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Saturday, January 19, 2008

An Interview With My Next Door Neighbour

Bobby, who lives in 7B across the hall, is a vampire. He was born as Roberto Santiago Amar del Imiani, about 850 years ago. I had slipped him a note under his door the previous week, hoping that he would grant me an interview, since vampires are very much in vogue these days, and I was in desperate need of a sale. He had left me a voice mail message last night, saying that he would see me this evening, as soon as he woke. That was quite all right with me, since as a writer, I was a nocturnal creature myself.

He arrived at my door dressed in a splendid evening robe of dark red velvet, and sporting a longish coif that must have required more than a handful of styling gel. I invited him in and offered him a chair, which he declined, and a glass of red wine, which he graciously accepted. As I sat at my desk, I took a while fiddling with pens and paper, in order to give myself an opportunity to steal furtive glances at him, trying to remember each shadow and line of his jaw, and the elegance of his movements, as he paced wretchedly in front of my mantelpiece, letting me see how tormented he was. I suppose, if you like men, he was beautiful. His skin was a translucent alabaster that showed the delicate pulsing of blood at his throat, and every feature was like a classic chisel cut, as though Michealangelo himself had formed this creature. His dark hair was cut just so it could droop wantonly into his dark violet eyes, giving him that boyish come-hither charm, which was so useful in luring his victims.

I finally pulled my favourite pen, which I had isolated earlier, from my pocket and cleared my throat. He looked up at me, those great, wide eyes glossy and almost weeping with his inner pain.

"I am glad you asked for this interview, Simon," he said. "I feel that unburdening myself to you will ease me greatly. I only ask that you do not reveal my true name in your article."

"Of course, of course," I crooned solicitously, and begged him to begin. He told me of his victims, and how he had taken each of them, and how some had been willing, and how some had cursed him even as they died, yada yada yada, until I felt I simply had to interrupt.

"Er, Bobby," I said, "this is all very interesting, but it's a bit disjointed. I don't suppose you have one particular story you'd like to tell, perhaps something dashing and exciting, like almost getting caught by the Inquisition, or something like that?"

"I don't think you even begin to understand me," he protested. "I loved each and every person I took, whether male or female, adult or child. I must tell you this, in order for me to reveal my innermost soul to you."

"Hem. I see." I clicked my pen a few times and looked up to see him glaring at my hesitation, his skin turning a dangerous mottled purple. I sought to console him: "Perhaps we can work on your autobiography later, it's just that I have a shot at a feature article, and it has got to grab the reader instantaneously. I'm afraid the editor won't tolerate a long introduction to your innermost soul. I've got to sum it up in a sentence or two, and then get on to a pointed episode of your life, one that will hook the reader, and then, bam! Out comes the book revealing the entire story."

He seemed to accept that, and relaxed again, making it clear that his continued co-operation was dependent upon my refilling his glass.

"Now then, Bobby," I said.

"Roberto," he corrected me.

"Forgive me, Roberto. Let's focus on one particular event in your life. Have you ever been caught while devouring one of your victims? Nearly staked through the heart, had Holy Water strewn on you, lost track of time and got home just before sunrise, anything like that?"

He chuckled at that and smiled at me with the patronising tolerance one gives to a convivial but stupid host.

"I am but a myth, Simon. Nobody believes in me enough to actually go after me in such a fashion. I've become the stuff of pop fantasy. No, I'm afraid not."

"Hmm. No one has ever shot at you with silver bullets?"

"No, that wouldn't be my department." He looked at me pointedly.

I sat back, somewhat frustrated and perplexed, scratching at an itchy spot on my scalp with the pen.

"Well, all right then. You've had many loves. Let's pick one and work with that."

"Ah yes, Amanita Dela Champagne. She was my fourth. I knew her when I was still very new to my immortal life . . ."

He rambled on again, completely losing focus and telling me irrelevant details of what colour Amanita's dress was and her cup size, yada yada yada, until I was forced to interrupt him again.

"So what happened to Amanita?" I asked. "Is she now a vampire roaming New York City? An undead prostitute horrifying her clients into never coming back, anything Oprahish like that?"

Roberto paused for a moment, blinking rapidly. Apparently I had completely derailed his thoughts.

"Er, no. Actually she died. I would have made her a vampire, but she was shot through the heart with a silver-tipped crossbow bolt before the transformation could be made complete."

"Ah! Now we're getting somewhere! So, you were in love with her, but you couldn't save her! You knew she was being hunted, but could not reach her in time, and warn her of her impending doom! I love it! This is going to work quite nicely!" I said.

Roberto turned his back on me.

"No. I did not try to save her."

I paused to let that one sink in.

"So she dumped you? Say, if silver-tipped crossbow bolts work, why not silver bullets? I mean --"

Roberto whirled around and cut me off.

"God! Enough with your silver bullets already! And she did not dump me!"

"All right, all right," I said, and waved him back soothingly. "Let's pick someone different and try that."

Roberto humphed and crossed his arms, one hand reaching up to rub at his nose. After a moment, he sighed and said, "David of Rimms."

"All right, David." I paused to write this down. "What did you do to David?"

"Well, as I said before, I was in love with him."

"You realise that I will only be able to sell this to a liberal sort of magazine," I said mildly.

"Look, do you want the story or not?" he demanded.

"Yes, I do. Please continue."

"And NO silver bullets!"

"Of course not. No more of that."

This time his monologue was definitely better, and I believe he was beginning to understand what it was that I wanted from him. As he spoke, I jotted down quite a luscious love story of forbidden behaviours and desperate joy as he and David roamed the French countryside together for over 50 years, until in a fit of jealousy over one of Roberto's casual lovers, David left him for a woman who was actually a decoy from the Catholic Church, and who had led David to his tragic death.

It was a fabulous piece.

I was intrigued by the roaming bit, and wanted to get some more detail, to give the reader a heightened sense of really being there. I think Roberto was flattered that I truly loved his story, and wanted to get it just right. He co-operated in answering my questions, only giving me an annoyed glance once when I asked if he and David had ever howled at the moon. I backed off of that topic, sensing I might lose him and got more detail on blood sucking and flying at night, which he revelled in, then forgot myself and made a bit of a mistake, by asking if he could only fly when there was a full moon.

"Of course not!" he retorted hotly. "You're getting us mixed up again."

"Sorry, sorry."

"Look, Simon, it's almost dawn. Is there anything else you need?"

I looked at the clock on the mantelpiece, and indeed, it was almost dawn. I stretched and resisted scratching myself, just now realising how tired the wine and interviewing all night had left me. I suppose my brain was not functioning quite right, as I searched it clumsily for any last questions I might have, and supplied the following: "Did you and David ever transform into hounds or bears or anything, when chasing down your victims? Kinda like that movie version of Dracula with Winona Ryder in it?"

I knew I had lost him for sure then. Roberto's shoulders sagged, his mouth hung open, and the wine glass dangled from loose fingertips. He certainly wasn't posing for me anymore. No more strutting and elegant hand waves, he just stared at me with disbelief and utter disgust.

"Piss off!" Bobby said finally. "If werewolves were so hot, why is it that no one has ever tried to interview you!"

The End.

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