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"…At First Sight"

By: Henry Nagel

As owner and editor of a tabloid magazine, a lot of strange articles pass my desk. Most are interesting fabrications (although I'll never admit that publicly), while some have very disturbing rings of truth to them. The fabrications are plastered on the front page, in bold type, 'cuz those stories sell magazines. The more true stories are scattered near the middle, and seldom read. Perhaps because the truth really is stranger than fiction, people don't believe those stories, they're too outlandish, and don't have a writer's embellishment on them to make it palatable, sensible. The fictional accounts are “all that and a bag of chips,” to use the current vernacular (and I'll bet you didn't think a tabloid editor knew five-dollar words, much less how to spell them).

People should pay more attention to what's too shocking to be true, than to what's so bizarre it has to be true. That's unsettling, at times. People believe what they want to, or are willing to believe. That is the foundation of my business: tell them what they suspect, show them what's possible, and give them what they want. “Lesbian Nazi Voodoo Cult Leader Gives Birth to Alien Senator Joseph Lieberman's Mutant Love Child.” Some people would partially believe, or want to believe, this story out of pre-conceived notions for the anal-retentive senator.

Information prejudice, I call it. It sells magazines, but it's false. Now, a title like “Vampire Commits Suicide” is simultaneously too mundane and too far-fetched to sell magazines, but it's true. I'll get to that in a minute.

First, you're probably wondering who I am, and what tabloid I own. Sorry, I can't tell you. I'm just a jaded fat man that sells magazines. But, I will tell you how the story came to my desk, and how it has affected me.

It was October 28th, three days before Halloween. We were inundated, as usual around that time of year, with reports of “ghosts,” “monsters,” and “physical evidence” of alien spacecraft and demons from the netherworld. I call it the 'Werewolves and Saucers and Spooks, Oh My” season. A few were written so poorly they might just as well have been scrawled on toilet paper with a crayon. To the trained eye, there's a difference between absurd truth, and awful writing.

Mixed in with these seasonal favorites were spiteful articles (again, some of them true) about troublesome celebrities caught in deviant sex-acts with their gay lovers. I still don't understand the appeal of these types of stories, love is a rare and precious thing. You can doink your favorite chair, for all I care. If it gives you pleasure, and no one gets hurt (or has to sit in that chair), more power to ya. Information prejudice again, or maybe it's a variant of “schadenfreude,” the enjoyment of the misery of others.

I was sifting through all of this, trying to find the “gem in the outhouse,” when I came across the package.

It was a plain Manila envelope, overstuffed and bulging. My eyes were burning from pouring over all the article submissions, and yawning only made it worse. I got up to get another cup of coffee, to try to wake up a bit. The clock read midnight, the coffee tasted like Penzoil, and my tired, old back was starting to ache. I could call it a night, and go home, but there was nothing to go home to but the TV. The package became a little clearer after a couple gulps of oily coffee, it was addressed directly to me, no return address. The weird thing was, it was written in calligraphy.

Inside were a newspaper clipping and a videotape. The clipping read:
Minot, ND Oct. 4 1998 - KMMC Cameraman, Ronald Enzminger, age 28, dies of a self-inflicted gun-shot wound to the head. Police are unsure of Enzminger's reasons for the apparent suicide. There was a video camera aimed at the chair where Enzminger ended his life, but the tape is missing.

Family members say Enzminger was a very quiet, shy man. Neighbors of Enzminger report him coming home very late at nights, and staying in his apartment for long periods during the day. Whether this was due to depression, or the nature of his job is unclear. Co-workers also report of Enzminger mentioning his first girlfriend in seven years, Cassandra.

Foul play is not suspected, but Minot police are still searching for the videotape, and more information on “Cassandra.”

I was dubious, to be sure. This clipping could have been easily manufactured. The tape, while probably a hoax, was more than likely “cult” connected. Minot was, after all, connected with the “Son of Sam” killings. This story followed the first rule of tabloid writing, which I mentioned earlier: play off of previous beliefs, perceived or otherwise.

I popped the tape into the VCR, and reached into my desk for my constant companions - Ding Dongs. Nothing goes better with junk publishing than junk food. I grinned as I hit “play,” this ought to be good.

The screen filled with static, then cleared slightly as the figure of a gaunt, haggard man walked from behind the camera to the chair in the center of the screen. Why was the picture so bad? Wasn't this guy supposed to be a cameraman? And, the newspaper clipping said Enzminger was only twenty-eight years old, this guy looked much older. His face lined with the pain of age, gray hair mixed with light brown. No, wait, the static and my fatigue must have played tricks on my eyes. Enzminger looked into the lens of the camera as he sat, the static faded and the image of a young, handsome man appeared.

Now it was even weirder, this guy was very handsome. He could have been an anchorman, not a cameraman. I couldn't believe he'd be quiet, shy and lonely. There were way too many holes in this story, already. Whoever put this hoax of a tape together was very sloppy. The setting and the name were correct, but the poor camera work and the actor were not.

“My name is Ronald Enzminger,” the actor said in a calm, smooth voice. He didn't sound like a man about to waste his life. “I am a vampire.”

The chocolate coating of the Ding Dong caught in my throat as I snickered. The hoax was complete, and they didn't even build it up, just laid it out right from the beginning.

He sighed, “There it is. I can never be human again. I wish I could, God knows I wish I could, but that just ain't gonna happen.” He was playing the part very well. The tone and gestures were as if he fully acknowledged and accepted this dire fate. His voice was calm enough to have an almost hypnotizing quality to it.

“So…'just sit right back, and you'll here the tale,' call it 'Ramblings of a Vampire', call it whatever you want. But, these are the facts; I feed off of others, I am nearly invulnerable, and, most importantly, I am not alone.” His voice cracked slightly, he smiled almost pathetically, “Well, I am now, but what I mean to say is that there are more like me out there. Invisible undetectable; we don't kill - well, not directly, at least - but we do feed.” His smile dropped completely, “It's not pretty, but the survival instinct never is.”

“How, Ron, you ask, did this all start? Well, keep an open mind. It gets pretty deep. I didn't buy half of the stuff Cassandra told me either, until she showed me. I'm a practical guy, being a technician, and all. Channeling, Ouija boards and all that New Age metaphysical crystal-gazing crap never made any sense to me. I like horror and sci-fi movies as much as the next guy, but that's just movies. All that Zen stuff ain't real. It's fine for movies, but as a way of life? I don't think so. At least, I didn't think so.”

He sighed, his eyes seemed to - glitter, “OK, I guess it started on the 4th of July. I was taping the fireworks display at the Fair Grounds for playback during the weather segment. I had the carnival in the bottom of the frame, with the fireworks overhead. The light from the fireworks was playing on the Tilt-a-Whirl and the roller coaster, it was gonna be a really neat shot. I love it when I feel like I'm doing something artful. Then the camera crapped out. Stopped dead. I knew it wasn't the battery pack, I always triple-check that before I leave the studio. I started to tinker with the camera, when I noticed a gorgeous brunette leaning on the fence next to me. She was staring at the fireworks with the concentration of a child, soaking it all up. There was something about her. I can't quite describe it. Well, the skimpy shorts and tank-top, for one thing, but there was something else. She seemed to actgorgeous, if you know what I mean. Larger than life; like a movie star? No, more like a movie character.

“I wanted to walk right up to her and start talking, but - what would I say? Besides, it had been seven years since I'd even had a date! I'd have been no good for her. I was too far out of practice. I know, I know, you're thinking 'seven years?' Yeah, seven years.”

His eyes drifted away from the lens, static crept up the bottom of the screen. Ron's face appeared old and sad again. “Once a guy is afraid, or shy, you tend to stay away from relationships, and it just snowballs until you feel like this is the way it's always gonna be, I'll die a lonely old man. You get used to it, you get comfortable with the loneliness, and even become fearful of ending it. I know I've shot myself down, before I've even approached a girl.”

“Anyway,” Ron straightened and looked into the lens again, the static faded, “she glanced at me and the camera, and walked away. I felt as if I had stumbled while walking in a dark room, surprised, excited, and unsure if it had really happened. Then the camera clattered back to life, and scared the crap outta me.”

“Weeks later, I still couldn't get her out of my mind. The image of her long, dark hair swaying as she walked away, the feeling of - of - awe I had, just looking at her. She literally was the image of dream walking. But it was more than just her spectacular looks there was something about her - larger than life. Hmmm, maybe it was more than alive.”

“Thinking about her reminded me of how lonely I was, though. After seeing her, it was like she woke up an itch that I couldn't scratch. I got tired of the emptiness in my apartment, and decided to go out with a couple people from the station on their bar-rounds one night. I was horribly uncomfortable. The pressure was terrible. People packed the bar so tight, that the air was humid from their breath and sweat. And every one of them was 'shopping', sizing each other up, looking for the best value. Some were obviously on clearance. And, it seemed to me, the market was based on disposability, not long term use.” He shrugged with his face, “So, I said a little and drank a lot.”

“Then the air seemed to change, like the night of the 4th.” His eyes grew wide with the memory of it, “One of the bar-lights flickered in a corner booth, and there she was! I was beginning to wonder if I had really seen her at the Fair Grounds, or if she was only a dream. But she was right over there, in the corner booth. She was more incredible than I remembered her. The flickering bar-light and the flashing lights from the dance floor reminded me of that night.”

“Already feeling a little tipsy, seeing her made my head spin. She looked right at me, and smiled. I could almost hear a whip-crack above the thump of the house-music. Without even thinking, I got up from the table, and walked over to her. J.D., the video editor, made a crack about my bladder, not knowing I was going over to talk to a real, live woman. The 'Ultimate' woman, no less.”

“I had no idea what I'd say, my mouth was dry and I felt sick with fear and excitement. But, somehow, the words came. Maybe it was the tequila shots, but I don't remember what words. I just remember that there were no lies, or role-playing, or cheap lines. No 'what's your sign-if I told you that you had a beautiful body would you hold it against me-haven't I seen you someplace before' crap. Well, except for the last one. I had seen her someplace before.”

“She did say one thing I remember. She looked deep into my eyes and said, 'It's time.' I was still drunk, but this time, on her. I don't know how, but we left the bar and ended up at her place.”

“My head had cleared a little by the time we reached Cassandra's. She had this big, expensive house on the west side of town, overlooking the river. We were at her front door, and I felt like I was in a void, completely uncharted territory, like I'd have to start all over again. What was I doing here? Who is this woman? What am I gonna do now? I wanted to leave almost as much as I neverwanted to leave. Then, she took my hand and opened the door.”

“She stood in the doorway, her full lips curling into a smile, making her jaw line seem even more cat-like. Once I looked into her eyes, again, I was like butter.”

“How do you feel,” she asked. “God, that voice. How could I forget it? I wasn't nervous or scared anymore. I guess,” he seemed to eye the tripod, “I guess I fell in love with her then. I just wanted to be near her, and have her near me, always.” Ron looked up, again. A light haze of static clouded the screen, Ron appeared on the verge of tears, “There was a kind of twinkle in her eyes, and she asked again how I felt.”

“I told her I was just fine. With a nod, she led me inside.”

“History!” Ron snapped his fingers, making a sudden realization. “That's part of what we talked about at the bar. I remember because of her house, the place was filled with antiques and ancient history. There were vases, clocks, furniture, rugs, paintings and even weapons from different times. Very tastefully done, but it was also very dark. It looked like there were only candles, at first, but they were actually little light bulbs. Kinda gothic, but kinda sexy, also.”

“We talked all night, sharing common interests. Mostly, we talked about arts and entertainment, with a little bit of some of the more violent historical periods thrown in. I've had a lot of time to fill myself up on movies and books. Seven years, in fact. Cassandra was way ahead of me, though. She could have been on Jeopardy.”

“Jokingly, I asked her how she knew so much about history and culture. Things might have turned out differently if I hadn't have asked her that, but I doubt it.”

“She looked me right in the eye, and told me, 'Ron, I'm over one hundred years old.' Naturally, I laughed. It seemed like a lame joke, but it was the only response I could muster. She said it was the truth. 'I was born in 1886 in Chicago, Illinois,' she said. 'Shortly after the Haymarket Massacre.' She wasn't joking. Her full name was Cassandre O'Farrell. A vampire since 1908, making her perpetually twenty-two years old.”

“Oh, man. A vampire. I tried to laugh again, it came out shrill.”

“She grabbed hold of my head, so fast, I didn't even see it coming. 'This, ' she whispered, locking my eyes to hers, 'is what makes me a vampire.' At first, all I could see where the bottomless depths of her deep brown eyes. Then, something …shifted. Everything …shifted.”

“Even though the living room was lit only with those tiny light bulbs, it seemed to be filled with light. No, that's not quite right. The room, and everything in it, seemed to have its own light.”

“Have you ever seen the Disney movie, 'Tron'? Everything looked like that, like a neon cartoon. All the stuff in her house had a smooth, subdued light on it, or better yet, in it. The little, candle shaped light bulbs faded, becoming dull puffs of an almost gray light.”

“Then there was Cassandra. My sweet Cassie looked as white as a snow bank. There was a shimmering glow around her, like the northern lights. I had seen stuff like this before, but only in movies. And because of movies, I knew what it was. This …body halo was no aurora, but her aura. And I'd bet that even psychics, or Shirley MacLaine, had never seen one this close; this bright, this vivid.”

“I also knew that the colors indicated the frequencies of the aura. Like the spectrum photography they use in astronomy, or even the weather radar they show on the news. But it was more like watching radio, if you get what I mean. I also knew that the frequencies were generated by different emotions. I guess I got that knowledge through Cassie. I'd never heard of anything like that in the movies. White, the dominant color of her aura, was love. I could literally see that she did love me. There were also yellow hues licking at the edges of her aura, this was sadness. I must have hurt her by not believing in her. There was no doubt now, the evidence was irrefutable. I believed in her as much as I loved her. A vampire.”

“Her aura fluttered, a happy blue played at the rim and danced with the yellow. I guess that would have been the colors of bittersweet. Happy and sad mingling, but separate.”

“A tear graced her eye, and she kissed me. She knew that I understood. That single kiss had a lifetime of feelings in it. I kinda wished I could have seen my own aura, at that point. There were so many emotions going through me, I might have made sense of them, had I seen my aura. There were tears in my eyes, as well. I'll never forget that kiss, not as long as I live.”

“The only light in the room, now, was our light. Her body was highlighted by growing strength of her aura, while she also seemed to glow from within. White-blue light blazed around her like the fire of a welding torch. It crackled and sizzled, reflecting off the sweat of her body, between her breasts. I turned, and could see my own aura, then. It was shielded by a dark, orange, shell of fear I had accumulated over the years. Her aura washed over mine, bathing the room in light. My eyes started to hurt. Waves of her white love caressed my orange shell, the orange melted away and the rays of blue and white inside exploded out and mingled with hers, as if from under pressure. We were blinded, but didn't care. Our love flowed through each other like solid lightning bolts, earth-shattering orgasms of pure love and joy, time stopped, and we …we…”

“Wow, sorry, I got a little carried away. I'll just say that what we felt can't really be expressed in words. It's not really like sex, but it is. It's like sex 2.0, if God had revised it and came out with a better version, without the bugs. Picture if angels could have sex…”

“Immortals have all the fun, huh?”

“Tears came again, as I laid there in a bittersweet, yellow-blue afterglow. Kinda gives a new meaning to the word, doesn't it? We held each other, and Cassie told me about vampires throughout history.”

Ron took on a cheesy TV game show host's voice as he talked, I was completely mesmerized.

“Vlad the Impaler, Vampire or Not? EEEHHHNN! Not. He was just a psychotic blood-freak. I'll take Vampires, True or False for 200 dollars, Alex. Rasputin, True or False? True, and you're on the board with 200 dollars.”

Ron started talking in his normal voice again. My mind started to wander, thinking about leaders who might be vampires, right now.

“She named off a string of historical heroes and villains; Joan of Arc, Plato, Mozart, Alexander the Great, Leonardo da Vinci, Torquemada, Louis the XIV, and others that inspire either love or hate. It was a long list, but it's unimportant to the story. They're all dead now, and most of them didn't even know they were vampires. They inspired specific emotions, and fed off of them, but didn't fully realize their power. Had some of the more famous ones known the power they could wield, some of them would be alive today. Or lived quieter lives. They could have fed and not drawn so much attention to themselves. And that, really, is the secret to a long life for a vampire. Perhaps, since they didn't know, they required that much more fear, faith and love to merely nibble.”

“It was then, that I realized she hadn't bitten me yet, and I asked her why. With a laugh, she said, 'Oh, we don't do that. Some have, mind you, but they misunderstood what it is to be a vampire. We feed the mind, not the body. For, the body is perishable, the mind is forever.' Made perfect sense to me. 'Auras, as they're called now, give us everlasting life. We cannot die by natural means, such as disease and illness. Even wounds and injuries heal rapidly. But, we can be killed, just like mortals. If the heart stops beating, or more importantly, the brain is deprived of oxygen for long enough, we die like everyone else. The aura is the most important thing. It comes from the mind and feeds the mind. Even mortals feel this, on some level. At times, they can be even more open to it, as I have done for you.”

“Am I…a vampire, then? She shook her head, indicating no. She was only showing me what it was like to be one with a sort of telepathic bridge.”

“I know this is getting pretty weird, but bear with me. I didn't believe her, either, until I saw the world through her eyes.”

“She took my hand, and said that she wanted to show me something. We walked to the window, and I learned a new meaning to Minot's nickname of the 'magic city.' The view was unbelievable. She lived on the outskirts of the city, so there were few streetlights. I could see, perhaps a half-mile away, mercury lamps from the highway blazing like the sun, throwing out impossibly huge cones of light. I could only imagine what the light of the day looked like, and I understood why vampires were nocturnal. I was somewhat mesmerized. With a silky whisper, she told me to look at the river below.”

“I almost had to shield my eyes from the glare of the streetlights. Once I spotted the riverbed, I found that I could control it, focus it. My heart leapt when the river area came into view. Tiny, multicolored auras bounced and bobbed through the trees and on the shoreline, like enormous, psychedelic fireflies. The whole area seemed to fill my vision, like a zoom lens with a fisheye filter. I could see my normal field of vision, but that area was sharper, clearer, larger. I could clearly see the shape of rabbits, glowing with a neutral tan, kinda copper color. As they hopped about, they took on flecks of a happy blue. Further along the beach, I spied a 'buzzing' purple. It was perfectly still, but the aura sprayed around it, barely outside it, making it hard to tell what it was. I could tell it was facing the rabbits, from its tail flicking slowly behind it. It had to be a cat. One of the happy copper and blue rabbits got too close to the purple cat. The cat pounced, purple flashed nearly twice the size of his body, the rabbit's copper, blue turned to a fiery blaze of frightened orange. The cat chased the rabbit around bushes, and down to the shoreline, its aura sliding from purple to a light blue. Once on the flatter ground of the thin, muddy beach, it gained on the rabbit. The rabbit's aura turned a shade redder, and it dove into a nest of tall weeds, the cat shot past the weeds and stumbled, trying to turn. Its paws got wet, and it gave up the chase, shaking water off its paws and wearing an indignant red-heavy purple. Fish swam by, with rippling, dim brown halos. I turned my head to smile at Cassie - and the view of the city stopped me.”

“She laughed when I did a double-take. The view of the city from her home was probably pretty striking in itself, but when seen like this? What I saw was a city of light. Not nightlights, but the living light of auras. The glow of life-lights stretched on and on before me. Each light added to the glow, but stuck out individually. It's another one of those things that language can't do justice to. I guess - it was like… a room filled with a couple thousand little birthday candles. The room is bright as hell, but each candle has a meaning, a story. They aren't the stories of your own years, but the life stories of a couple thousand people.”

“I felt light-headed, and thought I was gonna pass out. I looked up and away from the city, gasping for breath. I saw the stars, and I couldn't breathe at all. Their light was somehow brighter, and I could see more of them. This didn't seem unusual, after everything else I had just seen. But, then I noticed why they looked brighter, fuller. The weird fisheye/zoom thing happened again, I could see sparse, distant blobs of glows near many of the stars. The blobs were planets filled with auras.”

Then I passed out…”

Ronald Enzminger sighed, and looked away from the camera. This was the first time he did this since sitting down. I paused the tape to get another cup of Penzoil/coffee, and to reflect.

So far, Ron's story was a pretty in-depth piece of fiction. It wasn't a front-page type of story, but a good little two-pager for pages ten and eleven.

And, I don't know about you, but I have mixed feelings about the authenticity of the tape. The guy on the tape was very calm and self-assured, not the picture of a person about to take their own life. And what was with the poor tape quality? The guy is a cameraman, and the videotape is filled with static? How about a little continuity, huh? Also, Ron (or the actor playing him), was an attractive man, I doubt he really went seven years without having a date. I, however, am a balding, heavy-set, middle-aged man. I'm the kind of guy who has seven-year dry spells. Or longer…

On the other hand, the actor was playing the part very well. I could feel what he was trying to convey, and the script was top-notch. I liked the little details, especially the last one about life on other planets. If only the direction was more consistent, then I'd be more likely to believe.

The paused tape had even more static lines in it. Ron's profile didn't look the same. With the static, he looked uglier, more feral. I hit “play,” and Ron/the actor faced the camera again. I must have been jumping at shadows before, he looked fine now. There was something about the static that popped up occasionally that I couldn't put my finger on.

Ron resumed the story, his speech taking on a more deliberate tone.

“I came to, not knowing how long I was out. Cassie was gone. She had left a note, though. I was a little disoriented, and had some trouble reading her old-fashioned handwriting. It basically said that this was only the beginning; there were more wonders than I could imagine. It also said that I should forget everything I had ever seen, heard of, or read about vampires. The truth was much more amazing.”

“Well, who was I to doubt it? I mean, I was this close to needing a change of underwear when I looked out the window before I passed out.”

“I couldn't stop myself, I had to look again. I got up, and went to the window. Everything was dark, except for the faint, orange glow of the street lamps above the highway to the left, and spots of light in town. There was no moon out, so I could see the river only as a flat shadow. No wildlife. The stars were faint, and obscured by light clouds. I smiled at the secret memory of what it all really looked like.”

“The rest of the note said that she'd be gone for a few days. There were things she had to take care of. It promised big things when she returned.”

“Those three days were the most agonizing days of my life. I was as anxious as a dog waiting for its master to return. This apartment, normally my sanctuary, never felt so empty. Work was unbearable, especially when I had to tape that “human interest” story.”

“Lisa, one of the evening anchor-persons, wanted to do a story on depression; what causes it, how to cope with it, and all of that. Here I am, an emotional mess, taping people crying in the psyche ward. It didn't stop there, though. Lisa also interviewed psychiatrists, their patients, manic-depressives, addicts, widows, … man, that was rough. I could only think of Cassie.”

“There was a note waiting for me when we finally got back to the station. It was almost as if Cassie knew what I was going through. Looking back, I know now that she did. The note simply said: 'I'm back. See you tonight. C.'”

“That was enough for me, I was on top of the world again. Interview with Charles Manson? No problem. You want to do a piece on kittens drowning? Let me get my camera. Any contact with Cassie made everything all right.”

“That night, when I saw her, I had an idea. We went to a movie, 'Lethal Weapon 4.' I wanted to see something that had a little bit of everything; action; comedy, suspense, tragedy, love; I saw it all through her eyes. The experience was unbelievable. I could — we could — see who got the jokes and who didn't, the women's adoration of Mel Gibson (and a few men), the excitement of the chase and fighting scenes. Each person's reaction was a little different, and some were the opposite of what was expected. Better than THX sound, better than 3D. Empathy, now that's entertainment.”

“Afterwards? The blinding light of — well, it's new age talk again, but there's no other way to express it: cosmic sex, a merging of not only body, but of spirit.”

“Well, things went on like this for about another week. She'd show me the world with a new perspective, and we'd throw some fireworks in the bedroom. It was great, mind you, but I still knew very little about her. Until one night at the bar.”

“We were watching people trying to drown their pain, but actually feeding it, with booze. It was a sad sight, but that's life. What we were marveling at were the differences in reactions. Some auras fluctuated, emotions flip-flopping in a drunken haze, while others 'bottomed out' to a neutral copper/tan. Hanging out in the corners, were a couple steady glows of red anger. Flashbulbs of blue laughter could be seen randomly going off around the joint. I could also see quite a bit of interest from a lot of guys in Cassie, and some jealousy. Too bad, she's with me. Just watching all of this made me feel a little drunk, except I was getting an emotional buzz. Say, that's not a bad name for a band — Emotional Buzz.”

“Anyway, I realized something just then. There was no white in any of the auras. There was one couple in the back with a dim glow, but nowhere else. The counter, tables, and even the dance floor were without white auras. In other words, there was no love in the room.”

“I asked Cassie about this, she shrugged. 'These are cold times, and love fades,' she simply said. It made me cherish her all the more. Love is a rare and precious thing. I could see how rare it is.”

“Then she turned to me and said, 'Be with me.' I knew what she meant, be with her, forever, become one of her kind.”

“Without even thinking, I said yes. She held my hand, and we watched the crowd some more. I saw something interesting at the bar; she saw it too. We never talked about it, but we should have. A single, lonely woman sat, nursing a beer, watching her girlfriend out on the dance floor. She had a hard, orange shell of fear surrounding all the other emotions inside, like I'd once had. A cheesy looking barfly approached her, trying out his smoothest line. Black and yellow flared out of him, like a wasp. Yellow is the color of sadness. Black is the color of hate; it is as rare as love. The woman's shield reacted with a deeper shade of orange. He tried other lines, with no further response from her. Red started to speckle the yellow, and he finally gave up, retreating with a wide, fake smile.”

“We both followed him with our eyes. He sauntered up to another girl, her appearance and demeanor conveyed a very explicit message. Her aura, on the other hand was contradictory. It was a deep yellow, with traces of both white and black. She had just gotten out a relationship, and was hurting pretty bad. The greasy guy didn't care.”

“Grey-green suspicion floated around her, the black and white became subdued. His lines seemed to work, though. Blue slowly replaced the grey-green, and they talked a little more. Greasy guy's aura added a blue to the black and yellow, but the black disturbingly remained. Without warning, he did it.”

“Holes seemed to appear in his aura right where his eyes were. Cassie tugged at my hand; she wanted to go. On the way out, I saw the white of the heartbroken woman being sucked into the greasy guy's eyes! Her aura seemed to dim, while his became more defined. Their auras started to change in other ways, but Cassie took the gift away before I could see them all. We left the bar without saying a word. I was still trying to make sense of it all. I should have just asked her what had happened, but I never did.”

“We went back to my place, this time. She set me down and looked deep into my eyes, and I'm talkin' de-eeeee-ep. I could feel her in my mind, and down to my soul. Her aura was orange, tinted with yellow, fluttering with white. Since I was near her, mine was a throbbing white.”

“She was wrong when she said that her kind didn't bite. Oh, my neck was fine; she took a big bite out of my mind. I could feel everything racing out of me, my aura being ripped away, from my psyche and through my eyes. It hurt like hell, and … and yet, it really didn't. There was no physical pain, but everything that was me was slipping away, and was being … compressed. My emotions were gone, but if I could feel anything, it would have been anguish. Again, I passed out.”

“When I came to, I was a vampire. I saw everything as Cassie had shown me, but no Cassie. She had left, and with a good portion of me with her.”

“That was October 7th. I haven't seen her since. Her phone was disconnected, and her house was empty. Except for one final note, this note.”

He held up a yellow sheet of parchment-like stationary. The static caused the color to bleed outside the image of it. A form of calligraphy filled the blurred page. Interesting. Yellow light seemed to reflect off of the page and onto Ron's downcast face as he read. Even the static seemed to have a yellow tint to it.

“Dear Ronald, You now know the true nature of the vampire. You can see what others cannot, do what others only dream of. Empathy and telepathy are only the tip of the iceberg. There is telekinesis, pyrokinesis, levitation, psychic traveling, and other skills that you may learn over time. These powers can only be used, though, when one has fed. Then there is the possibility of eternal life. Always remember, emotions are our food, and the fuel for our powers. I would teach you myself, but I have a confession to make. I'm sure you don't love me as you once did, and more than likely, the love you had for me was false from the start. That being the case, I'll tell you the whole truth. You were what I like to call a 'lobster.' A hard shell covered the sweet meat inside you. You're a delicacy to our kind. The love you tucked away inside your shield of fear is a veritable feast for those of us willing to take the challenge to crack your shell. That was what spurred our encounter. I have fed off of many like you. But, I started to feel something for you. That was a little unsettling to me. You see, vampires become 'lobsters,' in a way. You think 'until death do you part' is a long time? It is very scary to be in a relationship. Also, when I turned you, I sensed a darker level to you. Perhaps it was only my own fear, time will tell when you develop your own 'diet.' I shall remember you, I did love you, but I must move on. Use your powers, and feed if you want. If not, you still have abilities beyond normal man. Who knows, we may meet again. Farewell, C.”

He looked up, his face had a pathetic, humoring look to it. I felt for him.

“She's right, I don't love her as I once did. I am no longer obsessed with her, addicted to her. I don't want her love anymore, I want any love I can get.”

“I'm not sure that she really did love me. She loved the love I gave her, but that was probably the extent of it. She didn't give her love to me, only took it. So, in a way, she might have loved me for the love I gave her. I guess I'll never know. And, I'm not sure the love I gave her was even true love. She put on the face that would make me love her, it was a forced love, one sided. But, what is true love? There is always a trigger, whether it's just someone's appearance, shared interests, family instincts, whatever. That is something else I'll probably never know.”

“So, I took her advice, and played with my new powers. One of the — tricks — is a sort of charisma. I can tune my aura to seem like it's white, to seem more attractive, more lovable. I believe this is what Cassie did; it was that 'something special' she seemed to have. The person I saw was probably not even Cassie, but a fantasy of mine, my ideal woman, a face that she wore. It's an effective trick on humans, not only does it attract people because we are physically attractive, but being near us makes them feel good. It's the 'you catch more flies with honey, than with vinegar' clichÉ. I then feed off of this responsive love.”

“I didn't know how to, at first, but then I remembered Cassie's eyes - and the greasy guy.”

“The eyes are the key to everything for vampires, that and the brain. The brain generates electrical activity, which is sent through the rest of the body. Electrical activity throws off electromagnetic 'shockwaves,' which, under the right circumstances, are visible. The northern lights, or plasma displays, even televisions are good examples. Now, the eyes absorb visible light, and transfer these signals to the brain - again using electrical pulses. Our eyes are tuned to a different frequency, and electromagnetic energy is visible to us. Auras are a form of electromagnetic energy, and since they are visible too us, they are absorbed through our eyes, and transferred to our brains.”

“There, the lesson is over. There will be a quiz later.

“Our eyes also focus our little 'tricks.' I'm not sure how all this makes us immortal, but they say a hug a day will make you live longer. I guess love makes you want to live longer, or amplifies the survival instinct. But, then again, so does hate.”

“And I don't hate Cassandra, she only did what she had to do to survive. I see that now. Hell, that's what I do now, too. But, we could have had a real give and take kind of love, if she would have given it a chance. It was worth a shot, at least. Kindred spirits seem to be as rare as love is. Even though it started out as one-sided love, it could have grown. Once I opened up, she was the one that closed off. Had she stuck with me, things might have turned out differently…”

“Anyway, as I was saying, I played with my new powers, tried to develop them, learn the extent of them. I also learned a great deal of what the aura was all about, what vampires are all about.

“I watched people interact with each other, how closely they connected without the benefit of supernatural powers. It seemed that most people did, actually, have the power, but in a very latent sense. Some people were completely oblivious, misinterpreting all those around them, causing all sorts of miscommunications which humans seem to make. There are a few humans that feed, but it's more like a snack. They tend to put themselves in situations that certain emotions are likely. What most of the humans did, was sort of harmonize. If you bang a tuning fork, and set it near another one, the second one will start to ring also. It's one of the reasons 'mob mentality' can take over a group of people. This harmonizing also hampers their thoughts. Have you ever been around someone you didn't care for, but they cared for you? It's rather awkward, not only out of civility, but on a small level, you kind of like them too. And that makes it difficult to tell them to piss off.”

“Over the past month, I'd learned a lot about vampires and human nature. It's sort of funny that I had to become inhuman to understand humans.”

“Also, during that time, other things were becoming more and more difficult. I couldn't watch TV anymore. Since we see electromagnetic energy, all I could see was a gray haze of energy. This, of course, made my job a lot more difficult. I couldn't even look through the viewfinder to focus my camera. Not to mention, the field of energy I throw out when I'm feeling strong emotions. I had to remain a neutral brown for the camera to even work. I took fewer assignments, and gambled to pay the rent. Seeing your opponent's aura is as good as seeing their cards.”

“While all of this was happening, something dawned on me; I'm the bad guy.”

“I was stealing humans most precious gifts, taking away the very thing that gave life meaning, and giving back nothing. I was gorging myself, while destroying them, leaving them empty and loveless. Not very environmentally safe behavior. Perhaps this is another reason Cassie left, out of guilt.”

“I'm sure there are vampires out there that help generate the emotions they feed off of, but that is difficult to do. Especially if your diet consists of specific emotions.”

“I decided to try taking their hate, as a sort of 'damage control.' Cassie had told me about vampires throughout history that have fed on hate, but many of those vampires had a hand in generating that hate, also. I hung around anti-abortion/pro-life protests, and even attended a couple of white-power rallies, taking in hate until I thought I was gonna puke. Attendance had dropped at each successive meeting, but I felt horrible. If I eat well, others suffer. If I scavenge their waste, society benefits. I can see only one solution.”

He turned his head to the right, and reached for something on the floor. His face looked pained and haggard, again. Charisma trick? His eyes were facing away from the camera. He had said that the powers flowed through the eyes, and the static could have been caused by his aura. And the yellow paper? Had Cassie's aura stained the paper? Or was it Ron's aura, the static did have a sad, yellow … tint… to…

Yes, I was starting to buy all of this.

He swung towards the camera again, holding a pistol in his hand. The static…no, the whole picture turned yellow. Ron's eyes were moist. He hesitated, deciding whether to leave the camera on or shut it off. He no longer used the charm trick, and his face was sunken and tired. Defeated.

“Cassie, I thank you, and I curse you. You showed me how precious love is. I can't destroy it anymore. I do believe that there is such a thing as true love. But, it is based on trust and faith. Two capacities I feel I may no longer have. No matter if what we had was real or false, I loved a lifetime with you.”

He turned the camera off.

I was too stunned to turn off the VCR. I believed. I wanted to believe.
I too, am a 'lobster.' I've seen plenty of people who take and give nothing. Were they vampires? Probably not. Ron had said that some people snack, and try to be around certain emotional situations, and that's more than likely the case. For many people, it's actually pretty easy to create those situations. …That's kind of what I do.

An image popped on the screen again. A fantastic looking brunette behind a curtain of white and yellow static. The background was different. The date showed in the corner of the screen; 10/24/01. The brunette said that she had just missed Ron, and could have saved him, but she was too late. She promised to tell me more about it, and gave an address. I have to stop writing now. I have an important date. The first one in a long time…

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