It seemed like forever since I was still. While I couldn't see to be sure, I was fairly certain that this man is somehow managing to run at this speed and that we weren't on the back of some high-powered rocket.
The notion is an unbelievable one, but I couldn't think of anything else to explain it. There were too many twists and turns for it to be a track or something along those lines.
The light of town was completely gone now and all I could see are flickers of what looked to be trees. I wondered for a brief second where he was taking me and what he had planned. If I would live. How much pain would I feel. Would my parents even care that I was gone.
Since they'd locked me in there they'd never once been to visit, so I could only assume that they were pretending I was already dead.
And just as I started delving further into that thought, we stopped.
My stomach lurched from the sudden movement and I knew that I was about to throw up.
I gagged obviously and a second later the man dropped me on the ground again and I leaned over to throw up on the forest floor.
"Good timing," he commented sounding a little entertained.
"I'm sorry," I mumbled. Tears automatically started welling in my eyes and I fought to keep them from continuing. They'd never gotten me anywhere before, and if anything they'd gotten me in trouble a time or two.
"Don't apologize. I would have been more put out if you had done that on me, but I understand you're not used to the speed."
"How do you move so fast?" I asked, looking back up at him now that the little food I still had in my stomach had been expelled.
"It's just one part of the deal."
I'd wanted to ask him what deal that was, but something stopped me.
A minute passed in silence then while I waited to see if any more vomit was coming. Once we both seemed to have wordlessly assessed my condition, the man picked me back up again and started walking again in a more directed manner, like he knew he was almost to his destination.
How he knew where he was going in this darkness I didn't know, but I really had no choice but to go with it.
"How do you feel about death?" he asked smoothly, completely without hesitation.
"Um . . ." My insides tightened and my whole body went even stiffer. "I-I'd prefer not to."
"What about physical death. No heartbeat, no blood, no growth, you just stop. But you're still conscious and moving."
"No heartbeat?" I asked.
The man laughed again. "Not exactly. Am I dead?"
I didn't answer that time. He was standing and moving and I could hear him breathing and talking. Though I couldn't feel or hear his heartbeat, there logically had to be one.
"I'm walking, talking, breathing, but I have no heartbeat, no blood, I haven't aged in fifty years, my body is totally cold, yet here I am. Is this death?"
He had thoroughly confused me now. My definition of death involved decomposition and a coffin, not simply the lack of a heartbeat and the gained ability to run faster than the speed of light.
"So how do you feel about this type of death? Like me. You can still do everything a person can, but you just won't get old or ever change and you can't go out in the sunlight with other people around or they'll know you're different. Also, you'll never eat food or drink water again. It's not so bad though."
I stayed quiet for the remainder of the walk, partly because I was too afraid to talk, but mostly because if I said something either way I figured it probably wouldn't end well.
Jasper crashed into the ground beside me heavily then without warning which I guessed was what had interrupted the memory.
Instantly, I noticed how he was missing both arms and one of his feet and as soon as I looked to Emmett I found their location again.
In his hands . . .
"Tell her what you told me, shit-bag!" Emmett ordered viciously.
I recoiled automatically into Rosalie when Jasper rocked from side-to-side and then flipped onto his back when he got enough momentum.
"Give me my fucking arms back," he spat in reply, clearly furious.
Emmett glowered down at him, saying nothing in response, but giving Jasper a solid kick in the ribs for his words.
"He's not—" Edward started, but was quickly silenced by what I guessed was a particularly unpleasant thought from Emmett.
Rose shuffled us back a little as the tension grew thicker and I was glad she was able to pick up on my emotions. The last place I wanted to be was right beside Jasper. Arms or no arms.
"I was messed up, okay?!" Jasper yelled to Emmett, but then tilted his head back to look at me for a second too before moving back to Emmett. "You all knew it! I never made any kind of secret of the fact that I'm fucked in the head! I was trying in some way to make up for what I did! She didn't remember so I thought it would be the nice thing to do to make the rest of her life happy! But apparently not! My fucking mistake!"
"Did it not cross your mind that she was better off without you?!" Edward piped up, now standing since Rosalie and I had moved way out of his reach.
He joined Emmett a few feet from Jasper's legs and the two of them continued to stare him down.
"Of course it did! I crossed my mind every day! But I could see that she was happy and some of that was my doing. So I stayed and kept trying to do more for her that was good than what I'd done that was bad. Think of it as a penance."
Emmett laughed loudly, making me jump a little at the sudden sound.
"And you were delusional enough to think that she would never remember?"
"Well I was hopeful at the very least."
"Are you sorry?" I whispered.
They all went totally quiet then and looked to me. I glanced around at the others, but ultimately my eyes came to rest of Jasper's face and I checked to see if he was actually looking at me or just in the general direction. He seemed to be focusing at my face.
"Yes," he murmured ten times softer than before. "I'm seventy years of sorry, Alice. Everything I've said to you since we met in the diner has been real, I promise. It wasn't personal when you were human. It was just a game. I didn't know anything about you. It . . . it was just a game."
I let my eyes move off his face and settle on my hands then. It was easier than looking at his face.
"Why didn't you just leave me alone?"
"When you didn't recognise me I was surprised, and then when you seemed happy to see me I took it as a sign that I was meant to meet you again. So I went along with it."
Slowly, I peered up at him again. "Did you ever plan to tell me?"
His face changed instantly to one of anguish rather than pain and frustration. That told me the answer he seemed to be avoiding.
"Please try to see it from my point of view. I didn't want to ruin everything. Would you have forgiven me if I'd told you?"
My eyes closed again and I could feel the sting of the trapped tears under them. For the first time this afternoon, I was upset with myself. Everything I was remembering; everything Jasper had done had shaken my beliefs and turned my happy little world onto its head. But it wasn't that that I found was the most disturbing revelation. It that I couldn't say that I would have forgiven him, or that I could have tried to, and that made me feel like the worst person in the world because I could see how badly he's tried to make it right.
"No," I whispered without looking at him. "I don't think I could ever trust you again."
A few thumps hit the leave litter then and I peeked out to see that it was Jasper's severed limbs that had been thrown an approximate distance from where they belonged.
"Pull yourself back together and get the fuck out of here. If we ever see you again, anywhere, I won't even ask for a reason." Emmett growled and then he motioned for Rose and I to join them as they turned to leave.
"Alice," Jasper called as we stood and began to walk around him, leaving a wide berth. "Alice, I'm sorry."
"Me too," I murmured, pausing for a second out of his line of sight. I tried to imagine, forcefully, what it would be like if I tried to stay with him. If I learnt to forgive him like he'd been trying to get me to for the past seventy years.
But I couldn't. The thought of him touching me made my stomach twist and the thought of ever being alone with him again scared me to death.
So I ran, as fast as I could, leaving the others behind me as I sprinted back to the house.