A People's History of the Vampire Uprising

A Novel


By Raymond A. Villareal

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In this ambitious and wildly original debut — part social-political satire, part international mystery — a new virus turns people into something a bit more than human, upending society as we know it.

This panoramic fictional oral history begins with one small mystery: the body of a young woman found in an Arizona border town, presumed to be an illegal immigrant, disappears from the town morgue. To the young CDC investigator called in to consult with the local police, it’s an impossibility that threatens her understanding of medicine.

Then, more bodies, dead from an inexplicable disease that solidified their blood, are brought to the morgue, only to also vanish. Soon, the U.S. government — and eventually biomedical researchers, disgruntled lawmakers, and even an insurgent faction of the Catholic Church — must come to terms with what they’re too late to stop: an epidemic of vampirism that will sweep first the United States, and then the world.

With heightened strength and beauty and a stead diet of fresh blood, these changed people, or “Gloamings,” rapidly rise to prominence in all aspects of modern society. Soon people are beginning to be “re-created,” willingly accepting the risk of death if their bodies can’t handle the transformation. As new communities of Gloamings arise, society is divided, and popular Gloaming sites come under threat from a secret terrorist organization. But when a charismatic and wealthy businessman, recently turned, runs for political office — well, all hell breaks loose.

Told from the perspective of key players, including a cynical FBI agent, an audacious campaign manager, and a war veteran turned nurse turned secret operative, A People’s History of the Vampire Uprising is an exhilarating, genre-bending debut that is as addictive as the power it describes.


“The only hope for the doomed,
is no hope at all…”

―Virgil, The Aeneid


When I was approached to compile a recent history of the Gloamings and their entrance into society, I initially thought, Too soon. Events continue to change at a rapid pace. But it’s exactly these changing conditions—we are still trying to figure out how we got here—that caused me to realize: now is the perfect time to compile the beginning, middle, and…if not the end, then that place that occupied the in medias res of our current conflicts.

Some historians may consider other, more eminent or notorious individuals than the ones I’ve documented here—but I believe the individuals in this text affected the course of events most profoundly. In fact, I view those other accounts of this period with suspicion. Their research is negligent at best, their prose too concerned with the salacious details of irrelevant events.

This book is also for the martyrs who sacrificed their lives to the cause—no matter what side. Other historians have attempted to subvert these deaths to their own cause. It is ironic that the Gloamings’ emergence occurred during what was generally considered our empire’s finest days—“Un grand destin commence, un grand destin s’acheve,” as Corneille stated of the Roman Empire. Those other historians labor under this misconception.

Not I. I decline.

In spite of the great personal sacrifice, I have labored to be impartial. I have been threatened and attacked during my research for this book. As a result, and after frequent hospitalization, my quality of life has been severely, negatively affected. Yet I pass no judgments on those responsible. These pages are compiled for everyone: those who lived through this time, and those who did not survive.

I hope, reader, that they give you meaningful perspective.

April 22

New York Post—March 131: Last night, the home of wealthy trial attorney John Hatcher in the Flatiron District was robbed by three unknown persons. The house was empty while Mr. Hatcher attended a performance of “Nixon in China.” The thieves stole an undetermined amount of gold rumored to comprise a worth of more than $10 million. Sources with the New York City regional office of the FBI indicate Mr. Hatcher’s extensive and professional surveillance system was not sabotaged, yet the video was not usable to authorities. A spokesman for the FBI stated that the Agency has no current suspects but the investigation continues.

1 Page 3, Metro section.

Chapter 1

May 15, Origin
Day One of the NOBI Discovery

Dr. Lauren Scott
Research Physician, Centers for Disease Control

“Let the dead bury their own dead.” That’s what my dad used to say, when faced with a losing proposition. Of course the blood, which dominated so much discussion during the time of this investigation, was heavily on my mind as well. Strange to admit as a doctor, but since birth I’ve been terrified at the sight of blood. Have you ever seen a bird fly straight into a window and drop to the ground? Kind of like that. As a kid, my heart rate and blood pressure would drop suddenly, and bam! The darkness descended, lights out. I would wake up on my back.

Then, when I was fifteen, a new doctor kindly told me about applied tension, where you tense the muscles in the legs, torso, and arms, raising the blood pressure to the head, thereby counteracting the response to pass out. It was ingenious. I spent years working on the response—tensing all these muscles until it was second nature—since I needed to be able to handle the sight of blood. Even as a child, I already wanted to be a doctor.

I know every doctor says that. But it’s true. My dad fixed refrigerators for a living and I often tagged along during the summer. I was fascinated by the spectacle of him carefully taking apart the back cover to expose the innards of the refrigerator’s engine. He pulled the wires from the adapter and condenser, stripping them with the care of a surgeon. He burned the soldering metal to clean and replace the shattered cords. Even in a bird’s nest of wires, my dad knew exactly which ones to pull out and fix. I considered him a refrigerator doctor, and I daydreamed he was performing surgery on old robots. I wanted to be a doctor like my dad—but to fix humans, not refrigerators.

My mom was similarly precise, although in a decidedly less productive style. She would maniacally rearrange all desk and home objects to get them in order! Between the two of them, I grew up with an extremely disciplined personality, well suited for a medical occupation. My younger sister, Jennifer, was the exact opposite. By the time she was twelve, Jennifer had run away from home more than ten times. But it wasn’t running away to leave home; it was more leaving home to go to the lake or a concert or even the mall. After a while, my parents realized Jenny just wanted to experience life. “Tell us where you want to go next time,” my dad yelled at her the time she vanished for three days to go hiking. “I’ll drive you there myself.” To his credit, until she got her driver’s license—an epic battle in and of itself—he often did.

In medical school I soon realized anything too invasive led to an audience with blood. That led me to a concentration in virology. The first time I became aware of the…the disease, I had just started at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC].

The CDC is a government agency whose goal is to protect public health and safety through the control and prevention of disease, injury, and disability. I had recently graduated from medical school with the intention of becoming a research physician. After my residency, the CDC came to my university to speak about the procedures involved when doctors are confronted with new and unusual symptoms out in the field. I was fascinated by the deductive reasoning involved—like being a detective searching for microbes and living cells. My background in research, plus my experience working in a biosafety level three lab with pathogen and lethal agents, made my résumé a natural fit for the agency. By then, too, I had internships with the World Health Organization in various third world countries, mostly in West Africa. So it was an ideal first job.

Young and inexperienced in the ranks, I was usually sent to cover not-so-dangerous health alerts around the country. Which is why on April second, when we received a strange but vague report from Nogales, Arizona, my older colleagues didn’t even blink. It seemed even less than routine.

So the CDC sent me.


The request from Arizona was slightly more expedited than usual because Nogales is a border town, and, well, you never know what you’re getting so close to another country. Of course, that was also the week of the solar flare panic, which only added to the tension. Unusual solar flares had been causing disruptions with satellite transmissions, radio signals, and transformer blowouts in the power grid. I mean, it wasn’t as bad as the cable networks made it seem—watching Fox News or CNN, you’d think the entire world had gone dark, when really the country was just experiencing some blinks with some Internet service and GPS providers. My sister Jennifer and I, who texted often, resolved to stay in touch despite the Internet troubles. We took to sending each other the cheesiest postcards we could find—preferably one bought from a gas station or restaurant. But it was enough that, en route to Arizona, I didn’t have much to go on other than a few phone calls with officials in Nogales to discuss the incidents.

I arrived on a scorching Tuesday afternoon, hot air slapping my face as I left the airport to look for a taxi. My contact in Nogales was Dr. Hector Gomez, head of the city’s health department and also its coroner—and we agreed to meet at the coroner’s office complex so that I could view the bodies in question. I lugged three suitcases, two of them holding my equipment, including my hazmat suit and other protective gear. CDC rules stipulated that an investigator conducting an initial on-site review should procure a fully encapsulating chemical-resistant suit. I considered bringing a self-contained breathing apparatus with a level A suit, but I figured that might be overkill. It was also heavy as hell.

The coroner’s office was a small modular office with greenish drab colors, utilitarian furniture, and cheap leaded paint. In the small lobby, I saw a young man who I assumed to be Dr. Gomez, and another man in a police uniform, nervously awaiting my arrival.

I held out my hand, trying to sound older and more experienced than I felt. “Hi, I’m Lauren Scott.”

The man with the dark bushy mustache over pursed lips took my hand. “Dr. Gomez. Pleased to meet you, Dr. Scott. I’m glad you’re finally here. This is Sheriff Wilson.”

The tall figure in the uniform tipped his cowboy hat. The fixed gaze on his lined face told me he was ready to get down to business. “Pleasure.”

“Nice to meet both of you,” I replied. “And please, call me Lauren.”

“We should get started immediately,” Dr. Gomez said as he fidgeted with the small notebook in his right hand. Almost as if he were tempted to take notes on our conversation. “Let’s go to the morgue and we can review our notes and the body.”

I followed them through a long hallway, then down a flight of stairs to the basement. It smelled like formaldehyde and alcohol, and there were fluorescent lights that blinked in the freezing temperature. It was hard not to crack a joke or run away; this old building looked like a scene right out of a TV show. I saw a body already lying on the slab, covered with a green sheet. As Dr. Gomez lifted the sheet, I briefly wondered if I should be wearing a suit or at least protective headgear. I was still new and obsessed with not catching any disease I encountered, unlike the older grizzled veterans who showed up to hot zones with barely any gloves, much less a protective suit.

I stepped closer to the body and noticed there did not appear to be any obvious signs of trauma.

“How long has the body been here?” I asked.

Dr. Gomez paused and glanced at the sheriff with his bottom lip sticking out in a scowl. “Twenty-four hours.”

I should have called for help right then, but I simply turned to Gomez, surprised. “You called three days ago about a body exhibiting unusual hemophilia bruising and intradermal contusions over ninety percent of the body. I thought this was that body. I need to see the other body.”

Sheriff Wilson and Dr. Gomez exchanged another agonized glance. “That body is not here anymore.”

I stared at them for a moment and I’m pretty sure my mouth was open. “What do you mean?”

“Apparently it was stolen from the morgue,” Sheriff Wilson answered, a pained look on his face. “We’re still investigating. Frankly, we have no idea how it got out, or who in their right mind would want to steal it. I hope it’s some damn college students looking for a prank.”

“Oh,” I said. I pointed at the body on the slab. “So who is this?”

“This is another body we found at the ravine, which exhibited the identical intradermal bruising over the torso as the previous one,” Dr. Gomez replied.

I leaned over the body. Incisions had been made already on the scalp. I glanced over at Dr. Gomez.

“We sort of felt that we needed to get a jump on everything,” he said. “But then we thought better of it and stopped. Sorry.”

“That’s really not what I anticipated when I emailed the protocol.” I was pissed, but what could I do? I moved on to the external examination. This would have to be a cursory exam for the moment. I placed my iPhone on a small table and clicked on the recording app.

“No obvious signs of trauma that would indicate the cause of death. Appears to be a woman in her thirties in moderate shape. One hundred and forty-five pounds. No distinguishing marks or tattoos. Turning the head of the body I see two circular wounds—openings—of equal-millimeter diameter—maybe a bite—close to the carotid artery and extending an undetermined length into the skin.”

I leaned closer and smelled something faint. A floral scent? Sweet yet strangely not pleasing. Cheap perfume, most likely. I rubbed my nose with the back of my hand. The scent lingered far longer than I was comfortable with. I continued.

“A dissection would need to be performed. However, a cursory glance doesn’t seem to indicate that this would be the cause of death unless a poison was injected. But the wounds do resemble teeth marks at first glance. However, they do not resemble any teeth wounds I am familiar with from either a human or other mammal. I am going to examine the body under magnification. No blood or tissue under the fingernails, although a swab will be performed for further testing. Teeth seem to be in good shape, but two top molars seem to be loose. Can’t speculate on that cause yet. An examination of the full body shows no signs of obvious trauma. A chemical analysis of hair and blood will need to be performed immediately. The eyes show no signs of hemangioma or petechial rash. The dissection and brain examination will proceed tomorrow morning.”

Dr. Gomez handed me the syringe. I took blood and saliva samples and placed them in the biohazard containers. I had some trouble extracting a usable amount of blood. A simple touch indicated that the body was unusually devoid. Premature coagulation, perhaps. “Where can I take these samples for a quick chemical analysis?”

“University of Arizona, Santa Cruz, has a small lab,” Dr. Gomez said. “I can get someone to drive it over tonight, and the lab techs there owe me. They can put in the rush. It won’t be as detailed but it’s a start.”

I stopped in the hallway and turned to the sheriff. “I’m wondering: did you rule out a human cause before calling me?” I asked. “I mean, like a murder or something.”

Sheriff Wilson nodded. “Sure, but the first body—the female—was dead. I mean, it had no vital signs. Then it gets up and leaves! Hector sent a sample of hair to the state crime lab and they told us there were some unidentifiable substances or some sort of thing and they wanted us to call our state board of health. We had to call someone. Someone federal. Hector here—I mean Dr. Gomez—thought we should call the CDC. Next on the list was the FBI.” He smiled. “We may still do that.”

“Thanks,” I said, still trying to gather all the ideas bouncing around in my mind. “I guess I’ll go back to my hotel room to settle in. Then let’s head out to the ravine where the bodies were found.”

Sheriff Wilson and Dr. Gomez just nodded as they each scratched the side of their faces.


I checked into a dingy La Quinta not too far from the Mexican border. There weren’t many choices in this town. I threw my bags on the bed and attempted to take a nap, even with the window-unit air conditioner growling like a busted muffler. I was going to have to be up for the results of the toxicology—hopefully sooner than later.

Even then, in those early hours, the situation felt weird. Who steals a body from the coroner’s office? I was struck, too, by the bite marks. And where was all the blood? All those years trying to avoid blood, and now I was wishing for it to be there. Always, it was about the blood. I thought of Macbeth: “The near in blood, the nearer bloody.” I think my father taught me that. It seems so apropos in hindsight, as I’ve felt covered in the blood ever since.

I transferred the pictures to my iPad and tried to consider what type of animal could leave that mark. I attempted to find significance in the loose upper molars and what systematic disease could cause this. Diabetes and cancer were obvious ones, but the body looked to be in good health, so I eliminated those possibilities. Another type of autoimmune disease could be a contributing factor, but that would take more tests. I made a mental note to get a tissue sample sent to Atlanta. This was my first solo assignment; I needed to cover all the bases.

I had pretty much just laid my head on the flat pillow when a knock on my door almost caused me to leap out of my skin.

“Dr. Scott? It’s Sheriff Wilson and Dr. Gomez.”

I unlocked and opened the door. They stood there, looking like a mixture of shame and frustration. “Sorry,” the sheriff said. “We tried calling but your phone must be on silent—”

“What happened?” I cut him off. I was probably overtired by this point. “Did we get the results already?”

Wilson glanced at Gomez like neither of them wanted to talk. The sheriff won the silent battle. “The body is—well, it’s not in the morgue anymore,” Dr. Gomez said.


On the way back to the morgue, Sheriff Wilson tried to explain. “We’ve never been broken into before,” he said. That was an ambiguous accomplishment at best, I thought. “It’s a bit more than that,” the sheriff continued. “The guard at the back door says the woman walked up to him and hit him with a surgical hammer. He doesn’t remember much after that.”

“I’m sorry. What woman?”

“The woman you saw. The corpse on the table.”

I laughed. “What? That can’t be true.”

The car was silent for a moment, until the sheriff said, “He swears it.” I glanced out the window again and it was like a movie on repeat, the identical saguaro cactus every few miles with its crooked arms locked in a permanent wave at random tumbleweeds along for the ride.

When we arrived back at the morgue, a deputy surveyed the scene we had left just hours earlier, as if looking for his keys. I saw the empty table, and then the materials from the shelf strewn across the floor as if an earthquake had hit. My eyes became fixated on a roll of gauze and scissors on the table.

Wilson saw what I was looking at. “The deputy says that the woman’s head was bandaged,” he said.

I exchanged a glance with Dr. Gomez. All he could do was shrug. We walked into the other room and another deputy, who looked all of nineteen years old, sat on the floor, his head bandaged. He recounted the story to us as he held an ice pack to his head. He said, “One minute I was by myself, and in a flash that girl—”

“The presumed corpse,” I said.

He nodded slowly. “Yeah. Her. She was standing next to me. I was eating a Twix bar. The girl, she—”

“The presumed corpse,” I said again.

The deputy paused. He looked nervously at the sheriff, then continued. “Yeah. The presumed corpse. She was wearing pants. Also, a sweatshirt. No shoes.”

Sheriff Wilson said, “There’s a locker down the hall. Used by techs and deputies assigned to the morgue. Broken into—missing those exact clothes.”

“I wanted to ask her what she was doing but it’s like the words wouldn’t come out,” the deputy said with a frown on his thin face. “Then, when I just about found the words, my head caught the end of that hammer.”

I nodded and tried to keep my face from looking disgusted. “Now the other body that disappeared yesterday. Were there any—”

Sheriff Wilson completed my sentence. “Clothes were missing out of the locker also.”

I couldn’t help thinking that the deputy himself looked like someone half dead, and maybe on meth. And it wasn’t the recent hammer to his head. I suppose good help was hard to find. Without anything else to do—no preliminary tests back, no body to examine, and everyone wide awake—we decided to head out to the desert area where the bodies were found.


The desert was still dark, but I cannot describe how dark the desert gets close to the border. We were only a ten-minute distance from the morgue, and it was like our vehicles’ headlights had led to another world, one closer to the black sky. We ended up on a slight hill near an eight-foot metal fence with barbed wire strewn on top and with concrete bollards every couple of feet. A cold wind blew in from the south with not a bird or animal in sight. I guessed this was the border—it was a bit anticlimactic. Stepping out of the police van, I was surprised to see the ground covered in grass. Not desert sand.

Sheriff Wilson slapped a hand on the fence. “On the other side of this you’d be in Mexico. Doesn’t look much different, does it?”

As far as I could see over the fence, it appeared pretty much the same, albeit farther from our lights. I couldn’t shake the feeling something was staring back at me from somewhere in that murky distance. My eyes strained to see into it. I felt years of nothingness scattered across these plains and it made me shiver and cough.

The headlights from the van illuminated the shallow hole nearest the fence. The cold desert wind tickled a chill down my back. I knelt down in front of the hole but I saw only wet dirt. Dr. Gomez, hunched in a catcher’s position next to me, ran a hand through the dirt.

The corpses had been found by a trucker whose engine had burned out on the side of the road while transporting salvaged computer parts. No one could determine why he took such an indirect route, although the sheriff said suspicion was that he may have been carrying illegal cargo. The trucker was waiting on the side of the road for a wrecker to arrive when he spotted what he said looked like a figure running away at a high rate of speed. Then he noticed a hand, some distance away. When he went out into the field to investigate, he found the body.

“Border Patrol showed up before the wrecker,” Sheriff Wilson said with a voice disembodied from the headlights. “Then they stayed with the body while checking the fence. They called our office. The rest you know.”

I shined my flashlight over the area. I placed some dirt into a plastic bag for testing. I shined the light on the plastic bag. The dirt appeared reddish. I looked over at Sheriff Wilson. “Is that dried blood?”

He took the bag, pushed back his cowboy hat, and studied it with his small flashlight. “Might be.” He handed me back the bag and shined the light onto the ground. He pushed his hand into the ground and put the light on it as he rubbed his index finger and thumb together. “Damn. Looks like wet blood also.”

Wondering about Border Patrol protocol, I poked a finger in the same spot as Wilson. Dried and wet blood mixed on my fingers. In hindsight, of course, the whole area looked like a dug-up shallow grave, but in the moment that early morning it simply looked like loose dirt near a fence. At the time, none of us knew about the mass grave on the other side of the fence.


I arrived back at my hotel at about five in the morning. I leaned back on the hard pillow and thought about emailing an update to the CDC, but they were wrapped up in another Ebola scare in Africa, and there were potential carriers in Minnesota. No one would read my report for another two weeks, if even then.

I must have slept for an hour before my phone began to buzz. It was Dr. Gomez, and his tone was urgent, although to be honest in the short time I had known him, he always sounded like he was beside himself.

“The lab called,” he said quickly. “They want to see us immediately.”


At the science lab of the University of Arizona, Santa Cruz—about a thirty-minute drive from Nogales—I grabbed coffee from the cramped office, stirring in lumpy sugar as I introduced myself to the med student and professor waiting for us. Gomez looked like he hadn’t slept in two days. He shook Professor Chen’s hand as if they had met before. Chen was a skinny, animated older man with professor hair and rumpled clothes. His assistant, Jimmy Morton, looked like a hipster out of central casting. He wore a red flannel shirt and a mustache that sprang off his face like a twist tie. He must have left the monocle at home.


  • "Vampire Uprising is well worth a bite: The creature-feature crew will discover that recognizable tropes can feel fresh, and readers who aren't horror fiends will find a beguiling entry into the thoughts of Dracula and his ilk living among us." (3 out of 4 stars)

USA Today
  • "Relentlessly clever first novel...Villareal's cheeky blend of political satire and gothic thriller is enhanced by his background as an attorney and his deft use of convincing details...This wild ride of a novel proves that each era gets the vampires it deserves."—The Washington Post
  • "A full-on vampire infestation - or is it a colonization? - hits Earth, as documented in this zippy read via a clever series of narratives, interviews, historical documents, and newspaper reports."—Daneet Steffens, The Boston Globe
  • "Strikingly original . . . Daring, exciting . . . It's a wild ride in this world Villareal has created. . . . In 1976 with Interview with the Vampire Anne Rice smashed and recreated vampire mythology and lore--beginning a new era of vampire literature. Now perhaps it is A People's History of the Vampire Uprising's time to reinvent the genre."—Désirée Zamorano, Los Angeles Review of Books
  • New York Post "20 Best Reads for Your Summer Break"
  • "This page-turner is just shy of being too smart for its own good."—The Texas Observer
  • Included in Lit Hub's "Crime Reads" round up for the "Summer's Most Anticipated Crime, Mystery, and Thrillers,"

    "Using vampires as stand-ins for those who experience other-ing by the state and as a way to explore growing xenophobia in the United States today"—Lit Hub
  • "A wide-angle, wild and weird exploration of politics, pop culture, and a diseased America. This tale of misguided hero worship and encroaching terror may be the perfect analogy for our own strange times."—Thomas Mullen, author of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist Darktown
  • "Told in the jumbled, frenetic urgency of a discarded case file, this is the history of both a social movement and a vector for disease. Mr. Villareal's vampires are not the ones we find most comforting. They are not seductive or beautiful or tormented anti-heroes. No, they are more terrifying than anything like that, an infection that will spread throughout our body politic, our institutions, our history, and ourselves."—Paul Park, author of The White Tyger and All Those Vanished Engines
  • "A major document dump--and that's a good thing! We have it all here: a complete oral history of how our world--our species--changed forever. Raymond Villareal's sense of fun is palpable as he plays with legal thrillers; good, old, dogged police work; international intrigue; hard science; dirty politics; and, yes, classic, heart-stopping horror. Somewhere, Dracula himself is sitting up late into the day enjoying the hell out of this."—John Griesemer, author of Signal & Noise and filmmaker of the web series Parmalee
  • "A People's History of the Vampire Uprising is that rarest of rare creatures, an absolutely unique work of the writer's art that, while drawing on several distinct streams of narrative style, emerges from all of those rivers without any parallels... Villareal starts this brilliant sideways take on the vampire genre by setting up 'The Gloamings'--his sardonic name for the vampire changelings that are the book's driving force--as a problem for, get this, the Center for Disease Control, a witty--and risky--take that, in less skilled hands, could have forced the book into a narrative box car on a one-way track to Been There Ville. Because Villareal has the skills to hold several competing plot-lines and a cast of intriguing characters in his head and the talent to deal them out with economy, style, and a sardonic wit, the book becomes, among other gonzo things, a political parable for these lunatic times, a horror story, a trip down some of the darkest corridors of The Ancient World, and finally, an oddly epiphanic take on what it means, exactly, to be human. It cries out to be made into--not a movie--it's too good for that--but into a television series, and when this happens, and it will, I'll be binge-watching it.

    Well done, Raymond Villareal. Welcome to the world of writers, and may God save your immortal soul."—Carsten Stroud, author of Niceville
  • On Sale
    Jun 25, 2019
    Page Count
    432 pages
    Mulholland Books

    Raymond A. Villareal

    About the Author

    Raymond Villareal is a graduate of the University of Texas School of Law, and is currently a practicing attorney. This is his first novel.

    Learn more about this author