Chapter 8: La Petite Mort
Their plan had worked, yes—they had executed the kill of the American politician rather flawlessly. But this type of prey was far from abundant. They needed a new plan going forward. Moreover, Rose’s blood supply was starting to run low.
Finding new victims began to consume Rose’s mind. She craved fresh blood. And in the moments she was most honest with herself, she also craved the kill. The hunt was exhilarating. The fear exuded by her victims added rich notes to the bloodfeast.
She felt the lack of fresh blood in her veins sharply. Her skin felt like needles. She felt hungry and deflated. She wanted more blood, she needed more blood.
However, as much as she yearned for it, blood would not pay the bills. The ennui and drudgery of everyday life—when she was not feeding or fucking, which frankly felt very similar—weighed on her like a prisoner’s chain. A storm of depression clouded her mind as she sat at Theatre La Chatte waiting for her shift to start. She had to continue working, there was just no other option.
She wore simple, sheer black lingerie and thigh highs, covered only by a leather jacket. She sat in front of the globe-lighted mirror in the dressing area, but no reflection stared back. She lacquered burgundy-black lipstick onto her lips, hoping not to make a mess of it.
It was time for her to go on. She handed Madame LeClerc her thumb drive, and the lilting yet doleful music floated into the underground performance room.
Rose descended the stairs into the cave-like space to perform her act for the audience patiently waiting below. Frantic strings introduced the song, but the mood soon transitioned into a soft, melodic dirge.
On stage, Rose’s skin glowed supernaturally in the dim lighting. The leather jacket over lingerie gave her a pinup aesthetic. She resembled a faded postcard from another age, a black and white print from a dead era.
She teased the release of her jacket over her shoulders before letting it fall to the floor. She pumped her derriere toward the audience as she ran her fingers along her body. Cold. Every inch of her was cold. This she confirmed silently to herself.
The soft, sheer cups of her bra could be pulled down, leaving just the wire frames in place. She tugged down one cup and then the other, and squeezed her tits in her hands. It enlivened her a little to be sensual in front of an audience.
Yet she knew her heart was not in it. Literally and emotionally. She felt that profoundly.
But she powered on, focusing on the music and the smooth motions of her body. She removed her bra entirely, and her breasts bounced lightly with the freedom granted to them.
Reclining along the divan on stage, Rose peeled the sheer black panties over and off her legs. She tossed them toward the audience. She then twirled upright and sat on her knees. Her body swam with the gentle waves of the song.
As her hands explored her unclothed body, her fingers caught the cold moisture of her pussy. Her body continued to dance, but her mind drifted to the common parlance for orgasm—la petite mort. The little death.
At that moment, Rose felt intensely the throughline between sex and death. Both brought you into another world. Both enthralled and consumed. They were two sides of the same coin. They mirrored each other.
Climax can make you feel immortal; it can blur those two planes of existence and allow you to cross over for a brief instance. And the specter of death can make you risk everything for a good fuck. Sex is life-giving; death makes life and sex precious.
Rose had experienced her own little death. That night she was turned, she certainly orgasmed, but she also died—just a little bit.
These thoughts dissipated when silence rang in the air. Her act was over. “Merci,” she thanked the audience. “Je suis Scarlette.” Even her stage name seemed tinged with blood.
She gathered her discarded clothes and headed back upstairs. There, Madame LeClerc informed her that she had a request for a private dance. Funny, she thought, she hadn’t noticed anyone from the audience go upstairs.
Striptease: La Petite Mort
This client was striking. Stunning, tall, and statuesque. They appeared to be in their early forties, with raven hair and piercing eyes. They wore a trenchcoat and femme fatale air. Rose didn’t even remember seeing them in the audience—and someone like that she would not have been able to forget. Not in a million years.
And yet…there was something oddly familiar about them.
“You are so beautiful.” Rose couldn’t help blurting out these words as she led Vanesse to the private dance showroom.
“Merci,” Vanesse responded softly. “My name is Vanesse.”
Rose closed the door to the showroom behind them. “Enchantée. I’m Rose.”
“Not Scarlette?” Vanesse asked with a raised eyebrow.
Rose’s mouth fell open. She had forgotten herself.
Vanesse chuckled. “Don’t worry,” they assured with a wink. “I won’t tell your secret.”
Rose pointed to the chair in the middle of the room, motioning for Vanesse to take a seat. Vanesse eyed it but did not sit down. Rose allowed them to take their time, as she turned to set up her music.
“Wait.” Vanesse stopped Rose with a hand on her bare shoulder. The shocking iciness of Vanesse’s touch was unmistakable, even against Rose’s own cold skin. Rose felt her breathing accelerate and, had a heartbeat been possible, she sensed it would have been thundering.
“You’re—” Rose began. “I—I know what you are…” She stammered and backed away, rocked by her own heaving breaths.
“You needn’t fear,” Vaneese stated with a tone of calming sincerity. “But as you may have guessed, I’m not here for a private dance.”
Ignoring Rose’s question, Vanesse glanced over at the chair in the center of the room. With elegant strides, they marched over to it and lowered themself in. Gracefully, they crossed their legs and rested their arms against the armrests. Rose only now noticed the tall, shiny, black boots with dagger-like heels that adorned their legs, protruding from beneath the skirt of their trenchcoat like two cannons.
A memory flashed across Rose’s mind: she remembered the passer-by with the trenchcoat and stiletto boots the night she and Sophie sat on the curb in front of Theatre La Chatte, awaiting her murderous rendez-vous with the American politician.
“Of course, I know what you are également, darling,” Vanesse told Rose.
Rose felt the phantom sensation of blood draining from her face. She didn’t know whether to be terrified for her life or relieved to have found another like her, possibly even a mentor. Oscillating between these extreme feelings, Rose’s mouth ran dry and all the words she could think of became lodged in her throat. She blinked rapidly as her lips hung loose.
“As I said, you have no need to fear,” Vanesse reassured. “Not from me, anyway.”
“Why are you here?” These were the only words Rose could pull out from her clogged vocal chords.
Vanesse heaved a heavy sigh. “For many reasons, I really shouldn’t be here. It’s dangerous for two vampires to be alone in the same room.”
Rose had never heard that word—vampire—spoken aloud, not since turning. She had not uttered it herself, nor had she even allowed her thoughts to manifest the word. Instead, vague thunderstorms of terms and impressions clouded her mind, hiding and obscuring the starkness of that defining word. Her friends, too, intuitively knew to refrain from speaking it aloud. It wasn’t logical, but Rose feared that saying it or hearing it would have completed the spell and made her new life—or whatever it was—final and irreversible. A nail in the coffin, as it were.
But now there it was. It hung in the air. It had been spoken to her, and in such a casual and matter-of-fact manner.
Rose’s shoulders slumped. Had this word sealed her fate? That she didn’t feel changed by it was somewhat anticlimactic and left her feeling strangely empty. It had the unfulfilling, yet mildly soothing, effect of a procrastinator finally responding to that long-overdue email. It was done now, it had happened. She felt flat. Slightly relieved, but flat. But it didn’t mark anything final, it just sat there like some lines in a sent box. If anything, it was a beginning.
Vanesse shot Rose a sympathetic smile. “I can also tell you’re very new,” they said tenderly. “Not just by your carelessness—which you have been!”
Rose’s eyes widened like saucers.
Vanesse chuckled. “Don’t worry, all new vampires are careless, usually unintentionally. Alas, there is no official vampire orientation to help walk newbies through all the complicated options and rules. But it’s true, you have been careless, and you should know it, because that is also incredibly dangerous. Not just by human laws, those are easy enough to shirk. It’s other vampires, unfortunately, that you have to be most cautious about.”
“But aren’t you—” Rose began, lifting a trembling finger toward Vanesse.
“Yes, I am a vampire,” they confirmed.
Rose was startled again by Vanesse speaking that word so frankly.
“And, as a rule, yes, you should be cautious of me too,” Vanesse continued. “You are going to have to choose whether or not to trust me. I’ll give you some backstory about myself to hopefully ease your mind and show you that I do in fact mean well by coming here to you tonight.”
Rose pulled a velvety cushion from a corner and sat upon it on the floor, like a child waiting to hear a story.
“Before I go into my own story,” said Vanesse, “I think it’s important to explain how you’ve been careless. It’s good in a way, because it helped me find you. You are simply very lucky that I found you first. First of all, you’ve been killing in public. At this very theatre in fact, non?”
Rose nodded, a lump still in her throat.
Vanesse nodded back. “I suspected as much. We vampires have very keen senses, you know. It’s what makes our skin vulnerable to the sun. It’s not, as legend has it, that our evil inside makes us catch fire in the sunlight, or whatever nonsense they like to say. No, it’s that we feel so strongly, that our sense of touch is magnified, and so the sun is extremely powerful against our skin. And we don’t have warm blood pumping through our veins like humans, so the sun on our skin is like pouring boiling water into an ice-cold glass—the extreme temperature change shatters it. But instead of shattering, we sizzle. Our skin is merely repurposed human skin, so it remains flammable. Direct sunlight is scalding.”
Vanesse looked Rose up and down before continuing. “We also have a heightened sense of smell for human blood. Perhaps you’ve noticed this?”
Rose nodded again.
“Well, that sense gets sharpened with time. I’m sure every old vampire in town came sniffing around after you butchered your victims here. You did a decent enough job cleaning it up for the human authorities, but that smell lingers like a curse.”
“And that’s how you found me,” Rose deduced with lowered eyes, hardly as a question.
“I’ve been watching you for a while now,” Vanesse replied. They leaned in, resting their elbows on their crossed legs. “This is what’s most important, so please heed my words. Vampires can also sense other vampires. There is a kind of energy that shoots out from us and attaches to other vampires. Evolutionarily speaking, I’m sure it has helped us find community and safety in numbers. And that does happen, I hope you’ll believe that’s why I’m here. But we vampires still hold many of our old human qualities, both good and bad. Humans may die quickly, but the humanity lingers—for better and for worse. Emotions take the longest to fade. Sometimes they never do.”
“We’re like Frankenstein’s monster,” Rose uttered without thinking. “Reanimated shells of raging emotions.”
Vanesse chuckled. “As I said, there’s good and bad to it. In terms of the good, many of us feel tortured over having to kill people, leading some to develop compassionate ways of murdering. Or at least we try. ”
“And the bad?” Rose inquired tentatively.
Vanesse smiled sadly. “We can also be cruel, not only to humans, but to each other. Even to ourselves. We can and have been violently competitive over scarce resources, for example. We’ve engaged in wars, feuds, rivalries. Many of us are self-hating; some of us commit self-harm. Alas, we are not immune to the human condition.”
Vanesse shrugged and went on. “I suppose it’s unfair to label them ‘human qualities,’ when they are equally ours. You’ll come to learn it’s more difficult than it seems to draw a distinct line between Vampire and Human. Every vampire was once a human, after all. Although, with time, you do start to feel yourself drift farther and farther away from that human you once were. It’s a little like a pickle and a cucumber, the longer you have been fermenting the more distant that former self feels.” Vanesse smiled and hoped their bit of levity would ease Rose’s tension.
Rose said nothing, so Vanesse continued. “Let me ask you something: have you only fed on human blood thus far?”
“Yes,” Rose answered. “Are there other options? Like animal blood? I’ve tried human food and couldn’t stomach it at all.”
“No, not animal blood. But there is one other option.” Vanesse took a pause and locked eyes with Rose, underlining the weight of what they were about to say. “Vampires can feed on each other.”
Rose furrowed her brow. “But we don’t have blood—”
“It’s not each other’s blood we feed on, it’s our energy. Now, I don’t mean to say that I could feed on you, for example, from miles away. Not in the slightest. Much like feeding on humans, we need to be right there with the other vampire. That’s why I said it’s incredibly dangerous to be alone in a room with another vampire, unless you trust them literally with your life.”
Rose felt the heavy solitude of the room surrounding the two of them. She wrapped her arms around herself.
“The way we feed on one another,” Vanesse explained like a teacher giving a lesson, “is that we can pull energy from the other through exercising power over them. It’s a similar sensation to feeding on a human. An important caveat is that a vampire’s energy is only useful to another if that first vampire is full—either of human blood or another vampire’s energy. Otherwise, it’s like sucking a straw in an empty glass. Most simply put, it involves stealing another vampire’s lifeforce. Thus, if you have just fed, you are most vulnerable, because other vampires can not only smell the fresh blood on you, they may see you as their own next meal.”
“And you can steal another vampire’s lifeforce by exercising power over them?” Rose shook her head, baffled. “What does that even mean?”
Vanesse smiled. “Oh, it can mean any number of things. Sadly, for most of vampire history, it’s meant practicing torture. There are many horrifying accounts of seasoned vampires stalking newer vampires, letting them do the dirty work, as it were, of killing humans. Once they have fed, the experienced vampires drain them by torturing them.”
“Why does it have to be torture?” Rose asked.
“It doesn’t,” Vanesse responded. “It just most commonly is. You see, the process of extracting energy from another vampire requires eliciting an extreme sensation from the victim. We don’t have blood running through us, but we have intensified sensations. Extreme pain oozes out of us much like spilt blood.”
Rose grimaced. She felt nauseous.
“Sometimes,” Vanesse went on, “fear alone is enough. I’ve heard of hungry vampires dangling their victims over cliffs, terrifying them enough to suck every last drop of energy from them. I myself once made the mistake of taking a rollercoaster ride with another vampire, who during the ride sucked all of my energy, leaving me a stumbling mess and catching the attention of all the humans around. I knew it was just a ride, but my adrenaline and fear were real enough. And I wasn’t used to rollercoasters, it was my first time. This was back in the 1920s. That night was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. I barely survived.” With a melancholy laugh, they added, “I thought it was going to be a date, that’s why I went. But it was only a cruel trick.”
“And that’s why I need to be cautious of all other vampires,” Rose concluded. “Why, then, should I trust you?”
“Well, you should be cautious, that part is true. There is no vampire orientation, as I said, but I’ve been around long enough that I feel it is my duty to help guide newly-turned vampires—especially womxn and marginalized groups—through this utterly bewildering new existence. The world of vampires, like humans, is still highly patriarchal and oppressive in many ways. Many of us are ancient humans, after all. Yet, also like the human world, our system is beginning to change. I’m trying to help that change along, in small ways.”
“By warning me and others like me?” Rose felt admittedly relieved to have this new knowledge, as terrifying as it was.
“Yes,” Vanesse answered softly. “But I haven’t finished. I told you I’d tell you my backstory. Well, I won’t go too far into the details of my human life. For better or for worse, those memories are beginning to fade. But I was born into my vampire life just over 400 years ago. After I turned, like you I too was careless. Even more so in fact, as police were less equipped and thus less of a concern then. My carelessness, however, did attract the attention of an older male vampire—old in the sense that he had himself been turned centuries before me.
“I remember vividly that first time he caught me feeding on a human,” Vanesse continued. “He clenched me by the throat and dragged me off to a cave in the woods. He tied me up and tortured me. It was enough to drain all of my energy from that kill. But he didn’t stop there. He threatened to hand me over to the humans if I didn’t do exactly as he said. And he aggressively reminded me that the humans would take little sympathy on a bloodsucker with an ambiguous gender. They’d burn me alive, he assured. He told me he would hand me over, unless—” Vanesse paused to steady themself.
“Unless?” Rose asked with a cracked voice.
“Unless I became his slave, essentially,” they continued. “He used me as his bait. He’d send me out to kill and feed on humans, then he’d force me back into that cave and steal every drop of energy I had gathered. He left me so empty and hungry that I had no choice but to scurry right out at the first opportunity and feed again. This repeated for more days than I can count; possibly it was decades.”
“How did you finally escape?” Rose asked.
Vanesse’s face lit up. “I mentioned torture and fear as ways to suck energy from other vampires. Well, there’s one other way: that other extreme sensation, sexual gratification. Often all three go together. That tastes the best, in fact.” Vanessa licked her lips.
“So, you can empty vampires of energy by making them cum?” Rose reiterated, trying to simplify things in her head.
“Why, yes,” Vanesse answered. “I learned that quite by accident. But I long knew the power of sexuality. I had learned to be a rather good temptress while luring human victims. And as I said, humans and vampires share many qualities. One day, out of desperation, I had the idea to turn that on my captor.”
Rose sat listening intently.
“Today you might say I faked Stockholm Syndrome with him. One day, after I had made a kill and was still full of energy, it hit me that this was my moment to strike. We were in the forest on our way back to the cave, and, full of power, I pushed him up against a tree.”
“You overpowered him?” Rose asked eagerly.
“In a way,” Vanesse answered, the hint of a smile pulling up the corners of their lips. “I didn’t attempt physical force. As tall as I am, he was bigger than I, and even with my full energy and him being hungry, I wasn’t sure I would have been able to overtake him. I worried that, at best, we might have been evenly matched.”
“What did you do then?”
“I begged him,” Vanesse explained, “to let me suck his cock.”
Rose’s eyes widened.
“He refused at first,” Vanesse went on. “I was covered in blood, after all, and we were far from the protection of the cave. But I mustered all the energy I had and channeled it into seduction. He struggled against me while I had him pinned against that tree, but he relaxed when I stuck a bloody finger into his mouth. He was hungry and desperate for it.”
Rose was on the edge of her seat.
“I whispered into his ear that I could not wait, that I needed to suck his cock right then and there. His temptation proved to be too powerful. He unbuttoned his pants and released his already hard penis. I knelt and sucked it with enormous voracity. I had just fed so I was at peak power and energy.”
Vanesse uncrossed and recrossed their boot-adorned legs before continuing. “A couple of times he tried to stop me. But it quickly became clear that I was the one full of power and he was the starved one. So I was relentless and kept going. He was at my mercy. At last the tables had turned.”
“You were feeding on that vampire’s sexual gratification.” This news shocked Rose.
“Exactly. And I was just as surprised as you,” Vanesse admitted with a laugh. “I was merely hoping to distract him enough to escape. But I looked up and noticed his face was more gaunt than before. As I continued sucking, I watched his skin shrivel and his bones begin to protrude. I pieced it together in real time that the sexual pleasure I was giving him was also killing him. And I realized I was growing stronger in turn; I was literally sucking the energy out of him and into me.”
Rose stared at Vanesse in silence.
“I sucked and sucked until he was hardly more than a skeleton covered in crêpe paper. When he finally came, he collapsed into a motionless pile on the forest floor. I enjoyed that more than any other kill of my life,” Vanesse said wistfully.
“And is that how you feed now, by seducing and killing other vampires?”
Vanesse laughed. “Well, you’ve got the seduction part right. But I don’t kill other vampires, no. You see, I’ve learned over the centuries that, like fear, sexual domination is enough. The killing part isn’t necessary. You can bring them to the edge and it’s sufficient to fill yourself up.”
Vanesse licked their lips and added, “But I don’t exploit my victims. I vowed I would never turn into my captor. It’s all consensual and mutually beneficial. Again, it took me the better part of a century to figure all this out, which is why I’m sharing it with you now. I don’t want the young vampires of today to go through the same struggles I did.”
“How is it mutually beneficial to steal other vampires’ energy?” Rose asked doubtfully.
“Oh, darling, it’s not stealing! I have a long list of vampires clamoring for my services.”
“Indeed!” Vanesse replied with a coy smile. “Sometimes I tie them up and drip wax on them; sometimes I gag them and hurl insults at them; sometimes I slap their faces or step on their balls or whip their pussies. You see, they are more than willing to share some of their energy with me in exchange for sexual domination. And when they cum, they feed me. I’m what you call a vampire dominatrix.”
Rose’s eyes fell to the tall, glossy, black boots that coated Vanesse’s long legs. “Didn’t you say your captor died when you made him cum?”
“He was hungry,” Vanesse reminded. “My clients come to me full, so it’s safe to allow them to cum. I drain them just enough to feed me. And bringing them to the edge of ravenous hunger can be very thrilling—for them and for myself. Trust me, I rely on repeat customers. It’s not good business to kill off your clientele.”
“And the sexual pleasure you give your clients is just that much better than…a regular human can give them?” Rose asked septically. “It seems like a huge risk coming to you and being brought to the edge of starvation—to the edge of death, really.”
“That is the whole point, darling!” Vanesse assured. “What is more exciting than that? And, anyway, my clients feel that they can be themselves around me. Have you tried fucking a human yet and not feeding on them? It’s quite difficult to practice such restraint. My clients come to me to feel sexual excitement without needing to worry about holding back their fangs or being overcome by bloodlust. It’s a sort of safe space. As I said, it’s mutually beneficial.”
“Is that the only way you feed? By dominating other vampires?” Rose inquired. “Or do you fill in the gaps by killing a human every so often?”
“As I said, I have a very long list of clients,” Vanesse responded. “They bring me more than enough energy. I’ve managed to avoid the messy necessity of killing humans.”
“But your clients come to you filled with human blood…” Rose said, more of a statement than a question.
“Yes. I consume it indirectly, if you will.”
“So your clients do your killing for you.” Rose blinked as she thought this over. “Does it matter to you who they kill? Or how?”
“I don’t ask,” Vanesse stated flatly. “None of us has the luxury of being so picky. How and where my clients obtain their victims is their business.”
“But you must have to arrange some sort of schedule,” Rose probed, “if you need to dominate them while they’re still full? Surely they can’t just randomly show up at your place immediately after murdering someone?”
“I book appointments, of course,” said Vanesse. “I can’t operate by being totally on-call. But sometimes I do make last-minute visits—for an extra cost.”
“You charge extra…energy?”
“Human money,” Vanesse explained. “Alas, we all still need human currency to survive.”
This last statement hit all too poignantly for Rose.
“If you are struggling for either,” Vanesse offered, carefully selecting their words, “I can always use a little help. The clients are building up faster that I can keep up with. There’s been a wave of fresh vampires springing up lately. Some of us can be so careless with how many we turn!” They rolled her eyes in frustration.
“So that’s why you’re here,” Rose observed. “To bring me on as an assistant?”
“Or an apprentice.” Vanesse traced a finger sensually along the chair’s velvety armrest. “I imagine,” they mused, “that you must already know a thing or two about the power of sexuality and seduction.”
“I’ve been trying to use those skills to find victims,” Rose admitted, “but it’s been a bit…messy so far.”
“Dominating other vampires can be a much safer method of feeding,” Vanesse noted, “rather than haphazardly murdering humans.”
Rose didn’t know what to say. The dust of this new information hadn’t yet settled in her mind. It was a lot and she was still processing it, still muddling through it all.
“Think it over,” Vanesse concluded with a smile. “I’m here to help if you need me.”
A smile etched itself onto Rose’s lips. “You know, if you really want to help me…I’m looking for the vampire who turned me. Nico Dacia. Do you think you could help me find him?”
“I’d be happy to try,” said Vanesse.
An idea flashed across Rose’s mind. She drew in a breath and felt a spark of confidence kindle inside her. “You should stay for a few shows downstairs before leaving. I’ll be on soon. I’ll even comp your ticket as a thank you.”
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