The Vampire TapestrySuzy McKee Charnas
Table of Contents
Part I: The Ancient Mind at Work
Part II: The Land of Lost Content
Part III: Unicorn Tapestry
Part IV: A Musical Interlude
Part V: The Last of Dr. Weyland
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The Vampire Tapestry
by Suzy McKee Charnas
The Vampire Tapestry
by Suzy McKee Charnas
Hailed by Stephen King as “scary and suspenseful” and “unputdownable,” and by Peter Beagle, author of The Last Unicorn, as “The best vampire novel I have ever read,” The Vampire Tapestry examines the classic monster as a biological, rather than supernatural, predator who awakens from hibernation every few decades needing to relearn human culture. After years of secret effort, the self-styled Edward Weyland has become a respected anthropology professor and director of a sleep research lab. With reliable access to unsuspecting blood donors, he grows complacent and makes a near-fatal error. First critically wounded by a strong and canny woman, then imprisoned and humiliated by a power-mad Satanist, he is forced on a journey toward an empathy with his prey that threatens the foundations of his survival.
THE VAMPIRE TAPESTRY
Copyright © 1980 by Suzy McKee Charnas. All rights reserved.
Original Publication: Simon and Schuster, 1980.
Ebook edition of The Vampire Tapestry copyright © 2001 by ElectricStory.com, Inc.
ePub ISBN: 978-1-59729-034-0
Kindle ISBN: 978-1-930815-54-4
ElectricStory.com and the ES design are registered trademarks of ElectricStory.com, Inc.
This novel is a work of fiction. All characters, events, organizations, and locales are either the product of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously to convey a sense of realism.
Cover art by and copyright © 2001 Cory and Catska Ench.
Original Ebook conversion by ElectricStory.com, Inc.
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My gratitude to those who read for me while this work was in progress: Stephen (first, last, and always); Marge, Joanna, and Vonda; Janet, Sondra, Michael, Esther, Juliet, Mara, Ned, Maggie, and Jo and her friends of the mini-reading in their mini-dining room at Evergreen; Robin, Patty, Liza, Sally, and associates. Thanks also to some who read parts of this book in the light of particular expertise (errors that survived their attentions are entirely my own responsibility): Marion London and Claudine Wilder, therapists; Jon Charnas for advice on the layouts of apartments in New York, his town; Bruce Stringer, veterinarian; Bill and Kay Weinrod, formerly on the administrative staff of the Santa Fe Opera, and Drew Field, technical director; Eric Rose and Eva Friedlander, anthropologists; Virginia Kidd, agent, whose enthusiasm and eye for detail were so helpful; David Hartwell, an editor who knows when work can be made better and gives fruitful suggestions to that end; and special thanks to Harry Nadler for the use of his Panama hat.
To the memory of Loren Eiseley. We never met, but his writing first opened to me the vast perspectives of geologic time. From those distances eventually emerged the figure of the vampire as envisioned in this book.
The Ancient Mind at Work
On a Tuesday morning Katje discovered that Dr. Weyland was a vampire, like the one in the movie she’d seen last week.
Jackson’s friend on the night cleaning crew had left his umbrella hooked over the bike rack outside the lab building. Since Katje liked before starting to work to take a stroll in the dawn quiet, she went over to see if the umbrella was still there. As she started back empty-handed through the heavy mist she heard the door of the lab building boom behind her. She looked back.
A young man had come out and started across the parking lot. Clearly he was hurt or ill, for he slowed, stopped, and sank down on one knee, reaching out a hand to steady himself on the damp and glistening tarmac.
Behind him, someone else emerged from the building and softly shut the heavy door. This man, tall and gray-haired, stood a moment touching to his mouth a white handkerchief folded into a small square. Then he put the handkerchief away and walked out onto the lot. Passing behind the kneeling figure, he turned his head to look—and continued walking without hesitation. He got into his shimmering gray Mercedes and drove off.
Katje started back toward the lot. But the young man pushed himself upright, looked around in a bewildered manner, and making his way unsteadily to his own car also drove away.
So there was the vampire, sated and cruel, and there was his victim, wilted, pale, and confused; although the movie vampire had swirled about in a black cloak, not a raincoat, and had gone after bosomy young females. Walking over the lawn to the Club, Katje smiled at her own fancy.
What she had really seen, she knew, was the eminent anthropologist and star of the Cayslin Center for the Study of Man, Dr. Weyland, leaving the lab with one of his sleep subjects after a debilitating all-night session. Dr. Weyland must have thought the young man was stooping to retrieve dropped car keys.
* * *
The Cayslin Club was an old mansion donated years before to the college. It served now as the faculty club. Its grandeur had been severely challenged by the lab building and attendant parking lot constructed on half of the once-spacious lawn, but the Club was still an imposing place within.
Jackson was in the green room plugging leaks; it had begun to rain. The green room was a glassed-in terrace, tile-floored and furnished with chairs of lacy wrought iron.
“Did you find it, Mrs. de Groot?” Jackson said.
“No, I’m sorry.” Katje never called him by his name because she didn’t know whether he was Jackson Somebody or Somebody Jackson, and she had learned to be careful in everything to do with blacks in this country.
“Thanks for looking, anyway,” Jackson said.
In the kitchen she stood by the sinks staring out at the dreary day. She had never grown used to these chill, watery winters, though after so many years she couldn’t quite recall the exact quality of the African sunlight in which she had grown up. It was no great wonder that Henrik had died here. The gray climate had finally quenched even his ardent nature six years ago, and she had shipped him back to his family. Katje had possessed his life; she didn’t need his bones and didn’t want a grave tying her to this dark country. His career as a lecturer in the sociology of medicine here and at other schools had brought in a good income, but he had funneled all he could of it into the Black Majority Movement back home. So he had left her little, and she had expected that. To the amazement and resentment of certain faculty wives, she had taken this job and stayed on.
Her savings from her salary as housekeeper at the Cayslin Club would eventually finance her return home. She needed enough to buy not a farm, but a house with a garden patch somewhere high and cool—she frowned, trying to picture the ideal site. Nothing clear came into her mind. She had been away a long time.
While she was wiping up the sinks Miss Donelly burst in, shrugging out of her dripping raincoat
and muttering, “Of all the high-handed, goddamn— Oh, hello, Mrs. de Groot; sorry for the language. Look, we won’t be having the women’s faculty lunch here tomorrow after all. Dr. Weyland is giving a special money pitch to a group of fat-cat alumni and he wants a nice, quiet setting—our lunch corner here at the Club, as it turns out. Dean Wacker’s already said yes, so that’s that.”
“Why come over in the rain to tell me that?” Katje said. “You should have phoned.”
“I also wanted to check out a couple of the upstairs bedrooms to make sure I reserve a quiet one for a guest lecturer I’m putting up here next month.” Miss Donelly hesitated, then added, “You know, Mrs. de Groot, I’ve been meaning to ask whether you’d be willing to be a guest lecturer yourself in my Literary Environments course—we’re reading Isak Dinesen. Would you come talk to my students?”
“Me? About what?”
“Oh, about colonial Africa, what it was like growing up there. These kids’ experience is so narrow and protected, I look for every chance to expand their thinking.”
Katje wrung out the sink rag. “My grandfather and Uncle Jan whipped the native boys to work like cattle and kicked them hard enough to break bones for not showing respect; otherwise we would have been overrun and driven out. I used to go hunting. I shot rhino, elephant, lion, and leopard, and I was proud of doing it well. Your students don’t want to know such things. They have nothing to fear but tax collectors and nothing to do with nature except giving money for whales and seals.”
“But that’s what I mean,” Miss Donelly said. “Different viewpoints.”
“There are plenty of books about Africa.”
“Try getting these kids to read.” Miss Donelly sighed. “Well, I guess I could get the women together over at Corrigan tomorrow instead of here, if I spend an hour on the phone. And we’ll miss your cooking, Mrs. de Groot.”
“Will Dr. Weyland expect me to cook for his guests?” Katje said, thinking abstractedly of the alumni lunching with the vampire. Would he eat? The one in the movie hadn’t eaten.
“Not Weyland,” Miss Donelly said dryly. “It’s nothing but the best for him, which means the most expensive. They’ll probably have a banquet brought in from Borchard’s.”
Katje put on coffee and phoned Buildings and Grounds. Yes, Dr. Weyland and six companions were on at the Club for tomorrow; no, Mrs. de Groot wouldn’t have to do anything but tidy up afterward; yes, it was short notice, and please write it on the Club calendar; and yes, Jackson had been told to check the eaves over the east bedrooms before he left.
“Wandering raincoat,” Miss Donelly said, darting in to snatch it up from the chair where she’d left it. “Just watch out for Weyland, Mrs. de Groot.”
“What, a fifty-year-old widow like me? I am not some slinky graduate student trying for an A and the professor also.”
“I don’t mean romance.” Miss Donelly grinned. “Though God knows half the faculty—of both sexes—are in love with the man.” Honestly, Katje thought, the things people talked about these days! “To no avail, alas, since he’s a real loner. But he will try to get you into his expensive sleep lab and make your dreams part of his world-shaking, history-changing research that he stole off poor old Ivan Milnes.”
Milnes, Katje thought when she was alone again; Professor Milnes who had gone away to some sunny place to die of cancer. Then Dr. Weyland had come from a small Southern school and taken over Milnes’s dream project, saving it from being junked—or stealing it, in Miss Donelly’s version. A person who looked at a thing in too many ways was bound to get confused.
Jackson came in and poured coffee for himself. He leaned back in his chair and flipped the schedules where they hung on the wall by the phone. He was as slender as a Kikuyu youth—she could see his ribs arch under his shirt. He ate a lot of junk food, but he was too nervous to fatten on it. By rights he belonged in a red blanket, skin gleaming with oil, hair plaited. Instead he wore the tan shirt, pants, and zip-up jacket of an “engineer” from Buildings and Grounds, and his hair was a modest Afro, as they called it, around his narrow face.
“Try and don’t put nobody in that number-six bedroom till I get to it the end of the week,” he said. “The rain drips in behind the casement. I laid out towels to soak up the water. I see you got Weyland in here tomorrow. My buddy Maurice on the cleaning crew says that guy got the best lab in the place.”
“What is Dr. Weyland’s research?” Katje asked.
“ ‘Dream mapping,’ they call it. Maurice says there’s nothing interesting in his lab—just equipment, you know, recording machines and computers and like that. I’d like to see all that hardware sometime. Only you won’t catch me laying out my dreams on tape!
“Well, I got to push along. There’s some dripping faucets over at Joffey I’m supposed to look at. Hans Brinker, that’s me. Thanks for the coffee.”
She began pulling out the fridge racks for cleaning, listening to him whistle as he gathered up his tools in the green room.
* * *
The people from Borchard’s left her very little to do. She was stacking the rinsed dishes in the washer when a man said from the doorway, “I am very obliged to you, Mrs. de Groot.”
Dr. Weyland stood poised there, slightly stoop-shouldered, slightly leonine somehow. At least that was the impression Katje got from his alert stance, his still, grave, attentive face from which the wide eyes looked out bright with interest. She was surprised that he knew her name, for he did not frequent the Club.
“There was just a little remaining to do, Dr. Weyland,” she said.
“Still, this is your territory,” he said, advancing. “I’m sure you were helpful to the Borchard’s people. I’ve never been back here. Are those freezers or refrigerators?”
She showed him around the kitchen and the pantries. He seemed impressed. He handled the accessories to the Cuisinart as if they were artifacts of a civilization he was studying. The thing was a gift to the Club from the Home Ec staff. Many parts were missing already, but Katje didn’t mind. She couldn’t be bothered, as she told Dr. Weyland, getting the hang of the fancier gadgets.
He nodded thoughtfully. Was he condescending to her, or really in sympathy? “There’s no time to master the homely technology of these times, all the machines, what they mean to a modern life . . .”
He was, she realized, unexpectedly personable: lean and grizzled, but with the hint of vulnerability common among rangy men. You couldn’t look at him long without imagining the gawky scarecrow he must have been as a boy. His striking features—rugged brow, nose, and jaw—no doubt outsized and homely then, were now united in somber harmony by the long creases of experience on his cheeks and forehead.
“No more scullions cranking the spit,” he remarked over the rotisserie. “You come originally from East Africa, Mrs. de Groot? Things must have been very different there.”
“Yes. I left a long time ago.”
“Surely not so very long,” he said, and his eyes flicked over her from head to foot. Why, the man was flirting!
Relaxing in the warmth of his interest, she said, “Are you from elsewhere also?”
He frosted up at once. “Why do you ask?”
“Excuse me, I thought I heard just the trace of an accent.”
“My family were Europeans. We spoke German at home. May I sit down?” His big hands, capable and strong-looking, graced the back of a chair. He smiled briefly. “Would you mind sharing your coffee with an institutional fortune hunter? That is my job—persuading rich men and the guardians of foundations to spend a little of their money in support of work that offers no immediate result. I don’t enjoy dealing with these shortsighted men.”
“Everyone says you do it well.” Katje filled a cup for him.
“It takes up my time,” he said. “It wearies me.” His large and brilliant eyes, in sockets darkened with fatigue, had a withdrawn, pensive aspect. How old was he, Katje wondered.
Suddenly he gazed at her and
said, “Didn’t I see you over by the labs the other morning? There was mist on my windshield; I couldn’t be sure . . .”
She told him about Jackson’s friend’s umbrella, thinking, Now he’ll explain, this is what he came to say. But he added nothing, and she found herself hesitant to ask about the student in the parking lot. “Is there anything else I can do for you, Dr. Weyland?”
“I don’t mean to keep you from your work. Would you come over sometime and do a session for me in the sleep lab?”
Just as Miss Donelly had said. Katje shook her head.
“All information goes on tapes under coded ID numbers, Mrs. de Groot. Your privacy would be strictly guarded.”
His persistence made her uncomfortable. “I’d rather not.”
“Excuse me, then. It’s been a pleasure talking with you,” he said, rising. “If you find a reason to change your mind, my extension is one-sixty-three.”
She found herself obscurely relieved at his abrupt departure.
She picked up his coffee cup. It was full. She realized that she had not seen him take so much as a sip.
* * *
She was close to tears, but Uncle Jan made her strip down the gun again—her first gun, her own gun—and then the lion coughed, and she saw with the wide gaze of fear his golden form crouched, tail lashing, in the thornbrush. She threw up her gun and fired, and the dust boiled up from the thrashings of the wounded cat.
Then Scotty’s patient voice said, “Do it again,” and she was tearing down the rifle once more by lamplight at the worn wooden table, while her mother sewed with angry stabs of the needle and spoke words Katje didn’t bother to listen to. She knew the gist by heart: “If only Jan had children of his own! Sons, to take out hunting with Scotty. Because he has no sons, he takes Katje shooting instead so he can show how tough Boer youngsters are, even the girls. For whites to kill for sport, as Jan and Scotty do, is to go backward into the barbaric past of Africa. Now the farm is producing, there is no need to sell hides to get cash for coffee, salt, and tobacco. And to train a girl to go stalking and killing animals like scarcely more than an animal herself!”