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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.


4. Chapter 3 ~ Awakening ~

Rating 0/5   Word Count 2884   Review this Chapter

The pain was fading. The fire had burned itself out in my limbs. The conflagration in my heart had been extinguished. What remained of my affliction was focused in my throat, where the infection had started; I could not count how many days before that had been. If I had not recently been in so much pain, it might have seemed more intense, but in this moment my throat was no more bothersome than a buzzing fly. I had survived, or so I thought.

My felt amazingly strong considering that the fever had just broken. It seemed that my recovery would be swift.

Emotionally, I felt drained. I was exhausted from the horror of the dreams that had plagued me for what seemed to have been an eternity. I kept my eyes closed, hoping to find some peace. The haunting images from my fever still seemed to be very close. Those awful visions still swirled through my head, but now they were overtaken by a sense of grief - grief for Mama and for me. Dr. Cullen was still mixed in somehow as well, but I could not identify how.

I could hear the voices of the neighborhood coming alive for the day. They seemed to be coming in from the street, or so I assumed. I could hear the chatter of morning conversation as clearly as if everyone was in the room with me. Some of the exchanges seemed overly personal to be discussed among so many, but I supposed that that was the prerogative of the participants. I could not imagine where this neighborhood might be that so many were gathered, nor could I imagine what the occasion might be. Had the war ended? Had I missed my chance to be a soldier? No, there wasn’t enough excitement in these voices for that to have happened. It almost seemed selfish that I was glad my dream was still alive.

Curiosity finally got the best of me. I knew I was at Dr. Cullen’s home. He had told me as much during the delirium of my fever, but without opening my eyes, I had not been able to make sense of what I was hearing, so now I took my first look at my surroundings. Dr. Cullen was seated on a pale blue upholstered chair that had been drawn up close to the white, iron framed bed I lay on. He was leaning forward, elbows on his thighs, hands clasped behind his head. He looked tired. Grief and doubt seemed to emanate from him.

A shaft of early morning light slipped between the curtain panels of the east-facing window and sliced across the room to me in welcome. Oddly, hundreds of rainbows danced around the room in a fanciful display. The south wall of the room was covered with shelves of books. Under the window, a large desk was positioned to provide a view of the garden. The remaining walls gave the impression of an eclectic art gallery. Paintings in a variety of styles and periods were represented. None of them seemed to be related to each other in any way upon first examination. The door on the north wall led to the rest of the house.

The brilliant rainbows puzzled me. These were the most brilliant rainbows I had ever seen. The colors were more intense, purer and in hues that I’d never observed in prismatic rainbows before. As I looked around the room, I could not find any objects that would be the source of the fanciful display. There were no crystals hanging from any of the light fixtures and no objects of cut glass to capture the sun and splinter it into the colorful presentation. Given the abundance of rainbows, there had to be a piece of spectacularly cut glass somewhere.

My quest was accomplished when I looked at my own hands. The focused light of the new day reached out to touch me in greeting. When it did, it joyously shattered into the dance of dazzling hues that were scattered around the room.

I panicked. My voice came out in the tenor of a bell-toned gasp that was foreign to my ear. “Dr. Cullen, what happened to me?”

Dr. Cullen jumped at the sound of my voice, his deep contemplation forgotten. He had been waiting quietly for me to “wake-up.” He knew I had never truly slept through the ordeal of the past hours . . . or was it days? I had only fitfully dozed, or allowed my consciousness to hide from the ravages of my ordeal as best as I had been able. Now, the first words I heard from him confused me. “I will be a father to him.” They were uttered with conviction and it was clear that he was referring to me.

And now, I was not only frightened by the way the light played across my skin, but also completely bewildered by Dr. Cullen’s remark. I did not need him for a father. I did not want him for a father. Why would he even say something like that? After all of the strange, terrifying dreams I had just woken from, I wanted to be as far away from him as I could possibly get. I realized that that was an irrational response. Dr. Cullen was a well-respected physician. He had cared for my father and then for me to the best of anyone’s capabilities. I just could not shake the image of him leaning over me with blood-covered lips and the agony that had accompanied it. Rationally, I knew it was not real, it could not be real - but it seemed so real. I could not distance myself from the apparition.

Dr. Cullen was looking at me in earnest. He wondered, “How do I tell him that he is a vampire? How is he going to take it?”

“What?” I gasped. “What do you mean I’m a vampire?” I ignored the fact that I had not seen Dr. Cullen’s lips move.

“How did you know?” Dr. Cullen seemed stunned. “I’m sure I didn’t say anything.”

“You just said it. How can you say that you didn’t say anything? I heard you,” I retorted.

Dr. Cullen leaned back in his chair with a look that said he was measuring his words carefully, but he continued talking all the while as if I could not hear. “What is going on? I’m sure I didn’t say anything? How did he know he was a vampire before I said anything? I planned to prepare him for that, I wouldn’t have just blurted it out.”

“Well you did,” I said sharply out of fear. Now I knew I had to leave as soon as possible. Dr. Cullen was proving to be stranger than even my dreams had been. Of this I was certain, judging from our brief exchange. The sooner I got home to Mama the better. I wondered if she knew where I was.

“I did what?” Dr. Cullen queried.

I looked at him in disbelief. “First, you said that I was a vampire. Now, you just said you would have prepared me before you said it. You really believe that I’m a vampire?” I shook my head in disbelief. “Can I just have some tea with honey? My throat is still very sore and then I’ll go home. I don’t want to trouble you any more.”

“Blood is the only thing that will ease his throat now. He needs to feed. I’ll have to go out and bring something back for him. Why didn’t I think this far ahead? I hope to goodness he won’t leave or there will be a trail of dead through the neighborhood.”

I saw imagined images of myself wandering through an unfamiliar neighborhood indiscriminately drinking the blood from people Dr. Cullen seemed to know. Where was this coming from?

“Blood? Feed? Dr. Cullen, with all due respect, nothing your saying is making any sense.” I got up from the bed. “I’m just going to go home,” I said as I crossed the room. The strangeness of the conversation had made me forget my throat. I did not even notice that I still wore only a thin gown. I just wanted to get away from this very disturbing man.

“Wait, Edward . . . you’re going to break the door!

I had already turned the glass doorknob when I found the whole mechanism had twisted free of the door and was shedding splinters on the floor. A gaping hole remained where the knob should have been. The knob slipped between my fingers and clattered to the floor.

“Edward, you are much stronger than a human now. You will have to learn how to control your new body.” Dr. Cullen’s words had a duopolistic quality to them, like an echo. It was as if I was hearing him think the words the split second before he said them.

Whatever was happening could not be real. I leaned back against the doorjamb breathing hard. I pinched the bridge of my nose with my left hand and tried to think. Could what Dr. Cullen was telling me possible have any credibility?

“He’s gifted. What do I do with a gifted newborn?” Carlisle's thoughts were unguarded as he considered the possibilities.

“Gifted,” I murmured. “What does that mean?” In the course of the last few minutes, I was beginning to believe that something had happened to me, as fantastic as it seemed. I was now seeing, as if in a memory, one of the vampires from my fevered dreams, the vampire named Aro. His eyes were milky red, like they were clouded over, but still terrifying. He had the ability to read minds, every thought you had ever had, by simply touching you.

“Is . . . is Aro someone you know? Someone who reads minds?” I asked hesitantly. I knew the answer was “yes” before Dr. Cullen could say the word.

“Edward, look at me.” He was not speaking to me, he was thinking to me, testing his suspicions.

I felt myself slipping to the floor in defeat, my thoughts dizzy. Vampire? Mind reading? What would be the next assault on my reality?

“Edward, can you hear me?” Dr. Cullen’s thoughts were filled with concern.

I moaned, “Dr. Cullen, what happened to me?” I looked up at him from my crumpled heap on the floor. The world as I understood it was slipping between my fingers. “I can hear you. I know your thoughts,” I stammered.

Crossing the room with a grace I had never observed before in a man, Dr. Cullen eased himself to the floor in front of me. “Call me Carlisle. The formalities between vampires are different than among humans. I’ve been a vampire for nearly two hundred eighty years.” He cast his amber gaze down and then back to me. “I’m responsible for changing you.”

“Why?” I felt my world spiraling down in confusion. There were so many questions spinning through my thoughts I was hardly able to ask a single one of them. If it had been possible, I would have melted deeper into the floor.

I saw my mother’s face in Carlisle’s memories. “Your mother was a special woman, Edward. She sacrificed her own strength, her own chance to recover, in order to care for you.”

Mama was with me again, her green eyes brimming with tears as she watched the fever consume my life. Through Carlisle’s words and perfect memory I saw the beast devour not only her, but myself as well. I witnessed Mama’s last desperate plea, her final request.

Carlisle murmured, “The last thing she requested was that I save you. Changing you was the only way I could do it.” He met my staggered gaze. “You would have died in a few hours if I had not. If she had not asked, I would not have bitten you. My own loneliness was a factor as well,” he quietly added in confession.

“Mama’s . . . dead?” I heard my voice crack in grief.

Carlisle nodded. “I’m sorry.”

A deep sob escaped from the depths of my being. I wiped at my eyes expecting to find tears. There should have been tears. My parents were both dead. I was a vampire. I did not know if that meant that I was alive or dead. I was reading minds. What was I supposed to do now? I swiped at my eyes again but found that they were still dry.

Carlisle’s voice was filled with regret. “Vampires are not able to cry, Edward.”

I looked at him in stunned silence, waiting to go into shock. “Will I be able to go home?” After the weight of everything that had just been presented to me, I was fully expecting the answer to be “no.”

“Does anyone else live at your house besides you and your parents?”

I should have known the answer. I also wondered why it mattered. Mulling over the question, I visualized the familiar house; the large front door that opened into a formal entry, the marble floor, the opulent brass chandelier and the curving staircase. I imagined opening the door on the left side of the entry. I could not identify what kind of room was behind the door. It seemed to be filled with a concealing fog that blurred the nature of the room’s contents and who might be inside. Perhaps there was a settee and some chairs around a table whose function was lost to me. The only thing I could identify, the only thing that seemed to matter, was the baby grand piano that graced one corner of the room.

I tried to recall the other passages and rooms off of the entry hall but they were filled with a deeper fog than that of the “piano room.” Turning away, I made my way to the stairs. They seemed more familiar and whispered of promises to be found upstairs.

At the top of the landing was a hall, two doors on the right, three on the left. Selecting a random door on the left, I looked inside. This room was as vague in appearance as the downstairs rooms had been, although there was a familiarity about it, as if it held some happy memories. They eluded me.

Turning around, I entered the room across the hall. I could see this room; it was my own. My grandmother’s mahogany desk, cluttered with papers and books, was positioned near the window to take advantage of the light. A chair had been sloppily shoved up to it. An armoire with a mirrored door housed my clothes. I recognized each curve and carved scroll on the head and footboards of the bed. I felt at peace in this room.

My room was the only place that I knew as I tried to remember. The rest of the house, what had been my home, was in shadow. Each room seemed hungry with the desire to be recognized by me; I was unable to give them satisfaction.

Carlisle was becoming increasingly concerned. Remembering my home and the people who lived there was not meant to be a difficult question, even for a newborn whose human memories would soon fade if they were not recalled soon after the change. He asked again, “Is there anyone else at your house?”

“I . . . I don’t know.” My voice sounded hollow. “I can’t remember.”

“What do you remember?” Carlisle’s brows were pinched together in concern. “I don’t want you endangering anyone who may be there.”

Mama’s face flashed through my thoughts again. It was with a jolt that I realized that I was remembering her beautiful face not as I, her son, should remember her, but as Carlisle, her doctor, remembered her.

“I can’t remember. I . . . I . . . I can’t remember anything,” I stammered. My body shook uncontrollably with the realization. “Why can’t I remember?”

Carlisle’s expression was blank as he considered the possible reasons for my lack of memories. He had never heard of anyone losing their deepest memories so completely as a result to the change. Faded and dimmed, yes, but not entirely lost. “It must have been the fever,” he finally concluded.

“Fevers cause memory loss?”

He looked at me, startled. It was going to take both of us some time to get used to my mind reading ability. “Sometimes, if the fever has been very high.” Carlisle’s reply was pensive.

A new panic seized me. “Do the memories come back?”

His answer was apologetic. “Usually . . . if you’re human.” I saw Carlisle squeeze his eyes closed. “But he’s a vampire now .He was frozen at the point he was changed. Edward did not have his memories when I changed him.”

My words came out in a frightened whisper. “You don’t think that I will get my memories back, do you?”

Carlisle placed his palms together as if in prayer and touched his fingers to his lips. His thoughts were filled with apologies. He truly regretted that my memories were gone. He considered if there might be a way for me to at least learn something about my family, about myself.

I was too numb to think.