Blackwood farm, p.48

Blackwood Farm, page 48

 part  #9 of  The Vampire Chronicles Series


Blackwood Farm

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  BEFORE I COULD so much as think about what I'd heard I had to hear it from Big Ramona and from Jasmine as well, and so I went down the stairs and found them in the kitchen with Jerome and Tommy and Nash. They were around the oak table having a late supper of red beans and rice, and of course invited me to join them.

  "I have to know something," I said, not accepting the chair that was offered. "Patsy just told me I had a twin brother who was buried in the Metairie Cemetery. Is this true?"

  Immediately I received my answer. I could see it in their faces and read it from their minds. Then Big Ramona said,

  "Patsy's got no call to be telling you that now. She's got no call at all. " She started to get up.

  I gestured for her to sit down.

  "And Goblin," I said. "Did you never think Goblin could have been the ghost of that little twin brother, Garwain?" I asked.

  "Well, yes, we thought it," said Big Ramona, "but what would have been the good of saying that to a little child, and then to a growing boy, and then to a young man who was off in Europe having a fine time, with Goblin disappeared and not making any more trouble, and then to a fine man come home to a peaceful household?"

  I nodded. "I understand," I said. "And it was a smaller twin? A little tiny one?"

  "She's got no call for worrying you with all of that," said Jasmine sharply. "Everything's an excuse with that girl. An excuse or a lie. Only reason she carried on about that tiny twin is she wanted everybody to feel sorry for her. "

  Nash rose to take Tommy out, but I gestured for them to go on with their supper. I could see that Tommy was curious but I didn't see the harm in it. Why keep the secret a moment longer? Nash looked concerned, as he so often did.

  "And nobody did feel sorry for Patsy?" I asked.

  There was silence all around. Then Big Ramona said,

  "That Patsy, she's a liar. Sure, she cried over that little twin. She knew it was going to die. It's easy to feel sorry for something that doesn't have a chance, something that's not going to live a week. It's a lot harder to be a real mother. And Aunt Queen did feel sorry for her and gave her money to start her band. And then she didn't stick around to --. "

  "I understand," I said. "I just wanted to know. "

  "Aunt Queen never wanted you to know," said Big Ramona gently. "Like I said, there was no call for anybody to tell you. Pops and Sweetheart didn't want you to know either. Pops always said it was best forgotten. That it was morbid, and he used another word too. What was that other word?"

  "Grotesque," said Jasmine. "He said it was morbid and grotesque and he wasn't telling you about it. "

  "He just never found a good time to tell you," said Big Ramona.

  "Sure we thought Goblin was that twin's ghost," said Jasmine, "some of the time, at least, and some of the time we didn't. And I guess, most of the time, we didn't think it mattered. "

  Big Ramona got up to stir the pot of beans on the stove. She heaped some onto Tommy's plate. My son, Jerome, had peach cobbler all over his face and his plate.

  "Now, if when you'd come home from Europe," Big Ramona said, "Goblin had been a big nuisance again, maybe we would have told you about that little twin -- you know, to have some sort of exorcism. But you never mentioned Goblin again. "

  "And then out of nowhere he came," said Jasmine with a catch in her throat, "and he made Aunt Queen fall. " She started crying.

  "Now don't you start with that," said Big Ramona.

  "It's my fault what happened," I responded. "I'm the one who brought him up and made him strong. Whether he was a ghost or spirit doesn't have a whole lot to do with it. "

  "Then it's not your fault either," said Big Ramona. "And now we have to get rid of him. "

  I felt a faint breeze in the air. The blades of the overhead fan started to whirl though the fan had been turned off. Jasmine and Big Ramona both felt it.

  "Stick together," I said, "and don't look at him, or at any of his tricks. Now I have to go and talk to my friends. I have to talk to them about getting rid of him. "

  A plate came off the pantry shelf and was smashed on the floor. Jasmine moved shakily to get the broom. Big Ramona made the Sign of the Cross. So did I.

  Nash put his arm around Tommy. Tommy seemed thrilled. Little Jerome ate his peach cobbler as if nothing was happening.

  I turned and left the room.

  He was making his doleful music in the chandeliers.

  Big Ramona rushed past me up the steps murmuring that she had to be with Patsy and Cindy. I could hear Patsy's hysterical crying.

  I stood outside her closed door listening to her for a long time, unable to make out the syllables, wondering what drug Cindy had injected into her hip that she was still so miserable, and I realized I felt chilled all over. Of course I had always known that she hated me, but she had never said it quite so clearly, quite so convincingly; and now I had my self-hatred to add to the mix, and for the moment it was almost too much for me.

  I went into my room and shut the door.

  Lestat and Merrick sat at the table, two elegant and high-toned creatures facing one another. I took the chair with my back to the door. The computer was immediately switched on. The windows were rattling. A convulsion moved through the heavy velvet draperies. The trimming of the baldachin over the bed undulated in the breeze.

  Merrick rose from the table, looking about, her mahogany hair a thick mass down her back. Lestat watched her keenly.

  "Show yourself, spirit," she said in a low breath. "Come, show yourself to those who can see you. " Her green eyes probed the room. She turned around, gazing at the gasolier, at the ceiling. "I know you're here, Goblin," she said, "and I know your name, your true name, the name your mother gave you. "

  At once, the windowpanes closest to us were shattered. The glass flew against the lace curtains but could not pierce them and fell, tangled and splintering and loudly clattering to the floor. The hot breeze of the night gusted into the room.

  "Cowardly, foolish trick," said Merrick under her breath, as if she were whispering in his ear. "I could do that myself. Don't you want me to say your true name? Are you afraid to hear it?"

  The keys of the computer fired like crazy. I saw nonsense marching across the screen. I drew near to it.


  Suddenly a huge amorphous cloud spread itself out beneath the ceiling, the billowing hideous shape of a human form made only of filaments of blood, with a huge and silently screaming face, the entire shape abruptly contracting and thrashing as it surrounded Merrick and whipped her with its tentacles as she fell over backwards onto the carpet.

  She threw up her arms. She cried out to us. "Let it be!" And then to Goblin, "Yes, come into my arms, let me know you, come into me, be with me, yes, drink my blood, know me, yes, I know you, yes. . . " Her eyes appeared to roll up in her head, and then she lay as one unconscious.

  At last, when I was just at the point where I could endure it no longer, he rose, a wind full of blood rising, thrashing wildly once more before the ceiling and then gusting through the broken window, more tiny bits of glass flying into the lace curtains, which he left stained with bits of blood and gore, as he left her bare arms and hands and face and legs covered with it.

  Lestat helped her to her feet. He kissed her on the mouth and stroked her long brown hair. He helped her into the chair.

  "I wanted to burn him!" he said. "God, I was seething to do it. "

  "So was I," I said. I straightened her white skirt. I took out my handkerchief and began to blot the bloody scratches he had left all over her.

  "No, it was too soon for the Fire," she said, "and our meeting had to come. I had to be sure of everything. "

  "And he is the ghost of my twin? It's true?" I asked.

  "Yes, it's true," she said quietly. She motioned for me to stop with my handkerchief, taking my h
and gently and kissing it. "He's the ghost of the baby buried in Metairie Cemetery, and that's why he's always been strongest here," she explained. "It's why you couldn't take him with you to Europe, as Lestat told me. It's why he was transparent and weak when you went as far as New York. It's why he was even stronger when you went into New Orleans. It's why he appeared so very strongly by the mausoleum tonight. His remains are inside of it. "

  "But he doesn't really understand, does he?" I asked. "He doesn't know where he comes from or what his real name is?"

  "No, he doesn't know," said Merrick.

  I could see the little wounds vanishing, leaving her again the alluring woman she had been before. Her long wavy brown hair was gorgeously mussed, and her green eyes were bloodshot still, and she appeared over-all to still be shaken.

  "But he can be made to know," she continued, "and this is our most powerful weapon. Because a ghost, unlike a pure spirit, is connected to his remains, and this ghost is most connected. He is connected to you by blood, and that is why, don't you see, he feels he has always had a right to what you have. "

  "Of course," I said, "oh, of course!" Only now was it hitting me. "He thinks it's his right. We were in the womb together. " I felt a deep rivet of pain in my heart.

  "Yes, and try to imagine for a moment what death was like for this spirit. First off, he was a twin, and we know of twins that they feel the loss of the other terribly. Patsy speaks of your crying at his funeral. Of Aunt Queen begging her to console you. Aunt Queen knew that you were feeling Garwain's death. Well, Garwain had felt this separation from you in the incubator as well, and at death, undoubtedly his spirit was confused and had not gone on into the Light as it should have gone. "

  "I see," I responded. "And now for the first time in all these months I feel pity for him again. I feel. . . mercy. "

  "Feel mercy for yourself," said Merrick kindly. Her entire manner was gracious. In fact, she reminded me very much of Stirling Oliver. "But when you were brought to that funeral for him," she went on, "when you were carried there on the day of his interment, his poor miserable little spirit, cast adrift, found its living twin in you, Tarquin, and became your doppelg?nger. Indeed, he became something far stronger than a mere doppelg?nger. He became a companion and a lover, a true twin who felt he had a right to your patrimony. "

  "Yes, and we began our long journey together," I said, "two genuine twins, two genuine brothers. " I tried my damndest to remember that I had once loved him. I wondered if she could see into my soul and sense the animosity I now felt for him, the enslavement which had been so vicious for me all during this long year since Petronia had so rudely made me. And the loss of Aunt Queen -- the unspeakable loss of Aunt Queen.

  "And now that you've been given the Dark Blood," said Lestat in a cross voice, "he wants what he sees as his share of it. "

  "But that's not all that's happening," said Merrick, continuing in her subdued fashion. She looked intently at me. "I want you to describe for me, if you will, what goes on when he attacks you. "

  I considered for a moment, then I spoke, my eyes moving from Merrick to Lestat and back again.

  "It's like a fusion, a fusion I never felt when I was alive. Oh, he was inside me at times. Mona Mayfair told me that he was. She said when we made love that he was in me and she knew he was there. She could feel this. Mona considers herself a witch on account of the way she feels spirits. "

  "You love Mona Mayfair?" Merrick asked gently.

  "Very much," I managed to reply. "But I'll never see her again. She'd know me for what I am the minute she looked at me. I avoided Rowan Mayfair desperately at the wake and the Mass. Her husband, Michael, too. They're both what the Talamasca calls witches. And then there was the ghost of Julien Mayfair at the wake. Aunt Queen was his child. I'm his descendant. "

  "You have Mayfair blood?" Merrick asked. "And you saw Julien?"

  "My precious darling, I had hot cocoa with Oncle Julien in the days when I could drink it," I said. "He served me animal crackers with it on a china plate, all of which later vanished just as he did. "

  Very hastily I told her the whole tale, including the affair of the mask and the cape, and saw her lips spread in a generous and beautiful smile.

  "Oh, our Oncle Julien," she said with a winsome sigh. "The beds he left unmade and warm, what a man he was. It's a wonder there's anyone in the city of New Orleans who doesn't share some genetic inheritance from him!" She beamed at me. "He came to my Great Nananne in a dream when I was eleven years old and told her to send me to the Talamasca. They were my salvation. "

  "Oh, God in Heaven," I declared. "You don't know what I almost did to Stirling Oliver. "

  "Forget that!" said Lestat. "I mean it! That's over and done. " He raised his hand and made the Sign of the Cross. "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, I absolve you from all sin. Stirling Oliver is alive! Now that matter's closed as long as I'm Coven Master here. "

  Merrick broke into a soft, sweet laugh. Her dark skin made her green eyes all the more brilliant.

  "And you are the Coven Master, aren't you?" she said, with a flirtatious flashing glance at Lestat. "You become that automatically wherever you go. "

  Lestat shrugged. "But of course," he said, exactly as if he meant it.

  "We could argue about that, my magnificently feathered friend," she replied, "but we need this time while Goblin is exhausted. And must get back to the matter at hand. So Goblin is your twin, Tarquin, and you were going to tell me what it's like when the two of you are together now. Describe the fusion. "

  "It's positively electric," I said. "It's as if his particles, assuming he's made of them --"

  "He is," she interjected.

  "-- are fused with mine, and I lose my equilibrium completely. I'm lost as well in memories, which he either engenders or falls prey to, I don't know which, but we travel back to moments in the crib or the playpen, and I feel only love for him as I must have felt as an infant or a toddler. It's a laughing bliss that I feel. And it's often wordless except for expressions of love, which are rudimentary. "

  "How long does this last?"

  "Moments, seconds," said Lestat for me.

  "Yes, and each time is stronger than the one before it," I added. "The last time -- it came last night -- there was a tug on my heart as well as tiny slashing wounds, much worse than I've felt before, and he exited through the window, shattering all the glass much the same as he did tonight. He's never been so destructive before. "

  "He has to be destructive now," she said. "He's foolishly increased the material makeup of his being. Whereas once he was almost entirely energy, he now has considerable matter as well, and he can't pass through solid walls as he once did. On the contrary, he needs a doorway or a window. "

  "That's exactly right," I said. "I've been witnessing it. I've been feeling the air change, feeling him leave. "

  She nodded. "It's in our favor that he's subject to gravity, but it's always so with ghosts. It's only more so now with him because he's developed an appetite for blood, and so encumbered himself. Can you tell me anything else about this fusion?"

  I hesitated, then confessed. "It's very pleasurable. It's like. . . like an orgasm. It's like. . . it's like our contact with our victims. It's like the fusion with them, only it's much much milder. "

  "Milder?" she asked. "Do you lose your equilibrium when you take your victims?"

  "No, no I don't," I answered. "I see your point. But the pleasure isn't as strong with Goblin. I'd admit it if it was. It's confusion I feel, along with mild pleasure. "

  "Very well. Is there anything more that you can tell me?"

  I thought for a long time. "I feel sad," I said, "terribly sad because he's my brother, and he died, and he never had any life except the life I gave him. And now this has occurred, and he can't go on. And I think -- I know -- I should die with him. "

  She studied me for several minutes, and so did Lestat, and then Lestat spoke up, his French accen
t rather sharp as he looked at me:

  "That's not required, Quinn, and besides, even if you did try to take him with you into death, there's no guarantee that he would go. "

  "Precisely," said Merrick. "He might well let you go on and remain here to plague someone else. After all, he chose to be with you because you were his brother. But he could move to someone else. As you told Lestat, he's very cunning and he learns quickly. "

  Lestat said,

  "I don't want you to die, Little Brother. "

  Merrick smiled. She said,

  "The Coven Master won't let you die, Little Brother. "

  "So what do we do?" I asked. I sighed. "What is to be the fate of Little Brother's Little Brother?"

  "In a moment I'll explain that," she said, "but let me explain what is happening now when you fuse with him. He is binding not just with you but with the spirit of the vampire inside you. Now, you know the old tales, that we are all the descendants of one parent in whom a pure spirit fused with a mortal, and that all of us to this very day are part of that one pure spirit, carrying in our preternatural bodies the immortal spirit which animates us and gives us our thirst for blood and our ability to live on it. "

  "Yes," I said.

  "Well, your demon brother, being a ghost himself, is very like a spirit, and when he fuses with you now, he fuses with that spirit in you, and he knows a pleasure far greater than any he knew when you were mortal. "

  "Ah, I see," I said. "Of course. "

  "He doesn't understand it. He only knows it's like a sweet drug to him, and he drinks of the vampiric blood to experience the supernatural as long and as completely as he can, and only when his endurance is at an end does he release you and vanish into invisibility and weakness again, lulled and dreaming with the blood he's taken. "

  "Where does he go?"

  She shook her head. "I don't know. He spreads out, losing his shape and his organization. Compare him to a great sea creature who is composed largely of seawater, only with him it's air, and he enjoys the blood as best he can until his energy burns it off, and he must wait for another opportunity, and all this takes time for him, just as appearances and communication have always taken time, as is so with all spirits. "

  She stopped for a moment and watched me closely, as if to see if I understood. Then she continued.

  "The better you understand him, the better it will be for us when I try to send him out of the Earthly Realm, because I can't do it, I don't think, without your full cooperation. "

  "You have my cooperation," I said. "As for my understanding, I'm trying. "

  "Are you ready to let him go?" she asked.

  "Let him go! Merrick, he killed Aunt Queen. I loathe and despise him! I hate him! I hate myself that I ever nourished him and fostered him! He's betrayed the womb we shared!"

  She nodded to this.

  The tears rose up in my eyes. I took out my handkerchief, but I had half a mind to let them flow. I was with the two people in the world who wouldn't be stunned by the sight of them.

  "So how do we get rid of him?" I asked. "How do we get him out of the Earthly Realm?"

  "I'll tell you," Merrick responded. "But first let me ask. When we arrived tonight, I saw a very old cemetery down by the swamp. Lestat said it belonged to you. He said you'd seen spirits there. "

  "Yes," I replied. "Dumb spirits, spirits that give you nothing. " I wiped at my eyes. I felt a little more calm.

  "But there are two or three raised tombs there, maybe three feet high. "

  "There's one that's about that height. The letters are all worn away. "

  "It's broad? Long?"

  "Both. A rectangle. "

  "That's good. I want you to lay out wood and coal for a big fire on that tomb. You need plenty of fuel. The fire has to burn really hot and for some time. Then throughout the rest of the cemetery, I want candles. Candles on every grave. You know the kind of candles I mean, thick church candles. " (I nodded. ) "I'll light the candles. I'll light the fire. Just have these things ready for me. You can have your people do this part if you like, it's not important who does it. "

  "But surely you don't want them around," said Lestat.

  "No, I don't. They have to go away from Blackwood Farm. Everybody. "

  "What do I tell them?" I asked.

  "Tell them the truth," said Merrick. "Tell them that we are holding an exorcism to get rid of Goblin. The ritual is a dangerous one. Goblin in his fury might try to hurt anyone. "

  "Of course," I said. "But there's one problem. Patsy. Patsy is the only one who might not go. "

  "Patsy herself has given you the key to her character," said Lestat. "Here. " He reached into his pocket and he took out a gold money clip bulging with thousand-dollar bills. "Give her this. Send her with her nurse to a fine hotel in New Orleans. "

  "Of course," I said again.

  "Big Ramona will see that she goes," said Merrick. "You yourself see that everyone else is gone, and sending them to the Windsor Court or the Ritz-Carlton Hotel is a fine idea. I'm sorry I didn't think of it. "

  "I'll take care of it," I said. "But tell me -- the actual exorcism. How are you going to do it?"

  "The best way I know how," she said. "My loving friends, the Troop of Beloveds, don't call me a witch for nothing. "
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