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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.


9. Chapter 8 ~Good-bye~

Rating 0/5   Word Count 2764   Review this Chapter

The newly fallen leaves swirled and twisted as they were lifted from the ground in the breezes that followed our passing. We slipped between trees and through the tangle of undergrowth at a speed that would be unimaginable for a human. Even our local foraging had not allowed me to explore the full extent of my abilities. Now I understood Carlisle’s frustration in following human convention by taking the car that first morning after my transformation was completed. As much fun as cars were, they were much too slow. The exhilaration of running through the woods unhindered was almost as good as the hunt itself. Being free of the confines of the city was liberating.

The silence of the woods was pure bliss as well. Neither Carlisle nor I knew until then, exactly how far away I would be able to hear the thoughts of those around me. As we drove to the outskirts of Chicago and into the countryside, the voices dwindled to a handful and then faded until the only person I could hear was Carlisle. Apparently, my range was only a few miles.

When we were not actively hunting or discussing our plans for the future, Carlisle would stare into the trees and let his mind take in our surroundings. It was as if he wasn’t thinking at all because I was looking at the same environment. I thought, for the first time since becoming a vampire, that maybe I could find some peace in the world, that I could still be alone. I did not realize this until after my thirst had been satisfied, however.

As much as I hated to admit it, Sarah had been right. I had been starving, in spite of Carlisle’s best efforts to find suitable prey for me. The first deer I fed from woke my appetite with a vengeance. Three more deer were soon to fall victim to my blood lust. As thirsty as Carlisle had been, he still stayed out of my way. With my newly awakened hunger, I became even more dangerous than I had been in the previous weeks. Thirst and instinct dictated my every move at the beginning of our trip.

After my sixth deer and finally feeling significantly bloated, I became cognizant of Carlisle’s presence once more. His nearly black eyes alerted me to the sacrifice he was making on my behalf. His self-control was so great that even in the presence of viable, even bloody prey, he had suppressed his own need to feed. Carlisle preferred to focus on the relief he felt that I was finally able to drink my fill. He was confident his own turn would come shortly.

“Carlisle,” I reproached him, “ you need to feed too. Why didn’t you stop me?”

He merely chuckled. “Edward, I would not have been able to stop you even if I had tried. Your newborn-thirst has been denied for too long.”

“The next deer, or whatever we encounter, is yours,” I promised.

“Only if you don’t beat me to it,” Carlisle laughed.

How I managed to hold myself back so Carlisle could feed on that first trip I don’t know. I gorged on anything I could sink my teeth into. Deer, naturally, became the prey of choice. Carlisle assured me that if I were to encounter a human, the ensuing frenzy would be even more dramatic.

The thought made me shudder.

I will never know how much Carlisle sacrificed for my sake on that first trip. He honestly did not feel that he was making any sacrifices. He fed enough to sate his appetite, as was evidenced by the light amber hue his eyes adopted. My well-being was his primary concern. He was used to sacrifice.

My thirst, by contrast, was never satisfied for more than the measure of a few hours. Carlisle assured me that this was normal. As the first year progressed, I would be able to go without feeding for longer periods of time and with better control of the blood lust. This was also why it was imperative for us to leave Chicago if I was going to refrain from feeding from humans. The only big game anywhere near Chicago was deer. For the predators that Carlisle said would best sate my thirst, we would have to leave Illinois and head north. Carlisle was still giving me the option of adopting his lifestyle or assuming that of conventional vampires. I resolved to apprentice myself to Carlisle and his vision. His long-standing resolve was my greatest influence.

The six days we spent hunting were far too short. As much as I longed to return home, the idea of being bombarded by the constant drone of voices depressed me long before I began to hear them as we approached Chicago. Part of me actually would have preferred to turn around and settle deep in the woods right then and there. But returning was necessary if we were to complete the ruse of my leaving with my uncle. Carlisle did not want me to lose the benefits of inheriting my parents’ estate.

Carlisle had the patience of a saint in the days that followed our return. Now that I knew what it was like to have my fill of blood, the meager hunting near home did not begin to meet my thirst. I was agitated and sullen. To say that I lost control of my temper would be an understatement. Anger oozed from my very core like honey from the comb, sticky and consuming. Carlisle bore the brunt of all of it.

I spent hours at the piano trying to find a place of solace while we waited for the days to pass. When I was not playing the piano, I tried to concentrate on what I would bring with me when we left, a memento of my human life I could hold onto in my darkest moments as an anchor.

The piano was out of the question. We did not know exactly where we were going yet. Besides, it was too big to be practical. Carlisle would find a replacement for me once we established ourselves.

Mr. Rutherford offered to buy the piano for Emma. The idea was loathsome to me. My journals had given me no reason to like, let alone respect the girl, but Carlisle convinced me that to withhold it would draw unnecessary attention. So the matter was settled and the movers would come the morning after we left. I could not bear the thought of seeing my piano carted away.

Early on the day we were to leave, a letter arrived. Carlisle handed it to me when I finished playing my beloved instrument. The script was elegant and refined.

Deerest Edward,

Woud that I could see you one last time before you leave Chicago. I have alweys hoped that we could find a life together but now it seems but a distant dreem. You have alweys been so deer to me, a constant friend through our entire lives.

Thank you for the piano. I will cherish it alweys. There will not be a note played which won’t remind me of you.

Pleese allow me to come and say farewell to you. It woud give me hope that there still might be a future for us. Without you I will be miserable.

All my love,

Emma

I ascertained that it would be very easy for me to put the poor, stupid girl out of her misery forever. She could be the first human I fed from. I wondered how she would like that honor.

The note was duly crumpled in my fist and thrown across the room. Carlisle gave me a curious look.

“It was from Emma,” was my curt reply. “She wants to come say farewell.”

“That would probably not be in either of your best interests,” Carlisle remarked.

A growl rumbled deep in my chest. “I wouldn’t want to see Emma even if I were still human.” I said her name with a sneer. “She’s getting my piano, that is more than enough.”

Carlisle knew better than to pursue the conversation further, but his thoughts betrayed him. My all too human response greatly amused him, but there was also a deeper concern: concealing our true nature.

It had taken Mr. Rutherford only ten days to prepare the final papers for us after we returned from our hunting trip. He had worked overtime and put other clients behind us to expedite the closing of the estate. He appreciated the fact that “Daniel” had other business obligations to attend to.

Mr. Rutherford had also arranged for a tenant to move into the house, and he was retained to manage the property for me. As much as I disliked Emma, I knew her father would handle my affairs well. He was hoping that I would return to Chicago and claim his beloved Emma. If he did not care for my property in good fashion, he knew there would be little chance of my taking her hand. He had no idea that there was no chance of my returning, let alone marrying Emma.

“I am not writing a letter to Emma,” I bellowed at Carlisle.

“And I did not say that you had to,” was Carlisle’s curt reply. My mind reading had prevented him from formulating a way of persuading me to compose the letter in a manner that would have been less offensive to me.

I had told Carlisle what I had learned from my journals about my relationship with Emma. It seemed prudent for him to know considering Mr. Rutherford’s involvement in my personal affairs.

Carlisle took a deep breath and blew it out slowly before continuing. “Edward, before you shout at me again, I need you to consider what I am proposing. Please, try to listen to what I’m about to say and not what I’m thinking while I formulate my thoughts. Do you think you can do that?” Carlisle’s plea was in earnest. He considered my replying to Emma’s correspondence to be critically important.

In the end, I begrudgingly wrote a “good-bye” letter to Emma. It was my first lesson in how to cover evidence about the true nature of things. By all indications, human Edward would have replied to her. It was the polite and proper thing to do. For me not to respond would have been inconceivable under normal circumstances. Destroy or conceal evidence and remain inconspicuous lest a human become suspicious was the code by which I now lived and survived.

And so a letter was composed:

Dear Emma,

My time in Chicago has become very short. I regret that I will not be able to see you before Uncle Daniel and I depart. By the time you read these words, we will be gone. The truck is packed and everything is in order.

I need to leave Chicago, at least for the present. The memories here are overwhelmingly sad. What lies ahead is a blank slate waiting to be written on. Who knows what new adventures await me? I anticipate them with a welcoming heart.

Be good to yourself.

Fondly,

Edward

I wanted to choke when I handed the sealed envelope to Carlisle to deliver when he made one last trip to Mr. Rutherford’s office to obtain the final documents.

My heart sank as I watched Carlisle pull away from the house in our laden truck. We had packed it during the night with the intent of leaving in the early evening the following day.

Carlisle’s Model T and Father’s beloved touring car had been sold. The much more practical truck was purchased in their stead. We were not taking an exorbitant amount of belongings with us, but there was enough that the truck was more suitable. It would also serve us better in Wisconsin or wherever we settled.

I was glad when Carlisle had gone. My last moments in the house were mine alone. I wandered from room to room, absorbing the symphony of colors and play of light in each room. The majority of them had failed to yield their secret memories to me, the things that I had done in them, but I cherished them just the same.

I saved my own room for last. This room had been my refuge, my sanctuary. From my seat on the edge of the bed, I absorbed every aspect of it. I wanted to be able to recall every detail no matter how far away or how much time had passed. I reflected on what had transpired in the last several weeks until now, my last moments in Chicago. How my understanding of the world had been irrevocably altered.

Our last night in Chicago had been fraught with emotion. Carlisle had taken me to the cemetery to visit my parents’ graves. When he told me where we were going, my first thought had been, “Oh, how appropriate. Vampires visiting a cemetery in the middle of the night.” But when we arrived, I had been overwhelmed by grief. Marble gravestones sparkled silver in the moonlight. My parents’ names, deeply carved in the rock, spoke of the finality of life.

Father’s marker had been embellished with a representation of the scales of justice. I appreciated the fitting tribute to the profession he had loved and served so well.

Mama’s memorial was graced with an angel. Upon closer examination, I realized that the angel looked like Mama. Not knowing how to respond, I gazed in silent awe at the graceful relief.

I did not ask Carlisle how he had arranged for the placement of the monuments. So many people had died in such a short period of time that coffins were in short supply, let alone time for the manufacture of headstones. The Spanish Influenza had taken 8,500 deaths in Chicago alone. October 17 had marked the worst single day with 381 deaths. I was acutely aware that the final tally should include one more.

I desperately wanted to share in that final rest with my parents, but the instinct to survive and live had also found a spark in the core of my being. Mama had wanted me to live. As I traced her name with my finger, I resolved in that moment to live, as she had wanted me to live. Mama had chosen Carlisle to see me through this. I would endeavor to respect her desire. I would live and make the most of what I had been given. I wanted to be a man she would be proud of.

“Edward, are you ready?” Carlisle’s thoughts quietly drifted into my consciousness. “Everything is in order. Mr. Rutherford was disappointed that you would not be able to see Emma before we left but I insisted that we needed to be on our way.”

Carlisle was patiently waiting for me at the bottom of the stairs. Reluctantly, I joined him.

“There are still a few people out on the streets. If you hold your breath until we are out of town we should be all right.”

The darkest days of the epidemic were behind us now. A few cases still lingered, but as the weather had cooled, the number of cases had dropped significantly. People were beginning to resume the normal patterns of their lives. I wondered what the normal pattern of my life would be in the coming days, weeks, months, years and decades: maybe even centuries.

Silently nodding that I understood, I walked past Carlisle and to the door. The urge to run back into the parlor and caress the keys of my piano was overwhelming but I did not look into the room. If I had, there would have been no leaving.

As I grasped the doorknob, the memory of the one in Carlisle’s house came to my mind. I had come a long way since that first morning when I had wrenched the knob from the door. Carlisle had been an effective tutor.

“Carlisle?”

“Yes?” Carlisle was trying to anticipate what I was going to ask but I caught him by surprise with my question.

“If Sarah is still in the area, I’d like to say good-bye to her.” I hesitated before continuing. “I was rude when she was here and I know she told you many things that have helped both of us since her visit. I . . . I just need to say ‘thank you.’”

“It will add a several miles to our drive, but I know where to find her.” Carlisle assured me. “I’m sure she would welcome some guests.”