Interview with a Vampire Slayer
I traveled to an undisclosed location in Morocco to interview Dr. Jude Barrett, a British biochemist and vampire hunter.
While we drank mint tea and ate hummus, I asked him about vampirism.
Piper: Dr. Barrett, it’s my understanding that you discovered a scientific basis for vampirism. What sort of doctor are you? A physician?
Jude: No, I have a Ph.D. in biochemistry. I was employed by a pharmaceutical company in Yorkshire, England, and I conducted research on mice. I discovered the R-99 gene, which is responsible for longevity.
Piper: How did your research lead to this discovery?
Jude: I induced mutations into the mice via low amounts of radiation. They began craving blood and became hypersexual. Also, they had an extraordinary life span. These same qualities exist in a subset of humans: vampires.
Piper: But how can vampires really exist?
Jude: Are you familiar with Methicillin-resistent Staphylococcus Aurea? It’s better known as MRSA, an antibiotic-resistant bug. If you wished to create a strain, all you need is a petri dish filled with staphylococcus. Add penicillin. It will kill ninety-nine percent of the staph. Take the surviving one percent and culture them. You now have bacteria that are resistant to penicillin.
Piper: Why are they resistant?
Jude: It’s a defense mechanism of the bacterium. If you put the penicillin-resistant strain into a petri dish and apply erythromycin, the antibiotic will kill a majority of the bacteria. Culture the survivors, and you have an organism that’s resistant to penicillin and erythromycin. If you repeat this process ad infinitum, adding various antibiotics, you will eventually create a superior organism—one that’s resistant to all antibiotics. And it’s indestructible.
Piper: You’re saying vampirism evolved like MRSA?
Jude: It makes sense, doesn’t it? The survival of the fittest, etc. Vampires began in small numbers and multiplied. They’re adaptive. Strong, hard to kill. And they destroy the competing organism.
Piper: But how can they subdue humans?
Jude: They’re predators. They are built to stalk, attack, and control their prey. Vampiric physiology gives them a biological edge.
Piper: Name one.
Jude: Well, for starters, they emit a distinct smell, rather like the fruity odor from ketones, but they can also smell of menthol. This unique hidrosis—which is the Greek word for perspiration, by the way—affects a human’s brain chemistry. It relaxes their muscles to the point of paralysis, but it also generates a sense of calmness. Also, it has an aphrodisiac effect. Hidrosis helps a vampire restrain prey. Incidentally, this chemical in a vampire’s perspiration is similar to a terpene. I’m sure you’ve heard of Nepetalactone?
Piper: I have a cat, and she’s immune to catnip. She ignores the toys I set out.
Jude: Perhaps she lacks the olfactory receptor. Some felines have it, some don’t. It’s genetic.
Piper: If your bat-nip theory is true, then people would faint whenever they got near a vampire. Sidewalks and train stations would be filled with paralyzed humans.
Jude: When the chemical is excreted by a vampire’s sweat glands, it evaporates and diffuses into the air and becomes less potent. If humans inhale it, they feel relaxed. But it’s fleeting. A high concentration of this molecule is found in a vampire’s blood and saliva.
Piper: Why don’t vampires succumb to their own chemical? Why doesn’t it paralyze them?
Jude: Is a spider killed by its own venom? An effective predator isn’t harmed by its own methods of predation.
Piper: What about a vampire’s intellect? Is it superior?
Jude: A vampire’s IQ is similar to a humans: it varies. Some vamps are brilliant, some are average, etc. But a vampire’s brain is more developed than a human’s. Some vamps are quite gifted with telepathy. Interestingly enough, vampirism often brings out personality disorders, such as OCD and problems with impulse control.
Piper: In Hollywood movies, vampires can shape-shift into bats. Is this a myth?
Jude: Yes. Vampires can’t change into bats. They are a sub-set of humans, but they’re physically stronger, run faster, and never become ill. They heal at an extraordinary rate.
Piper: Can they be killed?
Jude: Yes, but it would have to be a catastrophic injury to the heart or brain.
Piper: But what about sunlight?
Jude: Vampires can venture outside on overcast days, but they must wear sun block and protective gear—and they can’t stay outside for extended periods.
Piper: Does this sensitivity have a biological basis?
Jude: Their immune systems are hyperactive. Their ketonin is sensitive to ultra-violet rays, and any direct exposure to the sun will cause second and third degree burns. Also, light affects the eyes; it causes corneal abrasions, even blindness.
Piper: What about the other myths—garlic, crucifixes, and holy water?
Jude: Garlic has mild antibiotic properties that may alter the taste of blood. As for holy water and crosses, these myths are culture-based. Would a Muslim fear holy water?
Piper: How can a human be turned into a vampire? In horror movies, it takes three bites, and that’s it, you become a vampire.
Jude: It’s not the number of bites. It’s the number of stem cells that pass from the vampire’s body into the prey’s vascular system. And how the prey’s immune system reacts.
Piper: I’m not following you. Stem cells?
Jude: When I was studying mice, the blood analysis revealed an abundance of stem cells. It was a unique stem cell, rather like a stem cell leukemia, but it wasn’t fatal. It grew faster than cancer cells. My research was terminated before I could lean more.
Piper: I have one more question. The MRSA bug is still evolving. Are vampires also changing?
Piper: What should we expect?
Jude: We’ll have to wait and see. If we’re still around.
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