They say your memory fades. Well, your memory of before you become a vampire. Nothing fades afterwards. And mine had, mostly. I vaguely remember a younger brother. I have no recollection of my parents. And my memory of Texas is gone. Except the sun. Sun so bright it hurt the eyes.
I was squinting without realizing, and laughed under my breath. Maybe, I thought to myself, Maybe this isn't such a good idea.
Alice was looking at me curiously as we zoomed past a sign that read "Welcome to Gettysburg".
"Jazz," she whispered, "Are you sure you want to do this?"
I didn't answer right away. I wasn't sure I wanted to do this. Not at all. But I needed to and I didn't know why. And that bothered me. As I pondered how to respond to Alice, I was saved. A large sign read "Gettysburg Outlet Mall".
I made a quick left turn, pulling into the mall. I stopped in front of the first store and idled the engine. I smiled at Alice and raised an eyebrow. She loved a good outlet mall.
Alice didn't smile back. "Jazz," she whispered again. She looked scared. No, not scared, I ascertained as I looked at her, she looked unsure.
I leaned across the middle of the car and softly placed my right hand on her check. "Alice," I spoke softly, gazing into her eyes, "I'll be okay." I'll admit. I did it. I subtly tried to calm her down, to put her at ease.
Alice wasn't buying. She turned her head to stare out the front windshield, breaking my hand's contact with her. She heaved an enormous sigh and closed her eyes. Her face instantly became rigid. Smooth in its rigidity. Frozen.
Now I sighed and leaned back in my seat. A wife with the ability to see the future often meant that she checked to see if you would keep your word. Or if you would be…dangerous. Now all I could do was wait, while she checked, to see if I would be okay. I had taken precautions. We had hunted yesterday. I wasn't thirsty. And the tourist season had just ended. The park should be empty. There shouldn't be many humans around to tempt me.
A car behind honked behind us and I put the hazard lights on. They honked again and then darted around us, in search of a parking spot further down the mall.
The honk had interrupted Alice. Her eyes opened and she looked at me. The uncertainty was gone. In its place was understanding. She opened her mouth to say something, but I was quicker. "Pennsylvania, Alice," I urged, "Tax free shopping."
Alice smiled. We gazed into each other's eyes a moment. It struck me again, how much I loved her. She was wonderful. I had killed for her in the past and I would do it again in the future, if needed. Alice was my everything.
Alice put her hand on the door handle, and opened the door. As she got out, she asked "Can I get you anything?"
I smiled at her. "Just do what you do best." Alice was an amazing shopper.
She smiled back and closed the door. By the time I had the car in gear, she was gone.
I drove cautiously through the mall, on the look out for pedestrians. But once I hit the main road, I floored the Mercedes.
All too soon, it seemed, I could tell. I was there. Gettysburg. This was where I had deserted, where I had left the Confederate Army. Not because of fear. No, there was very little I feared—even then. I had deserted here because here I had been changed.
I hit the brakes on the car, slamming it to a stop, as screams and hoof beats seemed to fill my ears. I looked left. I looked right. There was nothing. I took several deep breaths. Easy Jasper, I thought to myself. I smiled a wry smile. What would Edward say if he knew I was hearing things? I started the car again and followed the signs that read "Gettysburg National Military Park."
The parking lot was nearly empty, only two or three other cars. I stayed in the car a moment, breathing deeply. It had been eighty years since I had last been here. I had last come in 1938, when Franklin D. Roosevelt had dedicated the Eternal Light Peace Memorial. I hadn't stayed long, just long enough to hear him speak. There had been too much to internalize then. It had still been raw.
It still seemed raw to me. There was something I was missing here. Something that I couldn't remember, but that I needed to. But what was it? Cut it out Jasper, I thought harshly, What are you expecting to find here? There is nothing. Just memories of… My thoughts trailed off. I refused to think about that part of my life. The first decades after my changing were…horrific. Well, I thought grimly, There's nothing a vampire loves more than a good, bloody war.
I got out of the car and drifted into the museum. A National Parks Ranger smiled and welcomed me with "Hello!" I nodded, acknowledging her presence, but making it clear that I wasn't interested in a tour, a movie, or whatever else they had to offer at this small visitor's center. I, of all people, did not need a tour. I grabbed a park map and drifted back out across the street to the battlefield. A tour guide was talking to a small group of four or five people in front of some. The breeze blew their scent my way and I had to repress the yearning, the thirst that I felt. It would be so easy, so quick.
To take my mind off their scent, I listened to the tour guide. I scoffed to myself as I realized he was telling them something completely wrong. Part of me, the Professor of American History part of me, wanted to interrupt and set him straight. Another part of me, the veteran of the Civil War part of me, also wanted to interrupt and set him straight.
Another larger part of me, the vampire part, kept me silent.
Checking the map, I routed the ways I wanted to go. There wasn't much I wanted to see. I had seen all too much of Gettysburg for my existence, thanks. I folded the map carefully, as I watched the humans. They seemed oblivious to me. Without a second thought, I ran to the first memorial. I was there almost instantly. I walked around, gazing at the statue of a Union soldier holding a Confederate soldier as he died.
Without warning, I heard gunshots, a battery of shots, one after another. I dropped to the ground, a reflex, growling and sniffing the air to see which way the shots had been fired from. They were loud and nearby. Where was the enemy? A cool breeze fanned my face, and I sniffed it. Nothing. There was no gun powder in the air. I looked around, disgruntled with myself and stood up. There was nothing dangerous visible within my eyesight. I shook my head again. I might be going crazy, I thought desperately.
I took a deep breath before I ran again. This next part was the whole reason for coming. As I sped through the park, the noises in my head began again. Gunshots. Hoof beats. Screaming. Screaming. Screaming.
I was there. Devil's Den. I took deep breaths to calm myself, much deeper than I needed for just running. The screaming continued in my head, but I tried to ignore it.
I was alone as I walked around Devil's Den. It had been terrible fighting, I thought suddenly. Or had I just studied this part in a book?
I walked towards the monument nearby. "Hood's Texas Brigade" the inscription was titled. Hood, Colonel Hood, I thought, that sounded familiar. I could almost place a face with the name, but it disappeared. I shook my head, trying to clear it. The screaming seemed muted now, but it was still there.
I scanned the rest of the inscription of the Texas Brigade as it detailed what had happened here and the Brigade's role in it. At the bottom it listed the fallen from the Texas Brigade.
Jasper Whitlock was not listed.
Of course I wasn't listed, I thought angrily, I didn't die. What did I expect? I don't even know for sure that I was in the Battle of Gettysburg. Suddenly, though, another Whitlock seemed to jump off the monument at me.
The memory hit me like a boulder. I sat down on the ground, breathing heavily, and the screaming in my head got louder and louder until I covered my ears to stifle it.
"Jasper!" It screamed, "Jasper, I'm hit."
I moaned, and lay down on my side, closing my eyes.
It was as if I was there again.
"Jasper!" Jason screamed, "I'm hurt." His grey union uniform was turning crimson.
"Jason," I yelled, as I scampered back, dropping on the ground next to him, "Jason."
"Jasper," He breathed as I took him in my arms, "I'm gonna die, I'm gonna die, aren't I?" He was frantic.
I looked at his chest and my eyes filled with tears. There was nothing to be done for Jason, for my little brother, the brother who had followed me into this war because he wanted to be with me. He would die, and he would die soon. "Medic!" I screamed, looking around wildly. I could see no medics, only the grey legs of other Confederate soldiers marching by.
"Jasper!" Jason screamed again, thrashing in my arms.
Breathing deeply, I looked down at Jason through my tear filled eyes. It was like looking into a mirror. The same eyes, hair, chin—but not the nose. His crooked nose was a reminder of our only argument. "Jason, you're gonna be okay." I lied, "Easy."
Jason calmed immediately. The thrashing stopped and he looked up at me. "Jasper, I'm so cold." he whispered.
He was cold because he was losing blood, I knew. I had to try, I had to help… "Cold," I scoffed at him, trying to fake bravado, "How can a Texas boy be cold? Wait till I tell them about this at home." I ripped my uniform shirt off and wrapped it around him.
Jason laughed weakly, "Jasper…"his voice trailed off.
"What?" I peered down into Jason's eyes, knowing but not wanting to admit what had all ready happened, "What Jason?"
But it was too late. Jason was all ready dead. I started to cry then, sobbing. What was I to do without my brother?
I didn't know how long I cradled his body in my arms, sobbing. Suddenly, I was aware of men running past me, returning the way we had come, "Retreat!" They screamed. I looked up and saw a wall of Union soldiers barreling towards us.
My head cleared as I looked at them. They would pay. They would have to pay for Jason. I would avenge his death. I had no idea who had killed him, so I had no choice but to kill them all.
I stood swiftly, with my loaded musket. I fired, and a Union soldier crumbled. With no time to reload, I drew my saber and charged, screaming as I went.
I slashed my sword at one soldier, and another, and then…I felt the bullets rip through my body. I tried to move forward, Jason's name on the tip of my tongue, but I couldn't move. I couldn't do anything…
I felt nothing. Nothing. My world went black.
And then the fire started.
When I awoke, I was in a small room. A beautiful woman with brown, curly hair was doing needlework in a rocking chair in the far corner. Her eyes flickered to me and she seemed to know instantly that I was awake. "Ahh," she crooned, sweetly, "You're awake." She stood up and seemed to float across the room to me, "How do you feel, Jasper?" She asked cordially.
Was I mistaken? Were her eyes red? How could her eyes be red? No, I thought, it must be the reflection of the fire. "I feel fine," I finally answered, still staring at her deep, ruby eyes.
"Good," She smiled, "My name is Maria."
"Jasper! Jasper!" Someone was yelling my name and shaking me. I rolled onto my back and slowly opened my eyes. Alice's face was no further than an inch away from mine, "Jasper!" She yelled.
I closed my eyes again, "Alice?" I ventured quietly, "Where am I?"
She sat down heavily next to me on the ground, "We're in Pennsylvania, Jasper." She whispered softly.
I took a deep breath. I seemed to need a lot of deep breaths today, "I must have been dreaming." I told her quietly.
"Jasper," Alice's hand was suddenly on my shoulder and she spoke softly, "We don't dream."
I looked at her in bewilderment. Seeing my face, she continued, "We can't sleep, remember?"
I sat up suddenly, looking around in the twilight. "Jason…" I whispered, as if I expected to see him, "Alice…Jason was…"
Alice looked at me curiously, "Jason?"