From Van Helsing, courtesy Universal Pictures

Inspired by a quick rant I did over on GeekTyrant, I thought I’d get some of my thoughts on how I’d like to portray vampires “jotted down”. I’m doing it in this way to get some feedback, so please, feel free to comment. Also, in case I need to mention this for the casual passer-by, this is all fictional information.

Differences between vampires and humans.
The human body is operated by the nervous system, which uses neurons to transmit and receive various kinds of bioelectric energy, which travels through the body on a certain wavelength. The difference between vampires and humans can be explained (though grossly over-simplified) in saying that humans operate on an AM frequency, and vampires on the FM band. Human blood carries oxygen and nutrients to the various systems of the body, maintain bodily temperature and removes wastes. Vampiric blood does none of these things on its own, as the vampiric body is dead and no longer requires oxygen or produces wastes. However, both human and vampiric blood perform hydraulic & repair operations. Vampires heal very quickly in comparison to humans and are capable of feats of strength and agility beyond human scales due to the specialized nature of their blood. The higher frequency of the vampire’s nervous system also means a typical vampire has enhanced senses and higher intelligence than a comparable human – that is, provided the new vampire isn’t a corpse that’s been lingering in a grave for decades.

Vampires, blood, and reproduction.
In order to maintain function, fresh blood is required on a regular basis, as the dead organs of the vampire’s body can no longer produce living cells. The heart of a vampire still beats, though typically at a higher rate than a human’s, but other organs, such as the pancreas, liver and kidneys, begin to atrophy due to disuse. Vampires do not reproduce sexually, but sexual behavior can be emulated through the use of blood in order to attract and ensnare prey. A new vampire is created when a body drained of blood, preferably one recently dead, is fed a small quantity of blood from a vampire, then has its lungs filled from the lungs of its vampire ‘parent,’ jump-starting the technically dead systems. The ‘offspring’ must feed from a fresh source soon after this in order to maintain function. Recently dead ‘offspring’ are more capable of discerning their predicament and coping with it in various ways, while corpses dead for a lengthy period of time have typically experienced such decay of their brains that they are little more than zombies (though they crave blood instead of brains, head wounds just bleed more).

Vampires, cold iron, garlic and sunlight.
Cold iron, that is to say iron in a pure form with a minimum of refinement, is seen as a ward against evil spirits. In the case of vampires, this is more than superstition. The ferrous nature of the metal causes disruption of the hyper-active nervous system of a vampire. An iron stake stabbed or hammered into the heart of a vampire will immobilize it. Wooden stakes suffice if the vampire is at rest, as the stake will make it difficult for the vampire to rise, allowing hunters to behead it and thus destroy it – you can’t kill a vampire, as they are already technically dead. Stab a vampire who’s up and about with a wooden stake, however, and all you’ll get is a bloody shank of wood and a very angry vampire. Clever vampires being hunted will often pretend to fall when staked with wood, only to devour their would-be slayers and remove the stake, more dangerous than before. Also, refined iron and iron alloys like steel do not have the same disruptive effect. This is a fact that leads more modern vampire hunters to shoot a vampire in the heart and then stand motionless and shocked when the vampire doesn’t fall down ‘dead’. Finally, a large enough amount of iron will utterly repulse a vampire, which is why graveyards often have wrought iron fences. Despite a vampire’s ability to vault such obstacles, the nature of the wrought iron keeps the vampire out and thus deprives them of possible ‘shock troops’ or a safe haven from hunters.

Also, garlic repels vampires because their sensitive senses are especially vulnerable to the smell. Very loud noises, such as explosions or jet engines, are also irritants. Finally, vampires tend to get sunburnt more easily than humans, since their skin lacks some of the proteins living humans produce on a daily basis, but are otherwise not instantly reduced to ash by the rays of the sun. Sunlight, however, carries a great deal of power and tends to disrupt a vampire’s nervous system, though to a much lesser extent than cold iron. Walking around during the day for a vampire is not unlike a human walking around at 4 am after a full day of work starting at 6 am the previous morning; entirely possible, but the vampire will eventually grow drained, lethargic, and may begin to hallucinate. Fresh blood can maintain a vampire in the same way cans of Red Bull or lines of cocaine can sustain a human during this time, but eventually, they both need to just take a break and get some sleep.

It should be noted that vampires, in sunlight, do NOT sparkle.

Vampires are subtle.
Vampires are predators. They move through the sea of humanity the way a lion moves through the long grass of the savanna stalking its prey. Just like the ill-fated herbivores of that grassland, mortals shouldn’t know the smiling, funny and intelligent person buying them drinks and chatting them up is a blood-sucking fiend from beyond the grave until it’s far too late. This means you don’t flash your fangs at the earliest opportunity. Wearing nothing but black leather and matching longcoats is a good way to get spotted, and while the look is very badass, it’s not very subtle. Neither is an open war with lycanthropes, but the big fuzzies are a subject for another notes session. My thinking is that vampires would try to maintain their habits, dress sense and mannerisms from when they were technically alive. This would become more difficult as time goes on, of course, with ancient vampires acting in anachronistic ways and possibly being kept from humanity at large by their subordinates for the good of their society.

Vampires are a selective minority.
There was a time when vampirism was more rampant, when countrysides and villages were terrorized by these creatures of the night. But power corrupts, and having absolute control over an area leads to a vampire growing decadent and unrestrained. Just because you can rip a peasant’s head from their shoulders with a minimum amount of effort doesn’t mean you necessarily should. The Inquisition and witch-hunts of the centuries in the middle of the last millennium showed that humanity will not stand for too much that is outside of what they consider ‘normal.’ They fear what they do not understand, and how someone can remain not only mobile after death but maintain their complexion, charm and holdings is certainly difficult to understand.

This means that vampires need to be careful who they choose to bring into their fold. A potential ‘offspring’ has to have potential that is otherwise going to waste in their daily life. Most vampire ‘parents’ look for like minds who are frustrated by the restraints of mortal life, be they restrained by their job, circumstances or family situation. Some present the alternative of vampirism in a private and frank manner, while others become intimately involved with their future ‘offspring’ and bestow vampirism as a gift, which may or may not be received kindly. The minority among this selective minority are the ‘accidents’, humans who are drained to death and given vampiric breath and blood in order to save their life. This is often seen as an act by someone inexperienced or immature, as not everybody can handle the reality of vampirism and becoming emotionally attached to humans is seen by some of the older vampires as an utterly idiotic act. How attached, they reason, did you become to your steak or salad when you were alive?

Vampires are dangerous and societal.
The high frequency of the vampire’s nervous system coupled with a highly specialized circulatory system makes them powerful creatures. On instinct, the circulatory system can lengthen the incisors of the vampire into the distinctive fangs used for feeding as well as defense. With training, a vampire can use their blood to lengthen their nails as well, which make for sharp but brittle defensive weapons. The most dangerous vampires have trained themselves to strengthen these weapons to the point that they can perform truly superhuman feats when their superior strength and agility is taken into account, such as climbing walls without visible support, tearing the door from a car and hurling it away, and surviving leaps from tall buildings without breaking a single bone. While such displays are frowned upon by vampire society at large, there are times when a vampire has no other choice but to reveal the full extent of their powers. It has been argued that these powers are part and parcel of being predators of the human race, but that the most dangerous power a vampire possesses is time.

Given enough time to research and train, vampires can use their unique nature to explore powers, theories and abilities hitherto unknown amongst humanity. Use of blood in the brain’s largely dormant areas can spark even higher levels of intelligence, reportedly unlocking the potential for telepathy or telekinesis. It has been theorized that the vampiric body is something more than its dead tissues and is capable of changing shape, density and even state, leading to the myth of vampires becoming “as mist” – if there is truth to this myth, vampires aren’t confirming it. In order to remain capable and unpredictable predators, vampire society cultivates an atmosphere of secrets and mystery, maintained by a codex of laws governing how vampires interact with humanity, the ‘legal’ scope and nature of research into the vampiric condition, and punishment for infractions, ranging from dismemberment of varying degrees (severed limbs can be reattached) to incineration while conscious, the most severe and final of penalties.

Vampires are territorial.
Also governed by laws are the territories of vampires and the ways in which one vampire may enter, contest or even seize the territory of another. After the Inquisition, it was decided by the oldest surviving vampires that such interactions needed to happen under certain guidelines, that would allow vampires to hunt without worrying about confrontations that might lead to the use of overt superhuman abilities and thus draw undue attention to the society as a whole. However, like any species of predators, hunting grounds will be contested and fought over. It’s become less common for these contests to be physical altercations, more often resolved in more civilized formats such as chess matches, poker games, or elaborate high-stakes gambits involving sports venues, politics or banking ventures.

Vampires are monsters.
Being formerly dead, vampires are no longer human. This can be difficult to cope with in the case of the victim turned vampire. Those who do learn to adapt, however, grow comfortable with their new state and even revel in it. Just like a wine connoisseur enjoying the perfect merlot, or a steak fanatic sampling a cut of top sirloin, vampires become selective of their prey and truly enjoy the act of feeding from a particular kind of human, with the act of feeding releasing endorphins not unlike the act of sex for humans. And with the hyper-sensitive systems of the vampire, this feeling is all the more potent. Feeding from animals does not have quite the same effect, and drinking blood from bags is the vampiric equivalent of eating cold pizza. While feeding from humans is inherently monstrous, it’s also the best and most enjoyable way to gain sustenance. It behooves individual vampires, then, to grow accustomed to the act.

That’s all I can think of for now.

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