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By Melanie Fairchild
On many occasions I have interviewed authors just before the release of their newest work, but this is the first time I have ever had a conversation with the main character of an historical fiction novel. I must admit as I sat in the bar of the Biltmore Hotel waiting to have a heart-to-heart with a two-thousand-year old vampire, I had my doubts about the validity of the whole situation as well as the sanity of my editor for sending me on such a wild goose chase.
Then he walked into the room. The whole atmosphere changed. The lights appeared suddenly softer, more inviting. The chatter in the room more subdued, almost mysterious. The late afternoon sun fell through the skylights with a soft golden light in such a way that he didn’t even cast a shadow on the hard marble floor as he walked toward me. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more handsome man; over six feet tall, black wavy hair, golden skin and deep dark eyes, his face ageless, his presence commanding. He had the attention of every woman in the place. It was impossible not to stare at him. I realized I wasn’t breathing as I lifted my hand to draw his attention. He owned the room as he walked toward my table, a smile of recognition spreading across his perfect features.
I had to do some conscious yogic breathing when he leaned down to shake my hand. His fragrance was overwhelming. It was an olfactory representation of a combination of everything virile and noble and potent that I had ever or could ever imagine. I mean, it was GOOD! He smiled as he sat down. There were no fangs on his straight, white teeth, but there was a sparkle in his eye as he caught me checking out his canines.
Laughing nervously, I waited for him to settle into our booth across from me. His cream-colored summer sweater outlined the contour of his powerful shoulders as he waited for me to speak. Another moment of silence, then without thinking the words escaped from my lips.
MF: Are you hungry?
(He closed his eyes just a little. His eyelashes were so long and thick they cast shadows like brushes on his high cheek bones. He stared at me for a moment then smiled.)
ARIS: That depends on what’s on the menu, does it not?
(Note to my readers: At that moment, the guy could have devoured anything I had that he wanted. I cleared my throat and stammered for a moment before I could go on. He laughed, pleasantly amused, and the sound made me stammer even more; his laugh was deep, rich, real. I took another deep breath as I gathered my thoughts. This was supposed to be a vampire. I am supposed to be a journalist. Whether this man was out of his mind or not, I was facing a once in a lifetime opportunity. I became determined not to come under the spell of this enchanting creature. I retrieved my lap top from its carrying case and began to type with a determination I didn’t feel.)
MF: You are known by the name Aris. Do you have a last name?
ARIS: Aris is my last name. It is my only name.
MF: And you say you are a vampire? It is difficult to believe that vampires really exist.
(Note to my readers: This said even though the man was too gorgeous to be human and the scent of him produced strange stirrings in places inside me I never knew existed before.)
MF: Can you prove there is such a thing as vampires?
ARIS: Can you prove there is not? (Again, that wonderful laughter. I ignored his question and continued.)
MF: Are there more of your kind?
ARIS: Many more of my kind, many different breeds of what you call vampires. Some are earthly beings. Those are the vampires of legend. The evil, blood drinkers who hold no value for life be it human or others of their own species. They live without laws or conscience; they slay without reason or remorse. Their murders are undetectable. They live in darkness, avoiding human contact except to torture or kill.
My breed is different. We do drink blood, but our makers were from another world. They came to earth as explorers, scientists. Most returned to their home planet but two stayed on. It was from the female that a society of half-breeds was born. We are half human and half alien, human beings with alien venom in our veins. We are able to sleep and eat yet we have no need to do so. If we eat, our human system processes the food to our human cells. If we don’t, the alien venom that circulates through our veins sustains us. If we choose to breathe, our lungs process oxygen to our human cells. We appear very much the same as you except for our great beauty and our ageless countenance. We walk among your kind without your suspecting what we are, the Immortals.
MF: You are telling me that you came from aliens? (The most bizarre thing about this conversation was that I believed everything that golden voice told me as gospel truth.)
ARIS: Yes. We are called vampires because we have the need to drink blood, however, unlike the earthly variety, we are sustained by the blood of animals for the most part.
MF: The most part?
ARIS: Yes. There are cycles when we must have human blood; soon after our changing and then periodically throughout our immortal existence. Today it is very easy to find human blood without taking a life; blood banks fulfill our need. In the past, we did drink from humans but under law, only from the wicked and only for sustenance. We are quite humane.
MF: Under law?
ARIS: We have a government, a king and queen, those two who remained on earth when the star voyagers returned to their planet. There is a co-ruling body, the high council, which consists of changlings such as I am. There is an ancient code of ethics to which our culture adheres and the penalty for breaking the code is extinction.
MF: Where is this governing body located? Where does your society live?
ARIS: I am not at liberty to say at this time.
MF: Alright, then how is a vampire extinguished?
ARIS: After a trial by the council and a verdict of conviction, the Immortal is eliminated by an ancient and mystic ritual. While it is rare for one of us to transgress the law, it has happened in our history and to one to whom I am very, very close. It is not pretty and is not something I shall discuss further at this time.
MF: If you won’t discuss dying, how about living? How long do vampires live?
ARIS: That I cannot answer. As of now, none of us has reached our expiration date. Immortal, remember?
MF: What in the world does it feel like to be immortal?
ARIS: Please forgive me for saying humans do not grasp the theory of eternity, so how could you ever grasp the theory of immortality?
MF: Okay, you might be right about that. Then, let’s discuss something that humans can grasp. Love. Are you able to experience love?
ARIS: (His eyes clouded for a moment. He smiled again before he began to speak.) Yes, we are able to love. Once we find our mate, it is for eternity. Centuries ago I found my eternal partner. She was mine then snatched from my protection. I lost her and myself. I wandered through time and lifetimes in search of her.
MF: And did you ever find her?
ARIS: That, Ms. Fairchild, is a whole other story.
(Note to my readers: His eyes glazed as a great chasm of silence grew between us. I waited for him to speak but he sat motionless, like a bronze statue in a museum. I realized I must be the one to bring him back to present time so I began questioning him once again.)
MF: Aris, can you mate with humans? (I hope I didn’t sound as hopeful as I felt.)
ARIS: No, we must mate with our own kind, however, if we desire to meld with a human for eternity and the human chooses to become one of us, they are changed into an Immortal. Then mating is possible.
MF: How does that change happen?
ARIS: Through another ancient secret ritual. I am not at liberty to disclose it to you at this time, however, I can tell you that the human must be a willing participant with full understanding of the consequences of the ritual. It is private and sacred, shared only by the two who are joining.
MF: (I could feel my face get red as the blush rushed my cheeks but I knew my readers would want to know the answer. I cleared my throat.) How do vampires . . . do it? I mean, do they have sex?
ARIS: (He looked a bit taken aback for a moment, then chuckled before he answered.) Yes, we have intimate relations. Our mating is similar to your kind, remember, we are half human. Yet it is quite a bit more involved, lasting for hours, even days if we desire (Oh reader!!! Those eyes!), and more deeply passionate than I could ever put into words.
MF: (It was clear from the dead silence that followed, he wouldn’t say anything else about the sex life of the Immortals yet frankly, dear reader, sex had been occupying a large part of my mind since he walked into the room. I tactfully changed the subject.) As a being that has been on the earth for 2,000 years what would you say is one of the greatest lessons you have learned about human-kind?
ARIS:Such a difficult question. (He leaned toward me as he gathered his thoughts.) I believe the most profound lesson that time has taught is that although fashion and transportation, world leaders, names and boundaries of countries change and evolve, the human spirit remains basically the same. There is evil and greed, empathy and charity. I have found your species has a grave fear of the unknown and a deep courage to overcome doubt and terror. All things in your society seem to advance yet not the human psyche. Your technology has traveled far beyond your logic, your reason. Yet even as you seem to lose your humanity and become a part of the mechanical, digital chaos that surrounds you, there is one core value that is wound throughout all of history. It seems that the one constant basic drive of humanity is the desire to receive and give love. Love is as I am, immortal. It never begins and never ends. It simply is. And you? May I ask if you have ever experienced a love that seemed without end?
(As I sat across from this otherworldly, infinite being, perhaps for the first time in my life, I actually experienced the profound depth of my heart opening to eternal love.)
MF: Yes Aris, I believe that I have.