The Amaranthine Mirage
Jasper has mercilessly been ripped from Alice's loving arms by Maria. Can the Cullens get to him in time? Or will they be too late to stop the beast he will become? sequel to visions of you!
6. chapter six
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Darkness enshrouded the square and swallowed it whole in its dangerous jaws. The only visible light came from a lone streetlamp feebly attempting to fend off the encompassing gloom. A cracked fountain at the center of the small roundabout provided a soothing soundtrack to the hideousness of the night. It was joined by the eerie shriek of the wind that brought cloud cover to hide the earth further in shadow. I licked warm blood from my lips and sighed contently as my thirst was quenched. The eyes of my latest victim remained open and glassy as she stared up at me, her face twisted in its last echo of shock. Flirting was a highly dangerous art, but it was most deadly when a human approached a vampire parched beyond reason.
I stood to my feet and disposed of the delectable creature in the nearest bin before I met Palo around the corner. The nearby clock struck three A.M. signaling the end of many weekend parties. Lucky for me, the square had been empty enough to spirit away a light snack. Maria had been working me endlessly ever since she'd begun changing humans for her army. I hardly got a meal in with the rigorous schedule.
"Ready?" Palo inquired as he adjusted a cufflink.
I nodded once stoically and the two of us swiftly departed the crime scene and headed for the open country side. It didn't take long to reach the camp despite its long distance from the town I'd been using as a hunting ground. Maria would be furious with me for taking so long, but I hardly cared. I was going to die anyways, so there was no use being efficient aside from postponing my pain.
"There you are!" Maria hissed. "The newborns are starting to regain consciousness. Where have you been?"
"I'm sorry," I uttered in a sincere tone. "I was hunting and there were very few prospects tonight."
"Get to work or the consequences will be severe!"
I nodded once and winced a little as I sensed her hostility. Maria was getting nervous the closer we got to completing her mission. She was determined to rule the world before the year was out. I was simply determined to survive the battle. As long as I still had a miniscule sense of hope, I could make it through anything, but even that was nearly diminished. I wandered to the clearing at the center of camp where confused newborns were just waking up into their new life. Those who had already been through this process were sitting on the branches of trees and standing about to watch the fun. I settled calm upon the group of twenty that stood before me. "Line up," I uttered sternly.
They did as they were told without a fuss. Thankfully, I'd taken care to choose humans who could speak decent English. With my hands clasped behind my back, I walked down the line they'd formed and inspected each one. So far, the odds looked good. All were strong and capable of doing the task that lay before them. It was when I got to the end of the line that my brow furrowed. A small girl no older than seven stood next to the others in confusion. Dark curls fell in ringlets about her face. As her crimson eyes met mine I felt anger towards Maria for taking a child's life. Did she have no sense of propriety? I wasn't as fluent in Italian as I was Spanish, but I'd picked up a decent amount from Carlisle. "Can you speak English," I inquired in a gentle tone.
The girl shook her head.
Palo looked confused. "You speak Italian?"
I held up a hand for silence. "What's your name?"
"Camille," she answered in a tiny voice.
"Camille," I uttered gently as I knelt to her level, "this work is going to be very hard for someone such as you. I'm going to need you to try your best and keep up or the mean lady in charge will have you killed. Do you think you can do that?"
Camille nodded gently.
I stood to my feet and glanced once more down the line. All eyes were turned on me. I reverted back to English figuring I'd explain things to the youngling later on. Once more I stood tall and clasped my hands behind my back surveying the troops I'd been given to work with. "You have all been given immortality for the sole purpose of aiding my commander in war. You will follow every order to a T. Those of you who resist will find your new life short lived. You will call me 'Sir' or 'Major Whitlock'. Is that understood?"
Some recruits said 'Yes sir' while others merely nodded. I didn't have to say a word; I only had to look sternly over my shoulder. "Yes sir," The group chorused strongly together.
"Before we begin your training, Nadia is going to ensure you are fed. Follow her instructions precisely; any disobedience will result in immediate termination." I turned my gaze to Nadia who had made a full recovery since Maria had punished her. "Nadia."
As she approached the group, my eyes met the youngest newborns gaze. No matter what happened, I had to ensure that she survived this. I'd seen too many children die in these pointless power struggles, many of them regrettably at my own hand. I nodded once to her, a silent signal that she need not be afraid. Maria was going to feel my wrath about it this if it was my last act of kindness. While Palo and Nadia oversaw the newborns, I ghosted through the camp and entered the meeting tent where Victoria and Maria were talking over strategy.
"Can I help you, soldad," Maria inquired in a musical tone.
"Permission to speak freely," I stated flatly though I intended to speak regardless.
"Very well, permission granted. Out with it." She waved a delicate hand.
"What in tarnation do you think you're doin' changing a child like that? She wasn't marked!"
"She got in the way," Maria justified. "I figured her adorable nature could be of use to us."
"You really don't care how many lives you wreck do you? As long as they serve your purpose, it's all well and good! How do you expect her to keep up with everyone else?"
"Somebody's got a temper," Victoria jested as she sat in a chair and propped her feet up on the table. "Does Jazzipoo have something against babysitting?"
A deep growl of warning issued in my chest.
"Relax, Jasper," Maria whispered in my mind. I complied instantly and Victoria gave a satisfied smirk. "If you are so worried," Maria continued aloud, "then I suggest you ensure the youngling doesn't fall behind. You know what happens to those who can't keep up."
My teeth gritted in my mouth as I turned on my heel and left the tent full of anger. I didn't want to do this anymore, but even as I thought about leaving, my head began to twinge. The only way to truly be set free would be to kill Maria. With me so heavily under her influence, I was going to need reinforcements.
Alice Cullen was in no mood to be messed with. Her husband was in grave danger, and the last plane leaving for Europe was booked solid. She was nearly resolved to strangle the human behind the ticket counter in front of her for being most unhelpful. "There must be something," she demanded in her bell like voice. "Anything!"
"I'm sorry ma'am," the female attendant apologized for the umpteenth time. "Everything is full. If you come back tomorrow, there are several flights late in the evening, but even those are standby only."
Alice was just about to lose her cool when Edward walked up and set a hand on her shoulder. "Thank you for trouble," he told the woman who had now forgotten to breathe. "We'll try again tomorrow."
With that, Edward guided Alice gently away from the counter. "We may not have tomorrow," Alice complained.
"What do you want us to do, Alice?" Edward replied quietly yet sternly. "Run across the ocean and risk exposure? You know why we can't do that."
Alice's golden eyes held desperation as she looked up into her brother's eyes. He knew all too well what was going through her mind; it pained him to see her falling to pieces like this. If vampires had the ability to cry, Alice Cullen would have been sobbing buckets of tears. Everything she'd tried turned up a dead end and, if her visions were correct, her husband's time was running out. "He's going to die, Edward," Alice uttered painfully. "It's approaching rapidly, and I can't let it happen. Without him I have nothing to live for."
"I understand," Edward muttered as he pulled his sister gently into his embrace. She buried her head in his chest. Neither of them could forget the space of time they'd thought Bella was dead. "Really, I do." After a considerable pause, he had a thought. He pulled back to look her in the eyes."Why don't we get a hotel room nearby? If you don't see us getting on a plane here, then we'll try at another airport. Okay?"
Alice seemed resolved to be stubborn, but after a moment her pixie like pout disappeared and she nodded in agreement. The hustle and bustle of the people around her seemed distant as her brother led her along. All she could think of was the vision she'd seen of Jasper's death. It was getting closer and she felt powerless to stop it. As the two vampires made their way gracefully through the airport, neither one noticed the man watching them from the opposite gate. He was tall with dark wavy hair and a face so perfect it would have made angels cry. He wore a pair of silver aviators to cover his crimson eyes. No one else seemed to care that this stranger was wearing sunglasses indoors. Perhaps he had migraines, or perhaps he'd recently been to the eye doctor; whatever the case, the humans cared little for his odd choice. He was dressed rather nicely in a button down shirt with designer jeans. Many humans speculated that he could be a movie star, but they were far from the horrid truth. His converse clad feet moved forward as the Cullen's reached a safe following distance. The women around him swooned as he glided past. A light smirk appeared on the corner of his lips. The Cullen's suspected nothing. They didn't converse with one another, nor did they bother to look behind them. Eventually the mournful vegetarians managed to hail a cab and gave the address for a nearby hotel. The vampire watching them gave a sadistic smile. It was all too easy. As long as he remained in a crowd the mind reader wouldn't be able to pick his thoughts out unless he was looking for them, and the psychic was so enraptured with the future of her pathetic husband that she would scarcely see him. Everything was going according to plan. As the cab pulled fluidly away from the curb, a cell phone began to vibrate in his pocket. He pulled it out with ease and clicked the talk button.
"Hello," he answered monotonously.
"Braxton," Maria's voice echoed through the receiver, "what's the report? Did they get on the plane?"
"No," Braxton replied. "I took care of that little problem."
"Good," Maria cooed. "I need you to do something else for me."
"Ask and it will be done."
"Jasper needs a little motivation. He's beginning to get lazy and disobedient. I need you to grab the girl and bring her to me. Can you handle it?"
"Good. The jet will be waiting for you."
"And what of the boy?"
There was a pause on the other end of the line before Maria answered. "He is of no use to me. Do with him what you will."
"As you wish."
Braxton Harris ended the call without so much as a goodbye. A smile crossed his smooth, pale lips. It was time to get his revenge on Jasper Whitlock.
A breeze danced lithely amongst the branches of the trees. It brought with it the scent of many animals and fresh water from the stream. I sat on the bank of the water simply watching as it flowed ceaselessly by. Maria was moving ahead more swiftly than expected with her plans. By the time anyone reached me it would be too late. Why was I cursed? Why couldn't I stay away from this life of evil and deceit? It was almost inescapable.
"Don't say that," Alice's voice broke the silence.
I turned, expecting to see the mirage of my wife, but instead my eyes landed on… my wife? "Alice?" I uttered softly.
"Of course it's me, silly." Alice grinned as she sat beside me. "I never left."
I knew it was the mirage, but she no longer looked like a mirage. She was real. I reached out and touched her cheek. My hand actually felt her skin. Her emotions were bright and warm, no longer a mere imitation of my Alice's beautiful aura. What had I done? "But… how?" I stumbled over my words in utter shock.
"You," Alice answered simply. "Thanks to you, I'm no longer a memory locked away in your mind. Now we can be together."
I stared at her for a moment. I already had an Alice. I didn't need an imitation of her, nor did I want one. "You're not the real Alice. Don't you understand that?"
"Of course I'm real, silly. I'm right here," she giggled.
I shook my head in disbelief. "No, you're not real." As I said these words, it was almost as if I was trying to convince myself more than I was trying to inform her.
I felt childish joy emanating from her aura and cringed a little as I ghosted to my feet. This couldn't be happening. There had to be a way to stop this. I'd finally done it. I'd driven myself mad. My fingers tangled in my mess of blonde curls as I tried to pull myself together. Alice rose to her feet and started walking towards me with an outstretched hand. How did I make it stop? I couldn't take it anymore. It made my heart ache too much. I had to let go.
"Jasper," A voice broke through my overwrought thoughts. I looked up instinctively. Alice disappeared. I breathed a sigh of relief. So, she wasn't real after all. "Mister Jasper," the voice sounded again.
My face instantly became stoic as I turned around. Coming up the path towards me was the small curly haired, red eyed Camille. I softened my gaze a little as she approached. She was so small in comparison to the people I was used to being around. Children were rarely turned. Thankfully Maria had changed a youngling just old enough to keep the Volturi from charging us with the crime of creating an Immortal Child. "What do you need," I inquired in Italian. Thankfully since she was young her Italian wasn't perfect either.
"I am frightfully thirsty, but I do not wish to hunt with the others. They are so vicious. It frightens me," she uttered softly not making eye contact.
I sighed a little. Despite my normally strict and militant nature, I had a soft spot for young ones. Part of me suspected it was due the fact I'd had a younger sister in my human life. Whatever the case, I was incessantly angry with Maria for cursing a child into this brutal life of eternal torture. Maybe it wasn't too late for this little girl. Maybe there was hope for her to choose a different path. I kneeled to Camille's level. "Do you want to know a secret?"
She nodded shyly as she finally met my gaze.
"You don't always have to feed from people. You can feed from animals if you so choose. It may not taste as good, but it will stop the thirst," I explained.
I nodded. "But don't tell Maria I told you that. She has a strict policy about the way things are run around here."
"Okay." She smiled widely. After a pause she added, "You really are not as mean as everyone says. I like you Mister Jasper."
I couldn't help but smile as I felt the joy of childlike innocence. "Why don't you go see if you can find a small animal? If Maria asks where you are, I'll tell her I sent you on an errand."
Suddenly, her arms wrapped around my neck as she hugged me. At first I flinched, once more associating touch with pain. My eyes widened a tad in shock. I hadn't expected that. Slowly, I wound my arms around her small fragile body and patted her back gently. "Thank you, Mister Jasper," she uttered softly.
My heart ached a little. I knew the chances of her survival were slim, but I would do everything I could to keep her alive. I'd watched Maria take enough young lives, and I'd taken enough under her orders. This time would be different if I could help it. I pulled back a little and gazed into her darkening crimson eyes. "Go on. You don't have much time before the others get back."
She nodded and gave an adorable smile. In a blur of porcelain and dark hair, she was gone. I stood slowly to my feet and gave a sigh. This life was getting too complicated. Maria had her hooks in me so deep that I couldn't leave, and she knew it. Palo no longer followed me like a watch dog, and any time I even considered just walking away, my head began to twinge; the only way to make it stop was to push the idea out of my mind. Then there was the issue of this mirage. It was a never-ending curse. At first I'd wanted it, it had given me a way to hold on, but now it was messing with my mind too much. It was almost as though it was gaining a hold on my sanity. I needed to talk with Nadia. She'd have a few harsh words to say and a string of 'I told you so's, but I needed to know how to make this amaranthine mirage disappear. Decidedly, I turned back towards camp determined to take control of this chaotic situation.
Darkness had fallen over New York City. The hustle and bustle of the town was a playground for nomadic vampires from all reaches of the world. What most humans took as brutal murders and gang activity was actually creatures of the night preying upon the innocent. It was in this underworld that the Cullen siblings had taken refuge, and it was in this underworld that Braxton Harris would make his move. He'd tracked the vegetarians to the Plaza Hotel. He scoffed lightly as he stopped his motorcycle outside. Of course the rich and fabulous Cullens would take up refuge at the ritziest place they could find. Braxton cut the engine as the eyes of many humans turned in his direction. They couldn't figure out who he was. Was he an actor? A musician? He had to be famous for something with the way he dressed and how he moved. Braxton tossed the keys to the valet and muttered, "Keep it."
The valet, a young man in his early twenties, became wide eyed and overjoyed. "Thank you, sir!"
Braxton waved a hand as he passed by as though it were nothing to give such a nice piece of machinery away for free and pushed his aviators up the bridge of his nose. The bike had of course been stolen. He ran his fingers through his hair thoughtfully as he passed through the revolving door. This task would be difficult, he had no doubt, but he was prepared. Nabbing the girl would be the easy part, fighting the mind reader would require a little something extra. One step at a time, he approached the registration desk, cutting right to the front of the line. "Can I help you sir," The woman at the counter inquired suddenly flustered.
"I believe you can," Braxton replied. His voice contained a light refined southern accent. "I'm looking for some friends of mine. They told me they'd be in town staying at the Plaza but failed to specify as to the room."
"What's their last name? I can look them up in the computer."
The woman would do anything Braxton asked, and he knew it. Humans were so gullible. "Cullen," he uttered.
A few moments later the woman had the results pulled up on the computer. "Under the name of Carlisle?"
"That would be correct."
"I can give them a call if you'd like," she offered.
"I'd rather surprise them," Braxton replied.
"I'm afraid I can't just give you the room number."
"Sure you can." Braxton placed his hands together as if praying. "For me?"
"Okay," the woman smiled rather bashfully.
Upstairs, Edward Cullen was pacing back and forth in front of the window in his hotel room. He wouldn't admit it aloud to Alice, but he was becoming increasingly worried about Jasper. Everything they tried fell through, and his brother's time was running out. Would Jasper even be the same if the found him? He looked over his shoulder at his poor sister. She was sitting on the end of the king sized bed hugging her knees to her chest and staring off into space. This ordeal had taken its toll on her in all the worst ways. She thought she was failing Jasper, that this was all her fault. Even her visions were suffering from her despair. She couldn't concentrate enough to see very far, nor could she manage much aside from Jasper's future. He hated to see Alice like this. Edward had known her for well over seventy years, and never once had he seen her so upset. Alice was the light of hope in the family, their beacon of joy. When she wasn't happy the world seemed to be spinning the wrong way.
A knock sounded at the door. Edward instinctively ghosted forward and withdrew his hands from his pockets. He peeked through the keyhole just as he read the intruders thoughts. "Edward don't open it!" Alice shouted suddenly.
Before she could finish her sentence, Braxton shoved the door off its hinges. Both Edward and the door went sailing across the room and crashed into the television set sending sparks in every direction. Alice ghosted quickly to her feet as the intruder rushed in her direction. She knew his every move before he made it, but he had expected this. Unfortunately for the Cullen siblings, Braxton Harris was also an ex-Civil War soldier who had once been in Maria's army. He too had been trained beneath the exalted Jasper Whitlock. To him, this game of cat and mouse would just be a game all too easily played. As Edward got to his feet, Braxton saw that a fair fight was out of the question. An evil grin spread across his angelic face. "What do you fear?" He uttered smoothly, his very voice hypnotizing.
His words sounded misty to Edward and Alice as the world disappeared around them. Suddenly, they were back at home in Forks. Edward ghosted to the front door and tried the handle; it was unlocked. Alice was right behind him. Something was wrong. How had they gotten here? Neither of them could remember. Together they entered the house. It was quiet as a tomb which was most unusual. "Hello?" Edward called out warily.
There was no answer. Alice gripped Edward's arm in a vice. Together they went up the stairs and into the empty kitchen. A newspaper sat upon the kitchen table. Full of curiosity, Alice blurred to it and picked it up with shaky hands. On the front cover was a large black and white photo of her in a straight jacket being led away by strange men. The title read, "Alice Cullen Declared Insane: Will the Cullen Name Be Tainted Forever?"
Alice shook her head in disbelief as her hands shook all the more. She dropped the paper as if it had burned her. Edward was about console her when they both heard a scream resonating from the backyard. Together they ghosted out onto the back porch neither one ready for the sight they found. There, kneeling over the dead body of Bella Swan, was Jasper. His head slowly revolved up to reveal gleaming red eyes. A trickle of her blood dribbled from the edge of his mouth. He licked it away leisurely as Edward's anger mounted and Alice collapsed on the porch swing with her hand over her mouth. "You don't know how long I've been waiting to do that," Jasper sighed in relief as he stood fluidly to his feet.
Edward's face was full of inconsolable rage. With each second that passed it grew until he could contain it no more. The sight of Bella's corpse was all he needed to fuel his decision. In a blur, he charged at Jasper. The fair haired Cullen moved aside and used his brother's momentum to throw him over the porch railing to the ground three stories below. All Alice could do was stare at what Jasper had done. As he walked closer to her she was full of terror. The look in his eyes was not normal; this was not the Jasper she'd married. "Why?" She whispered as he towered above her.
"Because I can," Jasper smiled evilly.
In a flash he broke her neck. She didn't have time to even shout out in sudden pain. The world around her melted back into the hotel room in New York City, but the figure above her remained. Jasper's face slowly evolved into the form of Braxton Harris. Behind him, the window was broken and the curtains blew in the breeze. Unfortunately for Edward Cullen, the ground wasn't three stories away in reality. His fall had been a fifteen story drop before he splattered on the pavement below breaking every bone in his body. If it was enough of a breaking news story, the Volturi would have to put Edward down. It was a brilliant plan. He scooped Alice's limp body up in his arms and ghosted from the room before anyone could arrive to inquire as to the noise. He took the staircase so quickly he almost wondered if he really had been on the fifteenth floor. All he had to do was get to the airport before Alice's body repaired itself. He grinned as he stepped outside into the cool night air. There was a silver Camero parked close by and he was an expert at hotwiring vehicles. By the time Alice Cullen regained full mobility, it would be far too late for her to fight back.
"Nadia," I uttered softly as I poked my head into her tent. She looked up from the book she'd been reading with an inquisitive expression. I continued. "We need to talk."
She gestured towards the chair opposite her, and I swiftly took a seat. "What is the matter?" She inquired.
"Remember that visage I told you about a few months ago," I began.
Her eyes grew wide. "Jasper, you didn't!"
I nodded ashamedly. "I did."
"I told you what would happen! How far has she regenerated? What can she do?" Nadia set her book aside now completely concerned with the situation.
"I don't know what she can do," I answered honestly, "but I can feel her as if she were real. I can sense her emotions. She's playing with my mind now… it's like I'm in another world when she's around."
Nadia gave a nod. "She will continue to gain a strong presence until she's taken over your mind entirely. I warned you this would happen."
The sounds of the camp seemed so far away as I stared a hole through the table in front of me. I hadn't wanted to believe Nadia when she'd warned me of this. I'd been so desperate for hope that I took whatever ounce of it I could cling to. Would my own mind be my undoing? "How do I stop it?"
Nadia sighed deeply and folded her hands in her lap. "I don't really know. I've never encountered something of this magnitude before."
"There must be something," I almost begged as I met her gaze.
"What did she say to you when she appeared this afternoon?"
"She said now we can be together."
Nadia's eyes went glassy as she became lost in thought. "It sounds to me like she thinks she is real."
"If she thinks she is real, maybe by proving to her that she is not you can confuse her enough to make her unstable. It would not be long before she dismantled herself."
"How am I supposed to do that," I queried in a deep, stoic tone. This was madness!
Nadia shook her head. "I don't know, but only you can figure that out Jasper. I cannot do it for you. You have to stop talking to her for now. Ignoring her will keep her from growing stronger."
"And if I don't?"
"Then the real Alice will be lost to your memory forever, and you will be stuck here in false reality for the rest of eternity."
My mind slipped away into deep thought. If that happened, I doubted that I would even realize I didn't want to be here. Would I forget the Cullens too? Would I remember anything about my life after Maria? Things were getting too dangerous for my liking. I had to find a way out and fast. My survival instinct was beginning to kick in and some internal clock seemed to be counting down. My sixth sense was giving me a warning; I was running out of time.