ENTRY #61 - AU

Truly Anonymous Twilight O/S PP Contest

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Title: Fácilis Descensus Averni

Picture Prompt Number: 4

Pairing: Edward

Rating: M

Word Count (minus A/N and Header): 4324

Summary (250 characters or less, including spaces and punctuation): On the cusp of learning the truth about his vampire nature, Edward opens a Pandora's Box of bloodlust, finding that easy is the descent to hell. Horror. AU. Rated M for violence.

Warnings and Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight.

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Fácilis Descensus Averni

I kneel under the weeping winter sky like a gargoyle, unmoving in darkness hour after hour — a living stone statue.

Though my eyes are closed, I see beyond the brick wall. I spy on the people in this dingy, reeking tavern with their own eyes.

I try to recall myself as I was before I became this. Few memories remain, and those are as cloudy as an algae-ridden pond. However, I cannot believe that while human, I had ever seen the kind of depravity that's common as fleas here in the midlands of America.

Scum of the earth gather at Lucky's night after night. Since I started my vigil here, I've observed cheating spouses, crooks on the lam, thieves, villains and fallen women all scurrying about like the rats I've drained right here in this alley.

Prohibition has made these people desperate and reckless. They down their illegal drink furtively, though Lucky and the law around here have an understanding. Preceding a raid, the hooch from illegal stills is always gone, seemingly disappeared in a puff of smoke, and nobody knows nothin'.

Some of the people here think they're the worst, the toughest, the most violent. They think themselves to be kings of this dung heap, at the top of the food chain.

They have not yet met me.

Even I have yet to meet the real me, the one waiting inside this stone shell to be released upon the miscreant and the wicked. I know he is there. I feel his restlessness, pacing his decaying cage and burning the edges of my conscience as I haunt the patrons of this godforsaken bar.

I hate myself for wanting to dive headfirst into that pulsing, sour stench — to bathe in it like a pig in his muddy sty, sucking the last drops of blood from their still-pumping hearts.

The fiend inside me won't be denied the pleasure, though the boy I once was will weep in horror, trapped within while I let out the monster to feed on those that were once my kind. Carlisle would be horrified, too, at what I'm about to do, but I have left his noble perfection behind. He may be a saint, but I am not, crouching here waiting to become a demon.

Esme's arrival showed me just how little I had changed, even after nine years of this living death. I'm no longer the loose cannon I was as a newborn, but no matter what Carlisle says, it's never gotten easier. Esme's newborn thirst is just the same in her mind as mine is right now — unrelenting, all-encompassing, and absolutely crippling. It is proof to me that this painful, horrible damnation is everlasting.

Esme needs his attention now, and I am done being the third wheel. So I accept that the clawing thirst never truly slakes; my throat shall forever burn like the fires of hell are alight within it. No matter how many rats I suck dry, I won't ever be rid of this need, this hideous pull to the filth in the bar and their blood, which I bitterly resent for its irresistible seduction.

A soft scurrying attracts my attention and my eyes slowly open.

Like lightning, I fall on the unsuspecting vermin, piercing its bulk, its furry body collapsing as I relieve it of its blood in two strong pulls.

I do not know why, but I find myself thinking of my mother. I push the memory of her eyes far, far away from this filthy place, and concentrate on the rat, burying the desiccated little thing alongside several others next to the brick wall.

I know that I must soon will myself into action; these rats do nothing but worsen my thirst for something richer and more potent.

I can smell them everywhere: the humans. I've weakened myself to the point of desperation and I know it's only a matter of time.

Carlisle's training is so deeply ingrained, but the scent of their blood drives me crazy. I envision myself tearing into their flesh to take it, and still I hesitate. I've crouched here for days, waiting for someone to come along who is worse than all others, whose death will not weigh too heavily on my conscience.

Above me, the skies break open and I'm bathed in a downpour of rain and sleet, thin rivers of dirty water collecting into pools at my feet and seeping through to soak the carcasses of the dead rats.

Loud voices and footsteps alert me to the approach of several men, but it's not their volume that has me suddenly paying very close attention as their conversation carries into the alley.

"Look up, boys, now there's a nice set of pins," one murmurs, still ambling along, and I can see through his eyes as he cranes his head — a woman walking alone not far behind them, huddling into her coat.

Following his lead, the others keep moving and grunt their appreciation. "She's a bit on the skinny side," jeers one.

"As if you've had better!" They all chuckle at that, and I want to rip out their miserable throats. There are three of them, and I close my eyes tightly, wishing I did not have this access to their minds. I haven't even laid eyes on them, but I find them despicable.

"Let's play a little game," the first one whispers, glancing back at her once more to judge the distance.

"What kind of ga—"

"Shut your trap. Watch and learn, Larry," the first one murmurs, quickening his step. The others follow dutifully.

Ominously, while their minds scream foulness, their voices quiet down. I'm overcome with a sense of dread when I realize the leader among them has done this before. I can see the images in his mind recalling his favorite moments, real and brutal. This is not a game to him.

I leap up to the wide ledge of a boarded up window and flatten myself within its shallow cavity, observing from above as they near the mouth of my alley behind Lucky's. I swallow mouthfuls of venom when their thoughts turn savage, all about ripping fabric and white thighs forced open. My gift has shown me the depths of man's depravity, but I've never been more ashamed of my human origins than I am right now. These people are the worst kind of scum.

Pretending to have lost interest in the woman, they turn smoothly into the darkness of my alley almost directly below my perch; they jostle each other to stand side by side against the wall.

Whispering and gesticulating to each other, they plan out their attack while I cleave motionless to the boarded-up window, rage rising within me like a red tide.

I hear the woman's steps now, shoes slapping wetly onto the pavement. She walks quickly, clutching her bag with both hands, eyes furtively darting this way and that, and as she nears the alley her thoughts become clear.

. . . I shouldn't have stayed at work so late. What was I thinking? So stupid, shouldn't have stayed so late. . . It's a constant refrain in her thoughts.

Visualizing her hard-earned five dollars hidden away inside her bag, she walks so fast she's almost running, equating the safety of the money with her family's well-being.

. . . I hope Tommy's sound asleep. . . Mother will be worried. . . oh God, I shouldn't have agreed to stay at work so late. . .

She senses the three men to be trouble but unbeknown to her, it's not her money they're after, though once they have her, they will no doubt take that, too.

Powerless to warn her, to stop her from blundering into their trap, I must sit and watch this catastrophe unfold.

I dare not give away my presence in full view of so many eyes, though I know that I cannot let this come to pass. I'm hanging onto my sanity with the barest of threads and my eyes must be almost completely black. Feeding on rats has not so much as dented my thirst, and the nervous tension permeating the air is sharpening my hunger.

Immersed in the scent of hot blood seasoned with adrenalin, my tenuous control slips further with each passing moment.

Below me, the men lie in wait, while the woman nears.

. . .Oh, they're gone! They're gone. . . in there? Where did they go? Did they go in this place?

Relief suffuses her thoughts, and she cranes to look at the tavern entrance, hoping to catch a glimpse of them inside, but the doors are closed and she can't see.

Her heartbeat grows frantic, sensing the danger but not yet seeing it. Like a gazelle aware of a menacing presence, her nostrils flare at the tang of sweat and booze coming from Lucky's as she speeds past, her thoughts stuck in a loop of panic.

. . . Just let me get home, home safe, home safe, need to get home. . .

She steps past Lucky's into the shadow of the alley and is swept up into a nightmare.

With much more grace than I expected, the leader of the three below me simply reaches out his arms and collects the woman from the sidewalk with a grimy hand firmly pressed against her mouth.

Before she knows what's happened, he's lifting and manhandling her further inside the filthy alley. The other two follow them into the darkness as I look on, knowing that all hope is lost.

Fácilis descensus Averni.

"Grab her feet!" her abductor whisper-shouts, dragging the woman down to the alley's end. Finally realizing that she's walked right into their ambush, she's screaming for all she's worth, but it makes no difference; her muffled cries are completely drowned out by the noise emanating from inside Lucky's.

"Sweet Jesus, she's a fighter," he mutters under his breath, attempting to subdue her with the strength of his arms alone, but she's fighting so hard she's almost lifting herself from the ground within his grasp, flinging her body like a salmon struggling upstream.

"Get'er goddamn feet, Larry!" he shouts, losing his patience.

Above them all, I feel myself reaching the end of my tether. I cannot allow this. I won't.

"Don't say my name, why'd ya have to say my name?" Larry whines, frightened now that events are spiralling out of control so quickly.

. . . that crazy bastard! This can't be real, was so sure he was all talk! I can't believe he's doing this! A game, he said. This ain't no game!

The third accomplice watches with big hungry eyes, overcome with lust for violent pillage. His thoughts reflect nothing coherent, and remind me of scattered marbles bouncing off each other this way and that. The only thing I hear is a constant hissing chant of yes, yes, yes.

Like the runt he is, he waits on the alpha to take first turn.

I should have put a stop to this before they took her, but like an innocent, I couldn't believe they'd actually go through with this atrocity.

I shall know better next time.

The woman's thoughts are an almost incoherent, panicking haze of please no, oh God please no! She flails wildly, her feet connecting with flesh and bone, her tenacity surprising them all. Finally, her abductor realizes the only way he's going to be able to subdue her is to throttle her until she ceases her struggles.

Mere seconds have passed since he abducted the woman, but even so, he can't wait. While he suffocates her with one arm, his other hand gropes and violates her, testing the soft warmth of her flesh.

Thrashing within his grasp, the woman fights with all she has, but to no avail. She's no match for his brute strength. Finally, her mind awash with desperation, she sinks her teeth into his palm.

Instantly, my nostrils flare, the rich scent rising above the stench.

I dimly hear the savage snarl, the snapping teeth, as the cage inside my mind splinters and the fiend careens out claw over fist, screeching like a gleeful harpy.

Prey below.

I count four heartbeats pounding frantically. Glancing down, I know exactly the position, the speed, and the trajectory I need to maintain in order to capture each of my prey. I leap silently to the ground, springing the trap closed.

I see my movement reflected in the mind of the prey, and it looks up with wariness.

Oh, it's just a boy. Barely out of knee britches.

It sizes me up efficiently, noting my physical inferiority — my lanky build and slim limbs — and grins lazily.

"C'mere, boy, we'll make a man out of you," it drawls.

Vile, repulsive images flash in my mind's eye as it imagines the sadistic, gruesome things it will have me do to the female before it takes a turn with me itself.

The female, frantic with panic, chooses this moment to withdraw her teeth, making one last attempt to scream against the meaty hand, a plea in her eyes. Her muffled shouts force blood-tainted air through its fat fingers, and I strike.

Knocking the female aside for now, I sink my teeth into her attacker's juicy, dripping throat, crunching through cartilage and bone — the snap crisp, like an apple — the hot fount pouring into my greedy mouth. It convulses, the bobbing head in my way, and I snarl in annoyance as I grasp the hair with my left hand meaning to steady it, but crush the flimsy skull with my fingertips instead.

Weak, fragile creatures.

Though soured with moonshine, the taste is galvanizing, but there's not enough. Not nearly enough.

Empty too soon. More. Three more. The fleeing ones first.

The empty carcass falls at my feet when the runt thinks to feign left but moves right. I feel a draft on my right hand and I lash out, punching through bone and sinew, pinning the body to the wall. It beats its hands against me, then tries to gouge at my eyes, but I swat it away — the flick of my hand followed by a satisfying sound of splintering bones.

My right hand withdraws, sliding down the ribs as my mouth latches onto the hole in its chest. Fed by its cries of pain, I savor its fear as it, too, gives up the hot, delicious blood, tangy with adrenalin. I close my left hand over the chin and mouth to stop the gurgling.

Better. Sweeter.

The taste, the sensation, is intoxicating. I have been a stone tomb, but no longer.

The heart beats under my tongue — an irresistible Siren's song — and as it slows, I bite, relishing the satisfying twitching of the body as it yields up its remaining blood straight into my mouth. Mine, mine, mine. All mine.

Once more, the blood becomes less, a trickle now, no longer the fountain. I suck and suck at the limp thing until there is no more, and then I let it go. It falls to the ground with a dull thump, and I feel the blood igniting my system. I am warm. I flex my arm. I am stronger than before.A rush of pure euphoria races through me and I roar in unabashed joy.

I was made for this. I am immortal, invincible — I can be caged no more.

Lub-dub, lub-dub, lub-dub. Nostrils flared, I snap my head toward the luscious sound. Returning to the hunt, I crouch and stalk one that has tried to slither away as though it really has a chance. I can almost taste its flavor lining me from within. Harsh breathing, fear, and urine scent the air.

A hand, a foot. Here it is in a sour stinkhole.

In its mind, I can see my black silhouette outlined against the mouth of the alley and I love seeing myself looming in the eyes of my prey.

"Finders keepers!" I chant, grasping the wrist and pulling the body free. It squeals as I bring it out into the sparse moonlight. I feel the arm tear from the socket and quickly grab the rest of the bulk in a one-armed embrace, the odor of fresh feces surrounding us as my mouth latches onto his carotid.

Deep, deep draughts I drink, sucking the life from it into me.

I lick my lips clean, clutching the drained shell of my prey in one hand. The moonlight and rain mix with the blood on my face, and I look up to the sky, laughing with glee.

But, as with all things, even this sweet delirium must end. Glutted, I move toward the last of them — the female — to complete my inaugural feast.

It lies where it fell against the wall, the white throat exposed in the moonlight, beginning to regain consciousness as the rain and sleet intensifies. I lower myself and it looks up with dazed eyes, bruises rising like the loveliest flowers over its neck and jaw, inviting me to smell the prize so close to the surface.

I breathe deep. This one is clean and vital, nothing to taint the taste of pure human blood, and I want it all.

Now.

I lift it slightly and incline my face toward the lovely throat. The eyes open wide and it knows I'm. . . I'm. . . .

My face is reflected in its mind.

It looks at me with horror, but it is the eyes themselves which jolt me to the core. I freeze instantly, caught in the grip of its green, green eyes.

I blink.

My mother.

The eyes so like those of my dead mother stare back at me, wide and clear, and so very, very green.

No sooner does the woman look at me, than her eyes flutter and roll back in her head. She faints dead away at the image of my glowing crimson eyes and blood streaked face.

It takes only a moment for her vision of me to sink in, but it's going to haunt me for years to come, I know it.

I blink again, and suddenly I am Edward Masen, and I'm about to kill an innocent woman so I can gorge myself on her blood.

Dear God in Heaven.

If I could vomit, I would. Blood rises like bile inside me, bitter and stinging with the worst kind of shame and horror.

I let go of her and slide backward until I'm sitting against the other side of the alley, my back to the stone wall. I can't take my eyes off the woman as she lies there unconscious, legs splayed at strange angles like a discarded rag doll.

At my feet, the puddles are stained with a maroon dullness. I look around me at the carnage I've created, disbelieving. Remains of the three would-be rapists are strewn all over the rough landscape of the alley, heaped in grisly piles of limbs, heads, and torsos.

Oh God, how naive I've been. I thought I knew what it was to drink blood. Ha! I had no idea. Human blood is so far superior to what I've been subsisting on, there's no comparison. Draining rats to keep this at bay? Stupid, stupid, stupid!

I thought it would be a controlled cull. Find a worthy villain and dispatch him neatly from his existence with my razor sharp teeth. I clutch handfuls of my own hair as I look around at the scene, seeing the truth for the first time. I thought I could control the monster, but it has clearly controlled me.

The wounds are made by my teeth all right, but they're not precise and neat. I've torn into their fragile forms as though they were tissue paper, ripping and splintering their bodies until they barely resemble humans at all.

One is decapitated with the ferocity of my bite, the arm of another flung carelessly away, lying far from his body.

I knew I would kill, but the savagery. . . .

As I study the slaughter, the monster licks his lips and sucks his teeth, not yet satisfied with the carnage. It would take the woman, too, if I let it, but I'm sober now, and out of its grasp. The blood frenzy has broken and I stand witness to the aftermath.

I have been brutal and without mercy, prolonging the agony of these men when I should have been too fast for them to know what was happening. I have been vicious and almost killed the woman — the one I should have protected before she even neared the trap they'd set for her.

I close my eyes tightly and pull at my hair, defenseless against the suffocating guilt at being so out of control. I look to the woman, suddenly anxious over how much she's seen. Replaying the last minute in my mind — for that was all it took for me to barbarically murder three men — I realize that she was rendered unconscious by her abductor before she saw any of my actions, and I sigh with relief.

She had only a glimpse of me before she fainted, and I pray that she does not recall it when she wakes.

Carlisle had impressed upon me the consequences of being seen by humans for what I really am, and I do not want to break the laws of my kind, though my nature compels me to commit man's cardinal sin.

What to do with her now, though? And what to do with them?

Gritting my teeth, I push myself to act quickly, before the woman comes to. I gather up the grisly remains of my first human victims, and pile their broken husks into several trash cans. I'll dispose of them later, before the city wakes.

Gathering up the limp woman, I take care not to breathe in her still-tempting scent, cradle her to my chest, and run.

The hospital isn't far, even using backstreets and dark alleys devoid of people to get her there. She does not stir until I carefully lay her down on the pavement outside, just shy of the front entrance, which is too well-lit to risk. Listening closely to the thoughts of anyone nearby, I make sure we have not been detected, then back away and climb to the rooftop where I can observe unseen to make sure she receives care.

She has begun to move, lifting her hand to her face in confusion at her whereabouts before the screaming starts.

I watch, riddled with guilt, as the memories of what has happened to her flit through her mind. Wailing with terror, she remembers the attack, and as the hospital staff run outside to tend to her, I wait anxiously to ascertain whether she had seen me and if she will tell.

But no, she remembers only that there were three men, the pain and fear she felt in their grasp, and then nothing until now. Her mind clings to a memory of red eyes, but endows all of her attackers with red eyes and sharp teeth, like those of childhood nightmares. I can find no evidence of my face, or any supposition of my nature, as I sift through the thoughts inside her fragile mind.

I leave her to the nurses, who carry her into the hospital as I watch from the rooftop.

Finally, I breathe.

The air is crisp here on the roof, and comparatively clean, though I smell smoke from chimneys across the city. The scent of blood from the hospital is diffused by ether and disinfectant; still I wonder how Carlisle can stand it. Fat raindrops splat onto my face as I roll over on my back to look up at the Milky Way so I can think clearly.

The extent of my naiveté appals me.

I remember scant details from my human life, but I do remember this: it's not so long ago that I wanted to go to war. I wanted to be a man, to march among my peers and fight for my country and freedom. I wanted to stand against the evil threat looming over the world as I knew it.

I'd never considered the toll of lives lost on the battlefield and thought of death as an abstract concept — only that to die on the front would be an honorable glory.

Realizing that I had no concept of human death until this moment is shocking.

Seeing the gore and brutality firsthand has opened my eyes fully for the first time. A body torn apart by teeth or bullets is still a dead man.

My mother's ghost has brought to mind my unyielding human desire to go to war for the glory and honor, and her vehement opposition to my enlistment. I had thought her sentimental at the time; I'd even accused her of wanting to keep me tied to her apron strings, a little boy forever.

What did I know?

Nothing.

My mother wanted to keep me safe, that much is true. However, she and Carlisle both tried to prevent me from becoming the one thing I can now never change: a killer of men.

Yet try as I might, I can't feel true guilt at what I've done. If not for my interference, a woman would never get home to her family.

If not for me, they'd have raped and killed her.

I kept her alive, kept her safe by my actions, abominable though they may be.

Pandora's Box is open — my inner monster freed. What have I begun?

I blink the rain from my eyes, the closest I will ever come to tears.

If I am damned to this eternal existence, to this razor blade thirst, then I'll do it on my terms. I'll take the ones that need killing, the ones that are rotten to the core.

When finally I rise, it's with intense determination to use the darkness in me to declare my own war against the evil in the world.

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A/N: Fácilis Descensus Averni [Latin]. English translation: Easy is the descent to Hell. From Aeneid (29-19 BCE) by Virgil. Book VI, line 126.