He'd noticed him shortly after entering the diner,
watching people as he always did in public places, looking for
suitable subjects to capture in his art. He saw him sitting there,
alone in the corner of the shabby little establishment, huddled
over his meal. His wings drooped wearily behind him, the human-form
vampire bat stared listlessly into the empty space before him.
Watching this old exotic, a tinge of familiarity
jumped out at the man. There was a member of a golden age now
gone by, lost amongst the back corners of the world. Gazing at
him, the human's memories stirred within him and triggered the
light of certainty. Smiling, he got up from his table. After only
a moment's thought, he walked towards the all-but deserted corner
of the diner, slowly approaching the bat.
The exotic barely even looked up at him as he approached,
the intrusion hardly shattering the isolation he must have felt.
"Bela, it's you, isn't it?" The human asked eagerly,
heedless of the weary bat's wordless wish to be left alone.
There was a small flicker in the bat's eyes though,
a momentary glimmer of recognition, and that was enough to spur
the human on in his intrusions. Even though the bat tried to turn
away, he hadn't been quick enough. That small spark of memory
he'd shown had given him away.
"Bela, I knew it was you... You can't believe
how exciting it is for me to meet you here, after all these years...
I must tell you I'm very honored."
Sighing, the bat looked up at him with weary eyes,
taking in the visage of this intruder into his lonely solitude.
"Yes, it is me," he replied in a practiced old European
accent which had become his own. "Not too many people recognize
me these days though... I suppose you'll want to sit down with
"If I could please?" the human responded.
Not even waiting for an affirmation, he quickly took the other
seat to the little booth; if he noticed Bela's uneasiness, he
failed to acknowledge it.
After a moment or two while the human sat there smiling
at him, Bela finally broke the silence between them. "So,
one of my fans has found me again after all this time?" Pausing,
he added, "you don't look that old though... were you really
around for all of my films? It's been quite some time." His
voice grew a little more weary at that, remembering how long ago
it all had been.
"Yes Bela," the human answered "I
was very young at the time, but my parents still took me to the
movies." It had been a long time ago, a good twenty years
or more, most of his life for him. Sadly Bela hadn't fared as
well as he had with the passage of time. Looking at him, the signs
of age were readily apparent on his body. The dry, gray hair,
the fading fur losing its luster, and the wrinkles around his
eyes and on his muzzle, showed the toll time had taken on him.
The drooping of his wings and the slight hunch to his back also
helped paint the picture of a weary old exotic, his time nearing
Finally really noticing the signs of Bela's age,
a small shiver ran through the human. As he looked at one of his
childhood idols, a sadness washed over him in the knowledge that
he soon might be gone, faded from the public eye forever. "I
saw all the new exotic movies back then Bela, and they were amazing.
I loved them all, the Aztec-Demon Princess, the Mummy, Frankenstein's
Monster, the Werewolf, Cat Woman and the even the Gill-Man...
You were my favorite though, the dark image of the vampire you
portrayed, noble and deadly at the same time."
Hearing that, Bela blinked at him, his eyes watering,
if only slightly. Pausing again, looking back at the human sitting
in front of him, he finally answered with a simple, but heartfelt
"thank-you." Stopping again, he realized he didn't know
how to address this surprise visitor and fan.
Picking up on the clue, the human smiled sheepishly,
blushing slightly, and then spoke again. "Oh I'm sorry Bela,
my name's Alex... I should've introduced myself earlier. I just
forgot my manners at being able to meet you..." Then other
thoughts dawning on him, he gasped. "Oh no. I'm not intruding
on your privacy am I?" the question already apparent, but
asking implicit forgiveness. "If you'd like to be alone I
can respect that..."
Half-forcing a laugh, Bela looked back at him, a
small fraction of his weariness lifting from his tired face. "No,
that's okay Alex... Truth be told I'm alone all the time as it
is. It's kind of nice to have someone to talk to, someone that
remembers..." his voice trailing off, his eyes glistening
with added moisture.
Unsure of how to reply, Alex finally placed one of
his hands upon Bela's, feeling the soft coating of fur there.
Adding the warmth of his touch to the bat's wrinkled paw, he gazed
back upon the crumbling elegance of the aging star before him.
"I really loved those movies Bela, getting to see the new
exotics in them, watching eagerly with the rest of the crowd.
It was more than just that though, more than just the newness
of it all, they seemed so real... I wish they still made films
like that today."
Sighing along with him, Bela echoed his sentiments.
"I know Alex, for awhile there things were wonderful. The
whole world watched as we exotics were unveiled before them, eager
to get to know us. For a time it was so strange, constantly being
in the public spotlight, but that's what we were created for and
with all of my training and knowledge it became old hat to me.
For several years there things couldn't have been better. Adored
by the public, we all took our jobs with energy and excitement,
falling into the roles chosen for us, becoming them with great
joy and eagerness. I never thought it would end, I thought it
would go on like that forever. How was I supposed to know that
the public could get tired of us?"
Alex listened to him silently, giving Bela his full
attention, nodding slightly to his words. As Bela continued, he
felt tears of his own welling up in his eyes. "Looking back
on it all now, it doesn't surprise me that things changed. Hollywood
had it's exotics for that golden age, but it grew tired just like
everything else. We weren't new anymore and things moved on without
us. I used to have it all, the fame and the money... and no worries
about companionship. I always had women who were interested in
spending some time with me, beautiful humans, and even an exotic
or two... but now it's all dried up, they've turned their backs
on us. There's just no more roles for a old vampire bat anymore...
especially one that can't even fly. These wings are just for effect
"Sure there's still a calling for an exotic
or two here and there, but people aren't interested in the dark
romantic fascination of the old movies anymore. All the new films
are a different sort of drama and they're all looking for younger
exotics anyway... the new generation. I knew I wouldn't live as
long as you or any other human, a shortcoming of the genetic code
they said, but back then in the prime of my life it didn't seem
to matter. Now, as the end is near, I don't know what to think...
I'm just waiting for things to be over I guess."
"Please don't say that Bela," Alex whispered,
choking on his reply, squeezing the bat's hand desperately.
"Shhh... it's okay," he replied, the timbre
of his voice cracked by age, but still holding some of the assuring
qualities of its past. "It's just how things worked out."
Listening to him Alex was unsure if his words were sincere, or
just spoken for his benefit, to try and ease his mind.
"At least it's good to have one person still
remember me, if only for a little while... It helps me remember
those wonderful days myself." As he finished, he managed
to smile at Alex, and once more some of the weariness was lifted
from him; at least the sentiments of those words rang true.
They spent an hour or two sitting there in the diner
and just talking. Bela reminisced about the good old days he'd
known, and Alex soaked it up with rapt attention, then shared
his own dreams and visions with him. They must have been a strange
sight, the two of them sitting there at the small booth in the
corner, but nobody paid them much attention. Even their waitress
was tolerant of their loitering, having long-ago cleaned away
their dishes and only having interrupted them briefly to refill
their mugs with coffee.
With the afternoon drawing on, their conversation
finally wound itself down. Looking at his newfound friend, Bela
smiled once again. "Thank you Alex, it was certainly a pleasure
talking with you. I cannot tell you how wonderful it was."
"I need to thank you as well Bela. The stories
you've given me, remembrances of that golden time, I only wish
I could have been there with you to have seen it all."
Bela chuckled slightly at that, nodding to his human
friend. "Yes indeed, I'm sure that would have been fun...
but now, I think it's time to be going. Thank you for taking the
time to talk with an old exotic and help him remember the way
things used to be..."
As Bela was getting up, Alex stopped him once again.
"Wait Bela, can I see you again to talk about things? As
I've told you I'm an artist and a photographer, and if you'd let
me, I'd like to take some shots of you... There's several photo
essay contests I'll be entering my work in shortly, and I'd like
to do one of you, to help people remember you..."
The bat thought about it silently for several moments,
his face unsure, until Alex urged him on with a plaintive request.
"Please Bela, it would mean a lot to me..."
"Okay Alex," Bela replied, almost with
a sigh, but then considering it another moment or two, he smiled
at him once again. "Yes, I think I'd like that."
Rising to his feet, reaching for his cane, Bela began
walking away from the table. His gait was slowed by his age, but
not without a hint of newfound determination and energy to it.
Quickly leaving money to cover the bill and a tip for their waitress,
Alex joined up with him, and they walked out of the small diner
together. They talked some as they walked down the street, making
plans for the photo shoot, and then going their separate ways.
Alex turned to watch Bela as he walked away from him, a subtle
aura of dignity flowing around him once again, as in days long
It was the following afternoon when they met again.
Bela had come up with the wonderful suggestion of going to one
of the local cemeteries to do the photo shoot. It was an older
one, secluded from the busy streets that bordered it, and though
it wasn't visited too frequently, its grounds were still kept
in good condition. As the late-afternoon sun cast shadows upon
the landscape of stone monuments, it became the perfect gothic
setting for Alex's photo work. Bela's idea was brilliant, the
dark romance of the setting, combined with the character of the
aging, but still dignified vampire bat, would make for a powerful
and moving set of images.
Alex had shown up early to scout the area for a good
shooting location and Bela had arrived right on schedule, taking
a cab to meet him there at the entrance to the cemetery. He'd
even dug out his old costume from the movies. His debonair black
suit still held up after all these years and it fit the quiet,
haunting mood of the setting just perfectly. As soon as the cab
had driven away and was clear from the shot, Alex snapped a few
quick pictures, capturing Bela's graceful elegance as he walked
to meet him. He even caught one shot of him grinning at the camera,
perhaps remembering the feel of the limelight once again.
"Thank you for coming Bela, and this was a great
idea of yours. The sun is just about perfect now and this is just
a beautiful setting for you."
Smiling at him once again, Bela replied. "I've
always liked it here, especially in the later years, it's just
so quiet and peaceful... Besides, what better place for a vampire
right? You'd best be careful young man, lest I decide to sample
the taste of your blood..." Alex couldn't help but smile,
seeing Bela effortlessly fall back into the role he remembered
from his childhood. Even now it still moved him with its presence,
as the bat effected the familiar and haunting accent of the character
with his voice.
They set up at one end of the cemetery where the
light was the best, the shadows stretching out behind them in
an eerie stillness. Alex had found a large monument which stood
out from the rest and took several shots of Bela posing around
it. Bela was amazing, falling back into the old, but not forgotten,
routines of his character, displaying the dignity, sadness and
dark romance of the role he'd been born to play. He seemed tired
a couple of times, and Alex was worried about him, but Bela assured
him he was okay; after a short rest he was ready to go again.
It wasn't until the sun was setting and Alex was
getting over the excitement of having filled a couple of rolls
of film with some absolutely wonderful shots that he truly noticed
how bad off Bela was. He'd sat down to take another break, but
it was beyond simple tiredness now. He looked very weak and his
breathing was slightly labored. Something was very wrong with
"Bela, what's the matter, do you feel okay?"
Pausing, Alex gave his friend another worried glance as he knelt
down beside him. "You don't look too good. I think we should
get you to a doctor or something. My car's just over there, can
you walk to it?" he asked, feeling his heart pounding faster.
"No Alex... It's going to be all right"
Bela replied, looking up at him, a slight smile across his muzzle,
even amongst his weariness.
"But you don't look okay. I think we should
take you to see someone Bela, please..."
"Shhh... I knew this was coming and I'm ready
for it. I took the pills right before coming out here and I was
hoping I'd last this long... I'm glad that we we're able to get
the pictures finished."
"What pills? What did you do?!" Alex asked
frantically, his voice cracking in concern and panic. Grabbing
at Bela's arm, even then mindful of not hurting the folds of his
wing attached there, he tried to pull him up to a standing position.
Bela held fast though, his weight keeping him on the ground. "Bela,
we've got to get you to the hospital! You can't die... no, not
now," his voice trailed off in a sob as he tried to help
his friend and was failing miserably.
"Shhh Alex... This is the perfect time for it.
I've known my time was coming for awhile now, and I was afraid,
and so lonely... Yesterday, you let me remember again, if only
for a little while, and I could feel what it had been like so
long ago... but now it's time for me to go."
"No Bela, please..." Alex's tears were
flowing steadily now.
"I'm sorry Alex, but this is the time for it.
I'd been gone from the spotlight for so long, and I missed it
so much. You helped me recapture some of that, but I know I can
never have things that way again, and I wanted to end things on
this happy note before fading away any more... I'm sorry, but
thank you for being such a good friend..." Even as finished,
his voice became more strained, his breathing more labored, and
he sank a little lower towards the earth below him.
Holding out to him, Alex grabbed onto his exotic
friend and pulled him against himself, as he fell to a seating
position next to him. Sobbing deeply, he couldn't find the words
to say to him, as he struggled to try and help his friend.
"That's it Alex, please let it end like this..."
he offered, as his voice was almost gone. Bela was shedding tears
of his own to join Alex's, but they seemed to offer him a peaceful
release. The bat tried reaching out to put his arm around his
human friend, but was too weak to keep it there for very long,
his grip failing him.
"No Bela... No. Please don't go like this,"
Alex coughed out amongst his sobs, but already he could feel the
bat's life ebbing away from him.
As he held Bela against him, he heard him offer one
last message, barely more than a whisper. "Good-bye Alex,
remember me..." and then his voice was silent.
With the darkness of twilight slowly creeping in
on the solitude of the cemetery, Alex continued to hold Bela.
Pulling him tighter against him, his body was wracked with wrenching
sobs. Crying into the growing darkness, he could feel his friend's
breathing slowing down.
It wasn't until much later, the full darkness of
night almost upon him, when Alex had recovered enough to think
clearly. His eyes still stinging slightly and his cheeks damp
with drying tears, he looked down upon the body of Bela as he
lay on the cool grass beside him. Seeing him there, he looked
peaceful in his resting, the end of a weary journey finally reached.
Shivering slightly, Alex realized he needed to take
care of his friend for one last duty. He'd need to go for help,
but not so quickly that they'd rudely awake him from his final
sleep. Choking off another sob, he knew he had to do that much
for him, no matter how much it pained him to do so.
He decided he should wait there a little longer.
The gloom of the night bathed the surroundings in an morose setting,
but he felt compelled, drawn in by the place as well. Looking
down at the body of his friend, suppressing another sob, he folded
Bela's arms across one another to tuck his wings around him, leaving
him resting in peace.
It was when he was finally getting ready to leave
that he noticed his forgotten camera. Picking it up, holding it
the object gingerly in his hands, new tears found their way to
his eyes. His vision watering once again he cradled the camera
and its precious film in his grasp. Only then did he begin to
understand Bela's decision.
Copyright 1997, Will A. Sanborn - email@example.com