He’d been underwater now for two hours. Watched the light filtering through the Kankakee River go from silver to the cool lilac of sunset. Carlisle and he had slipped out under the cover of an autumn storm. The rain had still been pelting down when Edward dove beneath the surface; a desperate attempt at baptism. He had caught a deer, chasing it, zipping back and forth behind and then beside it. He could have caught it faster, but in the ecstasy of hunt, he toyed with it, letting it think it might escape, frightening it. The blood tasted better, when they were afraid. As a human he had never hunted for sport, not that he could remember. He’d had a dog as a boy that he found run over in the street, and he’d had nightmares about it for years. Killing was easier than he thought it would be. He didn’t think about it, in fact it was difficult to think at all while he killed, though his senses were never keener. Once he had killed and drained whatever poor beast was his victim, only then could he think, and remember and relive the kill, in photographic detail.
He closed his eyes, focusing on the sensation of the current gushing over him, roaring in his ears, running over his face continuously, rhythmically. He could hear the river itself, and he could also hear the silt and sand shifting downstream. he could hear the deviations where fish swam, the water sliding over scales, the faint musical tone of water running over larger stones. He could hear the weeds, sounding to his ears like flesh rubbing against flesh. Down here at the bottom of the river he was no different than the stones he laid upon. He wished his sentience to drift with the current, part with his now cursed, craven and bloodthirsty flesh. Down here, where the scent of blood could not reach him, it was easy to imagine such a thing. It was easy to imagine whatever it was that animated his corpse, his darkened spirit, detaching and running along for miles, where it would inevitably disintegrate in the open waters of Lake Michigan like so much refuse.
He could also still hear Carlisle, his thoughts, with that bizarre omniscience he now had. Carlisle’s thoughts ebbed against his awareness; he was anxious of Edward’s disappearance, waiting still where Edward had left him, sitting in the tall grasses. He smelled the wind, vigilant if it should carry the infernal fragrance of human blood. What good could it do if Edward himself had already caught it? Edward was faster and stronger. He craved human blood to the point of physical agony, there was nothing he could want more than human blood. There was little left over from his life before the change - it seemed the only thing that mattered any more to him was the smell, the avoidance of, the dread of, the yearning for, all for human blood. If there was human blood on the breeze for Edward to smell it was as good as his, Carlisle didn’t stand a chance of stopping him. Edward’s clairvoyance did little to help gain insight to Carlisle’s practiced abstinence. The Thirst seemed to hardly bother him, unlike Edward, whose every waking moment (which was now in fact every moment) began and ended with the urge to drink blood.
Opening his eyes, he saw the flicker of lightening above followed by the bass rumble, a tremor through the water. It was time. He pushed off from the river bed, sending up clouds of sand and mud. The fish scattered. He swam against the powerful current, and walked up the shore to where he’d stashed his clothes on the sheltered branch of an elm. As he pulled on his thermal and trousers he could hear that Carlisle had also heard him, and caught his scent on the wind. Carlisle stayed at their agreed meeting place in the open prairie land, in a sign of trust, though Edward knew also that from this vantage Carlisle still hoped to monitor Edward.
That must be him. Carlisle rose to his feet, peering over the grasses, blowing back towards him, the same goldenrod color as his hair and eyes. Edward wondered that Carlisle had so quickly shown Edward such kindness, even despite the terror and fury of his Birth into this unlife. Upon his heart’s final crystallization, he had shot to his feet, his senses jolting with awareness: The late afternoon light slanting through the curtain, the dust motes turning in the air at his disturbance, the skittering of insects somewhere outside, and somehow he knew they must be in a tree ten feet or so from the house. There was a smell of ozone, but it came on the wind, a southern blowing wind. He could somehow smell this through the walls, through the faint smell of the dust in the air, the polish of the wooden floor. A smell of something that burned him. His throat burned, it burned all the way down to his knees.
He’d registered then a slight movement in his periphery - the blinking of an eye - and his head snapped to see the man, the creature seated beside the bed with a mild expression on his face. His elbows rested on his knees, his interlaced fingers propping up his face, his unearthly face. It was like a white mask of stone, though his yellow eyes twitched to meet Edward’s stare.
He’d had a strange and terrible vision at that moment, as he locked eyes with the stranger - of himself, but it was also somehow not completely himself either. Frozen into an unnatural crouch, a terrible grimace, eyes wide, the color of which were brighter than blood on the snow. Just as Edward himself shifted, he could see the dread creature move just slightly, before also freezing again, his nostrils flaring, the crouch deepening. He doesn’t seem to recognize me. The voice was equally as foreign to his mind.
He clasped his hands over his ears, screwing his eyes shut, which only served to trap the voice, the image, turning round and round in his head, blinding like a flash of light behind his eyes, words ringing nonsensically in his ears. Suddenly he detected the minute creak of the chair, the shifting floorboards, the weight of a shadow over him, and then the air shifting as the stranger prepared to kneel before him.
“Leave me alone!” Edward hissed, glaring up to where the stranger stood; the stranger held out his hands, a gesture of peace. But every cell in Edward’s body was quivering, buzzing. he could see himself stooped pitifully on the rug, his hands fisted in his hair, his eyes bright, bright, red. God, it was like leaving his body and watching it from above! Only he had never been so painfully inside his own body before! He released a hoarse scream, a noise so insane and inhuman it made his own hair stand on end.
“Edward,” the man said, his voice quiet, musical. It was like the Intruding voice. “My name is Carlisle. Do you remember meeting me?” An image floated again through Edward’s mind: this one was different, it wasn’t in this room, it was in a hospital, noisy, the miasma of disease in the air. Edward rested on the cot below, a sheen of sweat on his face, though his face was pale, his lips nearly blue in color. His breath came and went in a thin wheeze. Edward shook his head, to dispel the vision, though something tugged at his memory now.
“What’s happening to me?” he said.
Carlisle backed up a pace, and kneeled slowly, keeping his eyes on Edward. “You were sick, do you remember that? You became very sick in the epidemic.”
Edward narrowed his eyes, thinking, straining to remember anything. All he could hear were the wasps. There must be a hive somewhere outside. He could also hear a body of water, water running, a river. He could not remember. He shook his head. Visions and voices ran over each other, coiling together. Confusing. It was Carlisle’s voice somehow.
“You and your parents came into Cook County Hospital - you had all fallen ill. Do you remember them?” A vision came to him again, a woman he recognized, it was his mother, she gripped his wrist. Her eyes glared up from the cot, her red hair wild around her face. Her eyes were bloodshot, furious.
“I can’t remember anything!” He’d dropped his head between his knees. He found he could count the individual fibers of the rug, and categorize and distinguish the subtle color variations. The more he spoke, the less he could ignore the shooting pain in his throat and chest, a dart of urgency piercing him bodily. The image of his mother swam behind his eyes. Her expression of desperation frightened him. “I remember my mother, I think,” he said at last, voice choked. “She grabbed my wrist. She was… afraid.”
How strange. Was he awake? Could he have seen? No, I think not… An image came again of Edward’s still face on an adjacent cot, his eye lids closed and purple. Hadn’t been conscious for nearly two hours by then, I thought. Carlisle frowned. “It was very frightening, you were worse off than she at the time -“
“Is she here as well?” Edward broke in quickly, realizing. He nearly laughed with relief. His mother! His mother. Of course he had a mother, of course he was not the lonesome wretched thing he had felt only a moment before. She would know what to do. He remembered now, not just in the vision he’d had of her, but in a life before this unending hour, that he had been in school not too long before falling ill. His mother yelling after him not to slam the door as he left in the morning, her strict instruction at the piano, her gentle voice reading him The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood in candlelight, he tucked tightly and warmly under his quilt, eyes fighting to stay open…
“May I explain from the beginning what has transpired?” Carlisle said. A matching alien vision then of his mother’s still face, an odd little smile, while she stared somewhere near the foot of her bed, unblinking - a white hand, his own it seemed, reached out, gently pulling her eyes closed. Droplets of sweat still dotted her face, but her lips were quite blue, the feeling of her skin under his fingers quite cool.
Edward’s head snapped up and glared at Carlisle, his mouth hanging open, as he choked on words that couldn’t form. Finally, in a harsh whisper: “Is she dead?”
Pulling the sheet then up over her face. He spoke the prayer for Eternal Rest, but it was not his own voice, it was Carlisle’s. At this, he sat back, pulling his thighs up to his chest, and resting his chin on his knees. He shivered, though he wasn’t cold.
“Edward, I’m so very sorry.” Carlisle’s expression moved just subtly, his eyebrows drawing up together. “She was also very sick in the epidemic. I am sorry to tell you that your father also was a victim to the epidemic. You were lucid at the time that he passed, though. Do you remember?” A tall man, with a thick dark mustache laid out on a cot. Again, holding his eyelids closed, the prayer, the sheet coming up. He looked up, looking to see his own face now across the ward, face white, eyes wide. Suddenly, also came his mother’s glare, gripping his wrist.“You must do everything in your power, what other’s cannot do. That is what you must do for my Edward,” she said, her voice sounding like it was an urgent whisper, right in his ear.
“Oh, God!” Edward’s voice came out strangled, his body tensing, his throat clamping.
“You would have passed away yourself Edward, had it not been for your mother’s request to me before she too succumbed.”
“You must do everything in your power, what other’s cannot do,” Edward said, words coming out as a breath. He rested his forehead on his knees, rocking himself.
What on earth? How could he know? “How do you —?”
“Is that what she said?” Edward said, addressing the cage of his own limbs, rather than the shocked expression he knew he would see on Carlisle’s face if he were to look up.
“Yes. It’s exactly what she said.” Another vision, this one of a strange face, framed with long black hair, a far off look in his black eyes, a cool, dry hand in his. A smile settled over his countenance, as his sharp gaze met Edward’s at last.
“Edward, please let me explain. As I said, you and your family had fallen very ill with the influenza. Your mother intuited that I could do something more to help you than medicine could. She knew I could make you immortal - like myself.” Carlisle paused here.
“You’re immortal,” Edward said in a voice that sounded completely disembodied, as if it had come from some obscure corner of the room. Perhaps from under the bed, or behind the door. “And now I am… also… immortal.”
Then he remembered something. He looked up. “You told me. Before I woke up just now, you were telling me that I was changing, and what I was becoming. And I could see it, or I was imagining it maybe. How you drink blood to remain immortal.”
“Well, not exactly. Now that you are immortal you will crave blood — human blood most of all. But we don’t need blood to remain immortal. Theoretically we could go on for all eternity with nothing to subsist on at all, but my understanding is that it would be a miserable, lowly and deranged existence.” An image then of clutching himself tight under a downpour, curled on his side under a tree. Teeth chattering with pain and fear. A dizzy, prickly feeling all over. The forbidding shadow of Father leaned over him, murmuring versus in Latin and then in Aramaic, and then it faded to a dull roar of overlapping voices. It was not Edward’s own father, it was someone else, it wasn’t his voice.
“But we don’t have to drink human blood?”
“No,” said Carlisle, smiling a little then. “I never have.”
In some time Carlisle had explained his discovery, his spontaneous and quite desperate capture of a doe. He explained also his isolation in the moors for months before he swam across the channel, and came across the Three Dark Princes, their refinement, and their law to keep the secret of their kind from humans. He explained after some decades he realized he was nearly just as alone as he had been before. All the while the visions spun behind Edward’s eyes, words echoed in his ears, and at last Carlisle proffered an explanation for this as well: he was a mind-reader. A fairly unique and utterly ancillary power to their kind. Their Kind. Not vampire or ghoul.
They were quite far from the city now, in a part of the state Edward had never visited before - not that he could remember. Somewhere in the prairie-land down south of the city. Carlisle kept a cabin here, since the hunting was good, and it was fairly unpopulated. The perfect place to rear a newborn blood-drinker, it seemed.
Edward picked up a stick as he trudged through the grasses, following Carlisle’s scent to the spot they’d agreed to meet. Carlisle had a distinct scent like balsam fir that he was somehow able to distinguish from the different verdant scent of the grasses and leaves of the trees, the moss on a side of a rock, the loamy tang of the dirt he walked on. He broke the stick in half, and then broke it again, and again, and again. He focused on these senses over the one other sense. He could hear and see Carlisle, but he concentrated on not listening carefully, directing his focus on the stick, so that once he was through breaking this stick he picked up another, and again broke it in half and half and half.
Once Carlisle came into view, Edward couldn’t help but see his image in Carlisle’s mind: moving the stalks of grass aside, as he loped, eyes wary. His clothes covered in blood and shredded to tatters, though his face is blessedly clean, since the river had washed away the blood caked around his mouth, in his hair even. He glanced down to see that he had forgotten to carefully clean his nails, which were ringed dark red.
“I see you’ve found something,” said Carlisle.
“Yes. It was messy.” He glanced down at himself again, though Carlisle’s mind gave him a better reflection of his appearance. Then he looked at Carlisle, noticing now how Carlisle’s shirt and trousers appeared only a little wrinkled - a smudge of dirt marked his left knee. He wouldn’t know he’d hunted at all, if his eyes hadn’t turned nearly yellow from their deep tawny from earlier in the morning. “You’re clean.”
Carlisle looked down at himself now. He met Edward’s eyes again with a sheepish smile. “Yes. It does take practice.”
They walked at a leisurely pace. They could run and arrive at the cabin in seconds, but Edward wasn’t in a hurry, and Carlisle matched his pace, glancing over, worrying over Edward’s contemplative mood. Edward picked up another stick and set to breaking it.
“It’s back legs — it takes a while for them to stop kicking,” he said. Then, “The deer, I mean.”
“Oh, yes. It’s certainly not intuitive. Not the sort of hunting our kind partakes normally.” A memory of Carlisle’s body braced hard against a doe, one arm around her neck, another across her heaving ribs. Pushing her to the ground, he rolled her underneath him, held her hips between his knees in a vice grip. His grasp passionate, almost loving, until he snapped her neck with a quick turn. “It took me some time before I was any good at it. It does help if you break their neck as soon as you can get ahold of them. Less suffering for our prey, if you kill them quickly.”
Of course, it was so obvious. Then again, as Edward had grimly discovered, he seemed to relish in the suffering of his prey. He felt nearly dizzy with revulsion. After a time, long enough that Carlisle no longer expected Edward to respond, he said, “I’ll remember that next time.”
Yet, even as he spoke he remembered himself, helplessly laughing, nearly drunk off the scent of blood alone, the anticipation of it wetting his lips - as he caught his own deer, toppling them to the ground, hands fast around her throat. He was still laughing, harder even, as he felt her struggle and keen, her hooves kicking against shins and belly. His eyes had rolled back, as he felt her rapid pulse beneath his fingertips, and the laughter evaporated into a guttural moan of pleasure, unbidden, unlike any other utterance he had ever heard himself make. The more she kicked and screamed, the muskier she smelled, the hotter and faster her blood pumped. He trembled with desire. He focused his eyes just long enough on the vein jumping at the surface of her flesh, to bite into it, slowly, so the blood wouldn’t drain too quickly. So he could taste every drop that passed his lapping tongue. It wasn’t until her body, cool, shrunken, and still offered no more sustenance did he finally come back to himself, his own laughter, his moan echoing in his ears, as it did now.
As they walked again without speaking, Edward thought of asking Carlisle if he too had ever succumbed to mindless hilarity in hunting, howling and moaning in ecstasy, as he had. He almost spoke, but then thought of the image drawn in Carlisle’s mind, how quickly, cleaning, and silently he had killed the deer. He thought better of it. It wasn’t the deer he was concerned about containing, after all.