Hey! Here's another one-shot, but this one's a little different. It's told from the POV of one of Jasper's victims. This is kind of how I imagined Jasper would hunt and prey on people, using his talent and sometimes letting it escape his control as he battled his own emotions while feeding. I hope that manages to come across. This story takes place after Jasper's left Peter and Charlotte, and just a few years before he meets Alice—somewhere in the early forties.
The biggest thanks I could ever give go directly to Struck Upon a Star for all of her help. This is easily the most difficult story I've ever written and without all her help and input, this would have never come to fruition. So major thanks!! And if you haven't checked out her stories yet, you are depriving yourselves. She has a canon Alice/Jasper story and a phenomenal AU/AH Alice/Jasper story, and both are amazing.
I also want to give a shout-out to Realynn8, whose kind reviews and encouragement mean a lot. She is also writing an AU/AH Alice and Jasper story, so make sure you check that out, too!
Since I struggled while writing this, I am doubly curious to know what you think, so be sure to let me know in a review! I really appreciate it. Enjoy!
Flamis acribis addictis
Voca me cum benedictis.
Oro supplex et acclinis
Cor contritum quasi cinis
Gere curam mei finis.
When the accused are confounded
And doomed to flames of woe
Call me among the blessed.
Bowed down in supplication I beg you
My heart as though ground to ashes
Help me in my last hour.
-Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
I noticed the tall, golden-haired man as I exited the factory. I was nervous when he started following me on my way home. Paul had warned me that it was dangerous for a woman to go to work on her own. "I am so proud of you, dearest," he wrote. "I am proud to have a wife that does her best for not only her home but for her country as well. My only concern is for your safety. Please, be careful." I smiled as I remembered my beloved husband, and my smile quickly dissipated into sadness as I thought of him overseas, fighting to protect our country from another disaster like the one at Pearl Harbor. Times had changed after that day. Women joined the workforce as their husbands went to fight overseas, and every day I molded the triggers with which Paul would shoot down the enemy. The same triggers which could harm him.
I glanced at my watch, noting I had only forty-five minutes to get home before the drill scheduled for that evening. Anxiously, I turned my head only to find the blonde man still on my trail. I quickened my pace, nervousness rising within me. I needed to get home to my children. If this man was still following me by the time I passed Finch Street, I would turn into the police station before leading him right back to my house. Daryl and Anna needed to be kept safe, and I would not lead this stalker back to my children, my home.
Inexplicably, my nervousness was erased. I credited my reassuranceto the nearness of the police station but still questioned, only slightly, why I was no longer afraid of my follower. Common sense urged me to balance panic with a clear head, in case I needed to act quickly. However, not a trace of that panic could be found. Had I lost all sense of self-preservation? I pushed the thoughts from my mind. None of it really mattered. I was nearing Finch Street and would walk straight up to the door of the police station. My confidence restored a bit, I held my head higher and continued on my way.
"Excuse me? Ma'am?" I heard a rich, deep voice from behind me. I didn't stop; I knew better than to stop for strangers.
"Ma'am? I believe you dropped this," he called after me. My determination faded as I wondered what I had dropped. Had I possibly let something slip out of my pocketbook? It wasn't money was it? I hated to be so superficial, but money was certainly something I couldn't do without. There were mouths to feed and a bare cabinet at home, and I needed the cash. Hesitantly, but no longer full of fear, I stopped and turned to meet the man who had been following me.
Looking at him head on, he was…well, he was gorgeous. He looked like a film star, in his long coat and with that golden head of thick, wavy hair. And so tall.
"I'm sorry to startle you, Ma'am, but I believe you dropped this," he said in a decidedly Southern accent, leaning in closer than I had anticipated. If I thought his looks could kill, I should have waited until I smelled him. He had the most enticing fragrance…sweet, and musky, like nectar and gunpowder. I inhaled, deeper than I ought to have, and closed my eyes for just moment, re-opening them as he held out a small, lace-embroidered handkerchief.
"Oh, no, I don't believe…" I trailed off. My kerchief was in my pocketbook, I knew that. It had my initials embroidered on the corner in baby blue: M.D. This handkerchief lacked my initials. Despite the firm knowledge that the square of fabric in the man's ivory hands wasn't mine, I faltered. It was a trick. It must have been a trick. Yet even that knowledge wasn't enough to convince me that the handkerchief wasn't mine. What was happening? The panic that had been stifled threatened to return, but then I saw his eyes. So dark. They were nearly black. It was likely the night's darkness that shrouded my vision, but from what it appeared there was no differentiation between the pupil and the iris: just black eyes. But kind eyes. Not the eyes of a man that would harm me.
I eyed the kerchief again, battling my own disbelief. It's possible that this was mine. Maybe the embroidery was on the other side. Even if it wasn't mine, what could this beautiful man possibly want with me? Acquiescence overtook me, and I reached my hand towards the handkerchief.
"Thank you," I told him breathlessly. He stepped closer to me, that delicious smell filling my nostrils, my mind…I tried to think of Paul, but even he—
"It's dangerous for a pretty woman like yourself to be out here alone, in the dark," the stranger's smooth, silky voice nearly whispered in my ear. He slowly circled around me, moving closer still. I felt so calm, so at peace…in the back of my mind, I knew this man might be dangerous, that I needed to get home to my children, that Paul would be appalled if he saw this scene unfold before him. But I couldn't care. This man, whoever he was, had a drug-like effect on me, and after all the hard work, and stress, and tears that had passed the last few months, I welcomed it. I welcomed the unhinging from brutal reality.
My mind clouded, pleasantly, dreamily, as he moved closer to me. What was he doing? My eyes fluttered shut as lassitude filled every pore within my body--my mind, my entire being just soaking it up like a sponge.
"You're tired," he drawled in my ear as his hands worked their way down my arms to my hands. "Come to the side just here, and rest," he coaxed me, inclining his head toward the alleyway. Before my fear and defensive instincts could rise up within me, I was so overcome with exhaustion that I nearly collapsed. The man scooped me into his arms and within seconds, we were in the alley.
He would not hurt me. I trusted this man. I trusted him with my life.
"There," he whispered as he laid me down on the cold, damp cobblestone of the silent alley. Even with my eyes closed I could feel his presence, feel his hand trace a gentle path from my temple, down my cheek, to my chin. Paul…
It had been nearly a year since he left, and how I had missed touch. It is one of the commodities one does not know one has until it is gone. And this man's touch, ice cold against my skin, nearly set me on fire. His hand slowly caressed its way down to my throat, as he deftly unbuttoned the top two buttons of my blouse. I didn't care what he was doing. I liked it--wanted it. I was thirsty for more as all thoughts of my husband dissipated under the stranger's touch. His fingers lingered on the sensitive spot just above my collarbone as he lowered his face, and traced an invisible path from behind my ear to that spot on my throat.
I gasped as he inhaled deeply and then breathed two words against my throat: "I'm sorry."
I felt the pain, the lacerations against the paper-thin skin of my neck, but I could not define it. It was like he was spreading kisses of death in careful plot points against my throat in an act of ravaging, unholy geometry. I felt the blood, the warm, sticky nectar of my life's sustenance coating my skin, my clothes, and the man's mouth. I could feel it seeping, heated and endless, from the puncture wounds on my throat. The sensation made me light-headed as he tore my flesh in the way a child tears flower petals—easily, flawlessly. And painfully. Head spinning with agony, I could feel my stomach sicken with the intense stinging of my wounds.
But the searing physical pain was nothing compared to what I felt emotionally.
All warmth, all trust vanished in an instant, and I knew, I knew, that he was dangerous. Why had I abandoned instinct? Why hadn't I kept walking? What would happen to my children? My children?
I didn't have to time to heed the panic—too many other emotions flooded through me. I figured that the moment of death would be an emotional one, but these were not the emotions I'd had in mind. I had also figured that it would as everyone said: your life flashes before your eyes. I imagined I would see something—Paul, Daryl, Anna--but the scenes that played out in my memory were not the ones with which I wanted to depart from this life.
My attacker sucked deeply at my heavily-bleeding neck, sporadically moaning with pleasure and longing. This demented, sanguinary creature desired the bloodshed and injury I was suffering. And to my horror, I felt that too. Who feels desire when they're being savagely murdered and exsanguinated on a street alley? I did—stronger than I'd ever felt before. Nothing in my memory even came close to comparing with, in that moment, how intensely I felt
Standing, nose-pressed against the glass at the penny candy store on the way home from school gazing longingly at the peppermint sticks. Wonderment and awe at the way the perfect red stripe formed a never-ending rivulet down the white rod of mint-flavored deliciousness. Knowing it would shatter like glass if handled improperly, and that simple fact adding all the more to its appeal.
Watching my husband emerge from the shower, towel slung low about his waist as water droplets danced their way down his chest. That raging fire that burns between two bodies that desire each other and a lust so tangible your fingers tingle with it.
Seeing Caroline Duke's dress at Parents' Night at Anna's school. The way the soft, butter-yellow taffeta pooled below her slim waist, which was accentuated with a crisp, green ribbon. Desiring to have a dress like that, just one, so that I too could feel that I had stepped from the pages of a catalogue. Going to the Macy's downtown to just see if I could try it on, and upon asking the salesgirl, hearing that my want would go unfulfilled. And that horrid, burning feeling within when a certain, almost tangible want--no, desire--goes unsatisfied, and living with it for days afterwards.
"I'm sorry, Ma'am, but the dress is sold out. We won't be getting another shipment in for quite some time, I'm afraid."
In the distance, a siren blared. It was an air-raid siren, for the mandatory drill scheduled that night. I imagined my children cowering in fear, motherless, directionless, as the forlorn wailing filled the air. I was used to the noise, however my attacker's head bolted from its locked position at my neck as he inclined his face towards the sky. His expression contorted in a look of unfamiliarity, as if he had never heard the sirens and did not know their purpose. His hand, though maintaining its iron grip on my neck and shoulders, trembled ever so slightly, betraying his emotions.
For a split-second, before the feeding frenzy continued, his hands quivered with
Fear and horror.
The sickening fear coursed through my entire being, its icy fingers gripping particularly strongly around my heart as I held the portentous envelope in my trembling hands:
2447 Dodd Lane
Silver Spring, MD 20902
From, The Selective Service Board. Post-marked June 4, 1942.
I knew what this envelope held within its folds: the draft card for my husband. For Paul to be taken away to the gunpowder and flame that was ravaging Europe.
"What is it, Mama?" Anna asked.
"Nothing, dear," I reassured her, feigning casualness. I would have to wait until Paul got home to open it and read, in print, what my terrorized heart already knew.
While work had proven to be an escape from pressures at home, it opened up a whole new gate into the world of the war. Every day, women I worked with told horror stories they had heard on the radio, read in the newspapers, or had received directly from letters home.
"My husband, Bruce," one of the ladies started over the hum of the machines, "was in that raid earlier this month that uncovered one of the death camps in Warsaw. Bones and bodies as far as the eye can see, he said." I tried focusing harder on my work, on the constant noise of the machines, the smells of plastic, fuel and smoke, but to no avail. Like a gruesome scene it was impossible to look away. "Skeletal bodies just heaped into holes in the ground. He couldn't even guess how deep they were. And these poor survivors, just shocked into silence with their eyes wide as saucers and devoid of life. Just blood and bones…"
The horror of listening to casualty reports every day on the radio shook me. Shook me entirely. Every day I listened when the children were out playing or in bed, my stomach sick with fear that Paul Davies' name would be called among the deceased. Sometimes there was another Paul who had fallen in combat, and in that split second between first and surname, I could feel the bile rise in my throat and my heart clench within my chest. And each night, when his name wasn't mentioned, I collapsed into my cold bed, alone, and wept for gratitude, exhaustion. And fear.
And each night, the radio announcer's grainy voice repeated the same message. "Our deepest condolences to the families and friends of our men who gave their lives overseas…
…We are so sorry."
Once he had realized the siren meant him no direct harm, he had continued his frantic feeding. In that split-second of his vulnerability I had attempted to escape, but to no avail. I struggled against him, trying weakly to get him off of my damaged body. His hands moved from their careful position at my throat and seized my wrists, slamming my arms into the cobblestone. I screamed as I felt every delicate bone shatter in my forearms, wrists and fingers, and realized, with horror, that this would mean more blood.
More blood meant more violent feeding. As I continued to fight him, I managed to steal glimpses of his eyes. The eyes not minutes earlier I was certain would never hurt me were now wild with want. Yet even though he was the hunter and I the prey, his eyes held something else, something familiar and aching... they were wild with
Anguish. Grief. Sorrow.
I was in the hospital, the white chintz curtains barely filtering the sunlight from the already sweltering room. My labor pains were quick and sharp, signaling the arrival of my child. Paul held my hand and whispered reassurances to me, as the doctor commanded me to push. I tried. I struggled to bring forth the tiny life inside me into the world. It would be okay, Paul told me. And I knew so as well. Anna had come out fine. She was just fine. My unborn child and I would be fine too.
The familiar tension reminded me that the child would be here soon. Any minute. I groaned as I tried to push forth the baby from my womb. I knew the head was there. But there was no sound. No crying. Anna had screamed her way into the world. Why was this baby quiet?
The doctor was silent, too.
Finally, "Keep pushing, Mrs. Davies. Keep pushing." All joy and excitement was gone from his face, and the nurse's expression had gone from keen anticipation to a dulled numbness.
"What happened?" I asked urgently. Their silence infuriated me. "For God's sake, tell me what happened!" I screamed.
"Keep pushing, Mrs. Davies, the baby is almost out." I threw my head back and screamed in anger and frustration, expelling the now-still body from within me. The doctor held my silent child in his hands.
In that moment, my heart was rent in two.
The nurse wrapped the stagnant, lifeless body in a pink blanket before handing it to me, tears lacing her lashes.
"I'm so sorry, Mr. and Mrs. Davies," the doctor said as he eyed my stillborn daughter. Paul stifled tears of his own while my cries spilled forth freely.
"Why?" I asked, sobbing.
"Stillbirths sometimes happen, Mrs. Davies. The causes remain unknown." Aside from the tears I cried, the room was silent a moment.
"We need a name. For…the death certificate." A death certificate on my daughter's birthday. I gently combed the hair on her cold head with my fingers, tracing her features. Two eyes, one mouth, one adorable nose. Ten fingers, ten toes. Everything was in place. Why hadn't she made it? My beautiful, lost daughter.
"Rose," I said without thinking. Because like a rose, she had blossomed, only for nine months, then without reason had withered and died. The doctor nodded before leaving us to our grief. He turned at the door to face us.
In the instant that fresh blood had poured from my hands and arms he had switched positions, securing himself to my arms and draining my numbed hands. I had always been able to see the blue rivers of my veins beneath my fair skin, and knew that he had found each one and sucked them dry, using them as straws to imbibe up the fluid he so clearly needed. Eventually, he returned to my neck, not forgetting the abundance of blood to be found there. He continued to drain me dry, gorging himself on my life-force as does a leech on a dog. And every so often I would feel a different sensation on my throat; not the needle-sharp teeth piercing the skin, nor his tongue lapping my blood into his mouth, but the vibrations of a voice: "I'm sorry."
I wanted to scream at him, to tell him that if he really was sorry he should stop. I hated him.
But I realized, as his stifled sobs gurgled in my blood and against my neck, that perhaps we weren't so different. That perhaps he was just fighting to survive, like we all were.
The called it The Great Depression. We knew they meant depression in the sense of a near economic standstill, but we thought of it in the more colloquial meaning. The pressure of being a young housewife with an unemployed, yet qualified, husband brought the significance of "depression," and all its meanings, too close to home.
Anna was one year old and Paul was still out of work. Our days consisted of struggling to make ends meet, to keep our home, to feed our baby, to maintain our marriage. A few days after Thanksgiving, while Paul was out searching, again, for work, I stood in the kitchen listening to Anna's wailing. Hunger pangs. And there was nothing in the house except for a head of cabbage, with which I intended to make soup. We had only salt for seasoning. Nothing in our house but cabbage and salt.
As I washed the cabbage, my own tears poured, like the water from the pump, for our situation. For failing to feed my family, for fear of financial ruin, for the fact that I knew, despite my optimistic façade, that Paul would return home workless. Anna's screams echoed what my broken spirit felt.
The sensation of having been punched in the stomach lingered for days on end. Every moment was consumed with anxiety, and like a wet blanket the moroseness and hopelessness suffocated me. I put on the smiling mask every day and wished Paul luck each morning as he resumed the job hunt. But I knew, deep within, that we were destined for ruin. And that realization caused the dull, repetitive stabbing of despair that was my constant companion during those times.
I took the knife to the leafy skin of the cabbage, slicing at first angrily, then slowing my movements. How easily the blade slid across the leaves. How precise was the incision. If it could cut the cabbage's skin, would it not also cut my skin with so little effort?
Billy Mather's daughter next door had succumbed to starvation. Maybe Anna would do the same. Then what? What could I do that was not already being done to improve my family's chances of survival?
It would be quick, easy.
Still, Anna cried.
Paul would come home and find me, but surely, at that time, it would be seen as a tragedy for days and one less mouth to feed in the long run. It would be selfish not to.
I let the blade rest against my wrist, cool, razor-sharp, as I contemplated what I would do.
Anna was silent.
My maternal instinct forbade me from ignoring my wailing child's sudden silence. And then I heard his voice.
"What is it, baby girl? Are you hungry? Let's see what mama's cooking in the kitchen."
Paul came in, cradling Anna against his hip to see my distraught, tear-stained face. "Darling," he said, pulling me into his embrace. I held onto Anna's hand and kissed it, apologizing with my lips for what I had almost done. "It's going to be okay, I promise," Paul told me. And he meant it.
The fact that two days later he had found a job selling Christmas trees escaped my mind in those moments. What I remembered was clutching, desperately, my husband and child in my kitchen, the feelings of misery intensified with regret, and repeating over and over again, "I'm sorry."
I could feel the life exiting my body. I wanted to scream, but nothing came. My body was too weak, my mind too overcome by nothing but feelings. I hadn't a clue from whence the intensity of these emotions came. I tried to remember something, anything, that was happy. Something upon which I could close my eyes and dream on until I reached the other side. But such pleasant thoughts and sentiments were not for me. I did not want to die unhappy, but my attacker left me no choice. The final moments drew near. And the next emotion which overtook me was the worst, the one I had worked for years to suppress.
The kind of guilt which turns stomachs and the shame which convinces one to never see the light of day again. It is indescribable. You are undeserving of life, the guilt tells me. No one will ever want you, or love you, or look at you ever again. And they will be better for it.
Years ago, the boy had touched me outside the school. Touched me in ways I knew in my heart were wrong. He had threatened to hurt me, to end my life if I screamed or if I told a single soul. So I remained tight-lipped and teary-eyed as he did those things to me right outside the school gymnasium after the football game. I thought I had liked him; that we would go there and kiss. And kiss we did. And then he became forceful, his thick fingers bruising my arms as he demanded more. And how could I say no? He was so much bigger, his father the pastor. No one would believe me even if I did tell. So I suffered in silence while my friends retained their innocence on the cold metallic bleachers.
There was blood then, too.
For years I carried the scar, silently. I couldn't bear to look at myself undressed, in the shower. I was hideous, damaged and unlovable.
Then I met Paul. Paul, who made my world spin and the sky brighten for me. I could not tell him. The shame was overwhelming. He would never love me. He would leave me for someone else, someone better, someone who would've had the strength to resist. Strength that I had lacked.
Three nights before our wedding, I contemplated telling him. I practiced the confession in my room, alone, for three nights leading up to our wedding, knowing that he deserved to know. Knowing it would be the end of our blissful engagement, our relationship, our everything. The white dress in my bedroom could never be worn—not by someone like me.
I tried to tell him. Twice. Perhaps three would have been the charm, but I was so choked by my own regret that I could not spill forth the words that would change his views of me.
I never told him.
There were times when the remorse was so much, too much to handle. It drained me. I was sick with shame…my head, my entire body throbbed with the pain of it.
In a way not dissimilar from how my body throbbed now. There was no physical pain. There was no physical anything. In my last moments, there were only fear, horror, sorrow, anguish, remorse. Guilt. Guilt for Paul being overseas. Guilt for leaving my children motherless. Guilt for managing to let my baby Rose die. Guilt even, for the obvious suffering I had caused this man latched hungrily to my throat as he continued to usher me to the other side with the repeating cadence of those two words.
The noxious cocktail of remorse and self-loathing grew stronger and stronger. I despised myself entirely for the plethora of worthless things I had done in my life. I should've let Anna go to that girl's birthday party. I should have confessed to breaking my mother's crystal vase when I was eight years old instead of blaming my brother. I should not have broken Roger Sanders' heart in seventh grade. I should have told Paul that I loved him more. I should have told my children I loved them more. I should have told Paul the truth.
As the creature at my neck began to thrive on the life I was losing, two words reverberated piteously, nearly soundlessly from my throat.