By Kieron Gillen on April 9th, 2008 at 8:21 am.
[This is an extended version of something I wrote for PCG. Well… I didn’t write it for PCG. I wrote it for myself after something had moved me in the flawed-but-oft-magnificent Vampire: Bloodlines and I sold a cut down version of it to PCG months later, as it’s spoiler central. It’s very much my personal experience with a memorable section…]
“Power Corrupts” has never been true. In my experience, Power Seduces. “Corrupt” implies it’s akin to sprinkling a little shit in an otherwise immaculate meal. The problem with power is that it just makes everything better. And when someone’s staring up at you, saying you’re the best person in the world and they’d do anything – anything – you ask, could you say no?
I thought I could. I was wrong.
I’ve been on adventures before, and I always lean towards the side of right. I tried to do that here too but since entering the World of Darkness, even best intentions twisted in my hand. Heather was the classic case. I found her, lying dying in the corner of a Santa Monica emergency ward. A college girl with market-bought Scarlet dyed hair and emo glasses, straight off an Oakland campus. Pity makes me choose to feed her a drop of my own Vampiric blood, gifting her a little of my own power – enough to save her. She becomes what we call a Ghoul. Coming to, she asks me what happened. In a moment of madness, I tell her the truth. She screams, calling for the police and I make with the disappearing into the night thing my brethren and I do so well.
I forget about her. So when, much later, she turns up outside the LA Camarilla’s headquarters it’s a surprise. She’d been looking for me everywhere since that night. She hasn’t been able to stop thinking about me. She just wants to be there for me, pay me back any way she can, whatever. I try and talk her out of it – she really doesn’t know what she’s getting into, but she’s so insistent. I think “why not”. I’ll treat her well and everything will be okay.
I take her back to my sanctuary and tell her what’s going on. She doesn’t believe me at first. “Vampire and Ghoul?” she asks, “Is that some kind of Fetish Slang?”. I persist and the stain of truth sinks into her. But when she recovers from the initial horror, she doesn’t care. She loves me in the way the flame loves the air or the arm loves the needle, except a thousand times worse. I know it’s fake and it’s only what I did to her that made her like this. But no matter how artificial the affection is, it’s still a tongue lapping my ego.
She gives me a little of her money and offers up her neck for me to drink from. I try and treat her as politely as I can, but she’s so damn submissive, I find myself falling into the role of master. I’ve got a beautiful girl who’ll do anything I ask her too, quickly, obediently. Since she wants to serve so badly, I find myself giving her tasks and demands that I’d never make to anyone else. And, to my horror, I like it. I have to leave heading out for serious business, but I surprise even myself with my final command: Change your appearance. She went to the bathroom, a happy slave and I head out into the eternal night.
“Is that some Fetish slang?”. Heh. It may as well have been.
My work takes me into a hellish place, full of violence and madness, but it’s my internal turmoil that’s confusing me. This isn’t like me at all, but the opportunity was there and what was the real harm? She thinks she loves me. It makes her happy. And in a sordid kind of way, it makes me happy too. As I progress around the dilapidated mansion full of knives and the men who wield them, I start thinking that the insanity of the place as some kind of reflection of my inner turmoil… but then realise that’s yet more egotism. How did I find myself in this place? I think back to the chain terribly slutty, manipulative things I’ve done since being embraced, and I wonder if you’ve been falling long enough, you even notice anymore.
I deliberately put off returning home until I close all business, but the nagging questions haunts me. What’s going to happen when I walk through the door? How will she look? How will I feel? Will I like it? I step inside.
Heather’s changed. Bits of red hair show in scarlet slashes through the fresh black. Green eyes drowning in kohl, hair a halo and body wrapped in something tight, black and shiny. Her idea of what a Vampire’s servant should look like. She’s not far wrong.
She’s made the effort so, it seems, should I. I let her suckle some more of my blood from an opened wrist, cementing our relationship a drop at a time. I’ve been told that three feedings lead to a bond of an intensity unknown in all other life, and this is one more step towards that. At that second, I don’t really care. She’s my ghoul. I’m her Vampire. She lives for me and I take what I desire. It’s the natural order, for my kind, and I’m almost exulting in it.
At which point, she throws down a pile of greasy notes in my lap. Her college fund, she announces, and she wants me to have it. After all, she doesn’t need it anymore. She’s going to drop out of school so she could look after me properly, like she knows she really should. It’s like a slap to the face. I wake up.
Sure, I was a vampire, but there was no need to be one I was slouching towards. I told her she had to go. She screamed denial. I insisted, saying that this was to be my last order to her. Distraught, she’s begs for another chance. And even there, there was some part of me that was thinking “Go on: You deserve to be worshipped, and you can spend the money on especially Bloody Marys and shotgun rounds”. But I gritted my teeth, rammed a stake through that part of my heart and hoped it stayed lodged there long enough to do what I had to do. Eventually, she left. I breathed a sigh. Or regret or relief, I really couldn’t tell.
I may be a Vampire. I don’t have to suck.