This journal entry contains frank discussion of real violence, and may upset some people. Please, proceed with caution. This is bare bones discussion of killing, with no gratuitous stuff and as such might get a bit much for the more sensitive amongst you.
Do not look for sweet little tales here.
I am a criminologist – it’s not for the faint-hearted romance readers.
Maybe you wanna skip this one. Srsly.
If you’re wanting for me to whip out forensic photos to show you all, you are cruising the wrong journal. These were real live people who had someone who loved them, who died without dignity and without someone to care for them in their last moments. I never have pulled out my personal stash (and never will) to satisfy the needs of those who want to treat dead people as experimental gawking material. I don’t degrade the dignity of victims like that, and violently disagree with any forensic photos being released to the public.
So I promise for the more sensitive ones – this is a forensic-photo-free journal.
I know that some reviewers love to follow violent stories because they think they will learn more about the “psychology” of this sort of lifestyle. But in my experience and research, the violent traumances of the fanfic universe will teach the false crap that is not actually real psychology. They are a study in olde time romance novels, crap understanding and unrealistic expectations.
In the psychological world constructed of bad fanfic paper, Sookie can deal with violent stuff and brush it off. Now, take it from one desensitised woman, it’s just not that simple. Killing affects the psyche, witnessing violence affects the psyche, and rarely do I see it dealt with in fanfic as well as it is in CH’s world. I would hazard that she’s a woman who has seen bodies that have died by violence up close and personal, and I know she’s had her own ordeals. So CH has one up on many of the writers who think they’re exploring a real subject. Read her stuff closer.
I myself noticed how desensitised I was when I was watching a graphic documentary with my husband – which showed a real life video capture of a prison stabbing – two prisoners held down another prisoner and shivved him repeatedly. I think it was for a gambling debt, but it’s a common every day thing that goes on in prisons – this was just a particularly graphic video, and sound quality was high. The victim made this sound as they were being hit, moaned and grunted. Now, it was another day at the office for me, but Mr. Minty reeled back in shock and horror that a man was actually dying in front of his eyes on the television screen. Mr. Minty is no wilting flower either – having killed chickens, mice and rabbits (the last two with his bare hands). It was then made clear to me that I was desensitised to violence to the point it no longer horrified me as it should.
But does that really mean that people who see violence every day are totally fine with violence?
Why no, dear reader, it does not.
I think it’s about five years since I saw the first one, give or take, but I can still picture three forensics pictures I wish I could unsee – and these are the ones that haunt me, mind you, not the only ones I’ve ever seen. One was multiple stab wounds to the abdomen of a dead three year old child; one was the imprint of an offender’s signet ring on anus of his dead rape victim; and the other was Jack the Ripper’s last victim. Jack had quite a bit of time to spend with Mary Kelly, and he carved all the flesh from her thighs and belly until he hit bone. Those are the three that for some reason struck me terribly – and the injuries and what they looked like stuck with me. They’re not the worst stuff I’ve seen, and that’s not all the victim endured, but for some reason they are the three that haunt me worst.
I’ve also been in contact with dead bodies, and I know what they look, smell and feel like. It plays a big role in my revulsion of vampires in all honesty. Part of my assertion that I would never be with a vampire is based on those dead bodies and how they feel. Dead bodies tend to be slack and totally boneless – the face changes a little after death, unlike on television, because actors cannot relax unconscious muscle retention in their faces, no matter how good they are.
The other rather life changing thing about dead bodies is the smell. The smell of a dead body is absolutely unique, cloying and really gets in your nose. There is no other smell like the smell of a dead human body. Police officers comment on it, and it does not dim with time. I can still recall the olefactory presence of “dead human” and should I one day accidentally run across a murder scene, I will know that smell again before I ever register the visual presence of the body. It’s probably like that for some evolutionary purpose of warning us of danger – ie. the brain saying to you “There’s a dead human here! Take care or you may die too!”
The thing that puts me off vampires for the most part though is the feel. Now, magic animates them, so most of the time while awake, they would not be like that. Except in the day time, when they’re dead, which would take a bit of shine off a sleep in. They certainly wouldn’t have the dead human smell either because they’re not decaying and settling. But the feel is that the dead body is about room temperature. People, as they die, that’s the first thing to leave them – is the heat of the blood pumping through their veins. As the blood stops pumping to their extremities, they reach such a temperature in their hands. I have a way to tell you all the temperature – you know when you go out into a brisk cold morning, and your arm gets cold? It’s not ultra cold, but it’s not warm either – it’s brisk and bracing, but cold. Well that’s about the temperature that dead bodies are in an ordinary room. The thought of being with a dead vampire, that temperature skeeves me right out, because it is not slightly cooler – it’s most definitely cooler than what I am used to.
But it’s not just criminologists who are disturbed by death and specifically killing. It’s actually killers.
I remember one case study that always stuck with me – it was an eighteen year old boy – and he’d stabbed his mother about twenty times. He’d been abused sexually and mentally by his step father, and basically convinced that his mother had to die. He’d been primed and conditioned, and preparing for months. Like almost all offenders, he was convinced he could pull it off. He had it all planned. Except for the actual killing.
To the public, this kid would be some heinous killer with his overkill. Certainly, he was lambasted by the jury for wanting his mother dead so badly he stabbed her about twenty times. He got life for that crime, which was considered pre-meditated and callous in the extreme. But that wasn’t it at all. See, this offender, like many first time killers thought that it would be just like Hollywood makes out. The victim dies relatively quickly, there’s little interaction, you stab someone, they go down and look like they’re sleeping.
This offender was absolutely horrified that it happened so slowly. His mother had time to turn around and beg him to stop. He stabbed her in the back, and she turned around and he kept stabbing to stop her pleading. He thought it would all be over with relatively quickly, and spoke about how awful it was that he stabbed her and she kept begging him and how she grunted and squealed as he stabbed her, as well as how horrific it all looked, and how final it seemed as she fell to the ground – looking completely unlike she was sleeping.
Many first time offenders are also struck at the finality of the act. The person doesn’t look like they’re sleeping – they look like they’re dead. That’s how sometimes people can be “left for dead” and still be alive – they look like they’re sleeping with blood on them, and that’s not what a real dead body looks like. Dead human bodies have a quality all their own to do with this as soon as they die. The person does not look like they are sleeping – particularly if it is by violence – but they certainly do look like dead. It’s got an element of horror to it. Dead humans are altogether different from your conventional dead thing.
Death itself is most likely to be a traumatic event no matter how it happens. Funnily enough – the least amount of trauma is to the more violent death. If someone dies by serious violence, that is sudden and swift, then that’s far less traumatic than a lot of deaths. So if I was truly afraid of dying in pain, I wouldn’t wish for dying by cancer, a long wasting disease, or a stomach wound, but rather by something sudden. There is no way that we know of that is guaranteed to be without shock and pain – and the things politicians don’t tell you – is that we’re not even sure execution methods are without pain. We’re not sure at all that lethal injection doesn’t create a lot of pain and fear over a long period of time – hence why governments tend to change their execution methods and just yell loudly over people who don’t like the whole idea. The real question that occurred to me is how sudden is death by vampire?
I would hazard that it probably isn’t fast enough to not feel it and know something’s happening to you. The body just can’t bleed out quickly enough – not without tearing of tissue, and I would think that vampires aren’t going to be tearing at something they see prize enough to want to preserve. Bill and Eric killed those weres in Sookie’s living room within two minutes – but they certainly didn’t want to preserve them – hence why in two minutes they had “pieces” and “body parts” strewn all over the room. No, I dare say that death by draining happens much like Sookie in the trunk – that would be an appreciable amount of time to bleed out – about ten minutes I would say. Now, granted, the pain doesn’t really hit you – and probably wouldn’t. The body reacts in shock and doesn’t register pain well and fully – but there would be a bit of pain.
Psychologically, though, you would realise that you are in fact going to die. The brain catches up pretty quickly with what’s going on, but many victims remain in emotional shock. You can see that when Sookie wakes up from the trunk incident. She’s clearly in emotional shock. Her brain registers stuff on an intellectual level, but it takes about half an hour to come up to speed on what’s happened and actively think about stuff. The fact that she’s thinking about three guys who want to sleep with her when she wakes up shows how she’s in shock – that she’s noticing pointless stuff and recalling stuff she thought to mention before she went under. So too would it be with a newly made vampire – they would remember all the stuff that used to be important. Sadly, some of them would be thinking about how they need to get home etc. Pointless stuff they can’t do any more.
In the case of the vampires of the SVM world, they all seem to be in a mode much like the one that they were in beforehand, such as Sophie Anne was, who went ahead – or meant to go ahead – with her plan to free Alain, her pimp. Then there’s Jake Purifoy – who is probably much more common. In the case of Jake Purifoy, one of the only vampires we’ve seen rise, was manic and frantic with hunger – but that was the standard pre-Revelation death – sudden, violent and shocking. Pam speaks of being shocked, and then says it took her a few days to get used to the idea. I would imagine it would too.
They would wake up and apart from their vampire need to feed, they would then come into a body that is much changed, with another body that they had just created. All vampires are born of trauma, and need to find a way in which to deal with that. It’s very easy to just look at the hunger aspect as if it is the sole thing that would be of concern but the thing is that they eventually have to come out of that. They eventually come out of that surrounded by dead humans – humans that they used to be. The ones that smell and look like they do – and perhaps a new experience for some of our vampires like Pam. Don’t mistake the fact that she’s fine a hundred years later with the fact that she would be fine with it back then, at the first kill site.
The vampire wouldn’t know and accept that they are indeed a vampire in an instant – like it was nothing. They would wake up a little confused, in a lot of emotional shock, and with all of these strange new urges. They would be a human with fangs rather than a vampire. There’s more to it than just being a human with fangs – the emotional process to actually getting there. Even Jake Purifoy didn’t instantly know on instinct how to be vampire after the feeding. Sookie says that he still looks human, and hasn’t got the poker face down even a couple of months later at the Rhodes Summit. So that’s a process that vampires have to go through – it’s not something that they know by virtue of what they are.
One of the first things that they have to deal with is the fact that they are dead. Grieving as it were, for what they will no longer have. It’s a mistake to assume that even Post-Revelation vampires can rely on their family and friends to stick by them through the change. Jake says that all of his friends, his girlfriend and family don’t know how to act around him. Sam’s brother finds himself almost single thanks to the sudden revelation that there’s shifter blood in the family. Many humans are repulsed by vampires – after all – the only girls who fight Sookie for Eric or Bill are fangbangers – not anyone else. Bill himself says that he finds it difficult to hold a conversation with humans, who tend to shy away. Weres and shifters don’t really like vampires, and vamps eat fairies. We’ve seen a half-elven vampire companion and a witch companion – but they’re not particularly common. Pre-Revelation, you dumped everyone but the vampire that made you – who brought you into this half life.
Vampires, even many years later seem to bemoan that loss. Any one vampire that has survived more than fifty years, I would say probably now likes to be a vampire, or at least likes not being dead. They’ve found benefits and been indoctrinated. But that doesn’t mean that at the moment it happened they were ready to ditch everyone they ever knew, loved and hated and go with being with the person who brought them into it. Vampires have to come to terms simply with being dead – even if the alternative is worse, in that they could be finally dead. But don’t mistake that for a firm conviction that given the choice, they would have struck out for the unknown.
Particularly when it comes to the older vampires, I doubt it’s been an all night party for them. Eric himself must have lived in rags and slept in holes in the cemetery for at least a couple of hundred years. It wasn’t until the late 1400’s that Dracula (Vlad Tepes) died, and thus Eric would have lived in a state of before Dracula’s death (when he declared he wasn’t going to live in a hole and wear rags, having been a King). The quality of unlife for vampires would have not been embroidered waistcoats and sitting around drinking out of goblets – it would have been pretty harsh. Eric says that there weren’t so many people. So it’s not an all night feast of partying hard and killing things. It’s sleeping in cemeteries and forcing yourself to accept that you went from a warm fire and people who loved you to prisoner of the person who murdered you…and you sleep in a hole. No wonder Eric idolises Dracula.
But the younger vampires, they’re not so joyful either. They may not have to deal with living in a hole, but they’ve got their own traumas. Pam says about her own death that “it really was the end of me”. Charles Twining says about his own death that he went down into the hold of a ship, and what was there got him first. He then falls silent. He talks about his human life with fondness and sadness – and although Sookie points out that his new life is much the same as his own life, he’s not as happy about being in this new life. Bill doesn’t talk about it at all. Not one vampire pulls out the merry ole story of “Let me tell you about what it’s like to die” – because they don’t feel it was a joyous event that should be celebrated, no matter if they like their life now or not. Jake Purifoy asserts that he did die, and now has to “bridge the chasm between who I was and who I am now”.
That means that the next process is that they have to acclimatise to what being a vampire actually entails. Vampires aren’t killing in the conventional way that most killers actually kill. Eric as a Viking would have a whole heap more physical distance than Eric with his face in someone’s throat. So too with Charles Twining. Pam’s only experience of killing was after she was killed, so it’s all brand new to her. But one of the things that always makes some sort of indication about a killer is distance from the victim. Lots of offenders like to use a gun because it means that they can stay back from the trauma that a real victim affords the killer – stabbing is so much more up close and personal. So too if one kills with a mouth – which is closer still than a knife.
Many people want to avoid what they’re thinking of, and if they can’t, if they have to have their head next to their victim, if they weren’t a sociopath before they died, they would quickly have to scab up that trauma. Most vampires, I’d dare say, have exceptional fortitude. It isn’t the weak personality that would survive the repeated trauma and keep going back for more. It is most telling that Eric tells Sookie she’d make a decent vampire not when she’s looking particularly lovely, but when she’s in her daggy Christmas outfit and getting straight back up from the blow Bill has dealt her. In order to force yourself to continue sticking your face in the victim’s neck, you’d have to force yourself to ignore that and scab it over.
So how does one scab up in such a world where you have to kill humans? You must dehumanise them and see them as fundamentally different from you. One of the problems faced is that you can’t help but impose some of your own empathy on the victim. Particularly with a newborn vampire – it wasn’t so long ago that that was them bleeding out on the ground while their killer walked away happy. Those moments must be pretty horrible, and they would be moments when the newly risen would know and recall exactly what it felt like.
So how do you make that separation? Police do it by creating an exclusive culture with themes running through such as “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen”. Other paramilitary organisations do that as well. Vampires in the SVM world do it by creating “Vampires First”. That’s why the vampires create a culture of exclusivity. They need to have some reason as to why they are in fact, now entitled to kill what was their fellow man. Some way to dress it up and make out like vampires have a right to do what they do. Otherwise, they wouldn’t need a slogan. We humans don’t have a slogan for considering ourselves better than plants – to remind us that plants are our inferior – they just are. “Vampires First” is a way to explain what you do, justify it and remind each vampire that they cannot afford to be kind to humans because it is in their nature.
It is not because they have empirical proof that vampires are superior. After all, in the general scheme of things, we do quite well without vampires, us humans. In the general scheme of things, if we disappear, then they are nothing. For creatures that have plenty of time to think, they’re surely not reasoning that out – but that’s the very reason. In order to live as a vampire, you must believe that old tale of superiority and never exercise your logic too hard on it. To keep a distinct distance between yourself and the regular humans – don’t try to see them as individuals like yourself – try to put them in the category of “other” that cannot understand quite how wonderful you are. Then remind yourself with your slogan “Vampires First”.
Slogans aren’t enough though. Instinct and reflex are key. That’s relatively easily dealt with by vampire reflexes and instinct, but we have a comparison with real life humans – in the armed forces of the Western World.
We train them to be killers without thinking. That’s why the rise of suicide has gone up, and so too has the incidence of PTSD. See, they did some very interesting research – and found out that around two percent of soldiers fired bullets actually intended to hit the target in wartime – that’s research from the Second World War. One percent of the soldiers that fired to kill were psychopathic, and one percent were generally brave guys fighting for honour. Other than that, most people tended to shy away from killing strangers at random with only principle abstract belief to guide them.
So we changed the ways that we train them – start them to reacting without thinking. All those “drills” they put soldiers through nowadays – that’s what they’re for. Training and drilling usual human beings into killers. So we’ve brought our kill rates up from two percent to ninety eight percent. So you can actually train someone to be a harsh killer by using instinct and reflex without ever engaging the brain. Nifty, huh? Except of course, they’re still ordinary human beings underneath all that, and the guilt kills them when they come home, but hey – they’re no use to their country then, right? As I’ve said before – this is a bug bear of mine – the psychology of automated killing and what we do to our soldiers – cause we certainly don’t fucking warn them when they sign up.
That is the reason why it takes some of the more successful vampires to get used to human company for so long – they need to come out of that mindset to a certain amount. The fact that vampires are still attacking humans on a random basis is enough to say that they’re not doing so successfully. Bill says that while True Blood tastes exactly the same, there’s no comparing a bottle to biting into flesh. Eric shows a propensity to chase Sookie, and Melanie (she’s one of the vamps Sookie meets in New Orleans with Rasul) says too that she’s not fussed at these humans who offer themselves up.
That doesn’t mean by the way that they have opened themselves up to all humans when they open themselves up to one. There’s just enough give in that belief system that the human is special and therefore, an exception to the rule. I’m going to use Eric and Sookie because they’re the two who deal with these issues the most. Eric tells Sookie over and over that there’s something different about Sookie that makes her not the conventional human. He’s not really sure what it is – it’s just not her telepathy or her fae blood – as he tells her – it’s something indefinable.
The question most on your tongue now, can Eric ever open up to all humans. Doubtful. If he ever showed an interest – which he has not – then he would be in the same psychological position that soldiers are in. They come out of their state and realise the totality of what it is that they have done, and thus, get suicidal. I would think that far too long to sit and think about it, open yourself up to humans, is not a particularly good thing for vampires – not mentally. Eric would need to not just suppress the idea of vampire superiority, but what he has done over his long life. That’s just not possible without breaking him.
So if you’re looking at the real psychology of killing, how to turn an ordinary human into a “superior” vampire, that’s the mechanisms to do it in the real world. We can do it to other humans, so I’m sure that vampires could figure that one out. They do have us to leech off if they haven’t worked it out in the cruelest field experiments sociology won’t allow you to do. Vampires who lived by killing – and they all do – will never question it because their entire existence is based on it. It’s how they get through the night. But the genesis of vampire superiority is a lie born of trauma – an indication of an ingrained need to survive and the way to do just that.