Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Virtue and Vampyrism

It is a truth universally acknowledged that suffering arises because of desire. However, it is almost inevitable that this truth is so fixed in the minds of certain people that they consider it almost embarrassing, and make a semblance of ignorance for the benefit of their neighbors. "Oh, suffering? Probably arises out know, lack of fiber in the diet. Or all the zombies around." Which was, while not a noble truth, fairly close to the point, for while the suffering that ensues from having one's brain messily and thoroughly devoured by the undead most directly arises from one's own material attachment to their own cerebrum, the zombie can hardly be said to not have any involvement.

William George Austen was of the firmly-held opinion that suffering, whatever it might arise from, was not morally bettering, nor, in the case of zombie-related mishaps, intellectually enriching. He desired only a loving family in which he could take pride and comfort, a tot of rum at morning breakfast, a bank vault whose capacious innards held sufficient sums of currency to cause the death by crushing of any ne'er-do-well who should intrude upon it, and the occasional ruddy-cheeked prostitute. And so when his daughter Jane was born, he decided that he would gift her with a life free of suffering, that she might have better prospects of finding a sufficiently monied husband so as to provide funding for the latter desires in William's twilight years. It was well known that the local gentlemen scarcely allowed young Jane to be pretty, and were the weight of suffering to be added onto that, then all hope of matrimony would be dashed.

And so Jane's father summoned up a stern-faced demon governess to watch over Jane, and to see to it that she did not see the poor, the sick, or the aged, and that she might forever remain ignorant of suffering. Whenever the young girl went out for her morning constitutional, or her evening peregrination, the demon governess would walk a few steps ahead of her, incinerating any beggars or street urchins with her horrible death-ray eyes before they could blight Jane’s innocence.

But Jane was a child both precocious and perspicacious, and she could not help but notice the heaped-up ashes and the silhouettes burned into walls that seemed to appear every time she went out with her governess. She made certain inquires to her father regarding her governess’s horrible death-ray eyes, but was met with resolute silence and sent to bed without supper. Jane suspected that a girl of sixteen years was slightly too old to be sent to bed without supper, but did not press the point, and took her banishment with phlegmatic resolve.

And it was on such a night that Jane espied the figure of a man, crouched outside her window. Though the mere thought of a peeping tom gazing through her window brought a ferocious blush to her youthful cheeks, she nevertheless unlatched the window and threw it open, inviting whomever might be perched upon the sill in, with hopes of adventure and excitement. Jane, however, not being experienced in the field of inviting strangers in from off of window ledges, failed to notice that in opening the window with such vigor, she had inadvertently knocked the intruder from the windowsill, down into the gardens below. He collapsed jauntily upon a rosebush, a rather difficult feat, all things considered.

Jane knotted her bedsheets together, and lowered them down to aid the man – who she now saw to be quite young – embarrassed over her fecklessness. He grabbed at the makeshift rope, and she had soon pulled him through her fenestration. At once, she recognized his countenance. “Why, you’re that Coleridge boy!” she exclaimed, both startled and somewhat pleased, for while Sam Coleridge’s reputation as a rogue and rapscallion was infamous, he was also possessed of those virtues most exciting to a precociously curious young girl, a hearty lust for adventure and a handsome figure. “Jane!” the boy exclaimed, grinning a neat crescent-moon. “What are the odds that I’d see you here, in your bedroom? I was just going to invite you to accompany me this night on an adventurous romp through the streets of London, and who should I see but you? What an absurd and preposterous happenstance!”

Jane graced his facetiousness with a girlish giggle, and consented to wander a ways with them. They both clambered down the impromptu rope, and set off into London. But, before they could solve any nearby mysteries, discovery whatever pirate treasure might happened to be secreted away in the sewers of London, or watch a zombie fight, Jane was struck by a sight most novel and unfamiliar. It was an old man, leaning on a cane. Jane gazed at the old man with sorrowful eyes, and asked Sam, “Who is this man with grey hair and so decrepit a body, pray tell?” Sam, somewhat taken aback by her surprise at all this, informed her that the man was only elderly, and not to be feared. But Jane squeaked with sorrow at this, and inquired of him again, asking “Is that also to be my fate, that I will grow so old and loathsome?” Sam, rather eager to be getting on with the adventure, explained that old age happened to everyone, and that it happened faster if one were to simply stand around talking instead of going out exploring. Jane was somewhat suspicious of his ratiocination, but nevertheless went along with him, worried in her heart.

But Jane soon fell to a halt again, seeing a man lying helpless on the ground. His limbs were stiff and rigid, as if he had been carved out of ice. “Who is this ma-” she began to ask, but Sam cut her off. “He’s got syphilis. Disease. Nasty thing. Come on, let’s go.” The young man was rather keen on pursuing a route into the unchaperoned drawers of his feminine companion, and would have preferred not to stop and philosophize over the suffering of a syphilitic. He dragged her away towards the nearest theater, hoping to find some entertainment therein.

But once again, Jane stopped in the streets, pointing at a filthy, shambling man. Before she could even begin to ask, Sam pushed her back. “Jane, zombie! Dead thing, eat brains, run away!” he called out, all thoughts of grammar or sentence completion dispelled in the face of the rotting monstrosity. Sam made a most peculiar screeching noise, and down from the skies winged a snowy-white albatross, perching on his arm. He flung out his arm, and the bird swooped at the zombie, tearing away its soft and rotting flesh with its beak. Sam made haste to catch up with Jane, praying that she would not next stop to marvel at a shaggy lycanthrope or a serial killer with an affinity for mutilating prostitutes.

Jane returned home, safe and cerebrally intact, but she was not happy. As she bid Sam farewell and good night, she pondered how it could be that men grow old, or fall sick, or succumb to vile necrobiolobical viruses and reanimate as mindless zombies. And so it happened that she realized the existence of suffering, and fell gravely sorrowful. For seven long days and nights she immured herself within her room, permitting no visits from anyone. Her father bemoaned his feckless governess, who had let his child witness the suffering of the world, and so great was the demon chaperone’s guilt that she took out a hand mirror, gazed deeply in to it, and immolated herself with her own horrible death-ray eyes.

On the seventh day she stepped out of her room, and announced to her father that she intended to go and meditate beneath the clock tower, that noblest of timepieces that stood at hallowed Westminster, until she had realized the noble truths by which she might transcend her mortal suffering. She sat cross-legged in the shadow of the clock tower, every maidenly ounce of her body wholly given over to her meditations. But, just as scientists have found that Nature abhors a vacuum, and will destroy it with walking trees, so too does the inherent suffering of all life abhor a young English girl meditating beneath a timepiece and striving for enlightenment, and so it manifested a spirit of material desire to tempt and assault the girl.

The spirit manifest from dark of night itself, clad in black finery and a scarlet cape. Its skin was inhumanly pale and rigid, and its teeth were snarled with piercing fangs. It stood before Jane, and spoke. “My name is…Dracula.” he said, and Jane looked up at the inherent suffering that stood in the manifest form of a vampire before her. “I bid you…welcome.” Jane regarded him suspiciously, suspecting that the inherent suffering of all life had manifested him to distract her from her enlightenment. Dracula laughed maniacally, and thunder rumbled as he did, stirring up a storm. But for all the bluster of the gales and the fury of the rains, not a single fold of Jane’s dress was ruffled, nor did the first drop of rain strike her head. Dracula pounced on her, seeking to pierce her throat with his fangs and drain away ever last drop of enlightenment, but he found her skin as hard as marble, and his fangs in need of dental attention.

Jane graced his assaults with a girlish giggle. Her heart was filled with all-encompassing compassion, and she suspired pure enlightenment, a coruscating wave of non-ego that would embrace the vampire and redeem him of his ways. But Dracula is a being of material desire! He cannot be enlightened! The enlightenment coalesced around him, forced into a false material form, and fell to his feet as a manuscript. A pandemonic laugh leapt from Dracula’s throat. “Muahaha! Foolish Buddha, you seek to enlighten me?” But then, Dracula noticed the manuscript as his feet, the pages spread about in disarray. So…messy, so…disorderly. He could not help himself as he stooped on one knee, and began counting the pages, putting them in order, as is the well known habit of all vampires. As he picked up the first page, he read from it: “By a former marriage, Mr. Henry Dashwood had one son: by his present lady, three daughters.” Dracula raised his head up the heavens, and shouted, “NOOOOO!”

Jane frowned. “It’s not that bad.” she muttered, feeling a bit embarrassed despite her enlightenment and all-encompassing compassion, even for book critics. By the time Dracula had put every page in order and finished the whole book, it was dawn – and with the sun’s first rays, he would surely be defeated, burning to ash and nothing more. He trembled with fear as he finished the book’s final line, pronounced it dreadful, and looked up to see the dawn. But as the sun rose up into the sky, so too did Jane. She leapt up and kicked the first beam of sunlight, striking it with the All-Things-Under-Heaven Blossoming Lotus Compassion Kick, transforming the light into a ray of pure, enlightening radiation. The light struck Dracula, but did not destroy him – rather, it irradiated him with compassion and detachment from material wants, causing him to become the Nuclear Bodhisattva Dracula.

Jane set out for home as the Buddha, and was prepared to preach the Four Noble Truths she had learned, as well as a most efficacious method for disposing of unwanted vampires. But before Jane could reach her familiar estate, she encountered a zombie. She regarded it with all-encompassing love. It regarded her with cerebrophagous hunger.


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