Thank you for giving this Alice AU story a chance. It's based on Alice's life as outlined in the guide but it diverges from canon and it might not be what you expect! I loved writing it and have fallen in love with the characters in it and I hope that you will love it too. It's only short and I'd be so grateful it if you read it and let me know what you think.
The story title and the chapter titles are taken from the lyrics of Sarah McLachlan's Angel. Such a beautiful song, that I think fits perfectly with this story.
A massive thank you to my amazing beta, TheaJ1. She worked really hard on this story for me, especially considering the short time frames I gave her. Her constructive suggestions made this story better. Also to my sister who supports me in everything…including this!
This is my entry for the Pre-Twilight Round of The Canon Tour. I loved everything about being a part of this contest and there is a link on my profile if you want to read the other entries. They were all really good.
Stephenie Meyer owns everything Twilight but I just can't stop manipulating her characters for my own enjoyment!
Chapter 1: Empty
A shaft of moonlight danced in through my window, animated by the trees swaying in the wind, creating rustling shadows. Sometimes the effect was peaceful and captivating. Tonight it was ominous. I sat on my metal framed hospital bed, my cheek pressed against the cold, stone wall as I gazed unseeingly at my denied freedom. I was all alone, isolated to prevent the spread of my madness or the infection of my hysteria and to stop me circulating my 'ridiculous lies'. A small smile ghosted across my lips. If only I was mad. Madness would be sweet in comparison to knowing the truth.
Unfortunately, I had endless amounts of time at my disposal and I could not stop myself from dwelling on the mistakes I had made in my relatively short life. Mistakes that had cost my mother her life, deprived me of my freedom and left my father free to enjoy his new life with my evil stepmother. It was like I was trapped in a reverse fairy tale. I had had my happily ever after first and it wasn't as forever as it should have been. Everything had fallen apart and was getting darker and darker. I had gone over the choices I had made so many times. If I had made different decisions, said different things, would I still be living happily at home with my own mother and my sister, and my father be the one rotting away in a cell?
As a child, my life had been comparatively happy. My mother was perfect, there was no other way for me to describe her. She was supportive, loving, kind, strong and brave. My father was the main difficulty I had to endure. He was cold and calculating, with occasional bouts of fiery anger, but he was away on business more often than he was at home, so we lived happily without him and cautiously with him. I learned quickly how to avoid confrontation with him. I always had a sense about when it was safe to approach him and when he should be avoided at all costs.
My father's temperament had taken a turn for the worse when he heard my mother was expecting again. Before they had even made the announcement, I knew that I was going to have a baby sister. I was nine when Cynthia was born and I was completely enchanted by her immediately. My mother had been worried about me being jealous, after it just being me for so long, but I never felt even a measure of jealously towards her. The only thing I didn't like about her was her name. Like mine, it had been chosen by our father and I didn't think it suited her at all. I called her Thia. My tiny Thia. I had to be careful, as my father hated that abbreviation, so it became our secret.
Thia was such a bright and happy little thing. Despite the nine year age gap, we had been very close. That I would probably never see her again broke my heart. My life here was so cold and lonely and my future was empty. I cast my mind back to the last truly happy memory I had, which had been a few months before my mother was killed. Thia had been braiding my hair as we chattered and laughed about a young man who seemed to have taken a shine to me. Thia thought it was 'disgusting', to even think about a boy in those terms and had pulled faces into the mirror as her tiny hands tugged gently at my hair. Like me, she was very small for her age, so she looked much younger than any other nine year old. I ran my own fingers through my short hair in frustration, my memory shifting to the day they had hacked it all off, supposedly to prevent the potential spread of typhoid. Up until then, I had tried to maintain a stoic emotional detachment from the horror of my life in this asylum, but that day the tears had run freely. It was clear to me that many of the staff had relished the threat of a contagious disease, because it gave them an opportunity to humiliate us further. To emphasise the distinction between staff and patients and to make sure that we knew our place.
I wondered what my father had told Thia about why I had disappeared so abruptly. Had he told her I had run away? Abandoned her? Was that better or worse than the truth that I had been committed and branded insane? My father had already had my mother murdered and tried to have me killed. Was Thia safe with him? How I wished I could protect her still. In the past I had always found it easier than Thia did to stay in his good favour. Thia had lacked the ability to sense his potential displeasure and consequently irritated him often. I had tried to shield her from his temper, steer her away from him when it was prudent and take the brunt of his violence when it inevitably came.
Please, please don't let him hurt her.
At least my stepmother had seemed to take a liking to Thia, even if she had always been hostile to me. I so hoped that that would be enough to make my father's attitude towards Thia better, even if that did mean that she might be changed by my stepmother's influence.
Movement caught my attention, jolting me out of my reverie and causing me to focus on the shadowy outline of the groundskeeper. I was immensely grateful for the distraction. As he stepped into a clearing, he seemed to glow in the dim light. I frowned at him. He was a mystery to me. Why did he only work at night? Watching him was a night time vice of mine, but I was only able to do so for the short time he was actually working in the view of my room. He was so graceful and nimble. It was a contrast to what you would expect of someone who only did manual labour. I had never seen anyone else working the grounds and they were vast. It seemed an impossible task for one man, especially one with such restricted working hours.
He looked up suddenly, but not towards me. I shifted my position and craned my neck to see what he was looking at, then recoiled at the sight of Doctor Despicable hurrying towards him. Doctor Despicable was the bane of my existence here. I was convinced that my life in the asylum would not be so unpleasant if it wasn't for him. I hated him. In my mind he was an ogre of a man, towering, intimidating and completely lacking in humanity. He was responsible for my therapy, if you could call it that. He was cruel and sneering in public, insisting to his superiors that shock treatment was the only valid option to 'purge my insanity'. When we were alone, he was leering and inappropriate and I had sustained many bruises trying to rebuff both his treatment and his advances. Just thinking of him made me cringe in fear and disgust. He was an awful man that had complete control over every aspect of my life. But seeing him next to the lithe groundskeeper, he seemed scrawny and clumsy, comical even and I wondered at how he instilled such fear in me. I shuddered as they both glanced towards me, then began heading towards the building I was in.
Several minutes later I heard hushed voices.
"I don't really understand what you need me for, Dr Talbot." The voice was undoubtedly male, but had a lilting quality that made it seem almost soothing. It didn't quite fit in this place.
"Mary might be tiny, but she's a vicious little thing," I began to shake as soon as I heard Doctor Despicable's malevolent voice, "and she's not going to like this one bit. She's bound to fight me."
"But don't you think another medic or orderly would be better placed to help you with this. I've no experience of such things," the reply that came was both incredulous and firm.
"Don't be a fool, man. This isn't an authorised treatment session," Doctor Despicable said condescendingly. "Her father has paid me very handsomely to ensure her spirit is broken and her memories are lost, but the task is proving much more difficult than I imagined and conventional means seem ineffective in her case. She is a fragile vessel, but her spirit is strong. Mr Brandon has run out of patience and so have I."
There was a scuffle and urgent whispering, the rustle of cloth and a huff of air. I pressed my back to the wall, my fear holding me hostage and my stare fixed on the door. How had I not seen this coming? But I knew the answer to that. Looking for my future was too depressing. It was empty, long, lonely, withering away in here. Or at least it had been until now.
"Thomas, now is not the time to develop a conscience. I know of your shady dealings and dubious references," Dr Despicable warned menacingly. "If this goes well you will be generously rewarded. It will be an amount that a man of your lowly stature could never refuse."
There was a loud ominous click and the door swung open. Framed in the doorway, eerily illuminated by the light of an oil lantern, were Doctor Despicable and the groundskeeper, who I now knew to be named Thomas. Even in the face of my paralysing terror, I could not help but gape at his beauty. He had flawless skin and a strong jawline with well-defined features. His clothes were old and worn, but neatly mended. His eyes were dark and would have been sinister if they weren't rounded in silent compassion. I felt warm tears flow from my eyes for both of us. I was sure that my fate was sealed. I would have to endure it and he would have to live with it.
Doctor Despicable approached me slowly and carefully, but with a gleeful glint in his eye. "Block her escape and catch her if she bolts," he ordered Thomas, who was hesitating in the doorway and had made no move towards me. He seemed to be battling indecision. I much preferred to look at his kind features than the doctor's cruel continence. I tried to convey though my expression that I didn't blame him for this, because he looked so genuinely guilty.
I shouldn't have taken my eyes off the doctor though. A sickly smelling rag was forced over my nose and into my mouth. I gagged, gasping for air and grasping at my assailant. He grunted as my foot collided with his stomach and then hissed as I scratched at his arms. He dropped the rag, then I felt his hands around my neck and I desperately kicked out again, my foot connecting with a satisfying squelch, but I was rewarded by a heavy blow to my face. "Some help please, Thomas," the doctor growled. "She should be out by now. She really is a feisty little thing…which will just make breaking her more satisfying in the end."
I continued to struggle but sound was spiralling away from me as I was dragged into unconsciousness, all hope fading with it. Miraculously though, the pain and pressure suddenly disappeared, which was a small comfort.
Just before the darkness claimed me, I heard a thud, a snap and a desperate whisper. "What are you doing…What are you?"
I woke with a start and in a groggy panic. I sat bolt upright and groaned in pain. My head was thumping, my face was throbbing and my neck was tender. I squinted though my swollen eyelids and realised that I was still alive and still in my room. I was desperate for a drink but there was none to be had. I could tell it was late afternoon by the direction of the sun and I wondered why no one had checked on me. I didn't dwell on it though, as I was mostly just grateful to be alive. I collapsed back onto my bed and waited. Eventually an orderly would come, I was sure. But no one came.
The hospital held an entirely different energy today. An excited morbid buzzing in place of the usual dreary misery. Running footsteps instead of plodding ones. Bustle in place of boredom. But still no one came. I was relieved to hear when footsteps eventually turned down my corridor. Two women were chatting animatedly as they headed towards my room.
"I overheard them talking to Dr Crane. Apparently the train driver saw him standing on the ledge of the bridge. Then he jumped. He didn't even scream." Her voice dropped, so was barely audible to me, but the acoustics of the building allowed me to hear the rest. "Parts of his body were scattered for miles along the tracks. His head was completely detached from his body and was crushed! They had to identify him through his clothes and belongings, but they still came here to confirm he did not come to work today and that it was definitely Dr Talbot."
"Dr Talbot never struck me as suicidal…murderous maybe? But surely he loved himself too much to do such a thing."
"Maybe madness is actually contagious?" The woman sounded worried. "In any case, that end will earn him a direct route to hell."
"I'm sure he had already earned a place there with his life deeds," the other lady sniffed with disdain. "He'll not be missed…"
I had been intently listening to their conversation, so it took me a moment to realise the voices were getting quieter and the women were moving away. I jumped up, my intention to head to the door and capture their attention but I was thwarted by my legs which collapsed under me, heaping me onto the floor. Out of frustration as much as anything, I closed my eyes and drifted away again.
I was woken by a murmured reassurance in my ear and the feeling of floating. I was gently placed onto my bed. I forced my eyes open and found myself staring into glowing crimson unblinking eyes.
TO BE CONTINUED…Please keep reading...it gets better (I think/hope!)
Hope you like it so far, I'd love to hear your thoughts, so please review. Each one makes me happier than you could imagine.