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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka


Imagine waking up one day to discover that you've been transformed into a human-sized beetle-like creature. Not only that, but you've slept in, and you're hours late for work. That's what happens to Gregor Samsa, a travelling salesman, in Kafka's novella "The Metamorphosis".

We are just to accept that this transformation happened. Was it mutation? Was it magic? Was it a curse? Was it catastrophic karmic punishment? We never know why, nor does Kafka expend any effort in offering even a hint of a reason.

The very first line dives straight in and delivers the shock factor of the novella, "One morning, as Gregor Samsa was waking up from anxious dreams, he discovered that in bed he had been changed into a monstrous vermin."

Gregor shares an apartment with his parents, who we only know as Mr. and Mrs. Samsa, and his sister Grete. The first part of the novella focuses on his panicked discovery of and hurried attempt to adjust to his new form while trying to prevent his family from discovering him this way. Much of the mobility that Gregor took for granted in his human form has to be relearned in this new insectoid body. Gregor also cannot communicate verbally, as anything he tries to say comes out as unintelligible noise.

His employer, concerned about his unexplained absence, sends the office manager over to check on him. Everyone's curiosity and concern are piqued at Gregor's refusal to open his bedroom door. The family's discovery of Gregor's new form can no longer be avoided, and after fumbling at the door handle with his weak new appendages, he manages to open the door with his mouth. The family reacts as you might expect a family to react when they discover their son is a human-sized beetle-thing. The office manager runs for his life, and Gregor tries to pursue him, but his father beats him back to retreat into his bedroom. Exhausted from the morning's events, from learning to operate this new body and badly injured from his father's physical response, Gregor falls asleep and awakens later that evening to begin the second part of the novella.

In part two, Gregor discovers that his former diet doesn't work well for his new form. His sister Grete brings him some milk and bread, a favourite of his, for which he immediately discovers he no longer has an appetite. He discovers that his bedroom makes him inexplicably uncomfortable, and he feels much more at home hiding by squeezing his bulky body under the couch in his room as best he could. His night was a fitful one, asleep and then not, troubled by his new reality and coming to grips with rearranging his life and wondering how the family will do without his income. I mean, who would buy anything from a travelling salesman who is a giant beetle?

In the morning Grete removes the virtually untouched milk and brings him some scraps of food that, if they didn't come from the garbage pail, they were certainly destined for it. Here he discovers another new thing about himself. The fresher the food is, the less he prefers it. The more rotten the food is, the better.

For several days this continued. Gregor doing little more than existing and eavesdropping on conversations (usually about him), confined to his room as his sister brought him rotten food and cleaned his room a little. The family was also going over their options, exploring the different scenarios of what would happen with Gregor this way. Gregor found himself longing to be a travelling salesman again. He could support the whole family, and he felt useful. Now, he was a prisoner in his own room and could not bear his family's expenses.

The family was not in immediate need. Some of Gregor's earnings had been salted away for a rainy day, and his father had a small amount of investment from a failed business, but all of that would be exhausted in short order.

Days turned to weeks, then months. Bored, Gregor's next discovery was that he could climb walls and his new favourite thing to do was to hang from the ceiling. After a while, when Mr. Samsa is out, Mrs. Samsa works up the courage to enter the room and help Grete remove a few furnishings from it to accommodate Gregor's wall-climbing and make the room more habitable for a beetle-creature. The realization dawns on everyone - Gregor included - that this move was a divestment, if even a small one, of Gregor's human past.

Gregor's father returns home during this, wearing what looks to be a bank teller's uniform. Gregor deduces he must have taken a job. Mrs. Samsa is distressed from the experience of moving the furniture and Mr. Samsa decides to go after Gregor, first trying to stomp his foot down on him as if he were a regular cockroach, then pelting him with apples from a fruit basket. One of the apples did serious damage, and Gregor retreated to end the second section.

The third and concluding section of the novella continues over a month later. The damage suffered from the apple severely slows Gregor, the wound will not heal and his condition is worsening. Gregor rarely sleeps or eats now, and Grete's cleaning can no longer keep up with him and the room begins slowly looking disheveled. Mrs. Samsa again works up the courage to enter Gregor's room and do some cleaning but this does not go well.

The family decides to clean out one room in their apartment and take in lodgers. Almost inevitably, the lodgers discover Gregor's existence and this forces the novella's conclusion, which I will leave for you to discover for yourself.

The Metamorphosis was originally written in German and published in 1912. , The work I listened to was translated by Ian Johnston and read by David Barnes. There are two other versions available from LibriVox, all listed below.

This novella has inspired many other creations. Seven movie versions of the story were created, and even the Simpsons tipped their hat to Kafka in the Treehouse of Horror story "Metamorphosimpsons". Other authors have retold the story from the perspective of different characters in the story and others not included. For example, Jacob Appel's novel "Scouting for the Reaper" tells the story of a rabbi challenged with providing a proper Jewish burial for Gregor. (oops, "Spoiler Alert!"). An illustrated version of Metamorphosis was created by famous cartoonist Robert Crumb.

As a foreword for Susan Berenofsky's new translation of The Metamorphosis, filmmaker David Cronenberg recently compared The Metamorphosis and his 1986 treatment of The Fly, starring Jeff Goldblum.

The 1995 Oscar-winning short film "Franz Kafka's It's a Wonderful Life" features the latest "Doctor Who" Doctor, Peter Capaldi, as the author Kafka struggling desperately to work through a rather extreme case of writer's block to complete the famous opening line of The Metamorphosis. "As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning he found himself transformed into a gigantic... banana?"

The Metamorphosis is about 50 pages long and you'll want to set aside about three hours for the audio version.

You can:

Monday, August 18, 2014

Depression


A commentary by Alan O.

Somebody once told me that a person doesn't cry because they're weak, but instead because they've had to be strong for too long. I wish I could say for sure who that was, because it's one of the most true statements I've ever heard, but at the time I was in no state of mind to remember specific details about much of anything.

For those who don't know me, or have never read anything I've written, I suffer quite severely with depression. I have done for many years now. Thinking back I've probably suffered with depression since I was about 13, but I was never an especially outgoing or happy person so nobody really noticed at first. It wasn't until I was about 15 that it became really bad and my family noticed that what was wrong with me was more than just "teenage angst". On so many levels I wish they had noticed before or that I didn't have the idea in my head that somehow mental illness was a bad thing.

Depression, while it no more defines me than any other single factor in my life does, is a part of me. Realising this has been one of the most beneficial things I've ever done. I suffer with depression and I'm not ashamed. No one should be. Mental illness is just that, an illness.

That's not something I always realised. For years I was ashamed of the thoughts I had, of the fact that I was almost completely numb and that the only thing which helped was to cut myself. And sadly the more shame I felt, the worse everything became. I can say with a great deal of certainty, considering the attitudes I've been met with when people find out I suffer with depression, that it's most likely the same for many people out there who suffer.

Society, though things are becoming much better now, still seems to stigmatize mental illness. People are afraid to talk about it because it's "not normal", they are afraid to admit they suffer because they might be seen as "crazy". Because of this discussions don't happen, people don't get the help they need and ultimately lives are lost. And that's why I talk about my depression. I don't want sympathy from anyone, instead I want people to look at me and realise that it's okay to be "crazy". I want a person to look at me and say "he's crazy, but so what?" because honestly, with the right people helping you, mental illness is no worse than an irregular heart beat. Sure it'd be great not to have it, but as long as you take care of yourself it's not going to be an issue.

The hardest part of depression is to admit you are suffering, or to admit someone you love may be suffering. It's difficult for many reasons, some personal and some societal, but the reasons really aren't important. What is important is knowing when someone is suffering. There are many different signs that point to depression, some are noticeable by the person who is depressed and others are noticeable by those around them, here are a few things to look out for in both yourself and your loved ones.

1. Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.
The feeling that nothing could ever get better and that there was nothing I could do is one of the first I can remember.

2. Sleep changes.
Sleep patterns can change significantly when someone suffers with depression. Both insomnia(difficulty sleeping) and hypersomnia(excessive tiredness and sleeping) could occur. I, personally, once slept 70+ hours in a 4 day period.

3. Anger or irritability.
Feeling agitated, annoyed or possibly even violent is not uncommon. Your mood is bad, your tolerance low and your temper short.

4. Reckless behavior.
Putting yourself in situation which are dangerous or could negatively effect your life isn't uncommon. Drug and alcohol abuse, excessive gambling or even deliberately seeking fights is not unheard of.

5. Self loathing.
A very common symptom but a hard one for anyone to really notice or acknowledge. Beginning to dislike, or even detest, yourself is a hard thing for somebody else to see so this is an important one to lookout for in yourself. This can also lead to self harm, which is a little more noticeable though most people go to a great deal of effort to hide it. If someone suddenly goes from wearing sleeveless or short sleeved tops to keeping their arms constantly covered they may be harming themselves.

These are not the only symptoms, there are many and you should know what to lookout for. For more information check out: http://m.helpguide.org/articles/depression/depression-symptoms-and-warning-signs

If you experience any of these signs please find someone to talk to, friends, family, loved ones, even "mental health helplines". Most, if not all, countries have at least one. Please find yours and get help: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_suicide_crisis_lines

If you notice any of these signs in someone you know, please talk to them. The worst it could do is leave you a little embarrassed because they are not actually depressed.

You can reach Alan O. at his blog and twitter

Editorial Note: I was going to run with this but waited. It was the week Robin Williams died. The internet was filled with news about his death, mourning, thoughts on mental health and many comments about suicide. I spoke with Alan and we decided to wait. We didn't want publicity from a trending headline. We wanted to be respectful of other people's lives. But more than anything, I wanted Alan's voice out there right because it's strong and genuine. I believe if only one person reads this and it changes their mind, helps them hang on and get help, it's worth doing right. Thank you, Alan, for this piece. It's beautiful and so are you. - Gen Xavier, GenXMedia 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey: a Forgotten Comedy Team


The comedy team of Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey are nearly forgotten today. But back in the 1930s, Wheeler and Woolsey “churned out 21 films, many of them -- Diplomaniacs, Hips Hips Hooray, Cockeyed Cavaliers --  among the best and most profitable comedies of the 1939s.”

Robert Woolsey was born August 14, 1888. His father died when Robert was only seven years old. Robert had to work to help support his mother and five siblings. His slight build made him a natural jockey. A bad fall when Robert was fifteen resulted in a broken leg and the end of his racing career. He went to work as a bellboy in a Cincinnati, Ohio hotel that catered to actors. That glimpse of Hollywood helped Robert decide to become a comedian. He created a character that he patterned after a comedian friend “right down to the horn-rimmed glasses and ever present cigar.” Robert Woolsey joined various stock companies and played small roles on Broadway. His big break came in 1927.

Meanwhile, Bert Wheeler was born April 7, 1895. His mother died when he was 17. Bert eventually went to New York City to try to break into show business. He met his first wife, Margaret, and formed a successful vaudeville team with her. They went on to be stars in the Ziegfeld Follies. Several people, including silent film great Harold Lloyd tried to lure Bert Wheeler to Hollywood but he opted to remain in vaudeville. His big break came in 1927.

Robert Woolsey                          Bert Wheeler
In 1927, Robert Woolsey and Bert Wheeler were both hired by Florenz Ziegfeld for his Broadway musical spectacular Rio Rita. This was the first time Robert Woolsey and Bert Wheeler had been teamed together. The play was such a success that RKO Pictures made a film version of Rio Rita in 1929. The film was so successful that Wheeler and Woolsey were given contracts to star in their own series of comedy films.

Rio Rita
In the next eight years, Wheeler and Woolsey made 21 films. Many of these films were hilarious and profitable hits. “Curly-haired Bert Wheeler played an ever-smiling innocent, who was easily led and not very bright.” And “bespectacled Robert Woolsey played a genially leering, cigar-smoking, fast-talking idea man who often got the pair in trouble.” Vivacious actress Dorothy Lee, who first met Wheeler and Woolsey in Rio Rita, co-starred in 13 of the Wheeler and Woolsey films. But by 1937, it was apparent that something was wrong with Robert Woolsey. Diagnosed with a kidney disease, Robert struggled to complete the Wheeler and Woolsey film On Again - Off Again (released on July 9, 1937). Robert gamely struggled on and tried to complete the next - and last - Wheeler and Woolsey film, High Flyers (released November 26, 1937). But he was unable to finish. However the studio was able to assemble a feature film from the completed footage. Robert Woolsey died from kidney and liver ailments on October 31, 1938.


Bert Wheeler continued to work sporadically in show business. He and Dorothy Lee even toured as a vaudeville act for a time. Most of Bert’s later appearances were on television; he only made four films after Robert’s death (two features and two shorts). After Robert Woolsey’s death, Bert Wheeler was never able to again achieve the level of success the Wheeler and Woolsey team had achieved. Bert died of emphysema on January 18, 1968, just two weeks after his only daughter, Patricia Anne, born 1936, died of cancer.

Our film, Hook, Line and Sinker, is the fourth team-up film for Wheeler and Woolsey as well as their fourth film for 1930. In Hook, Line and Sinker, Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey play two insurance salesmen who meet up with Dorothy Lee as Mary, a young woman who is running away from her wealthy but overbearing mother. Bert as Wilbur Boswell instantly falls in love with the sweet faced Mary. He and Woolsey, as J. Addington Ganzy, agree to help Mary renovate and run a dilapidated hotel she inherited. Unfortunately for our trio, Mary’s mother is determined to upset their plans and there are two groups of gangsters who have their own interests in the hotel.


Robert Woolsey as J. Addington Ganzy is a smooth talking, quick thinking, flimflammer. He brandishes his ever-present cigar as if it were an extension of his rapier wit. Unfortunately for Ganzy, his wit is not quite as sharp as the wit of some of the dubious characters circling in on the hotel and its safe.

Bert Wheeler as Wilbur Boswell is Ganzy’s cuter, sweeter, and slightly dumber partner. Wilbur falls instantly in love with Dorothy Lee’s baby faced and squeaky voiced Mary. The two of them are sweet and silly together, except for one scene which I’ll mention a bit later.

Along for the zaniness is Mary’s mother who is literally twice the size of her dainty daughter and the very picture of the words “old battle-axe.” Also at the hotel is a suspicious bell-boy and an oblivious house detective. There are also two different groups of gangsters, each with their own agenda, including a vampy gangster’s wife named Duchess Bessie von Essie.


Hook, Line and Sinker is filled with witty remarks and slapstick action. The various characters maneuver madly around each other and the hotel until they all collide in one wild nocturnal chase and shootout. Here are a few of my favorite funny lines from the film:

  • A traffic cop scolds Ganzy and Wilbur, “You broke a traffic law.” Ganzy replies, “Can’t you make another one?”
  • Ganzy comes up with a reason for the cop to buy life insurance: “People are dying this year that have never died before.”
  • Ganzy offers another reason: “Do you realize you have enough gallstones to start a quarry?”
  • Mary, Wilbur, and Ganzy are aghast at their first sight of Mary’s hotel. Mary says, “You know, it’s supposed to be early Victorian.” “Very early,” replies Wilbur. “Too early,” says Ganzy. Mary adds, “Mother said that all the big bugs used to live here.” “They’re probably still here,” snaps Ganzy.
  • Ganzy comes up with a plan to save the hotel, “I’ve just given birth to an idea!” “My, how you must have suffered,” replies Wilbur.
  • Ganzy is impressed with Mary’s mother and her money, “That’s a lot of woman, boy. A lot of woman.”
  • Mary and her mother think Wilbur is having an affair with the Duchess. Mary’s mother snaps, “Well there’s your Romeo making Juliette.”
  • The Duchess tries to get Ganzy drunk. Ganzy looks at his drink and says, “You know this stuff makes you see double and feel single.”
  • Ganzy flirts with Mary’s mother: “But tell me, tweetums, are you unmarried?” quizzes Ganzy. “Quite often,” replies Mary’s mother, “You know, I shall never forget my second husband.” “Your second husband?” “Yes,” Mary’s mother replies, “We met by accident. He ran over my first husband with his car.”
  •  Mary and her mother sneak around in the dark while the gangsters are shooting at each other. Mother complains. “You’ve got to stop inviting bullets in this direction. I’m too easy to hit!”


Hook, Line and Sinker is a black and white 75 minute long film. The jokes and the slapstick both come fast. There are some great scenes of Ganzy attempting to be flirtatious by making noises and acting like a wolf. And also of him repeatedly getting upset when other characters mistake his name for “Pansy”. One of my favorite scenes is where Mary’s mother literally trashes a bed and makes a club out of a bed post and goes marching off to confront the bad guys.

The movie is dated in places but nothing that is too jarring for modern viewers except maybe one particular scene. In this scene, Mary is convinced that Wilbur has been unfaithful with the Duchess. The Duchess has actually been pursuing and flirting with Wilbur in an effort to get the hotel safe’s combination. Wilbur resists her and also manages to sneakily get her gun away from her. After leaving the Duchess’s room, with the gun, Wilbur sees an angry Mary and tries to explain but Mary refuses to listen. So Wilbur pulls the gun on her and engages in what one reviewer called a “pistol seduction”. I realize that scene was supposed to be cute and amusing but I’ve seen too many real life idiots stalking and shooting their exes to find that particular scene very funny. But otherwise I thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the movie.


Overall, Hook, Line and Sinker is a good old-fashioned slapstick laugh-fest. The video quality is good despite a few quick jumps in the film and the audio quality is excellent. Modern viewers who are opposed to smoking may not like Robert Woolsey’s ever-present cigar. It is very in your face but also very much a part of the times in which the movie was made. There is a lot of slapstick violence at the end of the film with people running around in the dark shooting at each other and getting smacked and poked and knocked down. But it is all played for laughs and no one is really hurt. It is not scary enough to disturb younger viewers. There are a few double entendres, especially when Robert Woolsey is pursuing Mary’s mother (played by Jobyna Howland) but they are very mild by today’s standards.

I really enjoyed Hook, Line and Sinker. It’s too bad that most Wheeler and Woolsey films have been forgotten in time. In part, it was because of Robert Woolsey’s untimely death and in part it was because the Wheeler and Woolsey films were never packaged for television the way the films of other comedy teams were.

Of course, the best thing about Hook, Line and Sinker is that it is FREE in the Public Domain at the Internet Archive.

Please click this link and go to the Internet Archive to download or watch Hook, Line and Sinker.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Don't be Colour-Blind: On Racism and Discrimination


I am not going to be colour-blind any more. This blog post is going to be a bit of a personal one for me.

About a month ago, I had a moment of epiphany. It was one of those punch-in-the-gut things that happen every once in a while when a person engages in reflection after being given some new information or introduced to a new perspective.

In this case, I am stopping a habit I formed when I had a similar revelation in my younger days.

Racism is a very ugly thing. It is wholly unfair to those who receive it, it is born out of ignorance, and decent people want to put as much distance between it and themselves as possible. In many people, a charge of being racist draws an evisceral reaction. Racism is something that bigots engage in and wear proudly, and an enlightened and compassionate person should strive their hardest to not be included in that group.

I made the decision a long time ago to work toward "becoming colour-blind". I was determined to curb my own recognition of the colour of people's skin. To me, it was a natural and logical extension of Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous "I have a dream" speech. I would not judge a person by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character, and it made sense to me that a necessary part of considering someone as an equal was an obligation to ignore the differences, no matter how obvious, significant or real.

I cannot remember exactly when I adopted this "colour-blindness" philosophy, but I had fully formulated and grown comfortable with the concept by the time I left high school, and it was probably a product of the diversity workshops that we students were expected to attend and only gave half of our attention.

Jane Elliott is a retired American teacher. She is famous for creating what has been called "the blue eyes - brown eyes experiment". It is technically not an experiment, it is more of a directed group exercise, but it is a very abrupt and blunt illustration of how discrimination works and the effects that it can have. She created it and introduced it to her third grade class the day after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. It is a very unsettling experience that is difficult to observe and walk away from without receiving new information or discovering new things to consider.

As a person who is keenly interested in understanding the way we understand or believe things, I was fascinated the first time I watched a PBS Frontline special on the exercise called "A Class Divided". It was a multiple award-winning documentary of the exercise as she performed it with her third grade class. If you have not seen it, I highly recommend you watch it. There is so much going on in that documentary that I still get something new out of it every time I watch it.


To this day, at age 81 Jane Elliott continues her crusade against discrimination, and I recently saw a follow-up piece titled "The Angry Eye" (embedded below) where she did the same experiment with a classroom of high school volunteer students. Since the students were older, had formed ideas about discrimination, had adopted biases and a self-image and had developed a better sense of fair play the exercise itself was tuned to be intensely blunt and the results of the exercise were even more dramatic.


This was where it really sank in with me that this concept of "colour-blindness" that I had idealized was, well, simply wrong.

At 7:25 of the video, she directly addresses the "I don't see colour" concept and gave me something I had never considered before - that the statement itself reveals that you do indeed see colour in order to say that.

Then at 24:00 I learned the impact of this kind of "colour-blindness". Jane selected a young black male to illustrate her point. The class picked three obvious attributes to describe him - male, tall and black. She asked, "Is being male important to you?" The student responded in the affirmative. She asked, "Is being tall important to you?" and he again replied "yes". She asked "Is being black important to you?" and he replied once more with a "yes". She asked why, and he responded "Because it's who I am". Jane pushed the point home with explaining "When you say to a person of colour, 'I don't see you black, I just see everybody the same', people, think about that... You don't have the right to say to a person, 'I do not see you as you are, I want to see you as I would be more comfortable seeing you.'". She further explained, "We live in different realities. But when you deny what this person is going through or what this person is going through, you're denying their reality. We are as different on the inside as we are on the outside and we have the right to be so. People, don't deny differences. Accept them, appreciate them, recognize them and cherish them. They are extremely important."

That was the punch-in-the-gut moment. It was the sudden realization that whenever I proudly said, "I don't see colour, I see human beings" thinking it was a good, enlightened and progressive thing, I was really telling that person "I don't recognize a critical and valuable part of your identity."

It would be like walking up to a feminist and proudly announcing, "I don't consider you to be a woman," in an effort to express that you see her as an equal.

Think of all the struggles that Native Americans have gone through to maintain their identity and culture through repeated waves of assimilation initiatives. Now imagine saying to one of them, "I don't recognize your identity"...

That is what I was saying all those years. And so to anyone I have ever hurt or offended in my fumbling attempt to be enlightened, I offer the humblest of apologies. I have a new approach to get used to.

In this day and age, frank discussion of racism and discrimination and how they both play into the power dynamic rarely occurs, since racism and discrimination are very charged issues. If you have not watched "A Class Divided" and "The Angry Eye", please take the time to do so. It's a lesson you won't soon forget. There's one more documentary that Jane did that is worth watching, involving a group of British adults, entitled "How Racist Are You?" featured below:

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Vampire by Jan Neruda


Jan Nepomuk Neruda (1834 - 1891) was a Czech journalist, poet and writer. He was part of the Czech Realism and May movement.

Neruda was also often at the forefront of introducing new literary trends into society. In line with that is this supernatural short story.

It is a tale of supposition, of questions and assumptions. Neruda appeals to the inner fears, the vivid imagination, the superstitious nature and the subconscious of the reader.

He hints and we imagine, he leaves holes and we fill in the blanks.

A family is spending the summer months in a warmer climate, due to the failing health of their daughter. At first they hardly notice the presence of the stranger, and assume he is merely an artist looking for inspiration.

Long black locks floated to his shoulders, his face was pale, and his black eyes were deeply set in their sockets.
The imagery panders to preconceived ideas of the bloodthirsty monster. Pale, mysterious and yet undeniably alluring.
The beautiful pale girl was either just recovering from a severe illness or else a serious disease was just fastening its hold upon her.
What is it that draws the artist to the girl and not to one of the others? The scent of death is upon her, an invisible connection between the two of them seems to be floating upon the air.
Hardly had we found a suitable spot and settled ourselves when the Greek appeared again. He opened his portfolio and began to sketch.
He sits in silence, interacts with none of them and is quite content to sketch the object of his desire.
The air was as clear as a diamond, so soft, so caressing, that one's whole soul swung out upon it into the distance.
The artist is playing the pied piper of Hamlin, enticing the sickened soul into the picture. Trapping her essence on the paper. Meanwhile the family and the girl's lover are oblivious to the events taking place around them.
Each felt for himself a whole world of happiness and each one would have shared his happiness with the whole world.
He takes a final look at his work of art and takes his leave. Satisfied that he has received that which he wished to take.
We had scarcely even noticed the Greek, after an hour or so, had arisen, folded his portfolio and with a slight nod had taken his departure.
The young man, the lover, is filled with a sudden need to find out the identity of the secretive artist, who has spent the entire afternoon sketching them. He also really wants to see the sketch.
"We call him the Vampire."
"An artist?"
"Fine trade! He sketches only corpses.
That fellow paints them beforehand—and he never makes a mistake—just like a vulture!"
The attention turns to the subject of the sketch. The young woman has taken her final breath and has completed her part in the ghoulish scenario.

In her arms lay her daughter pale as chalk.

How did he do it? Has he sucked the energy or her soul from her body? Has he somehow managed to gain access to her blood at some point in time? Or does he perhaps possess the most extraordinary powers of clairvoyance?
On one sheet, sketched with a crayon, was the head of the young Polish girl, her eyes closed and a wreath of myrtle on her brow
The eerie prediction has come true, the sketch and the artist have captured the present whilst it was still the future. The stealer of breaths, life and soul has gained another victim.

For free downloads of the above mentioned story:
Download to read The Vampire by Jan Neruda at Feedbooks.
Download to listen to The Vampire by Jan Neruda, which is part of the Short Horror and Ghost Collection 006 at Librivox.