For the uninitiated: “Daughters of Darkness” is a conversation between my neophyte self and a centuries-old immortal discussing (what else?) living forever on blood in the dark. Nancy hates that I keep doing this, yet she keeps agreeing to it… go figure.
Nancy: What forsaken place have you dragged me to this time?
Janiss: It’s called “The Empty Glass…”
N: As it says on the front. I can read, Janiss. Why here?
J: Just to change it up a little, plus they’re open past midnight.
N: Lucky us. There’s no karaoke, is there? I’ve murdered for less.
J: Oooh, such a tough Vampire! No, just “open mic night.”
N: It’s awfully small and too few exits.
J: It’s intimate. Are you already plotting your escape?
N: That depends on what the next singer-songwriter is about to inflict upon us.
The bartender brings the drinks we’ll barely touch.
N: (showing interest) What’s yours?
J: Woodchuck hard cider.
N: (dabs her finger in my pint glass and touches it to her tongue) Fruity. Barely alcoholic.
J: As if that made any difference.
N: Let’s get this over with. What’s the topic?
J: Vampire bloggers…
N: You’re not still commenting on that “mother succubus” blog, are you?
J: (smiling) Juliette’s blog, yes. “Musing’s of a modern Vampire mom.”
N: She’s not a real Vampire.
J: (shrugs) You don’t know that.
N: You have to have children to be a mom.
J: You had kids and you’re a Vampire, so what?
N: I gave birth before I was turned. Dead things don’t grow inside of dead things.
J: And yet two corpses are sitting at a table in the state capital of West “By God” Virginia pretending to drink while listening to… whatever that song is.
N: It sounds vaguely like the Ramones.
J: (gasps) You’ve heard the Ramones?
N: (trying not to smirk) I saw them live in Cleveland. They were touring with Iggy Pop. Late seventies. “Blitzkrieg Bop” sounds better when they perform it in person.
J: I’ve… got nothing.
N: So back to your living dead mom…
J: I like her. She’s sweet. She’s the kind of Vampire I try to be.
N: You mean a pretend Vampire?
J: “Character is what you are in the dark.” It’s a blog and she’s a writer. She tells cool stories, like her “Vlad’s Diary” series. And she takes care of her elders, even when they’re a bit confused about things now and then.
N: They’re Vampires too?
J: Of course.
N: Look, I know it’s fun to blur the lines like Stoker and Rice playing with the whole out-and-proud bit, but we survive upon mortal human blood. No matter how entertained people are by the idea of it, blood drinkers aren’t going to suddenly become acceptable, even if the Japanese invent TruBlood. I also don’t need to remind you how outnumbered we are.
J: It’s a spycraft thing. If people are watching for someone trying to not to be seen, don’t. Juliette’s sincere, and I like her idea of a Vampire family. Confidence works. If you look like you belong, no one thinks twice about it.
N: (smiling) I can’t remember ever being so naïve, and that’s coming from someone who remembers everything.
J: I still don’t see the harm. I work the night shift —
N: Which you don’t have to.
J: — and I’m very good at drawing blood.
N: Wink-wink, nudge-nudge. So why are you dredging this up again?
J: You should read her blog.
J: Did you have something else to do for all of eternity?
N: I don’t need to read someone’s fictional account of pretending to be an impossible version of what I actually am. Of what you are.
J: I thought you liked stories.
N: There’s enough fiction in the media these days without creating more. It’s not even about trying to prove anyone wrong, only suggesting someone else isn’t right… or they have some agenda for their version of the truth. Haven’t you heard? There are no facts anymore, just beliefs.
J: You remind me of Vlad.
N: (giving me the stare) Very well, you have outmaneuvered me and piqued my insatiable curiosity. Why do I remind you of a character aptly named “Vlad?”
J: Because he feels alone and has an older way of looking at the world.
N: I teach at a university. I drive myself around. I even have an investment portfolio.
J: You don’t have a companion… and I think the reason you keep agreeing to these meetups is because you secretly enjoy it.
N: (smiling easy) I don’t dislike you, Ms. Connelly. Your eagerness is infectious, but I think you’re the one feeling isolated.
J: Of course I do. Every other Vampire I’ve met who hasn’t been destroyed is useless or afraid. I hate feeling I have to hide everything I know or am capable of because of how others perceive me. I’m good at what I do and I’m a good person, Vampire or not.
N: It’s programmed in. It’s innate. We weren’t meant to go on retreats together to sing around campfires and become better bloodsuckers.
It was at this time I notice Nancy was more distracted than usual, actively trying to fight off a daydream. I’ve caught her doing it before, but it’s like a cat showing you a belly; sure, it’s a sign of trust, but make sure you know when and how to draw back your hand if you don’t want to bleed.
J: If you want to share what’s on your mind, it’s why I’m here.
N: (looking away toward the stage; wistful) I know what you’ve been doing during the pandemic. Do you want to know what I was doing?
J: (interested) Absolutely.
N: I volunteered at hospitals. I wanted to see it firsthand.
J: That’s good.
N: People I know died. (turning toward me) I don’t keep many close relationships — almost none, in fact. I don’t want the responsibility, but I check up on people I’ve dealt with, just to see how they’re doing. I try to be indifferent to it, to the choices they make, but this past year has… affected me.
J: I’m hoping that’s a good thing, too.
N: I think about what you’re doing, the charge Louisa gave you, how you accepted it.
J: I have help…
N: But you’re not trying to change the world. You’re helping those you can. Does it fulfill you? Is it enough?
J: I enjoy it, mostly. (thinking fast) But you’re a professor. You help younger generations understand history and get them thinking about what’s come before. You don’t live in a vacuum. You must recognize that.
N: With the virtual learning this past year, I only see my donors. I hadn’t realized how much I needed to be near others. — how much I need others around. I started to talking to one of them — really talking — and it freaked them out. It’s not how I usually do things and… it scared them.
With no idea what to say, I wait and listen.
N: (grabbing my hand) Come with me.
J: (surprised) Okay…
I drop a couple twenties on the table and step outside the local dive. To my surprise again, she hugs me… tight. I hug her back. It’s the most genuine emotional response I’ve seen from her since I’ve known her.
J: Hey, it’s all cool. You’re okay. We’re okay.
N: (stepping back) Text me that link. I’m going to read your friend’s blog.
J: A sudden change of heart?
N: A need to express. I like you, Janiss. I like that you try, and I like that you try with me. I know I don’t act like it, but centuries of disappointment can weigh you down, and you don’t give up. I should appreciate that more.
J: I saw that every time I talked to Louisa, but I had no idea then it was over a century for her and not decades…
N: (starting to walk away, actually smiling) Let’s do this again. Soon! I’ll pick the next place… (rushes off)
FYI: Juliette’s blog Vampire Maman: Musings of a Modern Vampire Mom is here. Tell her Janiss said hi!
Also FYI: Info on The Empty Glass is here. Never tell them who was there. Shh!