ESKIMO NELL by Phil Fellman

(For Mike Ban, with Apologies to Reverend Clemens) My father was a spiritual cannibal. You might find this an odd turn of phrase, but I have never been able to find it within myself to regard exsanguination, even within one’s own species, as true cannibalism. And among all the half-truths and quarter truths surrounding our race, “the blood is the life” is the most nearly accurate and at the same time the most frequently abused. Certainly, my father had feasted upon hundreds if not thousands of my brothers and sisters. But it was their blood alone he took, and sometimes not even all of that, since the drawing of the blood was only the physical analogue of the drawing out of the life energy which sustained him. Of course, they were duly cremated upon the sacred ceremonial biers, for the last thing which my father would have wanted, or tolerated was competition. And this speaks to the heart of so many of the myths which surround our people. I still marvel a the popularity of the myth of the “Good Samaritan.” First of all, it should, of course, properly be called the myth of the “Good Samarian”,” but then the English have never been a particularly literate or sensitive race. I think that a recent Hollywood film got the right of it when the lead actor described Shakespeare as really being apprehensible in the fullness of its meaning only when read in the original Klingon. Back to Samaria. There are sorcerous legends which accrete to the Carmel the way coral accretes to bedrock in a reef. I call it “The Carmel” (the Hebrews would say “Ha Karmel”) because only Englishmen use that silly misnomer “Mount Carmel” for a place which is more properly a region, not unlike California’s Napa Valley, than what they are used to thinking of as a mountain. But it seems that English phrases are nearly always misleading. Take, for example, the association of Jews all throughout the Middle Ages with witchcraft, sorcery and vampirism. Nothing could be further from the truth, but while those of us of the sanguinary persuasion received the blessings of the Church of Rome (albeit unknowingly on the part of so many Bishops, Archbishops and Cardinals), those who refused to join the party organization were blamed for our sins and anyone else’s sins which happened to be conveniently lying about. No doubt, while they thought of themselves as “the chosen people”, outsiders, like myself have tended to view them more as a cursed race, or to borrow a phrase, “Good Samaritans” who are continually being punished for their good deeds (I believe the modern variant is “no good deed goes unpunished.”) When the Jews first came into the “Land of milk and honey”, they quickly found themselves between a rock and a hard place. Blood drinking Samarian devils to the North, and bloodthirsty Egyptian slavemasters to the South. Alas that our Kings survive now only as the images of golden idols or as the manifold names of the fallen Angels: Azazel, Ishtar, Astaroth, Bael, Baeljebab and, of course, my own father, Jerubabaal, for whom, in one of the ultimate ironies, the city of Jerusalem was named (it’s now called the “City of Peace” something it has never been in more than name only). The mighty are not only fallen, but forgotten and then eventually comicized (perhaps the proper historiographic term would be death by comicide). But tough as it was in Canaan, things were a lot worse in the South. There, while Egyptian princes married their sisters (for sustenance as much as anything else) and millions of slaves labored to build impossibly great Tomb-fortresses for their undead masters, the Jews found even less hope as sweaty laborers among the Pharaonic press gangs. Again, there was much irony here, since no Pharaoh would actually tolerate his predecessor rising up from the grave to rule eternally. The result was the institution of mummification and the removal of the organs of both dead and undead alike into canopic urns, which while they might grant life at the end of time (not unlike Christian Resurrection on the Day of Judgement) kept their occupants safely dead until the heat death of the universe. Eventually, the little godling, Alexander, whom the moderns call “The Great”, put an end to all of this, I suppose, in the hopes that he might rise up himself from the grave. Who knows? His tomb is still undiscovered and the death of his father (also rumoured to have been a blood drinker, at least among contemporary circles, though I have never seen it mentioned in the history books) took place under what must be regarded as suspicious circumstances at best. Still, nobody appears to have heard of this would be Emperor of the world one way or another. He might well have been dead for the past twenty two centuries, or he might be living in a studio apartment in Santa Monica studying self-help tapes… Anyway, back to the Jews. Already in the time of the Romans, when the power of our kind had faded vastly but not entirely, somehow, perhaps through the contrivance of a few of our survivors, it was they, rather than we who were tarred with the brush of witchcraft and sorcery. It did not help that the most famous among their lot was well documented in his rise from the dead nor that Solomon, their King who had built the Great Temple was well known for his ability to subdue Demons, by which I am certain the Jews meant our kind, but whom the ignorant Romans mistook for real supernatural beings of some imaginary underworld. And while our rule had long since been overthrown by the time the Romans came to Syria Palestina, a few holdouts, did, in fact, manage to survive. Most had hidden among obscure religious sects in the deep desert. The fact that most seekers after the wisdom which these cults were supposed to offer never reappeared distressed no one since they were presumed either to have found the wisdom which they were seeking or to have perished in the desert, which was, after all, a difficult place in which to survive even during the best of times. Still no matter how pressed, by the Romans, the Philistines, the Kings of Samaria, or the Egyptians, the Jews did the best they could. They appointed their Judges, who excelled through secret disciplines passed on in obscure ways, in rooting out our kind. Again among the half-truths, we can, indeed, simply feed upon the blood of other creatures if mere survival, rather than strength, pleasure and the power of presence is the only goal. The Judges, knowing of this practice, strictly enforced the law of “Kashrut”, which survives as kosher food in its modern, weakened form. Among the most important rules of Kashrut was the stricture demanding that any creature slain for food be killed humanely and drained of blood before being cooked and eaten. Also, rampant Stokerisms to the contrary, it was never rats which provided the easiest means of sustenance for bare survival, but the common village pig, so that under Kashrut, pork too was quickly outlawed. This made even those who tried to blend into the new society so conspicuous that it was almost impossible to escape death by stoning. While that death was not the true death to our kind, by the time the Rabbis finished with the body (which had actually been merely stunned into insensibility), no chance of further life was possible. Amazing that through all these clever devices, they succeeded in gradually whittling down our kind to almost nothing, only to be betrayed in the end by one of their own race. I suppose that sometimes the temptation to cheat death is too great even for wisest of men. Mr. Somerset Maugham, the best of those poor English writers, tells this as an amusing story about the last temptation of Christ. Notice, that in all the stories, Christ goes into the desert and is tempted by the Devil. In the original, of course the Devil is Satan or Lucifer, but the encounter lacks their gravitas and neither possessed the guile which Maugham attributes to his anglicized demon. No these were more along the lines of the deceptions so masterfully practiced by Astaroth, or even my own father, Jerubabaal. Surely the implications of this should not be lost on the reader. Maugham says that as in biblical commentary, Christ resisted all these temptations for forty days. However, the last temptation (apparently a device of Maugham’s own invention – but likely near the mark if not in the gold with respect to history) was that Christ was told that if he would accept his own death and resurrection, he might by his suffering redeem the sins of all mankind. If I had to wax literary I might comment that “it was not for nothing that they cut John the Baptist’s head off.” And if I need to wax archaeological, I might remind the reader that the mother of John the Baptist, who was the teacher in the desert, was named Elizabeth, or more properly speaking Elijah-beth. While this has been traditionally interpreted to mean that she was of the house of the prophet Elijah, it literally means (in the dialect of the times) “she who came out of the House of Elijah.” Well, it doesn’t take the skills of a great historical detective to figure out that Elijah lived several hundreds of years before Christ, yet his daughter was still alive and active in the time of Christ. You figure it out. During these times, we Samarians simply found our position slowly but constantly eroding. More half truths. How many times I have read of the creatures of faerie being unable to take the bite of cold iron. But it was never faeries they were talking about. No, wooden stakes were merely part of the burning ritual, and had little to do with the modern conception of such things. Actually, it was the Hyksos, who are now called Hittites, who discovered the secret of forging iron into steel, at least in our part of the world. And this new metal burned us in a way that bronze daggers and spears never had, often permanently disfiguring those of us whom it didn’t kill. Even I, who spent the better part of the Middle Ages avoiding swordfights, still have a hundred or more tiny scars from all the nicks and scratches which one accumulates simply from daily contact with this noxious substance. My worst daymare is the one in which the garbage disposal is possessed by a demon who simply gobbles up my arm. At least on those rare occasions when I must ride in a car (I generally beg off, claiming a combination of motion sickness, poor vision and an inability to drive myself) I make certain never to fasten the seat belt, precisely because if we do have an accident, I’ll be heading straight out the windshield and as far from all that sharp steel as I can get. But curiously enough, despite all the hazards of undead existence, it has never been our mortal adversaries who have been the major threat. If we wish to discover who has truly diminished our ranks to the point of nonexistence, we must look elsewhere. Rather than blame the mortals, I fear it has ever and always been our own race’s gluttony, pride, lust, envy, anger, sloth and rage. If the seven deadly sins are the bane of the individual mortal, then they are the collective bane of the Vampiric race. This is true even for those of us who exist merely as the barest whisper of a myth to our fellows as the rumour of “the Chosen Ones.” Once the Gods of our people, we are now close to vanishing into the fog of myth and folklore along with the Yeti, the Gandharva and the Leprechaun. Science fiction and fantasy writers often amuse themselves by contriving explanations for why the world is not filled with vampires. Some imagine a difficulty in the process of transformation. Others posit great vampiric wars and purges, not unlike the faint glimmers of truth afforded in the Biblical stories of Sodom and Gomorrah. Some even paint a most convincing picture of a discrete origin of the species, either as a separate race or as the combination of some series of natural evolution and supernatural mishap. The truth, as usual, is far less romantic than these clever imaginings. What we are, indeed what we have become, and how terribly low we have fallen is almost entirely the product of our own efforts, our own misdeeds and most particularly our own terrible shortsightedness. This last is particularly distressing, since it shows the ways in which even an extended lifespan has failed to produce wisdom in the human race. While there are those of us who have lived for thousands of years, the end of that lengthy span is almost always the product of an unshakable obsession with living for the moment. Jean-Paul Sartre would have been well gratified. In the end, we are merely the transitory breath of undeath yielding at last to that which we thought could never claim us. Our name is not Vampyr, but Folly. For example, as I have related, it is possible to survive on the blood of animals even though it is surely not palatable to do so. In an emergency even the blood of dead animals will do (if the Rabbis haven’t gotten to it first). Far more pleasurable to take the blood, and more importantly, the life-essence of humans. Even today, I sometimes wonder why the missing persons statistics are not taken more seriously. Surely, even the blindest of statisticians must see that even the pitiful remainder of our race takes a goodly chunk out of humanity each year. But then again, you are so busy destroying yourselves at an ever more furious rate, our activities, which were once considered grave depredations are no more than a pimple on the back of the Elephant of social injustice. And in any case, as I have been at great pains to explain, our numbers have for thousands of years remained pitifully few. This, if for no other reason than the fact that as humans stand to animals, so does the taking of another vampire, particularly one with great age and a correspondingly great concentration of life force in himself or herself, stand to the taking of a human. Nothing is so sweet to the vampire as taking the blood and soul of another of our otherwise undying race. There is a practical side to this as well. Should one be fortunate enough to absorb the life-force of one of the Old Ones, such as my father had been, that energy alone can be enough to sustain you for centuries without the need to feed as the lesser ones must. Perhaps in modern times this is not so important, but of old, this was an unparalleled survival mechanism. One might need to do a little protein replacement now and again (remember even the scars will fade, given enough time), however, this is but a minor inconvenience. This is why it is such a misconception about us to imagine that we cannot eat ordinary food. Certainly such things cannot provide us with enough energy to live for an extended period of time and the higher substances which are our true daily bread, must come from elsewhere. In fact ordinary food provides us little pleasure when compared to even ordinary blood, but that is neither here nor there. The real point of this digression is that we are, in the end, our own favorite source of life energy so that the greatest Vampire hunter of all is not the lone scientist, stake in hand, nor the angry mob armed with torches and pitchforks, but rather the swiftest and boldest of our own kind. While we’re talking about myths and half truths, we might as well also talk about the sun. Certainly most of us do not like the sun. Some of the weaker and younger ones cannot really rise up during daytime and if they should chance to do so, burns from sunlight, even third degree burns in the deserts of the south, are not impossible. While this may be unpleasant, I have never actually heard of any of our kind dying from exposure to the sun. And at least two kinds of vampire never have a problem with sunshine at all. The first are simply those who are very old or very strong. They may not prefer to go out at noon in a bathing suit, but attire them suitably, add a hat and dark sunglasses, and they will be fine. Moreover, most of them have drifted northward over the ages, where the weakened sun will bother them even less and their ability to blend in is further enhanced. Even in olden times there are hints of this, such as the Druids who lived inside the sacred trees, or in the shade of their groves and the Christians who made it such a strong point to cut down the groves and root the Druids out, or the gypsies who stay in their wagons by day and only come out to their campfires by night, not to mention the troll that lives under the bridge or inhabits only the dark glades of the Norse Troll Fells. The second kind of vampire who has no fear of the sun, those like myself, constitutes a different breed entirely, in fact you might almost say we are a separate species (I don’t believe that any biologist has properly studied speciation in this regard, so my contention may be literally as well as figuratively true.) While we may enjoy the night, and indeed, revel in it, we are by a curious combination of circumstances, quite literally creatures of the sun. This has to do with a variety of factors, most of which relate to how we were “born”, which is to say, created. In my particular case, it happened like this… Samaria was a good land in which to grow up. My father was King, and while he was not loved, Jerubabaal was feared by all and respected even by the foreigners, who knew not his true nature but who recognized his power over his subjects and his uncanny abilities, which included the rare gift of achieving his political objectives without having to go to war (some rumoured that this gift was reinforced by a secret band of assassins, although the truth was somewhat darker). My father kept a very large harem. I was the fifteenth child in a long line of princes and princesses who grew to maturity quickly and like falling stars which burn out in the night, were never seen again. Occasionally I would hear of a brother who had been a famous general or a great sailor, only to discover that he had been mysteriously lost at sea (or even drowned while swimming at night), or of an especially accomplished sister who had likewise strangely disappeared. When it came time for me to participate in the ceremony of manhood, I too was filled with dreams of becoming a great warrior, perhaps even becoming a king, like my father, some day. However, this was not to be. My father seemed to have had his fill of both generals and heroes. In fact, I quite think he had his fill of sons altogether, and by this point in his long existence, he had come simply to regard me as one more obstacle along his course to fulfillment (both literally and figuratively). So by the time of my “initiation” he no longer planned to raise me up to greatness and then drink more fully at my demise. I was, instead, the proverbial quick fix, just one more loose end to be cleaned up around the palace. As I have said, those who are very old or very powerful (and my father was both) need have little fear of the light. You might wonder why I say little rather than no fear at all, particularly given my previous explanation. Well it so happens that in the normal course of things, the master drains his victim, and that, as they say, is that. This, however, was not my father’s habit, as he had taken to a very special kind of gourmandizing, one which not only required a masterful precision with respect to controlling the time of the process but one which was also ultimately more fulfilling. His habit was to prepare his “victim” over a period of days, draining them a little more each day, and then drugging them heavily afterwards, so that they had no chance of escaping their bonds nor time to do little more than sleep. On the final night, he would perform the ceremony of exchange, and actually turn his victim. This is a long and complicated process, and may well last nearly until dawn. Then, in those last few remaining moments, before he had to deal with a potential rival, he would drain the victim completely, feasting as only one vampire can upon another. So he had been doing age after age, and all unbeknownst to us, his sons and daughters, his perennial victims. Only somehow, after all those millennia, in his strength, but also in the pride which accompanied his glory, he made a slight miscalculation with respect to the equinox. And so, what should have been a routine, albeit unusually gratifying ceremony, mutated wildly out of control and the victim became the victor. For there is a second kind of changing which can take place. It happens only rarely. In fact, this change is so rare that it is still known only as the vaguest of rumours even amongst our kind. Nonetheless it is true. If during the process of change, the sun should rise at the exact moment of the change, then another type of undead creature, one so rare that we have no name for it, is created. I say undead, for such creatures do not live in the normal sense of the world any more than common vampires do. Yet, other than the annoyance of cold iron, we are bothered not at all by the sun, or any of the other ills which afflict the undead either to greater or lesser degree. But most extraordinarily of all, our true food is solely and completely the blood of other vampires. Certainly any vampire revels in feeding upon another. But in our case it is a necessity, not a pleasure. While we can still appear to eat and drink normally, the effect is a thousandfold less upon us. Yet, I suppose those difficulties are mitigated by the rarity of our need to feed. Though he had thought to feast upon me, my father’s blood had, in fact, sustained me for more than a millennium. Another aspect of our being, rarely understood, because we ourselves are such a rarity is how sensitive we are to the presence of others of our kind. By our own kind, I mean, of course, vampires and not my particular sun-born breed. This sensitivity alone may be all that has kept our peculiar subset of the race alive. While we are inordinately sensitive to the presence, age and power of ordinary vampires, not a hint of our presence is ever felt by them, not until the very moment of consumption and triumph. Thus, as my father prepared to fasten his mouth upon my throat, I took him in the blink of an eye, and yet another great devil went down into the darkness of legend. Life after that was for the most part, normal. As I have said, I have an aversion to iron, and feel as if I am constantly getting cut and scarred although these incidents occur over decades and not days, but as I also remarked, the scars do fade over time. I have nothing personal against the “people of the night,” it is simply their misfortune to be one step down from me on what modern scientists call the food chain. As I am dealing with an endangered species, I try to feast sparingly. After realizing the foolishness of my escapades in Samaria, which deprived it of so much of the leadership which it could have used to preserve its independence (the name vendetta had not yet been invented but the concept was alive and healthy even then), I became more cautious. Also, with maturity, the feeling that quality is more important than quantity, allowed a judicious choice of victims to free me from spiritual cravings for centuries at a time. Lately I have relaxed these strictures just a bit, since modern times have seen vampiric escapades increase just a tad too frequently for comfortable anonymity. In this case, I feel that I am simply doing the ecologist’s proper part in trimming back excess population. Moreover, with the new breed, or perhaps I should say “new generation”, there has finally been enough to go around so that I don’t have to think about chasing down the dusty old relics of the past, any more. Or so I thought, until I met Eskimo Nell. As I mentioned, most of us drift northward over the years. While I have made enough over various investments during the years, I find it healthy (both psychologically and for the sake of appearance) to maintain what the literati call “a day job”. Certainly I have my hobbies, such as the violin and the collecting of various forms of art (after all, I can buy it new and wait for it to appreciate) but a job is one of the key ways in which one can blend in with society. In this case, I had taken a professorship with the University of Alaska. Alaska is a remote, isolated place, practically a separate country, and qualified academics of all types are hard to find there. In this case, I used my mathematics degree from Cambridge (the English one, not the new-fangled place in Boston) to secure a position as an instructor in mathematics to the would be businessmen and bureaucrats of the State’s capital. I had hardly been there a month, when walking into the fanciest hotel in town (built in the excesses of the Gold Rush by Russian Baron) when I felt the presence of perhaps the most ancient blood drinker I, who sent so many ancients to their eternal reward, had ever encountered.

3 thoughts on “ESKIMO NELL by Phil Fellman

  1. Pingback: Gocaltovo
  2. The author is gratified to see his story available here but is also mystified as to how it got here.

    Cheers,

    Phil

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