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Notes - The Vampire

The short story I submitted is an excerpt of a larger work. I began it in college and added to it one afternoon when we returned to College Station two years ago. I found in the environment that the story itself came back to me, and at that time I wrote the portion that I submitted to a magazine yesterday.

The protagonist of the story is Nell, whose hair is the color of dead grass, whose eyes liken a dry summer's sky. The story takes place in waning summer. The change in the weather has provoked rain, and Nell works in the garden to prepare the dry soil.

Nell is the oldest of several children. She bears most of the responsibilities of her mother, Catherine, who is bedridden after repeated miscarriages. Not covered in the short story are the family relationships, which suggest Catherine suffers more from depression than physical ailment. She is irascible to Nell, who has a Cinderella resemblance.

When Nell becomes broken-down with chronic abdomen pain her mother and younger sister believe it to be caused by her menstrual cycle. I mean to imply that Nell is destined to carry on her mother's burdens if she remains in this environment. She cannot withstand the demands made on her system by physical labor and by potential fertility. I also recalled the later years of my adolescence which were marked and glaring by this periodic pain I was neither physically nor spiritually equipped to handle.

In parallel to fragility of the female system and the outer world's presumptuous demands upon it I reveal the sole male character of the novel, Stephen Tate, a Southern gentleman temporarily abdicated from his dilapidated plantation home in favor of the prairie's anonymity.

We soon learn that Nell is suffering not from menstrual weakness, but the bite of a vampire, and the vampire is Stephen Tate. Stephen's story is not at all explored in the excerpt, but he is one of three siblings visited with an apparent curse, which the proud family attempts to hide. It is a curse born from the sins of the fathers. The family's wealth, now nonexistent, and subsequent pride was built on the labor of slaves. Now destitute, it appears the family line will die since the three children, Quentin, Stephen and Charlotte, have turned out to be vampires. Quentin, the oldest, is the most feral and engages in repeated brutality even the grandest family name cannot hope to hide. Charlotte has long cherished the notion of becoming a belle, and travels in high circles, trying on great pain to conceal her true nature. Stephen is the weakest, least-fed of the three. The blazing Texas sun drains him to a weakness nearly equal to Nell's own.

Stephen finds in Nell a kindred spirit and Nell for the first time, well, feels special. She is special. She empathizes with Stephen's nature on an elemental level, suffering from weakness and exposure to the sun, while retaining her human nature. Stephen in turn dispels a portion of his pain onto her and is able to go into the light.

I did not get any further than this in the novel, and the short story covers only Nell's initial victimization and her decision to pursue Stephen, though it may mean her death, in favor of being broken-down in her mother's footsteps.

I know it is true only a little bit of what a writer means can be seen in the finished work. Therefore it is necessary to pack a powerful message. I fear "The Vampire" may miss the meaning entirely, and that I may not hope to capture even a portion of the delicate story so difficult to describe, that I feel is worth telling. I believe we all know when we have a story worth telling, that others would appreciate, if only we could tell it well. That is where the burden lies. The stories in me are no different than those in anyone else. I think the deepest of stories told clumsily is worth far more than the shallowest story told eloquently. That doesn't have much to do with "The Vampire;" it's just a thought of mine.

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