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.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Knock, knock, knock…