Basement Beauty, a vampire tale by Carmilla Voiez – In the Scottish city of Glasgow a serial killer leaves a trail of victims like statues, while a group of assassins hunt for a rogue vampire who is kidnapping human women for his own perverted pleasure. In the midst of this Amalthea and her friends try to scratch a living while negotiating their way through everyday sexism and violence. Amalthea is afraid to walk home in the dark, but is she afraid enough? From the award winning author of The Starblood Trilogy, Carmilla Voiez available to buy at http://smarturl.it/BasementBeauty
Amalthea stood outside the unlit entrance to “The Pit” and breathed in the cool, pre-dawn air. One hand brushed wild curls from her mouth and tucked them behind her ear. They sprang back across her cheek immediately, untameable.
As her skin acclimatised she drew jacket sleeves over her rich, honey-coloured arms. It was her post-work ritual: the time when she metamorphosed from a human doing into a human being.
A movement at the edge of her vision attracted her attention and she turned towards the shadowy alley where the night club bins were stored. Her direct gaze didn’t reveal any ghoul, goblin, animal or person skulking in the darkness, watching and waiting for her to leave, but her mind created a sinister shape anyway. For the past six weeks the evening news had continually hinted at unnatural deaths city-wide and rumours of a modern day Jack the Ripper were rife. Now every alleyway had become hostile territory and every shadow a killer, preparing to strike.
With her meditative moments, of simply being, stolen by fear of the impenetrable darkness, Amalthea decided to button her coat and get moving. Home wasn’t far away, a mere ten minute walk and at four am most of the drunks were already home, sleeping it off, or standing, unsteadily in taxi queues, waiting for chariots to return them safely to their beds. In fact, that was one thing that could be said about fear of the dark – it was good for the economy.
Gentle but pervasive drizzle bejewelled her eyelashes and vainly attempted to flatten her hair. Street lights mutated into dancing constellations and pavements were dotted with quicksilver puddles. Amalthea’s boots leaked and the liquid made her toes squelch. Sucking and dripping sounds masked the noise of her footsteps and the perfectly matched slapping of shoe leather behind her. Of course, when she glanced back, the street was empty, but the moment she faced forwards she could feel his presence behind her, as always, matching her stride. He was the shadow from which she fled, unseen but perceived through all her other senses, making her hairline tingle – the man who wasn’t there.
She had tried to tell Lynsey of this consuming fear, but her friend hadn’t understood, dismissing her fears as paranoia. She decided in the future to only mention this deep, primal knowledge to her diary and wondered for one terrifying moment whether his other victims had known they were being hunted, but had kept silent or were disbelieved until the moment their vacated shells were discovered. She considered why she had dogmatically given this disembodied threat a male gender then shook her head. It was perfectly natural; serial killers were almost always male, weren’t they? The one who kills me will probably be male too, she reasoned.
Her scalp itched. Realising the utter pointlessness of another backwards glance, she balled her fists and marched onwards. Just five more minutes and she could lock the darkness outside, for what that was worth.
A shriek broke through the pittering-pattering shroud of raindrops. It echoed between tall Victorian town houses, converted into flats and bedsits – a cat or a baby waking from a nightmare? She waited for a repeat of the noise until she became aware that she had stopped moving and was standing as still as a statue as the rain continued to fall around and upon her. The sound didn’t return. Shivering, she willed her right foot to make its journey, one step forwards and asked her hip to tilt and her knee to bend. Movement didn’t follow her commands so she concentrated on her left foot instead – still nothing. Swallowing hard, she wiggled the toes of her left foot. Water moved between skin and cotton; the sensation made her nauseous and she felt her stomach fight to keep its nutrients safe within its fleshy walls.
‘Just walk, Tay,’ she whispered.
Rain hissed in her ears. Beneath her chin a waterfall tumbled onto her chest. Her face was hidden behind a veil of aqua.
‘Just walk… five minutes!’
Ahead of her a tree that overhung the path shook water from its leaves like a huge dog. Large drops splattered as they hit the ground. She wondered what waited beyond the tree, hidden behind the trunk and considered taking a longer route home, where the streets were less shadowy and the traffic more regular.
Shivering from cold and fear, she watched as the heavy branches bent and purged until the urge to vomit returned. One hand stretched out to a rough red-brick wall beside her, knees bent and hips angled yet her feet remained bolted to the spot.
Vampires are both elusive and seductive. They look like us, but they are not us. They can be monstrous or they can be liberating. But the real attraction of the vampire genre for me and the reason I wrote Basement Beauty is how much these undead creatures say, historically and currently, about the world we inhabit and society. Vampires have been representing political tensions since the 1800s. The fears their lore reflects are as relevant today as they were over a century ago.
The Class-struggle: an aristocratic vampire feeds on peasants who inevitably rise up led by the middle-class hero (Van Helsing for example), to finally destroy the predator. This storyline could have been lifted from Marx or Stoker equally. Or the fear of immigration: Dracula comes to England from Romania, bringing terror and destruction, a narrative that British fascists UKIP and fond of repeating. And the empowerment of women v the destruction of rational men: the female vampire, frequently portrayed as lesbian, embodies a fear of female agency and female sexuality that is not controlled by men. The female vampire penetrates the male (or female) victim with her mouth, this vampiric sexual organ is both a soft, inviting hole and a phallus (penetrating and dangerous fangs), the ultimate vagina dentata. I doubt the emergence of lesbian separatism and the prodigious rise of the female vampire in cinema during the 1960s and 70s are unconnected. Movies empower the male viewer with the presence of the vampire hunter (Helsing) or the male narrator (in the Vampire Lovers) to help contain the genre within a box guarded by the rules of patriarchy. So whether class, immigration or feminism, the vampire is representative of the “other” in popular fiction, the one that is not us. A force that preys on us and that we feel both seduced and repelled by.
All this is the background noise in front of which I wrote Basement Beauty. In my book the vampires believe they are a superior race and are separatists using humans only for food. One rogue vampire disobeys the clan and dares to mix with filthy human pigs. His behaviour is seen as a threat to the other vampires that must be destroyed. The fear and hatred could reflect homophobia or Nazi style racial purity. Weaved into this story of hatred and eugenics, is a human story. Heroes, not victims the two tales merge until, hopefully, the reader does not see any one as the other, but instead as individuals and forces to be reckoned with. The political struggles are personal struggles for survival rather than something abstract that cannot be understood.
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Basement Beauty can be purchased at http://smarturl.it/BasementBeauty