''All Of Us Intelligent Beings''

© Joan Ann Lansberry

Gwen, in her late forties, hadn't seen her older brother Edward in five years. Since the somewhat short, somewhat red haired Gwen had left the relatively large city of Tucson five years ago, she'd not made the four hour journey there from Yuma, as she'd had only a dilapidated old car that she feared to tax overmuch. Then once she and her family moved to the farm, her life had gotten busy.

He was demanding to see her and learn details of her new life. He was fascinated to learn how she ended up on a farm, and she thought it easier to come and bring just Michael, her sire and lover, there to Tucson, than for Edward to come to Yuma and meet seven vampires. Their family had grown over the past few years. This could prove overwhelming for Edward. Not that Edward was ordinarily a narrow minded man. Years of teaching English literature at the universary there had opened his mind somewhat. Still, one could never predict a 'muggles' reaction.

Michael was nervous, but flattered Gwen had selected him. Worldly Sebastian had much more experience with mortals than he did, but Gwen wanted some alone time with Michael. She and Sebastian, another of the vamps in the family, had been so busy with young Jonny. Jonny had grown especially attached to both Gwen and Sebastian, and they'd adopted him when his father died and left him homeless. But now Jonny had graduated and could help run the farm quite capably.

Michael hadn't left the farm since he engineered the building of it, and he was more than overdue for some time off. So they planned a short vacation to Tucson.

Before they neared her brother's house, Gwen made sure her makeup was done perfectly to minimize the pale vampiric appearance. She tried to put some foundation and powder on Michael, but he would have none of it. She couldn't force him, so she quit trying.

Gwen's brother lived in one of the older bungalows in the older part of town. Edward's wife was busy at her secretarial job, so they would just be visiting with him. When gray but thickly haired Edward answered the door, his eyes widened when he looked at them. They each were wearing ankle length hooded capes in the full raging July desert heat. But he ushered them in graciously. He grew frustrated when his attempts at being a good host were foiled by their requests for 'just water'.

His house was surprisingly cool for the degree of heat outside. He and his wife had it decorated eclectically, with artifacts from all over the world that somehow looked pleasing together. They hadn't actually been to all their places of origin, but they knew good sources of such furnishings.

The house bespoke a quiet cultured sophistication. Gwen had hope. Michael clung closely to her and sat beside her on the low sofa. The brown leather sofa had been draped with Mexican blankets so they did not stick to the leather.

Edward turned more of the lights on in the house. He explained he usually had them off for energy conservation and to help the house be more cool. Edward wanted a good look at his reddish haired sister and her strange dark haired partner.

He embraced her, and was still clueless. Edward extended his hand out to the short pale man, but began to feel a growing uneasiness. What was it about him that disturbed him so? Was it the oddly fierce eyes? Was it the exceedingly pale skin? He'd taught thousands of students over the years and he'd never seen any of them so pale. Some of the ones who fancied themselves 'goths' tried to be pale, but they did not come close. The 'goths' had a vampire fascination.

In all of his years, he'd assumed this was only a myth of the horror novels. But as he gazed at the diminitive Michael, he began to wonder and tried to recall all the signifers of recent literature. Turning into wolves and passing through walls, ala turn of the century Stoker, were not likely traits.

Sun sensitivity was possible, however. Edward began opening all the curtains in the house to let all the sunlight in. As he lifted the vertical curtain on the tall rectangular window to the right angle of the sofa, a long streak of bright light shot forth across his visitors' perch.

They both immediately got up and sat cross legged on the other side of the room. How else could Edward test his suspicions? He decided to speak of the vampire obsessions of his students. ''One of my students is doing her thesis on the vampiric theme through out the history of literature. I've seen her outline, and know some of their characteristics. Why it is so fascinating to the human mind to invent such monsters? Tell me, do you have any idea?''

He first looked at Gwen, and then at his suspect. Neither had much to say, and merely squirmed. Gwen's hand nervously fluttered about her hair, and she began twirling a piece of it between her fingers. ''You have no ideas? They ARE monsters, for they feed on human beings, do they not?'' Edward glared into the two pairs of frightened eyes. ''Can you deny that?'' Edward pointed his question directly to Michael, who stammered, ''Um, ah, only if there is no other sort of mammal from which to feed.''

Edward stood up, and paced the floor now, as if he were addressing a class, ''And any sort of creature which feeds off of humans is a MONSTER, is it not?'' Michael tried to hold his ground, ''Not necessarily.'' Sifting through his memory, he recalled a movie he'd seen, ''Have you ever seen that movie Alive, in which the plane wreck survivors feed off of those who died? All animals, and human beings are animals, do what is necessary to survive.''

Edward cringed, ''That incidence was a rare and extremely unusual case. Vampires feed on humans as a matter of course. This makes them at the very least immoral, if not actual monsters.''

Michael stood up, and faced Edward, ''Wait a minute here. It's more complicated than that!'' Edward, feeling some triumph, demanded, ''You're getting ANGRY, pale one! Tell me, why do you seem to be taking such personal offense at what would otherwise be a purely hypnothetical situation?''

Michael grew red faced, ''It's just, it's just a whole lot more complicated than you're making it. It's not a black and white situation.'' Gwen tried desperately to think of something to add to Michael's defense, but her mind was blank.

So she tried the lame, ''Um, can we change the subject? I'm sure there's more pleasant things to talk about. What about the never ending war in Iraq?''

But Edward was on a roll. He now addressed his sister, ''I am quite convinced that man you brought here is a bloodsucker! How could you bring such an evil abomination into my house?''

Gwen now stood up, and began waving her arms frantically, ''Michael's not evil!'' Edward grabbed Michael by his white shirt collar, and demanded, ''Are you or are you not a blood sucker?'' Michael's eyes widened in horror, as well as his mouth, which formed a large 'O', revealing his fang teeth. Edward, seeing the teeth, shoved Michael from him, and declared, ''I believe I've made my point. His teeth have shown their points. Get this bloodsucker out of my house!''

Gwen screamed, ''No! Let's try to be reasonable! You are not being reasonable. You are only acting on prejudice!'' Edward spun around hard and glared into Gwen's eyes, ''Any beast that attacks human beings is my sworn enemy.'' Gwen demanded, ''But what shall you do then, for human beings attack other human beings? Doesn't that make human beings monsters, as well?''

Gwen's interruption had given Michael time to think, ''The necessity of feeding is not a moral issue. This is merely a matter of any creature's survival. Granted, one can make the best choice possible of what to feed upon, but the need for blood should not be an issue!''

Michael continued, ''I'm sure if the pig that you indirectly killed to make your ham sandwich would tell you he considered YOU an enemy if it were possible for him to tell you. This is all a matter of the food chain. Living things eat other living things to survive. This is not a moral issue.''

Edward turned to face Michael, ''Then if you can survive on four legged animals, why haven't you consistently done so?'' Michael glared at him evenly, ''Now that I have the means to do so, I have established a farm, in which many large mammals in the form of cows serve us the sustainance we need. But this was not always possible. I chose the evilest of humans when I had to resort to that method.

''But let me tell you this. Hundreds of years ago, it was easier to find four footed mammals. There were many large forests, and animal life was abundant. But human beings encroached upon this space, cut down the forests and killed the animals. Do you not recall the great buffalo slaughters? Evil human beings killed the buffalo just to kill them. It wasn't for food. They let the huge mounds of carcasses just rot.

''If you humans did not breed like rabbits, you would not be destroying the environment as you have. You look at me, and think I do not deserve to breed. However, in my centuries, I have made only three others. This is much less than the average breeding of the several human life spans that would equal my life span so far. I know my kind makes huge demands of the environment. I have considered carefully each new fledgling, unlike the irresponsible humans who breed simply because they can. If in my centuries, I have resorted to the necks of some filthy humans because I could not find animals, it is because those humans destroyed the wildlife and there were no other mammals from which to feed.

''So blame YOURSELVES for this situation. I didn't make this world you live in! When you make the designation of monster, prepare to wear that heavy label YOURSELVES!''

Michael paused to take a breath. ''There is nothing more I can say.''

Edward for once was silenced. He looked truly puzzled, ''I, I, I just never thought of it that way!''

Gwen inserted one more comment, ''Now can all of us intelligent beings, whether meat eater or blood drinker, just sit down and get to know each other, with out dissention now?''

Edward still looked confused, but he was beginning to understand, ''I guess the teacher has been taught a lesson.'' He went to the side window and pulled the curtain securely shut. ''Come, return to the sofa. Let's start over. Tell me about that farm of yours . . .''

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