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"I will apply dietic measures for the benefit of the sick
according to my ability and judgment;
I will keep them from harm and injustice. […]
In purity and holiness I will guard my life and my art."
Everyone is asleep in Volterra; or, at least, everyone who can do it.
A man walks alone. Although the narrow cobblestone streets are dark, his pace is swift and elegant; he holds his head up high and with a few strides he leaves Volterra's walls and enters the woods that surround the small town.
It would be almost impossible to follow him from now on; he no longer walks, instead he is running faster and faster into the night. He reappears only later, when he finds a secluded spot on a hill and eventually sits down.
Tender and clear is the night and without wind; the moon pours its light over the roofs, over the gardens, and reveals from afar the serenity of the hills.
It was a night like this, when he arrived in Volterra. He felt lost in these woods that are now so familiar.
The moon has always known all the details of this landscape – he thinks – it has seen cities founded and destroyed, wars, people and cultures following one another under its indifferent light.
If every human life seems like the blink of an eye to a vampire, even the Volturi's millennia suddenly seem so short, compared to the moon's time!
It's strange to think this is the same moon that he used to look at when he was a young boy in his London. It's the same moon that can remember (if memories are possible for the moon) how Aro, Marcus and Caius were as human men. They must have been babies and boys too; they also had dreams and fears and uncertainties, now buried under their awareness of being simply above everyone else, human or vampire, immensely proud of their wealth and their power.
He recalls the scolding look of the Volturi, the same that Carlisle has seen for all his years in Volterra. Every single day, when his gaze meet the one of the other vampires, he knows that they are looking for a hint of red in his eyes; and every single day, Carlisle doesn't need to be a mind reader to understand that his amber irises keep alive in them the same question: How can he endure? How can he resist?
He's never one of the crowd. He doesn't take part in the Volturi's banquets. He doesn't do what everybody else does, what he's supposed to do as a vampire, and, as a consequence, he doesn't really bond with anyone of his kind.
The other vampires are surprised to know that he's trying things they've never done but, after the first moments of curiosity and incredulity, he doesn't elicit emulation in any of them.
He isn't human anymore, but, at the same time, he can feel that there's a deep discrepancy between his lifestyle and the one of the other vampires.
He feels lonely; so lonely that the moon is the only witness to his musings. He thinks that he could even speak to it: What do you do in the sky, oh moon? Tell me, my silent moon, what do you do? Do you still love to gaze upon these unchanging valleys? How much your life is like mine! What do these depths of air mean, this immense silent sky, this nightly solitude? And what am I?
Someone considers him a rebel, but so far none has thought of him as a menace or has wondered if he's going to rise against the rules of their kind.
On the contrary, many vampires think that, in his effort to avoid doing what he should, he is only ruining himself and he'll never be any good.
Carlisle doesn't consider himself a rebel. He firmly believes that killing human beings is not what he "should" do. If anything, in his opinion no person, human or vampire, is obliged to kill. It's just one of the possible choices, surely one he doesn't want to make.
The mute goddess is still roaming the sky. Carlisle could call it with all the different names of every ancient myth about the moon.
Also those who host him seemed like gods to him when he arrived here, with their invulnerability, their immortal henchmen and even with their impassibility.
If he only dares to think about all the things that the Volturi have experienced, about all the people they have met, all the books they have read, he feels that, although in his decades in Volterra he's already learnt more than any other human scholar knows, he's still more similar to the naive young man he was almost two centuries ago, than he is to the vampire royal family.
He recalls a scene of the previous day: he'd shuddered when Aro put his hand on his shoulder and he suddenly visualized a scene from his human life. In his father's parish, there'd been a man whom he'd considered the kind of adult he'd wanted to become: protective of his family, tender with his wife, proud of his sons. Aro's gesture made him remember the same one his father's parishioner used to greet his sons when they came home. How many times, in his human years, Carlisle had thought that, hopefully, he was also going to have his own family, to find a woman to love, to give his sons and daughters every care he was capable of.
He was a good-looking and fine young man when he was human. As a vampire, he's outstanding and his compassion, his capability to love and to be kind have been greatly enhanced. But, so far, although he's met many women who admired him, none of them has ignited any passion in him.
He doesn't think he could make love to a killer; as for human women...that's a boundary he is not going to cross.
Will he ever find someone who would be proud to hold his hand, who would share his ideals and would stand by his side? Someone who would think that just because he doesn't do what everyone else does, that's no reason why she can't give him all her love?
For the umpteenth time in his life, he struggles to remember a single gesture of affection from his own father; but he can't, not due to the fragility of his human's memories, but because, simply, there weren't any.
During his long life, neither his father nor his vampire elder and self-appointed mentor have proven to be a model worthy of emulation. Carlisle acknowledges that his deepest desires are still represented by the simple family life of a common man; but unfortunately, due to his condition, they're going to remain little more than regrets. He even smiles, thinking that a poor man with no erudition and no power was happier and more enviable than the Volturi's leader.
He reclines under a tree and he lets his thoughts wander. He remembers how, night after night, he has climbed this hill to gaze at the moon hanging above those trees, then, as now, illuminating all this dark realm. Again, he imagines speaking to the moon: I see you rise in the evening; you wander over the woods, and then you set down again. Will you never tire of treading forever the same paths? Are you never weary?
The moon can't answer his questions. But can he, regarding his life?
In his first conversations with Aro, he thought that the erudition of the Volturi's leader was infinite. It seemed that Aro could answer any question. But Carlisle can remember a single time when he saw him uncomfortable.
"Who made it?" Carlisle asked, pointing to a huge painting in the Volturi's palace.
"An Italian artist. Francesco Solimena," Aro explained. "He considered us patrons of the Arts. You'll learn so much here that you'll be able to join us, my friend; it's only a matter of time, but I guess that time is not a thing you lack of." He chuckled.
"Among all the things you've studied, what is your main passion?" Carlisle asked.
"Passion?" Aro quirked an eyebrow.
"What fascinated you most? How did arts changed you?"
Aro laughed and lightly shook his head. "You're still so young! Vampires can't change," he stated. "And passion is something difficult to carry on after the first millennium, believe me." But Aro's laugh was neither sincere nor mirthful.
"If art and culture can't change anything, what sense do they have?" Carlisle urged.
But the nighttime patron of the arts remained silent.
So many moons have passed since he heard those words, and so many others spring up in front of him.
Carlisle thinks about everything he's learnt during his decades in Volterra. The more he gets acquainted with all the arts that the Volturi claim to cherish and protect, the more he feels that he's re-conquering his humanity.
His mind goes back to his short stay in France, soon after his change, after he had left his country and swam the Channel. He remembers the Medicine courses he had attended at La Sorbonne, where he learnt so much about the human body and its functions. He had the opportunity to know better himself, to test his restraint to human blood to the utmost.
He had been poor then: he had to work to earn the little money he needed for his modest lodgings; he carried loads before the Rungis market opened for business at dawn and he had never lacked work.
A French man shows up in his memory. He was one of his coworkers at the market and Carlisle remembers the strained expression that once he saw on his face. Carlisle had been worried about him for the entire day, even when he was at the University. In the evening, he decided to pay a visit to his friend.
As he suspected, his colleague had a good reason for his affliction.
"The doctor said he's done everything he could" the man told him. "Now we can only wait and see how does she pass the night."
Carlisle saw his friend's jaw clench; he refrained from watching him in the face, knowing that he was fighting against the urge to cry. With his supernatural abilities, Carlisle could understand the medical condition of his friend's wife far better than a human doctor. But he couldn't give any hope to the man. He listened to him, he let him talk about the sacrifices he had done to pay a good doctor – Carlisle knew better how his professors, full of arrogance and Latin quotes, enjoyed the opportunity to capitalize on people's anguish –, he comforted him, while his wife wailed all night long.
At dawn, the home fell in silence. There was no need to call a doctor anymore.
Today, thanks to his further studies, Carlisle knows the causes and the cure of that disease. Nowadays, he could have healed that woman, maybe.
When he made his decision to not harm, he firmly believed that the more he considered himself a brother to humans, the more he could never have borne to be their most dangerous enemy. But it's not enough anymore. There is so much to learn, to discover, to do in the medical field. And there is so much to do for mankind.
A path seems to be opening in front of him. His refusal to kill humans becomes a deeper desire to make something good, to ease the pain of the people who suffer, to help and protect.
His thoughts are drowned, and to be shipwrecked upon this sea feels sweet to him.
The wind has risen. When he hears it blowing among the leaves, he recalls the dead seasons, and this living present.
As the moon descends, the world becomes colorless; shadows disappear, as the same darkness falls on hills and valleys.
Singing with an old melody, that slowly dies away in the distance, Carlisle, on his way now, salutes the last ray of the fleeting light that had led him on before.
He blesses the first songs of the morning birds, the fresh air, and these smiling slopes.
And eventually, when he's returned once more to the Volturi's palace, he says to himself: I have beheld and known you too well, ill-omened city walls, where hatred dwells with pain. This has been my last night here. Farewell, Volterra.
Thanks for reading! Reviewers get a little gift!
1798 is the birth year of the Italian poet Giacomo Leopardi, whose verses are sprinkled throughout the story and in Carlisle's words. You can find his poems here: www. gutenberg. org/ ebooks/ 19315.
This story was inspired by the 16th chapter of Twilight. Entry for the "Behind the Lyrics" contest.
Thanks to Camilla10, Cesca Marie and georgeygirl: they are extraordinary betas and authors of amazing stories that you shouldn't miss.
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