2018年4月7日 星期六

Ama

LOUIS
“ITS HOUR COME AT LAST”
TRINITY GATE WAS QUIET TONIGHT, EXCEPT FOR SYBELLE AND ANTOINE PLAYING A DUET IN THE DRAWING ROOM AND BENJI UPSTAIRS TALKING CONFIDENTIALLY TO HIS BEST FRIEND WHO JUST HAPPENED TO BE THE WHOLE WORLD.
RHOSHAMANDES AND BENEDICT HAD GONE TO THE OPERA WITH ALLESANDRA. ARMAND AND DANIEL MALLOY WERE OUT HUNTING ALONE IN THE GENTLE WARM RAIN.
FLAVIUS, AVICUS, ZENOBIA, AND DAVIS HAD GONE HOME TO GENEVA, ALONG WITH AN EAGER, DESPERATE BLOOD DRINKER NAMED KILLER WHO HAD SHOWN UP AT THE DOOR, IN OLD WEST GARB OF DUNGAREES AND A SHAGGY-SLEEVED BUCKSKIN JACKET BEGGING TO BE ALLOWED IN. FRIEND OF DAVIS, THE BELOVED OF GREGORY. THEY’D WELCOMED HIM AT ONCE.
JESSE AND DAVID WERE IN THE AMAZON AT MAHARET’S OLD SANCTUARY WITH SETH AND FAREED.
SEVRAINE AND HER FAMILY HAD ALSO GONE HOME, AND SO HAD NOTKER AND THE MUSICIANS AND SINGERS FROM THE ALPS.
MARIUS REMAINED, WORKING IN THE TUDOR LIBRARY, ON THE RULES HE WOULD PRESENT TO LESTAT IN TIME. EVERARD DE LANDEN REMAINED WITH HIM, PORING OVER AN OLD BOOK OF ELIZABETHAN POETRY, INTERRUPTING MARIUS SOFTLY NOW AND THEN TO ASK THE MEANING OF A PHRASE OR A WORD.
AND LESTAT WAS GONE, GONE WITH GABRIELLE AND WITH ROSE AND VIKTOR, AND WITH PANDORA AND ARJUN, AND BIANCA SOLDERINI, AND FLAVIUS, AND WITH GREGORY AND CHRYSANTHE—TO HIS CASTLE IN THE MOUNTAINS OF THE MASSIF CENTRAL TO PREPARE FOR THE FIRST GREAT RECEPTION OF THE NEW COURT TO WHICH THEY WOULD ALL COME. HOW FINE AND PERFECT VIKTOR AND ROSE WERE. AND HOW THEY LOVED EACH OTHER STILL, AND HOW THEY’D WELCOMED THEIR NEW VISION, THEIR NEW POWERS, THEIR NEW HOPES. AH, JUST BRAVE FLEDGLINGS.
ONLY A LITTLE RAIN FELL ON THIS GARDEN BENCH BEHIND THE TOWNHOUSE, TUCKED AS IT WAS BENEATH THE LARGEST OF THE OAKS, THE RAINDROPS SINGING IN THE LEAVES OVERHEAD.
LOUIS SAT THERE, BACK TO THE TRUNK OF THE TREE, A COPY OF HIS MEMOIR, INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE, THE MEMOIR THAT HAD SPARKED THE VAMPIRE CHRONICLES, OPEN ON HIS LAP. HE WORE HIS FAVORITE OLD DARK COAT, A LITTLE THREADBARE BUT SO COMFORTABLE, AND HIS FAVORITE OLD FLANNEL TROUSERS AND A FINE WHITE SHIRT ARMAND HAD FORCED UPON HIM WITH BUTTONS OF PEARL AND OUTRAGEOUS LACE. BUT LOUIS HAD NEVER REALLY MINDED LACE.
UNSEASONABLY WARM FOR SEPTEMBER. BUT HE LIKED IT. LIKED THE DAMPNESS IN THE AIR, LIKED THE MUSIC OF THE RAIN, AND LOVED THE SEAMLESS AND NEVER-ENDING ROAR OF THE CITY, AS MUCH A PART OF IT AS THE GREAT RIVER WAS A PART OF NEW ORLEANS, THE INNUMERABLE POPULATION AROUND HIM HOLDING HIM SAFE IN THIS TINY WALLED PLACE THAT WAS THEIR GARDEN, WHERE THE LILIES OPENED THEIR WHITE THROATS AND POWDERY YELLOW TONGUES TO THE RAIN.
ON THE PAGE, LOUIS READ THE WORDS HE’D SPOKEN YEARS AGO TO DANIEL MALLOY WHEN DANIEL HAD BEEN AN EAGER AND ENCHANTED HUMAN, LISTENING TO LOUIS SO DESPERATELY, AND HIS TAPE RECORDER HAD SEEMED SUCH AN EXOTIC NOVELTY, THE TWO TOGETHER IN THAT BARE DUSTY ROOM ON DIVISADERO STREET IN SAN FRANCISCO, UNNOTICED BY THE UNDEAD WORLD.
“ ‘I WANTED LOVE AND GOODNESS IN THIS WHICH IS LIVING DEATH. IT WAS IMPOSSIBLE FROM THE BEGINNING, BECAUSE YOU CANNOT HAVE LOVE AND GOODNESS WHEN YOU DO WHAT YOU KNOW TO BE EVIL, WHAT YOU KNOW TO BE WRONG.’ ”
WITH HIS WHOLE BEING LOUIS HAD BELIEVED THOSE WORDS; AND THEY HAD SHAPED THE BLOOD DRINKER THAT HE WAS THEN, AND THE BLOOD DRINKER HE REMAINED AFTER FOR MANY A YEAR.
AND WAS THAT DARK CONVICTION NOT STILL INSIDE HIM, UNDER THE VENEER OF THE RESIGNED AND CONTENTED CREATURE HE APPEARED TO BE NOW?
HE DIDN’T HONESTLY KNOW. HE REMEMBERED COMPLETELY HOW HE HAD SPOKEN THEN OF CHASING “PHANTOM GOODNESS” IN ITS HUMAN FORM. HE LOOKED DOWN AT THE PAGE.
“ ‘NO ONE COULD IN ANY GUISE CONVINCE ME OF WHAT I MYSELF KNEW TO BE TRUE, THAT I WAS DAMNED IN MY OWN MIND AND SOUL.’ ”
WHAT HAD REALLY CHANGED? HE’D LEARNED ONCE MORE SOMEHOW, AFTER LESTAT HAD SHATTERED THE UNDEAD REALM WITH HIS ANTICS AND HIS PRONOUNCEMENTS, TO LIVE FROM NIGHT TO NIGHT IN A SEMBLANCE OF HAPPINESS, AND TO SEEK FOR GRACE ONCE MORE IN THE MUSIC OF OPERAS, SYMPHONIES, AND CHORUSES, AND IN THE SPLENDOR OF PAINTINGS OLD AND NEW, AND IN THE SIMPLE MIRACLE OF HUMAN VITALITY ALL AROUND HIM—WITH ARMAND AND BENJI AND SYBELLE AT HIS SIDE. HE HAD LEARNED HIS OLD THEOLOGY WAS USELESS TO HIM AND PERHAPS ALWAYS HAD BEEN, AN INCURABLE CANKER INSIDE HIM RATHER THAN A SPARK TO KINDLE ANY KIND OF HOPE OR FAITH.
BUT NOW A NEW VISION HAD TAKEN HOLD OF HIM, A NEW WITNESS TO SOMETHING HE COULD NO LONGER DENY. HIS MIND WAS NO LONGER STUBBORN AND LOCKED AGAINST ITS VAGRANT POSSIBILITIES AND WILD, ESCALATING LIGHT.
WHAT IF THE OLD SENSIBILITIES THAT HAD FORGED HIM HAD NOT BEEN THE SACROSANCT REVELATION THAT HE HAD ONCE ASSUMED? WHAT IF IT WERE POSSIBLE TO INVEST EVERY CELL OF HIS BEING WITH A GRATITUDE AND ACCEPTANCE OF SELF THAT COULD BRING NOT MERE CONTENTMENT BUT CERTAIN JOY?
IT SEEMED IMPOSSIBLE.
YET UNDENIABLY, HE FELT IT HAPPENING. HE FELT SOME OVERALL QUICKENING THAT WAS SO SURPRISINGLY NEW FOR HIM THAT NO ONE SAVE HIMSELF COULD OR WOULD UNDERSTAND. BUT NO OTHER UNDERSTANDING WAS NEEDED. HE KNEW THIS.
FOR WHAT HE’D BEEN, THE BEING HE’D BEEN, REQUIRED NO CONFESSIONS TO THOSE HE KNEW AND LOVED, BUT ONLY THAT HE LOVE THEM AND AFFIRM THEIR PURPOSE WITH HIS TRANSFORMED SOUL. AND IF HE HAD ONCE BEEN THE SOUL OF AN AGE AS ARMAND HAD LONG AGO TOLD HIM HE WAS, WELL, SO BE IT, BECAUSE HE SAW THAT DARK AND LUSTROUS AGE WITH ITS DECAYED BELIEFS AND DOOMED REBELLIONS AS ONLY A BEGINNING—A VAST AND FERTILE KINDERGARTEN IN WHICH THE TERMS OF HIS STRUGGLE HAD NOT BEEN WITHOUT VALUE BUT WERE NOW MOST CERTAINLY THE PHANTOMS OF A PAST FROM WHICH HE HAD, IN SPITE OF HIMSELF, EXORABLY EMERGED.
HE HAD NOT PERISHED. THAT MIGHT BE HIS ONLY SIGNIFICANT ACCOMPLISHMENT. HE HAD SURVIVED. YES, HE’D BEEN DEFEATED, MORE THAN ONCE. BUT FORTUNE HAD REFUSED TO RELEASE HIM. AND HE WAS HERE NOW, WHOLE, AND QUIETLY ACCEPTING OF THE FACT THOUGH HE HONESTLY DID NOT KNOW WHY.
BUT WHAT LOOMED AHEAD OF HIM NOW WERE CHALLENGES MORE WONDROUS AND SPLENDID THAN HE’D EVER FORESEEN. AND HE WANTED THIS, THIS FUTURE, THIS TIME IN WHICH “HELL WOULD HAVE NO DOMINION” AND IN WHICH THE DEVIL’S ROAD HAD BECOME THE ROAD OF THE PEOPLE OF DARKNESS, WHO WERE ESSENTIALLY CHILDREN NO MORE.
THIS WAS BEYOND HAPPINESS AND BEYOND CONTENTMENT. THIS WAS NOTHING OTHER THAN PEACE.
FROM THE DEPTHS OF THE TOWNHOUSE CAME THE MUSIC OF ANTOINE AND SYBELLE WITH A NEW MELODY, A FURIOUS TCHAIKOVSKY WALTZ, AH, THE WALTZ OF “THE SLEEPING BEAUTY,” AND ON AND ON THE MUSIC SURGED IN ANTOINE’S MAGNIFICENT GLISSANDOS, AND SYBELLE’S POUNDING CHORDS.
OH, HOW DIFFERENTLY HE HEARD THIS TRIUMPHAL MUSIC NOW THAN HE HAD ONCE HEARD IT, AND HOW HE OPENED HIMSELF TO IT, ACKNOWLEDGING ITS MAGNIFICENT CLAIMS.
HE CLOSED HIS EYES. WAS HE MAKING LYRICS FOR THIS SWIRLING MELODY, WAS HE FORMING SOME AFFIRMATION FOR HIS SOUL? “YES, AND I DO WANT THIS, YES, I DO TAKE IT, YES, I HOLD IT IN MY HEART, THE WILL TO KNOW THIS BEAUTY FOREVER, THE WILL TO LET IT BE THE LIGHT ON MY PATH.…”
ON THEY WENT, FASTER AND FASTER, THE PIANO AND THE VIOLIN SINGING OF GAIETY AND GLORY AS IF THEY HAD ALWAYS BEEN ONE.
A RANDOM NOISE PIERCED HIS THOUGHTS. SOMETHING WRONG. BE EN GARDE. THE MUSIC HAD STOPPED.
OVER THE TOP OF THE BRICK WALL TO HIS LEFT, HE SAW A HUMAN CROUCHED IN THE DARKNESS, INCAPABLE OF SEEING HIM THERE AS HE SAW THE HUMAN. HE HEARD THE SOFT STEALTHY SOUNDS OF SYBELLE AND ANTOINE DRAWING NEAR TO THE GLASS PORCH THAT RAN ALONG THE BACK OF THE THREE TOWNHOUSES. HE HEARD THE MORTAL INTRUDER’S LABORED BREATH.
THE INTRUDER, DRESSED IN BLACK GARMENTS AND BLACK SKULL CAP, DROPPED DOWN INTO THE WET GRASS. WITH DEFT FELINE MOVEMENTS HE DARTED OUT FROM THE SHRUBBERY AND INTO THE DIM YELLOW LIGHT FROM THE HOUSE.
SCENT OF FEAR, SCENT OF RAGE, SCENT OF BLOOD.
HE SAW LOUIS NOW, THE LONE FIGURE ON THE BENCH BENEATH THE TREE, AND HE STIFFENED. OUT OF HIS SLICK BLACK WINDBREAKER JACKET HE RAISED A KNIFE THAT SHONE LIKE SILVER IN THE SEMIDARKNESS.
SLOWLY HE CAME TOWARDS LOUIS. AH, THE OLD MENACING DANCE.
LOUIS CLOSED THE BOOK BUT HE DIDN’T PUT IT ASIDE. THE SCENT OF THE BLOOD MADE HIM FAINTLY DELIRIOUS. HE WATCHED THIS EMACIATED YET POWERFUL YOUNG MAN COME CLOSER. HE SAW THE MALIGNANT FACE INFINITELY MORE CLEARLY THAN THE MAN, HARDENED WITH PURPOSE, COULD SEE HIS. THE MAN WAS SWEATING AND BREATHING RAGGEDLY, CRAZED WITH DRUGS AND SEEKING FOR ANYTHING HE MIGHT SNATCH TO FIND THE ANODYNE FOR HIS TWISTING GUT. SUCH BEAUTIFUL EYES. SUCH BLACK EYES. WHY THESE WALLS AND NOT SOME OTHER GARDEN MEANT NOTHING IN THE SCHEME OF THINGS TO THIS ONE, AND BEFORE LOUIS COULD UTTER A WORD TO HIM, THE MAN HAD RESOLVED TO SINK THE KNIFE INTO LOUIS’S HEART.
“DEATH,” LOUIS SAID NOW LOUDLY ENOUGH TO STOP THE MAN, THOUGH HE WAS ONLY A FEW FEET AWAY. “ARE YOU READY FOR THIS? IS THIS WHAT YOU TRULY WANT?”
A SINISTER LAUGH CAME FROM THE INTRUDER. HE STEPPED FORWARD CRUNCHING THE LILIES, THE STOUT WHITE CALLA LILIES, UNDERFOOT.
“YEAH, DEATH, MY FRIEND!” THE MAN SAID. “YOU’RE IN THE WRONG PLACE AT THE WRONG TIME.”
“AH, BUT FOR YOUR SAKE”—LOUIS SIGHED—“WOULD THAT WERE TRUE. BUT IT HAS NEVER BEEN LESS TRUE THAN IT IS NOW.”
HE HAD THE MAN IN HIS GRIP.
THE KNIFE WAS GONE, LOST IN THE WET LEAVES. SYBELLE AND ANTOINE WAITED IN THE SHADOWS BEHIND THE WALL OF GLASS.
THE MAN FOUGHT AND KICKED IN A SMALL USELESS FURY. OH, HOW LOUIS HAD ALWAYS CHERISHED THE STRUGGLE, YOUNG MUSCLES STRAINING AGAINST HIM AND THE INEVITABLE STRANGLED CURSES LIKE SO MUCH UNWITTING APPLAUSE.
HE DROVE HIS FANGS RIGHT INTO THE ARTERIAL STREAM. HOW EVER TRANSLATE FOR A MORTAL WORLD THE HEAT AND PURITY OF THIS SIMPLE FEAST? SALT AND BLOOD, AND DARK SHINY BRITTLE FANTASIES OF VICTORIES, ALL FLOWING INTO HIM AND OUT OF THE VICTIM WITH THE LAST PROTEST OF HIS DYING HEART.
IT WAS FINISHED. THE MAN LAY DEAD AMONG THE LILIES. LOUIS STOOD WONDROUSLY SATISFIED AND REANIMATED, THE NIGHT OPENING UP ABOVE HIM THROUGH LUMINOUS CLOUDS. AND THE MUSIC INSIDE THE HOUSE BEGAN AGAIN.
FLUSHED WITH BLOOD, FLUSHED WITH THE OLD DECEPTIVE BUT SEDUCTIVE SENSE OF ILLIMITABLE POWER, HE THOUGHT OF LESTAT ACROSS THE SEA. WHAT CHARMS WOULD HIS GREAT CASTLE HOLD, AND WHAT MANNER OF COURT WOULD CONVENE THERE IN CHAMBERS OF STONE THAT LOUIS SO LONGED TO SEE? HE HAD TO SMILE WHEN HE THOUGHT OF THE EASY SWAGGER WITH WHICH LESTAT HAD FULFILLED THE TRIBE’S COLLECTIVE DREAMS.
THE ROAD AHEAD COULD NOT BE SMOOTH, AND SIMPLICITY COULD NEVER BE THE GOAL. THE BURDEN OF CONSCIENCE WAS PART OF LOUIS’S HUMAN HEART AND THE HEART OF EVERY BLOOD DRINKER HE HAD EVER KNOWN, EVEN ARMAND. AND THE STRUGGLE FOR GOODNESS, ACTUAL GOODNESS, WOULD AND MUST OBSESS THEM ALL. THAT WAS THE MIRACLE WHICH NOW UNITED THE TRIBE.
HOW WONDROUS IT SEEMED SUDDENLY THAT SUCH A STRUGGLE COULD NOW LAY WASTE WITH SUCH UNDENIABLE POWER THE OLD DEAD DUALITIES WHICH HAD ENSLAVED HIM FOR SO LONG.
BUT HE LOOKED DOWN AT THE MAN WHO LAY DEAD AT HIS FEET, AND A TERRIBLE SORROW TOOK HOLD OF HIM.
DEATH IS THE MOTHER OF BEAUTY.
IT WAS A LINE FROM A POEM BY WALLACE STEVENS, AND IT CAME TO HIM NOW WITH A PAINFUL IRONY. BEAUTY FOR ME PERHAPS BUT NOT BEAUTY FOR THIS ONE WHOM I HAVE DESTROYED.
HE KNEW TERROR FOR A MOMENT, TERROR THAT MIGHT NEVER REALLY LEAVE HIM NO MATTER HOW MUCH HE CAME TO UNDERSTAND, OR TO LEARN. TERROR. TERROR THAT THIS TENDER YOUNG MORTAL MIGHT HAVE LOST HIS SOUL TO UTTER MEANINGLESSNESS AND ANNIHILATION, AND THAT ALL OF THEM, HIS BLOOD DRINKER BROTHERS AND SISTERS, NO MATTER HOW POWERFUL, HOW OLD, HOW GRAND, MIGHT SOMEDAY FALL VICTIM TO THE SAME BRUTAL END.
AFTER ALL, WHAT GHOST OR SPIRIT, NO MATTER HOW ELOQUENT OR SKILLED, COULD CLAIM THAT ANYTHING OF SENTIENCE LAY BEYOND THE THICK MYSTERIOUS AIR SURROUNDING THIS PLANET? AGAIN HE THOUGHT OF STEVENS’S POEM.
SHALL OUR BLOOD FAIL? OR SHALL IT COME TO BE
THE BLOOD OF PARADISE? AND SHALL THE EARTH
SEEM ALL OF PARADISE THAT WE SHALL KNOW?
HIS HEART WAS BREAKING FOR THE YOUNG MAN WHO LAY THERE DEAD, EYES CLOSED IN THE FINAL SLEEP. THE REMAINS WERE ALREADY SLOWLY PERISHING IN THE WARM RAIN. HIS HEART BROKE FOR ALL THE VICTIMS EVERYWHERE OF BLOOD LUST, AND WAR, AND ACCIDENT, AND OLD AGE, AND ILLNESS, AND UNENDURABLE PAIN.
BUT HIS HEART BROKE A LITTLE FOR ONCE FOR HIMSELF TOO.
AND THAT PERHAPS WAS THE REAL CHANGE IN HIM, THE CHANGE THAT HE WELCOMED—THAT HE COULD SEE HIMSELF AS PART NOW OF ALL THIS GREAT AND GLISTENING WORLD. HE WAS NOT PART OF SOME MINDLESS FORCE THAT SOUGHT TO DESTROY IT. NO, HE WAS PART OF IT. HE WAS PART OF THIS, THIS NIGHT WITH ITS SWEET MILD RAIN, AND THIS WHISPERING GARDEN WITH ITS FRAGRANT FLOWERS AND ITS TREES, AND THE BREEZES THAT MOVED THEIR BRANCHES. AND HE WAS PART OF THE ROAR OF THE CITY RISING AROUND HIM, AND PART OF THE SHARP SHINING MUSIC THAT CAME FROM WITHIN THE HOUSE. HE WAS PART OF THE GRASS BENEATH HIS FEET, AND THE TINY RELENTLESS HORDES OF WINGED THINGS THAT SOUGHT TO DEVOUR THE HUMAN WAITING THERE HELPLESSLY FOR A PROPER GRAVE.
HE THOUGHT OF LESTAT AGAIN, CONFIDENT, SMILING, WEARING THE MANTLE OF POWER AS EASILY AS HE HAD ALWAYS WORN HIS FINERY, OLD AND NEW.
HE SAID UNDER HIS BREATH:
“BELOVED MAKER, BELOVED PRINCE, I WILL BE WITH YOU SOON.”
TUESDAY
NOVEMBER 26, 2013
PALM DESE

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