ERIC THE VAMPIRE
Copyright 1995, S Hartwell
(I had this dream 22nd August 1995, which was before I had ever heard of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or even Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles. I woke up from the dream with two incredible stabbing pains in my wrist as though something had bitten me. Honestly, in the dream, his name was Eric and this describes exactly what I saw, did and felt in the dream.)

"I'd like to introduce you to my friend Eric," I told the three women I worked with.

Normally any single male straying into their domain caused excitement, but Eric was visibly different. Their jaws dropped as they took in his formal appearance - black suit with waistcoat over a white shirt, a short black cape to match the suit and a black top hat. Eccentric attire for today, admittedly, though there are odder sights at fashion shows. The pallor of his skin suggested that he shunned sunlight and contrasted with his dark hair and the dark four-o'clock shadow of just emerging stubble. He viewed my friends with enigmatic dark grey eyes; eyes which bore a haunted look as well as a hint of amusement at my friends' reaction. It was when he smiled that he caused a true reaction and mocking humour appeared in his compelling gaze.

My friends looked horrified. Eric's smile revealed the extended canine teeth of a born predator.

"He's a vampire!" one exclaimed.

"So?" I asked, "He's still a person."

I could tell by the disbelief on their faces that they considered me suicidal, or at the very least, quite mad.

A vampire, you see, is driven by his compelling need for fresh blood. There are plenty of pernicious tales about vampires; how they drain their victims to the point of death and condemn their unfortunate prey to become vampires too; how vampires are driven by malice and evil. Not true, he had told me. Like any other creature a vampire needs food. Is the lion evil because it kills in order to survive? Unlike the lion he did not need to kill in order to eat, nor would his victims become vampires themselves. Agreed, his diet could cause problems, after all he could hardly nip into a supermarket and buy a couple of pints of "A Negative" or order a few extra pints from his local blood transfusion centre. But that did not mean he needed to go on a wholesale killing spree. All he needed were regular donors who could spare a fresh pint at a time; a rather unorthodox form of blood donation.

What was true was that he shunned sunlight, it raised blisters on his skin. Silver also caused him discomfort, but was not actually deadly. Those tales at least were true; vampires are allergic to sunlight and silver. But he could handle crucifixes with impunity (as can many evil mortals!), cross running water without even a queasy turn and though he did not particularly like the smell of garlic (again, many mortals don't like garlic) it was hardly the vampire-deterrent it was claimed to be. You should never discriminate against someone just because their family have had a bad press - each is an individual to be judged on his or her own merits and I said so.

"What's the problem?" I asked, "You shouldn't judge someone by the myths you've heard. Individuals should be judged on their own merits."

"Don't trust him," scolded one of the girls, "Don't trust him."

"Whyever not? Look, there's no reason not to trust him," I replied, willing to prove the point.

I offered my right wrist to Eric, glancing at his face but avoiding eye contact. He smiled wryly. A vampire's gaze is compelling, mesmerising. Once locked in that gaze you can't escape unless released. You're caught like a fly in amber and the more you struggle, the more trapped you become until you lose all sense of free will. Their mesmerism is instinctive and staring into the eyes of an unsated vampire can be a terrifying experience even if he intends to take no more than a pint. However much you trust him, you are still the rabbit transfixed by the snake, horribly aware of what he is capable of doing and powerless to react.

"Trust me," he said as he took my right hand.

He grasped my fingers in his pale left hand to hold my wrist steady in case I got cold feet, and lifted it to his fanged mouth. He lowered his mouth to my hand and teeth scraped against the heel of my hand before the sharp canines scratched my wrist. I looked away, over his shoulder, unable to watch what was happening. I had thought it would be painless, like an injection or giving blood to the transfusion service, but the sharp teeth scratched and pressed painfully against the skin of my wrist before the skin broke and they sliced into my veins. Blood seared against the inside of my veins as it was sucked forcibly out of the veins at greater than natural speed.

Fear overcame bravado and I felt faint, even though I could only have lost a cupful of blood by that time. My legs trembled and only the vampire's free hand round my waist held me upright. I thought I was going to faint. I could see my friends' faces as they watched me offer my blood, they looked aghast, but were too horrified to move. The initial fearful faintness cleared and I began to feel truly light-headed. How much had he taken? A pint? More? How much would he take? How much could he safely take?

"No more, please," I whispered. I was being propped up now, too faint to stand unaided. Whether he heard me or not I didn't know as the searing flow of blood continued and my wrist began to throb around those sharp canines.

After an age he slowly, almost delicately, pulled his fangs from my flesh. Two clean slits in the wrist seeped blood, but it was already beginning to clot. The aftermath of the scratching, searing pain was an ache that was merely uncomfortable and I felt less faint now that I was no longer losing blood. There was no blood dribbling from his fangs as in the movies. Those canines are tubular and efficient, like sharpened straws or twin syringe needles.

"Enough?" I asked, my voice little more than a whisper.

"It is never enough," was the reply, "I will need more later."

His grey gaze trapped me then, I think it was deliberate. My sanity tumbled into the soulless depths, mesmerised by the gaze of the vampire. Yes I knew that he would take only a little at a time from me, and from others. As for the rest, who would miss a down-and-out, who would know if he reached the dying victim of an accident long before the emergency services arrived? I would provide a respectable front. Look, I would say, there's nothing untrustworthy about a vampire, he takes just enough to live on. Like the cattle of that oft-cited African tribe I would get used to having blood taken regularly as I demonstrated to others that I trusted my vampire friend. Mesmerised, I would agree to this form of parasitism, or perhaps it was a weird type of symbiosis for his compelling gaze held undreamed of promises - promises of immortality and power should I finally succumb to the ultimate sharing of blood and mind.

My friends must have thought I was a hopeless case, gazing into the eyes of a vampire, but like that fly in amber I was trapped and I would willingly offer all the blood in my body if he asked for it.

"I think I can trust him," I said, "After all, he could easily have killed me, couldn't he?"

I have felt the kiss of the vampire and lived.

DRAGONQUEEN'S LAIR

You are visitor number: