The Devil You Know

Sabrina La Mantia,

Vampires: Consuming Monsters and Monstrous Consumption. Brooke Cameron, Suyin Olguin, and Ian M. Clark, Editors. Pages 276 – 289 Download as PDF

Sabrina La Mantia, “The Devil You Know”

The Magician

A familiar skyline slowly materializes
suspended high above a solid wall of fog
my eyes trace the buildings
a city under siege

This is it.

The last show of this sold out tour, night after night
the doors open at six and already at three there’s a line of people, new and old wrapping the building.
Any more and we’d be in the arena
So many new faces this time
fresh, bright eyes framed by halloween black.
Our album sold over half a million
so it’s no surprise, yet every time I see the line of people
that pay to see me break down on stage;
it’s alchemical.

Inside and out I’ll see them
pause and pose for posterity with all the visages,
shocked they saw me before the show
and not just at the merch table, flush with postcoital glow.
I won’t change even though they’re already fans,
it’s my job to make them feel at home
to thank them for coming to my show.

This is for them as much as it’s for me.
Harsh lights obscuring
faces, pinched and sweating
Call and response just like at church,
let the sermon begin.


Too much is too much, even of a good thing
hours spent on the road fall away
years lost to the streets
I’d rather be taken slow
to savour every second that’s mine.

A presence, like memory brushes the edge of my mind
pale light reflected in my rear view mirror,
the city is far from here
but it follows me home.

The early sun glances off the dirty windows
reflecting dew covered asphalt
obscuring faint and weathered lines
not touched up in years,
but every car is perfectly parked in between each space
except for mine.

One window as dirty as the others was lit.
My bones creak up each stair to delay
the inevitable,
there’s nothing like the smell of ammonia to prepare the face,
I can already smell the blood.

We were expecting
the same as the last and every time before, this is
my curse. I can create so much
except life.

I step through the threshold – uninvited – but it’s mine
blood; lots of blood.
My steps carry me into the bathroom to find
its source a figure, slumped on the toilet, face pressed against the wall.
The room is a silent film in vivid colour a miscarriage,
I see
a sudden start, rapid blinking followed by a long stare.
We’re vultures with crooked teeth enjoying our private wake, she’s aware
and lets loose with a soft sigh: “I fell…up the stairs.”


Nothing compares to walking through the streets in disguise
absolutely nothing can rival the glory
and freedom of swapping hair.
Up becomes down, a signifier
stripped raw blending in a throng of people,
a leather jacket with legs
suddenly, I can walk among them
regardless of the tattoos on my hands.

Painting the city green with broad strokes
the afternoon sun dances in the ravine
drawing people to come and see it
the brightest green, because there’s concrete everywhere else.
I come here to remember all the places I’ve slept rough
the safety and freedom to live under a bridge,
a lifetime ago now
but manic episodes of nostalgia
trigger an awful lot.

There’s a special place in my heart for the time spent
tucked away inside a tent, warmed by the sun and kept tightly
by the corner of this ravine.
A tinker’s camp, rainbow tents now bleached with age and scattered with refuse
meet my eye with the sharp snap of a needle underfoot.
Rustling the ragged flaps
a child emerges, young not even thirteen
our eyes connect
here comes the panic, palpable, on display.

The warm nostalgia dissipates with startling clarity
I remember that blurry age spent wasting in this ravine,
searching for relief in this very spot.
The face changes
a subtle, slight relaxing around the eyes
incredulous recognition, wearing one of my shirts
ripped and fake, but hell
“Here’s fifty bucks kid. Get the fuck out of this city.”


Half a million.
That’s how many records I sold:
half a fucking million.
Food stamps litter the dashboard of my noisy old van
huffing its way down the the quiet street.
Half. A. Fucking. Million.

It’s the trade off for signing with a record label
Asmodeus offers a better bargain,
endless tours booked and promoted
magazines with my face plastered on the front.
I used to think I’d happily die on the road.

But milestone after milestone passed
Warped Tour, Reading, Download, Soundwave
years of non-stop touring, we played them all
and my drummer still lives with my bassist
sleeping on fucking the couch.
I love what I do
it’s necessary; I feel too much
this is the only way to find some peace
retreating to my crypt, there I keep
each of the four elements contained:
fire, water, earth, and air
the tools used to turn water into wine
with a blood red cloak and a view from down below to the open sky.

Alone, I’ll create again the only way I can
in the dark, ripping these thoughts from my breast
compressing the waves; I’ll play each part
recorded in one take.

All those years wasted searching for the solution,
the method by which lead becomes gold
missing in what plain sight
the power to transcend that follows
subsuming others, consuming, taking from within.
Immortality is attainable
to become gold
even for a moment
recorded becomes eternity.
So I’ve been told.


The lights flare and for a second
everyone can see the people around them, faces in vivid detail
breathing heavily
grim, ecstatic
sharing fluids to avoid passing out.

I see their faces too
and they mine.
Boundaries lose their sharpness
one body blending into the next,
even mine.
Sometimes I forget that line
the demarcation to signify
another soul when they’ve already consumed
my lyrics, my passions, my many lives,
I see myself reflected in the light of their eyes.

As above and so below
before and after the show,
I see myself scantily clad, pointed heels and alluring face
dark makeup in perfect place.
Looking to buy a shirt
my eyes speak a different tongue
and like two opposite charges attract.
Clinging together adrift, swiftly
tossed high on rotting timbers in a black sea
counting the seconds before the next sharp wave
crashes, breaks our grip
as magnets can so easily flip.
Repelled we cling no more
my spirit restored; whole, whole once more.

Depraved, longing to be complete
the feeling used to last for weeks.
It depends how buried, how deep I am
to transcend time and culminate
in ten lovely digits; I collect myself behind venues but always remember
there’s a lot of trash in back alleys.


Dawn in the graveyard near my crypt feeds my soul
relishing the silence, surrendering control
I have always been a creature of the night
black hair pale skin, but my golden eyes could not give up the sun
left behind to pursue my dark art
a promise kept and vain attempt to travel the world,
to find out exactly what it tastes like.

Though it must be said, my art is tainted
I don’t own any of it
heart and soul bare to world,
shrieking every night. Suffocating under this weight
none of it is mine,
save for that shard trapped behind another’s eyes
calling, calling to become the whole.

Alone, surrounded by strangers
that spectral knowledge envelopes.
Alone, surrounded by ghosts
I breathe deeply of their life and of their silence,
revealing the path ahead;

It won’t be the fucking same.

The Devil

Another rotation around the sun
three decades come and gone.
Let’s celebrate with some two-bite brownies
the entire pack gone in two bites,
chain smoking the same cigarettes in different cities
except now everything is mine.
Manifesting the tour, the merch, the label. Mine.
Each night the lights grow dim, the crowd roars and chants my name
every time that moment creates me
defines me
one thousand times more that any disembodied voice
moaning my name; they were already mine.
I’ve banished my ghosts.

Haunted no more. Voiceless houses and filthy streets
reflect the empty echo of quickened steps. Hurrying forward
bathed in silver, the moon doesn’t discriminate
even against a graveyard tryst.
But still, I hate silver.

A private empire, the byproduct of these trysts
found many pieces of myself scattered
in every city across the globe,
even at home.
At first I thought it was for merch or afterparty access
a means to an end, but it’s me.
I’ve always longed for myself
and these days, I’m oh so bloody needy.
I need to hear myself repeat the lies,
these motions we go through
while I diligently continue collecting myself,
piece by piece by piece, contrary to the disbelief
every word I wrote I fucking meant.
Every one.


A full moon reflected familiar glass
forcing a recollection of the contrasting darkness.
The night was empty the last time I was here
but now, it is blood red.
The kind usually seen at the end of September
a harvest moon in April.
This can’t be good.

A well worn mat hides a shiny key.
I know the way and feel my phone vibrate as the door clicks open
but there is time for that later, now time is short.

The interior is bathed in red light.
Too many empty windows with large panes let everything in.
Tall, straight stairs creak as I make my way towards a single door illuminated
from within. Gently, fingers rest on the elongated handle
an antique. How long since I was last here?
Forever and a lifetime are just a blink away,
while I long to stay.
A soft presence and the shadow of a fluffy tail curling around my leg
purring loudly, she will not be refused. I offer up the desired affection
it’s bad luck to refuse a cat, trust me I believe that.

the laminate creaks as she returns to sleep in the shadows.
Returning my attention to the door, it opens with a will and reveals
a beautiful form lying on a double bed, scrolling on a mobile, ethereal.
The face turns and locks eyes with mine, a familiar warmth wells up inside
swelling, longing for the moment that disembogues and reunites
scattered pieces of myself.
Soon the smell of iron wafts, filling the room
with confusion and contractions, bloody contractions.
Not now. Not again.
Remaining as long as possible, I inevitably pass back into the crimson night


The dark side of collecting ten perfect digits
requires the exchange of my own.
Very quickly I become a crutch,
a self-help line; their mentor for AA
except that I am their higher power, their raison d’être.
It’s hard work. They speak of killing themselves every day,
but they live for me. They live through me. Through the little piece of my soul
stolen, continuing to elude my grasp.
I am legion, an army of lost
trying to feel something and belong, no matter how brief.
This subculture is dying,
but what’s left is mine.

The other day I saw them: naive with big black Xs on their hands
braces on their teeth, they stayed late even though it was Sunday.
One of them brought in a fucking rock from a gypsy store
carried it around all night and then forgot it
without even buying a shirt.

What a fucking joke
but they’re the future I wrap my arms around tightly and smile
my crooked smile, almost a grimace, enhanced by long streaks of black.
One of them – gangly, muscular, and hopeful – catches my eye
but even in the harsh light those eyes reflect nothing, as though I am but a vampire,
like all the other eyes. Spread so thin
am I legion?

Haunted by flat and greedy eyes I hurry on,
impatient and seething
movement towards the next horizon.


A moment of weakness
a timid message lights up the cold phone screen
“What do you think I should do?”
The response before I can stop it
while my eyes roll, spinning backwards
rattling in their sockets.

No one should stay in a job they hate.
Add it to the list of complaints:
their body
their weight
not good enough
not pretty enough
not a suicide girl
without doing anything about it.

Fucking do something.

There is nothing to reclaim here
and yet I know the game, every savoured response
desperately waiting for the next.
It’s infectious to give this way, to give hope itself.
One day I’ll crack and snap straight in half.

Ignoring the response, I continue my ennui.
Endless scrolling through vibrant blue
connecting the empire end to end, from soul to soul.

Lately, they do it all
street teams, merch, marketing
some of it is paid, most of it is free
and they beg to do it.
To show me their worth, their brilliance
by doing everything they can to make my life easier.
It’s no surprise I’d want to see myself succeed.
I contain multitudes, my 20 lovers and I,
we might be a cult.


The fey phone won’t stop tonight, one right after another
“Does this make me look fat?”
“Should I paint my room black?”
“What did you think of my friend?”
“Are my eyes too wide?”
“Can my friend get on the guest-list?”
“What do you think of the colour green?”
“I am getting another degree to avoid working. You’re right.”
“Does silence mean yes?”
“I don’t look like the others… Are you mad?”
“Are you mad at me?”
“U mad???”

Of course I’m mad at all of this. At all of this fucking nonsense.
I can’t remember the last time I recovered a piece of myself.
No matter the extent of my devotion, these last few continue to elude my clutching hands.

A deep, slow breath
my eyes wander along the throne set up
inside the warehouse.
Some people work printing shirts
There’s a goblet waiting to be filled
to be stained once more,
handcuffs attached by chains to the base; two pairs.
I’m the devil you know.


Blood begets blood.
The exquisite link between pleasure and pain
is universal. A language written deep into the marrow of our bones.
I breathe deeply, savouring
but it’s gone within the hour like the welt left from my whip
impotent. Like the blood that will result
the price paid to reclaim what remains.
Once a common veneer, now the lived reality of a select few.
I will have them back no matter how elaborate the method
or before which dark god I must lay myself prostrate.
I will recover them.

More timid messages shake my phone, drawing my eye.
These monologues are growing on me, a propagating fungus.
Was I this persistent in another life? Is it in the blood?

“You know we met last week? I was there last Sunday. You took a photo with my friend and I.
She said she knew you, but I called that bluff. You met two strangers that night. We realized I was cut out of the photo, but I knew better than to ask you again. I’ve never felt so drawn in to someone so intense. I forgot my crystals inside and went in after everyone had left to get it. The security remembered. You were still so angry… why?”

Does it matter?

Reasons are all the fucking same.


The Hanged Man

I can see the blue light
behind my sealed eyes
Is this what it’s like
waking up to the sun
The truth is it never went out
All night across five different time zones
the messages never stopped
An empire rushing to ruin burning
people turn so easily Distorted by envy
to become a lascivious horde with broad grasping claws lodged deep in my heart
I never grew golden horns to repel the malevolent eyes
and remained the flesh silver scorns
It’s a shame because the grassroots movement finally had success
this tour was the biggest yet
All the faces are summoned to my mind and blend
one bleeding mass of colour with opaque eyes, vulture’s eyes
Dissolved and just like that
my heart is made of stone
The final few pieces plucked out from the world
whole once more
Time to head west Time to go home
The light fades the vibrating ceases
and still my eyes remain sealed


There would be the usual price to become whole
as each piece simultaneously returned
an impossible coincidence
another red moon to synch the cycles of the horde
I used to think it was a physical reaction
A poison carried in my blood that corrodes theirs
with the promise of hope
of life
and so lost creates the endless cycle
An eye for an eye even if it’s their own
weaponized Suffering desperately
a staged suicide with the blame to be laid at my feet
Of course I had nothing to do with it
Of course
They are out for my blood
trying to steal back what they lost
but it was never theirs and this wonton waste
confirms the presence of another poison more lethal and consuming
Perhaps the cryptic message jests
in love with my old century and obsessed with the past games we’ve played
But the cruel moon shimmers and darkens with crimson light
and like a nightmare falling down straight through the ground
the truth is revealed to me with a soft crunch
as a bat drops dead into the yard below
leaving no streak on my window


“I really need your help.”
“It’s my friend.”
“The one who knows you?”
“She told me you told her to kill herself and to do it for you on a void moon?”
“What the hell!”
“What does that even mean?”

The separate lines roll off the screen one by one
What is that
I don’t know either and sigh as a warm sensation tingling
creeps throughout my body
A new experience surrounded by familiar piles of unsold shirts
The goblet tossed aside
I read each message out loud
They are no longer timid
Two pairs of eyes watch mine
staring at my mouth utter each line
candles flicker in the dark room
twitching with every breath
Picking up speed the screen flashes
a crescendo of exclamations rising to a peak viciously
hurling the the phone against the wall
shattering glass and


Upside down the world is a very different place
on a ledge or even on a bed
Blood rushing suspended in time
upside down I do know
The void moon is tonight
What an odd request
I would never suggest
What purpose would a sacrifice on a void moon serve
Perhaps in person exquisite
but little deaths were never so dramatic
Once a god fearing people
now everyone has a set of tarot cards
crystals herbs and coloured candles
The moon is potent but not for me
An empty sky stares back through the filmy window
There’s still glass on the floor


Moonlight filters through bathing the throne in silver
shuddering it’s crescent form illuminating
the warehouse
My chains are strewn across the barren floor
sparkling sharply with shimmering crystal shards
Abandoning my lair I brave the light directly
it’s much worse in the open following each dogged step
illuminating torn newspapers lying in gutters
All sorts of tabloid stories decorate the pages
so many pictures of wild eyes
My eyes
Everyone thinks they know what I did
my immediate dissolution was suspicious
but the police saw messages that weren’t from me
Every story needs a monster
Funny enough it was actually my friend with the rock
who figured out what happened
who hacked into the victim’s accounts and connected the dots
all days too late


A familiar route takes me through the graveyard
that leads to my crypt Perhaps now is the time to stop calling it that The media would riot
To my studio I sigh pausing by a random grave
slice a long shallow cut across my hand and watch my blood spill
I once went to protests and screamed on the street
to protest police brutality but nothing ever changed
despite the promises from indecisive demigods
There was blood there too
That smell I’ll never forget mixed with metal and smoke
and all the screaming faces indiscriminate
Placing my hand flat against the stone I continue to watch the progression
It’s cathartic
A tantalizing reminder of what was for those who sleep
Only scratches remain of the abandoned script
with my luck it was probably a baby’s grave
Who fucking knows
Things turned out badly
I grew a heart of stone but even stone can soften
and smooth with time until the most ardent archeologist can no longer decipher the scars
My phone vibrates gently with space and intention
I saw myself reflected in fresh eyes
infectious golden light that warms and binds
grinding even diamonds to dust

“You never thanked me you know. I still think you’re really fucked up and now I probably am.”

But that’s wrong too It’s just
we’re both the fucking same


About the author

Sabrina La Mantia,

Sabrina La Mantia is a writer who graduated with her Master’s in English from the University of Toronto. She currently lives a double life, working a strict corporate job while pursuing creative literary and musical endeavours. You can typically find her dressed in black, still listening to punk rock music.