The Tale of the Body Thief

Chapter 32~33


If you think the story was finished That the fourth installment of the Vampire Chronicles had come to an end.

Well, the book should be ended. It really should have ended when I lit that small candle, but it didn't. I realized that the following night when I first opened my eyes.

Pray continue to Chapter Thirty-three to discover what happened next. Or you can quit now, if you like. You may come to wish that you had.


BARBADOS. He was still there when I caught up with him. In a hotel by the sea.

Weeks had passed, though why I let so much time go by, I don't know. Kindness was no part of it, nor cowardice either. Nevertheless I had waited. I had watched the splendid little flat in the Rue Royale being restored, step by step, until there were at least some exquisitely furnished rooms in which I could spend my time, thinking about all that had happened, and which might yet take place. Louis had returned to take up residence with me, and was busy searching for a desk very like the one which had once stood in the parlour over a hundred years before.

David had left many messages with my man in Paris. He would be leaving soon for the carnival in Rio. He missed me. He wished I would come join him there.

All had gone well with the settlement of his estate. He was David Talbot, a young cousin of the older man who had died in Miami, and the new owner of the ancestral home. The Talamasca had accomplished these things for him, restoring to him the fortune he had left to them, and settling upon him a generous pension. He was no longer their Superior General, though he maintained his quarters in the Motherhouse. He would be forever under their wing.

He had a small gift for me, if I wanted it. It was the locket with the miniature of Claudia. He'd found it. Exquisite portrait; fine gold chain. He had it with him, and would send it to me if I liked. Or would I not come to see him, and accept it from his hands myself

Barbados. He had felt compelled to return to the scene of the crime, so to speak. The weather was beautiful. He was reading Faust again, he wrote to me. He had so many questions he wanted to ask me. When would I come

He had not seen God or the Devil again, though he had, before leaving Europe, spent a long time in various Paris cafes. He wasn't going to spend this lifetime searching for God or the Devil either. Only you can know the man I am now, he wrote. I miss you, I want to talk to you. Can you not remember that I helped you, and forgive me everything else?

It was that seaside resort he'd described to me, of handsome pink stucco buildings, and great sprawling bungalow roofs, and soft fragrant gardens, and endless vistas of the clean sand and the sparkling translucent sea.

I didn't go there until I'd been in the gardens up the mountain, and had stood on those very cliffs he had visited, looking out over the forested mountains, and listening to the wind in the branches of the noisy clacking coconut palms.

Had he told me about the mountains That you could look immediately down into the deep soft valleys and that the neighboring slopes seemed so close you thought you could touch them, though they were far, far away

I don't think so, but he had described well the flowers-the shrimp plant with its tiny blossoms, and the orchid tree and the ginger lilies, yes, those fierce red lilies with their delicate shivering petals, and the ferns nestled in the deep glades, and the waxen bird-of-paradise and the tall stiff pussy willows, and the tiny yellow-throated blossoms of the trumpet vine.

We should walk there together, he had said.

Well, that we would do. Soft the crunch of the gravel. And oh, never had the high swaying coconut palms looked so beautiful as on these bluffs.

I waited until it was past midnight before I made my descent upon the sprawling seaside hotel. The courtyard was as he had said, full of pink azaleas and large waxen elephant ears and dark glossy shrubs.

I passed through the empty darkened dining room and its long open porches and went down on the beach. I went far out in the shallows, so that I might look back from a distance upon the bungalow rooms with their roofed verandas. I found him at once.

The doors to the little patio were completely pulled back, and the yellow light spilled out on the small paved enclosure with its painted table and chairs. Inside, as if on a lighted stage, he sat at a small desk, facing the night and the water, typing away on a small portable computer, the tight small clicking of the keys carrying in the silence, even over the whisper of the lazy softly foaming surf.

He was naked except for a pair of white beach shorts. His skin was very darkly golden as though he spent his days sleeping in the sun. Streaks of yellow shone in his dark brown hair. There was a glow to his naked shoulders and smooth, hairless chest. Very firm muscles at his waist. A slight golden sheen came from the down on his thighs and legs and the very scant bits of hair on the backs of his hands.

I hadn't even noticed that hair when I was alive. Or maybe I hadn't liked it. Didn't really know. I liked it now well enough. And that he seemed a little more slender than I had been hi that frame. Yes, all the bones of the body were more visible, conforming I suppose to some modern style of health which says we must be fashionably underfed. It suited him; it suited the body; I suppose it suited them both.

The room was very neat behind him and rustic in the style of the islands with its beamed ceiling and rose-tiled floor. The bed was covered in a gay pastel fabric printed with a jagged geometric Indian design. The armoire and chests were white and decorated with brightly painted flowers. The many simple lamps ' gave off a generous light.

I had to smile though that he sat amid all this luxury, typing away-David the scholar, dark eyes dancing with the ideas inside his head.

Drawing nearer, I noted that he was very clean-shaven. His nails had been trimmed and buffed, perhaps by a manicurist. His hair was still the same full wavy mop I'd worn so carelessly when I'd been in this body, but it, too, had been trimmed and had an altogether more pleasing shape. There lay his copy of Goethe's Faust beside him, open, a pen lying across it, and many of the pages folded, or marked with small silver paper clips.

I was still taking my time with this inspection-noting the bottle of Scotch beside him, and the thick-bottomed crystal glass, and the pack of small thin cigars-when he looked up and saw me there.

I stood on the sand, well outside the little porch with its low cement railing, but quite visible in the light.

Lestat, he whispered. His face brightened beautifully. He rose at once and came towards me with the familiar graceful stride. Thank God you've come.

You think so? I said. I thought of that moment in New Orleans when I'd watched the Body Thief scurrying out of the Cafe du Monde and thought that body could move like a panther with someone else inside.

He wanted to take me in his arms, but when I stiffened and moved just a little away, he stood still, and folded his arms across his chest-a gesture that seemed to belong entirely to this body, as I couldn't remember ever seeing him do it before we'd met in Miami. These arms were heavier than his old arms. The chest was broader too.

How naked it looked. How darkly pink the nipples. How fierce and clear his eyes.

I've missed you, he said.

Really Surely you haven't been living as a recluse here?

No, I've seen too much of others, I think. Too many little supper parties in Bridgetown. And my friend Aaron has come and gone several times. Other members have been here. He paused. I can't bear to be around them, Lestat. I can't bear to be at Talbot Manor among the servants, pretending to be a cousin of my old self. There's something really appalling about what's happened. Sometimes I can't bear to look in the mirror. But I don't want to talk about that side of it.

Why not?

This is a temporary period, one of adjustment. These shocks will eventually pass. I have so much to do. Oh, I'm so glad you've come. I had a feeling you would. I almost left for Rio this morning, but I had the distinct feeling I'd see you tonight.

Is that so.

What's the matter Why the dark face Why are you angry?

I don't know. I don't really require a reason to be angry these days. And I ought to be happy. I will be soon. Always happens, and after all-it's an important night.

He stared at me, trying to figure what I meant by these words, or more properly what was the right thing for him to reply.

Come inside, he said finally.

Why not sit here on the porch in the shadows I like the breeze.

Certainly, as you say.

He went into the little room to take up the bottle of Scotch, pour himself a drink, and then he joined me at the wooden table. I had just seated myself in one of the chairs and was looking directly out over the sea.

So what have you been doing? I asked.

Ah, where do I begin? he asked. I've been writing about it continuously-trying to describe all the little sensations, the new discoveries.

Is there any doubt that you're securely anchored in the body?

None. He took a deep drink of his Scotch. And there seems to be no deterioration of any kind. You know, I feared that. I feared it even when you were in this body, but I didn't want to say it. We had enough to worry about, didn't we? He turned and looked at me, and quite suddenly he smiled. In a low stunned voice he said, You're looking at a man you know from the inside out.

No, not really, I said. Tell me, how do you deal with the perception of strangers ... those who don't guess. Do women invite you into their bedrooms What about young men?

He looked out to the sea, and there was a little bitterness in his face suddenly. You know the answer. I can't make a vocation of those encounters. They mean nothing to me. I don't say I haven't enjoyed a few safaris into the bedroom. I have more important things to do, Lestat, far more important things to do. There are places I want to go-lands and cities I always dreamt I would visit. Rio is only the beginning. There are mysteries I must solve; things I must find out.

Yes, I can imagine.

You said something very important to me when we were together last. You said, surely you won't give the Talamasca this life too. Well, I won't give it to them. What's paramount in my mind is that I must not waste it. That I must do something of absolute importance with it. Of course the direction won't come to me all at once. There has to be a period of traveling, of learning, of evaluation, before I make a decision as to direction. And as I engage in my studies, I write. I write everything down. Sometimes the record itself seems the goal.

I know.

There are many things I want to ask you. I've been plagued with questions.

Why What sort of questions?

About what you experienced those few days, and whether you have the slightest regret that we ended the venture so soon.

What venture You mean my life as a mortal man?


No regret.

He started to speak again, and then broke off. Then again he spoke. What did you take back with you? he asked in a low fervent voice.

I turned and looked at him again. Yes, the face was definitely more angular. Was it personality which had sharpened it and given it more definition. Perfect, I thought.

I'm sorry, David, my mind wandered. Ask me this question


What did you take back with you? he said, with his old familiar patience. What lesson?

I don't know that it was a lesson, I said. And it may take time for me to understand whatever I learnt.

Yes, I see, of course.

I can tell you that I'm aware of a new lust for adventure, for wandering, the very things you describe. I want to go back to the rain forests. I saw them so briefly when I went to visit Gretchen. There was a temple there. I want to see it again.

You never told me what happened.

Ah, yes, I told you but you were Raglan at the time. The Body Thief witnessed that little confession. Why on earth would he want to steal such a thing But I'm drifting off the point. There are so many places that I, too, want to go.


It's a lust again for time and for the future, for the mysteries of the natural world. For being the watcher that I became that long-ago night in Paris, when I was forced into it. I lost my illusions. I lost my favorite lies. You might say I revisited that moment and was reborn to darkness of my own free will. And such a will!

Ah, yes, I understand.

Do you That's good if you do.

Why do you speak that way? He lowered his voice and spoke slowly. Do you need my understanding as much as I need yours?

You've never understood me, I said. Oh, it's not an accusation. You live with illusions about me, which make it possible for you to visit with me, to speak with me, even to shelter me and help me. You couldn't do that if you really knew what I was. I tried to tell you. When I spoke of my dreams . . .

You're wrong. That's your vanity talking, he said. You love to imagine you're worse than you are. What dreams I don't remember your ever speaking to me of dreams.

I smiled. You don't Think back, David. My dream of the tiger. I was afraid for you. And now the menace of the dream will be fulfilled.

What do you mean?

I'm going to do it to you, David. I'm going to bring you to me.

What? His voice dropped to a whisper. What are you saying to me? He leant forward, trying to see clearly the expression on my face. But the light was behind us, and his mortal vision wasn't sharp enough for that.

I just told you. I'm going to do it to you, David.

Why, why are you saying this?

Because it's true, I said. I stood up and pushed the chair aside with my leg.

He stared up at me. Only now did his body register the danger. I saw the fine muscles of his arms tense. His eyes were fixed on mine.

Why are you saying this You couldn't do this to me, he said.

Of course I could. And I shall. Now. All along I've told you I was evil. I've told you I'm the very devil. The devil in your Faust, the devil of your visions, the tiger in my dream!

No, that's not true. He climbed to his feet, knocking the chair over behind him, and almost losing his balance. He stepped back into the room. You're not the devil, and you know that you're not. Don't do this to me! I forbid it! He clenched his teeth on the last words. You are in your own heart as human as I am. And you will not do it.

The hell I won't, I said. I laughed. I couldn't help it suddenly. David the Superior General, I said. David the Candomble priest.

He backed across the tiled floor, the light fully illuminating his face, and the tense powerful muscles of his arms.

Want to fight me It's useless. There's no force on earth that can stop me from doing this.

I'll die first, he said, in a low strangled voice. His face was darkening, flushed with blood. Ah, David's blood.

I won't let you die. Why don't you call on your old Brazilian spirits You don't remember how to do it, do you Your heart's not in it. Well, it wouldn't do you the slightest good if you did.

You can't do this, he said. He was struggling for calm. You can't repay me in this fashion.

Oh, but this is how the devil repays his helpers!

Lestat, I helped you against Raglan! I helped you recover this body, and what was your pledge to me of loyalty! What were your words?

I lied to you, David. I lie to myself and to others. That's what my little excursion in the flesh taught me. I lie. You surprise me, David. You're angry, so very angry, but you're not afraid. You're like me, David-you and Claudia-the only ones who really have my strength.

Claudia, he said, with a little nod. Ah, yes, Claudia. I have something for you, my dear friend. He moved away, deliberately turning his back on me, letting me see the fearlessness of this gesture, and he went slowly, refusing to hurry, to the chest beside the bed. When he turned around again he had a small locket in his hands. From the Motherhouse. The locket you described to me.

Oh, yes, the locket. Give it to me.

Only now did I see how his hands shook as he struggled with the little oval gold case. And the fingers, he did not know them so very well, did he At last he had it opened and he thrust it at me, and I looked down at the painted miniature-her face, her eyes, her golden curls. A child staring back at me out of the mask of innocence. Or was this a mask

And slowly, out of the vast dim vortex of memory, came the moment when I had first laid eyes upon that trinket and upon its golden chain . . . when in the dark muddy street, I had happened upon the plague-ridden hovel where her mother lay dead, and the mortal child herself had become food for the vampire, a tiny white body shivering helplessly in Louis's arms.

How I'd laughed at him, how I'd pointed my finger, and then snatched up from the stinking bed the body of the dead woman-Claudia's mother-and danced with it round and round the room. And there gleaming on her throat had been the golden chain and the locket, for not even the boldest thief would have entered that hovel to steal the bauble from the very maw of the plague.

With my left hand I'd caught it, just as I let the poor body drop. The clasp had broken, and I'd swung the chain over my head as if waving a little trophy of the moment and then dropped it in my pocket as I stepped over the body of the dying Claudia and ran after Louis through the street.

It had been months after that I'd found it in that same pocket, and I'd held it to the light. The living child she'd been when that portrait was painted, but the Dark Blood had given her the very saccharine perfection of the artist. It was my Claudia, and in a trunk I'd left it, and how it came to be with the Talamasca, or anywhere, I did not know.

I held it in my hands. I looked up. It was as though I'd just been there, back in that ruined place, and now I was here, and staring at him. He'd been speaking to me but I hadn't heard him, and now his voice came clear:

You would do it to me? he demanded, the timbre betraying him now as his trembling hands betrayed him. Look at her. You would do it to me?

I looked at her tiny face, and back to him.

Yes, David, I said. I told her I would do it again. And I will do it to you.

I pitched the locket out of the room, over the porch, past the sand, and into the sea. The tiny chain was like a scratch of gold on the fabric of the sky for an instant then it disappeared as if into the luminous light.

He drew back with a speed that astonished me, cleaving to the wall.

Don't do this, Lestat.

Don't fight me, old friend. You waste your effort. You have a long night of discovery ahead.

You won't do it! he cried, voice so low it was a guttural roar. He lunged at me, as if he thought he could knock me off balance, and both his fists struck my chest, and I did not move. Back he fell, bruised from his efforts and staring at me with pure outrage in his watering eyes. Once again the blood had flooded into his cheeks, darkening his entire visage. And only now, as he saw for himself the sheer hopelessness of defense, did he try to flee.

I grabbed him by the neck before he reached the porch. I let my fingers massage the flesh as he struggled wildly, like an animal, to tear my grip away and pull himself loose. Slowly I lifted him, and cradling the back of his head effortlessly with my left hand, I drove my teeth through the fine, fragrant young skin of his neck, and caught the first bubbling jet of blood.

Ah, David, my beloved David. Never had I descended into a soul I knew so well. How thick and wondrous the images that enveloped me: the soft beautiful sunlight slicing through the mangrove forest, the crunch of the high grass on the veldt, the boom of the great gun, and the shiver of the earth beneath the elephant's pounding feet. It was all there: all the summer rains washing endlessly through the jungles, and the water swimming up the pilings and over the boards of the porch, and the sky flashing with lightning-and his heart pounding beneath it with rebellion, with recrimination, you betray me, you betray me, you take me against my will-and the deep rich salty heat of the blood itself.

I flung him backwards. That was enough for the first drink. I watched him struggle to his knees. What had he seen in those seconds Did he know now how dark and willful was my soul

You love me? I said. I am your only friend in this world?

I watched him crawl across the tiles. He grabbed for the footboard of the bed and raised himself, then fell back, dizzy, to the floor. Again, he struggled.

Ah, let me help you! I said. I spun him around and lifted him and sank my teeth in those very same tiny wounds.

For love of God, stop, don't do it. Lestat, I'm begging you, don't do it.

Beg in vain, David. Oh, how scrumptious this young body, these hands shoving at me, even in the trance, what a will you have, my beautiful friend. And now we are in old Brazil, are we not, we are in the tiny room, and he is calling the names of the Candomble spirits, he is calling, and will the spirits come

I let him go. Again he sank on his knees, then keeled over on his side, eyes staring forward. That's enough for the second assault.

There was a faint rattling sound in the room. A faint knocking.

Oh, do we have company We have little invisible friends Yes, look, the mirror is wobbling. It's going to fall! And then it hit the tiles and exploded like so many pieces of light coming loose from the frame.

He was trying to get up again.

You know what they feel like, David Can you hear me They are like many silk banners unfurled around me. That weak.

I watched as he gained his knees again. Once more he was crawling across the floor. Suddenly he rose, pitching forward. He snatched up the book from beside the computer, and turning, hurled it at me. It fell at my feet. He was reeling. He could scarce keep standing, his eyes clouded.

And then he turned and almost fell forward into the little porch, stumbling over the rail and towards the beach.

I came behind him, following him as he staggered down the slope of white sand. The thirst rose, knowing only that the blood had come seconds before, and that it must have more. When he reached the water, he stood there, tottering, only an iron will keeping him from collapse.

I took him by the shoulder, tenderly, embracing him with my right arm.

No, damn you, damn you into hell. No, he said. With all his waning strength he struck at me, shoving at my face with his doubled fist, tearing the flesh of the knuckles as it struck the unyielding skin.

I twisted him around, watching as he kicked at my legs, as he struck me again and again with those soft impotent hands; and again I nuzzled in against his neck, licking it, smelling it, and then sinking my teeth for the third time. Hmmm . . . this is ecstasy. Could that other body, worn with age, have ever yielded such a feast I felt the heel of his hand against my face. Oh, so strong. So very strong. Yes, fight me, fight me as I fought Magnus. So sweet that you are fighting me. I love it. I do.

And what was it this time as I went into the swoon The purest of prayers coming from him, not to gods we didn't believe in, not to a crucified Christ or an old Virgin Queen. But prayers to me. Lestat, my friend. Don't take my life. Don't. Let me go.

Hmmm. I slipped my arm ever more tightly around his chest. Then drew back, licking at the wounds.

You choose your friends badly, David, I whispered, licking the blood from my lips, and looking down into his face. He was almost dead. How beautiful these strong even white teeth of his, and the tender flesh of the lip. Only the whites showed beneath his eyelids. And how his heart fought-this young, flawless mortal heart. Heart that had sent the blood pumping through my brain. Heart that had skipped and stopped when I knew fear, when I saw the approach of death.

I laid my ear against his chest, listening. I heard the ambulance screaming through Georgetown. Don't let me die.

I saw him in that dream hotel room of long ago with Louis and with Claudia. Are we all but random creatures in the devil's dreams

The heart was slowing. The moment had almost come. One more little drink, my friend.

I lifted him and carried him up the beach and back into the room. I kissed the tiny wounds, licking at them and sucking them with my lips, and then letting my teeth go in again. A spasm passed through him, a little cry escaped his lips.

I love you, he whispered.

Yes, and I love you, I answered, words smothered against the flesh, as the blood spurted hot and irresistible once again.

The heartbeat came ever more slowly. He was tumbling through memories, back to the very cradle, beyond the sharp distinct syllables of language, and moaning to himself as if to the old melody of a song.

His warm heavy body was pressed against me, arms dangling, head held in my left fingers, eyes closed. The soft moaning died away, and the heart raced suddenly with tiny, muffled beats.

I bit into my tongue, until I couldn't stand the pain. Again and again I made the punctures with my own fang teeth, moving my tongue to the right and to the left, and then I locked my mouth to his, forcing his lips open, and let the blood flow onto his tongue.

It seemed that time stood still. There came that unmistakable taste of my own blood leaking into my own mouth, as it leaked into his. Then suddenly his teeth snapped closed on my tongue. They snapped down upon it menacingly and sharply, with all the mortal strength in his jaws, and scraped at the preternatural flesh, scraping the blood out of the gash I'd made, and biting so hard that it seemed they would sever the tongue itself if they could.

The violent spasm shot through him. His back arched against my arm. And when I drew back now, my mouth full of pain, my tongue hurting, he drew up, hungering, eyes still blind. I tore my wrist. Here it comes, my beloved. Here it comes, not in little droplets, but from the very river of my being. And this time when the mouth clamped down upon me, it was a pain that reached all the way down to the roots of my being, tangling my heart in its burning mesh.

For you, David. Drink deep. Be strong.

It could not kill me now, no matter how long it lasted. I knew it, and memories of those bygone times when I had done it in fear seemed clumsy and foolish, fading even as I recollected them, and leaving me here alone with him.

I knelt on the floor, holding him, letting the pain spread through every vein and every artery as I knew it must. And the heat and the pain grew so strong in me that I lay down slowly with him in my arms, my wrist sealed against his mouth, my hand still beneath his head. A dizziness came over me. The beating of my own heart grew perilously slow. On and on he pulled, and against the bright darkness of my closed eyes I saw the thousands upon thousands of tiny vessels emptied and contracted and sagging like the fine black filaments of a spider's wind-torn web.

We were in the hotel room again in old New Orleans, and Claudia sat quietly on the chair. Outside, the little city winked here and there with its dull lamps. How dark and heavy the sky overhead, with no hint of the great aurora of the cities to come.

I told you I would do it again, I said to Claudia.

Why do you bother to explain to me, she asked. You know perfectly well that I never asked you any questions about it. I've been dead for years and years.

I opened my eyes.

I lay on the cold tiled floor of the room, and he was standing over me, looking down at me, and the electric light was shining on his face. And now his eyes were brown no longer; they were filled with a soft dazzling golden light. An unnatural sheen had already invaded his sleek dark skin, paling it ever so slightly and rendering it more perfectly golden, and his hair had already taken on that evil, gorgeous luster, all the illumination gathered to him and reflected off him and playing around him as if it found him irresistible-this tall angelic man with the blank and dazed expression on his face.

He didn't speak. And I could not read his expression. Only I knew the wonders that he beheld. I knew when he looked around him-at the lamp, at the broken fragments of mirror, at the sky outside-what he saw.

Again he looked at me.

You're hurt, he whispered.

I heard the blood in his voice!

Are you Are you hurt?

For the love of God, I answered in a raw, torn voice. How can you care if I'm hurt?

He shrank back away from me, eyes widening, as if with each passing second his vision expanded, and then he turned and it was as if he'd forgotten that I was there. He kept staring in the same enchanted fashion. And then, doubling over with pain, grimacing with it, he turned and made his way out over the little porch and to the sea.

I sat up. The entire room shimmered. I had given him every drop of blood that he could take. The thirst paralyzed me, and I could scarce remain steady. I wrapped my arm around my knee and tried to sit there without falling down again in sheer weakness on the floor.

I held my left hand up so that I might see it in the light. The little veins were raised on the back of it, yet they were smoothing out as I watched.

I could feel my heart pumping lustily. And keen and terrible though the thirst was, I knew that it could wait. I knew no more than a sick mortal as to why I was healing from what I had ,done. But some dark engine inside me was working busily and silently upon my restoration, as if this fine killing machine must be cured of all weakness so that it may hunt again.

When I finally climbed to my feet, I was myself. I had given him far more blood than ever I had given the others I'd made. It was finished. I'd done it right. He'd be so very strong! Lord God, he'd be stronger than the old ones.

But I had to find him. He was dying now. I had to help him, even if he tried to drive me away.

I found him waist deep in the water. He was shuddering, and in such pain that small gasps were coming from him, though he tried to keep quiet. He had the locket, and the gold chain was wrapped round his clenched hand.

I put my arm around him to steady him. I told him it would not last very long at all. And when it was gone, it would be gone forever. He nodded his head.

After a little while, I could feel his muscles loosening. I urged him to follow me into the shallow waves, where we could walk more easily, no matter what our strength, and together we walked down the beach.

You're going to have to feed, I said. Do you think you can do that alone?

He shook his head no.

All right, I'll take you and show you all you need to know. But first the waterfall up there. I can hear it. Can you hear it You can wash yourself clean.

He nodded, and followed me, his head bowed, his arm still locked around his waist, his body now and then tensing with the last of the violent cramps which death always brings.

When we reached the waterfall, he stepped over the treacherous rocks easily and stripped away his shorts, and stood naked under the great rushing downpour, and let it pass over his face and all his body and his wide-open eyes. There was a moment when he shook himself all over, and spit out the water which had come accidentally into his mouth.

I watched, feeling stronger and stronger as the seconds passed. Then I leapt up, high above the waterfall, and landed upon the cliff. I could see him down there, a tiny figure, standing back, with the spray covering him, gazing up at me.

Can you come to me? I said softly.

He nodded. Excellent that he had heard it. He stood back and made a great leap, springing out of the water, and landing on the sloped face of the cliff only several yards below me, hands easily clutching the wet slippery rocks. Over these he climbed without once looking down until he stood at my side.

I was quite frankly astonished at his strength. But it was not merely his strength. It was his utter fearlessness. And he himself seemed to have forgotten about it entirely. He was merely looking off again, at the rolling clouds, and the soft shimmering sky. He was looking at the stars, and then inland at the jungle running down over the cliffs above.

Can you feel the thirst? I asked. He nodded, looking at me only in passing, and then looking out to the sea.

All right, now we go back to your old rooms, and you dress properly to prowl the mortal world and we go into town.

That far? he asked. He pointed to the horizon. There's a little boat out that way.

I scanned for it, and saw it through the eyes of a man on board. A cruel unsavory creature. It was a smuggling venture. And he was bitter that he'd been left by drunken cohorts to do it alone.

All right, I said. We'll go together.

No, he said. I think I should go ... alone.

He turned without waiting for my answer, and quickly and gracefully descended to the beach. He moved out like a streak of light through the shallows and dove into the waves and began to swim with powerful swift strokes.

I walked down the edge of the cliff, found a small rugged path, and followed it listlessly until I reached the room. I stared at the wreckage-the broken mirror, the table overturned and *| the computer lying on its side, the book fallen on the floor. The chair lying on its back on the little porch.

I turned and went out.

I went back up to the gardens. The moon was risen very high, and I walked up the gravel path to the very edge of the highest point and stood there looking down on the thin ribbon of white beach and the soft soundless sea.

At last I sat down, against the trunk of a great dark tree with branches spreading over me in an airy canopy, and I rested my arm on my knee and my head on my arm.

An hour passed.

I heard him coming, walking up the gravel path fast and light, with a footfall no mortal ever made. When I looked up I saw he was bathed and dressed, and even his hair was combed, and the scent of the blood he'd drunk was lingering, perhaps coming from his lips. He was no weak and fleshly creature like Louis, oh, no, he was far stronger than that. And the process had not finished. The pains of his death had finished, but he was hardening even as I looked at him, and the soft golden gleam of his skin was enchanting to behold.

Why did you do it? he demanded. What a mask was this face. And then it flashed with anger as he spoke again. Why did you do it?

I don't know.

Oh, don't give me that. And don't give me those tears! Why did you do it!

I tell you the truth. I don't know. I could give you all the many reasons, but I don't know. I did it because I wanted to do it, because I wanted to. Because I wanted to see what would happen if I did it, I wanted to ... and I couldn't not do it. I knew that when I went back to New Orleans. I... waited and I waited, but I couldn't not do it. And now it's done.

You miserable, lying bastard. You did it from cruelty and meanness! You did it because your little experiment with the Body Thief went wrong! And out of it came this miracle to me, this youth, this rebirth, and it infuriated you that such a thing could happen, that I should profit when you had suffered so!

Maybe that's true!

It is true. Admit it. Admit the pettiness of it. Admit the meanness, that you couldn't bear to let me slip into the future with this body which you hadn't the courage to endure!

Perhaps so.

He drew in close and tried to drag me to my feet with a firm, insistent grip on my arm. Nothing happened, of course. He could not move me an inch.

You're still not strong enough to play those games, I said. If you don't stop, I'll hit you and knock you flat on your back. You won't like it. You're too dignified to like it. So leave off with the cheap mortal fisticuffs, please.

He turned his back on me, folding his arms, bowing his head.

I could hear the small desperate noises that came from him, and I could almost feel the anguish. He walked away, and I buried my face again in my arm.

But then I heard him coming back.

Why I want something from you. I want an admission of some kind.

No, I said.

He reached out and snatched at my hair, tangling his fingers in it, and jerking my head up as the pain shot over the surface of my scalp.

You're really pushing it, David, I growled at him, pulling myself loose. One more little trick like that and I'm going to drop you at the bottom of the cliff.

But when I saw his face, when I saw the suffering in him, I grew quiet.

He went down on his knees before me so that we were almost eye-to-eye.

Why, Lestat? he asked, and his voice was torn and sad, and it broke my heart.

Overcome with shame, overcome with misery, I pressed my closed eyes again on my right arm, and brought up my left to cover my head. And nothing, not all his pleas or curses or cries against me or his final quiet departure, could make me look up again.

Well before morning I went to search for him. The little room was now straightened, and his suitcase lay on the bed. The computer had been folded up, and the copy of Faust lay upon its smooth plastic case.

But he was not there. I searched all about the hotel for him, but I couldn't find him. I searched the gardens, and then the woodlands in one direction and another, but with no luck.

At last I found a small cave high on the mountain, and dug down deep into it and slept.

What is the use of describing my misery Of describing the dull dark pain I felt What is the use of saying I knew the full measure of my injustice, my dishonor, and my cruelty I knew the magnitude of what I'd done to him.

I knew myself and all my evil to the fullest and I expected nothing back from the world now except the very same evil in kind.

I woke as soon as the sun had gone into the sea. On a high bluff I watched the twilight and then went down into the streets of the town to hunt. It wasn't too long before the usual thief tried to lay hands on me and rob me, and I carried him with me into a little alleyway and there drained him slowly and very enjoyably, only steps from the tourists passing by. I concealed his body in the very depths of the alley and went on my way.

And what was my way

I went back to the hotel. His possessions were still there but he was not. Once again, I searched, fighting an awful fear that he had already done away with himself, and then realizing that he was far too strong for that to be a simple thing. Even if he had lain out in the fury of the sun, which I strongly doubted, he could not have been wholly destroyed.

Yet I was plagued by every conceivable fear: Perhaps, he had been so burnt and crippled that he could not help himself. He had been discovered by mortals. Or perhaps the others had come, and stolen him completely away. Or he would reappear and curse me again. I feared that too.

Finally I made my way back down to Bridgetown, unable to leave the island until I knew what had become of him.

I was still there an hour before dawn.

And the next night I did not find him. Nor the night after that.

At last, bruised in mind and soul, and telling myself I deserved nothing but misery, I went home.

The warmth of spring had come to New Orleans, finally, and I found her swarming with the usual tourists beneath a clear and purple evening sky. I went first to my old house to take Mojo from the care of the old woman, who was not at all glad to give him up, save that he had obviously missed me very much.

Then he and I together proceeded to the Rue Royale.

I knew the flat wasn't empty even before I reached the top of the back stairs. I paused for a moment, looking down on the restored courtyard with its scrubbed flagstones and romantic little fountain, complete with cherubs and their great cornucopia-style shells pouring forth a splash of clean water into the basin below.

A bed of dark sweet flowers had been planted against the old brick wall, and a stand of bananas was already thriving in the corner, long graceful knifelike leaves nodding in the breeze.

This gladdened my vicious selfish little heart beyond words.

I went inside. The back parlour had finally been finished, and beautifully laid out with the fine antique chairs I'd selected for it, and the thick pale Persian carpet of faded red.

I looked up and down the length of the hallway, past the fresh wallpaper of gold and white stripes, and over the yards of dark carpet, and I saw Louis standing in the front parlour door.

Don't ask me where I've been or what I've done, I said. I walked towards him, brushed him aside, and went into the room. Ah, it surpassed all my expectations. There were a very replica of his old desk between the windows, and the camelback sofa of silver damask, and the oval table inlaid with mahogany. And the spinet against the far wall.

I know where you've been, he said, and I know what you've done.

Oh And what's to follow Some stultifying and endless lecture Tell me now. So I can go to sleep.

I turned around to face him, to see what effect this stiff rebuff had had, if any, and there stood David beside him, dressed very well in black fine-combed velvet, and with his arms folded across his chest, and leaning against the frame of the door.

They were both looking at me, with their pale, expressionless faces, David presenting the darker, taller figure, but how amazingly similar they appeared. It only penetrated to me slowly that Louis had dressed for this little occasion, and for once, in clothes which did not look as if they'd come from an attic trunk.

It was David who spoke first.

The carnival starts tomorrow in Rio, he said, the voice even more seductive than it had ever been in mortal life. I thought we might go.

I stared at him with obvious suspicion. It seemed a dark light infused his expression. There was a hard luster to his eyes. But the mouth was so gentle, without a hint of malevolence, or bitterness. No menace emanated from him at all.

Then Louis roused himself from his reverie and quietly moved away down the hall and into his old room. How I knew that old pattern of faintly creaking boards and steps!

I was powerfully confused, and a little breathless.

I sat down on the couch, and beckoned for Mojo to come, who seated himself right in front of me, leaning his heavy weight against my legs.

You mean this? I asked. You want us to go there together? I asked.

Yes, he said. And after that, the rain forests. What if we should go there Deep into those forests. He unfolded his arms and, bowing his head, began to pace with long slow steps. You said something to me, I don't remember when... Maybe it was an image I caught from you before it all happened, something about a temple which mortals didn't know of, lost in the depths of the jungle. Ah, think of how many such discoveries there must be.

Ah, how genuine the feeling, how resonant the voice.

Why have you forgiven me? I asked.

He stopped his pacing, and looked at me, and I was so distracted by the evidence of the blood in him, and how it had changed his skin and hair and eyes, that I couldn't think for a moment. I held up my hand, begging him not to speak. Why did I never get used to this magic I dropped my hand, allowing him, nay, bidding him, to go on.

You knew I would, he said, assuming his old measured and restrained tone. You knew when you did it that I'd go on loving you. That I'd need you. That I would seek you out and cling to you of all the beings in this world.

Oh, no. I swear I didn't, I whispered.

I went off awhile to punish you. You're past all patience, really you are. You are the damnedest creature, as you've been called by wiser beings than I. But you knew I'd come back. You knew I'd be here.

No, I never dreamt it.

Don't start weeping again.

I like to weep. I must. Why else would I do it so much?

Well, stop!

Oh, it's going to be fun, isn't it You think you are the leader of this little coven, don't you, and you're going to start bossing me around.

Come again?

You don't even look like the elder of the two of us anymore, and you never were the elder. You let my beautiful and irresistible visage deceive you in the simplest and most foolish way. I'm the leader. This is my house. I shall say if we go to Rio.

He began to laugh. Slowly at first, and then more deeply and freely. If there was menace in him it was only in the great flashing shifts of expression, the dark glint in his eyes. But I wasn't sure there was any menace at all.

You are the leader? he asked scornfully. The old authority.

Yes, I am. So you ran off... you wanted to show me you could get along without me. You could hunt for yourself; you could find a hiding place by day. You didn't need me. But here you are!

Are you coming with us to Rio or not?

Coming with us! Did you say 'us'?

I did.

He walked over to the chair nearest the end of the couch and sat down. It penetrated to me that obviously he was already in full command of his new powers. And I, of course, couldn't gauge how strong he truly was merely by looking at him. The dark tone of his skin concealed too much. He crossed his legs and fell into an easy posture of relaxation, but with David's dignity intact.

Perhaps it was a matter of the way his back remained straight against the chair behind him, or the elegant way his hand rested on his ankle, and the other arm molded itself to the arm of the chair.

Only the thick wavy brown hair betrayed the dignity somewhat, tumbling down on his forehead so that finally he gave a little unconscious toss to his head.

But quite suddenly his composure melted; his face bore all the sudden lines of serious confusion, and then pure distress.

I couldn't stand it. But I forced myself to be silent.

I tried to hate you, he confessed, the eyes widening even as the voice nearly died away. I couldn't do it; it's as simple as that. And for one moment there was the menace, the great preternatural anger, glaring out of him, before the face became perfectly miserable and then merely sad.

Why not?

Don't play with me.

I've never played with you! I mean these things when I say them. How can you not hate me?

I'd be making the same mistake you made if I hated you, he said, eyebrows raised. Don't you see what you've done You've given me the gift, but you spared me the capitulation. You've brought me over with all your skill and all your strength, but you didn't require of me the moral defeat. You took the decision from me, and gave me what I could not help but want.

I was speechless. It was all true, but it was the damnedest lie I'd ever heard. Then rape and murder are our paths to glory! I don't buy it. They are filthy. We are all damned and now you are too. And that's what I've done to you.

He bore that as if it were a series of soft slaps, merely flinching just a little and then fixing his eyes on me again.

It took you two hundred years to learn that you wanted it, he said. I knew the moment I woke out of the stupor and saw you lying there on the floor. You looked like an empty shell to me. I knew you'd gone too far with it. I was in terror for you. And I was seeing you with these new eyes.


Do you know what went through my mind I thought you'd found a way to die. You'd given me every drop of blood in you. And now you yourself were perishing before my very eyes. I knew I loved you. I knew I forgave you. And I knew with every breath I took and with every new color or shape I saw before me that I wanted what you'd given me-the new vision and life, which none of us can really describe! Oh, I couldn't admit it. I had to curse you, fight you for a little while. But that's all it was in the end-a little while.

You're much smarter than I am, I said softly.

Well, of course, what did you expect?

I smiled. I settled back on the couch.

Ah, this is the Dark Trick, I whispered. How right they were, the old ones, to give it that name. I wonder if the trick's on me. For this is a vampire sitting here with me, a blood drinker of enormous power, my child, and what are old emotions to him now?

I looked at him, and once more I felt the tears coming. They never let me down.

He was frowning, and his lips were slightly parted, and it seemed now I truly had dealt him a terrible blow. But he didn't speak to me. He seemed puzzled, and then he gave a little shake of his head as though he couldn't reply.

I realized that it wasn't vulnerability I saw in him now so much as compassion, and blatant concern for me.

He left the chair suddenly, dropping to his knees in front of me, and putting his hands on my shoulders, completely ignoring my faithful Mojo, who stared at him with indifferent eyes.

Did he realize this was how I'd faced Claudia in my fever dream

You're the same, he said. He shook his head. The very same. .??The same as what?

Oh, every time you ever came to me, you touched me; you wrung from me a deep protectiveness. You made me feel love. And it's the same now. Only you seem all the more lost and in need of me now. I'm to take you forward, I see it clearly. I'm your link with the future. It's through me that you'll see the years ahead.

You're the same too. An absolute innocent. A bloody fool. I tried to brush his hand off my shoulder, but didn't succeed. You're headed for great trouble. Just wait and see.

Oh, how exciting. Now, come, we must go to Rio. We must not miss anything of the carnival. Though of course we can go again . . . and again . . . and again . . . But come.

I sat very still, looking at him for the longest time, until finally he became concerned again. His fingers were quite strong as they pressed my shoulders. Yes, I had done well with him in every step.

What is it? he asked timidly. Are you grieving for me?

Perhaps, a little. As you've said, I'm not as clever as you are at knowing what I want. But I think I'm trying to fix this moment in my mind. I want to remember it always-I want to remember the way you are now, here with me ... before things start to go wrong.

He stood up, pulling me suddenly to my feet, with scarcely any effort at all. There was a soft triumphant smile on his face as he noted my amazement.

Oh, this is going to be really something, this little tussle, I said.

Well, you can fight with me in Rio, while we are dancing in the streets.

He beckoned for me to follow him. I wasn't sure what we would do next or how we would make this journey, but I was wondrously excited, and I honestly didn't care about the small aspects of it at all.

Of course Louis would have to be persuaded to come, but we would gang up on him, and somehow lure him into it, no matter how reticent he was.

I was about to follow him out of the room, when something caught my eye. It was on Louis's old desk.

It was the locket of Claudia. The chain was coiled there, catching the light with its tiny gold links, and the oval case itself was open and propped against the inkwell, and the little face seemed to be peering directly at me.

I reached down and picked up the locket, and looked very closely at the little picture. And a sad realization came to me.

She was no longer the real memories. She had become those fever dreams. She was the image in the jungle hospital, a figure standing against the sun in Georgetown, a ghost rushing through the shadows of Notre Dame. In life she'd never been my conscience! Not Claudia, my merciless Claudia. What a dream! A pure dream.

A dark secret smile stole over my lips as I looked at her, bitter and on the edge, once more, of tears. For nothing had changed in the realization that I had given her the words of accusation. The very same thing was true. There had been the opportunity for salvation-and I had said no.

I wanted to say something to her as I held the locket; I wanted to say something to the being she had been, and to my own weakness, and to the greedy wicked being in me who had once again triumphed. For I had. I had won.

Yes, I wanted to say something so terribly much! And would that it were full of poetry, and deep meaning, and would ransom my greed and my evil, and my lusty little heart. For I was going to Rio, wasn't I, and with David, and with Louis, and a new era was beginning . . .

Yes, say something-for the love of heaven and the love of Claudia-to darken it and show it for what it is! Dear God, to lance it and show the horror at the core.

But I could not.

What more is there to say, really

The tale is told.

Lestat de Lioncourt New Orleans 1991

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