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.
2. Chapter 1 ~ Influenza
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I could feel the warmth of the dawning sun caressing my cheek as I lay in the bed. I kept my eyes closed as I absorbed its gentle, soothing touch. It was a welcomed change from the searing conflagration that had finally finished burning through every cell of my body. Only my throat remained tender. I hoped that I could find something that would ease the burn soon.
I had a notion that I was at the home of Dr. Carlisle Cullen, the physician who had attended my father when he had been stricken with the Spanish Influenza, but that made no sense. I was reasonably sure I had gone to the hospital. Doctors did not take patients into their homes, did they? No, they did not, not with something as contagious as the influenza.
My now-fading memory told me that a few days before, I had returned to bed in the late morning with a sore throat and a general run-down feeling. By three o’clock that afternoon, I could barely breathe. I knew I had the same influenza that had robbed us of my father. Mama was frantic. She was sure that I would die, just as my father had. Desperate, she had called Mr. Rutherford, my father’s partner at the law firm, to drive us to the hospital. What I did not know at the time was that my mother was ill as well. She did not want me to worry about her. I learned later we were both admitted upon arrival.
The subsequent hours were filled with images of my mother’s face hovering over me, a damp cloth tenderly applied to my forehead or stroked over my face in an effort to cool the fever. I was so hot and everything ached. My throat was so constricted that I choked on the sips of water that Mama attempted to persuade me to swallow.
Part of me wanted to give up just so the agony would be over but I had to hold on for Mama. There were people who had recovered. I was young, healthy and strong. There was no reason that I should succumb to this monster.
Nurses flitted by on their rounds, their weary faces hidden behind masks to shield them from the beast. Occasionally one would stop and make a brief assessment of me but nothing more was ever done. I could not understand why they were encouraging Mama to lie down. She was doing what she could to care for me. She was certainly doing more than they were.
Sometime later Dr. Cullen came in. Mama seemed to relax a little when he spoke to her. I knew she thought highly of him. She had seen him often when she volunteered at the hospital in the weeks following my father’s passing. I too had seen him; on the occasions I had accompanied my mother. He seemed decent enough.
Dr. Cullen’s hand on my forehead was the first truly cool thing I had felt since I had arrived at the hospital. It was such a soothing relief that I did not even consider how peculiar it was that his touch was so cold. All I cared about was that it felt good. I did not want him to leave. He had provided the only real bit of comfort I had felt since I arrived.
Dr. Cullen leaned over me and looked into my eyes before continuing his rounds. For some reason, I noted that his eyes were an unsettling amber color. How very strange. Maybe it was just the fever playing tricks with my vision. I only vaguely heard him speaking to me; I was so entranced by his eyes. He was saying something about sleeping. After that, there was nothing more for me to do but do as he said. Nurses had been telling me to do just that throughout the day, but no one had been able to compel me the way Dr. Cullen had.
The following day was a blur. Time did not matter. I only knew I was in aching pain. My throat burned. Nothing relieved the scorching fever and there was the sensation that a giant must have been sitting on my chest, because I could not breathe. I resigned myself to the fact that I was dying.
Mama’s face continued to hover in and out of focus over me. Why was her face so flushed? Shouldn’t she be wearing a mask like the other hospital workers? Why did the nurses and doctors keep telling her to lie down? Nothing made sense but I was too sick to try and understand.
The voices at the bed next to mine drew my attention. I could not open my eyes but I listened as best I could.
It was Mama’s voice. Throughout the day it had become increasingly raspy, as if someone had taken sandpaper to her throat. I thought it must have been from talking to me so much.
“Save him. You must do everything in your power. What others cannot do, that is what you must do for my Edward.” Her voice was weak, but there was an authority behind her words that could not be denied. I recognized it as the same authority she had used with me throughout my childhood. Mama could compel an alligator to obey if she had a mind to.
“Oh Mama, I am so sorry. You are asking the impossible. I know I am not long for this world. A few hours at best. I’ve tried to fight but the monster is too strong. Each breath is a battle I cannot win.” I thought the words silently; I no longer had the strength to do more.
Dr. Cullen’s words were intended to reassure Mama. “I’ll do everything in my power.”
How could Dr. Cullen be so cruel?! There was no more hope for me! How dare he give my mother false assurance for my recovery?! Even I didn’t need the doctor to tell me that the end would soon be here.
There was nothing more to hear after that. Dr. Cullen turned from Mama and laid his cool hand on my forehead again. I wanted to turn away from him; I was so angry-but my strength failed me. All I could do was lie there and accept what relief his cool touch had to offer. He quietly commanded me to sleep once more and I obeyed. There was no more fight left in me.
I became dimly aware that strong arms were carrying me through inky dark allies and over moon-bathed roofs. How could this possibly be real? The rocking motion was gentle, as if I were a small child in the arms of a parent. There seemed to be a coolness to the night air as well that I had not felt since I had been admitted to the hospital. I hadn’t expected dying to be like this. Nevertheless, death had not taken me yet; my heart still beat and, though very shallow, I still breathed. The pain was still present. When would the pain end? When would I be able to rest in death’s arms? Perhaps I was in deaths arms now. No, the fever had to be playing tricks with my mind.
When the motion stopped, I could not say. The bed I was on now seemed different. The hospital had been so crowded with the infirmed that I had not been on a bed but a cot, I now realized. Now I was on a real bed. It was quiet, too. The hospital had been filled with the sounds of people coughing, moaning and crying along with the prayers of those who still had hope. This room was silent except for the sound of my own labored breathing and Dr. Cullen’s voice.
“Keep fighting, Edward. I’ll be back in a few minutes. You will have a new life,” Dr. Cullen promised.
- Heart Song
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