I was born August 8, 1980, and I died March 21, 2002, when I was bitten on leave in Ethiopia. The incident was covered up for the sake of national security, of course. Imagine the public panic if word got out that Special Operations was using vampires in combat. Though the SEALs are known for unconventional warfare in combat, a vampire medic is another level of “unconventional.” Try “other-worldly” or a Saturday afternoon straight-to-DVD sci-fi flick.
You miss out on so much when you are dead. Of course, there’s the obvious family stuff–weddings, children’s first days of school, aging in the annual family portrait–but there’s also the subtle rites and rituals I used to enjoy–the morning sun hitting my face as I paddle out for one more wave before heading to base, getting drunk in an Imperial Beach squid bar after something goes FUBAR, coming home to Esther (who stuck it out for four years after the incident before moving on to a living boyfriend), looking forward to retirement. Even relating to my buddies’ injuries. I can’t even remember my sore shoulder after Hell Week.
a butterfly’s wings
gossamer, flapping in the wind—
tick and tock of life
Of course, immortality has its advantages. I can stay out in the Coronado surf indefinitely without concern of hypothermia. I’ve probably died over a hundred times taking a bullet or a grenade for Eddy, Brown, and T; there’s no shortage of terrorist blood in those firefights to patch up a hole or two. Staying the same pant size has cut down on clothing expenditure, and I can pull off fashion trends the second time around. Or third. Or fourth.
We’re not all the tortured Louise’s or cavalier Lestat’s. Most of us are somewhere in between, trying to carve out a day-to-day life with some purpose or understanding of the world around us. Make an honest living. Find love. Find life after love. Art is trickier, though. Most creative works emanate from the urgency mortality bestows–fears of danger and death, grief mixed with hope of uniting in an afterlife, the gift of each second or breath as potentially one’s last.
Mona Lisa smile—
loves won and lost,
the one that got away
Work goes on much as it did before the incident. Night missions carry on as they did for years before that night, though I am saddled with a bit heavier a load than before–extra medical supplies, extra ammo, an occasional tank. My unit burns through considerably less C4 these days, as I simply remove the buttressed steel doors for hassle-free infil. Day missions are a bit trickier, and I’m sure the day will eventually come when I can’t don a full burqa and blend in with my surroundings.
I do feel the bloodlust during battle, but it’s nothing more than what is common to man. Hunting dinner on the African plain or Georgia woods. Fighting the enemy after watching a close friend die in battle–just read some of the Medal of Honor citations. It’s only natural that the dark gift bolsters in battle. Some might say it’s an unfair advantage in combat, but terrorist organizations have been using vampires as weapons of mass destruction since the mujahedeen. Heck, Mossad’s elite of the elite have been mainly vampires since Munich, and there’s credible intel that Spetsnaz has experimented with a vampire group above Alpha.
grim reaper creeping
through the bedroom window—
headlights through the tree
I don’t know when vampires first fought alongside humans in battle. Dracula is a clever myth–as are crosses and holy water. I personally prefer yarmulkes and menorahs, but, to each his own. I don’t buy the Judas Conjecture, either. I scoured the ancient texts after the bite, hoping to find answers, and vampires are ancient. Mesopotamian myths, particularly the Alphabet of Sirach in Judaism and ancient cuneiform texts from the Sumerians and Akkadians, point to Lilith as the first, the original wife of Adam and possible tempter of the serpent who felled humanity. One might even venture that the Angel of Death passing over the houses marked with blood was actually a vampire.
Yes, immortality does have its advantages in combat, but you’re cursed to drift from battle to battle and war to war, carrying loss for all eternity and watching your friends medically retired by training accidents and battle wounds. I’m sure I’ll face a different type of “medical retirement” should I ever develop symptoms of PTSD. A vampire with flashbacks, gnawing at a mirage. In a shared bunker. Or a training drill. They’d never allow it. Even I shudder at the thought.
dog chasing its tail—
the food chain
going in reverse
But, for now, I’m an 18D medic, saving lives rather than taking them (minus a sanctioned snacking on the enemy from time to time). Casualties have been down 70% since I was bitten. Our op tempo has picked up considerably. And the great whites that circle San Clemente Island to torment Phase III BUD/S classes have been strangely absent.
Colleen M. Farrelly