Hello, once again. It's been a very long time since I have written, as I am sure many of you are aware. I'm truly sorry-- life just has a tendency of interfering.
For those of you who are reading "Cygnus," I will update as soon as I can. Becuase its been a while, I'm planning on doing a few character studies before I continue on with "Cygnus" so I can more or less get reaclimated with my writing style. I'm so thankful to all of you who waited for me, and I want to assure you that your patience will be rewarded. I just want to bring my writing back up to scratch before writing another chapter for "Cygnus" so I don't mangle the story. I'm hoping to begin writing again for "Cygnus" within a week or so. Thank you so much for your patience, and again, I'm truly sorry for the long, long wait.
For now, enjoy this one-shot: It's a brief episode of Carlisle's life (or death) pre-pre-Twilight.
Disclaimer: I do not own the Twilight series or any of its respective characters or plotlines. No copyright violation is intended.
No Peace for the Wicked
It was forever ago. And it was yesterday.
The small church was dark and unkempt. Perched between two stately, graceful houses, the rough sanctuary seemed as if had been shoved away from the narrow lane by its ashamed neighbors. Wood was warping from the force of countless rainstorms, and doors that had once seemed so sturdy and impenetrable hung haphazardly from rusted hinges. White paint that had once been applied regularly was fading to a melancholy gray, showing the swift passage of time. Weeds struggled stubbornly between cracks in the foundation, and a small cobblestone path that had once led to the building had been lost under layers of growth.
It was just a church, a small place of worship long since abandoned. It was rather curious that the moldering structure hadn't yet been pulled down to clear room for another large, square house built for large, square owners. There it remained, old and derelict, but still defiantly standing.
It was just another church, out of the hundreds London undoubtedly had. But to me, at least for tonight, it was everything.
The last, muted rays of the sun bathed the dirty lane and the houses that lined it in a weak light. Dusk stole across the tired avenue softly, the transition from a dreary, cold day seamless into a dark, colder night. Candles in the houses were lit, casting faint light into the street. But as the moon climbed across the horizon, the lanterns slowly flickered and died.
I waited for a few more moments, sensitive ears picking up even the faintest of sounds. Slowly, I emerged from the shadows of the alleyway where I had hidden, glancing quickly up and down the narrow street. There was only the sound of my shoes moving lightly over the cracked cobblestones and my regular, if unnecessary, breathing.
The night was cold, hinting of the hard winter yet to come. But I didn't feel the chill. The thick, coarsely woven cloak shrouding me was merely for show, should I be spotted by a curious onlooker. It was probably an unnecessary precaution; I had no intentions of being seen.
I slowly neared the dilapidated chapel, hands clenched convulsively at my sides. It was all so familiar, like a faded painting I had seen countless times, a memory I knew but had somehow partially forgotten. A life I had known but had been lost. And yet it was different. The houses on either side of the familiar chapel were new; the small sapling planted on the lawn so long ago now towered over the weathered steeple.
Taking deep, calming breaths, I silently chided myself. I couldn't get lost in memories at the expense of forgetting my current surroundings. Retracing steps I had taken so long ago, I entered the small lawn in front of the worn sanctuary. I could walk the path that was now lost from sight without thought. But there was a certain detachment, as if my deep and yet somehow vague familiarity with this place was someone else's memory, not my own.
Carefully, I neared the chapel doors. They were hewn of oak, smoothed by a local carpenter whose name I did not know. Carved into those doors by that same carpenter was a saying I knew well. Gently, I brushed a pale hand across the warped wood, mindful of my uncanny strength. Encrusted dirt and clinging weeds fell away at my touch, revealing the engraved verse.
"No peace for the wicked" Isaiah 48:22
I exhaled, lightly brushing my fingers along the letters, murmuring the verse. If I forced myself, I could almost picture learning the statement on my father's knee. It wouldn't surprise me if this were true, certainly. My father was not the type of man to tell his children fairy tales. Nevertheless, it held a certain irony for me. I hadn't truly been at peace since the beginning of this new life. At times, I wondered if this made my very existence wicked, if it doomed me to the fires of hell my father had so eloquently preached about. I even pondered whether the statement was made in particular reference to vampires. Whatever the answer might be, the verse itself was ingrained into my memory as it was on to the door, and it would always hold a certain symbolism, if also irony, for me.
Straightening, I surveyed the church. So different than it once was, almost alien. And yet, it wasn't. Cautiously, I pushed forward the leaning door. It screeched in protest, as if it had not been opened in decades. Perhaps it hadn't.
I squinted into the darkness within the sanctuary—an unnecessary, if habitual action—my eyesight was perfect. Slowly I entered, wincing slightly as floorboards creaked eerily. If not for the darkness and the dust, the little church's interior was identical to what it once had been.
Tall, arched windows ran along the east and west sides, covered in tar paper because of the expense of glass. Roughly hewn pews stood in orderly rows, their rigid wood framework looking every bit as austere and uncomfortable as it had when I was a boy. But then, my father had never meant for this House of God to be comfortable. A row ran down the middle of the church, leading up to a large, cedar pulpit. On either side stood brackets with leaning candlesticks, wax leaking down the sides a testament that they had once been used.
I was here, finally here. For so many years, I had regarded this building with anxiety bordering on downright fear. Not only an uncomfortable memory from my mostly forgotten childhood, the church represented God in a way that other churches never had, and never would, for me.
Behind the pulpit, the same one from which my father had often led fiery sermons of brimstone and smoke, hung a carved wooden cross. Slowly, I reached towards it, a bitter smile tugging at my lips. When I had been a small child, my father had forbidden me to touch the crucifix; he had a certain attachment to it. I had never dared to disobey him. Now, a grown man, more than four decades later, I finally dared to ignore my father. Had I done so sooner, I never would have been what I am.
The wood was sanded to a silky smooth finish, edges finely wrought with loving care. I felt a sudden compulsion to take it and commit a heinous act of sacrilege by ripping it to shreds. I would scream at my father, at God, at myself… I could, without even exerting myself. But even before I brusquely withdrew my extended hand, I knew I wouldn't, that I couldn't.
For a long time, I had felt as if I had turned my back on God, or God had turned his back on me. I was a monster, unnatural, immortal—not what God had intended for man to be. I almost felt that if I were to have the audacity to walk into a chapel in my state, God would summon a bolt of lightening to strike me on the spot. Not that it would do that much good. But I felt drawn to this spot. It was my beginning, and in a way, my end. So I had faced my fears, if not my unspoken concerns for the sake of my soul.
I didn't know I was seeking to find. Peace? Closure? And yet as I walked slowly, musingly through the familiar rows of pews, I found neither. Familiar, this site might be, but nothing else. I observed calmly, with a feeling of detachment, that I had allowed a sense of anticipation to rise within myself since I had made the decision to make a pilgrimage here. But this end was nothing less than disappointing, anticlimactic. If I admitted it to myself, I knew I was being absurd. Why would coming to an old building allow me to find peace in my existence, allow me to feel that I had not lost God's love? It wouldn't, it seemed.
Why should it?
But this place…. If my father hadn't been the way he was, if he had been less concerned about the fires of hell and finding the witches and vampires that belonged there than the love and mercy of God, he would never had led witch hunts. I never would have continued his "noble" work, never would have found the coven of real vampires taking shelter in the sewers of London. I never would have been bitten, and I never would have had to ask myself if I still had God's forgiveness even if my heart did not beat, even if I could find no acceptance, no peace.
I sighed, a mournful sound that echoed hauntingly around the small sanctuary. Pulling off my cloak, I sat on one of the front pews, burying my face in my hands. Through my fingers, I could glimpse to carved wooden cross. Idly, for wont of anything else to do, I wonder what had happened to its maker.
I don't know how long I sat there, in the chapel with its familiar furniture, surrounded by dust and swathed in darkness. Not long enough to find anything of meaning.
At last, when I could glimpse the faintly glowing moon from the west windows, I forced myself to move. I had gotten up, was taking one, final look at the dust coated chapel, when the old oaken door screeched open. Whirling at an impossible speed, I searched quickly for the intruder.
And old man shuffled in, hair grayed, stooped with age. He was far older than most people in this era lived to, wrinkled and wizened. The floor creaked as he walked across it, head bent. Fighting my initial instinct to quickly move from sight, I frowned slightly. There was something about the way the old man moved that tugged gently upon my memory.
Ignoring me, the man made his way up the pews, to the pulpit. He muttered wildly under his breath, eyes darting erratically. With shaking hands, he withdrew a flint and tinder from his ragged clothes, attempting to light the candles. The sound of the striker hitting the flint echoed noisily in the chapel. Sparks flew through the air as the old man attempted to light the candles again, and again. He seemed unaware, yet undaunted.
Slowly, I drew nearer, confirming my original impression that the man was not right in his head. His mutterings became wilder and more guttural as his fruitless attempts continued. I cleared my throat loudly. No reply. Was he perhaps partially blind and deaf? I opened my mouth to speak, not yet certain as to why I felt the urge to talk to this strange old man to begin with.
"Sir? Excuse me?" I spoke loudly, slowly striding towards the pulpit.
The man jerked his head up as if controlled by marionetter, clouded blue eyes gazing directly at me. "A visitor? A worshipper in the House of God? Has he come to hear the sermon, has he come to see the pastor? But he will not, the pastor is not well, not well at all, poor fellow. He hasn't preached in ages… Not for… ages…" The man's voice was raspy, as if from lack of use. His speech dwindled off into nothing, hands still convulsively trying to make the fire.
"Who are you?" The question cam from my mouth before I had realized it, my voice repeated dozens of times by the echoes.
"No peace for the wicked, no peace… Why won't the candles light? So dark, the candles should be lit. Evening mass, the people cannot pray in the dark… Where did the pastor go? Sick again, unfortunate man. Losing his mind, we believe. Losing his son, his son is gone."
An inkling of comprehension seeped into my mind as I stared in askance at the madman. "Whose son, who's the pastor?" I asked, voice sharp.
The man titled his head, blinking rapidly. He abruptly straightened, seeming to expand. He stood rigid, allowing the flint to fall from his hands. For a moment, his eyes seemed to blaze with a raging fire. When he spoke, it wasn't the querulous, rasping ramblings of an old man. The voice was deep, powerful, strong, and somehow harsh. "I am the pastor."
The breath left my lungs. That voice, so familiar. Somehow it evoked recognition and love, anger and terror. I hadn't heard the voice for decades. It belonged to my father.
I had wondered what had happened to him, mused over his fate. What had occurred after my disappearance and assumed death? Had he continued on, stoically as ever, telling the congregation of the wrath of God?
And now, the answers were right in front of me.
"You're James Cullen?"
The man paused at my question. As abruptly as the strange fire had filled him, it seemed to leave. Once again, I looked upon a shrunken, withered old madman. "James Cullen, James Cullen…" His voice was absentminded as he groped in the dark for the dropped flint. "Oh, you mean the pastor? I am afraid," he leaned closer, his voice dropping, "that there are rumors. He had never been too sick to preach, not even the Sunday after his poor little wife died. But now he has missed three sermons. The visitors, the well-wishers, they say that the man is not at all well. Not that he is sick in the body. Oh no, they say he is sick in the mind, lad. Poor bloke. Where did his son go?"
The man started wheezing, gasping convulsively. He blinked rapidly, his heart rate accelerated. "His son was a nice lad, you know. Obedient. Was going to be the next preacher, did you not know? But he disappeared…." His voice dwindled off into nothing. For a few moments, there was absolute silence in the chapel.
This man was my father. I couldn't seem to wrap my head around it. This stooped, disturbed old man. What had happened to the tall, imposing figure with brimstone in his very voice and fire in his very eyes? What had happened to the man who he had been?
"No peace for the wicked. No peace for the wicked. The candles will not light, why won't they light? Too dark, need the candles. But the candles do not want to light for the wicked. No peace for the wicked. No peace…" Over and over again he repeated the verse on the front doors, steadily gaining in volume.
"All's well, old man," I had an insane urge to comfort him. My feelings were tangled, partially happiness, but partially anger, and a liberal dose of reflexive fear.
He moaned. Loud, and shrill, it swept through the church. His gnarled hands pulled at iron gray hair, grappling with himself in the darkness. "Where did he go? It went all wrong. First his mother, but then him. God is cruel, so cruel…. But there's no peace for the wicked. I haven't slept in so long, so long, long... I was proud of him. But I never said so. Pride is a sin. So many sins, they stain my hands. I'm being punished, my boy was taken away because of my iniquity. No peace for the wicked…"
I moved forward too quickly, I knew that. Leaning forward, I didn't even have to think about resisting the potent scent of his blood. I was close to him, less than two feet away. "His son, was his son's name Carlisle?" I whispered urgently, searching the man's darting eyes for answers.
"Carlisle… Carlisle? Where did he go, my son? Tell me where!"
"His heart no longer beats. But he is learning to live again."
"He was always such a good boy," the man rasped. "But it's my fault he's gone, my wickedness. Now I have no peace, because there is none for the wicked, so the holy book says. And the candles, the candles won't light, why won't they light?" Once again his eyes wandered off into something beyond, clouded blue irises somehow seeming like they could see through my soul. They always had before.
"Your son," I prompted gently, desperate to hear more.
"Do you know him, do you know where he is?"
I paused for a second, wondering about the advisability of my actions. But I couldn't stop, couldn't resist learning something about the life that had been torn from me. "I do."
"Tell him," he gasped, eyes wild, shaking convulsively. The sinking moon shone faintly through the tarpaper windows, illuminating his face. "Tell him…"
"Tell him what?"
"No rest for the wicked. The candles… I was always wrong. Always so terribly, terribly wrong. God is merciful, God loves. God always loved, always will love…The candles. The candles won't light. Is it because I'm wicked? I know I'm wicked. No peace…"
"What did you want me to tell your son?" I spoke quickly, overriding the man's delusional ramblings.
I waited, hands clenched at my side. My heart would be pounding, had it been able to. The chapel was slowly lightening with the first kiss of dawn.
I leaned closer, silently begging the man who was my father to continue.
"Tell him, tell him that," the madman paused, his eyes suddenly clearing, spine suddenly straightening. With shock, I registered that tears seeped from his lined eyes, falling gently down his pale, withered cheeks. For a moment, he seemed like the formidable man I had known from my human life, except for the tears. I had never seen my father cry.
"Tell him… that I'm sorry. So sorry." My father's voice was his own, powerful. But I had never heard it be so gentle, so tender.
I nodded silently, not trusting myself to speak. "Wait," father intoned, quickly, desperately, "You must also tell him… that I love him."
He sunk to the floor, cradling his head in his hands, weeping like a child. The dawn was coming in dazzling splendor, promising a new day. Hopefully, it would be a better day.
"I'll tell him," I whispered softly. I turned to leave, but paused for a moment. Moving back, I glanced at the floor. My father lay in a ball of rags, a ruin of what he had once been. It had taken the loss of a wife, a child, and his sanity to let him see not just the wrath of God, but also the mercy. Now he slept, tears drying on his cheeks, heartbeat slow and regular. He would not live much longer. He was my last link to my human life. An anchor that I had once both loved and hated, adored and feared. One that I had blamed. One I would never blame again.
Before leaving, I quickly removed the cross from behind the pulpit, handling it with infinite care. "I'll tell him," I repeated, throat feeling oddly tight.
Slowly, I withdrew a handful of heavy coins from my trouser pocket, dropping it in the old communion bowl. I gently laid my cloak across the prone form of my father, carefully running my cold hands across his wrinkled face. Dawn, and light, were coming. It was long past time to leave.
I had found peace, at last, in this existence. If the proud, cold man that had once so dispassionately preached about the fires of hell and the wicked could see God's love and forgiveness through his madness, I could see it through my death.
I glanced back, one last time at my father. He would die, but he wouldn't die poor. And once he had, I would make sure he wasn't buried in a shallow, quickly dug grave. It had taken his entire life to see what I had known when I was a human, but it had taken him for me to remember what I had forgotten when I had lost my life.
I examined the engraving on the door once more. No peace for the wicked. I smiled for the first time in what seemed like years. Maybe it had been years. I had tried to make my father understand that God loved mankind indiscriminately, through their choices, not through their bloodlines, when I had lived. Now, he reminded me of it after I had died.
No peace for the wicked. It wasn't that the wicked couldn't have peace. It was that through their actions, they chose not to.
I walked briskly into the cool morning air, a slight smile still lingering around my lips. Behind me stood an old, worn chapel, abandoned by an exasperated and sympathetic congregation. Behind me was a dying, mad old man-- my father-- part of the cause for my death, but the reason for my new deliverance. Behind me was my beginning, my end, and my new beginning, Behind was my doubt, and my torment. I walked away.
And I did not look back.
Again, thank you for your patience. "Cygnus" should have a new chapter within a week or a week and a half.