A day laborer hired to clean up a flooded creek outside of Boulder, Colorado uncovers what could be a valuable find—if it doesn’t kill him first.
Well, we talked about zombies last week with our horror novel, so today we’re looking at a short story about vampires. Yes, it was inevitable that we would have to talk about vampire stories at some point and why not with this free short story that you can read at Tor.com?
Twisting the Myth
I am not one of those people who have read all of those YA novels about vampires, so my knowledge of vampires comes from mythology and reading some of the classic books that deal with vampires, such as Dracula.
Either way, this story digs into some new ways of twisting the vampire mythology that I find interesting as someone who knows it and likes when I can see a switch-up in how those myths work. The way that authors push the rules and limits of a chosen piece of reference material.
There is some zombie mythology mixed up with vampires.
Of course, they are both traditionally viewed as undead, so that binds them together. There’s also the whole biting to infect things that they both share. And they both come from a kind of fear of the dead that cultures tend to have.
In the case of vampires, a lot of it came from dead bodies giving off gases from the chest cavity after death. You probably don’t know a lot about decaying bodies unless you spent a lot of time with mythology as I have, but they’re still air in the lungs after death. You always have some air leftover air in your lungs when you breathe out so eventually it has to come out as the lungs collapse. When it does, it pushes through the vocal tract. This causes the vocal cords to vibrate much as they do in speech, but there isn’t any control of the articulation, so they just sort of cry out. This caused a lot of people to panic before science could explain why bodies would do this when left uncovered.
It’s the reason for sticking a stake through the body which will keep it from coming back to life. If you poke a hole in someone’s chest the air isn’t going to come through the vocal tract–it will come through that unobstructed hole because it’s the fastest way for the air to escape.
And a body can’t get up if it’s nailed to its coffin, so I guess they have that going for them too.
Pinned by Trees
In this case, we don’t have a stake keeping our troublesome vampire down, but an entire tree itself, which I think is a very clever writing decision.
I never thought about it before but a tree has far more staying power than just a stake. It’s a lot harder to rip up a tree than to pull a stake out of coffin.
I feel like the longer this review goes on the more morbid it becomes. I apologize, but I do love talking about mythology and origins and what have you.
It’s especially an interesting writing choice given that these vampires aren’t the kind where a stake is going to turn them into dust the like in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It goes more into the classic thought that the stake will only keep the vampire down as long as the stake remains there. So as soon as the stake is removed the vampire can heal itself and rise from the dead again. So if you don’t want them to come back having a tree grow there is a good way of keeping a vampire down for a long time, and in this case it does, until development comes along and rips that tree out of place.
Two Meet in the Night
But what drew me to the story was that it’s not entirely about vampires. It’s about the two main characters going through this event together.
What we have is our two main men, who don’t particularly get along or spend time together before the events of the story, but who end up looking out for each other and stepping up to help each other which results in them having an unlikely bond.
I always like stories that are very character centric so having the relationship between these two characters be what’s important to the story is a much better way to get me to read through the whole thing multiple times. We don’t learn any of the specific mythology for these vampires and we don’t get a lot of the back story as to why this particular vampire had been impaled at this particular spot or why he’s seeking revenge now. There’s not a ton of back story at all given that it’s a short story you only have so many words. \
But the character relationship is fleshed out enough that I want a sequel. I want to know what these characters get up to next after these events that I have grown attached to them through.
Overall a really interesting story.
I wouldn’t say it was scary per se, but I liked how it used the vampire mythology. And I liked that at the end of the day it was a character story and not a jump-scare story, which I don’t find very interesting. Part of the reason I steer clear of scary movies… all the time. I actually can’t remember the last time I watch a scary movie.