Is there any animal so resplendently perfect as the vampire bat? Rhetorical question; the answer is obviously ‘no.’ Dogs are loyal, cats are sleek, and fish generally don’t bother anyone, but the vampire bat is a perfect creature. Never before have I seen such strong evidence for the Intelligent Design theory of life. It seems almost ridiculous to fathom that the random process of natural selection could produce such a beautiful, flawless animal.
Don’t think for two seconds these bombastic phrases and sweeping declarations are a sign of humorous hyperbole. Some other time, maybe, but this is the vampire bat, and vampire bats are no joking matter. I would break a man’s nose over the vampire bat. I wouldn’t let severe chronic pain nor my weak, floppy little noodle arms stop me, either.
As a horror writer, I make it my job to look into all the popular cultural fear tropes and ask why. Why are we scared of this? What makes it so effective? The better one understands fear, the better they can create it, that’s the way I feel. And the humble bat, precious fliers of dizzying diversity (and every last one of them a super-duper cutie), is one of the heavy hitters of horror. It’s everywhere, even if excellent education by conservationists and biologists have rendered it largely toothless, as far as scariness goes.
The vampire bat has always been toothless. I mean, not literally, it has a very sharp and precise dental arrangement to cut deep and painlessly into its host’s skin, but they’re not scary. They’re just not. Look at that little bastard. He’s smiling! That little bastard is smiling at you, pure as the driven snow, blithe as a fucking lark. Incredible! He’s smiling because he knows he’s perfect. We should all strive for that level of confidence.
Vampire bats are extremely gregarious creatures. In fact, they’re so sociable, scientists are using them to model the development of friendship in more advanced animals. They display altruism, true, but they also display behaviors that can’t be chalked up to simple reciprocation. They feed their sick, for pity’s sake. Any sick colony member, or even a member of the colony who failed to make a successful hunt, can rely on its colony mates to feed it. We still don’t know the exact limits of their kindness. Can we ever truly comprehend their benevolence? Science is still out on that one, but one thing is clear:
A man wrote ‘bat friendship’ as his topic of study. Bat friendship. This isn’t just real life, this is real science. This is as real as it gets. Bat friendship is the realest.
Not only are they absolute darlings who exhibit friendship behaviors on par with primates (that’s us) and dolphins, but their saliva might save lives. See, like most blood-drinkers, the saliva of the vampire bat is an anti-coagulant, and causes blood to flow more freely. That way, they can get more, faster, and get the heck outta there before the cow, pig, or sometimes bird mashes their mouse-sized bodies to muck.
Scientists are now creating experimental drugs with the chemical in their saliva that has the potential to save stroke victims and other people who suffer from conditions caused by blood clots.
The chemical is called Draculin. Lord Jesus, strike me down now, because it’s all downhill from here. I’ve hit the peak. Finding out about a life-saving chemical called ‘Draculin’ that comes from vampire bats is as good as my life is going to get. Do it now, Lord Jesus, do it now.
And now we get subjective. These other things were observable scientific facts, empirical proof in my quest to prove that vampire bats have no flaws. But I can admit my own bias. My aesthetics are a little… skewed. People don’t like watching monster movies with me anymore because I keep talking about how cute they are. Nothing undercuts horror like the sentence ‘but why doesn’t she try… kissing the monster instead?’
So I could be wrong. I don’t think I am, but I could be. Now that that’s out of the way…
Vampire bats are fucking adorable. They are so cute, so, so, so incredibly cute. Not the saccharine sweetness, perhaps, of a baby bunny or young kitten. Maybe a bit of the charm of the newborn kitten, with their squinty eyes and blunted faces, but still not quite so sweet. Still, it’s a cuteness that holds us in thrall.
Pugs exist as a monument to mankind’s depravity in pursuing ugly cuteness. And the vampire bat has all the pug’s dopey, fold-faced charm with none of the severe breathing issues. I bet they don’t even snore.
So, why are people still afraid of vampire bats? I’ve considered that it may be the cost of the livestock who must be put down as a result of rabies infestation. I’ve considered that it may be the inherent freakishness of something on an all-blood diet. I’ve considered that it could be because it has ‘vampire’ in the name, though since vampires are also pretty much defanged in pop culture I only considered it briefly. Why, then, the disgust? Why, then the shudders?
I finally realized it, though, as I was looking for pictures to put at the head of this piece. It’s because they’re perfect. The very perfection that inspired me to write this is what causes us fear. What else is there for we imperfect humans but fear?
What other response can we have, in the face of such cosmic perfection? What else to do but shiver and recoil when reminded that we, the ape that supposes to be master of the world, are so much greasy transience compared to such lofty creatures? How can we not fear, when confronted with the fact that, tiny and free, the vampire bat makes its nightly flights unaware of its own amaranthine glory while we toil in the dust, and in vain?
Look upon the vampire bat, ye Mighty, and despair.
Picture courtesy of the National Geographic Society. I got it from their kid’s webpage on vampire bats.