AN: This one shot centers around the moment when Bella opens her eyes for the first time inside the Establishment, and what the sense of sight means to her. Just to clarify: This Establishment which I've created is sort of like the Volturi from Meyer's works, except they breed humans for vampires and perform experiments on them. If you have any questions about the radio language I use or have any other questions, don't be afraid to ask. I will be continuing this after the contest and after my other stuff is finished.
An Exploration of the Senses Contest
Pen name: Zors (used to be ECarter)
Genre: Alternate Universe - Adventure/Supernatural
Characters: Bella and Edward
Visit cdunbar's or Helliex88's profile for contest details and how to enter.
In opening them, she discovered that she had eyes.
It seemed as if she had always known what eyes were, though this was her first time using them. She also knew what they looked like—oval in shape, murky brown in color, with spiky black hairs surrounding them—without ever having seen them before. In truth, there were many things she just somehow knew. She let the lids that covered her eyes open and close, for her vision was not clear yet.
Once it had focused, she knew what she saw.
Smoke was billowing, snaking in the air above her. It was thick and gray, curling around objects within the high-ceilinged room, making them disappear, the source of the swirling mass unknown. There was the gut wrenching sound of steel grating upon steel, nearly shattering her sensitive ear canal. She recognized the sound of desperate screams coming from bodies she couldn't see, their hasty, thudding footsteps echoing on metal ramps. But each sound couldn't completely drown out the high-pitched squeal of an alarm blaring throughout the building she was in.
Yet within the confines of her skin, Bella was calm and composed. Everything about her person seemed so quiet compared to the clamor around her, she could almost see and feel the serenity leaking out of her pores. She definitely couldn't hear her own heartbeat; it's steady pace surprisingly undisturbed, and thus overshadowed, by the calamity. Her even breaths were probably the best evidence of her tranquility, something she was increasingly grateful for as the frenzied atmosphere of the room only intensified.
Bella mourned the fact that she had awoken, came into consciousness for the first time, in such pandemonium.
She looked down the planes of her body, her neck having to lift up to see the hand she was extending (for it appeared that she was laying down, strapped by heavy belts to a hard steel table). She could only raise her arm high enough to be able to see the top of her hand come into view. The fingers were delicate and thin, the palm wide and flat. Her nails held a twinge of pink topped with a small band of pearly white. Over all, it was bigger than she expected, and immediately she knew she was of a certain age.
And of all the information she could gather from the sights around her, this small nugget of knowledge was the most important. With the discovery of her eyes, Bella thought that she had just come into the world, that she was small and fresh and innocent to the goings-on of the Earth—that life had just begun for her. But this was not the case. She was still new, because as far as she could understand, she had never awoken before. All the same, she was large, nearly adult size. Her cells had grown and multiplied just as those of every other living organism did. And she had a feeling she wasn't done aging.
Intrigued, she used her brand new eyes to take in more facts. Like the fact that she had breasts, and that her stomach was smooth and flat, and that her pale arms and legs were lean. She felt fit, even though her body was swimming in a large, unflattering white hospital gown. Upon finishing her inspection, she was happy with her normal human figure.
It was the strange painful tubes that pierced her skin with which Bella was not happy, along with a bulky triangular contraption that covered her nose and mouth, whose bands dug into her cheeks and wrapped around her head.
She suddenly remembered the chaos around her, and her heart finally seemed to speed up. Adrenaline flowed thick in her veins; she could even taste it in her mouth. Bella could only comprehend that the tubes could not be good if they hurt so much, and prepared herself to remove them.
But there was a problem: The impervious leather straps binding her to the cool metal table. She tried wiggling her body upwards so that the straps would slowly slide down her arms, but the heavy leather and steel were unyielding.
Bella huffed in frustration, temporarily fogging the mask on her face. Before she could contemplate further methods of escape, the lights, which had so far did their job well in illuminating the space, began to flicker.
Momentarily distracted, she watched as her world—the building—plunged into darkness and returned to brightness at a lightning bolt's pace, over and over again. Then, with the deafening thumping and whirring of a hovercraft descending to land, all of the power left the place, and this time, her world dived headfirst into blackness, and stayed there.
There was a beat of silence during which the piercing alarms and the screaming and all the grating sounds halted. Everything was just as still has her body had been minutes prior.
She breathed in a whiff of saccharine sweat and an undecipherable muskiness before the stench of burning plastic assaulted her nostrils. And without warning, a cool pale hand shone in the darkness, and slithered over her neck.
Bella screamed, the triangular mask unable to muffle the power of her lungs. The hand pressed hard on her vocal chords, and she instantly stopped shrieking. She didn't even know why she had put the effort into it anyway. Maybe the surprise and an inextinguishable hope that someone would come to help had her do it.
It didn't matter. What did was that she had quieted in time to hear a surly male bark out orders.
"What happened to the lights? DO NOT TURN OUT THE LIGHTS! They can see in the dark! Get back to the generator and fix this mess you've created!"
"Y-yes, sir," said another man in whimpered reply. His voice also echoed off the walls and high ceilings, before his footsteps faded away.
The screaming of other persons being chased, of small battles being fought, continued to reach her ears, but Bella noticed they didn't sound as close as they once did. The words of the mysterious men also drew the smoke to her attention. She must be one of 'they,' she concluded, for she could still see the gray cloud swirling around, glowing eerily in the dark, along with other minor details of the room.
The hand had not yet left her neck. The tips of its fingers started to push just under the left side of her jaw—a rather uncomfortable feeling she decided she did not like.
What Bella really wanted to be able to do was to pull away the strong bands from her face, remove the contraption that covered her mouth, and ask the owner of the hand to just stop. She wasn't too worried over what it was doing; it hadn't exactly tried to strangle her yet. Nevertheless, she wanted some reprieve from the strange inspection. She couldn't stand being strapped there without being able to protect herself. She needed some control.
But before she could shout at the person from underneath the mask, the hand disappeared. A beam of light shot out across the dark, bouncing off of the railings and walls, turning the smoke ghostly white wherever it hit it.
The sound of a radio crackled close to Bella's vicinity. "CQ, CQ: Anybody running barefoot got status on the I-9? Control standing by."
Several beeps went off before a quiet, cautious voice responded. "Breaker, breaker. This is Delta, copy. Nearing the I-9. Still too dark to see. Over."
Then the ray of light shined directly on her face. Her eyes clamped shut before it was discovered she was awake.
Bella waited for the inside of her eyelids to stop burning red under the glare of the light. When it finally moved away, she exhaled softly in relief, but kept her face serene. She did not lift her eyelashes away from her cheek.
"Delta to Control, I have an affirmative on the I-9. No present danger. Moving to get the T-Crew. Over."
"Tango Yankee, Delta!" The person speaking through the radio said happily. "That's a roger. Now get going, over."
The footfalls of the stranger with the scratchy radio fell away. The pale hand returned to the line of sight of Bella's now open eyes, followed by a frantic face that was trying its best to keep a calm façade.
"Shit, shit," the man with the dark, slicked back hair muttered under his breath. Both of his hands fluttered over the wide bands that held the awkward device to her face, pulling at them occasionally.
A drop of water landed between Bella's eyebrows. She focused on the face hovering over her, and realized that he was wet. Very wet. She wondered how she didn't hear him sloshing around sooner, even with all the noise that had been filling her ears.
"Bullshit. Complete bullshit," he kept mumbling as his eyes roamed over all the plastic tubes pinching at the skin of her hands and the vertex of her elbow. What it truly was that had him seething, Bella had no idea. He suddenly scuffled around the table and began fiddling with something behind her head. More shuffling was heard, and she found herself bored after a minute in which nothing happened. Then, the man returned.
Huge, glinting shears that came out of nowhere snapped their jaws around the leather belts, and Bella was free. She sat up, now eye level with the man whose hand had constricted her airways, and was currently slicing through the bindings on her legs.
He paused once he had finished, allowing the shears to clatter to the ground beside him, completely forgotten. He looked at her for the first time, the whites of his eyes illuminating the funny color of his irises. They were reminiscent of the muddy greens found in a forest, and Bella did not know what to make of them, seeing as she thought that all eyes were either brown or amber. She was, however, certainly impressed with the intensity his held.
"I'm cutting this really close," he said with calm urgency. "I don't have the time to do this right, so this is going to hurt." His hands were already grasping her wrists, pulling at the tubes. "Just warning you," he whispered apologetically, and then he yanked.
Bella likened the sensation to pulling a square through a circular hole. She couldn't suppress the squeal of pain that ripped itself from her throat.
"Sh! Please!" he begged, tugging the last of the tubes out of her hand. But she couldn't just stop her whimpering on the spot. The splicing, searing pain was too much. It was the first time she had ever experienced anything like it, and she didn't ever want to have to go through it again.
He raised his palms by the side of his head in surrender. "Look, it's over. I'm done!" he said earnestly.
Bella quieted down, taking a few deep, rattling breaths. The man reached for her face, and she immediately jerked away, only expecting injury from him.
"I just want to help you take off that oxygen mask," he assured her.
She stared at him with a heap of distrust. He huffed, frustrated beyond explanation. He needed cooperation, and he wasn't getting it.
"We," he said, gesturing between the two of them, "don't have time. It's not just me, it's the both of us. I need to get you out of here now. And unless you want to have that on your face for the rest of eternity, then I need to get rid of it now."
Bella didn't see the problem with leaving it on while they escaped and removing it once they were safer, once they did have time. However, something in his eyes convinced her to just let him do it, for whatever reasons he didn't have the time to explain.
She leaned forward, and his hands explored the tight straps holding the oxygen mask. Now that she was sitting up, he could easily follow them to the back of her head to a wide clasp that held the entire thing in place.
Bella could feel his faint breath on her face with his being in much closer proximity to her person. In fact, she was certain this was the first time that she was this close to any other human being. She was caught staring at the curved lips that were releasing oxygen onto her cheek, and quickly began thinking in depth about how one being's features could be so entirely different from another's. She had entered into deep contemplation so rapidly that she barely even registered his deft fingers pushing and flicking at the clasp, releasing her from yet another confinement.
"Okay, let's get out of here."
Extreme elation flooded her chest at his words. It had finally struck her that all of the beginning of her life was not going to be spent stuck to a cold surface with harsh tubes sticking into her. She eagerly swung her legs over the edge of the table, and slid down until her feet touched the floor.
Straight away, she collapsed to the ground. As soon as the full realization of her weight was placed upon her joints, she crumbled. Her brain did indeed develop it's motor strip and cerebellum...but balance, coordination, and walking in general were not skills she had ever had the opportunity to hone. In a certain capacity, she did not possess them at all.
She reveled in the fact that while she may have been misinformed about the color of people's eyes, she was correct about being new. Walking was something that only those who had really lived in the world were experts at, in her opinion.
Discovering the ability to see, the uses of legs—all signs of her status as a new born. She liked the idea of being unmarked by emotional distress, social clichés, and of being innocent. With the exception of her experience with the devil tubes, she was like a shiny rubber ball just out of the factory: unscuffed, with the possibility of being bounced and having all of her potential unleashed.
"Can't you walk?" the man asked, bringing Bella's mind back to the problem that not being able to walk caused.
She shrugged, and her jaw floundered as she wondered if she could speak her response. She wasn't sure if speech was one of those things she just knew.
The man with the blackish green eyes leaned down and lifted her up until she was upright, awkwardly holding her under the arms like one would hold a baby. One piece of wet hair broke away from his head, falling onto his forehead as he spoke to her. "Do you trust me?"
And here was the challenge: This question needed an audible reply, one she wasn't sure she could give. Her mouth formed a tight circle as she sucked in a little air, letting it vibrate over her vocal chords. The result was a low hum.
She tried again, this time moving her lips up a little. "No."
"No, you don't trust me?" he asked, his expression unreadable.
"Oh well," he murmured, and then gripped her ribcage tight, swinging her over his shoulder.
Bella gasped a little in surprise, never having been manhandled in any way. It was another thing she added to a growing list of dislikes.
Even with Bella on his shoulder, the man ran swiftly, taking long, easy strides as he maneuvered around the maze of smoke, wires, and ramps in the dark. Her torso bobbed uncomfortably against his back, his broad shoulder dug painfully into her stomach. There was a bag hanging off of the opposite shoulder that she wasn't too fond of. She couldn't help but notice how hard his skin was as her cheek collided with his back again, as his forearms braced against the underside of her thighs. She was hesitant to call his skin flesh; it was as if he was carved out of wood.
Bella found it difficult to focus on much more than her immediate surroundings and the man underneath her as they flew through the building. She felt that it should have taken longer for them to find their way, what with all the obstacles they encountered, obstacles which would incapacitate any other human being. But the man who she was slung over was agile, and he did not have any problems.
Finally they entered a dank hallway. The mucky smell of marsh air reached their nostrils and made Bella nauseous. She was grateful when the man scraped along the narrow wall at the end of hall and pushed it open, bringing them out into the cool night air. The man let Bella down, both of them learning that she could at least stand on her own.
There was still an undertone of the marsh, but for the most part the air was fresh and crisp. She gulped mouthfuls of it greedily. Once she had calmed and was taking normal breaths, she couldn't shake the familiarity of the scene before her. It was impossible, really, that she should even think that she could recognize it. But yet, there it all was, as still as an oil painting before her, and her eyes took it all in with the wonderment of a small child.
Some instinct told Bella to close her eyes. And even though she had taken in the scenery for mere seconds, she could see it all behind closed lids with alarming clarity: The way the moon shined milky gray on the sandy tall grass of a marsh, water trickling along the bottom of the land at low tide. The way scattered stars in the midnight blue sky twinkled. The intermittent, soft croaking of frogs, crickets, and cicadas. A tall wooden watchtower pierced the sky, the only modern obstruction in an otherwise perfect image of nature at its simplest.
Bella could see it all. Almost every detail. And in the dark of her eyelids she realized that she could sense the presence of everything around her, with those possessing large quantities of life standing out to her with a strange density she could feel in her mind.
She opened her eyes, exhilarated and intrigued, and turned towards the direction she felt the most density.
The man was standing there, watching her with an odd expression. He was analyzing her, in a way, she assumed. She guessed that he had never seen anything like her before, and was attempting to understand her behavior. She had certainly never seen anything like him before either—him with his unnatural green eyes—and would have loved having an hour or so to observe him, also.
As such, she didn't like being under his scrutiny, nor did she think she had the time to stare at him, and turned towards the land in front of her. That's when she noticed it.
The scene of the moon and the marsh in her mind did not match with the real one. The watchtower was crumbling, with only half of the roof there and with patches of the walls missing. It also looked like it was leaning to the left. And the water was not low, but at the peak of high tide.
Apparently, she had seen this. She had opened her eyes and been here before. It scared her a little. She thought that the things she knew only pertained herself, and everything else was left to be experienced. But here was a memory, one that came with the realization she had been awake before, and she did not know what to do with it.
More confident now in her ability to speak, she turned to the man. "Who am I?"
His eyes roamed over her face and body, and he let out a mirthless laugh. "I'm not sure of that myself anymore."
"Well, who are you?"
"I can't tell you that just yet," he said, frowning. "We should get moving."
He took a step forward, preparing to lift her. Stubbornly, she took her very first step of this awakening, moving away from him.
"Can't you tell me where we're going?" she asked, thinking that he could answer at least one of her questions. It wasn't like he had to give her difficult answers.
"Someplace safe," he said offhandedly.
"Okay. . ." she replied cautiously, hesitant to keep questioning him, yet adamant to get some information. "Where are we right now?"
"Outside the Establishment." He tried to close the distance between them. She stepped back.
"I can walk," she insisted, abruptly certain that she could.
"Well then, let's go." He was getting angry now.
Bella didn't feel the need to tread lightly around his temper. Mocking him, she asked, "Let's go where?"
"Anywhere but here!" he exploded, his hands flying up to grip his hair. Thinking that he might try and go for her throat again, Bella cowered away from him.
She quickly began sputtering out a giggle or two when she took in the sight of his hair, standing up like horns on the top of his head before pathetically flopping to the side. He was a true raging bull. Or furious demon. She couldn't decide. The man did not look any happier with her for laughing.
Underneath her merriment, hurried, scampering footsteps were heard coming from the tunnel behind them, along with faint shouts. "Shit!" the man exclaimed. He grabbed her hand, and quickly began running, dragging her behind him.
Gunshots were heard before Bella felt two bullets whizz by her head, barely missing her ears.
"The I-9! The I-9!" the voices shouted behind her. "Alert the Trappers!"
The man's grip tightened. Bella focused on trying not to stumble.
"Run!" he hissed at her, pushing her body in front of his. She ran a few yards ahead before she realized that he wasn't beside her anymore. Instead he was kneeling several paces behind, his bag crumpled on the ground beside him, quickly assembling a long-barreled weapon of his own.
"What are you doing?!" she screeched.
He whipped his head around, hands still furiously snapping the machinery into place. "Why in the hell aren't you running? Are you stupid?!"
No! You are! she wanted to scream. The words were caught in her throat as she watched him heft the machine under one arm, snap a curved, rectangular piece of metal into place, and aim at the hordes of men swarming like ants out of the door.
Each bullet left the man's gun with a tiny explosion that threatened to implode Bella's head. Some fell in a mangled heap, others crumpled with an eerie grace. The blasts from the gun came closer together in sound. Not enough of their enemy fell. There were still too many of them crawling towards him. She had time to run, but he was going to be caught.
Eyes fluttering shut, Bella reached out to the man with her mind. The adrenaline made the force in her head that was sensing him out thicker. She wrapped it around his mass and snapped it to his body. And then, as if he were a feather, she lifted him and flung him high and far over the marsh, only releasing him from her mind when she felt him land with a splash, heard his lungs swell with an intake of air, and wasn't dense anymore.
She turned on her heel, letting the wind whoosh deafeningly in her ears. She ran and she ran, pushing the limits of her body. Bullets still rained upon her, footsteps still clamored behind, and Bella was fleeing so fast she wasn't even using her heels for momentum anymore; just the balls of her feet. Every once in awhile she would close her eyes and feel out the people behind her.
Bella became aware of the fact that running did not tire her lungs or her legs, or even raise her heartbeat. She could take stress exceedingly well. The people chasing after her, the people who strapped her to that table and put those tubes in her body, could not put such stress on themselves for a long period of time. They slackened after what felt like a measly fifteen minutes.
Still, she expected gnarled fingers to clasp tight around her throat, to have to swing her fists about until her knuckles came into contact with stony flesh. She expected to be caught. She was a beginner to the world who didn't know about beginner's luck.
Eventually the sun began to rise, and Bella slowed, finding a small and smelly cave to hide herself in, wishing she had never opened her eyes.