”It’s not fair, nest-ce pas, mon cher?”
With much more difficulty than the nights before I drew myself up from the dark hole where I’ve spent the day sleeping. My clothes were rugged and dirty and I didn't know when I've lost my shoes.
My hair, dirty and knotted, dangled in front of my face, but I didn’t care anymore. I've stopped caring about my appearance a long time ago.
The long hair obscured my sight, that was true, but I didn’t need to see the way. In fact, I could have walked it in my sleep. By now I knew every tile, every crack in the ground, every uneven spot.
The persistent hunger had settled long ago as a distant gnawing and aching feeling in the depth of every part of my body; it was more than just uncomfortable, although I should be used to it by now.
In the beginning, it had been much worse. Often had I been tempted to look for a victim who would provide me with enough strength to go on, but nowadays it was very difficult. New security laws and newly developed techniques made it almost impossible for any crime to take place.
For me animals like rats presented a solution, but I couldn’t make myself hunt them down. It’s been quite a while since I last saw my reflection but I didn't need to look into a mirror to know that I was nothing more than a straight walking skeleton by now. Was it important?
So I was hungry and I was weak. My limbs protested vehemently as I moved them and I had to hold on to the wall as I started to walk and still my legs wobbled dangerously beneath me.
“At last you don’t see all the mess around; you’re fortunate enough to have this refuge, while I have to face it every night anew.”
The short distance to my ordinary watching place next to him actually exhausted me and I dreaded the thought that it would be impossible for me to move at all too soon if I decided to continue like this. But only if. I no longer feared the alternative solution.
“Yes, you are sleeping, perhaps dreaming while I have to face that reality. What is in your mind that could be worse than that?”
Sighing I kneeled down on the cold stone floor, so close to him that we were almost touching.
“Or perhaps it’s just my depressing rambling that keeps you asleep. If you want me to shut up and be quiet you simply have to tell me.”
Feeling tired despite the rest I had I closed my eyes and bent forward to rest my head on the cool ground. The cold soothed me somehow but it wasn’t able to ban the dizziness from my mind; there was a lasting pain between my temples.
Slowly I turned my head to the side and looked at his face that was so close to mine. Dust covered his skin and even his eyes were hidden behind thick layers of it. I was afraid to remove it out of his sensitive orbs and gently blew some air to make it go away. It didn’t work though. Lestat didn’t react, he didn’t even blink and I sighed again.
I wasn’t not sure if I could remove the dirt from his face or comb out his hair. I doubted that I had the strength to hold a comb in my cold and shaking hands.
Frowning I observed him, but it was really time for another mopping up, if you’d call it like that.
“Who will do that for you once I'm gone, Lestat? Or do you not care at all how you look like? I remember how vain you could be.”
I waited. Despite the certainty that he wouldn’t react, I still hoped to draw him out of his state. Such a fool I was!
With shaking limbs I got up on my arms and knees and fetched a clean and soft cloth out of my pocket, starting to wipe the dirt away from his cold but still so smooth skin. How I would have loved to bathe him! But it was impossible; I knew that. So I did the best I could with this little cloth, but it was not much.
His empty eyes disturbed me immensely, even after this long time. I’ve tried to close them but he’s opened them again after a while when I was not watching him. Hope flared up but died again as nothing else happened. He simply continued to lay there, staring with empty eyes at the wall beyond the cross. What did he see? Where was he right now?
For a short while I entertained the thought of carrying him into the house David inhabited when he was in town. It could work but only temporary. The last time we’ve done this Lestat simply vanished from his room the very next night. If he was really conscious or not, I didn't know.
We were looking for him before we found him in the chapel at last. Resting on the cold stone floor in front of the cross, like he's never been away.
While I cleaned or rather caressed his face I started to talk to him once more. I wasn’t sure if he heard me, but perhaps I just talked to convince myself that I was no illusion in a fading dream.
“This has been my life for the past centuries. Will you laugh at me, once you get to know that I’ve stayed here?”
“You are selfish, Lestat,” I said, “Do you not care at all about what’s happening around you? You still think the whole world resolves around you, don’t you? But that’s no longer true. The world has long forgotten who you are.”
That was true, but only partly. No one outside knew about him any longer; for the mortal world he was non-existing. But not for me.
I asked questions without ever expecting a reply. I taunted him and never received a single reaction. It was useless to stay. And yet I couldn’t leave this place
But I hated being here. I didn’t hate to be with him, even if there was no sign that he was here at all, no. I hated this place, this time, everything around me; how lifeless his once sparkling eyes were, how ignorant he seemed of everything.
In the beginning I often felt the urge to grab and shake him and simple let him fall back onto the ground again, only to provoke some reaction. I never did it though, and perhaps this had been a grave mistake. I yelled at him, threw complaints and ugly insults into his face but it was for nothing. He simply didn’t care!
I often asked myself if something would happen if I opened one of the hidden windows to let the sun inside. Would he react to this threat?
Perhaps his body would look for shelter on its own accord; perhaps he would wake only to return to his unnatural slumber once he was in safe darkness again.
Or he would start burning. Or he was too strong for that; it was a possibility that nothing happened, nothing at all. He’d just continue to lay there for the rest of, well, for the rest of what? For the rest of his life?
I couldn't hate Lestat and so I’ve started to hate this place instead, this timeless chapel. Time was nothing when there was nothing to count it by. I hadn’t seen a clock for what seemed an eternity and somewhere I’ve lost my watch; there was only the toll. Perhaps as a reminder that time stood indeed still for me? And it wouldn’t start running until he would rise again.
But I wouldn't wait that long. I just could not. It has taken time, but I’ve made my mind up at last. The chapel was indeed timeless with the still and unmoving figure on the cross, the altar, and all the sculptures standing there until the Day of Judgement.
But the time has never stood still outside. The skyline of New Orleans has changed through the decades. New streets, new buildings, new laws. Whole generations of people have been born and vanished again. It was scary to watch, especially when you and your closest environment stay the same.
Everything else has changed while I've been here, waiting, hoping without reason.
Three years after Lestat’s last waking moment I've bought the realty and the chapel it housed. Large grown trees obscured the sight; motion detectors and cameras were hidden in the branches. After about fifty years the government of the city declared this realty to be under a preservation order, which made things so much easier for me.
Around everything a fence was built to keep unwanted visitors at bay. Not that there were many of them in the first place.
The novelty of the vampire Lestat, sleeping motionless has worn off soon enough. Nowadays no one seemed to care about him, only a handful trusted friends still came visiting from time to time.
“Do you know that Marius is gone?” I asked him while my fingers automatically stroked through his shining hair. It vexed me how silky and soft it felt even after such a long time despite all the dust.
“He vanished almost two months ago, and he hasn't been seen since. Armand believes he won’t come back.”
It pained me immensely to think that he was indeed dead. I missed my dear friend who always had welcomed me with open arms whenever I needed a listening ear.
I could understand him though and I even envied him for being brave enough to take this final step. I didn't know if I was ever brave enough to follow him.
Marius wasn't the only one though. I knew that Pandora disappeared a few days later, as well as Daniel only last week. When I received the news I felt like losing the ground under my feet.
I've told Lestat about it; of course, in the hope the news of his old friends choosing death one by one might perhaps rouse him from his state.
As I thought nothing of that sort happened. It would have been too easy to believe so.
What would I give to hear his voice just once? To see his eyes alive and full of happiness again? There were times I had difficulties to remember his voice at all. These moments became more and more frequently now, I already started to forget how life was like before Memnoch.
It was dangerous to linger in the past, the temptation to forget and ignore the present was too strong to ignore at times. I learnt it the hard way.
The toll rang and startled at the loud and sudden sound I looked up; it’s a miracle for me how fast the time can run, when you're doing nothing than thinking and brooding. It was time for me now to go to sleep.
My stiff muscles protested vehemently at the sudden movement when I slowly uncurled and started to stand up. I couldn't resist and bent down one last time to give him a kiss on his unyielding mouth before I straightened and slowly made my way towards the staircase that led to the roof of the chapel.
For the last time I glanced over my shoulder at his still form then I looked down at the first stairs that would lead me to the final, endless sleep.
I was no longer afraid.
Farewell, sweet prince, the sun is waiting.
This was the first real thing he felt when he slowly surfaced out of the endless nothingness and came back to his senses again. It hurt just so much. Even the simple act of drawing one breath after another was pure agony and if he’d had the strength he would have cried with every single heave of his lungs. So he simply curled into a small ball, wincing, when his muscles protested against this unusual movement and panted, waiting almost desperately for his body to adjust and the pain to go away.
Slowly, so very slowly the burning in his inner organs subsided and he could breath more easily. He noticed how his sped up heartbeat returned to his normal pace and he thought he could even feel his blood running more smoothly through his veins now that he was conscious again. There was still a slightly uncomfortable feeling settled deep inside his stomach; somehow it was disturbing, and yet- it felt so familiar at the same time. But somehow he knew that this was not so important right now.
He tried to focus his sight and almost panicked when he realized that he couldn’t see at all! Already he raised shaking hands to his face, barely stopping himself from touching his eyes. Instead of clawing at his vulnerable orbs he fisted locks of his hair and pulled hard in an attempt to remain composed.
But then he blinked once, twice and the grey haze settled on his eyes disappeared slowly, leaving just a feeling like he had sand under his lids. He actually welcomed this feeling though; as long as he could see he would endure it. Slowly he released the breath he hadn’t realised he’d been holding, let his limbs relax and uncurled slowly; he was confused when he gazed at the scene that greeted him; an empty vestibule, an empty altar room. Something didn’t look right, didn’t feel right!
Why was he alone? Where was the light?
Most important, who was he?
His mind was blank and he didn’t even remember his name!
But he remained calm, collecting himself while staring at the blank stonewall in front of his eyes. That was one thing he knew. He could clearly see this wall although there was no light in this room. And somehow he just knew that this was only one of his many abilities.
Slowly he uncurled his body completely. His limbs, still unused to the movements protested vehemently and refused to cooperate at first. Groaning with pain and with stiff and clumsy movements he sat up, gathering his long cloak around his slim body. He didn’t feel cold though although the air settled like icy against the skin of his face. Another piece of information he filed away.
Well, where was he now? Slowly he looked around with big eyes, taking in every single detail of the room. He was in a small church or a chapel, as it seemed. Right now he was sitting right in front under the cross with the still figure of Jesus looking impassively down on him.
Suddenly his memories were there, flooding his mind in an endless stream of information: Jesus, Memnoch, Dora, and the events that followed with his visit in Heaven and Hell...Veronica’s Veil.
He moaned with the intensity of these memories and curled into a foetal position, but the pictures appeared mercilessly in front of his inner eyes: Armand burning, Marius and Daniel crying, David sitting in snow, and Louis standing apart, watching everything.But there was still more! He saw his whole past again; from the time of his childhood until the day he’d started to follow...
He also remembered times of complete darkness when he’d been floating in a void bereft of everything. He remembered the feeling of being touched in a gentle manner, he remembered hearing soft words of reassurance and comfort, saying his name all over again.
He knew then. Lestat remembered everything.
He knew not only what happened after he was back from his adventure with Memnoch; there were faint pictures, perhaps fractures of hazed dreams, he was not sure. He saw himself being restrained by chains, then he saw this very chapel, alighted with countless candles and a large crowd of vampires, both familiar and unknown to him. He felt Armand so close by, felt his teeth entering the vein on his neck before his body reacted and pushed the auburn haired vampire away, almost killing him with his strength. In a flash he was alone, the light was dimmed, the number of candles decreased and the crowd of faceless vampires had completely disappeared, or so he thought, until another vampire curled himself around his body and held him close. A familiar scent evaded his senses and he recognized his beloved Louis, who, of all his friends, stayed here with him, keeping him company for so long. He felt those arms around him, the feeling of another body pressed so close against his own and he reached out only to grab thin air- he was back in the present and alone.
Alone, after all. Where was Louis? His beloved fledgling?
“Why did he leave me? What made him turn his back on me?” Lestat whispered but then became aware how selfish he sounded. He could not expect Louis - or any other of his friends - to stay with him all the time. But then, why not? Why could they not look after him? Not that he really needed protection, but the principle remained the same!
He shook his head. He would show them that he was back again and demand explanations, he promised himself. But at first he had to make himself presentable again and – most importantly- he had to still the nagging feeling in his stomach he recognized as the deep felt hunger for blood. Grimacing, Lestat realized how dirty he and his clothes actually were, raised his arms and looked himself over. He was covered in layers of dust and jumped a few times up and down, shaking his arms to get rid off most of it. A cloud surrounded him and resolutely he stepped aside, letting the dust settle again. No wonder he hadn’t been able to see anything when he’d woken up. All these dust on his eyes! But he noticed for the first time that, apart from his eyes, his face had been almost free of dust and grime. He raised his hands and touched his smooth cheeks if to reassure himself that he was indeed whole. Then he touched his hair and ran his fingers along the pointy tips of his teeth, smiling. He felt great but then he looked around again.
Where the hell were they all? And just for how long had he been lying here on this floor? Indeed, he frowned more deeply now, how much time had he lost? The idea of having been away for an unknown period of time was quite unsettling, but he was sure it would not be so bad. As soon as he set foot outside and entered his city he would know that he was fine. Lestat let his eyes roam across the room, encountering only little evidence that he’d indeed had some visitors: a few burnt out candles and a black scarf someone had forgotten.
That was all he found until something interesting caught his gaze; there were footprints in the dust settled on the floor. They were hardly visible but since he knew what he was looking for he could easily see them. Curiously he stepped nearer; these tracks were indeed prints of bare feet, and they were leading towards the stairs, which he only noticed now. But somehow he knew that there were several rooms upstairs before the stairs led towards the rooftop of this chapel.
His dry lips curled into a slow smile when he realized that he was not as abandoned as he had thought; his friends surely had to be upstairs, or at least one of them, only taking some well earned rest. Yes, that was the explanation and Lestat decided that he would just have a look upstairs. He started a bit when the brittle skin of his lips suddenly broke and a lone blood drop rolled down to his chin. Distracted by the fine pain he caught the drop with his fingertip and studied it. He thought he could see how his skin absorbed the tiny droplet almost instantly and reminded him of something important and exciting.
“I need to hunt,“ he whispered hoarsely, happy to hear his own voice again and smiled. But this could wait. At first he wanted to go upstairs to tell his friend, whoever it was, that the brat prince was back again. Clumsily he took a step and then another, carefully trying to keep his balance.
But his body soon remembered its former strength and despite the lack of sustenance moved more fluidly when he walked to the stairs, carefully watching the footprints in the process. He felt stronger now, more alive with each step he was taking and with each stair he was ascending.
Looking through the rooms his confident smile soon died on his lips when he realized that no one was there. Even his fine senses couldn’t make out any living being there. This could only mean one thing: it had to be one of his fledglings. And with a smile he hoped that it was Louis. It simply had to be him! Well, Lestat remembered that Louis always had been with him, even during his long ‘sleep’. There was no way he wouldn’t be there for him any longer! Yes, Louis was the first of all his beloved ones he wanted to cradle in his arms after all this time! Looking down at the floor, he saw the footprints again, they were leading towards the roof outside and he followed them enthusiastically.
In the altar room below the lonely figure on the cross remained impassive and emotionless, and the statues of the angels and saints didn’t cry bitter tears when suddenly a horrible scream full of deeply felt anguish and desperation cut through the peaceful silence of the night.