Destroying is a necessary function in life. Everything has its season,
and all things eventually lose their effectiveness and die.
- Margaret J. Wheatley
~ o ~ Carlisle's Point of View ~ o ~
It had crossed the depths of my mind that Edward may pass before his mother, but the entire situation had me perplexed. The people that had fallen victims to the Flu were not so susceptible to delirium. Most of the cases had died before this particular symptom had set in motion. Edward Masen was a rare case. His illness skipped indicators and jumped into the final phase before death. He was suffering tremendously, more so than his mother when I had seen her. I warded off the fever to the best of my ability. I soaked a cloth and ringed it continuously while trying to fight his constant fidgeting movements. I knew he was in pain so I didn't hold his writhing much; just enough to reach his forehead and the sides of his neck. For what seemed like a half-hour, he muttered that she had disappeared, she was gone, she didn't speak to me. Nurse Pat tried to steer him back to our reality, away from his incoherent thoughts that when spoken aloud made no sense to us.
Eventually, he became quiet and the focus of our attention became his laborious breathing. He was fading quickly and if he continued, he would pass before Elizabeth. I had to tell her, I had to let her know of her son, but dawn would peak over the horizon soon and I couldn't be sure that the clouds would cover my departure in the sunlight. I care for my patients but I could not risk my own safety and the selfishness weighed heavy on my mind.
I supposed I could stay through the day and make my leave at night if necessary. I didn't want to leave the side of my patients, more-so Edward and Elizabeth… not when I had told him that he could see his mother; a promise that would be broken. Their close bond had enlightened me. They had shown me love still existed when I hadn't experienced it in so many years. Love's scarce in my world, as unfortunate as it may be, and their bond was refreshing amongst the death I have known for so long. THe simple fact was hard to bear; that they had to be apart during their last moments. It was almost intolerable and somewhere in the back of my mind, my thoughts shifted towards letting them see each other, but the reasonable part of me knew better. Edward would no longer be in any condition to leave the confines of his bed. Even if he did, he wouldn't be able to differentiate the events he would be participating in. His mind was lost in the darkness. I had read about his condition in old text when I first started to study medicine. The workings of the human mind fascinated me and still do. It is believed that delirium sends the victim to another world, away from this one and either deepens or numbs the senses while giving the person hallucinations. Although, truth can not be derived from such text since there is such little study available on this particular state of the mind.
Nurse Susie took away the bowl and cloth from Edward's bedside and I was left alone next to him. I stared at him, unable to remove my eyes from his face. His cheeks were sunken in and his face had become more grey in the short amount of time I had seen him. His eyes were swollen, the lids tinted pink and ash, a color palate that I had seen often. I took his hand up in mine, feeling the clammy moisture which seeped from his skin. My fingertips pressed softly against the inner tendons of his wrist. His pulse rapped through my bones and flitted through my system, stirring my hunger that had been resting through out the night but it was easily dismissed. I only wanted to check his heart rate and it was already beginning to slow, however steady. Regardless, his body was dying.
I stood and placed a hand on the dewy skin on his forehead and closed my eyes, gaining the courage to walk to the other room to where his mother was lying and tell her of her only child. Breathing and a faint pulse alerted me that I was not alone next to Edward's bed. I opened my eyes and looked over where he lay and into Nurse Pat's eyes.
"Doctor, is there any chance of him waking?" she asked dimly.
I merely shook my head and said quietly, "No, he is fading too quickly."
Pat sniffled and I could tell that she was frowning through her mask. Her face was pulled down tightly and her eyes were on the verge of spilling as she sniffled again. I could vaguely recall doing it while I was human; crying. There are some things that are not forgotten, even for vampires. The most meaningless actions have become the ones that I miss the most. "It's a shame. He's such a polite boy. When do you think he'll part?"
Truth is, it would be any time now. For the first time in a few weeks, I was unsure of when a patient would pass. The symptoms were easy to read but in this particular case, it wasn't conventional. I shook my head again, slightly, baring words on my tongue that I did not want to speak. "I'm not sure," I said softly while letting my chin fall to the protruding curves of my collarbone. I sighed heavily, what any mournful human would do to show contempt for the declaration of death. Having felt the loss of another patient tugging inside of me, I patted the top of Edward's copper hair, soft and damp from lying for too long. His eyes were closed and he was finally still, peaceful in his delusional state and on a positive hand, sleeping or one could only hope. Where ever his mind had placed him, it was away from any misfortune for the time being.
"Notify me if anything changes." I turned away and made the rounds, going from patient to patient and gathering the strength that I always needed before speaking of death with the family of a victim. Even though Mrs. Masen was a victim herself, she wanted so badly for her son to survive. If my heart were still beating, the mere thought of confirming her fears would have coerced it into heavy hits on my cavity. It was fear that I felt now when I feared nothing at all. I never wanted to deliver the news of dying or death. Even though I can do nothing to help the life of these poor people while this sickness runs among the crowds of Chicago, I felt guilty that I stood by watching them die, when I couldn't .
After an hour spent with my patients and consulting with nurses, I exited the quarantine doors and instead of heading down the hall to the women's unit, I directed myself to my office. I would need to prepare myself. As soon as I reached the solid white door and pushed it open, I felt the pressure on my chest fall. I locked the door behind me. The sun had not yet risen in the horizon, still too early for the break of dawn. Perhaps this morning I would see the sunrise from this window. I had asked for my office to be facing east, for the reason that I could open the curtains and view the outside world when I was here at night, not needing an excuse to keep them closed during the daylight hours (not that I spent a lot of time in here anyways). The light that would hint oddities about myself would be on the other side of the building by the time I would arrive in this room. The rays of the sun were a blessing and a curse. I did miss the daylight and being able to walk through it openly, what little I can remember of the experience was nice. I often lived it in my mind being it was the only way I could do it now. I would watch people from cracked curtains and position myself in their shoes. What would it be like to walk amongst them in the daylight? A measure taken for granted by humans but I do not blame them. They do not know what it is like to be confined to the dark for unnatural lengths of time while others were free to come and go as they pleased and I hope they never have to find out. It is an unfortunate condition that I find myself in when the sun would rise.
Of all the endless days in the dark, I wanted to feel warmth on my expired skin once again. I needed the subtle heat against me even though it would not sway me one way or the other. It would not be permanent but it would be for now as was every circumstance. Soon, I would have to put all of Chicago behind me and head for another town. My time here was expiring, any longer and my age and appearance would be questioned more than it has been. I was asked last month how I managed to stay so young, and while the thought was jesting, it was also a warning. I could no longer stay here and committed to putting in my resignation to Cook County Hospital three weeks ago. I would be leaving soon, nothing short of a week. I had secured my rail ticket to Des Moines. I needed more freedom while at home and living in the rural would allot that freedom. The wildlife was also more abundant. I wouldn't need to evade curious eyes to feed on the outskirts of the city. I would be able to nourish myself easier living in Iowa.
A soft knock sounded through my office, echoing through my head gently. I spun from the window and tugged on my white physician's coat, straightening any broken flux in the fabric while walking. I turned over the lock and opened the door. I was pleasantly pleased to find Amelia Barker standing on the other side. After her younger brother had died earlier in the year she offered to volunteer time to looking after other patients. She was an honest, brave young woman in her early twenties with nearly black hair that was always folded under her uniformed hat. She was timid in my presence, from the first moment she met me and even now, she cowered; bowing her head in submission and folding her tidy hands over her white uniform.
"Yes, Amelia?" I asked, giving her a slight smile.
"Dr. Cullen," she said reluctantly, "I was asked to inform you of two deaths in the women's quarantine."
I stepped forward at the information, opening the door more and moving into the hall to stand beside her, the wooden frame shuddered behind me as I shut it.
"Who, may I ask?"
"Ruth Hartfield and Helen Pinnell."
I took in a steady breath. "Helen Pinnell…how is her daughter?"
"She, too, will pass soon, doctor."
"Does she know of her mother?"
"She was not awake when it happened. We haven't the courage to wake her," she said, stifling a ragged breath.
I nodded. It would was going to be a hard day and it was confirmed that I would not be taking leave before daylight. "I will tell Emily about her mother. Thank you, Amelia. I will accompany you back to quarantine since I am heading there myself."
We were silent as we wound our way through the dimly lit halls that led to the women's unit. Once through the doors, I scanned the room, my sights falling on the orderlies as they removed a body from a bed, where Ruth once lied. The room was smelled freshly of death which was instilled with the sickly sour of the Flu; a scent that would be forever in my senses. I watched as they removed the bodies from the room to take them to the overflowing morgue.
I placed a hand on one man's arm as they were walking past. He stopped and looked into my eyes, straining to keep them there…another human who recognizes the eyes of death. "There will be more later today," I said softly, trying to not sound insensitive to the victims but wanting to remind them vigilantly to work at a quick pace since bodies began to rot the moment life left them. It was their job to work with the morgues in the city, transporting bodies to the mass grave sites; an unfortunate circumstance but necessary to keep the Flu from spreading from the decaying flesh. It was what happened to most of the bodies that were collected from here. The man simply acknowledged my information and continued to carry out the body of Ruth Hartfield. Two men followed with Helen Pinnell.
I bowed my head in respect and made my way to Emily, the thirteen year old daughter of Helen. I sat in the chair next to her bed, my eyes tracing along the contours of the blankets around her torso that gave into her arms resting beside her. She was a lovely child, sweet and caring with blonde hair and blushing cheeks that were now insipid and drained of color. A flustering tremor shook me at what I was about to say to her and I felt the need to take in a breath before beginning. I placed a hand on her arm, a usual way for me to stir patients to consciousness. Her delicate pulse flitted and sank beneath my fingers but it didn't draw a hunger like it had earlier with Edward. Even the nightmarish vampire that was buried within me knew better than to stir at the beat of a child. The slow, languish pulse never quickened as it usually did, instead it kept its pace. She was close to the end. I leaned forward, closer to her so my whispers would only be heard by her ears.
"Emily, can you hear and understand me?" Her head turned in my direction and her eyes opened, giving me peeks of the once blue eyes that were now empty and beset with pink. "How are you feeling today?" I asked, moving my hand to her forehead, her fever penetrated into my stiff fingers. She frowned and pouted her bottom lip, a clear indication of what she thought of my question. "Emily," I started, feeling more human now than ever in this immortal existence, "I'm not sure how to tell you this," I paused to take a breath, trying to register any emotion that would surface in her features. "Your mother has gone to heaven."
"I know," she replied softly, "and I'll be with her soon. Mommy told me just a while ago…before I went to sleep." Her demeanor was calm, a collection of understanding and maturity beyond her years; an admiring young mind with the ability to cast light on death and look towards what awaits her after a final breath. I stroked back her hair with my thumb and spoke to her for a while about her family beyond these walls. While I tried to stay on less grim topics, she wanted to know what I thought of heaven. This was a thing I did not know. I know nothing of heaven or God but I had believed in a divine greatness while I was human. Whether it existed in the skies or the hearts of men I didn't know. Surely, if the devil could reside within man or beast, God could as well and perhaps that's all there was.
Instead of giving her a lengthy answer, I settled for the easier. "All children go to heaven, Emily. God wouldn't have it any other way but what it's like, I couldn't tell you. It is one of life's greatest mysteries."
"Mommy told me that my toys will be there," she said weakly as the faintest tear trailed down her cheek.
"Perhaps they will," I said and offered a small grin while placing a hand on her wrist. Her pulse was slowing and with each beat it faltered. She didn't offer to speak anymore and I sat by her side while she idled then faded away as her final breath expelled. I gripped the small digits of her hand gently, my chest alive with mourning and pain. I could hardly bear it as it coursed through my expired veins. It was a greater sting than venom, greater than any thirst that had beckoned me during this life. And as badly as I wanted, I couldn't fight it. Even though I had immense strength it was pain that could not be fought. Only time would offer a reprieve from all this innocent death.
I released her from my hand and pulled the sheet over her head then stood from the chair and walked away without turning back. Murmuring and covered coughs echoed through the room as I made a quick round between the aisles of beds. My feet came to rest where Elizabeth Masen was lying, asleep in a cocoon of sanity unlike her son. I still had business to tend to in regards to her and Edward and I would be unable to shake what needed to be done. While she was still in the hospital, alive, and so was he, it was my responsibility. I silently pulled up a chair next to her bed and sat down without disturbing the surrounding patients. I rested my chin on my balled fists that were supported by my knees. Lightening lit up the room through the windows in the early morning darkness, breaking the dim lighting that embraced Elizabeth's ghostly features. I couldn't bring myself to wake her and discuss the matter, but I knew that she wanted to know even though the heartbreaking news would destroy her spirit, if there was anything left to destroy. She had such hope for Edward as long as he was in here under the care of the nurses and volunteers…and me. But hope can be treacherous and give false reality. The simple truth was even though I was different from everyone in this building, I couldn't cure anyone. It wasn't in my power to give the sick strength to pull through a God-sent plague and the truth was painful even for me. I hated to break her hope.
Under the white sheet, her body awakened and she nearly gasped when she opened her eyes to find me there. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to frighten you," I said softly.
She shook her head, dismissingly. "No worry. Have you seen Edward?"
"That is what I wanted to talk to you about, Mrs. Masen."
"Please, call me Elizabeth… we're past formalities," she responded and smiled gently. "What news of my son?"
"I'm afraid I have no news that would delight you."
Her lips parted silently. "Please… no. Please, God, no," she whispered to me, tears welling on her bottom lid as her nostrils flared. I could smell the blood forming, more than likely coming from her nose as it did before. She reached for me and I gave her my hand, making her arm tremor slightly when she touched me. "No, please tell me that he's still alive. Tell me he didn't pass."
I clasped her fingers reassuringly. "He's still alive." She sighed and a smile spread across her lips. "But," I said with a pause, her tugging smile fading, "he's very sick, more so than earlier. He has delirium, and is not responding to anybody right now."
She shook her head, her eyes squinting in confusion. "What is delirium?"
"It is an absent state. His body has been given over to the Flu so dramatically that his mind has chosen to shut him off from it. He sees and hears things that aren't happening, illusions or hallucinations if you will."
"So, he's not speaking?"
"Not in understanding. He only speaks of what he sees in his head. Atleast that is what is believed."
Her tears spilled over and ran down her cheek in thin streams. "He's all I have left. He's all I have left of his father..." she trailed off, cupping a hand over her eyes and bearing the pain into them. I could feel it as her hand quivered in mine, the pain of losing someone dear to one's heart is unimaginable and I was silent as she cried. Sometimes it's better to allow them the quiet so their thoughts can run as intended. "How long does he have left?" she asked bringing her eyes away from her palm. She stared at the ceiling then to me.
"We do not know. It could be anytime; minutes, hours or perhaps days from now."
"So there is time for him to get better? He could still pull through?"
"Mrs. Ma—Elizabeth, I'm afraid that he won't be able to recover. This Flu has killed more than I care to count and it will not stop for Edward."
"But you can do something about it," she said, determination powering her voice.
"There isn't a cure. I am a servant to medicine but I have none to administer. Without medicine, I am powerless."
Her breathing quickened and she searched my face. Once again, I felt exposed, as if she was peeling away my secrets. "I know nothing of you, Dr. Cullen," she finally said, "but there is something special about you. From the first moment I saw you I knew it, regardless if you want to believe it or not. You are not afraid of this illness while others are. When these nurses and doctors show disregard you do not. You are a rare gift to this world and I refuse to believe that God would bestow such a gift to someone who couldn't or wouldn't use it. You can save him. I can feel it deep down in my heart."
I merely stared at her, wondering if she knew what I was, curious if at some point I had shown signs of what I had been hiding but I couldn't recall a single moment of indiscretion. Perhaps my movements were too silent or my gate was too fluid, but humans rarely paid any mind to those things. Although my eyes weren't a color that was usually seen, a mythical creature wouldn't come to mind. Vampires are a work of fiction at least that is what humans thought. Arrogance and refusal to accept such a harsh creature wouldn't allow them a second thought on the subject these days, not when a very real monster was sweeping through like the hand of the reaper. But perhaps this one was different. Did she see what others refuse? I would deny it if it came from her tongue.
"I am just a man, not capable of anything special. I have no talent over God's will," I said humbly, "do not put me on pedestals which I do not deserve to be on."
She coughed harshly and regained composure. "Everything I said is true. You do have a gift and I want you to do something for me." My chest tightened at her words. "Please, grant a dying woman one last request," she said as her eyes pleaded with mine. "Please, Dr. Cullen, please, promise me one thing."
Unable to tell her no and worried about what she would ask, I compromised the answer. "I don't want to make a promise that I am unable to keep. What is it that you want of me?"
"Save him," she whispered.
"Elizabeth, I can not promise that I can save your son," I said regrettably.
"I know that you can, you may be the only one that can save him. At least say that you will try?" She coughed into her hand with a heavy strain bearing onto her lungs. "Will you say that you will try? Promise me that you'll try to save my son…that you will do everything within your power?" She gripped onto the underside of my arm.
I inhaled deeply, bringing her sickly, sweet and bitter scent in with the musty air. It was all harsh on the senses; the atmosphere, the death, the smells, the rotting blood that was now trickling from her nostril. I brought out the handkerchief that I had stowed away in my pocket and blotted away the blood. I thought of ways to ignore her question and what my answer would be. I couldn't save him but she wouldn't listen to that. All I could do was make him as comfortable as possible or may be give him a hot whiskey toddy, but that didn't work, so we never bothered with such things. She begged me again in a hushed whisper and I hung my head and placed the handkerchief behind her on the white railing.
"I promise that I'll do everything within my power to save your son, Elizabeth."
She nodded and seemed pleased with my answer. The rain that was once beating onto the windows across the room was now calm unlike the wind which howled around the corners of the building. I spent a few more minutes with her while she continued to agonize over his situation. Her love was filling; shedding light on the darkest corners of my established thoughts on family. Every notion that I had ever had was littered with loneliness, knowing that I was cursed to face an eternity of self-discovery without the company of another. Elizabeth fell asleep while she was telling me about Edward's childhood and what a wonderful child he seemed to be. It was nice to hear of other people's lives. They were my fiction; stories that were told as if they were fairytales and would never exist for me. But unlike children's tales of knights and princesses that had happy endings, these did not end with and they lived happily ever after. These were more dark and sinister because none of them had happy endings. At the end, death awaited. Even though it was never spoken of, it was the way of the world now.
I left Elizabeth to sleep while I checked on the patients one last time before retiring to my office to draw notes for the morning. When I arrived at my cozy office, the sun was rising. I could see the dim gray lines peaking over the top of my dark drapery behind my desk. It illuminated the ceiling and lit the surrounding walls with a dull glow. This wasn't a sunrise of joy but one of sorrow. The world seemed to be aligned with me this morning. It shared my thoughts of death and deception. Deceit never weighed heavy on my shoulders as a doctor, but I had lied to Elizabeth. I had given her hope when there was none to give, promised her something that I had no control of. I knew I could not restore her son's life when I had made that promise but I didn't have the heart to tell her no. It was unlike me to do such a thing. I locked the door and made my way to my oversized window, pushing back the curtains and gazing at the covered sun. Although the rain had gone, the clouds held back the golden light that I loved. Every once in a while a glare peaked through the thin layers and it gave me a slightly joyful emotion but it couldn't drive away the guilt that resided within me now.
I stared out the window, hoping to find some inspiration amongst the bleak sky but came up empty. There was nothing I could do for Edward. If there was some medicine or serum that I could have administered more people would have walked away from this hospital…but they have all been unsuccessful. I had no more power than the other doctors in practice aside from my vampire traits.
My thoughts halted and rested on the word, what I was…what I had become so long ago. Vampire. Perhaps I have not exhausted the entire spectrum of possibilities that lie with Edward's life. I could save him by serving him death, an eternity of it. He could be like me. I could teach him to survive as I have and neither of us would have to be alone. From what little I know of him, he is a good kid and has decent intentions for what he wants for himself, granted that his plans had not been to become a vampire and may be it was my own selfishness that thought up the idea. But then again, I had made a promise to do everything within my power and I had it. I had the power to save him. It had saved people before, I had heard stories of it and if they were true then he would be no different.
I stood momentarily, asking myself if I was going to go through with this idea but what was left of my heart had already decided. I gathered my belongings and threw on my hat and overcoat, rushing out of the door of my office and to the quarantine unit. I briefly spoke with Nurse Pat, telling her that I would be back shortly and she didn't argue with me, she wouldn't even if she wanted to. I found my pace quickening as I neared the rear doors of the hospital, I would take the back way home so I wouldn't have to walk at an abnormally slow pace. I had to prepare for Edward and there was much to do.
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR READING!
EDWARD'S POV WILL BE NEXT AND IT WILL PROBABLY BE HIM FROM HERE ON OUT.
(ANGELUS MORTIS MEANS "ANGEL OF DEATH" IN LATIN.)