Friday, 30 November 2007
It was my first trip to the United States, and my first overseas job at the paper. I proudly announced to the Customs official at O'Hare that I was travelling on business, as a journalist. He didn't believe me, though, and I was arrested when I tried to bribe him. In the end, they called the paper to check and I was released the next day.
I was following a hot lead about "vampires". Some crazy woman who claimed to be a descendent of "Vlad the Impaler", and who had been heard to talk about having problems with her bats. Apparently she was married to a guy who thought he was a warlock slayer. If I could get interviews and photos, it would make a hilarious "mad Americans" story back home.
And if it was real? As I stepped into the cold air of Chicago, it never occurred to me that this was even a remote possibility...
It was late morning when I arrived at the medical centre, where "Vampira" (as I was going to call her in my article) worked. I was directed to the appropriate room. A middle-aged woman with dark straggly hair was the only occupant. She was busy devouring a chocolate cherry cake. "Hello", I said.
"Muerchlba" she replied, then after she'd swallowed her mouthful said "Cake! Have you brought some cake? Just put it in the fridge over there. Cake!". She grabbed another slice and began to cram it in her mouth.
I started to speak, but something in her manner stopped me in my tracks. There was something strange about her. Actually, there was a lot strange. From her manic hunger to her wild eyes and her unsteady voice. My blood froze. I became conscious of some dreadful knowledge hidden deep inside me - probably a race-memory. This woman was undead, I was sure of it! Maybe the dark reddy brown cake wasn't chocolate and cherry after all. Human blood would be easy to come by in a medical establishment.
I scurried to the fridge to give me time to plan my next move. I opened it. It was awful! Stuff in there was so old there were cobwebs on it. There were bags of something that looked like crumbs. Who puts crumbs in the fridge? It must be something else. Maybe the dried remains of a vampire? Maybe even the Count himself? I thought back to some of the books I'd read and the films I'd seen as a student. I remembered one where they resurrected a vampire by pouring blood onto his ashes. My blood?
I heard someone approach. It wasn't the scarecrow-like woman, but another about the same age. Clearly she was also a member of this horrible tribe. She shoved me out of the way and anxiously peered in the fridge to see if anything was missing. She looked up and started to say something, but I was out of there.
I ran - I needed a bathroom, as my breakfast was about to make a violent reappearance.
As I was freshening up, my phone rang. It was the editor. I started to gabble furiously about what I'd seen, but he wasn't listening. "You've got to get over to Texas right away.", he said, "there's been a strange crime spree over there. Dogs being kidnapped, plates stolen, very odd." I tried to argue, but he wouldn't believe me, and said if I didn't go, I'd never work again.
As I got on the plane I knew that one day I'd have to return and face the vile vampiric clan, even at the risk of my career - or my life!
During the flight I kept going over and over every minute of my experiences. Maybe I was imagining it? Maybe they were just nutty women? But no, there were the "crumbs". That was the clincher. No-one keeps crumbs.
The stewardess came over to me with a concerned expression. "You look tired", she said, "Try and get some sleep, Mr Van Helsing."
[Based on a True Story - See Bee's Musings for all the gory details]