Wow. It's been a while.
I wanted to take part in a contest that comes around every year which is right up my alley (Red Eyed Edward - you should read the entries, btw, because they're very good), but I can never get it done in time. If I had completed it before the deadline it would've gone something like this.
I apologize for mistakes. It's not beta'd or pre-read.
Violence. Racism. Gore.
It's been one day since the fever began. One day of ice then heat, pain then conquer. One day of violent tremors and foul smells rising from his space within his father's house. He hurls himself from his sweat-drenched bed in the hours before dawn, relieving his stomach of fluid and bile, washes down with water then crawls back under his sheets. When the sun climbs over the trees, he doesn't rise with the vigor of a young man. In fact, he doesn't rise at all.
An older gentleman with a distinguishable curl in his dapple gray and white mustache pulls on his dark tweed overcoat. He looks on at the young man, pressing his forearms into his stomach, sweat pouring from his waxen, pallid skin, and his form hunching as he moans.
He resigns, clamps his wooden box together and pulls it from the bedside table then turns toward the door.
The old man sighs when he's in the well-lit hallway and reaches for the handkerchief in his vest pocket. Sweat had formed on his forehead inside that room, no doubt from the intensity of the flame burning within the magnificent hearth.
A blonde, tailored gentleman, hair cropped short and a fingernail between his teeth, turns, and steps toward the man, shoving his hands inside his trouser pockets. "Well?" he asks.
The old man shakes his head. "Mr. Cullen, I must be frank." He glances back at the room, as though he could see the sick boy through the thick wood, stuffing the now-damp cloth back into his vest pocket. "He exhibits signs of cholera. He's fevering, has pains in his abdomen, vomiting, stool loss..."
"Absurd! Our home isn't riddled with such filth!" Even though his declaration isn't heavy it seems to pound the walls all the same.
"No. No. Nothing of the sort," he says, his voice airy in comparison. "You see, it could have found it's way from anything you eat or drink. I assume you often trade with the townsfolk, buy your vegetables from other farms?"
He nods. "We're finding the sickness can come from poor conditions. The soil or water from such farms could be the answer. It finds its way into the vegetables, you see? If it's not washed then an entire household could become sick. It needn't come from here, but I do recommend you boil your water before drinking... just to be safe, you understand." The old man shakes his head. "I'll have to report this to the town council."
"And what of Edward? What of my son?"
"I've bled him, but he lacks fluid. I mentioned boiled water, but broth is acceptable, anything he can keep on his stomach. Keep it by his bedside so he may drink often. Eventually, the pain will subside and his color will come back... if he's lucky."
Mr. Cullen took a step closer, his brows pinched. "Lucky? Are you saying my son will die?"
"I'm simply saying your son will need tentative care if you can manage."
"Is there nothing more you can do? What have I paid you for if you can not help!?"
"What more do you bloody expect of me? I've bled him and given you firm instructions for his health. If you want miracles and magic, then you've sought the wrong man! It was nice to have met you, Carlisle Cullen. I'll show myself to the door."
The man leaves him standing in the hall with nothing except withdrawn conclusions to his son's fate, and whiskey to help him cope.
Carlisle's gaze becomes hollow. His mind twists with all things he knows not, and begs the question how it could happen to him. He takes care of his family. He has the means to ensure the quality of life is greater than any other inside the meaningless town. They are above the scourge which fastens to those who keep their conditions poorly checked. How could it be so his son is plagued with such feculence? He untucks the flask from his pocket and anchors it to his lips.
And that night, drowning in drink and unmeasurable pain, Carlisle seeks the one who prepares their food and water. He stumbles through the moonlit corridors and staggers down freshly burnished stairs, an oil lamp careening back and forth in one hand, holding on for life and drink in the other.
He finds her sleeping in the humble room tucked away off the kitchen, a mild fire burning in the iron stove, giving sparse light to her slender form and thin mattress. He watches her as she sleeps, her breaths coming easily and finding their way out again as she wraps herself under a quilt belonging to his late wife. The stitching is beginning to come out now, and unlike his quilts and blankets gracing his bed, this piece of patchwork is dirty and ripping. He places the lamp on the floor and allows himself one more swig from his silver flask. The harsh spirit burns his throat, even as he stuffs the container into his trousers.
He wraps his fingers around her warm skin, yanking her from dreams and hollow sanctuary, lifting her from the slumber she desires every night, and when the fog lifts she realizes who has taken hold of her. She smells the alcohol from his breath, and her fingers hook onto his. Her voice is overwrought and the slur of her wild language sets fire and alcohol ablaze in his chest.
Carlisle screams at her, tells her to hush, and when she doesn't he turns and strikes his palm across her face causing her to fall, her weight taking Carlisle down with her to the wooden floor.
She's screaming now, her voice echoing through the silent midnight house. Tears spill over her lower lids, running down to her jaw as she resists him.
"I've given so much," his mouth twists around his words, "and this is how you repay me?! You did this to him!"
He drags her from the house and into the night. The air nearly paralyzes him as he stumbles from the back porch steps, and throws her to the dirt in front of him. Her long, black hair trails after her body as she begins to crawl away. She calls out in a language he can't understand, her voice echoing through the winter trees and some vile part of him becomes aroused at the sight of her pulling away, at the sight of blood spilling from her wounds when he beats her without mercy.
He leaves her there, shaking in death, the last of her life spreading through the dry, needle grass.
Carlisle needn't turn around to know who is there, and his eyes never leave the widening thick of blood as he pulls his whiskey from its home. "Emmett, son, go back inside." His breath escapes him, his chest heaving with fight and excitement.
"What have you done?" Emmett caught sight of her in the silver light, pulling a suspender onto his shoulder and white long johns. His booted feet and the heavy sound they make against wooden porch steps are pronounced in the stillness. Though Emmett is Carlisle's second son he remains the largest.
"What I had to," Carlisle says then takes the final swig from his flask. It sits nicely in his chest while standing in the frigid night. "They think us weak. You can see it in their faces, but we are Cullens. We are not weak, and I will not be made a fool of."
Emmett's brows pinch as he lowers himself to the ground, studying the unfortunate body to catch the wrath of his father's fists.
Carlisle looks up then, his hard stare falling on the three shacks behind the bare, burnt fields. Shadows cling to the posts of the porches, and he can barely make out their silhouettes, but he knows they're there, cowering like dogs. "Do you hear me?!" he screams, straightening his back, clenching his fists by his sides. "This is what happens when you fuck with me! This is what happens when you attempt to harm my sons, my family!"
He swipes a palm across his face, not noticing his fingers are nearly cold as ice. He doesn't concern himself with the wake of blood his fingers left on his forehead, nose, eyes, and cheek, but he wonders, with humor, if the red lines would mean something to them.
Emmett lifts the bloody hair from the girl's face to inspect the damage. "We need to bury her. There will be coyotes out there."
"Leave her," Carlisle says, his eyes on the figures half-clinging to the pale face of midnight. "Let them take care of it. Let them get a nice, long look."