I was minding my own business, reading “Tacky”, Charlaine Harris’s story in My Big Fat Supernatural Wedding, when a sensory memory I’d repressed for nearly 24 hours bit me on the nose. Literally. The smell of blood flooded my mind. The air seemed to reek of it.
The night before my mom made the mistake of taking a half-strength aspirin on top of her blood thinner. The result: instant Romanov.
To paraphrase Lady Macbeth, who knew the old woman had so much blood in her? She didn’t have a nosebleed; she had a nose geyser. Blood, thin as red ink, painted the floor from the bathroom to the kitchen and back again. Red soaked her pajamas, and there was a lot more to come, pouring out of her nose, hawked out of her mouth.
At the ER, she ran through all the kidney basins in her cubicle. It took the physician’s assistant three tries to pack her nose. He'd push the gauze in, and the blood would push it right back out again. But persistence and repeated applications of Afrin finally paid off. By dawn, the worst had passed, the flow had been staunched, and Mom was on her way home, no more anemic than usual.
I stood next to her the whole time, holding basin after basin to her lips, trying not to look away when the PA couldn’t help but hurt her. But the smell didn’t hit until I read about the blood fountain at the vamp/werewolf wedding in Charlaine’s story.
Blood stinks. Not just old blood, which I knew, to the point of asking my husband to stay behind and mop up Mom’s apartment before joining us at the hospital. But new blood, even thinned by medications, saliva and mucus. Iron filings, rust, meat turning bad--that’s what blood smells like.
Then my brain caught up with the remembered stench. I thought about how bloody awful the blood fountain at the wedding in Charlaine’s story would smell. And how funny it was that nobody in the current crop of paranormal romance and urban fantasy writers seems to have noticed how very bad the smell is. But they weren’t the only ones. Putting our heads together, the only literary reference my husband and I could come up with was one allusion in Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
How odd. Given how human beings react to odors--and how we’re wired to react to odors to survive--you’d think it would be front and center in every writer’s mind.
Sure gave me a new perspective on some of Dracula’s lines. There are worse things than death… No kidding. A steady diet of O-Negative would certainly top my list. No wonder so many vamps these days need serious anti-depressants. If it were me, I wouldn’t go anywhere without a sealed plasma bag and a really long straw.
Set one of my stiletto-heeled pumps in a vampire club? Not on your life. After a decade or two fermenting in the bottle, the only thing that would smell worse than vintage blood would be the breath of the guys who drank it. Ugh. I don’t care how sensuous the sucker’s mouth is, how could you French something that rank? In one of her novels Laurell K. Hamilton suggested breath mints. Sorry, in this reality, you couldn’t make a breath mint that strong.
Would lurve be enough to make a person overlook it? Speaking as a Virgo, I don’t know if I could get close enough to anybody who smelled like that to find out. Which gives me a whole new reason not to write a vampire story. Perversely, it also makes my writer brain itch to try. I’m so predictable. LOL