To the eye, they are no different from other women and young girls. But they are possessed by a spirit – the spirit of loving Spike. As is so typically the taste of the New York female, Spike is a largely unavailable man. For one thing, he’s not a man. He’s a vampire. And British. But come on. What has reality ever had to do with love?Spike, of UPN’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer, is kind of a Byronic character: He walks in beauty like the night of cloudless climes and starry skies and all that’s best of dark and bright is in his aspect and his eyes. And his cheek bones and his seductive Sid Vicious sneer. As Caroline Adley, 12, succinctly puts it, “He’s hot.”The reasons to love Spike are many. The mass-cultural landscape of 2002 is not exactly crowded with figures who, like Spike, drink blood and exude danger and romance and wear dark nail polish and smoke. Or possibly used to wear dark nail polish and smoke. But Spike isn’t just bad. He’s gleefully, charmingly bad, offering a sarcastic running commentary on his own appalling exploits. Jilted by his vampire girlfriend Drusilla in the third season, he offered: “I’ll tie her up and torture her until she likes me again. Love’s a funny thing.” Women who love Spike are fetishistic about details. Leah Hennessey, 14, points out that when he went to Africa two seasons ago to get his soul restored – don’t ask – he apparently left his leather coat there. “He killed a slayer to get that coat!” she says. “It was such a nice coat.” Spike has been insane and a little incoherent this season. (Per Leah, “Saint-Marks-Poetry-Project Spike.”) He has been having even more good-versus-evil issues than usual. “Without good Spike, we couldn’t love evil Spike,” says Lizzie Himmel, 16. “When he’s evil, he’s sexier, but when he’s good, he’s more important.” “He understands in a bigger way,” adds Paisley Weinstein, 33. Basically, Spike may be a mass murderer who attempted to rape Buffy, with whom he has been having what could most accurately be characterized as a passionate off-again/off-again relationship. But as Elaine Murray Adley, 46, mother of Caroline (yes, there are entire Spike households), notes, “There’s something vulnerable about the guy.” He is often tied up or otherwise constrained, which strangely enhances his allure. Last weekÃ•s cliffhanger left him strapped to what looked very much like a bondage wheel in a crucifixion pose, bleeding suggestively. “Spike’s on a spiritual journey,” says Leah’s mother, Mara Hennessey, 40. “In the beginning, when Leah was younger, I was disturbed by her being drawn to Spike. He seemed untrustworthy. But now I realize you can trust Spike as much as you can trust yourself. If not more.” Women who love Spike condemn the attempted rape, but we know he is doing what he can to atone: “If you have to apologize for trying to rape someone, the best way is by going away to get a soul,” says Leah. “I mean, who does that?” It says something for the skills of James Marsters, the (American and human) actor who is the actual owner of those delicious cheekbones, that Spike devotees denote the object of their love as “Spike,” rather than as “James Marsters.” Marsters is an elusive guy; trying to ascertain his actual age, reputed to be around 40, is a perennial pastime on various Buffy web sites. Whereas Spike is the kind of man or demon – whatever) who has proven that he would give up the chance to plunge the entire world into living hell in order to save a relationship. In other words, he puts romance ahead of career. And I mean, this is New York. Who does that?