HUNGER AND SLEEP: AN INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE
by Chris R. Morgan
This program has been made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and by contributions to your PBS station from viewers like you.
I really like people. I do. I really like people. Like that’s probably the most surprising thing about this.
Like since I’ve become … this … I’ve had a much deeper appreciation for people, like as a concept and even on an individual level. I don’t mind meeting them. I mean, there’s no hassle anymore, like there’s no desire to seek them out for any reason other than what I need them for.
A film by the Evergreen Culture Collective
I don’t think I’ve ever outright hated someone I’ve consumed.
So before we begin, I thought it would be good to get our arrangement straight for the record. Because I see a lot of uneasy looks from your crew. Camera 2 doesn’t even look like he can keep it steady.
That seems fine.
Okay, I will not feed on any of you. You will not film me feeding on anybody else. You will also not reveal any details you may find out about my life. My old life, I mean. Not least of all to me. And … and I will not give, and you will not use, my real name.
What should we call you?
We have crucifixes.
Whatever makes you happy.
This place has to be my favorite place in the whole city. This diner. It doesn’t look great, in fact it looks like it barely passes inspection.
Do you hunt here?
Do I hunt here? No. This place is open all night, and caters to a very no-questions-asked, no-strings-attached clientele. Over down that way is a strip club. Over the other way is a “massage” parlor. I hunt there.
I’m kidding, I’m kidding.
Actually this is just a great place to lay low. In fact that’s why I brought you here first. You wanted to document the vampire culture, the lifestyle, this is it, predominantly. People think all we do from sunset to sunrise is feed. We wake up, we feed. We go to the bank, we feed. We go to the movies, we feed. If only that were true. But really our appetite—my appetite, anyway—is perfectly satiable. And moreover, it’s not like we can snatch the first person who exits the ACE. There’s a lot of downtime, a lot of waiting. A lot of scoping out opportunities and assessing dangers. I’ve spent up to four hours here. It’s been taking some getting used to, because for a while I didn’t hunt. Early on I took a job doing a graveyard shift at a morgue. I won’t say which one, certainly not one with the best hiring standards. So that got me a lot of access. Not just to embalmed blood, but to freshly drawn stuff upstairs. So on breaks I’d pilfer that stuff, put it in my cooler and bring it back the next day in my thermos.
Is that an ethical choice?
We are entirely defined by dietary requirements. The only concern of mine is that I don’t get caught. I far and away was never this courageous before I was turned. Nor would I have taken any of the jobs I’ve had since. But that is what the changes do.
Why did you stop?
Because I realized that stealing blood from hospitals was way more unusual than simply murdering someone. It is very stressful. Especially now that I’m exhausting what remains of my old supply. Speaking of which …
This is why I love this booth in this place. I never used to take my coffee black, but now that all fluids taste like a concoction of urine and vinegar, and all solids taste like they’ve rotted, it doesn’t really make a difference.
But you’re still mixing things into it.
You guys are parked over there? Okay. So I’m out in Bayonne …
That should be fine.
Good, good. Normally I’d just walk because I have literally infinite stamina.
Actually … do you mind waiting here? Like five minutes tops. It’s totally fine just stay by this light. Okay?
Does someone mind going back inside and getting some wet naps? Like a bunch? They’re right by the mints.
You don’t know how long it took me to find the perfect place. House hunters are such fucking babies.
How did you find this?
Yelp. It had the worst reviews.
No I mean, how do you manage …
You think you’re the only people I have arrangements with?
Other people know?
Oh no, no, no. no. Some people think I’m homeless. Some people think I’m divorced or foreclosed on or whatever. With these people who work these jobs, they’re tough but you put on the right show the kindness of their heart just blooms like a spring flower. And so far they’ve managed not to bother to inquire as to why I have two units in cold storage and why I often go in and so seldom come back out. Humans, they’re the best.
So let’s do the tour. Freezer 1 is the cupboard. As you can see, supplies are … low. Freezer 2 is the bedroom.
You prefer the cold?
Not a requirement across the board, but at this stage it helps.
The graveyard shift.
At a graveyard.
I can’t count how many jobs like these I’ve had. This, the morgue, I worked in a porn shop for a bit. I’ve worked in a couple. They keep going out of business. I like how there’s so little paperwork involved. It’s like a black job market, the kind you take when you absolutely have to. And I don’t mind it as much. I have no ambitions anymore, no longing for betterment. It’s like a burden that’s been completely lifted.
I turned about two and a half years ago. I got on the F train from Brooklyn at like half past midnight. I was the only fucking passenger on the platform. All of a sudden I’m being pushed headlong into the tunnel, and into another tunnel then another. And so on. You never think it would happen to you. And in large part it doesn’t. Timing, fortune, never my strong suit.
Turning is … awful. You spend two months, in total darkness. At least I did. Being sort of weaned into it. But it’s like … it’s like getting the flu, and syphilis, and Ebola, but in reverse. And then when you come to you’re dead … but not. You’re not brought back to life but … reanimated. It’s the ultimate transgression against nature. I wouldn’t wish it on anybody. Killing someone I’ve fed off of is at its heart an act of mercy. People who survive, I call them leftovers, hardly true vampires. Disposing of them is the hard part.
I’m about 33. I haven’t shaved in almost three years, or gotten a haircut. This pimple right here on my forehead: there forever. Granted I didn’t shave very well before I left my house for the last time. So I have these longer hairs, down by the Adam’s apple, see? No matter what I do, I shave them and they grow right back. I remember so much about that night.
What were you doing?
I was at the Morbid Anatomy Museum. Seeing a presentation on fucking Goya.
Hold on a minute. Hey! Hey! [inaudible, screeches and hisses]
Who were they?
Just kids. Teens getting their rocks off. I was hoping it was some occult losers. I love fucking with them. It hurts to use The Face but it’s priceless seeing the fear on their faces. Real fear, the truest sign of life. My stem taught me how to do that.
The thing that turned me. I think it thought I was subservient. I’d say we parted because I didn’t want to serve anybody. But I actually didn’t mind. We parted under various irreconcilable differences.
Are you afraid of seeing it again?
Being a vampire is tedious. You’re given everlasting consciousness in death, but you have to maintain it. You have to work, find shelter, find sustenance that goes out of the bounds of legal norms. I don’t know if it’s better or worse than earthly immortality. I mean, you’re just becoming that.
No, the statue.
Do you remember your old life?
Some of it.
Do you miss it?
No. Or rather, I don’t think about it. It’s all hunger and sleep.
Of course there are others. I’m not eager to meet them. Many are a little farther along than I am. You’ve seen them. The Daily News is on it. Every week. A new “PCP freak out” where one person has to be subdued by an entire precinct. Or almost anyway. God help us if one of them is sloppy enough to get caught.
Do you believe in God?
I hope not.
My complexion was always fairly pasty so I don’t really blend into this crowd any less than I did before. Obviously under better circumstances I would not be at this bar. But, uh, times are tight, so I am gathering intelligence. Groups are a hassle, it’s hard to sort of separate one out. And drunkenness just does something to their quality. I’m not that desperate. So we’re looking for couples. We’re looking for bad dates. I’m not sure why. When you’re so outside of the experience you can usually sniff it out a whole lot better. I can, for once, read people. So … ah, like those two over there in the corner. That looks like it’s nosediving pretty well. It looks like we have a nascent screenwriter and an associate account executive.
So now what?
We wait, and hope the guy lives near a park. They should be fumbling over the tab any minute now.
Why the guy?
Food and clothes shopping.
I think they’re going to the L or the G. Follow, like, 30-45 seconds behind me. If they Uber we’re fucked. I’m fucked, I mean.
Okay, I know this somewhat reneges on our arrangement, but can one of you put your gear down and give me a hand?
So I stopped using the internet around the time I turned. Living off the grid is fucking amazing. But … lately I see where it is somewhat necessary. Obviously I go through a meal’s things after I’ve eaten. Leave the money, of course, but take the library card. And the metro card, of course. But the library card is key. I go in, look up “how to drain a pig” and voila. Holy shit I forget how heavy these things are.
So, have you ever tried animals?
Like drinking from animals. Like rats?
Who do you take me for?
No, no I just …
No, no, I get what you mean. No. No quadrupeds. I tried twice, and each time I had a horrible reaction. It was like an allergy, or food poisoning. Nothing stayed down. Very messy.
Hey, could one of you take the jug and the funnel and put them right there. In fact, could you hold him, while I rifle through the rest of his shit? Thanks so much.
(Hey … hey, dude … what the fuck are you doing?)
(Don’t film me!)
Lenovo ThinkPad? What a crock. Hey, see if he’s my size, will you?
What does the timer say on the washer?
35? We’ve been here for an hour. I swear these things are busted.
I don’t have favorites. Life, you’ll find, is not entirely amenable to the demands of metaphor. I have no preference once way or the other. My senses are acute, more acute than they’ve ever been. But my tastes are duller than they’ve ever been. You keep saying the word “victim.” I don’t see them as victims. They’re meals, they’re sustenance. There’s no animosity driving me towards these people. I need something that they have.
But think about it. Who’s the real victim here really? People who can walk safely at any time of the day? Who don’t really need to go out and have a good time? It’s not like I can just walk into their brownstones. No. I don’t want to sit here and play the world’s tiniest violin, but think of my situation. Even without you guys following my around, I’m risking exposure. You think I’m not being hunted? Deliberately, methodically hunted?
You think there are vampire hunters?
Where there’s vampires there’s hunters. Probably under civil employ. That they exist isn’t the problem. What they’ll do is the big question.
I assume they’d try to kill you.
If I’m lucky. You get some private contractors in the mix I could be given an express ride to research lab Hell.
You guys found me pretty easily, if I recall. What, someone said “There’s this weird guy living in public storage, go document that yadda yadda yadda,” right? You don’t think that was a big risk on my part?
It’s not that simple.
Whatever, you’re here. I can’t remember what thinking was going through my head.
The pay perhaps.
$200 a day for 10 days? Goes real far in New York. All I’m saying is that the guys from Vice weren’t so lucky.
I’m really excited tonight. We’re going to do an experiment, something I’ve been wanting to try for a while but haven’t had the proper balls to do so.
I thought you said being a vampire made you more courageous.
It did but this is a bit extreme. You know the “vampire rule”? Not being able to enter unless you’re invited? It’s true. Well, mostly true. I can walk into a store, I can walk into a hotel lobby or a hospital or whatever. But not any private property. Unless this works. This is a very happening area this time of night. Very lit, don’t you think? So surely there must be an apartment building were a party is happening. Preferably a big one with an open-invite policy. Just need to find the tell-tale signs.
(Like that window with all the people around it?)
Exactly like that one, thank you! That looks like the … third floor. So, just go in press each third floor button. There are only two so …
So you guys wait right here, I’ll be right out.
[Hey, I’m so sorry do I—]
That was a bad idea. It worked. But it was a bad idea.
What’s in the bag, Ted?
I don’t know, I just grabbed some stuff in a panic. I need to get rid of them. Where’s the river? That way is the river.
My stem never talked. I don’t think it could even see. We never exchanged words. It just nursed me for weeks until I was more or less what I am now. That was our bond. I think it must have been no younger than 400 years. 400 years, living in tunnels and sewers, in the shadows, coming up to just eat. History, society; hindrances if nothing else. I think if it had ventured onto the street it would be completely lost. I must have been one in a long line of caretakers.
I almost didn’t check if any of the people at the party were still viable. For a minute I thought, no, fuck it. Let it spread. Bring on the great Gothic Singularity. Turn everything upside down.
Of course that’s not how it works. They wouldn’t survive very long. Leftovers are just rabid raccoons.
I don’t think we can get you back to Bayonne in time.
Ha! I’m almost disappointed you noticed. It would be such a great closure on your narrative. I’m shit at storytelling. Anyway, I should probably not go back there. Maybe ever. I’ve got one of those mausoleums picked out. They’re like my summer properties.
You guys look tired.
(I feel like I could sleep for a whole month.)
If you do you should probably consult a doctor.
Mono gets around.
[Note: This post was derived from numerous instances of vampire lore and pop culture. Elements found here can also be found in 30 Days of Night, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, The Night Stalker, Let the Right One In, Daybreakers, Martin, etc. “Stem” was ripped directly from Vamps. The mockumentary idea was inspired by What We Do in the Shadows but based on Man Bites Dog, which is a serial killer movie but cut me some slack.]