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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Matt Allen's Guide to Vampires

     This was inspired by a post on a NaNoWriMo forum about the technical aspects of vampires. Basically a "nuts and bolts" breakdown of how they work. Instead of writing protracted amounts regarding the inner workings of these creatures, I decided to bring together pieces I have already written under generalized headings. What follows is told from the perspective of Matt Allen and other characters to reveal what vampires are like in various circumstances, all told in Matt's signature style.
Matt Allen's Guide to Vampires

     Vampires were . . . well, the longer they were around, the more physically perfect they became. And Nikki had been around for awhile. Without fuzzing a man's mind she could dry the mouth. The only reason I didn't fall at her feet was because I knew what she was, and that scared the hell out of me. It wasn't fair, really. Vampires got more powerful and better looking with age.

Being Bitten
     I don't think I'd want to remember all of the stuff I've been through in life. The last half hour was definitely part of that. The scariest thing was that I still enjoyed it. I think I enjoyed it even more now than I did when she stopped. I knew in my head that it had been awful, but the feelings associated with the memory were gradually becoming pleasurable. Maybe there was a need to get that holy water on the wound quickly. Maybe that could dispel the feeling. This was the first time more than just a couple of minutes had gone by since I'd been bitten.

     Despite being dead, vampires did breathe. Air was necessary to talk, after all, and the habit of breathing was a hard one to drop.

     "I could make you, Matthew. You know I have the power. You're a little more stubborn than Zachary was, but no real challenge." Zachary. That must have been the kid who she was sucking on when I came up. Unfortunately, she was right. She could make me, that was the big fear of coming in here, too. I knew better than to think I had the willpower to resist her. No one really did. If she turned her mind on me, I'd become her happy little puppy.
     "I know you could," the words came out in a slow rush, each one seeming dragged out but also rushed between syllables, "but you won't." Time to play some poker; it was all I could do.
     "And why won't I, Matthew?"
     "It means more to you for me to give myself over to you. And if you force me, I become less useful." All true. The pleasurable forcing, what she had done to Zachary most likely, became addictive. The anticipation and desire of it overrode other things. I'd end up coming back in here and doing whatever it took to get more from her. Nikki was smart, though. She had been able to put to use information I had given her in the past. I'd be less able to get more information if she did this to me. I didn't have an inhuman willpower, but I had some good wits about me, and a knack for figuring things out. That would be gone if she started to play with my mind.

     That's when I felt it. It wasn't a voice in my head, or one of those stupid mind controls where a guy repeated everything, or even a weight or a pressure. This was being wrapped in a warm blanket on a cold night, given hot chocolate with little marshmallows, and the voice of mom saying, "I'll make it all better" It felt good; too good.
     I was wrapped up in her will, and it was enfolding me in warmth and would soon become as necessary to me as Linus's blanket was to him.

     I wasn't any good at this whole interrogation thing. A real criminal would easily defeat me, but I wasn't after that. I wanted that illogical hole flushed out so she could confront it.

     The force of a vampire's will, the suggestions made, like all suggestion, left the mind, will, or soul—whatever someone believed—vulnerable to more suggestions. Each time it happened it became easier, too. I didn't know how many times Vlad had pushed his will onto Alice. For some of it he probably didn't need to, but she was definitely touched by him. The logical gap had proven that.

     "Still, a half-vampire would be great to kick ass with. All the benefits of a vampire, only the blood thing to deal with. Sounds like my kind of gig."
     "Well, kid, hate to burst your bubble, there ain't no such animal. Vampires don't do just half-way. You are one, or you aren't. An incomplete ritual either kills the victim or they get better from it."

     Vampires were predators, and like any predator, morality didn't enter into the argument. In fact, I think they reveled in their amorality.

     "Have I told you how delicious your fear is, Matthew? There is something about it that makes everything more savory."
     Okay, this put me over the edge, and now my skin did crawl with goose flesh; the ice pit in my stomach was back, too, and she wasn't even touching me. It wasn't her description. Well, it wasn't just her description, but something I realized. Fear was just as much a part of it as the blood. She got off on it somehow; most likely they all did.

Food and digestion
     "So what happens to the stuff you eat? I know you don't get anything from it, but it's got to go somewhere."
     "Really, Matthew, I thought you had more tact than to bring up an indelicate subject like that."
     "That don't answer the question, doll."
     "As you say, it must go somewhere. Let me just say that it becomes messy, but in order to appear human, it is necessary. I couldn't blend in very well if all I did was push food around on my plate. Plus, I must admit, I do love the taste of some food. The contrasts of flavors and textures are truly wonderful. Just because I get sustenance from other sources does not mean I can't enjoy fine cuisine."

     To vampires, garlic in the blood was like rotten fish, spoiled milk, fermented meat, and the strongest cheese known to man all rolled into one.

     The whole thing about vampires being invited in was true, but only in a certain way. The place first had to be consecrated or made holy to keep such creatures out. Of course, an invitation neatly dispelled such consecration. I'd have to call Richard Perkins, my minister, again and see if I could convince him to reconsecrate the place. That was another thing that the stories never covered. Once anything crossed over with an invitation, that was it; anything could. Now an entire army of darkness—sans Ash—could plow through my office.

     Of course, I had to have proof, which was its own problem. Sure, a regular P.I. would take pictures and drop them off to the parents; case solved, collect the money. Problem was, vampires didn't photograph. They weren't missing like in movies, but they appeared to be a blur or an unfocused dark spot. Mirrors were the same thing. The reflection just didn't cast properly. I hadn't quite figured it out completely, but suspected it had something to do with how light worked on vampires.

     Men shot blanks, and the women didn't ovulate. Of course, the snippet of text I had found that alluded to that hadn't called it that. Instead it was, "The devil that doth possess these creatures doth rob the male of its seed, nor is the woman guided by the cycle of the moon." I had confirmation when I took a case where a vampire had charmed and used up the daughter of this couple. The rape kit the police had done revealed fluid, but no swimmers.

     "When you get bitten, they leave something on you. Think of it like a scent or something. They can find you again after biting you once. Holy water cleans it off."

     Silver actually did some good, though. Something about it worked. Not sure what exactly, but it did. A weapon of silver did its job well, though. They wouldn't kill, not with something simple, anyway. Something about how silver reflected light was important, too. Sunlight reflected off of silver was just as good as being in the open light. But it had to be pure silver, and not sterling or anything else. Having my pocket knife blade made of pure silver had cost me a bit, but I was glad I had it done. I took a little time rummaging in the junk to unearth it from under an old newspaper. Knives were a weapon of last resort. Silver bullets sound good, but even though they go through a vampire like they would a man, they didn't slow them down as much, and definitely didn't kill. Certainly not as easy as they do in popular television or movies. The best, surest way to kill a vampire was the sun.

     It was a clue to her age. I thought she was only over one hundred, but she was closer to two, or maybe even more. I'd have to look at some of my notebooks to be sure, but I was fairly sure Nikki could be awake during the day, maybe even tolerate sunlight in a room. Not being in the light, of course, no vampire could do that, but even those old enough to be awake during the day were nearly blinded by the brightness of the sun's light. For them, just being in the same room as sunlight was like staring straight into the sun for an hour.

     Vampires didn't have a society, really. There were no vast hierarchies or family bloodlines or any of the other nonsense found in movies. Vampires only created other vampires for two reasons. The first being accidental. There was no owner's manual on being a vampire, and sometimes the mewling young are just cast out into the wilderness. It wasn't as simple as just feeding, though. There definitely was a little more to it than that, but not much more. The other reason was loneliness. Old Bram had it right; vampires do feel. They love, they hurt, and they get lonely. The only thing was that vampires had power, and power tended to corrupt. Also, the human elements of emotion can erode over time. It doesn't become vampire and vampire, but power and power, and those types of struggles never really ended well. I'm sure there were exceptions, but a vampire couple, never aging, surviving indefinitely, was not very probable. Break ups could be bad, too. Someone who hated your guts and was going to live forever as a constant rival usually didn't fly well, especially as time went on he or she would get more power. There just wasn't much point to creating others to compete with your food beyond those. Vampires had no natural predators, and were so resistant to other things they didn't have to fear much from humans.


     Stakes were a half-truth. Vampires could be hurt by certain wood, and a stake of that wood through the heart would kill as long as it connected to the earth; if removed, though, they would come back. It had to be special, though; a chair leg wouldn't do a thing to them. Olive wood, hawthorn, and ash were the best, but they had to be specially prepared. Stabbing with the sharpened end of a branch was as effective as a splinter.
     Staking was difficult as hell. Pull it out at the wrong time, and they heal up and really ruin your day.

     I circled around the desk to get a closer look, and then I could see the texture of lines in the star. What I saw in the picture was definitely a branding iron, but no brand would leave a permanent mark on a vampire. At the first feeding it would heal, but silver would leave . . .
     "Stigmata. The iron was made of silver."
     "But why is it still here? Virgin's blood—"
     "Did not work," she finished, and started putting her blouse back on.
     "Who did it?"
     "A bishop," she said simply. That might explain it. Faith had weird effects like that.

     As soon as the sun hit him, he disappeared into grey ash in stages. The window light wasn't big enough to get the whole of the vampire, so we had to move parts of him into it when room became available.

     I held it solidly, then slowly pushed the edge of it, still in the bag, past the edge of the shadow and into the sunlight. Immediately there was a hiss, and I could see the intense cold causing a wisp of smoke as the flesh flashed to cold ash and the bag had become brittle and cracked around it, letting the fine ash spill out onto the ground.

     Jasmine waved a hand in front of her face, trying to cool skin that beaded with sweat and cheeks that hinted at rosiness due to the exertion. Nikki, though, was as cool and dry as if she had never moved a muscle. I had never thought about it, but I guessed it was only natural that she wouldn't sweat. That was another tidbit filed away for later.

     Her fangs. They weren't her canine teeth, though, but a second set of teeth behind them. I saw them once, on the guy I had actually killed. They were recessed up in the gum tissue, looking like a thickness behind those regular incisors, until ready to feed, then they came down, almost like claws on a cat. Needle sharp and coming down just behind the canines, they lined up so they almost seemed like an extension of them. I for one did not like that I had a first-hand look at seeing them here. The incisors looked like solid teeth, though longer now, and I'm sure if I had time and a magnifying glass to study them like an egghead scientist, I'd see where the teeth overlapped, but I had other things on my mind.

     "As I said, we cannot detect one another save by personal contact, but then you could identify one with that as well."
     "Yeah; not wanting to get that close." Movies had that wrong, too. Vampires didn't have telepathy or any kind of mystical homing beacon to other vampires any more than I could say where Jen was at this moment.

Ultraviolet light and acid
     "Man, you should carry around one of those UV lights like in Blade or a sword with acid in it or something, then you'd be all like whaaaaa slash shwing! Dead vampires everywhere, man."
     "Dear Lord in heaven! You actually believe that crap? Listen up, kid, here's the skinny. Ultraviolet light is crap. It doesn't work. It's sunlight they're afraid of. Whatever it is about sunlight that they don't like, science hasn't discovered how to do it artificially. Acid is also worthless. Doesn't do a damn thing besides make them a little mad."

Vampire blood
     [The media] believed that a vampire's blood was the best, but it was junk compared to even regular human blood.

Vampire hunters
     Killing vampires was like downing fighters in the Great War. It didn't take many kills to make you an ace. Then everyone comes gunning for you.

Virgin blood
     Virginal blood was special. Vampires loved the stuff because it was the ultimate in what they would ever taste. Virginal blood would heal them faster, too. Wounds made from the stuff I carried could be healed easily with virgin's blood.

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