Fire consumes all life
Yet I must endure its burn
I live on, shrieking…
Nothing else. Only pain… pain and my own screams.
The pain suffocates me, strangles all emotion, leaving only fear. It burns my joints, solidifies my flesh into a cold, hard shell.
I shriek in agony.
Days seem to have passed. For days, seized by excruciating pain, I have only screamed. It's all that I can do, apart from writhing uselessly like a dying snake as it gradually grows limp. Each time that I scream, an icy hand pins me down. I cannot see it; darkness hangs over this strange, unfamiliar place, and I am pushed back each time that I turn my head in an attempt to identify my anonymous torturer.
I'm not sure how I entered this unusual location. One moment, I was a few blocks from home. The next, my surroundings flowed into blurry swirls of color, and I found myself on the ground in an enclosed space, disoriented and frightened. Somehow, I can almost feel the darkness; it is so thick and heavy.
Also uncertain is the cause of my pain. After crashing to the ground in this strange place, everything happened too quickly for me to react. I struggled and kicked, but freezing, powerful limbs held me down, and something sharp pierced my neck… then I heard stumbling footsteps, as if my attacker was staggering away from me… I remember hearing my enemy's breathing, it came in short gasps… then the breathing became a sort of snarl, feral and intimidating…
Then the pain started.
It began in my neck, speedily increasing in strength, from a dull throb to a fiery burning. The fire quickly flowed through my veins, spreading to my arms and hands, and then to my legs. For a moment, the pain was so strong that it didn't totally register in my brain. But after a few seconds, I felt the full fury of the flames, and I did the only thing that I could think to do.
And I have continued to scream for what seems like eternity.
Surely, by now, I should be dead. But I'm not. Most people seek to live as long as possible, but not me. I seek only death, for death alone will alleviate my suffering. More than anything, I want to die, to feel my strength slipping away, taking the pain with it. But still, I live on, shrieking at the top of my lungs, writhing as the flames choke my sanity, but not my life.
Without warning, more pain assaults me. I shriek again, louder this time; my shout echoes ominously. As before, the unseen hand of my torturer strikes me, warning me to remain silent. But how can I? How could any human ignore this unending torment, as it burns relentlessly and painfully? So I keep screaming.
"Be quiet. The pain will end." I only partially hear the callous voice; the pain drowns it out almost entirely.
"The pain will end soon." The voice is more distinct now; the pain is slowly dulling. At last, I find the strength to stop shrieking.
"Good. Stay quiet," my tormenter orders. The new clarity in the voice causes me to notice something that I didn't hear before. It is high-pitched; the voice is oddly feminine.
Another wave of intense discomfort rushes over me. Desperately, I try to contain my screams, but I cannot. Yielding, I shriek at the top of my lungs, the helpless victim of blazing anguish. Invisibly, my torturer's hand slaps me. In response, I stop screaming; how, I'm not sure. But I do stop – somehow – whimpering like a lost puppy as I fight the urge to cry out again.
"Shhhhhhh…" The voice shushes me, and I become silent. "Stay quiet," it whispers. Fearfully, I obey, struggling to do as I am told. Although fragmented, my own voice somehow returns.
"When… Will… It… End…" I gasp. Suddenly, I hear a rush of wind, and then nothing. There is no answer to my question – only foreboding silence.
My tormenter has vanished, deserted me. Despite my hatred for her – if it is a her and not a him – I wish that she would return. She is my only companion, my only comfort, as unfeeling and emotionless as she is.
Time elapses. It feels like hours, but I'm pretty sure it's only seconds. Relentlessly, the pain burns, although slowly waning. I struggle not to scream; that would only make things worse. My ears already hurt from my frightened squeals. Unexpectedly, I hear another rush of wind.
"It's alright." A new voice speaks; it is deeper, more masculine. "You're alright," the voice repeats.
But I'm not alright. I can feel my pain gradually fading, but at an impossibly slow rate. Still, it takes all of my strength to refrain from shrieking. Exhausted, I relinquish my grip on self-control, crying out again. My new companion calmly shushes me, promising that it will all be over soon. "You're safe now. Don't be afraid."
Unexpectedly, my pain weakens even further. I stutter, "Who… Are… You…"
"Riley," my companion answers. "I am another like you. I'm here to protect you."
The meaning of Riley's words evades my overloaded mind. What does he mean by another like me? And what is he protecting me from?
Thankfully, the pain dulls further, and then vanishes entirely. The atmosphere is strangely stagnant – no shrieks, no pain, no writhing. It feels odd to lie still.
"I'm… alive?" Somehow, it's hard to believe.
"Yes," Riley answers.
Then I notice something else. "I have no heartbeat."
"But I'm alive."
Confusingly, my mind spins in dizzy circles. Nothing makes any sense; my brain is overloaded and numb. At last, the burning pain is gone, but there's another sensation in the back of my throat… something that I can't put a name to.
"Am I really alive?" I question again, still refusing to believe it. Quickly, I stagger to my feet.
"Yes, you are alive," Riley replies, laughing slightly. "You can stop asking the same question."
Curiously, I look up at Riley. Unlike my earlier tormenter, he doesn't force me back, preventing me from viewing his face. But I still cannot see his features clearly; it is too dark.
"Where am I?" I ask.
"Where, exactly, is this cave located?"
"That's not important right now."
Groaning, I decide not to interrogate Riley further; he will only make me more perplexed.
"Can we go outside?" I inquire.
"It's just… dark," I admit. "I can't see a thing."
Stumbling in the darkness, I follow Riley's footsteps out into the dim light of the outdoors. I still can't tell exactly where I am – far from home, obviously, but I'm unsure of my exact location. This place is barren and uninhabited. However, I am glad to be outdoors; now I can get my first real look at the mysterious Riley.
His hair is blond, his muscles enormous, and his skin like granite. He is also deathly pale – a walking corpse, as muscular he is. He is clearly something other than human; his eyes betray that much. Terrifyingly, they are voids of brilliant red, and I can't seem to look away from them. They are alien… inhuman. And they're staring at me.
"Would you stop doing that?" I hiss.
"Doing what?" Riley asks.
"Staring at me. It's… scaring me."
"Sorry," Riley apologizes, sounding slightly flustered. "Now, I have to take you to the others, where it's safe."
"Others? What others? Where… where are we going?" I stammer.
"Away from here."
"You're not completely safe yet. As I said, I have to take you to the others," Riley answers flatly.
"What others?" I snarl, exasperated with the dearth of answers to my numerous questions.
"I'll explain later," Riley retorts. "Follow me." He turns to face the setting sun, and suddenly he is gone, a blur of ghostly white. I stand still, stupefied. After a moment, he abruptly returns, materializing out of nowhere. Startled, I flinch.
"Sorry. I forgot that you're new," he confesses.
"How… how did you do that?" I stutter.
Riley laughs, and his mouth curves into an amused smile. "I ran. You can go just as fast."
I stifle laughter of my own. "Are you joking?"
"You could at least try running; you're must faster than before. Just hold my hand; I'll make sure that we don't get separated."
"You have got to be kidding me."
"Just run. It's not difficult."
I pause, wondering if trusting Riley would be a good idea. I still have no idea who he is or where he is taking me, but, if I do as he says, meeting with the 'others' that he speaks of, maybe I can find my way home. At the same time, however, he is a complete stranger, and his bloody irises make me feel on edge.
"Are you going to try running or not?"
Riley's voice returns me to reality. "Alright, I'll run," I agree, doubtful, but deciding to just comply. Riley grasps my wrist and tells me to start running. I do as I am told, and, to my astonishment, I am flying, my surroundings an indistinct pool of mingling colors. I can hardly feel my feet touch the ground as they race at blinding speed. Terrified, I stop running. Abruptly, the flying ceases and the landscape solidifies.
Utterly dumbfounded, I'm not sure how to react. That was extremely abnormal; did my earlier tormenter do something to me? Were the burning pain and my sudden speed connected?
"I told you," Riley says. Not sure what to say, I nod my head weakly. "Now, follow me to the others," Riley continues. "I'll hold your hand."
"I'm not sure that I want to do that again," I say. "I'm not used to the speed."
Riley shakes his head. "There's nothing to worry about. Follow me."
Riley takes off, pulling me along. My feet drag in the dirt as he races forward, and I am forced to run alongside him. Tightly, I close my eyes, frightened by the pace at which we are moving. Gusts of wind batter my face.
Finally, Riley stops. I pause, releasing the breath that I was involuntarily holding. It hurts my throat to exhale; the unusual discomfort continues to plague me.
"You can open your eyes if you want."
I obey Riley, opening my eyes and examining my surroundings. I'm not sure where I am now – this place, too, looks utterly deserted. There are no buildings and no people in sight – only jagged rock formations, dirt, and grass.
"I'm going to summon the others," Riley says. Then, turning to the rock formations, he announces, "Everyone, you can come out now."
Out of nowhere, other pale figures appear. Some of them clamber out of crevices in the rock, while others seem to materialize out of thin air. Some are male, others female. The males, like Riley, have enormous muscles bulging out of nearly transparent skin. The females, too, are disconcertingly pale, and more beautiful than anyone that I have ever seen. All of the males and females have distinguishing features – some have light hair, others dark, some are tall, others shorter but more muscular. However, all of them – males and females – have disturbing red eyes like Riley. And they're all muttering amongst themselves.
"I wonder where they found her."
"How much do you think Riley has told her?"
"New, or just recent, do you think?"
"She looks frightened."
"Are there others with her?"
Riley holds up a hand, demanding silence. Instantaneously, the group of mysterious people – there are at least fifteen of them – goes quiet.
"She's new," Riley explains, gesturing to me. The pale figures' eyes scrutinize me, and I shudder. "And I mean very new," Riley continues. "Brand new. She's only just stopped screaming. Try not to stare; it makes her uncomfortable."
The pale figures nod.
"You're on your own," Riley says, turning to me. "Don't worry; you're safe with them."
Before I can say another word, Riley disappears, vanishing into the distance. As soon as he is gone, the other people turn to stare at me, ignoring Riley's earlier instructions. The strangers look me right in the eyes, and it makes me feel like an unwanted outsider. There's something otherworldly about their vivid irises that makes me want to run and hide.
"Please... like Riley said… no staring," I stammer nervously. "It… freaks me out."
"Sorry," a female apologizes. She is tall and slender, with long, glossy brown hair, and is the first of the pale figures to speak to me. "I didn't mean to frighten you," she adds. "It's just… your eyes. They're so… bright… even more vivid than Riley's."
"You… I… What?" I stammer. "My eyes are… brown."
"Not anymore," a blond girl sighs, shaking her head. "I can't believe that Riley didn't explain to you yet."
"Explain what?" I question.
"Take a look at yourself," the blond female replies, gesturing to a large shard of shattered glass on the ground. I bend down and retrieve it, and, hesitantly, as much as I fear what I will see, I look into the glass.
And drop it instantly.
My eyes are indeed pools of bloody crimson, and my skin as white as alabaster. My hair is unusually dark, contrasting with my pale flesh. I look like a freak – a monster. "No!" I yell. "No! What's happening?"
Immediately, the brown-haired girl – the first to have spoken to me – stretches out her hand and places it on my shoulder in a comforting gesture. "Don't be afraid. It happens to all of us," she says, her tone kind but dead.
"What do you mean by 'us'?" I ask apprehensively. "What am I?"
"You're a newborn."
"A newborn what?" My muscles tense; I am dreading the answer.
"Sara," a blond boy interrupts, "let Riley break it to her. If he hasn't told her, it's better for her to find out later on. We don't want to scare her."
"She deserves to know," the brown-haired girl – Sara – replies.
The boy counters, "Just wait. Riley will explain to her later."
"She should know," Sara retorts.
"Stop!" I shout. Both Sara and the boy turn to stare at me. "No one has told me anything, and I'm hopelessly confused," I continue. "Please, just explain! You said that I'm a newborn. A newborn what?" My throat hurts from my sudden exclamation, and I close my eyes, both fearing and seeking an answer to my question.
The boy glowers at Sara, but she ignores him and turns to me. "You're a newborn vampire."
It takes a minute for her words to register, for the meaning of her explanation to penetrate my overloaded brain. A vampire? Me, a monster, a killer, an immortal? Me, a vampire? Either the girl is lying or I am dreaming.
Stunned, I stammer, "I'm a… a… a vampire? How… how is that… how is that possible?"
Sara answers, "I'm surprised that Riley didn't tell you; I thought that you would have at least started to figure it out. Don't you feel the thirst?"
And then I believe her. The lingering discomfort in my throat… it's thirst – not thirst for water, but thirst for human blood. Somehow, after a long period of silence, I locate my voice.
"I'm a vampire." I'm not actually asking her, only clarifying my terrifying new reality in my own brain. "A vampire," I repeat.
"That's a good thing," another boy – a dark-haired one – interjects. "You're safe now."
"From what?" I question.
"The yellow-eyes," the boy answers.
"Yellow-eyes?" I wail, bewildered. "Oh, I'm so confused!"
Unexpectedly, I feel a hand on my shoulder, and I turn to see the brown-haired girl that first spoke to me. "Wow, Riley didn't tell you anything," she says."You really have a lot to learn, newborn."
"I have a name, you know," I snap. "It's Bree… Bree Tanner."
"Don't worry – everything will be explained soon enough. Bree, welcome to the family," the girl declares, smiling warmly.
The family. It suddenly hits me that I can't go home, or I'll kill my human family, acting on instinct. The vampires are my family now. Somehow, it feels like starting over, like I'm experiencing childhood all over again. I feel monstrous and animalistic, insecure and uncared for. I have new enemies and new allies, and I'll never see my real family ever again. I know nothing about this strange new world, and I'm a permanent slave to an instinct that will forever drive me to murder innocent people. I'm starting from scratch, starting from the beginning. I feel like a child. No, that's not it.
I feel like a newborn.
A newborn vampire.