Les Femmes Noires One-Shot Contest
Title: Echoes of the Second Hand
Your pen name: shalu
Characters: hmmm...
Disclaimer: La Meyer owns the characters and a lot more than me. Bitch. (kidding! call me!)

This is my first fic that did not need an 'M' rating.
I'm a little disturbed by this because I didn't even get to drop the F-bomb once.
I hope this doesn't bother you. ;) AU/OOC.

To see other entries in Les Femmes Noires Contest, please visit the C2 page:

I know exactly when and how I'm going to die.

Every night, the same vision flickers behind my eyelids. Plumes of moonlight carelessly float about the wide and cavernous room, silently painting the floor in undulating stripes. The cold of shadows rests upon me, my skin alight with chill. The weight upon my chest is inexplicable and crushing. What bears down on me, I can't see. My breaths are short and panicked, my gasps the only noise echoing among the stillness. There is little focus in my vision as my eyes flicker from a huge split in the plaster above me to a tree branch swaying past the windowpane. My alarm increases exponentially when I realize that I cannot move my limbs. Whatever holds my chest and constricts my airway has spread and covered my limbs like a thick cement.

Within the span of a blink, he is above me.

I never see his face. Just his disheveled blonde hair pressing against my cheek. Soft as silk, but any pleasant response is consumed by my terror. His form is hard, like a smooth stone, and my body temperature begins to drop even as my heart rate speeds up. He does not breathe, and I cannot hear a sound, save my own tiny cries. My perspective blurs as hot tears cocoon my sight. I sense his teeth at my throat. Sharp, yet dull as I feel skin and muscle tearing. Overbleached sheets scratch my skin, harshly chafing as his hands easily secure my weak attempts at a struggle. One palm wraps around my left wrist, his body blanketing the other. The simple cotton of my modest sleep gown wrinkles and rips.

The pain and pressure at my neck throbs, waxes, and wanes. His tongue pushes against the gaping wound. For a split-second, I am oddly comforted. My body reacts, beginning to quake. My heart stutters and trips over itself, threatening to stop. Warmth, wet and sticky, envelopes me as blood spills across my gown, my sheets, my skin. It pools in the divot between my collarbones before running over. As if leaking away with my life, my vision goes black.

"Let go." His harsh whisper echoes in my ears, the hint of a smile stained with torment brushes the edges of his words. A steady deluge of lightning-fast murmurings barely find my ears over my pleas. He speaks too quick, too sharp. I can decipher nothing. A spell? A curse? Pondering no more than a second, given no capacity to do so, I suck in a cutting gulp of air.

I continue to shake, a violent and alien cold wracking my body. My toes are the first go numb. Mere seconds later, my feet, ankles and the lowest part of my shins. Inch by inch, any sensation disappears, eking away until my lungs pucker and collapse. One last gasp and I wake, panting and frozen.

Every night.

I first dreamed of my death the night I turned nine. I woke up confused more than scared. Enough so that I forgot about the dream, or nightmare, and dismissed it. But the next sleep brought more of the same. And every night since. Well, every night that I actually slept. After close to a week of exhausting repetition, I refused to continue. For three months I went without sleeping at night. Nodding off in school, on the tireswing, at the dinner table, and the like became my norm. I would not allow myself to fall asleep at night. Eventually, I got so sick, my parents hospitalized me. It had started to show externally; bruises cradling my eyes, receding into their sockets, sallow skin, ribs protruding. I'd caught influenza or something, they said, and it grew into pneumonia. They gave me medicines, and I slept. I stayed in the hospital for four weeks. Sleeping. Dreaming. About my death.

When I came home, I finally told my parents why I didn't want to sleep. My mother admonished me for believing such nonsense as a recurring nightmare to be truth. She took me to church twice a week to pray.

On my knees, the hard cherry wood grain etching itself into my thin, papery skin, I tried. I begged for clemency from my death sentence. Or at least, to forget. To banish the imagery from my mind; the scratching, the moonlight, the cold and the shadows. Murmuring fevered solicitations through my folded fingers, eyes shut tight, the pictures flashed as though bidden by my prayers. "God, please God, make him go away." I repeated my plea until my mother's knee impatiently bumped my side, urging me to go. I realized I'd been circling one sentence for nearly half an hour. Imploringly, I drew a cross in the air in front of my body like my mother had showed me and scurried out of the pew and toward the doors. Early the next morning, I woke crying and ran to my parents' bed where I was admonished for my weakness. This was obviously my fault. The next week, she took me to confession, as nothing had improved.

My bicep muscles tense within my mother's fist, I was dragged toward the standing coffin against the wall. A thick, blood red drape across the opening was pulled back and I was shoved in, like a prisoner. Shadows of my mother's feet stood just outside, but rather than her known presence alleviating any fear, it exacerbated it. The snap movement of the wood behind the grate startled me, and I heard a gruff throat clear itself.

Timidly, I began. "Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned..." I knew that much. We'd gone over it for fifteen minutes before leaving the house, and the entire walk to the church. "My mother says the devil is trying to possess me. He gives me visions of my death and I know it's going to happen."

"You must pray, my child," the low, gruff voice instructed me. "Pray every day when you wake, every night before sleep. The Lord will forgive you if you are earnest. Allowing the fallen one into your mind will be your downfall. Repent and beg your savior's forgiveness."

I remember staring at the ornate wood patterns between us. He said it was my fault, too. I could not understand how I'd done anything to begin with. But I did what I was told and not a thing changed. Not my dream, nor my reactions. Week by week, I was taken to the holy building, and persistently, I asked. My mother was adamant that if I was good, if I was a proper young lady, if I listened to her and to my father, and did as I was told...I would be saved.

Instead, the nightmare gained momentum. Increasing in clarity and intensity. The cold became colder, his teeth sharper. My cries were louder; my convulsing, more violent. Or that's how I felt when I flew from my bed upon waking, as though fleeing from the monster wrapped in my sheets.

Months later, I woke screaming and flailing, my father's arms pinning me to the mattress. Exasperation and anger flashed in his eyes, while fear glowed white hot in my mother's. Later that week, our priest came for dinner. I scraped the last of my mashed potatoes off my plate, the buttery treat disappearing behind my lips. They were my favorite. I felt a small smile warming me. But then Father Marcus began to explain how he was going to help me.

Even as a small child, I understood the phrase, "makes my skin crawl." The word exorcism will always do just that.

The horrifying three-hour "procedure" left permanent scars. Literally and figuratively. I can only think of the incident in pieces now. The straps tying my arms and legs to the bedposts digging into my wrists and ankles, rubbing the skin clean off my bones. Father Marcus' bellowing, harsh tones filling the house, smacking at my eardrums. My mother's incessant weeping and hollering, "my weak, weak child...possessed by the Dark One!" It may have been laughable were I not in such pain and discomfort, and honestly fearing for my life. Father Marcus saying the demon would respond to my physical pain and come to the surface, making it easier to draw out. My father offering his belt. The blur of fire in front of my face and blistering hot licking my soles. Torches. Small scepters of hell waving back and forth beneath my toes as I hung suspended by my hands, twisted in my father's belt. Screaming. Always screaming.

I still wince at the sight of a leather belt and jump at the sound of a struck match.

I stopped talking altogether for a long time after that debacle. I was polite. I would nod and gesture to indicate my responses. Eventually, "Yes," and "No," became more easily spoken. Direct questions were answered succinctly, but mostly I tossed a prim smile at whoever tried to draw a word from me. My parents were leery of my even more reserved attitude, but also accepted this behavior as a polite, obedient young woman. I'd learned my lesson. Never again would I ask for help.

Scraping through life with a decent grip on sanity, I thought, I steeled to the night. It was never pleasant, nor something I could resign myself to easily, but eventually I did just that. I could no longer fight it. I didn't have the energy to do so. I fell to my death every night with a resolute surrender. The blankets and pillow consumed me as did the rigid visions that never altered. I woke each morning, pre-dawn, in the same bewildered, shaken state. My body would physically stutter to the bathroom down the hall to glare into the cracked silver, where my reflection reminded me that it was just one more day. The countdown would continue.


The library became a home away from home. I was desperately absorbing anything I could on dreams, clairvoyance, psychology, and like subjects. Unfortunately, most information aside from the obvious academics fell into occult categories, so I got a lot of strange looks from the librarians. I didn't mind so much; I had long ago become used to it.

When Felix approached me, to say I was stunned was an understatement. He noticed the book I was reading, Studies in Dreams, and inquired about it. He seemed genuinely interested, and though I divulged little about the reasons for my research, I enjoyed talking with him. I didn't have friends, not really, so to have an exchange so pleasant was refreshing. He was so tall and broad, but surprisingly gentle and sweet.

Every Thursday, he pretended to run into me in the occult section, claiming he'd gotten lost again. I would chuckle, and point him in the direction he was seeking, but he wouldn't actually continue on. He would pepper me with questions on whatever tome I was attached to, and discuss it with me, offering his own take or light argument. After several weeks, he asked me on a proper date. He courted me very respectfully, though my parents were surprised when Felix asked for my father's permission to marry me. I was not swept up in romance, but it seemed the closest I may ever get, so I accepted.

I was happy enough, and for a while, hope twisted and shimmered in front of my eyes like the refracting colors of a kaleidoscope.

But the dream was consistent, and the apprehension did not diminish to obscurity. Soon after the wedding, Felix awoke to my startling habit. Or rather, a bloodcurdling shriek.

"My dear, this is no way to live! You can't go night after night without rest. No wonder your eyes are so dark," he's said, so early one Sunday morning. I had begrudgingly explained and laid it all out before him. "How long have you been dreaming this nonsense?"

Nonsense. He didn't believe me, either. "A while," I said quietly, unwilling to see the disapproval in his gaze. "Much longer than you could understand."

I tried to derail the conversation with talk of trying for a baby. Another attempt to misdirect fate, and a decent one, I'd thought. He didn't hear a word. He was already working to make an appointment with a good doctor. Internally, I'd laughed. My mother tried the church, my husband would try medicine. I tried to dig up information that might lead me to something fruitful, but I always ended up in the same place: pinned beneath my murderer in a fit of restless sleep.

The first doctor we met with was a general physician over the river from Cincinnati. It was a long drive, but I felt completely at ease in his small office. His compassion and understanding radiated from his tall form. He seemed quite young for a doctor, but pale, aged eyes told of more knowledge and experience than my grandfather's. His eyes were dark and obscured by the glasses he wore. The backlighting of his oil lamp cast a glow around his head, highlighting his trim blonde hair. As he held my gaze briefly but intensely, he looked over the top of his glasses, and I got the distinct feeling he didn't need them, but I shrugged it off. I noticed the marked difference in his facial features over those Felix boasted. To Felix's hard, squared jaw, his face was softly angular but still strong. This doctor was...beautiful, if you can say that about a man. I barely got the chance to speak, however, as Felix dragged me out by the arm the moment he heard "psychologist" uttered. I immediately felt lost.

Over the course of a half a year, we met with two more physicians, three psychologists, and seven so-called specialists (in what, I'm still not sure). With each appointment, the dream became savage in its effect on me. Felix said I'd begun consistently whimpering, crying, and even screaming in my sleep. It had become impossible to wake me until the dream was complete. Until I reached my final breath. Only then would I wake.

He was quicker and quicker to anger with me, and had begun to leave bruises on my arms. Not hitting, but gripping them, squeezing in frustration and disappointment. It wasn't long before he couldn't handle any more. He conferred with my parents, unbeknownst to me, and they agreed I should be committed. It was a small hospital three days' travel from our home, overlooking a private lake. They didn't visit. I refused to speak. I noticed the sheets were quite abrasive on my new bed.


The doctors at Northville were strange. I was never forced to speak, or eat, or even sleep. For a while, I did very little of any. I was often left to wonder if they felt sorry for me. I never explained myself to them, though therapists often asked me to. From the moment Felix and my parents dropped me off, I knew it didn't matter. I was here. The clock was ticking loud now. Each magnified second echoed it's rhythm in my ears, alerting me to the approach of the deadline. As I'd walked through the thick, heavy doors upon my arrival here, each step repeated, mirroring the snap of the second hand. The hushed and backhanded insults they shared in conversation surrounded me, but my ears distorted the sound and pushed it away. I was so close now.

I was almost constantly uneasy and wondered why I didn't try to end it myself. After all, my husband and family had already discarded me. Who was I to be faithful to now? What was I fulfilling by waiting for him?

Instead, I drifted in a haze until the uneasiness became numb. It was difficult, but no more so than living so many years in the fog of unrest.

And then she came. A young woman not far from me in age. Her bed was next to mine in the large room. She was quiet, and very sad. I could feel her loneliness as she lay silent. For some reason, I wanted to crawl into her bed and wrap myself around her. Just comfort her. While I was resigned to my place, I knew she wasn't. I felt her heart breaking over and over again, as though she woke up each day with ignorant hope, only to be crushed anew.

I watched her a lot, diverting myself from my own clock. Her eyes never lifted from the floor, nor dropped from the ceiling. The space between the two was apparently terrifying, judging from the way her irises flicked from linoleum to chipped paint. Sometimes they would rest on her wrists, and the bandages there.

A week, maybe two, shuffled by sluggishly. At the end of those weeks, something pulled me away from my sheets, further from he who haunts me. My legs slid out from beneath the meager blanket, the cold tiles soon pressing against my soles. A few deliberate steps later, and my body curled against her form, my arms pulling her into my chest. She didn't jump, or start. Rather, she breathed a long, stammering exhale capped with a withered moan.

"Each day brings a night, and the night brings its worst," I whispered, speaking as much to myself as I was to her. Incredibly muffled sobs broke away, the lumpy mattress absorbing each individual tremble for some time. Her bony spine wriggled backwards against me, trying to disappear. I assumed I had not enough joy within me to alleviate her own lack of it. Until...

"Thank you." So hushed, the gratitude may have escaped human ears, but I was somehow attuned. The poor soul promptly fell asleep gripping my fingertips laced between hers and clutching them to her, much like a child holds a beloved teddy bear. A smile claimed me. A real, genuine smile.

Never in my life had I felt such pride. I did not dream that night.

When I woke, I was still in her bed, but she was gone. The sun streamed through the tall windows, thickly lapping at my skin with the warmest tentacles of light. I sat upright, bewildered by the way I'd waken. Easy. Naturally. With peace. To be honest, it scared me more. I jumped from the bed and threw quick glances at every angle of the room.

"Oh, hi!" A small voice chirped behind me, and I spun. She smiled brightly and waved at me, before whispering, "You missed breakfast, but really? You didn't miss anything."

My mouth turned up at one corner.

"I didn't want to wake you," she explained. "You were sleeping like the dead."

All amusement drained from my expression. I stared blankly, perhaps paralyzed for a full few seconds. Horror and remorse took turns trampling across her face. Finally, I broke. That is, I completely lost it. Guttural laughs bubbled up from the deepest part of my being, erupting in a dischordant racket that bent me over, holding my stomach. To say her eyes went wide didn't cover it. A somber countenance was speedily replaced by one of glee.

She rushed forward and hugged me. "No dreams last night?"

I eyed her, curious. "No." It nearly came out as a question.

She nodded to herself. "Good. I hate to hear you cry."

I smiled at that. Not even my husband had that much compassion. Nor my parents. But this stranger had more concern, real concern, for me than my professed loved ones. I sat on my own bed across from hers, and folded my hands in my lap. She bounded over and claimed the spot next to me. My hands went to my hair to smooth the sleep-mussed strands, but I quickly gave up. I momentarily forgot that I didn't care.

She suppressed a laugh. "Your hair is beautiful," she offered. "Even after sleeping all night, it's still lovely."

"Would you stop?" I was exasperated.

"No." Very matter of fact. "I like you. But you don't like yourself, and I don't understand why. The nightmares aren't you, you know."

I felt warmth over my hands. It was her hands. She leaned toward me, settling her cheek against my shoulder. "Why were you so upset?" I felt as though I had never instigated a thoughtful conversation in my life. It's quite possible I hadn't. Felix was very much the aggressor in our relationship, and that had been fine with me. Up until this point, I had only taken what had been offered, instead of asking for something. Anything. This was oddly refreshing.

"Everyone I love thinks I'm crazy." Her words were laced with black, though impassive. "My parents, my friends...they all thought I was trying to kill myself."

I pulled my bottom hand out of the pile and placed it atop hers. "Were you?"

She sighed, "I'm just scared." She didn't answer the question, but I felt like she had.

"What are you scared of?"

"What are you scared of?" Her mirrored counter was not snide, nor defensive.

Shrouded momentarily in the faded blanket of the fate that visits me every night—but not last night, I blinked and returned to the conversation. "How many more ticks of the clock? When will it stop?" The faint words slipped over my tongue, asking anyone who'd care to answer, my eyes unfocused and staring ahead.

Hands were tightly pressing around mine, when I heard the faintest reply. "Soon."

My eyes quickly snapped to her face, her eyes guarded.

"I have a session now," she informed me suddenly before hopping up to go. Stopping, she looked over her shoulder. "You're going to be very important to me." Her lips pursed and a tiny giggle bounced in her throat, but there was a bend of confusion in her brow. The perplexing look passed, and she circled to leave. The expression surely passed to me, as I was fairly bewildered.

As she stepped away, heading down the hall, the tall blonde orderly watched her from the shadowed office. He noticed me and raised an brow, a peculiar gleam in his eye. Shivers cut through my gut like a tiny storm of glass shards. I stepped back, the bed sweeping my feet out from under me. I blinked hard as I bounced lightly, and when I refocused, he was gone.

He was here.


I woke in the middle of the night, bound. My wrists fastened tightly to steel bars by leather straps. I fought against them to find my skin already raw beneath the restraints. The fleshy side of my hip felt bruised, as if I had been stabbed with a blunt needle. My cheeks were stiff with dried tears, and my chest sticky and cold with stale perspiration. What happened? Why was I...?

I was not in my normal bed, but in a solitary room. One with little room for air, dingy white blocks painted with years of madness closed in around me as I panicked. I could not see much but the pocked ceiling and blank walls, feeling the only escape behind me. Before a sound registered, lips were at my ear pushing cold breath against its shell. "You're safer here, my pet..."

I twisted violently to see the owner of this voice, but my room was empty. No evidence of a door opening or closing. This was not right.

My throat was bloodied and raw from screaming, but I kept wailing until I passed out over an hour later.


Rubbing my wrists, I walked slowly and without purpose through the halls toward my bed. An unexpected gloom hung heavily in the atmosphere, like that of a funeral for a child. When I reached my dormitory, I saw her bed was gone. Not just empty, but gone. The space where it once stood, unoccupied.

"What...wha?" I tried to ask, but my lips and tongue were lethargic, no doubt due to whatever they'd injected me with the night prior.

The orderly accompanying me put his hand on my shoulder, as if that would answer my confusion, but my alarm escalated fast. Quickly, I was sedated again, but this time placed in my bed.

Hollow, disoriented, and hungry, I came to in the early evening. Distress froze me when I discovered the reason for her disappearance. My dream had been on display, cries and shrieks through quakes and convulsions, and I did not wake. My friend had tried to come to my aid, but was pulled away by an orderly. As I was medically calmed, she was murdered. At least, that's what was assumed. He'd stayed behind to restrain her as I was taken away and dealt with. When they returned, all that remained was her bed. Bloodied and empty.

I listened hard for the whispers. The basic skeleton was revealed to me, but there was more. Staff lets more slip when they think patients aren't really "all there," so I visibly withdrew. Muttered accusations and randomly harsh barbs slung from doctor to nurse, orderly to doctor. No one could remember who the orderly was that had subdued my friend. My friend.

"Do you have children?" She'd asked me.

"No." I noticed the sadness in my words. Despite knowing where my life would end, I realized now there was always a wish to take care of someone else. Perhaps to give what I'd never felt. "You?" I doubted it, because she looked so much younger than she actually was.

"Mmm-mm," she sharply hummed the decline, shaking her head. "No one wants to marry and make babies with crazy. Just use, abuse, and discard."

Discard. What happened to her? Then, she was an unprotected girl, taken advantage of by the basest of men. Now? Was it more of the same? Only ratcheted up to the most violent level? There was no evidence but a bloodsoaked mess of sheets and a ruined mattress. I'd heard a nurse say the mattress was practically in shreds, like a wild animal tore it apart. It had happened so fast, not a door or a window broken in the process. It seemed so impossible, I began to think I might just be mentally unsound. Sedation and strapping me into that cement box took no more than five to ten minutes, they claimed. The entire staff seemed dumbfounded there was no plausible explanation nor witness to something so apparently brutal.

Barely detectable tremors rippled across my skin and within my muscles for days. I didn't sleep. I barely blinked. I hardly left my bed. I watched the days and nights come and go in arcs along the ceiling as my heart grieved. I stared without blinking at the unoccupied space next to me, willing the answers, but only feeling the depth of violation. It was as though my family had been ripped away from me. The sensation of loss that I had felt after being abandoned here by my parents and husband, it was dim and weak compared to this. Why? I was wracked with guilt like I had lost a child. What could I have done?

There were no tears. No sobs. No whimpers or external expressions. Just the continual earthquake within my very bones. I did not fear for myself. I was too sure. My fate clearly outlined, I let sadness seep into every crevice of my being. Before, I had merely been waiting, edged with anxiety and a bit of fear. Now, I slept day after day. Never at night. Fury grew in my gut, roiling with resentment and every negative emotion that grief gave birth to. I began acting out, striking at random orderlies with no provocation. "Was it you?!" I would scream before launching myself at them, fingernails clawing desperately. I knew it wasn't, as I could still see his face clearly, sneering from his shadowy corner, blonde locks pulled back from his pale face. Every orderly began to look like him. And every attack I made was worse.

The doctors really started paying attention then. If I didn't eat, I was tube fed. Put on a strict medication regimen, including a harsh cocktail to knock me out at night; my sleep was dictated. In fact, I slept most of the time. Reality's edges blurred, coming in and out of focus with the ebb and flow of the drugs. Clouded by confusion, the lack of definition and boundaries boomeranged my anger back to despondency. I quit struggling from within, my attempts to anchor myself stilled. I hoped to drift away with the tide, but something fenced me in. Something compressed my lungs, my breath, my heart. Emotions like a twister thrashed around inside me, creating havoc. Panic rose as the drugs kept me trapped inside my head. The weight of my life bore down.

The ticking of the second hand was amplified, sharp knocks like a bony fist on hollowed oak.

Then, a new face appeared in my days, though rarely could I see him clearly. I may have been dreaming, but it was somehow kind and soothing. So familiar, but the cocktail disconnected my mind. He spoke to me as though he understood it all, though I'm sure he understood nothing. He couldn't possibly. To them, I was just crazy. But not to him. Inexplicably, I believed him. I didn't care if he was real or not anymore. I felt myself calm and level when I saw him. A crooked smile on his handsome face and a twinkle in his gold-colored eyes parted the clouds that had settled.

"He cannot be real," I murmured my thoughts aloud. His eyebrows rose in concern, but the smile remained.

"Who's that?" His words quietly lifting the veil.

"You." I sat almost contentedly within myself, peering out at him from behind my eyes. He watched me silently for a while, his gaze deftly slipping past my lashes, diving through all my physical barriers. Hot tears spilled over my lids, wetting my cheeks, as though he had landed in the center my soul forcing an overflow.

"Please help me," I croaked, not even sure what I was asking for, nor what I should expect.

His smile faded, but the countenance he held was not one of pity. He sighed. "I will do what I can."

He rose and left. From time to time, he would return and ask me questions. Some, about my life and what led me here. Others about my dream. Occasionally, he even ventured so far as to try to decipher how I coped with it all. Always, I searched out his eyes and tried to fasten my attention there. Still sure I was hallucinating, only truth was uttered. I held nothing back. Given my medications, I may not have been able to should I have the inclination. The only answer I requested in return was "Why?"

"There is so much more of you hiding in there," he told me on his last visit, his hand reaching out toward me. "I can sense it hibernating. I couldn't let you slip away."

A cool hand on my cheek sent flames licking across the expanse of my skin. A sensation so strong, I gasped with my entire body. He jumped back, apologetically, and excused himself. Did his touch really do that? Or am I in a constant dream state?

Regardless of authenticity, without him near, I disappeared into the chemical haze where all I could hear were echoes of my fate. Even when he didn't speak, I felt his presence, and the fog would clear, and the world would brighten. I found myself waiting. Waiting for him, waiting for something to change. I began to feel restless, and soon I became sick of waiting.

For the first time in my life, I wanted to move forward, but into what, I hadn't the vaguest inclination of what that should be. Only that during those brief moments of clarity he afforded me, I thrived.

The clock marched painfully forward, though I couldn't define its measurements anymore. His visits were infrequent lately, and it made me anxious. At some point my restraints were taken away, though I'm not sure how long it took me to notice. The medication was still leaden upon me, keeping me fairly sedate, but one particularly gray day, I fought it with everything I never had. Doubt never possessed me when it came to the promise my nightmare made, but I was going to do this anyway. I would force my hand.

Slowly, and with resolute purpose, I left my bed in the middle of the night, carefully avoiding the nurse's station. My fingertips gripped bedframes and chairbacks as I made my way to the stairs, and up to the roof. As I stepped onto the gravel-covered tar in my bare feet, a smile puckered my lips. My scars gave me shields; the gravel was cool and damp, but even the sharpest pieces did not affect me. I walked the roof like a plank, but held my head high, even with the trees and lines of the neighboring building swimming together. I could still feel enough balance to proceed toward the edge.

The lake rippled audibly, small waves pushed by the tumult of the winds. A storm coming, perhaps. I held enough self-awareness to feel the wet trails upon my cheeks, but that was all. It was not raining yet.

My toes wrapped over the edge of the low barrier, and my legs held me tall, my spine lengthening and tensing. "I asked for your help," I breathed into the gale as it played with my body. "You left me toxic in the clouds. It is my turn to be in control. You said you will do what you can. I will do what I can."

Lifting my arms like preparation for a final bow, I closed my eyes released my posture, falling forward. I turned gracefully head over heels, waiting for the rocky earth three stories below to catch me. I felt nothing.


The sheets below scratch my hands, as though the harsh cotton fibers are splintering into my skin. My eyes fly open and see that familiar ceiling above me. My mind is fairly clear, though a little blurry around the edges, I suppose. I am cold, very cold, I notice suddenly, and my chest feels terribly constricted. I cannot move. Through a sharp intake of breath, I realize that my ribs are broken.

This is it. No more a dream.

Though I had spent a lifetime experiencing this very thing in my head, my body still reacts as it had during every night's preview. I am panicking. My breath speeds into tiny shallow breaths as I watch the exactly predicted patterns of light dancing along the walls and floor. How long had I been out? Am I already dead? Was the dream a preview of hell? Is this my purgatory? My punishment for...

"No no no no no..." slurs rapidly from my lips, my muscles fighting against my lethargic limbs. But like it was in the dream, it is now. I blink angry tears away, and he is there, holding me down. His face is cool, burying in the crook of my neck. I feel his inhale, taking in my scent and a shiver of perverse delight shimmers through me. One hand leaves its point of restraint at my wrist and traces my form beneath my gown, feathering his chill along my hip, waist, ribs, to my breast. Teeth lightly scrape along my throat, following the pulse hammering beneath my skin. The hitch in my panting gasps give him pause, he stills. Did I like it? Or was it fear?

The softness of his hair is against my cheek, as I knew I would be. I sigh, but at this moment, I think I can survive. Mustering any strength I might have, I wrench my face away from him. But then teeth gouge my flesh. A white hot pain tears through my body. Horrifying wails strangle in my throat as a new struggle within me is born. Something rises within me and fills my limbs with fight. My legs start to kick and my free arm grips at his hair as I feel the blood pour over my collarbone and soak my cloth-covered chest. Somehow, I twist backwards and away, falling off the bed opposite him.

I am taking control. This is MY death.

Scrambling, I hastily press a hand against the wound, the jagged and sticky edges stinging against my touch. Instantly dizzy, I knock into the next empty bed, falling over and stumbling to my knees. His mouth is at my ear before I can register any movement. "Let go."

"Oh, God..." I whimper, immediately feeling the loss of any domination I might have believed I had. Even with my newfound confidence and my attempt to thwart the path of oncoming destruction, the result is going to be the same. "NO!"

"I've been looking for you."

His declaration doesn't surprise me. This man, or whatever he is, knew he would be here as much as I did. My hips jerk as I try to move away. "I know." The words barely scrape past my tongue. Tears overflow as the blood slips past my tenuous hold and leaks through my fingers, landing in random splatter patterns on the floor. A howl escapes my throat but I can't hear, only feel it. I force the air from my lungs violently, but still no sound.

"You've been waiting for me?"

"All my life." Mourning and wistfulness stain my words.

"You want to join your tiny friend? I suspect I know what happened to her." I hear disappointment and disgust.

My ears tickle with his breath, and I shiver. It thrills and terrifies me. My legs try to help me to my feet, but the warm, dark slick beneath me has pooled and I land on my back, knocking my head against the floor. Immediately I attempt to lift myself again, but any strength has faded. So much blood.

My eyes finally focus on his face, his familiar handsome face, shrouded vaguely in shadow. "It's you."

"I said, would you like to join your friend?"

Frustrated by him, a growl vibrates my chest. I close my eyes, my sight dimming. A vicious exhale clears my lungs of breath as I finally respond to his query. "Yes." Inhale. "Yes." Exhale. "Yes." I open my eyes again, and everything is black. My body relaxes, and pain, along with feeling, seeps from each and every cell. The quaking begins, perhaps the literal equivalent of the death rattle. The most acute of the shaking leaves me with the numbness, which slowly creeps in from every extremity before reversing and sweeping back towards my tips with the lick of fire. I am burning alive.

"I'm ready..." Gasp. "Carlisle, I'm ready."

"Yes," he laughs, his harsh whisper repulsing, arousing, and frightening me to the center of my being. Cold hands grips my face as his closes in, revealing itself from shadow. Black eyes began to fill red, brimming with a passion and want previously foreign to me. "You're mine now, Esme."

A/N: Big thanks to my beta battalion AzureEyedI, Feisty Y Beden, nfglrygrl, and RHK...really appreciate all your feedback and allowing my whine-age and pitypartification. I hope y'all enjoyed!