Kev the Vampire
by Phillip Donnelly
|Cast of characters|
|Chapter 1 : The Twilight of Reason|
‘The blood is the life! The blood is the life!’ That is all the mysterious Patient K would say at first. Dr. Mac Pherson gradually pieces together the story of K’s life: his gruesome school days at the Holy Bleeding Pelican; his drug- and alcohol-induced visions; his wars with Social Welfare zombies, and his attempts to use his meagre housing allowance to rent a castle. Dr. Mac Pherson learns of K’s romantic misadventures as a dishwasher in Bavaria and how comically difficult life can be for the quixotic would-be vampire in the 21st century.
‘The blood is the life! The blood is the life! Salvia Divinorum!’
That is all he would say when they found him, shivering and nearing death, deep in a forest in Bavaria; and for his first month in my care, that is all he would say to me.
Hour after hour, I stayed with him in my office, as he repeated his mantra over and over again: ‘The blood is the life! The blood is the life!’ His gaunt hollow face did not heed my presence, and I must admit that in spite of all my scientific training, I still felt haunted by those green eyes of his — so demonic and twisted — and it unnerved me to see them stare beyond me into who-knows-what world.
I was determined to know his world and to bring him back to mine.
Like any good detective, I began by moving from what I knew to what I did not know. I have always been of the opinion that any psychiatrist worthy of the title is more detective than medic; otherwise he is simply a dispenser of pills, an apothecary of the mind. I am no pill pusher.
And so, rather than treat the symptoms, I sought the cause, laying aside the psychoactive agonists and inhibitors that so mark and discredit 21st-century psychiatric care. My Chief of Staff, in his chemical wisdom, saw fit to question the absence of psychoactives in my patient’s bloodstream and recommended the immediate injection of a cocktail of chemicals — a dopamine-norepinephrine highball; and it was only with a little subterfuge on my part, which I will not dwell on, that I managed to keep patient K. free of these ‘designer drugs’, which would design a false personality and build it over the ruins of the real one.
No — a thousand times ‘no’! Instead, I sat with my curious skeletal case, listening to his howling dementia and seeking to know what had left his wits so addled and his reasoning so disturbed and disturbing.
Perhaps it is because I am still quite young and proud, or because I have never failed to solve a mystery or to cure a patient that I became so obsessed with Patient K.; neglecting my other patients and even my own friends and family; refusing to heed the advice of my professional colleagues, who warned me that the case was a hopeless one. If only I had paid more heed to their counsel, how different a path my own life might have taken...
But this is not my tale but K.’s, and so I will brook no time for personal regrets.
Instead, let us turn to the question that faces us: from whence does madness come?
Some are born mad; some become mad; and some have madness thrust upon them; and I wondered which of the three applied to my most curious patient.
I would, however, like to point out, before I begin, that I delved deep into K.’s case long before he became the media ‘celebrity’ he is today and long before the press hounds took to slandering my own name and sullying my reputation.
As a professional psychiatrist, I strove not to invent salacious newsprint to entertain the masses, but rather to understand what part of my patient was born mad, how life strove to drive him further along the primrose path of insanity, and what singular event tipped him into the sweet lake of illogicality, where grim reality holds no dominion.
So, after this necessary preamble, let us begin at the beginning, or rather before the beginning. Let us take a cursory glance at the catacomb of skeletons that makes up K.’s family history.
Some latter-day biographers would do this to entertain; I do it to understand. None of us arrive on this planet without ancestors, and like it or not, we are made from their essence. We are the past and the past is us.
K.’s origins were, shall we say, less than impeccable; and his pedigree, highly dubious. Indeed, one must admit that as one traced the family tree backwards, the number of illegitimate progenitors far outnumbered the handful of legitimate ones; and had he been born in an age in which such impediments to greatness were more highly regarded, he would have been doomed to a lifetime of lowly employments, such as his great-great grandfather, ‘Scabeen’ Shay O’ Donghaile, the Dung Merchant of Rialto.
Prison records also paint a vulgar picture of ‘Slapperee’ Minging Mac Mingus, his grandmother-twice-removed, the brothel scrubber of Ballymoon.
Moreover, my investigations have revealed that St. Brendan’s Home for the Bewildered and the Incorrigibly Perverse did have many patients that bore the name O’Donghaile throughout the nineteenth century; and Vincent O’Donghaile, also known as ‘Venereal Vinny’, was something of a minor celebrity at the time, since he had managed to obtain all known venereal diseases and added to them several that were then unknown. One medical student of the time postulated that:
“The cornucopia of the ‘Diseases of Venus’ that afflict him so egregiously — several of which are still unclassified and of which he is inordinately proud — may have been spawned and swum to life in the warty mucus of his onerous male member; a green and slimy thing the likes of which I fervently hope never to see again: a rod of Satan tended to by hitherto unimaginable armies of pubic lice. The man is a hothouse for the cross-pollination of disease and must remain in sordid isolation; until quicklime can do its work and cleanse this city of the scourge of the O’Donghaile penis.”
It is tempting to conclude that K. was therefore born mad and to wash our hands of the case like some pontificating geneticist and to pilot a course toward chemical containment, but my instincts told me otherwise; and they were vindicated by subsequent exhaustive blood tests, which showed no inherited venereal diseases.
In short, K. was not born mad, and it was life that made him so, but which part of it?
He was an undeniably ‘strange child’, which was indeed his nickname in primary school — his classmates being disinclined to exotic imagery or metaphor. He would sit, inert, at the back of the class and stare out the window; and if any thoughts ran through his mind, the world knew nothing of them, since he never spoke.
However, absolute silence, while not the stated pedagogic aim of the Catholic school he attended, was certainly not punished. In the dark world of the Blessed Untouched Womb of the Immaculate Conception, an unwillingness to communicate may have been taken as a tacit success rather than a failure.
You will think me flippant, perhaps, and a writer whose tongue is so firmly in his cheek that he is danger of biting it off, but I mean what I say, and the recent fall in my station allows me great candour, and so I will speak my mind. While I am certain to lose a certain objectivity by doing so, I will bring the reader nearer to the truth of the case than if I were to restrict myself to standard case notes. Let this be a ‘warts and all’ account of subject K., and there is no greater wart than education.
And so I put it plainly thus: education is primarily concerned with instilling unstinting acceptance of any and all absurdities; with making the child kneel before whatever idiot wields the power at the chalk face. Its aim is nothing less than death of thought. Mothers of the world — protect your child from teachers!
There are, of course, exceptions, and you will forgive my belligerent tone, since is not born of personal vendetta but the result of my clinical experience and the many lessons that I have had to help my patients unlearn. It is painstaking work, since the stitches of the classroom lie deep under the skin, in the creases of the brain, and only the most delicate of cutters may remove them.
Alas, K.’s memories of primary school were buried so deep that even I could not find them, but I fared better with secondary school, even if he fared far worse. It was, as you might imagine, a difficult time for him. His teachers seemed loath to let him continue his philosophical musings and continually distracted him from his task of choice, which was to gaze out the raindrop-painted windows at the world beyond; instead, his attentions were foisted onto the festering world within, to the arena of terror that is the classroom.
It was a difficult time, but can we conclude that it drove him mad? There is little evidence of this. Many have suffered the misfortune of a Catholic education, and many have lived through the double indignity of an Irish Catholic education, but only a small fraction of these are forced into the asylum of psychiatric care.
But let us look now to the testimony of K.’s peers, imperfect as it is.
Many pupils at the School of the Bleeding Pelican, K.’s secondary school, do recount that, in his last two years there, K. did start to exhibit behavior that was considered bizarre.
For example, he grew increasingly obsessed with vampires and was rarely seen without a gothic novel in his hands. The penchant for vampires was not strange in itself, since it is a fashion of our times, but K. was often to be seen with one ‘Twilight’ novel in each hand; and holding both in front of him, he claimed to be reading the two books at the same time, one with each half of his brain, claiming that the Twilight novels were such a rank corruption of their gothic forebears that only half a mind was required to process the inky pulp.
He also developed a second reading peculiarity. He would begin books on the last page, skip forward to the beginning and end with the middle section. This unusual approach also applied to academic materials, and did not endear him to the more traditional masters.
Teacher G., from whom you will more shortly, was confounded by his idiosyncratic summary of Hamlet, which had Hamlet die at the beginning, then kill the new king, then interview the ghost of his father the old king and finally ended with him falling out with his mother and being banished to England.
In a later lesson, outlined in the next chapter, he even attempts to prove that Hamlet himself was a vampire and that Shakespeare, too, belonged to the same tribe, and that the Dark Lady of the Sonnets was none other than his immortal beloved, the vampire queen, Elizabetha.
When questioned by his teacher and by other teachers on other issues of temporal distortion, he stressed the need to adopt a non-linear approach to interpreting fiction and in general highlighted the curved nature of space and time and the probability that time was bending fiction into a perfect circle. ‘Time’ he would say, ‘is a nightmare from which I am trying to escape,’ but then claim that Joyce had gone forward in time and stolen this, his best line, from him and had added insult to injury by misrepresenting it.
At this point, I would like to include an excerpt from a ‘short story’ written by the previously mentioned Teacher G., who was K.’s year head at the time of his final year in school; and I believe it will shed some light into the cavern of the classroom he inhabited.
G., I should point out, entertains certain literary ambitions, but is hampered, in my opinion, by his strict adherence to what he terms ‘post-modernist ultra-realist fiction’, or ‘postmod ultrarealfic’, which discourages the writer from adhering to the traditional structures and strictures of conventional fiction.
Instead, he believes stories should mirror real life, which tends not to have neat beginnings and endings, since every day is merely a continuation of the last one; and the conflicts, crisis and fantasies of Monday are brought forward to Tuesday; and so on ad infinitum, or in G.’s case, ad absurdum.
His novel-in-progress, ‘Diary of an English Teacher’, for example, which he has been working on for fifteen years and which will not be finished until the day of his death, contains one chapter for every day of his life, and the following extract is from Chapter 5021.
Regrettably, Teacher G.’s own condition has not improved, in spite of, or perhaps because of, the daily electro-convulsive therapy sessions of my more old-fashioned colleagues; and as irony would have it, he now inhabits the former cell of his former pupil, K., but I believe that when he penned this piece of prose, he was of reasonably sound mind.
To be continued...
Copyright © 2011 by Phillip Donnelly