It may become necessary to possess a clear understanding of the nature of mammaloid hemophages (commonly styled “vampires” when that mammaloid form is human-derived). To that end, I offer here a few words.
The process by which a hemophage is engendered is mysterious, as such transformation has never been observed directly either in the wild or under laboratory conditions. However, both common belief and mythology concur that engendering occurs when a hemophage feeds on a human, and that human is then compelled to consume the ichor of the hemophage. Studies of captive hemophages have confirmed that their ichor, while containing all the components that make up human blood, contains as well an enzyme which apparently destroys much of the remnant human genetic material and, in so doing, halts the aging clock. Almost all nerves are blunted, and while it is a myth that vampires feel no pain, in practice they become nearly impervious to its effects. A sucking chest wound produces pain in a hemophage roughly equivalent, to judge from observed laboratory reactions, to that caused by a shallow knife wound in a human subject. This imperviousness to pain and immunity to aging, as well as the ichor’s ability to provide by itself all the sustenance a hemophage requires, has led to the common belief that vampires are all but immortal (with their mortality ensured only by a few and rather ritualistic actions; more on this subject anon). This is not in fact the case, but the hemophage will recover from many injuries that would, in fact, kill a human being, and will not die of old age, so long as a constant supply of fresh mammalian blood is ensured, which the hemophage’s digestive system converts to ichor.
A word about commonly accepted mythology concerning the mortality of vampires. Legends claim that a vampire can be killed only by decapitation, by impalement of the heart with a wooden stake, or by fire or direct sunlight. This isn’t strictly correct: laboratory observations confirm that certain grievous bodily injury, particularly if the hemophage is prevented from feeding, will cause death. But practically, the mythology is correct. Decapitation, of course, causes death primarily by severing the brain from its bodily source of ichor; neither the head nor the body can survive long without that connection. Similarly, fire will kill a hemophage so long as the body is heated to the extent required to bring ichor to its boiling point (approximately 113 degrees centigrade), which in turn will cause death. Sunlight is not invariably fatal to hemophages, but melanin is no longer produced in hemophages, and while a hemophage’s skin remains relatively supple so long as it avoids direct sunlight, UV rays essentially effect an extremely rapid burning and dehydration of the epidermis. Ichor itself is powerfully reactive to sunlight, and the typical etiology of sun-based fatalities among hemophages involves such rapid sunburn that the shallow, fragile, parched skin is readily scratched: the smallest amount of ichor reacts explosively to sunlight, and the body is consumed as the epidermis essentially vaporizes in providing fuel to the reaction.
As noted above, common mythology has it that a vampire may be killed via a stake through the heart – but not just any stake. It must be a wooden stake. While metaphoric and poetic explanations for this phenomenon abound, in fact it is simply a byproduct of the fact that the lignin in wood reacts chemically with ichor to create a loosely-bonded solid which rapidly expands at normal temperature. (Rare cases in which a hemophage was impaled in extreme, arctic conditions reveal that under such conditions, the hemophage can survive – so long as it is able to feed immediately and copiously shortly afterwards.) This rapid expansion, coupled with the aforementioned parching of the exterior membrane, causes the body of the hemophage first to peel rapidly away from the expanding lignin/ichor compound, which itself then essentially explodes, leaving a characteristic dusty residue. Wounds from sharpened wooden stakes that do not pierce the heart can temporarily paralyze the hemophage, but the fatal character of cardiac impalement arises from the concentrated quantity of ichor, and the resultant rapid spread of the lignin/ichor reaction.
A rare and curious aspect of hemophage culture has only recently been discovered, and that is the extreme fear, verging upon panic, with which the hemophage regards milk. In general, owing to their virtual indestructibility, hemophages present an arrogant, indomitable mien – but even the largest, strongest buck hemophage will quiver in terror if presented with a simple glass of milk. Vampire lore has it that all vampires will be vanquished at a single stroke should a mythical substance known as lac virginis, or “virgin’s milk,” be found. This milk, our hemophagic informants agree, instantly reverts ichor to human blood (and the vampire biology to human biology), a transformation which, mystically, also affects all other hemophages engendered by that vampire, as well as all hemophages engendered by them, in a chain reaction that ultimately restores all vampires to human form – but a human form bearing all the infirmities of the hemophage’s true age. In essence, the mythological “virgin’s milk” would destroy the race of hemophages at a stroke.
In fact, laboratory experiments demonstrate that everyday milk, whether that of cows, sheep, goats, or any other mammal, does appear to disrupt the enzymatic activity of ichor. It would appear, then, that vampires fear milk with good reason – although milk is effective in inhibiting ichor enzymatic activity only when consumed, or forcefed, in fairly large quantities. Smaller quantities of milk produce only a lethargic reaction, lasting anywhere from five minutes to several hours. The chemistry whereby these reactions occur is obscure. Some theorists hold that the fat content of milk is responsible, while others suggest that calcium binds with a component of ichor. (Support for the latter theory is found in the presence of calcium in garlic which, although not terribly effective as a repellent for the hemophage, is regarded as terribly unpleasant by most mammaloid hemophages studied under laboratory conditions.)
One final note. While public fear of vampires has been steadily increasing in recent years, in fact the hemophage is quite rare. Under most circumstances, a vampire attack is far less probable than, say, being struck by lightning, being abducted by an escaped prisoner, or being consumed alive by a werecow. Foreknowledge is forewarning, however, and such knowledge can never be a bad thing.
– from unpublished notes of Dr. Alvin Ventner of the University of Nebraska’s School of Xenobiology, Lincoln, NE