The Vampire Papers
by Clarise Samuels
Ivan slouched with insouciance on the corner of Madison and 45th St. His jet black locks were falling loosely over one eye, his peacoat jacket was unbuttoned on this chilly day in early spring, and his gray scarf nicely set off his pewter-colored eyes. He looked dashing as he waited for the light to change.
Ivan placed his hands cavalierly inside his pockets while staring over the heads of Manhattan’s bustling pedestrians. He preferred not to meet the insistent gaze of others, most of whom were women. He feigned indifference when a shapely blond gawked at him as she walked by loaded down with the classier shopping totes that were the symbol of Manhattan’s pricey boutiques.
Still another Manhattan beauty, this one with flaming red hair, was clearly staring at him, evident even from behind her oversized sunglasses, as she walked her two chow-chows on white leather leashes. The dogs themselves seemed to pause momentarily to take a long look at Ivan.
“Hello, there,” the redhead said with a smile and a hint of hope in her voice. Ivan ignored her. The hubris was the ultimate hook, for such arrogance always reeled them in.
Ivan knew how desirable he was to the opposite sex. And not just because of his looks. He was a world-renowned photographer, and he had just left a photo shoot for Vogue magazine to meet his best friend, Francesco, for lunch. Ivan lit up a cigarette on the street corner and inhaled deeply, believing the cigarette to be an important prop for his image.
A man who lit up a cigarette without apology in this era was a man who was courageous, one who faced life with a grim fortitude, like a soldier at the front lines in Afghanistan or Iraq. Soldiers on active duty smoked without remorse, because health concerns implied they had a future, when in truth they could not even be sure they would live to see another day. Only gritty, masculine men who feared no enemy, no illness, and no calamity lit up a cigarette and cared nothing for the consequences.
Such was the image Ivan wanted to project. Of course, there was another reason that Ivan cared nothing for the consequences. He could not die. He was a vampire, and he had been granted eternal life; thus, he never aged. As long as he didn’t stick around the same area for more than twenty years or so, no one noticed his eternal youth.
Nor did anyone notice his canine teeth were just a touch longer and pointier than the average person’s. After all, some people had big, floppy ears or a huge nose. Why couldn’t he have large canines? And he had to be careful about his superhuman strength. He could flip a car over, but he never would, not unless it was an emergency and he had to save someone’s life.
“You care about saving another person’s life?” asked Francesco, the one soul on the planet who knew the truth about Ivan. Francesco had an advanced degree in Film Studies from Columbia University, where he had specialized in horror films and had written his thesis on the cultural significance of vampires in film.
Ivan bit into his pita sandwich filled with tofu and bean sprouts, which he had responsibly selected from the menu in spite of his carnivorous instincts, and chewed thoughtfully before he replied.
“Of course I care about saving another person’s life,” Ivan responded at length. “Just because I have the gift of eternal life, and I would like to kill certain individuals — or perhaps it would be more accurate to say I would like to alter their chemistry — in order to grant them the same gift, does not mean I have no respect for human life. After all, being a vampire is a highly selective process, and only the chosen few qualify. We can’t all be vampires. I am not a monster.”
Francesco had spotted Ivan right away in the campus coffee shop a couple of years earlier, back when Ivan was taking classes at night to learn Italian, a skill he felt would impress women. Francesco had duly noted the enlarged canines and Ivan’s strange pallor. The two became friends, and it was not long before Ivan made a full confession about the nature of his condition.
Ivan sought friends everywhere to assuage his loneliness, but what he sought with the greatest intensity was a woman who would agree to be his wife. And to become Ivan’s bride, the woman he desired also had to become a vampire — but never against her will.
Ivan abided by a strong code of ethics. He had to tell her the truth, and he needed her informed consent. What woman would ever agree to such terms? So far, no one. And Ivan had to pack up and move several times because the police or the men in the white coats sometimes came looking for him shortly after he made an honest disclosure to a horrified girlfriend.
But he never gave up. For he knew he could offer women something no one else could ever give them: eternal life and... eternal lifestyle. He was a famous photographer, and his adoptive parents, hand-picked by Ivan himself, had left him millions in the bank.
Ivan’s future wife would possess a closet filled with elaborate costumes and finery, as well as a truckload of the most ostentatious designer high heels so prized by wealthy women, not to mention the baubles, beauty salons, and select cosmetic preparations so many women required for their sense of well-being.
With his contacts from the fashion world, Ivan kept company with billionaires and movie stars, a huge bonus for any hip socialite. He owned a swank penthouse apartment on the Upper East Side, and he drove a Lamborghini. His refrigerator was stocked with gourmet dishes cooked daily by a private chef.
As a rule, he rented a small palazzo in Rome whenever he needed a quiet, private place to retreat from society’s harsh scrutiny. And his wife would never age, so there would be no need for plastic surgery or botox. And vampires could eat whatever they wanted, and they never gained weight.
“I am offering them everything they desire,” Ivan would complain not infrequently to Francesco, who took notes and wrote down everything Ivan said. After all, this was the only non-fiction vampire Francesco had ever met. He hoped one day to make a documentary about Ivan’s life or at least to write a book. “And they all say no. They even recoil after I tell them who and what I really am. First they love me, then they despise me. I am shockingly misunderstood.”
“Why don’t you just find someone you love and bite her?” asked Francesco. “You can explain later.”
“Ah, that would simplify my life, wouldn’t it? But I have to abide by the code of ethics.”
“What code of ethics?” asked Francesco.
“The code handed down from one generation of vampires to another. The parchment is as ancient as the universe, and it is now preserved in a humidity-controlled environment in a museum basement in Romania. The curator is a vampire. I have my own copy, which I downloaded from the Internet, but no one is ever permitted to see the original. It says we can never turn anyone into a vampire without their permission. If we do, the earth will explode, and the wrath of the universe will obliterate everything, and even we vampires will not survive. We have a strong sense of self-preservation. No one has ever tested the prophecy. We simply respect it.”
“What about Diana?” Francesco asked pointedly.
Ivan stopped chewing and stared at Francesco with a look that was meant to whither. Francesco had deliberately hit a nerve. Ivan was so enthralled with Diana that he was in danger of becoming obsessed. He could not bear it when she even spoke to another man. He called her every day and plied her with emailed love notes morning, noon, and night. Sometimes he called just to hear her voice before hanging up with hands that trembled with agitation. He wanted to possess her, he wanted to marry her, and yes...he wanted to bite her.
“She’s the one,” said Ivan.
“Does she know?”
“Not yet,” Ivan replied.
“How much longer are you going to wait?” Francesco inquired.
“For as long as I can stand it. I fear that once she knows the truth, she, too, will detest me,” Ivan confessed with a sigh of misery.
“Maybe this one will be different,” Francesco offered lamely. Ivan did not dare allow himself to hope.
Later in the evening Ivan nervously appeared outside Diana’s door. He was wearing a black tux, and he carried a single yellow rose. Diana looked like a goddess in the satiny white evening gown she wore with her gleaming blonde hair cascading over one ivory-skinned shoulder. “Why, thank you,” she said smiling with delight as she accepted the lone flower.
They were attending a fund-raising dinner at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Ivan introduced Diana to the editor-in-chief of Vogue, who sat at their table and expressed interest in having Diana model for her. The boss took her card, and Diana was thrilled. After all, her full-time job as an English teacher at a private high school was not to be envied for its glamour or excitement.
After the dinner Ivan drove his Lamborghini to his Upper East Side building, where the two strolled along the promenade. With arms laced around each other’s waist, the enamored couple gazed at the 59th Street Bridge silhouetted at night in glittering lights, spanning the East River like a jeweled gateway to a magical land. It was a perfect evening. The chill in the air and the lateness of the hour were enough to discourage other strollers, so Ivan and Diana took pleasure in their solitude. Ivan slipped out of his dinner jacket to wrap it around Diana’s shivering shoulders, and he held her in his arms.
“Diana,” he began with some trepidation, “I suppose now that it’s been almost a year since we’ve been together, you are aware of my feelings for you. You know I care for you deeply.” Diana smiled obliquely, avoiding his gaze, and she drew the jacket more closely about her shoulders. Ivan took a deep breath.
“Diana, I love you, and I want you to be my bride. However, there is something I have to tell you. I have the ability to offer you eternal life. You merely have to say yes to marriage, and then I will bite your neck, and you will live forever at my side. In short, you will become a vampire. Just like me. You will want for nothing. We will always be young, rich, and successful, perhaps even famous. We will always be happy. Please say yes. I know it sounds strange. Don’t think about it too much. Just tell me the answer is yes.” Ivan looked fixedly into her eyes with an exquisite expression of fervor and longing on his face.
Diana stared back at him with wide, curious eyes. Her lips parted ever so slightly. She never looked more sensual to Ivan than she did at this moment. He almost lost control. He almost bit her without her permission. And then she spoke.
“Ivan, my dear, I have known all along. And you know that if one vampire bites another, the bitten one will die. It is one of the few ways we can die. And I know you tell Francesco everything. I cannot risk having my cover blown. I’m sorry, Ivan. You would have figured it out sooner or later.”
And with those words, Diana bit him, hard. Ivan grabbed his neck with both hands and turned red, almost purple. He staggered and fell, writhing on the ground and unable to speak, for he was choking to death. Finally, he stopped moving.
Diana waited a few moments and watched while the inert body dissolved into thin air. Vampires were almost always hundreds of years old before they finally died as a result of some mishap. At the moment of death, they melted away and dematerialized without a trace.
When the police broke into Ivan’s apartment at the request of Francesco, they found illegal drugs and stolen goods. The authorities suspected Ivan had fled from gangsters and that perhaps he had connections with the mob, a plausible theory given Ivan had taken a lot of holidays in Rome and he spoke Italian.
Diana became a world-class model at Vogue magazine. Francesco was spurned by disbelieving publishers when he tried to publish his memoirs about the vampire who had been his best friend. A few years later, however, Francesco turned his experience into a script for a film. The movie, The Vampire Papers, won an Oscar for best original song.
Copyright © 2010 by Clarise Samuels