A Vampire’s Kindness (Fiction)

‘Tis the time of year for ghouls and monsters and vampires, so I thought I’d share this short piece again, for those of you who haven’t read it (or who feel like re-reading it). Enjoy!

Interview with a Vampire, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Photo by Festina Muhaxheri on Pexels.com

Note to the reader: the following text is transcribed from a document found in the crawlspace of an old row house in Montreal, Quebec. The owner of the building sent it to a local historical association, who are now sharing it in hopes that someone might have more information.

Interview with "Mara," a young woman who claims to be
a vampire 
By J.S., editor at large 
April 5, 1918.

J.S.: Could you please state your name for the record?
M: You can call me Mara.

J.S.: Is that your real name?
M: Real enough. It's the only one I have left.

J.S.: Could you tell me what you said when we met 
earlier tonight?
M (does not reply)

J.S.: When we met, I asked what a young lady was doing 
out alone in the middle of the night. How did you 
respond?
M (smiles): I told you that I am a vampire.

J.S.: A vampire--like Mr. Stoker's Count Dracula?
M: As far as I know, he is fictional. I am not.

J.S.: What would you say to those who don't believe in 
such creatures as vampires?
M: Your lack of belief doesn't make me any less real.

J.S.: How long do you claim to have been a vampire?
M: Most of my life.

J.S.: How long is that?
M: Isn't it impolite to ask a lady her age?

J.S.: Do you drink blood?
M: Of course.

J.S.: Where do you get it?
M: Wherever I can find it.

J.S.: From animals?
M: No.

J.S.: Do you have a reflection?
M (gets up and walks to the lavatory. She stares into 
the mirror over the sink): It would seem so.

J.S.: Can you turn into a bat?
M (does not reply)

J.S.: How many other vampires are there?
M: More than your kind would care to consider.

J.S.: My kind? You mean mankind? Human beings?
M: Yes.

J.S.: Do you pay attention to human events? What do you
think of the Great War?
M: I wish I could be there, in the thick of it.

J.S.: Do you mean as a nurse?
M (laughs)

J.S.: Why do you want to be at the front? Isn't it
dangerous?
M: The danger is why. It's all death and chaos. 
People die, people go missing--no one gives it
a second thought. Vampires do well in times of war.

J.S.: If that is the case, why aren't you there?
M: Someone else is there. He's looking for me. I do
not wish to be found.

J.S.: Who is there?
M: You should worry about the illness instead of
my acquaintances.

J.S.: The illness? Are you referring to the
Spanish Flu? There are rumours of epidemic.
M: The rumours are correct--the influenza is 
spreading rapidly. I can smell it in the air.

J.S.: You can smell it? That must be handy.
M: It helps us to choose.

J.S.: What do you mean by 'choose'?
M: Most of us prefer blood from healthy specimens.

J.S.: And the rest?
M: We find those who don't have long. Some consider it
a kindness.

J.S.: Why are you telling me this?
M (does not reply)

J.S.: I don't have the Flu.
M: No, you have something deeper. In your bones.

J.S.: Oh, really? What does that smell like?
M: Like sour chalk and dry rot.

J.S.: Rot is right. You expect me to believe such 
nonsense?
M: What about that ache that never seems to go away?
It's been getting worse, hasn't it?

J.S. (reluctant to respond)

J.S.: I have an appointment to see a doctor.
M: He won't be able to help you.

J.S.: How do you know?
M: They rarely can.

J.S.: Then what can anyone do for me?
M: I could prescribe you herbs, but they won't help, 
either.

J.S.: A vampire and an apothecary? That is quite the
combination.
M: I learned my trade young and found that it
pays to keep humans healthy.

J.S.: Is that it, then? All you can offer are 
ineffectual balms?
M: I can also offer you a kindness.

J.S.: You mean death.
M: Some prefer it to suffering.

J.S.: What if I refuse?
M: It's your choice. You have time to decide,
but not much.

J.S.: Where are you going?
M: I have other business to attend to. I'll return
in a fortnight. Tell me then what you've decided.

J.S.: Will it hurt?
M: I can make it so it doesn't.

M leaves and I finish recording our exchange.
I don't know why, perhaps for posterity.

I am unsure how to proceed.

Want to read more about Mara? Download my books now….

Aspasia S. Bissas books: Love Lies Bleeding, Blood Magic, Tooth & Claw, book, books, free book, free books, freebies, freebie, free ebook, free ebooks, vampire, vampires, dark fantasy, dark romance, historical fiction, gothic fiction, gothic fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal, supernatural, horror, dark reads, indie author, indie fiction, strong female protagonist, aspasiasbissas.com

Love Lies Bleeding: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Blood Magic: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Tooth & Claw: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books

If you prefer paperback, use this link to order Love Lies Bleeding from Bookshop – a portion of each sale goes directly to independent bookstores, as well as to myself. Thank you for supporting indie! ♥

Cheers,
Aspasía S. Bissas

4 Ways Travel Can Help You Be More Creative

4 Ways Travel Can Help You Be More Creative, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com
Photo by Element5 Digital on Pexels.com

A while back I read a great article about how travelling can enrich your writing. In it, the author outlines how travel is unpredictable, fosters empathy and reflection, and creates authenticity in your writing. Now that travel is slowly getting to be possible again, it seems like a good time to remind ourselves of how much it can add to our lives. Here are four more ways travelling is good for creativity (even if you don’t go any farther than the other side of town)…

It breaks up your routine

Even the most imaginative person needs inspiration, and, as many of us have learned these last couple of years, nothing is less inspiring than doing the same things and seeing the same few places over and over again, day after day. Going somewhere new shakes you out of your rut, gives you a fresh perspective, and re-ignites creativity.

4 Ways Travel Can Help You Be More Creative, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com
Photo by Alex Zhernovyi on Pexels.com

It helps you learn

If you go somewhere you’ve never been, you’re bound to learn something, whether it’s a few words in another language, facts about local history, or even a new skill (so many places offer classes and workshops for tourists). What you discover can be the spark you need for your current project, or the inspiration for something new.

4 Ways Travel Can Help You Be More Creative, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

It gives you the chance to be a different kind of creative

There are all kinds of opportunities to be creative while you travel, and if you can do so in a new (to you) way, even better (I’ve written before about how creativity begets creativity). Take pictures, write a journal entry (or poetry, short fiction, a song…) about your trip, sketch what you see, take part in a workshop, visit galleries and bookstores, talk to interesting people you meet along the way. Use it all as creative fuel.

4 Ways Travel Can Help You Be More Creative, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com
Photo by Porapak Apichodilok on Pexels.com

It can help you in unexpected ways

When I was having trouble finding the right image to use for the cover of Love Lies Bleeding, a photo I’d taken in Paris turned out to be just what I needed (I posted about it here). My Paris trip photos also came through for the cover of Blood Magic, and I have a third one in mind for the next book. I didn’t go to Paris to take photos for my covers, but my travels led to exactly what I needed. You never know what going somewhere new could end up doing for you.

4 Ways Travel Can Help You Be More Creative, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com
Photo by Mohamed Almari on Pexels.com

You don’t have to travel to be creative, but it really does help. Even if you can’t make it to another country, try exploring a different nearby town, or visit a neighbourhood in your own town that you’ve never been to. The important thing is to break out of routine and try something new. It could lead you to places you never expected.

Has travel helped your creativity? Share in the comments…

Download my books and find out how my travels have influenced my stories, and not just the covers…

Aspasia S. Bissas books: Love Lies Bleeding, Blood Magic, Tooth & Claw, book, books, free book, free books, freebies, freebie, free ebook, free ebooks, vampire, vampires, dark fantasy, dark romance, historical fiction, gothic fiction, gothic fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal, supernatural, horror, dark reads, indie author, indie fiction, strong female protagonist, aspasiasbissas.com

Love Lies Bleeding: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Blood Magic: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Tooth & Claw: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books

If you prefer paperback, use this link to order Love Lies Bleeding from Bookshop – a portion of each sale goes directly to independent bookstores, as well as to myself. Thank you for supporting indie! ♥

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

Listen Up: Short Story Podcast

Umbra's Wake, free short story by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com, podcast on Anchor
Photo by Drew Rae on Pexels.com

Artist, blogger, and all-around cool cat Matt Snyder recently featured my short story “Umbra’s Wake” on his Short Story Saturday podcast! Head over to Matt’s blog to give it a listen, and don’t forget to leave a like or a comment!

If you’re in the mood for some old-fashioned reading, here’s the story in its entirety. Fun fact about Umbra’s Wake, I deliberately made no reference to the characters’ genders, so that readers could identify with them however they wanted.

Umbra’s Wake: The shadows have teeth.

Umbra’s Wake

Aspasía S. Bissas

KC’s eyes glittered with enthusiasm, shooting stars streaking against a dark blue sky. “Let’s go camping.”

“Camping?” I smiled. “That thing with the bugs and the bears?”

“Bugs build character.”

“And bears?”

“Trust me— anything we meet out there will be more scared of you than you are of it. Come on, it’ll be fun— just the two of us.” KC’s grin looked like it belonged to a superhero.

I should have been more cautious. What kind of person wants to go camping with someone they met only a couple of weeks before? It was barely enough time for a movie and a cup of coffee. But I needed a break from work, and it did sound fun. An adventure in the fresh air and green earth with KC of the glittering eyes.

“All right,” I agreed. “When should we go?”

The sun was bright and warm when we set out for our trip that morning. A light breeze ruffled our hair, birds chirped, squirrels and chipmunks scurried around us— it seemed as though all of us were excited to get going. The ancient deciduous forest lived up to the hype, with the sacred aura of a cathedral at midnight and towering trees like giants, silent sentinels watching over us. Ripples flowed down my back like a waterfall and I realized it was the stress of the week melting away. This. I needed this.

But somewhere between leaving the car behind and reaching the site where we would set up camp, something changed. A chill crept through the trees, the birds went quiet, and the sun disappeared into shadows. The squirrels and chipmunks had long since abandoned us. The ripples down my back twisted and tangled, making my jaw clench as the stress seeped back in. Time passed and we spoke less, until, like the birds, we stopped talking altogether. My pack weighed on me more with each step, as though it were absorbing the atmosphere, soaking in the cold and the tension. The straps dug into my shoulders, laden with more than simply the physical contents they were carrying.

Suddenly, I jumped. “What the—?”

KC stopped, a few steps ahead of me. “What is it?”

“I don’t know.” I stared at the spot where I was sure I’d seen something— movement, a figure. All I saw now were trees and shadows. “I must have imagined it.”

“That happens sometimes. We need to keep moving if we want to set up camp before dark.”

“Is it much farther?” I asked as we started walking again.

“About an hour, maybe a bit more, depending.”

“Depending on what?”

“We don’t want to stop if there are other people around. This trip is about getting away.”

“Sure, but we don’t want to be too isolated, either, right?”

KC didn’t answer. We lapsed back into silence.

Later, after the campsite was set up and night had draped itself over us, we sat around the fire drinking burnt cocoa, the edge of bitterness cutting through the unhealthy amounts of marshmallows we’d added. KC insisted on telling ghost stories, even though I said I wasn’t a fan, so I only half listened as I watched the mist that drifted and swirled around the trees.

“After hearing about the apparition that was said to haunt the house, a man of science known for his reason announced that he would spend the night there and wait to see if the ghost appeared…”

A movement, not quite visible through the trees, caught my eye. I wasn’t sure what I’d seen, or if I’d actually seen anything at all. But the mist in that spot was disturbed, and so was I.

“After waiting patiently late into the night, the man suddenly heard the rattle of chains. When he looked, he saw the ghost of a dishevelled old man with a long, straggly beard. The spectre wailed and rattled the chains that bound his hands and feet…”

The story must have been getting to me because now I thought I heard a rattle. Only, it wasn’t chains— it was something more…organic. A shudder crawled up my back. I sipped my cocoa and tried to ignore it.

“Finally, as the sun rose, the ghost drifted into the garden and sank into the ground with a final wail. The man marked the exact spot where the phantom had disappeared…”

Another movement caught my eye. Then another. I didn’t know what I was seeing but I knew it had to be something causing the chaotic explosion of mist in each spot. Maybe it was insects disturbing the haze. Or mice. Or ghosts. Whatever it was travelled around the circle of the clearing. The next one would be right behind me. I forced myself not to turn around. It was nothing. I was imagining it. Everyone always told me I had an overactive imagination.

“The next day the man returned with a pair of workers, and when they dug in the spot he’d marked—”

A gust of wind out of nowhere, over my shoulder, in my ear. But no, it wasn’t wind. It was long and drawn out. There was a blissful moment of silence where I chided myself for letting the dark and the stories spook me. And then a faint whisper, growing, expanding. The wind was drawing back into itself, like…an inhalation. Something was breathing behind me.

I jumped up, spilling the remnants of my cocoa. I spun around and stared at nothing. Just darkness and trees and some mist along the ground.

“Wow— I didn’t even get to the creepy part,” KC said.

I looked all around, trying to find the source of what I’d seen and heard. “Didn’t you hear that?”

“Hear what?”

“Breathing.” As soon as I said it, I knew how ridiculous it sounded. But my heart wouldn’t stop thudding like it was trying to escape my rib cage. “I saw something too— in the trees.”

“You’ve been jumpy all day.”

“I feel like something is stalking us.” There, I said it. Even as I felt stupid for admitting it, part of me was relieved to get it out.

KC didn’t look impressed. “Who would even be out there?”

“Not who,” I muttered. “What.”

“Oh? Well in that case…” KC walked up to the edge of the trees.

“What are you doing?” I asked, panic catching in my throat.

“Hey, stalker!” KC called out. “Why don’t you come out where we can see you? Have a cup of cocoa. Do you like marshmallows?”

“Please stop.” I wanted to shout it, but it came out as a whisper.

KC kept going. “No? Well, you’re welcome to join us whenever.”

Another movement to KC’s right. A spot blacker than the blackness around it. The shape was too elongated to be a person, the movements too disjointed and jittery. It was put together wrong. I felt it staring at me.

KC turned to look back at me. “No stalker. Feel better?”

I was still staring into the blackness, but the thing was gone. “Yeah,” I said. “Thanks.”

I didn’t sleep well that night. I couldn’t stop thinking about what I’d seen, or thought I’d seen. Strange shapes seemed to come at me from the corners of the tent. When I did finally drift off, I woke in a panic thinking I heard those rattling breaths again, but it was only KC snoring next to me. I watched as the tent filled with light and decided to get up and start making breakfast.

Cooking put my mind at ease, and the smell of frying eggs and bacon made the weirdness of the night before seem distant and silly. Too much time spent in cities had me jumping at shadows— literally. I shook my head.

Any remnants of anxiety still clinging to me were forgotten as we got busy with the normal routine of getting on with things. We spent the day cleaning up around camp, fishing, making and eating lunch, and then more cleaning. I’d never have guessed how much dishwashing was involved in camping, or that I’d be the lucky one assigned the job. I was off on my own, struggling for what felt like an hour to scrub a burnt bit of fish off the pan, when something in the water caught my eye. I stopped to look into the rocky depths of the creek and saw a flutter, a dark shape bending and unfurling through the current.  

I looked closer and the water that had been bubbling along seemed to still. I saw my reflection, distorted and weak, and underneath it, the dark shape. Elongated. Not moving quite right. I watched, frozen, too scared to stir as it rose through my reflection. I thought it was going to come at me, envelop me, but then I saw in the water’s mirror that it was behind me. It loomed over me, watching while I held my breath, staring at it in the water. It seemed to be pulsating, and then I heard that breathing again. Long wheezes in and out. A loose sound with every inhale and exhale, like jumbled bones being shaken together. A crack appeared where its face might be, if it had one. The crack started out small and spread, stretching across the shadow until there was a line from one side to the other. The gap widened and I saw teeth: long, silvery, sharp needle rows of teeth.

I whirled around and found myself staring into a pair of eyes, silver like mercury, but darker, as though oxidized. They stared back at me and wouldn’t let go. Not that I wanted them to. They were so strange, so beautiful. I forgot all about the teeth.

Suddenly, KC’s voice.

“What’s taking so long—”

The shadow was gone and I was staring at KC. I smiled a smile that was too wide. It stretched across my face and split me apart until there was nothing holding me together.

KC screamed.

I woke up back at the car, the sun shining down on me like nothing had happened. I didn’t know how I got there, or even what day it was.  

I wanted to go for help but my legs wouldn’t work. I could move them, but not in the direction I wanted. It didn’t matter anyway; I didn’t have the car keys. I called out until some hikers heard me, my voice shaking, echoing as though it were coming from somewhere else.

After the police arrived, I heard them say that I must have some kind of post-traumatic stress because apparently I wasn’t making much sense. They still managed to find the campsite, though; what was left of it. And KC. Eventually.

I visited KC in the facility once. We didn’t really talk, although I tried. KC just stared at the wall with dull eyes like I wasn’t there. Until I started talking about the trip. Then the screaming started. The nurses hurried me out of the room and sent me home after that. They said KC needed calm. They said it would probably be better if I stayed away.

I still don’t really remember what happened by the creek. Bits and pieces come to me sometimes but they feel like someone else’s memories, and most of it makes no sense. I have dreams that something is next to me at night, breathing, wheezing in my ear, but when I wake up I’m alone. Maybe the police were right about the trauma. But I feel okay most of the time. Good, even. Other than the restlessness. I can’t seem to sit still. I catch people staring at me when my arms twitch and my legs shake. They leave in a hurry when they see me looking at them.

The city bothers me now, the noise, the buildings. Why is there so much concrete? It stifles. I need to fill my lungs with fresh air. I need the freedom of the forest, the dark, cool places where I can stretch my limbs and glide through the shadows. I’m thinking of going back soon. I think it would soothe me. Maybe it’ll help me remember. I know a spot that’s popular with campers. Maybe they can help me.

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

(PS: If you enjoyed this story, check out some of my other work!)

Quote of the Day

Quote of the Day by Neil Gaiman: Fiction gives us empathy: it puts us inside the minds of other people, gives us the gifts of seeing the world through their eyes. Fiction is a lie that tells us true things, over and over. Via Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com

Download some fiction now:

Aspasia S. Bissas books: Love Lies Bleeding, Blood Magic, Tooth & Claw, book, books, free book, free books, freebies, freebie, free ebook, free ebooks, vampire, vampires, dark fantasy, dark romance, historical fiction, gothic fiction, gothic fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal, supernatural, horror, dark reads, indie author, indie fiction, strong female protagonist, aspasiasbissas.com

Love Lies Bleeding: Smashwords (all formats), Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Blood Magic: Smashwords (all formats), Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Tooth & Claw: Smashwords (all formats), Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books

If you prefer paperback, use this link to order Love Lies Bleeding from Bookshop – a portion of each sale goes directly to independent bookstores, as well as to myself. Thank you for supporting indie! ♥

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

3 Good Reasons to Read Fiction, According to Science

3 Good Reasons to Read Fiction, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com
Photo by Daniela Constantini on Pexels.com

There’s something magical about reading fiction. A story is basically just a series of symbols arranged in a particular order on a page (or screen). And yet, your mind translates those symbols into images, events, and people that feel real. It puts you into the minds of characters and lets you see through their eyes. You hold your breath when they’re in danger, you cringe sympathetically when they’ve done something awkward. Reading fiction puts you in another world and brings that world to life. I can’t think of anything more truly magical than that.

But it isn’t only magic. Science is finding all kinds of ways that reading fiction in particular can benefit you. Here are three:

Reading fiction relieves stress: Reading is enjoyable– it makes you feel good and forces you to take a break from regular life. While reading helps you forget your problems, it can also help you understand them and cope with them better. And reading fiction has been found to relieve stress more than other relaxing forms of media, like music or TV.

Reading fiction helps with cognitive and social skills: Reading challenges your brain. Among other things, it teaches new perspectives and viewpoints. As you read about other people and places, you learn to empathize, to understand different points of view, and to get along in diverse situations. In essence, reading fiction trains you for the real world.

Reading fiction can help you live longer: Studies have shown that reading helps prevent cognitive decline, which is associated with decreased life expectancy. Aside from that, according to at least one study (see “Further Reading”), people who read more fiction live longer, on average.

Bonus: Because reading fiction can mimic what we feel during real-life interactions with other people, it’s been found to satisfy the need for human connection. If lockdowns and distancing have been getting to you, reading a good book can help you through it.

3 Good Reasons to Read Fiction, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com. Quote by Doris Lessing: There is no doubt fiction makes a better job of the truth.

Reading fiction makes you happier and less stressed, teaches you about the world and other people, helps you feel more connected, improves your mind, and can even help you live longer. What more could you ask?

Want to get all those benefits of reading fiction right now? Download my books….

Aspasia S. Bissas books: Love Lies Bleeding, Blood Magic, Tooth & Claw, book, books, free book, free books, freebies, freebie, free ebook, free ebooks, vampire, vampires, dark fantasy, dark romance, historical fiction, gothic fiction, gothic fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal, supernatural, horror, dark reads, indie author, indie fiction, strong female protagonist, aspasiasbissas.com

Love Lies Bleeding: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Blood Magic: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Tooth & Claw: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books

If you prefer paperback, use this link to order Love Lies Bleeding from Bookshop – a portion of each sale goes directly to independent bookstores, as well as to myself. Thank you for supporting indie! ♥

Further Reading:

Why Getting Lost in a Book Is so Good for You

Even mild cognitive impairment appears to substantially increase risk for death

Bookworms versus nerds: Exposure to fiction versus non-fiction, divergent associations with social ability, and the simulation of fictional social worlds

9 Ways Reading Makes Us Happier and More Creative

Does Reading Fiction Make Us Better People?

The Real World Benefits of Reading Fiction

7 Benefits of Reading Literary Fiction You May Not Know

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas