At the Edge of Her Smile

“I want this,” I tell her.

She looks at me. She was never really what others would call a classical beauty: at least, not classical in this day and age. There is nothing tawny about her: nothing golden, or blonde, or blue-eyed. No, despite whatever they’ve said about her mother, her hair is neither yellow nor strawberry. It isn’t even black.

She, the person I define by what she isn’t, looks at me and purses her pale lips. The moon outlines the top of the alleyway and when it nestles into her tied-back hair, it makes her face glow like silver.

“No shitting?” her voice is an underground river, making her profanity smooth and sibilant. She leans in closer to me, “You know the risks, right?”

Her scent, of ashes and myrrh, makes the ache come back again. I can only nod. She leans even further against me: her head coming up to about my chest. She grabs the lapels of my coat and I can feel her breath on my collarbone: its iciness on my flesh making my back tingle with layers of goose bumps against the graffiti on the brick wall.

I close my eyes and somehow despite our differences in height, I can feel those pale cold lips brush against my lower neck. Even with my eyes closed, I can still see her somewhat oblong chin slanted consideringly one side.

“Once,” she tells me, “and you will be dizzy and light-headed. More, and you’ll probably cum in your pants,” my crotch prickles at her words in my ear, “And anything more than that,” I can feel the flat edge of her straight bold nose touch my chest as she rests her face there, “and you will have more than a little death.”

I hear her nostrils flare as she takes in my scent, like an animal, and I see those white thin lips swelling strong and red with barely contained desire. And my legs … they’re shaking. I don’t know whether I’m bending them, or kneeling on the pavement, or if somehow she has grown taller than me. In a very real way, she is a lot greater than I am. Or ever will be.

“Are you sure?” her voice purrs less in my ears now and more inside my mind.

“Yes.”

Then, she does it. It’s nothing like I expected.

The alleyway disappears. The night is gone too. I feel the blood thumping in my ears less and less … I still hear it, but it’s more abstract now, like the sound of thunder off in the distance. It all falls away into her twilight silvery self.

I see her. And the moon. Within a circle of moonlight, she and her silver-haired sisters dance around a ring of shattered pale monoliths dressed in robes of purple and red. They dance until the moon itself is soaked in red. And I see her eyes — greyer and sharper than an athame, than Athena’s gaze — and the ache grows so much I can’t bear it anymore. My hand grips her head, and I make her take more. I feel myself drifting away, becoming ephemeral and crystal clear. Drifting … into her …

“No.”

The breath gasps out of me and I’m sprawled on the hard concrete near the brick wall. The world’s spinning and I can’t, or won’t get up. My arm hurts. I try to get to my feet and wince against the cold wetness suddenly inside the seat of my jeans.

She stands over me. Her face is flushed and she is breathing heavily with intoxication and fury. Her hair like a silver mantle whips across her face from a very cold breeze while her eyes are older than night, burning and angry.

“No,” she says again and her face is a beast’s: with a beauty and terror that brings out the deepest, keenest longing in me. And then I realize what I almost had her do and just how close she was in doing it, for her to be flushing this hard: just how close I was to having it all fall away from me forever. I feel myself crying.

Slowly, her bestial rage softens into something like sympathy. She leans down and sits beside me. I’m still sobbing, choking on tears and snot as I feel her fingertips on my throbbing arm: the one I probably hurt when I fell. Her touch burns but as she grips my arm, the pain seems to lessen, and disappear altogether.

We sit there for a while as the sky begins to break into an orange-red dawn. Then she turns to me, with an expression almost too human: too human, and old, and long-suffering to belong to any being living on this earth. It’s a glance that makes all the disappointments and empty nights in my life look like short painful breaths by comparison: brief cramps not even worth talking about.

“Next time,” she tells me with a tender croon to her voice, “Come find me when you feel like you have something to lose.”

She smiles and I want to kiss her. Of course, by now, she’s already gone. The sun’s up over the alleyway now and I try to straighten out the mess of myself for the day. Her touch lingers, like an echo, like a fingerprint, or the faint outline of the moon still hovering in the dawning sky. Then I look up at the hidden moon above me and I say to it, “I will.”

Imagination Is Thicker Than Blood

In a post that Vampire Maman wrote, You Transfix Me Quite, she talks about how the character of Jane Eyre would have made an excellent vampire. Vampire Maman has a lot of very interesting and entertaining creative writing, but it reminded me of something I bring up from time to time out of a sense of sheer silliness.

I never played the Old World of Darkness Vampire: The Masquerade role-playing game, but I heard people talk about it and I researched as much about it as I could online. And I always wondered what kind of vampire I would be in that world.

There are many different Clans and, more specifically, Bloodlines in Vampire: The Masquerade. As a result, each vampire belonging to a particular line had different attributes than his or her fellow. Originally I toyed with being part of Clan Tremere because of their knowledge of blood magic and the fact that they seized their vampirism: they weren’t–at least knowingly–turned by another vampire, but rather they were mages that took blood from a captured vampire to make themselves powerful and immortal … though they didn’t count on the fact that they would still possess the inherent weaknesses of the Kindred.

But I abandoned that idea because they are too stratified in social structure and limited in numbers. So I thought I might have been a Ventrue. And indeed, some people believe that I am a very calm, detached, and dispassionate being whenever they meet me offline. I can be calculating and organizational like this Clan tends to be portrayed but this is not my major strong point and not even a fraction of the personality I really have. Still, I can appreciate the Blood Discipline of Dominate: you know, that stereotypical ability to hypnotize or mesmerize another being.

My girlfriend once said that I would make an excellent member of the Toreadors. A Toreador is either a very beautiful vampire that creates a series of social networks and supports various kinds of art, or they are artists themselves that spend their immortality oftentimes secluded and making new things, or they are both. Generally, they are closest to humanity as they like to watch and support their artistic endeavours and fads. Aside from the compliment of being compared to something beautiful and creative, I also share their obsession with a particular object: such as art. Yet they can also be very vain and fickle, and while I have some of those traits, they are not paramount in who I am.

Which brings me to the final Clan I was told about. One day, my girlfriend changed her mind about something. She thought that I could also be a Brujah. Now, I had heard about this Clan. In the Modern Nights era of that world, they were generally characterized as passionate, frenzied vampires that were usually punks, brawlers, and anarchists. However, in ancient times they were known as disciplined warriors and philosophers that embraced a particular ideal: honing body, mind, soul, and altered power to fight for what they believed in. They were not merely turned from fighters, but also lawmakers, orators, and thinkers. I can also see them having turned some artists along the way as well: much like the Toreador.

I would not be a typical Brujah of the modern period, I would imagine and I would probably seem more like a Toreador on the surface with some Ventrue discipline and calculation. At the same time, I would definitely be a fighter and a defiant force: through the imagery of my words.

But all these distinctions aside, would I make a good vampire? The answer is that I probably would in a very reluctant sort of way. I already have difficulty with a mortal life, and immortality would just be inconceivable with my range of emotions. On the other hand, a lot of physical burdens would no longer be an issue and perhaps–just like in this real world–I would have phases of activity and dormancy. Maybe with time I would surpass many mental challenges and blocks as well. It is hard to say what it would like in a hypothetical and fictional situation but, like I said, it is definitely fun to think about.

Taking Back My Workshop a Bit and After-Bites

Although you could conceivably title this post “Over-Bite” as well.

I’ve had The Sleepwalker and A Natural Selection in my written notebook for quite sometime now and I’d been meaning to transfer them onto this online version of my Mythic Bios.

It’s been strange making separate Pages for the stories that I want seen on here: mostly because they do not show up as unique posts (since they are Pages) and as such there isn’t that much traffic that goes to them. I think the extra effort of linking to these Pages to comment on the stories is something that takes a little bit of getting used to for me as well. As I keep working on this Blog and certain patterns and structure begin to arise, all of this does force me to go about things a little differently than when I first started here. That may be some of the reason why I have been making more reviews and articles than a lot of the more original things I used to make: though you can probably count some of my articles as “alternative perspectives” on subjects in any case.

But now that we’ve seen my penchant for making tangents to be alive and well, I just want to talk about the stories I made. “The Sleepwalker” was the result of me reading up on my Dracula and Kim Newman’s alternate vampire-ruled Victorian England in Anno Dracula: making me further ponder the physiological interpretations and possibilities of vampires and the question of, “What about Lucy?” I could have easily been a total smart-ass and titled this story “I Love Lucy,” but I made one popular culture reference in there already and I like the simple title I gave it.

One challenge I definitely had was that I didn’t even know what she physically looked like. So I had to make some inferences along the way based on some things that I read in passing. I always thought she had red hair, while some sources say she was blonde. Dracula was less than forthcoming on the matter, so I improvised.

I also improvised some more. In the vein (pardon the pun) of “What about Lucy,” I always wondered why she was such a different vampire from the other women in Dracula’s entourage. After a few years reading Anne Rice and the Old World of Darkness’ Vampire the Masquerade, I came up with this interesting gem. What if the amount of blood and the environmental situation of a person affects what kind of vampire they might become? For instance, Lucy was a sleepwalker and Dracula apparently took advantage of this with his hypnotic capabilities. Yet we never know why he chose her.

“A Natural Selection” was a possible answer to that last question. I always saw Dracula as far more intelligent and evil than even Van Helsing gave him credit for. If I were a centuries old vampire with some financial means and intelligence, I know I’d slowly put measures into place and watch the development of said technological innovations before doing anything. I would also be thinking about the future. I wanted the Dracula I portrayed in this story to be a monster not just because he is a vampire, but because of just how his mind works.

I suppose I also wanted readers to feel sympathy for Vampire Lucy and realize that she never had a chance. I originally contemplated giving her some Journal entries in the epistolary form: making a narrative as told from a private diary or something to that effect. I wanted to tell a story from the vampire Lucy’s perspective but then I realized that perhaps she was too … insane to write anything down. Then I thought to myself: she was turned and she died while she was sleepwalking and dreaming, so wouldn’t it follow that she would continue to perpetually dream in undeath as well?

I saw her new existence as a broken lens that reflected the culture in which she grew up in all its literature. Her child-like nature reflects the patronizing pampered sheltered life she has had to live in her society as well as essentially being reborn as a vampire’s plaything. To be honest, I enjoyed writing “The Sleepwalker” more because I really got to be innovative and it was fun to write a character in a constant stream of unconsciousness as it were. It was also really fun to write Vampire Lucy’s story in a way that complemented the original novel more than took away from it. The same can be said for “A Natural Selection”–a title I actually love because Dracula would have been very familiar with the theory of evolution going around at this time and might have even attributed it to vampires and their role with humanity.

Like I said, they are supposed to be short stories or vignettes made to complement Bram Stoker’s novel more than anything else.

I think whenever I write about my Stories on here, I will classify them under Creative Writing and link them to the appropriate Pages. So anyway, this is me: taking back my Blog from too many reviews and opinion pieces and attempting to make it a little more like the mad scientist’s workshop I intended it to be …. or something like that.

I wish this Rembramdt picture was my desk, but it does reflect my working process somewhat. If that makes sense.

Book Review: Stephen Andrew Lee’s Tales from Sanctuary: The Vampire Sex Bar

I’m trying to figure out how to begin this. Originally, I was going to talk about this book on Amazon but–back in the day–it had no entry to make a review about. This book is out-of-print. Its publisher Spitfire Books doesn’t seem to exist anymore and the author didn’t seem to have written any other books after this one.

For a book I didn’t even know existed up until four summers ago, it impacted me a lot and carries more resonance than I think most people in Toronto realize. First, before I go on let me give you some background. Sanctuary The Vampire Sex Bar is, as the name of an old Goth nightclub, a misnomer. From what I could tell, no sex happened in the club at all: though it was one of the first Goth nightclubs in Toronto. It was opened by Lance Goth in 1992 and it closed in 2000. The Club itself divided into the Bar above and the Catacombs, fittingly and sensibly enough, in the basement where it was apparently an all-ages space.

This was a time when Goth Nights and indeed the whole subculture was at its peak in Toronto: specifically in the Queen Street West area. There was a very interesting Goth fashion store in that area called Siren and a whole other series of clubs, but Sanctuary lasted for a very long time until its last location became a Starbucks. Sanctuary’s time was also a time of Buffy, the Toronto-based Forever Night series and the old World of Darkness’ Vampire the Masquerade: which I mention to create a little more ambiance before I go on.

Now, as for Tales From Sanctuary: The Vampire Sex Bar the book, it was created in 1997 by Lance Goth: also known as Stephen Andrew Lee. Like I said, I had no idea who he even was or what this book was up until four years ago. I only periodically went downtown in my teen years–to places like the Vatikan or Velvet Underground, even the Bovine Sex Club (another aptly named place, I wonder if anyone will or has written a book on that)–and when I moved out to live on York residence I went to the Neutral Lounge about once a week every Friday for their Goth Night.

So I came into all of this at the remnants of the tail-end of this whole time. Then one day a friend let me read her copy of this book. Apparently, during the late 90s when it came out it was easy to get copies of the thing but now it has become very difficult to do so. So here is my challenge: I want to talk about this book and not give away spoilers on the off-chance that someone can access a copy, yet I also want to give people enough information as to what I’m actually talking about and I feel kind of foolish reviewing a book that people most likely haven’t–or will never–read. But I will do my best.

Tales from Sanctuary is a collection of stories. Each story starts off with a quote of some kind that fits its tone. There is no Table of Contents so you just have to read through them really. I read most of the first story, “The Wind-Walkers” at my friend’s place before I actually ordered my own copy of the book from Alibris.

“Wind-Walkers” is the story of two last remaining members of a long-lived winged humanoid race that fed off of human blood and flesh. They once ruled a kingdom of human worshipers which was betrayed to the Roman Empire by someone they trusted. After being violated, and one of them also mutilated, the two hide for millennia until one day they find Sanctuary and learn to trust again. This story dominates a good seventy-eight pages of the book and it is not without its flaws. The grammar is atrocious. I recall there even being a few spelling mistakes as well. In addition–in the long scene where you see a flashback into the Wind Walkers’ past–they speak far too anachronistically. At the very least, some attempt to make the speech sound more formal or archaic could have gone a long way to suspend that portion of the necessary disbelief I needed to think I was looking at ancient vampiric rulers of Nabatea.

Yet we begin to see here an interesting concept: that beings with monstrous appetites can be sympathetic, even pitied, or emphasized with. Lee actually makes thinking and feeling characters of these Wind-Walkers and I know I wanted to be happy for them. It made me think that they weren’t human and it was not completely fair to hold them to human standards, but at the same time it showed that there was some pain and some compassion and understanding that transcended all of that. It was a bit awkward even there, but through them you begin to experience the club of Sanctuary: that strange dark place of mysteries and humanity where you feel with them as they actually feel like they fit in somewhere in human society after millennia on the run.

At the very back of the book, Lee explains all of his inspirations and some of his methods in crafting these stories. What is fascinating for me is how he crafts a mythological Sanctuary. It is obviously based off of his Club–under his persona of Lance Goth–and perhaps even people he knew or knew of. He plays with the idea of someone from the Goth subculture not feeling like they belong and that Sanctuary is not only a place for them, but also a place for supernatural beings–sometimes understated ones–that feel the exact same way. Lee mentions that when crafting the scenes that lead up to each character going to Sanctuary in each story, he actually amalgamates places from other cities into the background: adding to Toronto’s geography in that way. I don’t know how I feel about that because I hadn’t lived in Toronto city that long and I was–and am–still discovering a lot about it. But he does begin to capture a certain kind of spirit, if you will in that first story and in how he writes this.

So then I got my own copy of the book and proceeded to read through the rest at a relentless pace. In “The Cold Ones,” we see a story about another vampiric group: specifically three sisters that seem to frequent a dark corner of the club and come from a mysterious place with a cab fare of $14.95. Now, this story is from the point of a view of an ordinary person and apparent-staff member of the Bar who gets drawn into the world of these sisters’ and actually is called upon to help them. Again, there was something awkward about this story and while I know that revealing all of “the monster’s” background might be considered “info-dumping,” there were references made such as “the Weir” that in retrospect I kind of get (a thing that traps something) but I wasn’t sure at the time. Also, I’m not a geographical expert but I would assume that Mount Pleasant Cemetery is much farther from Queen Street West than the book portrayed. Still, there was something very compelling in this story in how something can be horrifying, and beautiful, and relatable while still very much a mystery.

I really liked the story “Lillith” which actually has references and a list to various kinds of plants … some of them potentially poisonous. It is about a young woman living downtown who feels awkward in her skin and is terrified of physical and emotional danger. Then something really bad happens to her and she eventually finds she has a problem: a very real and human problem. It’s only at Sanctuary: at a place of seemingly strange people and monsters that she finds a place where she actually feels like she actually belongs and feels safe. There is a bit of a crossover here with characters from an earlier story too and I was glad she got to meet them under those circumstances: and that it let me know what happened to those characters in the meantime.

I related to “The Elixir of Love” in a somewhat different way. It actually comes after “Pins and Needles,” but I wanted to mention it because it was a nice contrast to “Lillith.” It was a story about a young man who thinks he finds love and gets introduced to an eerie and then rather heart-breaking reality: where even if you support the idea that there are different rules for different beings, it isn’t just humans that can be shallow “douchey” people. The last is rather banal, but makes it no less painful for it. In this story, Sanctuary is less of a place where he belongs, and more the site of a humiliation and that sense of cognitive dissonance where you think you have found happiness but it is really the loneliness of a gritty past 4 am downtown night. It was somewhat unsettling, but captured what a friend of mine calls “moments of painful clarity” rather well. Both Lillith and Jayson are very self-conscious characters full of real fear and desire–that do not feel like they fit in–and when they find Sanctuary they meet two entirely different ends.

“Pins and Needles” was a disturbing story, but the build-up of the main character’s development into a self-proclaimed “doctor of bad blood,” is well done and is a nice study into morbidity and “a certain point of view.” Finally, there is “Ricky Las Vegas”: a story about a talented musician that only vaguely wonders why his bands keep disbanding, his friends disappearing, and why Lance won’t let him sing at his Club. It is only towards the end of this really short story that Ricky realizes what he is and what he will do from there. I really liked this story in particular because it deals with psychic vampirism and creativity and how they can be related.

Throughout all of these stories is the presence of a fictional Lance Goth who seems to have some mysteries abilities to sense people in his Club and even come on them without being detected. He is usually the catalyst for the characters wanting to tell their stories or find some information that is integral to us for the plot in some of the stories. He usually takes some small mementos from each person he tells things to, or has told to him. It took me a while to realize that Lance actually existed, and that he was actually Stephen Andrew Lee because I can be dim like that.

All and all, Tales from Sanctuary was not the best-written book or series of stories I’ve ever read. I had immense trouble suspending disbelief for “Wind-Walkers,” no matter how fascinating an idea it was. However, this book did something to me. It is hard to explain, but if I had to put it in writing I would say that it showed me the spirit of the Toronto Goth Nights that once existed or wanted to exist: a night that once flourished until morning came yet still existing somewhere in the city’s cracks. It showed me magic in an urban place that I lived in and in that way it did change me.

For one thing, it made me begin to write about Toronto. I confess I actually wrote three stories based on Tales from Sanctuary–The Wrong Club, To the New Millennium, and Another Time–and I wish I could locate Lee to thank him for making these. I bought a copy of the book for a friend that lost her own years before and it was worth it too to share even some of that understanding. If you are keen on reading a copy and you don’t have a friend with access to it, there are some that were being sold as Used on Alibris and Abebooks. Amazon itself is even advertising a seller that will sell a copy for $998.00, but personally I would check those other Used Book Places first or wait.

For all of its idiosyncrasies, I think that Tales from Sanctuary is an important part of Toronto’s subcultural history that now lost place where as the back cover tells you, “You can hunt, but you cannot feed.”

I give this strange book a three out of five.