[Author's note: This is the sequel to The Serpent and the Mirror, but this story can be read independently as well. I have modified the names of the doctor and his receptionist from the previous story to ensure that this story makes sense on its own. Hope you like it! I would love your feedback, as always.]
From the Files of Dr. D.: The Case of Edward C.
I saw a new patient today, a seventeen year old boy suffering from vivid hallucinations. Edward Cullen was brought in by his concerned parents, Dr. and Mrs. Cullen. The initial letter I received from Dr. Cullen, Edward's father, outlined the basic facts of this bizarre case.
Over the past year, Edward has suffered from gradual onset of depression, accompanied by powerful hallucinations and the firm conviction that he is a vampire. He believes that he is no longer human, but an immortal vampire, subsisting on blood alone. But not only does he believe himself to be a vampire; he is further convinced that his entire family are vampires also: His father and mother, his sisters Rosalie and Alice, and his brothers Emmett and Jasper. He claims that his father, Dr. Carlisle Cullen, already a vampire, transformed him into one as well by biting him as he lay dying of influenza in 1918, and that the other family members were also dying mortals transformed by Dr. Cullen's bite. Needless to say, his family is worried sick about his extraordinary delusions. Edward is so convinced of the absolute truth of his hallucinations that he even broke up with his girlfriend, the lovely Bella, in order to protect her from his own dangerous blood lust. The Cullens are deeply touched by the fact that Bella, even when faced with her boyfriend's rejection and his deepening mental illness, has remained loyal to Edward, and is in constant contact with the Cullens to enquire about his well-being.
The Cullens are a close-knit family, and they are all terribly worried about Edward's fragile mental health. His parents have taken him to see a number of experts before being referred to me. They were all in my waiting room this morning, including the eternally loyal Bella, who had insisted on accompanying them.
I decided to speak to Bella first. Girlfriends often know a great deal more about young men than even the most observant family members.
Oh, dear me! Bella really was the most enchanting creature I had seen in a very long time. Her luminous, ivory skin, her huge brown eyes, the dark hair cascading over her shoulders, almost too luxuriant for her slight figure -what kind of illness would cause a seventeen year old boy to break up with her?
"Doctor, do you think you can help Edward?" Her voice was a whisper.
I smiled reassuringly. "I will certainly do my best, my dear. Now, please tell me about Edward, and about your relationship. I understand that his hallucinations about being a vampire only began in the last year or so?"
She nodded. "Yes. I - I was terrified when he first began... to speak of things like that. To speak of being a vampire." She smiled briefly. "To tell you the truth, doctor, he was so earnest and so convincing when he first began talking about being a vampire that a part of me was actually wondering if... if he was speaking the truth... I know it sounds ridiculous. But you see, he did not seem mad at all, then, just ... well... concerned. About me, mostly, and what he might do to me accidentally, since he was a vampire."
I leaned forward. "And what exactly was it that he was afraid that he might do, my dear Bella?"
Her lovely ivory face grew even paler. "He - he was afraid that he might attack me and drink my blood."
"Ah." Not, of course, what a young lady likes to hear from her beau. "I see. And what would have ensued, should he have made that unfortunate decision?"
"Well..." She frowned. "From what he said, I gathered that he believed that if he had actually bitten me, I would either have been killed or turned into a vampire as well."
"A fellow vampire?" I raised an eyebrow. "And did you get the impression that he... er.. wanted to bite you?"
She flushed. "Oh, yes, very much so, but he was said he was afraid. Afraid that I would lose my soul if I became a vampire as well. And he said he would rather lose me than risk me losing my soul."
"Lose your soul?" I wrote furiously on my pad. "And if I may ask, how long had the two of you been together, before all of this happened?"
"Just about a year."
"I see. And, if you will permit a rather indelicate question: I assume the two of you had been... well, intimate?"
She blushed, hard.
"Oh, no, doctor, we hadn't. As a matter of fact, I had suggested it a few times. I was... I am very much in love with him, you see. But Edward is rather old-fashioned when it comes to that. He believed that... that intimacy should wait until marriage."
"Did he now?" I have the deepest respect for old-fashioned moral principles, of course, but based on my extensive experience as an analyst, I would say that those principles tend to vanish like the morning dew when young men encounter a girl as lovely as Bella. Interesting!
"Hm. And had you noticed anything peculiar about him prior to the time when the hallucinations began?"
She shook her head. "No, not at all. He was just a normal boy. Not ordinary, perhaps, but normal. He was so incredibly intelligent, and he seemed to know everything. So extraordinarily well read, as if he hadn't just read the history books, but actually remembered the events... I remember the history teacher actually asking him, jokingly, if he had been there during the Russian revolution, he seemed to know so much about it. And he was so romantic, in this sweet, old-fashioned way. He would always stand up when I entered the room, and remain standing until I sat down. Seriously, who does that in this age? And he would open doors for me, and give me his coat if I was cold, things like that."
"It was terrible, when he broke up with me. I thought I was going to die. I couldn't understand what was happening - we had been so wonderfully happy until then. We were so much in love, and it felt like something very different from just a high school crush. It felt like something, well, eternal... And even when he broke up with me, he claimed that he still loved me, and that he always will. But he says that he must stay away from me now, for my own protection, since he is dangerous, since he is a vampire..." There were tears in her eyes.
He is breaking up with her for her own protection. Perhaps some still rational part of Edward's mind is realizing that he is becoming a danger to others, that his illness may cause him to harm those he loves? Is his believed vampirism merely a symbol for his mental illness, for some kind of homicidal impulse that he recognizes within?
But why does Edward believe that his condition began with a bite from his father? Even the most bizarre delusions usually signify something: The subconscious is communicating hidden truths through a strange language of symbols and concealed meanings. He believes that all his family members were transformed into something no longer human by Dr. Cullen's bite... Is there some history of terrible abuse, perhaps, in the doctor's family?
But if there is, why would he bring Edward to me? If Dr. Cullen was an abuser, surely he would wish to avoid detection, rather than bring his victim to see a renowned psychoanalyst? No, it can't have been that.
But something must have happened to Edward, some horrifying event must have triggered his flight into madness. I need to find out more, about his life and about his family.
"Bella, please tell me more about the Cullens. Before I speak to each of them in person, I would like to hear what you, as an outsider to the family, think of them. What are your impressions of the family?"
She smiled a little. "You know, Doctor, I don't really feel that I am an outsider to the family. Ever since Edward and I started dating, they have been so sweet and so welcoming. It's like having an extra family of my own. My own parents have been divorced since I was little. My mom loves me, I'm sure, in her own way, but she has always been off traveling somewhere with a new boyfriend or another. And even when she's been there, she's always been so helpless, I feel like I'm the one taking care of her. And my dad's so sweet and loving in his own awkward way, but he works a lot, so even when I moved to live with him, I never really felt like I had a family too look after me. But Dr. and Mrs. Cullen have been like parents to me ever since I met them. They are the nicest people I've ever met. They are almost impossibly good, if you know what I mean. They've treated me like their own daughter, from the very beginning, cooked for me and cared for me and listened to me. They are such compassionate people. You know, of course, that all their children are adopted?"
I frowned. "No, I didn't know that. Dr. Cullen did not say anything about that in his letter."
"Oh, he wouldn't." Bella sighed. "Dr. and Mrs. Cullen have always loved all their children as if they were their own flesh and... blood. Oh, I've started hating that word... It's all Edward can ever talk about these days."
"So all the Cullen children are adopted?" This was interesting news. "Do you know anything about their backgrounds?"
Bella thought for a moment, her raven hair falling like a veil in front of her down-turned face. Good God, she was beautiful! Edward must have caused more than one jealous rival to smile when he felt compelled to end his romance with Bella...
"Well, let's see. They adopted Edward first, when he was just a baby. They've had him the longest, and Mrs. Cullen told me that he has always been the closest to her heart for that reason. Poor Mrs. Cullen lost a child of her own, a long time ago, and after that, she could no longer have children. It's terribly sad; I think she is the sort of person who was always meant to be a mother."
"Do you know how her own child died?"
Bella shook her head. "No, she never said. I think it was still too painful for her to talk about. After Edward, they adopted four other children, but they were older, not babies. They all came from troubled backgrounds, and had nowhere to go until the Cullens gave them a home. Alice was in and out of mental institutions for years as a child, but she has been happy and healthy after she found a home with the Cullens..."
Has she, now?
"... and Rosalie was a young, homeless victim of abuse and rape. Emmett was homeless as well, a young teen living by himself out in the forest when the Cullens heard about him. Rosalie and Emmett are in love. I know, it seems a little weird at first, since they are adopted siblings, but they are not really related, so it doesn't really matter, does it?"
"I suppose not. And Jasper?"
"Jasper - He was a child soldier. I know, that isn't supposed to be possible in the U. S., but he lied about his age and forged some papers, apparently, and went off to Iraq. Dr. Cullen met him in the hospital after he was sent home with life-threatening wounds. He was able to save Jasper's life, but realized that the boy was much younger than his papers indicated. Jasper never spoke about his past, but it was clear that he had no family to look after him, so Dr. and Mrs. Cullen decided to adopt him as well."
A psychiatric patient, a homeless abuse victim, a feral boy from the forest, a child soldier. And now also a self-proclaimed vampire. The Cullen family was getting more interesting by the minute.
I pressed the intercom button: "Miss M., would you mind sending the Cullen children in for a moment? All of them, except Edward. I'll speak to him separately in a minute."
The door opened, and the four young Cullens stepped into my office. I drew my breath sharply. I don't know what I had expected, but not this. Perhaps I had imagined, after hearing Bella speak of their troubled backgrounds, a band of frightened teens, their past suffering still visible in their young faces... But what I saw, instead, was a vision of beauty. The Cullen children moved with grace and easy elegance. And their faces... Their faces were to die for... Alice, the smallest one, was dark, with a delicate elf-like beauty, Rosalie was golden-haired with stunning violet eyes, Emmet tall and handsome with dark curls and a mischievous spark in his golden eyes, and Jasper equally tall, but leaner, with a shock of honey-blond hair. They were all impossibly, inhumanly beautiful.
I was confused. Did the Cullens only adopt future runway models?
They fluttered elegantly into my office chairs and looked at me with an air of expectation. Alice was the first to speak. "Oh, please, can you help Edward, doctor? No one else has been able to, but Carlisle says that you are an amazing doctor..."
Carlisle, huh? She is not calling him "dad" or "father"... I wonder why.
"It's completely freaky, this vampire stuff." This was Emmett. "It just came out of nowhere, too. He was always just a regular kid, until he began talking about blood... Isn't there some kind of medicine you can give him or something, that will make him all right again?"
"I will do my best," I assured him. "Do any of you recall anything at all that occurred around the time when Edward began hallucinating, or right before that? A traumatic event of some kind?"
They all shook their heads, perplexed.
"No, it just came on suddenly," Alice whispered. "And he even broke up with poor Bella, even though we could all see plainly how much he loved her..." She put her arms around Bella. The two girls seemed very close. Too close?
"And..." I felt very foolish, but I had to ask. "And I don't suppose you really are vampires, are you?"
A little giggle from Rosalie, and a roar of laughter from Emmett. They all shook their heads. Jasper was looking at me doubtfully, and Alice leaned over and whispered something in his ear. My hearing is quite excellent, and I think what she said was something like: "It's OK, sometimes the best psychoanalysts are the ones that are a little odd themselves."
"Well, let me know if you can think of anything, anything at all, that can shed some light on Edward's condition." They nodded gravely and disappeared back out into the waiting room, Alice's arm around Bella's shoulders.
I had asked them to send Edward in, and he appeared in my office a moment later. Good God, he looked as perfect as his adopted siblings! Pale skin, eyes of an appealing topaz color, high cheekbones, hair of a beautiful bronze shade. But the oddest thing about him, I thought to myself, was that he didn't seem odd at all. He seemed absolutely normal, absolutely rational. He sat down in one of the chairs, completely at ease.
I eyed him closely. "So," I began. "You are a vampire..."
He nodded gravely. "Yes, doctor," he said simply. "I am."
He was so composed, so matter-of-fact about it, that I began to understand how Bella could have wondered, in the beginning, if he was actually speaking the truth. Oh, what a ridiculous thought! I brushed the bizarre idea firmly away from my mind.
"And how long have you been a vampire?"
"Since Carlisle bit me. In 1918."
Carlisle. Not "father".
"I see. And the rest of your family members are also vampires?"
He nodded. "Yes, they are, although they have to pretend otherwise, of course. But Carlisle said I could speak to you about it. I don't understand..."
A look of sudden bewilderment crossed his face. "I don't understand why they are pretending when they are speaking to me. Why they are suddenly pretending, even among ourselves, that we are all humans." Poor boy.
"And Bella?" I prompted gently.
A look of profound sadness cast a shadow over Edward's handsome features. "Poor Bella!" There were tears in his eyes. "I hate causing her pain, hated breaking up with her. I love her more than anyone could possibly imagine. But what could I do, doctor? I cannot endanger her life by continuing to see her. Perhaps you can talk some sense into her, doctor. Please tell her to stop worrying about me. Please convince her to forget about me. Tell her I'm lost beyond any hope of recovery. Tell her I'm too dangerous..."
Now, this was getting fascinating. That he loved Bella with all his heart was evident. And it was equally clear that he feared for her life. Why?
"I know you don't believe me," he whispered. "After all, very few people know that vampires are real, that we do exist. Of course you must think that I am mad, that this is all a delusion."
Hm. The boy was both intelligent and lucid. I had not expected this.
His golden eyes held my glance. There was a fierce urgency in his gaze. "But doctor, I need you to try to understand. Try to put your preconceived notions of what is possible and what is not aside for a moment, and try to imagine, even for a few minutes, that I am telling the truth. I am a vampire. We all are, the whole family. I thirst after Bella's blood, after the intoxicating sweetness of her scent. But my longing for her can kill her. Now if you were to believe, even for a second, that this could be true, wouldn't you have to admit that I am doing the right thing? Wouldn't you realize that she is far better off away from me?"
The earnestness in his eyes was strangely... convincing. (What? I must be overworked. Did I just write that? I think I will take a vacation once this case is over...)
"I will do what I can," I said. "Both for you and for Bella."
He nodded. "Thank you, doctor."
And he told me the rest of his story, with a curious composure as if he were discussing the weather. He told me about his transformation into a vampire after being bitten by Dr. Cullen, about his adopted siblings undergoing a similar change, about choosing to drink animal blood instead of the blood of humans, about his strong attraction to Bella, about his thirst for her blood.
Blood. He has a strange obsession with blood. Blood, the scarlet line that runs through all his hallucinations. I wonder what lies behind this curious preoccupation with blood? The life of a creature is in the blood... Isn't that from the Bible? Blood as a symbol of sacrifice, of atonement, of violence... Blood, the symbol of death, but also of life, of family, of linage... Bloodlines, family lines... But the Cullens are not related by blood, at least not in the ordinary sense.
When Edward finally left, I sat still for a moment, pondering. I am used to talking to mentally ill patients. And Edward, poor boy, was definitely in that category. And yet... Yet, there was something about him that seemed so - So what, exactly? So sane. Odd.
Finally, I spoke to Dr. and Mrs. Cullen. There were as exquisitely lovely as their children, and equally graceful. Dr. Cullen was blond, impossibly handsome, with the same golden eyes as Edward. Esme's caramel colored hair fell in soft ringlets about her enchanting heart-shaped face. To my surprise, they looked quite young, barely a decade older than their adopted children. But that can't be. They adopted Edward when he was very young.
Carlisle Cullen reached out and grabbed his wife's hand. Carlisle and Esme. A lovely couple, with oddly old-fashioned names. They looked at me, beseechingly. "We have visited so many doctors by now," whispered Esme. "But no one has been able to help Edward at all. He still believes, poor dear, that he is a vampire..."
"Tell me more about him, about his childhood, his character..."
Esme's expression grew softer. "Oh, he was always the loveliest child. So sweet-tempered and so loving. He is profoundly intelligent, but quite modest about his gifts. He really is the perfect boy..." She sighed.
"Did anything ever happen to him when he was a child, or more recently, anything dramatic that would result in a trauma? Anything violent, disturbing, frightening?"
There was a slight hesitation before Esme answered. "No, nothing. It's so odd, really, that it's Edward who is the one who is ill. After all, he's the one who's been with us since he was a baby, the one who has lived a protected life with us, while the others... Oh, they have gone through so much, all of them, before they became our children. I have always worried about their health, after everything they have lived through... And yet, they are all perfectly healthy..."
So it would seem.
"And your children all get along with each other?"
"Oh, yes." Dr. Cullen was the one speaking now. "They are the best of friends. They have always been very close, very loving. We were a little concerned at first, Esme and I, when it became clear that Emmett and Rosalie were in love with each other, but they are very sweet together. And Jasper and Alice as well, perhaps... Edward was quite happy for them, although he was sort of the odd one out. But when he met Bella, we were all overjoyed. He had finally found his soul mate as well. Such a lovely girl..."
Oh, it all sounded so perfect. Much too perfect. There must be something under the surface, something that would cause a sweet, sensitive boy to suddenly lose his sanity...
"Is there anything else you can tell me, Dr. Cullen, that could shed some light on Edward's condition?"
A look of indecision passed over his handsome features. "I - well, there is one more thing, I suppose..."
"I...I hesitate to bring this up because I truly don't know what to make of it. I don't see how this could have anything to do with his delusions, but the coincidence is rather chilling. It's all nothing, I'm sure, but I feel I should mention it to you nevertheless."
He produced an old yellowed newspaper clipping from his coat pocket and handed it to me. "This - this is about Edward. About how he was found as a young child, before we adopted him. We have never shown this to him, since we felt it would be too much of a shock for someone of his sensitive temperament."
My curiosity piqued, I scanned the newspaper article quickly. The headline read "Tragic Mystery in Forks". As I read on, I felt a chill run down my spine.
Two young children were found by a deer hunter in the forest near Forks this morning. The oldest child, a boy of around four years of age, was dead, while the younger, a boy of around two, was still alive. It is unclear how the older child died. Massive amounts of blood were found near the scene, but the child who died had no injuries, except for a tiny cut on his neck. An autopsy will be performed to determine the precise cause of death. In spite of the efforts of both the Forks police force and investigators from the FBI who were called to the scene, it has not yet been possible to identify the two children. Their strong resemblance to one another suggests that they may have been brothers. The police and the FBI are urging anyone who has any information that could have the slightest bearing on the case to contact them immediately at the following number...
"The mystery was never solved," said Dr. Cullen quietly. "To this day, we don't know where Edward came from, how he and his brother came to be out in the woods on their own, or how his brother died. It was concluded that an animal must have killed the child somehow, although it was never clear how an animal could have killed the boy without leaving more extensive injuries."
We sat in silence for a moment. I looked at the newspaper picture of the beautiful bronze haired toddler that had been Edward Cullen. He looked like an angel. I shivered slightly. An animal killed his brother... Surely this was not the face of that animal-? No, impossible. He was a baby...
Dr. Cullen went on: "We read about the story in the newspaper, my wife and I, and we both felt terrible for the little boy. We had just found out that we were unable to have children of our own, so the decision to adopt him was natural one once it became evident that no family was stepping forward to claim him."
"I see. And you have no sense that Edward ever remembered what had happened? He would have been too young to talk, perhaps, when he came into your care, but he may still have retained a memory of sorts of the tragic death of his brother - ?"
Dr. Cullen shook his head, slowly. "He didn't begin to talk until almost a year later. I suppose all the dramatic changes in his young life delayed his speech. And when he did talk, he didn't seem to be aware of anything that had happened before he became our son. Except - "
Dr. Cullen swallowed. "Except for the fact that he was always terrified of blood. If one of his little playmates got the slightest cut or scrape, he would grow pale and run from the room. I suppose that his mind must have retained some sort of vague memory of the terror of his brother's death, lingering only as a pathological fear of blood..."
"What about his own cuts and bruises? Did he react similarly to seeing his own blood?"
"Hm." Dr. Cullen thought hard. "You know, I don't recollect ever seeing him getting any cuts or scrapes, even as a young child. Rather odd, now that you mention it. I don't know if it was because he was so careful not to get hurt, or whether he was just very coordinated. He is rather graceful, you know."
And so was Dr. Cullen, as he got up and walked to the door with his beautiful wife when our conversation was over.
I had to do it. Perhaps it was a little melodramatic, but my curiosity got the better of me. I pushed the intercom button on my desk. "Miss M., would you mind sending Edward Cullen back in for just a moment, please?"
"Yes, of course."
Edward entered a moment later. "Yes, doctor?"
I observed his handsome face closely as I pulled out a paper knife from my desk and gave myself a quick cut in the finger. A few drops of red trickled out.
A slight sound escaped Edward's lips, and a moment later, he lay in a crumpled heap on the floor. He had fainted.