Archive for buddhism

The Problem with Recovery

Posted in Vampirony with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 15, 2009 by vampirony

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…

The First Mark

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 13, 2009 by vampirony

I open my eyes and somehow, I have rendered a perfect replica on the page of Nick’s talisman.  Surprising as I don’t remember being able to draw even stick figures well.  I finger my own amulet, the infinity symbol held tightly in place over my throat by old worked leather straps.  Given to me as a ward against vamps, it has no special abilities.  Other than granting me the occasional solace.

The exercise of entering Nick into the book has sapped me and I feel completely drained.  The feeling is welcome.  Along with excess energy is gone the worry, the doubt, the fear, the regret, and the guilt.  Not even the shred of karmic resistance remains.  I push the book away.  It is a vampire of sorts.  It’s stealing my memories.  Or making copies, rather, so that I bedmight connect back lifetime over lifetime to what I had been before.

I check the time.  10:11 PM.  After meeting with Morena, then finding the office space and meeting with Nick, running errands, checking out that dumpster for any more UVA, and doing a haul through the library for any further vamp sign, I have no further work.  I contemplate a quick email to my professor and guru Dr. Kaga.  Something is working its way out.  But the fatigue wins out and I make my way to the bed.  nothing to do this night but sleep.

I pass the window, see the new construction across the street, its cranes lit up in the darkness.  Throughout my traveling, I’ve never seen a place in such a hurried state of decay and rebirth, struggling to craft steel and shine while older times crumble slowly beneath it.  It feels all apropos, like the book coming awake after so many years.

Dinner tomorrow night with Skovajsa.  Well, meeting anyways.  What does a vampire do in a steakhouse?

And the next night, the mysterious vampire dreamer.  I do indeed wonder, my Shakespeare ringing in my muted head: What dreams may come when we have shuffled off this mortal coil must give us pause?

Into the Memento: Nick Part 2

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on August 9, 2009 by vampirony

So around the back of the building we went to find a steep rickety flight of stairs. 

The girl points.  “Up there.  No one’s there for months so don’t blame us for the mess.”

“Thanks, kid,” Nick says.

She walks off, mumbling something that sounds a lot like “Jerk-off” in Russian.  Why I remember that from my community college class, I’m not sure.

Clearing his throat, Nick draws my attention as he begins to read in a very pseudo-professional voice, “Ms. Quinn, this property is a pristine rental office, once home to Bellevue’s first Hispanic dentist.”

I can’t help but smile.  He’s sure making a go of it.  “Well, then, let’s take a look.”

Nick reads as he heads up, me following:  “This property, a former dentist’s office, offers 850 square feet of space.  It opens with a spacious reception are, has 3 additional offices or patient rooms, a small break room, 3/4 bath, and storage/utility room.  Lots of windows lend it a bright airy feeling.  Recently updated HVAC.”

We don’t get far.  At the landing, Nick struggles with a keyring full of keys, none of which seem to work.  “Huh.  I coulda sworn.”

I fold my arms patiently.

Nick sighs.  “Oh Hell.”

He jimmies the door open with practiced skill then blithely ignored my raised eyebrow.

“Ah, well, obviously we’ll need to get that lock fixed.”

And in following with the rest of this appointment, the spacious office is revealed to be an utter dump, cluttered and dusty from disuse.  The drop ceiling is missing tiles, the floor is strewn with abandoned boxes of assorted medical nonsense.  A stack of unopened boxes of latex gloves sits in the middle of reception.  Whatever windows there were are either boarded or dry-walled over.  Convenient for me.

“Ah, charming.”

Nick checks the paper again.  “I don’t understand.  It says the last occupant was six months ago.  This place could be hiding Osama.”

“Or Jimmy Hoffa.”

“Who’s that?”

I shake my head.

“I’m really sorry.  If I’d know, I would have maybe had my brother come by and clean up.  He owns a cleaning service.  They do a really great job.  The specialize in medical facilities and labs.”

latexDespite the disarray, the place isn’t that bad.  The windows are mostly covered, the offices are of good size, and with this and the deli being the only occupants for the small building, no one to hear anything strange.  I’m taking stock of any other updates when I hear Nick sigh.

“I’ve really screwed this up, haven’t I?”

“How long have you been in training?”

“About 3 weeks.  This is only my second showing.”

“And the first?”

“Was much nicer than this.  It was a slam dunk.”

I smile.

“You don’t believe me.  How could you?  I’m wearing this stupid suit because the cleaners screwed up my order, my boss’s jackhole manager hands me a stack of day-old printouts and tells me to go run up some business while my boss is out sick.  I must look and sound pretty pathetic.”

I decide to let him roll on in his pity party.

“Here’s the deal.  There’s, like, a million years of cobwebs in here and I wouldn’t doubt Aragog is lurking somewhere in the back.  With the deli downstairs, I guarantee it’ll smell like borscht at all hours and from the look of it, they cater down to the locals.  I swear I thought to check for missing cat signs when I parked.  But I can get my brother to come in and get this place so clean you could make microchips off the floor.  All for a low price.  And the windows, well, I’ll figure something out.”

“Sounds like a lot of effort for you personally.”

“I really need a break.”

“Tell you what.  How much do you make at this job?”

“Not nearly enough.”

“Saving up for something special?”

I get the wary look from him.  “Yeah, art school.”

“Hmm, you get me this property for four months no strings and all the other things you already said, ready by end of day Monday, and I’ll pay you 800 a week to manage the office for me while I’m in town.  I’ll pay you a flat two grand on signing as an advance.”

“Are you serious?”

“Sorry it’s not a longer arrangement but I tend to move a lot.  I think that should go quite a ways toward…uh, art school, was it?”

Culinary school, really.”

“Ah.”

“What are you, the mafia?  Drug dealer?”

“Yeah, me and Jimmy Hoffa.”

“Huh?”

“No.  I offer specialized counseling to folks kinda on the fringe.  And for now, until we have a deal, that’s all I’ll say.”

Then his look turns suspicious.  “Why me?”

“Because you’re a solver.  You know how to best maneuver in uncomfortable situations to get a favorable outcome using more finesse than force.”

“We speaking strictly about the door?  Cause I’m not a thief or anything.”

I laugh.  “No.  And I like you.  I just get this really strong sense we’re meant to be friends.”

“Uh, yeah, ok.  Um.  I really don’t think I’m exactly what you’re looking for, Ms. Quinn.”

“Nick, wasn’t it?”

“Yeah.”

“I’m not hitting on you.”

“Uh, ok.  Sorry.  Not sure why I thought that.  I mean, of course you’re not , I mean.  You don’t exactly scream ‘cougar.’  Trust me, I’ve seen my share over at Jerry’s some nights.”

“Waiter by night?”

“Bartendar.”

“Well, you’re full of useful talents.”

“Um, ok.”

“Besides, those of us of the faith have to keep an eye out for opportunities to put others on the path.”

I point to his talisman.  Someone has chosen Dharma for him.

“Huh?  Oh this.  I’m not sure how much I still believe.  Nirvana seems such a long ways away from Seattle.”

I smirk.

“Ok, that sounded really stupid.  I meant about believing.”

“Well, Nick Sakaki, you see there, I might be able to help you out.”

Into the Memento: Nick Sakaki

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 7, 2009 by vampirony

I’m new at this writing thing.  At least in the Memento.  But a Skype to Bruno did two things: settled his worries, at least, for the moment and gave me a methodology that the guardian text describes to unlock the powers of the book.  I laughed.  Apparently I AM supposed to talk to it.  Writing is encouraged, so I scribble a few details.  But I’m supposed to tell the book a story. 

I sit at the writing desk, make myself comfortable, take a breath to relax, remove all distractions, and focus.  So here it goes:

I arrive at the Russian Deli about half past 12.  I’m hard pressed to believe this building exists just a short 10 minute walk from my ritzy hotel.  The lot beside it is an abandoned KFC surrounded by fencing.  The cranes that dominate the Bellevue skyline must be looking to gobble this place up.  Inside, only a few elderly customers shuffle about.  An ancient Russian woman stands like the Iron Curtain behind the counter, arms folded, daring me to approach.  I decide to take a seat just as the door opens and Nick Sakaki bustles in.  5’11” maybe, thin, maybe 24 if a day, rumpled ill-fitting suit, spiky hair (seemingly not by choice).  He’s riffling through papers in a beat-up messenger bag, not paying attention as he knocks into a table, barely phased, then looks up distracted, seeing me.

“Uh, you here to see the rental?”the office

I see the Buddhist talisman around his neck, wonder which parent gave him that.  Look him in the face again.  Or girlfriend.

I stand, put out my hand.  “Sophie Quinn.”

He rallies, firm hand shake.  “Nick Sakaki.  Sorry I’m late.”

“Better late than never.”

“Uh, yeah, right.  The entrance is through the back here.”  He walks past the deli counter ignoring The Curtain as he digs in his bag.  I watch him disappear and return in a moment.  “Um, that’s not right.”  He keeps searching in the bag then finally grabs the lot, slaps it down on the nearest table and flips through until he picks one.  “The space is upstairs.  Five rooms.  I coulda sworn the stairs up were in the back of the deli.”  His face screws up as he reads the paper.  Upside down.

“A new property for you?”

“This isn’t it.  Crap!  Excuse me.”  He approaches the counter and I take a breath as the Iron Curtain prepares to fall.  But just as he starts to ask, she turns and disappears through a doorway.  “What the?” 

We can hear the staccato of rapid fire Russian as Iron Curtain returns with a teenager smacking her gum and looking utterly bored in a black hoodie.  In August.  “What do you want?”  Her accent is barely there.

“Hi.  I’m supposed to be showing the upstairs space.  Can you help me out?”

“We’re very busy today.”

He tosses a look around.  “Yeah I can see that.  Look, I just need to find the door.  I’ve got a key.”

It’s like watching chess.  “I can’t leave my grandmother alone.  She’s fragile.”

I bite my lip so as not to laugh as Nick takes a long measured look at the Iron Curtain who suddenly gives him a gap-toothed smile.

“Fragile.  Right.  No worries, if you can point me in the right direction, I won’t take any more of your time.  I can see you’re in your lunch hour rush .”

Indignantly:  “We run a succesful business here.”

“And I’m just trying to do some business for your landlord.”

It hits a nerve but unlike anything I think he intended.  She visible cowers.  “We’ve done nothing wrong.  We’ve paid up.”  Even  Grandma Iron notices the change and a quick exchange in Russian happens.  My Russian is rusty so I miss it all.

“I’m sure you have, kid.  Look, if you just point me toward the door, it saves me having to call the landlord and explaining how I lost a potential renter because you folks were too overwhelmed with patrons to help.”

The teenager and the grandmother exchange glances and the girl nods.  “I will show you.”  She comes around the counter and begins to walk toward the front door.  Nick follows but stops next to me.

“Now, Ms. Quinn, if you’d follow me and my young associate here.  Let’s take a look, shall we?”