Featuring stories by Jonathan Carroll, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, and Robert Silverberg, A Whisper of Blood is a “consistently engrossing anthology” from award-winning editor Ellen Datlow (Publishers Weekly). Continuing to expand the boundaries of the concept of vampirism—as she did in her first collection, Blood Is Not Enough—Datlow has assembled eighteen fascinating stories that range from tales of literal vampires to what she calls “metaphorical bloodsuckers,” who can drain another’s life force without ever sinking their teeth into necks.
In “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep” by Suzy McKee Charnas, an elderly Jewish woman who’s taken her own life has second thoughts and makes a deal to become a vampire to stay immortal, the only condition being she has to drink blood by request only. An amnesiac operative tries to sort out if a secret government agency is trying to help him regain his memory or is wiping it clean in Chelsea Quinn Yarbro’s Kafkaesque “Do I Dare to Eat a Peach?” And in Jonathan Carroll’s “The Moose Church,” a tourist in Sardinia is literally scarred by asking questions of death in his dreams . . .
A Whisper of Blood includes contributions by Suzy McKee Charnas, Karl Edward Wagner, Robert Silverberg, Kathe Koja, Elizabeth Massie, Barry N. Malzberg, Rick Wilber, Jonathan Carroll, Thomas Ligotti, Melissa Mia Hall, David J. Schow, Jack Womack, Melinda M. Snodgrass, Thomas Tessier, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, K. W. Jeter, Pat Cadigan, and Robert Holdstock and Garry Kilworth.
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About the Author
Ellen Datlow, an acclaimed science fiction and fantasy editor, was born and raised in New York City. She has been a short story and book editor for more than thirty years and has edited or coedited several critically acclaimed anthologies of speculative fiction, including the Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror series and Black Thorn, White Rose (1994) with Terri Windling. Datlow has received numerous honors, including multiple Shirley Jackson, Bram Stoker, Hugo, Locus, and World Fantasy Awards, and Life Achievement Awards from the Horror Writers Association and the World Fantasy Association, to name just a few. She resides in New York.
Robert Silverberg is one of science fiction’s most beloved writers, and the author of such contemporary classics as Dying Inside, Downward to the Earth, and Lord Valentine’s Castle. He is a past president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and the winner of five Nebula Awards and five Hugo Awards. In 2004 the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America presented him with the Grand Master Award. Silverberg is one of twenty-nine writers to have received that distinction.
Jonathan Carroll (b. 1949) is an award-winning American author of modern fantasy and slipstream novels. His debut book, The Land of Laughs (1980), tells the story of a children’s author whose imagination has left the printed page and begun to influence reality. The book introduced several hallmarks of Carroll’s writing, including talking animals and worlds that straddle the thin line between reality and the surreal, a technique that has seen him compared to South American magical realists. Outside the Dog Museum (1991) was named the best novel of the year by the British Fantasy Society, and has proven to be one of Carroll’s most popular works. Since then he has written the Crane’s View trilogy, Glass Soup (2005) and, most recently, The Ghost in Love (2008). His short stories have been collected in The Panic Hand (1995) and The Woman Who Married a Cloud (2012). He lives and writes in Vienna.
Chelsea Q. Yarbro is the first woman to be named a Living Legend by the International Horror Guild and is one of only two women ever to be named as Grand Master of the World Horror Convention (2003). In 1995, Yarbro was the only novelist guest of the Romanian government for the First World Dracula Congress, sponsored by the Transylvanian Society of Dracula, the Romanian Bureau of Tourism, and the Romanian Ministry of Culture. Yarbro is best known as the creator of the heroic vampire the Count Saint-Germain. With her creation of Saint-Germain, she delved into history and vampiric literature and subverted the standard myth to invent the first vampire who was more honorable, humane, and heroic than most of the humans around him. She fully meshed the vampire with romance and accurately detailed historical fiction, and filtered it through a feminist perspective that made both the giving of sustenance and its taking of equal erotic potency. A professional writer since 1968, Yarbro has worked in a wide variety of genres, from science fiction to Westerns, from young adult adventure to historical horror. A skeptical occultist for forty years, Yarbro has studied everything from alchemy to zoomancy, and in the late 1970s worked occasionally as a professional tarot card reader and palmist at the Magic Cellar in San Francisco.
Read an Excerpt
NOW I LAY ME DOWN TO SLEEP
Suzy McKee Charnas
Charnas's reluctant vampire, Rose, is a far cry from her famous Professor Weyland. She is not aggressive and means no harm. Despite this, her motivation for becoming a vampire is the same as most other vampires — the desire to cheat death and claim immortality for oneself. Although Rose is one of the few actual vampires in this anthology, she is not by nature a predator and this story is a somewhat gentle piece to soothe the reader into the horror to come.
After Rose died, she floated around in a nerve-wracking fog for a time looking for the tunnel, the lights, and other aspects of the near-death experience as detailed in mass-media reports of such events.
She was very anxious to encounter these manifestations since apparently something loomed in the offing, in place of the happy surcease of consciousness her father had insisted on as the sequel to death. The older she had grown, the more inclined Rose had been to opt for Papa Sol's opinion. Maybe he would show up now trying to explain how he was right even though he was wrong, a bewildered figure of light along with Mom and Nana and everybody?
It would be nice to see a familiar face. Rose felt twinges of panic laced with a vague resentment. Here she was with the gratifyingly easy first step taken, and nothing was going on. Since she was still conscious, shouldn't there be something to exercise that consciousness on?
A siren wailed distantly. Suddenly she found herself walking on — or almost on, for her feet made only the memory of contact — the roof of her apartment building with its expensive view eastward across Central Park. She hadn't been to the park in years, nor even outside her own apartment. Her minute terrace had provided quite enough contact with the streets below. As far as Rose was concerned, these streets were not the streets she had grown up in. She preferred the comfortable security of her own apartment.
Being on the roof felt very odd, particularly since it seemed to be broad daylight and cold out. Far below in the street she could see one of the doormen waving down a cab; he wore his overcoat with the golden epaulets on the shoulders. Rose could have sworn she had taken her carefully hoarded pills late at night, in the comfortable warmth of 14C. Why else would she be wearing her blue flannel nightgown?
Turning to go back to the refuge of her own place, she found an Angel standing close behind her. She knew him — it? — at once by its beautifully modeled, long-toed feet, the feet of a Bernini Angel she had seen in an Italian church on a tour with Fred. Indeed, the entire form was exactly that of the stone Angel she remembered, except that the exposed skin was, well, skin-toned, which she found unsettling. Like colorizing poor old Humphrey Bogart.
"Leave me alone," she said. "I don't want to go."
"You'll go," the Angel said in a drifting, chiming voice that made her ears itch. "Eventually. Everyone does. Are you sure you want to stand out there like that? I wouldn't say anything, but you're not really used to it yet."
Rose looked down and discovered that she had unwittingly backed off or through or over the parapet and now hovered nineteen stories above the street. She gasped and flailed about, for though she had no body to fall — nor for that matter arms to flail or breath to gasp with — sensory flashes still shot along her shadowy, habitual nerve pathways.
Thus the Angel's fingers closed, cool and palpable, on hers and lifted her lightly back onto the roof. She snatched her hand back at once. No one had touched her in years except her doctor, and that didn't count.
But it was not really the Angel's touch she feared.
"I don't want to go anywhere," she said, unable to bring herself to mention by name the anywhere she did not wish to go. "I'm a suicide. I killed myself."
"Yes," the Angel said, clasping its hands in front of its chest the way Dr. Simkin always used to do when he was about to say something truly outrageous. But it said nothing more.
"Well, how does — how do you, um, all feel about that, about people who kill themselves?" She knew the traditional answer, but dared to hope for a different one.
The Angel pursed its perfect lips. "Grouchy," it replied judiciously.
Unwillingly Rose recalled instances from the Old Testament of God's grouchiness. Actually there had been no Bible in her parents'house. She had read instead a book of Bible stories slipped to her one birthday by Nana and kept hidden from Papa Sol. Even watered down for kids, the stories had been frightening. Rose trembled.
"I was brought up an atheist," she said faintly.
The Angel answered, "What about the time you and Mary Hogan were going to run away and enter a convent together?"
"We were kids, we didn't know anything," Rose objected. "Let me stay here. I'm not ready."
"You can't stay," the Angel said. Its blank eyes contrasted oddly with its earnest tone of voice. "Your soul without its body is light, and as memories of the body's life fade, the spirit grows lighter, until you'll just naturally rise and drift.
"Drift? Drift where?" Rose asked.
"Up," the Angel said. Rose followed the languid gesture of one slender hand and saw what might to living eyes seem just a cloud bank. She knew it was nothing of the kind. It was a vast, angry, looming presence of unmistakable portent.
She scuttled around trying to put the Angel between herself and the towering form. At least the face of cloud was not looking at her. For the moment. Luckily there was lots else to look down disapprovingly at in New York City, most of it a good deal more entertaining than Rose Blum.
She whispered urgently to the Angel, "I changed my mind, I want to go back. I can see now, there are worse things than having your cats die and your kids plan to put you away someplace for your own good. Let them, I'll go, they can have my money, I don't care."
"I'm sorry," the Angel said, and Rose suddenly saw herself from above, not her spirit self but her body, lying down there in the big white tub. The leaky old faucets still dribbled in a desultory way, she noted with an exasperated sigh. Her "luxury" building had high ceilings and the rooms were sizable, but the plumbing was ancient.
Her pale form lay half submerged in what looked like rust-stained water. Funny, she had forgotten entirely that after the pills she had taken the further step of cutting her wrists in the bath. The blue nightgown was an illusion of habit.
Not a bad body for her age, she reflected, though it was essentially an Old World model, chunky flesh on a short-boned frame. The next generation grew tall and sleek, a different species made for playing tennis and wearing the clothes the models in the magazines wore. Though her granddaughter Stephanie, now that she thought of it, was little, like Rose herself; petite, but not so wide-hipped, an improved version of the original import with a flavor of central Europe and probably an inclination to run to fat if allowed.
Good heavens, somebody was in there, also looking at her — two men, Bill the super and Mr. Lum the day concierge! Rose recoiled, burning with shame. Her vacated body couldn't even make the gestures of modesty.
They were talking, the two of them. She had given them generous holiday tips for years to repay them for helping her organize a life that had never required her to leave her apartment after Fred's death and the consequent money squabbles in the family.
Bill said, "Two mil at least, maybe more on account of the terrace."
Mr. Lum nodded. "Forgot the terrace," he said.
She wished she hadn't tipped them at all. She wished her body didn't look so — well — dead. Definitively dead.
"Okay, I can't go back," she admitted to the Angel, relieved to find herself alone with it on the roof again. "But there must be something I can do besides go — you know." She shuddered, thinking of the monstrous shape lowering above her — a wrathful, a terrible, a vengeful God. She needed time to get used to the idea, after Papa Sol and a lifetime of living in the world had convinced her otherwise. Why hadn't somebody told her?
Well, somebody besides Mary Hogan, who had been a Catholic, for crying out loud.
"Well," the Angel said, "you can postpone."
"Postpone," Rose repeated eagerly. "That's right, that's exactly what I had in mind. How do I postpone?"
The Angel said, "You make yourself a body out of astral material: this." Its slim hand waved and a blur of pale filaments gathered at the tapered fingertips.
"Where did that stuff come from?" Rose said nervously. Was the Angel going to change form or disintegrate or do something nasty like something in a horror movie?
"It's all around everybody all the time," the Angel said, "because the physical world and the nonphysical world and everything in between interpenetrate and occupy the same space and time interminably."
"I don't understand physics," Rose said.
"You don't need to," the Angel said. "Astral sculpting is easy, you'll get the hang of it. With a body made of this, you can approach living people and ask them to help you stay. At night, anyway — that's when they'll be able to see you."
Rose thought of Bill and Mr. Lum standing there talking about the value of her apartment. Then she thought of her kids whom she hadn't liked for quite a while and who didn't seem to like her either. Not much use asking them for anything. Maybe Frank, the elevator man? He had always struck her as decent.
"Help, how?" she asked.
"By letting you drink their blood," said the Angel.
Appalled, Rose said nothing for a moment. Down below, a taxi pulled in at the awning and disgorged a comically foreshortened figure. Rose watched this person waddle into the building. "Drink their blood," she said finally. "I'm supposed to go around drinking blood, like Dracula?"
The Angel said, "You need the blood to keep you connected with the physical world. But you can't take it against a person's will, you have to ask. That's the meaning of the business about having to be invited into the donor's house. The house is a metaphor for the physical shell —"
"I'm a vampire?" Rose cried, visions of Christopher Lee and Vampirella and the rest from late-night TV flashing through her stunned mind.
"You are if you want to put off going up," the Angel said with a significant glance skyward. "Most suicides do."
Rose didn't dare look up and see if the mighty cheek of cloud had turned her way.
"That's why suicides were buried at crossroads," the Angel went on, "to prevent their return as vampires."
"Nobody gets buried at a crossroad!"
"Not now," the Angel agreed, "and cremation is so common; but ashes don't count. It's no wonder there's a vampire craze in books and movies. People sense their presence in large numbers in the modern world."
"This is ridiculous," Rose burst out. "I want to see somebody senior to you, I want to talk to the person in —"
She stopped. The Person in charge was not likely to be sympathetic.
The Angel said, "I'm just trying to acquaint you with the rules."
"I'm dead," Rose wailed. "I shouldn't have rules!"
"It's not all bad," the Angel said hastily. "You can make your astral body as young as you like, for instance. But sunlight is a problem. Living people have trouble seeing astral material in sunlight."
For the first time in years she wished Fred were around, that con man. He could have found a way out of this for her if he'd felt like showing off.
"It's not fair!" Rose said. "My G — Listen, what about crosses? Am I supposed to be afraid of crosses?"
"Well," the Angel said, "in itself the cross is just a cross, but there's the weight of the dominant culture to consider, and all its symbols. When western people see a cross, what are they most likely to think of, whether they're personally Christians or not?"
Rose caught herself in time to avoid glancing upward at the shadow giant in the sky. Little changes of terror ran through her so that she felt herself ripple like a shower curtain in a draft. No poor scared dead person would be able to hold her astral self together under that kind of stress.
The Angel began to move away from her, pacing solemnly on the air over the street where a cab trapped by a double-parked delivery truck was honking dementedly.
"Wait, wait," Rose cried, ransacking her memory of Dracula, which she and her sister had read to each other at night by flashlight one winter. "What about crossing water? Is it true that a vampire can't cross water?"
"Running water can disorient you very severely," the Angel said over its exquisite shoulder. "You could find yourself visiting places you never meant to go to instead of the ones you did."
Water flows downhill, Rose thought. Down. Hell was down, according to Mary Hogan, anyway. She made a shaky mental note: Don't cross running water.
"How am I supposed to remember all this?" she wailed.
The Angel rose straight into the air without any movement of the translucent wings she now saw spreading from its back. "Just think of the movies," it said. "Film is the record of the secret knowledge of the cultural unconscious."
"You sound like Dr. Simkin, that terrible shrink my daughter sent me to," Rose accused the floating figure.
"I was Harry Simkin," the Angel replied. "That's why I'm doing your intake work." It folded its aristocratic hands and receded rapidly toward the high, rolling clouds.
"My God, you were a young man," Rose called after it. "Nobody told me you died."
The door onto the roof burst open with a crash and two boys lugging heavily weighted plastic bags tumbled out, shouting. Ignoring Rose, they rushed to the parapet. Each one took a spoiled grapefruit out of one of the bags and leaned out into space, giggling and pointing, choosing a passing car roof to aim for.
Rose sidled up to the smaller one and cleared her throat. As loudly as she could she said, "Young man, how would you like to meet a real vampire?"
He lobbed a grapefruit and ducked behind the parapet, howling in triumph at the meaty sound of impact from below but apparently deaf to Rose's voice. Revolting child. Rose bent over and tried to bite his neck. He didn't seem to notice. But she couldn't unwrap the scarf he wore, her fingers slipped through the fabric. So she aimed for a very small patch of exposed skin, but she had no fangs that she could discover and made no impression on his grimy neck.
The whole thing was a ludicrous failure. Worse, she couldn't imagine how it could work, which did not augur well for her future as a vampire. Maybe the Angel had lied. Maybe it was really a devil in disguise. She had never trusted that Simkin anyway.
Worst of all, she was continually aware of the looming, ever-darkening presence, distant but palpable to her spirit, of Him Whom Papa Sol had scoffed at with good socialist scorn. It was all so unfair! Since He was up there after all, why didn't He do something about these horrible boys instead of harassing a poor dead old woman?
Rose didn't want Him witnessing her ineptitude, which might inspire Him to drag her up there to face Him right now. She gave up on the grape-fruit-hurling boys and drifted back down to 14C.
It gave her some satisfaction to sift under the sealed apartment door in the form of an astral mist. She floated around admiring the handsomely appointed rooms; she had always had excellent taste.
In the bathroom the tub was empty and reeked of pine-scented disinfectant. Someone had already made off with her silver-backed hairbrush, she noted. But what did that matter, given that her strides were unusually long and slightly bounding, as if she were an astronaut walking on the moon? This could only mean that she was lightening up, just as the Angel had warned.
Frantically she clawed astral material out of the air and patted it into place as best she could, praying that in the absence of blood this astral gunk itself might help to hold her down until somebody came and consented to be a — donor. Her children would come, if only to calculate the considerable value of her things. She was determined to greet them as herself, or as near to that as she could get, to cushion the shock of her request for their donations.
She couldn't see herself in the mirror to check the likeness or to inspect her mouth for fangs. Astral material had a number of limitations, it seemed, among them inability to cast a reflection. She couldn't even turn on the television; her astral fingers wouldn't grip the switch. She couldn't pick up things, the Chinese figurines and fine French clocks that she had brought back from travel and had converted into lamps. Very nice lamps, too. Fred had done his import deals or whatever had been really going on — half the time she had thought him a secret arms trader — but Rose was the one who had had the eye.
My God, she'd been a shopper!
How light she was, how near to drifting — up. No wonder vampires were so urgent about their hunger. By the time Bill the super showed up with two yuppies in tow, Rose felt that for the first time she understood what her daughter Roberta used to mean by that awful phrase "strung out."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "A Whisper of Blood"
Copyright © 1991 Ellen Datlow.
Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Introduction Ellen Datlow,
Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep Suzy McKee Charnas,
The Slug Karl Edward Wagner,
Warm Man Robert Silverberg,
Teratisms Kathe Koja,
M Is for the Many Things Elizabeth Massie,
Folly for Three Barry N. Malzberg,
The Impaler in Love Rick Wilber,
The Moose Church Jonathan Carroll,
Mrs. Rinaldi's Angel Thomas Ligotti,
The Pool People Melissa Mia Hall,
A Week in the Unlife David J. Schow,
Lifeblood Jack Womack,
Requiem Melinda M. Snodgrass,
Infidel Thomas Tessier,
Do I Dare to Eat a Peach? Chelsea Quinn Yarbro,
True Love K. W. Jeter,
Home by the Sea Pat Cadigan,
The Ragthorn Robert Holdstock and Garry Kilworth,
A Biography of Ellen Datlow,