AN: Hooray for Project Team Beta! For some crazy reason I sent this to them the week of Christmas, and they worked on it anyway! You girls rock. Thank you so much!
I tried to stay as true as possible to Carlisle's history as explained by Edward in Twilight ("The Cullens") and Carlisle himself in New Moon ("Stitches").
The story title is from a hymn called "Lead Kindly Light" that seemed to fit the context of the story. I didn't include it as one of the quotes because the words of the hymn were written by John Henry Newman in the 1800s and therefore too late for this story. Here are the lyrics if you're interested:
Lead, kindly Light, amid th' encircling gloom; Lead thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home; Lead thou me on!
Keep thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene – one step enough for me.
One last thing – Twilight and everything in it belongs to Stephenie Meyer. Lucky duck.
My muscles should have been sore. My head should have ached. My stomach should have been growling.
I should not be alive.
I felt weak, though I knew that weakness was deceiving. I was still much stronger than I had ever been, especially after all the times I had tried to take my life. Yet I was alive, as alive as you could call me. Instead of all the things I knew I should think and feel, all I could feel was...thirst.
Dry, scorching, aching thirst.
The thirst consumed every part of me. For three days I had felt every inch of my skin burn to a cinder, yet I had emerged whole. Somewhat. The fire had not disappeared, but instead had lodged in my throat. It burned so hot that I was surprised my entire body was not red and black from the scorch. There had to be relief. Perhaps this was my purgatory that I forever remain alone in my burning.
I had long ago despaired of coming in the same vicinity as people. Humans.
For I was not human, and I could not deny it any longer.
O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent.1
I had prayed fervently for weeks following those torturous three days. I feared God's punishment for helping my father hunt those innocent people. For years he had enlisted my aid to seek out the demons and monsters among us, but I knew that all too often his findings had been false. I had stood aside and allowed my father to condemn those that my heart told me were innocent.
Had I allowed that to prevent me from harming others, just as innocent? After much searching, I had found what I supposed to be the lair of the true demons and many had followed me in the attack. I did not know if any of them had survived, but I was the one responsible for their deaths.
Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions: according to thy mercy remember thou me for thy goodness' sake, O Lord.2
Even prayer could not prevent the thirst from overtaking my thoughts again, from burning my throat. I longed for the one thing I knew would sooth the ache, but was instantly abhorred by the very idea. The thought of taking the life of one of God's children was too much; it transgressed against my master.
For the kingdom is the Lord's: and he is the governor among the nations.3
Surely I was paying the price for my sins. I must now stay here and be denied heaven. Be denied even death. After forty-seven attempts to kill myself I had to realize that there was no way to end my own life...existence. My skin could not be penetrated by any knife or sword I could find. Poisons not only had no effect, but I also found the need to cough them back up my throat. I had actually held my breath for twelve whole hours before giving up on suffocating myself. And falling from a cliff turned out to be almost pleasurable.
What more could I do? What was expected of me that I remain a faithful follower of my Lord? I could think of nothing but hiding and praying. I wished I could say that I had no idea how long I had been curled up in a ball under this tree. Unfortunately, my mind seemed capable of remembering everything and I knew beyond a doubt that it had been three months, ten days, five hours, and thirty-eight minutes.
Perhaps someone would walk by. I imagined the feel of the blood running down my throat, quenching this thirst. It would be wet and hot and desirable. It would trickle over my tongue, the delicious taste, and flow through my body until I could drink no more.
I caught myself too late in the fantasy.
No! I cannot give in.
Oh, my Lord, Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help.4 But be not thou far from me, O Lord: O my strength, haste thee to help me.5
Our Father, which art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done, in earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.6
I prayed for hours. Days. Without relaxing my curled-up posture, I prayed. I had always believed that every man who wished could find a way or avenue in which to serve God, but I could not see it for me.
Shew me thy ways, O Lord; teach me thy paths.7
For what good was I, if I could not serve my fellow men? Even if they were no longer my fellow men, I yearned to serve them. To show them the peace I had found in Christ.
Turn thee unto me, and have mercy upon me; for I am desolate and afflicted.8
Thirst. Painful thirst.
Prayer. It was the only hope I had left. The only one that any man should ever need.
Hours. Days. Weeks.
Still I did not move.
* * * * * * *
A quiet sound brought me from my near constant praying. I knew that it was very far away. At first I feared it to be a horse-drawn carriage, bringing innocent people close to my monstrous being, but I could not hear any wheels, no jangle of bells, no slap of a harness. Just pounding. It grew closer.
As I lifted my head for the first time in nearly six months the wind shifted, and I breathed in a scent that was hot, rich, and musky.
There was no thought, I ran. No, I flew. I flew through the forest so quickly I knew that no one would see me, but I still saw every rock, branch, and blade of grass. It was in perfect clarity of vision that I charged after the scent, barely realizing that it accompanied the sound I had heard.
In one solid leap I crossed the brook and landed nearly on top of the large buck. My hands gripped its hot flank and my mouth closed in on its neck, where I knew without thinking that this was the best access to the life water I so desired.
In less than ten seconds I had dropped the elk and moved to the animal next to it. Again and again I attacked, until I had chased down and drained all seven from the herd.
The wind continued to blow lightly as I stood in the small clearing, surrounded by carcasses. The first few were hardly recognizable as the proud creatures they had once been; my hands had torn and broken their bodies to lumps of flesh and bone.
I examined the scene around me and saw that there was no blood. My horrific instincts had ensured that not a drop of blood was wasted.
I fell to my knees, sobbing without tears.
Unto thee will I cry, O Lord my rock; be not silent to me: lest, if thou be silent to me, I become like them that go down into the pit.9
Gather not my soul with sinners, nor my life with bloody men.10
What had I done? Months of attempting to control myself had all been in vain. Now what would happen, when next some innocent child of God happened near me? What would the insanity of my thirst do to me then?
I blinked in surprise. I could feel the thirst, but, compared to the overpowering flames I had endured for the past six months, it was nothing. I could almost ignore it.
My strength. It was a hard thing to quantify, as I knew that before drinking I would have still been able to uproot any of the trees in the forest, but I somehow knew that I was stronger than before.
My body needed blood, but it did not seem to need human blood. I had consumed every drop of blood from these animals so that even my hands, which were covered in fur and grass, had no blood on them.
My hands were clean.
Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.11
Was this my blessing?
I breathed deeply, pulling in the scent of clean air and the light scent of moisture that heralded a rainstorm, and looked again at the remains of the elk in front of me.
A dim memory came, hazy as seen through human eyes, of myself hunting with my father. At age fourteen I had killed a doe and brought it home for our supper. Together we had drained the blood, skinned it, and prepared it.
This time I simply made use of the blood instead of letting it run to the ground.
How was that different? How was it a sin? Was it a sin? If I could learn to survive on the animals of the forest, and resist the call of a man, could I find a way to be with them again?
It would be difficult, and I must start with perfecting the timing of my hunting. How often would I become thirsty? Every hour? Every month? I had no idea, but until then I should continue to stay as far away from people as possible.
In the meantime, I had my God to rely on.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.12
I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee.13 For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard.14
Blessed be the Lord, because he hath heard the voice of my supplications. The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him.15
And I knew how I would survive the rest of my existence.
End Notes: All scripture quotes are from the King James Version of the Bible as listed below. This translation was completed in 1611 and so is likely the version that was used by Carlisle and his father.
1 Psalms 22:2
2 Psalms 25:7
3 Psalms 22:28
4 Psalms 22:11
5 Psalms 22:19
6 Matthew 6:9-13
7 Psalms 25:4
8 Psalms 25:16
9 Psalms 28:1
10 Psalms 26:9
11 Psalms 24:3-5
12 Psalms 23
13 Psalms 22:22
14 Psalms 22:24
15 Psalms 28:6-7