AN: This story began as a scenario mentioned in Gleena's excellent story The Cold War. It was a brief snippet of a particularly dark future for Edward, as seen through Alice's visions. In late fall of 2009, I was working on Harvest Moon with my esteemed former Beta, Crmcneill, and I challenged him to write a one-shot entry for the Mentalward contest. After obtaining Gleena's permission to use the scenario, he wrote what eventually became Chapters 1 and 2 of Downward Spiral, which ended up being the co-winner of the Presenter's Choice award for the contest.

After a flood of requests for him to continue the story, he obliged and produced several more chapters. However, life experiences both good and bad caught up to him and left him with no choice but to put the story on hold. Finally, recognizing that he would not be able to complete the story in the forseeable future, he asked me to take over the reins. I will be doing the writing, but he will still have some advisory input, so I'm hoping my story will do justice to the original concept.

P.S. If you haven't read Gleena's work - YOU NEED TO. And if you like it as much as Crmcneill and I do, drop her a PM to encourage her, as it has been a while since she has updated The Cold War's sequel Acts of Aggression, as well as her Twilight AU story Soldier X.

Warning: This story contains graphic references to rape.

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

I could hear them bringing the next one to my cell.

The two guards were bored; they had been performing the same duty once a week for the last four months. In the beginning, they had taunted me, mocked me with crude, uncouth remarks as they shoved the latest victim into my cell. Now that they knew I wouldn't react, the insults had tapered off. They treated this task like another routine, boring chore, albeit one with a few fringe benefits. Their names were Simon and Nathaniel, and they knew nothing of importance. Aro had made sure of that.

The woman between them was terrified, naked and ashamed. The two leering Guards were dragging her down the hallway towards my cell, with its thick metal doors and reinforced walls. I could hear from her thoughts that she had been part of a tour group brought to Volterra, and she was wondering how her dream vacation to Italy had spiraled into this nightmare. Her name was Elizabeth (just Beth, please) Simmons, and she was wondering if she would ever see her family or her fiancée again.

The answer to that question had been decided long before she had ever asked it. One way or another; none of the women sent into my cell lived. The first time I had refused one of Aro's "offerings", the unfortunate woman had fallen into the hands of my jailers. They had purposely taken her just as far as the next room, so that the agonized screams and terrified thoughts had been impossible to block out. Her death had not come easily or quickly.

I had given up trying to escape. The thick walls of the cell couldn't restrain me for long, but they impeded me more than long enough for Jane to come running and pin me in place with her excruciating gift. The last time I had tried, she left me writhing on the floor for a full hour before releasing me.

"They're bringing the next one, love."

"I know, Edward, I know." A cool hand caressed my cheek, and I opened my eyes to look into my lovely wife's face. Dressed simply, in jeans, t-shirt and tennis shoes, she was as lovely as the last time I had seen her, four months previous.

I knew she was a hallucination. Intellectually, I understood that the horrors I had endured over the preceding months had driven me to seek solace in my memories, but that didn't make her seem any less real. Her first appearance had terrified me with the prospect of losing my sanity. Now I was just glad for the company. She would only appear when I had the room to myself. She would comfort me, holding me as I sobbed into her shoulder. Knowing that she wasn't there didn't make her feel any less real, or lessen the comfort I took in her presence.

"I don't know how much longer I can keep doing this, Bella," I whispered, ashamed to admit my weakness, even to an illusion of the woman who had always accepted even my worst failings. "I just… I can't…"

"I know, love," Bella's musical voice was like a soft caress. "You have to stay strong for me. You're my heart and my soul, and I can't live without you. I'm out there somewhere, waiting for you. You have to hang on, for me, for your family. Do whatever you must to survive for us."

I took a deep, unnecessary breath to steady myself. "I'll do my best. I love you, Bella. I wish you didn't have to leave."

Talking to himself now? One of the approaching guards thought. Can't imagine what Master Aro would want with a vampire who's lost his mind.

"I'll never leave you, Edward," she said as she faded from view. Her voice, faint as a whisper, floated to me as if from a great distance.

Yes, she would never leave. My perfect memories of her were the only peace I had in this nightmare that surpassed anything in my experience. I knew the horror that awaited me; I had lived through the exact same nightmare sixteen times so far. The only unknown factor was the ending, and that choice was not in my hands.

The thick, heavy door creaked on its hinges and began to open. Over a foot thick, and made of reinforced metal alloy, the door was far too heavy to be opened or shut by anyone other than a vampire. They didn't even bother with a lock, only a heavy crossbar to seal the door from the outside.

The doors and the walls both could be breached with the proper application of strength, but it would take time. The real security was found in the form of vampires who would come running at the first sign of an escape attempt. The Volturi had had millennia to refine their techniques for restraining their own kind.

As the door opened further, I caught the scent of my newest 'guest'. I hadn't fed since a week before I had been captured, four months prior, so the scent of her blood sparked the horrible burning in the back of my throat. My eyes had been onyx black with thirst for months now, but I had been resisting that siren call for decades, and had no intention of giving into it without a fight. And so long as I had Bella, I had plenty of fight left in me.

But still, the monster in me beckoned seductively. For all intents and purposes, this woman was already dead, just like all the others before her, and she smelled so deliciously mouthwatering. His cunning, deceitful voice echoed in my mind, wondering at the foolishness of denying myself blood that would just go to waste otherwise. His voice had been getting stronger, but still, I resisted.

When a human is afraid, there are obvious biological changes apparent to someone sensitive enough to detect them. The sweet scent of her blood was tainted with the acrid hint of adrenaline. Her breathing was rapid and panicky, and her heart beat a rapid tempo of fight or flight as she was shoved into the room.

"Here's your new toy, human-lover," Simon sneered at me. "Make sure to save some for us this time."

And the door closed, sealing her in here with me.

The room was dimly lit, but that didn't matter to a vampire. Through her eyes, however, I appeared only as a dim shape against the far wall. Her thoughts were mostly wordless; a few phrases mixed in with images and impressions, but my presence in an otherwise bare room had caught her attention.

I sat with my back to her, facing the wall, offering the only courtesy I had left: a semblance of privacy and modesty. I had been stripped of all my clothing before being put into this room. Aro's voice had been filled with false courtesy as he explained that clothes would only get in the way of my assigned duties. Before this, I had only ever been naked in the presence of my wife; just one of many things that Aro had stolen from me.

What is that? As she tentatively moved closer, the image in her mind grew more defined. Is that a… a man?

"Please, don't come any closer," I said, without turning my gaze from the wall.

With a wordless shriek of surprise, she scuttled away from me until she was pressed against the far wall of the room in a fetal position, her mind flashing images of vivid, recent horrors. His voice! He's one of them! I'm stuck in here with… Rational thought gave way to hysteria, and she started screaming.

"It's alright. I promise I won't hurt you," I said, trying to speak comfortingly.

But I knew what was coming; what the future held for both of us, and my attempt at comfort came out flat, dead and lifeless.

She kept screaming, pausing only to gulp in panicked lungfuls of air to fuel the next wail of terror. I leaned forward and put my forehead against the wall, picturing my beautiful wife and daughter playing in the meadow in Forks. I hummed Bella's lullaby to myself as the terrified young woman's screams rang around me.

Some time later, she subsided. Now, she emitted only the occasional whimper of fear. I could hear her thoughts, but couldn't see through her eyes; they were squeezed shut.

I'm so scared. I'm so scared. Oh God, I'm scared. Please don't let him come near me. What are they? They drank the other's blood. Is it possible? They can't be vampires! Why are they doing this? I know he promised he wouldn't hurt me. Please, let it be true. If he's lying, and we're both in here naked… Oh God, please, no. Not that.

I couldn't take it any more.

"I assure you, the last thing I want to do is harm you. You are in control in this room. I will not move or even look away from the wall without your permission. I know you have no reason to trust me, but in this place, my word is all I have left. I give it to you now."

She opened her eyes as I spoke, peering into the gloom to find me still facing the wall. Can't trust him; you saw what they did to the others. Maybe he just likes to play with his food before he eats it.

"Or maybe I don't eat the same food as the others."

She cocked her head at me. Did he just…? No, that's not possible. There's no way he can read my mind.

"It's very possible, actually. If I could shut it off, I would, so all I can do is apologize for not being able to help hearing what you're thinking." I had been through this discussion before; the strangeness of telling a human, even a condemned one, about vampires in general and myself in particular had long since worn off.

What…? This has to be a nightmare. Something I ate, or jet lag.

"I wish it were that simple. You really are in a nightmare, but that doesn't make it any less real."

She took a deep breath, gathering her thoughts and her courage. After a few moments, she spoke aloud to me for the first time, her voice quavering in fear. "What are you?"

"You guessed right before. We're vampires."

"That's crazy. Vampires don't really exist."

"Deny it all you want. It won't change anything. I know you saw the feeding room upstairs."

I had seen it in her memory, from the back of the line of tourists, ignorant as cattle being herded into the slaughterhouse. Shut into the feeding chamber by heavy doors, then Aro's mockery of a greeting before the true horror began; flashes of white skin and snarling teeth latching onto the necks and limbs of the people around her; cowering and waiting for a death that never came; then jerked bodily to her feet by an ice-cold hand coated with chalky, papery skin. Then a smiling monster that looked her up and down before ordering, "I believe this one will be perfect for our guest. Take her down to his cell, and make sure she's dressed properly." Harsh laughter as she was dragged away. Relief at being alive now replaced with the fear that the ones who died quickly up above were the lucky ones.

She was silent while her mind worked furiously to adjust to this strange new reality.

"Okay," she said, still not accepting, "if you're a vampire, why haven't you killed me and drank my blood yet?"

"Would it surprise you to learn that there are just as many shades of good and evil among our kind as there are among humans? Vampires who deny their true nature and eschew human blood in favor of other alternatives? I understand that it's a lot to take in, and I do apologize."

"Why are you telling me all this, then?"

"Because we don't have time for you to ease your way into this," I sighed. "You're trapped in a nightmare beyond anything you could imagine, and you need to accept your new reality and prepare yourself for what lies ahead."


"But first, I apologize for my lack of manners. My name is Edward Cullen. May I have the pleasure of knowing your name?"

Her tense thought patterns shifted as she gave sarcastic voice to her suspicion. "What's the point, mind reader? Shouldn't you already know it?"

In any other situation, I might've responded to her retort with a smile, but there was no place in this room for humor.

"I do already know it, but I was raised to comport myself as a gentleman, and certain forms must be followed. Courtesy is all I have to offer you."

There was a long pause while she considered. He doesn't have to be so polite. He doesn't seem like the others. She winced as she recalled the sight of teeth ripping out someone's neck.

"Elizabeth. Elizabeth Simmons, but everyone calls me Beth."

"A pleasure, Beth. I wish we could've met under better circumstances."

I sighed and hesitated before continuing. "Let me give you a little background to help you understand."

I had delivered this exact speech fifteen times already, and knew it by rote. The first time; the first woman, I had had no idea what awaited her, and only gave her basic information. Now that I knew what was in store, there was nothing to hide.

I told her some of my history, meeting and falling in love with Bella, and our accidental discovery of vampire hybrids. I told her how the Volturi had decided that they wanted hybrids of their own, to use for a variety of nefarious purposes. All of which brought us to this room.

"From what I've been able to tell from their thoughts, they were very unsuccessful on their own, as their male vampire candidates lacked the control necessary to be intimate with their selected 'partner' without killing them. So, that's when they thought of me.

Why is he so different?

"They wanted me for a lot of different reasons, but the one that matters most here is the degree of control I showed; being intimate with my wife while she was still human. I'm part of a small segment of our society that eschews human blood in favor of animal blood in an attempt to regain as much of our humanity as possible.

"They knew I would never consent to this willingly, so they laid a very cunning trap for me. I can't tell you how difficult it is to surprise a telepath, but they managed. Once they had me here, they offered me a choice. They would send human women into my room, and I can either," I practically choked on the next word, "impregnate them, in which case I will be given animal blood to drink, or I can violate my principles and drink their blood."

But… for me, that means sex or death. Have a baby or die? I don't want to die.

"You're the seventeenth woman to be placed in this cell with me. Only two of the others left alive, and… they didn't last long."

"What... what do you mean?" Beth asked me in a voice that shivered with shock.

"Let me explain the choices available to you," I said, evading her question. "I will not break my vow to my wife, so I will not have sex with you, even if you were willing. Even if I were somehow coerced into breaking that promise, and you were to become pregnant, you would still face a horrible, protracted death.

I told her of my first-hand experience with the highly traumatic gestation and birth of my hybrid daughter, including clinically graphic details of the damage inflicted by my child against her mother.

"So, with that option off the table, you are faced with two other choices. First, if you choose not to believe me, just wait. I stand by my promise that I won't touch you or harm you in any way. This time tomorrow, the guards who brought you here will return for you. They will drag you out of this room and take you to the next one down the hall, and they will rape you to death."

I tried to ignore her gasp of horror as I continued. Her thoughts were filled with a strongly worded symphony of denial as I continued on.

"I know this because that's exactly what happened to the two women who have left this room alive. Perhaps you remember Simon asking me to save a little for him this time? The first time it happened was because I had no idea what to expect. The second time, well, she couldn't get over her suspicion of me. She refused to believe anything I said until it was too late.

"The guards took hours on them both. I could hear their thoughts and their screams. I couldn't shut it out." I trailed off as the horrors I had experienced came rushing back from the distant place I had shut them away. I steeled myself against the pleading screams and graphically lewd images as I continued.

"Ultimately, both women died from internal bleeding caused by compound fractures of the pelvis. In essence, their pelvises were crushed and the bone shards severed several of their major blood vessels. They were still being violated when they died." I leaned my head against the wall again, unable to go on.

She took her time to compose herself before she asked, "What's the other choice?"

I took a deep breath. Then another. This was the most difficult part for me.

"I've already told you that I have no wish to harm you, and that you are in control in this room. But, knowing your alternative, if you wish for me to end your life, I will do so. Your end will be so quick you won't even see it coming, and there will be no pain. I will not defile your body, nor drink your blood…

Sixteen times now I had delivered this same speech, and I had never been able to find a way to properly phrase the ending. How hypocritical I was. I had survived for the last eighty years abstaining from murder. Now, I had claimed fourteen innocent lives since being brought as a captive to Volterra. I hadn't tasted their blood, and had offered them a merciful alternative, but their blood still stained my hands.

But I could see from her thoughts that she understood. Her initial screams were the blind panic of the unknown and the imagined. This was beyond that. This was the horrified, catatonic stare of a mortal consciousness faced with the terrible knowledge of the certainty of imminent death.

"For what it's worth, I'm so very sorry. You're meaningless to them. I'm their true purpose here.

But she said nothing. I felt the slightest gust of air as her arm moved, and heard the whisper of her hair brushing her shoulders. Through her eyes, I watched as she shook her head and held one hand up in a wordless gesture, half insisting and half imploring that I just leave her alone.

That much, at least, I could offer.

Thanks are very much in order for Gleena, who gave permission for the use of this storyline.

Would love to hear your thoughts in regards to this.