Talulla Rising Page 92

Madeline, of course, was flamily connected to him, though she did her best to keep out. It wasn’t her fault. Turning someone created an unreliable psychic umbilical. She was in him, erratically, whether she wanted it or not. It was, I thought, the real reason she’d decided to give Cloquet the loving-up of his life, to give me as much room as possible with Walker. How Jake had underrated that woman!

‘I never really thought I was alone. I always thought... I mean there was the one who Turned me, for a start.’

‘And then Jake, eventually.’


And so it had begun: he’d have to compare himself, have to know who was better. In spite of everything it irritated me. It irritated me because it demonstrated the inevitability of masculine competitiveness and it irritated me because Jake was better and he was dead and I didn’t even have his ghost to talk to.

But Jake had had two hundred years to perfect himself. Walker was only four days old.

‘Do you feel him, at all?’ Walker asked, moving away from me. A glass of Laphroaig stood on the mantel. He picked it up, sipped, tasted, swallowed. ‘I mean the dead. That guy we... ’

That guy we ate. The victim we’d shared. His debut meal. He was feeling the first flickers of being inhabited in that way. Tank to the ethereal fish. You think you’ve felt it all. Then this. (Which thought produced something like déjà vu, for a second or two – then it was gone. The hairs on my skin had a little electrical moment.)

‘Not Jake, no,’ I said. ‘Not my mother, either. But the kills, yes.’

He looked down into his glass. ‘It makes us an afterlife,’ he said.

I knew what was bothering him. If the dead we ate went into us then the dead we didn’t eat had to go somewhere else. If there was a Somewhere Else then anything was possible: God, a scheme of things, morality, consequences. In which case...

‘I don’t think it’s like that,’ I said. ‘I think it’s that their lives don’t just flash before their eyes, they flash before ours, too. They pass away into nothing, but we’re left with the flash, like a snapshot, like an incredibly detailed echo that’ll keep sounding in us as long as we live. It’s not really them. It’s what they were. I don’t know.’

‘The ultimate download.’

‘Yeah, maybe.’

‘So you don’t think there’s anything?’

I remembered the certainty I’d felt looking past Delilah Snow’s death into the void that would have swallowed her. I remembered the certainty of nothingness. Last night, in the small hours, I’d begun a journal. We’re alone in the darkness, I’d written, so we hold hands and tell stories of good and evil to comfort each other. It works, for a while, for a life, for a civilisation, perhaps for as long as the species survives. But have no illusions: it makes no difference to the darkness. The darkness swallows us all – good and evil alike – with monolithic disinterest.

An odd beginning, considering I was happy, but I’d put the pen down with a feeling of contentment.

‘Don’t bother looking for the meaning of it all,’ I said. ‘There isn’t any.’

Not a conversational aphrodisiac. We took the twins’ bassinet and went to join Lucy and Trish in the kitchen. It was a big square room with an Aga and spotlights with a lilac tint and gold tinsel on the dresser. Trish and Lucy were at the dining table, an oak slab that looked as if it had been archaeologically unearthed from the days of Roman Britain. The radio, volume low, was playing Christmas carols, currently ‘Gloria in Excelsis’. I poured myself a large Hendricks. Zoë and Lorcan wouldn’t need milk (they both drank water now and then) for days. Wulf kept telling me I was being an idiot about these things, that nothing that didn’t harm me could possibly harm them, but enough of my human remained to keep the fires of paranoia going. Not until they’re weaned. Another couple of months, according to the internet, although obviously Google was assuming babies who didn’t change into monsters once a month and devour live flesh and blood.

‘I still can’t get over how easy it was,’ Trish said. ‘I don’t know why we didn’t make that the plan from the start. They were a bunch of wusses.’ She was, as ever in human form, full of compact energy. The green eyes were her face’s big treasure, set off punkily by the artfully chopped deep-red hair. She could drink anyone, it had been conceded manfully by Fergus, under the feckin table.

‘Yes, but without Mystery Marco we’d have been in trouble,’ Lucy said.

We’d gone over it countless times. Whoever he was, ‘Marco’ had power over the vampires. The armed boochies had dropped their weapons on cue. ‘Remshi’ – beyond doubt a fraud – had taken his slap like a gimp. Jacqueline had retreated. Even Mia had been compelled to earth apparently at his will.

‘Had to be an elder,’ Walker said. ‘There’s no other explanation.’

‘Unless he was the real thing,’ Lucy said, as one of us always said, sooner or later, every time we talked about it. The possibility excited us. (With the exception of Walker.) There’s something here, it’s true, Mia had reported. Very old. I don’t know. Of course she would have felt it, and since Jacqueline’s male model was being billed as its source, that’s where Mia would assume it was coming from. But ‘Marco’ was there too, as one of the Disciples. It could just as easily have been coming from him. I’d felt it myself, the nearness of a past that should have been remote, the appalling temporal compression. There was the odourlessness too, and the way he’d talked about the book.

There was the look he’d given me, of deep recognition.

‘I felt sorry for that Olivia,’ Trish said. ‘You could see she’d totally believed.’

‘At least we know they can’t walk around in daylight,’ Lucy said. ‘Or not yet, at any rate.’

Evidently the raid on the Helios lab in Beijing had been the work of the Disciples after all. They’d come away with a flawed formula and administered it to willing zealots as the ultimate Remshi marketing tool. Recipients were shunted out of public view (according to Jacqueline and her puppet messiah, off into the world to enjoy their new daylight freedom), monitored, and killed as soon as they started showing serious side-effects. By which time members of the congregation were queuing up to be given the gift. It was no wonder the Fifty Families had called time: there would be no competing with an outfit that promised its members a release from nocturnality. Jacqueline’s gamble was that they’d perfect the formula before the side-effects jig was up, by which time her position as Queen to the magical King would be established beyond question. Also by which time the gift would’ve stopped being a gift and become a reward, earned only by complete and indefinite submission to the royal will. The old boochie oligarchy would give way to a new monarchy. You had to hand it to Jacqui, as Walker had said: she didn’t think small.

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