‘Here it is,’ he said.
I took the VCR tape from his grey shaking hands, his nails clipped but chipped; yellow. Veins protruding standing proud beneath the saggy skin of his hands, lower arms and neck. Visually working my way up, I studied his face, the sockets of his eyes sunken and dark. His eyes themselves, red, not bloodshot red, more a dull crimson. They looked dry and painful.
‘How long have you got?’ I asked more out of interest than concern; years of war reporting and hard nosed journalism dulling and hardening my sensitivities toward death.
‘Not long,’ he answered without emotion, ‘maybe a couple of days, a week max.’
‘That’s a shame, I said, ‘I’m sorry.’
Aldric nodded slightly, Sailor Vee, he said, immediately selling me a beaming smile transforming him from a dying old man into a charming charismatic dandy.
He really would have been something in his day I thought, somewhat alarmed and uncomfortable he still had the ability to turn on the charm and draw people toward him.
‘You mean, ce la vie?‘ I corrected.
‘Oh no,’ Aldric answered with a thin smile, lisp and twinkle. ‘Sailor Vee, always asked how long I had? But he knew the answer well enough. He was such a lovely lovely man, a Chief Warrant Officer at the Naval Base on Treasure Island. But I used to call him my own personal Rear Admiral (lower half). He’s gone now, like all the others, all gone!’
His eyes still looked parched and sore, but above his wounded smile I could see a tear welling in the corner of his right eye. The tear was yellow, his liver playing one last indignity on the old man.
‘This tape, this cassette,’ I asked, it tells your story?
‘Oh yes, it tells my story. It tells the story of all my friends. It tells of our demise, both here and in New York. I had friends and lovers in both San Francisco and New York. And before the 80’s we had a blast. Lived the high life! The colour, the creativity, the gentle souls and the free love. But then Aids came. It ravaged the community we fed on. Then it ravaged us. It decimated us, one by one we expired, we dried up and turned to dust.’
‘So what do you want me to do with this tape,’ I asked.
Aldric looked at me, his face open and calm. ‘I want you to tell our story. I want you to play this tape on your Television program. I want the world to know that Vampires existed. That we lived, we killed, we loved and we died. That we were not mythical! I have given my Executor instructions you are to be notified upon my death. You are not to permitted to play the tape before then – understand?’
‘Yes of course,’ I re-assured, ‘but Aldric one thing I don’t understand is that HIV, is and was, largely contained within the gay and drug communities, how did you and your friends contract the disease?
‘Oh come on Lester,’ Aldric scorned, ‘you are not that naive. We are, or at least were, creatures of opportunity, we were creatures of convenience, we targeted those who may not be missed. The addicts, the young gay men who may have of run away from home. And Lester my darling, I may be old and close to death, but only a moment ago, I sensed your loins stir! We are androgynous, we are bi-sexual, we are vampire and very soon we will gone.
‘There are very effective treatments these days’, I responded, ‘drugs that suppress the virus. Why don’t they work on you,… didn’t work on your friends?
I’m not a doctor, nor scientist, but the Viral Suppressants kill us quicker than the complications of HIV. Our choice was simple, die almost immediately by taking the drugs, and believe me many chose that option; or linger until we dried out, until our organs stopped working and eventually our hearts stopped completely. After I contracted Aids, I had nothing to live for, except that is to tell our story. And this is where you come in Lester.’
Aldric attempted to stand, his elbows struggling to lock as he pulled himself out of the chair. His arms shook and he wobbled. I rushed over, bending over to support him. He lent foward, his arms embracing me, pulling me close. I smelt his cologne, I felt his breath on my throat. I wasn’t afraid.
‘You would have been easy,’ Aldric whispered in my ear. ‘Very easy!’
Kia Ora Roly
Ps: The idea of this story has been floating around in my head for some time now. I hope one day to turn it into either a short story or novella.