Edward Masen has led a charmed life. As the son of a prominent Chicago attorney he has grown up in the highest circles of society. The Spanish Influenza of 1918 cared nothing for social standing, however, and treated everyone equally. Now Edward must adjust to a world he never imagined after becoming a victim of the epidemic. This is the story of Edward's first six months as a vampire, as told by Edward himself. This story is 100% in canon. Come get reacquainted with Edward and Carlisle.
Altered Reality is a companion to my first fan-fic, New Beginnings, which is available on Ramblings and Thoughts. I would have never had the courage to tackle this story if Alphie had not challenged me to write it when she reviewed NB.
10. Chapter 9 ~Visiting~
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The sun was brilliant as it hung low in the sky. Wispy clouds turned golden with just a blush of pink as the day hastened to its end. It seemed like ages since I had stepped out into their presence. Despite the chill that clung to the autumn air, I embraced the sun’s warmth as it kissed my face. I would have welcomed its gentle touch on my arms as well, but we were bundled in warm clothes in keeping with the temperature. With hats pulled low over our faces to reduce the chance of our crystalline skin drawing attention, we were on our way.
After seven weeks in isolation, it was alarming to see people again. All my efforts to avoid human contact were about to be challenged. Carlisle knew that it was a risk for me to be out so early in the evening, but this was the only way we would be able to travel far enough during the night to avoid encountering even more people in the morning. We planned to find secluded places to hole up in during daylight hours as we journeyed north. I understood that even the most fleeting of breezes could bring the scent of a human my way and instinct would consume me the way it had on our hunting trip. Only this time, the life of a mortal would be at stake. I felt my very existence would be forfeit if I should fail. There was no room for chance temptation.
Although the worst of the influenza epidemic was behind us, many people still wore masks in an effort to avoid contracting it. Carlisle and I would do the same as part of our ruse. In addition, a small sachet fill with fragrant herbs was concealed inside my mask. It was my hope that this would help disguise any human scent that might come my way. Carlisle was skeptical of my idea but saw no harm in trying. My best defense against the scent of humans was simply not to breathe until Chicago was behind us and we were in less populated areas. We stayed off the more heavily traveled streets in favor of the back ways.
It was a curious thing to see people going about their lives. Most of their thoughts no longer caught me by surprise. Even personal dramas and trials were beginning to sound common and mundane. What did startle me was watching how people moved. Even when they appeared to be in a hurry the human’s movements were labored and awkward.
“Everyone seems to be moving so slowly,” I murmured.
“Careful, Edward,” Carlisle cautioned. “It is necessary to breathe in order to talk.”
Resisting the temptation to breathe was hard as the wind swirled around the open cab of the truck and tugged at my coat. I missed the smell of fresh air. It was uncomfortable to be without my sense of smell. Soon, very soon, I would be able to breathe freely again.
Carlisle glanced at me sideways to check that I understood. When I nodded, Carlisle returned his eyes to the road.
“Humans appear to move slowly because our minds are able to comprehend more information and faster,” Carlisle informed me. “Also, our strength and speed give us a different perspective. You are the one who is moving faster, Edward. People have not changed.”
How well I knew that.
It was a relief to leave Chicago behind. Reluctantly, I said farewell to the last vestiges of my human life and turned my sights on the road ahead. I knew so little of my former self and I desperately clung to what fragments I had. But at the same time, I knew I would have to forge a new identity for myself, a new beginning. Who was Edward Masen now? Who would Edward Masen become?
For his part, Carlisle was planning ahead to the identities we would assume. Taking the guise of brothers-in-law seemed to be his favored scenario. I would pose his deceased wife’s younger brother. By doing this, we would not have to explain the difference in our names or why our features bore little resemblance. This made more sense than father and son. We looked much too close in age despite the hundreds of years that separated us.
It was Carlisle’s desire to find a place for us deep in the Wisconsin wilderness. At least twenty miles from the nearest neighbor was favorable in his estimations. As I gained better control of my thirst and sometimes-violent impulsiveness, he would gradually expose me to humankind. Carlisle hoped that in a year’s time we would be able to move closer to civilization.
As the truck rattled and bumped over the ruts in the dirt road we were on, I leaned my head back and enjoyed the quiet. Once again, I savored the absence of the constant multitude of voices in my head. Carlisle could still detect the scent of humans but we were far enough away that I could not hear them. In the quiet of the evening I began to relax.
“You can breathe now, Edward,” Carlisle remarked. “At least for the moment, we seem to be far enough away from even the remotest of farm houses. I’ll warn you when I know we will be approaching an inhabited area”
Cautiously, I removed my mask and inhaled deeply. The aroma of tilled earth and approaching frost filled my senses. It felt good to pull the fresh air into my lungs. The air in the house had become stagnant in our effort to keep the scent of humans out. Carlisle removed his mask as well.
Now that I could breathe freely again and thus talk, Carlisle and I continued an earlier discussion of what type of home to build for ourselves. A log cabin seemed to be a satisfactory option, given the remoteness of the location we hoped to find.
Just the idea of building a cabin was strange to me. Even with my lack of memory, I was certain that this was something I had never done and, in all probability, never would have done if I had survived the influenza. To add to the preposterousness of our endeavor, we were going to start construction as winter was settling in. No mortal in his right mind would consider doing what we were intentionally planning.
The severity of the Wisconsin winter would insure our isolation until spring. By then, Carlisle felt I would be able to have some control over my instinctive inclinations. Introducing me to the scent of humans was not a task he was looking forward to. Even the lingering odor on a recently worn article of clothing could be enough to send a newborn vampire into a frenzy.
The back roads to Joliet were deserted by this time of the evening. The air was cold and the days were rapidly becoming shorter. Most humans headed for the warmth provided indoors.
The sweet scent of prey garnered my attention when it wafted through the cab. Before Carlisle could react, I had leapt from the moving truck and bolted through the native vegetation. Resuming a diet consisting of coyotes and badgers had been unsatisfying at best when we had returned to Chicago. The scent of a deer now beckoned me with a siren’s call.
When Carlisle caught up to me, he was actually relieved. He knew I was beyond thirsty. Ten days without feeding on something of significant size was an eternity for a newborn. Although the stop delayed us, Carlisle knew it was better that I feed when the opportunity presented itself.
I almost laughed. The term “feed” was becoming more natural to my way of thinking now. While I still would have preferred to eat, this was not what my new body wanted to do. Eating involved ingesting solid matter. I could not do this now. The only thing my body understood was blood. I drank it in but it was not drinking. It was more sustaining than any drink could possibly be. The only way to describe what vampires did was “feed.”
“Feeling better?” Carlisle queried.
A resonating snarl emanated from my throat. My newborn instincts compelled me to guard my prey from any threat despite the fact that I was done with the carcass. I knew intellectually that Carlisle was not a threat but it took me longer than I expected to find my more rational self.
Carlisle stepped back and waited patiently.
“Yes, I’m better now,” I murmured after several minutes. I appreciated that Carlisle had never been judgmental or impatient with me over my erratic behavior. Despite his inexperience in handling newborns himself, Carlisle had observed others doing so and effectively applied what he had learned. Of course, Sarah had also given him many helpful suggestions.
Looking down at the deer, I wished that blood still coursed through its veins. My throat continued to burn with thirst. Sighing, I stood and brushed the leaves from my trousers. At least I had learned to feed without getting blood all over myself.
Before we continued on our way, Carlisle helped me conceal the body in the surrounding undergrowth.
Carlisle knew the area well and indicated when I should hold my breath. Although it was getting to be late in the evening, and the cold temperature would discourage most people from going out, there was no reason to take any chances.
The drive was pleasant enough to satisfy any wanderer. We passed by tilled fields, slumbering for the winter and forested parkland.
The tension I had been carrying since I awoke to this new reality was beginning to loosen its grip on me. I knew leaving Chicago was the right thing to do. Despite my reservations over the Rutherfords’ involvement, I was confident that everything had been settled in the best way possible. For now, my future was in Wisconsin, a place where I could quietly come to terms with what I had become.
Sarah was staying about ten miles west of Joliet. I saw the barn in Carlisle’s memory from a previous visit. It had been abandoned and was in disrepair, but still stable enough to offer reasonable shelter . . . if you were a vampire. It was no wonder Sarah had been impressed by my home. Even the cabin Carlisle and I were planning to build was much more substantial.
I saw the inside of the barn in Sarah’s thoughts when we were about three miles away, maybe a little farther. She was seated comfortably on top of a pile of straw. It was what was at the forefront of her thoughts that chilled me.
“Carlisle, stop! We have to turn around!” Panic was thick in my voice. It was the first time I had spoken in a few miles. We had been passing too close to a populated area for me to risk breathing.
Without questioning my enraged panic, Carlisle turned the truck around and drove back the way we had come.
“What did you hear?” He knew it had to be something only I could “hear” because he had heard nothing and at present, the air smelled clean and sweet.
“She . . . oh . . . ah,” by now I was panting I was so shaken. “Sarah is feeding,” I finally stammered.
Leaning back deep into the seat, Carlisle quickly considered our options:
A) Sarah was not expecting us, it would be easy to continue on and never stop. She would be none the wiser and never miss us.
B) We could turn back around and arrive about the time she finished feeding or
C) We could wait a few minutes and arrive after she had disposed of the body.
As he pulled off to the side of the road, I knew that Carlisle favored option C. I would have to face the full realities of the vampire’s world sooner or later. Most vampires were exposed to their first conventional feeding within hours of awakening to their new life, at most within a day or two. I was very much past due. This was as good a time as any to address the issue. More importantly, this was with Sarah, the expert in newborns. If anyone would be open to dealing with any erratic and/or unexpected responses I might have, it would be her.
“No, no! I can’t do this Carlisle. I can’t just wait here and listen to her feed. Oh . . .” Hearing Sarah’s pleasure at feeding ignited an inferno in my throat.
Clambering out of the truck, I began pacing. I would have run, but I did not know where to go that would be free of humans, so I paced. The withered grass on the roadside was trodden flat in moments.
Carlisle watched in silent resolve. He understood that listening to Sarah feed was devastating for me. However, vampires were my reality now; I would have to come to terms with them. Sarah was only the first of a myriad of vampires I would meet in the coming years. Regardless of how I chose to sustain myself, the vampires I would come into contact with would, without doubt, find their nourishment from human blood.
Time seemed to pass slowly, but it was only a matter of minutes before the worst was over. Soon, Sarah was burying the remains. It seemed callous to me that she said no parting thoughts for the deceased. She simply dug a hole, placed the body at the bottom and covered it up. She tossed some decaying leaves and twigs on the upturned earth to conceal the site and the job was completed.
I leaned against the bed of the truck, still breathing hard, when Sarah’s feeding was done. There were no words to describe the horror I felt. At the same time, part of me was strangely fascinated. I wondered if my instincts were making themselves known for the second time that evening.
Carlisle got out of the cab and came to stand by me. “Edward?”
My voice was ragged and hoarse with the shock of what I had been witness to. “She’s done.” I had nothing more to say despite the curiosity that burned in Carlisle’s thoughts.
Sulkily, I climbed into the cab of the truck and hunkered down. Carlisle was now more determined than ever to see Sarah before we headed north to the isolation of the wilderness. Trying to convince Carlisle to do otherwise would have been futile. He believed this was an opportunity to further my education in a relatively controlled environment that was too valuable to pass up. I suppose every parent has lessons they are compelled to teach despite their child’s reluctance.
A low growl rumbled in my chest as Carlisle took his seat next to mine. “I don’t want to see Sarah any more,” I grumbled.
“It’s even more important than before that we do, Edward,” Carlisle replied softly. He was trying to keep me calm. My agitation was thinly veiled. “You need to get some perspective on what it means to be a vampire. Being the exception to the rule that I am, makes me a poor model in many respects.” He paused before continuing. “I doubt that there are any other vampires who would be able to live as I do. For me to expect you to adopt my feeding habits would be unfair.”
“No! What are you saying, Carlisle? Are you saying I can’t come with you?” I was dumbstruck. “I have to try! I WILL NOT FEED FROM HUMANS.” My resolve was firm.
Carlisle was not as confident. He knew that I had not been tested.
After he turned the truck back in the direction of Sarah’s home, Carlisle looked at me before continuing on. “I never said or thought that you could not come with me. I do want you to understand your options, however.”
Mixed emotions flooded Carlisle’s thoughts as we rattled down the road. In spite of everything I had put him through in our short time together, he loved me as a son. Carlisle was determined to prepare me for any alternatives that availed themselves to me in a way that my own father had failed to in my previous life. He would allow me to choose my life’s path. As long as I was with him, he promised himself that he would educate me to the best of his ability. He was not abandoning me to Sarah. He was showing me a possibility. If I did choose to leave, part of him would go with me.
We said nothing more until we arrived at Sarah’s twenty minutes later.
The barn we pulled up to was picturesque in its dilapidation. Most of the faded red paint was gone, revealing the dark and brittle timbers underneath. The once sturdy door hung loosely from its hinges, but it still secured the entry despite the pronounced lean of the building. Encroaching woods completed the backdrop. Could this really be an acceptable place to call home? It was no wonder Sarah had been impressed when she came to my house.
Sarah was inside tidying the corner of the barn she resided in. Her thoughts were content after the feeding she had just enjoyed.
The sound of the truck pulled her up short, instantly on alert for intruders. The gentle night breeze took our scents away from the barn, thwarting Sarah’s sense of smell, which would have helped her identify us.
“She’s preparing to defend her territory,” I advised Carlisle in a hushed whisper. My voice still sounded flat and dull after the trauma of hearing Sarah feed.
Carlisle responded by making a high-pitched whistle that no human ear would have detected. “The whistle was one of our ways of communicating with each other when she was my teacher,” he offered in explanation as he turned the truck’s engine off.
Instantly, Sarah’s thoughts relaxed as she exited from a door at the rear of the barn and bounded out to greet us.
Sarah was much more simply dressed than at our previous meeting. A clean, but somewhat dingy apron covered her faded, long-sleeved calico dress and her worn leather shoes were in keeping with the weathered state of the barn. Her hair was swept up in a practical chignon. It was doubtful that a casual passerby would have questioned her presence. She blended flawlessly into the picture. The only thing that might have been amiss was the fact that it was a cold, moonlit night and she wore no wrap. She had given no thought to the chill.
“Carlisle, Edward! What an unexpected pleasure.” Sarah squealed with delight at our unexpected presence.
Carlisle shot me a warning look as he climbed out of the truck’s cab. My demeanor was clearly disturbed, even hostile. I was wondering why I had ever suggested coming here. The idea that I owed Sarah any thanks had become loathsome in the last half hour.
Without further hesitation, Carlisle approached Sarah and greeted her with a warm embrace. “It’s good to see you again.”
“Oh Carlisle, you know you are welcome anytime,” Sarah crooned. The fondness she held for her most unusual and, arguably, rebellious student was tangible. “How are you and Edward getting along?” I could tell that her question was sincere, but she was clearly hoping that I had adopted a more conventional diet. She believed it would be so much easier for me to feed.
“We are doing very well, thank you,” replied Carlisle. “Actually, we came to say good-bye. We’re leaving Chicago and heading north to where bigger game is more plentiful.” It did not escape my notice that Carlisle omitted telling Sarah exactly where we were going. Despite the respect he held for her, his trust was laced with reservations. Under compelling circumstances, he was sure she would reveal us to the Volturi.
“I thought that might be the case when I saw how your truck was packed,” she sighed. “I had hoped you would stay nearby awhile longer.”
Carlisle just smiled. Sarah was not fooling him. He knew that she wanted to observe how he was handling the training of a newborn, given his unusual lifestyle. She doubted it could be done successfully.
Sarah observed that I had remained in the truck. “Edward, how are you? Please come visit with me for a few minutes.” She was genuinely encouraging in her invitation as she cautiously approached the truck.
Carlisle stepped behind her. “Edward, you need to be just a little cordial. Sarah is not Volturi, but she is not without influence” he silently admonished me. “And breathe! The air is clean here. It will help you relax.”
Sarah was not blind to my reluctance. She abruptly stopped about thirty yards from the truck. “Oh! I’m so sorry Edward. It slipped my mind that my eyes might bother you.”
After seven weeks together Carlisle had learned to read my moods and body language well. He knew from past experience that I was on the verge of assaulting Sarah. As she approached me, Carlisle had quickly intervened by recalling to his perfect memory one of my favorite compositions, Chopin’s Nocturne #20. Shifting my focus to Carlisle’s thoughts, I closed my eyes and pinched the bridge of my nose giving myself over to the tender strains of the melody until I regained my composure.
“Yes, your eyes,” I gasped desperately. I had to hold on to the musical refrain that played in my mind.
It had not escaped Sarah’s notice that something had drawn my attention away from her. Newborns were not known for their self-control.
Sarah turned to face Carlisle. “How did you stop him? He was ready to tear me apart.” So, she had noticed our silent exchange even if she had not understood it.
Desperately, I clung to the melody that provided an anchor to rational thought as Sarah’s observation threatened to pull me away and back into newborn aggression. This was not the time or the place to lose control. I imagined my fingers dancing over the piano keys, the music providing security.
Carlisle quickly assessed me and let go of the tune. He could tell I had embraced it as I had on other occasions when I had been teetering on the edge of rational thought. Music had saved us from many hostile confrontations in the preceding weeks.
Drawing a breath, Carlisle considered how best to respond to Sarah’s question. Cautiously he replied, “Edward and I have devised a way of communicating, much like our whistle. It helps him stay focused. I indicate to him a specific piece of music and he plays it in his mind. We’ve been able to avoid several fights this way.”
I had to give Carlisle credit. He had spoken the truth and not revealed anything. Carlisle had suffered some brutal beatings and acquired a few crescent-shaped scars that matched my teeth during our weeks together, but many more had been averted because of the connection we had made using music.
“Most impressive, Carlisle,” Sarah confessed. “I have to admit, I was skeptical. The two of you seem to be getting along reasonably well.”
Feeling more rational as I finished “listening” to my nocturne, I stepped from the truck and cautiously approached Sarah and Carlisle. A cold breeze caught at my hair and tossed it around my face as I joined them.
Nervously, I ran my fingers through my hair. “My apologies.” I kept my eyes averted, knowing that I would react poorly if I were to catch a glimpse of Sarah’s eyes again. Seeing them glow crimson with the abundance of fresh blood in Carlisle’s thoughts was testing my control.
“Oh, Edward, my dear boy! I’ve never seen a newborn show so much restraint. I’m surprised I’m not lying in pieces on the ground!” she enthused. “What a remarkable demonstration!”
I wondered if she knew how close I was to attacking her even now. The slightest misspoken word would have sent me over the edge. Not knowing how to respond, I simply shrugged
Carlisle and Sarah exchanged pleasantries for several minutes. From time to time Sarah would turn to me with a question or comment. As long as I stayed focused, I was able to respond as required. After centuries of training newborns, she knew it would not take much to push me over the edge, given my reaction upon our arrival. Still, Sarah wanted to draw me into the conversation. She desired to find out how I was coping, and not just Carlisle’s assessments.
The longer the conversation continued, the more relaxed I became. There seemed to be little reason to exercise the kind of caution I had back in Chicago or even passing through the populated areas as we traveled. This was a safe place. Besides, it was good to have someone to talk to besides Carlisle. Sarah was bright, intelligent and possessed a quick wit. I began to understand why Carlisle respected and even liked Sarah. It was also good to hear another “voice” who was intentionally talking to me, even if she didn’t know I was listening to more than her spoken words. Sarah was not thinking about anything that I should not know about.
A shift in the breeze caught my attention. Without pausing to give any thought to where I was going, I was through the thicket of trees beyond the barn and out of the range of Carlisle and Sarah’s thoughts faster than I had imagined possible.
The scent that irrevocably drew me was unbelievable. I knew it had to be a predator, but what kind I did not know. I did not care. Instinct ruled my every move. I would have this prey! My throat burned, yearning for the satisfaction that was soon to be mine. I thought I knew what it was like to be consumed by the hunt, I was wrong. My previous experiences were mere shadows of what possessed me now. I was absorbed by desire for this beast, regardless of what it was.
Images buzzed through my mind like a cloud of annoying mosquitoes. I was so absorbed by the hunt they were easily brushed aside. Still, some small portion of my mind recognized the face that was forefront in the thinker’s mind. His name was Bob, the groundskeeper at the local school. The same man that Sarah had fed from such a short time ago. Someone was looking for him.
No matter to me. The hunt was my only desire.
The creature was close. It showed no effort to conceal its passage through the dry leaves and undergrowth of the woods as most creatures did. By contrast, my movements were silent and lethal. Only the few lingering leaves that clung stubbornly to the bushes were stirred by my swift passage.
Not caring what it was I was about to feast upon, I sprang upon my prey from the right and allowed my teeth to slice through the tender flesh at the neck to release the thick liquid goodness beneath. I should have killed first and then consumed, as Carlisle had taught me, but all rational thought eluded me. The aroma intoxicated me; the flavor was sublime.
More buzzing mosquitoes begged for attention but the struggling body in my grasp was beginning to yield to my desire. An image of a woman standing over a stove and two children playing with their puppy presented itself to me. Thoughts of love, regret and sorrow prevailed over the scene. I brushed the vision aside as it faded and my prey lay limply in my grasp.
I fed and was content.
- Heart Song
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