Copyright @ Carina Bissett. “The Stages of Monster Grief: A Guide for Middle-Aged Vampires” was originally published in Coffin Blossoms (October 2020). This story may not be reproduced in any form without the author’s express written permission.
THE STAGES OF MONSTER GRIEF
Ladies, you may have dreamed of a day when you no longer have to “age gracefully” or are forced into obscurity by a wardrobe filled with basic neutrals. You look in the mirror only to be confronted with sagging skin, pebbled cellulite, and wrinkles in places you never expected. You start to wonder if you’ll be old and alone forever. A little bit of blood is worth the price to drink at the fountain of youth, isn’t it?
And then it happens: some figure seduces you from the shadows, and you fall lovingly into their arms with your throat bared by a torn turtleneck. You think you’ve beaten the odds. Only, death is never as romantic as it is in the movies, and rebirth is downright disgusting. That two hundred dollar cut and color is reduced to a dirt-matted mop, and your nails are broken from digging your way out of a shallow grave. Don’t even get started on the state of your skin. And they say mud makes a magical facial. Call bullshit on that one.
You blow it off, decide you were slipped a mickey, and some teenage asshat buried your passed out body in a mound of moldy leaves as a joke. No Prince Charming dressed like Bela Lugosi. No sexy interlude behind the cocktail lounge. No throb of the forbidden. You refuse to acknowledge the truth. So you rub at the bruise on your neck and search through the closet for an even higher collar to hide the arterial bloom.
The next day, you call in sick. After all, you’ve been working at the college, wearing your nicest smile for twenty fucking years. Don’t you deserve some time off for good behavior? You’ve never acted on the impulse to fail a student just because they are a monster in the classroom. But no one has ever thanked you—not once. Screw that.
When you wake up, the day has disappeared and September’s Harvest Moon squats low on the horizon. You’ve been eating vegan in an attempt to lose belly fat and to reduce cholesterol, but all you can think about is a nice, juicy steak. Rare. And why shouldn’t you treat yourself? You only live once, right?
Okay, so maybe you didn’t make it to the restaurant on your walk from campus to downtown. And those belligerent frat boys probably had it coming, anyway.
Back at home, you take a shower and toss your blood-soaked clothes in the bin. No more beige for you. From here on out, you will only wear velvet and lace, cut seductively to show off the new you. But, when you look in the mirror, nothing has changed. That crepey skin is still visible on your neck, your breasts sag without the support of an underwire, and the cellulite on your thighs appears even more dimpled than it did before.
You go out the next night looking for answers from your vampire progenitor. You figure they have some explaining to do. Why can you see yourself in a mirror? Better yet, where’s the god-damn fountain of youth? You wouldn’t have wanted the cursed blessing if you knew that you’d have to spend the rest of your presumably immortal days alone at the resting age of fifty-five. What kind of sick fuck would damn you to that particular purgatory?
You think about walking outside and ending it all with a little vitamin D, but you’ve never liked the sun—skin cancer and all of that. You didn’t wear wide-brimmed hats, long sleeves, and your weight in SPF 100 for thirty years to go out in a blaze of glory.
Instead, you go on a binge of boys and booze.
It could be worse.
You invest in corsets, light your home with candles. Still, it takes some time to let go of modern perceptions of youth and beauty, even though you know from experience there’s more to life than that.
After all, you can deadlift a family sedan. You’ve gotten out of the academic grind with a few well-placed casualties. And snapshots of your new, “I don’t give a fuck” stylings turned you into an Instagram hit. Sure, those pictures are mistakenly titled “Sexy at Sixty,” but whatever.
It doesn’t take long before your memoir is sold as fiction for six-figures, and you start the popular blog “So You Want to Write a Vampire Novel.” In between readings and convention appearances, you stalk the streets looking for one of your own kind. Even though you never found the vampire who turned you (or any other vampire for that matter), you crave a companion. So, when you see the foxy woman astride a black beast of a motorcycle, silver hair streaming out behind her, you act on impulse.
You pretend you didn’t notice it was a full moon, or that the howls dogging her trail sounded like wolves.
It’s your nature after all, you tell yourself as you dig a shallow grave with a broken fender. You tell yourself that she’ll love you forever even as you push the dirt over her drained body. She’ll forget her lover with the moon-bright eyes. She’ll forget the spat that sent her far from her pack. Your blood will triumph; you’re sure of it. But when she rises, the silver-haired woman looks right through you.
She stumbles away and leaves you behind to stare at an empty hole filled with nothing more than moonlight and frost.
Over the distant sounds of traffic and sirens, a wolf howls.
Overhead, January’s Wolf Moon watches with an amused grin. The silver-haired woman breaks into a lope.
You don’t need a magic mirror to tell you how this will play out. The movies are full of stories about romantic triangles and unrequited love. If nothing else, you’ll no longer be alone. You gather your cape. And follow.
Carina Bissett is a writer, poet, and educator working primarily in the fields of dark fiction and fabulism. Her short fiction and poetry have been published in multiple journals and anthologies including Upon a Twice Time, Bitter Distillations: An Anthology of Poisonous Tales, Arterial Bloom, Gorgon: Stories of Emergence, Hath No Fury, and the HWA Poetry Showcase Vol. V, VI, and VIII. She is also the co-editor of Shadow Atlas: Dark Landscapes of the Americas. Find more at http://carinabissett.com.
Shadow Atlas: Dark Landscapes of the Americas is scheduled for release on November 30, 2021.
There is an old saying that wisdom sits in places. Open an atlas across the Americas, and you will soon discover this knowledge hidden in fragments of shared memory marked on maps. The ancient peoples knew which areas to avoid, which spirits to appease. Later, invasive superstitions from far-flung countries seeded into the landscape. In order to survive, newcomers learned the cautionary tales and secret lore linked to the terrain. But not all paid heed to superstitions. These are their stories, each tale a new entry in the field guide to dark landscapes.