Thursday, June 25, 2009
US President George W. Bush tried to convince Americans on Monday the war in Iraq could be turned around as the US and Britain asked the UN for a resolution endorsing the handover of power to an interim Iraqi government.
In a half-hour televised speech at the US Army War College, Bush insisted the deteriorating situation was not a reason for despair.
"It's true we don't have a plan," said Bush. "But you can be sure of one thing: we will stay the course."
Bush's job approval rating has fallen to the lowest level of his presidency, suggesting he faces the possibility of defeat in the Nov. 2 election. This speech was considered an important opportunity to persuade voters that the war in Iraq had not gone irretrievably wrong. Bush, however, did not take that opportunity.
"There are difficult days ahead," he said. "The way forward may sometimes appear chaotic. In fact it will almost certainly be chaotic because we don't have a plan and we have steadfastly refused to take advice. Even so we're hoping to hold this puppy together until the elections at least, and maybe beyond. And we have reason to believe that ultimately triumph will be ours."
Bush explained that his reason for confidence was a bird omen he witnessed while at his ranch in Texas.
"I saw an eagle clutching a serpent in its talons," he said. "It is a sign that God is on our side and the enemy is cursed. A great victory lies ahead for us."
This is the first time in a speech that Bush has evoked bird omens as relevant to the war on terror. Although widely known for his strong religious beliefs, the president's mention of omens has surprised some commentators, who note that bird omens in particular are associated with pagan Greece and Rome rather than Christianity.
"We are not really happy with this recourse to pagan practice," said Farley Shagmitt, current chairman of the Southern Evangelical Reformed SS League. "But the president is a man who loves the great outdoors, and if he finds inspiration in an American eagle, then maybe it isn't so un-Christian after all. God created eagles too."
Other commentators noted Bush's mention of the bird omen was oddly similar to a scene in the recently released blockbuster film Troy, starring Brad Pitt. In that film, based on Homer's war poem the Iliad, a Trojan priest at one point refers to an omen of an eagle clutching a serpent as a sign that Troy will win a "great victory."
"I think the president saw the movie and wanted to link his war on terror with the great ancient war between Greeks and Trojans," said Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA). "Unfortunately, what the president failed to note was that finally the Trojans didn't win the war. Instead their city was destroyed by the invading Greeks. Thus this allusion to the movie is misguided: it's confusing and counterproductive, now at a time when we need clarity and direction from our leader."
Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) agreed. "If the president wanted to allude to the Trojan war," she said, "he at least could have put America on the winning side."
During his speech Bush also referred to the prisoner abuse scandal, three times mentioning the Abu Ghraib prison where the scandal first came to light. Each of the three times Bush used the name, however, he mangled it. The first time he called the prison "Abugah Rape," the second time "Abu Garon," and the third time "Abu Garah."
"These bizarre mispronunciations do not necessarily suggest brain damage," Dr. David Wenford of the Harvard School of Psychiatric Medicine said in a telephone interview. "Such stammering over a particular word might also mean the person speaking is hiding something as regards the subject being discussed."
Wenford explained that such mispronunciations often indicate a "fixation" on the word in question, and that such fixations can develop from a feeling of shame or guilt over some hidden truth.
"Given the president's extremely dysfunctional performance on the prison name, I would suggest there may be more gruesome things coming to light in terms of abuse of prisoners."
Monday, June 22, 2009
Republicans are nothing but loony to snipe at Obama for his low-keyed response to the crisis in Iran. Just when hardliners in Tehran are doing their best to link the opposition protesters with us, our GOP bigmouths are pushing our president to play right into their hands.
Obama's response is correct. "The last thing that I want to do," he said Sunday, "is to have the United States be a foil for those forces inside Iran who would love nothing better than to make this an argument about the United States."
But Republicans, again, don't get it. Either that or they're cynically pretending not to get it, out to score points with a public that itself, perhaps, still doesn't get it.
Here's Lindsay Graham: "The president of the United States is supposed to lead the free world, not follow it. He's been timid and passive more than I would like."
Lead the free world? How does a US leader do that vis-a-vis what's happening in Iran now? Iran is not quite part of what we call "the free world."
Those who think the US should get noisier about the current impasse don't understand to what extent the theocracy in Iran feeds off our image as an Evil Empire only interested in manipulating less powerful countries. When Obama, some months ago, made a friendly gesture to Iran in the form of holiday greetings, it was exactly what the leadership there didn't want. It undermines their whole game.
What many Americans--apparently many Republican senators among them--forget is that millions of Iranians voted for Ahmadinejad and are more than willing to see the protesters as corrupt stooges of the West, making it all the easier for them to beat and arrest them. For a US president to come out solidly in favor of the protesters is to help the Iranian hardliners cement that identity: protest equals American influence equals "the Great Satan."
Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley: "If America stands for democracy and all of these demonstrations are going on in Tehran and other cities over there, and people don't think that we really care, then obviously they're going to question, do we really believe in our principles?"
It is quite the reverse. To stand for democracy, in this instance, is to let the people of Iran stand up on their own. We must try to criticize the Iranian regime in balanced tones and do nothing that would give it the excuse it seeks to paint the protesters as un-Iranian, as ideological puppets of our own ideals.
How long will it be before Americans realize that the world is not an appendage of our own political process? You'd think we'd have learned our lessons already. At present America helps the Iranian protesters precisely by not rallying loudly to their side.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Long long ago, when you were just a baby, Chen Shui-Bian was not a disgraced former president of Taiwan, but the mayor of Taipei. Back then kids didn’t have cell phones, but played with “virtual pets,” a kind of simple electronic toy you'd probably find boring. Also, adults back then were foolish just as they are now, but back then they didn’t go crazy about Louis Vuitton bags and plastic surgery. Instead they’d line up for hours--sometimes even four or five hours--to buy a box of Macau egg tarts. Truly idiotic! Also, back then Michael Jordan wasn’t an old man: he was the best player in the NBA. And back then the English teacher Eric didn’t have a Mediterranean. In fact he was even more handsome than he is now.
So things were different. It was then, in 1997, that this story was written. It’s a vampire story, written about a vampire named Vlad who came to Taipei. The story was written by the just pre-adolescent students in a very smart English class--a class with students smarter than any students anywhere in Taiwan today. Yes, Taiwan’s students are getting stupider every year, it’s true, and it’s all because of “education reform” and American fast food. Anyhow, those students are probably all in top universities now--Yale and UW Madison and such--but back then they were only eleven years old. Some were even younger than eleven! And they wrote this story in English.
If you want to see how they wrote it, you can read the boring Afterword. But probably you'll just want to read the story. It begins below.
We thought he was our friend, but he was really a vampire.
It all started when Vlad Teppich saw a travel brochure for Taiwan. He was tired of Europe, and wanted to escape. He thought Taiwan looked beautiful, so he called the Taipei Hilton.
A man with a Chinese accent answered the phone. "Taipei Hilton. May I help you?"
"I would like to reserve a room," said Vlad.
"What date will you be coming?" asked the man.
"I need a room for December 14th."
"And how many nights will you be staying?"
"I don't know," said Vlad.
"Okay. How many people will be with you?"
"There will be two of us."
"Do you want a room with two double beds or one Queen-sized bed?" asked the man.
"Two double beds please. I also need a coffin in my room."
"I'm sorry," said the man. "Did you say a coffin?"
"Yes, a coffin please. One coffin."
There was a long pause on the line. Finally the man asked: "Why do you need a coffin?"
"Because I want to put a lot of things in it," said Vlad.
"But our hotel has closets. You may put your goods in the closet. Not in the coffin!"
"Alright, I will bring my own coffin then! What kind of restaurants do you have near your hotel?"
"There is a Chinese restaurant, a Japanese restaurant, and a French restaurant."
"Do you have a blood restaurant near the hotel?" Vlad asked.
"A blood restaurant? Did you say blood restaurant?"
"Sir, I'm sorry, but I don't think there is a blood restaurant in Taipei."
"No blood restaurants? That's too bad."
"Let me tell you about our hotel, sir. We have the largest indoor swimming pool in Taipei, open 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. seven days a week."
"I hate swimming," said Vlad. "People stare at my white skin."
"Okay… I'm sorry to hear that, sir. We also have a gym. The gym's hours are--"
"Do you have blood skating?" interrupted Vlad.
Again there was a pause on the line. "No," said the man, "I'm sorry, but we don't have blood skating."
"Can I bring my bats?" asked Vlad.
"Bats? You want to bring bats?" asked the man. "I never talked with such an interesting person! Yes, you can bring them if you want. But if you want to bring bats, there will be an extra pet charge of 500 NT per night."
"That's no problem. I'm very rich."
"Fine. May I have your name, sir?"
"My last name is Teppich--T - E - P - P - I - C - H. And my first name is Vlad."
"Okay. How will you be paying for the room: with cash or credit card?"
"I will pay with gold," said Vlad. "Gold coins."
"Okay, sir. We will see you on December 14th."
[Chapter I by Alice, Grace, Eric.]
Vlad was drinking Cognac in a dark bar in Taipei. He was restless. He watched a school of little red fish flick back and forth in the aquarium above the bar. He had only been in Taipei for three hours or so. Suddenly he felt a hand come down on his shoulder.
"Is that you, Vlad?"
Slowly he turned around and saw standing behind him a vampire friend of his, Yukio. He first met Yukio when they were both university students in Europe. Vlad didn't know Yukio was in Taiwan.
"What a surprise!" said Yukio. "What are you doing in Taipei?"
"I decided to move to Taiwan," said Vlad.
"It's a small world!" said Yukio. "Isn't it? I am happy to see you here. But what about your castle?"
"I sold it," replied Vlad. "I decided to move to Taiwan in September, and I sold my castle. I’m tired of living in Europe. The blood there is too old."
"I hope you will be happier here, Vlad. But your castle: when did you start trying to sell your castle?"
"I will tell you the truth," said Vlad. "I started trying to sell my castle in the 16th century, and I finally sold it last Wednesday. I’m lucky I found someone to buy it before I moved here."
"Who bought your castle finally?" asked Yukio.
"A strange man of science bought it," said Vlad.
"I see. Hmm. You are lucky you sold it. But how did you get here? Did you fly with an airline?"
"I flew here myself," said Vlad.
"When I first wanted to fly to Europe, I also flew myself. But I'm too old for that now. It's too far."
"How old are you?" asked Vlad.
"I'm 639," said Yukio. "And you?"
"I'm 422," replied Vlad.
"How long did it take you to fly here?" asked Yukio.
"It only took me one minute," said Vlad.
"That's pretty fast. But what about your things? Didn't you bring your things with you?"
"I packed my things in November and sent them by ship. They're already here," replied Vlad.
"What did you pack?" asked Yukio.
"I packed some blood in bottles. I packed my clothes in a suitcase. I packed my coffin in a very large box. And I put my bats in a cage."
"You sent your bats here too?"
"I took my bats to the post office, but they wouldn't let me send them. So I put them in my brother's house. I gave them my picture and I have pictures of all of them in my hotel room."
"Is that all you brought to Taiwan?" asked Yukio.
"No," said Vlad. "I also brought my false teeth. But I carried my false teeth with me on the flight."
"Where are you staying?" asked Yukio.
"I'm staying at the Taipei Hilton. Listen, Yukio. Do you like to watch NBA basketball games?"
"Yes, I love them," said Yukio.
"Do you like Jordan?" asked Vlad.
"Jordan is great!"
"Can I watch NBA basketball at your house with you? They don't have it on the TV at the Hilton."
"Sure," said Yukio. "I'll invite you. I'm going to a CBA basketball game tonight."
"Is CBA basketball good?" asked Vlad.
"No, it's not very good," replied Yukio. "But I have two tickets, and you can go with me."
"Sure!" said Vlad. "Let's go."
Vlad paid for his Cognac, and the two vampires left the bar together.
[Chapter II by Alice, Kurt, Annie, Grace.]
Vlad and Yukio were eating ice desserts together at the night market. Vlad thought the desserts looked disgusting, but decided to try one anyway. Vlad chose the Taro Ice, and Yukio had the Red Bean.
"Red Bean is my favorite," said Yukio. "You should try it some time."
Vlad shrugged his shoulders and took another bite of the chewy taro. He was in a bad mood that night. He had been in Taipei for two weeks now, and he had only found three good victims.
"I'm thinking about finding a job," he said to Yukio.
"A job?" replied Yukio in surprise. "You have millions in the bank! Why do you want a job?"
"I need to meet more suitable victims," answered Vlad. "I think a job will put me close to more people. But I've never had a job in my life. I don't know what kind to get."
Yukio frowned. It was obvious he didn't like Vlad's idea.
"Will you listen to the advice of an experienced vampire?" he asked, sliding his bowl of ice to the side.
"Of course," said Vlad.
"A vampire should never have a job," said Yukio. "It never works."
"But why?" asked Vlad.
"I will give you some examples," replied Yukio. "But first, what kind of job do you want?"
"Well, I always liked fine food. I thought I might be a cook in a European restaurant."
"You can never work as a cook, Vlad. You will get fired."
"Are you sure?"
"I'm positive," answered Yukio. "You shouldn't be a cook, because if you are a cook you might cook things people can't eat. I have a friend who worked as a cook in Rome, and he was finally fired because he made bat-wing salad and blood soup. Being a cook is a bad idea."
"Hmm, I guess you're right," said Vlad. "Maybe I should be a doctor then."
"You shouldn't be a doctor either, Vlad. If you're a doctor, you might be tempted to suck people's blood while they're in the hospital. The patients will soon tell the police about you."
"That sounds reasonable," said Vlad. "You’re probably right."
"And you shouldn't work as a police officer, because if you work as a police officer you might get in serious trouble. The other officers would be able to arrest you easily because you're with them at the station. If they find out you're a vampire, you'll get arrested the next day."
"I guess you're right," said Vlad.
"You shouldn't pretend to work as a missionary either, because if you go into a church you might burn your hand on a cross or Bible. The people will see you're a vampire, and they'll throw all the crosses at you and maybe kill you."
"That sounds reasonable, Yukio. You're probably right."
"You shouldn't work in a furniture store or a store that has mirrors in it. If you do, the customers might see you have no reflection and they'll know you're a vampire and call the police. So you can't work in a furniture store either."
"That sounds reasonable," said Vlad. "I have to admit it."
"You shouldn't work in a KTV, because if you work in a KTV you might sing, and then people will see your teeth."
"You're probably right, Yukio."
"You shouldn't be a dancer, because if you're a dancer you might cross your legs, and then you will see a cross. And you shouldn't work in a drugstore because if you work in a drugstore you might give the customers your bat medication by accident."
"I guess you’re right, Yukio."
"You shouldn't work in a pet store either, Vlad. You might need blood one day and then you'll be tempted to bite the necks of the cute little dogs and kittens. That is very sad, Vlad, so you shouldn't do it."
"I know," said Vlad. "You’re probably right. I needed blood once when I was in France, and I bit a horse's neck. The horse died, and I was very sad about it."
"You shouldn't work in a Chinese restaurant, because if you work in a Chinese restaurant you might smell garlic and get sick. And you shouldn't work in a train station, because you might think the train looks like a coffin and then you'll fall asleep. You shouldn't be a taxi driver or a basketball player or a lawyer, and I will tell you why, Vlad. If you are a--"
"Okay, Yukio! Okay!" interrupted Vlad. "I don't want to find a job! I think you're probably right. But how can I find more victims here? I don't know what to do."
The two friends sat in silence for a moment.
"I have a good idea," said Yukio finally. "You should be a student at an English language institute."
"Why do you say that?" asked Vlad.
"I think it's a good idea. A language school is a very good place to find victims. When I was in Japan, I found my best victims at English institutes."
"Hmm. It sounds like a good idea," said Vlad. "My English isn't very good, and I might learn better English while I look for victims. And there are twenty or thirty victims in every class. Yes, I like it! Let's go look at some English schools, okay?"
"Let's go!" said Yukio.
Suddenly the two vampires changed into bats and flew up and away from the night market stand. The woman making ice desserts screamed and dropped a bowl of taro on the ground, and all the street dogs started barking at once.
[Chapter III by Felicia, Grace, Luke, Annie, Candy.]
Police Puzzled by "Vampire Attack"Taipei police are puzzled by what appears to be a vampire attack that took place Friday night in the downtown area. Around 10:00 p.m. Friday, residents living near the four-hundred block of Chia-Hsing St. reported hearing a woman scream, and some even reported having seen a mysterious man fleeing down the street in the dark.
When police arrived a few minutes later, a young woman was found lying on the ground behind a row of parked motorbikes. The woman, whose identity has not been revealed, is currently under observation at Taipei Adventist Hospital.
Two circumstances of the crime have led police to talk of a "vampire attack." First, the victim was found to have four small holes in her neck resembling tooth marks. Second, the doctor's report shows that when she arrived at the hospital the woman was suffering from a lack of blood.
Speaking before city government officials, Taipei's mayor called the crime a "disgusting case of perversion" and ordered police to "solve it before the pervert attacks another innocent victim."
When asked if he thought it was possible that there was a real vampire in Taipei, Mayor Chen said: "Nobody should worry about that. Of course there's no such thing as real vampires. This guy has obviously watched too many vampire movies. We will catch him."
Susan Chow, The China Post, Sunday, February 16, 1997
Inspector Lin sat at his desk rubbing his eyes. He wasn't one bit happy with this mysterious new case.
"Why is it every time they have a pervert they need to catch, they call me?" he complained to Captain Hsu, who stood before his desk waiting for orders.
Captain Hsu was used to the inspector's complaints.
"But inspector," he said, "you are the best for the job. They give you the hardest cases because they know you're the best."
"Don't flatter me!" snapped the inspector. "Call in the first witness."
Captain Hsu left the office and came back with a tall woman in her forties. The woman sat down.
"Okay, Mrs. Lu," said the inspector. "You are Mrs. Lu, yes?"
"Yes, I am," said the woman.
"Okay, I only have a few questions, Mrs. Lu. First, what were you doing when you heard the scream?"
"I was folding clothes in the bedroom when I heard the scream."
"I see," said the inspector. "Did you see or hear anything else that might be of interest to us?"
"Yes, I did," said Mrs. Lu. "I went to the window and opened the blind, and I saw a black thing fly away in the dark. It looked like a very large bird, but I couldn't see it clearly."
"Hmm. That's very strange," said Inspector Lin. "Very strange. Did you see the woman who was attacked?"
"No, I didn't," replied Mrs. Lu. "She must have already fallen on the ground, and I couldn't see her from my window."
"Yes, you're probably right. That will be all, Mrs. Lu. Thank you," Inspector Lin said, pointing her to the door. "Captain, call in the next witness."
Mrs. Lu left the office and a young man came in. Captain Hsu announced Mr. Chen.
"Okay, Mr. Chen," said Inspector Lin. "Please tell me what you were doing when you heard the scream."
"I was watching TV when I heard the scream," said Mr. Chen.
"I see. Did you see or hear anything else that might interest us?"
"Well, I didn't go to the window right away because my favorite TV show was on," admitted Mr. Chen. "And when I finally went to the window to look, all I saw was a young woman lying on the ground and a lot of people standing around."
"A lot of people?" asked Inspector Lin. "What kind of people were they?"
"Oh, there was an ambulance, and there were some police, but mostly people who just came down to see what was going on."
"I see. So when you went to the window to look, the police were already there," the inspector said with annoyance. "And you waited so long because your favorite TV show was on."
"Yes," said Mr. Chen.
"You couldn't even get up from your favorite TV show to see what might be happening to one of your own neighbors."
"Well . . ."
"That's really disgusting, Mr. Chen. Disgusting! No wonder our job is so hard in this city. With people like you everywhere--"
"But my favorite show is only on once a week!" pleaded Mr. Chen.
"Once a week?" snapped the inspector ironically. "Once a week, you say? I'm talking about murder here, Mr. Chen! Do you hear me? Murder!"
"Inspector, I have a right to--"
"You have a right?" interrupted the inspector. "Get out of my office this minute, you dog! Out! You better hope I never see your face again!"
The inspector banged his fist down on his desk and stood up stiffly as Mr. Chen left the office. He began rubbing his eyes again.
"Captain Hsu!" he called. "Get in here right now!"
"Yes, sir?" said the captain rushing into the room.
"Can you tell me, captain, what a witness is?" asked the inspector.
"Of course, sir," said the captain. "A witness is a person who sees a crime."
"Very good, captain," said the inspector. "Then why are you bringing me people like this moron Chen who only got out of his chair and looked twenty minutes after the criminal had fled? Why!"
"Don't give me your well, sir's, captain! I've got enough to do with these pervert cases! The least you people could do is make sure I'm questioning real witnesses in here! Do you hear me?"
"Call in the next witness, then. And I hope for your sake he is a witness!"
Captain Hsu announced Mr. Jordan. A very tall black man entered the room.
"Please sit down, Mr. Jordan," said the inspector, somewhat surprised. "You . . . You are Michael Jordan, the basketball star, aren't you?"
"Yes, I am," said Michael Jordan.
"Well," said the inspector. "I'm very pleased to meet you. May I ask what you're doing here in Taiwan?"
"I came here to promote my new logo shoes," replied Michael Jordan.
"I see. And why were you in the area where this strange crime took place?" asked the inspector.
"Well," replied Michael Jordan, "I met this kid named Kurt at the basketball court. And he wanted to play against me one-on-one, you know. And this kid Kurt is pretty good at basketball, but he's not so tall. I mean, if he jumps he can barely reach my nose. So when we started to play basketball, I whipped his butt."
"I'm sorry," said the inspector. "You 'whipped his butt'? What does that mean?"
"You know, I wiped up the court with him," said Michael Jordan.
"You 'wiped up the court with him.' Hmm. I don't understand," said Inspector Lin. "My English is--"
"I creamed him!" said Michael Jordan, gesturing with his big hands. "I creamed the kid."
"I see," answered Inspector Lin. "You 'creamed him.' But I still don't understand what you're actually saying, Mr. Jordan."
"Well, when we started to play basketball, I won," said Michael Jordan.
"Oh, I see! You won. What you've been saying is you won. When you say you whipped his butt, or you wiped up the court with him, or you creamed him, that means you won," said the inspector.
"Yes!" said Michael Jordan. "I won. That's what I'm trying to tell you. But then Kurt started to look sad, and I thought maybe he was going to cry. But I didn't want him to cry, so I said, 'Hey, Kurt, why don't we go get some pizza?' But he didn't want pizza. He wanted me to come to his house to play video basketball against him."
"On his computer?" asked the inspector.
"Yes! He wanted to play video basketball. So I said: 'Okay, Kurt, I'll go play video basketball with you.' And I went to his house to play. We were playing video basketball when we heard the scream."
"I see, Mr. Jordan. Did you see or hear anything else that might be of interest to us?"
"Yes, I did. I went to the window to see what was happening, and I saw a man running down the street. And then--it was very mysterious, inspector--he hopped three times, and the third time he hopped he never came back down to the ground, and I saw something flying away in the dark."
"Are you sure you saw that, Mr. Jordan?" asked the inspector.
"Yes, I am," said Michael Jordan.
"That’s really very mysterious," said the inspector, taking off his glasses and rubbing his eyes for a moment. "That is strange."
"I think it is too, inspector."
"Well, I'm very happy you came in here to answer my questions, Mr. Jordan. I just want to know one more thing."
"Did you whip Kurt's butt on video basketball too?"
"No," said Michael Jordan laughing. "No, I didn't, inspector. Kurt whipped my butt!"
"I see, Mr. Jordan," said the inspector laughing. "Have a nice visit to Taiwan."
The two men shook hands, and Michael Jordan left the office.
[Chapter IV by Karen, Judy, Alice, and others.]
He was earlier than we were. When we came in the room, he was already seated. His appearance was very strange. He was a Westerner. His features were strange too. He had white skin and he had strong hands. He looked about fifteen years old. Finally he asked: "Teacher, may I go to the restroom?" And the teacher said: "Yes." He went out for a long, long time, and we all thought that he went home. Karen and I were saying that Vlad might have gone home. Alice told us that Vlad might be a criminal. He looked like a criminal, she thought. When he finally came back, we asked him about it. But he didn't answer. I remember that David and Lon were puzzled too: "Why did Vlad go to the restroom for so long?" Nobody knew the truth.
He was earlier than us. When we came in the room, he was already sitting. His appearance was very strange. He was a Westerner. His features were pronounced and bony. I thought he was about fourteen years old. He was very striking and tall. His skin was very light. His hair was yellow and his eyes were blue. Oh! I thought he was very handsome. He wore a big black cape, a white shirt, and black pants. He wore a beautiful red bowtie too. Certainly he had delicate hands. He had beautiful, delicate hands!
He did his quiz in only ten minutes, and he got 100 on both his quiz and his homework. The teacher asked him a lot of questions, and he used English to answer all of them.
"Hello, everybody," he said. "My name is Vlad. I'm fifteen years old, and I'm from Europe. But I don't like Europe any more, so I moved to Taiwan. And I like all the people here in Taiwan. They look very good. I mean--"
"Oh, you're so handsome!" interrupted Alice. "I might be infatuated with you!"
"Why are you taller than me?" asked Kurt. "Huh? Do you play basketball every day, or do you just eat a lot?"
"Don't joke, Kurt," said the teacher, Eric. "You aren't the tallest kid in the world, you know."
We were all looking at Vlad. Finally Eric said: "Okay, now I have to teach you the new lesson. Hand in your quizzes."
After the lesson, we all went home.
He was already in the classroom when we arrived. His appearance was very strange. He was a Westerner. His features were very pronounced. Actually, his appearance was striking.
He looked about fifteen years old. He had the lightest skin in the world! His skin was as white as paper! His hair was black with a little brown in it. His eyes were very green. He had a very strange temperament that gave me the creeps. He was queer. I didn't like him.
I was quick to sit in my seat, trying to ignore him, but my classmate Susan--she sat near him.
"Hello," said Susan. "What's your name?"
"My name is Vlad," he said.
"That's a cool name. And you know--you are very handsome! Where are you from?"
"I'm from Europe," said Vlad.
"Oh! Europe is beautiful! I like Europe," said Susan. "Can you tell me things about Europe, Vlad?"
"You are wrong. You don't know what you're talking about. I hate Europe!" said Vlad with a sneer of disgust. "Europe is dirty and ugly!"
He looked so terrible at that moment! Susan started to cry. I have known Susan since I was little. She is very frail and weak. And Vlad shouted at her. She would cry for a long time. I hated Vlad for that. How could he do such a thing?
I was glad a new student came to class. His name was Vlad. His behavior was very mysterious. Let me describe his appearance. He was a boy with delicate features. He looked about fourteen years old. His hair was brown. His skin was light and his eyes were very dark. He always wore black clothes. He always said blood is very good for a person's health. He said he liked to suck people's blood, and then he laughed. We thought he was joking. I gave him a garlic and he threw it in the wastebasket. Why? And he looked like he had some blood on his teeth. I asked him, "Why do you have blood on your teeth?" He said, "I drank a lot of tomato juice today. Tomato juice is good for your health." He didn't look very healthy. Judy thought he even looked like a vampire. Maybe, I thought, maybe he is a vampire. But I didn't think there was any such thing as vampires, and I didn't want to be mean to him because he was a foreigner in a new country. But it's true that nobody wanted to play with him at first. His behavior led us to think that maybe he was not a student. But he said, "I am a student. I am!"
He was a new student, and we were surprised that he was a Westerner. He looked about twenty years old, and he was a man with delicate features and light skin. His hair was half-length and very black. His eyes were brown. He wore a long, black cloak, which was strange, because Taiwan is very warm. His hands were delicate and very white.
Vlad didn't talk to us much at first. He was very quiet. But when he did talk, he usually told us about human internal organs. He was very boring. He talked about NBA basketball too. His family was still in Europe, he said. We were very surprised he came to Taiwan to study English when he could have gone to London or America. It was very suspicious.
I thought he was very mysterious, and I suspected right away that maybe he was dangerous.
It was around 2:00 a.m. Vlad and Yukio were strolling in the dark alleys of Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Park. The bats frolicking in the trees greeted them with their squeaks. Vlad and Yukio hissed in reply.
"So what was your impression of the English class?" asked Yukio.
"Very good," said Vlad.
"Do you think some of them suspect you are a vampire?" asked Yukio.
"Maybe. They are smart kids," said Vlad.
"Tell me about them," said Yukio. "Describe some of them. Who will be good victims?"
"Actually, Yukio, they all look delicious. They all look so healthy and nutritious I don't know who will be the best."
"I'm drooling," said Yukio. "When will you introduce them to me?"
"Not yet," replied Vlad. "You have to wait. As I said, I think some of them suspect me, and if I brought another vampire with me to class they might all begin to suspect me."
"I understand. But tell me about them. At least tell me about them!" said Yukio.
"There's a boy named Kurt. I think he will be a very good victim because he's kind of big and sluggish. At least he has a lot of blood. And there's another boy named Wilson who looks like a child criminal. The teacher calls him Gangster Wilson. Wilson has a lot of blood too, and his skin is very light. Biting light skin is always the best."
"I agree," said Yukio. "There's nothing as beautiful as a stream of blood trickling down a smooth white neck."
"There's a girl named Grace who looks delicious," said Vlad. "She has delicate hands, a delicate face, and a very delicate neck. And the best thing is I think she likes me."
"Great! She sounds delicious!" exclaimed Yukio. "I think I want to bite her too!"
"You can bite her, Yukio. I will let you. But I must say… I have to tell you…"
"What?" asked Yukio.
"There's another girl I don't want you to bite," answered Vlad decisively. "I know you're my friend, but I want this one to myself. She is my victim, and you can't bite her."
"But why?" asked Yukio. "What are you saying?"
"There's something about her, something different, I don't know what it is. When I first saw her in class--I don't know how to say it--when I first saw her my dead heart started to beat in a different way. I never felt that before, not even in the 16th century. Her name is Candy."
"Oh, no!" cried Yukio. "You are in love, Vlad!"
"I'm not in love," said Vlad.
"Yes, you are! Yes, you are! I can see it. But how can it be? A vampire should never fall in love, Vlad. And how can you love your victim? Oh, what a mess! A victim is for sucking, Vlad. You aren't supposed to fall in love with them. You drink their blood and then you leave. That's all."
"I want to drink Candy's blood. I want to drink all of it. Every drop," said Vlad.
"Then she will be dead, Vlad. See what I mean?"
"I will drink her blood slowly. I will drink it forever," said Vlad.
"Oh, what a mess!" cried Yukio, gesturing with his little white hands. "Don't talk like that! There's nothing worse than a vampire in love. And you're in love, Vlad. I can see it."
"I'm not in love."
"What are we going to do? You are in serious trouble."
"I don't see there is any problem, Yukio. Class 411 has a lot of good victims in it. You can bite Annie and Grace. Grace looks delicious, and Annie will make a good vampire snack. You can bite Felicia and Luke and Judy and Alice. You will love biting Alice: her skin is very white. You can share Lon with me, and I will share Wilson and Kurt with you. Those two have a lot of blood. But you can't bite Candy. Candy is all mine. If you bite Candy, it will be war."
"War?" cried Yukio. "War? What are you talking about? I don't want to bite Candy, Vlad! I don't care about it. I care about you. Already you are losing your mind here! What a mess!"
"Don't worry, Yukio. Everything will be alright."
"I don't think everything will be alright. I'm very upset about this. I'm going. I will talk with you later."
"Where are you going?" asked Vlad.
"I'm going back to my apartment," said Yukio. "I need to be alone."
"I'll call you tomorrow," said Vlad. "Don't worry. Please."
"I will try to calm down. Good night."
Yukio changed into a bat and flew up into the night. The bats in the trees were quiet now and watching Vlad. They had listened to the conversation of the two vampires and didn't know what to think. Vlad hissed once to them, but they didn't squeak in reply. Finally, Vlad himself changed into a bat and left the park.
[Chapter VI by David, Alice, Judy, Candy, Kurt.]
Knock, knock, knock…
Vlad had only been home around twenty minutes when there came an insistent knocking on the door.
Knock, knock, knock…
"Alright, alright!" he called out, getting up slowly from the couch. "I'm coming!"
Vlad peered through the peephole but couldn't see the person clearly. The light in the hall was out.
"Is that you, Yukio?" he asked through the door.
"No, it's a neighbor," replied a man's voice on the other side.
Vlad opened the door and looked across the chain at a short man in his fifties. The man held up a bottle of vodka and a large bottle of tomato juice.
"Like to have a Bloody Mary with me?" he asked, winking at Vlad.
"Come in," said Vlad, unchaining the door.
The man sat down on the couch and set the bottles on the glass table in front of him. Vlad got ice and glasses from the kitchen. As the neighbor was fixing the delicious-looking drinks, Vlad asked:
"How can I help you? Why are you visiting me? And what is the meaning of these Bloody Marys?"
"My name is Lee," said the man. "Or I should say: Robber Lee. I'm a professional robber, you see."
"That's good to know," answered Vlad. "You are a robber. Okay. But why do you want to tell me this on our first meeting? You don't know me. How do you know I won't call the police on you?"
The man handed Vlad one of the Bloody Marys.
"I know you won't call the police on me because I have something on you too," he said.
"What's that?" asked Vlad, beginning to feel uneasy. "What do you have on me?"
"I know you're a vampire," said the neighbor.
The man stared silently at Vlad with a wide smile on his face. As he smiled, Vlad saw that half of his teeth were capped with silver. In fact, precisely every other tooth was capped with silver, so that the man's mouth looked like a kind of silver-and-white chessboard. It was a disgusting sight.
"What on earth has led you to think that I'm a vampire?" asked Vlad indignantly. "After all, I'm a new resident here. What a strange thing to say to a new neighbor!"
"You don't have to pretend with me," said the man. "I've been spying on my neighbors ever since I first moved in here. It's part of my job. And I've seen some pretty strange things in your apartment, Mr…"
"Teppich," said Vlad. "Vlad Teppich."
"Mr. Teppich," repeated the neighbor. "For one thing, I saw you move that coffin in here. Only a vampire would have such a coffin in his house. That seems pretty obvious. And then, just tonight, around a half hour ago, I saw a big bat fly to your balcony, and then there was a big puff of smoke, and suddenly I saw you standing on the balcony where the bat had been two seconds earlier. Now I'm no fool, Mr.…"
"Teppich," said Vlad.
"Mr. Teppich. I'm no fool, you know. I understood right away that that bat on the balcony was you. And if that bat was you, then you must be a vampire. There's no other way to explain it. So don't try to pull the wool over my eyes. You're a vampire, and I know you are!"
"Alright," said Vlad. "Alright. You know my secret. So I am a vampire. But aren't you afraid of me? How do you dare come to my apartment like this?"
"I will tell you why in a minute," said Robber Lee. "But first let me ask you a couple questions."
Vlad took his first sip of the Bloody Mary. "You may ask your questions," he said.
"Tell me, Mr. Teppich, is it true that you bite people's necks?"
"You can call me Vlad," replied Vlad. "Of course it is true that I bite people's necks. I'm a vampire, after all!"
"And how long have you been biting people?"
"You might not believe me if I tell you," said Vlad.
"Tell me," said Robber Lee. "I will believe you."
"Alright, I'll tell you. I have been biting people ever since I was first bitten myself. And I was first bitten myself in the Spring of 1591."
"Let's see," said Robber Lee, calculating in his head. "The Spring of 1591. So you have been biting people for 406 years. So it must be true then that vampires live forever. You will never die!" exclaimed Robber Lee with excitement.
"Yes, I am not getting older," said Vlad. "I am the same as the day I was bitten. I think it's true I will live forever."
"That's great!" said Robber Lee.
"Well, you might think it's great, Mr. Lee, but I don't. I'm tired of the world already. And if I am still living in five-hundred years, I think I will be bored to death."
"To death?" asked Robber Lee, obviously worried by the word.
"Not really to death. It's just an expression. When I say I will be bored to death, I mean that I will be very bored. You see?"
"I see," said Robber Lee. "But I think it would be very interesting to be a vampire."
"If you are a vampire, all you want in life is good blood," answered Vlad. "All you see is blood. You meet a new friend, and the first thing you think about is blood. What do you think that would be like? Don't you think it's a little disgusting?"
"I think it sounds cool," said Robber Lee.
"Cool? You think it's cool? You are a strange man, Mr. Lee."
"You say I'm a strange man, Vlad, but you are a vampire."
"So tell me: what happens to the people who are bitten by you? What about them?"
"They become vampires themselves," said Vlad. "What do you think?"
"That's great!" said Robber Lee. "And do you still remember the vampire who first bit you?"
"Of course," said Vlad. "She was beautiful. She was 768, and I was sixteen. Of course she only looked about twenty. I met her at the birthday party of the young Prince of Thuringia. She told me she had something in her eye and asked me to come into one of the castle bedrooms where the light was better. She wanted me to help her get the eyelash out of her eye. When we got into the bedroom she threw me down on the bed and sunk her teeth into my neck. She kept me there about an hour. I almost didn't have any blood in me when we left. My father was very angry about the whole thing, and it almost started a war. She was one of the nieces of Henri of Navarre, King of France."
"I want you to bite me, Vlad. I want you to make me a vampire too!" said Robber Lee, suddenly pounding his fists down on his knees in excitement.
"You want me to bite you?" asked Vlad.
"Yes, I want you to bite me! Please, please, please bite me!"
"That's disgusting!" said Vlad, setting down his drink and turning his face away from the guest.
"Disgusting? But why? You're a vampire!"
"I… Well… Yes, I'm a vampire, that's true, but you shouldn't just tell me to bite you! That's not the right way to do things."
"But I thought you only wanted blood," said Robber Lee. "I want to be a vampire so I can live forever. It will help me rob people too. I can fly in through their balconies, unlock the door, and then take all their things. I'm giving you my blood here, and you are saying No. I don't understand this! You just said all you think about is blood."
"I'm sorry, Mr. Lee," said Vlad. "There needs to be a certain spark between a vampire and his victims. You should be afraid. You should try to escape. You should scream and run for the door. But look at what you do! You’re sitting here throwing your neck at me! It's disgusting. And besides, you are too old. I'm tired of old blood. I left Europe because I was tired of all the old blood there. It won't work, Mr. Lee. I won't bite you. I'm sorry."
Robber Lee slumped down in his chair. He didn't look at Vlad. It even seemed that he might start crying. Vlad didn't know what to do next, and it was only after a minute of silence that his guest finally said:
"I understand. You have never met someone who wants to be a vampire. Maybe later you will want to bite me. I'm not so old anyway: I'm only 47. It's you who are the old one here! But what does it matter? Can we still be friends?"
"Why not," said Vlad. "I think it will be exciting to be friends with a robber. We can be friends."
"I'm happy," said Robber Lee as he reached out to shake Vlad's hand.
"I’d willingly have another one of your Bloody Marys, Mr. Lee, but the fact is I have to go and feed my bats. They’re starting to whine and squeak in the other room there." Vlad began to stand up and pointed to the door to the room where his bats were.
"Yes," said Robber Lee. "I hear their squeaking. It's beautiful."
"You think it's beautiful?" asked Vlad in surprise. "What a strange man! I think it's a pain in the neck."
Vlad led Robber Lee to the door and the robber shook the vampire's hand once more before saying goodnight.
May 25, 1997,
It was good to hear from you finally. You haven't written me for so long. I thought you might be trying to forget me. I’m glad to hear you had a good rest at Birch Point.
The rainy season has begun here. Taipei is so humid that my shoes and leather coat begin to get white mold on them if I don't use them all the time. And we even have an air conditioner running most of the day.
You remember that I told you about my smartest class: 411. A couple weeks ago a new student joined the class, the only student I have who is not Chinese. He's a European. I don't know why he's here. Perhaps his parents are working in Taipei. But he never talks about his family, and his behavior is very strange. His name is Vlad, and I guess he's about 15. I can tell he is very smart. His clothes, however, are bizarre. He dresses like a vampire in a movie. I'm not kidding, that is really what I think when I look at this kid. I guess he thinks it looks cool. But his clothes are so strange that I thought the other students might avoid him. That was at first. Now some of the students are his friends, and I'm worried about them.
Let me tell you what is happening. At first Vlad sat at the back of the classroom. Then, during the third class after he started coming, he suddenly said he wanted to move to the first row because his eyes were bad and he couldn't see the whiteboard. He came up and sat next to a student named Candy. But he didn't look at me or the whiteboard, but stared at Candy the whole time. Candy was so annoyed by his staring that I thought she was going to scream at him during the class. But she is too polite. Finally I told him to look at the whiteboard or he’d have to sit in the back row again.
Then there is his homework. He always doodles a lot in his homework book. Some of his drawings are very bizarre. He draws accidents and murders and skeletons. He draws knives and body parts and coffins and castles. He especially likes to draw bats. These drawings are all little doodles, and they are always very violent. He uses a red pen to draw the blood. There are so many violent doodles in his notebooks that I think something is wrong with his mind. But the thing that worries me most is that the other students are starting to draw the same things! This is what is so strange, Megan. It’s almost as if he had some kind of disease that is spreading to the others.
And the class is starting to change in other ways too. They are quieter. Sometimes I see some of the students are looking at each other in a strange way. Then they will start to laugh. I give them more homework to punish them, but they do the same things the next week. I am becoming so annoyed by it that I think I will call their parents.
I am sending you copies of some of the doodles. Tell me what you think.
Otherwise everything is fine with me.
Saturday, April 12, 1997, 10:09 p.m. Vlad and Luke were walking home from the night market together. Luke, who always liked meeting new people, had slowly become friends with the interesting new student in 411. The traffic on Sin-Yi Rd. was very heavy, and Vlad pretended to cough from the bad air.
"Luke," he said, "why don't we walk through this alley here? Then we don't have to breathe this bad air."
"Okay," said Luke.
They began to walk down the dark alley. Nobody was around. Then Vlad stopped walking.
"Luke," he said, "do you think there is such a thing as vampires?"
"No, Vlad," said Luke, "I think there is no such thing as vampires."
"Well, you're wrong, Luke," said Vlad.
Vlad pushed Luke up against the wall and lifted him off the ground. He bit into Luke's neck and drank his blood. Then he let Luke fall to the ground unconscious, and fled into the darkness.
Luke was the first victim.
Monday, April 14, 1997, 9:36 p.m. It was after English class. Vlad and Felicia were waiting in the hall to ride the elevator down to the first floor. The doors opened and they stepped in. There was nobody on the elevator. Vlad pressed the "B3" button instead of the "1" button, and then he stood in front of the buttons so that Felicia couldn't see them. When the door opened in the basement, Felicia said:
"Hey, this isn't the first floor!"
"Oh, you're right!" said Vlad. "I must have pressed the wrong button. I'm sorry. But let's walk up the stairs. I never saw this part of the building."
"Okay," said Felicia.
As they were walking up the stairs together, Vlad suddenly pushed Felicia up against the wall and bit into her neck. She tried to scream, but he held her mouth. He only drank a little of her blood, then he said to her:
"It's too late, Felicia. Do not be afraid. You are now a vampire like me. Do you understand? Go home, but don't let your mother see the bite marks."
Then he continued up the stairs by himself. Felicia was the second victim.
Sunday, April 20, 1997, 1:20 p.m. Vlad invited Kurt to watch a CBA basketball game. They went to the 7-11 and bought a lot of soda. When the basketball game was beginning, both of them enjoyed the game while they drank the soda. After they had drunk all the soda, Kurt felt his stomach was very full.
"I need to go to the bathroom," said Kurt.
"I'll go with you," said Vlad.
In the bathroom, when Kurt was washing his hands, suddenly the lights went out. Kurt became very tense. He heard a loud sneering sound. [?]
"Vlad, where are you?" he said.
"Hah, hah, hah, hah!"
He felt a big bird biting his neck and sucking his blood. Then he lay down on the bathroom floor. When he woke up, he didn't know what happened to him. But he was already a vampire.
Kurt was the third victim.
Saturday, May 3, 1997, 11:07 p.m. It was a black day. Gangster Wilson and Vlad were in a very dark pub. They were drinking tequila and lime juice. They were talking about crimes.
"Are you really a gangster, Wilson?" asked Vlad.
"No, but I want to be," replied Wilson. "I know I look like a gangster, and I kind of like the sound of the name Gangster Wilson. So I've started thinking maybe I should really be one."
Wilson wanted to commit some earth-shaking crimes. They discussed. Vlad excited Wilson with stories of famous crimes from European history. Wilson was drunk, but he still wanted more.
"Wilson," said Vlad, "I've a good idea!"
"I've a great idea what you can do."
"Tell me!" cried Wilson.
"It's a long idea. I need to explain. First…. But wait. Will you accompany me to the bathroom?"
"Okay," said Wilson.
In the bathroom, Vlad covered Wilson's mouth with his hand. He bit into his neck and drank his blood. Wilson fell unconscious. Then Vlad dragged him onto a toilet and closed the door. Finally Vlad changed into a bat a flew out of the bathroom window.
Gangster Wilson was the fourth victim.
Sunday, May 18, 1997, 11:00 p.m. Vlad and David were buying soda at Wellcome Supermarket.
"I’m very tired," said Vlad. "I don't know if I can even get home."
"I'm tired too," said David. "You can come to my house to sleep tonight. Okay?"
"Okay," said Vlad. "Thank you."
When they got to David's house, Vlad said: "I'm thirsty. I need some of the soda to drink. Do you want to drink some too?"
"Sure," said David.
But Vlad put something in David's cup.
"This soda is very good," said David. But he suddenly felt very sluggish.
"Your eyes look sleepy," said Vlad. "Maybe you are even more tired than I am."
"Yes," said David.
"Hah, hah, hah!" laughed Vlad.
He pushed him against the wall and bit into his neck. David tried to fight, but he was too tired from the drug. Vlad ran to the door and left the house.
The next day David found he had two big teeth in his mouth. David was the fifth victim.
Friday, May 23, 1997. Although Grace had told her mother she was staying at a friend's house that night, at 10:35 p.m. she was walking through the Tao-Yuan Fair with Vlad. Because of his charm, she’d accepted his invitation to go to the fair with him, and she had to lie to her mother about where she was going. She had a crush on him.
There were dart games, a haunted house, and a ferris wheel.
"Grace," said Vlad, "I love ferris wheels! Why don't we ride it together?"
"Okay," said Grace.
Vlad bought two tickets, and after a short wait they got into a car.
The two were alone together in the car. The wheel stopped when they were at the very top. They looked out over the lights of Tao-Yuan.
"Vlad," said Grace, "I think you are the most handsome boy I've ever seen. Do you like me too?"
"I think you are cute," replied Vlad. "But I'm in love with Candy."
"What?" said Grace. "How can you tell me this?"
Vlad said nothing.
"Why did you invite me to the fair if you love Candy?" asked Grace.
"I invited you because I knew you would say Yes. I knew you liked me."
"That is very bad!" said Grace. "I don't understand you. How can you do things that way?"
"Don't worry," said Vlad. "I will make you happy. Just close your eyes."
"Why should I close my eyes?" asked Grace. "I even lied to my mother to come here with you!"
"Trust me, Grace. You will see why. Just close your eyes for one minute."
Grace closed her eyes. Vlad leaned over quickly and sunk his teeth into her neck. She opened her mouth, but couldn't scream.
When the ferris wheel stopped a few minutes later, Vlad had to carry her out of the car. People pointed and began talking. The man in charge of the wheel stopped Vlad and asked what had happened.
"She became too dizzy from the ride," said Vlad. "She just needs some water."
Grace was the sixth victim.
Sunday, June 1, 1997, 8:41 a.m. Vlad and Lon were climbing at Kenting. They were happy because they had a few days vacation from school.
"Vlad, wait for me!" cried Lon. "Hey, should we eat our breakfast now?"
"Okay," said Vlad. "And we can go into that forest to eat. It's beautiful."
"Good idea," said Lon.
A few minutes later they were walking in the forest. They stopped, and Lon put all the food on a big rock. They sat down.
"It's really very beautiful here," said Vlad. "Do you know a vampire can kill people on rocks like this?"
"You are funny, Vlad. There is no such thing as vampires."
"Oh, really?" said Vlad. "But I am a vampire, and I will drink your blood on this rock today."
"Don't make such strange jokes!" said Lon.
Vlad prevailed over Lon on the rock and bit into his neck. He drank his blood and left him unconscious. He put their things in his backpack and hiked back down the mountain.
Lon was the seventh victim.
"So you see there is really nothing to worry about," said Vlad to Yukio.
It was late on a Saturday night. The two vampires were at Yukio's apartment together. They were talking about Candy.
"I am behaving myself, I am even behaving well, so there is nothing to worry about," continued Vlad.
"How do I know there is nothing to worry about?" said Yukio. "You haven't even approached her yet."
"That's just my point. I'm planning my approach carefully," insisted Vlad. "I'm not behaving like a crazy person. I've been spending my time getting my strength back by drinking the other students' blood. I'm not so obsessed with Candy that I ignore my health."
"Yes," admitted Yukio. "You aren't behaving as badly as I thought you would. But you are still a vampire in love…."
"I do love her, Yukio," interrupted Vlad. "I can't wait to make her mine. She will be mine forever!"
"You are still a vampire in love, and that is a very dangerous thing."
"But how is it dangerous? I don't understand how it's dangerous."
"Just tell me, Vlad, how do you plan to approach her, as you say? You are already sitting next to her in class. What will you do to approach her?"
"I have written a poem, a love poem," said Vlad.
"A love poem?" asked Yukio with a faint smile. "Really? Can I read it?"
"Why not? I've wanted to show it to you."
Vlad took a folded McDonald's placemat from his pocket, and began slowly, with a kind of reverence almost, to unfold it. The poem was written on the back of the placemat. He read it aloud:
For Candy, My LoveWhen he had stopped reading, Vlad stared at Yukio in silence. Then Yukio started laughing. At first it was just a little giggle, and he tried to stop. But then it became a snicker and finally a full-blown laugh. The sight of Vlad's indignant eyes as he held the poem in front of him didn't help matters. Eventually Yukio was laughing so hard he had to hold his sides. He was coughing and laughing at the same time. Finally Vlad shouted at him:
How do I love thee? Let me count four ways.
Your hair is a lacquer waterfall.
Your fingers are ivory toys.
Your feet are as light as sparrows.
Your nose is a jade cup.
I would crawl across Asia, Candy, to prick your finger!
"Stop it, Yukio! You are making me angry!"
Yukio made a serious effort to stop laughing. He said: "I'm sorry, Vlad. I'm really sorry. It's just that you wrote it on that placemat. And besides: it's not really a poem."
"It is a poem," said Vlad. "It's a love poem for my true love! And you are laughing at it!"
"I'm not laughing at your love, Vlad," said Yukio, coughing one final time. "I'm laughing at the poem. Please try to understand. You need to make it better. What you have there is not really a poem."
"Why not? Why isn't it?"
"There is no fixed rhythm, there is no rhyme. A poem needs to move like a song. But there is no rhythm in your poem. All you have are sentences. Some of your sentences are beautiful, yes, but you need to improve it."
"How can I improve it, then?"
"Listen. I will go through it with you. I will show you how you can change it. Then Candy will be really impressed by your love. But I don't want to do it now. I'm not in the mood. We can do it later, okay?"
"That's fine. I trust you as my friend. I don't like you laughing at me like that, but if you want to help me, then that's fine. I will be grateful. I'm not a poet, I admit. I'm just in love."
"Yes, Vlad," said Yukio. "You are obviously in love."
"What should we do tonight then?"
Yukio leaned back in the couch where he was sitting and crossed his skinny legs one over another.
"I really don't know," he said. "I'm not in a very good mood today. I'm kind of tired."
Vlad got up and began looking through Yukio's CD collection.
"Yukio," he said a couple minutes later, "you have a lot of CDs here. But I don't see any jazz. What do you think of jazz?"
"It's very noisy," said Yukio.
"Do you like classical music then?" asked Vlad.
"No, I don't like classical music," answered Yukio.
"Do you like heavy metal?"
"No, I don't like heavy metal."
"Do you like orchestra music?"
"No, I don't like orchestra music."
"Do you like rock?"
"No, I don't like rock."
"Do you like opera?" he asked.
"No, I don't like opera," replied Yukio.
"Do you like concerts?"
"No, I don't like concerts."
Vlad finally sat down on the couch.
"Yukio," he said.
"What?" answered Yukio.
"This conversation is becoming very, very boring. Who wrote it?"
"Tom wrote this part," said Yukio.
"Oh, I see," said Vlad. "Tom wrote ten questions and ten answers with 'Do you like X? No, I don't like X.' 'Do you like Y? No, I don't like Y.' That is really very boring."
"Yes, it is," said Yukio. "If we only had lazy students to write our dialogue, our lives would be very boring. It’s very sad to think about it."
"Let's talk about something else then," said Vlad. "Like your stereo. Where did you get it?"
"I brought it from Japan. It has two CD players, two tape players, a receiver, and four speakers. It was very expensive."
"What do you want to listen to?"
"Let's put in some rap music. What do you think?"
Vlad chose a rap CD from Yukio's collection and put it in one of the CD players. He turned up the volume all the way and then turned up the bass. As the music began pounding out of the speakers, the walls started shaking. "Great!" yelled Yukio. The two vampires started dancing in the living room.
One of the neighbors was so annoyed by the music that he started pounding on the walls. But the music was so loud that Yukio and Vlad couldn't hear him.
"Let's make some Bloody Marys," said Vlad.
Yukio went into the kitchen to start mixing the Bloody Marys.
Then the doorbell rang. Vlad went to open the door. There were three young people standing in the hall.
"Hey, are you having a party here?" said one.
"Just a minute," said Vlad. "Let me ask the owner."
Stepping into the kitchen, Vlad told Yukio there were three people at the door asking if they were having a party. Yukio thought for a moment.
"Tell them to come in," he said. "We can give them Bloody Marys, and when they're drunk we can attack them."
Vlad invited the three people to come in. They all started dancing together.
Then the doorbell rang again.
"Hey," said the girl in the hall. "This sounds like a really cool party. Can we like step down to your rank and file?"
"Sure, come in!" said Yukio and Vlad.
Then more people came, and more people, and more people.
"Yukio!" said Vlad. "Our party is really getting very big! We must be sure to make them all our victims! What do you think?"
"The same as you," said Yukio. "Just look at all these neighbors! There are Taiwanese, Americans, Japanese, and French. Have you ever sucked Japanese blood?"
"No," said Vlad. "Never. Is it delicious?"
"You will love it," said Yukio. "It’s the best!"
"You say that because you're Japanese," said Vlad.
"Well, maybe. But let's make all these people blind drunk so that we can get them with no resistance. I have about eight bottles of vodka in the kitchen. I want to drown in blood tonight!"
"Hey, who is that?" asked Vlad.
"That looks like the basketball superstar Michael Jordan. What's he doing here? And look! That's Scottie Pippen and Penny Hardaway. The basketball players are coming to our party!"
"Let's ask the girl," said Vlad. "Excuse me, Miss, who are those men you came with?"
"They're my friends. They were visiting me, and we heard the party upstairs, so we rang."
"Let's not try to bite those guys," said Yukio. "They're too big."
"Yeah, look at Jordan," said Vlad. "He looks like he could throw us both through a wall."
After the basketball players left, Vlad invited the rest of the neighbors to crash in the bedroom.
"Oh, my God!" said one. "There are so many coffins here! How weird! They have a marble coffin, a gold coffin, and a crystal coffin. That's really strange!"
"Yeah, coffins. That’s cool," said another. "But I'm tired. I want to sleep."
The drunken guests were soon rolling around the floor in drunken lethargy. Yukio and Vlad sucked them one after another. After they’d sucked all their victims, Vlad said:
"Have a nice rest, victims! I love you dearly! Hah, hah, hah!"
Then he said to Yukio: "I see the Japanese blood has a little raw fish flavor. Very interesting."
"I told you it was good," said Yukio.
"But the Taiwanese blood has a lot of garlic flavor in it," said Vlad. "That's not too good."
"I agree," said Yukio.
The next night Vlad and Yukio were on the street putting the victims' bodies into the garbage truck.
"Good-bye, victims!" they called out. "Good-bye! We will miss you forever!"
Then Vlad said: "I feel like a cat that's just drunk a liter of warm milk. I just want to curl up in the sunlight on an old Persian rug and sleep all afternoon."
"Oh, yeah?" said Yukio. "I feel like a pig that's just eaten a bushel of sweet potatoes. I just want to flop in the mud under a willow tree and belch in the summer breeze."
"Is that right?" replied Vlad. "I feel like a shark that's just eaten four middle school students on summer vacation. I just want to loll in the shallows in some quiet blue bay where there's no one around. Let a seagull land on my dorsal fin if it wants. I won't move."
"Okay, you win!" said Yukio. "What should we do next? Go back and nap in the coffins?"
"No," said Vlad. "Let's go to the Blue Note Pub and listen to some jazz and drink some wine."
"You are so smart," said Yukio. "You know how to live! Let's go!"
[Chapter X by Alice and Tom.]
Saturday, June 13, 2009
Candy's family lived in a comfortable and spacious apartment on the seventh floor of a new building on An-Ho South Rd. Candy's mother and father had recently been spending occasional evenings at the bedside of an old aunt who was in the hospital. Because of the importance of her coming exams at school, Candy was allowed to stay home and study at her desk rather than go with them to visit the aunt.
It was the night of June 12th, around 10:00 p.m. It was a Thursday. Candy's parents were at the hospital again, and she was studying in her room. She was trying to concentrate on a boring history assignment--history was her worst subject--when she heard a bumping and thumping noise in the living room. She switched off her desk light and went to see what it was.
In the soft light of the living room lamp, Candy could see something moving out on the balcony, but couldn't see clearly what it was. It was black and birdlike, and it knocked repeatedly at the handle of the balcony door. Candy was afraid, but since she knew the door was locked she decided to come closer. Her heart began to beat heavily as she stepped slowly toward the glass that separated her from whatever it was that was knocking against the door from outside. She strained her eyes to see it in the darkness. It was rubbery and hairy and black, and it flopped and skipped about just two meters from where she stood--there on the other side of the glass.
Candy was about to run back to her room when suddenly the creature opened its little pink mouth and hissed at her. Her heart jumped into her throat as she recognized it to be a huge fruit bat of some kind. It was staring her directly in the eye. Then its little amber-colored eyes blinked at her. They blinked almost like human eyes would. She was frozen to the spot with fear. She'd just begun to step away from the door when suddenly, with a rush of its rubbery wings, the bat flew away into the night.
Candy dropped into a leather chair and began shaking all over. It was gone now. But it was only a bat. Why had she gotten so scared? If her parents were home, she thought, she wouldn't have gotten so scared by it. She’d never seen such a thing in Taipei, but still it was just a bat. Maybe it was sick from being in the city, and that's why it flopped about like that. Maybe it had come to the balcony just to…
From the corner of her eye Candy noticed something white on the balcony. It was a folded piece of paper lying just outside the glass door. It was there right where the bat had been. What was it? Why should there be a piece of paper on her balcony now? She had to know what it could be. She could open the door quickly to grab it. But no. What if the bat were still out there? There was no way she’d open the door.
She went back to her room, her head dizzy from fear, and lay down on her bed. She lay there thinking about the bat and about her schoolwork and about how tired she was. Soon her eyes were going to close.
A few minutes had passed when the doorbell rang and she gave a start. Jumping out of bed, she went to the foyer and turned on the video monitor to see who was ringing. As the bluish light of the monitor softened into clear relief she recognized Vlad from her English class.
"Who is it?" she asked in Chinese, pretending not to know who it was.
"It's Vlad," he said in English, smiling warmly at the camera. "Isn't that you, Candy?"
"What do you want?" Candy asked.
"Felicia gave me your address," he said, smiling even more warmly. "I thought I would visit you. I live very close to here, you know."
Candy didn't like the smile: there was something suspicious about it, she felt. And why would he visit her? Boys never visited her before.
"I'm sorry, Vlad," she said. "I can't let you come in. My parents aren't home now, and they would get angry if I let you come up."
"Okay," said Vlad. "I understand. I didn't know your parents weren't home." Again he flashed the same smile. "But I really want to talk with you some time. I don't have many friends here, and since we live so close to each other I thought that maybe… Well, maybe you could show me some good places in the neighborhood. Some good places to go. You know?"
"I can't go out tonight," replied Candy. "I'm--"
"I know, I know," interrupted Vlad. "I don't want you to go out tonight. But tomorrow. Maybe tomorrow. Will you meet me after your school--right after school? Can you meet me in the food court in the Taipei Metro mall? If you'll meet me, I'd be happy to buy you an ice dessert. Red bean or taro, whatever you like."
Candy didn't know how to reply. She was about to say no to him when Vlad said: "C'mon, Candy, just for a few minutes. I may be a foreign boy, but just because I'm a foreigner doesn't mean I'm a bad person. Do you hate foreigners?"
"Okay, I'll meet you in the food court," she finally said. "But only for a few minutes. Goodnight, then. I have to go back to study."
And she flicked off the monitor screen and went back to her room.
When her parents got home about an hour later, Candy came into the living room and turned on the TV. She didn't know why, but she decided not to tell them about the bat or about Vlad's strange visit. Then she suddenly remembered the piece of paper on the balcony. Quickly sliding open the door, she reached out and grabbed it, shutting the door with a bang and locking it again. She took the paper back to her room, unfolded it, and read the following lines:
Your feet are light like ivory toys,How did this get onto her balcony? And who wrote it? Was it for her? Candy didn't want to imagine it was in any way connected with the sick bat. But how did it get there?
Your neck is smooth as jade;
I don't want you with other boys,
I'm glad you're in my grade.
It's only on you my thoughts do linger;
I'd crawl across Asia to prick your finger.
"What kind is it?" asked Candy.
Vlad was sitting alone at one of the tables in the food court pressing the buttons on a little black virtual pet. The pet gave a little electronic squeak each time he pressed a button. Candy sat down on the chair next to his.
"Look," said Vlad, holding out the pet for her to see.
Candy could see on the screen a little virtual bat flapping its wings in a digital two-step movement. As Vlad pressed the buttons a little virtual mouse held up by its tail was dragged above the bat's head and dropped into its mouth. The bat squeaked just after the mouse was swallowed.
"That's disgusting!" cried Candy. "Where did you get it?"
"Disgusting?" asked Vlad. "Why? I think it's cool. They make them in Germany."
"I never saw a bat before," said Candy. "I have a dinosaur. I wouldn't want a bat."
"I'll put him away then. He's fed anyway."
Vlad let Candy go and order the ice she wanted. When she returned and sat down with it, Vlad didn't know how to start saying what he wanted to say. The silence went on for a whole minute. Candy was looking at the mound of crushed ice as she ate it bite by bite. Finally Vlad said:
"Did you get my poem?"
Her eyes widened as she stared at Vlad in disbelief. She stuck the plastic spoon into the mound of ice and slid her chair a few inches further from his.
"W-What poem?" she asked finally.
"The poem I left on your balcony last night," said Vlad, unwilling now to look her in the eyes.
Candy wasn't afraid any more. She was angry. She didn't want to believe what he was saying.
"I read the poem," she said. "Of course I read it! But how did you leave it there, Vlad? How?!"
Though she was demanding that he tell her, for a moment Vlad couldn't respond.
"I was there myself," said Vlad finally, looking down at the table. "I'm a vampire."
"What do you mean you're a vampire? Nonsense!" cried Candy, clenching her little fist on the table and leaning toward him. "There's no such thing as vampires, Vlad, so you can't fool me! What’s your trick? How did you get the poem on our balcony? Tell me!"
Vlad was afraid now. He was afraid she would run away. A few seconds passed as he tried to think of what to say. He knew his next words would decide things.
"Candy," he said. "Please listen. Please don't be afraid. Of course there is such a thing as vampires, and I’m sorry to have to tell you that I am one of them. But I’m only telling you because.…"
Vlad paused. Candy said nothing.
"No," he continued finally. "Listen just a moment. I am not dangerous. I will tell you the truth. I want to tell you everything. That bat on your balcony, that was me. I can become a bat because I'm a vampire. But I don't like being a bat. It's terrible really. Being a bat is terrible, Candy! I had to do it to give you the poem. I don't even like being a vampire if you don't want me to be. Don't be afraid of me. I'm a good boy even though--"
"What do you mean you're a good boy!" demanded Candy. "Oh, my God! You're a bat! You just told me you are a bat and now you say you're a good boy. I don't want to finish this ice. I'm going."
She started to get up.
"No, wait, Candy!" he said, grabbing her arm. "Just sit and listen for a minute. You don't know what I'm going to say."
"I don't believe this," she said, guided back down into her chair by his grip. "I can't believe what you’re saying. This is all nonsense! You’re playing a joke on me!"
"Listen, please," he said.
"Are you really a vampire?" she asked. "Really?"
"But how can you be a vampire?"
"Why can't I be one?" said Vlad. "I’m not happy to be one, but I am one even so. I'm a vampire."
"But this is impossible," said Candy. "I can't believe this! How long have you been a vampire? I mean…. Were you a vampire before you came to our class?"
"What do you think?"
"I think you were," said Candy. "I think you were a vampire since long ago. You even look like a vampire to me. You look like you're dead."
Vlad said nothing.
"But I don't really believe this," she went on. "I don't think it's true, any of it. You are just pretending to be a vampire, and you are making a fool out of me."
Vlad still said nothing.
"Why are you playing games with me anyway? Do you think Taiwanese girls are so stupid? Tell me. Do you really think you are cool pretending to be a vampire?"
"But I am a vampire," Vlad insisted finally. "I'm not just trying to be cool. I'm a real vampire, Candy."
"But vampires bite people. They drink blood. Do you bite people too?"
"Yes, of course," said Vlad "I must bite people. What do you think?"
"But why did you become a vampire? How did it happen? Just tell me that."
"It’s the same with all vampires, Candy. Maybe you can guess. I've been a vampire ever since I was first bitten by another vampire. What do you think?"
"When were you first bitten?" asked Candy.
"I will tell you my story," said Vlad. "You won’t believe it, but I’ll tell you anyway. I was first bitten in 1591, and I’ve been a vampire ever since then. So, if you calculate, you will see that I’ve been a vampire for 406 years now."
"You've been biting people since the 16th century?" said Candy. "Can it be true?"
"Yes," said Vlad.
"But what about the people who were bitten by you? What happens to them?"
"It is true that a lot of them become vampires themselves," said Vlad. "They must go on to bite other people."
"And then those other people become vampires too!" said Candy.
"That’s true," said Vlad. "When someone is bitten there are two possibilities: either the person dies from losing too much blood or the person becomes a vampire. But usually we vampires like to arrange it so that the person becomes a vampire."
"But if all the time there are more and more vampires, and if vampires never die themselves, why isn't everyone a vampire by now?" asked Candy.
"We have thought about this problem before," said Vlad.
"What do you mean 'we'?" wondered Candy.
"I mean vampire philosophical societies. There are a few of them, and they have asked this question before. There isn't any good answer though. There always seem to be many more people than there are vampires. I think it's strange too, but I don't worry about it."
"So the people you bite become vampires," repeated Candy. "And you don't feel sorry for them. You just bite them anyway. That’s terrible of you, don't you think? It's disgusting!"
"I need blood," said Vlad. "I have no other choice."
"But it's horrible! You are a monster!"
"Maybe I'm a monster. Maybe you’re right. But it's the same with a lot of other people around here."
"What do you mean?" wondered Candy. "I know I'm not a monster. What do you mean a lot of other people?"
"I mean my friend Robber Lee, for example. He's a robber."
"You have a friend who's a robber?"
"Yes, he's a robber. And he's been a robber for about thirty years now. He told me that he's been robbing people ever since he was first robbed himself."
"And he decided to rob people just because someone robbed him?" asked Candy.
"He was angry about being robbed, and he needed money because all his money was taken from him, so he decided to rob one of his neighbors. And he's been robbing people ever since."
"That's terrible!" said Candy. "He must be a very bad man."
"But what could he do?" asked Vlad. "He was robbed himself. He was broke and everyone around him had money. And then there's the woman who lives upstairs from me, Ms. Wong. She runs people over."
"What do you mean runs people over? She runs people over with her car?"
"Yes, she told me her story just the other day," said Vlad. "I asked her why she had a limp and she told me her story. It seems she was run over by a guy in a Benz about four years ago. The guy ran her over and then drove away. She saw his license plate though. But even though she had his license number she could never manage to find him. Well, she was very angry about being run over and so she started once in a while to run over other people when she could. Then she started doing it more and more often. Now she drives around Taipei trying to run people over."
"That's disgusting!" said Candy. "She should be in jail. Why don't you call the police on her?"
"I think she knows I'm a vampire," said Vlad. "Robber Lee probably told her. So if I call the police on her she will probably call the police on me. Anyway, I feel sorry for her. She spends almost all her money buying cars so she can run people over with different cars. She told me she has four different cars she uses now. She thinks that will make it harder for the police to catch her."
"She’s sick!" insisted Candy. "She's a monster. What kind of people do you take for your friends?"
"They just live in my building, Candy. And I'm sure there are people like that in your building too."
"I hope not," said Candy. "It would mean the world was too awful."
"The world is an awful place," said Vlad. "You should learn that. I've been watching it for four-hundred years, and I've seen some very awful things."
"But it’s too sad," said Candy. "One person does something to someone and then they have to go and start doing it to other people too. It means that evil just continues to spread from one person to another."
"Evil is everywhere, Candy. Evil spreads just they way you said. But don't be sad. Sometimes it works for good things too. I mean that sometimes someone does a good thing for someone and then that person does a good thing for someone else."
"But you’ve just told me about this woman and this Robber Lee," said Candy. "And you yourself are a vampire. It's too sad."
"I met a girl the other day," said Vlad. "I think she's a good example of how things can work for the good. Her name is Biene and she is from Austria. She is here studying Chinese. She’s a juggling teacher."
"A juggling teacher?" asked Candy. "But you said she is a girl. How long has she been a juggling teacher?"
"She is around twenty-one. She told me she’s been teaching juggling ever since someone first taught juggling to her. She has been teaching juggling for about five years and she is already almost a Master Juggler."
"And what about the people who are taught by her?" wondered Candy. "Maybe they don't like juggling."
"Oh, no," said Vlad. "She’s a very good teacher. She said her whole life centers around juggling, and she knows how to communicate the inner essence of juggling to other people. She calls it the inner essence. The people who are taught by her are usually very happy to learn juggling, and she said that a lot of them become juggling teachers themselves. They go on to teach juggling to other people."
"I think juggling is stupid," said Candy. "It reminds me of clowns and circuses. I hate clowns. I think they are evil."
"Alright," said Vlad. "I know another example. I met a man named Mr. Liao. He’s a blood donor. He donates blood at the blood bank in the hospital."
"He donates his blood?"
"Yes, he's a blood donor. He told me he’s been donating blood every month ever since someone first donated blood for him. He was in an accident several years ago and needed a lot of blood to survive. Luckily the hospital quickly found people willing to donate blood for him. After he realized that the only way he survived the accident was because of people who donated blood, he felt that donating blood was a very important thing. He’s been donating blood ever since. He does it every month."
"And what about the people he donates blood too?" wondered Candy. "What happens to them?"
"I'm sure a lot of lives are saved," said Vlad. "And probably many of the people whose lives are saved are very grateful to him for saving them. Many of them probably become blood donors themselves. They go on to donate blood to other people."
"Where did you meet this man?" asked Candy.
"I met him at the hospital," said Vlad. "He was waiting outside the blood clinic. We talked while he was waiting to go in and donate blood."
"And what were you doing at a hospital blood clinic?" wondered Candy.
"I was . . . Well . . . I was there to . . ."
"Tell me, Vlad. What were you doing there?"
"What do you think, Candy?"
"You were there to steal blood, weren't you?"
"I was scoping the place out," said Vlad. "I wanted to see how many windows there were. Maybe my friend Yukio and I could get in at night."
"That's just what I thought!" said Candy. "I guessed it. You see what kind of a person you are?"
"A vampire needs blood," pleaded Vlad. "If we don't get enough blood--"
"You are a monster!" snapped Candy. "A disgusting monster!"
"Alright, I'm a monster," admitted Vlad. "So what? Vampires are monsters, Candy. Everybody knows it. What did you think anyway? Vampires, zombies, werewolves, fashion designers--they’re all monsters, Candy. But monsters have feelings too. Monsters have rights like everyone else."
"Rights?" asked Candy. "What are you talking about!"
"But I love you," said Vlad. "Don't you understand? I really do love you."
Vlad reached out his pale, bony hand to touch Candy’s cheek.
"Don't touch me!" she screamed, jumping to her feet. "Don't touch me! I don't like you, Vlad. And I don't like your criminal friends. I don't want to talk to you. I don't even want to eat your ice!"
"Candy!" pleaded Vlad, as she started to back away.
"Don't follow me!" she demanded. "If my mother knew I was with a vampire, she'd kill me. I never want to talk to you again."
Candy turned and ran toward the exit. Vlad didn't follow her. He stayed seated at the table, dumbfounded. He sunk his head in his hands in despair. Why wouldn't she listen? Half-consciously he took a bite of the red bean ice she’d left behind. Then he noticed for the first time that the people in the food court were looking at him and whispering to each other. Their eyes all said the same thing: "Monster." He rubbed his eyes for a moment and then looked again. They had stopped looking. So they were afraid of him. Finally, as if suddenly making a momentous decision, he stuck the plastic spoon back in the ice, stood up, and strode away across the food court. Only a few people dared glance at him as he walked by.
Candy was supposed to be studying, but of course she couldn't concentrate. She lay on her bed staring at the ceiling. It was three days earlier that she had met Vlad in the mall, and she’d felt ever since as if she were drifting in a dream world. Now a light fever was pulsing in her head, and it seemed to be getting slowly worse. Even the familiar things in her room looked strange, as if she’d never seen them before. What was happening to her? Had he played some trick on her? Candy continued to wonder about this. Maybe it really was just a trick. But there was always the bat on the balcony. She always returned to thinking about that. She knew there was no way to explain the bat: it was the one thing that seemed to prove he wasn't lying. But how could it be true? Why was it that she felt it was all just a dream but felt at the same time that before that afternoon at the food court she hadn't known what real life was? Why did she feel it was only at her meeting with Vlad that afternoon that she’d had her first encounter with real life? She looked round her room at her stuffed animals and her desk and her bookshelf, and they all seemed to be looking back at her in a strange way. They seemed to be saying: "Now you understand."
It was her fever and her confusion and her fear of Vlad that made her go to the phone. She finally needed to tell someone else. She needed to tell someone older who also knew Vlad. She had to tell someone right away before she became more confused, for she felt her fear was becoming too much for her. She decided to call Eric, the teacher of her English class. He had seen Vlad every day that she had. He had sympathized with her when Vlad had stared at her all those times. Maybe her teacher would believe her, maybe he wouldn't. Maybe he’d convince her it was all impossible, that Vlad couldn't be a vampire, that it was all just a prank. But she knew he couldn't convince her. And what’s more: it was she who had to convince him. Why would he ever believe what she had to tell?
When she got Eric on the phone, he in fact began to laugh at her. "Now, Candy, you know yourself that . . . ." But she’d done it, she’d said the most important words almost at the very first: "Vlad is a vampire." And as she went on to explain, as she told Eric everything that had happened, she felt that it was not really her voice that was saying these strange things, that the words she was saying were being spoken by someone else, someone who was certain of the truth of what she was saying, even though she herself, Candy Shu, could never be certain of such strange words, for they were all such obvious nonsense. Her teacher listened to her. Then something happened that she somehow knew would happen. He wasn't laughing at her any more. He was asking her to repeat things, asking her to slow down, asking her about the bat especially, telling her to get the poem and read it over the phone to him. Then he told her about how the class had changed during the past month, how he’d wondered what was behind all the violent drawings in the homework books--didn't she too notice how different the class had become?--and he said if her story were true, then there was certainly more than one vampire in the class: there were "at least six." Eric laughed again after saying this, but his laughter was different now. Candy knew he was taking her seriously. He admitted to her that he had suspected there was some serious problem in the class, that he even thought it had something to do with Vlad, but that he didn't know what it was. Candy asked him which of the students he was talking about.
"They are all drawing very strange things in their homework books," said Eric. "The only ones who haven't started doing it are Annie, Alice, and Judy. And Karen too. Karen seems alright."
Candy asked him if she could talk with him after the next English class. She told him she worried Vlad would try to do something during the next class. Would he watch Vlad carefully while he was teaching?
"Yes," said Eric. "Yes. I think it's a good idea if we have a meeting."
Candy felt she’d convinced him of the impossible. Maybe he even believed her. As she hung up the phone she felt she was already winning her case. She went back to her bed to lie down. She looked round the room at her stuffed animals, her desk, her bookcase. The room she had grown up in looked more solid, more real again. Maybe she wasn't going crazy.