Midnight Sun (18. Stories)
"Carlisle was born in London, in the sixteen-forties, he believes. Time wasn't marked as accurately then, for the common people anyway. It was just before Cromwell's rule, though." I began.
I watched her face carefully for any sign of distress. She showed no emotion. I continued, "He was the only son of an Anglican pastor. His mother died giving birth to him. His father was an intolerant man. As the Protestants came into power, he was enthusiastic in his persecution of Roman Catholics and other religions. He also believed very strongly in the reality of evil. He led hunts for witches, werewolves…and vampires."
Her pulse began picking up at the last word; I continued without pausing, "When the pastor grew old, he placed his obedient son in charge of his raids. At first Carlisle was a disappointment; he was not quick to accuse, to see demons where they did not exist. But he was persistent, and more clever than his father. He actually discovered a coven of true vampires that lived hidden in the sewers of a city, only coming out by night to hunt. In those days, when monsters were not just myths and legends, that was the way many lived.
"The people gathered their pitchforks and torches, of course," I laughed in a non humorous way at the thought of a human bringing harm to a vampire. I continued, "and waited where Carlisle had seen the monsters exit into the street. Eventually one emerged."
I knew I had arrived at the part of the story where I wasn't sure how to proceed. I went on, but kept my voice low, "He must have been ancient, and weak with hunger. Carlisle heard him call out in Latin to the others when he caught the scent of the mob. He ran through the streets, and Carlisle �C he was twenty-three and very fast �C was in the lead of the pursuit. The creature would have easily outrun them, but Carlisle thinks he was too hungry, so he turned and attacked. He fell on Carlisle first, but the others were close behind, and he turned to defend himself. He killed two men, and made off with a third, leaving Carlisle bleeding in the street."
I paused. The images that were in my mind were of the agony that he felt. The pain of the venom breaking through his veins and causing him to burn for days was forefront in my mind. I met Bella's eyes and she was eager for me to continue.
"Carlisle knew what his father would do. The bodies would be burned �C anything infected by the monster must be destroyed. Carlisle acted instinctively to save his own life. He crawled away from the alley while the mob followed the fiend and his victim. He hid in a cellar, buried himself with rotting potatoes for three days. It's a miracle he was able to keep silent, to stay undiscovered. It was over then, and he realized what he had become."
My eyes had never left Bella's. Most of the color had drained from her face during my story. She didn't know much of the transformation process and I am sure that she was learning some things that she hadn't known before. She was silent and I was worried I had gone too far, "How are you feeling?" I asked.
"I'm fine," she said automatically.
She hadn't convinced me though. In a nervous gesture, she began biting at her lower lip. She looked like she wanted to say something; she was hesitating. Curiosity was burning in her eyes. She was regaining her color and I was becoming frustrated once again at the silence of her knowing mind.
"I expect you have a few more questions for me." I guessed.
Of course she did, she was always curious; always interested in things she shouldn't be interested in.
"Come on, then," I smiled, "I'll show you."
We turned around and I brought her back to Carlisle's office.
I'm guessing you want to show her the pictures, Carlisle wondered, "Come in," he invited.
I slowly pushed the door open. Carlisle was sitting behind his desk in his leather chair.
Perfect timing, Carlisle thought, "What can I do for you?" he asked.
Carlisle rose from his seat. He was already aware of what I was up to, but I didn't want Bella to think we were having our normal silent conversations.
"I wanted to show Bella some of our history. Well, your history, actually," I explained to him.
"We didn't mean to disturb you," Bella apologized.
Silly Bella, I thought.
She sure is polite, isn't she? Carlisle smiled, "Not at all," he looked at me, "Where are you going to start?" he asked.
I had many stories in mind and I decided I would start out as simple as Carlisle's story could ever be, "The Waggoner."
I placed my hand on Bella's shoulder. An electric shock rose up my arm and through my body. I knew she felt it too because her heart starting pounding, her pulse racing.
Does that always happen? To deny yourself what you crave most when her pulse rises is truly significant in your relationship. You two are truly meant to be together. Carlisle's thoughts continued more to himself.
I turned Bella to face an oil painting that was on the wall behind her, ignoring Carlisle. I could tell that she was interested again.
"London in the sixteen-fifties," I explained. I knew questions must have been racing through her mind.
Carlisle walked up behind Bella. His continuous flow of thoughts had stopped, "The London of my youth," he added.
Bella must not have realized he was behind her because she recoiled at the sound of his voice. I squeezed her hand.
"Will you tell the story?" I wondered. I didn't want to get anything wrong, or put my foot in my mouth.
I'm sorry. You will have to explain it to her because I must leave for work. Don't worry, you'll do fine. Carlisle thought.
"I would," he turned to Bella, "But I'm actually running a bit late. The hospital called this morning �C Dr. Snow is taking a sick day. Besides," his eyes met mine, "you know the stories as well as I do." Carlisle had a wide smile across his face.
Carlisle gave Bella a warm smile and ducked out of the room. I looked at Bella, nervous about this conversation. I was still waiting for the wailing and screaming. A sickening jolt surged through my stomach at the thought of her leaving. Her eyes were fixed on the painting.
"What happened then?" she asked eagerly while removing her eyes from the painting and meeting my gaze, "When he realized what had happened to him?"
My eyes moved from her face to another painting. She followed my gaze. "When he knew what he had become," I said in a low voice, "he rebelled against it. He tried to destroy himself. But that's not easily done."
"How?" Bella asked with shock present on her face.
I contained a sigh, "He jumped from great heights," my voice stoic, "He tried to drown himself in the ocean…but he was young to the new life, and very strong. It is amazing that he was able to resist…feeding…while he was still so new. The instinct is more powerful then, it takes over everything. But he was so repelled by himself that he had the strength to try to kill himself with starvation," I explained.
I knew at any moment she would comprehend my words and descend the stairs and quickly exit the house.
"Is that possible?" she asked darkly.
"No, there are very few ways we can be killed."
I saw her open her mouth and I rushed to get the words about before she could ask me another question, "So he grew very hungry, and eventually weak. He strayed as far as he could from the human populace, recognizing that his willpower was weakening, too. For months he wandered by night, seeking the loneliest places, loathing himself
"One night, a herd of deer passed his hiding place. He was so wild with thirst that he attacked without a thought. His strength returned and he realized there was an alternative to being the vile monster he feared. Had he not eaten venison in his former life? Over the next months his new philosophy was born. He could exist without being a demon. He found himself again.
"He began to make better use of his time. He'd always been intelligent, eager to learn. Now he had unlimited time before him. He studied by night, planned by day. He swam to France and �C"
"He swam to France?" Bella shrieked incredulously.
I had to compose my face because I was trying desperately not to laugh at her reaction, "People swim the Channel all the time, Bella," I reminded her.
She blinked foolishly, "That's true, I guess," shock was evident in her eyes still, "It just sounded funny in that context. Go on."
"Swimming is easy for us �C"
"Everything is easy for you," she interrupted, a little perturbed.
I paused, waiting for her to ask another question. The look on her face was very comical. Her mouth hung open a little and her eyes were wide with surprise. She was quick to perceive my obvious reason for hesitating before I continued, "I won't interrupt again, I promise," she said with a small smile.
I laughed because I knew that she would interrupt again when she hears what I have to say next, "Because, technically, we don't need to breathe," I began until Bella burst out, "You �C "
"No, no, you promised," I laughed because I knew that when she heard this bit of information that her reaction would be exactly what it was now. Her face was screwed up in longing to finish her questioning. I brought my finger to her lip to silence her, "Do you want to hear the story or not?"
She spoke with my finger pressed lightly against her warm lips, "You can't spring something like that on me, and then expect me not to say anything." Her voice was mumbled, trying to speak past my silencing finger. I traced my finger down her jaw and stopped at her neck. My stomach did summer-salts when her pulse speed by my touch. I had momentarily forgotten about the story or where we were. It was just Bella and I, together.
"You don't have to breathe?" her eyes were still wide with interested; her question bringing me to the present.
"No," I answered, instantly nervous that this proclamation would be the thing that scares her away, "it's not necessary. Just a habit." I shrugged, showing her how little it really mattered.
She dropped her voice, almost conspiratorially, "How long can you go…without breathing?"
"Indefinitely, I suppose; I don't know. It gets a bit uncomfortable �C being without a sense of smell." I tried to explain very nonchalantly.
"A bit uncomfortable," she mirrored.
I continued to look at her face. Each expression fluttered across with little time to settle. Her eyebrows pulled together and I wanted to take my thumb and smooth out the complexity lines. Trying to understand her thoughts was like trying to read sign language unknown to humans.
A new speculation loomed in my mind. I removed my hand from her, letting the cold return. Something was eating at me from the inside. I was bringing her into this mythical world. Each new revelation bringing her closer to the doom I was prepared to fight. Bella's face grew very grave. She was watching my expressions now, "What is it?" she asked gently.
She brought her hand to my face, trying to comfort me. I felt each pump of her blood. Her hand warmed my cheek to several degrees than my normal temperature. I sighed because I knew that I was inviting her to tempt fate and that I would allow it.
"I keep waiting for it to happen." I said quietly.
"For what to happen?" she asked urgently.
"I know that at some point, something I tell you or something you see is going to be too much. And then you'll run away from me, screaming as you go," I pasted a smile across my face, trying to ease the tension building inside me, "I won't stop you. I want this to happen, because I want you to be safe. And yet, I want to be with you. The two desires are impossible to reconcile…" I kept my eyes fixed on her, waiting for her to agree with me and just leave.
There was a long and painful silence before either of us spoke again.
"I'm not running anywhere," Bella promised with obvious triumph in her voice, like she was looking fate in the eye and taunting it.
I remembered the story, and thought that if I continued maybe, just maybe, she would hear something that would scare her away, "We'll see," I smiled.
Her lips turned down at the corners, a frown forming on her face, "So, go on �C Carlisle was swimming to France."
I caught my breath, delighting in the ever present yearning in my stomach. I moved my gaze from her face to another painting deciding to continue, "Carlisle swam to France," I repeated, "and continued on through Europe, to the universities there. By night he studied music, science, medicine �C and found his calling, his penance, in that, in saving human lives. I can't adequately describe the struggle; it took Carlisle two centuries of torturous effort to prefect his self-control. Now he is all but immune to the scent of human blood, and he is able to do the work he loves without agony. He finds a great deal of peace there, at the hospital…" I trailed off, my thoughts moving in a different direction.
I willed myself to be like Carlisle. I wished to have his self control, to never have to second guess my senses. I inhaled; something I used to do to calm myself, but now it brought red hot flames ripping down my throat. I mentally shut out the yearning I had now. I remembered what my purpose was for this conversation. I brought my hand to the painting in front of us, tapping lightly on it.
"He was studying in Italy when he discovered the others there. They were much more civilized and educated than the wraiths of the London sewers." I said while lightly tracing the figures in the picture; the Volturi.
I was so deep in thought, remembering things that Carlisle had seen when a startled laugh burst out of Bella's lips. I turned to see what the matter was; thinking that maybe she finally had lost it. Dawn crossed my face as I realized what she was looking at. It was Carlisle's face in the painting with the Volturi.
"Solimena was greatly inspired by Carlisle's friends. He often painted them as gods," I laughed at the impossibility that any vampire could ever be a god, "Aro, Marcus, Caius," I explained as I pointed each one out to her, "Nighttime patrons of the arts."
Her eyes darted from the painting to me face, "What happened to them?" she questioned.
Her hand reached up to touch the figures in the painting but her finger never touched.
"They're still there," I shrugged, "As they have been for who knows how many millennia. Carlisle stayed with them only for a short time, just a few decades. He greatly admired their civility, their refinement, but they persisted in trying to cure his aversion to 'his natural food source,' as they called it. They tried to persuade him, and he tried to persuade them, to no avail. At that point, Carlisle decided to try the New World. He dreamed of finding others like himself. He was very lonely, you see.
"He didn't find anyone for a long time. But, as monsters became the stuff of fairy tales, he found he could interact with unsuspecting humans as if he were one of them. He began practicing medicine. But the companionship he craved evaded him; he couldn't risk familiarity.
"When the influenza epidemic hit, he was working nights in a hospital in Chicago. He'd been turning over an idea in his mind for several years, and he had almost decided to act �C since he couldn't find a companion, he would create one. He wasn't absolutely sure how his own transformation had occurred, so he was hesitant. And he was loath to steal anyone's life the way his had been stolen. It was in that frame of mind that he found me. There was no hope for me; I was left in a ward with the dying. He had nursed my parents, and knew I was alone. He decided to try…"
During my story telling, I had visualized everything that Carlisle and I had both witnessed during the few days before and after my transformation. The painful memory was something I rarely thought of these days. I looked out the window, banishing the unpopular imagines from my mind.
My chest was swelling at the relief I felt for finally releasing the information that could doom me from ever seeing this delightful creature again. The feeling of happiness that was surging through my body at this moment in time was completely indescribable. I hadn't realized that I would feel like this, too; that knowing she wasn't running, that she was one hundred percent accepting. I returned my gaze to Bella. She looked humble and my lips turned up; an automatic response to her beauty.
"And so we've come full circle," I finished.
"Have you always stayed with Carlisle, then?" she asked.
She was constantly asking all the questions that gave everything away about me and nothing about her, "Almost always," I replied.
I slowly reached out and placed my hand on her waist, exaggerating the movement. I delicately moved her along with me, always remembering how fragile she was.
"Almost?" Bella asked while we were walking down the hall.
Crap, I thought. Why was this the one question, of all the questions, to ask? I knew I would give her the answer. The internal argument of her safety still loomed in my mind. She should stay away from me but I loved her and the thought of her leaving caused me physical pain. Pain was something I hadn't felt since before the transformation. Bella brought out all the human aspects of me, including the weakness of pain.
I sighed, "Well, I had a typical bout of rebellious adolescence �C about ten years after I was…born…created, whatever you want to call it. I wasn't sold on his life of abstinence, and I resented him for curbing my appetite. So I went off on my own for a time." I explained.
Now, this would be it, the thing that makes her scream in terror. I waited, but, instead of terror she was intrigued.
"Really?" she asked her eyes wide with curiosity.
She wasn't frightened? I admitted to killing humans and she was…curious. She is so peculiar. That was an understatement. She had lost her mind. We ascended the next set of stairs. I was leading her to my room. I turned and looked at her, "That doesn't repulse you?" I asked curtly.
"I guess…it sounds reasonable," she said firmly.
A laugh escaped my lips as I thought of the absurdity of her answer. Horrified delight sliced through my veins.
"From the time of my new birth," I replied quietly, "I had the advantage of knowing what everyone around me was thinking, both human and non-human alike. That's why it took me ten years to defy Carlisle �C I could read his perfect sincerity, understand exactly why he lived the way he did.
"It took me only a few years to return to Carlisle and recommit to his vision. I thought I would be exempt from the…depression…that accompanies a conscience. Because I knew the thoughts of my prey, I could pass over the innocent and pursue only the evil. If I followed a murdered down a dark alley where he stalked a young girl �C if I saved her, then surely I wasn't so terrible."
I watched as she shivered. I continued in my quest to be nothing but honest with her, "But as time went on, I began to see the monster in my eyes. I couldn't escape the debt of so much human life taken, no matter how justified. And I went back to Carlisle and Esme. They welcomed me back like the prodigal. It was more than I deserved."
I stopped in front of my bedroom door, "My room," I told her while opening the door and leading her inside.
I watched her as she took in everything. Her eyes flowed rapidly from one side of the room to the other. Her stare lingered on my CD's.
"Good acoustics?" she asked.
My good mood was vibrant now. The pain from not knowing today's outcome had subsided. I was radiant with glee. I chuckled and nodded at her question. I decided I would give her an example and turned the stereo on from a remote. When the jazz music began to play she whirled spectacularly in a circle, delight in her eyes at the sound. She stopped and moved over to my collection of music. Her eyes read through several labels, "How do you have these organized?" she asked in astonishment.
I was barely paying attention to her words because I was in complete merriment of how the events unfolded today, "Ummm, by year, and then by personal preference within that frame," I answered automatically.
She turned around to face me. The whirl wind of her warm aroma hit me like a wrecking ball. I continued to breathe evenly, reveling in the pain. I couldn't shake my new found happiness that was ever present in my being. She wanted me; all of me. Her eyes met mine and she read my face, "What?" she asked.
"I was prepared to feel…relieved. Having you know about everything, not needing to keep secrets from you. But I didn't expect to feel more than that. I like it. It makes me…happy." I shrugged my shoulders, but the jubilance radiated out of me and a smile crept up my face.
"I'm glad," she replied with a smile.
I continued to gaze at her. I tried to read her expressions but they were so swiftly changing since she entered this house. I willed myself once more to read her mind. I tried probing it with mine over and over to no avail. My forehead creased in concentration.
"You are still waiting for the running and the screaming, aren't you?" she wondered.
My lips turned up lightly and I nodded.
"I hate to burst your bubble, but you're really not as scary as you think you are. I don't find you scary at all, actually," she lied silkily.
Disbelief was strong in my mind. I raised an eyebrow at this news. A sinister thought raced through my head and before I acted a wide smile spread across my face, "You really shouldn't have said that," I laughed.
I growled very un-menacingly, brought my lips above my teeth to show them off, and hunkered down. Her eyes grew wide with terror.
"You wouldn't" she shrieked.
I let my body recoil as I sprung.