I'm writing something in which the main character has become a vampire, or vampire-like entity, due to the influence of a Lovecraftian horror.

What are some things they, as a conscious person, may or may not experience due to a lack of a heartbeat that aren't immediately obvious and that aren't generally considered in fiction?

Some things I've already thought of are that, sweating, crying, blushing, sexual arousal, adrenaline rushes, and rash/irritation redness wouldn't be possible or noticeable. Also, apparent bruising would occur in the legs if the vampire stood or sat for long periods of time since the blood would settle due to gravity without the usual pressure. I'm also interested in how this might affect a person, psychologically. Assuming their personality was intact at the moment of transformation, how might the halting of lesser-known chemical processes (e.g. I know less dopamine means depression and impaired learning) affect this person mentally?

Basically, the horror's influence helps animate the character's body through a mixture of spacetime manipulation and psychokinesis in just enough ways for them to be a thinking, intelligent predator capable of harvesting blood through the desire to consume it. They also appear largely human and don't exhibit obvious signs of generalized hypoxia, like cyanosis. Though, their skin is a little paler than before and they're a bit cold to the touch. The character is still capable of logical thinking and, consequently, emotions, but I imagine their emotions and some thought-influenced bodily processes might be dulled or unbalanced due to the consequences of a nonexistent heartbeat. Thanks in advance, I hope you guys have some really obscure and interesting biology facts to lay down.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Welcome to worldbuilding.SE! When you have a moment, please take our tour and visit our help center to learn more about us. This is a good question and we're delighted, but please note for the future that Stack Exchange is a one-specific-question/one-best-answer service. There are several questions (at least physical and psychological impacts) in the post. Cheers! and enjoy the ride. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jul 17, 2018 at 3:33
  • $\begingroup$ What the body temperature would be like? $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Jul 17, 2018 at 7:09
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Have you read The Rhesus Chart by Charles Stross? It is a treatment of this kind of idea, and a very good read, it may or may not be of use to you to read it. $\endgroup$
    – Ash
    Jul 17, 2018 at 13:50
  • $\begingroup$ Are you looking for things an individual might experience that leads them to believe they are conscious, or things which another person might use? The tests doctors use to determine if someone is truly brain-dead might be useful, but none of them can be applied from within. $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Jul 17, 2018 at 15:31
  • $\begingroup$ I'm assuming the person is fully conscious, I'm just wondering what it would feel like to inhabit a body that doesn't have a heartbeat and how that might affect someone on a psychological level. $\endgroup$
    – DoctorJerk
    Jul 18, 2018 at 13:18

7 Answers 7


It's a really complex question, I'll try to elaborate some thoughts disregarding a lot of biological stuff and coating them with a lot of fantasy dust.

Firstly, let's establish that no endocrine signaling would occur, as there's no "bloodway" for it to flow. Meaning that no long distance hormones should work on said scenario. That leaves us to paracrine and neurocrine signalling.


Paracrine signalling occurs on cell to cell level. For example, when there's an cut in the skin, the injured cells signal nearby tissue to start hemostasis and some degree of cellular repairing. For a full repair of damaged tissue, the body needs reinforcements from afar, which wouldn't happen. An interesting part of that is the cytokines, inflammatory molecules that are also released locally that can increase pain and inflammatory reactions. So, with some suspension of disbelief, any injury your character suffers wouldn't fully heal, there would just be an inflammatory tissue formed and never ending pain to a already tormented being.


And how can it feel pain? Well, neurocrine signalling is also a cell to cell communication, but it's specific to neurons and their synapses. Pain would be preserved.

As for emotions, there are endocrine hormones and pathways responsible for regulating it, but let's not go that far into it as it would ruin any possibility for an interesting character. Let's say feelings are produced only at the brain and it's not affect by the lack of blood flow. Given that, body reactions to emotion would still be compromised. He would be afraid, he can recognize logically that he is afraid but he wouldn't feel afraid. Kind hard to explain, but you get the rough idea and there's lot of room for expansion on the topic.

There's a immediate response in the brain when you're eating to signal that you will be full after you're finished. Still, hormones produced by the stomach and intestine are not going to show the brain that your character is satisfied and fed. This could be the cause of his never ending hunger and blood lust, also another way to torment him as I'm sure that Lovecraftian being is up to no good. That brief moment of feeding is the only glimpse of relief he feels, just to be set back to a starving condition minutes after.

Other random cool stuff

-As there's no way to wash down the CO2 and lactic acid from the muscles, he would feel cramps and pain any time he get more worked up and active. He would need long times of rest to let those substances diffuse through his body (maybe the hibernating in a coffin stuff that conventional vampires like to do could be explained by that).

-Insufficient heart flow on the living causes lower limbs edema, accumulation of liquids on lunger that could result on bubble like secretion coming from his mouth from time to time. There could be a similar condition on your character. I think that may be too grotesque, but who knows what you might like?

-Due to constant hypoxia on the brain, there would be times he gets confused, does irrational things or gets inexplicably violent. As the times goes he forgets a lot of people he knew, places he went and the concept of who he is due to micro ischemia of certain parts of the brain.

That's what I can think now, but you should research more on these topics if you will:

-Neurocrine, endocrine, paracrine and autocrine hormone signaling pathways.

-Cardiac Insufficiency/Cardiac failure.

-Effects of mild hypoxia and hypoglycemia on the brain.


One doesn't normally notice the sound of their own heartbeat but it's always there, until it isn't, that would be really disturbing. There would be similar but different effects with bloodflow through the eye ceasing and the cessation of one's pulse as felt throughout the body, these are things we're usually not conscious of but would almost certainly notice in their absence.

  • $\begingroup$ Interesting, I hadn't considered the sound aspect, but I have heard of that quiet room that makes these things noticeable. How are the eyes affected, exactly? Anything besides not seeing floaters or those little stress-induced firefly things? Do you have any other information about what one might notice in the rest of their body without the heartbeat? $\endgroup$
    – DoctorJerk
    Jul 17, 2018 at 13:46
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ @DoctorJerk There are blood vessels in the eye that are actually between the soft lens and the retina, we don't notice the blood flowing through these capillaries, to spite how well lit it is, because the processing pathways in the occipital lobe ignore it. If the blood was gone there would be a strange effect because the view through the space that now doesn't have blood will be different to what those pathways expect. $\endgroup$
    – Ash
    Jul 17, 2018 at 13:57
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @DoctorJerk Your body throbs every time blood goes through your veins, you don't feel it on a conscious level, unless you concentrate on a particular part of your body because you're conditioned to it always being there, but if it stopped happening you'd notice very quickly that something was missing. $\endgroup$
    – Ash
    Jul 17, 2018 at 14:01
  • $\begingroup$ Actually, no blood flowing to the eyes will lead to blindness in short order... you need it to "reset" the cells after they are exposed to light (blah blah complicated biochemistry I won't go into) and (IIRC) to keep them from overheating. Check out this article... $\endgroup$
    – Matthew
    Sep 4, 2020 at 22:54
  • $\begingroup$ @Matthew In a human sure, in a vampiresque creature apparently not according to all the legends. $\endgroup$
    – Ash
    Jan 13, 2021 at 19:37

To the best of my knowledge, this person would experience a painful and obvious swelling of their feet as the blood would be pulled down by gravity. Without a method of circulating the blood, there really isn't any other place all that fluid could go. If blood is no longer a requirement for this individual to live, it might be a good idea for them to simply release this pressure by getting rid of the useless blood altogether.

If they wish to keep that blood, I'm guessing for sentimental reasons, investing in some compression socks/pants would be another solution. Otherwise there feet would change color and they would go up two shoe sizes.


Human vision works on differences in the visual field from moment to moment. If your eyes are tracking something exactly, it will fade out of vision fast. (It's actually still possible to see stark contrasts very vaguely, but no color vision will survive.) Biological processes like breathing and heartbeat help move the eyes enough under most conditions. Remove those, and the world can just vanish from vision if our vampire relaxes in a supported position.

In my limited experience, the lack of vision isn't immediately obvious, but moving the eyes to restore vision can be a little surprising.


The same as a regular human with an artificial heart

You have a basic problem that blood flow is essential for every part of the body to operate. It's certainly possible to micromanage the conditions to let parts of the body survive without blood flow (that's how we manage transplants, after all), but it's hard to do and it isn't a long-term solution. Any entity trying to do this is going to have quite some trouble making this work.

So why not take advantage of the body that's already there? If we have some telekinesis in play, why not simply use your telekinesis to pull blood from the heart's veins and push it back down the heart's arteries? You already know where to do it, all the pipework is already in place, and the body really doesn't care too much what pushed the blood so long as there's pressure there.

And this is pretty much what happens surgically. Artificial hearts have been around for a while, in various incarnations. Some designs of pump use continuous flow, which naturally means that the patient has no pulse. Hearts that "beat" are more reliable (spinning parts tend to wear, plus the impellers can damage blood cells), but other types have certainly been (and continue to be) used.

Sadly for your horror concept, this doesn't have any side-effects of turning the recipient into a ravenous monster. However it does have the distinct advantage of being totally plausible and logical (allowing for the existence of telekinesis, of course).

Of course there could be plenty of other reasons for the recipient to become blood-thirsty. If you allow for telekinesis, there could be other forms of psi powers such as mind control. Or (the Charles Stross PHANG version) the beasties driving your new powers may need blood, and may be perfectly happy to consume you if you don't find someone else's blood to offer them.


It depends on the design, but I'm going with a transdimensional circulatory system.

The treatment described is truly a redesign of the entire body at a microscopic level. Every effect ultimately reflects a design choice, not a biological imperative.

  • The brain continues to function. Is it receiving glucose? Is it producing carbon dioxide? Without internal respiration (transfer of CO2 to capillaries), where does the CO2 go?

  • The muscles continue to function. For aerobic exercise, this is the same as the brain. But to abruptly lift a heavy weight, we rely on the muscle's store of energy and then a transfer of lactic acid via blood to the liver for subsequent processing. Is the vampire able to sprint and lift heavy weights?

  • The endocrine system continues to function. At least, the vampire doesn't seem to have hypothyroidism, Addison's disease, rickets, and more all at the same time. Someone seems to be making a hormone by hormone decision about what keeps working.

  • The bones continue to function. Perhaps bone remodelling, which happens around small blood vessels that can transfer calcium to or from the blood to allow changes in local bone mass, is still going on somehow.

  • The urinary system seems to be duplicated somehow. At least, if the muscles still use creatine phosphate for energy storage (which they should to avoid being much weaker in anaerobic situations), then somehow the creatinine waste product is steadily being removed from the body to avoid a build-up. End-stage renal failure is not a good thing, and without blood to filter, the kidneys would appear incapable of functioning.

  • The lymphatic system is still refreshing the tissues of the body, despite apparently having nowhere for the thoracic duct to deliver lymph to. Also, the lack of CSF circulation from and to the blood is normally associated with severe headaches if there is a CSF leak after a spinal tap procedure; here something else happens. Don't forget the need for a regulated pressure in the eye as well, working via a fairly similar method, ciliary processes to venous sinuses (scleral rather than dural, but the idea is the same).

The most obvious way to replicate blood using a "spacetime" tech is if there is a bridge of cytoplasm from each cell to a nutrient pump site outside our dimension, or simply a ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygen) device which is really, really extracorporeal, perhaps linking the beginning and end of each capillary bed via another dimension to the circulatory system of some other, transhuman, creature. I think I'd go with the latter option; it is relatively non-invasive apart from all the scattered portals in the body, and it can be supposed that a being much more intelligent than we are is able to open new portals wherever its intervention has created unresolved problems.

In the context of an artificial and Lovecraftian manipulation this is disturbing, yet we might bear in mind that, through the sequence of parallel universes in the cosmos, at least within the realm of our consciousness, we may not be so different from this being, save from having our measurable physiology limited to the conventional four dimensions.


Reaally steady pulse. No need for deodorant. When cut, your blood won't make a jet in the air, only leaks. Without good flow, your body may be hot in some places and cold in other. The heat isn't redistributed.

Insects will pursue you ralentlessly as a cadaver in ripe state for flys laying some eggs.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .