“Ah, the children of the night …”
“Yeah yeah, what beautiful music they make yaddyaddyadda,” I said, sitting well away, not from concern for my personal safety (a family doctor should never show fear, except when hearing the phrase “he’s pulling at his ears”), but when your diet is fresh blood, your breath stinks. “I’m a busy man, Count, skip the theatrics.”
“I am in a most grave predicament,” he said, in a rich deep voice, which would be ideal for flogging complementary medicines. “This warfarin—so many of my clients are taking it now that it is causing me considerable distress.”
“There, there,” I said, because even the undead deserve counselling, “tell me about it.”
“I bite the neck, the blood flows, I lap it up with eager tongue, the blood clots, I stop. So it has always been. Now the bleeding does not stop, the blood is everywhere, up my nose, on my dress shirt—do you know how expensive these things are nowadays?—and I am a vampire, if I see blood I must drink of it. I even bring along a first aid kit, stick on a little bandage to stop the bleeding.” He gave an embarrassed, mournful shrug. “Yet still I am putting on a little weight.”
“You aren’t comfortable with your body,” I observed, comprehending a Freudian insight, “hence the big castles.”
“I don’t feel good about myself, doctor. The ladies, they used to love me, they would lie there in those come-to-bed nightdresses, the intoxicating scent of garlic filling the air. I love garlic, you know, it’s a little joke of mine.” A wintry smile broke through, then his tone briefly became sharper: “This is confidential—right?”
“Of course,” I said.
“Ah,” he whispered, sad again, “how they would scream, how they would moan with rapture, and next morning pretend they remembered but a nightmare. Now they scream only because I am become so fat I am squashing them. ‘Get off me, Porky,’ said one.
“And it gets worse: when I transform into a bat, I am too heavy to take off, I flap and I flap and I flap but I remain squat on the ground; the children of the night, how they snigger and smirk at me. I now must climb the drainpipe, so undignified, what with the extra weight and all. Last night, the drainpipe came down; I got a pain in my chest, I’m breathless, and I’m having palpitations.”
I examined him; the irony was thick. “Your pulse,” I said, “is irregularly irregular …”
Footnote; atrial fibrillation is an irregularity of heart rhythm. It is often asymptomatic, but does increase the risk of blood clots, so when detected, patients are usually started on an anti-coagulant drug such as warfarin. On examination, the pulse is typically irregularly irregular…