His Mouth Will Taste of Wormwood
Poppy Z. Brite
Short story originally published in 1995 in the collection named Swamp Foetus which has now been renamed Wormwood.
Life holds no taboos for Howard and Louis. They have tried everything, music, drugs, sex with girls, then sex with each other but nothing seems to give their empty young lives meaning. Eventually they go to Louis’s ancestral home, a large plantation house on the edge of a swamp near Baton Rouge, where they come up with the idea of making a museum of death in the basement to alleviate their boredom.
Grave robbing provides Howard and Louis with some new grisly excitement in their lives (and a case of Absinthe that they find in a New Orleans tomb). Ever wanting to find a better thrill, they hear of a white voodoo priest buried in a long forgotten Negro graveyard out in the bayou. The priest was rumoured to have been buried with a powerful charm that can enable the wearer to hex his enemies to a painful death. This object is irresistible to Louis, who decides he wants it for himself.
Getting the charm proves easy; he digs up the grave and takes the fetish from around the neck of the corpse. Later that night a teenage girl is found dead by the river, all grey and dried out like the meat had been sucked out of her and Louis meets an irresistibly attractive young man who seems to know all about voodoo and the charm….
I first read this story years ago in the collection entitled Swamp Foetus. Of all the stories in the collection this one stands out in my mind as the one that I really remembered. I liked it because it had a vampire and voodoo theme to it and Poppy Z. Brite’s writing style really makes the most out of this short story. For anyone new to Poppy Z. Brite, she writes horror stories with youth counter culture and gay themes although not all her books have a vampire theme. Her writing is firmly based in horror and her books are not for the feint hearted.
In ‘His Mouth Will Taste of Wormwood’ the author manages with a few words to conjure up decadence, decay and forbidden empty pleasures in a steamy New Orleans setting. She manages to write some truly horrific scenes with a few simple words. There is a definite yuck factor to her descriptions of Howard and Louis’s grave robbing activities.
As a reader you don’t really connect with the two characters in the story but I suspect that is the point. You don’t feel anything for them as they meet their ultimate fates except a slight feeling of unease that they could be so bored with life that death holds more pleasure for them.
Recommended reading to anyone who likes their vampires to be about sex, death, counter culture and gay themes.
LoveVampires Review Rating: