Title: Gold and Ice
"So Midas, king of Lydia, swelled at first with pride when he found he could transform everything he touched to gold: but when he beheld his food grow rigid and his drink harden into golden ice then he understood that this gift was a bane and in his loathing for gold cursed his prayer" (Claudian, In Rufinem)
Edward looks up from his writing. For a moment, the tip of his pen remains motionless on the last sweeping curve of an ampersand. I watch as a pool of black bleeds into his flawless calligraphy, the spotless cream of the paper. He lifts the pen, lays it down.
It's too late.
The damage is done.
His only visible reaction as my words sink in is a slight tightening at the corners of his eyes.
"Where will you go?"
I shrug, marveling at the humanness of that question. It doesn't matter where I go, and he knows it.
"Away." A thought strikes me. "...Maybe home, back to Renee and Charlie."
He nods slowly. I turn to leave; rest my hand on the doorframe; look back at my husband. For a brief second our eyes lock.
Gold into gold and ice in between.
An echo of a memory brushes my mind and so, of course, touches his. Once, he left me. So very long ago, his lips form. So human, my Edward. Still pretending that he thinks in terms of time and distance. I know that memories exist for him as they do for me—each in exactly the same reach from the present, each clustering on the same mental point. I never really grasped how it is that time is a dimension until I stepped off its axis and into eternity. Only the human memories have any sense of movement—everything else is simply space, space everywhere, the endlessly bloated, endlessly bleeding widow of a continuum that no longer exists for me.
I think it hurt when he left me. I think I remember pain.
Will I hurt Edward, my broken child-husband who never stopped longing after humanity?
His lips curl. "Don't worry about me, Bella."
I regard him thoughtfully. "I won't," I reply, and it's perfectly true.
Edward looks back to the polished mahogany of the desk. The scratching of his pen fills the room once more. I leave.
Rosalie stops me on the way out the door, the gruesome loveliness of her face marred by worry.
"If you have any feeling left for him, I beg you to stay away from Alice," she pleads.
I touch her shoulder briefly, reassuring. "There is no love lost between the Volturi and I. And I don't believe Alice will come after me—we were friends once, you know."
The lines smooth from Rosalie's face. "Thank you, Isabella."
I will miss her. I could not have known how close we would become when I was still a human child. I thought she hated me, or was jealous, or something. I could not have known she was the wisest of them all, the most pure. It was she who helped me the most when I changed. If I ever see a Cullen again, I ponder, I hope it is Rosalie.
It's raining outside.
Of all that is different, I love the rain.
When I was human, I remember marveling at Edward's inhuman speed--I thought of Peter Parker or Bruce Wayne, or a fallen angel. Now I understand that there is no such thing as speed, like there is no truth, no beauty, no darkness and no light, no angels but the ones we imagine and no devils but ourselves. Only flawed perspectives and infinite points of relativity. I move no faster than before, but the world has slowed down.
Now I can see the rain.
It's not the teardrop shape everyone imagines. They're flattened orbs, raindrops, gloriously imperfect, the living flesh of ice. Before, the rain was a flat gray curtain. Now the rain fills the sky with diamonds, each shot through with rainbows and glittering with pale light. Since the nuclear holocaust, there's a reddish tint to the underbelly of every drop. It pleases me. Red is a fine color.
Alice reaches for me just once. She sends one of her best, a hard Norwegian with white-blonde hair cropped very close and a voice like dry leaves. I laugh inwardly when his hand closes around my throat. A male. Thank you, Alice. A token gesture, then. Something to assuage Aro and Caius when they hear I have left the Cullen fortress.
"It is time, Isabella Swan," the Norse thug intones. I twist in his grasp and face him fully, one pale hand gliding up to touch his face. The wedding ring glints in the sunlight.
Ice on ice, with gold between.
"What's your name?" The words slip wispily from my lips, threads of silk in the air. He blinks. For a moment, the amber of his eyes cracks with fault lines of blue.
I've always loved blue eyes.
"Canute," he answers.
I smile warmly, sucking the blue into my mind.
"Canute...ah, Canute. By all means, take me to your mistress. But first..."
My hand slides down to cup the curve between cheekbone and chin; the other hand settles gently on the opposite side of his face.
"Canute," I whisper. The false longing sings. "My love."
His lips sway down to mine of their own accord.
Ice drinking ice and golden blood
He is weak and I stay with him only a few seconds. It is more than enough. After, I examine his face, and am satisfied with the sagging human cracks in his eyes and the flaccidity of his limbs. His face is grotesquely relaxed with a chemical haze of lust and of hopeless, mortal emotion. I leave him, standing there. Alice's people will be here to care for him soon. She can't see me anymore--since I turned and came into my own, none of their tricks work on me.
Alice, however, was there with Jacob and Edward and Michael, Tyler and Eric and all the others. I think she knew even then what my terrible gift would be. Somehow she liked me anyway.
That's why she sends Canute to fetch me to Italy and serve them in shadow forever.
Thank you, Alice.
I settle for a while in the wasteland of Mexico. This is where Jasper began. After Rosalie, he is the Cullen closest to me. We both left life, having just arrived, to walk up and down the earth forever. Like Lucifer.
Really, though, the reason is a practical one. Mexico has many camps of refugees banded together against the radiation and airborne pathogens still floating around. The dilapidated states of the shelters make most of them mass graves.
I eat well in Mexico on the dying remnants of humanity.
Eventually, I tire of a vast red horizon and boiling clouds over crumbling, long-deserted cities. I am not sure when the solitude begins to get to me. It's a gradual thing. I begin to think about my human family, my mother, Charlie. Their faces are preserved in crystal memory, easily recalled. I don't understand this. Most of that other life is nothing but a warm, pulsing blur.
Golden memories in chips of ice
I think I will go see them. They won't have moved. They're together, now, Charlie and Renee. I find myself curiously eager to go to them.
It will be a difficult journey. To my all-too human relief, my parents made it into the only safe human refuge left. In a strange inversion of life, the way there is much longer and harder for a supernatural creature to make.
I have time. I have all the time in this fucked-over world, and all the time after, all the way down.
It takes a great deal of effort to dig up my parents in the decayed infrastructure of American bureaucracy. It is surprisingly pleasant when I do. Nothing about them tempts me. Instead, I feel a whisper of alien warmth surround me as I watch them sleep. They brought me into the world. Likely, they would have fought to keep me in it had they known the truth behind my early marriage. Good people, strong people. Even now, I sense love in their silent acceptance of me and all that I am.
I am glad I found them. I want to be with them always. I make an impassioned case to the right authorities, and there's a brief tussle, but I win. There are many hoops. I jump through them all. In the end, I arrive at the correct vestibule to the refuge. It's underground. I wait, as Edward would say, a very long time.
Edward's voice sounds in my mind.
Smooth and golden and wide and cold--a sheet of frozen ocean with twilight reflected
Because it's dangerous, this thing I am doing. The most dangerous of anything I've done since killing myself. Still, I am surprised to hear his illusory voice. I must have more vestiges of the human Isabella within than I thought.
Is this really what you want, Bella?
Yes, Edward, I answer wearily. His voice stills, seems to consider.
I am sorry, the voice of Edward that is also me whispers, after a time. So very, very sorry.
More surprises. I pause, regrouping. So many old thoughts. So many pathways in a mind hardened by rigor mortis, corridors no longer traveled.
You are not to blame, I whisper back at last. I whisper to both of us. And it's perfectly true.
I should have never spoken to you.
I should have never loved you.
How long, Bella? The gold in his voice burns a little brighter, melts some of the ice. How long after you died did you stop loving me?
When I lost the last of my humanity, my love. Didn't you know? Do you still not know, Edward? When Carlilse and Esme passed, when Jasper followed, did you see only despair and no wisdom?
He growled low when I said their names, but I ignored him.
Passion, husband mine, is the gift of death to the living. You loved me because I touch the human in those around me. I loved you because you were perfect and I was young. You were the only one I ever loved--I gave you too much life, and left nothing for me.
The growl choked; became something like a sob.
Oh, Edward, I never stopped liking you. But love...passionate human love belongs to life. Only Rosalie understood from the beginning. How young your family was. It's the only way they could have missed her gift; sight, you know. Not outward, like Alice, but inward, to the different truths from all the different risers in the cosmos. You must have known when the others discovered what she always knew. You must have known that's why Alice went her way and the others their own. Listen carefully, love. No one will ever tell you again. You cannot be two things at one time. You cannot be truly dead and still love like the living.
Isabella Swan, I love you, and I always will. There are jagged, splintered edges to his velvet now. I have jarred him. He is defiant, and afraid.
I know, I reply. And that is the tragedy. Edward Cullen is a study in paradoxes, a Victorian gentleman in a nuclear winter; a very old, very young boy; minion of night and worshiper of day; my murderer and my pure, tender lover. He will wander the earth long after life's end.
And when the earth is nothing but a cold orb, hideously perfect, the frozen flesh of ice; and when the golden sun is gone forever; and he will never rest, and never live, and never die.
His voice fades away. I reach up to close the door to my waiting place. A last gleam of vermilion light hits my face, and I am blinded.
Gold in ice, and ice in gold, and the gold and the ice were one
There is a soft click. The coffin lid closes over my head. Now only to wait. In a century or two, it will be over.
I will be home.