Diaries of a Dating Soucouyant
Updated: May 26, 2020
The soucouyant in Trinidadian mythology is our local equivalent of the vampire. She is an old hag who creeps into windows at night and sucks the blood of her victims from the thigh, chest or neck. She leaves these poor souls tired and weak, but alive. To defeat or kill a soucouyant you must find her skin - she takes it off at night, a trick that allows her to turn into a ball of fire and fly from place to place. Once you’ve found her skin, soak it in saltwater and listen for her dying screams...
Welcome to my Blog! I'm pleased to make this my very first blog post.
This entry is a world building exercise I did to help me flesh out what a soucouyant would look like in my Urban Fantasy. Fortunately, in conceptualizing my own version of the soucouyant, I discovered Mohini. She inspired a serial-in-progress about the experiences of supernatural people dating in a world that doesn't quite understand them.
If you're interested in learning more about my re-imagining of the soucouyant, read on ;)
My name is Mohini, and I am a soucouyant. I am here today to set the record straight on exactly what a soucouyant is. Why? 'Cause I am straight up tired of people thinking I should be an old, wrinkly, hag. Or that I should have cool fire-powers. Or that I could fly. Or that - yuck - I can take my skin off. I mean, it's really demoralising to meet a nice young woman who doesn't care that you're a "supernatural creature" but then all she can talk about is this fire and fly thing that you can't actually do, or just ask really creepy questions about taking off your skin. Yeah, if you thought interracial dating was hard in some climates, imagine what it's like for me. It's nuts. Seriously.
Anyway, to the point. What the world knows about the soucouyant goes something like this: the soucouyant is the Caribbean equivalent of the vampire. Born of what appears to be a mixture of the Afro- and Euro- myths of bloodsuckers, the soucouyant is an old "hag" who can take off her skin (I repeat: yuck!) and then turn into a ball of fire and fly. This hag lands somewhere and I guess crawls in through your window or something, then bites you - usually on your thigh or some other place where there's a nice big artery - leaving a mark and somehow not waking you up. Then she flies back home, puts her skin back on, and that's that.
Before I begin, I've got a question: how did the soucouyant just become an old hag? I mean, most of us are totally hot young women, or at least average looking young women. I mean, you guys had to have wondered how a soucouyant became old, right? Or did you just assume we were old and gross at, I don't know, birth? Well, if you did, you're wrong. Just putting that out there.
Now, for the record, the soucouyant is born just like any other human being is born: mom and dad get busy, mom (a soucouyant) gets pregnant, and then mom has a girl-child. Mom's chance of having a boy is the same fifty percent, but those boys aren't soucouyant. They aren't anything, in fact. Just regular Joes. And no, the son of a soucouyant can't have a soucouyant daughter. Well, at least as far as I know. I have a friend who likes to say that everything is possible through Christ, Jesus... but I don't know how much Christ has to do with soucouyant and their offspring, so I'll leave that alone.
We soucouyant continue to grow and age just like normal people. Somewhere around puberty, things get weird. Lucky for us, our mothers are hyper-aware of this and stick close until we're adults. I don't know a single soucouyant whose mother left her to figure that stuff out on her own. Thank goodness. So, about the weird: we start craving the blood of children.
We aren't baby-eaters. We're just hungry all the time and start to exhibit classic signs of anaemia. I remember when I was a teenager, I could eat a three-course meal five or six times a day; my two brothers put together couldn't out-eat me. Even so, I was just exhausted a lot. Mom let me suffer through this for almost two years before deciding I was ready to learn how to - er, for lack of a better word - feed. Don't be hard on her, it's a really tricky thing teaching a soucouyant how to eat without hurting someone. It turns out that there are soucouyant out there who completely lack control and murder people, both by accident and on purpose. You see, soucouyant don't drink blood, we drink life. My mother calls it life essence and Grandma calls it soul. I think maybe Mom was freaked out by the idea of eating souls, so she started calling it something else. Grandma's got a twisted sense of humour, though.
So, we get this life essence from other people, and if we take it slowly and only in small amounts, that person takes a day or two to recover and then they are back to normal. No worries. It's just like a short flu. The catch is, if you take too much at once, you end up sucking out years of a person's natural life, so someone who would live to say, sixty-eight, might die at sixty-six or sixty-five, depending on how much life you yanked out of them.
It gets a little more complicated when you start to realise that you are what you eat. For a soucouyant, that phrase is a serious one: drinking someone's life essence basically means you're drinking the thing that makes them who they are. In the same way regular food breaks down into stuff like fats and proteins and what have you, the life-stuff of a human being breaks down in the body and mind of a soucouyant. These soul parts (yeah, Grandma's name for it), affect us like mind-altering drugs, and the effect is permanent. If you eat the life of a psychopath, you're probably going to become a psychopath. If you drink the life of an artist, you might suddenly get better at drawing or painting or sculpting. Or maybe just better at Photoshop. Depends on the artist, but you get where I'm going with this.
My point is, Mom was very careful to only feed me normal food until she thought I could exercise enough restraint to "eat like a grown up" as she put it. And Mom is definitely as twisted as her mother, if only in different ways. Before helping me with my first meal, she invited Aunty Zyra over to tell me a horror-story. My father's sister - Aunty Zyra - is a soucouyant cop, so to speak. When she was in her twenties, she came across a soucouyant who had gone so overboard in her feeding spree, that even her appearance had changed. This woman had been killing for almost forty years and looked not a day over thirty - nor did her face or body look anything like the visage she was born with. Aunty Zee said that she would devour the essence of her victims in such large quantities that the years of natural life she stole aged her body in reverse, and since she took so much, her appearance changed to look more like the victim she had just murdered. Zee only found her through sheer luck, because no one - not even we soucouyant - knew that feeding this way could change our appearance.
The very idea that simply eating could so fundamentally change me as a person was enough to make me tell Mom and Aunty Zee that I would try taking iron supplements instead. I did that for about a month before I couldn't stand the hunger anymore, and then Mom did something even worse: she told me to eat my father.
I know, right? It doesn't get more screwed up than that. At least, that's what I thought as a teenager. Grandma, Aunty Zyra and even Dad all thought it was a great idea and I thought they were insane. Of course, now I know better. In their day, it was a pretty normal way of teaching a young soucouyant how to feed without hurting someone and without experiencing any hardcore personality changes. Theoretically, one loves one’s father, and is fairly similar to him. In reality, if there was someone I would be as careful as possible not to hurt, it would be Dad. But... I was just freaked out. Firstly, there are all sorts of weird sexual undertones these days when it comes to stuff like vampires and their feeding habits. I don't know if to blame Anne Rice or Joss Whedon, but either way the idea of eating my dad's life essence was just really, really gross and super weird for me. I guess as a teenager with all this weird romantic imagery around supernatural food and supernatural creatures, I couldn't shake the feeling that there was something wrong with letting your dad help you live. Secondly, Dad's a man, soucouyant are always women. I guess I felt like maybe he wasn't supposed to be involved in this strange rite of passage.
Eventually, Aunty Zee found me a compatible volunteer and I managed to syphon just a tiny amount - mostly because I was still scared out of my mind at potentially hurting a total stranger. After I did this a few more times, I realised how incredibly non-sexual the whole experience was (I never even touched her, we just sat on two chairs that were close together) and I had no problem learning how to eat properly and carefully at home. I think Dad had some sense of pride in knowing that he could be useful to his outgoing and mostly very independent daughter.
Anyway, so, okay. Don't be hard on Mom, and soucouyant aren't bloodsuckers, we're lifesuckers. Just a little more information for the record: it's not good practice to feed from teenagers and most suggest sticking to a diet of twenty-five year olds and over, since younger people are often still figuring out who they are and eating someone who is kind of wishy-washy might make you unstable for a while. Oh, and it's not a good idea to feed off another soucouyant, either. Apparently, it makes you sick. I wouldn't know, but I've been told by those who've tried, and I wouldn't recommend it.
Next: we don't turn into "balls of flame" and we can't fly... mostly. This is stuff I've learnt from Aunty Zyra, who only sees this with soucouyant that have decided to go outside the bounds of ethical feeding. Now, we glow after eating. It's not a big deal, and it doesn't look any crazier than say the pregnancy-glow, or the after-sex glow. We just look healthier and happier and our skin looks great.
Flashback for a second to the crazy lady who was killing peeps for forty years. Yeah, when you drink in that much life essence all at once, you really glow. Like you're on fire. I'm pretty sure that back in the day, there were more soucouyant engaging in immoral acts of dining, and I bet that this is where the whole fire thing comes from. So, sorry to disappoint you, but we don't catch on fire, we just glow a lot. It's real pretty, I'm sure, but just remember if you see a glowing soucouyant, she's probably recently murdered someone, so get the Hell out of there and call the authorities.
The last misconception is this flying thing. It turns out, we can fly - kind of. But still, only the bad ones. It's all about how we consume life essence again. The more of it you've just devoured, the crazier the stuff you can do. I've never heard of a soucouyant actually flying, but I'm told that they jump really high and hover. Frankly, I don't doubt that with enough soul in our system we can do anything, but the number of people we'd have to hurt or kill to do it? No, thank you. I myself have never had more than a healthy glow, and I have certainly never flown or even leapt tall buildings in a single bound or whatever. That's all just a huge no-no, and no sane soucouyant does that.
Right. I believe this brings us the end of - oh, sorry. The last, last misconception: taking. Off. Our. Skin.
Look, we don't do that. We can't do that. What would happen to you if you just yanked your face off? Dude, come on. That's gross and just weird.
Right. Now, that brings us to the end of general misconceptions about what a soucouyant really is.