Talulla Rising Page 54

When I woke, Caleb was lying on his back, staring at the ceiling with his brand new eyes.

‘Hey,’ I said.

He didn’t turn to look at me. Of course: The pants pulled down, the exposed genitals, the humiliation by a human male, the impotence and girlfriend taunts. A seventeen-year-old boy in a pre-pubescent body. The more I thought about it the more I saw it couldn’t have been much worse for him. And he’d been here twenty-one days. How many times had he been in the cage?

My first instinct was to not say anything about what had happened. Give his ego time and room. But the more I thought about it the more I knew that wouldn’t do. He’d see it for what it was, was already seeing it, in the silence while I figured it out. It would patronise him. It would inflate the misery it was supposed to diminish. I had to keep reminding myself he wasn’t a child.

‘I’m sorry that happened to you,’ I said. I couldn’t think of anything less blunt. ‘If it’s any consolation, I’m pretty sure it’s going to be me next. We’ve got to get out of here.’

He didn’t answer for a while. He was working out whether he could get past the shame. An alternative would be turning his back and never speaking to me again. I forced myself not to cajole him. Let it be his decision.

After a couple of minutes, still not looking at me, he said: ‘How?’

‘I don’t know, yet. But they’re going to move me tomorrow. Scientists are coming. Maybe it’ll give me a chance to get a look at the layout of this place.’

‘They’ll give you diseases,’ he said. ‘To see how your immune system works. They make you eat stuff to see what happens when you reject it.’

‘I can eat stuff,’ I said. ‘Just not all the time.’

‘They cut bits off you.’


‘Will that hurt you?’


‘But you’ll regenerate?’

‘Seems that way. Everything except the head, apparently.’

‘It’s another thing they bet on. How long different parts of you take to grow back.’

‘Don’t tell me any more,’ I said. ‘I’d rather not know. Did you get a look at any of the rest of this place when they moved you?’

‘No, they took me when I was asleep. It won’t make any difference. We’re going to die in here.’

‘Suppose Remshi comes?’ I said. ‘Wouldn’t he know where you were and come get you?’

A pause. He’d forgotten he’d mentioned Remshi. I watched him mentally retrace his steps.

‘It’s not Jesus and the lost sheep,’ he said. ‘It’s not about love. I’d be no one to him.’

‘I thought you said this lot would be in for it when he comes.’

‘They will, but that’s nothing to do with me. Humans aren’t going to know what hit them. He can walk in the daylight. We’ll all be able to walk in the daylight again.’

‘Who told you that?’

‘Jacqueline. But it’s in the book.’

‘Did Jacqueline... Was she your maker?’


‘Is it bad etiquette to ask?’

He still didn’t answer.

‘Well, it’s up to you,’ I said. ‘I just need something to take my mind off what’s coming to me.’

For a few minutes we remained like that, me sitting with my back to the wall, him lying staring up at the ceiling of his cell. When he spoke, it was obvious he was choked. ‘We’re not supposed to just tell anyone,’ he said. ‘But if I’m going to die anyway I suppose it doesn’t make any difference.’ The green eyes were filling with what in a healthy vampire I guessed would be blood; in his case thin pinkish-grey fluid. ‘And if you get out of here,’ he added, ‘you can tell her I was sorry for being such a fucking idiot.’


‘No. The one who made me.’

He’d been in Trinity Hospice in Clapham, dying of cancer. Gastric cancer in the first instance, which took doctors so long to diagnose (it’s rare in children) that by the time they did he had tumors in his lungs, pancreas and lower bowel. He had eighteen months of radio- and chemotherapy, to no avail. His mother, a single parent (father a long since vanished one-night stand), had died in a car accident when he was four, and he’d been raised since then by his aunt and uncle in Wimbledon – not badly, it sounded like, but not with much love, either. ‘I wasn’t their kid. Jeff was my auntie Rochelle’s second husband, and he didn’t want me around. He worked in the City and she was training to be a psychotherapist. I spent my time with a string of au pairs and nannies. It wasn’t bad. Jeff and Rochelle had a lot of money and felt guilty about not loving me, so by the time I was eight I was drowning in fucking toys and gadgets. I’m pretty sure if I’d asked them for a coke dealer and Kylie on a retainer they’d have sorted it, somehow. Then I got sick.’

The weird thing was, he told me, he never really believed he was going to die.

‘I could see it in the other kids, the way they looked out of the windows at the grounds and the sky, I could see they were slowly grasping it, that they were going, that this world and all the things they’d taken completely for granted was going to be gone, and they’d be wherever, heaven or hell or whatever the fuck. They all thought they’d be somewhere, even if it was just floating around like a mist in space or walking the earth as miserable ghosts. There was only one girl, Hannah, who didn’t think she was going anywhere. Dead and burned up to ashes, she said. Finished. No fucking fairy stories.’

There had been young feelings between him and Hannah, the little pause here said.

‘I went back,’ he continued. ‘Afterwards, when I was a vampire. I was going to Turn her, if she wanted it. But by then she was dead.’

I wondered – but resisted asking – how many child vampires there were. It was obvious from Caleb’s core of oddity there weren’t many.

‘But that’s jumping ahead,’ he said. ‘Before all that my mother began visiting me in the middle of the night.’

‘Your mother?’

‘My maker,’ he said. ‘Mia Tourisheva.’

Mia. I knew the name. The beautiful blonde vampire Jake had flamethrowered at Harley’s. Too much to hope – the name being uncommon, God being dead, irony still etc. – that this was a different Mia.

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