Is it ever going to be enough?
Searching for purpose like the mislead soldier returning from war, scorned with the feeling of blood on his hands and blood on his heart. He prays to his God, asks him for forgiveness, asks him for absolution, kneels down, bows his head, begs.
To be forestallèd ere we come to fall
Or pardoned being down? Then I'll look up.
My fault is past. But oh, what form of prayer
Can serve my turn, "Forgive me my foul murder"?
Like drowning, like dying, like searching for purpose and pleasure and purchase. In my life of nonexistence I grapple with air, stone, wall, brick, but I find no ledge, nothing to grasp onto, nothing to keep me from falling into the abyss. What God forgives the being with no soul, with no life, with no self? What God will take my absolution into His blessed palm and create new life in endless death? There is none.
Try what repentance can. What can it not?
Yet what can it when one can not repent?
O wretched state! O bosom black as death!
O limèd soul that, struggling to be free,
Art more engaged! Help, angels. Make assay.
Sin is the sponge that draws the human aspects from me. It takes and pulls like the blood I yearn to steal from innocents, the unsaturated thirst that pushes me like moons and waves and currents. To be satiated, to feel whole, to have life, to create being; that is impossibility. I pull myself down as knees crash to stone and look up to sky, to stars, to heaven.
Forgive me, absolve me, save me, help me.
Someone—anyone—give me the courage to feel life in never-ending night.
Bow, stubborn knees, and, heart with strings of steel,
Be soft as sinews of the newborn babe.
All may be well.
You know when you're in a crowded room full of people and it's almost impossible to hear yourself think? That is what it's like for me. All of the time. Over the years I suppose I've gotten used to it. I've blocked out the majority of the incessant rambling. But there are still the shouters, the people that see everything in vivid detail, and the obnoxious, self-centered egomaniacs. I am surrounded mostly by the latter. No, I am surrounded completely by the latter.
I am a freak.
That is what the rest of them think. They don't understand me in the same way they don't understand Carlisle. But Carlisle isn't like me in any way, shape, or form. Carlisle is just so … he is so self-sacrificing. He stays with me even though I know he wants to be far, far away. He stays with me even though he has a family across the globe; a family with a wife who loves him irrevocably. He stays with me because of the guilt that must fall on his shoulders. At least, that's what he tells me. And he hasn't left my side in ninety-nine years.
They think we are freaks because of our diet. I suppose they're right, really. After all, the tales of vampire don't exactly include feeding on squirrels at dinner and deer at breakfast. I actually never have squirrels. Small rodents taste both burnt and sour at the same time. But what they don't understand is just because I don't dine as they do doesn't mean I don't have the same thirst, the same urges. When I see them feast, when I see the succulent flesh puncture effortlessly to the pointed teeth of my companions, I want what they have. I want my mouth on the artery. I want my body to pull the lines of beating, warm, thick blood from the wound. I want my arms to strangle the struggles and the cries. I want my throat to be satiated; satiated on the blood of that which I crave: the human.
But I won't.
For every minute that I keep Carlisle away from his love, his life, I will not. I am indebted to him for as long as he feels indebted to me. Thankfully for us, we have but a few days left of obligation in this cruel purgatory. Only a few more days of skirting through the shadows on the stone Volterra streets. Only a few more days of watching our comrades devour their prey. Only a few more days of using my talent to aid the Volturi in any way that I can. And then we are to be given leave. Carlisle shall join his family, the one that eagerly awaits his arrival in Ithaca, New York. I … well; I will not follow that path. My only intension is to not disappoint Carlisle in the countless ways I have done before. I am not sure I will succeed.
I stand near the far wall as the group files in. They are predominately made up of tourists, though I can hear a few native thoughts interspersed. Heidi seems very proud of her catch. I can tell by the way she flaunts her assets as she lines up the prey, and the way she eagerly anticipates the approval from her superiors for her fantastic work. I dig my fingernails into the stone behind my back, telling myself not to become overwhelmed by the sheer amount of blood in the room. Gallons upon gallons of blood. Warm and salty and human blood. No.
I take a deep breath through my nose and stifle a groan.
"Edward, son, check for natives?"
I do not know why Aro always chooses to speak to me aloud. The rest of the Volturi tend to take advantage of my gift, only speaking aloud when there are multiple people in the room. I am constantly answering to thoughts, and it is rare that I actually hear a person's voice. Aro, though, is entirely the opposite. He is able to block almost all of his thoughts from me through concentration. Only bits and pieces seep through. It is something akin to jealousy, I believe. He doesn't approve of vampires having the upper hand around him, even if he is only thinking trivial thoughts.
"Yes," I nod and quickly scan through the thoughts of the humans. I pluck a few from the group. Though they are wearing clothes that signify a tourist, they are actually native to Volterra. They are husband and wife, and they run a small shop in the center of the town. They sell small commemorative items like key chains with names on them, and postcards of fields and towers. The man knows exactly where he is. He has heard stories of this place, this dungeon. His wife, on the other hand, is in complete awe. She is slower than he is mentally, and her thoughts primarily consist of the vastness of the space. She wonders how many of her it would take to reach the ceiling of the room. I know the answer is twenty-seven. "Those two," I say, pointing to the man and his wife.
Aro sighs, running a hand through his long, dark hair. He doesn't like it when natives get this far into the process, but he still wants to keep his record of no Volterra citizen casualties due to vampires.
"Heidi," Aro says calmly, though the entire room knows that he is disappointed. Heidi frowns and scowls at me, knowing I am the one who caught her flaw. She walks fluidly over to Aro. Some of the tourists watch in awe, admiring her grace.
"Yes, Aro?" she says sweetly. Her thoughts are always bordering on nauseating.
"Mistakes are not tolerated. You know that," he scolds as if she is a child. Heidi bows her head accordingly, though not before shooting daggers at me on her way down. I roll my eyes and leave the room. That is all I am needed for here, and I surely cannot stay for when they consume. Consume. I even shudder at the word. In the back of my mind I realize that one of the humans has noticed my departure. She is younger, about fourteen or fifteen, though her mind doesn't specify. She wonders why I am leaving. She wonders why my eyes are a different color than the rest of them. She wonders if she is going to die soon.
It is strange, for it is always the youngest minds that know they are going to die before the older ones. The elders are more trained to block out the bad and ignore it, whereas the children see exactly what is put in front of them. They see through the facades of pleasantry and luxury. They feel the tension in the pale-skinned bodies that watch them, eyes hungry with want. They know their life is ending before it does just by the way the air tastes – cold and dead and lifeless.
I ignore her entirely, though I do quicken my pace infinitesimally. It is many yards away before I feel like I am able to breathe again. I am out of range of the thoughts. I know from prior experience that any glimpse into the mind of a vampire feeding is my quickest and shortest downfall. I cross my arms over my chest, the Volturi robes sweeping out from beneath them and trailing along the floor. The thick black fabric is weightless to me, and beneath it all I wear is dark blue jeans and a white t-shirt.
Carlisle is in his study pouring over his extensive collection of books when I find him. This is where he is the majority of the time. I cannot fathom how he continues to find new revelations in the words he's memorized after the first read. I myself become quickly bored with them. After one read, the mystery is gone. After enough reads of the same genre, I can predict the endings of books unread. But Carlisle—he peruses the same texts over and over again. He is constantly searching.
His golden eyes flit upwards to meet mine when I enter the room. He nods politely in greeting, then returns to his researching.
"What are you looking for this time?" I ask, sitting down at a rocking chair in the corner of his study. Every wall is lined with books from floor to ceiling. There are no windows, for there cannot be underground. There are even piles upon piles of books on the floor, stacking upwards in haphazard reaches toward the heavens.
"Nothing in particular," he answers, doing me the courtesy of using his voice. Just passing time, he thinks as an afterthought.
Just passing time. That is the entirety of my existence. Frozen and stoic I wait as time passes me. I am ever reaching for the year one hundred, where I will set Carlisle free of his imagined obligation to me. I pick up the book nearest to me and don't bother to read the cover. The parchment is soft and fragile in my hands, as most things are, though this particular book looks weathered and old. I finger through the pages, careful not to tear any stray from the binding, and glance over the words. They all blend together for me now, a meaningless jumble of an author's futile attempt to explain the philosophies of life and death. It is hard to relate to the novels when they are so utterly unrelatable.
"Tomorrow is your one hundred," Carlisle mentions casually, though his thoughts belay his excitement. He has been counting down to the day, the hour, the minute, the second, until he is free to see his wife.
"Yes," I smile, happy for him. Though I cannot reconcile the fact that I have kept them apart for an entire century, I feel infinitely better in knowing that he will see her soon.
"I know what you are thinking," Carlisle assumes, setting down his book and inserting a small velvet book marker. He sets the book aside, on top of one of the numerous book towers, and leans back in his leather studded chair as his thoughts accuse me.
It is not your fault that I have not seen Esme. You know this. It is mine. I brought you here, and I chose not to simply abandon you because of my own selfishness. Do not blame yourself, son, for my decisions.
He is careful not to call me a mistake. He even censors his thoughts.
I watch as his mind plays out my "rebirth." It is 1918, 99 years prior to our position now, though Carlisle looks identical to the man sitting across from me. I, on the other hand, do not. His mind briefly glances at my face, though I am sure he memorized it to the minute detail on the small glance. My hair is in disarray, and is closer to brown than the auburn it is now. My eyes are clenched shut, though I know from Carlisle's other memories that they were once a dark green, the same color as my mother's. My face is sweaty and I look boyish, though gaunt from sickness. That person is a 17-year-old human. He is innocent and naïve and he doesn't know what is going on around him. He enjoys his mother's cooking and taking walks when it is sunnier outside. He is polite and carefree, but also reckless. He wants to join the military, though he knows he would cede to his mother's wishes if she so desired.
I am no longer that boy, that person.
Carlisle is on brief leave from the Volturi in Chicago, though still a member of the guard. It is a rule that any vampire created under guard venom also needs to fulfill the one hundred year obligation to the Volturi.
Carlisle's mind then covers Elizabeth's dying face. I frown minutely, though Carlisle, stuck in his memory, does not notice. She pleads, she begs, she knows what Carlisle is. There is no denying this. Elizabeth wants her son to live at all costs.
My hands run along the solid, dead skin of my arms and wrist. The impenetrable steel, a body encased in solitude. I wonder if this is what she would have wanted for me. I wonder if this was the life she anticipated I would have when she requested her final, dying wish.
Carlisle breaks from his memories the moment before he bites. Just after the point where he relishes in the final thoughts before his actions: finally, a companion.
"I apologize," Carlisle sighs, though I know it is not just for delving into his memories right in front of me. It is for much more.
"No need," I respond quietly, and we lapse into silence once more.
Carlisle, Aro and Demetri are the only beings I truly talk to. The rest I acknowledge when I must, though their thoughts have a way of mingling in my brain and clouding my thoughts. It is beyond frustrating, and I often suffered from debilitating headaches when I was a newborn vampire. It was one of the things that intrigued Aro the most – a vampire that could actually become ill. Over time, I have grown a resistance to the excess. I am able to push the majority of it to the back of my mind and muffle them. There are still the problematic few, of course. Heidi included. Her incessant internal rambling has a way of crawling under my skin and making me crazy.
Carlisle shuffles through his books for a bit longer. I sit politely beside him, monitoring my breathing carefully. We are only two recluses stuck together and surrounded by books.
It is twenty minutes later that the force of his thought almost moves me physically.
"Your singer …" Carlisle says suddenly, almost exactly in time with his thought.
"You don't think they would actually get me one, do they?" I ask tentatively. I am simultaneously excited and appalled. I know that this will cause me to fail and, in a way, I welcome it. I have seen the minds of the older vampires when they recollect upon the day they received their ultimate gift. There is literally nothing like it – the blood so sweet that it is saved until the day Aro decides to give it. At the hundredth year of service, Aro requests Demetri to locate the vampire's singer. Since Demetri has seen me feed on humans before, he is able to automatically locate my singer in the world. It is a peculiar talent, and one that does not go unnoticed. The singer is quite possibly the best gift that a vampire receives in his or her entire existence. My mouth waters just thinking about the possibility of being given one.
"I think so, though you'll have to ask Demetri to confirm," Carlisle replies.
"He hasn't been around," I murmur. Demetri mysteriously disappeared approximately two days prior, though no one seems to know about it. I assume Aro has something to do with it, but he blocks his mind from me too sufficiently for me to be able to tell.
"He is probably going to locate the singer for you, then. After all, he isn't really used for anything else, and no other young vampire is even closer to their centurion," he says, scratching the absurdly pale skin of his chin gently.
I sigh and link my fingers in a tree, crossing them beneath my chin.
"I will kill the human if they do," I admit to him, better to do it now than to see his disappointment after I devour every last drop. "I struggle even maintaining control with the large group of them, and they don't smell even close to what the singer will."
You'll do fine, he praises without thinking.
"Carlisle," I say, harsher now. He needs to believe me. "I will kill it. There isn't a chance."
"I didn't kill my singer," Carlisle reminds me. I roll my eyes. Of course Carlisle didn't kill his singer. Perfect Carlisle has never killed a goddamn fly. Maybe a deer or six, but not even a fly. I harrumph and lean back in my seat, remembering.
"You didn't exactly see her long. Didn't you have Demetri cart her off to some untraceable location?" I scoff, pursing my lips.
I watch as his memories fly past before my eyes. His singer was an elderly woman, probably around the age of fifty. At the time, her life span had long surpassed the average expectancy of humans. Her hair was grayed in streaks and windblown off of her face. Formerly, it would seem as though her hair was a light, light blond, though the parts that were not gray were almost white in the moonlight. At that time, the Volturi held their rituals outside and not underground as they have them now. The woman did not even look frightened. Her posture was strong, even in the face of a panel of ethereal, ghastly vampires. Through Carlisle's memories, I hear him snap and growl, obviously being held back by another vampire.
'Bon appétit,' Aro smiles in his memory, looking exactly the same as he does today.
Carlisle's growls become louder. Aro cackles, beckoning for the vampire behind the elderly woman to bring her forward. He does so slowly, and I hear the torment in Carlisle's attempts at resistance on each and every step. Even back then, he prided himself on not killing anything, anyone. But as the woman approached him, I can feel his resolve begin to waver.
Perhaps just one taste.
The scent is too strong, the scent is too powerful, the scent, the scent.
'I will take her out like you requested, Carlisle. I will take her away,' the vampire speaks into Carlisle's ear. It is Demetri, his voice loud and clear over Carlisle's cries of the hunt. And then, like lightning, Carlisle is left unguarded as Demetri sweeps the woman up into his arms and leaves faster than sight. Aro looks mildly annoyed, watching Carlisle as he digs himself into the earth, forcing himself to stay still.
'Such a disappointment,' Aro grumbles as Carlisle takes large, deep breaths of the cleaner air. His memories are so clear that I can smell the dewy grass in his lungs and the very last remnants of the blood that sang to him.
"You are stronger than I am. You always have been," I say once Carlisle pulls himself from his memories.
"That is not true. I do not have to do what you do every day. Monitoring the thoughts of the humans before the meals … reading the thoughts of the suspected criminals … I would surely crack. You do not. I am proud of you, and I don't say that often enough."
I duck my head and pinch the bridge of my nose.
I then thank him for the words I don't deserve.
Though my eyes are now golden, they were not six months ago.
Julie Andrews; her blood smelled of roses and honey with a hint of strawberries. The closer I got, the easier it was to be drawn in, to consume.
Two years ago, Francis Dem. His eyes were too large for his face and his chin too pointed, but his blood was so potent that I could not hold back.
Three months before that, an 18-year-old girl named Molly. I drained her so fast that I did not even catch her last name.
There are more. Tens, hundreds, countless. Many of them were members of families. They were lovers and sons and daughters and brothers and sisters. I took that away—I consistently take that away—and people are left without their companions for eternity. Every one of them had someone, and those people all had to live with that loss. Because of me.
We are silent again, but not for long. I hear Jane approaching, her thoughts annoyed. She doesn't like it when Aro makes her the messenger, but she will do almost anything to please him. Her small feet echo down the stone hallway to Carlisle's study, but the noise is clouded by the overlapping thoughts. Even though I hear that she needs me, I make no move to stand. She hesitates before opening the door. I am not sure why because she is not sure why. Still, the door opens and both Carlisle and I meet her gaze.
"Aro needs Edward for a job. Quickly," she says and then pivots on her toes, already walking away. Her thoughts are even more annoyed; Aro didn't tell her the details of the job and she is not involved. I am sure he will request her service later, though. Of course, that fact depends on me and me alone.
I know what this is.
This is a trial.
Sure enough, the three eldest vampires sit clothed in what looks like judge's garb. They are watching as a young, dirt-encrusted vampire struggles against the two guards holding him. Aro nods slightly and the vampire is pushed down to his knees. He hisses and growls. My brow furrows and I move to stand by Aro's side. Jane looks peeved, though leaves the room quickly. If Aro doesn't specifically invite a vampire into a trial, they are not allowed to stay. Jane knows this, and the door echoes after her departure.
"Ah, Edward has returned," Aro smiles, clasping his hands together. There must be a specific problem with this vampire, for Aro's touch usually suffices when it comes to reading the thoughts of a victim. I am only requested in certain circumstances that usually pertain to what the vampire intends to do in the future, for Aro can only read the thoughts that the vampire had in the past.
"Yes," I nod, "As you requested." The victim turns his head toward me, now aware of my arrival. I listen as he assesses me. The first thing he notices is my eyes, as most do. He wonders how it is possible that they are such a putrid shade of gold. His are a bright ruby red, shining in their sockets. His name is William. He lives in Ireland, though recently he struggled with a large coven that also inhabits the area. He is convicted for public fighting with a member of the coven, along with human awareness of the fighting. He has already assured Aro that he will never fight with any of the coven nor return to Ireland again, though Aro is not sure he believes him. William has a lover in Ireland, and she is not willing to leave her homeland.
"How much have you heard in these few minutes?" Aro asks calmly.
"Oh, just get on with it," Caius grumbles before I answer, already thoroughly bored with the situation.
"Patience, my friend," Aro replies.
"William fought with a vampire named Derek, a member of a large coven in Ireland. William began the fight due to Derek's insinuations that he was sleeping with his mate, Delilah. Three women noticed their fight, though they were killed promptly after the fight was settled," I murmur. William looks at me, eyes wide with something akin to betrayal, growling when I speak Delilah's name. I am used to this look. It is hatred.
"Such talent," Aro sighs slightly. "Ah well, jealousy will get me nowhere, right Edward?"
Caius, Marcus and I wait as Aro plays his little game. It is the game that makes the victim suffer in awaiting his fate. Prolonging the moment is one of Aro's favorite pastimes.
"William," Aro begins politely, "Will you be returning to Ireland after this trial if we let you free?"
Almost immediately, William's thoughts run overdrive as he attempts to cover them from me. That is the constant tragedy in this, for in desperate struggle the thoughts are always the loudest and clearest. The love that William holds for Delilah brings an ache to my chest, and I avert my eyes to see Marcus reacting similarly. It is something I never feel except in the thoughts of others. William's eyes meet mine. They are begging, pleading. They ask me to not tell the truth. He knows he cannot stay away from Ireland, from Delilah. He cannot abandon his mate.
I bow my head in apology. There is nothing I can do. Aro can simply touch my palm and hear what I have just heard.
"Edward?" Aro prompts.
I am his judge, jury, and executioner.
"Yes," I manage, "He will be returning."
"You bastard!" William screams aloud.
They are the first and last words he will ever utter to me.
I'm used to it.
With newfound rage and only milliseconds after his decision, William pushes away from his captors and throws himself at me. I narrowly dodge and he lands on the balls of his feet, pivoting and bearing all of his teeth at me.
I glance over to Aro, seeing him roll his eyes in annoyance.
"Jane," he sighs quietly.
Immediately, Jane is by my side and William is writhing on the floor in agony. It is clear that Jane was waiting outside the entire trial, clearly counting on this moment to occur. The two members of the guard gather William up and drag his screaming body back before Aro, Marcus, and Caius.
"Thank you, my pet."
The screaming stops immediately. Jane, with a small smile on her face, walks daintily from the room. I, on the other hand, am not dismissed. I am never allowed to leave before the perpetrator dies. I stand to the right of Aro, my face stony and neutral. I am careful not to betray any emotion after this point. After all, there is nothing I can do to help. Anything I say or do will only serve the purpose of putting me in danger, and with only a few days before Carlisle and I are given leave, it is something I am not willing to do.
There is no longer hate consuming William. There is only defeat.
I watch with a stoic expression as his limbs are pulled apart and burned. I find myself wondering whether Delilah will feel the pain of his loss, or if she ever truly loved him. After all, she wasn't willing to leave Ireland for him. How much can be said for love like that?
"Thank you, Edward. We always appreciate your company. I look forward to seeing the decision you make after the centurion ceremony."
Not only am I receiving a singer, but Aro thinks that I will stay with the Volturi guard after my obligation is up.
"Am I dismissed, Aro?" I ask patiently, betraying nothing.
"Yes, my boy. We'll see you tomorrow for the big day."
The big day.
I return to Carlisle's study to find it empty. It is empty not just of Carlisle, but of all of his belongings. Clearly, he has already packed up in anticipation. I know how rampant his thoughts have been, how excited he has been with the prospect of finally living with his coven, his family. He does try to hide the majority of it around me, though some of it slips through the cracks.
I am running my hands along the barren walls of the study when Carlisle walks in. Even though I can sense him behind me, he still knocks on the doorframe with his fist.
"How about we go on a celebratory hunt? It's our last few hours here, after all," Carlisle suggests.
"Sure," I agree, and by the time we are back in Volterra the sun is rising and my failure is imminent.
"You are strong," Carlisle reminds me as we enter the dark tunnels that lead downward. "I have faith in you."
"That makes one of us," I mutter. I have no doubt that I will succumb to the power of this scent. My mouth is already watering only imagining its potency.
When we finally enter the main room all of the guard is gathered and ready. I sniff tentatively but smell nothing. Carlisle moves off to the side and I see that Aro has beckoned me toward him. I walk over, my robes skirting across the stone, the noise a whispering breath.
"Any moment now and Demetri will be here," Aro grins.
I see Caius also grinning, though it is clearly snide and not anticipatory. Marcus meets my eye with his usual apathetic stare, though I see a small twinkle in them that perplexes me.
Be strong, Marcus thinks. His thoughts ring loud and clear because he does not block them from me. I stare at him for a moment too long, and then look away.
I smell her before I see her.
I cannot even describe it.
Pure and all-encompassing want.
I want it.
I want her.
A growl rips through my throat before I can control it.
She isn't even around the corner yet.
The guard snickers and sneers. They love these types of shows. I hear the clumsy footsteps of a human paired with the light tread of a vampire. They are close. Oh, they are close. My hand punctures stone as I hold myself to the wall behind Aro's throne.
They turn the corner and I can't register anything except for that scent.
I want to kill.
Italicized quotes belong to Shakespeare's Hamlet.
Claudius is asking God to absolve his sins after he murders his brother in order to obtain the queen and the position as king of Denmark.
Thanks to revrag for the read.
You can also read this at www(dot)adifferentforest(dot)com.
I do not apologize for killing Julie Andrews.
Chapter 1 of 8.