I could recognize her anywhere, especially in bat form. Agness, grand kiss-ass to the Vampiress Queens of Canal Street, her black wings tipped with a tinge of blood orange, accented against the warn dark night, a feature she was so proud off, flapped impatiently outside my window.
Bats are blind, yet her black beady bat eyes bore into me with the exact malevolence that I had leveled at her for the last 103 years. I was made 75 years before her, and although that’s minute in our time, any other vampiress would have respected the years. But not Agness. I wonder how she found me?
I reflexively began to reach for a half-empty bottle of Ardbeg on the rickety dresser, but sanity prevailed. She was on official business, and I was in enough holy water already--which by the way, has no power over vampires, so we use it in jest. Ironically, besides Blood, liquor is the only liquid we can drink. For some, it’s as meaningless as holy water, but for others like me, it strengthens the intensity of the Blood when drinking. Blood is also a 100% cure for our hangovers, which is yet another benefit of being a vampire who drinks heavily.
I finally opened the window into the black night, “Agness, come on in. It's been too fucking long. Where've you been keeping yourself, honey child?” Agness needed an invite to enter my abode as much as we needed an invite to enter mortals’ homes. Another vampire myth exposed. But back in the olden days, vampires came perilously close, in two Vampire World Wars, to destroying our race entirely over what essentially amounted to bad table manners. After 130 years, in the smoke and ruins, a faction of the remaining vampires who had not been driven insane or withdrawn into isolation formed a supreme council that came to be known as the Patriarchate Apportens Mortis. Comprised initially of representatives from various Legions, it rose up to govern the entirety of the vampire realm. For thousands of years after that, the universal rule of fang became civility at all costs. Smaller wars between vampire broods and clans continued, but we always outwardly remained civil, and this meant always asking to enter the home or territory of another vampire.
However, that outward civility was nothing more than pretense. You see, the vampyres from the Cōnstantīnopoli Legion (today’s Europe) had started both world wars that sucked the rest of the vampire world into an inferno of devastation. Because of this, after the last war finally ground to a bloodsoaked, uneasy peace, the other vampire legions, wanting nothing to do with them (“Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me”), only maintained membership in the Patriarchate Apportens Mortis so as not to offend the violent Cōnstantīnopoli Legion, as well as to keep tabs on them for possible signs of brewing trouble.
The Africanas Legion, the last to enter both wars, was the single exception. A slim majority of the Africanas Legion’s covens and clans were governed by vampiresses, and those that were not still had strong vampiress leadership. This is why the Africanas Legion severed all diplomatic relations with The Cōnstantīnopoli Legion, because the same vampyre who caused both wars not only continued to dominate with an iron fang, but also refused to acknowledge any of the blame for the violence and destruction they had caused. Further, they allowed no vampiress voices, let alone leadership, and they continued their haughty and bellicose behavior inside the rest of the league, particularly directed at The Africanas Legion. This was the foundation of the War to End All Wars, which ultimately pitted Vampiresses against Vampyres.
The Cōnstantīnopoli Legion rightfully took The Africanas Legion’s withdrawal as a double threat because they heald great influence over The South Americas Legion, and, to a much lesser extent, The Orient Legion. Further, the strong political and social role of Vampiresses in The Africanas Legion caused domestic discontent with women in The Cōnstantīnopoli Legion over their powerlessness.
The Cōnstantīnopoli Legion’s rulers countered by destabilizing the Patriarchate Apportens Mortis in order to completely control it. Once this happened, they created loyalist factions inside the other legions, especially in The Orient Legion. These factions sent both single assassins to destroy vampiress leaders and outspoken vampyres who dared supported them, as well as special operation teams to spread terror by attacking places where large number of vampires gathered or slept.
A mere century later, a mid-level vampiress inside the Olokun betrayed the movement after being seduced by a Cōnstantīnopoli Legion operative. Within days, at least one hundred women were arrested and transported to Cōnstantīnopoli. Without trial, thirty of them, deemed to be the leaders, were first weakened by Bloodletting, then at midnight tied to a sacred monument comprised of ten fifty-foot marble statues of “the founding vampyre of Cōnstantīnopoli” and left to meet the morning sun. The others were granted “mercy” and burned at the stake at night.
All three legions, in order to stave off another war, supported a crushing “tribute” to be paid to Cōnstantīnopoli, in the form a large monthly quota of Blood based upon the size of the legion’s realm. The effect, of course, was to keep them weak and Cōnstantīnopoli strong. They also completely outlawed political, economic and social dissent from all Vampires and indefinitely suspended all rights of all Vampiresses throughout the three legions.
The sides between Vampire Patriarchy and Matriarchy were drawn.
Agness misted in, took humanly form and strutted around my dark and barren apartment as if she owned the whole decrepit building. It was the perfect hideout for a vampire, above a long-shuttered hardware store on a barren stretch of West Armitage Avenue in Logan Square. The Great Recession kept gentrification away west of California Avenue, and for good measure, La Ultima Baraca, one of the last bucket-of-blood bars in Chicago, was owned by the Alderman and managed by the Insane Unknown street gang. This ensured that this section of Logan Square would remain ungentrified for the foreseeable future.
“Let's jettison the pleasantries, Simone,” she said curtly, knowing that I hated being called by my mortal name by anybody but the Queens. They were both like mothers to me, and to Agness as well, unfortunately, which was hellish for both of us. We both played for their affection, but she far more than I ever could. I thrived on my renegade, battlefield-tested and hardened persona, which always found me on their dark side. And Hell hath no fury like the punishment of a Mother Vampiress's wrath, especially because forever is a long time. Agness, on the other hand, was the exemplar orderly bureaucrat, always five steps ahead of everyone in terms of planning.
“All right,” I said, “Say your piece and fly.” “Awesome,” she snapped, sweeter than saccharin that causes cancer in laboratory rats. “The Queens demand that you immediately close out your assignment and appear before them to answer for the following transgressions: three acts of vampire-grade violence directed at a human unconnected to a sanctioned termination, and ten acts of sexual contact with humans, female." This was another reason why she hated me. Both of us are lesbians; I, however, am out of the coffin about it.
She stood there in her English schoolgirl outfit, complete with black polished penny loafers, but instead of pennies, she had inserted gold staters with roaring lion emblems, heirlooms that she claimed belonged to the Vampiress who made her. They were circa 610 BC from the early years of the Mermaid Dynasty. In our world, lineage is everything, and I had zero.
In early 19th century New York, I escaped a brutal orphanage where we were abused and sent to toil in factories throughout London. If this was not bad enough, a new headmaster replaced the old and decided that we could make more money as teenage prostitutes. I was his choice to be the first broken in by him, but instead I slit his throat in his bedchambers. Then I fled into the streets with my closest friend, who would eventually become my first love, Kate. First, though, we freed the rest of the children and burned the place to the ground. Several of us lived on the streets by wit, which included posing as prostitutes in order to rob men after we rendered them most vulnerable without clothing.
Soon, our reputation got out with young waifs from all around. Even those with families were subject to all types of sexual abuse and exploitation in factories. Because of this, we took on runaways as well as orphans. I was naturally charismatic, and beyond an escape from their horrible conditions, I began to realize these young women were drawn to me. We became like a large, close-knit family. Closest of all were Kate and I, who eventually became lovers, the unofficial matriarchs of our ever-growing family. Where Charles Dickens’ gang of thieves and Fagan were fiction, we were real.
We targeted the wealthiest Londoners, particularly those who had a taste for teen children. Their depravity worked in our favor, because even when they were robbed and beaten, they would never report the crimes out of shame. Things went well for a time and seemed to have the potential to continue indefinitely, until we killed the wrong man.
Kate had been alone one night, and while we usually travelled in groups, she had stepped out for a quick walk to get some air. Though I couldn’t imagine living without her, I always admired her independence, so I thought nothing of it at the time. There on a deserted street, a man who turned out to be a member of Parliament cornered, beat and raped her.
She tried to describe him to me, but he dressed in the same drab way all the upper class trash did, so it could have been nearly any man who passed by. I thought it might be worth it just to attack them all, but held back. Although many of them probably deserved it, I didn’t want to potentially expose us. Kate tried to play strong, but something in her eyes had changed. Their dark brown shade was as deep as ever, but now betrayed a hauntedness that I have come to recognize in too many other women’s eyes as well. She didn’t go out on our “missions” with us for a long time, but there was always enough to go around. We were there for each other in our family, and there was no sense of having to “earn your keep.” One day, as we were treating ourselves to a nice lunch earned by a pervert’s particularly fat wallet, Kate’s face fell. She was staring across the street with the almost same expression as when she came home that terrible night.
There he was, casually chatting with an also repugnant-looking colleague. It took everything in me not to launch myself at him that very moment and pour on him every ounce of pain he had caused my beloved. But I stopped myself. Well, actually, Kate and the other girls with us stopped me. But I memorized his face: round, constantly a burnt red, with piggish cheeks that nearly covered his beady blue eyes, and began planning.
For a while I bided my time, closely studying his comings and goings, before I finally paid him a visit. Late one night, when he came home drunk as usual from his fox hunting club, I was in front of his doorstep, crying like the wretched. I had scrounged up a few of my raggedy clothes from my orphanage days, faded and browned with time. They didn’t fit as well anymore, but that just added to the effect. He asked me what was wrong, and I poured out a sob story of how my father had died tragically, and, though she tried to make ends meet, eventually my poor mother was sent to poorhouse, leaving me to fend for myself. Funny enough, it was the truth, but it always did the trick when it came to these sick bastards.
His words were gentle, but I saw him salivating like a wolf as he invited me in. Although he clumsily locked the door when we entered, with a quick hand I quietly unlocked it again the second his back was turned. I knew he was so drunk and preoccupied that he wouldn’t even notice the slight creak as I pushed it open. As he carried me up the stairs, I glanced back and smiled at fifteen of my gang.
We meant to hurt him in the most hideous fashion. We meant to carve him down there so badly that he could never rape another child. Instead he bled out. To be fair, we had achieved our goal.
Funny how the most evil men always rise to the top in society. Murder of an “esteemed” government official meant that soon we were England’s most wanted. We split a decent amount of loot, and I boarded the first freight ship out to New Orleans with Kate. Though we could have paid a ticket, our outlaw status meant we were stowaways with the rats. And there were heaps of them. Still a mortal, I couldn’t control them, nor keep them away. We both got scurvy but were barely holding on until a nasty rat bite of Kate’s became infected. As always, she was strong. Strong to the very end.
I stayed by her side, trying to nurse her back to health. Ignoring the sickness I felt taking hold of me as well, I tried everything I could to save her. Admittedly, that didn’t amount to much in the grimy, dirty, rat-infested hiding place we occupied below deck, but I felt so powerless, once again unable to stop the pain she felt.
She was gone by the time we arrived, and though I refused to admit it, I was on my way too. Still, the city of New Orleans drew me in, and for a little while I found a world, that while still susceptible to the same evils (and for me, the same pocketbooks) that any place inhabited by humans is, helped me adjust to the yawning loneliness that threatened to take me over.
In England we had been alone. One reason we grew so fast was because there was practically nothing else out there for young women. Yet here, I found other powerful and wily women around every corner. Some gave me acknowledging glances, some tried to glare me away as I threatened their territory. I began to notice a group in some ways similar to the one in my hometown, yet there was something aloof and wizened about them that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I soon learned that they were known among the underground as The Olokun. Few of them were outwardly hostile, but they mostly kept their distance. Even in sickness though, I recognized my own gifts and allure, and a few of them were drawn to me. I didn’t fully understand just how they were drawn to me until I began hearing death calling my name.
I mostly slept during the daytime and operated at night. One night though, even after sleeping all day, I couldn’t find it in me to get up. Still in denial of my health, I thought perhaps a little bit of a longer nap would reinvigorate me, but right before I closed my eyes, I noticed a few of these women out of the corner of my eyes.
Though none of them seemed to pose a danger nor had ever threatened me, I sat upright immediately and began feebley attempting to stand. As the dizziness took over, I began to realize how ill I really was. By the time I made it upright everything was growing blurry. As I began to fall into the blackness, I felt strong arms catch me before I hit the ground. A quick, sharp pain in my neck had already begun to dull as I heard, “Sssh, my child, it’s going to be alright. You’re one of us now,” before I succumbed to the darkness.
“Well, unless there is nothing else, then in the immortal words of Michael Jackson, ‘beat it.’”
She smiled widely at me, flashed the victory sign, simpering as she turned into the mist, "Oh, how the lowly fall further," and seeped out the window, demonstrating her vampiress abilities. These abilities can be improved by repetitive training, mostly done in the company of other Vampiresses as humans would do in a gym. This particular one was an ability I lacked, but I'm just happy that I was in great physical shape when I was made.
I got dressed, swigged the rest of the Ardbeg, headed out the door of the dilapidated old building onto the lonesome and deserted stretch of Armitage Avenue, and hopped on my trusty vintage Triumph that I took off a Belgian rubber collector. I will never forget the terror on his face as I advanced towards him and his wife after I drained their rapist son. “One more toast to the murderous bastard Leopold II,” I said before plunging my fangs into his neck. I then paused and offered his wife a sip. Her response was to pass out. I woke her with a cold glass of water to the face. “This is what happens when you allow your son to rape women and your husband to abuse and kill Africans,” I said before flying off into the night.
I sped down West Armitage and took a sharp left on Kimball, setting off the bright flashes and pops of speed cameras in my wake, just because I can. I don’t have plates or a license, just my fangs and the power of persuasion. I took mostly back alleys to reach the disgustingly gentrified White section of Milwaukee Avenue. More and more, the only interesting things about Chicago are the alleys. With my vampiric agility and the speed of the bike, no one important saw me, but I did manage to terrify a few White hipsters.
It’s also easier for me to use back alleys as a staging area to prepare for my kills, including the one behind The Owly, one of the most rape-friendly bars in Chicago, which were proliferating due to gentrification. What put The Owly on our list was its status as a major date-rape distribution point for the Chicagoland area, including college towns around the state. Dealers purchased wholesale from the head bartender and often stuck around for drinks.
The Sisters don’t disclose how they get their information about the most loathsome white male creatures, targeted for recruitment by the Old Order (descendants of the Cōnstantīnopoli). The Sisters look to recruit women who demonstrate radical politics, but are on the edge of death and without solid family contacts, or those in prison for killing an abusive man. The Old Order, on the other hand, recruits psychopaths who engage in particularly violent acts against women. Then, once they become vampyres, they're trained as part of a misogynistic army of death.
My role to is kill them before they can be turned. Although my methods often land me in holy water, I say the ends justify the means. And in fact, I am considered the best huntress since Camilla Māwiyya Mania, who ruled all of Dardania with an iron fang, and not just because she was a Vampiress.
I pulled my bike into the dark, damp alley and disembarked. My vision became heightened in the dark as I scanned the terrain, slowly greeted by the mischief of rats. Certain animals of the night gravitate to us as part of a larger hierarchy. We can even communicate with them, but it takes a lot of practice. When we perfect this skill, however, it puts them at our whim to use as we see fit. Though I hadn’t bothered to learn some of the more outwardly entertaining tricks Agness endlessly flaunted, this one had proven deeply advantageous on many occasions. The same creatures that caused me so much pain and loss in my youth were now my allies. More than that, they were under my control.
I opened the lid of a forest green industrial garbage dumpster, placed my bike on a solid pile of trash, and bent the hinge of the dumpster so that a mortal wouldn’t be able to open it. As I was straightening myself up, about to head inside, out of the corner of my eye I spotted two white bros at the mouth of the alley. They were passing by but changed direction upon seeing me. I could tell they were dangerously drunk as they stumbled towards me. One in a backwards Chicago Cubs hat said, “Hey baby, nice ass, can we join you?” “Sure we can,” said the other in a Bears jersey, “She’s into back alley action! Why else do you think she’s here all alone?”
I did the right thing. I gave them a warning. “Turn around and leave now.”
“No, you turn around, I want to cum into your alley first, bitch,” the other man snickered as they closed in on me. Then they suddenly stumbled as they instinctively tried to freeze. Rats are territorially aggressive, and when confronted with a threat they stand on their hind legs. To them, I am also a supreme being.
“What’s the matter boys? Of course I like it in the alley, what girl wouldn’t? And so do my friends.”
The allure of additional women to violate distracted them from their hesitancy at what they figured must be their drunkenness combined with the darkness of night. Surely it only appeared as if there were more and more rats crawling out of the crevices.
Bears Jersey said, “I wish they were here!” A coy smile played on my lips. Lucky them. I warmly replied, “Here they are now.” They began squinting and looking behind them among slurred shouts of “Oh shit yeah!” and “You’re my type of bitch!”
I savored their drunken idiocy and impending justice for a moment before I said, “Turn around lovers, they’re right in front of you.”
There must have been two hundred rats, easily. Their dark grey coats blended into the night, but the lone alley light reflected against hundreds of elongated yellow rodent teeth and red eyes as they stood on their hind legs. The rats surged forward.
Cubs Hat pissed his pants and took off running, knocking Bears Jersey in between two dumpsters in his hysteria. Half the rats were on poor Bears Jersey in seconds. His begging and pleading were music to my ears as the rats devoured him like land piranhas.
“Where ya goin’?” Cubs Hat heard my voice in his mind, another trick us vampires have, especially effective on the weak of spirit. “The party’s just getting started.” I didn’t want to disturb anyone in the area, but had my voice been heard, keen listeners might have noticed the venom underneath my light and playful tone. He crossed Milwaukee Avenue and foolishly attempted to climb a construction fence. It was one of many in the area, surrounding the beginning stages of what would inevitably become one of those hideous grey yuppie condos.
Vampire vision is amazing. After picking himself up from his half-fall, half-jump onto the from the fence to the other side, I could see him running through what would eventually be a garage and up the stairs, with hundreds of rats gaining on him. Soon after, I could see his form as the rats slowly chewed him, dragging the party out.
Vampires carry the trauma of human life into the vampire world. I’m an example of that, and I’m proud.
To Be Continued
Manette "Mystic Bones" Aumaille is a Second Generation Shrimp Boat Captain. She is a McNeese State University MFA Poet & Writer from Bayou Lafourche, LA.