Les Femmes Noires One-Shot Contest
Title: Twenty-three Seconds
Pen Name: Agoraphobiantic
Characters: Bella Swan
Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight, its characters, or any of its franchise. They all belong to Stephanie Meyer. I make nothing but fanfic.
To see other entries in Les Femmes Noires Contest, please visit the C2 page:
One one-thousand. Two one-thousand. Three one-thousand.
He was coming, walking slowly down the street with his heart steady and warm and so deliciously wet. Venom pooled in my mouth, my entire body coiling with anticipation. The thirst raged, a burning fist around my throat, coaxing me to jump out and attack. Patience. Patience was a virtue easily learned over eternity, and I'd had seventy years to practice. I had forever to perfect it. I could be patient. Very soon now. Twenty-three seconds and he would be mine.
He stopped and looked over his shoulder. He sensed he was being hunted. Probably he was looking out for muggers or something, the poor silly human. Like he could take precautions against a hunter like me.
I could step out into the street right now and he'd fall to his knees and offer himself to me willingly. I felt pity for them, when they trusted me so readily and I knew how foolish they were for it. I would think of my fuzzy human memories of him, how dazzling I had found him, how disarming and inhuman. And even when I knew what he was, I had loved him regardless. I was the most foolish kind of human. I hadn't fully understood the seriousness of the danger I was in back then, silly child that I was. How I let him kiss me and touch me, nuzzle my neck and 'enjoy the bouquet'. He could have killed me so fast I wouldn't have had the time to register it. If he had been feeling merciful, that is. He could have made me suffer. Yes, I was weak and helpless against him then, as this human was weak and helpless against me now.
He did make me suffer.
In the worst possible way.
Six one-thousand. Seven one-thousand.
How hopelessly broken I had been. How shattered and fractured. It had seemed briefly that Jacob would pull me back together, not perfectly but enough that I could live again. Of course, Victoria's attack came too soon for time to tell, and truthfully, I had welcomed it. I had wanted to die, my hallucination of Edward's face flickering in constructed agony, and then the pack had arrived just in time to trap me in the limbo between life and death.
Even the pain of the change paled in comparison to the anguish of abandonment. To this day the dull ache remained. It would turn into a searing painful abyss if I let it consume me. It would be crippling in its severity. I replaced it with anger. Rage was easier as a vampire than heart-break. I understood many things now, besides the danger of the predator he had been and that I had become. Victoria's dying act of vengeance had changed me from a simpering broken human into so much more. I understood the uselessness of my undying love to the immortal that no longer wanted me, and the fragility of humans. I lived on as Charlie, then Renee, and eventually everyone I knew grew old and died. Seventy years was a long time, yet nothing at all when you had all the time in the world to watch people die. Of course, when I really watched people die, they died faster. Like the poor unfortunate man that would die tonight, who still had no idea, who still thought he had a tomorrow to endure. He smelled so sweet…
Eight one-thousand. Nine one-thousand. Ten one-thousand.
Oh how I had suffered that first year. I was everything I had wanted to be back then, and I had to endure it without him. At first it had been just the agony of the change that had consumed me, but then it was worse.
Forever without Edward Cullen.
The realization that the rest of eternity was to be spent alone.
And the thirst. It had been so constant, so unending. I had foolishly thought that if I stayed away from humans I would be able to resist, to make the Cullens – to make him – proud. I told myself I would stick to the animal diet. I was so naive back then, still carrying the foolishness that had let me believe he had ever loved me, even for a short time. There was nowhere left where there weren't humans, of course, not really. I slipped once, then twice, then too many times to count. After the intoxicating euphoria of the hunt was done, I was left facing the bitter truth.
I was a murderer.
I killed people with families and lives, and I killed them to feed. Just one more bitter truth to add to the long list that had preceded it.
I was unloved. I was dead. And on top of all that, I was a murderer. It had been torturous that first year. I had struggled so hard against what I was. God, I was such a naïve fool. I smiled to myself, my teeth gleaming in the dark. I was much smarter now. Now I embraced the horror I'd become.
Eleven one-thousand. Twelve one-thousand.
And then there had been the wolves. Of course, after the umpteenth hiker was found drained of his blood, they finally realized I couldn't be ignored for the sake of friendship anymore. I was a vampire they once called a friend, but I was a vampire nonetheless. I had smelled the fear and reluctance on them as they hunted me, foolishly thinking they could defeat me, capture me and end me. I had wanted it, in some part, to truly die and be at peace, but my survival instincts were strong. I killed two of them, and hurt so many more before they finally retreated. They couldn't touch me. I was a newborn, and my rage made me stronger.
Of course after I killed Sam, Jacob had to be the Alpha. Poor, sweet Jacob. He had been foolish enough to love me. He might have been my life if I'd had a life. I knew he was the reason they didn't kill me when they realized it was too late to save my humanity. I knew it was because he loved me still. Poor, sweet, naïve Jacob. Didn't he know from watching me that loving a vampire could only hurt him in the end? He knew his love for me had caused the death of Sam and Seth. He knew if he hadn't saved me, I wouldn't have killed them a few months later. His dead brothers haunted him until the day he died. I know because I watched him, quietly and from a distance. How he suffered. How he disappeared from their sights to mourn all his loss alone. He lost the girl he loved, and he lost his pack brothers, and he carried the blame on his shoulders. Killing him had been an act of mercy; my last act of kindness. Now I existed for me.
Fourteen one-thousand. Fifteen one-thousand. Sixteen one-thousand.
The guilt went away. The humanity was shed. It got easier in time to see that I wasn't really meant to be anything but the monster I was. Edward had fought so hard against it, trying to play human. And then he had destroyed me, and now I saw that he was only being the monster he had to be.
"I'm tired of pretending to be something I'm not, Bella. I am not human."
I saw humans through his eyes now, pathetic and weak and so irritatingly fragile. They were glorified animals. I could only imagine loving them as pets, a child's fascination with a goldfish from the fair, which was destined to end up being flushed down the toilet within a month. Of course he didn't love me. Of course he didn't want me. How could he have loved or wanted what I had been?
But then again, he wouldn't love what I was now. Because I saw it now, felt it so clearly. Vampires didn't love. They coveted, and they took to fulfill their desires and needs. Our kind was not capable of love. Our kind was engineered to kill. We inflict pain. We cause panic and fear. We bring death. It was what we were made to be.
Edward Cullen killed me, like he was made to.
When he left me in that forest I died, as surely as I would have if he'd snapped my neck and sucked me dry. He lied to me about everything, and he destroyed my world. He murdered me and broke all his promises. He drained me of life. He left me alone. He took my soul with him and disappeared into the ether. Since the change there had been three instances when I heard of the Cullens being somewhere close. All three instances I raced to the opposite end of the country. I knew he was still out there, still roaming the world, dazzling high school girls and playing haunting lullabies on his piano.
I hated him. I hate Edward Cullen.
I love him.
Like a breath of air across the night, I moved, silent and deadly. With a brutal efficiency I cut that last thought from my mind, slaughtered it in its tracks because it was dangerous, and I had no more room left in my life for danger. My focus became that stuttering, beating heart. So vulnerable. So fragile. Mine.
I sunk my teeth into his neck, and the skin broke like wet paper against my teeth. My mouth flooded with his blood, his pounding heart pumping it furiously down my throat as he gurgled out his dying scream. The slick heat slid down my throat, coating it and sending power through my dead veins. I moaned, caught up in the pleasure of it, his life quenching my thirst as I drank, greedily swallowing generous mouthfuls of the dark red blood. His bones snapped in my grip, dry twigs in my steel embrace. His hands clawed futilely at my back, gripping the material of my dress and finding only unyielding stone. I had loved unyielding stone once, embracing it and kissing it and offering myself to it in all the ways only a young girl could. My grand gestures of romance had been as futile as this dying man's struggles now. He had died the moment I spied him leaving his office so late. And I had died the moment I loved Edward Cullen.
"You're not good for me, Bella."
I groaned, crushing him more tightly to my chest and hearing only faintly the cracking of his ribs and his spine as his struggles became heavy and slow. He whimpered, a broken sound of defeat as he realized it was over, he would never go home, he would never again see the light of day. His heart weakened, but I clung to him intent on draining him to the very last drop. Give me your soul to replace the one I lost - the one I gave away. He would be mine. He would be mine.
And just like that, it ended. He sagged. The blood flow stopped, the night resuming its eerie silence. I released his neck from my mouth, and he dropped with a dead weight to the cold sidewalk, empty and broken and irreparable. Dead. I was rejuvenated. I was reborn. His glassy dead eyes stared up at the night sky, his face forever frozen in fear and despair. I had looked like that once. I had felt like that once. And yet, after everything, I should have been too strong to ever be that way again. My stone heart should have been immune to the world. My human love should have disappeared into the mist of fuzzy memories. A sieve...
Why did you leave me?
Collapsing to my knees, I was overcome with it like I always was. The horror. The pain. The ache of the fissure ripped open across my chest, my invincible body quaking with the agony of it. So much more potent now than when I was human, it tore me apart. I moaned, trying to fight it, but finally gave in to the heaving tearless sobs that conquered my being, clutching at the parts of the man I had killed, mourning him in a way that no one had mourned me. I held his face, carefully so as not to break him any more than I already had, and kissed his still, soft lips, still so warm to me.
He stared at the sky.
His eyes were green.
First things first.
RaeCullen betaed the shit out of this, so really, it wouldn't have been what it is now if it weren't for her. She's like a cheerleader on 'roids. The girl's support is un-fucking-wavering, and so this is kinda dedicated to her.
Secondly, I am thrilled to announce that the two of us have decided to collaborate on a continuation of this once the contest ends! It's undergoing rigorous discussion at this very moment, amidst squees and other forms of excitement, so please put us on alert if you'd like to read that.
As always thanks for reading, and leave some love (or hate, if that's your cup of tea).