// STRAUD MANSION //

It is a rainy day in JAMAICA ESTATES. The sunlight trickles, filtered through dense cloudcover.

MANDARC has been trolling on the (w)IntraNet. His sparsely decorated apartment is in a tucked-away corner in the basement of the palatial estate. There is but one computer in the house, and it’s in his apartment.

He’s sat in on a conversation between CEDRIC and KEVIN concerning the matter of dreams.

MANDARC

(thinking) Idle chatter.

There are bigger mysteries MANDARC yearns to conquer. As a young vampire, there is so much about the world that he doesn’t understand.

His Master, the Vampire VLADISLAUS STRAUD, has a knack for traveling about the house in near silence. MANDARC has no idea whether he’s awake or not; at the very least, he was not present for the discussion on the (w)IntraNet.

MANDARC reluctantly leaves the privacy of his basement lair and takes the long walk upstairs.

He finds STRAUD, listening to the noisebox on the first floor.

Before speaking, he stands in silence, remembering a tale the Old Man wove of his origin – an orphan found by monks in the early medieval period. That makes him far older than any Vampire he knows, even older than the Vampire he once claimed as his Sire: the elder McCOY.

But he can’t escape the suspicion that the Old Man knows more than he lets on.

MANDARC

EXCUSE ME, MASTER.

MIGHT I A MOMENT OF YOUR TIME?

STRAUD pauses, still, back still turned to MANDARC. He walks over toward the jukebox and turns a large dial to the OFF position.

STRAUD

OF COURSE.

MANDARC

I WANT TO DISCUSS THE PLASMA FRUIT.

STRAUD turns around to face MANDARC.

STRAUD

(slowly) THE PLASMA FRUIT.

YES.

WELL.

START WITH WHAT YOU KNOW.

MANDARC often tired of STRAUD’s pedantic, even patronizing approach.

In a precise impatience, he prepares to deliver his paltry understanding of the strange foodstuff.

MANDARC

THE PLASMA FRUIT TREE WAS DEVELOPED BY THE ELDER VAMPIRE VATORE.

HE GREW IT ON HIS ESTATE HERE IN NEW YORK CITY.

HE CLAIMED IT WAS A CULTIVAR OF THE APPLE, MALUS DOMESTICA, ALTHOUGH IN OBSERVATION, THE FRUIT SEEMS TO RESEMBLE MORE CLOSELY THE PEACH, PRUNUS PERSICA.

CERTAINLY IT IS IMPORTANT TO NOTE THAT THE LARGE INTERNAL PIT IS INEDIBLE, A FEATURE LACKING IN THE CONTEMPORARY MALUS DOMESTICA.

STRAUD, seemingly satisfied with MANDARC’s introduction, interrupts the young man.

STRAUD

LET US WORK BACKWARDS.

THE APPLE REPRESENTS KNOWLEDGE.

IT IS A GIFT FROM THE EIGEN.

IT THRIVES ON NATURAL SUNLIGHT.

IT IS THE METHOD BY WHICH THE EIGEN GIVE US THE LIGHT OF MIND.

MANDARC is jittery and irritated.

MANDARC

I DON’T BELIEVE IN THE EIGEN.

STRAUD

ONLY BECAUSE IT IS NOT THE SYSTEM OF BELIEF THAT THE DOCTOR INTRODUCED TO YOU.

BUT THE TRUTH OF THE MATTER IS THAT YOU LACK SUFFICIENT EVIDENCE TO PROVE NOR DISPROVE THEIR EXISTENCE.

MANDARC

WHAT YOU’RE SUGGESTING JUST SOUNDS LIKE A PERVERSION OF THE JUDEO-CHRISTIAN ORIGIN MYTH.

STRAUD’s thin lips curl ever-so-slightly.

STRAUD

YOUNG PEOPLES OF EARTH TRYING TO DEMYSTIFY THEIR WORLD.

AS ALWAYS, THEY GET SOME THINGS RIGHT AND SOME THINGS WRONG.

MANDARC struggles for a witty retort.

I FIND IT TERRIBLY PESSIMISTIC TO BELIEVE THAT OUR OWN DAMPENED SENSES SHOULD BE THE END OF INQUIRY.

THEY ARE NOT THE END, BUT THE BEGINNING.

STRAUD raises his hand to point, strangely, at a spot in the center of MANDARC’s face.

YOUR EYES LIMIT YOU TO A FORCED PERSPECTIVE. THERE ARE ALWAYS UNKNOWNS JUST BY VIRTUE OF OBSERVATION.

MANDARC backs away, unnerved by the gesture.

MANDARC

YOU MEAN THE ANALOGY OF THE CAT?

STRAUD

NOT PRECISELY.

STRAUD looks toward the fireplace, freeing MANDARC from his gaze.

BUT IF YOU’D LIKE TO TALK ABOUT THAT, WE CAN.

But the moment of respite is just that, and STRAUD returns his eyes to the young vampire.

WOULD YOU PREFER TO LIVE IN A UNIVERSE IN WHICH THE CAT IS ALIVE, DEAD, OR NEITHER?

LIKE YOU, MANDARC. WE ARE NEITHER DEAD, NOR ALIVE.

The Elder shifts about, uncomfortable.

THAT’S WHY IT INFURIATES ME WHEN OUR FRIEND CEDRIC INSISTS THAT HE IS DEAD.

WE SO CLEARLY LIVE IN A REALITY NEITHER DEAD NOR ALIVE.

CEDRIC is the last thing MANDARC wants to discuss. It’s no secret that STRAUD has taken him as his favorite son.

And who had taken him as their Golden Child?

MANDARC

I THINK WE’VE GOTTEN A BIT FAR AFIELD.

STRAUD

NOTHING IS DEAD OR LIVING. IT SIMPLY DISSIPATES.

MANDARC

BUT THERE IS CHANGE OF STATE.

STRAUD

YES.

AND THERE IS ALSO REFLECTION, WHAT SOME CALL AN EVENT, BY WHICH THE PROCESS OF DISSIPATION IS SPED.

TAKE THE PLASMA FRUIT TREE FOR EXAMPLE.

IT REMAINS STAGNANT IN THE SUN’S LIGHT BUT IS NURTURED BY THE PHOTONS REFLECTED BY EARTH’S MOON.

CLEARLY ONE IS NOT LIKE THE OTHER, THOUGH BOTH ARE RECOGNIZED BY SCIENCE TO BE PHOTONS.

THE LIGHT FROM THE SUN BURNS YOUR FLESH BUT YOU CAN BATHE FREELY IN THE AMBIENT GLOW OF DISTANT GALAXIES AND STARS.

MANDARC furls his brow, seeing the commentary as childish and obvious.

MANDARC

BECAUSE THERE ISN’T ENOUGH TIME NOR SUFFICIENT FLUX FOR IT TO HURT.

I’M SURE THE MOONLIGHT WOULD BURN ME TOO, IF IT WERE BRIGHTER; IF THE NIGHT LASTED LONG ENOUGH.

STRAUD

EVERYTHING OF THIS WORLD IS A GIFT, MANDARC.

NOTHING IS CREATED, EARNED, DOMINATED.

A SIMPLE COVERING OF STONE PROTECTS YOU FROM THE INTENSE HEAT, A FIRE THAT IS SIMPLY – UNNATURAL.

WHAT OF THE REST OF THE EMITTED RADIATION? YOU KNOW AS WELL AS I DO THAT SIMPLY BECAUSE YOU CANNOT SEE IT WITH YOUR OWN EYES DOESN’T MEAN IT’S NOT THERE.

WHAT YOU REJECT SEEMS TO BE NOT THAT WHICH YOU CANNOT SEE, BUT RATHER THAT WHAT YOU CAN SEE POSSESSES A WILL, A MISSION, A SOUL.

STRAUD pauses dramatically, and his tone seems playfully scornful, surprising MANDARC in its almost duplicitous implication.

AND YET YOU BELIEVE IN THE DREAMSPACE PURPORTED TO EXIST BY VINCENT MARSCAPONE AND OUR FRIEND CEDRIC.

Such verbal combat strikes MANDARC off-balance.

MANDARC

I’M NOT SURE WHAT I BELIEVE.

STRAUD continues, confident.

STRAUD

PERHAPS THE DREAMSPACE IS SIMPLY A FANTASY OF A BRAIN TRYING TO UNDERSTAND ITSELF – A NAME GRANTED TO AN IMPRINT LEFT BEHIND BY THE PSEUDO-RANDOM ELECTRICAL IMPULSES THAT CLEANSE THE MEMORIES AT NIGHT.

THE (pause) “DEFRAGMENTATION” AND REORGANIZATION OF THE DATA HELD BY NEURONS.

EVEN THE SIMPLEST OF PLANTS STRUGGLE TO GROW WITHOUT A CYCLE OF REST.

I CAN UNDERSTAND YOUR RETICENCE TO CREATE AN IDEA NOT BACKED UP BY YOUR OWN SENSES.

BUT WHAT TROUBLES ME IS YOUR FEAR OF NAMING.

EVEN IF THE EIGEN DO NOT EXIST, WHAT DO I LOSE BY GIVING A NAME TO THAT WHICH I DON’T UNDERSTAND?

DO YOU THINK THE EARTHICANS, EVEN THOSE WHO DON’T KNOW THEY’VE SEEN MIRACLES WORKED, REFUSE THE WORD “MAGIC”?

MANDARC, head drifting toward the floor, looks upward over his eyeglasses at STRAUD.

OF COURSE SOME OF THEM DO, BUT WHAT DO THEY GAIN FROM IT?

FEAR OF A NAME INCREASES FEAR OF THE THING ITSELF.

MANDARC

YOU’RE QUOTING.

STRAUD

AND YOU SHOULD HOLD YOUR TONGUE.