In “When the Vampire King Went to South Carolina” by Grady Hendrix, three men named Hinckley, Gerry, and Chad are dissatisfied with their lives for various reasons and all of them stem from financial instability. As a coping mechanism, they blow up objects in their free time and upload videos to YouTube. One day, a man named Karl shows up on Chad’s property claiming to be a vampire and offers them $20,000 to kill him. They desperately need the money, so they agree despite the ludicrous situation. After a night of unsuccessful attempts, Karl admits he knew he was invincible in the first place and never actually wanted to die. He’s visited multiple people before, with the same offer, and none of them ever succeeded. However, Chad tricks him into opening his mouth, then tosses matches inside. He explains that the previous night he had gotten napalm into Karl’s system. Karl ends up dying, but the $20,000 is also incinerated. After a disappointed Hinckley and Gerry return to their respective homes, Chad realizes that there’s one thing he can get out of his situation. Karl’s skin is still pristine despite the explosion. In the last paragraphs it’s pretty heavily implied that Chad goes on to start a new life wearing Karl’s indestructible skin and potentially will become rich or famous.
Acute tension – Chad, Hinckley, and Gerry trying to kill Karl
Chronic tension – the men’s financial problems and/or Karl’s chronic ennui from being immortal
I thought this story was compelling because of its usage of radical juxtaposition. Specifically, the contrast between Karl and the men from South Carolina is extreme enough to be comedic, which is an interesting way to pull a reader into a story. Additionally, the juxtaposition almost makes up for several shortcomings within the piece, including a lack of imagery and a rushed quality to the dialogue. Another intriguing aspect of this story was the relationship between Chad and his two friends. Chad is characterized as the leader of the group, as throughout the story he is the only one of them to make suggestions and decisions. He also seems to have some kind of protective complex towards them, as towards the end he gets them drunk so they won’t suffer as much if Karl attacks them (it’s the thought that counts) while he faces the vampire alone.
In my own work, I’d like to imitate Hendrix’s ability to seamlessly juxtapose two completely different concepts. Also, I don’t think I’ve ever attempted to write with an omniscient narrator, but this story convinced me that it can be an effective mode of storytelling.
- do you think Karl was actually a vampire?
- did the events of this story mark the end of Chad, Gerry, and Hinckley’s friendship?
- the three of them were tossing survival matches around in the opening scene, and then Chad killed Karl with a survival match. does this parallel have any significance?