child vampire

Dec 06 2012

by the time Claudia was finally delivered we expected her brain to have been very damaged by the traumas of her birth. the flesh of her head was blue and black and sickly coloured for weeks after with bruising. my wife and i were only surprised and thankful that either of them had made it at all. there would be no more children for our family. but Claudia’s responses were good and for some time she seemed to develop normally for which we celebrated.

and so we were surprised by her early facility for reading, which i say must have been inherent to her, by the precocity she showed, which could not have been due to anything either of us did. her mother and i, having attained sound education and regarded well in our fields, were in any case within the range of what is considered normal, in every respect; Claudia on the other hand was special from the start. as soon as she spoke she was reading and almost as soon she was requesting books.

her aptitude convinced us that we should school her at home, as we judged that a group learning situation could never provide her mind with the undivided attention it must require and deserve in order to achieve its potential. but by age 7 we found her overtaking us, asking questions we could not answer. having devoured our libraries she required an almost continuous supply of new volumes, and we realised that we had become useless in guiding her education. feeling the necessity as of yet that one of us should always remain at home with her, we still hovered around her aimlessly, making pointless and i am sure irritating little noises, until eventually we simply went about our own tasks and left her to the peace of her study.

in a normal human being, while literacy develops with reading practice, so that a consumer of any literature might approach proficiency in dealing with certain subject areas, in the sense of gaining new perspectives with which to approach other works, actual quantitative consumption rate does not necessarily increase in the same way, and in some cases may even slow down. on the contrary the rate of Claudia’s reading accelerated explosively until she joked that she was like one of Anne Rice’s vampires, reading with “preternatural speed”, and she added soberly, like them also in that she was sucking the words out of these books as blood with which she must sustain herself. who knows how she managed to plunge herself into classical languages and how the works of antiquity became stacked in towers against the walls or how she progressed to conquests of modern languages we are not sure but although our home began to be overtaken by the things she had consumed we could not ask her to part with them. then again, had we removed all of these endless tomes, she may not have even noticed.

one night when she was 9 she came to me and crawled onto my knee as she had not done in some years with tears in her eyes. she explained that she had reached a dilemma: that having achieved some idea of the extent of world literature, she had been forced to acknowledge that she may not have time in her life to read all of it, and that even if she did, what then? she poisoned herself before bed and died early in the morning so that we discovered what she had done when we awoke. it must have been uncomfortable and yet of course this must not have mattered to her. did we do the wrong thing, we wondered. could we have done something better by her, protected her or saved her. did we kill her by what we did, well maybe we did.

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