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A GATHERING ela Lugosi dead, and soar 1. But whats left of Bela is rotting ina pine coffin somewhere, while Thave the opportunity to sit here on the balcony, enjoy my drink and look at you. Correct me if T'm being presumptuous, but | suspect that | have the better end of the deal. Tcan tell by looking at you that you're not comprehending. Ofcourse you're not — theseare oynical, rational times, and you're not going to believe that I'm a dead man just hecause | say so. A century ago it would have been different — well, it was quite different the last time Lhad this little talk-with someone — but thisis the age of facts. And the factsave that corpses don't move, don't walk dont talk. Um terribly sorry my dear, hut I have a surprise for yous This corpse does Sosit down. Please, I insist that you make yourself comfortable. Pour yourself something to drink, preferably from the bottle on the left — the stuff on the right isan acquired taste. It's going to bea long evening, and you're going to need a stiff dvink or two, Isuspect, After all, in the next few hours I'm going to explain to you inexcruciating detail why everything you think you know about life and death is wrong. Inother words, you don't know a blessed thing about the way the world veally works, and I'm going to open your eyes. But I'mafraid, my dear, that you're not going to like what yousee. OF BEASTS Wen: Ta Masque 1 WHATIAM efore we go any further, allow me to tell you that you re getting an un- precedented opportunity here. My Kind doesn't talk about itself to your kind — not now and, for the most part, not ever. We've spent five centuries weaving a stage curtain that we call the Masquerade to hide the real show from you, but in the end it comes down to one simple fact: We vampires don't want you mortals knowing we're out there, It's for the same reason the wolf doesn't want the sheep knowing he's around. It makes our work so much easier. And so, for example, though we do indeed possess the sharpened canines with which dime novels and the cinema have branded us, you mortals will not see them unless we choose to reveal them. Like se You're looking pale, my dear. That will never do if we're going ta be seen later — allow me to take care of looking pale for both of us. Still, 1 must admit I'm disap- pointed that you seem so disturbed by the notion of my being a vampire. Take a moment and compose yourself, if you can. Truth he told, I'm afraid that’s the least of the shocks waiting for you tonight. Please, don't waste time trying to come up with a rational, scientific explanation, because there isn't one, It's just what Lam. What many, many of us are — too many, by some accounts Provocuts A Garsennc oF Brass 3