Prologue

.*.*.*.

From a distance, Mike Newton would have thought that the dead body was actually a log or a tree branch.

In the fading grey of Forks' sky, the dull glow wrapped around her body like a silk veil. Through his many years of cross country biking, Mike had came across many strange forest figures and even stranger circumstances. Even though he was only eighteen, Mike had found a chest full of discarded scarfs, second-hand watches, old tires, and once he had even found an abandoned pistol. It was lodged between two low branches with its muzzle swaying gently in the wind. Mike loved the surprises of the forest, so he was a frequent visitor among the trees with his battered bike.

Today was especially cold. Even though it was mid June, Forks still held on stubbornly to its winter weather but at least it was not raining.

Mike was glad that high school was finally over. He hoped that the end of school would signify the end of his relationship with Jessica Stanley, but above all else, he hoped that it would give him the opportunity to at last get out of this town.

Mike had been in the forest for over half an hour and from all sides, all he could see were twisting paths of green. Ahead of him, there was the distant sound of flowing water. He biked towards it. Rounding a tree, the paleness of a small creek came into his view. Distracted by the elegance of nature around him, Mike didn't notice the pool of red and the dark clump of log or whatever it was until it was too late.

Caught by complete surprise, Mike clamped his fingers around the brake and inertia threw him right off of the bike and head first into the muddied forest ground. He landed painfully, several meters away from his toppled bike. Swearing loudly, Mike clumsily propped himself up on the wet mud, massaging the soreness in his arm. Turning to kick the stupid obstacle that had tripped him, he suddenly realized that it was a body of a woman. She was clad loosely in a dark hoodie and was laying facedown on the forest floor, her body arranged in an awkward position. Mike instantly took note of her long legs and imagined how wonderful they would look hooked around his waist.

He stopped short once he realized where his mind was going. Mentally slapping himself for fantasizing about someone who he had just rudely pushed over, he instantly stood up, ignoring the burning throb of his knees, and softly shook the woman's shoulder.

"Miss, are you alright? I'm so sorry, I didn't see you."

There was no reply. Mike thought that she must have had an accident while hiking in the woods. Maybe an adventurous tourist who had strayed off the hiking trail. Mike imagined himself rescuing her and making her fall in love with him for his bravery and strength. Pumped by the thought, he returned to reality with vigour. It was then that he realized his hand, the one that was supporting him against the forest floor, was bathed in a pool of dark liquid.

The last of pale daylight illuminated the trees, and in the silver glow, Mike saw the situation clearly. And what he saw, he didn't like.

Mike scrambled away from the body, which was lifeless and limp and partially dyed crimson by a stream of blood, flowing from a bad head wound. All around her, Mike discovered little splatters of blood; they were on the surrounding trees, in splashes against creepers and all over the carpet of dead leaves on the forest floor. Mike let out a strangled scream. It was like one of those horror movies, where you wanted to look away but you couldn't. Mike saw the picture with clear details, in bright colours. The more his eyes adjusted, the more details Mike noticed. He saw that the woman's arms were pulled above her head, tied to a thick tree trunk by a rough and braided rope of abnormal size and strength. It looked as if it was digging painfully into her wrists.

Mike tasted bile in his mouth and bent over to throw up. When he was done, an awful thought seized him. For a horrible moment, the dead woman resembled horribly like a classmate of his.

Bella Swan. She moved to Forks a little less than one year ago. She had rejected him with unbelievable nonchalance, but she was so agonizingly pretty and mysterious that it only prompted his pursuit. It's impossible, Mike comforted himself. He just saw her in the supermarket yesterday, stubbornly trying to hold on to a bag of grocery that Cullen was trying to carry for her. They were laughing and teasing each other with such palpable display of adoration that Mike felt a pang of loneliness in his chest. Bella's engagement ring gleamed brightly in Mike's memory. When they had announced their engagement, practically the whole town believed that Cullen had knocked up Bella, but looking at them then, it was easy for Mike to believe that they simply did it out of love.

No, the dead body couldn't be Bella. Mike didn't want to believe it. Her death would wreck havoc on the town, and more than that, it would kill Cullen. Not that Mike cared for the guy, he just didn't want to share his grief for Bella. He didn't want to look at Cullen's pretty face all screwed up in pain; it felt unnatural to imagine that expression on Mr. I'm Always Perfect, almost uncomfortable.

Yet the dead body in front of him looked so much like Bella. The same hair, same pale skin and even the same black jeans that she often wore.

Mike probably should have ran away then. Decades later, he would still look back on that day and wish that he didn't let his curiosity win over. He wished that he had never flipped over the body.

NonononotBellaforgoodness'sake. Her face was so disfigured that he almost didn't recognize it. Her temple was blue and purple with bruises and her skin was ghastly white, which contrasted gruesomely against her blood. She had been shot in the face. It wasn't hard to see that the bullet had entered from her jaw and had existed from her left ear. The uneven mud around her made it clear that she had struggled hard against whatever was been done to her.

Bile rose up in Mike's throat for a second time and he vomited until there was nothing left in him.

Pulling out his phone and holding it in a death grip, Mike dialled 911. In gasps, he explained the situation in small, fractured sentences and gave no more descriptions of the situation other than their location and the basics.

"I think she's dead. No. Wait。 I know she's dead."

"Don't panic. Stay where you are until we get there."

When the line went dead and the forest turned absolutely silent, Mike looked at Bella again. A glint caught his eyes. In the remaining twilight, Bella's engagement ring caught the last light of the day, it gleamed, throwing off a haunting radiance.


It was the most exciting thing that the citizens of Forks have witnessed since World War 2.

The ambulance was too big to manoeuvre through the forest so Bella Swan's body was carried away on a stretcher.

The hospital was white and sorrowful and filled with the scorching odour of bleach. Mike had been forced to sit outside of the room that the nurses and doctors had rolled Bella into. Though he would have very much liked to go home and forget about everything, Mike was the first witness to the crime scene and the police had a lot of questions for him. So there he sat in the hall way, staring at the grey linoleum which was streaked by the dirty slush that people had tracked in.

He had no idea why they wouldn't take Bella straight to the morgue. She was dead. Yet seconds after he had sat down, Dr. Cullen, Dr. Snow and a whole team of nurses rushed around the corner, wheeling a disfigured Bella into the emergency room. He happened to notice the heartbreak in Dr. Cullen's eyes, and Mike wondered whether he was sad for the girl, or was just upset that his son had lost a girlfriend.

Moments after the doctors had gone, the door to Mike's right slammed open and Edward Cullen charged into the room only to be tackled by his brothers who were right on his heels.

The exchange scared Mike quite a bit, though he tried to hide it. Cullen looked absolutely feral and crazy, wrestling his brothers on the ground, trying to get to the room where Bella had gone into. The Cullen women rushed in a little later. They also went straight to Edward, trying to calm him down, but the small pixie, Alice, just stared at the room from across the hallway with a far away look in her eyes.

Mike shrank into his seat, wanting to disappear from the scene. The Cullens were a freak show and he definitely did not want to get involved with them.

The wait wasn't long. Only minutes after Bella had gone in, Dr. Cullen came out with the most ancient look in his eyes. Edward, who had been pinned to the ground, took one look into his adoptive father's eyes and quieted. He dropped onto the linoleum, looking more dead and broken than Bella had been on the forest floor.

Mike looked away. The moment seemed far too private for him to stand by and watch. Maybe it was good that it was him who had found Bella. Mike doesn't even want to imagine what Edward would have been like if he were the one to see Bella torn up like that in the forest. An image of that blood bath ran across his mind and he shuddered in disgust. It was gruesome. Edward suddenly looked up at him, with eyes like black disks, empty and hollow. He let out a strangled cry, before weakly wobbling to his feet and moved towards Bella's room. This time, no one stopped him.


Hours later, Mike was sitting at the police station with the entire Cullen family and Bella's father (God he looked awful). It could have taken less time for them to get to this point, if it weren't so difficult to pry Edward off of Bella's lifeless body. Mike felt a sudden onslaught of pity as he chanced a glance in Edward's way. He looked away quickly. He didn't want to see Mr. Perfect's face screwed up with grief like that.

"Can you describe what had happened there in the forest, Mr. Newton?" A police man with hard eyes said in a solemn and serious tone.

Mike swallowed. The last thing he wanted to do was to recall the image of Bella's body. He was afraid that he would throw up again, if that was even possible. Mike clamped his eyes shut and tried to force his voice. Nonononono. He was scared out of his wits.

"It's okay son, you're safe. Just tell me what happened."

Mike flinched and shrank back into the chair. He wanted to get out of there. "I fou-ound her there. I didn't see anything else." He stuttered.

"Describe her state." The officer scribbled furiously onto his note pad.

Mike squeezed his eyes shut. "There was a lot of blood. Um, she was tied to a tree with thick ropes, and she was shot in the face." Edward let out a pained moan and threw his arms around his torso, as if he was trying to hold himself together. Mike swallowed again, "Umm, she was wearing jeans, a dark hoodie, and her engagement ring." Edward jerked in his seat, his body was trembling like an earthquake. Mike edged away from him. Cullen was really freaking him out.

More scribbles.

The whole thing felt surreal to Mike. The room was too small for the sorrow. The sound of pens on paper and the furious whirling of the ventilation was driving him crazy. But nothing bothered him more than the shallow, frantic rasps of Edward's breathing. The man had his head in his hands and was trying to pull his hair out by their roots; he looked like he was crying but there was no tears running down his face. Nothing like the cocky bastard Mike had come to know. This man was at the end of his wits.

It was too surreal. It must be a dream.