Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Vampires Bite

They suck, too.

I was going through my piles of unfinished short stories over the weekend, and I was intrigued by how many of them concern vampires. I seem to have an obsession in that area. I've been trying to figure out out why.

Vampires are nightmare monsters. They exert a control over their victims that is irresistable and then drain their victims of their very life essence--their blood. Blood horror is nearly unicersal. When we're bleeding, we can see and feel our very life draining away. A cut on the head is scary in the extreme. It bleeds like it will never stop. Even though the amount of blood loss might be minimal, a little bit goes a long way.

Then there's the whole biting on the neck thing. Our necks are very vulnerable. They're exposed and have a lot of nerves and arteries concentrated in a small area. The neck's vulnerability also plays a big role among animals. Fights for domination are often decided by the loser exposing its (usually his) neck to the victor. By offering their necks to the vampire, its victims are acknowledging the monster's dominance and their own helplessness. And then there's the thought of having a human-sized leech attached to your neck. Ugh.

Vampires live in the night, in the dark. Who's not afraid of the dark? Yeah, I know you don't like to admit it, but you get nervous when you can't see what's going on around you. That's another primal fear that humans share. We are pretty much the most helpless species going. We don't have claws or tough hides or fangs. Our growls are pitiful at best, and damn near anything can outrun us. Our only hope of survival is to see the predator in time to get up a tree ot in a hole or wherever it can't get to us. In the night, we're easy pickings.

So where does the sex come in? This is a pretty nasty creature, we're talking about. Where's the magnetism? I think it has to do with both the danger and the dominance/submission. Mortal danger has long been known as a powerful aphrodisiac. Blood is also associated with menstrual flow, taken to be a sign of fertility, and the rites of passage to manhood in many parts of the world, which often involves bloodletting of some sort. While we don't practice these beliefs in the modern world, the archetypes are still with us, the associations linger. Sex, blood, heat, danger all mix together in our subconscious to form a powerful force.

Yet, for all their powers, vampires remain vulnerable, themselves. They lie helpless through the day, hidden lest they be exposed to the deadly sunlight. They have traditionally been thought to be harmed by religious symbols and can be destroyed by physical violence--stake through the heart, beheading, etc. So, even in the dark of the night, we have weapons to protect us, both physical and spiritual. We can win against even these predators.

For all their animalistic traits, though, vampires retain a lot of human-ness. They look human and mostly act human. They walk and talk. This may be the worst of the horrors about them. They're us. We're them. Our friends, our families, strangers on the street, who might be a night-walking, blood-sucking, life-stealing monster? It might be me, heh heh.

These thoughts courtesy of Jennifer Morgan, star of "Best Teacher". That first night as a monster can be a real killer.

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