Tickets, please! Tickets! Is that everyone? Excellent. If I could just have your attention for a moment—let us begin with the traditional anguished greeting of someone who has fallen victim to one of the creatures you are about to view. If you turn to page one of your guide and just follow along with the, ah, instructions there. Everybody ready? Deep breath, slight squat, and here we go on the count of three. One, two, and…
Superb. Consider yourself well met. Now if you’d like to follow me, we can begin.
You are now entering the famous Hall of Mood Succubi, home of the world’s largest collection of mood suckers outside of your local DMV. Sorry, cheap joke, haha! Some folks laugh at that—not you, obviously, but…. Oh, actually, before we begin.
If you are just now realizing that you have accidentally joined the wrong tour group and were aiming for the Energy Vampire Exhibit, please head back to the lobby where you can rent your personal Malaise Lazebarrow for that tour. Yes, it comes with a complimentary robotic operator to wheel you through the gallery, so you don’t have to worry about the inevitable fade. Just a word of warning here: while the Energy Vampire and Mood Succubus are closely related, these tours are very different in tone. Personally, I don’t recommend that you take both in one day due to the drain factor, but that’s just me. You do you before they do you, as they say. Is that what they say? Who knows? Either way, let us together, now, you and I, learn the mysterious way of the succubi.
Pardon? No, I’m fairly confident succubi is the plural—that’s what I was taught at orientation. You know, like octopi? Octopuses, you say? Soooo…. succubuses? That sounds ridiculous. Fine. You hurry along and take that up with the administration and while you’re at it, I think you might find the Word Nazis Mezzanine to be more suited to your pedantic tastes this day. Although, now that actual nazis are about, perhaps we should think about renaming that level? Attention! Please feel free to leave your suggestions for a new name for the non-Nazi word nerd themed exhibit in the suggestion box on your way out of the gift shop after this tour. Thank you.
And we’re walking, we’re walking.
As we enter the hall, a word of warning not to stare too deeply into the eyes of each succubus statue, for although these are artist’s renderings of various succubus, made only of harmless rubber and glue and wire, they have been known to seduce visitors through the sheer power of association. Wits, my friends, keep them SHARP! As an added precaution, you will find a Mood Tracking Dial in your tour kit. Simply keep your hand upon the dial and adjust accordingly as we move through the exhibit to help us monitor your state of mind and render aid if necessary.
Aaannnd we’re stopping. All together.
OK. While there are shed loads of mood succubi in existence today, the three cream layer, top step podium performers we are about to see are the absolute pinnacle of mood evaporators. These creatures can stub out joy, motivation, and much much more with the simple twist of their ragged bootheel into the pavement of you. These are your power players, and we show them to you not as a way of making you feel small, but to give you the tools you need to defend yourself against them should you encounter them in the real world. Self-preservation is the name of the game here. Remember this: R&R. Recognize the danger and Remove yourself from their presence. Simple. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Let’s start with this little guy here to your left. This is your common, garden variety Vibe Succubus. I see some nods of recognition here. The reason this one makes the hallowed hall of recognition is that the Vibe Succubus is easily the most often encountered shitheel in your day-to-day life. It is deceptively diminutive and docile. This is its strength. Its low-key presence means people often do not realize their vibe has been harshed at all until it’s waaaay too late to do anything about the situation. The most common physical reactions of a victim are to either sink lower in the chair as the Vibe Succubus operates around you, or to bow one’s head and stare into the effervescent depths of your pot of lager and wonder why you suddenly feel like smashing the glass into your own face.
Good Vibes Only situations will suddenly evaporate, drained of a positivity that was once strong and vivacious, and people situated within that sphere will enter what is known as a bummer bubble. Energy is still high, but it’s a completely different energy, often hostile and aggressive. Those most at risk of falling victim to this total drag are those who consider their personal superpower to be the ability to change the temperature of a room by sheer good vibes alone. The temperature will change alright, just not in the way they expect.
Question? Yes? In color terms, the Vibe Succubus falls in the grey zone of the spectrum. Dreary. Especially powerful forms of this succubus can exude an energy that roils across a conference table and makes your high-budget, worked-on-it-for-three-months video play on Zoom with an insufferable audio lag that’ll make you cry. Vibe Succubus will be all: “No one noticed. It was fine.”
You will die inside. The word ‘demoralized’ will float through your brain on a barely-there breeze.
Ah, I see you have noticed the puncture marks in its neck—and in fact, you will notice those marks on all the creatures in this hall. Fun Fact: Energy Vampires will frequently feed off a Mood Succubus—any mood succubus—in order to extract powerful chemicals to amplify their own energy-draining abilities. This does not hurt the succubus one bit, and it’s theorized by scholars that the succubus finds it to be quite stimulating. As you are leaving through the gift shop, I recommend picking up a book called “Fee Fi Feeder Fetish” which delves into this symbiotic relationship. The author lived with both species AT THE SAME TIME and SURVIVED! Feed on a feed on a feed. I guess that’s an Ouroboros situation. Or is it Ouroborii? Either way, I can sense I’m losing you here and that's usually a sign that we have spent too long in the presence of a Vibe Succubus! Mojo meandering occurs without warning, so let’s carry on with the tour.
We have in front of us now the second of our troublesome trio—the fearsome Cheerhog Succubus. Weird name, I know. This one’s pretty simple. It can root around and suck the joy out of any situation. Did you win something? They’ll tell you most lottery winners are broke within a year, or that the tax alone on your prize will cripple you. Did you buy a new thing? “Nice,” they’ll say. “Pity they used child labor to make it and the materials will take 10,000 years to break down in a landfill.”
The Cheerhog puts the U-Bus in Succubus, turning your pure joy coach right ‘round in the middle of traffic without even signaling. The minute you feel good about yourself for ANY reason, it will bombard you with negative information in order to make you second guess the validity of your joy. The accuracy of the facts will not matter to the Cheerhog Succubus. It’s all about pulling you down to their level. Or even lower. You cannot rise above. You cannot feel good about your decisions. They will suck air through their teeth and make a face. “Ohhhh, not sure I woulda done that? Didn’t you read…[blah blah cites nothing, but seems confident] ?” This is a kind of reverse seduction technique. You won’t feel good all over, but you’ll feel like you deserve to feel bad. Replace your joy with self-hate, start to enjoy it just a little bit and the Cheerhog wins. It’s that easy.
Ugh. I hate this one. And myself. Let’s move on, quickly now!
Ah! Finally, the jewel of our collection. Would anyone care to guess what this mood succubus is called? No-one? I’ll save you this awkward silence. This prized piece of giant shit is called Darren. That’s not its real name, but it’s what we here at the Institute of Human Frailty have settled upon. In the Encyclopedia Mythicanus, this seductive ball of dread is listed under the Dream Ambition Resolve Entropy Negator family and is a bonafide dream killer. See this little bit of Latin below the statue here? This translates to “no better life” alluding to this creature’s ability to seduce you into a line of thought in which you think that there is no point dreaming of a different—or better—life. Because there is nothing better than what you have now. Don’t dream, don’t aspire, just…. don’t bother. Things are fine just the way they are.
Now as you can probably guess, Darren here is a Level 22 Grand Succubus, which is the absolute highest level. Whereas the previous two examples are capable of changing a mood in the moment, a mood succubus like Darren here is not about moments. Darren is about lifetimes. Say you’re highly motivated to do something—pursue your theatrical dream, leave this dinky town you grew up in, chase a rainbow, submit a story to a magazine on a whim—ol’ Darren here will whisper in your ear in a voice as seductive as sunlight dripping from the lacey curtains of summer dusk and you will suddenly find yourself quite dissuaded from your aspirations. This sucking away of ambition is often referred to as “bringing you down to earth” or, in some circles. a “reality check”.
You are unoriginal.
Your ideas are old.
You will fail out there.
Just give up and save yourself the pain.
You’re way too weak to survive out there. Stay here. With us. You’re perfect just the way you are.
Etc. Etc. Etc.
Common phraseology such as this will be repeated until it becomes an echo that the victim will willingly chant to themselves, without Darren even being there, such is its overwhelming power.
This Darren here is just one possible manifestation of its physical being. They are the real shapeshifters of the mood succubus world and can take any form—a parent, a teacher, a lover, a boss. Darren is the mascot of the “you’re no good, why even try?” crowd. You are not permitted to dream of a life better than now, and should you dare your resolve will dissolve, your dream degenerate, your ambition decommission. Things fall apart and everything stays the same—this is the Darren way.
Let’s just stand here for a few moments in silence as we look upon the majesty of this particular Darren. Lemme set the proximity alarm, lest we linger too long.
Sometimes I think about leaving this job. The pay’s not that great, and the health insurance really is quite terrible. And you people aren’t exactly… stimulating. I always wanted to try my hand at graphic novels, you know? Something with an edge. Maybe a fanzine…?
[even longer pause]
But you’re right. I’ll never get a better job than this one. I know it. You know it. Why change a thing? A dream, after all, is just disappointment with wings strapped on, and who wants to try to fly with strapped on wings? Not me. No way!
[proximity alarm goes off]
Where was I? Oh! Sorry. Got a bit close to the edge there, didn’t I, eh?! Dodged a Darren Dagger! Let’s continue.
Well, it looks like we’ve arrived at the final stop on our tour—the gift shop—which means we’ve reached the end of our time together. For those continuing on to the Wraith Wing tour, it will begin in 15 minutes at the foot of Sauron. I hope you enjoyed this tour and now know how to spot the three most dangerous Mood Succubi, or succubuses or whatever, and by knowing their methods are better equipped to escape their mood-sucking ways. Before you go, let’s just gather up here for a second.
I like to close each tour of the Hall of Mood Succubi with a traditional call to arms, as yelled into the pillows of those who dare to dream despite the presence of such creatures in their lives. If you’d like to join in, flip to the back page of your tour guide there and follow along. Arms out, throw your head back, roar stance. Ready? One, two, and….
What does it mean? I don’t know. But I believe in balance, and when the world is telling you no, well, screaming the opposite right back in its face is a pretty decent anti-suck mood succubus affirmation, doncha think?
And besides, succubus suck—it’s right there in the name. I don’t give ‘em the time of day.
Yours in tiny thought,
Thanks for reading The Stream! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
This week’s amends…
“Despite a lack of natural ability, I did have the one element necessary to all early creativity: naivete, that fabulous quality that keeps you from knowing just how unsuited you are for what you are about to do.”
- Steve Martin,
from the book “
Born Standing Up
On rotation this week1
Some of the entries in the Drone Photo Awards, 2021. See the winners here
The secret of synchronization.
Via Swiss Miss
Did any of this spark a tiny thought of your own?
Thanks for reading The Stream! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.