We here at Most Worlds have dedicated April to a particularly tantalizing topic. For the sake of ease and convenience, we have prepared a handy how-to, strictly for optimum enjoyment of a delectable month’s exploration.
What are vampires (a.k.a. vampyr, nosferatu, nukekubi, упырь, etc., etc.)?
Vampires span every nook and cranny of this glorious globe, with each country possessing a unique take on the creature (some opt for chomping, bouncing heads, and some for angsty teens that sparkle; there’s no accounting for taste). But, no matter where they are located, each vampire has a few essential commonalities:
- They are not alive.
- They fly in the face of religious beliefs, representing some twisted inversion against societal niceties.
- Most often their activity is nocturnal, though not always.
- They deplete the energies of the living, commonly through feeding on their blood. In general, vampires are a blood-soaked lot.
When it comes to the brass tacks of defining vampires, it really depends on the area. Sometimes they’re reanimated corpses. Sometimes they’re demons, or witches, or any other wholly supernatural creation. Some legends discuss wounds or illnesses or even cats as responsible for spawning the beasts, and others conflate the entire concept with succubi. In general, vampires are seen as unnatural abominations against humanity.
Wait, so are vampires zombies?
No. Not even close. I mean, I suppose they both fit under the category of “undead creatures who must feed on the flesh of the living to survive,” but the reality is much more nuanced. On the one hand, there’s zombies. Shambling, brainless, degenerating creatures. They quest for brains with all the single-minded focus of traveling businessmen in hunt for a bar, but that is the utter sum of their existence. On the other hand, vampires. Smooth and scheming, a vampire does thirst for human blood, but has complex motives. Part of it is for survival. Part of it is to feel human again. And a huge part of their modus operandi is just for kicks and giggles. Some vampires stalk human prey because they can, and they torment their victims for the pure joy of it. To a zombie, the brain is the end game. For a vampire, the thrill is in the chase. They’re the bad ex-boyfriend, the douchey frat boy, but with a never-ending lifespan.
Should I ever engage with a vampire?
Short answer? Probably not a good idea. Long answer? It’s complicated.
As aforementioned, vampires are devoid of the typical human “soul” (e.g., religious/moral spirit imbuing the body, or even some ethereal code that keeps us to that moral path), and instead possess a sole purpose to feed on human blood. Under those parameters, it seems like vampiric interaction would be a bad idea, something akin to a gazelle chumming around with a lion. There might be some fun involved, some cavorting, some rousing games of tag, but, in the end, one is the predator and the other is the prey. There’s only one outcome. I don’t want to discount the so-called tortured vampire or those who have turned into creatures of the night against their will. They might make lovely companions. But even if the vampire is not about to feast on flesh, there’s still the matter of their undead status. What could be called the eternal life clause. Someday, death’s icy fingers will visit, and only the vampire will be left standing. Whether death comes through violent means or not, it’s still inevitable and still puts a damper on any association. Why cause the heart such pain?
How can I defeat a vampire?
This is debatable. Common weapons include sunlight, chopping off the vampire’s head and hands, the ever popular stake through the heart method, or burning some or all of the body. My personal favorite method involves exhuming the corpse, stacking its bones like some morbid game of pick-up-sticks, and placing the skull and hands on the top of the stack. I think the idea behind this is that it thoroughly confuses the vampire when they awake, and, in their frustration at not being able to reassemble and mobilize, they just give up. Oh well, I can’t find the hip bone to go into the leg bone, might as well abandon my quest for mischief and blood-letting.
If straight-up annihilation of the vampire sounds unappealing or too involved, there are also safeguards one can take against them. Temporary distractions that can allow you to escape and leave other mortals to tangle with the foe. Crucifixes, garlic, wild rose, crossing running water, and climbing very tall trees can help protect against vampire attacks. A lot of those cross over into evading bears as well. The more you know!
Are vampires sexy?
Yes! Every vampire should be a little bit sexy. Sex is deep set in vampiric genetics—if there’s no erotic pull, the danger becomes merely terrifying (see again: zombie) instead of mostly alluring. But this is very important: the sexiness should have that raw edge of danger. And I’m not talking about boy-on-a-motorcycle danger, some kind of neutered kicking against well-established pricks. A motorcycle can be dangerous, but it’s still accepted by society. The leather jacket that accompanies it is still an accessory, to be taken off when the man underneath cleans up for some magical ball.
A vampire’s danger can never be taken off. It can never be accepted by society. The vampire sexiness holds the promise of pain, of suffering, but in the immortal words of John Cougar Mellancamp, it “hurts so good.” Without a surety of eternal damnation and torture, a vampire becomes Edward Cullen, which is to say, no vampire at all.
Hold on. If vampires were real, wouldn’t they have killed off everyone by now?
Oh, I see the logic behind that thought. The whole ecosystem balance idea, right? Where if vampires are the predator, and their only defeat lies in the soft squishy hands of their only prey, wouldn’t it stand to reason that they would have killed off their prey, that is to say, humanity? Especially if one assumes that they feed and simultaneously create more vampires.
That’s some solid sciencing there. And I’m sorry to burst that safe little bubble, the comforting mantra that vampires can’t possibly be real because of that overpopulation risk, but here I go. Bubble bursting all over the place. Here’s the thing—no one is safe. Seeking solace in numbers will not hide that. Vampires don’t create new vampires with every feeding frenzy, so that expansion of one vampire making one vampire a night, and then growing, does not work. Sorry. Vampires can sip a little here, a little there, with nary a new companion created. Also, vampires are pretty hardy, and can last days without sustenance. Sure, they’ll age a little, but, as far as predators go, they’re far from overrunning the planet. No, they’re far too savvy for that to happen.
Point? Math doesn’t prove that vampires aren’t real, so lock that window and pull that bed cover over your soft throat.
So, why vampires?
Because they’re just so juicy (please pardon any punning).
The ideas behind vampires are fascinating. They often include some religious angle, born from someone fearing types of indecency. Vampires are seductive, willful, “unnatural” (there’s that word again), and fly against societal expectations. Something that takes pure, unadulterated joy from flouting norms—reveling in mischief and causing property damage, promiscuously entering other’s homes and exchanging fluids without remorse, indulging insatiable appetites, living forever in sinful pleasure and paying no obeisance to a higher power—that’s dangerous. In one sense, vampires are the other side of the line, the pit someone can fall into if they don’t follow the letter of the law, whatever that law may be. But even in that subversion, vampires are alluring. They are the ultimate outsiders, longing to come in. Isn’t that the goal with all the humanity terrorizing? To pull at the pigtails of humans until they are accepted back into the fold? So there’s the element of the outcast trying to re-enter something pure and good, and yet vampires look like they are having the time of their lives. Many times, they are unapologetic, making the debauchery of their lifestyle deliciously tantalizing. So in that sense, vampires represent freedom from expectation and rules, an irresistible but perilous alternative to humdrum normality.
Vampires are the ultimate representation of moral tug-of-war. They upset the balance of good and evil, they infect clear ideas of what’s right and what’s wrong. In that regard they’re fascinating. We here at Most Worlds love the idea of liminal spaces, the gaps in between thresholds, the crossover between what’s real and what’s magical. That’s where vampires reside, so that’s an idea worthy of exploration.