Only tangentally related to vampires or the living dead, another effort working within the Unknown Armies paradigm/cosmology. Everything bad, we made, and only the crazy do magick.
Magick is a funny business, boy.
Take them vampires, for instance. Here's what it is, as told me by your Uncle Abraham.
Ain't no such damn thing. Vampires categorically do not exist. Period.
So what the hell did we just cut the head off of? Well, as I was saying, Magick is a funny business.
You know adepts, warlocks, miracle workers - heck, Cousin Penny's one. Oh, you didn't know? One thing at a time, boy.
Anyhow - pass me the gasoline - right, it seems that there's some school of learning among the magick folk. The world makes an adept jump through some pretty strange hoops to get power.
Anyhow, those who follow this here magickal tradition can send their souls out, their spirits, to enter the bodies of their relatives. They can peek out from behind their eyes. Ever had a time when you said hello to you, and for a sec it seemed like they didn't know who the hell you were?
Odds are, it was a skin rider, one of these here magick folk who can jump into the bodies of their relatives.
Now here's the pisser. The skin rider can only look through the eyes of someone they're related to and know about. Problem is, if they actually interact with them, their magick don't work. Thing is, they gotta know them. Know what they like to eat, if their home life is good, and so forth. Any little personal facts they can learn from going through their cousin's trash, or spying on 'em, gives them more power to look through their eyes or - if they work at it long and hard - take over their bodies for a bit.
But if'n they shake their hand, or speak to them, or any other sort of interaction, the magick is lost.
You know the McCambridge family? You know that house on the corner of that patch of land down yonder, all hidden away in that stand of sycamores? The light's on at night, but you never see but one person walk past the windows, and he never go out none during the day?
Well, that's Vernon McCambridge. His family's got plenty of land, but here's old Vernon, far away, and he don't see his family much at all. Creeps out at night, though, in one form or another. If I am correct, old Vernon is a skin rider, just like his grand-daddy.
I'm getting to the vampire part. Damnation, boy. You need patience to succeed in this here business. Pass me the lighter.
Anyhow, it was discovered that this bit of skin ridin' could happen even after a relative passed on. First time it happened was a mistake: a skin rider - an old lady who was not so spry and able to get around - tried to hop into her nephew, but her nephew had done drunk himself to death that night. Her eyes opened up in the ice house, where the bodies were stored by the local police back in them days. Caused quite a crazy morning, it did.
Anyhows, after the old rigor mortis passes and the body loosens up a bit, the skin rider can hop on in and move the body around. Of course, there's risks. A dead body ain't like a living one, obviously. Some folks can't handle the feel of it. Make them a bit crazy, like Old Man McCambridge. They go nuts, feeling the dead body on 'em, but wanting to feel alive. Some of them lose control for a while, some for good. Still, a dead relative won't be missed for long periods, so you can use it longer, and if'n its fresh, people won't notice for a bit as you walk around town living the high life or going about whatever business you got that prompts you to put on a dead man's body like a Sunday suit.
Well, here's where things get strange, you see. Old Man McCambridge, before he passed on, he told me that this taking over the dead was first discovered in future days. He said to me, as he lay dying, that the skin riding can also work on folk up your family tree - people you are related to, you can send your mind back and live their lives in the past if you learn enough about them. That's why the McCambridge's were so caught up in geneaology, and you never see them sell off stuff when a relative dies. Anyhow, you can send your mind back into the past, maybe see the world through your great great great grandpa's eyes, say. He was a hell of a man by all accounts - and if you choose the right point in time, maybe you could see him going about his great works back in foggy London-town, see all those fine churches and loose girls he always complained about.
But... and there's always a catch ... but if you chose the wrong point in time, you might find yourself crawling out of a tomb, or digging yourself up out of the ground. Or worse yet, standing, about to be hanged. They say if you die while skin riding, especially in the past... strange stuff can happen. The person who dies might travel down the family tree and live on in the skin rider. Or worse.
Anyhow, that's what Old Man McCambridge told me as he lay dying, and I told him he was a damn liar, and shot him again. Now, though, I'm not so sure. Seen too many things, strange things, and after all this watching of the town, I'm thinking the McCambridge's might know a few things. Maybe they're right...
Well, as right as a bunch of sick magick folk can be, anyhow. Still, if it's true, that explains a hell of a lot, like why we're here warming ourselves over the decap'tated body of Hester McCambridge, all full of gas and burning.
Pass me the coffee pot. Not done? Ah well, put it back on her.
Oh, one more thing. Here's a story, maybe it's false... but as I stood there talking to that old dying man, he told me a story. The found of their line, Cambridge the Scholar, they call him - they managed to find out a whole bunch of stuff about him, even though he was born centuries and centuries ago across the sea. They managed to find some diaries of his, which are precious stuff to a skin rider.
SO, they tried to ride him, see that old, muddy and bloody world as he did.
And they saw through his eyes all right - and what they saw was the view from outside their own home, looking in at them as they performed their little skin riding ritual. They didn't know enough to take over his body, so they saw things through his eyes as he retreated into town. They never saw where he went.
He could be living down there still, watching Vernon and the rest. Is he someone who can't die? Is he one from the past got brought up to the future? I dunno.
What I do know is this damn feud is getting tiresome... but some things you just can't forgive.
Ah, coffee's done, boy. Pass me a cup, then I reckon we ought to go pay old Vernon a visit.