Our culture has an obsession with vampires. Brooding ones, sparkly ones, dangerous ones, ones with a soul. One of the old vampire legends is that they can change form–usually from their more human-like form into a bat or bird. Which has got to be a pretty neat trick when you’re trying to escape werewolves or lovestruck teenage girls. I don’t have any personal experience vampires, but I have battled with my own set of bloodsucking creatures. And apparently my blood was exactly their personal brand of heroin.
It all happened just north of Romania’s own Transylvania in the country of Ukraine. A coincidence? I think not. I had just arrived with a team of approximately 25 people. We were there to serve in an special non-profit home that rescues homeless kids from the streets and provides them with a loving and warm family environment. It’s an amazing program where the kids are welcomed into a family and not just crammed into an orphanage. (You should check them out at http://www.house-of-james.org. You can even make a donation or sponsor a child.)
Anyway, we had just arrived in Kiev and were going to spend the night there before heading out to the home. We were spending the night in a large church. The women were all sleeping on the third floor and there was a pile of comfy foam mattresses that were our beds. It was a gorgeous night out and so one of my teammates and I decided we were going to sleep outside on the porch. We drug our mattresses outside and settled into our sleeping bags. The night sky was beautiful–lit up with a million stars that seemed close enough to reach out and touch. Fireflies were dancing around the trees and birds were softly chirping a lullaby. Soon we were both sound asleep, cocooned in our sleeping bags.
The next morning I stretched myself awake and climbed out of my cozy bed. I smiled at my teammate and wished her a good morning. (An impressive feat since I hadn’t even had my coffee.) She looked great, stunning actually. Far more beautiful than any woman has a right to look that early in the morning when climbing out of bed. Smooth hair, perfect skin. Just beautiful. I slumped my way to the bathroom to begin brushing my teeth and pulling the knots out of my hair.
To say I’m not a morning person is a gross understatement. So I wasn’t really paying that much attention. It wasn’t until I straightened up after brushing my teeth that I actually looked in the mirror. What I saw was not pretty. I had been attacked by bloodsuckers. No, there wasn’t a set of fang marks in my neck or blood trickling down my throat. But it was a vicious attack. Apparently a scourge of mosquitoes had decided to attack in the night, and I’d been completely clueless. I sleep on my side, with my hands tucked under my chin, and you could clearly tell by the placement of the mosquito bites. Although I do change sides in the middle of the night, I spend the majority of the night on one side, and you could see that one half of my face had twice as many bright red welts as the other. The bites continued on my neck, arms, and hands. There were literally hundreds of bites–I looked worse than when I had the chicken pox. I stared at my reflection for the longest time. Baffled.
Then I opened my door and went in search of my teammate. The one who woke up looking so stunning. The one who also slept outside under the stars. Where were her mosquito bites? Apparently nowhere. She didn’t have a single mosquito bite–not one! And I had hundreds! Apparently there really is something to that “personal brand of heroin” crap–and here I thought it was just some romanticized nonsense invented to sway the hearts of the juvenile lit crowd.
I spent the next week trying to avoid scratching my face to a pock-marked mess. Those vile creatures had done quite a number on me–sucked my blood and left me miserable. Which leaves me wondering . . . maybe instead of just turning into bats and ravens, maybe vampires have perfected the art of turning into mosquitoes. It’s a brilliant plan, really. They can just attack us in our sleep and we’re none the wise . . . I’m just sayin’.