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THE BLOOD PALLS, over time.

I believe this is the reason why so few of us exist beyond the hundred-fiftieth year of our making.

Over time, the blood palls. Feeding oneself becomes, first, a chore; then an agony; finally, for some--for most--a hell. Anything becomes preferable to the anguish of taking one more sup, so one fasts. And one dies.

Those who survive this crisis of sensibility--those who evolve--are...formidable.


I am two hundred forty-seven years undead. Before my making, I lived 15 years in Philadelphia, the son of a textile merchant. I bear the face and form of a boy in the first beauty of his manhood, as perfect as the night she created me.

My mother named me Evelyn James Farrington. My colleagues know me as Jim Faring.

I am a painter. I do badly, which is all I expect. The others who work and live in this building--they take interest in my efforts, squandering hours of their short lifetimes to show me thus of perspective, this trick of capturing the light and this other thing regarding shadows.

My colleagues--young humans. So earnest. So full of life. Of--passion.

Understand that I am not human. I am--formerly human. In fact, I am a predator. But I spoke of evolution. The blood is not, entirely, necessary.

When one is new to the undead state, there is no draught headier, no nourishment more seductive, than a sup of that sweet claret. We drink from the artery in the throat--rich, full heart's blood, sparkling with the passion of life.

Yet, what nourishes us is not so much the blood, but that which the blood carries.


Humans have--such--passion.

And artists have so much more.

Above all else, I am careful. When the great thirst comes upon me, as it does one moon in six, I do not drink here. I go away--uptown, to the bars and the music clubs. Most often, I take a singer, though any who play from their soul will slake me. There was a flutist, some years back--vibrant, seductive burgundy! But that vintage is rare.

At home, here in the Abingdale Artists Loft, I husband my resources and watch over my flock most tenderly. It would not do for one of my young colleagues to experience that languor which is the result of receiving the fullness of my Kiss. No. No, they must remain whole, awake, passionately, involved in their art, producing that aura of lusty life energy so necessary to my own survival.

There are risks.

Artists are ... notoriously ... unstable. The least thing may with equal possibility fling them into a fever of creation or a black despair.

Years ago, I kept poets. The food was hot and wholesome when they were creating, but their passions consumed them even as I was nourished. It was a rare moon passed without a suicide.

Writers of prose are every bit as unsatisfactory as a reliable source of nourishment.

Visual artists are another matter. Perhaps because their work is concrete, perhaps because they work so intimately with the balances of shadow and light, weakness and strength... I find painters most satisfactory, though yet inclined to those deadly swings of mood. Rock-steady reliability is most often found in sculptors, but that food is never more than bland.

For a time I kept only painters. Recently, I find the stabilizing benefit of an eclectic herd--painters, potters, sculptors--outweighs my preference for the painterly passions.

Of this current herd, my favorite is Nikita. She paints in vibrant primaries: splashes of bold crimson, thick puddles of yellow, emerald arabesques... Ambitious, sensuous Nikita. Really, I am quite fond of her--almost too fond. I must be stern with myself, or I should be with her every day. It would not do to lose Nikita too soon.

Of the others, I especially enjoy Michael, who pots, and Sula, who does woodcuts. Jon is my sculptor, stolid and uninteresting; and the newer ones: Amy, Chris, Fortnay and Quill.

I find eight a good number, though I should perhaps look about me for another sculptor; Jon seems a bit fagged of late.

Contrary to Sula, to whom I go this evening.

I find it best to take myself to their studios, rather than Calling them to me. I find that the peculiar aura of the artist's own place, adds a depth and piquancy to the nourishment that is entirely absent from a feeding taken in another part of the house.

Sula's studio smells of wood shavings, of beeswax, sweat and yesterday's coffee. Sula also smells of these things, and a salty, overripe femaleness. I believe she has many lovers.

Her back is to me as I enter the room. She is lighting the candelabra atop the battered chest of drawers that serves as her supply cabinet. I see her downturned face in the mirror behind the candles, dark skin waxy in the hot light. Behind her, in the mirror, the studio shows twilit and empty.

I wait until she has lit her last candle; until she has shaken out the match and pushed it, headfirst, into the sand-filled pottery cup that sits beside the candelabra. It is one of Michael's pots, glazed with stripes of sunset orange.

She turns at last from the bureau, heavy breasts swinging under her loose shirt. I breathe across her eyes and she pauses, the momentary confusion of trance misting her face before she smiles, beatific, her nipples hardening into spears of ecstasy. She moves to her worktable, and I with her. She stands there, staring down--at nothing, save the scarred, stained surface--and in her mind, Sula dreams.

She dreams the most poignant piece of wood she has ever held. In her mind, she shapes it, with the strength of her will, into subtlety beyond mere beauty. Sula dreams with intensity, with pure savage power, and I stand over her, one hand above her heart, one hand cradling her forehead, drinking, drinking, drinking, as much a captive of her passion as she, of my trance.

Feeding of Sula can span objective hours, such is her vitality. Often, it is I who pull away, sated, and she who clings to trance and the dream-thing she is making. Tonight, I barely touched my peak, her lust coursing and lighting my veins, when I felt her-- falter.


Against me, as never before, she ... moaned, vitality spent, heart pounding, but with something other than passion.

Full, but not yet satisfied, I stepped aside. She slumped against her work table, braced against her flattened palms, breathing in great gulps, as if she had been running, hard and long.

Alarmed that she might be sickening--that she might, indeed, have already passed her sickness to one or more of the others--I let the glamour go, extended a gentle hand and touched her shoulder.


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