All Things In Good Time

© Joan Ann Lansberry

Book Learning

Thus the years processed. Michael was the observer in the shadows, recording all the newsworthy historical and scientific events in his memory. The news of note in this year, 1977 were as follows: Jimmy Carter had taken the presidency in January, defeating Gerald Ford, who had been the vice-president prior to Richard Nixon's ignominous resignation. His 'Watergate' scandal had done him in a couple of years ago.

''Star Wars'' was in the cinemas, and Michael had been to see it a couple of times. He was not aware that personal home computers had been introduced for sale, or what this evolution would eventually mean to him. But he was aware of all the recent new book releases.

Most riveting was one with the fascinating title, ''Interview With A Vampire''. It was fiction, but perhaps it would be more optimistic than 'Dracula'. Trembling,  for still acute was the sense of self-revulsion from that last book about vampires he'd read, he took the book to his favorite dark corner in the library and sat down to read the cover leaf. ''. . . the habits, hungers, feelings of vampirism: the detachment, the hardened will, the 'superior sensual pleasures . . .'' Michael thought in response,'' 'the detachment', oh God, yes! I hate it, despise it, in fact . . . 'Hardened will', of a necessity that comes about and early. 'Superior' sensual pleasures???'' I must not be living right. WHAT sensual pleasures? Maybe I can LEARN something from this book!''

He blushed and settled in for a long read. He paused only to drink from the water fountain and to take a rare visit to the bathroom. He never had to defecate since his transformation, but every few days, he'd need to eliminate some liquid waste material. While there, Michael looked at his face in the mirror. He'd noted the description of the vampire: face as ''inanimate as a statue', eyes like 'flames in a skull'. He stared, but his skin did not appear 'utterly white'. Just the faintest tinge of pink graced his skin uniformly. Uniformly, in contrast to humans, who, no matter how pale they are, always have darker faces and hands, on account of the more frequent sun exposure.

He stared some more, trying to ascertain his animated properties as he stretched his face in exaggerated expressions. Maybe with his vampiric vision, this wasn't possible for him to objectively ascertain. He tried to remember what Giselle looked like to him when he first met her. 'Like a porcelain doll' had, indeed, been his first impression. He didn't remember her as having minimal facial movements, however. She had laughed so much. That's mostly what he remembered.

His own gray eyes stood out in sharp contrast to his pale skin, which might have a startling effect, but hardly 'flame-like'. ''  'Flame-like' might be attractive . . .'' Michael mused, imagining such an intoxicating thing.

He then smiled with a whimsical pride that he was twenty three years older than the interviewee. And then he simply got lost in the vampire's tale.

Louis spoke of the ''special pleasure of sucking nourishment''. Michael knew not to suck too quickly and stop the heart. He knew to be careful not to take in air with the blood. Burping was equally painful for him as a bloodsucker as it had been for him as a human. But he never imagined he could take sensual pleasure from bloodsucking. It would have seemed sinful, somehow.

Michael let the book's words be a spin-off to his own reverie. ''  'Louis is dying' ?'' Michael remembered the proverbial tunnel, coming and going, but he didn't think he'd actually died. He was fairly sure he'd only come just to the point of death. His mind drifted back to Giselle, ''Skillful Giselle. She got the vampire-making essense in me somehow. I did not drink of her at all. She did good work . . .''

He resolved to enjoy his sensations more. He'd gotten over the shock of them being so much stronger early on, but it hadn't occurred to him to enjoy this. At this moment, he was aware of:

 . . the slow thump of his heart, the whirr of the overhead fan, the lilac perfume on some woman a few tables away, the suble differences of the 'human' smells around him, an almost sweet smelling young girl, a musty old man, a still young man with a pungent sweat, the smell of old books. He could even smell the faint left-overs of those who had earlier read this book now in his hands. It had been mostly women, but a few virile young men had left a trace of their pheronomes.

Why he had not ever paused to enjoy all of this, he didn't know. But he felt so wonderously good to do so. Michael would never neglect this pleasure again.

Michael broadened his nostrils, ''Sun-heated dust? A faint baked smell to it?'' It was lovely reverie. Why was he crying suddenly? He wasn't sure. He wiped his tears on his sleeve-covered forearm, and let a few more just course where they wanted, enjoying the cool sensation of the cascading drops. When they reached near his mouth, he flicked out his tongue to catch them. ''No flavor, they had been salty before . . .''

Michael got to the scene in which Lestat introduces Louis to his day-bed, a coffin. This was one thing in common with Stoker's vampires. They all slept in coffins. But as these new creatures were ones to whom he could relate, full of conscience and intelligence, he protested this. ''Sleeping in a COFFIN! How revolting! I am a free man, perhaps not a human man, but a man nonetheless. I sleep where I please!'' And he paused to think of the many odd places he'd slumbered through out the past two centuries. Being itinerant, or if you prefer HOMELESS, he was dispossessed of the need for a special place to sleep. It had given him a sense of freedom.

There was no worry, for his alert senses always maintained guard in the subliminal part of his consciousness. Even in the deepest depths of sleep, should danger come near, he would awaken and become fully alert in time.

But then he remembered something Lestat had told Louis earlier, ''The sun will destroy the blood I've given you, in every tissue, every vein.'' ''My blood doesn't ever get destroyed. If it died at sunrise and re-animated at sunset, I suppose I'd need a firmly shut protective place, too. I'd be completely vulnerable whenever the sun shone, even though not directly in its hateful rays. No, bad sunburns are enough.''

Michael smiled as he thought, ''I do not envy this chap, I am so much better off than him!''

And he returned to the tale of new Louis and the often irascible Lestat.

Night soon fell. Michael was not even halfway through the book yet, but he had to leave the library. In the old days, when he had found a book he didn't want to quit reading, he'd slip it into his bag and read it by lamp light at night. But the libraries had recently begun putting a magnetic strip somewhere hidden in the book that would activate an alarm if he tried to so do.

So he hid the book in the non-fiction science section, so it'd be there when he returned the next day. He was hungry, hungrier than usual. Was it the influence of the bloodthirsty Lestat, who instructed the reticent new Louis, ''We are immortal. And what we have before us are the rich feasts that conscience cannot appreciate and mortal men cannot know without regret. God kills, and so shall we, indiscriminately'' . . . ''for no creatures under God are as we are, none so like Him as ourselves . . .''

The words made Michael shudder. Cruel Lestat killed whomever he fancied, truly indiscriminately. It wasn't like that awful Lucy, feeding on children, not capable of a conscience choice. But Lestat touched on some truth, too. 'No creatures under God are as we are, none so like Him as ourselves.' He'd read of 'the food chain' in the scientific manuals. All of living things existed in a chain, with the bigger feeding on the smaller, in an arc from the biggest to the smallest. He was stronger than human men, he was longer lived. It would be a comfort to think of himself as merely being at the top of the food chain.

It would be a relief to give up the revulsion and shame he'd recently come to associate with it. He cried with the thought of being just a regular being, and remember the first time he'd fed on a living human, willfully. It had been quite by accident that Michael came to know the regular taste of human blood. He'd just arrived in the big city, after years of life on his parent's farm. He wondered through out its many streets, lost and confused. He was stumbling down an alley, feeling overwhelmed by the cities complexity, when a burly thug pounced on him.

''Lost, are we, little country boy? Hah! Hah! Hah!'' the man sneered at him. It was clear the thug meant to do Michael severe bodily harm. At first Michael panicked, but he remembered how he'd thrown his big father clear across the room. Remembering his strength, Michael soon had the upper hand, and the man was knocked unconscious.

Michael didn't know it at the time. He thought he'd killed the thug. He remembered his thoughts when he'd stood over his dead father, ''. . . filled with blood, should such blood be wasted?'' And he bent down to drink. The warm, delicious juice was already cascading down his throat and he could feel his greedy body demanding it.

Only the man wasn't yet dead! The man's heart was still pounding, it, pushing the blood through the man's artery, helping Michael to suck it out easier. He was too hungry for his conscience to argue with his hunger. He didn't stop until the man was drained. He could feel the gratitude of his body, so completely satiated. His body had a seducing way of making him feel like he glowed all over. It was its way of rewarding him for getting what it wanted.

After that, the small furry mammals seemed only like snacks. They'd tide him over until he could get a bigger meal. Michael learned to do on purpose what had first happened accidently. He learned to sniff out the likely thugs, for he could sense an unsettling buzz of evil around them. Michael could put out a false air of vulnerability. Later, he learned how to lure the thug with a promise of money or other enticing loot.

Soon, Michael was always well fed, and the population of thieves and thugs were mysteriously kept under control in any town in which he decided to settle. But he never took the life of an innocent, the way this Lestat did. The thought of it made him shudder.

As the years went by, he learned better to tune into that unsettling buzz of evil. Even from afar, he discovered how to pick up its faint signal. Or were his senses simply growing stronger? Perhaps it was a combination of skill and strength. He could read the thug's mind. This helped in putting out a more convincing lure.

Thus it was this evening, he wandered the streets, sniffing. Was 'the signal' stronger in this direction, or in that direction? He followed in 'that direction', and soon he had his prey down. Intense hunger made him have a faster than usual finish. Michael cleaned up the remainder, and wandered to a bus stop bench to rest a bit. He felt lighter, now that the great claws of shame didn't dig into him so hard, and dozed off while he sat there. He'd not had his afternoon nap, owing to the fascinating reading.

His dreams were sweet, though. He dreamed of grand southern plantations, with huge acreage of land around them, filled with gardens. Why was it always sunny in these dreams of his? He'd read it; the lame dream of when they used to run and leap high. Thus it was, he who could no longer be in the sun, enjoying the bright blue skies and the feel of the sun on his back. In his dreams, the sun was never the eye scalding thing that bleached everything white. It was never the sun that would bake tender exposed skin in scant minutes.

Beautiful, those gardens, with the profusion of brilliantly colored flowers . . . The lovely vision was broken with a sharp blow to his chin. A crazed young man was attacking him. ''You got money, I need drugs . . . I'm sure you got money, you got somethin' in that bag of yours .'' Michael led him away from the brightly lit bus bench, into the shadows. As he led the young man away, the drug craving hoodlum tried to hit him. He'd miss each time, but Michael kept the pace slow enough to make the man think he had a chance of hitting him. Finally, safely in the shadows, where passerbys could not observe the tussle, Michael overpowered him and he was out flat.

Michael bent over him in the customary fashion, but it was unusual not to having mad thirst driving him. He sucked more slowly this time. Not so slowly that he dawdled. Dawdling would increase the chance of someone finding him at his meal. No, he couldn't ever relax that much. There wasn't much in the way of sensual delights to add to his sucking pleasure. The young man stank. His blood had an off taste to it, no doubt owing to its tainted drug content. The ground on which the 'meal' lay was covered with smelly garbage strewn here and there. Really, there was not much in the actual hunt itself that was pleasurable.

But afterwards, when he was more sated than he'd ever been in his long life, his body positively hummed with satisfaction. He sped along the sidewalks, moving faster than he'd ever done before. He appeared to race, yet it was all so effortless. He ended up back under the canopy of the library. This would be a better place to doze off. No hoodlums would be likely to pester him there. And he returned to the dreams of sun kissed plantation gardens.

continue to Chapter 7, Someone, Somewhere
return to Chapter Outline