In a time where old wives’ tales were as certain as the sky, there was a lullaby sung to children - warning them of the dangers in the dark.
Creatures short and creatures tall,
when the moon shines - fear them all.
The sun may stop the belly of the beast,
but the night beckons them to come & feast.
And what was a babe to do — when animal eyes shone through bushes outside the range of guards, weapons and fire-lit torches — but stay close to their mother’s teat?
The divide was clear for a young mind set on simplicity: the sun was safe and the moon was dangerous.
And yet, what happened to the one who was both child and monster by misfortune?
Human until the moon made them mindless?
Bounded by bulletproof fur, panting around steely fangs and filled with a deranged hunger that bordered on endless - this unanswered question pounded through the deep forests of Washington, guided only by the sound of its heartbeat and the cool light of the lune until the creature sensed it.
A smell too sweet to exist. A thrumming pulse. And an invisible tug that pulled the creature closer.
The broken Welcome to Forks sign, crushed by heavy paws, was an apt omen for what would come next.
Time passes. Even when it seemed impossible. Even when each tick of the second hand ached like a pulse behind a fresh scar. It passed unevenly, in strange lurches and dragging lulls, but it did pass. Even for her.
Bella stared out the window, holding Jacob’s ruined shirt to her bloody head, while he drove them to Forks.
The motorcycle had been better than she’d dreamed. It had served its original purpose - to break her promise to Edward and be reckless. The wind whipping past her face, the speed-induced blur, the freedom - it reminded her of their times before , flying through the thick forest and safe in his arms.
Bella felt how her heart kickstarted when he appeared on that dirt road - demanding her to go home. The sheer beauty of him left her in awe and now she finally figured out the key to those hallucinations. Tonight, after the ER, she’d find a way to see him again, to hear those velvet-soaked commands again.
The ache of its absence made her flinch.
“You still good?” Jacob checked, his mouth set in a concerned frown.
She tried to sound convincing. “Yeah.”
“By the way,” he added, “I’m going to disconnect your foot brake tonight. No more accidents like this.”
At home, Bella looked in the mirror and it was pretty messy. Blood had dried in thick streaks across her cheeks and neck, matting in her chestnut locks. She tried to be clinical and breathed through her mouth so the blood wouldn’t bother her.
After washing up adequately, Bella hid her bloody clothes in her hamper and changed into fresh ones.
“Hurry up,” Jacob called.
“Alright, I’m coming,” Bella shouted back. After covering her tracks and grabbing a large tee she’d snagged from Phil, she headed downstairs.
“How do I look?” She asked him.
“Better,” he admitted.
“Let’s go then.”
Jacob hurried Bella out the door, and insisted on driving again. They were halfway to the hospital when she remembered he was still shirtless.
She frowned, guilty, and pulled out the spare shirt she held by her side. “Here, I brought this for you.”
“Thanks,” Jacob smiled and pulled the shirt onto his lap.
“You don’t wanna put it on?”
“Nah, hands always on ten and two, Bella,” he teased. “Besides it’s not cold.”
“Are you kidding?” She shivered and reached out to turn the heat on.
Bella watched Jacob to see if he was just braving the temperature, but he looked pretty comfortable.
Jacob really did look older than sixteen - definitely not 30, but older than her. His skin, lanky and wiry with muscle, nearly glowed in the dim cab of the truck and his pretty hue made her feel a lighthearted jealousy.
Jacob noticed her scrutiny.
“What?” he asked, eyeing her in his periphery.
“Nothing.” She shook her head and paused. “It’s just — did you know you’re kinda beautiful?”
“Okay, player.” Jacob rolled his eyes. “You hit your head pretty hard, didn’t you?”
“I’m serious.” Bella protested, but was happy he took it lightly.
“Well...thank you. Kinda.”
Bella grinned. “You’re welcome. Kinda.”
Bella had to have seven stitches to close the cut on her forehead. After the sting of the local anesthetic, there was no pain in the procedure. Jacob held her hand while Dr. Snow was sewing, and she tried not to think about why that was ironic. They were at the hospital forever. By the time she was done, Bella had to drop Jacob off at his home and hurry back to cook dinner for Charlie. But Charlie seemed to buy her story about falling in Jacob's garage.
This night was not as bad for Bella as that first night, after hearing his voice in Port Angeles. The hole came back, the way it always did when she was away from Jacob, but it didn't ache so badly around the edges. She was already planning ahead, looking forward to more delusions, and that was a distraction. Tomorrow also meant time with Jacob and that made the empty hole and the familiar pain easier to bear; relief was in sight. The nightmare, too, had lost a little of its potency. Bella was horrified by the nothingness, as always, but she was also strangely impatient as she waited for the moment that would send her panicked into consciousness. The nightmare had to end, she knew.
The next Wednesday, before Bella could get home from the ER again, Dr. Snow called to warn Charlie that she might possibly have a concussion and advised him to wake her up every two hours through the night to make sure it wasn't serious.
Charlie's eyes narrowed at her weak explanation about tripping again. “Maybe you should just stay out of the garage altogether, Bella,” he suggested that night during dinner.
Bella panicked, worried that Charlie was about to lay down some kind of edict that would prohibit La Push and her motorcycle. Bella couldn’t give it up, not after having the most amazing hallucination today. Edward had yelled at her for almost five minutes before she'd hit the brake too abruptly and launched herself into the tree. Bella was ready to take whatever pain that would cause her to see him without complaint.
“This didn't happen in the garage,” she protested. “We were hiking, and I tripped over a rock.”
“Since when do you hike?” Charlie asked, skepticism sewed in the scrunch of his brows.
“Working at Newton's was bound to rub off sometime,” she pointed out. "Spend every day selling all the virtues of the outdoors, eventually you get curious."
Charlie glared at her, unconvinced. His face reeked of the question - do you think I’m stupid?
"I'll be more careful," Bella promised, crossing her fingers under the table.
He sighed. "I don't mind you hiking right there around La Push, but keep close to town, okay?"
"Well, lately, we've been getting a lot of wildlife complaints. The forestry department is going to check into it, but for the time being..."
"Oh, the big bear," Bella said with sudden comprehension. "Yeah, some of the hikers coming through Newton's have seen it. Do you think there's really some giant mutated grizzly out there?"
Charlier’s forehead creased. "There's something. Keep it close to town, okay?"
"Sure, sure," She agreed. He didn't look completely appeased but dug back into his lasagna.
The next night - on her non-Jacob day - as Bella tied on her new hiking boots, she couldn’t help but feel guilty as she heard Charlie’s loud snores from his bedroom. His gruff warnings echoed throughout her head but the allure of the chance to see Edward rang even louder.
If she couldn't have the bikes, she was going to have to find some other avenue to the danger. Doing nothing in the meantime was not appealing.
The motorcycles worked but his presence must be stamped somewhere, somewhere other than inside Bella. There had to be a place where he seemed more real than among all the familiar landmarks that were crowded with other human memories.
The one place that would always belong to him, lit by sunshine and the sparkle of his diamond complexion.
It was night so there would be no sunlight, but Bella hoped that the added danger would make him feel stronger and soothe the deep hole within her.
She shucked on some extra layers, the waterproof field jacket Jacob lent her and grabbed her flashlight, pepper spray, compass, map and pocket knife. She crept downstairs stopping in time with the pauses in Charlie’s snores, until she reached the door and inched it open. Finally, she was bounding down the front porch and into the woods, guided by the light of the full moon.
The forest, normally full of chaotic life, was quiet with a buzzing potency. The energy would’ve been creepy enough to turn Bella around if it wasn’t exactly what she was looking for.
The sense of unease grew stronger, the deeper Bella moved into the overgrown, shaggy embrace of the pine and fir trees. She began to miss Jacob’s carefree whistling and the sound of another pair of feet squishing across the muddy ground.
She held up her flashlight to shine light on the well-worn map and catch her breath. She had just managed to unfold the paper when she heard two things.
A large crack much, much further into the thicket, like a giant had stepped on a branch.
And the soft-lined bullet of Edward’s voice whispering in her ear, “Run.”
Bella swallowed but held her ground, even angling her body to face where she heard the sound.
Another crack sounded closer than before.
“Bella, please, go.” She gasped at the way the voice curled around her name and shook her head.
“You might be able to leave me, but I can’t do it.” She stood firmer. “I won’t do it.”
The cracks were followed by quick, pounding thuds and suddenly Edward appeared in front of her. His topaz eyes filled with a terror she had never seen before and Bella wondered, in a detached sense, how truly fucked was she?
She knew when the hallucination tried to push her back towards her house that the answer was very.
By the time, Bella took a staggering step back - it was too late.
The heavy thuds slowed down and each step sent vibrations jolting under her boots.
Bella moved, once more.
Her foot, tangling on a snarly branch, sent her flying to the floor - crunching the fallen leaves and pine needles like a clumsy dinner bell.
Bella froze, waiting for more thuds. None came.
She glanced around, looking through the thick underbrush, around the tree trunks yet only saw the moonlight reflected against the silent woods.
A delirious hope rose in the back of her head - no Edward, no danger.
Then, her faulty instincts kicked in at the last minute.
She tilted her gaze to the left and when she heard the distant echo of Edward’s ferocious roar, she knew she had found it.
There, a form of darkness that Bella had labeled as the adjacent oak tree’s shadow had begun to move in a way that was definitely un-treelike.
The creature slinked out into the light with the quiet ease of a cobra yet it was enormous - several feet taller than her with the size of a small coupe. The muscularity and strength was still imminent under its malnourished, ink-black fur but what truly held Bella’s attention were the eyes.
Luminescent, silver pools that tracked her with a single minded intensity.
The bear. Only, Bella hesitated to call this great thing a bear because underneath it’s sheer primality there was something undeniably different about its nature.
It stood upright with the posture of an ape and hands to match but she spotted the long, proud tail that stood at attention like a canine and her eyebrows rose in shock. Her mind boggled, she had no idea what this creature was but knew it had to be the one causing all the alarm.
“Don’t move an inch.” Edward’s voice whispered.
Bella listened though she didn’t relish the idea of becoming a human pork chop.
The wolf’s long muzzle grimaced, revealing a line of curved incisors that rivaled daggers. A thunderous snarl rolled down from between its teeth - clearing the distance between her and it with the energy of a red carpet of doom.
It padded closer, crouching down until it was nearly eye-level and Bella felt the humid heat of its breath washing over her. She clenched her hands on the ground, fingered the large branch that had tripped her on one side and gripped a small pile of pine needles on the other.
Edward appeared by the shoulder of the creature and shook his head, his normal aloofness melted into a protective fear that warmed her ache - even now.
Bella decided to make a very impulsive decision.
She blew the pine needles directly into the creature’s eyes and swung the branch as hard as she could upside its head.
The bear-ape-dog-whatever rocked backwards, growling in irritation as it’s eyesight was impeded and Bella took the chance to scramble up and sprint towards the clearing near her house.
She only took three steps before it caught her again.
The creature’s hand, armed with steely claws, grabbed her ankle and sent her flying to the ground. It maintained the grip, leaning up to pierce her bicep with its fangs in order to pull and flip her over.
Bella screamed out in agony. The bite dug deep into her muscles, lighting a match under her gas-soaked skin. Fire became the only feeling.
And yet, even now, his name burst through all the walls Bella built to contain it. Edward, Edward, Edward. She was going to die. It shouldn’t matter if she thought of him now but she did. Edward, I love you.
The creature licked its bloody chops, snuffling along her body before settling near her neck. Bella tensed for the final blow, when a chorus of powerful howls filled the space around them.
The creature jolted back, posturing with a dominant energy towards the trees. It growled menacingly, the hackles on its back standing erect.
More large shapes prowled out from the underbrush until she could see them clearly.
Wolves, she nearly laughed in her deliriousness, welcome to dinner - the more the merrier.
They eased out in a large V, similar to geese flying south. Ranging from midnight black to charcoal grey to dark brown and then some. They prowled forward with a keen awareness of the other creature who had slowly inched backward as more wolves entered.
The creature gave Bella a fleeting glance as if contemplating its chance of grabbing her like a to-go box before the wolves’ snarls brought it back to attention.
It snapped its fangs before charging to the smaller, lanky wolf on the edge of the formation, using its strength to plow past it and sprint further into the forest.
The wolves were after it in a second, chasing through the trees with a few powerful bounds, snarling and snapping so loudly that her hands flew up instinctively to cover her ears. The sound faded with surprising swiftness once they disappeared into the woods.
Bella moved her hands to put pressure on her bloody arm, breathing shallowly as darkness crept around the edges of her sight.
Something moved against her side. She glanced to the right and made eye contact with large, dark eyes.
One wolf had remained.
It’s shaggy, long fur pressed against her with every breath pulled into its gigantic body. The deep eyes seemed somehow too intelligent, too warm for a wild animal. She blinked lazily, holding the wolf’s gaze as a heady dizziness rocked her body. Her adrenaline oozed out of her, leaving her floundering towards unconsciousness.
As the wolf snuffled her bicep - she was struck with thoughts of Jacob and gratitude.
Grateful, that she’d come here alone.
Grateful, he didn’t have to face this nightmare filled with dark monsters.
Grateful, she wouldn’t have his death on his hands.
The moon’s vivid glow filled her vision and a distant, pained howl was the last thing she heard.