"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.
Saturday, June 13, 2009
"What kind is it?" asked Candy.