In a world without time, a world without end, to find some way to occupy yourself is a daunting task.
Is there a point to life, to death even?
Spend enough time without either and you ponder these questions.
He has no purpose he has been able to identify, no role to play in the abyss of eternity. It’s been so very long since he had corporeal form that his human memory has all but disappeared, who he is or was, all gone. His most basic understanding of emotion, of pain and happiness, has been relearned through the people he sees every day. He watches; it’s all he can do. At least that’s what he thinks.
He remembers but one thing, one small piece of information he has held on to despite the erosion of self.
His name is Edward.
It started as an experiment. Roaming the earth, a directionless phantom with no memory of a ‘before’, he started to watch them as they went about their days, their short lives. He made it a game to work out what they were going to do, to see how predictable they were. Having no form or substance he could not be seen and could not influence the world around him in any direct way –a mere spectator. The oddly familiar, yet dull echo of a memory long lost saw him drawn to the humans to feel something, anything, through them and their short passion-fuelled lives. It had taken him so very long to find out that he couldn’t interact with the physical world around him; looking people in the face and trying to make them see or hear him had brought nothing but failure. There had been times that he had cried out, begged someone, anyone to tell him why, but always silence, always emptiness echoing around him.
A strange thing happened the longer he watched. Vibrations began to emerge, just a blur at first, easy to miss, but after a while and with intense focus, they began to take on definition and form. This gave him a new task – to fathom what these meant for the oblivious masses. After a while he found himself able to sense emotion; he watched their happiness, love and loss. Most of all pain - so much pain. It seemed to Edward that these people suffered a great deal in their short lives, but what struck him the most was their resilience, their indefatigable approach. They battled on regardless, taking each new setback as it came.
The power of this insight made him realise that it was somehow crucial for him to decipher his new path and to see where it led him.
It began when he saw a woman so in love with her new husband that she couldn’t stop thinking about him. The vibrations of love and passion were so powerful that they manifested in a colour, a veil of shimmering gold that exuded from her very skin, radiating peace and happiness. Edward was astounded; was it the power of that one individual’s emotion that gave him the ability to see tangible proof? Encouraged by this, he began to focus with greater effort, choosing one individual to watch, all the time trying to forge a connection strong enough for him to see the depth of their emotions, for their auras to manifest. It was a hit and miss affair to begin with; it appeared that some humans never felt emotion in any depth, never seemed to engage sufficiently with the world around them to feel love or loss when a situation occurred. He wondered how they bothered to exist, sharing this life of theirs with millions of others yet never connecting enough to feel.
His next subject was chosen by less random methods. This time he chose to watch a man who had lost his only son in an accident. With minimal effort Edward was able to see the deep red aura that engulfed the grieving man, the red sullied by sharp threads of black woven throughout, the man’s loss and pain overwhelming and suffocating him. While the man mourned the red remained constant, but over time the inner colour began to win back, a gradual process when the father learned to move on, to live with his grief. Unbeknownst to the man the trauma would never fully leave him, for while the red faded, the black threads would forever arc through his brightly coloured aura, permanent scars on his soul.
Edward came to understand over time what the colours signified to the humans. He learned to recognise love, pain, happiness, sickness; the colours so clear and appearing so easily to him that he saw them all around without effort. The most prolific colours were the shimmering golds of love, the pulsating reds of pain, the cool blues of loneliness, and the greens of jealousy. The darkening edges of an aura spelled anger and Edward watched as some of the afflicted mentally controlled their impulses, their auras returning to their resting colours. Others had no such ability, fights and arguments ensuing, auras all around them darkening as they were drawn into the fray. Observing them meant he could start to predict their actions, their paths clearly defined by their emotions. The most telling colour was pure black – that alone was the one he feared for it signified imminent death, whether from illness, accident or by design. No matter whether the human knew of his or her fate, black was irreversible; death always came calling shortly after the choking darkness corrupted their aura, possessing it in its entirety.
Because he had never before paid close attention to the end of their lives, he was both fascinated and repelled by the sight of them leaving their bodies. He chose to stay out of sight when the end came for them, something telling him that they would be able to see him if he didn’t. He wasn’t prepared for questions to which he had no answer, therefore interaction was unthinkable.
It took a while before he realised that he could help ease their suffering. Feeling an undeniable urge to help, he began to stay close to those whose auras were succumbing to dense black; when they were in their final hours he discovered he could draw some of their pain into himself, absorbing it. The only problem was that this involved a massive personal sacrifice on his part; by interceding in the event he drained his energies. Indeed for some time afterward he was unable to project himself into their world, remaining in white nothingness until his own strength returned. Edward was no reaper; when the soul left the body and passed over he would stay hidden, not wishing to be part of that individual’s journey. He wished only to ease their passage from one realm to the next in some small way.
It gave him something he did not recognise. It gave him hope, hope that one day he too would be able to pass over, leave the bleak void and find what came after.
Meandering one day, looking and listening for his next soul in need, he didn’t see the man sitting alone on a bench, hidden beneath trees and the heavy, encroaching mists of the season. He was alerted to his presence when he felt himself buffeted by an extraordinary wave of power, a blast of pure anger and pain. A stifling kaleidoscope of colours swirled around him, seeming to have a life of their own, extending way beyond the man to whom they belonged. Edward was overcome by the pain, confusion and loneliness that swirled around him in a roiling mass almost too smothering to penetrate. It hit Edward with enough force to obliterate all his other senses and he turned, transfixed, to the source of such tumultuous emotion. He studied the man sitting hunched on the wooden seat, observing the smart attire and affluence that had no bearing on his obvious suffering.
Helpless to resist a call of such magnitude, he made the unhappy man his next project.
He couldn’t have known how that one human would change everything.
Carlisle was an enigma. At first Edward couldn’t read him, couldn’t separate one emotion from another, the turbulent force causing the interwoven colours to shift and blend, never coalescing into a clear pattern long enough for him to get a firm hold on them. He stayed close, waiting for the moment, however brief, when he would be granted his first glimpse into Carlisle’s troubled world.
After all, Edward had nothing else to do but wait.
While time passed in Carlisle’s life, Edward stayed with him and watched him stumble, making mistake after mistake, striving over and over to make his family proud.
At a huge cost.
It was a battle for love and acceptance that Carlisle could never win, but it was clear that he would never be able to stop trying. There was a desperate hope there, for love, for forgiveness, that Carlisle’s family had no plans of honouring and yet he continued to try. He worked for a local bank, holding down a lowly post that did not impress his family one iota. He made rent and kept himself fed, but was unable to improve himself, struggling to find purpose and direction in his life. He sent small amounts of money home to his family for which they never thanked him, but which they never returned.
It was an endless cycle of greed, disinterest and pride.
Every day when Carlisle awoke, Edward saw only pain, confusion and loneliness in his aura. The colours bled together to form unique patterns, the emotions so powerful that the exact colours themselves were indistinct, but the feel of it, the unrelenting force of his torment called to Edward like a beacon and he knew he would never, could never, leave him until he found the peace that he craved.
Edward’s abilities continued to grow the longer he stayed by Carlisle’s side. He became so attuned to his choice of subject that he began to see flashes of Carlisle’s past memories in his aura while he slept, the images no more than a faulty, stuttering movie reel, but opening up a world of knowledge for Edward. He learned a little of his childhood, his strict parents, the punishments dealt by his father when he failed to please them in school. It seemed to Edward that Carlisle stood no chance of ever satisfying their demands, their beliefs making it impossible for the child to ever reach the level of acceptance they craved. He wondered why they felt the need to punish a little boy for wanting to be what he was – a child. The hours of bible study, the music lessons that continued for years despite his inability to master an instrument, the hours of prayer time all amounted to a lost, friendless little boy who struggled to fit in with the world around him.
Edward learned a little more each time Carlisle dreamed of his past, the flashes stronger but jumbled when his nightmares took hold. Their connection growing stronger with each passing day, Edward found he could now intercede in these nightmares, siphoning off some of the pain and anguish to ease his burden, but it took its toll. He couldn’t take it all although he wished to and he couldn’t process it without depleting his own energy. Doing so meant he couldn’t stay close to Carlisle as holding his form was too hard, too draining, and he had to return to his ephemeral state until his energy levels recovered. He hated being apart from him; he couldn’t explain the pull he felt when they were apart.
With his own energies restored, Edward returned each time in the hope that Carlisle would somehow sense him and acknowledge his presence in some way. When that didn’t happen, Edward contented himself with staying close. With the nightmares eased, Carlisle found peace when he slept; for a brief spell he was unburdened and free and Edward saw flashes of his dreams then, the future he so badly wanted to find.
He no longer watched others; indeed he found he could not leave Carlisle. His wait might be eternal and fruitless, but he had to know, had to rediscover for himself the feelings behind the colours and find a way to reconnect to those emotions in some way.
Somehow, Carlisle was the key.
Edward started to piece together Carlisle’s past from the nightmares, seeing good memories blended in with the pain.
Raised in a strict household, he had married his parents’ choice of girl, and they were to have a baby. He had felt no love for the girl other than sisterly affection and the relationship was a private failure, unbeknown to the outside world. The baby was meant to seal them as a family, but when it died, born too soon, the girl did the only thing she could – she left Carlisle to pursue her own happiness elsewhere.
Her parents blamed Carlisle.
So did his.
He didn’t try hard enough.
He didn’t try to overcome his shameful urges.
He didn’t turn to God to find strength.
His public failures shamed both families.
The truth was Carlisle lived in fear for his immortal soul. A brief fumble with a beautiful boy at their graduation party was enough to confirm his need for male company over any other. So many nights spent dreaming of what could be if only he could be free from the confines of his upbringing and family disapproval.
And then there was the guilt, the mental flagellation that came from disappointing his family and church.
He knew it was wrong, against all the teachings; he knew that man must only love woman, but hadn’t he tried? Hadn’t he taken the path he was shown? He and Esme – they would never have worked, not even with a baby because he had felt no desire for her. Their brief couplings had been fuelled by the fantasy of another, a young man with tender lips and eyes that promised him the moon when they gazed into his. They had shared but one kiss, Carlisle’s first, which had burned itself into the fabric of his being, the feeling of absolute rightness. The click in his mind of his desires finding a home at long last made his soul sing. Alas, they were interrupted, neither able to express their desires before others barged into their fragile new world and let the stark reality of life flood in, drowning any chance he ever had of further revelation.
It came as no surprise to Edward that the subsequent marriage to young Esme Platt had failed. Pretty, dark-haired Esme, the eighteen year old daughter of a good, God-fearing family had her pick of local suitors. Carlisle had not been permitted to date throughout his formative years and was unprepared for the experience. The marriage was organised without his input, and he found himself a married man at nineteen with expectations heaped upon him by two families to produce a son to continue the Cullen line.
To give him credit, Carlisle had done what was expected of him and tried to be a good husband, but there was no desire for the pretty wife with whom he shared his life and his bed. The young girl could not entice him as hard as she tried. Both virgins at their wedding, she had no means of comparison, but having listened to her girlfriends she knew that something was amiss. Their few couplings prior to her pregnancy had been at her instigation, each time finding herself flipped onto her stomach, unable to see or touch him, but willing to do whatever it took to please him and make a baby.
Their unions ceased as soon as the baby was confirmed and Esme believed it was to keep it safe. Carlisle saw it as a relief to not have to touch her anymore. However, when it was born after only six months, he felt immense guilt that his child had died because he did not want it, that it was not conceived out of love for its mother. Esme saw this, felt the pain of losing her child, and her husband all at once. She realised she could not stay, could not go through another pregnancy that would tie her to a man so disinterested. She confided in her mother that she had heard him whisper a man’s name in his sleep over and over, and feared she knew why.
By enabling Carlisle to get some rest, Edward also allowed him to focus once again, to see the future ahead of him. With his dreams peaceful and undisturbed, Edward no longer saw the endlessly cycling images from his past and began to feel uplifted. His charge was moving forward to make a life for himself away from the sorrow and guilt that had plagued him for so long. Edward realised that soon he would no longer be needed, that he would have to let go and let him be free. If only Edward could have identified it with words, he would have recognised the feeling in his gut as pain.
He had wandered the earthly plane for so long and was now struck with the realisation that he had been waiting for the one that would complement him and fill the void in his metaphysical soul. Without fully understanding the implications, the fact remained that Edward had fallen for Carlisle. He had no capacity for human love, only a desire to be near Carlisle that increased steadily the longer he stayed on the human plane. Since finding Carlisle he had spent his time with him to the exclusion of all other, compelled to stay close. This had not happened before and signified an attachment that would be near impossible for him to break.
The day it happened began like any other.
Carlisle had slept well, his slumber peaceful and uninterrupted. Edward was by his side, soothing and calming him into the day ahead. He was the epitome of confidence walking into the bathroom to shower; Edward noticed the determination in the jut of his shoulder, the way he held his head. When he emerged, naked, towel-drying his hair, he appeared calm and steady, ready for the day ahead.
Edward felt the moment swallow him whole, his grasp on the human plane slipping, nothingness threatening to claim him unless he found the strength to stand firm.
Carlisle’s aura was a rich black, clinging tight as a second skin, spreading out like oily smoke from his body. Edward fell to his knees seeing the swirling colours that made up the pattern of Carlisle’s life eclipsed by the certainty of approaching death.
It was so sudden and it made no sense.
Something in Carlisle’s future had changed in a moment and now his life was ending before Edward’s very eyes for he knew that the black could not be healed, yet he knew that he would risk eternity in the void if it would save him.
I won’t leave you, Carlisle. I’m here. Til the end, I’m here.
Carlisle dressed as if it were any other day. He ate breakfast and headed out with no inkling of what could lay in store. When would it happen? Edward didn’t know, but he had learned that death could come fast and without warning and he was determined to try and delay it, to keep Carlisle close to him for as long as he could.
He would do everything in his power to protect him even if it meant the end of his own existence.
Too late, Edward sees Carlisle’s plan as it unfolds moment by moment, sees the inevitability of the decision he has made. He follows him on the climb upstairs to the roof of his building, watching him breathe deeply, filling his lungs one last time before stepping from the ledge, feeling at peace with his decision to go. No one to miss him, no one to mourn; a life used up and spat out, no way forward, only able to fast forward to the end.
Edward is by his side, taking his fear as he falls, comforting him in those final moments into eternal peace.
He is there waiting when Carlisle’s heavenly eyes open to his new forever.
Seeing Edward for the first time, his eyes hungry yet hesitant in his beatific face, Carlisle feels peace and a huge wave of love emanating from him despite Edward’s own forgotten understanding. Reaching out, their fingers touch sending strange, forgotten sensations racing through them both; so alien yet wonderful after so long.
Carlisle is first to speak.
He recognises me? How is that possible? I tried so hard to contact him and he never acknowledged me.
“I dreamed of you, so many times. That one kiss we shared changed everything for me. I knew then... I knew I had taken a wrong turn somewhere and missed my chance to be happy.” He looks around seeing nothing but white. “Where are we? What is this place?”
Edward gazes into eyes wide with wonder, eyes that focus on his face with trust and curiosity, eyes full of warmth and not an ounce of fear. He cannot remember the last time he spoke to another being and he struggles to find his voice again, unsure and nervous.
“I don’t usually stay for this part. I...”
“You are him? You’re not just taking his form to comfort me are you? You are Edward – the Edward that turned my life upside down? Please say yes.”
He words are quizzical, laced with confusion and the underlying fear of eternal loneliness.
Edward flounders, not knowing how to respond.
“I... know my name was Edward. I don’t know when I came here, but I know you have to make a choice now. You should pass over, leave this place of transition and take your rightful place in the hereafter.”
“Or?” Carlisle prompts him when he stops, waiting for the second option.
“Or be trapped here forever, caught in nothingness with no contact, no feelings and soon no memories. I think mine were taken from me, but I don’t know why or when. I remember nothing but my name. The same will likely happen to you if you stay.”
“Why would that happen to you? You did nothing wrong in your life. I read of your passing in the newspaper. You-” He looks hesitant and unsure of himself. “Do you want to know?”
Edward utters a rusty semblance of a laugh.
“It makes no difference now.”
“It was only a couple of days after we kissed at the party. You were struck by a car that was fleeing the scene of a robbery. They couldn’t save you. That was six years ago. I went to your funeral.” He swallows hard. “I never forgot you, Edward; never.”
Carlisle steps forward, his face determined.
“There’s something I need to do.”
Not allowing Edward to refuse, he leans in and kisses him, sending waves of sensation and feelings long forgotten vibrating through his being. Edward’s ethereal form shakes, unneeded breaths are taken, the power behind the action building to a crescendo in Edward’s mind. Suddenly in a blaze of healing light he gazes wide-eyed at Carlisle, shaking his head as memory after memory crashes over him, reconstructing the former life of Edward Masen in its entirety, filling his mind to the fullest.
He gasps and clings to Carlisle, smiling, opalescent tears on his cheeks.
“I remember now. I refused them; I refused the messengers when they came for me.”
He shakes his head, thumb grazing the cheek of the boy, man, before him.
“I told them I wasn’t done, I wasn’t finished. I refused to leave and so they told me I had to find a way back, to find what I lacked. What they didn’t tell me was they took it all; my memories, my identity, everything was taken from me and I had to start again. They left me with only my name. Now I know why.” Tears fell without pause, the revelations filling his once empty mind. “Carlisle, I wasn’t done because I hadn’t found love, real love, only glimpsed it, the real possibility of it, with you. When I felt your pain the first time I saw you I was helpless to refuse. I never knew it would lead me where I needed to go.”
“Are you ready now?” Carlisle’s voice is full of hope; his face shines as he gazes into the eyes of his forever.
Edward looks around and smiles.
“Yes, and look – here they come.”
The messengers descend in a veil of warmth and light, their hands outstretched to both Edward and Carlisle. Leaving behind the human form means leaving behind earthly concerns and fears forever; together Carlisle and Edward have discovered that love is a powerful drive that transcends death.
The young men smile at each other and, hands clasped, prepare to leave this earthly plane and move on to spend eternity in perfect happiness, true soul mates united at last.