“I learnt very quickly that it was one thing to read and write about the supernatural and quite another to see it with your own eyes.”
– Anne Rice, Merrick
An old man in a young man’s form: David’s story is one of upheaval, being forced into change, and ultimately discovering that one’s inhibitions can often be the thing standing in between oneself and spiritual transcendence.
David is an old man when we met him for the first time; certain that his life is quietly coming to a close. That the excitement of his youthful days is in the past and he now has retirement and the comfortable living afforded him by the Talamasca to look forward to. He is inadvertently driven back into the thick of supernatural events when Louis, following the aftermath of The Queen of the Damned’s main story-line, goes looking for the items once belonging to his beloved Claudia in the Talamascan archives. Jesse happens to mention these items in passing and Louis, being still in mourning for Claudia, entertains the notion of breaking in and retrieving them. It is Lestat (obviously) who decides to cause some ruckus while the two are there anyway and swoops into the Superior General’s office to encounter a somewhat surprised and, now, unnerved David.
Lestat does not stop there. Through the course of The Tale of the Body Thief, we discover that he has taken to visiting David, who has the insights of an old man. An old man in the flesh. Something that most of the vampires Lestat knows and loves cannot provide. It is a common belief that a ‘young’ person will remain young in their thoughts and deeds if they are treated as young. Even if they are much older than they appear. This is certainly the case with most vampires. But David has the additional advantage of having grown old as a human. He has physical age as well as mental wisdom. He is wise in ways that most others are not.
“I’d be making the same mistake you made if I hated you,” he said, eyebrows raised. “Don’t you see what you’ve done? You given me the gift, but you spared me the capitulation.” […] “You took the decision from me and gave me what I could not help but want.”
– Anne Rice, The Tale of the Body Thief
David has become Lestat’s confidante as the passage of time drew on. More than that, he has become his friend. And in his old age, David appreciates Lestat’s company, more than Lestat can register initially. As a member of the Talamasca, this is to be expected. This is not just an assignment that he is to observe, but never interact with, this is a supernatural being – an ageless old man in the body of a twenty year old – with whom he can converse as though they were equals. Lestat is also a symbol that David’s age has not left him devoid of thrills, he is still capable of touching the supernatural, of dancing through the jaws of death. Here he is, technically just an administrative official, dishing out assignments to others, but he has the most dangerous vampire he knows of in his office almost every evening.
Most importantly, Lestat is David’s security net. More than once, more times than is legitimately countable, he is offered the Dark Gift by Lestat. He is told that he is dying, albeit slowly, but that his age is catching up to him quickly and Lestat tries to convince him to take the blood, to make him immortal. It starts off as a game; asking him if he would say yes if the opportunity arose, teasingly, tempting him with it and then snatching it away. But as times moves on, Lestat becomes more insistent, afraid he’ll lose David. An offer like that can only mess with a person’s head. Especially an older person, even though David convinces himself – and Lestat – that he doesn’t want immortality, doesn’t need it. He is adamant that he is in a more capable position to say no to immortality than what Lestat has ever witnessed before… David has human age, he has lived a fully complete life… Immortality is just a burden to the old.
However, the offer stands throughout their association.
His sub-conscious must have weighed on him occasionally, particularly when he began to question the issue of life after death, of spirits, of hauntings. And to have Lestat’s ‘offer’ close to him must have been a relief in part. That even though he did not want the Dark Gift, it was good to know it was there.
Finally, having been faced with mortality himself and realising how awful it can be, how terrifying, Lestat forces the Gift on David – David who has just become the proud owner of a young, new body and a whole new outlook on life. Lestat snatches him out of it kicking and screaming and forces the blood on him. It takes David only a few days to understand that this is what he wanted, that this is the new lease on life that he needed to remind himself that he is not finished.
David goes on to become an intrinsic chronicler, particularly after Lestat’s foray into the alternate realms of heaven and hell. Lestat has seen too much and he falls into a catatonic state, seeing and experiencing things he chooses not to elaborate on later. But during this time, David makes it his mission to uncover as much of vampirism as he can. He chronicles Pandora and Armand’s stories and then goes further to chronicle a story of his own – Merrick.
David and Louis are like two orphans in Lestat’s absence. This would have been an acceptable living arrangement if it had not been for the sudden appearance of Merrick, an old student, foundling, and lover of David’s, who Louis approaches to aide him in contacting Claudia. The reappearance of Merrick in David’s life is far from an easy thing for him to come to terms with. He is riddled with guilt, lust, and love for her. This is only heightened and becomes unbearably painful when it seems that she has fallen in love with Louis and vice versa. What David does realise, but can do nothing about, is that Merrick is playing with fire of her own, using her voodoo heritage and knowledge to bind both men to her.
“I was lost in these hideous thoughts, lost and wanting some other sound except that of Merrick’s soft tears.”
– Anne Rice, Merrick
It is inevitable that Merrick is granted what she seeks from Louis, and David swears to do away with Louis for harming her. But Louis has beaten him to it. It is only through the force of Louis’ age and the love he has from Lestat, amongst others, that his death is prevented and makes him stronger.
David is more capable of surviving immortality than the vast number of vampires we encounter through the course of the Chronicles. He is wise, and he knows what he wants. He does not just lust after a thing and impulsively snatch it, he knows. Above that, David was made to have all the strength Lestat could give him through sheer force of will and a refusal to allow him to be weak.
He is a unique character in that he does not just exude age, he embodies it as well.