Monday, October 25, 2004

The Creatures Who Walk Among Us

Whitley Strieber’s latest novel, “The Last Vampire”, narrates the continuing adventures of the beautiful she-vampire, Miriam Blaylock, last heard of in “The Hunger” more than twenty years ago. Miriam can appear lusciously beautiful, looking about twenty-five, despite having been around long enough to have known the likes of Kings Thutmose (Tut) and Louis the Fourteenth.

Men – modern New York men, modern Parisian men, modern men the world over – when they see Miriam are overcome with desire, and so lose all their critical and discerning faculties, making them easy meat. She lures them to her boudoir and, while they are savouring the delights of her exquisite body, she digs her teeth into the sides of their necks, draining them of their blood until they are mere dried out husks which Miriam can then neatly roll up and dispose of in the nearest incinerator.

Besides appearing beautiful, Miriam is also blessed with the physical strength to beat up any man; has a fleetness of foot to easily escape the most resourceful of law enforcement officers; and has recuperative powers sufficient to recover from bullet wounds and disfiguring burns. Having been around thousands of years, Miriam has had ample time to accumulate the funds to buy a huge but discreetly located nightclub in New York City, whose patrons – including supreme-court judges and members of the Bush clan – can revel in bacchanalian orgies of an intensity which might have made even Caligula blink. All this to a backdrop of pulsating heavy metal rock music, strobe lights, revolving screens, the jangle of chains, the cracking of whips, and much else.

You’d think that having a lifespan of many thousands of years and being in effect, Superwoman, and able to be an object of desire of any man she might want, Miriam would be supremely happy. But somehow she isn’t. For starters, being genetically different, she can’t enjoy the food ordinary people eat. In fact the only food she can ingest is blood, which she develops an absolute craving for every couple of weeks. So, like any predator, she must keep finding prey.

Miriam is riddled with anxiety because, being a vampire and having no soul, she is terribly afraid of dying, since her physical being constitutes all she is. She also knows that, being able to live so long, the statistical probability of her having a nasty accident is so much greater than for normal mortals. Even so, unless someone blows her to pieces, she will never completely die, for, when Whitley Strieber’s vampires do finally get too old, they go into a death-like state, their bodies becoming withered, which their fellow vampires put into coffins. But the withered bodies never completely die, and, too weak to move, will lie in their coffins for all eternity, but always fully conscious. They become the un-dead.

Having read this far, you may now be thinking that Miriam seems much like any garden-variety vampire you’ve read about. But now the script takes a turn, because the species to which Miriam and her fellow vampires belong – called the Keepers - once upon a time ruled the earth. They developed advanced technology and were able to manipulate the genes of the higher apes, by which means they created the human race.

Having created humans, the Keepers sat back and took it easy, but their human creations didn’t. The new human species increased their numbers and developed technology, then began to hunt down and kill the Keepers – their creators who, outnumbered and outgunned, had to hide.

This is the backdrop to “The Last Vampire”. The secret services of the countries throughout the world are continuing their search and destroy missions against the vampires, among whom Miriam Blaylock is a prime target who, because she is a mistress of disguise, is able to remain at large.

* * *

Whitley Strieber has written approximately twenty novels, almost all in the horror genre, and are about menacing alien forces that are hidden, and are the more dangerous for that. The insidiously possessive demons in “Holy Fire” and “The Night Church”, the prowling pack of wolves with cunning human-like intelligence in “The Wolfen”, the vampires in “The Hunger” and now in “The Last Vampire”, are all essentially the same – disquieting alien beings. Why did they all spring out from the psyche of Whitley Strieber?

It is because since he was a boy, Whitley has been an object of the attentions of what appear to be extra-terrestrial beings. But, as he tells us in his memoir, “Communion”, he only became aware of this relatively recently when stick-like humanoid beings with large heads invaded his home one night and transported him outside to a waiting flying saucer – the classic alien abduction experience which has happened too many times to too many normally credible people around the world to be simply dismissed as products of over-heated imaginations. Whitley’s experience triggered other memories which told him clearly that similar things had happened to him ever since he was a child.

When last I heard, Whitley was continuing to have unwelcome calls from the Visitors. And he also frequently spots them on the street, seeing through their attempts to look like everyone else. The implication is that they are everywhere. So the next time you see someone in the supermarket or on the bus, who is quite small, and is oddly wrapped in a shawl, or is wearing wrap-around sun glasses for no good reason, like on a dark overcast day, you could well be looking at a Visitor.

Whether Whitley’s experiences are real or delusional, they are absolutely real to him. Of that I have little doubt, having read his accounts and seeing him talk on television. And it is clear to me that his fictional writing gets its power because it springs from his own experiences. The vampires, alien but able to blend in on the street because they look human, now begin to make sense.

“The Last Vampire” postulates the Keepers as the creators of the human race. The notion of the human race having been created through genetic manipulations carried out by superior species of beings isn’t as far fetched as it sounds. Since the Darwinian Theory of Evolution fails to explain credibly how humans evolved, we must look at other explanations of our origins. Ancient writings carved on clay tablets dug out of the deserts of Iraq tell of gigantic reptile-like gods who ruled the earth and created humans. Are these clay tablets necessarily wrong?

Of the countless thousands of people who have reported being abducted by aliens, many have told of medical probes performed on them, of the sort which suggest the alien abductors are using them as vessels to produce human/alien hybrid beings. Perhaps the forefathers of these aliens were our creators, and their descendents continue to tinker with us until we come out exactly the way they want.

Another theme touched on in “The Last Vampire” is aging – the vampires living to be thirty thousand or forty thousand years old. Our Men-Of-Science are already saying that all of us, within a generation or two, will live to be at least one hundred and twenty five. But, like everything else our Men-Of-Science bring about, our longer live spans will present us with new problems.

For instance work. The realities of economics are that the longer we live, the longer we will have to work. This is fine if you are a concert pianist, rock musician, creator of abstract art, or even Man-Of-Science – someone doing well paid work which is creative and fulfilling, who belongs to what John Kenneth Galbraith has called the Contented Class.

But what about vast majority who, by cleaning the latrines, digging the roads, laying the linoleum, cooking the food, making the beds, serving the wine, fighting the wars, catching the crooks etc etc, do the laborious, ill-paying, unpleasant, and often dangerous work for the delectation of the Contented Class? If you work at something you don’t like, aren’t you comforted that you can stop at sixty or so and won’t starve? How would you like it if you had to continue your boring and soul destroying job until you are over one hundred?

In addition to becoming unutterably bored, living to one hundred and twenty five would make us as fear-ridden as Miriam because, like her, we would have so many more years of life to lose were we to become careless. And, because our Men-Of-Science have told us as a fact that we are no more than a collocation of atoms in a cold and meaningless universe, we increasingly believe them and so, like Miriam, we live with the added burden that death, being our ultimate extinction, is the most terrible thing imaginable.

Whether we will actually live to one hundred and twenty five is debatable, but we do now live somewhat longer on average than our parents and grandparents. However this is only in the “developed” world. But what about the ninety percent of humanity who live in the third world? What about Russia and sub-Saharan Africa where average life expectancies have fallen steeply over the past decade? I suspect that, on a worldwide basis, we die on average sooner than did our parents and grandparents.

Another sub-text of “The Last Vampire” is persecution. Because they are a minority, and different, it was inevitable that the vampires would become yet one more minority which has been hounded to death throughout history by a dominant majority who projected on to their victims all the unacknowledged unwanted unconscious stuff lurking in their psyches.

This may explain the chief CIA investigator's obsession with exterminating the vampires, for he may have suspected he wasn't the 100% human he thought he was..........