What if Carlisle knew more about Alice than he let on?
1. Spanish Influenza
Rating 5/5 Word Count 1950 Review this Chapter
December 31st, 1919
One year. One year into the pandemic and already so many had died. I had seen many things, but nothing quite like this. And no one knew exactly what to do, save sit and wait for some treatment, any treatment, to work. To sit and wait for the strain to die out. One year and that hadn’t happened yet.
It was painful to watch patient after patient, human after human, to file in, die, then file out wrapped in dirty white sheets. Every part of me was screaming. Screaming to help them. Screaming to save them. But I couldn’t. For to ‘save’ them would be to condemn them, and I had been around long enough to know the difference. So I was resigned to watch.
It took a while for people to begin to panic. I admire the government for that. But panic, in itself, was inevitable. Any virus that could immobilize you in an hour was bound to cause some sort of fear. And they were afraid. ‘They’ being everyone. Being the world. The world panicked.
I went from working in an open clinic, moving from one bed to the next, aiding those near death, to making house calls. Traveling from home to home, town to town, and in each the story was the same. There was no stopping it. But I had to help however I could, if I could, and traveling seemed the best way.
I went many places in that time, but one place will stand out over the others forever. Most of the places I went were private homes, or small town hospitals that needed an extra hand. But in the hysteria, where a simple cough or brief spell of incontinency was a cause for alarm, it was only a matter of time before I was called to a boarding school, or a military camp, or namely, a mental institution.
The Mississippi Department of Mental Health. It was dreary enough without physical sickness tagged on as well. I had half a mind to report the building as I walked through the chilled hallways to the main office. The floors were slightly damp, the lighting was dim and non-existent in the little square one-way windows that looked into the individual rooms, and the air was stale and reeked of sickness.
The facility’s manager was a short, portly type who spoke in a gruff, uncaring manner. His rough greeting and bored tone explained the state of the place. He directed me towards a chair in the corner and pulled a clipboard filled with patient charts from a drawer in his desk. He scribbled out a note, the lead from his pencil dusting on the paper, before finally looking up at me nervously.
“A few of our patients have developed a severe cough recently, and some have collapsed during treatments.” He began, shuffling through the papers on the clipboard. “Normally this wouldn’t be to much of a concern, considering the nature of some of our residents, but with the influenza, we didn’t want to take any chances of a break-out.”
He practically spat the word ‘residents’ and I felt overwhelming sympathy for the people here, and the quality of their ‘treatments.’ It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the Spanish Influenza weren’t the only virus I found during my visit. “Of course.”
“Here you will find the list of residents we would like you to see, if possible, and their charts and medical history. Their room number is in the upper left, first number corresponds to what floor they’re on.” He slid the clipboard across the desk, laying a pencil on top. “Take all the time you need. A room has been prepared for you, you can ask the front desk where to find it when you’re ready to turn it.”
“Thank you.” I nodded and pushed my chair back from the desk, eager to bring maybe a little hope to the poor souls in this damp prison of a hospital.
“No, we thank you, Dr. Carlisle. We appreciate your service here.” He muttered dismissively, and I wondered if it was even his choice to bring me up here in the first place.
There were three floors, each with a hallway that made a perfect square. There were rooms on either side, no matter what portion of the hallway you were in. I pitied the residents in the rooms on the inside. No windows. No light.
My first patient, a little blonde haired boy of maybe twelve, was the quietest person I had ever encountered. He stared incessantly, wide-eyed; the entire time I was checking him, never making a sound. He wasn’t sick at all. They would later discover that he had faked the sickness just to see someone new, but there was no taking chances at the time.
My second patient was obviously sick. Her body convulsed on the thin mattress as coughs struggled through her lungs. I could hear her ragged breathing before I even opened the door. She was pale, weak from coughing, and specks of red, foamy blood clung to the edges of her mouth. There was nothing I could do. Except confirm that the Spanish Influenza was in Mississippi.
I washed my hands and disinfected my stethoscope before looking at the next name on my list.
Mary Alice Brandon
She had a room on the inside, one of the rooms without windows. I reviewed her chart underneath a lamp in the hall before pushing the small wooden door open. If the hallway had been dreary, the room was absolutely depressing. The faint smell of wet concrete and the even fainter smell of spilled blood hung in the air.
Mary Alice herself was pressed into the corner on top of her small bed, her knees pulled tightly to her chest. Her head rested weakly on the cool wall, sweat making her short, choppy hair cling to her face. Blankets were balled up around her ankles, covering her feet and shins. She was a small thing, if anything.
“Hello, Miss Brandon.” I spoke quietly, afraid to break the silence. Her vivid green eyes focused for the first time on me, and my breath hitched in my throat. She had a deep, knowing expression, as if she had seen everything this life had to offer, past and future. A small, faint smile graced her lips.
“Hello.” Her voice, like everything else about her, was tiny, weak, and frail, but it had a lilting quality. I slowly walked to her bed, lowering myself onto the edge halfway between her and the end. She didn’t seem to mind.
“I’m Doctor Carlisle. Is it alright if I go ahead and see how healthy you are?” She smiled faintly again and nodded. I picked up her hand, it was only a little warmer than my own, which worried me, and she shivered. Her eyes got a little wider, but otherwise there was not reaction.
“You’re as cold as Doctor Warren.” I looked up, momentarily forgetting why I had picked up her hand. As if the place could get any worse. Damp, disease-promoting floors, dull grey walls, no light, and vampire psychologists. I shook my head, bringing myself back to the job at hand. I counted her pulse for the first fifteen seconds, noted it was high, the held her hand as pretense while counting respirations, also high.
“Can you tell me your full name, Miss Brandon?” A lot can be told about a patient from talking to them.
“Mary Alice Brandon.” Again with the smile.
“What do you like to be called?”
“Alice.” She seemed lucid enough. I began to wonder what she was in here for.
“Do you think you can walk for me, Alice?” Her face fell, smile disappearing. “Why not?”
“They’ve hurt me to much.” She whispered and my dead heart fell to the floor. There was no influenza in this room, just mal-treatment. I wanted to hold her. To wrap her up in my marble arms and carry her far away. To a home. To a family. “You don’t have to be sad. I’m used to it.”
“Well,” The honesty in her voice was heart wrenching, and I had to say something. “You shouldn’t be.”
“Mother thinks I should.” She nodded. Her eyes went out of focus, as if looking at something far away, and her breathing quickened. I thought about reaching to touch her shoulder to get her attention before her eyes snapped back to mine, continuing as if nothing happened. “She didn’t like me very much. Actually, I think she was afraid of me, but she never said that.”
“And why would she be afraid of you?” The doctor in me was telling me to leave, the check-up was over, but another, more curious side wanted to know this girl.
“I don’t have time to answer that.” She smiled again, a sad kind of smile, and leaned her head once more against the wall.
“I have all the time you need, but if you don’t wish to share, I understand.” I picked up my stethoscope, preparing to lave but hoping I didn’t have to.
“Oh, I know you have time, Doctor, I don’t have time.” Another sad smile. I looked curiously at her. She seemed tired. My thoughts immediately went to her health. She didn’t seem close to death. I contemplated asking her if she knew of a health concern that I didn’t. “I’m not going to die. They’re just coming to take me to my treatment.”
“Oh!” I jumped. There was no clock, and no window to hint at the time. How did she know? How did she know what I was going to ask? “Well then, I suppose I should move on. You take care, Alice.”
“I’ll try.” She nodded, eyes closed. I walked slowly to the door, hesitating for a moment before opening it. A single tear drifted down her cheek, and I rushed out of the room, afraid I’d scoop her up and run off with her.
“Evenin’, Sir.” I jumped for the second time that day. Standing just outside her room were two burly looking men in beige uniforms. The larger of the two, the one that had addressed me, tipped his hat before pushing past me into the room.
They were there to pick her up. Just as she’d said.
There truly were some fascinating humans. But for then, I had to continue down the list.
“Dad! We have visitors!” My daughter, Rosalie, called up from downstairs. Visitors?
“A moment, please.” I sighed as I set down the book I had been perusing, making my way downstairs slowly.
“Hi!” I stopped, frozen, midway down the stairs. Standing in my living room was a very familiar young woman. Her black hair was a little tidier, mind you, not as choppy, and her skin was paler than the day I met her. It was a very alive, happy, and vampiric Mary Alice Brandon.
“I’m Alice. This is Jasper. And you’re Carlisle Cullen. I know you don’t know me but …” She rambled on, but I didn’t hear the rest. ‘I know you don’t know me?’ Does that mean she doesn’t remember? “Carlisle?”
“Oh, excuse me.” They were all looking at me. “You’re wish is to join my family?”
“If you would welcome us.” She was practically bouncing. Such a contrast from the last time I saw her. “I have no human memories, so I don’t know what it’s like to have a family. I quite like the idea.”
No memories? I watched her, smiling up at Jasper, happy as ever, and I had never been more grateful for memory loss.
“Of course you’re welcome."