What if Bella lived in 1918? Would the story of Bella and Edward change or remain the same? "It was naïve of me to have thought that, even with their bodies racked with a horrible disease that was killing millions across the world, they would still somehow make it. Even with all of the pessimistic doubts I'd had before, I wasn't prepared for it when it really happened."
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The clouds covered the sky for the final time at precisely a quarter past seven. The sun was just about to dip behind the horizon, so we knew that it would be safe to finally depart and at last slipped into the quickly darkening countryside.
We ran for the first twenty miles avoiding areas with population. This took less than a few minutes. Once we reached the outer limits of Chicago, we'd decided to take a cab. It looked more inconspicuous and it would be faster than walking at a human pace. I marveled a little though at how slow it seemed to me; I faintly recalled my fascination and excitement for a motor car when I was human. This was only slightly less tedious than walking. It could have potential though, if only someone could make it faster...
"Oakswood Cemetery," Carlisle told the driver. He glanced at me, trying to be surreptitious as he checked my control. He wondered how being in the small confined space was affecting me with a human.
Bill Puller, the driver, was in no danger, however. He smelled just as appealing as any other human did, but my thoughts were occupied enough to distract me from the allure of his scent.
We arrived at the cemetery in due time. Carlisle got out of the cab with me.
"I should be gone no more than twenty minutes," he reassured me in a low voice that the driver of the car could not hear, though he was straining very hard to do so. "I hope to get in and out with no one noticing. The night shift will start soon and there should not be as many people working. Anyway, I really should not be gone long."
"I'll be fine, Carlisle. Remember, I should hardly have any temptation here," I gestured to the empty cemetery with a sardonic smile. "Take all of the time you need."
He nodded. "Yes. We will find a way to make this work, Edward."
"I trust you," I told him with a smile. He returned my smile, albeit slightly more grimly, then stepped into the cab. He gave the driver the name of the hospital and the car moved once more into the traffic. I watched it until it disappeared onto the streets. Then I turned to the hundreds of gravestones that covered the grounds of Oakswood Cemetery.
I was not entirely sure where my parents would be buried. They must have planned it in their wills, but I had never been made aware of that fact, supposing of course that their deaths would be a long while away indeed. Neither would they be exactly new so there would be no physical markings to guide me.
There was no one around- the caretaker was in his small abode nearby, getting dinner ready. I walked at my normal pace to search through the gravestones.
I came to them near the left corner of the cemetery. The stones were not ornate, but rather simple lines carved into stones of fine material. They were still clean and neat and showed no signs of wear. A befitting representation for the lives my mother and father had lived.
And at the very last of the row, nearly touching the fence enclosing the grounds, was my grave.
It was not as strange as I thought it would be, gazing down at my own grave, and not just because I knew the grave to be empty. Perhaps it was because I had accepted that my life, in some form, had ended.
My life as a human was over. Life as a vampire was not as bad as some might believe it to be, at least the way that Carlisle had taught me, but it did not mean that there weren't certain aspects of my human life that I would not be able to revisit. That would not have changed unalterably.
I wondered if I would have wanted Carlisle to save my parents the way he had saved me. Their bodies may not have been able to withstand the pain however; perhaps it would have been a fruitless effort.
And as I contemplated, I felt assured that they were where they belonged now. My parents had been very good people; there could be no reason for them to be anywhere but in heaven.
Was there a place for me in that same heaven now?
It simply didn't seem right. A part of me very much wanted to believe it- wanted to believe in Carlisle's view, that we would have the same chance as any other human, but we were so different from humans now. My natural reactions, even if I had learned to overcome them, were little better than a human murderer. How could I possibly be viewed in the same light?
And there simply had to be a price to pay for limitless strength and immortality. What greater price could there be than that of a soul?
Well, there was really no reason to worry about that now. As far as Carlisle had told me, I had no reason to fear my existence being extinguished as there was one single, and very difficult, way of accomplishing that. I would have eons to ponder over the status of my soul.
I looked to the graves of my parents again. I had not even thought to bring flowers, and as I viewed the surrounding snow-covered grounds, there was nothing available here either. The only thing I could do was promise that I would protect and keep safe all that they had left behind in the world and never allow them to fade. Especially as my own memories would.
I tried to dredge up some memories now. A few hazy flashes from my childhood surfaced. All happy, all good memories. But growing ever shorter, less clear.
I stared at their gravestones, memorizing each tiny facet until I heard the sound of the cab pull into the cemetery once more.
"Goodbye," I whispered to the cold night air and walked to the cemetery entrance.
Carlisle stepped out of the cab, a slightly apprehensive tenor to his thoughts, but relieved as well. It did not appear that there had been any trouble. His face smoothed as he saw me.
As he stepped closer to me, a breeze flowing before him blew past me and with it I caught a scent.
In that moment, the world shifted.
It was as if I had never smelled anything before, as if this was the first scent to have ever been caught by my senses. Or perhaps it was more that now there seemed to be no other smell that existed in the world beyond this mouthwatering, horrendously appealing aroma.
There was no choice in the matter. I had to find that scent, whoever its owner was, and devour it. It did not matter what I did or what would happen so long as I could taste the blood that belonged to that scent.
From the depths of this new haze that suddenly had control over my entire body, I found that my hands were clutching Carlisle's wrists, any harder and I might rip them away cleanly. My mouth was filled with venom, near to overflowing with it, and the thirst in my throat was more all-consuming and burning than ever before. Vicious, hostile snarls were ripping from my being, escaping from my mouth which had stretched wide to bare my glistening teeth. And from the reflection of Carlisle's eyes as well as the vantage point from his mind, I could see that my eyes had turned into a flat, ominous black.
Carlisle was utterly shocked by this reaction. He checked quickly behind him to see the cab driver, who was staring at us open-mouthed. He waved his hand to dismiss him and the driver, terrified, did not need much incentive beyond that.
Carlisle turned back to me. "What's wrong, Edward? What happened?"
I wasn't quite sure myself. This violently potent scent could not be from Carlisle, I knew that, but it seemed to be coming from him. I pinpointed the location finally.
"Your sleeve," I forced out between clenched teeth. "There's a scent..."
Carlisle's confusion remained etched on his face for a single second before it dawned in comprehension.
"Ah," he whispered. "Isabella Swan."
He was remembering his time in the hospital. Everything had been going perfectly, much better than he had hoped; no one that he had encountered had recognized him nor known him when he'd worked there. And then, more good luck when he'd found the folder with the results of my family's death. No foul play was suspected. But, just as he was finishing up, a young nurse walked in. She staggered in recognition of him, grabbing onto his arm for support....
But I don't understand, he thought. Why is he reacting this way?
"It's stronger," I choked out, still clutching at his arms, I suppose to support me. "Stronger than I've ever felt before."
He seemed to understand now; it had happened to him before, times when some human smelled better than another. And he knew what could bring sanity to me.
"Edward," Carlisle looked at me, gravely serious. He placed his hands on my shoulder to grip my shaking form. "The girl whose scent this is- her name is Isabella Swan. She is one of the few who still worked in the hospital from the time I was there. She had no trouble recognizing me immediately. She also might have made a connection between my disappearance and your death from the questions she asked..."
This was not helping. The newborn monster in me was using this one more reason to drain the blood from the girl. A volley of snarls erupted from me once more, and Carlisle was restraining me now.
"She worked directly with your mother"-Carlisle spoke as he struggled with me, letting his memories of that time flood into my mind- "and also you. It was under my counsel that she be put with your mother as she hated hospitals so much and I knew Miss Swan would be a comfort to her. She worked very hard to save your family and when she didn't, she was heartbroken."
I stopped trying to break free, falling to my knees with my head bowed, but the snarls continued to explode from my throat. I saw my mother's face from Carlisle's memories....
"You must remember yourself," Carlisle spoke in more subdued tones, placing a hand lightly on my back. "You must remember the importance of life. Would you take away the life of someone who worked so hard to save yours?"
I had never felt so primal before. Even when my teeth had torn through the flesh of animals, I'd never felt so wild, so... inhuman.
But the few semblances of humanity left in me resonated at the words of Carlisle. Enough to keep myself momentarily in control. Something about my mother's face kept me from hunting down the girl right now. Carlisle saw my indecision and capitalized on it.
"Let's get home quickly," he said, taking off his coat and shredding it to leave behind all temptation. Then he led me forward in a sprint across the streets.
I wasn't entirely sure how he enabled me to move. I was too locked in a battle over my body. But somehow, it followed Carlisle's lead into the darkened city, so fast that any normal human would not see us.
Pulling in deep gasps of clean, untainted air helped. My head became clearer now that the scent was not present. But it did not totally lessen the devastating bloodlust, for I could perfectly recall the inescapably delicious scent. If she smelled so incredible, how much better would her blood taste....
I shouldn't think of that. I couldn't think of that. I was more than that, more than a monster.
We passed the outskirts of the city within minutes. When we arrived home, Carlisle continued to streak past the house.
"Let's hunt," he suggested suddenly, slowing down with a hand on my wrist so that I would comply. He took a slight detour from our intended path into a more forested area. He could pick up on the sound of a herd of deer sixty yards away. He thought this would help ebb the desire for the girl's blood.
The scent was not appealing in the least to me now, it slightly turned my stomach, but I allowed my body to follow him, almost mechanically. When we came upon the herd, we did not hesitate. I sprang at the closest one to me and Carlisle took one at my left.
My teeth sank in and I began to drink, but it only made it worse. Because in comparison to the girl's scent, this blood was now repulsive, disgusting. How could it help going down my throat when it felt just as ragged and torched as when I first smelled the girl's scent? All I wanted to do was spit this revolting blood back out; this blood was not worth touching my lips to anymore. There was only one blood fit for that.
And there was no choice about it. No point in trying to delay the inevitable.
I would kill Isabella Swan.
Now that I had made the decision, embraced the monster in me, my mind went into strategic planning. Carlisle was going to try to stop me. But even after having lost most of my newborn strength, I was much faster than him. He was still occupied now with the deer. He hadn't needed to feed obviously, but he had wanted to show a sign of solidarity with me, to make me feel better. Always too compassionate, too trusting...
There was a larger animal a couple of miles or so away to the west of here. I could tell Carlisle I would go after that, and slip out carefully enough now so that he wouldn't hear me, buying myself at least a few minutes before he noticed my absence. That coupled with my advantage of greater speed and I should be able to evade him. Should he come close, I would always have the forewarning of his thoughts.
I stood up from my half-drained kill, and Carlisle looked up at me from his with concern. "It's not enough- I need something larger," I told him. "I think I hear a bear in the region though. I'm going to go after him."
I was careful about my expression and voice- allowing nothing of the cold calculation I felt now to leak through. Carlisle, though worried about letting me go off by myself, believed me and nodded. "Go. I'll finish off here and join you after."
I nodded and turned away from him, breaking into a sprint in the direction of the sound of the bear's footsteps. When I was a mile from him, I turned in the other direction, towards the city again.
I allowed myself to really run, letting all of my strength flow to my legs. It did not matter that I had never been to the hospital myself- as a vampire that is. I had seen the route to get there in the cab driver's head when Carlisle had given him the name of the hospital. I arrived in the city much more quickly than when I had run with Carlisle.
I tried to keep to darkened streets, so that I could continue at my inhuman pace, but when I arrived at the hospital, there were too many people in the streets. I began to walk along at their gait, before stopping in an alley across from the hospital's front door.
I hadn't planned much beyond this point. This was the only connection I had to the girl- I knew that she had been working at the hospital. But was she still there?
I began searching through the minds of people in the hospital. No need to go in there and actually hunt her. Too dangerous. Not physically obviously, but it was unnecessary to call the attention of the entire hospital to a girl being attacked by a vampire. I had already prolonged hunting her so far; I could wait a little more until she was alone, and then enjoy the experience without distractions.
Hmm, I couldn't pick out her mind from the others. I could recall the tone of her voice from Carlisle's memories and that didn't seem to match with any of the ones I heard from the hospital. Nor could I see her from anyone's mind. It was rather late for her to be working still....
But if she wasn't, I wouldn't know where to go. Carlisle probably knew her home's address, but I hadn't been able to pick it out from his thoughts. But I supposed I could hunt along the streets, try to pick out her scent from the houses in this area. She couldn't live too far from here, could she?
I was about to start walking away from the hospital when a voice caught my attention. ...Wonder why that Swan girl didn't go home with the regular group of girls tonight. They said they looked around for her but couldn't find her. She did seem rather distracted tonight. But she's always been a bit off, kind of reminds me of cousin Ellie...
The nurse stopped thinking about the girl, so I stopped listening to her after that. So, she hadn't walked home at the usual time? What did that mean? She was neither home, but she did not appear to be in the hospital anymore either. Where was she? The wind was blowing hard tonight, snow was falling lightly onto the ground once again- could it have erased her scent? But with a scent as potent as hers, I couldn't imagine that. The monster in me was growing annoyed, impatient. Snarls were building in my chest again and my breath hissed between my lips in frustration. I wanted that blood...
The wind blew strong against my face, and, as if breaking from the trenches of dark water to clean, crisp air, ration returned to my head. I was abruptly horrified at myself. In a very short amount of time, my life had turned completely upside down and I was a completely different person. I had been good, I had been ready to commit to Carlisle's way of life- a life of sacrifice for the greater good of protecting human life. And yet, here I was, having run away from Carlisle- lied to him- so that I could wait impatiently to murder an innocent girl.
What had I done?
As if in answer to the prayer of the monster in me, the hospital doors opened and the girl whose blood I was waiting ever so achingly to drink stepped out.
I had not been waiting here more than three minutes and she chose such a time to leave. A few minutes later, with the way the wind was blowing tonight, and I might have never found her.
Clearly, Isabella Swan had a case of bad luck.
She walked into the crowd of people who were walking along the streets. The wind was blowing away from us; I could not pick up on her scent. My head was still clean and ration was still in control.
I should leave now. There was still a choice.
And then I recalled her appallingly luscious scent and my body started to follow her, taking away any choice.
I followed several feet away. There were many humans around and were I but human, it might have been easy to lose her in the throng of people. But also, this girl did not seem to particularly stand out.
Isabella Swan looked to be about sixteen years old. She was neither tall nor short, and there was nothing out of the ordinary about her appearance. What could it possibly be about her that made her scent so different from anyone else's?
But as I watched, there was something singular about her- she was a tad frail-looking. She stumbled as she walked, though the pavement was smooth. She was weak, clumsy. More so than the average human.
This was doing nothing to help save me from taking her life.
She walked slightly slower than the other humans, whose gait was quick as they had somewhere to go, a purpose in mind. I could see her face in the others' minds: she stared straight ahead, as if she did not see anything. She looked to be too wrapped up in her thoughts. Her face was set in an expression of shock and, strangely, excitement.
This confused me and I was again reminded that I had not been able to access her mind yet. I tried now, concentrating on her form, as if that would help. I had really no idea how to make it stronger as it had always come without any effort of myself. After a few seconds, I realized that I was yielding nothing once more.
A part of me was worried that something was wrong with me now. Of course, the streets of Mt. Prospect had never been this crowded before; perhaps it was the fault of so many people surrounding us. And I was still young; I didn't know exactly the rules and regulations for vampire gifts were.
Still, I felt like I might be rationalizing to myself a bit. Perhaps it really was the girl that was different. What was it about her, so ordinary and unobtrusive and yet had such an inescapable, irresistible power on me?
I remembered what I had heard the other nurse in the hospital think. Isabella Swan normally walked home with another group of girls. Considering the time of night, this was rather late for her to be out. Why had she stayed longer at the hospital?
The wind continued to blow away from her so that the monster could not overtake me again. This allowed time to think- rational, sympathetic thoughts. And now, upon seeing the girl, Carlisle's crystal clear memories began to flood my mind once more. I could see the girl sitting with my mother, cooling her forehead with a rag, holding her hand. And there was my mother, relaxed on the hospital bed, chatting away with a smile on her face. It was easy to see the affection between the two. He'd even seen her attending in such a way for me...
Now that I was concentrating on it, I could dredge up some of my own memories of the girl. I could not exactly recall actual occurrences, but I could remember feeling... frustration towards the girl, because I could not understand her. I couldn't recall the actual reasons for my frustration, just that I'd noticed she was a very different kind of girl....
The crowds had thinned now, because Isabella Swan had haphazardly chosen a route which led into one of the poorer sections of the city. If she didn't already have a vampire stalking her, desperate to crush her throat and drink her blood, this place would really be quite dangerous for her all alone at night.
The streets were deadly quiet, even to me. And I could no longer blame crowds of people for blocking the girl's thoughts from me. For even in this utter silence, I could hear absolutely nothing from her.
I'd had it right when I was human: Isabella Swan was absolutely different.
She turned down a dead end alley, and it seemed here that she finally woke up from whatever daze she had been in. I hid from the mouth of the alley, watching her. She turned around abruptly, with a wary and aggravated expression. She looked weak and vulnerable again, but I did not see it through the eyes of the monster, but with the eyes of compassion.
"What are you doing?" she spoke in a clear voice and for a second I thought she was talking to me. Or perhaps she could read my thoughts, for that was exactly what I had been thinking. She shook her head at herself and began to walk toward the end of the alley.
My body stilled. This was my chance. But I didn't want to take it anymore.
This girl had no reason to die. Why should it be her fault for having such a potent scent? Why should she die for that?
I could just leave. I could just leave her alive. She would never know anything.
Yet my body, or the monster in me, had more trouble accepting this decision, but I forced it to turn. But as I was about to walk away, the thoughts of another human in the alley caught my attention. He'd been asleep this whole time, or at least, not conscious, but the sound of the girl's voice awoke him. He was slightly intoxicated, but he was aware now, and it had been such a long time since such a pretty little thing had crossed his path...
I froze, reading his intents. I had just saved this girl's life by trying to leave her, when another person was already trying to take it away again.
This girl was a magnet for danger. Was that the reason for her maddening scent?
Why couldn't there be anyone else around here? I could not be her savior; I could not afford to get too close to her. The man had already closed his dirty, grimy hands around her arm, his putrid breath close to her mouth.
"Come here sweet..."
Without a thought in my head, I moved closer to the pair- to do what, I did not know. My hands closed over the collar of his shirt and in that second, the wind changed, blowing all of the girl's scent at me. I was no longer a man but an animal and my razor-sharp teeth sunk into the first thing that they touched.
I could tell immediately that it was the wrong blood. Still the best blood I had ever tasted, but not the one that I wanted.
There was no way to stop however, so I drank until his veins ran dry. I had brought him to the wall of the alley, and when I was done, I let his corpse crumple to the floor.
I looked down at the human I had just killed. I knew it was justified, that he'd deserved it. I knew that by so doing, I had saved this girl's life. But with his blood running through my body, it had not calmed the torching ache that called for hers either. It had only inflamed it.
I turned slowly towards her, calculatingly. Her breath was coming short, and her heart was in a sprint. They sounded like a delicious symphony to me.
My eyes met hers. Her face, which had been drawn tight in obvious fear and deliberation, transformed as she took in my appearance. Instead of increasing in panic, as it doubtlessly should have, every feature, every line of her face relaxed into an expression of peace and security. These were the feelings I could identify, but there appeared another emotion that was so opposite, I could not comprehend it.
It was joy.
"It's you," she whispered. "Edward."
Edward. I suddenly heard Carlisle's thoughts from behind the girl, walking silently, cautiously. His hands were raised, whether to protect her or stop me, I couldn't tell. He had gone to the girl's house at first, thinking that she had gone home already and then checked the hospital. Always trying to protect the weak, instead of preventing the strong.
He looked at me calmly, or as calm as the situation could allow.
You don't have to do this, Edward. You can turn away now.
I realized that since the girl had said my name, I had frozen in my footsteps. I did not turn my gaze away from her face as sense returned slowly to me.
Carlisle was ever patient and forgiving and understanding but I knew what he must think of me now. Carlisle, who had lived centuries of existence without ever tasting human blood, and here I was with the corpse of a man at my feet after less than a year of this new life. And that wasn't enough to satisfy me, because I was now one small footstep away from sinking my teeth into the soft flesh of and drinking all of this innocent girl's blood. This girl who, despite the obvious changes in my appearance and my threatening demeanor, had that inexplicable look of joy on her face when she recognized me...
I looked at her, staring into her wide, trusting brown eyes. In the reflection of them, I saw my face: the black hair, the white skin, and the eyes filled with the bright red blood of a human.
Carlisle was wrong. I was a monster, and there could be no doubt that I had indeed lost my soul.
The monster in me let out a wild hiss of frustration between my teeth, and I fled into the dark.