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Altered Reality

Summary:
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. small banner


Notes:
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.


11. Chapter 10 ~Monster~

Rating 0/5   Word Count 4173   Review this Chapter

Familiar voices reached my sensitive ears. Carlisle and Sarah had followed me from a respectable distance, both cautious of my newborn aggression. Carlisle was masking his thoughts by recalling a folksong from his childhood that I was not familiar with. Sarah was ecstatically joyful.

What could have happened that led to the contrast in their thoughts?

My vampire instincts prevailed again when the wind shifted and brought Sarah and Carlisle’s scent my way. During the preceding weeks I had become accustomed to Carlisle’s scent, but Sarah’s was not as familiar. The roar and snarl that I unleashed brought both of them to an abrupt halt.

Although I had finished feeding, the prey was still mine. In my newborn-mind’s way of thinking, Sarah was a threat. I would guard my kill at all cost.

Sarah was thrilled by my response as she caught her first glimpse of me through the trees. “He’s finally behaving the way a newborn should.” She silently sighed in relief.

What was she talking about? I searched her mind more thoroughly and found what I was looking for. From her vantage point a quarter of mile away, I saw myself, prey cradled in my arms, eyes glowing crimson as burning embers. I was holding not the animal that I had assumed I had fed from, but a man.

Not wanting to believe Sarah’s perspective, I looked down at what I held for the first time. Vacant blue eyes reflected the crescent moon above. Their glassy stare unnerved me. The face bore an unnatural pallor, drained of all life. I knew from the thoughts of the grieving that those who had died of natural causes possessed more color. A raw and gaping wound at the man’s neck was testimony to the savagery I had unleashed on this poor soul.

The body landed with a thud and was embraced by a bed of decaying leaves as I scuttled away in horror. My further retreat was thwarted when I collided with the trunk of a tree. All of the images of vampire feedings I had witnessed during my change came flooding back to my memory.

“NO NO I COULD NOT HAVE DONE THIS I AM NOT A MONSTER!”

But . . . I was. The mosquitoes I had brushed aside as I had tracked my prey now stung back with perfect clarity. This man, my prey, had gone out in search of Bob, his neighbor, when the latter had not returned home as expected. Of course Bob had not come home. He could never return home. Now this man would not return either. There were monsters in the woods.

“Edward, stay calm,” Carlisle admonished me.

All I could do was look at him balefully. The bark of the tree crumbled under my grasping fingers as I searched unsuccessfully for something to steady myself against. I turned away, unable to bear Carlisle’s forgiving gaze, and slid to the ground. The leaves rustled and clung to me at will.

Sarah was alarmed at my behavior. I should have been snapping and snarling at her and Carlisle in an effort to protect my prey, not groveling at the base of a tree. Slowly, oh so slowly, she approached to assess me.

Kneeling in the loam several yards away, Sarah met my gaze. “Edward, dear, this is the way that vampires are supposed to live. You’ve done nothing wrong.”

I gaped in wonder that she could say such a thing. “I . . . I . . . I killed a man!”

“Of course you did.” She cooed like a mother watching a child take his first steps. “You’re a vampire. This is how we sustain ourselves. This is what you should be doing.”

“No, no! I won’t live like this.” My voice was ragged.

Sarah shook her head sadly. “Aro may need to be advised of the circumstances. Edward might need to be destroyed if he is unable to adapt.” Standing, she turned and faced Carlisle, who had not moved. “Carlisle, you have done Edward a great disservice by shielding him . . .”

It was one thing to threaten to have me destroyed, especially now that I had broken my promise to Mama. There was no way for me to live an honorable life now. I was a murderer. But it was quite another thing to seek the same for Carlisle on my account-and part of me still wanted to try living, for Mama. Abandoning my stupor, I lunged at Sarah from behind and knocked her to the ground. My newborn rage dictated my every move. I was blinded to all else.

Resistance answered my blows such as I had never experienced previously. Sarah was fighting back in her surprise over the attack. This enraged me further. A keening, scraping sound filled the air as something broke free in my grasp and I flung it away. It crashed into a tree sending up splinters of bark before landing on the ground with a thud.

The thunder of crashing boulders echoed through the woods as I rained blows down on my would-be accuser. Nothing was going to prevent me from surviving long enough to save Carlisle.

Something else was wrenched free in my grasp with a sound like fingernails on a chalkboard. I let it drop in the dust and continued pummeling Sarah.

“Carlisle, why are you trying to stop me?” I wondered silently as I drove my fist home once more. Beethoven’s “Leonore” Overture No. 3 was slicing into my consciousness in all of its orchestral beauty. The complex interplay between the instruments’ voices was hard to ignore as they soared into their fullness.

With what I intended to be a fleeting glance I met Carlisle’s eyes. He had no comprehension of why I was intent in destroying Sarah.

My rage had blinded me until that moment. While Sarah remained firmly confined in my grasp, I turned my attention to Carlisle. I was desperate for him to understand why I was doing this. He needed to know that she would betray us. “She was going to call the Volturi! She wants us destroyed,” I shouted in desperation.

“Destroying Sarah will bring the Volturi guard against us even faster.” Carlisle said under his breath.

Dumbfounded, I stared at him. It was clear Carlisle thought it better if Sarah lived. I blinked in disbelief. Who was this woman that the Volturi would avenge her?

Carlisle had remained calm throughout the assault. His voice was quiet and direct. “Edward, step away from her. Sarah won’t be going anywhere until she has healed.”

I shook my head vehemently. I had no trust for the woman restrained in my embrace.

It was then that I noted what I had done to Sarah. Not only had I assaulted a woman, I had torn off her left arm at the shoulder and thrown it yards away. Her right leg was severed at mid thigh and lay beside us. Human blood, from her recent feeding, seeped as from the edges of a porous sponge on the surfaces where her limbs had once been. I held my breath as I felt the instinctive draw to the scent of the blood. It was, in that moment, repulsive. Rotting leaves had wound themselves into Sarah’s auburn hair. Her dress was irreparably torn and clung to her body in tattered strips. My attack had not lasted long but the injuries were significant. The strength and fury of a newborn vampire was evident.

There were no words for the outrage I was feeling. I was convinced that she had wanted to destroy Carlisle and me. I could not be sorry for my defense. Nevertheless, that was no excuse for attacking Sarah the way I had. No Volturi had yet been summoned. In my rage I had seen no alternative but to destroy the threat.

In Carlisle’s mind I saw hope that, even now, we could come to an understanding. After what I had done, I wondered how.

Carlisle’s voice was barely a whisper. “Edward, let her go and come here.” His voice held a promise of security.

I deserved to die for what I had just done; yet neither Carlisle nor Sarah had such thoughts in their minds. Carlisle wanted me to step back so he could tend to Sarah’s injuries. She was in excruciating pain, but was still able to focus on what was transpiring between Carlisle and me. She was curious as to how I had known of her fleeting thought of having me destroyed. Losing a limb to a newborn was not a new experience for her and was of marginal concern. She had suffered worse injury from her charges.

Shaken, I released my hold on Sarah and moved to Carlisle’s side. He was visibly relieved.

Sarah followed me with her eyes, curiosity flooding her every thought. “How did he know what I was thinking? Unless . . . he reads minds. But . . . he wasn’t touching me. Aro has to be touching you. Oh . . . Edward doesn’t need physical contact.”

She knew. Carlisle had warned me all along not to reveal my gift to Sarah and now she knew.

I started to lunge back toward the disabled woman.

“Don’t move.” Carlisle’s command to me was firm as he turned to retrieve a pale, cloth-covered object that was convulsing on the ground by a tree: Sarah’s arm. “Without her leg she won’t be going very far.”

Ever so gently, Carlisle secured the arm in his grasp as Sarah winced in pain, despite the distance between them. Although Carlisle’s grasp was intended to be gentle, she was feeling the added pressure on her injured limb as it continued to writhe in Carlisle’s firm grip.

Carlisle was intent as he kneeled in the dirt beside Sarah where she lay crumpled and broken. He was in physician mode. I watched in horrified fascination as he removed the tattered remnants of the sleeve from Sarah’s severed arm and aligned it to her shoulder. It was then that I noticed the multitude of crescent markings on her arm, scars from her years of training newborns. The scars made a lacey pattern across her skin that glowed delicately in the moonlight. Two new bites were distinguishable among the tracings.

A snarl and a roar escaped my mouth. “Carlisle, she wants to have us killed,” I reminded him.

He ignored me as he watched the shoulder and arm fuse together. Carlisle stayed by Sarah’s side and offered what comfort he could.

The process was excruciating. Sarah suffered in silence as the crystalline structures of her flesh flawlessly fused together, each half reaching out to the other to form a seamless bond. I heard every anguished cry that resonated in her thoughts. My own arm ached in sympathy, as I was unable to break the mental bond that connected us. It seemed unfair that I should feel her pain too.

I thought Carlisle would immediately move to tend to Sarah’s leg when her arm was healed, but he did not. Instead, he sat back and regarded her. “Edward has made a compelling accusation. Explain, please.” Apparently, her leg could wait until he was satisfied with her explanation.

Sarah looked at me before turning to Carlisle in earnest. “Does Edward read minds?”

Carlisle did not want to answer, but it was a direct question. The truth was the only way to explain my accusation. I cringed and bowed my head in dismay as I heard Carlisle say, “Yes, yes he does.”

Swallowing hard, Sarah nodded. She was now rubbing the new bite marks on her arms as she pondered the implications of this revelation. “I thought so.” She paused before continuing her explanation to Carlisle. “I had a passing thought that Edward may not adjust to the vampire way of life; that it might become necessary to have him destroyed.”

My snarls prompted her to cringe away as Carlisle skidded through the leaves to situate himself between us.

“You’re going to defend her?” I hissed. If Carlisle had not been shielding her I would have torn into Sarah again.

Peeking around Carlisle as best she could, Sarah looked at me in earnest. “Search your memory, Edward. You’ll find that I had no thought to harm Carlisle.”

Desperately, I combed my perfect memory of Sarah’s thoughts hoping to find just cause for my accusation. There was none. I had jumped to a false conclusion. What was worse, Sarah had had no intent to have me destroyed either. She had thought “might” and “if.” She would have reported me only if and when I had proved myself unable to adjust. I groaned in despair. My actions had been unfounded and irrational. And now, because of my actions, not only was I no longer human, I wasn’t even a gentleman.

For the first time, I sensed impatience from Carlisle as he waited for my explanation. “Edward?”

I closed my eyes. My lower lip was trembling when I looked back at Carlisle and Sarah’s expectant faces. “I was mistaken.” The words came out in a barely audible whisper.

Carlisle, remaining uninformed as to what had transpired, looked to Sarah for an account of what had triggered my attack. I was obviously beyond the ability to explain myself without losing further control.

Sarah grimaced in pain as she shifted her weight to face Carlisle. “Edward assumed that I was going to have the Volturi destroy him because of his despair over feeding from a human. I was thinking along that line, but only if in time he was unable to adjust. I had to order a newborn’s destruction once before. It nearly broke my heart. I can only guess, but I think Edward thought I would have you destroyed as well, for not teaching him properly.”

Satisfied with Sarah’s explanation and my silent agreement, Carlisle reached for her leg. It had been twitching and inching itself closer as if drawn by a magnet throughout the entirety of the conversation.

It was not without some hesitation that Sarah lifted her skirt to reveal the stump of her leg. She knew this would be just as painful as her arm had been, but there was no getting around the healing if she wanted to walk again.

Embarrassed, I looked away. Never had I seen so much of a woman’s leg exposed. But looking away did not help; I could still see it in Carlisle’s thoughts.

Ever so gently, Carlisle cleaned the dirt and leaves from the fractured ends of Sarah’s leg. She winced with each swipe Carlisle made with the now blood-stained sleeve of his shirt.

Sarah moaned quietly as her leg healed. The sound tore at the very fibers of my being. I deserved every bit of this shared agony. The wrath I had unleashed on her was unjustifiable. Maybe I should submit myself to being destroyed as atonement for the offence I had done her, as well as for that which I had done Bob’s friend and his family. All of the wrongs needed to end. How was I to make everything right again?

I was so distraught that I did not realize Sarah had made the bold move of coming to my side when the healing was complete. Oh so tenderly, she reached out and touched my cheek. I wrapped my arms tightly around myself in an effort to have some semblance of composure.

“Edward, you don’t have to look at me, but I want you to listen.” Sarah’s voice was gentle and soothing as she took her hand away. “I have no intention of harming you. I only want you to have a meaningful life. Despite his inexperience with newborns, Carlisle is the vampire best suited to help you achieve that.”

Cautiously, I looked up and met Sarah’s eyes. Despite the terror the crimson color still instilled in me, I could see that they were filled with care and compassion. Her thoughts held no ill will toward me. There was no resentment for my unjustifiable attack, only acceptance of who I was.

Like a small child, I leaned into Sarah. She wrapped her arms around me. The comfort she offered was that of a mother. Astonishingly, I felt secure in her embrace. Her voice was almost a whisper now. “Did you hear the man’s dying thoughts?”

I silently nodded my affirmation into her shoulder. “Sarah, I am sorry I . . . hurt you. I’m so . . . confused,” I whispered from the cradle of her arms. My words were so inadequate.

Soothingly, she twined her fingers through my hair as she had done with her own son. “You are forgiven, Edward. I hope you are able to forgive yourself. Be patient. Even by human standards, you are still very young. You also have the burden of a powerful gift.” She paused in thought for a moment. “I’ve never given much consideration to the thoughts of the dying. I’m sure they’re not easy to bear.” She took my hand in a reassuring grasp. “As for how you interpret other’s thoughts, it will take practice to discern the subtleties between a passing notion and something the person intends to act upon, so that you can respond appropriately. Give yourself time.”

Reluctantly, I freed myself from Sarah’s embrace when Carlisle joined us shortly thereafter. He had been giving me time to make amends with Sarah privately.

“There is one more thing you need to do before we go back,” Carlisle said cautiously.

The body. It needed to be concealed. Because the man had been my prey, it was my responsibility to dispose of him. I needed to follow vampire protocol: bury and conceal.

What I wanted to do was to carry him home and make as generous a restitution to his family as I could, maybe give them my estate, before I allowed them to burn me. I deserved nothing less. But Carlisle would have been held accountable by the Volturi for allowing me to expose humans to the reality of vampires, and I could not allow that to happen. Instead, I dug a hole with an old rusty shovel that Sarah had thoughtfully brought with her from the barn, and buried my victim. I said a heartfelt prayer for his soul and the wellbeing of his family. I wondered if the prayers of the damned were answered if they were said on behalf of the innocent.

In silence, the three of us walked back to the barn. The only sounds were the gentle rustle of leaves and the flapping of an owl’s wings as it took flight through the woods.

My thoughts were filled with the memory of my most recent prey. The new strength that surged through my body was intoxicating, but at what price? The taste of the blood had been beyond comparison with anything I could have imagined. Could there possibly be anything that could surpass it? I doubted it very much. It would be so easy to pursue the blood; I could feel its compulsive draw. It was no longer a wonder to me that vampires fed from humans; the wonder was that Carlisle did not.

All too soon, I found myself approaching the truck. I wanted to climb into the cab and get as far away from this place as I could but Carlisle blocked my way.

“Edward,” he admonished, “you now know what it means to feed as vampires do. What I do, what we have done, is the exception. Now that you know what the differences are between Sarah and myself, you need to make a choice.”

Sarah generously offered, “You may stay with me if you like, Edward. I would be more than happy to teach you.”

I turned my back to both of them and looked over the hood of the truck to the expanse of the plowed field across the road. I cringed as the wind tousled my hair. I caught my breath in fear that it might bring the scent of yet another human. I could not bear the thought of taking another life.

The man’s dying thoughts were seared into my perfect memory. I knew every bit of the terror that he had felt when my teeth had sliced into his neck. I was aware of when the realization that he was dying became a reality; I understood that all too well. It had not been so long ago that I had known that about myself. I wondered if his family was concerned that he had not come home yet. Or was it still too soon? The life that I had taken, the love that I had killed, was a high price to pay for the sated feeling I now experienced and even, in spite of myself, enjoyed. I hated what I had done. I hated myself.

I knew that if I went with Sarah, I would have many more such memories. How could Aro bear the dying thoughts of his victims over so many millennia . . .? Maybe the totality of a person’s life was much more than the tiny moment of death. However, I could only hear their death, so that would be my understanding of their life.

The draw of the blood was powerful. I could still taste the goodness of it on my tongue; the fire in my throat had been quenched for the first time. The allure of human blood was considerably stronger than anything I had, as yet, experienced. Could there possibly be anything more powerful? Blood had now become the driving force of my existence. I had fed from the Tree of Knowledge.

No . . . no, I would not follow that path, the one that Sarah would lead me on. Not one more human life would be lost on my account. It would be harder to resist, now that the knowledge was mine, but I would stand firm. I would stay with Carlisle.

When I turned around, Carlisle and Sarah stood side-by-side with expectant gazes. They were united in their support of whatever decision I made. Carlisle, diplomatic as always, gave no thought as to which way I should favor. Sarah, while not consciously doing so, was silently encouraging me to stay with Carlisle. I had been sure that she would have wanted me to stay with her, but she seemed to understand the burden of my gift. She knew she could not offer me the peace that abstaining from human blood potentially afforded. I was, after all, not the first vampire she had seen turn to an alternative way to sustain his need for blood.

Nervously, I licked my lips before turning to address my benefactors. “Sarah, I appreciate your forgiveness and generosity. It’s much, much more than I deserve.” I looked down and drew my hand across my brow and through my hair before meeting her eyes again. “The burden of that man’s death is heavy to bear. I don’t see how I could carry more memories like his. I will stay with Carlisle.”

Sarah’s smile was warm as she approached me. For the first time since meeting Sarah, I had absolutely no desire to attack her. I only wanted the warm assurance she extended to me. I fell into her arms. I could feel the dry sobs convulsing through my body. At least there were no humiliating tears.

“Shhhh, shhhh. Edward, it’s alright.” Sarah held me tight as she continued, “This is what you need to do. Your gift is a burden only Carlisle is able to help you bear. I promise you, I will say nothing to the Volturi unless I am compelled to. If I am summoned to Italy I will not be able to hide your existence, but I will not reveal you by choice. Do you understand?”

All I could do was nod. Making this decision had been so much harder than I had expected. The lure of the blood was so strong. I could only hope that with time, and with Carlisle’s guidance, I could conquer and control my desire.

Pushing me away to arms length, Sarah regarded me once more. “It’s time for you to go, dear one. Carlisle knows how to find me if you should need my help. Don’t go to Volterra unless you seek to join the Guard or wish to be destroyed. And even then, I doubt that Aro would easily agree to end your life based on a simple request. Your gift would be much too intriguing to him despite the similarities to his own. Go in peace.”

Carlisle stepped behind Sarah and placed his hand on her recently healed shoulder. She turned into his open arms and wished him a safe journey. “You’ve done well by him, Carlisle. You’re a good teacher. Take good care of him”

After kissing Sarah on the cheek, Carlisle walked over to me. His eyes were bright as he anticipated the months ahead. “I’m glad you’re coming with me, Edward.” He clapped me on the shoulder. “Are you ready to go?”

I was ready. I had made my decision, not out of naïve idealism but rather informed sacrifice. There were no delusions about the difficulties ahead. Staying true to my commitment would be hard, but my mind was firmly made up. No more lives would be sacrificed for the sake of my thirst. I vowed to do whatever was necessary to make this a reality. If Carlisle had been able to do it, then so could I. The winter ahead would be challenging, but how far away could spring be? In that moment, it seemed very close.