I will refer to the patient I am about to describe for you as Mr. N. I do this not only to protect
his privacy, as is my professional responsibility, but also as a safeguard against
those whose secrets are jealously kept, and whose displeasure at any indiscretion
could risk my own life.
Mr. N. is diminutive
in stature despite his elevator shoes, with a capacious, balding head and a commensurately
prodigious intellect. His sky blue eyes and notably direct gaze strike many in
his social circles as off putting, even unnerving. I can say personally that under
his inspection one gets the sense one has been push-pinned to a cork board and is
being scrutinized by an icy intelligence indifferent to trifling matters like
an individual life or death. In public he is a noted neurologist,
well-respected by his peers here in England and abroad. In private he is
something considerably darker.
He came to my London offices a little more than one year ago and I diagnosed him with
moderate to severe melancholia that waxed and waned irregularly. He lacked
suicidal ideations and that of course I initially deemed a good thing, though
in this particular case I have since had good reason to rethink that judgment.
I began with my
usual dream analysis which quickly revealed distinct ego inflation. This I
concluded to be compensatory for a personal mythology harshly negative and
relentlessly self-judging. That in turn seemed to me rooted in profound guilt
over the death of his younger brother S. in a childhood drowning incident. A
sad event for which Mr. N. held himself responsible.
Treatment was proceeding
along typical lines and with a slight but positive response in affect when new
symptoms suddenly and inexplicably introduced themselves. Photophobia, to begin
with. So severe that our weekly sessions had to be moved to evenings only. The
patient took to sleeping days in a heavily curtained room and avoiding the sun
at all costs. This was soon followed by a more disturbing development. Hemophilia in its most literal sense: an intense and overpowering love of blood.
presented as a newfound taste for rare steaks, chops, and liver (he had
previously taken his meats well done). It all progressed rather quickly to
the point that N. made arrangements with his local butcher for meat to come
delivered to his home in metal tubs and virtually swimming in blood. Eventually
he made some disturbing inquiries to the end of procuring live farm animals which,
one surmises, he intended to butcher by himself. In this request he was
blessedly refused. Unfortunately that closed door led to him adopting more
extreme methods intended to satiate his new and unnatural thirst, methods that
involved stray animals and about which common decency precludes my going into
It would be fair
to say that his new fear of sunlight and strong affection for blood disturbed
Mr. N deeply, and in fact it struck him personally as “ghoulish.” He may have
become a slave to these passions, but he held no affection for his new
masters. In a word he was afraid.
“What on earth is
happening to me, doctor?” he asked me in a session that my notes date to three
months ago. “I fear I am losing my mind.”
He had grown
noticeably paler over the preceding weeks, more quickly and strikingly than a
mere absence of sunlight could reasonably account for. Indeed I was on the
verge of referring him to a colleague of mine, a medical doctor, when Mr. N.
made his own new diagnosis.
“Or if I’m not
losing my mind,” he said, “then this is something infinitely worse. I think I
am becoming a vampire.”
It is not seemly
for an alienist to show unchecked emotion at even the most outlandish outburst
from a patient. I literally had to bite my tongue and exhale slowly before
replying with a calm question meant to uncover the psychological truth beneath his
“If you were to
become a vampire,” I asked, “what part of you would you have to leave behind?
What part of you would end?”
He rubbed his
face with his hands and considered for a long moment. “I don’t know. The part
of me that’s human, I suppose. The part of me that’s decent and cares about my moral
reputation, that is, my estimation,
good or evil, in the eyes of my fellows.”
“And if you were
free from all such moral judgments?”
He shook his
head. “You think it has something to do
with my guilt complex. Well, that’s all very interesting, but how does it
And with that he bared his teeth at me with a loud and startling
I fell back into
my chair in shock before I could get a grip on myself. I was looking at his
canines and my first thought was that he had filed them to points. An instant
later I rejected that as it was obvious that the teeth were noticeably longer
as well as dagger-like.
“Are those artificial?” I asked.
At this he laughed
mirthlessly, and the sound of it fairly curdled my blood.
“Oh, doctor. Do
you really imagine I would choose to do this to myself? No. This is all
happening of its own accord. It doesn’t seem there’s anything I could do to
stop it. Apart from paying someone to drive a stake through my heart and decapitate my corpse. If the legends hold true, that is.”
I sat a moment in
silence gathering my wits. Despite his denial I had to believe that he had engaged some orthodontist to create the fangs. The alternative he suggested wasn’t remotely
possible in my mind.
“What,” I finally asked, “do
you think caused this?”
“Well, I thought
it was a dream at first, a nightmare. Glowing yellow eyes in the darkness of my
bedroom. A bite that was painful and somehow ... delicious at the same time.
This scene repeated I don’t know how many times. And then the changes began.
Cause and effect are clear enough in my mind. I was bitten by another vampire.
It’s as simple as that.”
I do not favor confrontational therapy with my patients. However, instincts told me that if
this fantasy managed to root itself any deeper in Mr. N. that this psychosis
could well become permanent. I had an idea.
“I want you to
lie back on the couch and close your eyes,” I said.
He did so without
I then reached around to the back of my neck and unclasped the chain
that holds a gold cross I wear beneath my shirt. I cupped the cross and chain
in my left hand. “Keep your eyes
closed and hold out your right hand, palm up, please.”
He followed my instructions obediently, and I gently placed the cross in his hand. There immediately came a
sound of sizzling, like bacon in a frying pan. He shook his hand violently and
let out a terrible scream. The cross and chain flew across the room and hit the
He had sat up and
was looking at his hand in fear and confusion. “What the hell did you do?”
He turned his
palm toward me and I could see his skin had reddened and that a blister was
forming. A blister in the shape of a cross. The sickening smell of burning flesh had already permeated the room.
I was unable to
calm him or regain his trust that day and the truncated session ended there.
To my surprise he telephoned the
following week and set up another appointment. This time I did not challenge
his incredible assertion. I could not. For as the time for his session came
around he arrived punctually. In the form of a bat. He then
transmogrified into human shape before my very eyes.
I had no choice then but to
accept the seemingly impossible. I did so by
reminding myself that whatever he was, he was still a patient. He was a patient
who was coping with a trauma as extreme as one could ever imagine. And so I did
what I do. I listened and offered what I could to aid in his psyche surviving
this awful transition.
Did I succeed? I
would have to say so, yes. And proof of that was the stream of pale men who
followed Mr. N. to my door for treatment over the following months. I have a full calendar
these days, or should I say these nights? The undead have their neuroses too,
it appears. And I have become their only solace in this world. God help me.