Talulla Rising Page 28

Zoë woke up and gurgled. A sound of absurd innocence. I was very aware that the thing to do was get us out of there so Cloquet could speak freely. To press him now was a risk.

‘I want you to tell me everything you know about this,’ I said to him. ‘Right now.’


The last of his tensile apparatus, visible in the shoulders and knees and the left foot up on its toes, collapsed. As with all defeats it was also a liberation. He closed his eyes for a few moments, then opened them. ‘I only kept this from you to protect you, chérie. You must believe me.’

‘Just tell me.’

He sighed. Poured himself more vodka. When he spoke his voice was ragged.

‘Jacqueline was obsessed with the story of Remshi and the prophecy of his return. She found the vampire scholars who took it seriously and gave them whatever they asked for in exchange for information. It was disgusting, the things... Anyway. Of course she saw herself becoming his queen, his amant royale. The prophecies were very clear on the point of him choosing a bride. You have to understand: her father... It’s just a kind of extension of—’

‘I don’t care about her fucking childhood traumas,’ I said. Walker and Konstantinov were rich with listening. The same quality the pine forest had in the snow. (There were these pointless correspondences. I thought: that’s what art’s for, to chase them down, to reveal them. The nightmare was when you couldn’t switch it off, when you didn’t want art.) ‘Just tell me what they want with my son,’ I said. I don’t know why I said that, since I already knew the answer.

Cloquet ran a hand through his exhausted hair. ‘There’s a ritual,’ he said.

Of course there was. I’d known that since Walker had said ‘the Disciples of Remshi’. I imagined Jake shaking his head the way one did at those morons who dressed up to recreate Middle Earth or the American Civil War every weekend. Jake not being with me for this was like cold air coming up against my back from a chasm right behind me. For a moment I hated him. He’d left me too much to do on my own – and no one to go to for comfort when I failed to do it.

‘The prophecy says Remshi doesn’t achieve full power until he’s... until he drinks the blood of gammou-jhi.’ Cloquet said. ‘Gammou-jhi is an ancient vampire word for werewolf.’

And there it was.

I saw a B-movie underground cave, papier-mâché boulders, a long-bearded vampire lifting a ceremonial dagger (a thing like a multicoloured stalactite) over my son’s hyperventilating chest while Jacqueline and her king watched, her lipsticked mouth slightly open, her short red hair slicked down and glistening in the torchlight.

‘He’s dead then,’ I said, trying out the words, wondering what I’d tell Zoë about the brother she never knew. Whom I never knew. Whom I never loved. Whom I let them take.

‘No,’ Cloquet said, leaning forward. ‘The ritual can only be performed au milieu d’hiver, on midwinter’s day – but Lulu, it’s not real. This thing doesn’t exist. There isn’t going to be a sacrifice because there is no one to sacrifice to. Jacqueline, this vision she has, this believing in Remshi, c’est une fantasie.’

‘He’ll die anyway,’ I said. ‘Or spend the rest of his life in a cage. If he’s no use to Jacqueline she’ll sell him to WOCOP or the Helios Project.’ I could see it ahead again like a loveless marriage, all the things I’d have to think of and plan and attempt, the pointlessness of it, failure guaranteed. And no matter how pointless it was I knew I wouldn’t be strong or brave enough to turn my back and walk away. I was a bad mother, but not bad enough to be any good to myself. My limbs ached. Cloquet sat with his head bowed. He was running around inside himself trying to find a door into this not having happened. I understood why he hadn’t told me. I’d still have done everything I’d done so far, but maybe with a desperation that would’ve made me careless. The wolves hadn’t misjudged him. He’d had my interests at heart. My face and hands were full of stalled anger.

‘How long do I have?’ I asked.

‘Till December twenty-first,’ Walker said. ‘Winter solstice. This year coincident with a full-moon lunar eclipse. But listen, we need to discuss—’

‘I only did it to protect you,’ Cloquet said. ‘I didn’t want you to have to carry it around in your head.’

‘It wasn’t your decision.’

‘I just—’

‘It wasn’t your fucking decision. Shut up about it now.’

My heart laboured. All this new information my exhausted strategist could only frantically manhandle, to no purpose. Konstantinov and Walker sat still, Konstantinov with one bony dark-haired hand around the tiny glass of vodka, Walker with his arms folded and his legs stretched out in front of him, ankles crossed. The exchange between me and Cloquet had ravished them a little, Walker especially, seeing me shift up a gear, the flare of passion. I pictured the B-movie cave again, the multicoloured stalactite dagger. Was that the sort of thing my son was going to die for? Hocus pocus? Mumbo jumbo? Magic? But of course, we were magic ourselves. Zoë. Konstantinov. Cloquet. Walker. My own cursed carcass – what was that if not magic? It didn’t feel like it. It felt heavy with ordinariness. The vodka was an unwanted seduction in my fingertips, yet another indication of what a useless mother I was.

Zoë needed changing. There were two disposable diapers in the pocket of her carrier. I didn’t want to do it in front of everyone, with trembling hands: Look, kids, the Werewolf mommy. Just like a human mommy, except she doesn’t love her babies and she kills people and eats them.

I pulled out one of the diapers. ‘Is there somewhere I could see to this?’

Walker got to his feet and nodded for me to follow him. We’d passed three small bedrooms on the way from the front door to the living room, one of which clearly wasn’t in use. A single bed with a bare mattress, a bedside table, a falling-apart white Ikea wardrobe. I unhitched Zoë’s carrier, took her out and laid her on the bed. Walker stood in the doorway. His consciousness touched me at my hips and collar bone and breasts and thighs. There were these moments when the universe insisted it was purely perverse, had no other aspect or trick: Now she knows they’re going to kill her son, her libido wakes up. It meant nothing. Or it meant what it always means, that we’re strange creatures, that there are internal weather systems we’re not answerable for. Less than three hours after I’d found out about Richard’s affair I’d masturbated, furiously, thinking about the two of them together in our bed, and had a huge climax. It didn’t mean I didn’t despise him. It was just something else that was going on. I remembered the Sontag quote from Jake’s journal: Whatever is happening, something else is always going on.

Prev Next
Romance | Vampires | Fantasy | Billionaire | Werewolves | Zombies