James’s Note: One of the major themes of vampire literature is always the curse of immortality. The idea that too long a life would be empty and meaningless. Well, dear friends, I think that’s bullshit, and so does a certain person in this story. This is just a little story that happened once, in a bar.
My name in Nathaniel, and I am a vampire. I have been alive for over two hundred years, and the strangest event of my entire existence happened to me a week ago. I’m writing this down, hoping it will help me make sense of it.
My mind was in a dark place as I visited a little bar down the street from my apartment were people like me like to gather. Not everybody there is a vampire, but it is a favorite of the non human crowd. I was sitting at the bar, trying to drown my sorrow. When you’re a vampire, this is almost impossible. Alcohol won’t get us drunk, even if it is one of the few human foods our undead bodies can handle, along with sugar and dairy. This lead to this particular bar having a rather unique menu.
I sat, staring deeply into my rum and coke, and contemplating meeting the sunrise. My bleak thoughts must have shown on my face, because the man sitting next to me glanced over, then spun around on his bar stool to face me.
He was short, with dark curly hair, and swarthy skin. He reached out to clap me on the arm, flashing a smile that showed just a hint of fang. I relaxed a bit, knowing he was definitely one of the tribe.
“Forgive me for saying so, son, but you look like you got a lot on your mind.”
I sighed, resigning myself to actually be drug into conversation. It wasn’t like it was going to matter anyway. “Yeah, you could say that.”
The strange vampire’s smile was not unkind. “Let me guess. Some one from your human life just died, either that, or it was a human lover, right?”
I narrowed my eyes, taken back a little. “She used to be, well, special to me. Never my lover. I knew someday this would happen. She just died of old age.”
“I’m so sorry to hear that.” His eyes seemed full of real sympathy.
I scoffed into my drink. “Sorry she died? Isn’t that just what humans do?”
He didn’t quite roll his eyes at me. “No, son, I’m not sorry she died. I’m sorry she wasn’t your lover. You were so afraid of losing something that you never bothered to have it.”
I must have looked like he slapped me. I turned on my own stool, facing him now. I struggled not to raise my voice. “And what would you know about it? I am over two hundred years old. Every human I knew in life is dead. My wife is gone. Our children are gone. When you’re as old as I am, you’ll realize that if you let a human get close, it’s just an invitation to watch them die.”
It was his turn to scoff. “Son, I was your age before the Egyptians built those pointy little tombs of theirs everyone is always going on about.”
I was about to call him a liar when I felt it. He wasn’t trying to hypnotize me, he was just flexing enough of his psychic power for me to be able to feel it. It felt like it had the weight of a freight train behind it. There was no doubt he was the oldest vampire I had ever met; by far.
He patted me gently. “Don’t be too hard on yourself. I’ve been there. You know how many times I’ve been married? Thirteen, if you don’t count all the ones that were just damn good times.”
I looked at him in horror. “How could you possibly bear all that grief?”
“You see, it’s like this. Yeah, it hurts like hell every time you lose someone, but pain passes. The memories, the love, that’s what lasts. Eventually, time heals the wounds and all you’ll remember is the good stuff. It takes a lot of time, but that’s something we’ve got plenty of.”
I shook my head. I didn’t want to admit he was right, but in my heart, I guess I knew he was. “Fine, but even with that, how can you bear to live so long? I know vampires barely twice my age that have walked into the dawn because they didn’t have anything left to live for. I mean, haven’t you seen all there is to see?”
“Now, that’s a huge load of bullshit. Yeah, I’ve seen a lot. I saw people first figure out how to build a city. I was in Ur when they figured out how to burn one down, too. I got to see Rome rise and fall, the age of steam, and the atomic bomb. That last one was scary as hell. But I ain’t seen it all. You know what question everybody asks me, once they find out how old I am?”
My amazement was plain on my face. “What?”
“They ask me if Jesus was real. If he was a flesh and blood real live person. You know what I tell them? I tell them I haven’t a bloody clue. I was in China at the time, advising the new Emperor. I didn’t even hear about it until I visited Rome about fifty years later. See what I mean? That might have been the most important event in human history, and I missed it. Even we can only be in one place at a time.”
I slammed my drink down on the bar. I couldn’t have said why, but for some reason, I was baring my soul to this ancient stranger. My voice was raw with emotion. “But what do I do now? Vampire politics are stupid, pointless games. All the human things just seem so small compared to our lives. What can we possibly do with all this time?”
“How many languages do you speak?”, he asked me abruptly.
“Two, maybe three, if you count Creole”, I answered, legitimately puzzled.
“Why not more? It’s not like you don’t have time. There are languages that I am the only living being that can still speak. There’s even more that go extinct every day, when their last speaker dies. I don’t have time to learn them all.”
He took a sip from his drink. It was a tumbler of whiskey with a scoop of ice cream in the center. “You young vampires start thinking life is so long as soon as you outlive your human life span. But you don’t get it. I’ve seen the world change over and over, and it just keeps changing. I’m waiting to see where we go from here. I can’t wait until we reach the stars. Do you think vampires will be able to dance in the vacuum? Will the light of alien suns burn us? If you’re lucky you’ll get to find out.”
He stood up, drained the last of his whiskey float, and grabbed his hat off the bar. He gently touched my arm as he started to the door. “You hang in there. This age is the hardest, but it’s just a faze. It’ll all start making sense before long.”
As he was walking out the door, I called out, “Wait, I didn’t catch your name.”
“I didn’t throw it. You have a good night, son.”
I stared after him dumb founded. I must have sat there like that for the rest of the night, until the bartender kicked me out so I could beat the sunrise home.
It’s been a week, and I still have no clue who the hell I talked to in that bar. I’ve never even heard of one of us as old as him. I mean, he couldn’t be the first vampire, right?
Either way, he changed the way I look at the world. I’ve realized he was right. There’s just so much to do and see.
There’s not enough time in forever.