Monday, September 20, 2010

Vampires and the City

“The face of evil is always the face of total need.”
- William S. Burroughs, Naked Lunch
The vampires which haunt the City’s streets and prowl its night-spots are somewhat different from those which might be encountered in other places, other worlds.

First though, the similarities: they are indeed undead, and they must drink the blood of the living to survive. Specifically, the blood of living humans; the blood of other animals will stave off withdrawal, but won’t give them the high they crave, and leaves them in a weakened state. Like vampires elsewhere, they’re nocturnal hunters who can’t stand the light.

Unlike the cloaked, evil masterminds of some fiction (or the immortal brooders of other fiction), the City’s vampires are perhaps best analogized as addicts or junkies. A vampire in need of blood is afflicted by terrible physical and psychological symptoms of withdrawal. Whatever their moral or ethical feelings were in life (or even in their undeath), the need crippling need drives them to harm others.

In the early stages of vampirism (perhaps the first few weeks after they rise), most enjoy the “high” of blood-drinking. Many only take it from semi-willing victims they have seduced, and are often careful not to kill. Some may only need to ingest blood every other week at this stage. Over time, tolerance develops, and the amount of blood needed to hold off withdrawal becomes greater--as does their willingness to do almost anything to get it. Advanced-stage vampires may need to consume blood nightly.

This increased use takes its toll on their body. Nature abhors the vampire, and immune elements in the blood they ingest lead to the the development of sores on their undead skin. Older vampires often loose their hair and muscle mass, and have yellowed nails, teeth, and jaundiced whites of their eyes.

Eventually, they are either killed in their pursuit of blood, or their need develops to the point where they can no longer feed it, and rest throughout the day. At this elder stage, their metabolism seems to shut down. They may spend months, even years, in torpor, only rising for frenzied binges, then sleeping again. Some later stage vampires move to injecting blood rather than drinking it, as it takes less to generate the desired effect.

Vampires of the City possess most of the usual vampire powers when flush with blood, however within 4-5 days for young vampires, and perhaps only as little as a day for older ones, these powers fade to something approximately an undead version of their previous (living) capabilities. These vampires are not affected by holy symbols (unless, interestingly, the vampire was devout in life, and the symbol in question is the one of the vampire’s religion), nor running water. Sunlight does burn them, as does silver. Those with magical sight can see that vampires cast two shadows--one normal, and one which has a hazy appearance and a gauzy texture. In a mirror, the one “normal” shadow visible to everyone, can be seen to move independently of the being casting it.

Not all drained of life by a vampire become one (the chance is perhaps 1 in 4). It is unclear why some develop the curse and others do not. Ghouls can be killed by vampires, but never rise.

There are said to be underground blood-parlors in certain parts of the City--decadent establishments which first appeared in the Old World, where younger vampires and vampire-wannabes gather to feed their mutual habits. There are also rumored to be procurers who find “fresh blood” for vampire clientele for a price.


Jim Shelley said...

This was a good approach to take with Vampires! When people add vampires to stories or games, so often it's the standard brooding goth. The idea of Vampires as some sort of blood junkies fits better with the City setting and strikes me as having a lot more originality to it.

John Matthew Stater said...

Excellent post, and I love the way you weave both the Bela Lugosi types and the Nosferatu types together. Makes me wonder if some of the "hipsters" of the City use face powder and anemia to cultivate a "vampire chic" appearance.

Anonymous said...

Awesome. I love the Nosferatu type of vampire, and the idea of a type of junkie (especially with the Burroughs quote) is superb. Ever seen Andy Warhol's Dracula? It is funny, sad and weird. That and The Fearless Vampire Killers are my favorite vampire movies.

Unknown said...

I love the "vampirism as addiction" take, especially for this setting. You ever see "The Addiction" (1995), starring Lili Taylor, Christopher Walken, and Annabella Sciorra? it was rather art house but it dealt with this same approach (though with none of the creepy physical side effects).

Another great vampire move that has resonance with the City setting is Shadow of the Vampire. Dafoe's as Max Shcreck is both mesmerizing and hilarious.

Trey said...

@Ancientvaults - Yeah, the Burroughs quote really crystallized the idea for me--the challenge was trimming it down to just that bit for clarity. I've seen Andy Warhol's Dracula, and its indeed sad and weird.

I think there have been several a couple of good vampire films recently--Thirst, and Let The Right One In.

@Risus - I haven't seen the addiction, but I'll try to track it down. The recent Korean vampire film Thirst, while not explicitly touching on addiction, had some parallels.

Shadow of the Vampire is indeed very cool, and could be worked in a "City" sort of context easy.

Tom Fitzgerald said...

Excellent as per usual. I think Burroughs' concept of "the algebra of need" is also very pertinent in this scenario. Vampires would do absolutely anything to get that fix - wouldn't you?

Trey said...

Hi, Tom, and thanks. I think you're absolutely right--and spot on to what I was going for with the further quotation.

ze bulette said...

Makes me think of this guy...

Trey said...

Now be honest, ze bulette, a lot of things make you think of Iggy Pop. ;)

The Angry Lurker said...

Well thought out on the vampire myth?