Here’s an excerpt from my upcoming debut novel, To Astera, With Love.
Welcome To America
By Freddie Karr
Welcome to America, the land of the (not quite) free and the home of the (occasionally) brave. The country that gave us Frederick Douglass and Robert E. Lee. Who gave us Hollywood and the segregated South. Who gave us Brown vs. the Board of Education but who drained an entire swimming pool after Dorothy Dandridge dipped her toe into the water. Welcome to America, where you’re more likely to star in a reality TV show, wear a shirt that says “suns out guns out,” or be murdered by a vampire than any other country in the world.
In 2020, we appointed an undead white man with aquiline features who survives on the blood of others – literally and figuratively. In the year since Vael was elected, vampire attacks have risen exponentially. This is an undisputed fact, but after Vael’s recent Lorraine law, the CDC has been banned from studying vampires and vampire attacks.
Opponents of Vael – a mix of witches and human who call themselves Harridans – have been completely flummoxed at how a man like Vael could rise to power. “He’s a monster,” they say. “His policies will make people afraid to come to the US for fear of getting bitten.” “How can anyone be a dhampir? Can’t they see the harm vampires are causing?”
When anyone says these things to me, I tell them the truth. I tell them they are right, but I also tell them it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter that Vael has ended peace treaties with Japan because of their stance on vampirism. It doesn’t matter that the Hollywood-ingenue-turned-FLOTUS has a bloodlust that is well documented – at her midsummer party, twenty sex workers were killed. It doesn’t matter that his entire cabinet is filled with vampires and dhampirs who want to make it legal for employers to fire witches if their presence violates their religious liberty.
I’d say it doesn’t matter because Vael’s supporters have already determined that he’s their messiah. And though he ain’t shit to us sane folk, he’s a lot of things to a lot of people.
To his vampiric constituents, he’s God. A deity who has validated their belief that their position in life is the fault of the witch, and they, afraid of the possibility that their misfortune is due to their own action, accept and even bolster the scapegoating.
To the wealthy elites in America, Vael is the vehicle to protect and continue their accumulation of wealth at the expense of the poor, regardless of the fact that most of his base is made up of the plebs.
To the dhampir, his rhetoric reinforces their beliefs in a corrupt system that needs to be “restored.” In their eyes, Vael is a comic book hero: a straight, good-looking white man who uses his powers (of blood sucking and levitation and hyperbole) to overthrow a government that tells them they have to be nice to the blacks and immigrants and gays, and that women really are equal.
To the authoritarian police-state, he’s a vehicle for a sustained conflict. They get to keep their jobs if Vael keeps stoking the flames of racial tension. Bodies and blood fill the street but all they care about is their shiny witch-killing guns and their directive to ‘act with extreme prejudice’ when they come across a witch or their supporters.
To the batshit Evangelicals, he’s Jesus reborn – a (white) man who will not suffer witches to live and who will restore America and bring her “closer to God” with his reforms on same-sex marriage, abortion, and women in roles of power.
And to those white, status quo protectors, Vael is a shameful man but they’ll keep on defending him. They say “no president is perfect, what about Faulker? The man wanted to raise the minimum wage at the federal level.” They are able to breathe sighs of relief and “stop worrying so much, because it’s just too much, all the time,” even though their lives are not the ones who have been shown time and time again to simply not matter.