Every town has that house in it. Its yard overgrown. Its paint peeling. Its windows blocked by years of accumulated junk. The kind of house that the sun never seems to hit. The one kids whisper about. The one adults shake their head at when they walk by.
Jane knows that house all too well—she's lived inside it her whole seventeen years, caring for an invalid mother with a strange wasting disease. That house represents the unchanging pain of Jane's young life.
Then a fun, vivacious, new girl shows up in Jane's class. To Jane's surprise, Sabrina wants to be her friend. As their relationship grows, she pushes Jane to unearth the mysteries of her mother's past and the shadowy history of her missing father. Will Jane be able to face her monstrous lineage . . . and the cost of her dark life?
Teenaged Jane lives in the town's haunted house, and is whispered about by everyone—she's that weird kid. Caring for her invalid mother, and just trying to get through high school in one piece, Jane's life changes when she meets Sabrina, the new girl, and becomes friends. As the two fall in love, Jane's dark past and powerful heritage begin to surface—and just might destroy all of them. – Sandra Kasturi
"Parasite Life, the debut YA novel from Victoria Dalpe, was the most intense and unsettling teen novel I had read for quite some time. . . . I highly recommend this outstanding vampire novel which could be read by anybody, not just moody teenagers with a 1980s goth fixation."– The Ginger Nuts of Horror
"Victoria Dalpe's stellar debut novel suggests that sometimes you consume the ones you love. The prose is tough and unsentimental, yet evocative in its depiction of the cancerous nature of abuse. Parasite Life battens down on you—insidious and predatory."– Laird Barron, author of Blood Standard
"In Victoria Dalpe's compelling debut, seventeen-year-old Jane DeVry shares a house in a small New Hampshire town with a mother suffering from a mysterious condition whose symptoms include mysterious wounds and sudden bouts of screaming. When the friendship of a new student at school awakens new desires in her, Jane sets out to learn who she is, beginning an odyssey that takes her first into her mother's old journal, and then to the art scene in contemporary Manhattan, in search of a father she has never known. Smart, gripping, and possessed of real emotional depth, Parasite Life invokes the traditions of the Gothic while taking the form boldly into the twenty-first century."– John Langan, author of The Fisherman
"Already trapped in a claustrophobic life which forces her to play caretaker to her own mentally ill mother, teenaged Jane is finally forced to confront the secrets and lies which surround her when her "attraction to Sabrina, a new girl at school, awakens hungers too violent to ignore. Victoria Dalpe's Parasite Life is a coolly sensual slice of darkness that reads like Anne Rice for the post-Twilight age."– Gemma Files, Shirley Jackson and Sunburst Award-winning author of Experimental Film
Fast breathing, twin mouths, horses galloping, their hooves tearing up the ground. Thump, thump, thump, thump, as regular as a heartbeat. Faster and faster, louder and louder. Rippled muscles gleamed on shining oiled backs, mouths frothy, eyes wild and spinning. Thump, thump, thump, thump, the footfalls echoed my heart, possibly were my heart . . .
I sat up in the early dawn, confused. Pulling back the canopy bed drapes I squinted at the clock, it was nearly 4:00 a.m. Out the window, the sky was still a starless night-black. I wondered what woke me. My mouth tasted sour; my eyes were bleary.
I stood up, swaying, and caught my reflection in the vanity. I looked terrible: my skin drawn, my eyes wet and feverish, bloodless lips pulled back to reveal blunt teeth. I tried to swallow but my throat was dry as parchment. I headed to the bathroom for some water. My hands shook so badly that I barely got the glass to my mouth.
For a fleeting moment, the water was a welcome relief. Then it hit my stomach and immediately came back up.
I found myself staring at the swirling bile in the basin of the toilet. Once it was gone, my bearings returned to me and I returned to bed. I crawled back in and pulled up my coverlet. My skin felt like it was crawling with insects, my head like it was trying to split open from the inside.
I rolled into a fetal position and focused on my breathing, my heartbeat, before nodding back off.
The horse was there, waiting for me, still and serene in a wide open field, the sky a pure cloudless cerulean. As I drew near, it backed away, over and over. I never got closer; it was always out of reach. It was always moving farther toward the horizon. The sky darkened, and as it did the horse blended into the shadows, its gleaming hide winking in and out. The dream shifted in the way of dreams, and I was waist deep in warm dark water, and the horse was gone. Instead the water was filled with large wriggling fish, red as rubies, hard bodies bumping against my bare legs.
The next time I woke it was to a shrill keening. It had to be an animal injured and wailing out in the yard.
Then my eyes adjusted and I realized, no, I was not in my bed, but my mother's. I sat up quickly, disoriented. My mother was awake, her eyes wide as she stared at me. And she was wailing. In terror? In pain? I couldn't tell.
I must have sleepwalked. Did I do that?
"Mom! What happened?"
She just went on with that strange and horrible sound.
Then I noticed the smell. The air was rank with human waste. As I pulled up her nightgown to check, I was surprised to see a rosette of red sticking the cotton fabric to the skin of her inner thigh.
"What the hell, Mom? Did you do this?"
I sucked in a breath at the sight of the fresh wound. It was a deep half circle. Red and fresh. I felt woozy looking at it. Its tinny scent coated my mouth and throat and filled my lungs. I could feel bile rising, hot and acidic.
I left the room, grabbing the first aid kit from the medicine cabinet in the en suite bathroom. As I cleaned and dressed my mom's wound, I forced my mind to go blank. To go to black. To take me away from my present moment.
Once she'd calmed, I changed my mother's diaper and nightgown and settled her back into bed. Her breathing had slowed and the panicked gleam in her eyes had faded.
Later, I stood trembling with exhaustion, staring at the pink water in the sink, her bloody nightgown floating around in bleach. My reflection in the mirror stared back at me as I scrubbed at the stain. Why was I in her room? What did she do to herself? I must have heard her crying out and come to her without realizing it. It was messed up to do things you didn't remember doing.