The Vampires of Kodak Park

When I was in my twenties I moderated
a horror role-playing game for my friends.
Vampire: The Masquerade, it was called,
and it was set in a world much like ours,
but darker: more poverty and cruelty,
a deepening of the usual societal decay.

Plus, of course, there were the vampires.
Vampires and werewolves and witches,
all playing their power games, employing
supernatural powers for blood and profit.
It was all very gothy and grim – an ideal
proxy for our privileged yuppie angst.

I set the game in a crumbling version of
Rochester, New York, where we lived.
Dark fairy godfathers ran crime families,
making the Lilac City run with crimson.
Romani caravans camped in the suburbs,
and the impoverished masses trembled.

And Rochester’s favorite corporate son,
the Eastman Kodak Company, was dead.
The area’s premier real-world employer
had failed. Its vast properties lay empty.
In the industrial complex of Kodak Park,
voids echoed with the groans of zombies.

Inevitably, my dystopian fantasy ended.
I got depressed and had to leave the dark.
I got more depressed and moved south,
and our vampire-haunted Rochester, with
its warlocks and were-tigers and despair,
faded to shared, ghostly memory. Except…

Before I left Rochester, I worked for Kodak
for a period of several months – the time
during which a C-level Kodak exec was
reported to vow: “We are a film company!
Our future is not in digital technology!”
It wasn’t. They filed bankruptcy in 2012.

Last month I visited family outside Utica,
and they’d been to Rochester recently.
They said it was not in very good shape.
They said there was poverty and cruelty,
a deepening of the usual societal decay.
Like our 90’s Lilac City, but much darker.

I don’t know if undead feet shuffle through
the abandoned gloom of the industrial park.
I can’t say whether vampire lords have filled
the vacuum left by fallen corporate giants.
But I’m troubled by reality mirroring fiction.
Our nightmare wasn’t meant to come true.

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