My Lost Youth
Edward A. Masen
From childhood's hour I have not been
As others were; I have not seen
As others saw; I could not bring
My passions from a common spring.
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow; I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone;
And all I loved, I loved alone.
Then- in my childhood, in the dawn
Of a most stormy life- was drawn
From every depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still:
From the sun that round me rolled
In its autumn tint of gold,
From the lightning in the sky
As it passed me flying by,
From the thunder and the storm,
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view.
- Alone by Edgar Allen Poe
Isle Esme, August, 1932
The sea floor rose beneath me; living towers of intricate reef fell away from view, and as I glided along, I let one hand drag through rippled sand shimmering in sunlight. It looked like our long swim, which had started with a plunge into the waters off Rio, might be coming to an end.
All I knew about our watery expedition was that Carlisle wanted to show me something he was giving to Esme for their anniversary. Whatever it was, he was successfully shrouding specific thoughts about it; I only heard and saw things that dealt with our swim, and occasionally some underwater memory from his past. Of course, I wasn't trying to break through and read the subtext of his thoughts. All he had to do was create the slightest disguise to his mind, and I ceased scrutinizing as best I could. Of all the creatures who knew about my little talent, Carlisle attempted to hide his thoughts the least, and the past fourteen years had taught me that when he did hide them, it was for a good reason. Today's reason, obviously, was to preserve the element of surprise, and I had no problem going along with that. I hadn't had any pleasant surprises in a long time.
The streaming wake behind his torpedo form disappeared as his feet touched the sand and he took off onto land, kicking up a billowing cloud of white in the water. I burst through it right behind him.
Emerging into the languid, sweet tropical air, the scent of a new place, was exhilaration itself- such a relief from being underwater. The only thing that bothered me about swimming was being unable to smell anything. It didn't hurt to take water into my lungs, but it's disgusting, to say nothing of the foul process of choking it out later. I'd tried it once, and that was enough for me.
The sand was silk under our feet as we raced along an unfamiliar island shore. He was apparently sure we were alone there, unconcerned about our bodies openly refracting the sunlight, and I didn't smell any humans. Best of all, this place was blessedly free of their muddled thoughts.
Carlisle flashed a grin over his shoulder and cut to the left, heading for a patch of jungle in the center of the island. I caught up and overtook him a half second later, slicing through the vegetation, chuckling as five rainbow-feathered birds flew away in fright after I'd already dashed under their roosts. The laughter gave me pause... how long had it been since I'd laughed out of delight? Before my memory could unspool far enough back to find out, I deliberately abandoned the entire line of thought. I didn't want to revisit everything that had happened since the last time I'd laughed like that. It was enough to just enjoy it for now, to enjoy the scents and carefree motion as we ran.
I was always faster than Carlisle, something I never grew out of from my newborn days. Because of that, everyone always assumed I was stronger than he was as well. Only the two of us knew better. He could thrash me anytime he felt like it.
Reminding myself that he was the one showing the way to this mystery gift, I let him take the lead again just in time for the jungle's end, revealing a deep cove on the other side of the island. The place was tiny. We'd crossed the entire thing in a few seconds.
Carlisle abruptly slowed to a human walk, approaching the waves rolling onto the beach. He turned to me and took a few giddy steps back, holding out his arms in presentation.
"Well? Think she'll like it?"
"A vacation here?" I shrugged. "Sure."
"No. The island itself."
"An island," I said flatly. "You're giving her an island?"
"Welcome to Isle Esme. I signed the papers last month."
"She'd better like it." I chuckled.
Their tenth anniversary was just a few weeks away, and she'd already told me what she had in mind for the event, too. It was the first time I'd heard of taking away a possession as a gesture of gift-giving, and at first I thought she'd lost her mind. But after considering it a little further, I realized she was really onto something. It would be interesting to see his reaction.
Carlisle wandered to the edge of the surf and paused there with the stillness unique to our kind. His hair and swim trunks, like mine, were already dry from the run, ruffled by the wind... the only things that prevented him from looking like a frozen sculpture. His thoughts were a soft jumble of longings and anticipation.
"I want to surprise her, to bring her here that night," he murmured as I joined him.
His smile took on a dreamy aspect; he was imagining her reaction, what their anniversary night would bring. I had to tune out of his thoughts in a hurry, to focus on listening to the corporeal sea in the absence of other minds. Carlisle really did try to be discreet around me, but it got away from him every once in a while.
A few moments later he glanced at me apologetically.
"Sorry about that."
I just smirked and resumed enjoying the place, opening my mind back up to him.
"She'll love it. It really is beautiful here, Carlisle."
Peaceful, he thought, and turned his admiration to the sunset about to occur, the wind picking up speed, the roar of the waves.
"Why am I here?" I asked eventually. "You could have just told me."
I wanted you to see this place, to know where it was, if you ever need it...
"I know you don't think you deserve tranquility." He used his voice, glancing my way. "But you do. I know how much you need it, and I know it's not easy for you to find a place where you won't be disturbed. But you wouldn't be here. Whenever you want to spend some real time by yourself, you can come here. I wanted you to know that."
I tried to ignore his intentions. "Don't you think that should be up to Esme?"
We both know she won't mind at all, Edward.
Gratitude swelled for a moment before I had the chance to deflate it. "Alright," I mumbled. "Thank you."
We stood in silence for some time, and although he was thinking of rather mundane things like procuring a boat for future trips to the island, and what Esme might want to build here in the way of a beach house, I got the nagging impression he wasn't done with me. The next thing he asked confirmed it.
How long has it been since you looked at yourself?
My jaw clenched. I didn't like where this was going. It was true, though- I hadn't looked in a mirror, sought myself in anyone's eyes or mind, gazed at the surface of water- not since I'd come home that night weeks ago, with eyes as red and violent as my deeds.
Neither he nor Esme asked me where I'd been for the last couple of years, and I didn't tell them. They let me be.
Until now. I was beginning to suspect that the entire trip to Brazil, which Carlisle had said was about researching the pharmacology of Amazonian tribes, was an excuse to get me away from home, as if that's what it would take to escape the shame haunting me. I could feel the corner he was getting ready to back me into, no doubt hoping I would confess all so he could give me absolution. I doubted he'd be so anxious to assuage my guilt if he knew what I did. The vicious, unspeakable things...
I couldn't bear to look into the eyes of the creature that had done all of it. But they were my own. I avoided my reflection like the plague, and he'd evidently noticed.
"How long?" he repeated.
You truly ought to look.
I did. I relented with short sigh and drifted into his mind's eye, to see what he saw.
My hair was sandy and windblown, my features relaxed- much more peaceful than I felt. My skin shone with diamond-cut brilliance, and my eyes... the crimson was gone. They were a gentle shade of gold laced with burgundy.
"It doesn't make a difference," I told him. "I'll always be a murderer, Carlisle. The color of my eyes doesn't change anything."
Edward, I know what you're capable of, and, more importantly, what you're not capable of. That's why I know you'll become whole again.
I left his mind's eye and looked towards the sea, silencing a grumble. That I'd never felt whole to begin with, and didn't deserve to recover, would have been my reply. But I didn't want to get into it with him then, if ever. I intensely disliked how this day was ending up- already a thousand miles from where I thought it would. I was supposed to be in the rainforest, hunting exotic new prey, not falling into some trap Carlisle had set to get me to talk about my murderous sojourn. But he was about to find out that he'd already sabotaged his own efforts.
"I want to stay here tonight. Alone."
Carlisle furrowed his brow at me, taken aback by my twist on his offer, and then looked to the increasingly violent ocean. The wind, bringing the strong, clean scent of ozone in its wake, was pummeling the waves. Far beyond human vision, the rounded edge of a tropical storm dimmed the horizon.
"That storm will get here before midnight," he murmured.
"I know. I want it to."
I see. He gave a nearly inaudible sigh, reluctantly making up his mind not to try talking me out of it. Should I expect you back in Rio tomorrow?
"I'll come back to the hotel after dark."
"Very well." He looked at me unhappily. Take care tonight.
With that he walked into the water, then sped up, gaining momentum as he crashed through churning waves taller than he was, and disappeared under the surface. I expected to feel satisfied in my solitude, having thwarted his intentions, and I did. But a while after his worried thoughts were too far away to hear, swallowed up by the roaring Atlantic, my satisfaction turned hollow.
I was still, but the whole island seemed to be moving. Palm trees and lush ferns in the jungle behind me were rustling, whispering, creaking as the wind gained strength, whisking up dry sand into drifts. The waves started curling in, getting higher, pounding harder into the shore. High above, flocks of alarmed birds flew away from the darkening horizon.
I opened my senses fully to the approaching typhoon, anticipating the battering it would try to subject me to. I waited alone.