I don’t even know how I got here in the first place. I don’t want to be here anymore. I want to go back to watching cute animals and couples pulling pranks on each other. This is not what I signed up for.
And yeah, I think they’re real vampires? I went through a whole phase of people pretending to be vampires, but if these people are pretending they are selling the shit out of it.
This whole thing started because I somehow drifted into BookTok. I didn’t think I’d ever end up there. Minute long clips of people sitting and staring at their camera and pointing at book titles they think I should read? No, thank you. Except then I came across this woman, I don’t even remember her name or tag, but there she was, sitting on her bed, trying to explain why she was Team Edward and I’m like…huh? Is it 2009 all over again? What is happening?
Turns out what’s happening is a bunch of the teens got into Twilight out of nowhere and these tiny little children are making all the same points we did fifteen fucking years ago.
Yeah, I was a fan of Twilight when I was a teenager. A big fan. I read all the books and saw all the movies and I had t-shirts and wrote embarrassing fanfics. Fucking sue me. I was a lonely and horny fourteen year old girl with no friends and no social skills so no one was going to date me in real life. I had to make my own fun.
Also, full disclosure: I started out Team Jacob because he seemed less creepy, but switched over to Team Edward after the whole imprinting thing because fuck, what the fuck is that, even?
So, anyway, I got dragged into BookTok kicking and screaming because these new fourteen-year-olds were talking about Twilight like they had just created it themselves and it was sort of fascinating. It was all the same fights and discussions I’d had back on LiveJournal in the day but they didn’t even know they were retreading worn paths. I kept thinking, pretty soon one of them is going to discover the connection to Fifty Shades of Gray and they’re all going to shit themselves on camera.
I never got that far, because the algorithm started pushing me away. And not back to the safe harbors of Australian rescue bats getting fed bananas, either. It was pushing me further down the rabbit hole. And at first I didn’t mind.
Videos started popping up about other vampire books. Mostly books I hadn’t even heard of. Some of them were actually kind of good, but I think I DNF’d more than half of them. It’s another reason I’d stayed away from BookTok in the first place. Most of these books that get all hyped up turned out to be poorly written or downright stupid. I did read a pretty good one about Dracula living on the dark side of the moon. It made no sense but it was funny, at least.
After a couple of days I noticed my entire FYP was nothing but Vampire BookTok. Even if I went searching for cute animal videos it never seemed to change my algorithm. Never showed me videos from the people I was following, either, now that I think about it. No, it was just mostly white women sitting in pleasant and overly-decorated bedrooms gushing about the latest vampire romance and how hot Lord Pillow Longwood or whatever was. I almost just quite using TikTok.
I should have.
What I shouldn’t have done is click on one called ‘My Daily Vampire Life Part 18.’ With a title like that, I thought it was a book with a fucking weird name. Instead, I was face to face (separated by the internet, thank God) with an older teenage girl, once again sitting on the edge of her bed, wearing badly applied pale makeup and clearly fake fangs discussing how hard it was for her to engage at school when she totally wanted to eat all the students and the teacher.
Y’all, it was a solid week of these girls. A few guys, yeah, but mostly girls. And I was fascinated. I think all girls go through that witchy phase when they’re in their middle school or teen years, because adults say stuff like, ‘witches made pacts with the devil to be able to turn people into toads,’ and all girls hear is ‘witches have the sort of power you might never have in society.’ We want to believe we can look at that pervy teacher who keeps looking down our blouse when we ask for help and rip his nuts off with a simple thought.
So, same deal, right? Except these girls want to be vampires, and I get it. If you’re a vampire, you can walk down the street at night with headphones in and not have to worry someone jumping you. If you’re a vampire, they can try to jump you, and you can turn around and kill them. What a power fantasy.
The girls who worried me were the ones who didn’t really seem to understand they weren’t playing pretend anymore. You could always tell by the second or third video. It’s hard to explain, though. It’s a look in their eyes, slightly untethered. The way they say things. The tone is different. These are all teenage girls, none of them are good actors, so there’s always this ‘acting’ layer in their voice, that voice that says I’m reading from a script. Except the girls who actually believed it don’t have that tone.
Or maybe they were good actors, I don’t know.
I do know one definitely believed. And she did the thing I was afraid of – she said she was going to bait herself. Walk down dark alleys or through empty parks until someone dared try to attack her. Three days after she said that her account was gone. I still think about her, sometimes. I hope she’s okay.
Yeah, I definitely engaged with the algorithm a little too much on this. But, again, these girls were truly fascinating. Brought me back to my own weird days, wondering when Edward was going to open my window.
I was Team Jacob for Bella. No way I wanted to be a shapeshifter.
This is where things get really fucky.
I’m scrolling through my FYP. At that point it was entirely girls in pale makeup so when I saw something that wasn’t that I click on it almost out of reflex.
Again, super wish I hadn’t.
It was three people, not one, and they were on a subway train, not in some bedroom. At first, I didn’t even understand how it had gotten shown to me. It was just three people coming back from the club, making the sort of TikTok where it’s just them hanging all over each other and trading nonsense. I let it cycle three times, trying to figure out what the fuck, and then I finally noticed it.
One of the men smiles, and he has fangs.
Not Spirit Halloween fangs, at this point I’d seen enough of those to pick them out. No, these were his teeth. His actual teeth. And his two canine teeth are long. I don’t know how he wasn’t constantly shredding his bottom lip they were so long. I couldn’t tell with the other two, the video kept swinging around and they wouldn’t stop talking.
It was weird.
And then the weirdness kept on coming. The girls on edge of their beds faded out, and these new videos filled in the gaps. Just people going about their lives, really, except all the videos were at night and the pale skin and long fangs were real.
The one that finally made me realize something was really, actually, definitely wrong was the breakup one. Of course I’ve seen plenty of TikToks about messy breakups, they’re everywhere. Apparently actual vampires are making these, too, because it was like every single other one. Phone set up on the dashboard of some car. He had gotten her a surprise and wanted to show off her romantic reaction, I guess. Except she took one look in the bag and lost her shit. It was a ring with sapphires, you see, and he should know that she likes rubies. She starts ranting at him.
You never fucking listen to me. I tell you all the time the sort of shit I like but you always buy the stuff you like. You like sapphires, I hate blue! Do you ever see me wearing blue! No! Five hundred years of this, fuck, five! Hundred! And you’re still buying me the wrong shit!
He punches her in the face.
It’s a little awkward, because they’re still sitting in a car, but his fist just snaps forward, almost too fast too see, and cuts across her face. Pushes her into the window. Blood sprays everywhere. The sort of hit where, if you or I had taken it, we’d be going to the emergency room immediately.
Instead, this woman just spits blood and goes back to screaming at him. Like nothing happened.
Again. The woman was ranting at her boyfriend of apparently five hundred years, he uses all his strength to jab her across the face hard enough that her neck snapped to the side and blood went everywhere, and instead of freaking out or, you know, dying, she simply went back to screaming at him. About the jewels. Not about getting punched. She didn’t seem to care about that. Didn’t even feel it.
I’ve seen them fighting a lot, now. Physically. Always doing things a human shouldn’t be able to do.
I’ve seen them singing karaoke, showing off fangs. Sometimes those fangs are tinted red.
I’ve seen them laughing as they run down the street, phone occasionally pointed to the sky. Running home before they’re caught out in the sun.
I’ve seen them kill people.
I almost reported the first one. Three women. They were flirting with him. Then their teeth sunk in. It took him a few seconds to understand what was going on. By the time it occurred to him to scream he was dead.
I don’t think these are fake. They’re not good enough to be fake, you know? When they talk to each other, it doesn’t feel scripted. They interrupt each other. The camera sometimes isn’t pointed at the most interesting thing.
I almost reported that first one. But I was afraid. I never engage with these videos besides watching them. I’m an interloper, and they don’t know I’m here. But what if I reported it? Would they know?
Would they find me?
The algorithm won’t let me leave. Doesn’t seem to matter what other videos I watch or like or comment on, or who I follow, it’s always these same videos. Nothing else. Why does it keep showing me these? What does it want me to do? Because if TikTok thinks I’m going to buy a piece of wood from Home Depot, sharpen it into a stake, and go after them it’s buggier than a New York City dumpster.
Maybe it’s a warning. That’s how I take it, anyway. I don’t go outside after dark, anymore. I don’t know how to tell my friends to stay in, too, without sounding like I’ve gone off the deep end.
I thought wanted this to end. I thought I wanted help to fix the app’s algorithm and get me back to happy animal videos. Now I’m not so sure. I need to know where they are. What they’re doing. What they look like. I watch every single one in my feed.
I am afraid, now that I know. But not as afraid as suddenly not knowing.