The Second Species: Vampires based in Fact
It was a lovely Southern summer afternoon—late afternoon, in fact. What the townspeople called “evening,” that time when day is turning into night and the sun begins to dim. It was around six o’clock when Warene de Vissage stepped from the dining room of the house onto the back porch, calling to her child to come in for dinner. The sinking sun was shining over the front of the house and Warene was sheltered from its rays by four walls and a roof. Nevertheless, she could see the heat rising in shimmering waves from the sidewalk fifteen feet away on the other side of the running rose-covered picket fence. She could also feel that same heat touching her skin.
Wrapping her arms protectively across her chest, she hurried back inside not waiting for the child to obey.
The next morning, Warene awoke in agony. Her skin burned, felt hot and tight. Staggering out of bed and to the mirror above her vanity, she stared at the startling and horrific image before her…skin crimson and scorched, edges curled and inflamed, blisters and scales…as if someone had held her over an open fire. To touch her face brought excruciating pain…to look at it brought tears…it itched, it burned, and the most awful part was…but she knew why.
The sun…reflecting off the pavement. Hadn’t she felt its heat? She’d dared step outside during daylight, thinking just this once, it wouldn’t matter…just this once, so late in the day, she wouldn’t suffer. Though she hurried back inside, that damnable sun still found her, and did its work.
It would be weeks before she healed.
This may sound like the beginning of a vampire story, but it’s a true episode, taken from my own mother’s life. Maman suffered from PMLE…polymorphic light eruption…a condition in which an individual’s DNA cannot repair the damage done to the skin by ultraviolet rays. Even on the most overcast days, she was never able to go out during daylight without being completed covered from head-to-toe. Long pants, knee socks, a long-sleeved shirt, gloves, a neck scarf, a wide-brimmed hat, and an umbrella were her usual attire when leaving the house…and still, she could be burned by sunlight reflecting from the pavement or any surface, going through her clothes to cause near-first degree burns.
PMLE appears to be hereditary. I was lucky, however; even with my blond hair and fair skin, I can walk in sunlight with no more than the normal fear of getting a sunburn. SPF-70 sunblock and I are old friends, nevertheless, and I use it faithfully. A little caution is a prudent thing.
For most sufferers, PMLE simply causes an annoying rash but a small percentage are stricken with a much more severe case, in which they appear to have been actually cooked. It is the less painful form of a condition called XP—Xeroderma pigmentosum. This is, in medical terms, “a skin cancer-prone autosomal recessive disease characterized by inability to repair UV-induced DNA damage.” XP suffers never come out in daylight; they live their entire lives after dark.
What does this have to do with vampires? The inference is obvious, and may be one of the ways the vampire myth began. If you were a superstititious person living in a primitive time when it was believed the sun sank into the sea every night at the edge of the world, and you saw someone actually burned by that same sun…someone who was only comfortable after dark and only felt he could safely come out of his dwelling at night, what would you think? Other opinions have been offered: premature burials, porphyria, lycanthropy. I’m certain all these—plus PMLE and XP—attributed to the legend a good many of us who are writers have used to our advantage, and I am one of them.
When I began my series The Second Species, I wanted my vampires to be different, not the usual Undead, sleeping-in-a-coffin type. So I made them a living people, a second species of Mankind, divorced from their human brothers because of their differences. They have many characteristics of the Undead but I’ve given acceptable reasons for them: the entire group suffers from XP, therefore they can’t emerge into sunlight; they have allergies—the most powerful one being to garlic and certain herbs; their refusal to look at crosses, etc., is not because they are repulsed by them but because their own religion demands they not look on the sacred objects of other faiths, and so on. Understanding how humans fear them, they have hidden themselves away in the cloud-covered peaks of the Carpathians where the sun never penetrates. If and when they emerge into the land of humans, tragedy inevitably follows.
That is the story behind the creation of my “vampires,” based in fact, elaborated in fiction. The first novel in the series, Shadow Lord, is expected to be in the next two months by Double Dragon Publishing. Look for it…you will enjoy it…and feel a little sympathy for those true suffers who are “deprived of God’s holy sunlight.”
Men call them vampires. They call themselves aventurieri. For generations, they hide in the mists of the Carpathians away from their human foes.
In 1794, everything changes… Their Prince’s assassin is murdered. His son demands revenge.
Marek Strigoi’s quest for justice will take him from his Transylvanian homeland to the Hellfire clubs of Vienna, and the boudoir of a Parisian Marquise, but not even love will stop his vengeance.
Mircea Ravagiu must die.
When both the hunter and the hunted are vampires, not even Hell can stand in the way!
Marek, ghidaj of Castel Strigoi, sat at the desk in his father’s study. It was now his study, but the thought of being head of the family was an uncomfortable weight. He’d never wanted to be his father’s heir and still rued the day Janos had been forced to make his son the successor to Casa Strigoi.
Well, there was no fighting what was already done. He was now ghidaj of the assassin faction of the warrior caste, and leader of the Strigoi, the Shadows, the House supplying the Prince’s hereditary executioner.
Wearily, he brushed a hand across those damned mismatched eyes silently declaring his right to inherit, wishing again they’d never changed. That once more he was thirteen and his eyes still as blue as his father’s and not absurdly of different colors. Might as well wish the repeal of the aventurieri Law of Inheritance, which insisted the title of ghidaj go to one displaying a striking physical difference. As if only a sport of Nature could be named the next leader. Marek’s dark hair had not been enough to mark him as his blond father’s successor. When one of his blue eyes turned green, there was no question his own body made him Janos’ heir. At first, he cringed when anyone looked at him, peering into his face to declare, “By the gods, they aren’t alike!” but with it came reverence, and he soon accustomed himself to their scrutiny. Now, Marek looked at the world defiantly through that unsuitably-hued gaze.
Gods, things might’ve been so different...
Only four days before, he’d been a student, living with others his age at the University of the Scholomance in the high reaches of the mountains. Then the messenger, exhausted from flying so far, delivered the news: His father and stepmother were murdered, and his siblings abducted.
The aventurieri world was shaken. To attack the Shadow Lord was to strike at the Prince himself. As His Majesty’s assassin, Janos had served the Council for centuries, and this occasion was no different. He’d simply followed orders, punishing a renegade enslaving deomi and preying on them in defiance of the Law.
Armed with orders from His Majesty, he’d commanded Minea Ravagiu to bow to his master’s will. Minea refused, bringing death to himself and everyone within the walls of Fortreasta Ravagiu. When his brother returned from his own hunting foray, the deed was done. Standing ankle-deep in his kinsman’s bloody ashes, Mircea Ravagiu swore vengeance against the Shadow Lord, and now had carried it out.
Marek’s thoughts were grief-filled, a turmoil of rage and a bloodthirsty desire for revenge. Even now, his men were winging their way to Fortreasta Mircea, the killer’s stronghold higher in the mountains. He’d wanted to go with them, but concern for his siblings demanded he stay behind. His orders to the soldati were clear: If they found the murderer, they were to bring him to Castel Strigoi. Marek wanted the pleasure of killing Mircea Ravagiu himself, and he wasn’t going to make it a painless death.
I want to taste the bastard’s blood, feel it spatter my face and stain my robes as my fangs rip out his throat. The Domnitor might protest, but he didn’t care, and if he was called before the Consfatuire, so be it. I’ll claim the right of sange revansa for my family’s deaths.
Shadow Lord, Book One of the Second Species, is scheduled for an October release from Double Dragon Publishing.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
A writer of French Huguenot extraction, Tony-Paul de Vissage saw his first vampire movie on television at age 6--the old Universal horror flick, Dracula's Daughter--and was scared sleepless. He’s now paying his very permissive parents back by writing about the Undead.
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Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B007BDHDZY