“Pride and Proper Nouns” – Vampire Verisimilitude

This bit of insight was inspired by my friend Juliette. She’s a bit of a blogger, writer, and an immortal herself, so check out her web page at Vampire Maman.


Belonging is important to social creatures, acceptance as part of the group. I say “THE group” instead of “A group” because it implies a particular group. As anyone reading this can well imagine, one has a sense of pride when it comes to being accepted.

The same can be said, I believe, for Vampires.

Did you catch it? I capitalized the “V” — and I’m using that from now on. Juliette does, but it never dawned on me why she did before until I seriously thought about it.

FromTheDeskOfJanissSignatureVampires aren’t evil by nature. Sure, we have a predisposition toward predator behavior, but what carnivorous creature in creation isn’t capable of killing? We’re also the most threatening to one another, but with effort and a few rules (thanks, social media!), many of us can get along fine…especially when we’re not in the same room.
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“A Fifth of November” – Vampire Verisimilitude

November is an interesting month for me.

My birthday is the fifth, so I turn twenty-seven today — or I would if I were still alive.

(Before you ask, yes…my dad taught me the “Remember, Remember, the Fifth of November” rhyme.)

VampireCupcakesSpeaking of being alive, the concept of “life” has become fluid for me. I was told vampires simulate life (breath and heartbeat) so we can better lure in our victims, but I also consider the source (Ian was an ass). Although I can always feel it coming, I’m still not used to the sudden lurch of my heart stopping at sunrise.

November was also the month I was “turned,” a word that sounds better to me than “murdered.” I get that now; I’m still here even though I’m physically different. Another immortal once told me I was lucky in one respect: being turned at so early an age may have cheated me of a full life, but it afforded me the luxury of pretending to be alive as my actual self a while longer.

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Happy Halloween: Beggar’s Night

It’s almost here: Halloween.

No bait-and-switch angst today, just a fun idea. A throwback, if you like.

(“Can’t we have a little of the angst?” “No. Shh! I’ve been a stick in the mud in previous years; I’m done with all that.”)

We’re all-ages here at Cedarcrest, young and old, with many an All Hallow’s Eve tale to tell.

Once upon a time, some of you called it “Beggar’s Night.”

FromTheDeskOfJanissSignatureFor those celebrating, I’ve heard all kinds of stories about you little gremlins and your so-called harmless pranking. One of you titled yourselves “The Goblins of the Season.” Moving furniture off of porches, throwing rotten tomatoes or fruit, eggs and toilet paper. Little hellions all! Parents ignored this as long as it was kept to certain level; there were lines you knew not to cross.

The best part sounded like keeping your secrets each year, with each other or from each other.

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“The Happy Post” – Vampire Verisimilitude

Yes, I’m late with the post. Timothy pointed out that there was a lot of doom and gloom here; guilty as charged. So I scrapped the one I was working on. You wanted honesty, right? I admit it: I’ve been venting.

So he asked me THIS question: since becoming a vampire, what makes me happy?

FromTheDeskOfJanissSignatureI could say “feeding” since it has become a priority, but that’s less happiness or more satisfaction. Human contact is more important than you’d think, holding someone and having them hold you in return; I think I’ve always enjoyed a good hug (yes, I’m a hugger). But the question was specifically since becoming a vampire.

I’m going with “living without fear.”

Hear me out.

Continue reading ““The Happy Post” – Vampire Verisimilitude”

“Offending Immortals” – Vampire Verisimilitude

I have met a handful of other immortals (read: vampires). Here’s a secret that isn’t a secret (with apologies to Danny Trejo): vampires don’t text. Or blog. Or out themselves on social media. Right?

Also: am I an obnoxious twenty-something? Yes or no? Am I at least a well-meaning obnoxious twenty-something?

Damn it.

FromTheDeskOfJanissSignatureI got stuck with this job because of the obvious perks. I love our residents, but this wasn’t my big life plan. I didn’t ask to be turned into a vampire at twenty-two all because two centuries-old bloodsuckers decided to take their rivalry to the next level and both wanted a pawn to play with.

Okay, that wasn’t fair: at least Louisa had planned to actually ASK me, but I still would have said no.

Where’s all this coming from? Let’s start at the beginning.

Her name is…well, let’s call her “Jules.”

I love the Internet. I enjoy social media. I wasn’t much of a thumb-clicker in college, but distractions are welcome when I want to step outside of my life into those of other people. Social media makes it easy; everyone wants to share their joy and pain and political opinions and whatever. Most of it is crap or look-at-me and too much of it is poorly written at best. Seriously, kids: you’re not the Vampire Lestat or 8000 years old no matter how many times you say “you don’t know me.” I can say with 99.9% certainty you’re neither a vampire nor an immortal.

Jules was different. Yes, I know she wasn’t really a vampire…but I wanted to believe she was. There was truth in her words, as if her mask was transparent or at least translucent. It felt real and it felt wonderful. Pleasure, pain, triumph, disappointment, all that stuff. There was a comment button, so I clicked and responded. Jules has created this wonderful vampire life for herself with rules and everything – with perfect consistency – and one so much more idyllic than my own. Children, for example, walking in sunshine and having supernatural friends.

I…may have overstepped.

Real vampires don’t do this unless they are sure no one believes them. It’s too dangerous. We’re all being watched, trust me. But the ones that could be real aren’t the ones proclaiming you must accept them and whining when you don’t. They’re the ones who are being honest and coming from a place just under the text, between the lines where so much isn’t said.

I responded. She believed me. That wasn’t supposed to happen. I was just playing along.

While I wasn’t hiding it, Jules found my contact info and sent me a personal email. I was worrying her and some of her other readers.

I meant no offense, but that’s not an excuse, is it?

It gets worse. She said she thought I was “an obnoxious twenty-something who stayed up way too late at night…(probably) a recent college graduate.” Mostly true. “Someone who also wrote from a vampire character point of view, who liked to leave comments on other vampire related blogs…more often than not bugged the jeebers out of me.”

That hurt…and I deserved it.

Fine, I guess I can be obnoxious. I’m still growing up and I should be able to use that as an excuse, but I was trying to relate with my own experience. How am I supposed to say, “Hey, I’m a vampire too and I’m jealous of your kids!” It would be even worse if Jules truly understood the reason so-called nice vampires avoided children.

And now I’m whining. My failure is complete.

Don’t shut me out, Jules.

I’m sorry.

~ Janiss

Email janiss.connelly@cedarcrestsanctum.com
Twitter @JanissConnelly
Instagram @janiss.connelly

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Vampire Verisimilitude: “Guns and Survivability”

Janiss here. Happy Sunday!

FromTheDeskOfJanissSignatureTimothy inspired this week’s revelation when he said, “You do remember we employ a trained team of vampire hunters led by a vampire, right?” It’s true and it’s hilarious, but as ridiculous as it sounds, it also makes perfect sense. To keep Cedarcrest safe, we watch for others of my kind…other immortals. Some can be dealt with and others pushed back; some can’t be left alone and it’s irresponsible to leave them be.

Ambassadors of mostly good will.

This brings me to today’s point: a few of you worry about me, and your concerns are appreciated.

As many of you know (especially the ones who’ve borrowed titles from his personal library), Timothy is our resident pop culture bloodsucker expert; he collects and avidly watches all manner of vampire TV shows and movies on the subject. In the name of entertainment, screen vampires have progressed from hideous monsters to misunderstood blood-drinking romantics. I can relate to both sides – forever bored seeking new goals and distractions, and hey, you gotta eat – but is anyone else amazed with the sheer number of imagined ways a vampire can be easily destroyed?

Look at the Underworld movie series. Selene is a serious badass “death dealer” in a war with werewolves slinging automatic pistols, submachine guns, and both silver and UV ammunition. While slow-motion gunfire is incredible to watch, vampires heal fast…REALLY fast, not to mention stakes don’t turn us to dust and neither does sunlight or UV bullets. Online sources provide a more believable reason for these ideas: for ease of storytelling, because vampire slayers don’t have time to hide slain bodies, evade the cops, and keep the action moving.

What I’m trying to say is we’re damnably hard to kill.

I have to laugh when I see vampires trying to kill each other with Heckler & Koch MP5K submachine guns; this appears to be a favorite because these weapons have been around for fifty years and can be crazy modified. The problem: you could empty two thirty-round clips of 9mm ammunition into a single pissed-off vamp and not even slow them down, even if you knew exactly were to shoot them (no, I’m not telling you where our weak points are). Coupled with a freakish ability to anticipate an attack and dodge most of that incoming lead, you can see why it’s laughable.

You want to know what does work? Numbers. One vampire being attacked on multiple fronts can’t dodge every attack, and every successful hit is a distraction to the next one. A smart bloodsucker will seek to escape no matter how badass they think they are; a cornered vampire is a trapped vampire, and while it makes them deadlier, it also makes them much more vulnerable.

Having friends is your friend.

The whole lone-wolf vampire assassin (see what I did there?) armed like Matrix Neo with sunglasses and a long coat makes for great cinema but is impractical at best. We’re VAMPIRES, for God’s sake! We blend in, make suggestions, and lure you in. For all of the amusement it provided, the movie What We Do In the Shadows nailed it: we’re the bait, but we’re also the trap. Forget the night clubs; you’re safe inside. A girl walking alone at night, a homeless person where they shouldn’t be, or an elderly man sitting at a bus stop long after the line has stopped? Go the other way, my friend.

If someone just needed to put down a vampire with sheer bullet damage – one single solitary vampire – here’s a free script suggestion: lure them into the bottom of an abandoned missile silo, have a TAC team riddle them with enough bullets to bleed them out (assuming they didn’t bring a snack with them), and then seal it up the top, preferably with concrete. The vampire may not be permanently destroyed, but it also won’t be going anywhere…forever.

Seriously, Hollywood: enough with conventional gunpowder weapons for hunting bloodsuckers.

Gunplay is a male-empowerment, vampire-slaying fantasy that’s going to get you killed… or worse.

Keep each other safe.

~ Janiss

Special thanks to Eric for pointing out correct weapon types and editing for acronyms.

Email janiss.connelly@cedarcrestsanctum.com
Twitter @JanissConnelly
Instagram @janiss.connelly

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Vampire Verisimilitude: “Very Happy Meals”

One of my questions this week was, “Can you cook?”

My first thought was, “Huh?”

FromTheDeskOfJanissSignatureOf course I can cook. Mom insisted. I just can’t eat any of it anymore. Vampires can taste – we’re very good at tasting – it’s just that we can’t digest food…and yes, like an idiot, I’ve tried. Let’s just say I don’t use the facilities the way I used to and what goes down must come up through the only orifice it still can…violently.

Truth to tell, I hated the idea of cooking – I just wanted my food NOW – but it taught me things I later learned to appreciate. My mom is very domestic – the hostess queen – and she thought I should have those skills. No dust bunnies, no cobwebs, and crumbs were strictly forbidden.

But going back to cooking: it’s food, yes, but it’s also art and planning.

Cooking to me used to be deciding what kind of cereal to pour into a bowl. It was orderly: cereal first, add milk, and as my dad used to say, “You’re not floating a battleship.” Did extra milk make cereal taste better? Or making toast. I was the toast master.

Mom fixed all that. She asked what I wanted to make…anything at all. I used to like Happy Meals, just a simple cheeseburger and fries with a Coke and a toy. You ordered at the counter, waited for what felt like an eternity, and got your colorful box. It was like unwrapping a present for dinner…hey, I was seven, okay?

She agreed we would make homemade Happy Meals but without the pretty box and movie-themed toy. We got everything at the store late one Saturday afternoon before coming home and unpacking it all. My mom sat in her favorite kitchen chair and informed me she wasn’t going to help: making dinner for the family was on me.

Okay!

“Cooking,” she said, “was about both taste and timing.” If each ingredient tasted good separately, the final dish will be better when everything is combined; spicing the meat was especially important. So why did we have to start the fries first? That was the timing part. If we didn’t start the fries baking before we made the burgers and buns, they’d be cold before dinner time instead of fresh out of the oven. It made sense, and cold fries sucked.

After the oven was warmed up and the fries got to baking, mom said we had some time to go over the plan for the burgers. She directed me to set out spices for the ground beef and got the buns ready to lightly toast. Ketchup, mustard, pickles, cheese, and those dehydrated minced onions; everything was ready to go. She instructed me on how to set the heat, a light buttering on the inside of the buns to make them crisp as they toasted, when to turn the patties, and so on. There was also a lot of handwashing involved.

No, it didn’t look like McDonald’s when it was done. It was better! It looked better, tasted better, and pre-ordered Happy Meals just didn’t seem as special after making one for myself. Sure, it took almost an hour instead of three minutes, but then I got to clean up the kitchen with dad’s help and that was fun, too.

Nowadays, I’m back to placing orders: a pint of blood…drawn from five donors that’s combined into a warm mug that someone brings to me. “Five minutes fresh” as Eric likes to say. I once considered watching the drawing process, but I imagined it would be like seeing a cow bleeding instead of being milked. Still, it’s provided with love, and I swear I can taste that.

Three magical little happy meals a night, each served in a special cup just for me.

But I do miss cooking for myself.

Keep each other safe.

~ Janiss

Email janiss.connelly@cedarcrestsanctum.com
Twitter @JanissConnelly
Instagram @janiss.connelly

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Vampire Verisimilitude: “What makes a good immortal?”

You ask questions; I try to answer them – I make no other promises.

FromTheDeskOfJanissSignatureMr. Johnson asked, “How do you know someone will make a good vampire?”

Great question…possibly the toughest one I’ve been asked.

The short answer is: nobody knows for sure.

A quick point of fact: if a vampire chooses to make a mortal into an immortal, it’s not guaranteed to work. Forget all that zombie movie bite-equals-undead stuff; even an intentional transformation comes with risk: you could die…period. Well, you WILL die – it’s part of the process – but the whole coming back bit is not a for-sure kind of thing for all those Carly Rae Jepsen fans who really, really, really, really, really, really want to be a vampire, too (GOD that song is annoying).

Got it? Good. Moving on.

Now, I’m making a bit of an assumption here: what’s the difference between a good and a BAD vampire? I don’t mean angelic vs. demonic but actual survivability; what makes a SUCCESSFUL vampire? Can a newly turned vamp survive, thrive, and cope with their own existence? I’ve compiled a brief list of traits I’ve seen that seem to be true – although to be fair, I only have the opinions of three immortals including myself.

Survivor’s Sense – You have to WANT to live, so to speak. The first thing you’re going to get hit with is PTSD, because becoming a vampire isn’t easy. Even if your mind didn’t have to endure the transformation, your body is going to feel the trauma, and then your head will be bombarded with so many sensations that it feels alien. What you want to do and may actually do – rip into the first warm body full of delicious, desirable blood – is horrific no matter how evil you think you are. Whether you commit this initial act of destruction or not, you’re going to become suicidal; it feels like a perfect solution and one you have to get past quickly. A vampire with a death wish is eventually going to find a way to do themselves in; fortunately, we’re pretty resilient and damnably hard to kill…especially without knowing the rules.

Investigator’s Sense – Speaking of rules, you have to be willing to learn them; research is your friend. Vampires compete with each other for the same stock – never mind there being plenty to go around – so they keep secrets…LOTS of secrets. Some of these reveal themselves: blood lust, aversion to dawn, appearance in sunlight, being staked, and so forth. You’ll want to know about as many of your weaknesses as you can and how to avoid them. Some sires educate their fledglings while others abandon them, often observing from afar for their own amusement. Have I mentioned I’m NEVER going to do this to or for anyone EVER? And happily there’s no Vampire Academy option, either (see what I did there?)

Warrior’s Sense – Shutting yourself in is a bad idea; it’s avoidance. You have to feed yourself, and even if you’re lucky enough to have a sire who gives a crap, they can’t feed you with your own blood. So unless you intend sleep your immortality away, you have to eat…but you also have to protect yourself and possibly even those who provide for you (I’ll say “willingly” here because I consider that the better option). No, you don’t rise from the grave with the Shaolin martial arts skills of Master Shifu (thanks, Buffy) and forget all that pacifist Gandhi stuff; you need to know how to fight and use your speed and strength to not only destroy but subdue. As much as I hate to even think this, you can’t remain defensive at all times, either; sometimes you have to draw a line, look over it at your potential enemy and make damn sure they know crossing it isn’t free. When someone wants something you have or doesn’t want you to have it, there’s going to be blood and you can’t back down from it.

To reiterate: you shouldn’t go around starting trouble, but you had better be prepared to fight regardless.

So: think you have what it takes to become a vampire?

This isn’t the destiny you’re looking for…move along.

~ Janiss

@JanissConnelly on Twitter

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Vampire Verisimilitude: “Life is But a Trope?”

Me again.

FromTheDeskOfJanissSignatureDo you know what a trope is? It’s a fancy word for a cliché, any common or overused theme or device – like zombies, for example.

Or vampires.

Prior to my employment here at Cedarcrest Sanctum, I had no idea how much vampire media stuff was out there. Television, movies, books, fan fic, erotica, crossovers, hybrids…wow. With so many creative people online these days, it’s as if every possible vampire idea and angle has already been covered; there’s nothing new.

(Note: It has been pointed out to me that a trope isn’t precisely synonymous with cliché, but it works for the purposes of what I’m going on about, okay? Stay awesome.)

Timothy collects movies and TV shows; I’ve watched everything he has. It doesn’t take long before familiar themes keep popping up: the sliding scale of vampire friendliness, our vampires are different/your vampires suck…almost SIXTY bloodsucking tropes just on TVtropes.org alone.

I can relate to more than a couple of them. I’ll go so far as to say I’m even JEALOUS of a few. Surviving on pig’s blood with a little otter added for taste? I’m in; it beats the hell out of keeping a living source of human-only blood close by. Glittering in the daylight? If it meant not feeling the earth pulling me back into a grave or punishing me as I resist, I’d wear a club-worthy silver-sequined romper out during the day and carry a disco ball under one arm. Also, no one has ever described my bite as “a kiss.”

But it’s not the superpowers or weaknesses that fascinate me.

It’s the emotion.

Maybe that’s what makes people wish they were vampires, want to become one or identify so closely with them. Simply put, vampires are blood-fueled powerhouses cursed with eternal loneliness because they used to be human. You could call it a metaphor for becoming rich or a being a celebrity; it’s also like having a genetic or contracted disease with special requirements to keep you going from day-to-day.

This was the thing hinted at by Bram Stoker in Dracula, the curse of everything passing you by, the eternal yearning for the life that was. I can’t relate to any of that since my parents are still alive; maybe I just haven’t been a vampire long enough yet. Will I become a villain? Will I stop caring about humanity and just take what’s mine until everyone is dead or someone destroys me? All the tropes.

It should surprise no one I find myself relating more to the vampires than the humans, but I also find myself trying with difficulty to remember my own point of view from when I was alive. Weird, right? I understand the craving now, the need for blood, feeling every cell in my body screaming for it while my mind tries to shortcut around every reason not to drain the closest mortal within reach. It’s monstrous. It’s Angel and Spike. It’s Daybreakers and 30 Days of Night. It’s Jerry Dandridge and Damon Salvatore.

Even in the worst of these books and shows, vampires are too often the outcasts even when they’re the king or sheriff. “Make me into a vampire,” their victims beg, practically a form of suicide except they believe something better awaits them afterward…something, yes, but not what they think. No one can explain it; you have to feel it. Vampires are land sharks; we don’t hunt in packs like wolves. It’s every bloodsucker for themselves and you have zero desire to share!

Nothing’s EVER easy.

The lives of mortals are filled with gathering the necessities of life – just like vampires – and time left to spare should be treasured. Becoming a vampire is like becoming a criminal, working in opposition to the way the dominant species on Planet Earth has decided life should work. You read that right; vampires may be the top of the food chain, but humanity still crawls over 99.999% and they tend to take exception to creatures that outlive them by feeding on them. Vampires can’t shut themselves away because they have to stay close to what they need to survive, and if you eat everything in sight, the minimum you’ll have to do is venture father outside of your safety zone to get more and hope no one knows you’re coming.

If you plan to survive eternity, you have to be smart. Stupid vampires are destroyed by smarter vampires, not stronger ones.

More than a few of those stories get that right.

So is my life nothing more than a trope? A cliché? A series of pre-ordained events already thought out?

I don’t believe that. And neither should you.

Maybe for Halloween I’ll find a tacky chair to call my throne, slouch in it wearing Rocky Horror red lipstick and a corset while all my guys crawl around in front of me, half-naked like a bad Magic Mike sequel…just before Dracula appears to challenge my authority for daring to sparkle brighter than him. I wonder how many tropes I could cross off my list acting THAT fantasy out?

And more importantly: who would I get to dress up as Drac?

Keep each other safe.

~ Janiss

@JanissConnelly on Twitter

(Note: Yes, it appears that my favorite cherry-red trench does fit the Badass Longcoat trope, but in my defense, I usually wear it buttoned-up and belted like Bogey from Casablanca. And FYI, Carmen Sandiego ALSO wears a super-brimmed red fedora, a turtleneck under her turned-up collar, AND notably hangs out with Waldo…so there.)

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Vampire Verisimilitude: “Seeking Power and/or Identity?”

People are Strange – there’s a vampire song that says so.

FromTheDeskOfJanissSignatureOkay, so it isn’t REALLY a vampire song, but it is on a vampire soundtrack, and the band who wrote and performed it aren’t vampires (I think). As I’ve ventured out into social media recently, I’ve noticed an obsession with vampire lore…FOUR. That’s how many times I’ve written the word “vampire” so far, FIVE if you include the title.

What’s my point? It’s about something called the Vampire Community, places where (I’m not making this up) real vampires communicate with each other online. And demonkin. And otherkin. And elementals. If you’re still reading this, you’re probably thinking, “People believe this stuff is real?” I’ve wondered myself, specifically why anyone would want to be known as a vampire or demon or anything other than human.

I don’t wear my own mask as tightly as I should; my resident readers know this. I share this with all of you because I am seeking my own understanding – dying before coming back and all. It’s something I remember vividly and (unfortunately) now from more than my own point of view (long story). Short version: I had plans, I saw someone in need, and I paid for that throwaway act of kindness for all of eternity. Would I have done the same thing knowing what I do now? Probably; too few people help when they should. Am I bitter? Hell yeah, and I blame the bastard who did this to me (you know who I’m talking about).

But back to the point: why would anyone WANT to be this? To be seen or thought of as a vampire?

“You wouldn’t understand,” is the most common response I get, followed closely by, “You don’t know me.”

Let me try: you want attention, even if it’s negative.

I’m not judging. Not everyone gets to be the sports stars, the beautiful people, the cool kids, the musicians, or whoever you identify with. Sometimes we live vicariously through the lives of others; karaoke, anyone? Look at the entire music industry, or better yet “American Idol” (while you still can). Singing in the shower, singing in the car (even the lip-syncing cops are on You Tube singing Taylor Swift), or singing for your smart phone. Everyone wants to be on TV, right? Everyone wants to be wanted, accepted, and admired…to a certain degree.

But a vampire? Well, why not?

They’re the bad folks, the dangerous ones, with power to spare. No one admires a bully, but we do admire strength and confidence. Piercing eyes, a wild look styled to appear on the edge of losing control, and clothes that say look if you dare but don’t touch. Now it’s even body modification, a respect for the pain endured to earn every inch of ink and every piercing, the secret art that disappears up a sleeve or down someone’s back. Even if it isn’t your thing, it still creates fascination and wonder – it tantalizes.

There’s nothing wrong with identification. Be a cosplayer, be a goth, get inked or pierced.

The problem is when it goes too far.

You didn’t die and become immortal. You weren’t mystically transformed. Your blood hasn’t become a healing agent incapable of contracting or spreading disease. And sharing your bodily fluids with others because “you just know” nothing is wrong with it?

Don’t do that. For the love of whatever or whoever it is you love.

We get it. We wouldn’t like you when you’re angry. You can be whatever you tell yourself behind a screen and keyboard; it’s a form of roleplaying. No, I’ve never lived your life and all that…and you haven’t lived mine. We all crave that moment of acceptance, when someone else is willing to accept any would-be truth at face value without question. Of course, that kind of online talk is a lot more effective when you don’t sound like the Black Knight telling Arthur you’re invincible as he hacks off your arms and legs. Or maybe those kids from Dude, Where’s My Car wearing bubble-wrap jumpsuits in the hopes their cult leader Zoltan could get them to space parties with aliens who think they’re really cool.

Identify all you want, but stay grounded in the truth.

When you’ve been buried alive and your heart stops beating every sunrise; when you can prove you haven’t aged in almost a decade since your rebirth; when your craving for blood makes your eyes go completely black, your fangs elongate, and talons push an inch out from your fingertips in seconds – THEN you can tell me you’re a REAL vampire.

Until that time, don’t judge.

You don’t know me.

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