I know, I know: Vampires are no longer the rage, and zombies are in. But this one called to me, and if a vampire calls to you, how can you not respond?
This vampire lives in the Midwest. His bride was swept away by Vladimir, the Ur-Vampire. During the day he runs an egg farm. At night he flies over cornfields, looks into neighbor's windows, and mourns not having a normal life. His loneliness blows through him like the prairie. And he wishes he could marry the beautiful mortal, Alison Hardy, home from vetinerary school.
And although he has abandoned his coffin for a feather bed, his empty coffin overflows with deisre.
"Write about me," he said.
And then he handed me a title.
How could I ignore his pleas? Often characgters are somewhat distracted, running from one writer to another, as they audition in character-land. Now and then they choose me and come closer to me and shake my hand. No matter how grisly, no matter how selfish, no matter how unappealing, they shake my hand, like the kid on the schoolyeard who was new or had no friends or was never chosen for the basseball team.
When a charcter chooses me, I have no choice, just the way I have no choice when a title chooses me or a plot says "I have to be written."
At times I ask myself about this mysterious phenomenon--this liminal edge between what is inside my own imagination and what appears to be mysteriously given.
When I was three and taken to a puppet-show, I thought all the puppets were real and even though I cried when my parents told me they weren't, they remain real, alive and vibrant in my my mind. (I know the tiny witch is still scurrying around, casting minor spells on small, hapless animals.) And when I was three and looked at Little Red Riding Hood through my viewer. alone in a lush pine forest, holding her basket, I thought she lived there and had paused to let me see her.
And so my vampire flies. Since he inhabits a short story he doesn't fly for very long. And he's never told me his name, but he's let me see his heart.
He also gave me insight into vampires. They are the adolescents of the monster world: indulging in bizarre luxuries, somewhat arrogant about their alienation, yet never trying to fight it. They're also condemned to need the world that they have contempt for.
In the course of writing this story I learned (of course!) about the glimmer of adolescent alienation that remains in me. Did the archetype hold up a mirror for me to see something? Do all of us have a bit of vampire-spirit?
In a sense these are superfulous, pilosophical questions about the ground of being in the imaginary world. One can have endles disputes about this and never know the answer. So writers must surrender to an unknown quality. Their job is to make the unknown alive in the imaginations of readers.
The midwestern vampire would probably approve of these questions because he broods. Other characters, however, would tell me that they don't have time. They are skiing over snow, waiting to get a letter, coveting a coat, recovering their stolen car.
Who has time to figure out whether we are real? they would ask me. We must take a friend to a piercing parlor. We must climb a ladder full of razor-sharp stars. We must order an enchanted man from a mail order catalogue and hide him from our family.
Wherever they are, wherever they come to life, I am grateful to them.
And if a zombie shakes my hand, I will surely shake it back.
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