This is part 2 of 4 in my recap series of Sheridan LeFanu’s 1872 lesbian vampire novella Carmilla.
Warnings for spoilers and loads of swearing.
Where we last left off, lonely, isolated Laura just got her very first friend, the mysterious Carmilla, who is probably the vampire who bit 6-year old Laura in the boob. Laura is unsuspecting, but things are getting erotic between them really fast.
Laura spends a long time drooling over Carmilla and playing with her hair, and it’s all deeply sensual. I swear to god, this book is the reason why teenage boys think girls have homoerotic pillow fights in their underwear every time they have a sleep over.
The only thing to come between Carmilla and Laura is Carmilla’s reticence to say anything at all about her history or her mother’s trip. They even have little lovers’ spats about it. All Carmilla will tell Laura are the following three facts: 1.) Her name is Carmilla, 2.) Her family is old and noble, and 3.) Their family home is somewhere to the west.
Well, thanks a fucking heap, you vampire bint.
Meanwhile, Carmilla is TOTALLY manipulating Laura with sex in order to avoid this topic of conversation. The following is a direct quotation:
“She [Carmilla] used to place her pretty arms about my neck, draw me to her, and laying her cheek to mine, murmur with her lips near my ear, ‘Dearest, your little heart is wounded; think me not cruel because I obey the irresistible law of my strength and weakness; if your dear heart is wounded, my wild heart bleeds with yours. In the rapture of my enormous humiliation I live in your warm life, and you shall die–die, sweetly die–into mine. I cannot help it; as I draw near to you, you, in your turn, will draw near to others, and learn the rapture of that cruelty, which yet is love; so, for a while, seek to know no more of me and mine, but trust me with all your loving spirit.’”
Holy Victorian sex bomb, y’all. I guarantee you at least one person in the 19th century climaxed while reading that.
Occasionally Carmilla really embarrasses Laura because Carmilla’s PDAs become more and more intense (PLEASE, Laura, you are *so* into it). But then Carmilla starts getting creepy and saying shit like (verbatim), “You are mine, you shall be mine, you and I are one for ever” before bursting into sobs.
Carmilla also weirds the whole family out because she never seems to eat anything, and seems to be exhausted all the time. Yeah, because she’s up all night eating the villagers.
Laura and Carmilla watch a funeral procession for one of the tenant farmer’s daughters, who has probably recently been vamped to death. As the procession sings a hymn, Carmilla is like, “ENOUGH WITH YOUR FUCKING CATERWAULING” and Laura goes, “What the fuck is your problem?” and Carmilla says, “I don’t see why everyone makes such a fuss over funerals. EVERYONE IS HAPPIER WHEN THEY’RE DEAD, LET’S GO HOME.”
Laura’s like, “But—” and Carmilla goes, “WHY DO YOU EVEN CARE ABOUT SOME PEASANT GIRL WHO IS PROBABLY NOT AS HOT AS I AM? WHAT, DID YOU LOOOOOVE HER OR SOMETHING?” and then proceeds to have the stroppiest, most jealous temper tantrum ever seen.
Laura should kick her needy ass to the curb. I am having NONE of this.
One day, a hunchback gypsy comes around selling amulets. The girls buy some.
Ohhh, now we got creepy gypsies in this? LeFanu is just pulling out allllll the Gothic stops.
The portrait cleaner comes around, returning some paintings that Laura and her father had previously sent away to be cleaned. Laura has never gotten a good look at some of these pictures before because they were so dirty.
Ew. Clean that stank-ass castle of yours.
There is one portrait from 150 years ago of a woman named Mircalla Karnstein (THE SAME NAME AS THE PEOPLE WHO USED TO OWN THE RUINED GHOST TOWN NEARBY), and as the family looks at it, they realize it’s the exact likeness of Carmilla! Say whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa?
The family is like, “Wow, Carmilla! What a cowinkeedink!”
Carmilla goes, “Yes . . . a coincidence. I am a distant descendant of the Karnsteins, and ‘Mircalla’ is in NO WAY a thin anagram of ‘Carmilla’. Nope. But hey! We should go check out the creepy abandoned town. Alone. At night.”
And Laura, who’s too stupid to live, goes “Sure! What bad things could possibly happen?”
Then things get very explicit when they go for a long walk in the moonlight (and this is verbatim):
“She kissed me silently.
“‘I am sure, Carmilla, you have been in love; that there is, at this moment, an affair of the heart going on.’
“‘I have been in love with no one, and never shall,’ she whispered, ‘unless it should be with you.'”
Anyone who says the Victorians were uptight and didn’t know about lesbianism: y’all. Come on.
In a bizarre twist, absolutely nothing bad happens on their ill-advised moonlight walk through the abandoned ghost town. That’s kind of a letdown, actually.
Inexplicably, Carmilla tells them all that she’s been thinking of leaving them, as they’ve already been too hospitable. I don’t know if she’s afraid that she’s going to vamp Laura, or if the Sapphic bliss is too excruciatingly beautiful, or what. Maybe she’s getting some sort of friction burn from all of the hugging and rubbing and nuzzling they seem to do and she just needs to take a break and put some aloe vera on that shit.
Laura’s father tells Carmilla not to be ridiculous, and she’s welcome to stay as long as she needs. She says okay. But then she gets generally creepy again, talking about how love means huge sacrifices and there can be no true love without blood, and blah blah, creepy mumbo jumbo, and also she’s hinting pretty hard that she wants Laura to sleep in her bed with her—NOT IN A GAY WAY, but like sisters.
Yep. Totally sisters.
Nothin’ but sisters.
They’re just going to nuzzle and cuddle and maybe make out a little bit.
This chick is bad news.
That night, Laura has a dream that some sort of hell-cat is creeping around the foot of her bed. She dreams the cat jumps up on her bed and bites her breast, and Laura screams and wakes up, only to find an unidentified woman standing in her room. She and the woman stare at each other for a while, and then the woman ghosts her way toward the locked bedroom door and morphs right through it.
And then no one ever slept again, me included.
END PART TWO! Part three will go up on Friday.