Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight.
A/N: I was going to write this chapter through both Bella and Edward's POV, but then I started thinking that Edward needed his own chapter. Bella has had two to herself, after all. Edward is not as open as Bella is, so this chapter is a bit shorter. Enjoy.
Thanks to my lovely beta, beans827, to my sister, garbageandkneehighs, and to my other half, mystycblue.
1. Mazohyst of Decadence by Dir en grey
CHAPTER THREE – IN THE ARMS OF MORPHEUS
Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick…
The sun shone brightly overhead as I drove recklessly through traffic, racing against time. I could see the turn up ahead. My timing was perfect as I jerked the wheel and pulled the emergency break, my back tires screaming. Horns blared at my now perpendicular vehicle. I didn't allow the car to slow down; releasing the e-break, I hit the gas pedal and flew down the small lane in front of me, leaving the main road behind. Food chains and shopping centers blurred by, dissolving into thin air, and the pavement turned to dust.
Loopy script on a small piece of notebook paper pinched between my thumb and the steering wheel told me I was running out of time. The paper had been worn soft from her worrying – rubbing it between her slender fingers.
Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick…
I stopped the car in front of a large rusted warehouse surrounded by miles of dirt and rock – the city black and burning in the distance. Outside, a man dressed in black robes threw small lumps into an open pit fire, the smell of charred sweets filling the air. Cherub tombstones encircled the hole; their chubby forms caked with ash.
Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick…
I threw open the car door and was on my feet in that same second. I ran straight for the warehouse, gravel crunching under my shoes as I went… but the sound was wrong, and so was the feeling. What should have been rock gave way like walnuts crushing under the weight of my steps. I looked down without slowing my stride. Buried deep in the dirt were skulls, hollow and blackened, the size of large oranges. Startled, I stumbled and fell, my body skidding across the sharp shattered pieces of bone.
Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick…
I felt no pain as I scrambled back to my feet. I saw the blood oozing from my scrapes – spreading across the front of my shirt and jeans – but I paid no attention to it as the second hand continued to pulse.
Already sprinting, I pumped my arms harder and my legs followed suit – faster and faster. I was almost there. Twenty feet… fifteen feet… ten feet… and then the ground fell away. An ocean of burnt skulls rising up under my feet, their sockets no longer empty. Thousands of pale green and yellow eyes watched as I struggled to keep my head above the surface. The warehouse rocked in front of me, like a phantom vessel floating on a sea of lost souls, as wave after wave crashed over my head – the skulls clattering like wooden wind chimes – burying me in ash.
I felt myself begin to sink, the darkness pressing in on me from every direction. I opened my mouth to scream, but there was no sound – swallowed by the nothingness. Not even the ticking of a clock existed here. My hair stood on end as I sank deeper into the void – rapidly falling. The wind rushed in my ears, my body spiraling as I plummeted through space. I threw out my arms in an attempt to gain control and immediately slammed back down onto solid ground…
My eyes popped open and I sat bolt upright, my heart pounding in my chest. Disoriented, I quickly took in my surroundings; I was sitting at my desk – the only sound in the room came from my panicked breathing and the soft hum of my computer. Long lines of dim orange light filtered in through the vertical blinds along the glass wall of my room, striping the walls and floor. The clock on my screen saver read seven pm. I couldn't remember falling asleep. In fact, the last thing I did remember was pouring myself a cup of coffee – which was now completely cold.
"Edward?" Alice whispered, poking her head into the room. "Are you alright?"
I ran my hands over my face in an attempt to wipe away the sleep. "I'm fine," I answered my younger and closest sibling.
Alice entered the room, placing her hands on both sides of her slender frame. "Edward, I heard you yell... You had that dream again. Didn't you?" she added, intrigued.
If Alice had in fact heard me cry out, then of course she knew I'd been dreaming – but did she really need me to confirm it for her? "Yes, Alice," I replied, exasperated. I wasn't in the mood for her dream analyzing, and I was positive that was where this conversation would lead.
Alice let her arms fall casually to her sides. "Did you make it?" she asked.
I raked my fingers through my hair. "No." Did I ever make it to the end? I'd been having the same dream for two and a half years – it wasn't a dream I had every night, but it was the only dream I could seem to remember consciously – and not once had I made it inside of the rusted warehouse.
Alice tilted her head to the side in thought, "I was thinking-"
"Wait," I cut her off, my tone half-mocking, the other half impatient. "Are you sure you don't want to get your Dreamer's Dictionary first?"
Alice rolled her eyes. "Can it, Edward." And without pausing, she carried on, "I was thinking that maybe you don't want to reach the end of the dream."
I sighed. "I've already told you, Alice. I'm not a lucid dreamer."
"That's not what I meant," she replied, taking a seat on the edge of my bed. "I was talking about you, now, while you're awake. You do not want to see this dream through so much that the mental barriers you build up while awake are strong enough that your subconscious mind can't break through them. I bet if you just allowed yourself to see what was inside the warehouse, the dream would go away. Instead you face one obstacle after another, until you jolt awake."
As to be expected, Alice was right on the money – she was the most insightful person I knew. No, I sure as hell didn't want to see the damn dream through. I knew exactly what waited for me inside the warehouse, and it wasn't something I ever wanted to experience again – awake or asleep. Had I been completely open with Alice and shared the full details of my dream with her, I knew she would understand, and perhaps she would stop tying to break down my subconscious.
I decided to play dumb, "What?"
Alice looked back at me knowingly.
"It's just a dream, Alice. Everybody has nightmares."
Alice opened her mouth to speak – probably about to give me the whole "why people dream" speech for the thousandth time – but closed it on second thought with a defeated huff that blew out her cheeks.
"So, what were you doing lurking around up here anyway?" I teased; relieved she'd let the dream subject go – for now.
"Ooh, something along the lines of Psycho – but without the shower," she replied nonchalantly, with a wave of her hand.
I laughed. "You're such a freak." Alice was a lover of horror; unlike most girls who, at the tender age of five, latched onto all things pink and Barbie, Alice instead latched onto the Dreamwalker himself – Freddy Krueger – and never looked back from his slash-happy ways.
She smiled angelically, "I know." Then she became serious; "I was going to ask you if you would mind running to the store for me? Jasper had that competition in Seattle this weekend, Rose called to say she was running late, Emmett is giving little Henry a bath, Dad got called into the ER, and Mom is on a business call – otherwise I wouldn't have bothered you… not that you were working anyway."
"I was taking a coffee break."
"You may want to check the pot to make sure what you're drinking is leaded. Correct me if I'm wrong, but most people drink their coffee in the upright and awake position."
I rolled my eyes. "What is it that you need me to pick up for you?" I asked, standing up. I picked up my cold cup of coffee and headed for the door.
"Eggs," Alice replied, springing off the bed and following me into the hallway. She continued to bounce animatedly on the balls of her feet as we walked, "I'm making Swordfish a la Siciliana with asparagus and a Hollandaise sauce I found on the Food Network website."
I cringed internally. "What happened to Hamburger Helper?" Saturday nights were Alice's night to cook, and unless the food came out of a box, her meals were not exactly what one would call edible.
Alice stopped at the top of the stairs. "Edward, don't you know how bad that stuff is for you? How many preservatives and sodium it contains? Not to mention the lack of all notable nutrients. And it is completely unimaginative!"
"Hey, swordfish is great," I enthused, flattening my back against the wall and holding my hands and coffee cup up in surrender as Alice stomped past me down the stairs, "and you know I love asparagus."
"I just hope I'm able to digest it this time," I added, not quite under my breath as I followed behind her.
"What was that?" Alice threatened, twisting her torso just enough to give me a sideways glare. She was standing two stairs below me and just managed to come up to my waist.
I fought to control my smile, "I said it's good for digestion."
Alice narrowed her eyes. "That's what I thought."
We continued to banter with each other as we walked along the second floor corridor and down the grand staircase that curved along the west side of our family's great room. The large Victorian style mansion we lived in was still unfamiliar to me; I knew its layout like the back of my hand, but it didn't feel like home. The only sense of belonging I felt came from the people I lived with – my family.
"I've already gotten the steaks into the oven," Alice told me as we entered the kitchen. "All I have left is to cook the asparagus and make the Hollandaise sauce – which I know for a fact I had enough eggs for this morning. Emmett must be on another protein kick."
"I'll go to the store for you," I replied, dumping my coffee into the sink and rinsing out the cup to place in the dishwasher. "Is there anything else you need?"
"Yeah, pick me up some diapers," Emmett – our older brother – answered, entering the kitchen from the laundry room. He was carrying his ten-month-old son, Henry, in one arm and a small infant tote bag in the other. "I cannot believe how much," he mouthed over the word 'shit', "can come out of a baby. Where does he store it all, and what, on God's green Earth, did they feed you at that daycare today, huh, little man?"
Henry answered timely by flatulating soundly against his father's arm.
"Yeah," Emmett roared. "That's my boy!"
Alice shook her head. "Like father, like son."
"So what do you say, man, can you pick me up some diapers?"
I opened the refrigerator door and took a Dr. Pepper off the shelf, the carbonation burning my throat on its way down as I slammed half the can in just a few gulps. "Sure, no problem."
I assured Alice I would return soon, downed the second half of my soda, and followed Emmett into the family room where he sat Henry down into a large wooden playpen filled with toys, all designed to stimulate an infants mind. Henry sat cooing as he picked up a soft musical block and started chewing on its cloth tag.
"Size three," Emmett said, handing me a twenty-dollar bill from his wallet.
I shook my head. "I'll just use my card."
I grabbed my car keys from an end table drawer and headed for the garage. With half the family out and their cars gone, I was able to back my Volvo out without having to ask somebody to move their car first – one of the cons of having a large family.
Turning the volume up on the stereo, I pulled onto the twisting dirt road that lead from my family's home in the forest to the highway that would take me into town. I still found that thought to be strange; having to drive into town to go shopping. I'd grown up in Chicago – Emmett and Alice as well – where everything you needed was a short drive from home in any given direction.
It had been our mother, Esme, who one day decided she'd had enough of the Windy City and moved the entire family – Emmett and his wife, Rosalie, included – here to Forks, Washington. Six months later Alice met Jasper while having drinks at a pub in Port Angeles – a town just northeast of Forks – and Rosalie became pregnant with Henry. It had been a little more than two years since we'd left Chicago and our family had grown, but I was no more used to life in Forks than I had been the day we all arrived in this backwoods town.
I pulled into the parking lot at Thriftway five minutes later. It had begun to sprinkle as I drove into town and the rapidly accumulating drops of water on the windshield told me it was starting to pour. I grabbed my hoodie from the backseat and shoved my arms through the sleeves, pulling the hood up over my head. I exited the car quickly and jogged up to the automatic doors and out of the rain.
Slowing my stride to a walk, I headed straight towards the back of the store where the eggs were located. Once I found a carton that looked to be in good condition, I headed down the infant aisle for Henry's diapers, then back towards the front of the store. I was just about to place my items on the checkout counter when the clerk turned off her cash register and placed a 'closed' sign over the conveyor belt, forcing me to stand in the next line over behind an elderly man buying a months worth of prune juice and denture cream.
As I stood there waiting for grandpa to count out his change, I got the strangest feeling in the pit of my stomach – a tingling. I tried to remember the last time I'd eaten but I couldn't recall anything past the bowl of cold spaghetti I'd had for breakfast. I didn't actually feel hungry though, as the tingling wasn't exactly a growling – which, taking Alice's cooking into consideration, was probably a good thing. The tingling, however, was growing stronger.
"…Died in a motorcycle accident last month," said a voice I recognized as Jessica Newton's, as she got in line behind me. Jessica worked for Angela Cheney who ran the daycare Henry attended.
"That's horrible," replied a breathless, unfamiliar voice.
I rolled my eyes; in a town where everyday was a reflection of the day before, and events such as the relocation of the town's welcome sign made the front page, of course a story like Austin Marks' drunken seventy-five mile an hour kiss with an oncoming semi was still considered to be big news.
"…You feeling okay?" Jessica asked the other girl.
"I'm alright, it's just my stomach – it keeps getting worse. I was feeling nauseated before, but now…"
I groaned inaudibly, wanting to move up a few steps in case the unknown girl became ill – I didn't want to have to turn around and act like a gentleman if she decided to vomit. The tingling in my own stomach had intensified almost painfully and had spread through my chest and throat. I didn't feel sick, but it wasn't a pleasant feeling either.
"…The nausea seems to have turned into more of a fluttering."
Fluttering – that was a good way to describe it. I hoped I wasn't coming down with something, though it was impossible to have caught something from the girl standing behind me that quickly, if at all.
"Is it indigestion?"
"I'm not sure, but I think I'll buy some Tums, just in case. I'll be right back."
"Baking soda and water works better," replied Jessica, following the girl away from the checkout line just as grandpa slid the last few remaining pennies off the counter and into the palm of his hand, unsteadily handing them out to the cashier.
In that same moment the strange feeling in my abdomen began to subside, and I breathed a sigh of relief as I lowered my hood and stepped forward to pay for my things.
"Hello, Edward. Did you find everything you needed?" the cashier, Eric, asked politely.
"Yes. Thank you," I replied, setting a handful of Snickers bars down on the conveyor belt along with the diapers and eggs. Emmett, Jasper, and I liked to keep an emergency supply of assorted "munchies" in order to avoid disaster on nights when the forecast for Alice's cooking promised heart-stopping indigestion and fifty mile per hour winds.
"You have a good night," Eric said, handing me my bags after I'd paid. "Say hello to Dr. Cullen for me."
I nodded and pulled my hood back over my head. It was true what they said about small towns; everybody knew everybody.
Outside the rain had slowed to a drizzle, giving the air a mist-like quality. I pulled my cell phone from my pocket and sent Alice a quick message letting her know I was on my way back.
Be there in 5.
I pulled into the garage exactly five minutes later. Both Carlisle and Rosalie had returned home in my absence, but Jasper wouldn't be home until the following day. He was spending the weekend in Seattle for a Karate competition; Jasper owned a martial arts club in Port Angeles.
Emmett was waiting for me at the door. "Please tell me they were out of eggs."
"We're not that lucky," I replied, stepping into the house. The scent of burnt tuna and wine reached my nose the moment I'd closed the door behind me, "Is it supposed to smell that way?"
Emmett shrugged his shoulders, "No clue."
I handed him the diapers and the bag with the candy bars in it, "Here, stash these."
Emmett peeked inside the bag before animatedly switching to Secret Agent Man mode and slinking off towards the second floor. He hummed the theme to Mission Impossible as he took the stairs two at a time and then flattened his back against the landing wall.
"You're supposed to act natural," I called up to him.
Emmett farted repulsively in reply and disappeared down the hallway.
I shook my head. Emmett had a vulgar sense of humor, but he wasn't discourteous. In fact, he was very much a gentleman around the women in our family – around females in general – and was nothing but professional around his students and colleagues. Emmett taught physical education at Forks High School – he was also the coach of their football team in the fall, and their soccer team in the spring. Over the summers he coached Little League.
In the kitchen, Rosalie was sitting on a bar stool at the island counter, while Alice flitted about. They must have been speaking secretively because when I walked in the room they stopped talking altogether and Rosalie feigned giving her full attention to the shopping catalogue in front of her.
"Am I interrupting?" I handed Alice the bag containing the carton of eggs.
"Don't be silly," she replied, wiping her hands on her apron. "Rose and I were just chatting."
Rosalie looked up as though she'd just realized I'd walked into the room.
"Thank you, Edward," Alice continued. "Dinner will be done shortly; the sauce only takes a few minutes."
"You're welcome. It smells wonderful, Alice."
Alice knew she wasn't the best cook – I liked to tease her about it on occasion – but it was something she loved to do. Alice always put a lot of time and effort into whipping up "new and exciting" meals for us, and nobody had the heart – or guts – to ask her to stop. We would rather choke her food down with a smile than to risk Alice proving, once and for all, that reading Fangoria magazine was more than just a preference. It was her study guide.
I saw Rosalie smile in my peripheral view.
"Good evening, Rose," I said. "How was your day?"
"It was good. Thank you," she replied happily. "But before I forget, would you be able to pick Henry up from daycare not this coming Monday, but the week after?"
"Sure. No problem," I said, grabbing myself a second Dr. Pepper from the refrigerator.
"Thanks, Edward. Charlotte went into labor this morning so I'll be opening and closing the salon until she returns, and Emmett has a fundraiser at the Youth Center that night. Also, Alice and Esme will be in Seattle giving an estimate. So, I really do appreciate it."
"Hey, don't worry. It's what I'm here for. I'll take the little ankle biter to the park."
Rosalie laughed. "If you weren't doing me a favor I'd have to smack you for that comment," she teased.
"Just think of it as a term of endearment," I smirked. "I have no problem spending the afternoon with my nephew."
"Thanks again, Edward."
I was just about to step outside when I heard Alice curse. She was standing at the stove whisking vigorously over a double broiler.
"Do you need any help, Alice?"
"No, I've got it," she replied breathlessly, removing the pot from the burner. "I had the heat up too high; the eggs were clumping… Give me another five minutes. I'm going to try again." And she dumped the entire contents of the pot into a waiting trashcan with one lumpy glop.
I was about to wish her good luck when I thought better of it, "I'll be outside."
I exited the house through the sliding glass doors that lead from the kitchen to a large stone patio in the backyard. The sun had set just beyond the horizon, tinting the clouds vibrant shades of red and orange, and dousing the trees into darkness. I could hear the rush of water that was the Sol Duc River at the edge of our property running black in the shadows.
The patio had been Esme's project the previous summer. Both she and Alice were educated in renovation and design. The house itself had been their first project; it was the reason we all were living in Forks and not some other inconsequential town.
I set my Dr. Pepper down on the wrought iron coffee table and pulled a small crumpled rectangular box and silver butane lighter from my pocket before sinking my butt into the deep cushions of an outdoor lounge chair.
I still had the same three cigarettes in my pack as I did one month ago; I'd stopped smoking them. Not because I was trying to quit – I could care less about the erosion of my lungs – but because they no longer held the relief I was looking for. Not the nicotine or the repetitive motion. Today, however, I would smoke all three if I thought they would help to relax me even the smallest amount.
Placing the first cigarette gently between my lips, I cupped my hands around the Zippo brand lighter and quickly flicked my thumb across the flint wheel to ignite the wick. A soft glow illuminated the space between my palms, casting orange light across the portrait engraved into the metal. A beautiful one dimpled smile and wide enamored eyes looked back at me…
"It's dumb. You don't like it."
I turned the small silver rectangle over in my palm and ran a finger gently over the thin raised markings along its body. "It's perfect," I whispered. "I love it."
"Really?" she asked tentatively. "You don't think it's stupid?"
"Stupid? Not at all."
"Because I would understand if you think it is. I just didn't know what to get you – I suppose another vintage band tee would have been good, but you already own so many…"
I shook my head and waited for her to finish.
"And then I thought perhaps something to parallel the locket you gave to me for Christmas, but I couldn't imagine you with something like a pocket watch… I'm sorry. It was a bad idea."
"Look at me," I said, taking her cheek into the palm of my hand. "You couldn't have given me a gift I would love more."
Her warm cinnamon eyes brimmed with tears.
"Why are you crying?" I asked, wiping the drops away with the pads of my thumbs.
She closed her eyes and leaned her head further into my hand, "Because you love me…"
"Edward?" My mother's soft voice pulled me from my reverie.
I gave my wrist a quick jerk and the hinged lid of the lighter snapped shut to smother the flame. I removed the unlit cigarette from between my lips and answered, "I'm here."
I heard Esme's footsteps along the stone path leading from the back of the house to the patio. She smiled as she came into view and took a seat in one of the chairs across from me. She wore a long red floral dress with straps that tied behind her neck. Her graying bronze hair fell in soft waves over her shoulders. She was beautiful.
"I've missed you today," she said. "You've been so busy."
I nodded. "I accomplished quite a bit. I even had time for a nap."
"Good. You haven't been sleeping well… sometimes I worry."
My mother rarely spoke of what was on her mind; never really verbalizing her thoughts or opinions on anything. The way most people needed to put what they felt into words, Esme used soft eyes and meaningful gestures, often conveying more through a look than many could ever hope to express through speech.
So when Esme told me she was worried, I knew she was talking about more than just my sleeping habits.
"I'm okay," I reassured her.
Esme's eyes moved to the lighter I was cradling in the palm of my hand. They lingered there for the briefest moment before she swept her gaze up towards the sky.
"Do you know what I like the most about living in a small town?" she asked with a sigh. "There are no lights bright enough to obscure the stars."
I didn't bother to look up; I knew I wouldn't be able to see the stars even if I did. Instead, I put the unlit cigarette away and placed both the lighter and the crumpled pack back into my pocket.
Esme turned to look at me, a forlorn smile on her lips. "If you could only see past the clouds."
For a fleeing moment, I thought I saw the glint of a tear on my mother's cheek reflecting the dull light that shone from the garden lanterns, but before I could look too closely, Alice called out, "Dinner's ready!"
Esme turned her head in the direction of the house and replied, "We'll be there in a moment, dear."
When she turned back to me, the tear was gone, and I wasn't positively sure I'd seen it in the first place.
"Let's go eat," she said, rising to her feet. "Your sister has put together a wonderful meal for us."
I nodded my head and stood up. As we walked up the stone pathway, I reached for my mother's hand.
"It may be cloudy, but it's still a beautiful night."
. . .
Dinner tasted exactly the way it smelled, like burnt tuna fish and fermented fruit. I took small bites to avoid the rock hard raisins, while Emmett pushed the food around his plate like a school kid trying to make it look like he'd eaten more than he actually had. Rosalie fed Henry pureed fruit and diced vegetables out of small jars, and something from the way Emmett kept glancing at his son told me he would gladly trade up the inedible delicacy on his plate for the jars of mush if given half the chance. Honestly, he wasn't the only one. Even Esme was chewing slowly, and Carlisle kept looking down at his pager as though he was expecting to be called into the Emergency Room at any moment.
Saturday nights were also what we liked to call Alice and Rosalie's "cloak and supper" night. After dinner, Alice, Rosalie, and sometimes Esme, would head out to Port Angeles for drinks and dancing. It was a suspicion shared by the men in our family that the girls ordered real meals while they were out.
"Your sister really outdid herself this time," my father said as Emmett handed him a Snickers bar. "Thank you, Emmett."
Emmett was carrying an infant monitor that crackled in the pocket of his cargo shorts. He'd just returned from putting Henry to bed and had stopped by the second floor storage closet on his way down.
"We should order pizza," Emmett replied. He tossed a Snickers bar in my direction before plopping down on to a plush white armchair. "Meat lovers."
Without argument, Carlisle drew his cell phone from his pocket. "How about you, Edward?"
I nodded in agreement before leaning my head against the back of the sofa. I listened to the static sounds of Henry cooing over the monitor, a continuous flow of soft vowels and burbles, while Carlisle placed the order for our pizza.
In no time at all my body began to feel weighed down, the waves of sleep lapping at my consciousness. Henry's coos became distant, an echo in the dark, and I was weightless…
A shiver, as gentle as butterfly wings, crept through my body as I stood facing the warehouse. Under my feet was the ocean of skulls, stagnate. The city burned on the horizon. Ash filled the air, the scent thick and cloying.
Standing at the base of the warehouse was the figure of a girl. Her features were blurred as though I was looking at her through wall of heat. She stood with her back towards me, reading the aged sign on the front of the building.
Slowly, the girl turned to face me, and though I couldn't see her clearly, she was familiar to me.
"Will it hurt?" she asked.
I nodded solemnly. "More than I can tell you."
Without another word she turned back, her hair undulating around her slender frame, and she took a hold of the rusted doorknob and pulled.
"Wait!" I cried out, but my voice caught in my throat and I began to choke. Heavy smoke filled my airways as the ground gave way under the soles of my feet.
Blackness surged up around me and I fell, plummeting through space once more.
Snickers happens to be my favorite candy bar. What's yours?