Tales from the Void Contest
Word Count: 2009
Summary: "No man was an island, but Edward wasn't really a man." An observer of the world discovers what life really is through a single tear, fallen from the face of a beautiful, grief-stricken woman.
Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight.
The Tin Man
Edward touched the tip of his index finger to his temple, the screen embedded in his brain popping up across his cornea. A series of numbers, letters and symbols materialized like lottery numbers to be announced. His body shimmered and teleported him to another day and another place.
Forks, Washington. May 21, 2012.
The name Charles Swan flashed in his eyes as he looked upon the tiny living room he now stood in. A man, no older than fifty, walked right through Edward, not knowing the Sentinel in his presence was there to witness—and ensure the success of—an important event.
The seconds counted down, green turning to red, and as the time neared seventeen-hundred hours, the man called Swan slowed his steps, shaking out his left arm but unable to dispel the numbness. Within minutes, he was on the floor, pain shooting through his body until he couldn't feel it, his heart beating incorrectly until it wasn't. Edward stooped, inspecting the man, touching the gadget strapped to his left wrist, checking off another event as completed.
The front door opened then, a melodic voice calling out, "Dad!"
The person the voice belonged to stopped dead in the doorway, for her father had stopped dead already in the hall, several feet in front of her. Her beat-up tennis shoes squeaked across the hard wood floor as she leapt to her father's side, so close to Edward, but never knowing.
While he knew he should leave, he didn't. He couldn't. The girl in front of him, the one with the voice of an angel and a face to match, her grief was palpable, causing him to sink on the spot. Frozen, he stared at her, right hand still hovering over his left wrist, so close to moving on to the next job, the next event, but unable to leave.
The girl was just barely a woman, her face still unlined, her cheeks with a roundness to them, her hair the darkest chocolate he'd ever seen. Instead of verifying the job just completed, he stretched his hand forward, his fingers grazing the woman's forehead, just enough of a touch to find out her name.
Isabella Swan appeared in his eyes. 09.13.93 – 01.29.2080.
As he stared at her, a tear trickled from her eye, falling unnoticed down her face and dripping from her chin. Edward's hand moved quickly, catching the tear and holding it up, letting it reflect the light and tell him Isabella's secrets and stories.
Humanity, he thought. This is it.
With a tap to his wrist, he was transported to another date, Isabella Swan still the name on his screen.
A young Charles Swan stands by an incubator, his eyes glassy, with a smile on his face that conveyed both joy and terror. A tiny baby, much too small to be out in the world, lies in the warm, plastic box, tubes connected to her, a miniscule anklet identifying her. Swan, Isabella.
It was her, the beginning of her, the start of an entirely new plane. A whole new reality. A new human being that would change the world, whether on a grand scale or just incrementally by residing in the hearts of others. She was special, unique, a single, lovely snowflake in a blizzard.
Edward watched as Charles looked upon his newborn daughter, premature yet still right, and he wished he could offer the man some hope, tell him that one day the tiny baby in front of him would grow to be a beautiful woman, one that wouldn't die for nearly ninety more years, but he couldn't. He traveled the earth, the seas, the stars and galaxies, but he was never a human, not really. He could no more clap Charles on the shoulder than he could stop the many deaths he witnessed every second of his existence. He was a watcher of man, nothing more than a recorder, a breathing time machine.
Touching his wrist once more, he vanished, jolting forward in time.
Skinny arms, knobbly knees, teeth bound in braces, clogged pores and unruly hair—this is what dominated the form of a teenage Isabella Swan, and Edward was fascinated. How could a being such as this become the heavenly woman he met in 2012? Was every human so awkward, so gangly, so unsure of themselves?
She kept her head down at school, nose always in her books, and sat alone at lunchtime (apart from the phantom observer she didn't know joined her). While the eyes of her peers sometimes followed her, for the most part she was passed over, and Edward sympathized. He'd never been seen, not by anyone that mattered. His creator blessed him with everything he would need, leaving him no reason to seek him out—no reason to seek anyone out. Thousands more like him existed, roaming the earth in all its centuries, but they didn't run across one another. No man was an island, but Edward wasn't really a man.
To him, even as one of the key holders of the universe, the important ones were the humans: the ones living each day, the fingers of death tickling at their heels, their every moment on a timer leading up to the day when they no longer would be. They were the ones that kept the world rotating, despite what any other Sentinels thought.
Edward was intrigued by this young Isabella, but her discomfort was painful to watch, the way she didn't fit in her skin making his suit feel too tight, so he touched his wrist and went to a happier day, a day he wanted to see, yet it sent a pang of regret through him.
She was so beautiful in white, Edward thought. The color made her pale skin sparkle, her hair spun up in some formal design, the perfect curve of her neck resembling the bird which she was named for. The man across from her, while handsome in a classic Hollywood sort of way, still seemed woefully inadequate as a partner for Isabella, but Edward had no say in the matter.
He watched from the front row, a few seats down from where Charles would've sat, had he been alive. Edward smiled when Isabella said those two lovely words that tied her fate to this man's, the words that choked her up, that she had to whisper just to get out. The kiss was spectacular, fireworks evident to all who saw, and Isabella's smile was so glorious, Edward could barely look.
He walked with them to the reception, sat near to Isabella as she sipped at her champagne, swayed along to the music as she danced close to her new husband. The glee of the night was enough to enrapture even him, pulling him into some hypnotic trance where he wasn't just a machine covered in skin, but he was another one of them, reveling in the story of true love, wishing for his own soul mate to appear.
But just as quickly, the feeling dimmed, along with the stars in the sky, because Edward didn't have a soul.
In a blur, he flew forward, seeing everything he could as quickly as he could
Isabella's swollen stomach, a hand pressed lovingly against her skin. Lips smiling, pursing, kissing, a kick from inside, a delighted laugh, more hands touching a miracle. Pain shooting through her, a hospital bed, wires and monitors and needles and screams, first from Isabella, then from the tiny child she brought into the world, perfect and pink and grumpy.
Two more followed, one soon after, one years later, a surprise but pleasantly so. Wrinkles around the eyes, laugh lines around the mouth, skin stretched, muscles atrophied, grey hair appearing, more wrinkles and wrinkles and withering and disease.
A funeral. A husband laid to rest. A family crying. A wife, Isabella, being strong. Many more years spent vacationing and loving and living until she just couldn't anymore.
Her body was so frail now, so worn. Isabella was ready to go be with her husband.
Edward stood over her, examining her face to find any familiar features, any landmarks to prove that it was really her, and as her milky eyes flickered to the ceiling, he saw it, somewhere in there, the old fire she once stoked.
There were children and grandchildren visiting her, placing fresh flowers in her room, helping her sit up and drink water, urging her to eat chicken broth. The last hours of her life were filled with genuine faces, sincere and razor-sharp tears, and whispers of the day they'd all meet again.
The grandchildren especially were fascinated with heaven, with what their Gran would be doing up there, what she would be wearing, and if she'd need her wheelchair anymore. Isabella tried to raise a withered, gnarled hand to pat their cheeks, but the effort was too great.
Her breaths were labored, her eyes closed, her mind already gone, Edward knew, and he stepped close to her, ghosting his hand over hers, letting her know he was there. He vowed he would visit this day again, see her again, and make sure she knew, every time, that she was loved.
As Isabella passed, Edward knelt at the ear of the youngest child, telling the little girl of the heavens, the way the bursts of light were too great to see, how the oceans truly were endless, how clouds became stars and became dirt and became water. He told her of the lightness of the bodies, the realness of the hearts, the clarity of the minds. He told her Isabella was happy.
He touched his wrist at some point, numbers flashing over his irises, and he was back to that first moment that he saw her, when she came in to find her father. They'd spent a lifetime together already, and she had no idea.
Isabella was crying quietly but fervently, her hand holding a phone but not yet dialing the number, instead leaning over Charles, touching his chest that no longer moved with his breaths, letting the moment linger between them.
As Edward sat in front of her, looking down at Charles as well, he felt a glimmer, a spark, and when he raised his eyes, he swore she was looking right at him.
Time was suspended, all other realities and planes forgotten, the green numbers and screens giving him assignments trivial, as this creature in front of him saw him. For the first time in a million lifetimes, he felt his own existence. How could she see him? How could she look into the soul of a soulless half-man?
But she was looking at him, a tiny string tethering them together in that moment of greatest pain, but Edward felt his greatest pleasure—the feeling of living.
Then she blinked. The spell was broken. Her gaze was unfocused, leading Edward to instantly believe that she hadn't seen him at all. He was a phantom, a Sentinel, a checker. He was nothing.
As he shifted, ready to leave, her eyes moved with him, flickering over him, reviving his heart and his hopes once again. He froze and so did she.
"Is there nothing you can do?" she thought, loud enough for him to hear, alarming and thrilling him, somehow knowing and acknowledging, talking directly to him. He was caught in her web, but he shook his head, somehow knowing there was absolutely nothing he could do, save for following her all the days of her life.
She looked down at her father, pulling away from him, pulling away from everything at that moment, and she finally dialed 9-1-1 on her phone. Edward stood, giving her some space, giving her the privacy she and her father so rightly deserved.
If she sensed him leaving, she didn't show it. But he touched the crown of her head anyway, his promise lingering in the air.
"Until next time, Isabella."
Numbers and letters and symbols appeared, taking him to another day, another place, but he was forever changed.