Name of OS: A Normal Halloween
"Entry for the A Different Kind of Fear contest"
Summary: In an attempt to start rebuilding her life after the Cullens abandoned her, Bella takes a babysitting job that goes horribly awry. Vampires aren't the worst kind of monster. Entry for 'A Different Kind of Fear' contest. Rated M, AU, OOC.
Pairing: Bella/? (You'll have to read to find out)
Word Count: 14,066
Disclaimer: *!Warning: Rated M for Mature audiences only. 18 & over. This is a HORROR fic suitable for Halloween and is intended for mature readers only due to the graphic and disturbing images! There's a few potty words, too. Read at your own risk!*
Thank you to the person who beta'd this monstrosity. She is amazingly awesome.
Also, Stephenie Meyer owns all. We just like to torture her characters.
My eyes were closed and I forced all thoughts out of my head, wishing I would just fade out of existence. Maybe if I could fade away, the gaping, bleeding hole in my chest would stop hurting. My wish was short lived because I heard a car in the driveway, the door to the cruiser slam, and the distinct sound of Charlie's boots stomping to the door through my open window.
As he headed off to work this morning, he'd muttered something about Halloween being a busy night due to vandals and underage drinking, so I wasn't expecting him home this early. I opened my eyes and forced myself up off of the bed, heading downstairs to greet him because that's what I was expected to do.
As soon as I entered the kitchen and saw his beet-red face I knew something had set him off, and from the look he was giving me, it had something to do with me.
The love of my life had abandoned me in the woods exactly 45 days ago, and Charlie had been very patient with me. I had been almost catatonic for a month, but when Renee came up to take me back to Phoenix, I refused and tried to get better.
I've been going through the motions, just reacting, not truly living, since then. When Lauren Mallory made a snide remark today at school and said that I didn't need a Halloween costume, I knew it was true.
I was a zombie.
All the other kids had laughed, everyone but Angela and Ben, and I figured the word got back to Charlie today. I knew I needed to start doing something, but the problem was I didn't want to do anything if I was doing it without Ed- him.
I didn't say a word. We just stared at each other until he finally blurted out what he was thinking.
"Bella, I don't know what to do with you anymore! The entire town is calling you a zombie! Not only do I have to see it when I'm at home, but I have to hear about it at the station, when I go out on calls, when I'm down on the reserve fishing. All anyone can talk to me about is how hard you're taking that boy leaving town! I've tried everything I can think of and if you don't get better, I AM going to send you to your mother."
"No, Ch-Dad! You can't do that! Please, I'll do anything." I didn't want to leave Forks. What if Ed- He came back? If I wasn't here, he might think I don't care; that I had forgotten him like he said. Maybe one of them would miss me and come back. Alice had to see how unhappy I was.
Charlie flopped down in his chair at the kitchen table, rubbing his eyes with the heels of his hands. When he had finished, he looked up at me with the most pleading eyes I'd ever seen.
"Look, I'll make you a deal. You try harder to get out, regain your life; interact with people and we'll talk about your living with your mom."
"I have been trying," I offered in a small voice. What did he think the last two weeks had been about? I mean, it wasn't like I was still comatose in my room. With the pain in my chest, it was amazing that I had been able to put in this much of an effort.
"You may be better than you were two weeks ago, but, Bella, you still aren't living. You're existing. Your grades are dropping, you never leave the house, and your friends never call. I want my beautiful, smiling girl back. Don't let a boy leaving you ruin your chances for a future. Finish high school; go to college. I know I haven't set the best example for you since your mom took you to live in Phoenix, but I don't want you to make my mistakes. You're too young to shut down like I did."
It was the longest, most heartfelt speech that Charlie had ever given me and I realized that my actions had hurt him far deeper than I realized.
"Look, there's a new surgeon in town. She came by the station looking for postings for babysitters, and I volunteered you for tonight. It would do you some good to get out of the house and it would prove to me that you're going to try."
I can't believe gave in, but the look on Charlie's face had made the ragged hole in my chest hurt even more, so I took her business card from him and dialed the number. I made arrangements to be there at 6:30, and then I went upstairs to change; ignoring the triumphant look on my father's face as he muttered his goodbyes and headed back out for his patrol.
I slipped on a pair of jeans and my old, dirty sneakers, trying not to think about how Alice would be harassing me for wearing them. I grabbed a hoodie from my closet and slipped it on, Esme's concerned voice echoed in my head, warning me that it was cold outside. Checking the address on the business card one more time, I grabbed my keys, turned off the outside light so no one would come for candy, and I headed out of the front door into the darkness.
The family I would be babysitting for lived a couple of blocks away, and I had plenty of time to walk. I hated driving on Halloween; I was always terrified of a little kid darting out in front of me, so I was relieved it was so close.
It was just lightly misting as I set off. The sun had set, and the jack-o-lanterns adorning porches were casting an eerie glow. I should have been more at ease with all the people walking up and down the street, but seeing carefree humans laughing and running around enjoying themselves just made me feel like more of a zombie.
Emmett had had big plans of dragging me out trick-or-treating tonight. He thought it would be fun to dress up as a vampire. Pain built up for a moment before the numbness smothered it.
I could cut a few minutes off of my travel time if I cut through the edge of the forest and since I could see the lights through the trees on the other side, I knew I wouldn't get lost this time. Cutting through the forest meant that I wouldn't have to see any smiling, happy people and think about all that I had lost.
I took a deep breath and crossed the road, heading into the forest, hoping I wouldn't trip on the bracken; Carlisle wasn't around to patch me up anymore. Although maybe if I did, I'd cut myself and a vampire would find me and put me out of my misery.
I stumbled a few times, not only struggling with the uneven terrain in the darkness but with the pain and sorrow that was so smothering that it was often difficult to breathe. It was like a heavy wool blanket weighing on me, made worse by the pain in my chest where my heart used to be. As I walked I focused on centering myself, letting the pain recede and replacing it with the numbness that had become so familiar.
When I was halfway through the small stretch of forest, the hair on the back of my neck stood on end and I felt a jolt of electricity travel down my spine. If I didn't know better, I would think someone was watching me. I stopped and looked around, squinting my eyes in the dark and taking shallow breaths; trying to see or hear who – or what – was watching me.
A fall storm was brewing. Moist leaves stirred and whispered in the wind; the cool dampness of fall seeped into me, chilling me far more than just the weather should have been able to do. The forest was strangely silent.
Then the moment was broken by the sound of a wolf howling in the distance. I could hear the distant giggling and squealing children on the street again. I shook off the chill riding my shoulders and trudged out of the forest, chalking it up to my morose mood getting the better of me on the spookiest night of the year. After all, I knew that the creatures from horror movies were real.
I finally emerged from behind the house: a large Victorian, not as large as his house, though. It was two stories and made of stone, with a turret on the back that reminded me of a castle. The yard was surrounded by a white picket fence and they had decorated the entire house and yard with some of the most enthusiastic and realistic Halloween decorations I'd ever seen. Tiny gauze ghosts hung from the tree branches, fake spider webbing laced the fence, and the back yard looked like a graveyard, complete with small authentic looking tombstones. Esme would have loved it.
I walked around the house and up their porch that was lined with pumpkin after pumpkin, carved into gruesome faces. Corn husks were tied into bundles and leaned against the supports of the porch, and bundles of dried branches were hung over every window.
I got a chill as a shadowy figure parted the curtains of one of the upstairs windows to peer down at me. It was probably just one of the kids wanting to get a look at their babysitter.
I raised my hand to knock and the door swung open, causing me to jump. Standing in front of me was an immaculately coiffed woman. She was wearing a perfectly tailored, pastel pink pantsuit, designer shoes with tiny heels, and it was all topped off with an honest to goodness apron. She didn't have a single one of her red hairs out of place; they were all twisted up into a neat bun on the back of her head. Each eyebrow was perfectly manicured and styled; her make-up perfectly applied. The whole outfit was accented with a string of pearls and matching stud earrings. She looked like a red-headed June Cleaver. Was it her Halloween costume?
She smiled at me from behind perfectly straight, white teeth outlined flawlessly with pink lipstick and held out a leather gloved hand for me to shake.
"Isabella, it's nice to meet you. Thank you for coming over on such short notice. I'm Dr. Abigail Normal, but you can call me Abby."
She spoke with a cool, formal voice as she eyed me up and down slowly, like she was assessing my every pore. I had promised Charlie I would try, so I managed a tiny smile and murmured that she should call me Bella as she stepped to the side and invited me into her home.
I felt her eyes boring into my back as she ushered me into a huge kitchen. Two young, red-headed children sat on oversized chairs at a large table watching the small, flat screen television that was sitting on the table close to me, eating their dinner with a man I assumed to be their father.
"Bella, this is my husband, Malcolm, and our children, Alva and Damien."
The children turned to me long enough to say hello, and then went back to watching the small TV. Malcolm stood up and placed his plate in the sink, wiping his hands on the back of his black suit pants before standing closer than I was comfortable with and held out his hand for me to shake. His dark eyes were flat as he licked his lips and appraised me just as his wife had. I swear I heard him sniff me before I averted my eyes from his penetrating gaze as he shook my hand weakly, telling me I could call him Mal.
Ridiculous, I had been hanging out with vampires too much. Humans don't smell each other.
I don't know why I was so uncomfortable; maybe it was because I wasn't used to being around new people or people in general. He was wearing dark brown loafers and dark dress pants with a sweater vest and tie. He and his wife appeared to be the perfect parents, perfectly matched to their perfectly dressed children: Mr. and Mrs. Normal with their two children and their house with a white picket fence.
They leaned down and kissed the children on the head and prepared to head to work. Huh, I guess they weren't in costumes.
Abby wrote down her number at the hospital, and Malcolm's at the local funeral home, before she told me to help myself to anything I would like to eat. They both headed out the door leaving me with Alva and Damien.
I took a closer look at the two children as they stared at the television. They were also dressed conservatively, but just like with their parents, something seemed off about them. I just couldn't put my finger on it. Their dark brown eyes had a glazed look with dark circles under them; their cheeks were particularly rosy, and their skin pale. When combined with their red hair, it looked like they were coming down with something. Then I walked around the table and saw what they were watching, and I shuddered; my stomach churning. Children their age should not be watching this.
I had to look away as I saw a scalpel neatly cut into someone's stomach, but there was no blood; it was an autopsy. On a human. I took another peek, hoping it had been a commercial or one of those crime shows, but I regretted the second look almost immediately. The dead man's chest had been sliced open, and they were using some sort of saw to cut open his sternum. Large shields covered the faces of those in attendance, pieces of bone and blood splattering against them. I couldn't believe they were watching this so calmly.
I didn't know what to say, so I decided to reintroduce myself, but I ended up blurting out more than I had planned. "Hi, I'm Bella. Do you guys really like watching this stuff?"
They both nodded, not looking away from the television. Their knives and forks made clanging noises as they cut into their too rare steaks, blood oozing out of them as they carved into the irregular hunks of meat. While they chewed the bloody, gristly steaks, they calmly watched the television with the volume muted.
I walked to the refrigerator, hoping a drink would help settle my stomach. I knew they were surgeon's kids, but their choice in dinnertime television really baffled me.
I opened the refrigerator to see what they had to drink. Inside, there was a bottle of champagne, an almost empty gallon of milk, a few pieces of fruit, and a plate of meat and small bones like nothing I'd ever seen before. I closed the door, deciding on a glass of water instead. I asked Damien and Alva where the glasses were but they were too engrossed in their program to answer. Their blood-stained lips curled up in grins as they watched a corpse being dissected. I was a little shocked when I looked at the bits of fat and gristle still on Alva's plate. It looked like she had also eaten part of a bone. That couldn't be healthy.
I decided to try a different approach in getting the kids to talk to me so I wouldn't have to rummage through all the cabinets and so I could get their plates out of my sight. "Who's up for dessert?"
Alva turned to me with glittering eyes, her smile wide and her teeth still stained pink. "No thanks; I'm saving room for later." Damien kicked her under the table, giving her a knowing, dirty look.
"Oh, are your mom and dad bringing you home some Halloween candy?"
The kids looked at me with blank expressions, and shook their heads without speaking. They were the quietest kids I had ever met, and it was more a reluctance to speak out of concealment instead of the normal shyness associated with children. I sighed and decided to go ahead and rummage through the cabinets to find that glass because I wasn't going to get anything out of the strangely silent kids.
The first one held nothing but a meat grinder, the second was completely empty, and the third had two glasses and the most elaborate set of kitchen knives I'd ever seen. If I didn't know better, I would swear there were some scalpels in the butcher block as well. I grabbed a glass and quickly shut the cabinet door before heading over to the sink, trying to regulate my breathing.
I was completely overreacting. This was a surgeon's house and, of course, they would have knives. It would make sense, if they were health nuts, for them to carve their own organic meats as well as not have any junk food. Plus, they were new in town, so they might not have had time to do a lot of grocery shopping so far. I gulped down the water and rinsed out the glass, sitting it on the drying rack just as the kids finished up their dinner. I watched as they scraped the leftover hunks of meat into the trash before rinsing their dishes off and putting them in the dishwasher.
Damien gave me a wicked grin before he stated that he was going up to his room to read and I followed Alva into the living room. The room looked fairly normal, if a little modern for my taste. There was contemporary black furniture and red carpets, a large screen TV, and sitting next to the oversized fireplace was a small, white cat bed with a scratching post. The room was painfully neat and clean. Not even Esme had been this obsessively clean and two young children lived here.
The only other thing that was slightly unusual was the apparent collection of weapons decorating the walls: a battle axe, a morning star, several daggers, a sword, and a spiked mace. The antique weapons clashed oddly with the ultra modern feel of the room.
I plopped down on the couch as Alva turned on the television and leaned back into her seat. I stiffened and sat up as I saw the images that filled the screen: black and white videos of the holocaust, a gang beating, a woman being brutally raped, animal dismemberment, someone being burnt alive. I began to shake all over as the images reflected off of Alva's eyes. I couldn't believe she was sitting there watching so casually. At first, I thought it was possibly some sort of Halloween video her parents had made, but I didn't think she shouldn't be watching it .
"Are you sure you're allowed to watch this?" I asked her, revolted by the images I was seeing. A five year old shouldn't be subjected to this kind of thing.
"My mother and father say that it's important to study can learn a lot from it." She turned her head from the gruesome images on the TV to look at me. "You have nice hands."
Her voice was flat, automatic, emotionless. Creepy.
"Thanks?" I couldn't help that it came out sounding like a question. It was such an out of the blue comment.
"I like hands, especially fingers." She stated before licking her lips and turning back to the TV, watching an execution by electric chair that was now on the screen.
I mentally shook it off. How other people raised their kids was no concern of mine. I wandered over to the book shelf thinking that I might find a book to pass the time. I hadn't picked up a book since Ed- he .
I perused the spines and started to notice a trend: murder mysteries, stories of true crimes, a copy of the Maleus Maleficarum or Witches Hammer, the Druid Book of Shadows, forensic manuals, anatomy texts, Anarchist's Cookbook, stories of the Spanish Inquisition, and some books on taxidermy and field dressing animals.
Unease slithered up my spine. My vampire family hadn't even had books this bizarre.
No, not my family. His family. The family that deserted me, discarded me. I hadn't even been the family pet in the end. A pet would have been taken with them when they moved on. I shuddered away from the thoughts. I felt my eyes fill with tears and the aching begin around the edges of the hole in my chest. I reached for that blissful feeling of numbness that had been helping me to exist for the last month and a half. I waited for it to overtake me; to allow myself to sink into its anesthetizing embrace, but it wouldn't come. Tears filled my eyes and blurred the book shelves in front of me. I didn't want to feel like this. I couldn't survive the pain of losing my family.
I was broken out of my misery, not by the numbness I craved, but by the sound of Damien's shouts and the sound of him pounding down the stairs.
"Jeffy D, come back!"
I turned to see Damien chasing a black and white kitten. He skidded to a halt when the cat ran through a door that I hadn't noticed before.
He turned to look at me, "We aren't supposed to go in the basement. Can you go and get him? There's rat poison down there and I am afraid he will eat it." His immature voice was calm and almost instructional.
Finding the cat would distract me from my pain, so I took a deep breath and quickly moved to the basement door.
Alva's emotionless voice followed me into the dark stairwell. "Please hurry, Bella. Don't let him get hurt."
The steps were narrow and dark, so I tried the light switch but nothing happened. It must be burnt out. As much as Alva and Damien wanted me to hurry, I knew my clumsiness would claim me if I tried to run down these stairs in the dark. There was a dim light in the distance as I reached the bottom of the creaking stairs. My senses were momentarily overwhelmed by the smell of cleaning products, the unmistakable scent of ammonia making my eyes water.
I caught a glimpse of the cat at my feet before it took off between rows of shelves. My focus on the elusive cat, I hurried after it not paying attention to my surroundings. The place seemed like a bit of a maze as I weaved through the dimly lit basement chasing a cat that didn't want to go back upstairs.
The aisle way between shelves was narrow, and it wasn't long before I saw the cat chewing on something at the base of a damp concrete wall in front of me. Worried that it had gotten into the rat poison, I scooped it up in my arms just in time to hear a heavy metal gate clang shut behind me.
I spun clutching the cat to me, my heart beating loud in my chest and echoing in my ears. I was in a cage.
I dropped the cat and it slipped easily between the thick metal bars. I pushed at them, confused about why they were there, but they didn't open. The latch rattled loudly in the lock as panic built up in my chest and my breath caught in my lungs.
"Damien? Alva! I'm – I think I'm stuck!"
The only light was from a bare bulb high over my head, casting a small circle of light around my cage. Why would a doctor and a mortician have a cage in their basement? Was this the real reason the kids weren't allowed down here?
I tested the strength of the joints, shaking each wall hard. It was then, in the shadows, that I noticed the contents of the shelves surrounding my cage and I flew back, slamming into the bars behind me, horrified at what I saw.
Shelf upon shelf, row upon row held jars of all shapes and sizes. Some of the jars contained human fingers, some looked like brains. Others held hunks of meat that looked like tongues, and then there were the jars holding dozens of eyes that seemed to stare at me as I cowered helpless in a steel cage in my neighbor's basement.
I jumped at the feel of cold steel on my bare skin as my back made contact with the bars and whirled to see a row of heads in still more jars behind me, silent screams forever frozen on their faces. Even in death, they seemed to beg for someone to help them.
A voice silenced my wailing and snapped my eyes to the darkness at the edge of the circle of light.
"Good kitty. See Alva, I told you training the cat would pay off."
Damien stood there quietly with the purring black and white kitten in his arms and his sister at his side. They had calm smiles on their faces and looked almost like the mannequins you see in a department store window.
"Yes, Damien. Father will be proud of us for making it useful before we eat it."
"This isn't funny. Let me out of here!" It had to be a Halloween prank, right? None of this could actually be real.
Alva cocked her head to the side and looked at me in puzzlement. "Why would we do that?"
"M-my father is the chief of police. H-he knows I'm here. Now let me out of here!" Panic blossomed in my chest at the calm robotic looks on their faces. This was completely normal for them. "Who are you people?" I whispered, half to myself.
"D, I'm hungry now." Alva said with a pleading look on her face.
Damien huffed out breath, "Fine, but only a snack. You know Mother and Father hate it when we snack between meals."
He walked over to the wall, and before I could draw breath to scream, he took down a hatchet and decapitated the kitten on a work bench. I jammed my knuckles into my mouth to try to muffle my screams as, with practiced motions, he bashed the head open and they scooped out the brain, eating it raw; the legs still twitching spasmodically.
When Alva spoke to her brother, she had to yell over my terror filled screams. Her mouth was full, and as she spoke, she spit tiny pieces of brain. "How come I didn't get to kill the kitty? I could handle a kitten."
Damien rolled his eyes, thankfully swallowing before he answered. "Alva, you're only five. Mother and Father have told you that when you turn six, then you are old enough for your first kill. When I turn eight next month, I'm asking for a monkey. I bet they taste almost as good as humans."
My throat was raw from my screams for help as Alva shrugged before they skinned and ate more of the little cat right in front of me.
"This one's really loud." Alva complained, cocking her head in my direction.
They turned around with their hands and mouths running red with the blood of the kitten that they had used to lure me down here. Alva was still chewing on a leg; the furry foot still attached. I gagged and managed to bend over just in time to puke up everything I had eaten for dinner.
"Ewww…" Alva whined, stepping back and wrinkling her nose.
The kid slaughters and eats a still twitching raw cat in front of me, and she thinks a little vomit is gross?
"Maybe she's hungry?" Alva asked her brother.
She eased up to the bars but remained out of reach. I recoiled from her instinctively even though she was only a child. She grinned at me, exposing blood stained teeth that were littered with pieces of the cat. She threw the cat's leg into the cage and I jumped, yelping when it landed on my foot.
"I don't think she wants to share our snack, Alva. Maybe she'd like something else." Damien walked over to the shelf and took a jar off of it. He carried it to the bench and opened it, pulling some of the contents out.
He came back to my cage with a polite smile but a deranged look in his eye. "Here, it's Alva's favorite."
He slid the plate through a low gap seemingly designed for that purpose and I cried out closing my eyes, praying I was having a nightmare and that I was home safe in my bed.
The plate held human fingers.
I heard Alva giggle, "What's the matter, Bella? Don't you like finger food?"
"Come on, let's go get cleaned up before Mother and Father get home. It will be quieter if we're not here." Damien said, ushering his little sister down the maze of the macabre.
"But the fingers," she protested as he pulled her along.
"Don't worry, they're better fresh." Damien replied.
I jumped up, slipping and falling in my own puke and rattled the door frantically. "NO! Let Me Out! Please! Let me go!"
I heard Damien laugh maniacally as I heard the electrical pops and hums from fluorescent lighting. My arm flew up to shield my eyes as the basement was suddenly flooded with bright white light, clearly illuminating the horrors they stored down here. I screamed, longer and louder than before as I beat on the metal with my fists.
They ignored me. Soon I was left with only the sound of my own screams and the sightless heads for company.
I looked around desperate for anything to help me break out, but there was nothing in the cell except for my puke and some dark stains on the cold concrete that looked suspiciously like dried blood.
Finger food. Alva had said I had nice hands. Bile rose in my throat again but there was nothing left to come up.
The bright light left me with no delusions that this might be some kind of sick joke. Chains with manacles were hanging from a bare wall stained with spattered blood. A long table was pushed up against one wall with the remains of the cat still sitting on it. The wall behind it was arrayed with butcher's knives of various sizes and shapes, all gleaming and sterile, looking very well used.
Hooks hung from the ceiling in, what looked like, a glass doored cooler. The hooks held a number of human body parts: legs, arms, thighs, and ribs. All hung neatly as if professionally butchered. And it hit me, the strange pieces of meat in the fridge, the too bloody steaks the kids were eating, the appraising looks of the parents, the rows and rows of jars filled with human remains- they weren't trophies. They were food.
Dr. and Mr. Normal with their perfect house, two children, and a white picket fence were cannibals.
My stomach heaved and I threw up again, stomach acid burning the back of my throat.
I slid down the bars of the cell, landing with a thump. I sat there in a cold sweat shaking violently, tears streaming down my face. The chances were pretty good that I was going to be killed before daybreak, and I couldn't help but think that maybe I really was a danger magnet. Or maybe none of this would have happened if I had never moved to Forks, Washington? Maybe I should be blaming Charlie? I knew it did me no good to look at it that way, I was probably going to die one way or the other, but I couldn't do anything but think right then. I'd already panicked, screamed for help, and tried desperately to find an escape, banging on the bars of this damn cage until my fists were bloody.
Funny, that a girl that used to hang with vampires, was going to be killed by plain old humans.
All I could do was sit and evaluate how the hell I had gotten myself into this situation in the first place. I couldn't help but think that if I could go back in time, I could have avoided Forks, I could have avoided stupid vampires, and most of all, I could have avoided Edward fucking Cullen. Although, if he showed up right now, I'd be very grateful before I gave him a tongue lashing.
I was pulled out of my thoughts by the sound of the basement door creaking open and the shuffling of feet slowly descending the stairs. I couldn't decide if I wanted to see who was coming down the stairs or not, but curiosity won out over the terror of being dinner, so I watched as two pink-slippered feet made their way down to me. A small, elderly woman dressed in a pink housecoat with her white hair pinned down in rollers and covered with a hairnet for the night, slowly made her way toward me, a sad expression on her kind face. She looked like, what I imagined, Betty White would look like just before she climbed into bed.
"Oh, you poor dear! You're a mess, child. Let me get some water to clean you up."
She shuffled through the tall shelves and disappeared out of sight. I heard a faucet turn on somewhere within the basement, and before I knew it, she reappeared to my left carrying a hose.
"I hooked this up to the warm water, dear. At least it won't be too uncomfortable for you." She sprayed out the bottom of the cage while I cowered in the corner, shocked at the loving demeanor of this old woman even though I was in a cage and her family planned to eat me. I had already seen how demented the children were, so she was my last hope. I had to try to reason with her. My voice was weak and shaky, the tears flowing down my cheeks, as she turned the water on a more gentle setting and started spraying me with the hose to get rid of the remnants of the vomit that was clinging to my clothes.
"Please, just let me go. My father is the chief of police. He'll come here looking for me. You know he will. If you let me go, I won't say anything. I promise, just, please."
She gave me a sympathetic look and shook her head before her kind, gentle voice echoed through the basement. "Oh, I'm not too worried about your father finding you, dearie. You see, our family has been doing this a long time, and we know how to stage an animal attack. Do you think we chose you by accident?" She shook her head with a small smile, "No, honey, we found out you were a loner, where you lived, and how feasible it would be to stage an animal attack in the woods behind the house. They will find your tattered clothing and enough remains to list you as dead. This town is small enough that they won't ask too many questions or look too closely at the autopsy. We'll let little Alva gnaw on a few of your bones, she really does love the marrow, and they will think it was a horrible accident. That's how it has been in every town we've lived in." She finished with wide guileless eyes and an earnest nod.
I couldn't believe it; could she be right? No, Charlie would check further. He would ask questions, because he's a very thorough police chief. I sneered at her, "You're wrong. My dad will check this house. I know he will. He'll find this basement, and he'll know what you did to me."
She turned around and fumbled with some jars on the shelves until she picked one up carefully and turned around to show me the contents. The contents swirled and moved in a hypnotic pattern, and I had to choke back a scream when I realized it was full of bugs.
"These are dermestid beetles, my dear. Once we're through with you, we'll let these little guys go down here, and there won't be a speck of blood left in this basement. The chains come down easily, and the cage will collapse. While my son-in-law is helping with the search efforts, my daughter and I will package everything that's left of you up in butcher paper, along with what's in the cooler here. No one checks in the freezer, Dearie. No one ever does. The thought turns most people's stomachs. It's a gosh darn pity. They really are missing a delicacy."
The way she so casually spoke of eating human flesh was disturbing on a completely different level from the demented children. She was so matter of fact, like she was discussing the health benefits of being a vegetarian.
"But, you're murdering humans! People with families. Do you have any idea what you'll do to my father? My mother? They'll be heartbroken! You're going to commit murder, and you don't even care!"
She tilted her head slightly as she absorbed my words, but she was just attempting to create a logical argument in her head. As soon as she opened her mouth one thing became glaringly obvious: no one in the Normal family had a conscience.
"Oh, you eat meat, don't you? Cows, chickens, sheep, maybe even a deer or two? Well, what's the difference? Are you sure they don't have families that miss them? Well, we'll never know, will we?"
As she spoke those words, I couldn't help but think of Jasper. I had never thought to ask him that question, and if anyone would know what animals felt, it would be an empath. The fact that he hunted animals and not humans made me think that there must have been a difference. I wished he was here to argue with her flawed logic. Hell, even though he tried to eat me on my birthday, I wished he was here to break me out. I would even let him snack on them before we left. I don't think anyone would mind. He'd be doing the world a favor.
"I don't understand, then. Why can't you let me go and eat normal things like the rest of us? What you do is sick and disturbing!"
She chuckled at my words, her tiny hand going up to her mouth demurely. Once she composed herself, she replied, "What better source for the nutrition you need than healthy, human flesh? It has the perfect blend of proteins our bodies need, and organic meat is best. We don't want the children exposed to all those awful hormones and chemicals they use nowadays. As long as you're careful to remove the parasites, you can't find a healthier meat, my dear."
She continued, her eyes glazing over as the horror of her words caused me to begin shaking once again. "Oh, don't think we do this often. We survive most of the year on what my son-in-law can bring home from the funeral home. Yes, someone thinks they get the cremated remains of a loved one, but he brings home the fresh body instead. We did get that hitchhiker last week, but we ended up throwing the meat out since it was tainted with nasty drugs. You see, we only splurge once a year for Samhain, in order to protect our family from evil spirits."
At the peak of the evening, midnight, when those buried in churchyards awaken and hell itself spews forth, the demons crossing into this world, we will end your life to protect our own. So you see, we can't let you live. Such a shame too, if we managed to impregnate you, your breasts would be able to produce so much milk. Breast milk makes the best cheese, you know. Perfect for raising my grandchildren on. That hiker we found near Fargo supplied us with so much milk two years ago, not to mention the blood pudding. The haggis and head cheese were delectable when she finally succumbed to the pain. Not to mention how tender her fetus was."
As she licked her lips, my stomach began churning once again, and I curled up in a ball attempting to control my dry heaves, although it was useless. I could feel the bile rising in my throat when I found myself suddenly coughing and spluttering. The old woman had sprayed me in the face with the hose, correcting me like I was a dog.
As soon as I caught my breath, I spat out, "You're a monster! Your kids are monsters! Even Alva and Damien are monsters!"
Her eyes narrowed and her sweet grandmotherly persona suddenly disappeared as she turned the sprayer at the end of the hosepipe off and tossed it to the side. When she spoke next, her voice was cold and serious. "Jeffrey Dahmer, Ed Gein, Nathaniel Bar-Jonah, Dorangel Vargas – they are the monsters, my dear. We don't kill for sport; we kill for sustenance, and we kill for protections. We won't torture you unless you force us to. But, if you call my grandchildren monsters again, I will enjoy hanging you from the wall, slicing you open like the little bitch you are, and disemboweling you slowly. I'll save the heart and lungs for last so you can see what your entrails look like."
She smoothed down her housecoat with both hands before patting her hair, and just like she flipped a light switch, her personality changed back to the sweet grandmotherly type . "I am sorry. I know you're just a scared girl. I wish I could promise you that it will be painless, but we don't get organic meat often. We know you're a good girl – no drugs or alcohol – so we can't give you anything to numb the pain. I'll do my best to ask Abby and Mal to make it as painless as possible. Maybe we could drain you into a bucket? I do love a good blood pudding. They're so hard to come by."
As she spoke, she walked around the cage slowly, but as soon as she was finished, she moved as fast as a rattlesnake, her hands striking out through the bars and snatching my left hand. I wrestled with the surprisingly strong old woman as she brought my fist to her mouth. Her tongue snaked out and roughly laved the bloody cuts I had received from pounding on the bars, licking them clean of dried blood. She had a wicked gleam in her eye, and she moaned as she tasted my blood.
I jerked my hand back and quickly flattened myself against the far side of the cage as she licked her lips, and muttered, "Perfect," before shaking her head and hobbling off. She picked up the hose and carried it back to its original resting place.
I listened with tears coursing down my cheeks as the old woman carefully made her way back upstairs, her cheerful humming getting fainter until finally cut off by the closing of the door.
How much longer did I have? How long had I been here?
I wished I had a cell phone. Ed-he had wanted to buy me one, concerned that I would need him one day and I couldn't find a phone to call him from. I had gotten angry at him, convinced that his need to buy things for me was further proof of the inequality between us. He was rich, handsome, smart and…well, a vampire.
I swore that if I ever got out of this and someone bought me a gift, I would never kick up a fuss again. Sometimes people did things for you simply because they cared. If I had let him buy me a phone, I might have been able to call Charlie for help by now.
I sat down on the wet floor, shivering in my drenched clothes. The demented old woman may have thought she was being nice with the warm water but she didn't take into account the fact that I would be locked in a cold basement in wet clothes. I shook my head ruefully, did it really matter? It wasn't as if I was going to live long enough to catch a cold or develop pneumonia.
I had, what was probably, only hours left to live. I thought about my parents and the effect it would have on them when they heard about my death. Silly, clumsy Bella gets killed by a wild animal while walking through the woods on her way back from babysitting. Unfortunately, it wasn't too much of a stretch considering my luck. I had even heard the howl of a wolf on my way here tonight.
Poor Charlie would be devastated. We may not have had a traditional father- daughter relationship but that didn't mean I wasn't his whole world. I was all he had left. Who would look after him when I was gone?
And Renee, she might actually lose her mind over this. It had always been her and I, together. Sure, I acted much more the parent than she did most of the time, but she was my best friend and I was hers. She, at least, would have Phil to lean on. I could die knowing that she would be taken care of.
I wondered if Alice had seen any of this. Surely if she had she would have at least called Charlie. She wouldn't leave me to die like this, would she?
But she had left. She had left with the rest of them without so much as a goodbye. She probably wasn't even looking for me in her visions. I wasn't important enough.
The one thing I wished I had been able to do was to tell Jasper that I was sorry. It had been selfish of me to spend time at their house, knowing how hard it had been for him. I wished that I had been more careful in opening my gifts and that I hadn't cut my finger. I had made him lose his very precarious hold over his bloodlust in his own home. I knew he would have hated that. I wanted so badly to apologize to him.
I missed them so much. All of them, not just…..Edward.
I swallowed hard. Tonight was the first time in 45 days that I had been able to even think his name. As I sat there, caged in the basement of human monsters I realized that it wasn't just Edward that I missed, it was all of them. I loved my parents. And I loved Edward, but I realized that I had loved the feeling of being a part of a traditional family even more. Even if that traditional family had been made up of vampires.
I had lost everything when Edward had walked away. He had told me that he didn't want to be with me, that I was only a passing phase for him. I couldn't believe that of his family. Carlisle and Esme had treated me like one of their own children. Emmett had been the quintessential big brother, always teasing me and acting all protective when I got picked on at school. Even Rosalie had been the bitchy older sister that I envied and wished I could be more like.
I choked back a sob and wrenched my thoughts away from my absent family before they strayed to the ones I missed the most. I didn't blame them for leaving. A parent's loyalty is always first to their own children. That's the way it was supposed to be.
The sound of a slamming door jerked me upright. I heard voices getting closer as the door to the basement opened. Alva and Damien were happily chattering away about how they had managed to lure me down here all by themselves. Malcolm Normal walked towards me with his two children skipping happily at his heels like excited puppies.
"Well, you two did manage to catch her all by yourselves. I thought Grannie was pulling my leg!" He exclaimed indulgently.
I watched as he went over to the work bench and surveyed the remains of the cat. The kids went quiet and he turned around to cock an eyebrow at them. "What have I told you two about snacking between meals? Do you want to ruin the Samhain feast?"
"It was my fault, Father. I was just so hungry, and it was just a little cat." Alva said sheepishly.
A smile threatened to break through as their father looked at them. "So then this would have nothing to do with terrorizing the babysitter?"
Both children looked distinctly uncomfortable now.
Malcolm sighed, "What have your mother and I said about playing with your food? This is supposed to be our Samhain feast not an opportunity to torment a defenseless creature. Now clean up this mess, and you had better hope your mother is in a good mood when she gets home or you might find yourselves going to bed without dinner for pulling this stunt."
I trembled against the side of my cage as he came closer and crouched by the bars staring intently at me. My attention focused on him warily even as the sounds of the children cleaning behind him reached me.
"Ah now, none of that. You should feel honored. Your death will ensure that my family is safe and healthy for yet another year. We don't just pick anyone, you know. I want only the best for my children."
"And what about my father? You think he doesn't want the best for me? You think this is what he wants for his only daughter?" I asked, starting to feel braver.
Maybe it was the realization that I had nothing else to lose, that no matter what I said I was going to die tonight. I didn't want to die a weeping, panicky mess.
"I've watched your father. He spends more time at the station and fishing out at La Push than he does with you. If he truly cared about you, he would spend time with you. Nothing would be more important than you. From what I've heard, there isn't anyone in town that is going to miss you a whole lot. Your own mother sent you away when she got remarried; you were just in the way. So you see, we're putting you out of your misery." He smiled softly as each one of his words sliced farther and farther into my soul.
While I knew some of what he said wasn't true, it didn't stop the pain. I knew I had been the one to decide to live with Charlie after Mom and Phil got married, but I also noticed how happy she was without me and how her e-mails and phone calls were shorter and more distracted lately.
And I knew that Charlie and I had our own lives and didn't interfere with each other that much, but at the same time, there were times he could have only fished on one of his days off rather than both. We could have gone to a movie together or even gone out to La Push together. It was unavoidable that I had disrupted his routines when I moved here, no matter how happy he said he was that I was here.
"Don't worry. I care enough about you that I'll make it quick. Besides, Mildred had the fabulous idea to make a fresh batch of blood pudding. I'll hang you by your feet and use my sharpest knife to slit your throat; you'll bleed out quickly. It will be like going to sleep."
The reassurance in his voice and face was at direct odds with the horrors of what I had to look forward to. If he thought that would make me feel better, he had another thing coming.
He stood. "Here," he went over to the bench and pulled down a wicked looking knife and began sharpening it methodically. "Just so you know I'm telling the truth, you can watch me sharpen it. That way you'll know that it will slice through your flesh perfectly. You won't feel a thing."
"Father? Do I get to do it this time? You said I was too young last year; I'm almost eight. I can do it. Please, Father!"
I watched with soundless tears pouring down my face as a seven year old begged his father for the privilege of killing me. The gift of slitting my throat.
Before he could answer the basement door opened again and I heard the sound of high heels coming down the stairs.
"Honey, I'm home and I brought dinner! Mr. Jefferson, the government teacher at the high school, was in a car accident today and I was 'forced' to amputate his leg. He was a marathon runner so he should be quite tasty." Abby came in carrying a large plastic bag and wearing a huge smile with Grandma Normal right behind her. She was talking like she was imparting the town gossip.
She came to a stop when she saw me. "Oh! Right. Goodness, I almost forgot! Well, I'll just put this in the cooler for tomorrow." She kissed her husband on the cheek and bent down for her kids to give her a peck on the cheek each before skipping off to the cooler.
Malcolm chuckled after her indulgently, "I don't know how she ever got her medical degree some days. That woman can be so scatterbrained."
I knew Mr. Jefferson. I was in his Government class. And these people were going to eat part of him. But first, they were going to eat me. On top of that, I was in a cage, and there were five of them and only one of me.
I was screwed.
I flinched every time Malcolm's knife slid across the sharpening stone, making a scraping noise, knowing that it would be slicing through my skin like butter in a matter of minutes. Soon, the scraping was joined by a constant clatter, and it took me longer than it should have to realize that it was the sound of my teeth because my body had started shaking violently.
Abby came out of the freezer and walked over to a small shelf. She picked something up, keeping it out of my line of sight. She approached the cage, giving me a small smile with both of her hands behind her back. I didn't know what she was doing, but my eyes widened, and I pressed myself against the bars, wrapping my arms behind them.
"Honey, do you need to go potty? I can get you a bucket if you do. We don't want you having an accident."
I couldn't believe she was asking me if I needed to pee. Even if I did, I sure wasn't going to pee in a bucket in front of the family. I'd just go in my pants, thanks. I shook my head, indicating that I didn't need to do anything of the sort, and she smiled and gave me a curt nod.
"Good, we don't need you evacuating your bowels and tainting the meat. I think it's time, but we'll try to make it as painless as possible, Bella. Mal, are you ready?"
If she was going to try to get me out of this cage, well, I was going to fight as hard as I could. I wouldn't be giving in easily.
At least that's what I thought before she whipped a gun out from behind her back, pointed it at me, and squeezed the trigger. As if in slow motion, I watched the two electrodes shoot out of the end and attach themselves to my upper thigh. I began to convulse, and let out an ear shattering scream as I crumpled to the floor in pain, unable to control the actions of my own body.
Abby opened the cage swiftly, and Malcolm came in, setting the knife down on one of the shelves to swoop in and scoop me up as the electricity cut off. Before I knew what was happening, I was chained to the wall, hanging upside down. By the time my body finally started cooperating again, it was too late. I tried to struggle as I sobbed, but I could barely move.
Pain radiated through my muscles from the electricity of the taser gun causing them to tense up and my head was pounding from hitting the floor when I fell.
Every time I struggled, it felt like my feet would be ripped from my body. The leather cuffs on the chains dug into my flesh mercilessly and my arms were stretched wide leaving me little room to move.
Abby pulled a rolling cart over to me, setting up different scalpels and clamps, a small circular saw, and other sharp instruments that I knew would be used to cut me up, piece by piece. She donned a pair of latex gloves, picked up the smallest scalpel, and turned toward me.
"Damien, Alva, come here, Sweethearts."
The devil children dutifully appeared next to their mother's side, both bouncing excitedly. Abby's hands made their way toward me, and I wished I could sink into the wall, but I couldn't. Instead, I was about to die.
I squeezed my eyes shut as tight as I could, tears still leaking from the corners, as I waited to feel the cold metal slice through my skin. I was breathing heavily, my heart was pounding in my ears, and my head ached as I awaited the first slice.
I flinched when felt the gentle touch of her hand before feeling the even gentler contact of the scalpel. Without making even a tiny prick, she pulled back and skillfully sliced open my shirt, leaving my torso bare except for my bra. There was no room for embarrassment, only pure, unadulterated terror.
My screams froze in my throat, I managed only a whimper as she ran a hand down my bare stomach and muttered, "Perfect specimen, very healthy," before turning to her children.
"Damien, let's discuss the kill and field dressing it. What do we do first?"
Even upside down, I could see Damien's eyes widen as he answered his mother. "First, we hang our kill upside down and bleed it from the lowest point, so the blood is collected and not tainted by any bacteria still on the body. The jugular is best, although you do have to watch for arterial spray. And, it is easiest if you use a large knife like Father's instead of a scalpel."
"Very good, Dear. What's next?"
Damien excitedly grabbed a scalpel off of the cart and walked over to me. He gestured with the scalpel as if it was a laser pointer. It was close enough to my body that I could feel the cold radiating from it. "We make a cut from just above the genitals, up to the rib cage…Oops."
I flinched as the sharp instrument made contact with my skin, and even through the pounding in my ears, I could hear the sound of it separating my flesh, and I could hear the blood oozing from the wound. The smell made its way to my nose but, for the first time in my life, it didn't make me feel faint.
Abby took the scalpel from her son's hand and set it back on the cart, giving him a reproachful look. "That's enough with the scalpel, and be careful not to touch it with your hands. Now, continue."
The sparkle in Damien's eye let me know that he knew exactly what he was doing. The Normals might try fooling themselves, but it was obvious they were enjoying my sadistic torture as much as they enjoyed the cannibalism. Otherwise, they could have held this informative lesson once I was already dead. Damien touched my abdomen once again, running his finger through the trickle of blood that was now running down my neck and around the side of my head. He stuck his finger in his mouth, savoring the taste of my blood before continuing.
"We then remove our kill from the wall, placing it on its back and elevating the feet, before carefully cutting around the anus and clamping it off. We then turn the kill on its side, and slice away the fat that is holding the intestines in. Being careful of the bladder, which is in a narrow cavity just below the hips, we remove the intestines and bladder."
"Excellent! Would you like to continue, Alva?" Abby turned toward her daughter, and Alva bounced on the balls of her feet, excited to be able to participate in this macabre lesson.
"Yes, Mother! The abdominal cavity is separated from the chest cavity by the diaphragm. It's easiest to remove it next, then reach up inside the abdominal cavity to yank out the heart and lungs without tainting the tasty ribs! Once all of the organs have been removed, you irrigate the cavity, then hang it up once again, this time by the head."
"And why do we hang it up by the head, my dear?"
"Oh, that's easy, Mother. If we decide to keep the head as a trophy, it makes the skinning easier. That way you don't worry about damaging the cape. Can I keep this head, please Mother?"
Abby ruffled her daughter's hair and gave her a smile, "Focus, Alva. We can discuss that after our lesson. Now, what would you do next?"
Alva sighed and looked to her mother, determination swimming in her eyes. "Well, I would slice around the neck, leaving plenty of room for the cape- because I'm keeping the head- and then I would connect that cut with the one in the abdomen used for the field dressing. After that, I would turn it over, and slice down the inside of the arms and circle the wrists, and then do the same for the legs following the inside of the thighs to the ankle. Once you have the skin split, you have to remove the arms and legs.
"Oh sweetheart, that is a fabulous idea. Would you like Grandma to make you a nice pair of leather pants? This one's skin is so soft that they will be like suede." The grotesque Grannie smiled at the little girl like she had just won the national spelling bee and was offering her a new pony as a reward.
Abby's face lit up. "Oh would you, Mom? I could so do with a new pair of gloves. The pair I was wearing today got stained when I picked up dinner."
Would the mental torture never cease? The woman had shaken my hand with leather gloves made from human skin.
Alva bounced. "Please, Grannie, can I have a pair just like Mother's? I'm big enough to have my own pair now. Right, Father?"
Alva turned toward her father who was absolutely beaming at his daughter's macabre explanation of my skinning and dismemberment and her excitement over turning me into a pair of leather pants and matching gloves. If they didn't hurry up, this human was going to taint the meat with vomit again.
"Of course you are. That was perfect, Alva. Now, how do you remove the arms? A hacksaw?"
Alva shook her head vehemently. "Never. Don't leave tool marks on a body, especially the pieces you are leaving for identification! If you have a sharp enough knife, you can cut the tendons at the ball and socket, removing them that way. The legs aren't as easy, but it is still possible to do it at the hip socket. The rest is just pulling down the skin. I'm not strong enough for that, yet."
Grandma Normal chuckled, her pride in Alva's disgusting display of knowledge was obvious. "You're right, Alva, you aren't strong enough. But if you keep eating your meat, you'll be there in no time. Now, no time like the present. Do we have a sterilized bucket, so we can begin? We need to start draining it so we will be ready for the Samhain feast."
Abby disappeared for a moment, and came back with two large buckets, sitting them underneath me before commenting to herself, "Too bad we don't have more time. It would be so much easier to exsanguinate her using medical supplies. This will be messier, but much faster, and time is of the essence, I suppose."
"The faster we get the blood the better the blood pudding will be; we don't want it to clot." Grandma said her voice full of anticipation.
All of the Normals were surrounding me, all in aprons, with varying looks of anticipation on their faces. Damien and Alva were the most obvious; he had a huge, toothy smile and she was bouncing up and down, rubbing her hands together with a wide eyed stare.
Malcolm walked forward, sharpened knife in hand. He ran his rough fingertips over my throat slowly, methodically, using them to find my jugular as close to my collarbone as possible. I struggled but Abby's hands held me firm to the wall.
"Don't worry, this shouldn't be too painful. You'll bleed out within minutes and you should be unconscious very soon, and then this will all be over." He said, the glint in his eye at odds with the comforting tone he had adopted.
I watched him raise the knife until it was level to my throat. I wanted to close my eyes, but they refused. If death was coming for me, then apparently, I was going to watch it.
I should have said a prayer asking for forgiveness for my sins. I should have prayed that my mother and father would be able to move on after my death.
But, I didn't.
Instead, I watched the knife come closer and closer, time slowing down as my fear and terror escalated with every nanosecond. I tried struggling against the chains and Abby's hands again, but they wouldn't budge. I looked into the eyes of each member of the Normal family, my expression pleading for a reprieve.
It didn't come.
Their anticipation was being fed by my terror, the rapid beat of my heart, pounding so loudly in my ears that no other sound was registering, my quick and shallow breaths, my eyes flickering at each of them, but still watching the knife.
I could see the reflections of the family in the shiny, metal surface of the knife. Their smiles, their macabre joy, their anticipation of fresh meat. My meat.
I watched the knife, until I couldn't see the sharp point any longer. I froze as I felt it graze against my throat, and then I finally closed my eyes with a whimper, awaiting death.
At that moment, the ball of terror that had built up in my stomach forced its way out of my body in the form of a ghastly scream. A scream that held all of the horrors that I had witnessed, its soul purpose to attempt to purge my mind of the horror that had overtaken me. A scream that said everything I couldn't; an apology to my parents, a fuck you to Edward, a lament to the end of my life.
I felt the blood splatter against my face, tiny droplets splashing inside my open mouth, but I felt no pain. Screams echoed through the room. I took a rattling breath, my throat sore from my outburst, and began screaming once again. A cool hand running across my cheekbone silenced me at once; it was the cold touch of a vampire. Calm flooded my body. If this was dying, it wasn't so bad.
Too soon, the cool feeling disappeared from my face, only to reappear at my wrists, prying the leather cuffs from my body. It then moved to my ankles and supported my weight as I was lowered to the ground. For the first time, I realized that I might not be dying.
I opened my eyes, not knowing what to say to Edward; knowing he no longer wanted me but still felt obligated to come back for me if I was in danger. Alice must still be watching. Yes, that must be it.
But it wasn't Edward who was gently cradling my back carefully with one hand while he rubbed the marks left by the restraints on my ankles. I saw a mop of blonde hair first, and then the strong, clenched jaw.
My savior was Jasper, the same vampire that had wanted to drain me dry on my birthday. I noticed that he wasn't breathing, but I gasped just the same, my hand going to my throat to try to staunch the bleeding, but it was fine. I was unhurt except for the small trickle from the wound in my abdomen that Damien had made earlier, and a few bloody knuckles from beating on the cage.
I looked around, trying to figure out exactly where all the blood came from, when I noticed Malcolm Normal laying on the floor, his wife frantically tending to his injuries as the children cried in their grandmother's arms. Apparently, in Jasper's haste to remove the knife from my neck, he also removed Malcolm's arm. It was on the ground at Jasper's feet, the knife still in its grasp.
It looked like Jasper had also grabbed Malcolm's throat, because it was obvious that it had been crushed.
Abby was using her belt as a tourniquet to staunch the blood that was pumping out of his arm, creating tiny rivers of blood on the floor. Then she stopped to breathe air into his lungs, trying to keep him alive as he struggled to breathe past his crushed esophagus. It wasn't working very well, and the blood gushed out of his body with every heartbeat. Damien and Alva were watching, frozen in place, shock and pain in their eyes as they looked at their father. His eyes were staring up at the ceiling, glassy and disbelieving. He was obviously dying, and I couldn't find it in myself to feel any sadness or remorse.
Once my head was no longer pounding and the blood had re-circulated to the rest of my body, Jasper carefully sat me up and leaned me against the wall, making sure I was supported. I was still dumbfounded by his presence, so I wasn't much help at all when he took his jacket off and gently guided my arms into it before zipping it up, covering my nearly bare chest.
"I'm sorry I wasn't here sooner. I thought you would be safe for a few hours while I hunted. I was wrong, and I am so very, very sorry." He leaned forward and kissed my forehead tenderly. He pulled back and looked me in the eyes, brushing my hair back behind my ear. "I will never make that mistake again," his expression was serious and said more than his words conveyed.
I wanted to fling myself into his arms and never let go. I was so happy to see him. I should have been embarrassed, but I was suddenly I was numb, not feeling anything. At first, I thought I was in total shock, but then I realized it was the same numbness I had felt since Edward had left me, when the despair became too much to handle. It was Jasper. Jasper had been here all along, not revealing himself, but helping me with the pain.
I was pulled out of my thoughts by the sound of a roar that could only be described as a battle cry. Grandma Normal was charging Jasper, running full speed, holding one of the family's many knives above her head. He acted quickly, shielding me from her assault and grabbed her wrist, twisting it slightly and removing the knife from her grip. He threw it to the side, as she used her free hand to beat on his chest.
"I'm going to send you back to hell, and your little bitch will follow!"
With her words, something snapped within Jasper. What little white that had remained around his eyes disappeared leaving them demon black. I didn't know if it was the threat to me or to him, but he gently guided me to my feet and moved me until I was back in the cage. He closed the door, still holding Grandma Normal with one hand, and he looked directly into my eyes. I was mesmerized by the amount of anger in his coal black eyes as he growled out four words.
"Keep your eyes closed."
I didn't listen. I watched as he pulled her wrist up to his mouth, and sunk his teeth into it ferociously, tearing at the skin. I had always wanted to see Edward hunt, but he had said it was too dangerous. Now, I was watching the one thing I never wanted to see, one of the Cullens draining a human.
The old woman's eyes were wide with shock for a few moments before she realized what was happening. Her grandmotherly façade completely disappeared, and in its place was the epitome of evil. Her eyes were narrow and her mouth was contorted into a sneer. She was growling, little pools of spittle forming at the corners of her lips. She reached back with her free arm and smacked Jasper on the side of the head with all the force she could muster and howled with pain as her fragile bones snapped when they collided with his granite hard skin.
It didn't hurt him, but it did gain his attention. He released her wrist and pulled her body to him by her upper arms until they were nose to nose; his low, continuous growl turned into a roar, spitting venom and blood. He reached between the two of them and ripped off her housecoat and nightgown, leaving her standing in her underwear. She whimpered as his hand drew back, anticipating his blow. Quick as a rattlesnake, he struck, puncturing her chest with a sickening crunch as blood splattered over every surface.
Her eyes widened and her mouth hung open as she looked down at Jasper's hand sticking in her chest and he wrenched out her heart, letting her slump to the floor as he bit into it, making a suckling noise as he drained it of blood.
He looked down into the dying woman's eyes, "The only thing better than blood pudding is fresh blood, right from the source."
With a last gurgle, the light went out of the old woman's eyes.
Abby had left her dying husband on the floor at some point, and she had tucked her now screaming children behind her, trying to move as quickly as she could to the door without drawing attention. It was no use. Jasper would feel their fear, just as he had felt mine. And he did.
Once he was finished with the heart, his head snapped to the right, meeting her eyes. He tossed the heart on the floor as he strolled toward her, his head low and his hands curled into claws, looking every bit the hunter he was.
In the time it took me to blink the two children were shackled to the wall, dizzy from the speed with which they had been moved and Abby was looking around for her children who had been in her arms only seconds before.
He grabbed Abby, leaving the two petrified children standing frozen like statues. He pulled her to him, and sniffed her neck before licking from her collarbone to her ear. She let out a tiny whimper and a small chuckle escaped Jasper.
"You like to play with your food. I heard you taunting my Bella, but I knew what would happen if I entered this room. I wanted to believe you would stop, but I felt you reveling in her fear. You and your family like to think that you're hunters. Sister, you have no idea of what it means to be hunted. I've already eaten, but there's always room for dessert." His voice lowered to a whisper as he put his mouth to her ear. "I'm gonna show you."
He pulled her over to the rolling cart, took a scalpel off of the table, and sunk it into her cheek. She let out a wail as he removed it, and began lapping at the wound.
"Hmmm…so much better than the old woman's." His voice was thick with pleasure.
"P-please," a whisper pulled my attention to the man lying on the floor. "Please…let my…children go…"
Jasper flicked his eyes over to Malcolm as he started sucking on Abby's cheek in earnest. She struggled against him in vain, screaming out in terror. I watched as Jasper threw his head back and roared in frustration.
"More," he growled lowly.
"Kids, how do you field dress an animal? Oh, I remember, make a cut from the genitals to the rib cage." Using vampire speed, Jasper quickly ripped her shirt open and sliced her abdomen open with the scalpel. Abby's face was a mask of shock, and just as she looked down, her intestines spilled from her body. I remembered Grandma Normal saying you would live for a while if you left the heart and lungs last, and Abby was living proof of that.
"You did it backwards! You bleed them first!" Damien was not upset by seeing his Mother's viscera, but that Jasper had not bled her. I couldn't believe these kids.
Jasper dragged her over to the work bench, her entrails trailing behind them on the floor. "What did your son say to do? Oh yes, cut the throat down to the jugular so that the animal bleeds out quicker."
Jasper used a scalpel to quickly slit her throat, dodging the arterial spray like Damien had said earlier, and he latched on with his mouth. Abby struggled weakly as Jasper drained her before her arms fell lifeless to her side.
I slumped against the bars of the cage. Conflict ruled my mind. I was horrified, satisfied, happy, nauseated; Jasper's attention must have wandered to allow me to feel anything but the numbness I craved. I had wished for him to show up and kill them, and now he had. I should have felt guilty.
I watched dispassionately as Jasper stalked over to Malcolm's groaning body. He leaned over and bit deeply into his neck and began to drink.
Abruptly, pain lanced through my hand and I tried to jerk away, screaming in pain and fear. Alva had wiggled out of her restraints and was gnawing on the last two fingers on my hand. Her sharp little teeth sunk deep into my fingers, right below my scar from James all those months ago. Damien was yelling his encouragement; watching a vampire feed had not been as frightening as the evil I saw painted on those children's faces. They had been unfazed by the deaths of their parents and grandmother, and the powerful vampire that had killed them, and were still intent on eating me.
Alva screamed and she released me, cowering in terror. Damien's screams matched his sister's as Jasper turned his gift on the evil siblings.
I clasped my arm to my chest and curled into a ball. I closed my eyes and covered my ears, trying to muffle the children's screams, unwilling to witness their end. I felt the blood spatter, still heard the cries, but I tried desperately to ignore it. The sound of my cage opening broke the sudden silence that marked the deaths of Damien and Alva.
My eyes opened, grateful that my ordeal was over, trying not to look at the body parts and corpses that littered the floor. I didn't want to see the macabre scene and I didn't want to think about what had happened; I just wanted to get out of there. I could go home. I could see my dad and call my mom. I could tell them how much I loved them. I could tell Jasper that I was sorry for being so clumsy on my birthday and how grateful I was that he stayed with me, that he hadn't abandoned me like the rest of his family.
My breath froze in my throat. Jasper's eyes were still black. He was breathing hard and his hands were curled into claws. He stalked towards me and I watched as venom mixed with blood dripped from his mouth and flowed down his chin. Blood was spattered all over his face and into his blonde hair, darkening it. His shirt was drenched, and his normally pale skin was almost rosy with the abundance of blood that he had consumed tonight.
He was focused on me, his eyes watching the pulse point at my neck. He looked like he had the night of my birthday. Out of control. This wasn't my Jasper. This was a vampire hunting his prey.
My breathing calmed; my panic faded. His eyes shifted to meet mine. I would still die tonight but this time I was okay with it. I would die in the arms of someone who cared enough about me to stay behind after his whole family had left. Someone who loved me enough to offer me comfort when I hurt the most.
My eyes never left his as his cool arms wrapped slowly around me. A low growl vibrated from his chest and resonated in mine. A sound that had surely struck fear into countless victims before had the opposite effect on me; I was comforted. As his cool breath fanned over my cheek I leaned back to expose my throat to him. I let the love and gratitude I had for him well up within me.
He had saved me the pain of Edward's leaving, he had stayed with me after his family and wife left, and he had saved me from a horrible death at the hands of a cannibalistic family. I couldn't blame him for losing himself to his bloodlust and I knew he would feel terrible after he killed me. I wanted him to be able to know that I didn't blame him for what he had done, that I had forgiven him for everything.
As his mouth closed over my neck, I sent him every ounce of love and forgiveness in me. "I love you, Jasper."