2018年4月6日 星期五


Louis stood a few feet away watching me. Undoubtedly he
heard every word, but his face revealed nothing. He had a remote
dreamy expression on his face as he so often did, but I sensed he’d
been absorbing everything.
What have I to do with all this, I thought with irritation, but I
knew perfectly well what I had to do with it. This was my life now,
by choice, to be involved in all things, to be the one whom Armand
called to report a comatose non-human imprisoned at Trinity
“Do you need any assistance from me now?” I asked Armand.
“This is all fascinating, of course, but there isn’t time for me to
come to you.”
“I know that. I’m letting you know for obvious reasons. Why
do you behave as if I’m deliberately harassing you? Are you the
Prince, Lestat, or not?”
“Of course, yes, you did the right thing. I’m sorry.”
I saw Louis’s faint smile.
“I’ll see you tomorrow in the City of Light,” said Armand. A
beat. “And I am happy for you, that you’re with Louis.”
I sighed. I wanted to say we all love one another. We all have
to love one another. If you and I and Louis don’t love one another
after all we’ve been through, well, then all our powers mean
nothing, and our dreams mean nothing, and so we have to love
one another. And maybe I did say this silently and he heard it, but
I doubted it.

“I too have seen it,” said Louis in a small voice. He looked at
me. “But I saw it only once, the night before I met you in New
Orleans. I was still in New York. I thought I picked it up from
others at Trinity Gate. A dreadful horror accompanied it, the cries
of countless people perishing.”
“Yes,” I said. “You can hear people crying out to Heaven for
“And a wailing sound,” said Armand. “As if of horrific grief.”

Then without moving my lips I spoke to Amel. I knew when I
did this that the others could hear me, except for Louis whom I’d

“I know,” I said. An idea was forming in my mind, of how I
might draw him out further on the city, but the sun waits for no
vampire. I wondered if Louis had gone into his crypt, the special
crypt I’d prepared for him, a monkly chamber of essential things
with an antique black coffin that I’d chosen specially, with its
lining of thick white silk padding. Pretty much like mine.
“He sleeps,” said Amel.
I smiled. “And did you look at me through his eyes when I
was with him?”
“No, I can’t go into him,” he said. “I told you that. But I love
looking at him through your eyes and I know what I see. He loves
you so much more than he lets on. And others know that Louis
loves you, and they see his love, and they’re glad he’s finally here.”

THE ENTIRE WORLD of the Undead was in the Château or so
it seemed, all the public rooms filled with blood drinkers
talking in whispers to one another and turning to bow to
me or salute me in some subtle way as Louis and I appeared.
Every beeswax candle in the old castle was lighted; every electric
sconce or chandelier was aglow. I could hear the orchestra playing
in the ballroom.”

I hurried up the staircase to the Council Chamber, ignoring
Louis’s protests that he should hang back. “Nonsense,” I
whispered. “I need you at my side.”
I brought Louis into the Council Chamber with me, but I
could see that it was indeed a gathering of the elders and Louis
was surely the youngest in the room. Cyril and Thorne took their
usual places against the wall.
I sat down at the head of the table and gestured for Louis to
take the empty chair to my right.

“Come,” said Arion. “Let’s go back up the hill. Your friend
Louis is outside, and he’s waiting for you.”

There were eight of them. And they were waiting in the grand ballroom when
I came upstairs. The entire Court was curious, but the young ones
were told to keep away from the main rooms, and that included of
course not only fledglings but the many drawn to the Court who
had no interest in power. Louis had steadfastly refused to join me.
He was downstairs, reading, alone in his own crypt.

I smiled. Our coming out into the modern world had begun
over forty years ago with a human radio interviewer in a rented
room in San Francisco inviting Louis to tell his story to a tape
recorder. And now here we were, all of us, storing every word and
gesture of this historic meeting on the modern offspring of that
old recorder.

Then the pain took over. And realizing
what must be happening to my Rose and to Viktor wherever they
were and to Louis, and all the others who didn’t have thousands of
years in the Blood, I collapsed.

My coffin,” I said, “put me in my coffin!” When had I said
those words before. “Put me in my coffin!” And Louis had not
done it, and Claudia had not done it. In came the knife. Only this
time I was being helped. Marius and David had ahold of me and
were taking me out of the room.
“Rose, Viktor, what’s happened to them? Where is Louis?”

They had both suffered the unspeakable assault. And Louis,
too, must have experienced it, though he said not a word about it.
Indeed, all the Undead throughout the Château had known some
version of it. Or so it seemed. David had lost consciousness at one
point. So had Rose. Viktor had stubbornly clung to consciousness
determined to observe it.
“I made it into colors,” Viktor said to me now. “I saw the pain
in red and yellow, and when it was at its worst, it was pure white. I
couldn’t imagine what had happened. I couldn’t. And no one came
out of the Council Chamber to tell us. And we didn’t dare move.
Louis was holding Rose when it all happened. I wanted to hold
her. I couldn’t hold her.”
Louis sat in a chair nearby, quietly resplendent in his Lestatchosen
clothes, the inevitable dark blue velvet jacket and the
layers of tiny, subtle lace at his throat, and the emerald shining on
his finger. His boots looked like onyx.

“Whatever happens,” I said as I looked from her to Viktor and
finally to Louis, “I will fight for us and who we are.

“Where have they gone?” Louis asked. “When I woke, I was
told some of them left the village at about two o’clock, and that
the others remain here to await some action against
“That’s correct,” I said. “Twelve of them left. Twelve. And the
elder four remain.”
“You mean they increased their numbers in the space of one
day?” asked Louis.
“Apparently,” I said. “I suspect each one of them generated
another. That would make a total of sixteen. Subtract the four
elders and you have the twelve who left, two of whom were
women, and all the rest males. I was getting word on all this
earlier while I was still in the crypt.”
I could see the mingled revulsion and alarm in their faces.

“But you didn’t give your permission for this, did you?” asked
Louis. It was asked in such a neutral way that I couldn’t interpret
it for or against.
“No,” I said. “Maybe they’ve gone to lay down the law that
Rhoshamandes cannot harm the Replimoids any more than he
can seek to harm us.”
They seemed to accept this, and I sensed as I had so often in
the last six months that everyone, near everyone, expected me to
articulate certain things, and when I did articulate them, there was
inevitable relief for the moment.
“I see no way out for Rhoshamandes,” said Louis in a soft
voice. He wasn’t challenging me, just reflecting.
“Well, there’s at least a chance for peace,” said Rose. She
wiped her hair out of her eyes, and stared for a moment at her
hand, at her fingernails. Her fingernails were the only real
giveaway right now that she was preternatural. They were shining.
She couldn’t help but look at them, be fascinated by their sheen.
“A chance, yes,” said Viktor, “but frankly I wish that
Rhoshamandes was no more. Don’t we have enough to worry
about now without him?”
“It’s time for me to show myself and do what I can to calm
the others,” I said. “I have to go out into the ballroom, no choice.”
“We’ll go with you,” Louis said.

TOLD LOUIS EVERYTHING. Ten nights had passed during which
I sought to protect him from the extent of my fear. Of course
he knew absolutely everything that had been going on; he was
always with me, and we’d managed to get away to hunt in Paris
But this was different. I poured it all out. I confided all my
fears that there was nothing I could do to stop the inevitable, and I
talked about severing the tentacles and how Fareed and Seth were
working on that now, marshaling every bit of research they had on
us to try to figure a way.
“And what are the chances of Fareed figuring out this
mystery, as to how we’re all connected?” I asked. “As Fareed
himself put it, how can he disconnect something that he cannot
We were in the Château because no one wanted me to leave
it, unless I positively had to, which I didn’t, except to go to
Armand’s house for a brief visit, or hunt when I felt I had to, and
all that I’d already done.
We were in the south tower, which was wholly new, and
contained some of the most splendid rooms, reserved in theory for
the most honored guests, and this meant we had a bedchamber
parlor to ourselves, and it was a fine comfortable place to talk.
I’d had this apartment done all in shades of gold, magenta,
and rose, with nineteenth-century flowered wallpaper and a
nineteenth-century walnut bed and armoire and chests of drawers
and chairs. It made me think of our flat in New Orleans and I
found it comforting after all the brilliantly lighted baroque
splendor of so many other rooms.
We sat at the small round table before the arched window,
with the two leaded-glass sashes open wide to the night air. No
need of a light as the moon was full. There were two decks of
cards there, and I’d thought I might deal out a game of solitaire
just to do something, anything, but I hadn’t touched the cards. I
love shiny new cards.
“For two nights now, Amel hasn’t been with me,” I said. “I
don’t know whether or not you can tell.”
Louis was leaning on his elbows and looking at me.
He had taken off his black wool jacket and was dressed only
in a gray cashmere sweater over his white shirt and black pants.
He would never have done that on such a freezing night as this
before he’d received all the powerful blood. I wonder if he ever
thought of Merrick anymore, the unearthly sorceress who’d
seduced him and spellbound him and pushed him, unwittingly, to
expose his fragile vampiric body to the sun. Merrick had left us
early of her own will. She’d been one of those powerful souls
utterly convinced of an afterlife more interesting than this world.
Maybe she was thriving in that afterlife, or lost in the upper air
with the other spirits and ghosts in the confusing realm that
Gremt had fled.
I’d been observing many small changes in Louis over the
years due to the powerful blood. His eyes were certainly more
iridescent and it irritated me that he would never wear sunglasses,
even in the brightest rooms or on the brightest streets. But
nothing changed the wall of telepathic silence that fell between
master and fledgling. Yet I felt closer to him than to any other
visible being in the world.
“What happens if you call to Amel and ask him to come
back?” Louis asked.
“What would be the point?” I asked.
I was wearing my usual court finery, because I knew it
comforted almost everyone. But it wasn’t in keeping with my
mood to be dressed in steel-blue brocade and linen frills, and for
the first time, I envied Louis his simpler clothes.
“Amel could be inside you right now looking at me for all I
know,” I said. “What does it matter? One minute he swears he’ll
never let her harm me, and the next he’s as grim as I am, speaking
of Kapetria as a parent bound to rescue a child against the child’s
Of course I’d told him all about the phone incident.
“I don’t think that’s possible,” Louis said. His voice was even
and soft. “That he’s inside me, I mean, but let me get back to that.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the matter of tentacles binding us
and what Kapetria said, that this was a failed attempt at
procreation or propagation. It makes me think of the silver cord.”
“What silver cord?”
“The silver cord was what the old nineteenth-century
parapsychologists called it,” said Louis. “An invisible connection
between body and soul. When a man astral projects, goes up and
out of his body and into another body as you did with the Body
Thief, the silver cord is what connects him to his biological body,
and if the silver cord breaks, the man dies.”
“I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about,” I said.
“Oh, yes, you do,” he said. “That etheric body that is traveling
on the astral plane or hooked inside another body—the way David
Talbot’s etheric body was hooked into the old body of the Body
Thief—the etheric body is free only once the silver cord is cut.”
“Well, that’s sweet and poetic and charming,” I said. “But
likely there is no real silver cord. Just old poetry, poetry of the
British spiritualists and psychics. I don’t remember seeing any
silver cord when I switched bodies with the Body Thief. Likely it’s
something imaginary that helped astral travelers to visualize what
is going on.”
“Is it?” Louis asked. “I’m not so sure.”
“Are you serious with all this?” I asked.
“What if it is the very same silver cord which in our case
remains connected—connecting each new etheric body developed
by Amel in a host—to his etheric body, when it should, as Kapetria
suggested, snap so that the new vampire can be free?”
“Louis, honestly. The silver cord connects a biological body to
an etheric body. Amel is an etheric body, isn’t he? And his etheric
body is connected to the etheric bodies in each of us.”
“Well, we know now, don’t we, that they are likely both
biological, right? They are two kinds of biological body—the gross
biological body and the etheric biological body made of cells we
can’t see. And in his case those etheric cells are expressions of
what he was when he was alive.”
I sighed. “It hurts my head to keep talking about cells we can’t
“Lestat,” he said. “I want you please to bear with me. Look at
me. Pay attention. Listen to me for a change.” He smiled to soften
this and laid his hand on mine. “Come on, Lestat, listen.”
I growled deep in my throat. “All right, I’m listening,” I said.
“I read all that foolishness when it was published. I read every
word of Madame Blavatsky. I’ve read the later books. Remember, I
am the one who has switched bodies, after all.”
“What happens to make the silver cord snap and let loose the
etheric body from the biological body?” he asked.
“You just said it; the biological body dies.”
“Yes, if the biological body dies the cord snaps, freeing the
etheric body,” he said.
“But that’s just it. We never actually die when we’re made
into vampires. Oh, we all speak of dying, and I had to go out into
the swamps and rid my body of all the waste and excess fluids, and
I did that. But I never actually died.”
“So how can this lead to a solution?”
He sat there for a long moment, looking out over the snowy
fields that lay between us and the road. Then he stood up and
walked back and forth before turning to me again.
“I want to go to Paris,” he said. “I want to talk to Fareed and
the doctors.”
“Louis, they’ve likely read all those British books by the
Golden Dawn people. That is what you’re talking about, right, the
Theosophists and Swedenborg and Sylvan Muldoon and Oliver
Fox, and even Robert Monroe in the twentieth century. Seriously?
The silver cord?”
“I want to go to Paris now and I want you to come with me,”
Louis said.
“What you mean is you want me to take you,” I said.
“That’s right,” he responded, “and we should bring Viktor with
“Unlike you, Viktor has the skill and the nerve to take to the
air on his own.”
I removed my iPhone from my pocket. I had come to hate it
more than ever since Amel had figured how to use it, but I hit the
number for my son.
Turns out he was in Paris already, hunting the back streets
with Rose.
“I want you to go to Fareed at his laboratory,” I said, “and tell
him I’m coming, and I want you to meet me there.”
One very endearing thing about my son: I never had to
explain an order to him. He simply did whatever I asked.
“David, too,” said Louis. “Please call David. I think David will
understand this better than I do.”
I did as I was told. David was in the Château library, going
through our own pages again as he’d been doing since Kapetria
left, searching for some clue as to how the great connecting web
might work. He said he would go to Paris now, if we wanted him
to. He would do anything we wanted. I rang off.
“Don’t you think you might call Fareed personally and tell
him we’re coming?” Louis asked. “That’s my last request, I
I didn’t really need the phone for that. Fareed’s telepathic
antennae were as powerful as mine. I sent out the message that
Louis and I would be joining him within minutes. Louis felt it was
important. But then I heard the voice of Thorne in the shadows
“I’ve texted him,” he said. “We are ready to go.”
And so it was done. Louis was putting on his jacket and scarf.
I was unhappy. I watched him pulling on his gloves. I couldn’t
imagine how this could end productively or happily. I didn’t want
Louis to be humiliated, but what could Fareed and Seth say to talk
of the silver cord? If they became impatient and short with him,
I’d be furious.

Viktor and Rose were already settled on the couch. And so
was David. I took the recliner to the right. It pained me dreadfully
to think Louis was about to be dismissed out of hand by the two
scientific geniuses of the Blood, and that Viktor and Rose were
here to witness his humiliation, but Louis seemed utterly
Louis went right to it, standing off to Fareed’s left so that his
small audience had a clear view of Fareed.
“You know what the silver cord is,” he said. He was rather
deferential. “The old British psychics spoke of it, the cord that
connects the astral body or etheric body to the biological body
when a person astral projects.”
“Yes, I’m familiar with it,” said Fareed. “But I think of it as
“Yes,” said David cheerfully and he began quoting from
“Because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go
about the streets; or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden
bowl be broken, or the pitcher broken at the fountain…”
“That’s it,” said Louis. “I’d forgotten it in scriptures. I
remembered it from the Theosophical literature, and when it’s
snapped the etheric body or brain or soul is free.”
“And the biological body dies,” said Rose. “I’ve read those
wonderful books. I used to try so hard to astral project when I was
in high school, but it never happened. I’d lie on my bed and try for
hours to go up and out the window and over New York, and all
that ever happened was that I went to sleep.”
Louis smiled. “But let’s for the moment think of it in reverse.
Let’s not say if the silver cord is snapped the body dies, but rather
if the body dies, the silver cord is snapped.”
“What has this to do with us, Louis?” Fareed asked. He was
really playing the gentleman. I knew how tired he was, how
“Well, I’ll tell you. I believe that these cords that connect us
to Amel are a version of the silver cord; it’s the silver cord
connecting Amel’s etheric body to the new etheric body formed in
a new vampire—and the reason that we all remain connected is
that we never actually die physically, when we are made. There is
an etheric brain planted in us at the time we are brought over and
it quickly generates an etheric body in us; but our biological body
doesn’t really die. It’s merely transformed. So we remained
tethered—Amel’s etheric body and our etheric body. If we did
actually die, the cord would snap, and the new etheric body which
has taken over the physical body would be free of Amel.”
“I thought we died as soon as the vampiric element took
hold,” said Viktor. “We went out to die after we were brought over.
Our bodies had to get rid of fluids, waste—that was physical
“But you didn’t really die, did you?” asked Louis. “Yes, that
transformation happened. But you didn’t really die.”
“Well, if we had we wouldn’t be here now,” said Seth. “If the
fledgling dies before the process is complete—.”
“But what if the fledgling dies after the process is complete?”
asked Louis.
“Well, you have everybody’s interest, I’ll say that for you,” I
“Lestat, do be quiet,” said David in a gentle voice.
“Let me explain,” said Louis. “I was present decades ago when
Akasha was killed. I was in the very room. And when it happened I
was as connected to Amel then as everyone else was. I lost
consciousness when the Mother’s head was struck off, and I only
know what happened later because people told me. I was revived
only after the brain was taken out of Akasha and consumed by
Mekare, or when the vampiric brain within Akasha’s brain found
another host and locked in to that new host.”
“Locked in,” David repeated. “That’s a good description.”
“Well,” said Louis. “I’m not connected now.”
“What are you talking about, of course you’re connected,” I
said. “You were connected ten nights ago when I felt the pain,
when Amel forced that unspeakable pain.”
“I certainly was,” said Viktor in a low voice.
“But I wasn’t,” said Louis. “I didn’t feel the pain.”
“Are you certain?” asked David.
“Even I felt it,” said Seth.
“That’s because you are connected,” said Louis. “But I’m not.”
“But I thought you did,” I insisted. “Louis, everyone said that
you did, that everyone felt it.”
“They assumed that I’d felt it,” said Louis. “But I didn’t. And
at Trinity Gate, the night you took the Amel brain out of Mekare’s
brain, I didn’t feel anything then either. Everyone else did.
Everyone else experienced something. But I experienced nothing.
Oh, I was frantic when I gathered from all of them what was
happening, but I didn’t lose consciousness, I felt no pain, and my
vision wasn’t impaired, not even for a second. I saw the others
around me standing stock-still as if frozen, or going down on their
knees at some point. But I felt nothing and I think I know why.”
We were all looking at him.
“Well?” I said. “Tell us why.”
“Because I died years ago,” he said. “I actually physically died.
I died completely. I died when I deliberately exposed myself to the
sun behind our flat in the French Quarter. It was after my
misadventure with Merrick. Merrick had bewitched me. And I
didn’t want to go on. I exposed myself to the sun, and I had none
of the blood of the elders to strengthen me, and all day I lay in the
sun and I burned and I died.”
Louis looked at me.
“You remember, Lestat, and you remember, too, David. You
were both there. David, it was you who found me. I was as dead as
anyone can be—until you both poured your powerful blood right
into the coffin, right into my burnt remains and brought me back.”
“But the etheric body, the Amel body, was still in you,” said
Fareed. “It had to be or you couldn’t have been revived.”
“That’s true,” Louis said. “It was there inside me and it would
have remained there until the ashes were scattered. It would have
remained suspended, waiting, waiting for how long we don’t
know. Remember the old admonition from Magnus, Lestat?
Scatter the ashes? Well, no one scattered my ashes and I was
brought back—by your blood, and David’s blood, and Merrick’s
blood too.”
“Then you were not really dead, Louis,” said Fareed patiently.
“Oh, but I was,” said Louis. “I know now that I was. I was
dead according to one ancient and highly significant definition of
‘dead.’ ”
“I’m not following you,” said Fareed. I saw the first signs of
impatience but it wasn’t impolite.
“My heart had stopped,” said Louis. “There was no blood
pumping in me. All circulation had stopped when my heart
stopped. That is how I was dead.”
I was speechless. Then slowly it dawned on me. It came back
to me what Kapetria had said…something about the invisible
tentacles—or the cord—being the only part of us that was not filled
with blood.
Nobody was speaking. Even Fareed had narrowed his eyes
and was looking at Louis in the hard sightless way of someone
peering only into his own thoughts. Seth too was pondering.
“I see!” said David in amazement. “I don’t know the scientific
explanation for it. But I see it. Your heart stopped; the blood
wasn’t pumping. And the cord snapped. Of course!” He looked to
me. “Lestat, how many times have you ever seen or heard of a
vampire brought back from such a state where the heart had
stopped, where the ashes were still perfectly formed, and
everything remained there but the heart had stopped!”
“Never seen another example of it, ever,” I said.
“Neither have I,” said Seth, “but I know the old admonition,
scatter the ashes.”
“Well?” asked Louis. He looked to Fareed. “You want to try an
experiment or two to see if I’m right? Viktor here is bravery
personified. If you put a candle flame to Lestat’s hand Viktor will
feel it. Unfortunately so will Rose and so will every vampire in the
world, though in different degrees, correct? I won’t feel it. You can
see this for yourself. And ancient blood or no, I should feel it,
because I’m not even three hundred years old.”
“I wish there were some other way of proving it,” David said.
“There has to be.”
“There is,” I said. “It’s simple. Stop my heart! Stop my heart.
Stop it until the blood in me stops circulating, and what will
happen to all the others all over the world? They’ll lose
consciousness, yes, but…”
“But that’s what happened when Akasha was decapitated,”
said Seth. “You told me.”
“But only for three or four seconds, Seth,” I said. “It was no
longer than that. She was decapitated and her skull was shattered
by the falling glass. And Mekare scooped up the brain in her hands
and had it in her mouth immediately, just as Maharet ripped open
her chest and took out the still-beating heart. I know the heart
was still beating because of the way the blood was flowing. So it
was only a matter of seconds. What if the heart of Akasha had
really been stopped and stopped for a long time?”
“It’s been proven in tests on animals,” said Fareed, “that the
brain lives for perhaps as long as seventeen seconds after
“Well, there you have it,” said Louis. “It was only a matter of
“He’s right,” I said. I was almost too excited to speak. “Fareed,
he’s right. Stop my heart. Stop it for a long time, and then start it
“If I do that, Lestat, I’ll lose consciousness and there won’t be
anyone here to restart your heart. Unless you trust a mortal with
such a responsibility.”
“No, wait a minute. There’s no need to trust a mortal,” said
David. “Gremt can do this. Gremt can restart it. You only have to
give him the instructions. Gremt knows all about the theory of the
silver cord. Good Lord, Gremt founded the Talamasca and he
probably has read more literature on the silver cord than anyone,
and Gremt can be trusted to do this!”
“You don’t need Gremt,” said Louis. “You have me. If you stop
Lestat’s heart and every other blood drinker worldwide suffers it
in one form or another, I won’t suffer it. I will be wholly conscious
and able to restart Lestat’s heart. You just have to tell me how.”
“If you’re right about the disconnection,” said Fareed.
“I am right,” said Louis. “But if you want Gremt to do this,
then ask Gremt. I’ll sit with Gremt for the duration. Doesn’t
matter to me. The question is, do you have a simple way to stop
and restart Lestat’s heart?”
“Yes,” said Fareed. “But think what might happen to all the
vampires everywhere when this little experiment is carried out!
There’s no way in the world to warn everyone.”
“What do you want us to do?” I said. “Send out an alert? We
don’t even know how to reach all the blood drinkers of the world.”
“Yes, we do,” said Louis. “Use Benji’s broadcast. Set a time for
this tomorrow night, and tonight have Benji broadcast the alert,
that at a certain hour Greenwich mean time all blood drinkers
must be in a safe and secure place for the space of sixty minutes.
And have Benji loop the broadcast all day tomorrow and up to the
time of the experiment. That’s the best you can do, really. And
have all the old ones send out the word telepathically. We come
here at sunset and Fareed stops your heart. If it’s started a half
hour or forty-five minutes later by Gremt…”
“We could lose some of the young ones doing this,” said Seth.
“Louis did not die when things appeared hopeless. But we are
talking about Lestat. And suppose the minute the invisible
connection is severed, death follows for all who are disconnected.”
“But death didn’t follow for me,” said Louis again. “Look,
you’re not thinking of all aspects at the same time.”
“We’re about to face pure annihilation!” I said. “I say do it. Do
it now! The Hell with sending out a message. Where is Gremt?
Gremt is at the Château or he’s at his home in the country. That’s
not three minutes from here for one of us.”

I tried to answer her. But suddenly, without the slightest
warning I felt a dreadful pain in the back of my neck. It grew so
intense that I cried out and went down on my knees. I heard Rose
scream. David fell to his knees with his hands to his head. I looked
up at Fareed. Fareed was feeling nothing. Louis was right next to
him and Louis was feeling nothing.
“Enough!” I shouted. And it was gone, just like that. No pain.
I looked around me as I rose to my feet. Everyone—but
Gremt, Fareed, and Louis—was recovering more or less from the
pain. I didn’t have to ask whether Teskhamen or Seth had felt it.
There was blood in Teskhamen’s eyes and Seth was still holding
his head with both hands, his eyebrows knitted, as if he was
straining to remember just what he’d felt.

Amel spoke. “I told you I could not go into Louis, did I not?
And now I tell you, I cannot go into Fareed.”
I looked up at Fareed, and then to Louis. “Well, you two will
survive, whatever happens,” I said. I wanted to weep with relief.
“Look, we have to go ahead with this. But you do keep mixing up
the matter of my heart and your individual hearts. Fledglings may
die when my heart is stopped. Everybody but—. I’m sorry, I can’t
keep it straight.”

“You’re talking in circles,” I said. “How could she have
perished without us perishing?”
“I think I know,” said Louis. “If her heart had been stopped
for a long time before her perishing, the disconnect would have
been complete, and then however she perished, no one would
have felt her death but her.”
I was stunned, but even I, with my foolish lack of scientific
understanding, could see the logic. Well, almost.
“We might lose Amel,” I said. “That’s what you’re saying. Stop
my heart which is death but not destruction. And when it’s started
up again, they’ll all be disconnected, everybody will be
disconnected, but what if when my heart stops, he disconnects
from me?”
“But I don’t think he can,” said Fareed shaking his head. “Not
as long as your body is intact, and waiting there safely to be
resuscitated. No.”
He’s right.
“This is all too theoretical,” said Flannery Gilman. “All that
might happen is Lestat is in suspended animation for an hour, and
all the rest of the vampires of the world die.”
“It’s possible,” said David.
“Not likely,” said Fareed. “What’s likely is that some will take
longer to disconnect than others, but the web of connections will
perish because no blood is being pumped through the body of the
host. And when Lestat is revived Amel will be there as before. But
the web will be gone.”
Another huge free-for-all argument ensued. I was dejected
beyond words. I held up my hands for silence.
“Amel, are you willing for us to do this?” I asked.
“Yes,” he answered.
“Then I say we do it,” said Fareed. “Otherwise we are back to
the near-impossible task of severing each vampire individually.”
Slowly they all came to full agreement, though Rose was the
last one to come around. Rose had been arguing for the disconnect
of individuals to proceed exactly as it had taken place with Louis
and Fareed. She didn’t want to think of my heart being stopped.
But when Fareed began to name all of the many individuals, and
to speak of how any fledglings I ever made in the future would be
connected to me—until severed—and to speak of a multitude of
other difficulties, she threw up her hands and agreed.
We would do this tomorrow night while I was still in my
crypt, safe from any twilight rays lingering in the night sky. And
with the great door sealed, and only Fareed and Louis and Gremt
with me inside. That way, if Kapetria drew any conclusions from
the radio alert, I’d be protected, with Thorne and Cyril outside my
Fareed would give me the injection to stop my heart and he’d
be there to reverse it but Gremt would also have a syringe and so
would Louis.

I AWOKE ABOUT A half hour before they came. Amel was with
me, as far as I could tell. Soon I heard their voices. The doors
of the vault were opened and Louis came with Fareed and
Kapetria, the two scientists attired completely in white and with
their valises, no doubt filled with marvelous medical gadgets and
vials of chemical wonders. Both of them had stethoscopes around
their necks. Seth was nearby.

Louis closed the lid of my coffin and seated himself there. He
was close enough to me that I could take his hand and I did.
A memory came back to me, a memory of the first time I ever
saw him in New Orleans. He’d been staggering through the streets
drunk, a rough-cut version of what he was now. Suddenly the veil
collapsed between that time and this and it was all playing back
for me as if someone else had a hand on the button and I saw him
after the transformation standing in the swamp, the water almost
up to his knees as he marveled at everything around him,
including the moon snagged in the moss-hung branches of the
cypress trees, and I could smell the fetid green water again.
I let out a long sigh.

I opened my eyes. Kapetria and Fareed stood before me,
watching me with a horrid impersonal fascination. Louis was
sitting on the coffin, and he was holding my right hand.

We made a space for ourselves in the middle, and I made up
my mind I was going to appear absolutely strong for everyone
here, no matter what I felt. I let go of Louis’s hand and I let go of
Fareed’s hand. Cyril had his hand on my back and Thorne still
held my right arm.