The Tale of the Body Thief

Chapter 12


WITHIN moments of leaving the town house, of stepping out into the glorious daylight, I knew that this experience would be worth all of the trials and the pain. And no mortal chill, with all its debilitating symptoms would keep me from frolicking in the morning sun.

Never mind that my overall physical weakness was driving me mad: that I seemed to be made of stone as I plodded along with Mojo, that I couldn't jump two feet in the air when I tried, or that pushing open the door of the butcher shop took a colossal effort; or that my cold was growing steadily worse.

Once Mojo had devoured his breakfast of scraps, begged from the butcher, we were off together to revel in the light everywhere, and I felt myself becoming drunk on the vision of the sunlight falling upon windows and wet pavements, on the gleaming tops of brightly enameled automobiles, on the glassy puddles where the snow had melted, upon the plate-glass shop-windows, and upon the people-the thousands and thousands of happy people, scurrying busily about the business of the day.

How different they were from the people of the night, for obviously, they felt safe in the daylight, and walked and talked in a wholly unguarded fashion, carrying on the many transactions of daytime, which are seldom performed with such vigor after dark.

Ah, to see the busy mothers with their radiant little children in tow, piling fruit into their grocery baskets, to watch the big noisy delivery trucks park in the slushy streets as powerfully built men lugged great cartons and cases of merchandise through back doors! To see men shoveling snow and cleaning off windows, to see the cafes filled with pleasantly distracted creatures consuming great quantities of coffee and odoriferous fried breakfasts as they pored over the morning newspapers or fretted over the weather or discussed the day's work. Enchanting to watch gangs of schoolchildren, in crisp uniforms, braving the icy wind to organize their games in a sun-drenched asphalt yard.

A great optimistic energy bound all these beings together; one could feel it emanating from the students rushing between buildings on the university campus, or gathered together in close, warm restaurants to take lunch.

Like flowers to the light, these humans opened themselves, accelerating their pace, and their speech. And when I felt the heat of the sun itself upon my face and hands, I, too, opened as if I were a flower. I could feel the chemistry of this mortal body responding, despite the congestion in my head and the tiresome pain in my freezing hands and feet.

Ignoring the cough, which was growing worse by the hour, and a new blurriness of vision, which was a real nuisance, I took Mojo with me along noisy M Street into Washington, the capital of the nation proper, wandering about the marble memorials and monuments, the vast and impressive official buildings and residences, and up through the soft sad beauty of Arlington Cemetery with its thousands of tiny identical headstones, and to the handsome and dusty little mansion of the great Confederate general Robert E. Lee.

I was delirious by this time. And very possibly all my physical discomfort added to my happiness-giving me a drowsy, frenzied attitude rather like that of a person drunk or drugged. I don't know. I only know I was happy, very happy, and the world by light was not the world by dark.

Many, many tourists braved the cold as I did to see the famous sights. I reveled silently in their enthusiasm, realizing that all of these beings were affected by the broad open vistas of the capital city as I was affected by them-that it gladdened them and transformed them to see the vast blue sky overhead, and the many spectacular stone memorials to the accomplishments of humankind.

I'm one of them! I realized suddenly-not Cain forever seeking the blood of his brother. I looked about me in a daze. I'm one of you!

For a long moment I gazed down upon the city from the heights of Arlington, shivering with cold, and even crying a little at the astonishing spectacle of it-so orderly, so representative of the principles of the great Age of Reason-wishing that Louis were with me, or that David were here, and aching in my heart that they would so surely disapprove of what I had done.

But, oh, this was the true planet I beheld, the living earth born of sunshine and warmth, even under its shimmering mantle of winter snow.

I went down the hill finally, Mojo now and then running ahead and then circling back to accompany me, and I walked along the bank of the frozen Potomac, wondering at the sun reflected in the ice and melting snow. It was fun even to watch the melting snow.

Sometime in midafternoon I ended up once more in the great marble Jefferson Memorial, an elegant and spacious Greek pavilion with the most solemn and moving words engraved on its walls. My heart was bursting as I realized that for these precious hours I wasn't cut off from the sentiments expressed here. Indeed, for this little while I mingled with the human crowd, quite indistinguishable from anyone else.

But this was a lie, wasn't it I carried my guilt within me- in the continuity of my memory, in my irreducible individual soul: Lestat the killer, Lestat the prowler of the night. I thought of Louis's warning: You can't become human by simply taking over a human body! I saw the stricken and tragic look on his face.

But Lord God, what if the Vampire Lestat hadn't ever existed, what if he were merely the literary creation, the pure invention, of the man in whose body I now lived and breathed! What a beautiful idea!

I remained for a long time on the steps of the memorial, my head bowed, the wind tearing at my clothes. A kind woman told me I was ill and must button up my coat. I stared into her eyes, realizing that she saw only a young man there before her. She was neither dazzled nor afraid. No hunger lurked in me to end her life so that I might better enjoy mine. Poor lovely creature of pale blue eyes and fading hair! Very suddenly I caught her small wrinkled hand and kissed it, and I told her in French that I loved her, and I watched the smile spread over her narrow withered face. How lovely she appeared to me, as lovely as any human I'd ever gazed upon with my vampire eyes.

All the sordid shabbiness of last night was erased in these daylight hours. I think my greatest dreams of this adventure had been fulfilled.

But the winter was heavy and hard all around me. Even cheered by the blue sky, people spoke to one another of a worse storm yet to come. Shops were closing early, streets would again become impassable, the airport had been shut down. Passersby warned me to lay in candles, as the city might lose electric power. And an old gentleman, with a thick wool cap pulled down over his head, scolded me for not wearing a hat. A young woman told me that I looked sick and should hurry home.

Only a cold, I answered. A good cough tonic or whatever they call it now would be perfectly fine. Raglan James would know what to do when he reclaimed this body. He wouldn't be too happy about it, but he could console himself with his twenty million. Besides I had hours still to dose myself with commercial remedies and rest.

For the time being, I was too relentlessly uncomfortable overall to worry about such a thing. I'd wasted enough time upon such petty distractions. And of course help for all the petty annoyances of life-ah, real life-was at hand.

Indeed, I'd forgotten all about the time, hadn't I My money should be at the agency, waiting for me. I caught a glimpse of a clock in a store window. Half past two. The big cheap watch on my wrist said the same thing. Why, I had only about thirteen hours left.

Thirteen hours in this awful body, with a throbbing head and sore limbs! My happiness vanished in a sudden cold thrill of fear. Oh, but this day was too fine to be ruined by cowardice! I simply put that out of my mind.

Bits of remembered poetry had come to me... and now and then a very dim memory of that last mortal winter, of crouching by the hearth in the great hall of my father's house, and trying desperately to warm my hands by a waning fire. But in general, I had been locked to the moment in a way that was entirely unfamiliar to my feverish, calculating, and mischievous little mind. So enchanted had I been by what was going on around me, that for hours I had experienced no preoccupation or distraction of any kind.

This was extraordinary, absolutely extraordinary. And in my euphoria, I was certain that I would carry with me forever the memory of this simple day.

The walk back to Georgetown seemed at times an impossible feat. Even before I'd left the Jefferson Memorial, the sky had begun to cloud over and was fast becoming the color of dull tin. The light was drying up as if it were liquid.

Yet I was loving it in its more melancholy manifestations. I was mesmerized by the sight of anxious mortals locking up storefronts and hurrying against the wind with sacks of groceries, of lighted headlamps flashing brightly and almost cheerily in the deepening gloom.

There would be no twilight, I realized that. Ah, very sad indeed. But as a vampire I often beheld the twilight. So why should I complain Nevertheless, just for one second I regretted that I had spent my precious tune in the teeth of the bitter whiter. But for reasons I could scarce explain to myself, it had been just what I wanted. Winter bitter as the winters of my childhood. Bitter as that time hi Paris when Magnus had carried me to his lair. I was satisfied. I was content.

By the tune I reached the agency, even I knew that the fever and chills were getting the best of me and I must seek shelter and food. I was happy to discover that my money had arrived. A new credit card had been imprinted for me under one of my Paris aliases, Lionel Potter, and a wallet of traveler's checks had been prepared. I shoved all these in my pockets, and as the horrified clerk watched in silence, I shoved the thirty thousand dollars into my pockets as well.

Somebody's going to rob you! he whispered, leaning towards me across the counter. He said something I could scarce follow about getting to the bank with the money before it closed. And then I should go to the emergency room, immediately before the blizzard came in. Lots of people with the flu out there, practically an epidemic every winter it seemed.

For the sake of simplicity I agreed to everything, but I hadn't the slightest intention of spending my remaining mortal hours in the clutches of doctors. Besides, such a step wasn't required. All I needed was hot food, I thought, and some hot beverage, and the peace of a soft hotel bed. Then I could return this body to James in tolerable condition, and shoot cleanly back into my own.

But first I must have a change of clothes. It was only three-fifteen, and I had some twelve hours to go and could not bear for a moment longer these dirty and miserable rags!

I reached the great fancy Georgetown Mall just as it was closing so that people could flee the blizzard, but I managed to talk my way into a fancy clothier's, where I quickly made a pile for the impatient clerk of everything I thought I would need. A wave of dizziness caught me as I gave him the small plastic card. It amused me that he had now lost all impatience and was trying to sell me random scarves and ties. I could scarce understand what he was saying to me. Ah, yes, ring it up. We'll give all this to Mr. James at three a.m. Mr. James likes to get things for nothing. Sure, the other sweater, and why not, the scarf too.

As I managed to escape with my heavy load of shiny boxes and sacks, another wave of dizziness hit me. Indeed a blackness was rising all around me; it would have been very easy to sink to my knees and pass out on the floor. A lovely young woman came to my rescue. You look like you're going to faint! I was sweating profusely now, and even in the warmth of the mall I was cold.

What I needed was a taxi, I explained to her, but none was to be found. Indeed the crowds were very thin on M Street, and the snow had begun to fall once more.

I had spied a handsome brick hotel only a few blocks away, with the lovely romantic name The Four Seasons, and to that point I hurried, waving good-bye to the beautiful and kind young creature, and bowing my head as I burrowed into the fierce wind. I'd be warm and safe in The Four Seasons, I thought merrily, loving to speak the meaningful name aloud. I could dine there, and need not go back to the awful town house until the hour for the exchange drew near.

When I finally reached the lobby of the place, I found it more than satisfactory, and laid down a large deposit hi guarantee that Mojo would be as clean and gentlemanly during our stay as I would be myself. The suite was sumptuous, with large windows over the Potomac, seemingly endless stretches of pale carpet, bathrooms fit for a Roman emperor, television sets and refrigerators concealed in handsome wood cabinets, and other little contraptions galore.

At once I ordered a feast for myself and Mojo, then I opened the small bar, which was stuffed with candies and other tasty tidbits as well as spirits, and helped myself to the best Scotch. Absolutely ghastly taste! How the hell could David drink this The chocolate bar was better. Damned fantastic! I gobbled all of it, then called back the restaurant and added every chocolate dessert on the menu to my order of only moments ago.

David, I must call David, I thought. But it seemed an impossibility to climb out of the chair and move to the phone on the desk. And there was so much I wanted to consider, to fix in my mind. Discomforts be damned, this had been a hell of an experience! I was even getting used to these enormous hands hanging an inch below where they ought to be, and this porous dark skin. Mustn't fall asleep. What a waste . . .

Then the bell startled me! I had been sleeping. A full half hour of mortal time had passed. I struggled to my feet, as if I were hefting bricks with every step, and managed somehow to open the door for the room service attendant, an attractive older female with light yellow hair, who wheeled a linen-draped table, laden with food, into the living room of the suite.

I gave the steak to Mojo, having already laid down a bath towel for a dog tablecloth, and he set about to chewing lustily, lying down as he did so, which only the very large dogs do, and which made him look all the more monstrous, like a lion lazily gnawing upon a Christian pinned helplessly between his huge paws.

I at once drank the hot soup, unable to taste anything much in it, but that was to be expected with such a miserable cold. The wine was marvelous, much better than the vin ordinaire of the last night, and though it still tasted very thin compared to blood, I downed two glasses of it, and was about to devour the pasta, as they called it here, when I looked up and realized that the fretful female attendant was still there.

You're sick, she said, you're very, very sick.

Nonsense, ma chere, I said, I have a cold, a mortal cold, no more and no less. I fished in my shirt pocket for my wad of bills, gave her several twenties, and told her to go. She was very reluctant.

That's quite a cough, she said. I think you're really sick. You've been outside a long time, haven't you?

I stared at her, absolutely weakened by her concern, and realizing that I was in true danger of bursting stupidly into tears. I wanted to warn her that I was a monster, that this body was merely stolen. How tender she was, how obviously habitually kind.

We're all connected, I said to her, all humankind. We must care for each other, mustn't we? I figured she would be horrified by these sloppy sentiments, issued with such thick drunken emotion, and that she would now take her leave. But she did not.

Yes, we are, she said. Let me call a doctor for you before the storm gets any worse.

No, dearest, go now, I said.

And with one last worried look at me, she did at last go out.

After I'd consumed the plate of fancy cheese-sauced noodles, another bit of salt and tastelessness, I began to wonder if she wasn't right. I went into the bathroom and switched on the lights. The man in the mirror did look dreadful, his eyes bloodshot, his entire body shivering, and his naturally dark skin rather yellowish if not downright pale.

I felt of my forehead, but what good did that do Surely I can't die of this, I thought. But then I wasn't so sure. I remembered the expression on the face of the attendant, and the concern of the people who'd spoken to me in the street. Another fit of coughing overcame me.

I must take action, I thought. But what action What if the doctors gave me some powerful sedative which so numbed me that I couldn't return to the town house And what if their drugs affected my concentration so that the switch could not be made Good Lord, I had not even tried to rise up out of this human body, a trick I knew so well in my other form.

I didn't want to try it either. What if I couldn't get back! No, wait for James for such experiments, and stay away from doctors with needles!

The bell sounded. It was the tenderhearted female attendant, and this time she had a sackful of medicines-bottles of bright red and green liquids, and plastic containers of pills. You really ought to call a doctor, she said, as she placed all of these on the marble dresser in a row. Do you want for us to call a doctor?

Absolutely not, I said, pushing more money at her, and guiding her out the door. But wait, she said. Would I let her take the dog out, please, as he had just eaten

Ah, yes, that was a marvelous idea. I pushed more bank notes into her hand. I told Mojo to go with her, and do whatever she said. She seemed fascinated by Mojo. She murmured something to the effect that his head was larger than her own.

I returned to the bathroom and stared at the little bottles which she had brought. I was leery of these medicines! But then it wasn't very gentlemanly of me to return a sick body to James.

Indeed, what if James didn't want it. No, not likely. He'd take the twenty million and the cough and the chills.

I drank a revolting gulp of the green medicine, fighting a convulsion of nausea, and then forced myself into the living room, where I collapsed at the desk.

There was hotel stationery there and a ballpoint pen which worked fairly well, in that slippery skittery fashion of ballpoint pens. I began to write, discovering that it was very difficult for me with these big fingers, but persevering, describing in hurried detail all that I had felt and seen.

On and on I wrote, though I could scarce keep my head up, and scarce breathe for the thickening of the cold. Finally, when there was no more paper and I could not read my own scrawl any longer, I stuffed these pages into an envelope, licked it and sealed it, and addressed it to myself care of my apartment in New Orleans, and then stuffed it into my shirt pocket, secure beneath my sweater, where it would not be lost.

Finally I stretched out on the floor. Sleep must take me now. It must cover many of the mortal hours remaining to me, for I had no strength for anything more.

But I did not sleep very deeply. I was too feverish, and too full of fear. I remember the gentle female attendant coming with Mojo, and telling me again that I was ill.

I remember a night maid wandering in, who seemed to fuss about for hours. I remember Mojo lying down beside me, and how warm he felt, and how I snuggled against him, loving the smell of him, the good woolly wonderful smell of his coat, even if it was nothing as strong as it would have been to me in my old body, and I did for one moment think I was back hi France, in those old days.

But the memory of those old days had been hi some way obliterated by this experience. Now and then I opened my eyes, saw an aureole about the burning lamp, saw the black windows reflecting the furnishings, and fancied I could hear the snow outside.

At some point, I climbed to my feet, and made for the bathroom, striking my head hard upon the doorframe, and falling to my knees. Mon Dieu, these little torments! How do mortals endure it How did I ever endure it What a pain! Like liquid spreading under the skin.

But there were worse trials ahead. Sheer desperation forced me to use the toilet, as was required of me, to clean myself carefully afterwards, disgusting! And to wash my hands. Over and over, shivering with disgust, I washed my hands! When I discovered that the face of this body was now covered with a really thick shadow of rough beard, I laughed. What a crust it was over my upper lip and chin and even down into the collar of my shut. What did I look like A madman; a derelict. But I couldn't shave all this hair. I didn't have a razor and I'd surely cut my own throat if I did.

What a soiled shirt. I'd forgotten to put on any of the clothes I'd purchased, but wasn't it too late now for such a thing With a dull woozy amazement, I saw by my watch that it was two o'clock. Good Lord, the hour of transformation was almost at hand.

Come, Mojo, I said, and we sought the stairs rather than the elevator, which was no great feat as we were only one floor above the ground, and we slipped out through the quiet and near-deserted lobby and into the night.

Deep drifts of snow lay everywhere. The streets were clearly impassable to traffic, and there were tunes when I fell on my knees again, arms going deep into the snow, and Mojo licked my face as though he were trying to keep me warm. But I continued, struggling uphill, whatever my state of mind and body, until at last I turned the corner, and saw the lights of the familiar town house ahead.

The darkened kitchen was now quite filled with deep, soft snow. It seemed a simple matter to plow through it until I realized that a frozen layer-from the storm of the night before-lay beneath it, which was quite slick.

Nevertheless I managed to reach the living room safely, and lay down shivering on the floor. Only then did I realize I'd forgotten my overcoat, and all the money stuffed hi its pockets. Only a few bills were left in my shirt. But no matter. The Body Thief would soon be here. I would have my own form back again, all my powers! And then how sweet it would be to reflect on everything, safe and sound in my digs in New Orleans, when illness and cold would mean nothing, when aches and pains would exist no more, when I was the Vampire Lestat again, soaring over the rooftops, reaching with outstretched hands for the distant stars.

The place seemed chilly compared to the hotel. I turned over once, peering at the little fireplace, and tried to light the logs with my mind. Then I laughed as I remembered I wasn't Lestat yet, but that James would soon arrive.

Mojo, I can't endure this body a moment longer, I whispered. The dog sat before the front window, panting as he looked out into the night, his breath making steam on the dim glass.

I tried to stay awake, but I couldn't. The colder I became, the drowsier I became. And then a most frightening thought took hold of me. What if I couldn't rise out of this body at the appointed moment If I couldn't make fire, if I couldn't read minds, if I couldn't. . .

Half wrapped in dreams, I tried the little psychic trick. I let my mind sink almost to the edge of dreams. I felt the low delicious vibratory warning that often precedes the rise of the spirit body. But nothing of an unusual nature happened. Again, I tried. Go up, I said. I tried to picture the ethereal shape of myself tearing loose and rising unfettered to the ceiling. No luck. Might as well try to sprout feathered wings. And I was so tired, so full of pain. Indeed, I lay anchored in these hopeless limbs, fastened to this aching chest, scarce able to take a breath without a struggle.

But James would soon be here. The sorcerer, the one who knew the trick. Yes, James, greedy for his twenty million, would surely guide the whole process.

When I opened my eyes again, it was to the light of day.

I sat bolt upright, staring before me. There could be no mistake. The sun was high in the heavens and spilling in a riot of light through the front windows and onto the lacquered floor. I could hear the sounds of traffic outside.

My God, I whispered in English, for Mon Dieu simply doesn't mean the same thing. My God, my God, my God.

I lay back down again, chest heaving, an¡锟?oo stunned for the moment to form a coherent thought or attitude, or to decide whether it was rage I felt or blind fear. Then slowly I lifted my wrist so that I might read the watch. Eleven forty-seven in the a.m.

Within less than fifteen minutes the fortune of twenty million dollars, held in trust at the downtown bank, would revert once more to Lestan Gregor, my pseudonymous self, who had been left here in this body by Raglan James, who had obviously not returned to this town house before morning to effect the switch which was part of our bargain and now, having forfeited that immense fortune, was very likely never to come back.

Oh, God help me, I said aloud, the phlegm at once coming up in my throat, and the coughs sending deep stabs of pain into my chest. I knew it, I whispered. I knew it. What a fool I'd been, what an extraordinary fool.

You miserable wretch, I thought, you despicable Body Thief, you will not get away with it, damn you! How dare you do this to me, how dare you! And this body! This body in which you've left me, which is all I have with which to hunt you down, is truly truly sick.

By the time I staggered out into the street, it was twelve noon on the dot. But what did it matter I couldn't remember the name or the location of the bank. I couldn't have given a good reason for going there anyway. Why should I claim the twenty million which in forty-five seconds would revert to me anyway Indeed where was I to take this shivering mass of flesh

To the hotel to reclaim my money and my clothing

To the hospital for the medicine of which I was sorely in need

Or to New Orleans to Louis, Louis who had to help me, Louis who was perhaps the only one who really could. And how was I to locate that miserable conniving self-destructive Body Thief if I did not have the help of Louis! Oh, but what would Louis do when I approached him What would his judgment be when he realized what I'd done

I was falling. I'd lost my balance. I reached for the iron railing too late. A man was rushing towards me. Pain exploded in the back of my head as it struck the step. I closed my eyes, clenching my teeth not to cry out. Then opened them again, and I saw above me the most serene blue sky.

Call an ambulance, said the man to another beside him. Just dark featureless shapes against the glaring sky, the bright and wholesome sky.

No! I struggled to shout, but it came out a hoarse whisper. I have to get to New Orleans! In a rush of words I tried to explain about the hotel, the money, the clothing, would someone help me up, would someone call a taxi, I had to leave Georgetown for New Orleans at once.

Then I was lying very quietly in the snow. And I thought how lovely was the sky overhead, with the thin white clouds racing across it, and even these dim shadows that surrounded me, these people who whispered to one another so softly and furtively that I couldn't hear. And Mojo barking, Mojo barking and barking. I tried, but I couldn't speak, not even to tell him that everything would be fine, just perfectly fine.

A little girl came up. I could make out her long hair, and her little puff sleeves and a bit of ribbon blowing in the wind. She was looking down at me like the others, her face all shadows and the sky behind her gleaming frightfully, dangerously.

Good Lord, Claudia, the sunlight, get out of it! I cried.

Lie still, mister, they're coming for you.

Just lie quiet, buddy.

Where was she Where had she gone I shut my eyes, listening for the click of her heels on the pavement. Was that laughter I heard

The ambulance. Oxygen mask. Needle. And I understood.

I was going to die in this body, and it would be so simple! Like a billion other mortals, I was going to die. Ah, this was the reason for all of it, the reason the Body Thief had come to me, the Angel of Death to give me the means which I had sought with lies and pride and self-deception. I was going to die.

And I didn't want to die!

God, please, not like this, not in this body. I closed my eyes as I whispered. Not yet, not now. Oh, please, I don't want to! I don't want to die. Don't let me die. I was crying, I was broken and terrified and crying. Oh, but it was perfect, wasn't it Lord God, had a more perfect pattern ever revealed itself to me - the craven monster who had gone into the Gobi not to seek the fire from heaven but for pride, for pride, for pride.

My eyes were squeezed shut. I could feel the tears running down my face. Don't let me die, please, please, don't let me die. Not now, not like this, not in this body! Help me!

A small hand touched me, struggling to slip into mine, and then it was done, holding tight to me, tender and warm. Ah, so soft. So very little. And you know whose hand it is, you know, but you're too scared to open your eyes.

If she's there, then you are really dying. I can't open my eyes. I'm afraid, oh, so afraid. Shivering and sobbing, I held her little hand so tight that surely I was crushing it, but I wouldn't open my eyes.

Louis, she's here. She's come for me. Help me, Louis, please. I can't look at her. I won't. I can't get my hand loose from her!

And where are you Asleep in the earth, deep beneath your wild and neglected garden, with the winter sun pouring down on the flowers, asleep until the night comes again.

Marius, help me. Pandora, wherever you are, help me. Khayman, come and help me. Armand, no hatred between us now. I need you! Jesse, don't let this happen to me.

Oh, the low and sorry murmur of a demon's prayer beneath the wailing of the siren. Don't open your eyes. Don't look at her. If you do, it's finished.

Did you call out for help in the last moments, Claudia Were you afraid Did you see the light like the fire of hell filling the air well, or was it the great and beautiful light filling the entire world with love

We stood in the graveyard together, in the warm fragrant evening, full of distant stars and soft purple light. Yes, all the many colors of darkness. Look at her shining skin, the dark blood bruise of her lips, and deep color of her eyes. She was holding her bouquet of yellow and white chrysanthemums. I shall never forget that fragrance.

Is my mother buried here?

I don't know, petite cherie. I never even knew her name. She was all rotted and stinking when I came upon her, the ants were crawling all over her eyes and into her open mouth.

You should have found out her name. You should have done that for me. I would like to know where she is buried.

That was half a century ago, cherie. Hate me for the larger things. Hate me, if you will, because you don't lie now at her side. Would she keep you warm if you did Blood is warm, cherie. Come with me, and drink blood, as you and I know how to do. We can drink blood together unto the end of the world.

Ah, you have an answer for everything. How cold her smile. In these shadows one can almost see the woman in her, defying the permanent stamp of child sweetness, with the inevitable enticement to kiss, to hold, to love.

We are death, ma cherie, death is the final answer. I gathered her up in my arms, felt her tucked against me, kissed her, kissed her, and kissed her vampire skin. There are no questions after that.

Her hand touched my forehead.

The ambulance was speeding, as if the siren were chasing it, as if the siren were the force driving it on. Her hand touched my eyelids. I won't look at you!

Oh, please, help me ... the dreary prayer of the devil to his cohorts, as he tumbles deeper and deeper towards hell.

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