A/N - Hey everywho! I'm really sorry I kinda fell off the edge of the map lately, I've been uber distracted by uni and adventures. How excited for this update are you? "Lemme hear y'all say 'hey-o!'"
So, this chapter was a little difficult to write, hense the long wait. I planned on the last chapter being the only one about her first day as a vampire, but there's just so much about being a newborn that I wanted to capture that it's run into two now. I'm open to any constructive criticism: tell me if you think any of Alice's actions feel unnatural or forced. Is she thinking too clearly for a day old vampire?
What had I done? I pushed my pumping legs as hard as I could manage, crashing blindly through the ever thicker tangle of branches, avoiding the wandering deer-path. The sharp thorns were the feeble scrape of feathered hands against my hard skin; I thrashed against the woody vines wildly, wishing they would inflict the kind of slashing pain that I expected. Hoping it would banish the stabbing in my chest.
Already my throat was burning again, searing ever hotter as I reluctantly remembered—again and again—the temporary soothe of the woman's blood against the hot itch. But the little boy's screams echoed in my head and had me clawing at my throat as I ran. I tried desperately to scratch out the monstrous flames. What's wrong with me?
I sensed a clearing ahead; I could smell moist sunlight; hear a gurgle which brought to mind flowing water.
Stepping out into the sunlight, a small part of me recoiled in disgust—monster! alien!—even as I delighted again in the pretty glitter of my skin. The reflection of my face in a relatively still pool, a branch of the brook running through the middle of the clearing, froze me in place for a full minute.
Dark clouds eclipsed the sun once more and I could see more clearly past the shimmering glare.
My eyes were red. They stared back at me, unblinking, until I was blind to the rest of my face. All I could see were the two black pupils surrounded by the most hideous shade of crimson I could ever imagine. The colour of fresh blood.
The burning thirst flared and I dived for the bubbling water, scooping it into my hands and splashing it into my desiccated mouth. I had to douse the flames. The memory of how smooth the woman's blood had felt in my mouth hit me again, but I resolutely threw down more water. My throat constricted against the foul taste—I choke the water back up and it burns on its way out, feeding the flames—but I forced myself to swallow. It came back up after only a few moments, just as I knew it would.
I braced my hands on the silt and pebbles at the edge of the pool, my entire body shaking. Crying, I realised with shock, I am crying. Water, which had splashed up onto my face, dribbled down my cheeks and dripped off my chin to rejoin the brook. This felt right, somehow, though I couldn't fathom why.
After an age, I managed to stifle the endless sobs and force my lungs to take up a steady rhythm. Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out... until the air sounded smooth and I no longer had to make a conscious effort. I still couldn't drag my eyes away from their reflection in the water, but now that the initial shock of horror was gone I could contemplate them.
What had I expected to see when I saw my reflection? The men I had seen in my visions had golden eyes and the woman—I shuddered that I could remember her every terrified feature so clearly—had eyes the colour of the sea... but was it natural to be shocked when I realised that mine were different? Light caught on the water, making the reflected red glint horribly and my thoughts derailed. A microscopic bug balanced in the circle of red, its feet creating new dents in the water's surface that fractured into disgusting blood-drop eyes...
No, I had to focus. I wanted to understand—I needed to know what was happening to me. And, somehow, I knew that this was significant. Just like I knew that eyes could be a variety of shades. Then why was it so horrifying to find that mine were red?
Unnatural, a distant voice replied, monstrous, evil, soulless, cursed... I flinched and snapped my eyes shut, burying my face in my almost-bare shoulder. That didn't make sense; there was no reason to think that. The colour of my eyes didn't determine if I was good or evil.
"It is ultimately up to us, what we choose to do with the hand that has been dealt to us," Carlisle Cullen agrees, his voice deep with sympathy, "whether to use it for good or evil. It is a concept many of our kind, unfortunately, fail to appreciate." And I nod, a satisfied smirk pulling at my lips...
My head snapped up to look for the man, but I was not surprised to find myself alone again. Carlisle Cullen's face hung in my mind, and I searched it with my inner eye. Our kind? Whatever did he mean? I compared his face to Jasper's and realised that it was not just their eyes that were so alike—the pale skin, the glint of hard muscles beneath it, the straight white teeth... and a perfection, which I couldn't explain, which shined from their every feature.
Tentatively, I leaned back over the pool and tried hard to ignore my ghastly eyes as I studied the rest of my face. My skin was also pale and perfect, formed into the tiny face of a magical thing—a thin aquiline nose framed by high rounded cheekbones, lips like cupid's rose bow which were pursed into a pretty pout, and a pointed chin which slipped elegantly into a ballerina neck. It was the face of a fairy, a demonic child. Curiously, I didn't feel as young as I looked; I felt eternal.
Valiantly ignoring that promising train of thought, I pushed myself to finish the first. I placed that woman's face next to my own in my mind, and saw it; the difference between our faces and hers. My throat flashed white hot as I watched, in my memory, the red liquid pulsing through invisible capillaries just behind the thin membrane of her delicate skin. Blood. She had blood, and we wanted it. I wanted it.
I scrambled back from the water's edge into a tree, which splintered and cracked toward the ground before coming to a shattering halt, caught by one of its neighbours. I really was a monster—and if we were the same kind then Carlisle and Jasper were too... or not. What if it was just me? and these men in my head were just that: creations of my twisted monster mind.
Flashes, a mumbled mess of sights and sounds, smells and sensations, and then an image pauses.
The two of us, Jasper and I, crouch behind a low brick wall. He grimaces as the scent draws nearer, but I grin—I'll be more than happy to take the male too if he's so insistent in his guilt...
I baulked away from the implication, the thought within the thought—of the moment I would fix my mouth around the throat of the approaching man—and I screamed at the repulsion and greedy anticipation that mixed in my stomach. I needed that blood, I didn't want to kill that man. I screamed it into the dirt.
"... what we choose to do with the hand that has been dealt to us," Carlisle's voice echoes—the memory and the repeated vision slid in and out of focus with one another, though it was strange that I could even tell the difference—"whether we use it for good or evil..."
More flashes; red slowly fades to gold...
"You're real," I whisper, tracing his face, twisted as it is in loathing. "And that's all that matters to me."
He snorts and tries to look away, but I kiss his orange eyes closed.
"Will you come and try again?"
The thought within the thought was more peaceful this time; my body tingled cold with rejection but my heart began to sing. Loping through the forest, I follow the earthy scent, my reactions animal sharp only because I have forced it to accept the control of my conscience. But I am glad; mine is no longer the frenzied need of a monster. I am in control as I land on the jowl of a bear. And I am satisfied.
Animals. I could hear them all around me in the woods; the thip-thap of the little ones' hearts was only whitenoise, but the bass thumping of the something larger was strong enough to set my throat blazing with the sunset. It smelled little better than the water, so weak against the memory of that woman, but my mouth blistered and burned hotter with every passing second.
I was suddenly on my feet. Though I appeared smooth and controlled, every movement jarred in some distant section of my mind I couldn't quite ignore. I felt awkward in my own body, especially when I realised what I was about to do. With the woman I had acted on pure instinct; there was no time to think because I didn't know what I wanted until my body had acted to get it. Now, I was setting out to deliberately stalk a living creature. One which most definitely didn't smell edible.
But the picture of the bear in my head was curiously peaceful, so I closed my eyes and concentrated. The rolling heartbeat jumped in time with the echo of a pulse in my stomach. I took a deep breath and separated the smell attached to the sound: rich and earthy but laced with something sharp, like cat piss.
With a little persuasion, I coaxed my body into the same prowling crouch as before and, eyes still closed, followed the scent and sound further into the forest. The creature's scent clung to the dead leaves and branches it had touched as it moved through the undergrowth, perhaps stalking its own prey, and I could almost see the trail through my eyelids, the smell was so strong.
I moved like a ghost—silent and swift—despite the dry bushes and leafy floor, my movements weren't even as loud as the rustle of the breeze. When the creature's heart beat so loud in my ears that it drowned out all else, I paused and opened my eyes.
It took less than a second to spot the source of the smell and the sound. Large and leonine, it stretched out on a sturdy branch in a nearby tree with its attention firmly concentrated on the ground. Distracted: easy prey.
I didn't give myself anymore time to analyse the situation. With this insatiable thirst, it was only the unnaturalness of forcing myself to stalk such an unappealing smell that gave my thoughts any power over my body, and with the wet squeeze and rush of blood so loud and close, I lost even that little control in less than a second. My parched body took over again and I leapt.
It wasn't much of a struggle. Though the creature had much stronger instincts than the woman, its yowling fight for survival was just as fruitless. Its claws tore off the remainder of my grey rags, but screeched harmlessly against my rock-hard skin, as I jerked it into my arms and bit with ravenous accuracy into the great, throbbing vein at its neck. It went instantly limp—I vaguely felt the crunch of its bones through the delicious warmth of its body—and I took greedy pulls at the heat that pumped into my mouth.
The taste was off, but not bad enough to make me stop. It was hot and thick, and it took the edge off the burn as it slid down my throat. There was more to be had in this body than the first, and I continued to gulp for twice as long after the heart faltered. But, eventually, the blood had all passed through my lips and I tossed these remains away too.
As I came to my senses again, I examined the empty body. It had tawny fur, with one-shade-darker spots, and black tips on the ears and triangle nose. With slitted yellow eyes, dead flat and open, it stared at me over its still-bristled whiskers in open hostility. Panther: that was the name my mind instantly supplied, though I had no idea how I could possibly know. It did explain the bitter aftertaste of cat on the back of my tongue, though.
I continued to stare at my latest meal as I took stock of my body. I was almost warm now and I could actually feel the new blood seeping through my muscles, feel the weight of it swirl around whenever I moved. But my throat still itched and smouldered, nothing like before but enough that I growled sharply through my gritted teeth in frustration.
That pulled me up short. The surrounding trees and low boiling clouds bounced the sound back at me until I could hear my angry snarl from a hundred different directions. It was the same sound the panther had made as it attacked me. If I didn't know that it came from my own lips, I would have assumed it belonged to one of my dead meal's relatives. Curious, I tried other sounds.
A bird was singing goodnight in the distance, and I copied its lilting notes. It paused to listen to me and then I heard the whir of its wings as it lifted off to find me, what it supposed to be a new friend. The bird swoops closer with my every whistle, trilling back sometimes when I pause too long. But when it discovers me, instinctively fearing what I am, it turns its tail and flees. I stopped my call and it landed in a tree a yard away from me. I shook off the sudden sadness that came with knowing that the bird would abandon me as soon as it came close, and amused myself by watching it hop back and forth, searching. It called out again and I grinned, remembering another bird I'd watched for a while this morning. I ripped out the eagle's warning screech and the little bird jumped into the air with terror, flapping frantically away on trembling wings.
I collapsed into giggles.
It wasn't funny, really, but my emotions at that moment would only allow for laughter or crying. And I'd already found out once today how unsatisfying it was to cry. Laughter didn't feel so wrong or incomplete; my voice bubbled over itself as it escaped my mouth, carrying with it the sense of uselessness that had been building in my chest all day. It felt good.
Jasper hunkers down in a dark corner, clenching his fists tight against his temples. A man—another monster—with tightly curled brown hair approaches carefully, one hand outstretched. Jasper looks up to reveal red-black eyes.
"You don't need to be scared of me, Peter," he mutters, his voice pained. "I won't hurt you or Charlotte. It's myself I can't stand..."
When his tortured face faded away, I found myself in the same position as the man named Peter, reaching out to Jasper as though to pull him out of some deep hole. The feeling of uselessness returned in a flood. I choked on my need to express the sudden grief, but I knew crying only made it worse, gave no release. I pulled my outstretched hand back in to my constricted chest. My emotions were so confusing: one second, so peaceful, and the next I felt as though I were being torn apart. About to give in and try to hack out the misery with useless sobs, I heard the faint flutter of the little bird returning. Perhaps to see if the eagle had captured its phantom friend?
"Haha..." the noise started small, in some tiny bubble latched onto the edge of the sadness, but grew until the entire forest rang with peals of laughter. The bird flew away again in fright. My ragged shift lay in tatters at my feet. The overloaded clouds opened up to dump water on me. The remaining gore spattered across my white skin was replaced by thick black mud. My throat began to burn hotter again.
"Why do you do that?" Jasper asks, his brows scrunched in consternation. "You're feeling so miserable, and then suddenly you're incapacitated by laughter. It makes my head spin."
I stifle my giggles and cradle his face in my hands. They look so tiny, inadequate; but I continue to smile. "Everything is just easier that way."
And I laughed again.