the best isn’t always available, but that’s the way it goes.
Other vampires. There are two kinds of vampires: people who did not want to be vampires, and people who wanted to be vampires. Those who didn’t ask for it are not all happy campers, and don’t enjoy the company of idiots who thought it would be *tres* nifty to go through eternity like this. Okay, you can avoid people like that. That means you can hang out with other people who wanted to become vampires. But be honest with yourself–would *you* want to spend eternity with someone like you?
And–I’ll be honest here–not all vampires will keep the deal they make with you. Turn you into a vampire in exchange for feeding on your blood? No, most of them will drink your blood and leave you dead, and what can you do about it? Nothing, really–but don’t blame them. There are already too many vampires in the world. Nobody wants to create more competition. Of course we’re not like that, not here at Honest Igor’s. Honest!
Sex. Or the lack thereof. Mortals like sex; vampires like blood. As you woo your victim, she begins to imagine what will happen in bed. You move closer; she prepares for your first kiss. First base! Guess again; you slide past her lips, bite her throat and drain her blood. For you, *that* is scoring. Your instincts, drives, urges, lusts and appetites now center on *blood,* not copulation. You no longer want to have sex. And even if you happen to become the sort of vampire who can have sex–well, if you didn’t just kill her when you took her blood, she’s in no condition to cooperate (and if your prey is male, he’s definitely out of action). And if you choose to become the sort of vampire who is as cold as the grave–well, your partner is *not* going to find that comfortable, much less romantic.
Enemies. Count on it, when someone learns what you are, they’ll want to destroy you. Sure, you can defeat most of them. But sooner or later someone will get lucky and destroy you. Get ready to spend eternity looking over your shoulder.
Secrecy. You can’t trust *anyone.* Even if you don’t look vampiric, there’s still the danger of discovery. Every time you talk to a mortal you run the risk of making a tiny slip that will reveal your true nature. And if you succumb to the urge to boast, then you may as well pin a sign over your heart that reads “Insert stake here.”
Natural or supernatural? Some vampires are a part of the world’s ecosystem. Evolution or some other natural force produced them. They don’t have magical powers, unless you think a working brain is magic–which it might as well be for some people. If you want to become the sort of vampire who can turn into a bat or wolf, or summon mists and storms, you will have to deal with the powers of darkness. Satan, the dark side of the force, or what have you; the powers of *good* do not endow vampirism on their adherents. Their price is simple: the eternal damnation of your soul, which is not a good thing. Even while you survive as a vampire you may have to disrupt your plans and obey your master’s commands, like it or not. Wait, there’s more! You may manage to survive as an occult vampire for many centuries, but sooner or later your dark master will come for your soul–and eternity in hell is infinitely longer than all the centuries of your existence. Don’t worry; here at Honest Igor’s Used Vampire Dealership we don’t deal in that sort of contract. Trust me, heheheheh . . .
And it never ends. You can’t suddenly decide that you’re going to become a mortal again. You have a sudden urge to go to the beach with that lovely redhead? You want to marry that handsome fellow you met in the bookstore? You want to spend two weeks in sunny Florida? Get a grip on yourself. Life is no longer an option.
What? You say that you don’t want to become the Bela Lugosi/Christopher Lee sort of vampire? Or one of those exotic Japanese or Hindu imports that you see on our lot? Well, okay. It’s a radical lifestyle change and I haven’t even scratched the surface on all the costs.
Let me show you one of our spiritual vampires. You turn into a ghostly creature–ectoplasm and all that–visit people at night and have sex with them. Gosh-wow-keen! Lots of fun as you feed on their vital life forces. Just hope that nobody performs an exorcism while you’re in that ghostly shape. Remember, there is always a way to fight and destroy everything. What’s more, sooner or later you will be tempted to boast about your sexual triumphs. This means that in short order most people will stop taking you seriously. Then you’ll try to prove yourself to them. You’ll probably get arrested for attempted rape; certainly the police will try to connect you with other sex crimes. If you don’t go to jail you could end up in a psychiatric institution. That’s embarrassing, because we all know how hard it is to convince a therapist that you aren’t crazy. Psychologists can be *so* unreasonable about things they don’t understand.
Well, sir or madam as the case may be, let’s move along to the next model on the salesroom floor. Kick the tires on this baby: psivamp. As a psychic vampire you can retain many–perhaps even all–of the features of your mortal life. In fact, by feeding on the mental energies of others, you can maintain your youth, vigor and mind beyond the normal limits. And as psychic feedings are hard to detect, there’s less danger that someone will hunt you down and kill you.
Drawbacks? It’s a rare form of vampirism, without the glamor and respect associated with graveyards and goblins. And at times a psivamp finds it hard to locate a decent meal; they still tell the sad tale of the psivamp who starved to death at the 1980 Republican Presidential Convention. What’s worse, if you feed on a paranoid, schizophrenic or other mentally-disabled person, you may find yourself adversely affected. Even if you’re careful and feed only on the finest minds, you have to face the fact that you are draining the people around you. They become boring, unimaginative and lethargic, which definitely puts a damper on your relationship with them. Imagine that everyone you know has turned into Dan Quayle and you’ve got the picture.
Besides, psivamp is a rather esoteric model. Ask yourself this: *why* do you want to suck mental energy from other people? What are you doing with the energies you already have?
Hmm–well, let’s check out blood fetishism, which is the vampiric equivalent of riding a moped. Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone you asked, I know you’re just asking for a friend. Drinking blood is an intimate, sexy turn-on. It’s often a prelude to sex. Some practitioners hold that it will increase your vitality and prolong your life, without the awkward problems associated with being undead. You can work in an office by day, dress up in black and indulge yourself at night, and return to the mundane world the next day.
What does the sticker say? Well, it’s usually something that happens in the later stages of a romance. In other words, you already have to know someone fairly well. Are you any good at that? You don’t just walk up to somebody, offer to exchange tastes of blood, and head for the bedroom. And, yes, you can catch diseases this way. That includes hepatitis and AIDS. Have you ever met an AIDS patient? Even the ones who can afford some of the new treatments are suffering, and have no guarantee that the disease won’t roar back to life and kill them.
You say you don’t believe you can catch AIDS? You asked your partner and he says he tested clean, honest? You believe that medical tests are never, never, never wrong? Uh–oh, our credit department just showed me its report on you. Sorry, there’s a definite deficit in your IQ account. Don’t let the doorknob hit you in the butt on your way out.