Interview with the vampi.., p.3
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       Interview with the Vampire, p.3

         Part #1 of The Vampire Chronicles series by Anne Rice
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Chapter 3


  "I saw nothing but that light then as I drew blood. And then this next thing, this next thing was. . . sound. A dull roar at first and then a pounding like the pounding of a drum, growing louder and louder, as if some enormous creature were coming up on one slowly through a dark and alien forest, pounding as he came, a huge drum. And then there came the pounding of another drum, as if another giant were coming yards behind him, and each giant, intent on his own drum, gave no notice to the rhythm of the other. The sound grew louder and louder until it seemed to fill not just my hearing but all my senses, to be throbbing in my lips and fingers, in the flesh of my temples, in my veins. Above all, in my veins, drum and then the other drum; and then Lestat pulled his wrist free suddenly, and I opened my eyes and checked myself in a moment of reaching for his wrist, grabbing it, forcing it back to my mouth at all costs; I checked myself because I realized that the drum was my heart, and the second drum had been his. " The vampire sighed. "Do you understand?"

  The boy began to speak, and then he shook his head. "No. . . I mean, I do," he said. "I mean, I. . . '

  "Of course," said the vampire, looking away.

  "Wait, wait!" said the boy in a welter of excitement. "The tape is almost gone. I have to turn it over. " The vampire watched patiently as he changed it.

  "What happened then?" the boy asked. His face was moist, and he wiped it hurriedly with his handkerchief.

  "I saw as a- vampire," said -the vampire, his voice now slightly detached. It seemed almost distracted. Then he drew himself up. "Lestat was standing again at the foot of the stairs, and I saw him as I could not possibly have seen him before. He had seemed white to me before, starkly white, so that in the night he was almost luminous; and now I saw him filled with his own life and own blood: he was radiant, not luminous. And then I saw that not only Lestat had changed, but all things had changed.

  "It was as if I had only just been able to see colors and shapes for the first time. I was so enthralled with the buttons on Lestat's black coat that I looked at nothing else for a long time. Then Lestat began to laugh, and I heard his laughter as I had never heard anything before. His heart I still heard like the beating of a drum, and now came this metallic laughter. It was confusing, each sound running into the next sound, like the mingling reverberations of bells, until I learned to separate the sounds, and then they overlapped, each soft but distinct, increasing but discrete, peals of laughter. " The vampire smiled with delight. "Peals of bells.

  "'Stop looking at my buttons,' Lestat said. 'Go out there into the trees. Rid yourself of all the human waste in your body, and don't fall so madly in love with the night that you lose your ways'

  "That, of course, was a wise command. When I saw the moon on the flagstones, I became so enamored with it that I must have spent an hour there. I passed my brother's oratory without so much as a thought of him, and standing among the cottonwood and oaks, I heard the night as if it were a chorus of whispering women, all beckoning me to their breasts. As for my body, it was not yet totally converted, and as soon as I became the least accustomed to the sounds and sights, it began to ache. All my human fluids were being forced out of me. I was dying as a human, yet completely alive as a vampire; and with my awakened senses, I had to preside over the death of my body with a certain discomfort and then, finally, fear. I ran back up the steps to the parlor, where Lestat was already at work on the plantation papers, going over the expenses and profits for the last year. 'You're a rich man,' he said to me when I came in. 'Something's happening to me,' I shouted.

  "'You're dying, that's all; don't be a fool. Don't you have any oil lamps? All this money and you can't afford whale oil except for that lantern. Bring me that lantern. '

  "'Dying!' I shouted. 'Dying!'

  "'It happens to everyone,' he persisted, refusing to help me. As I look back on this, I still despise him for it. Not because I was afraid, but because he might have drawn my attention to these changes with reverence. He might have calmed me and told me I might watch my death with the same fascination with which I had watched and felt the night. But he didn't. Lestat was never the vampire I am. Not at all. " The vampire did not say this boastfully. He said it as if he would truly have had it otherwise.

  "Alors," he sighed. "I was dying fast, which meant that my capacity for fear was diminishing as rapidly. I simply regret I was not more attentive to the process. Lestat was being a perfect idiot. 'Oh, for the love of hell!' he began shouting. 'Do you realize I've made no provision for you? What a fool I am. ' I was tempted to say,'Yes, you are,' but I didn't. 'You'll have to bed down with me this morning. I haven't prepared you a coffin. ' "

  The vampire laughed. "The coffin struck such a chord of terror in me I think it absorbed all the capacity for terror I had left. Then came only my mild alarm at having to share a coffin with Lestat. He was in his father's bedroom meantime, telling the old man

  good-bye, that he would return in the morning. But where do you go, why must you live by such a schedule!' the old man demanded, and Lestat became impatient. Before this, he'd been gracious to the old man, almost to the point of sickening one, but now he became a bully. 'I take care of you, don't I? I've put a better roof over your head than you ever put over mine! If I want to sleep all day and drink all night, I'll do it, damn you!' The old man started to whine. Only my peculiar state of emotions and most unusual feeling of exhaustion kept me from disapproving. I was watching the scene through the open door, enthralled with the colors of the counterpane and the positive riot of color in the old man's face. His blue veins pulsed beneath his pink and grayish flesh. I found even the yellow of his teeth appealing to me; and I became almost hypnotized by the quivering of his lip. 'Such a son, such a son,' he said, never suspecting, of course, the true nature of his son. 'All right, then, go. I know you keep a woman somewhere; you go to see her as soon as her husband leaves in the morning. Give me my rosary. What's happened to my rosary?' Lestat said something blasphemous and gave him the rosary. . . . "

  "But. . . " the boy started.

  "Yes?" said the vampire. "I'm afraid I don't allow you to ask enough questions. "

  "I was going to ask, rosaries have crosses on them, don't they?"

  "Oh, the rumor about crosses!" the vampire laughed "You refer to our being afraid of crosses?"

  "Unable to look on them, I thought; ' said the boy.

  "Nonsense, my friend, sheer nonsense. I can look on anything I like. And I rather like looking on crucifixes in particular. "

  "And what about the rumor about keyholes? That you can. . . become steam and go through them. "

  "I wish I could," laughed the vampire. "How positively delightful. I should like to pass through all manner of different keyholes and feel the tickle of their peculiar shapes. No. " He shook his head. "That is, how would you say today. . . bullshit?"

  The boy laughed despite himself. Then his face grew serious.

  "You mustn't be so shy with me," the vampire said. "What is it?"

  "The story about stakes through the heart," said the boy, his cheeks coloring slightly.

  "The same," said the vampire. "Bull-shit," he said, carefully articulating both syllables, so that the boy smiled. "No magical power whatsoever. Why don't you smoke one of your cigarettes? I see you have them in your shirt pocket. "

  "Oh, thank you," the boy said, as if it were a marvelous suggestion. But once he had the cigarette to his lips, his hands were trembling so badly that he mangled the first fragile book match.

  "Allow me," said the vampire. And, taking the book, he quickly put a lighted match to the boy's cigarette. The boy inhaled, his eyes on the vampire's fingers. Now the vampire withdrew across the table with a soft rustling of garments. "There's an ashtray on the basin," he said, and the boy moved nervously to get it. He stared at the few butts in it for a moment, and then, seeing the small waste basket beneath, he emptied the ashtray and quickly set it on the table. His fingers left damp marks on the cigarette when he put it dow
n. "Is this your room?" he asked.

  "No," answered the vampire. "Just a room. "

  "What happened then?" the boy asked. The vampire appeared to be watching the smoke gather beneath the overhead bulb.

  "Ah. . . we went back to New Orleans posthaste," he said. "Lestat had his coffin in a miserable room near the ramparts. "

  "And you did get into the coffin?"

  "I had no choice. I begged Lestat to let me stay in the closet, but he laughed, astonished. 'Don't you know what you are?' he asked. 'But is it magical? Must it have this shape?' I pleaded. Only to hear him laugh again. I couldn't bear the idea; but as we argued, I realized I had no real fear. It was a strange realization. All my life I'd feared closed places. Born and bred in French houses with lofty ceilings and floor-length windows, I had a dread of being enclosed. I felt uncomfortable even in the confessional in church. It was a normal enough fear. And now I realized as I protested to Lestat, I did not actually feel this anymore. I was simply remembering it. Hanging on to it from habit, from a deficiency of ability to recognize my present and exhilarating freedom. 'You're carrying on badly,' Lestat said finally. 'And it's almost dawn. I should let you die. You will die, you know. The sun will destroy the blood I've given you, in every tissue, every vein. But you shouldn't be feeling this fear at all. I think you're like a man who loses an arm or a leg and keeps insisting that he can feel pain where the arm or leg used to be. ' Well, that was positively the most intelligent and useful thing Lestat ever said in my presence, and it brought me around at once. 'Now, I'm getting into the coffin,' he finally said to me in his most disdainful tone,'and you will get in on top of me if you know what's good for you. ' And I did. I lay face-down on him, utterly confused by my absence of dread and filled with a distaste for being so close to him, handsome and intriguing though he was. And he shut the lid. Then I asked him if I was . completely dead. My body was tingling and itching all over. 'No, you're not then,' he said. 'When you are, you'll only hear and see it changing and feel nothing. You should be dead by tonight. Go to sleep. "'

  "Was he right? Were you. . . dead when you woke up?"

  "Yes, changed, I should say. As obviously I am alive. My body was dead. It was some time before it became absolutely cleansed of the fluids and matter it no longer needed, but it was dead. And with the realization of it came another stage in my divorce from human emotions. The first thing which became apparent to me, even while Lestat and I were loading the coffin into a hearse and stealing another coffin from a mortuary, was that I did not like Lestat at all. I was far from being his equal yet, but I was infinitely closer to him than I had been before the death of my body. I can't really make this clear to you for the obvious reason that you are now as I was before my body died.

  You cannot understand. But before I died, Lestat was absolutely the most overwhelming experience I'd ever had. Your cigarette has become one long cylindrical ash. "

  "Oh!" The boy quickly ground the filter into the glass. "You mean that when the gap was closed between you, he lost his. . . spell?" he asked, his eyes quickly fixed on the vampire, his hands now producing a cigarette and match much more easily than before.

  "Yes, that's correct," said the vampire with obvious pleasure. "The trip back to Pointe du Lac was thrilling. And the constant chatter of Lestat was positively the most boring and disheartening thing I experienced. Of course as I said, I was far from being his equal. I had my dead limbs to contend with. . . to use his comparison. And I learned that on that very night, when I had to make my first kill. "

  The vampire reached across the table now and gently brushed an ash from the boy's lapel, and the boy stared at his withdrawing hand in alarm. "Excuse me," said the vampire. "I didn't mean to frighten you. "

  "Excuse me," said the boy. "I just got the impression suddenly that your arm was. . . abnormally long. You reach so far without moving!"

  "No," said the vampire, resting his hands again on his crossed knees. "I moved forward much too fast for you to see. It was an illusion. "

  "You moved forward? But you didn't. You were sitting just as you are now, with your back against the chair. "

  "No," repeated the vampire firmly. "I moved forward as I told you. Here, I'll do it again. " And he did it again, and the boy stared with the same mixture of confusion and fear. "You still didn't see it," said the vampire. "But, you see, if you look at my outstretched arm now, it's really not remarkably long at all. " And he raised his arm, first finger pointing heavenward as if he were an angel about to give the Word of the Lord. "You have experienced a fundamental difference between the way you see and I see. My gesture appeared slow and somewhat languid to me. And the sound of my finger brushing your coat was quite audible. Well, I didn't mean to frighten you, I confess. But perhaps you can see from this that my return to Pointe du Lac was a feast of new experiences, the mere swaying of a tree branch in the wind a delight. "

  "Yes," said the boy; but he was still visibly shaken. The vampire eyed him for a moment, and then he said, "I was telling you. . . "

  "About your first kill," said the boy.

  "Yes. I should say first, however, that the plantation was in a state of pandemonium. The overseer's body had been found and so had the blind old man in the master bedroom, and no one could explain the blind old man's presence. And no one had been able to find me in New Orleans. My sister had contacted the police, and several of them were at Pointe du Lac when I arrived. It was already quite dark, naturally, and Lestat quickly explained to me that I must not let the police see me in even minimal light, especially not with my body in its present remarkable state; so I talked to them in the avenue of oaks before the plantation house, ignoring their requests that we go inside. I explained I'd been to Pointe du Lac the night before and the blind old man was my guest. As for the overseer, he had not been here, but had gone to New Orleans on business.

  "After that was settled, during which my new detachment served me admirably, I had the problem of the plantation itself. My slaves were in a state of complete confusion, and no work had been done all day. We had a large plant then for the making of the indigo dye, and the overseer's management had been most important. But I had several extremely intelligent slaves who might have done his job just as well a long time before, if I had recognized their intelligence and not feared their African appearance and manner. I studied them clearly now and gave the management of things over to them. To the best, I gave the overseer's house on a promise. Two of the young women were brought back into the house from the fields to care for Lestat's father, and I told them I wanted as much privacy as possible and they would all of them be rewarded not only for service but for leaving me and Lestat absolutely alone. I did not realize at the time that these slaves would be the first, and possibly the only ones, to ever suspect that Lestat and I were not ordinary creatures. I failed to realize that their experience with the supernatural was far greater than that of white men. In my own inexperience I still thought of them as childlike savages barely domesticated by slavery. I made a bad mistake. But let me keep to my story. I was going to tell you about my first kill. Lestat bungled it with his characteristic lack of common sense. "

  "Bungled it?" asked the boy.

  "I should never have started with human beings. But this was something I had to learn by myself. Lestat had us plunge headlong into the swamps right after the police and the slaves were settled. It was very late, and the slave cabins were completely dark. Rye soon lost sight of the lights of Pointe du Lac altogether, and I became very agitated. It was the same thing again: remembered fears, confusion. Lestat, had he any native intelligence, might have explained things to me patiently and gently-that I had no need to fear the swamps, that ;o snakes and insects I was utterly invulnerable, and that I must concentrate on my new ability to see in total darkness. Instead, he harassed me with condemnations. He was concerned only with our victims, with finishing my initiation and getting on with it.
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