Everything In Your Power
I wandered through the dark hallways, trying my hardest to block the sounds that echoed ceaselessly through the hospital. The rough coughs that ripped from the throats of the dying surrounded me everywhere I went. It was my personal hell.
I was already growing impatient with the current situation I was in. Having only just arrived at the hospital at sunset to relieve the human doctors who had been slaving all day, my talent was being squandered. I didn't need to go live it out in the dark until it seemed that I had gone home and slept. I wanted to stay on, help those who died when I was feigning sleep.
The sick were so far gone, however, that I doubted it would matter if I stayed for the entirety of the day. Through my day, I would watch human after human die of the disease that ravaged their bodies. I had to listen to them struggle to fill their lungs with precious air, airways constricted with blood.
It was hardly what one would call fair, having to keep up this charade while hundreds died. It was doing nothing for my morale.
Not to mention, despite everything I'd learned in decades past, I had gone against everything and grown attached. I had grown fond of two humans - humans, who's lifespan was short enough without the sickness chopping it in half.
I was cursing myself mentally as I reached the door to their room, and I halted to stare at the black number on the white slab of wood. The cold seventeen only reminded me of my previous argument. The sick humans in this room were a mother and son, ages thirty-six and seventeen respectively. The boy hadn't even begun to experience life, and the mother was hardly old in human years. Yet, curse it all, their lives were quickly being snuffed out like a candle flame. It made me, the damned being that I was, wish I could take their place and suffer for them. I wouldn't, couldn't, damn them to this life, however. Death would surely be more enjoyable than an eternally miserable existence. I had to tell myself that, to make the passing of the humans that came to me seem less torturous. It never fully took away the empty feeling that was enveloping me even as I stood there, staring at the door.
I sighed quietly, almost silently, dropping my gaze to the floor and creasing my brow. Why was this getting more difficult? I was growing lonely, aching for companionship. I yearned for one other, just one other, who could know me for what I truly was. As of yet, however, I had not yet found reason enough to damn anyone, nor had I worked up enough nerve.
As I stood outside the door, tossing different arguments around in my mind, I heard a coarse voice from within the room. I tilted my head infinitesimally toward the source as I listened to the feeble voice that belonged to the mother drift through the wood.
"Edward . . . Edward, dear, you are going to be okay. It is not your time." She stopped as a harsh coughing fit stole her breath away. I closed my eyes. Her son, Edward, was worse than she was. He was unconscious, and had been most of his stay in the hospital. I was surprised he had held on this long.
"Dear," she continued with a newfound edge to her voice, "you are going to live. You are going to live good and long. I may go on to Heaven, but you will not be following me for some time. You cannot die like this."
She was fading fast, I could hear it in her voice, desperate as she was to remain strong. That was the reason I had grown so attached to them. Despite all that was happening to her and her family, Elizabeth had fought with a strength unknown to humans. She hadn't been fighting for herself, however. All her energy went to her young son, every ounce of strength and determination went into nursing him from her sickbed. I admired her greatly as I had never admired a human before, problematic as that may be.
"Your father is gone, though they don't say it outright I know it to be so. They think us ill are weak and feeble to the point where we don't notice if they ignore our questions about the state of loved ones." She coughed again, and when she continued, her voice was quieter, like a wisp of wind. "He'll be there, waiting for me. I know I'm dying, Edward. I'm not going to make it through this. You are going to live, however, and your father and I will be waiting for you when it finally is your time to join us."
I had never felt so lost and helpless. Here was a mother, pouring her heart out to her unconscious and dying son, who wouldn't survive the night. It was her resolve that touched me so deeply. She was so sure that her son would live long after she was dead and gone. Her words affected me greatly, and I was positive that this night would be etched in my memory for the rest of eternity.
"Edward, my son, I love you. You are my entire life, my pride and joy. I will always love you, remember that."
She fell silent, as if she had said all that was necessary. I held out my arm, placing my hand on the doorknob. I gripped it a little too firmly, and the brass molded slightly in the shape of my hand. I hardly noticed, despite years of perfecting my human mask. My mind was elsewhere, already in the room with the Masens.
I turned the now-dented knob and heard the almost inaudible click of the tumblers within the lock. As I pulled the door open slowly, I prepared my mind for what I was about to face. I did not know how much longer the young boy had, though I knew it was not long. His mother would soon follow.
They were both in the beds with the cold metal bedframes and crisp white sheets. Edward had still not regained consciousness, his eyes closed. He was a handsome boy; he had a face that I would want for my son. I shook my head, the movement so quick and controlled no human would have seen. My thoughts did not belong to me tonight.
I looked away from Edward to find Elizabeth fully alert, sitting upright under her sheets. She was eyeing me strangely, as if in defiance. I held her gaze, and she narrowed her green eyes. Every time I had come into their room, she had been awake and watching me. Every movement I made, she caught with the emeralds that were her eyes. She was strong, even in her weakened state.
I bent to get a closer look at her son, feeling her gaze on the back of my neck. I checked Edward's pulse, counting each slow heartbeat. His heart was straining; I could hear it struggle to pump the lifeblood through his veins.
"You are different than the other doctors."
Her voice surprised me. Though she watched me ceaselessly with narrowed eyes every time I entered the room, she had never once spoken to me. I only ever heard her speak to Edward, and she didn't do that when I was present.
I turned around at human speed, knowing her steady gaze would catch the abnormal movement. When I looked at her, I found that she was not looking at me, but at Edward. The look in her eyes tore at my dead heart. There was resolve set deep in those green eyes, determination mixed with sadness and acceptance. She had accepted her fate, but would not accept her son's.
"You act differently. You listen, you feel. . . ." She looked back up at me, her eyes hard, daring me to disagree with her. "You can save my son."
My eyes widened slightly. It was eerie, how much she had observed. How much those underestimated the dying! Where they seemed far-gone, distantly lost in a sea of pain and death, they were listening, aware of everything around them. She had noticed my difference, my separation, however infinitesimal, from the human doctors.
She was feverish. I could feel, even from this distance, the heat that radiated from her frail body. Her brow was beaded with sweat, and her hair was plastered to her forehead. She continued to glare, even as I stood immobile between the two beds.
"Save him!" Her voice was hoarse, her throat scratched raw from her frequent coughing fits. I walked closer to her bed, leaning in slightly.
"I'll do everything in my power," I responded, not breaking eye contact. I took her warm hand in mine. Her fever was so high, she most likely didn't register the drastic difference in skin temperatures.
"You must," she insisted, grabbing at my hand forcefully. I marveled at her strength, doubting my earlier assumption that this would be her last day. Her face was inches from mine now, her breath weak and tinged with the faint smell of disease. Her eyes, however, were hard, determined. "You must do everything in your power. What others cannot do, that is what you must do for my Edward."
I felt a twinge of fear. As I looked into her piercing eyes, I got the assumption that she knew what I was, that she had guessed - through observation - my secret.
Her tight grip slackened suddenly, and her eye contact was broken when her lids slid closed, blocking the irises from view like a curtain ending a play. I put my fingers to her wrist, feeling for her pulse and finding it. Her breathing was shallow and faint, her chest barely rising. She was unconscious.
I backed up a few steps, not looking away from her. I glanced at Edward, still lying as he had since arriving at the hospital. I could tell, just by looking at him, that he was close to death.
I could save Edward. There was a way for me to fulfill his mother's demand. Hadn't I just been contemplating doing just that earlier? I had needed proper justification, and here it was. He would die otherwise.
I shut my eyes, rubbing my temple with my hand. Even if he was dying, I couldn't bring myself to accept the finality of it. He would be cursed to live forever as a blood-sucking monster. He would have no say in the matter, no choice.
An hour passed and I still stood there, battling with myself mentally. I had not opened my eyes in the entire space of time, but when I heard Elizabeth's breathing stop, they shot open. Her chest was not rising, and, as I listened, her heart gave a weak shudder before stopping entirely. She was gone, and her last words had been for me.
I made up my mind, staring at her still form. I would honour her final wish; her son would live through this epidemic.
I picked up her body swiftly, taking care to keep her head from hanging. I shot Edward one last glance before opening the door and setting her on another bed in the hall. I wheeled her to the morgue, shutting the many bodies out of my mind. The death toll was staggering, even when I had been in here countless times. It seemed that this epidemic would take out half the human race before it ceased.
Before I left her alone in the middle of the room full of death, I leaned in close to her pale face, which was still tormented.
"Your Edward is going to live. He will not be following you for a long, long time."
With that, I left her. I took care to keep my speed under control, though I wasn't quite sure how much time was left.
He was still breathing, however faintly, as I entered the room and picked him up. I was acting on impulse, something I'd never done before. After years of indecision, I had acted on a whim. This was what came of growing close to fragile humans.
I took Edward out into the hallway, surveying my surroundings. I thanked whatever god there was that it was dark out, and that the hospital staff was short-handed during this time. I set him down carefully and took him the same way his mother had just went. The rise and fall of his chest was so faint that no doctor I passed noticed, nor did any stop to question. No one else could hear his heart beating as I could, measuring each beat and marking it like a tick of the clock.
The morgue was empty, though only of living. I gathered Edward up in my arms again and ran swiftly out the back door, dropping all pretense and going faster than humanly possible. It was too dark for anyone to notice me as I scaled the building and ran the rooftops toward the place I called home.
As I entered the dim house, I lay him down upon the bed I didn't need, but used in my charade. He was fading quickly, and I still didn't know how to go about changing him. I didn't have time to think, however, so I just leaned in and bit him, quickly recreating the wounds I'd received more than two-hundred years ago.
It was difficult to pull away from the blood once I'd tasted it. However, decades of self-control and morality allowed me to back off from Edward's now bleeding body.
I stood, uncertain, for five minutes before his eyes opened. They were the same green as his mother's, I noticed off-handedly. His eyes were oddly detached, as if he were elsewhere. He didn't seem to register that his surroundings were different.
He gasped suddenly, back arching in pain. He clamped his teeth shut audibly, hissing through them. I couldn't look away; this was my punishment for damning him. I would endure the pain with him, until the end.