Talulla Rising Page 30

‘I told you everything already,’ he said. ‘Truly.’

‘Then tell me again. I want to know what we’re dealing with.’ I knew what we were dealing with: the desperation for meaning, for answers, for an invisible scheme of things underpinning the absurd concrete here-and-now. We were dealing with vampires terrified of the vast mathematical silence. Every time I saw Muslim masses bowed in prayer or the Catholic faithful gathered all I saw was fear. Moronically nodding Hasidim, paint-throwing Hindus, shimmying and jabbering Evangelicals, they were all scared shitless this was all there was. Even the Buddhists (whose crinkled tee-heeing lamas always made me want to slap them) were terrified of their own flesh and blood, needed some disembodied desire-free fairyland to shoot for. The Disciples were no different. The belief in a messiah was their collective confession that they couldn’t hack it alone. My own darling Jake had spent forty years of his life obsessed with the closest thing werewolves had to a sacred text, Quinn’s Book, the story of The Men Who Became Wolves. According to Cloquet the book (and the stone tablet that belonged with it) actually existed, though thanks to Mme Delon it was now in the hands of the Undead. Cloquet claimed he’d seen it with his own eyes (though never read it) and there was no reason to disbelieve him, but my feeling was the one Jake ended up with: that even if the book was real it didn’t follow that the story it contained was true. And since there was no way of verifying the truth of the story, what difference could it possibly make? Furthermore (since there was no denying the two things had wearily connected, whether I liked it or not), even if the oldest living vampire was old enough to have been alive at the time of the events the story described, there was no reason he’d know anything about them. Certainly no reason he’d know if they were true.

I emerged from my reverie to find Cloquet repeating what, between them, he and Walker had come out with earlier: that according to legend Remshi was the oldest living vampire, that he’d existed, as the useless phrase had it ‘from the beginning’, that he had extraordinary powers, that periodically he returned to reclaim his kingship.

‘Where does he return from?’

‘Sleep. He sleeps for long periods, decades, maybe centuries. He comes back when the vampire race needs... needs a kind of renewal. It’s vague.’

‘So there must be records. They write their history, don’t they?’

‘There was a fire that destroyed the big vampire library at Pasargadae in 2500 BC,’ Cloquet said. ‘That was where almost all the authorised histories were kept. There were copies, but not many. Over the years they were scattered, lost. Some records since then say Remshi appeared again for a short period in China, around 400 BC. But after that, nothing, and even by then there were many vampires who didn’t accept him. Now the world has moved on. Vampires are pragmatique. The idea of a messiah has lost... credibility.’

‘But if Remshi existed there must have been living vampires who remembered him.’

‘It’s possible. But they don’t live that long.’

‘What do you mean? They’re not immortal?’

He got up and poured himself a Jack Daniels from the minibar. Went into his pocket for cigarettes – remembered Zoë, checked. Old habits. ‘They are immortal,’ he said. ‘But that doesn’t mean they can stand living for ever. Most of them give up. They walk out in the daylight or throw themselves on a wooden stake. Not many make it past a thousand years.’

‘How do you know all this?’

‘Jacqueline.’

Vampire burn-out. (Literally.) It was feasible. The thought of a mere four hundred years gave me vertigo if I dwelt on it, and that was four hundred years without losing the ability to have sex and eat normal food and move around in daylight. Boochies are depressives, I recalled from one of the journals. Centuries of no sunlight. Seasonal Affective Disorder on a massive scale. What do you expect?

Cloquet remained by the minibar, leaning against the wall, visibly in pain. It was high time I found someone to check his shoulder wound. ‘The idea of Remshi survived,’ he said, ‘through Greece and Rome, but always with fewer and fewer believers. There was a revival among the Vikings, but it didn’t last. By the time of the Renaissance it was barely a cult. Before Jacqueline came along it was a handful of zealots gathered around two or three priests. The Fifty Families thought of them as a few harmless fools.’

‘But not any more.’

‘No. Now they are starting to be concerned. The fools are no longer harmless. Or few.’

‘What about this Book of Remshi?’ I asked, hating even having to say the words. ‘What about these prophecies?’

‘Jacqueline believed they were authentic, but to me it was the weakest part of the story. There are different versions of the book. No one knows where they originated, who wrote them. The earliest copy was from second-century Athens, but claimed to be a translation of something much older. I don’t know.’

‘But you’ve seen it?’

‘Of course. She had copies.’

‘And?’

He shook his head, slowly. ‘I didn’t understand it. It was all... devinettes... riddles. Also mathematics and astronomy. Supposed to give somehow the dates and places of his returns.’

‘And Jacqueline knew the where and the when, now, this time?’

‘The date is no secret. A full-moon eclipse au solstice d’hiver hasn’t happened since 1638. But he surfaces before that. Where, only the priests were supposed to know. The priests were supposed to keep it secret until the last moment, in case anyone... in case someone tries something. But she found a way.’ He laughed, sans humour. ‘She finds a way, always.’

Images again: Lorcan on the altar, Jacqueline naked, mouth open, Jake on his knees, licking her cunt. I realised that right up until this moment I’d felt nothing about her. She’d been an obstacle to be overcome, not a person to be liked or disliked. Now, in the wake of she finds a way, always, I knew I wanted to kill her. I wanted to look into her face, let her know I was savouring the moment, then kill her. It would give me a deep, structural satisfaction. It was a small, distinct pleasure to know this, as if a thorn in my foot I’d been blindly putting up with had suddenly been removed.

‘I’m sorry I don’t know more,’ Cloquet said. ‘But at the time the whole thing was ridiculous to me.’

Prev Next