Vampirism in Blood Red Roulette
By Jana Denardo
I had a lot of fun with the supernatural beings in this story. The vampires are first and foremost in the narrative. Being a doctor, I’m fascinated by viruses and the nature of infection so that’s the route I took with the vampires here. Arrigo’s style of vampire is created in the usual way via the transfer of blood but it only works if the recipient is near death because the virus isn’t particularly virulent. The body’s defenses need to be down for it to work its changes. However, these physiologic changes are profound with immortality being a mere fraction of it.
I wanted to play with some of the traditional vampire weaknesses through the lens of disease. To that end, they suffer from severe photodermatitis, blistering and burning in the sunlight. They won’t burst into flames but die from the inflammatory process much like anaphylactic shock. It’s almost as if their bodies were now producing furocoumarins, a plant chemical, which can cause phytophotodematitis. In other words you don’t want to be sitting pool side cutting up limes for your cocktails or you could end up with bad burns on your hands.
The virus also induces changes in the GI tract where blood meals are needed but aren’t the only source of nutrients available to them. At one point Arrigo likens them to other hematophagous mammals and birds with the classic being the vampire bat. So Arrigo and his kind eat regular meals too, and Arrigo is a bit of a fussy gourmet when he gets down to it. His sense of taste isn’t as strong as it once was but salty things remind him of blood so he favors them.
While the sense of taste has declined all the other senses have ramped up as has muscle strength. Vampires, and werewolves for that matter, are stronger than the average human. The vampires have other changes to their physiology like retractable teeth and modified salivary glands that provide blood thinners and clotters as necessary. They can also do some mind control, usually reserved to quiet unsuspecting meals. Arrigo prefers to go to Goth and vampire clubs to find willing partners when he can. They can drink any mammalian blood if they have to and some prefer that to mind controlling people into giving up a few ounces of blood.
My vampires also evolve with time. Arrigo is quite old so he’s much more highly evolved compared to the vampire stalking him, out to kill his friends. As they age, they become less photosensitive so Arrigo can handle the sun up to a point. He wouldn’t want to go hiking in the desert at noon with no sunblock but he can be outside – and is pretty happy about it. He thinks places like Vegas spoil new vampires since there is so much to do at night compared to when he was turned but he admits he’s mostly just jealous of their opportunities. Their mental abilities improve with age and their need for blood declines.
It was a lot of fun to play with the traditional vampires and see what new could be created. These are vampires with a heartbeat, that holy water doesn’t touch and so much more. While this might disappoint the traditionalist reader, I found stretching and rearranging the legend of the vampire to be a fascinating exercise. For me, the virally transformed at the level of the DNA made more sense than a reanimated corpse, though those can be fun too. I never seem to tire of the various types of vampires.