A/N: All characters are the property of Stephenie Meyer. No disrespect or copyright infringement is intended.
Still Before Nightfall
Today was a day like any other.
I sat beside the little river, listening to it dip and bubble, watching the light refracted by the water. This was one of my favorite spots, mainly because no one ever came here. It was hard to access but beautiful beyond compare. The dance of color and flash always filled me with calm and contentment. I never felt hungry, hardened or hopeless here. I think the changing constancy of the water hypnotized me and set me free.
Let Edward and Bella keep the meadow; give me the creek any day.
I'd come here with a purpose today, something I needed to work out. It was hard keeping this thought hidden. I couldn't let it fully bloom to the surface of my mind; no one could ever completely understand my current preoccupation. Luckily, the love birds had been cooing to each other so intensely that no one paid my thoughts any attention. Emmett and Rose had gone to the races, and Carlisle and Esme had opted for a weekend of alone time. And Alice…
Alice had decided that she needed to make a scrapbook for Renesmee. I hadn't understood why someone with an infinite recall would need a book of memories, until Alice explained the they hadn't happened yet. The Brides magazine, the scissors, and that faraway look she gets fleshed out the story for me and I left her to her dreams of remembrances.
Thinking of her sitting by the window in half-light made me smile. Her face, so well known to me, could, just by the lighting, seem delicate one moment and indestructible the next. She was innocence and sex, light and dark, beauty and beast all rolled into one. She was my wife, my lover, my friend; she could calm me as no other could and excite as no other had, could or would. My love for her was infinite and everlasting. I knew this.
And she knew this.
Like I said, it was a day like any other.
Most my family believed the hardest part of my life was the bloodlust that seemed to rule my thoughts and actions. It was an embarrassment to feel such thirst and need; I did not like my lack of self control to be so obvious. But, there it was, and I fought the instinct. I mostly won. Sometimes, no, but most of the time I suppressed my instinct and dealt with the times I could not. But this was not the greatest threat to my existence. No, in comparison, this was a simple, excusable quirk.
I thrived in the army. I enjoyed the men around me, the men who rode into uncertainty and fear with their spirits high. I was in almost constant company; I ate, slept and shit with others around me. My company knew me; they respected me and looked to me for answers and leadership. Though we were amid conflict, destruction and death, the world was wide, limitless in possibilities. I was respected and accepted. It gave me purpose, meaning. It kept me strong.
On that bleak night when I met Maria, my life ended and began again. My new world was violent, wild, but with boundaries where none had existed before. There were humans, who populated the earth with abandon, and us. I've often wondered if the world seemed smaller because I'd never perceived its limits before, or if rules that bound our kind laid the boundaries plainly before us. We were not of that human world except to feed, we could not rule because of our need. I contented myself with my identity within the rank and file. Those in my charge knew me, accepted me, recognized me. For those who listened, I could make their world better for a short while. For Peter and Charlotte, I led to them escape the nightmare of battle and live free.
I became a prisoner of time and anonymity. My days, my nights, the weeks, months, years – all dragged as the world spun on its axis. I lived in the shadows, away from the human eyes that might recognize me for who and what I was. I hid from acknowledgement and recognition, from the knowing that could damn us all.
When I met Alice, hope blossomed in my chest once more. She knew me; she saw me; she accepted me. For the first time in decades, I was known and needed. Her very recognition of me lifted me higher. I don't believe that I'd understood why at that time, I'd only known that I'd felt inspired, as if the world held promise for me once again. I attributed the feeling to Alice, to her buoyant nature and belief in the future. Alice was responsible, true enough, but it was more.
Time is meaningless. Human frailty does not impede me. When I hunger and thirst, I eat. Material things are easily replaced. All need seems irrelevant when easily fulfilled.
People often wish for peace. They struggle through jobs of mindlessness, conflict and challenge to buy that hour of peace at night. They complain and whine about the lengths they must endure to find rest. They fight for the ability to live undisturbed. All means to peace carry within themselves a measure of strife.
Years have gone by and Alice still lifts me and tethers me to this world. I don't know if she understands how much responsibility she bears for my sanity and persistence. When the world does not recognize you, how do you continue? When every battle is won before it is started, what importance does peace hold? What do I mean to this world, when I give nothing, work for nothing and am invisible to society?
I stopped breathing and listened to the wind rustling through the cottonwoods flanking the creek. The flowing water gurgled, sparkled and flashed, but there were no answers in its life. It seemed as endless, eternal and immortal as I was. I watched my reason for being flowed away from me, down the rocks and on into the valley. I rose to walk beside the brook, my doubt and misgivings about my place in the world drifting away from me, to submerge and die.
As I walked the banks, the creek slowly turned north. I'd been lost in my thoughts about finding my way in the world, and hadn't paid attention to the slowing of the stream. The banks stretched further and further away from each other, and the water was wide and deep and still. I felt confused for a moment, until I saw the felled trees that blocked the flow and the beaver lodge settled in the calm water.
I stood looking at the lodge as the sun began to set. Mosquitoes buzzed the water's surface; fish broke the calm to catch the bugs. Beavers gnawed the scrubby trees lining the banks, carrying some toothsome branch back to their home. Time seemed to have no sway over these busy creatures. They knew their purpose and set to it without thought of tomorrow. They labored on until just before nightfall, ceaselessly swimming to and fro.
As I stood transfixed, a realization began to dawn as night began to set. Time is a river. It flows and carries you with it, whether you choose to go or wish to stay. As unending as it seems, though, it can bend and slow and stop through the power of your will. Pause, take stock of your life. Work to give your life meaning, and whether you are a face among the crowd or invisible to the world, you make a home.
The answer seemed so simple, I snorted aloud at my own blindness. Meaning takes work. No life is forever granted – even the seemingly immortal life of a vampire can be suddenly snuffed out. It can be taken from you. I stood in the river of time, and though it seemed to flow around me, there were tides and torrents that could end my existence if I were not cautious. I make the value in my life; no acceptance, no recognition could put that value there but by my choice. Life has no value, unless you put it there.
I turned to look back upriver, knowing that I should be getting home. Something had changed for me, and the implications on my future would make Alice curious about the change, its cause and my acceptance of it. I began to walk towards home, and found I was running at full speed back to Alice.
As I said, today was a day like any other, and tomorrow would be the same. As I raced toward home, I smiled. I was eager to share it with her.