Call them disints, the undead, or walking corpses. They haunt everyone, especially an L.A. journalist who sets off on an investigative journey to determine their origins.
The vampires were a frightening and enticing facet of society. As their virus spread, many people simply surrendered. A Los Angeles Times poll provided the sobering percentages: 68% wanted to be metamorphosed immediately, in order to cut prematurely the daily torture of waiting; 19% determined to struggle to the last, in hopes of some preternatural intervention; 13% undecided. Meanwhile, the President ordered the citizens to go about their daily activities, which would discourage the
“freedom suckers.” So businesses kept the flow of capital surging, and sports became ever more popular, providing a safe refuge for non-vampire aficionados. A National Enquirer story reported of a vampire aging quickly under the blinding bleacher lights, ultimately leaving as “an odiferous fleshly mass.” Many people, including myself, were surprised by the virtual literary style of a writer in a pulp magazine, but it soon became apparent that the sensationalist presses were rife with Ivy Leaguers intent upon immortality(the artistic kind, that is) with Homeric treatises on a catastrophic plague.
Strangely enough, only the U.S. was infested with the pestilence. When the chaos started, the President informed the diplomatic communiqués of every country, and proposed that
“everyone should join hands to defeat this heretic.” But a week passed without any offers of aid. Another passed, and the President dropped the hint about “clever creatures,” inferring that the vampires were just lulling the rest of the world into a false sense of security. The third week came and went with the plea to be patient. When the month had ended, the Commander-in-Chief asked for scientific help, reasoning that “obviously these subhumans have decided to target one country at a time.” But he still did not receive favorable replies. Some, like Russia, sent regretful letters with florid postage stamps of Vlad the Impaler, the supposed first vampire, penning “We all feel remorse for your great dilemma, but unfortunately we cannot risk being infected also, and thus can only pray for you in deep earnest.” Others, such as Iran, were a bit less sympathetic, intoning, “The Great Heathen of the West is finally sprouting its true Founding Forefathers”(sic). The President closed the borders of the U.S. with the remark, “We are alone in our fight, but our fires will burn brightly.”
Scientific tests at UCLA Medical Center had failed to kindle any hope, only reasonable doubt. This freakish vampiric malady was garnering all sorts of desperate hypotheses. As a freelance writer for the L.A. Times, I was given the opportunity to spectate at the sometimes barbaric coliseum with other journalistic dignitaries. There were two primary testing targets: 1. Micro-organisms, animals. 2. Humans. The first category, naturally, were tested first, but not without protests from the still thriving animal lobby. If the initial phase proved successful enough to gain support, its credibility was subsequently tested upon a human. But this process, of weeding out the undesirables, did not take into account the various shocks of experimental failure.
After we, the onlookers, were escorted to our seats in a huge, circular metal dome built specifically for the testing, a loudspeaker droned out the official statement delivered every day at 12 noon before an experiment: “This is a test rendered under the auspices of the UCLA Medical Center, in conjunction with the directive of the President of the United States. Anyone who reports on anything said or performed inside this room will be detained by the FBI, with no possibility of bail, and will be held in federal prison indefinitely. If you feel nausea during the proceedings, please immediately vacate the testing room. Thank you for your cooperation.”
“And thank you for my ashen pallor,” quipped a rotund man chewing on licorice.