The Problem with Recovery


Out in the cooler night air, it’s easier to think.  Of course I had said take a walk but Morena didn’t like the idea of hanging around that area of Bellevue to chat so I let her take me into her area called Ballard.  Suddenly, I had been hit with the maritime history of the area and felt closer to the sea.  She had to correct my thinking, that there was this large body of water called Puget Sound, that we weren’t actually all that close to the ocean.

Many lifetimes past and the idea of open ocean still felt strange to me, proof positive of how much our current daily lives make use forget what once we had known.  Shes showing me around Ballard.  It’s very cute and towny in a way Bellevue just isn’t.  There’s a realness, like someone could wear this place, live her that I just don’t get from the artifice of Bellevue.  Or at least the place Bellevue is becoming, so much glass and mirrors.

Morena wants to understand about my idea of what she calls Immortality.   Jespers been giving her the Vampire litany, I suspect.

“It’s not that, really,” I try to explain.  “And theologically, I’m not quite Buddhist or Hindu but there are basic concepts I not only agree with, I know.  It’s the idea that I’ve lived past angellives, each one leading up to a time when I will have earned enough karma to bypass this earthly world and reach the time of true spirit.  Well, not exactly that, but that’s the terms I know to explain to a layperson.”

She nods.  “And enlightenment.  Or something like that.”

“Not enlightenment.  That dictates some sense of self.  it’s about becoming one with all things, losing one’s individuality and melding into the universe.”  Lovely talk for a walk by the locks.

She smirks.  “Like the Borg.”

I laugh at the reference.  “Um, no.  Not at all.”

“I don’t get it.  All I want is to be able to carve out a place for myself in this world and you seem to want to, I don’t know, do the opposite.”

I could finally see her struggle.  “You’re Catholic, right?”

She tosses me a look.  “How’d you guess?”  We keep walking and she seems to answer her own question, stuffing her hands in her pockets.  “Recovering.”

“No one really recovers from being Catholic.  It’s too strong a belief system for most to just give up.  It promises Heaven…and Hell.  But only through the Spirit and the Holy Ghost.  It’s a very digestible idea that when you die, you go live on a plane of existence somewhere, beyond pain and suffering, that you’ll see you loved ones again, and will be with your God and will know the answers to all things.  It’s not so different.”

She sighs.  “I don’t know about all that.  I used to.  But if God allows demons on Earth…the Church never told us about that.  I’ve seen things, done things, that I have to believe are sins but I’ve asked, believe me, I’ve confessed, only to be told to do penance, to amend my life, and do ten Hail Marys.”

And here we are at the crux of her conflict.  “Did you tell your confessor that you’re giving blood to a vampire?”

“Not in those exact words.”

“Then why are you convinced it’s a sin?”

“It’s an unnatural creature.  It has to be.”

“No more unnatural that you or I.  Somehow out of a bundle of microscopic cells, we grow into sentient beings with souls.  Vampires are life, yes, just another form, a transformation out of human.”

“But they are immortal.”

“Not exactly.  In the truest sense of the word, definitely not.  They can be killed.”

“If Jesper heard you, he’d say…”

I sigh, then mockingly, “Yes, I know.  I am Vampire.”

“You’ve heard that before?”

“More time than I can count.  It’s a motto or something.  Like Be Prepared or Semper Fi.”

Don’t Tread on Me.”

We both laugh.  “Exactly.  As I’ve said, there are various types of vampires.  But there are defining characteristics, just like you and I are both humans but in appearance, attitude, ethnicity we are different.”

“But we’re still the same subspecies.  Even I know that.  Homo Sapiens Sapiens.”

She’s getting it and losing her tension all at the same time.  We fear all we do not understand.  Some seek to uncover the truth while others flee it.  “What do you know about Australia?”

“Why?”

I tell her how Australia developed specialized creatures found nowhere else do to their landlocked, isolated populations, driven by external stimuli to evolve.  “Vampires developed in the same way.”

“So that’s why you talk about the Carpathian.  He’s a subspecies.”

I can’t help the shudder, hope I catch it before she notices.  She doesn’t seem to.   “Next to the Jiang Shi, they are the most dangerous.”  We’ve walked past the locks toward some shops intermixed with bars in a warehouse district on the water.   “They seem driven by fear and anger more than any other type.  While I understand all those forces, I have yet to successfully rehabilitate one.  Not for lack of trying.”

“Rehabilitate?”

“As you have already seen, vampires don’t need to kill to subsist.  There are plenty of humans willing to provide for them.  They are intelligent enough, powerful enough to control what they need to to stay safe and comfortable.  And most adult vampires have aged enough to control their urges in modern society.  It’s sheer necessity.  In a media age, too much killing would draw attention and expose them all.  The modern vampire has adjusted.”

“Like Jesper.”

I would pat myself on the back later for not skipping a beat.  “Jesper could be self-taught or the one who made him choose him quite well.  I don’t get any sense from him that he isn’t in full control of himself or his thirst.  The dreams seems his only trouble.  Carpathians live in a constant state of threat to which their reponse is aggression.”

“And you’ve tried to rehabilitate one before?”

“Twice, actually.  Both times, I died.”tanning

Morena stops me walking by grabbing my arm.  “I’m sorry what do you mean you died?”

I look her in the face and my gut tells me there’s still something troubling her, some secret.  Maybe it’s because she’s starting to trust me.  I can’t put my finger on it.

“My last death was caused by a Carpathian name Valerian Nyssus.  He decapitated me and then cut my body into little pieces.  He was hoping to have me alive during most of his torture but I so irritated him that he knocked my head clean off.”

There is a deathly silence and even under the street lamp, I can see her face go pale.  There’s a bank of old corrugated steel buildings, converted to commercial retail spaces along the docks.  A neon light winks above us:  24 hour TANNING.

“You are crazy.  What would possess you to try again after…after something like that?”

“To be honest, I didn’t know Skovajsa was Carpathian when I came up here.  I’m still not convinced he’s what he says he is.  But I’ll know more tonight.”

And that’s when I begin to hear it, the murmuring.  Just under the sound of muted traffic and geese.  I lose sight of the neon sign for a moment and an image from the book appears to me, its pages flipping furiously, then everything blurs…

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