An Eternal Child
The night air is warm in New Orleans tonight; the nighttime darkness makes it just bearable enough for the people of the city to traverse these streets. There is plenty of fresh blood to choose from. Even in these tailored dresses with their lace and pearls and crinoline that Louis so adores to see me in, it is bearable. I must admit I am not terribly hungry tonight, no…I desire that feeling, the intoxicating rush, it distracts me from the constant naiveté of my companions.
“My foolish companions. My foolish Louis…” He could not understand! All he sees is a tiny doll wrapped up in lace with perfect curls and cupid’s-bow lips. All he sees and would ever see is a child.
I felt my ire stir within my bosom, and I clenched my gloved hands at my sides. No, anger would solve nothing. A kill, the taste of blood on my lips…that would have to suffice.
My body moved on its own, taking one step after another. The methodical clicking of heels against pavement brought my body into a purely mechanical process as I headed for an old man by himself near the wharf. He was alone, the perfect target. I felt my features soften, my lips began to tremble and my eyes glossed over in the guise of tears. A child in distress was my role tonight. Perhaps that was one positive effect of being in this body eternally, food came easily.
“Papa…” My voice cracked as I looked up hopefully to the old man. Tears in my eyes, I reached out a hand and wrapped it weakly around his sleeve. With a tug I tried to get his attention. I had mastered these emotions, or perhaps they still lingered from my time before I was reborn as a vampire. It worked like a charm, the foolish old man turned and immediately his face was full of sympathy and concern.
“My child, what is wrong?” He had a heavy French accent and his breath smelled of fish. I tried not to cringe and snarl as he kneeled down on the ground before me.
“I have lost papa. I cannot find him.” I pushed the act further by beginning to sob, feeling the disgusting sting of tears in my eyes and the wetness on my cheeks and lips, the sting on my face and under my nose. Crying was such a childish thing to do, how I loathed to give into this body and this fate by playing the child. However it seemed to be human instinct to care for a crying child and this man was no different than the rest of them. He made an indecisive sound in his throat before giving a stiff hug, muttering nonsense about finding the man, lying and saying it would all be all right. How did he know such things? They were nothing but lies! It was not so easy to make things better, to help. He knew nothing.
I felt my body change, I wrapped my small arms around his neck, no longer crying but he did not notice. I brought my face to his neck and nuzzled it in a fake show of affection. Parting my lips I ran a tongue across the sharpened fangs before piercing the flesh of his wrinkled neck, forming a gash like an animal, tongue lapping the crimson liquid eagerly into my mouth. Before he could scream I brought one of my tiny hands over his mouth and clenched with a strength no human child could possibly possess. It was over in a matter of minutes, I let his body crumple to the ground, barely alive.
I was not careful this time. I had let my instinct and my anger get the best of me; there was blood on my dress. How very unladylike of me.
X x x x X
I entered the house unnoticed. Louis was sitting in the chair closest to the fire. It was not lit of course, but he had fallen into one of his trances none the less. His eyes were clouded over, staring at the brick, the ash and stone with avid interest. He could spend hours like that, just watching. I did not understand. He would stare at Lestat in that manner as well. Watch his movements, the pale gleam of light on his skin, his eyes, his hair, his lips…it was maddening! Lestat was nothing but a madman; he was vicious and driven only by his own desires caring nothing of others. He did not deserve Louis’ attention, not even his anger.
Lestat. Lestat. I cannot say I am free from his charms, but I see him for what he is. A cruel, self-centered man. He gave me this life, and he keeps me trapped not only in this damnable body but in his cage. Yes, trapped…Louis and I are prisoners. Why can he not see this!
I went silently to my room, my only sanctuary, and closed the doors. I had a box underneath my dresser. In it, I kept secret pictures or illustrations, charms or baubles, anything that amused or attracted me. I opened it now, setting it down upon my chair and digging through the pictures. Lockets and bracelets, sometimes pages out of books or pictures from wallets, things I had taken from her victims after ending their lives. I pulled out a well-worn picture from a book, an import from the East somewhere. It was a copy of an ink block print, a bathing woman washing her hair. Her skin was pale, her hair an inky black and the curve of her breasts perfectly round. Her figure was drawn elongated and curved in a very feminine and graceful manner.
I set the picture down very gently, and moved to my vanity mirror. I pulled my gloves off with my teeth and reached behind my back to undo the buttons that held the dress in place. It was ruined now, soiled with the blood of the prey. Looking into the mirror I stared back at an image I have been looking at for years: a child’s body, without curves of any sort, very small and delicate in appearance. I brought my arms around my chest and hugged tightly, ashamed of what I saw, angry at the others that had made me this way, angry at myself for not being able to change anything.
I shoved the picture away and quickly stripped the rest of my clothing off, changing into a nightgown. I brushed my curls back into place, and brought a small bottle of oil out of the vanity drawer, dabbing the smallest amount upon my wrists. After a moment of indecision, I retrieved a small bit of lipstick from the box and tried it on myself; the dark red stood out against my pale skin. I left my room and entered the living area. Louis was in the same place as I left him.
“Louis, what do you see?” I crawled into his lap and brought my arms around his neck. His eyes were deep and full of a sorrow I could not understand. He brought his attention to me and smiled but he said nothing. Instead his hand found my hair and he began to play with it. I let him. He would stroke my cheek occasionally, or trace my lips but I knew these gestures did not mean to him what they meant to me. I was just a child in his eyes, his child perhaps but a child none the less. I could not be his lover.
“Why do you look at Lestat so?” This question seemed to surprise him and he looked at me curiously.
“How do I look upon him?”
“You look at him as a man looks upon a lover. You gaze at him more than you look upon me. Does he fascinate you in such a way? I wish you would take that cruel man out of your thoughts!” Anger flashed in my eyes and I reached my hands to touch his face.
“Look at me, Louis. Will you kill with me again?” I desired that time with him, the intimate moment of taking life, taking blood. There was an unspoken intimacy in the act, one that she far preferred to share with Louis than with Lestat.
“Not tonight, Claudia.” That was his only response. He could be so distant at times, so far away. I longed to know what he thought of. It was Lestat that did this to him, to us. I would not bring myself to plead or beg, I demanded.
“He stands between us, between our freedom. We can see the world. We will leave him. You and I, Louis. We will be free from him forever.” Perhaps it was my own selfishness that had thought of it, but if Lestat was no longer with us he would no longer taunt me, treat me as a child, inferior to himself. He would not covet Louis’ attention. He could not break Louis or I any longer.
Louis did not seem to take me seriously; it was not enough for him. He smiled at the results of my imagination; he did not think it possible. Instead he continued to run a hand through my hair and I lay my head against his chest, clinging to him. My Louis. I will prove it to you, how much I love you.
X x x x X
Lestat was dead. It had not completely registered with me until I watched the distorted reflection of my shadow in the pool of his blood. He had been killed so easily, just a little deception, a bit of absinthe and laudanum and a pair of beautiful boys ripe for the taking. His greed had been his end.
Yet I hadn’t meant for it to end this way. No matter how often I played the scenario in my mind, Louis would have been happy. He would have been free of Lestat forever! Yet the way he looked at me, it hurt me more than any other pain I had ever felt before. Was I…the only one that was happy?
“You do not understand, Louis! I did it because I love you! Please do not look at me that way…” I felt the sting of real tears in my eyes, tears! I was crying, the foolish, childish tears I had pretended to shed when I killed that old man, the tears I shed when I was a young child, before he had taken me and ended that life forever. Real tears came down and stained my cheeks, and choking sobs came from my throat. Embarrassing noises I never wanted to make, a weakness I never wanted to show in front of him. I drew my knees to my face and buried myself in them, my body feeling smaller than ever before. I was once again…just a child.
“Louis if I lose you I have nothing!” I couldn’t face him, I couldn’t. But he took his arms around me and held me and told me it was all right. His voice in my ear, his arms around me, the way he whispered my name…I felt warmth once again.
“Louis, my love.” I was falling into that sensation of warmth, that comfort that I only felt beside him. He was a father, he was a lover, and he was everything I would ever need. Without him, I was not complete. Yes…this was the beginning of our journey together, the start of our brand new lives. If he would stay with me, no matter where we went I would be happy.
Locked together, eternally.
Review: An Eternal Child
I wrote this fan fiction in Claudia’s point of view in order to try and broaden my own understanding of her character in Interview with the Vampire. She is such an important character yet we only know what Louis says about her, and of her mental state we know little. To be trapped forever in a child’s body, unable to be labeled as a ‘woman’ by her appearance alone. It would be a terrible thing to never be able to grow up physically when your mentality matures. There is no doubt a great deal of conflict surrounding Claudia’s character.
Claudia begins as a child and develops as the story goes on, her mind growing and maturing while her body remains the same.
“All this Claudia found wondrous, with the quiet awe of an unspoiled child, and marveled when Lestat hired a painter to make the walls of her room a magical forest of unicorns and golden birds and laden fruit trees over sparkling streams.
An endless train of dressmakers and shoe makers and tailors came to our flat to outfit Claudia in the best of children’s fashions, so that she was always a vision, not just of child beauty, with her curling lashes and her glorious yellow hair, but of the taste of finely trimmed bonnets and tiny lace gloves, flaring velvet coats and capes and sheer white puffed-sleeve gowns with gleaming blue sashes. [..] She could fall for hours into the pictures in a book and listen to me read until she sat so still the sight of her jarred me, made me put the book down, and just stare back at her across the lighted room; then she’d move, a doll coming to life and say in the softest voice that I must read some more.
‘And then strange things began to happen, for though she said little and was the chubby, round-fingered child still, I’d find her tucked in the arm of my chair reading the work of Aristotle or Boethius or a new novel that just came over the Atlantic. Or pecking out the music of Mozart we’d only heard the night before with an infallible ear and a concentration that made her ghostly as she sat there hour after hour discovering the music—the melody, then the bass and finally bringing it together. Claudia was mystery. (p.98-9)
I had a few concepts in mind before starting. One of which was, what is her relationship with Louis? How does she see him and Lestat and why did she kill Lestat in the first place? These ideas are not explored very deeply in the novel so I wished to channel her character and have her write herself, so to speak.
“At dawn she lay with me, her heart beating against my heart, and many times when I looked at her—when she was at her music or painting and didn’t know I stood in the room—I thought of that singular experience I’d had with her and no other, that I had killed her, taken her life from her, had drunk all of her life’s blood in that fatal embrace I’d lavished on so many others, others who lay now moldering in the damp earth. But she lived, she lived to put her arms around my neck and press her tint Cupid’s bow to my lips and put her gleaming eye to my eye until our lashes touched and, laughing we reeled about the room as if to the wildest waltz. Father and Daughter. Lover and Lover.” (p.100) It seems important that both father and daughter are capitalized in this quote, as if it is something more than what we are used to understanding. There is a strong love between them that cannot really be labeled. Yet it still seems Claudia strives to prove herself as a woman, and be recognized as a woman in Louis’ eyes. There is a subtle annoyance to her reactions, yet she does not voice them.
“I was aghast at such moments; her mind was unpredictable, unknowable. But then she would sit on my lap and put her fingers in my hair and doze there against my heart, whispering to me softly I should never be as grown up as she until I knew what killing was the more serious thing, not the books. [...] ‘Doll, doll,’ I called her. That’s what she was. A magic doll. Laughter and infinite intellect and then the round-cheeked face, the bud mouth. ‘Let me dress you, let me brush your hair.’ I would say to her out of old habit, aware of her smiling and watching me with the thin veil of boredom over her expression. ‘Do as you like,’ she breathed into my ear as I bent down to fasten her pearl buttons. (p.101)
This particular quote spoke to me the most, “I told you I was going to do it. I told you…’ she said. Never had her voice sounded so fragile, so like a little, silvery bell. I looked up at her, startled but unshaken. Her face seemed not her face. Never had anyone shaped such agitation into the features of a doll. ‘Louis I told you!’ she said, her lips quivering. ‘I did it for us. So we could be free.’ (p.138) Here Claudia seems so broken, so vulnerable. She puts up the façade of being strong and yet here she breaks down. I had a bit of a soft spot for her here, like a child that thought she was doing something right and was scolded for it.
I wanted to develop her relationship with Louis in this story. Their relationship can be either parent and child, or lovers or both. Their bond is deep and whether in hatred or in love it is always filled with passionate and strong feelings. I also believe Lestat has strong feelings for Louis, perhaps not romantic feelings but ones of obsession. He is a selfish character, wanting Louis for his plantation, his money, and then refusing to tell him any secrets of the vampires for fear of having him leave, scorning him for being sentimental and having indecisions or sentimental attachment during a kill. Lestat’s relationship with Claudia is confusing, their hatred of each other is obvious yet like brother and sister they seem to enjoy spending time together as long as it is only so much time. Their bond is shallow and mostly focused on material things or the thrill of the hunt.
I focused quite a bit on Claudia’s ideas and wishes of Louis, though I almost wished I had revealed Lestat in this story and made the tension between the two clear. I also wish I had focused more on Claudia’s obsession with adult women, and how she wishes she could be just as they are. Perhaps the reason she decided to have Madeleine as her new companion is not because she loved her but because she wanted to be her, she envied her. I pictured this as being the first part of Claudia’s story, the second being her encounter with the other vampires and then Madeleine, and of course her last moments. I also thought of doing a brief prequel to this story after the two parts were finished, portraying Claudia before she became a vampire and her first encounter with Louis as it seems rushed in the book. I regret not adding all of this in, yet I did not want to stretch the story so long a reader would become tired of reading it. An Eternal Child is the first part of a set of stories in Claudia’s perspective. I am uncertain if I will write the other two as this part alone took several days of planning and revising.
Claudia’s character is a difficult one to understand, but she is fascinating to write as. I believe writing as her character steered the story in a different direction than I had originally planned. At first I was going to write as her as a human, and focus more on her human life before becoming a vampire. But the strongest feelings I got from her was her frustration with not being recognized as a woman and one of the most important and expected ideas of being an adult is being in a relationship. Romance, sex, marriage, children…vampires are not capable of many of these things and Claudia is not capable of having a body that elicits that romantic response. I put this story in first person perspective as that is how the original Interview with the Vampire was written and I feel we learn a bit more about her when we understand her innermost thoughts. I only wish she had been around longer or developed more in the novel.