Myth of the Immortal Court — Vampire Verisimilitude

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I came across this art for a Vampire MMO (read: video game) called Shadow’s Kiss, which admittedly sounds interesting. Believe me when I say Vampires should only meet on social media… because “reasons.” But this image makes me cringe — hear me out on this.

The crowned and corseted brunette with the opera gloves and thigh-highs; the blonde and blue-eyed blood doll worshiping at her feet desperate to be “kissed”; the goateed and coiffed confidant standing close — and all of them noticing you noticing them. Hell, event the gold and gem-encrusted skull throne is ridiculous. Image, image, image — no reasonably intelligent creature buys any of this, right? This is such a cliché and overdone idea that the subjects might as well be sparkling and swaying to looped trance music.

Why would anyone want to become any of these characters? How much court intrigue could justify it? Even “True Blood” character Eric Northman (read: still yummy) hated doing the whole bit at Fangtasia precisely because it’s ridiculous. And if you needed any fictional proof of vampire-court pointlessness, look no further than the ineffectiveness of Underworld. There’s no Italian Inquisitor Council and no secret cabal of hibernating immortals awakened whenever “Chuck the Vamp” steps out of line to deal with his Chuckiness.

I hope the game turns out to be cool, but let’s step into modern times and away from the Mushroom Ring Fairy Tale Demonic Vampire Court thing, okay?

Addendum: I should probably clarify my viewpoints. My father is a self-made man; he didn’t give me everything I wanted growing up and he worked hard so he could send me to college. He kept bettering himself even with setbacks, but while he was tough on me, he also had a few thoughts on “royalty.” I was three and had no memory of when Queen Elizabeth II visited America, but I do remember Princess Diana (no, not Wonder Woman) and her passing when I was almost nine.

Elizabeth served in the armed forces as a truck mechanic, and Diana wanted to be as far away from thrones and courts as she could get. I knew girls my age who wanted to be Disney princesses — and that’s okay — but I preferred a princess with quotes like, “Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.” Selfless and in service of others, not ruling over them and have them do for you.

While this Vampire Court image is a very pretty fantasy picture, nothing about it feels selfless or serving: it’s threatening. It looks like a gathering of wolves waiting for sheep to be served to them, and I cannot articulate just how much that pisses me off. How do I know? Look at the blue-eyed blood doll. If the courtesans were in any way benevolent, she wouldn’t be tethered to her mistress for snacking while looking wronged for it. They’re flaunting themselves and will likely be destroyed for it — not exactly the best way to plan for your immortality.

Trust me — I’m a Vampire.

Take your power seriously. Keep each other safe. Be indomitable.
~ Janiss

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Cassidy from “Preacher” – Vampire Verisimilitude

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I’m a Vampire who enjoys stories getting Vampires right.

“Preacher” is one of them. If you’re not familiar with this AMC show — spoiler! — Cassidy’s a Vampire but not the main character. While we’re shown he’s capable of blood-raging violence, most of the time he just wants to be left alone with his substance abuse. He’s a predator who avoids killing because of both the complications it brings — bodies don’t hide themselves — as a well as personal code of who deserves his wrath.

Every Vampire I’ve met has their own variation of this unwritten code with no two alike. None are more complicated than that of a sire and their progeny, and in the case of Cassidy — another surprise spoiler! — turning his actual son, Denis. Cassidy is over a century old, so it isn’t clear if he fathered Denis before being turned, only that he was there at the time of the child’s birth. I’m thinking he wasn’t a Vampire yet; newborn blood is intoxicating to a Vampire, even more so than in regular children.

But the real Cassidy is revealed in his attitude toward his fatherly-looking son. As Denis lays dying from heart failure, he begs the Vampire to show him mercy: to turn him. Cassidy has shown no forethought in being an immortal, living moment-to-moment from one distraction to the next. Yet here is his son whom he can save, but the Vampire clearly knows that turning him isn’t the same as saving him… not if it’s unleashing a new monster upon an unsuspecting world. Still, he wants to be the “good da” he promised, so…

Vampires are survivors, and in my experience, they keep their own numbers low all on their own. I laugh every time that meme goes around “proving” Vampires don’t exist or else they’d have infected the entire population now like mindless zombies. It isn’t humans Vampires fear; it’s other Vampires, and rightly so. While showing complete loyalty to preacher Jesse Custer, even killing for him unasked, Cassidy typically takes the path of least resistance, partying all night before making a withdraw from a blood bank rather than kill an innocent. Surviving off of stored blood isn’t exactly true for us, but the sentiment is appreciated.

Cassidy is as close to the Vampires I know as any, and seeing the pain of both wanting and having to deal with the son he couldn’t abandon, especially knowing the dangers, he also took personal responsibility for his part in it. Not perfect by any means — none of us are — but hitting very close to home. I wouldn’t go partying with Cassidy as his sort of debauchery isn’t my thing, but I also wouldn’t turn him away if he asked for my help… within reason.

Take your power seriously. Keep each other safe. Be indomitable.
~ Janiss

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Ladyhawking the Eclipse – Vampire Verisimilitude

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My friend Nancy told me about le paradoxe, which is exactly what you think it is: “the paradox.” I’m not sure why it’s pronounced with a French accent, but it’s the idea that a solar eclipse bends one of our Vampire rules: the need to be in the ground during the daytime.

Just a reminder: sunlight doesn’t kill us and neither do stakes — not to imply we’re fond of either.

According to Nancy and confirmed by Parham, during the period of even a partial solar eclipse, it elates a euphoric reaction in Vampires and suspends our “corpus visage” from the moment of First Contact. Here’s a cool chart showing all that eclipse terminology and stuff if you’re interested.

And unlike mere mortals with retinas that can burn out, we can look at it all we like.

To repeat: unless you’re undead, NEVER look directly at the sun.

This said, I am planning accordingly… to “Ladyhawke” it but without all that priest-killing. I’ll be on the rooftop of Cedarcrest Sanctum next to my belfry — aka my lunarium — and I already have a beach lounge chair angled for optimal viewing. I’m thinking flip-flops and a bikini, the red two-piece I never get to wear anymore.

Maybe I’ve included an old picture of how I looked in it when I was still alive, or maybe I haven’t.

Wouldn’t you like to know.

See you all after the eclipse!

Take your power seriously. Keep each other safe. Be indomitable.
~ Janiss

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Immortal Affirmation – Vampire Verisimilitude

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I am a Vampire. We notice everything and forget nothing. We drink the blood of the living to remain immortal. We prefer the night and avoid the sun. We are strong, fast, and very hard to destroy — not to mention the retractable fangs and talons.

It’s easy to accept that all evil stems from beings perceived as different from ourselves.

The Vampires I know were made, not born. We are not a race. Some sought it, some accepted it, and some had it inflicted upon them. It can’t be undone, but we can choose what we do with it.

I will not be evil. I have vowed to protect against those who embrace destruction and champion those who cannot protect themselves.

Vampires are not evil by nature, but we are survivors. We have a strong will to exist… the same as all creatures upon this Earth.

Those who easily take can also choose to ask, but we cannot exist by ourselves.

We are symbiotic, you and I — all of us.

Can you understand that? Everyone wants to live.

Please stop hurting one another.

We’re better than that.

Take your power seriously. Keep each other safe. Be indomitable.
~ Janiss

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Objects In Mirrors – Vampire Verisimilitude

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Ever heard the tale of Androcles and the Lion? There are plenty of variations, but the core of the story is that a mortal man cares for a deadly lion in need of help, foregoing his own safety to do so since the lion can kill the man on a whim. This selfless act earns the predator’s respect and affection; not only will the man remain safe in the lion’s company but can count on the protection of the clawed and fanged creature if threatened.

Surprise FYI: Vampires aren’t all that different, folks.

When I was turned and subsequently abandoned, I internalized; I couldn’t bear the death of even one more innocent on my conscience. Fortunately, I was taken in, provided for, and (mostly) allowed time to figure things out.

Everyone needs help from time to time, whether it’s having a thorn removed from a paw or satisfying the thirst of an immortal. There’s always a risk, of course; every situation and individual are different, just like Vampires or lions.

Sometimes hope isn’t as unattainable as you think; your fate isn’t sealed. I took a life when the monster took over, and while the lives I’ve saved will never replace the one taken, I don’t save them in penance; I do it because it’s the right thing to do… and because I have the power to do so.

If you need help, seek it. If you are offered help, accept it.

And even if you’re afraid, sometimes it’s still good to be another’s hope — even at risk to yourself.

If there’s a better definition of heroism, I’ve never heard it.

Take your power seriously. Keep each other safe. Be indomitable.
~ Janiss

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Immortal Holiday, Part 9: Homeward

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“What did we get?” I asked Cole after takeoff.

He tapped up a few screens on his laptop. “A few local exchanges and recent call numbers. It’ll take a while to go through the data. Tucker lives for this; I’ll send the entire sample to him.”

“Good idea. And good job tonight.” I glanced toward Travis. “Both of you.”

“We should have caught that sooner…”

“Me, too.” I noticed mom and dad together in the back of the plane where mom had napped out on the way up. They seemed okay, but it was all a bit of a shock: a bitter end to an otherwise enjoyable weekend. Now we were all questioning what parts were real and which weren’t… as well as who to trust. I went back to sit with them.

“He didn’t even seem apologetic,” my dad said to me, “like he was just doing his job.”

“And nothing else seemed weird before that? Mom and I had never met Ron or Cammie before.”

Dad shrugged. “Same old Ron… right up to the end.” He smiled. “Bet he didn’t figure on you sweeping him up like that!”

“Ron also didn’t resist, and I think Cammie gave herself away on purpose.” It reminded me of Nancy’s invasion of Cedarcrest. “Vampires don’t trust anyone they can’t thrall. Maybe if I was a little less trusting — ”

“You didn’t know, Sweetie,” mom reassured me. “But all-in-all, it was a lovely weekend. Good food, good company… surely Willie wasn’t in on it.”

I wasn’t convinced. “From what Ron started to say, this Adam took the time to find out who I was, who you were, who Ron was, and set all this up. I can’t imagine his intention was to do us harm; he passed up plenty of opportunities before that.” I shuddered at the thought of letting my parents sleep there, in his house, when they could have been kidnapped, murdered, or worse.

“We’re all safe now,” my mom said, ” and that’s what’s important. Well, that and me winning our bet.”

I eyeballed my mom. “What bet?”

She grinned. “On whether or not he could talk you into biting him.”

Dad rolled his eyes and smirked.

“You had a bet going?”

“You should have seen him!” mom said, imitating the way dad would act full of himself. “‘I know my daughter. If she thinks she’s fulfilling someone’s fondest wish, she’ll bend over backwards!’ Imagine his surprise when you refused. I said you’d think it was creepy…”

I flashed my fangs at my mom and pretended to scowl at her. “Maybe I should bite you.”

“Anything you need, Sweetie,” she replied in the most mom-like way possible.

I hope everyone had a good holiday. 😘

Take your power seriously. Keep each other safe. Be indomitable.
~ Janiss

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Immortal Holiday, Part 8: Reveal

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“Please don’t hurt anyone,” a calm voice instructed. “No one has come to any harm, and I leave it up to you for that to continue.”

The sound was coming from one of those hockey puck-sized digital assistant devices. It had been sitting unassuming on a table the entire weekend and I hadn’t once considered it might have been listening to us — lessons learned.

“Janiss?” the voice continued.

I loosened my grip on Uncle Ron and drew my talons in. “Adam, I presume?”

“A pleasure to meet you, Ms. Connelly. Forgive my methods, but I’m something of a recluse and prefer this over an in-person meeting.”

“So you’re a coward.” Ladies and gentlemen: my mom.

“What you call methods,” I interrupted, “I call a serious breach of etiquette. You might have just messaged me.”

“I wanted to hear you as you were, gauge your demeanor in social interaction. I found rumors of your willingness to pass as mortal intriguing, but your ferocity in the protection of your charges? That has become something of legend in our circles.”

“Meet me alone and I’ll scratch my name across your forehead; that’ll give you something to talk about.” I saw Travis grin; someone was having a good time.

Adam’s brief pause didn’t go unnoticed; he was thinking about it. “Your aircraft is waiting at Bishop. We can continue this another time. It was good — ”

“Hear this, Adam,” I cut him off. “You’re on notice as of now, and I will find out all about you. Come at me or those under my protection again and you’ll serve as a dire warning. If you still want to talk, send an email.” I released Ron to better rip the audio puck out of the wall by its cords and launch it through a window into the front yard. “Travis?”

Switching places to guard my mother from Cammie — I loved the way she slinked backward as I approached — Travis got up close and personal with Ron, filching a mobile phone for his efforts. Tossing it to Cole, a quick copy of the contents was made through the data port; it was a start.

“Adam came to us months ago…” Ron started to explain, looking toward my dad for possible forgiveness.

“Don’t,” my dad replied. “You’re a liar and that’s quite enough.”

Take your power seriously. Keep each other safe. Be indomitable.
~ Janiss

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Immortal Holiday, Part 7: Conflict

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“Hey, daddy!” I said, strolling in from the kitchen and finding a place to plop down on the couch… separating him from Uncle Ron in his recliner. Mom was on a love seat watching something on television.

“Dishes done, sweetie?” my dad asked.

I nodded before turning to Ron. “This has been an amazing weekend, but I have to know: whose idea was it to invite me?”

“Ron’s,” my father answered as I stared my so-called uncle down.

Not surprised. “Is that right?”

Aunt Cammie returned from the bathroom sporting a bandaid over her cut finger. She was moving toward my mother with purpose. I met her eyes as I spoke.

Stop, Cammie,” I commanded her. She didn’t, of course, stopping instead behind my mom’s chair and within easy reach of her.

Ghouled… probably both of them.

“Mom? Dad?” I asked. “Are you both packed?”

Before either responded, Uncle Ron turned the television off with the remote. “I think there’s been a misunderstanding…”

There are times I amaze myself with the speed I can move when I’ve fed recently. Whether he intended to defend himself or not, I sprang from my seat and caught Ron by the throat, hauling him out of the recliner and pinning him against the wall. My ferocity seemed to have gotten his attention. “Cammie, if you so much as twitch in my mother’s direction, I will beat you senseless with Ron’s spine, so now would be a good time to start talking.”

I was impressed how well my parents were taking the whole thing in stride. Had they already suspected?

“Adam is Flint’s local lord,” Cammie explained… sounding surprisingly worried. By lord I assumed she meant Vampire. “You are here at his invitation. If you act out now, it won’t go well for you.”

I recalled that Michigan had a population of about ten million, so by Magdy’s estimates, there were about eight Vampires in the state. The sad part was that we had checked; there was zero evidence of any immortal activity in the Flint area, not for a decade.

I squeezed Ron’s throat a bit tighter, but I was certain he wasn’t fighting me. Cammie might not have been careless; I may have meant to discover the deception at this point. Were they both waiting to see what I would do next… or were they waiting for others to arrive?

Two doors broke open; Travis came in the front entry as Cole appeared from the kitchen. “Anyone else?” Cole asked as he surveyed the situation.

“Not in here,” I answered. “Dad?”

“Everyone else left hours ago.” Dad understood something was amiss; he and mom were keeping their cool wonderfully. Travis inserted himself between mom and Cammie. I concentrated and couldn’t sense any Vampires close by. Unless the house was wired to explode, my guys had the upper hand.

I turned my attention back to “uncle” Ron. “You’re up. Are we expecting more company, or are you going to start talking now?”

Take your power seriously. Keep each other safe. Be indomitable.
~ Janiss

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Immortal Holiday, Part 6: Trapped

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Aunt Cammie asked me into the kitchen while Uncle Ron continued to entertain with my parents on the enclosed back porch. I never knew her growing up, so there was a lot of trust set forth with my dad as the common denominator, but I also had no reason to doubt her. It had been an enjoyable weekend with people coming and going — even if I only saw them in the evenings.

“I understand you’re heading back tonight,” Cammie said. “Seems a bit late for a flight out of Bishop International.” She started washing dishes as she spoke.

“We have a charter plane through the place I work.” I joined in with a towel as she filled the dish rack.

“Your father mentioned you ran a big facility down in West Virginia. Glenville, wasn’t it? I wouldn’t have thought a rest home would generate that kind of revenue.”

I smiled. “We’re privately funded through a charity trust and also work on longevity research — cutting-edge biotech. I don’t how all of it works; I just administrate the residential facility.”

“That’s impressive for someone your age.” As she finished with the plates, she scooped up several pieces of silverware at once to scrub them together. “Was that what you’ve always wanted to do?”

“I enjoy helping people, but I had originally planned on becoming a teacher — ”

That’s when I noticed the way Aunt Cammie changed up how she washed the utensils, just in time to nick the side of her finger with a knife. I tensed at seeing the first droplet of blood form as Cammie shut off the water, but I stayed composed (having fed from both Cole and Travis before coming over) and casually ripped a paper towel from the nearby roll to hand to her. “I never do that,” she chuckled, wrapping her finger and holding it tight.

“Everybody does it. Where do you keep your bandaids and Neosporin?”

“In the bathroom. Go on back in — ”

“Go ahead,” I told her, starting in on finishing the dishes. “I’ve got this.”

“I… see that. Be right back.”

I rewound what saw in my mind: perfect recall. She had tensed in anticipation of her cut, but why would she cut herself? It felt distinctly like a Vampire test — one I assumed I passed — but it was the first inkling I’d felt all weekend that anything was amiss.

If the cut wasn’t an accident, my parents and I were already caught in the trap… and Uncle Ron was certainly a part of it.

I finished the dishes, put them away, and calmly considered all the ways I could eviscerate my dad’s half-brother.

Take your power seriously. Keep each other safe. Be indomitable.
~ Janiss

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Immortal Holiday, Part 5: The Feast (Happy Easter)

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So: pre-Easter dinner… which I was already late for at sunset.

The idea was that I’d “already eaten” and could join the conversation at Uncle Ron’s without making too many excuses… which would have worked fine until the cook insisted the family wait for me. Also, the dinner party was bigger than I’d been told: in addition to my parents and myself, dad’s brother also invited his wife’s father and mother, Willie and Ezra… seven in all.

Ever meet anyone who insists Ezra can’t be a girl’s name? Anyway…

Uncle Ron’s house used crucifixes as a decorating theme, FYI. If I hadn’t known better, I’d have thought they were trying to keep me out. I found myself a little jealous of the ten-dollar all-you-can-eat fish fry Cole and Travis had discovered at a local VFW and gone to. They told me it was easy to find; just look for the tank in the front yard. Clearly, they were having a good time…

It turns out being “diabetic” is also a handy excuse without a lot of questions, a genetic anomaly from my mom’s side. She gave me a moment’s scowl when I said this was I why I wasn’t eating (which implies a talking-to later) but lovely Ezra added, “At least you come by it honestly. You look so thin!”

Ezra latched onto me like a new best friend, even rearranging the dinner table to sit beside me. Dad and Ron had done a lot of catching up during the day, but my fears of becoming the topic of conversation were allieviated by Willie leading the subject matter.

Willie was a veteran warhorse. He looked like he could be a curmudgeon and had earned the right to be one. Recent surgeries mentioned included his new elbow, a new hip, and waiting for his replacement knee to heal. His wife Ezra made sure he always had a fresh cold beer tucked into a cozy before the last bottle ran dry.

Somehow we started talking about Chevy HHRs; three of us drove them. In my only attempt to add something meaningful, I mentioned I didn’t like HHRs when I test drove one and had got a little red Kia Soul instead. Clamping down on my arm like a vise, Ezra warned me, “He’s a Chevy man!” but Willie the Warhorse took it in stride. “Only reason those Koreans can build those cars is because I saved them all to let ’em do it!”

Talk turned to “the war” and how bunkers were better than foxholes. When bunker guys got a day of rest and relaxation, Willie explained, they went to a place far away from “the bangers” for hot showers and cheap American beer; when foxhole guys got a day, they spent it in the bunker! Willie said he’s been in the country for nine months, respectfully adding the foxhole guys were “the ones who actually TOOK the hill.” When he’d been in South Korea, nothing was taller than a chimney but now they have skyscrapers.

Ezra mentioned later that Willie almost never talked about the war and that he must have liked me.

The conversation eventually moved out onto a patio to enjoy a cool Spring evening talking about speed limits being too low and weird craft beers. It felt very normal and entirely peaceful taking it all in. I noticed my mom looking at me with a sense of pride, I think, marveling at the predator who could still pass for human.

Happy Easter, everyone… but this little adventure isn’t quite over yet.

Take your power seriously. Keep each other safe. Be indomitable.
~ Janiss

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