Vampires. Nosferatus, Children of the Night. As elusive as Prince, and even harder to photograph. Untold paparazzi have lost not only their lives but their livelihoods attempting to get snapshots of demons in delecto flagrante, only to end up with empty photographic plates and emptied hearts.
No doubt - we're fascinated by those who feast on the blood of the living. So many questions! For starters - did America's switch from sugar to NutraSweet change the experience? Do they feel at home in today's fast-paced consumer culture? And - if a vampire is depressed, does he feed on someone who takes Prozac?
Despite all the fanfare, thought, it's obvious vampires aren't doing too well. Their numbers have always been miniscule. This isn't because they are an elite, as they'd like you to think - but because the mortality rate for immortals is extremely high. Just by hosting the MTV Music Awards, a vampire runs the risk of being smitten by some DJ's big dangly crucifix.
Vampires are often described as sexy. But mostly this sentiment is vocalized by people who confuse sex with death. Do you really want to entertain the opinions of anyone who can't tell the difference between pearly whites nibbling on their earlobe and tumors gnawing at their pancreas?
So - being the smart puppies you are, you've come to drink from the porcelain bowl of wisdom. Tune in now as What Jail Is Like dissolves the layers of mist surrounding these controversial creatures, and presents solidly researched findings about where they're headed. We now present - Undead Unplugged.
The Origin of Vampires
The first claimed vampire sightings actually originated as misdirected gardening. In 1388, humble farmer-cum-sadist Vlad Dracul murdered his wife and buried her in the yard. To allay suspicion, he used the spot to plant garlic, and marked it with wooden stakes.
When the wife was discovered, Dracul claimed he'd had to bury her because she'd become an evil parasite from hell. But the garlic kept her under - and she made darn good fertilizer, eh?
Curious neighbors asked for samples, and confirmed the diagnosis. Word spread, and soon "Vlad's Red-Hot Demon Fertilizer" was all the rage. God-fearing folk throughout Europe used this method to keep their undead spouses in line - and create kick-ass herb gardens.
The first true vampire was born when, drunk and lonely, Jeff Goldblum tested a teleportation device on himself - accidentally teleporting a mosquito and Geena Davis along with him. The three were merged into one being.
Mr. Goldblum (or "Goldgeeto" as he began to call himself) grew pale and lanky, developed an astounding overbite, and took to cross-dressing. Meanwhile his new mosquito-nature craved human blood (along with stagnant water in which to breed).
His attempts to find blood were foiled, however, when he found that all his Beverly Hills neighbors had impenetrable plastic sheaths in place of skin. In a tragic finale, Goldgeeto was discovered floating face down in his chlorinated pool. Now who, I ask, is the monster in this story?
Hopefully this lays to rest rumors that vampires were born of the union of Geena Davis and Zeus, who appeared in the form of a mosquito.
Interestingly, the Goldblum incident gave rise to several spinoffs, including a number of Three Stooges shorts. Larry and Curly transform into mosquitoes, and to slap them Moe is forced to slap himself. Ah, the humanity!
Despite these difficult beginnings, vampires have managed to eke out a thankless existence. Some haunt late-night infomercials, selling stain removers and hair dyes. Others are forced to pick through dumpsters, looking for rats and other vermin to sell to biolabs. Life is made immeasurably more difficult by the fact that day trading is off limits.
Unlike robust monsters such as zombies and werewolves, vampires have never been an American tradition. Vampires require a strict diet and controlled environment, which strikes Americans as strange. As everyone knows, Americans need warning labels on flakes of leaded paint in order to figure out they're not food. (Or at least to tell them to pour skim milk on the flakes, to keep breakfast low-fat).
Vampires strive for a degree of culture - and culture leads directly to loss of manhood. Why, thinketh the average Joe, should a killer have to wait to be invited into his victim's home before dispatching him? Tree-hugging therapists might chalk it up to low self-esteem, but every upright red-blooded Tom Dick and Harry instinctively grasps the problem: lack of backbone.
Even without these considerations, any thinking vampire must recognize the problem of overspecialization. Vampires occupy a narrow ecological niche, and risk the danger of being outcompeted on their own turf. Bats have made significant inroads, and have the advantage of not requiring nightly burial. Sure, some cunning vampires can train dogs to bury them at dawn and dig them up again at dusk, but the cost of obedience school is prohibitive for middle- and low-income fiends. Not to mention - some kid might decide to dig a hole to China in the flower garden, and accidentally unearth the vampire. (To be fair: video games have preempted a good part of the digging-to-China industry, but a large market share remains untouched).
There is only one solution: change. To succeed, vampires must put their blood in many baskets. They need to retool their skill sets for the 21st century, in the same way that cutting-edge marketing execs have sleekened - nay, revolutionized - the once-complacent American advertising industry with end-to-end buzzword solutions.
How to Succeed at Being Undead Without Really Trying
First off: vampires simply must get over their terror of ninety-degree angles. Not to imply that crosses aren't scary! When you look at one, should your eyes move up and down or side to side? The artistic composition of the cross draws the viewer's attention along orthogonal planes, jarring many with finer sensibilities.
Crosses may also call the plus sign to mind, stirring deep and abiding fears of math. What vampire does not have recurring nightmares about its old sixth-grade algebra teacher? Finally, crosses do implicitly dangle a dead guy - which especially traumatizes older bloodsuckers, who already have the guilt of thousands of murders on their consciences. "You mean I killed him, too? Egads!"
European vampires squeak by on the fact that Europe has no right angles. But here in the land of Mr. T., nightstalkers must make serious adjustments.
Another of the grave problems vampires face is the fact that they are in no way cute. Dangerous, alluring, even sexy - yes. One-night stands abound. But no Nosferatu has ever been pampered, cooed over, or had a May dandelion rubbed upon its chin. What can self-respecting bloodstalkers do to receive the nuturing they deserve, if they cannot inspire mindless adoration?
One word: babies. The wellspring from which all cuteness flows! The catalyst of primal instinct which gives mothers the strength to hold down two jobs and still not be able to afford day-care! Coffin-dwellers would do well to sit up and take notice of babies' surefire strategies.
The first thing to notice is that the lifecycle of babies emulates that of certain wasps. After finding a helpless victim, the wasp inserts a long unpleasant-looking attachment, deposits its seed and departs forever. The seed soon hatches, and the larva grows inside the victim. Often the victim is immobilized, and can only complain of back pain while it demands combo platters of beef franks and escargot.
Eventually the larva burrows out of its victim, begins to feed from the outside, and grows out of control. This causes the victim to develop gray hairs, and eventually die of all the sacrifices it's made for the ungrateful parasite.
Predatory opportunists? Absolutely. Nonetheless, babies are cute - which smoothes most of the rough spots. But only for a while, as cuteness fades into demands for "independence" (i.e. free porn and cigarettes). In this respect vampires possess a huge advantage over babies, which is that they are changeless and eternal. Once a vampire is cute, it's cute forever. No more frustrated mothering instincts! Suburban moms finally able to drive someone to after-school dance classes - for all eternity!
Our advice to vampires: loan yourselves out as babysitters, or even au pairs from respectable Transylvanian families. Watch and learn, as your charge makes even toothing into something its parents treasure forever.
One point in vampires' favor is that they have to abide by so many rules. They can't cross running water, they have to be home by dawn (with younger vampires facing even stricter curfews), and to go anywhere else they must be invited. Even if vampires are evil - they sure are law-abiding!
But even if Count Dracula meets with the approval of Officer Friendly, vampires have to get with the rest of the program. Having lived in Europe, for example, most vampires are not familiar with the recent innovation of mass production. (To their credit, vampires do take advantage of pyramid schemes). Vampiring is still a cottage industry, with each new bloodsucker painstakingly toothcrafted.
While this works fine for small markets, vampires miss out on huge potential growth by not manufacturing cheap, quality evil for Joe Blow.
One way for vampires to get into mass production is to produce more mass. Americans are now more obese than at any point in history, with more to come. Why not shed the sallow, sickly image and go for the teddy-bear appeal? From now on - switch to the all spare-tire-and-back-hair diet!
Far from complicating matters, this will make life (or undeath) easier for the damned. Couch potatoes are more numerous, and easier targets, than other types of American vegetables. School security is moving ahead by leaps and bounds, so the high-school kids which are the staple of any monster's diet are growing riskier to obtain. However, couch security is pretty much what it's always been.
One final thought. Vampires need blood, which most of their victims are understandably reluctant to part with. But life needn't be so hard! There are three other bodily humors to consider. For instance: bile? What's that? Who needs it? Does it digest anything, or is it just there to make people unlikeable? If a vampire wants someone's bile, chances are there won't be much of a struggle.
How about phlegm? Who needs it? Civic-minded vampires could rent themselves out as medical consultants - to clear the airways of newborn babies. And if they really want to be child-friendly, the vampires could even smear their lips with aloe-vera lotion first. No more redness and irritation!