Chapter 7-Hysteria

The hallway was impossibly dark, and despite the usual temperature of my body, it felt unnaturally cold. Its walls were a contrast of rich wooden panelling and a deep crimson hue. Although I was accustomed to being able to see great distances in the darkness, it stretched infinitely in either direction.

"Hello?" I called curiously, unsure of where I was or how I had arrived. The sound of my voice echoed into the unknown.

I heard a voice in reply, barely more than a whisper, drifting down the hallway behind me.

"I didn't like it. Not seeing you. It makes me anxious, too." The soft voice danced past my ears, setting the hairs on the back of my neck on end.

"Bella?!" My voice cracked in alarm. I took an instinctive step in the direction the sound had come from, gravitating towards her voice. Without hesitation, I took off like a bullet down the hallway towards the source; I wouldn't be apart from her for one more agonizing moment.

As I sprinted through the darkness, making no noticeable progress, her voice found me again, marginally louder than it had been before.

"I told you, it doesn't matter what you are. It's too late."

"Bella, please don't say that. Please…" I murmured under my breath.

I could feel my feet dragging as I ran, as if I was trying to move through quicksand. On either side of me, there was a flickering light illuminating the walls of the endless hallway. Without slowing, I turned my head to find the source.

A short distance behind me, the hallway was being engulfed in fire, spreading rapidly towards me. I could feel the heat of the flames licking at my back as the inferno gained slowly on me.

I forced my legs to move, summoning every ounce of strength I possessed to escape the conflagration that threatened to consume me.

Through the dark haze before me, I could make out the shape of a plain wooden door at the end of the hallway. Even over the violent crackling of the firestorm, Bella's voice rang out once more.

"I will always love you, no matter what happens now."

With all that remained of my strength, I hurled myself into the door, shattering it into thousands of tiny splinters.

I found myself standing in the meadow where I often came for comfort. This was where we had first declared our love for one another. The clearing was dark; it was night time. The lush grass and wildflowers that had once populated the meadow appeared dried up and dead. Huddled in the center of the clearing, sitting with her arms wrapped around her knees and her head hung towards her lap, was Bella.

She was crying softly to herself. Every sob was another dagger in my chest, causing me to wince with pain. I reached out, wanting desperately to comfort her, but my legs were planted firmly to the ground, and wouldn't respond to my needs.

Behind her, I could make out the form of a dark figure at the edge of the tree line. I watched as he casually strolled forward to meet us, showing all the urgency of a man walking in the park.

He stopped just over Bella's shoulder when I realized that the phantom man was me.

Our eyes locked, and I studied his expression. He wore a mask of indifference, but I could detect an edge of malice flickering in his bright golden eyes. His mouth curved into an innocently crooked grin.

Bella had stopped crying once the dark Edward had arrived next to her. She stood up, her eyelids closed as if she were sleepwalking. The doppelganger continued to stare back at me.

I opened my mouth to speak, to warn Bella of the menace that loomed behind her, but no sound came out. I watched in horror as he slowly lowered his lips to her neck.

The flow of blood trickled down her chest, as the icy water in my veins froze my body into a cold statue. I was helpless to prevent this, I had failed her.

When the predator lifted his head from his prey, the face that stared back at me had transformed. James now glared into me, his crimson eyes filled with a mixture of triumph and threat. He smiled a sinister grin, mocking me in my defeat.

Bella's eyelids fluttered open; her gaze bored into me like a drill. Her ruby red eyes glowed ominously in the darkness.

I awoke.

It was an uncomfortable sensation, awaking from a nightmare, and not one I was accustomed to after ninety years of sleeplessness. The disorienting transition from fantasy to reality was not something I was eager to repeat.

Blinking in the sudden flood of light around me, I sat up to examine my surroundings. I was in a wide and elegant living area, a familiar pale-on-pale colour scheme coordinating the room.

"Edward, you're awake! How do you feel?" Carlisle was hovering nearby, looking over me appraisingly.

"Like I just had my face kicked in…" I reached up to touch my jaw; there wasn't any pain, but the vivid memory had caused me some discomfort. "Where are we? Where's Bella?"

My vision flickered across the room, looking for some sign of her. Alice was sitting cross legged on the floor across the room, wearing a blank expression with unfocused eyes. Jasper was leaning against the nearby wall, his arms folded across his chest, studying my expression.

"We're in Alamosa; we brought you here to recover." Carlisle replied. We had spent one of our high-school cycles in Alamosa, Colorado, back in the early 1980's. I recognized the layout of the room from the five years we had lived here.

I pressed the heel of my palm into my eye, still trying to shake loose the confusion from my unpleasant dream. "Where is she?" I asked again.

"Edward…" She wasn't with you when we arrived at the ballet studio; you were alone when we found you. I'm so sorry, Edward. The tone of his thoughts was calming, but riddled with hidden pain. I made no secret of my agony, letting loose a howl that shook the walls around us.

I felt a blanket of calm begin to wrap around me. I turned to Jasper and let out a vicious snarl.

"Don't you dare," I growled at him, "I don't want your anaesthesia. I deserve every second of this." He flinched at the violent edge in my voice, and my emotions. I lay back down under the crushing weight of the guilt.

My mind was swimming in the pain. She was gone, and it was my fault. My own selfish desires cost Bella her life, and in turn, would surely cost me my own. I couldn't possibly live with this agony.

"I'm not giving up yet, Edward." Alice's voice trilled across the room. Her eyes were now focused, and I recognized that she had been searching her visions moments ago.

"I can't quite see her, but it's not like it would be if she was… well, it's more like she's, I dunno, lost?" I scanned her thoughts for a clearer explanation. At first, I thought she was purposely trying to torment me; all I could register from her was a blank white nothingness. It wasn't until the image began to flicker and shift chaotically that I understood what she had meant.

"It's as if she's missing." Alice explained once more, "Like she's alive, but… has no future. I can't describe it properly." She pouted her lip in frustration and dismay.

I turned to Carlisle; he still gazed at me with compassion and sadness.

"How long has it been?" I inquired impatiently.

"Three days."

I stood up and immediately headed for the door.

"Wait, where are you going?" Jasper called out in alarm.

"Back to Phoenix. I can't sit here idly while there's still hope, no matter how fleeting."

"Wait for Emmett to return; he's out hunting. We'll go back together." Carlisle beckoned to me.

I shook my head slowly from side to side, and looked back over my shoulder at my family.

"There's no rest for the wicked, and right now, I'm as wretched as they come." I whispered grimly. "Call me on my cell when you arrive in Phoenix, but I won't wait for anything."

I hurried off into the chilly Colorado air, to the garage at the end of the long driveway. Inside, I found the black Firebird that had belonged to me when we last lived here. The keys were still in the ignition, and I wasted no time pulling out onto the winding mountain road that led down to the interstate.

I drove as if the inferno from my dream was following closely behind me, and in some ways, it was.

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