This is part 3 of 4 in my recap series for Sheridan LeFanu’s 1872 lesbian vampire novella Carmilla.
Warnings for spoilers and loads of swearing.
Where we last left off, the mysterious Carmilla was getting all kinds of possessive and homoerotic with Laura, who doesn’t see any red flags at all because Carmilla is literally her first friend. Carmilla also looks like a woman in a painting who died 150 years ago AND IT DEFINITELY ISN’T HER, NOPE, JUST A COINCIDENCE. Laura keeps having creepy boob-biting dreams, which are also definitely not related to Carmilla.
The next day, Laura tells her governesses about the eerie cat dream. They tell her that there have been lots of spooooooky stories lately about a beautiful lady-ghost haunting the grounds (just like in goddamned Dracula–how much stuff did Stoker lift from Carmilla?). Carmilla says she had the same “dream” about the weird cat-beast lurking around her room, but she had that charm she bought from the gypsy hunchback, which helped drive it off. Laura says she’ll wear her amulet to sleep from now on, because hunchback gypsy jewelry has mystical dream-cat-warding properties.
They both sleep super well, and Laura asks Carmilla why she thinks the charms work. Carmilla says that it’s not magic, it’s science—the charms have clearly been soaked in (verbatim) an ‘antidote against malaria’, and thus they . . . do something . . . to do with vapors . . . and also dreams . . . because science.
So they wear their charms to bed every night, and they have restful sleeps, except Laura wakes up every day full of
postcoital ennui. She really luxuriates in her depression and starts fantasizing about death, and this is allllll sounding very French to me. She starts getting properly ill (Oh no! Not female sexuality! That scourge of delicate constitutions everywhere!), and Carmilla tends devotedly to her, and then Laura starts having LEZTASTIC DREAMS ENDING IN CLIMAX. A direct quotation:
“Sometimes there came a sensation as if a hand was drawn softly along my cheek and neck. Sometimes it was as if warm lips kissed me, and longer and longer and more lovingly as they reached my throat, but there the caress fixed itself. My heart beat faster, my breathing rose and fell rapidly and full drawn; a sobbing, that rose into a sense of strangulation, supervened, and turned into a dreadful convulsion, in which my senses left me and I became unconscious.”
2.) Thank god SOMEONE finally finished. This book was ALL FOREPLAY, ALL THE TIME.
3.) What is it about vampire sex that knocks people unconscious? Are they really that good?
And Laura just continues to have mind-blowing sex-sleep for THREE WEEKS. No wonder she slowly goes insane.
And Carmilla’s like, “I’ve been having ‘exhausting’ dreams too, LOL. No, they’re probably not related.
But if they were, tell me (and be honest), am I any good? I’m totally good at sex, right?”
One night, Laura is woken up by a disembodied ghost voice that says “Your mother warns you to beware of the assassin,” which, to be honest, is a much less fun dream than the sexy ones. Also, it’s vague as shit because ghosts are USELESS. There. I said it. Someone had to.
(if any ghosts are reading this, please don’t haunt me, just make your communication skills more efficient and content-driven)
She wakes up and sees Carmilla standing at the foot of her bed, covered head to toe in blood. Laura screams, the Carmilla-mirage vanishes, Laura wakes the whole house and says she thinks Carmilla’s being murdered, they bang on Carmilla’s door, but it’s locked, and there’s no answer, and they force the door open, and she’s gone.
I’m amazed these people haven’t figured out that they’re in a Gothic novel yet. They go searching for dear, sweet, blood-saturated Carmilla, who is probably the innocent victim of foul play, and certainly not some dark sexy leech-angel placed among them to be the scourge of both mankind AND German maiden virginity.
Nope. Definitely not the last thing.
They search the house and grounds all night and all morning, and then Carmilla magically appears back in her bedroom and is like, “I just woke up, but my room has been searched. Was I not here during the kerfuffle? Have I been magically transported somewhere during my sleep?”
Yeah. You’ve been ‘transported’ alright, you lying chupacabra. You’ve been transported right down to the local blood bank all night. Don’t pull this innocent crap with me, lady. I got your number.
Laura’s father comes up with an explanation, which is “Clearly you sleepwalk. You sleepwalked out of the house, all through the night, and sleepwalked back into your room late in the day, and no one noticed you, even though we have half of the town out searching.” Everyone thinks this seems legit, but then again, everyone is a moron, so they would, wouldn’t they?
They call in the doctor to examine both of the girls, because it’s getting all KINDS of female hysteria up in hurr. Sex dreams and sleepwalking and passionate embraces? Uh uh. Not on my watch.
Laura tells the doctor about the dreams where she feels like she’s being stabbed with needles. He asks her to show her the spot near her collarbone where she says she feels it. Upon lowering her blouse, he discovers a small bruise, which makes everyone go, “OH NO, A MINOR BRUISE, YOU ARE SERIOUSLY ILL.”
Then the menfolk discuss things but refuse to tell Laura anything about her health, and the doctor rides off, and Laura’s father says he needs to find an old priest and a young priest on some ‘business’ issues. Laura and her father decide to go out on a nice day trip, where they can also search for a priest who lives near the Karnstein ruins. On their way there they happen to meet the General on the road.
Time has not been kind to the General. Time has hit the General in the face with a shovel and left him for dead. He looks like hell, is what I’m trying to say. He’s still grieving his niece, who fell prey to some sort of “hellish arts”.
The General says that he’s been investigating some weird shit, and he’ll happily tell them all about it, and what a wonderful coincidence that they’re all going to the Karnstein ruins, since HE wants to go there to check out some old artifact.
And the artifact is bodies. He wants to dig up the Karnsteins. Frankly, I think that more delightful day-trip picnics should end in grave-robbing, but that’s just me.
As they travel to Exhumation Station, the General tells his tale:
About a year ago, the General and his niece went to some swanky aristocratic masked ball. If this doesn’t turn into Vampire: The Masquerade or some kind of kinky Eyes Wide Shut sex party, I am not going to finish reading the story.
The niece was looking hot, and this random masked hot lady was looking hot, and the hot masked lady kept checking out the hot niece, and the hot masked lady’s mother arranged an introduction (COME ON, it’s totally Carmilla and her mother. There aren’t enough characters in this story for it to be anyone else).
The masked mother started chatting with the General, ingratiating herself with him and said she knew him from this party and that social event, etc. etc., but every time the General is like “Who the fuck are you?”, she played coy about her identity.
Meanwhile, the hot masked lady reveals her name to be MILLARCA. Fucking Millarca. And no one in Laura’s party, who is hearing this story for the first time, thinks this is a weird name.
LEARN WHAT ANAGRAMS ARE, YOU LOBOTOMIZED SHIT-TURDS
Anyway, ‘Millarca’ hits on the niece pretty hard and all but seduces her in 30 seconds flat. And by ‘seduce’, I of course mean they just become really really really really good friends. Just friends. With no sexual tension.
The General and the masked mother go through this song and dance of “Take off your mask” “No” “Take off your mask” “No” “Take off your mask” “No”, until LeFanu puts us out of our misery by having the masked mother get summoned away on business.
The mother tells the General she has to go soon, but she’s actually a closer, older friend of his than he might realize, and she’ll stop by his castle in a few weeks to shoot the breeze and talk about old memories ‘n’ shit.
The mother must rush away on an emergency trip, A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH. In the meantime, however, her sexy masked daughter HAD A FALL FROM A HORSE and can’t make the trip with her, and could the masked daughter chill with the General and his niece at their place for a few weeks until she can come back?
And, again, no one in Laura’s party notices any parallels between this story and their own current situation.
The General tells Millarca’s mother “Of course Millarca can come stay with us”, because who is he to stand in the way of true sexual awakening friendship?
The masked mother asks one thing: that the General try to learn nothing of their identity until she returns. MILLARCA WILL SAY NOTHING ABOUT WHO THEY ARE.
Millarca also has a tendency TO GO MISSING IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT and make the General and his niece worried as shit.
How are Laura and her father not putting two-and-two together by this point?
I’m INDIGNANT. And it is coursing through me like venom.
Additional things that Millarca does just like Carmilla:
-Locks her door on the inside
-Is super sleepy and lazy
-Causes sexy young women around her to lose their health, probably from incessant dream-orgasms
-Causes sexy young women around her to feel like their boobies are being stabbed/clawed/munched on.
Then Laura finally adds things up and goes, “Wow! Just like Carmilla!”
Give the girl a prize.
The General stops his story there for a moment, because they’ve finally arrived at the ruins of the Karnstein castle. The Karnsteins were apparently brutal rulers, so I’m just waiting to hear about how they bathed in the blood of village maidens and whatnot.
The General hears someone chopping wood and says, “Ah! A woodsman is nearby! Let’s ask him about the grave of Mircalla, the Karnstein Countess from that picture that time who looks exactly like Carmilla, because that is the grave I want to dig up, post-haste, and a random dude chopping wood is almost definitely intimate with the grave locations of an extinct family.”
Laura’s father says, “Oh, we have a painting of Mircalla, Countess Karnstein. She’s been dead for ages, I hope we can find the grave.”
The General responds with, “Not so dead as you might think.”
Laura’s father is baffled by this, probably because he is a man who has never encountered any sort of supernatural legend in his life. He just appeared, fully formed, in a vacuum-sealed bubble, and has never heard of ghosts or vampires or werewolves or fairies.
Or anagrams, clearly.
The General reveals that he wants to dig up the Countess so he can cut her head off. Understandably, Laura’s father is a bit like, “Uhhhhhh, buddy? You okay?” But no. The General is NOT okay. Only corpse-mutilation can replenish his electrolytes; only revenge can lower his blood pressure.
Then the woodcutter appears and he says he’s from a long and ancient line of woodcutters (of course he is) and he can tell us everything we want to know about the Karnsteins. Also, he’s currently living with the local priest in a swingin’ bachelor pad.
Well, that’s convenient. Your one-stop-shopping for graveyard directions and exorcisms.
They ask why the village was abandoned, and FINALLY someone says the word “vampire”. In short, the whole town got vamped, and the authorities came in and burned a shit-ton of vampires and cut the heads off the rest, and funnily enough, that sort of thing isn’t great for the local economy or tourism board, so everyone upped sticks, except the woodsman. Also, the grave of Countess Mircalla has been lost to time, probably because her body has been impaled and burnt and shit, and isn’t even there anymore.
END PART THREE
Oh no! How will this all end?
How will they ever find Countess Mircalla’s grave now?
Will Laura and Carmilla run away together?
Or will Laura get sick of Carmilla’s needy bullshit and dump her?
Or will Carmilla be dispatched in a bloody horrible way, maybe by the woodsman, because it’s a Gothic story and mysterious deus ex woodsmen have to do something?
Or will Laura be murdered and put in a crock-pot with a little basil and rosemary and be a culinary masterpiece? (I’m just guessing about the spices. I don’t know what would complement human flesh).
Will I ever make it through the last installment without inadvertently making a vampire/lesbian ‘eating’ pun? (surprisingly difficult to avoid)
Find out on Monday!