THE UNDEAD

Forget what you know. Garlic, stakes, sunlight, even beheading. None of them work. The only thing that works against the undead is faith. I don’t mean a cross held up to the face of a dead man with fangs… Although certainly, if you believed it enough, you might convince them enough of it that it would work. It’s true faith. It’s believing without question, the way that a child would, that you don’t even need salvation to is come bustin down that door.

Believe it or not, the idea of a vampire, and the various myths and lore surrounding them are nothing more than propaganda. At some point in time, the legend became so powerful that the undead actually believed it to be so. Soon after the first legend came about, followers starting rising up, they tested the boundary of the myths. They burst into flames when in the sun, because in their minds they doubted that they wouldn’t. They feared that death would come in the touch of a stake, and so when a stake touched them, so did death. It was all a lie. They run rampant across our world due to a heinous lie. The truth is that everyone is dead. Or rather everyone is undead. The vampire, is nothing more than a way to explain that idea. His power, his strength and ability, even his bloodlust are all a lie designed to keep his focus off the truth. It’s a cage, a menagerie of lifestyle. It is the same cage that everyone else in the world lives in. They pretend to live their lives, fighting for a place in this world. Fighting for survival, but what they don’t understand, is that they are just as dead as the undead. They fear death, they fear life, they fear the undead. It’s all a lie, it’s a diversion from what we should really fear. 

There are three types of living. First there are the masks. Their entire lives are bent upon hiding their nature. They go through life being what they are not, afraid of what they are. They prey upon those that will let them. When the call to arms is sounded, they fall in line, not knowing why they are there. The mask steals the respect of his society. He drains his power in secret, and in the dark, and when the lights come back on, he is just as surprised as everyone else to see that something evil happened. Most people are the mask. He is a social vampire; pretending to be the count in the castle when he is nothing more than a monster.

Second is the demon. The demon is the man who is in rebellion. He is not concerned with anything but himself. He rebels against any and every type of authority, and when it comes down to it, he will raise hell. Have you ever seen the biggot hooded, hiding behind his burning cross? Or the bald headed gang toting the propaganda of an ancient race? The rapist, the murderer, the list goes on and on. Everyone of these preying upon any who are less than themselves. Their bloodlust is for fear. They are vampires of power. They are the warrior spirits consumed with nothing but the pulse of humanity. They rip it from the neck of any who would come near. This vampire doesn’t need a mask, he has accepted what he is, and what is insane, is that he likes it.

However, when all is said and all is done, these two have yet to sum up what lurks in the heart of men. The last of the living, sums up the life of the dead. The scum of the earth who spend their days sifting through the trash of society. They prey on the scraps of the masks, and the demons. They are the brooding vampires. Not aware of anything but their situation, waiting and crying in the refuse of humanity. Preying on garbage and small animals. 

These three living, they are exactly the same as the undead. Vampires. The world is a farce. My name is Jude. Twelve years ago, I was murdered. A vampire of mythic nature took interest in me. I of course had no idea what he was. First of all, the idea of a vampire was pure insanity at the time, and even if I had understood what he was, he understood it better than I had. He walked in the light, and enjoyed extra garlic on everything he ate. I would never had known by the classic signs. I was fifteen, and a street rat. Mr. White made the mistake of leaving his car running outside of his hotel. Everyday it was the same, Mr. White would pull in front of his hotel, leave his car running, and sit inside for a good ten minutes with the desk clerk before he got back into his car and drove away. I observed this for a month before my hunger, and my curiosity got the best of me. A jaguar was a whole lot of money to a penniless street rat.  I drove that car at least ten miles away before I noticed the tank was on empty. Pulling into the gas station, a sudden cool rush flooded the air. This wasn’t my first theft. I felt like it was though. All the hair on my neck stood up as I opened Mr. White’s car door. There was no one in sight, but I felt like I was being stalked. The gas tank could wait, this station was not a good place to fuel up. It was cold and stale, and I was scared. I pulled the car door shut and turned the engine over. The engine however, disagreed and lay dead.

“She’s out of gas you know.” A calm voice from beside me spoke.

“Holy Shit!” I was sitting next to White. My body instinctively pushed against the door. “Shit Man! Where the hell did you come from?!” White did not return my amazement at his sudden appearance.

“You are very intent on living.” He spoke quietly. At the time, I wasn’t sure the point he was making. I would soon learn that Mr. White enjoyed being enigmatic in his speech. I replied as best I could to such an odd question.

“Hell yeah man.” Later on I would realize that his question was a statement, not a question.

“Why do you play this game.” Again a statement rather than a question.

“What the fuck?… How the hell did you…” White cut me off with force.

“I believe I have been quite gracious to you in allowing this situation to continue to the degree it has, must you persist in your disrespectful language young man?” He fixed his gaze upon mine. I heard the words come out of his mouth and rest upon my soul. They burried themselves deep into me, until I heard them in my voice, asking myself why I was so rude.

“Why do you play the game? Is it because you want to live? Is this what you call a life?” Although Mr. White’s eyes remained fixed upon mine, the thoughts conveyed in his words seemed to carry out their intent. His words looked me over. They made me feel dirty, like a street rat. His eyes grew.

“Do you want to see what living truly is?” His words were not calm, they were rushed, like hot blood gushing out of a freshly severed wound. 

“What is living?” 

Mr. White was a well groomed man. He had a pale complexion, devoid of age. The one quality that stood out about the man next to me were his eyes. I couldn’t tell if they were blue, or green, or yellow or purple. What I could tell, was that my image consumed them. My reflection grew more and more the larger his pupils grew. His stare gave way to something even more prominent than his eyes. Teeth. He had pearly white teeth, with insanely large canines. They created for me a grim smile.

“I will show you.”

What followed next was normal by any means of conventional lore. Mr. White sunk his teeth into my neck with a piercing intent that shattered my composure. As much as I tried to fight it, his will became mine and everything that was individual to my existence had no more meaning than the tears I cried as a child. They were all swept away with my blood, until the only thing I could hear was the sound of the blood pulsing through my arteries. When the memories of my tears and joys started to take shape, and I could feel my life passing, Mr. White let go of my limp body and asked me a simple question.

“Will you drink?” his eyes glistened with anticipation.

I could feel my mind being exposed to a great blight. What came through the doorway was so powerful that I could not look upon it, because it blinded me if I tried.

“Yes.” I said. He took a moment to pierce his wrist with his large canines and placed the exposed wound in front of me. I was lurched forward by a force that was stronger than death, and stepped into the world of the undead ferociously. I savored his sweet blood until I was fully replenished from the blood he had stolen from me. I fell back into the car seat, and lay still. My eyes were open and hot with the fire of living, though my body grew cold.

That was twelve years ago. Twelve years is infantile in comparison to some of the undead creatures who roam this city. But then, as Mr. White always says, “Age is how many years you’ve had to apply knowledge, but wisdom is what you’ve done when you stop applying age.”

Mr. White buried me in the tomb that he had  been buried in when he was first sired. It was an ancestral home built on a plantation in the Victorian era. In the vast yard of this Plantation was a graveyard where family was buried. In essence Mr. White had given me his family, in return for my life. In the last twelve years, Mr. White always emphasized the necessity of giving back something for life. He claimed that it was part of the natural order, and what keeps “our kind” from being more than animals. It even separates us from being merely humans, for most humans never give to the circle, although they take with wanton abandon. This was Mr. White’s way. He took me from my life as a street rat, and set for me a path. 

Now in the main annex of his plantation was a statue of three brothers. This statue was what Mr. White called, “wisdom captured in stone.” According to Mr. White, the artist was a firm believer in the harmony of humanity, and the natural order of things. This statue was the embodiment of these ideals. One of the brothers wore a mask that resembled the masks of the theatre. It was divided in two halfs. One of which was sad, and the other which was happy. He stood in the middle of the two proudly. The brother to the left of the masked brother, was wearing a lion skin and he stood ready to pounce upon something which was off in the distance. And the third brother was wearing the clothes of a peasant. His garments were worn, and full of holes and in hiding to the right and just behind the masked brother he held something in his hand. I walked around this statue to see a little girl captured in a typical child like innocence. It was her hand that the peasant brother was holding, and it seemed that in his grasp she was safe. Underneath the statue lay the inscription. “reciprocity.”

Mr. White constantly referred to this statue. In all lessons, and in all musings, this statue was his canon. It possessed in it something so intrinsic that everything he observed and experienced after its inception had in it the mark of the statue.

One day, Mr. White brought me to the statue for a lesson in philosophy. “The girl is hiding behind her protectors, Jude?”

“Certainly she is hiding from her protecters Mr. White, but why?” I said.

“Are you sure that she is hiding, or being hidden?” asked Mr. White.

I studied the look of innocence upon the girls face and the way her hand was safe in that of the peasants and decided that the three brothers were indeed protecting her.

“From what then is she being protected from?” I asked.

“It is not what she is being protected from, but why she is being protected that matters.” Stated Mr. White.

He stopped looking at the statue and caught my eyes. “Why are they being protected Jude?”

“Who is the little girl?” I asked. “What does she mean to them?”

“Who are the protectors?” asked Mr. White.

“They are vampires. The three types of vampires which you have taught me about.” I said.

“Then who is this little girl, Jude? Can you not answer this question.” He responded.

“She is there food.” I said ashamed.

“Do you hold the hand of your food before you take from it its life?” He snapped. “Listen to what the statue is telling you.”
“She is there pet.” I was grabbing for an answer.

“ I will not dignify that with an answer Jude.”

“She is there hope.” My answer caught his attention.

“And why do you say this.” He asked.

“Because hope is what pulls everything together. It gives us a reason to fight.” I said. I was sure that whether my answer was wrong or right, it was impressive.

“Then why will they take her life?” he said with piercing eyes. I could see now that the questions answer was more complex than the answer I gave him.

“Why do they drink her blood?” he asked again, this time with a grizzly smile.

“Because hope cannot defend herself, and they are hungry. They figure that it is helping her by killing her, and siring her?” I asked.

“We do not sire them, they sired us.” He turned his eyes from me. “Bring me your hope, and sire her. See then what you believe.” He lifted his hand in that familiar motion which said leave me, and I did.

Late that night, I went into the city and sat in a local twenty-four hour diner thinking about what Mr. White had said. The extra rare steak had only wet my appetite for something a little closer to the real thing and I was getting increasingly agitated and hungry.

A waitress named Reba came over to fill my cup with some more drudge they called coffee and to pointlessly banter to pass the night hours. 

“So if your just gonna sit here for a little while longer, I’ll let Anne know to come out and fill your coffee. I’m going home, my shifts over… alright hun?” She phrased it as a question, but it was definitely a statement with no room for change or growth. In a couple of minutes, Anne was going to come over with a pot of brown drudge and fill up my coffee while making banter about what a beautiful night it is. The truth is that is wasn’t a beautiful night. 

A heightened sense of smell, and taste made the coffee extra bland. And the extra bloody stake I had ordered only made me more hungry. The void of any real living was amplified by the stench of sweat coming off Reba, the current waitress. This was only broken by her low gutteral demand for an answer to her statement. “So is that gonna be okay there buddy… Don’t worry Anne will be here any minute now.” At this, she apparently was tired of waiting for another opportunity to ask me a statement, not a question, which ironically I never even answered the first time, so she turned and walked into the backroom. I could hear her rolls of fat bouncing with every step. It was all very disturbing. 

As she walked out the door in her after work clothes, and purse in hand, I thought about eating her, but thought that my time would be better spent brooding. Sometimes getting off just isn’t worth it.
“Hi my name is Anne, and I’ll be taking over where Reba left off. I’m gonna be covering the whole place tonight so if you need me, you’ll have to holler.” 

The voice was young. By the sound of the vocal chords, I would say twenty to twenty-two. One of the tricks Mr. White had taught me was how to stretch and skew my vocal chords in order to mimic people and even throw my voice. Naturally, I became a student of language and I learned to tell almost instantly which region, state, county, or country my prey was from. Mr. White claimed that the best person to prey upon was someone who was not from “these parts,” as they say. Anne, was certainly not from these parts. 

There was something about her that was not the same as others. I know that this statement in itself is very cliche. But it is all I can say to adequately express what I saw. There is nothing that I can’t say that hasn’t been used before to describe people of her essence. There is a point where a truth that is so absolute tries to reason itself into existence, but existence can’t just ease this truth in. Such truths are mysterious and paradox. They catch your eye and never let it go, and if you stare long enough into the ether, you can find yourself. Anne was like that. Something about her was peculiar, and disturbing without being disgusting or morose, like the waitress before her. She had a handle on something I didn’t even have a name for. 

In the time I spent with Mr. White, he had encouraged the study of my prey. He instilled in me the idea that it is not worth killing something you don’t know intimately. According to Mr. White, the ability to give life through siring, and to take life through killing was not a curse, but a gift. It was the freedom to be without side or boundary. The curse was the responsibility of choosing wisely, for the consequences of an eternal being are felt eternally. “If you kill. Be sure that it is not the blood lust that kills, but it is you. Ask yourself if the circle of life is greater served by their death? If you drink of your lust, you are no more than an animal. But if you drink of your choice, you are a man. Even so, if you do not drink, though you lust, you are more than animal, and more than man, for these will die if they do not satisfy their bodies, but you can never die.” He would muse.

Mr. White’s philosophical ramblings aside, he instilled into me something that was intentional. The undead that I am, is not beast nor man. I am not a predator, though I prey, and I am not a killer, though I kill. These distinctions were, as Mr. White called them, “transitory.” As I watched Anne, I decided that what she had in her was a truth that could neither be preyed upon, or killed. She smiled at me from across the way, and continued about her business, and I sat in my chair for the rest of the night bewildered.

Vampires are afraid of the Sun. Sunlight is illuminating. It beats down on those who oppose it, and reigns in those who dare to challenge it. According to Modern science, the Sun is a ball of swirling gases. Its perhaps overly dramatic, but I prefer the occultic slant. The Sun is the initiator of the circle of life… in short, you don’t fuck with it. For some odd reason, vampires have instilled this idea into their own societal lore. 

For the vampire, the sun is God. What’s more is that God is angry. We don’t play in the sun, we don’t look at the sun, and we sure as hell don’t dare to get in its way. We run from its voice, and hide from its heat. At least, they do. Mr. White believed that the sun was vital; its grasp could not be escaped by anything so base as darkness. He believed that running from the sun is as pointless as running from your own shadow. This was one of the first lessons he taught me when I woke up from my death.

As I clawed my way out of the coffin into the open air, I was greeted by sunlight, not darkness. In the light was Mr. White’s thin frame. His frame was all I could make out as my eyes slowly adjusted to the light, but his frame was vivid and striking. There was no way that this man could be mistaken for anybody else. He was clearly the Man who had killed me in the car that I had stolen from him. The sunlight was warm and Mr. White walked in it as if it was his favorite thing to do. His walk was regal, and intentful. It basked in the glory of himself, and made everything about him acknowledge his greatness. I followed him in a stupor back to the mansion of his vast estate where he sat me down to explain who he was, and what I had become.

“My child, do not be afraid. You have been given something beyond your wildest dreams,” he began. I wasn’t the most receiving of the concept at first, but it was that first experience as a vampire in the light, which he used to prove the power of belief. From this one experience, I now have the strength to do what other vampires dare not think of. 

The light began to pour in the window lighting up the polished diner bar stools. As it raced across the table toward me, I took solice in its impending heat. I have found that the night is cold, for those who must steal their heat from others. Anne walked over to me and stood over me with an air of anticipation. I could smell the tinge of deodorant masking her sweat. It was an odor of anticipation. The normal human would not have smelled it coming off of her, so clearly she was about to involve me in an experience which was either dreaded or out of the ordinary. But in my experience, the two often go hand in hand.

“Sun’s coming up stranger, shouldn’t you be getting home.” Anne said anxiously.

I looked into her eyes, “The night is still young ma’am.” Her eyes were watching the light. 

“Don’t you hate going to bed after the sun has risen?” she asked. Her eyes were still fixating on the light which was now creeping closer to my hand. She was anxious to see the light touch me, and I decided to play her farce. I lunged my hand into the light, and watched her eyes intently. Her pupils fell deep into themselves as she let out a barely audible gasp. I could see her muscles flexing in anticipation. She had become poised to react, and was expecting something specific. She was expecting that I would burst into flame.

“I love the feel of fresh sunlight in the morning.” The smile I gave her was an echo of Mr. White’s grin. It was void of emotion, but full of intent. Her body slowly loosened up, and her eyes began to focus on mine.

“Sorry, what was that,” she had not yet come to the conclusion that I was not a vampire. Her mind was catching up with her eyes. “I mean, yeah, I like the sun too.”

“You’re right though, I should probably get going.” I said. The question in her eyes was captivating. I suppose that any number of things could have been in her mind. She could have been zoning in the direction of the light, but then again, she did start the conversation with me. The girl new something of vampires, and all though that was not uncommon in this giant city of unsolved mysteries and morose and macabre crimes, most who knew would never approach a suspected vampire. As I gazed into her eyes, I found her voice and pulled it out. ‘I was wondering if you would like to get dinner sometime?’

I asked.

She looked into my eyes and began speaking my thought, “I was wondering if you would like to get dinner sometime?”

“I would love to.” I mused.

Mr. White had done this to me as a human. Listening to my voice, he spoke to me what he wanted me to say, and I said it. It’s hard to understand at first. When Mr. White was teaching this to me, he explained it as a parent to a child, or a wife to a husband. If the relationship is strong enough, the child will know what the parent wants without the parent telling them. That form of suggestion is as to a servant. The marriage is the better example though. The relationship is so understood that no words are necessary. According to Mr. White, if you look deep enough, and find the voice of your subject, they will hear and follow. 

Anne didn’t know what hit her. She stepped back, and looked surprised at her proposal. “I’m sorry, that was forward of me.”

“Yes it was, I’ll pick you up tonight at seven.” I stated.

“See you then?.” She said confused.

I  smiled at her and put down on the table a twenty. “Keep the change.”

Walking out the door into the sunlight I headed for the White Estate. I had a few questions I needed to ask Mr. White, before I talked to Anne tonight. If Anne knew something about our kind, then why wasn’t she afraid? Mr. White would want to know about her.

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