EBS's 2nd Anniversary Challenge

Entry type: Twilight

Name of entry: Endure

Primary prompt: Second time around

Secondary prompt: Explore the senses: base your writing around touch and/or smell

Categories: Fantasy, Angst

Number of Words: 986


It is day. Despite the darkness cloying around him like a tangible wet blanket, he knows it is day. How does he know it? How? He presses angry white knuckles into his eyes, their coldness lost in the all-pervading pain. He twitches; his hand performs a quick, sharp flip and sends one of the crates next to him crashing down.

The noise is deafening, it is as though the sound has pierced through his ears and into his head like a well-honed sword. He swallows painfully at the urge to moan again; he can hear footsteps.

He scrambles to his feet, forcing every twitching, spasming muscle into uniform stiffness. He takes two excruciating steps to his left and lets himself collapse behind some barrels, the splash of the tepid water on the floor masked by the sound of a key turning in a lock.

His teeth crush into the barrier holding his jaws apart, fighting to swallow the growing scream within his chest. Too loud. A few drops of now-familiar juice trickle down his burning throat. He would give anything at this moment to rid the earth of every last blasted potato there is. The raw, metallic taste of unripe tubers makes him heave, but he curls himself into a tight ball, willing himself to stillness.

The door swings open with a grinding moan that nearly sends him spitting the vegetables out and screaming all hell down upon that cellar. But he desists, unfelt tears streaming down his cheeks, his eyes screwed shut. He can hear the small flame of a tallow candle crackling, and he knows not to open his eyes for the insides of his eyelids are lit, meaning that even the tiny flame is apparently enough to blind him.

"Who's there?" –the man's gruff echoing voice grates upon his ears. No. Keep silent. Keep still.

"Ye be hearing noises again, eh, Basset?" –the second voice, with its higher whine, is even more painful to his hearing.

"Ye better hold thine wretched tongue, Winslow. I know what I heard. Hark! There it sounds again!"

He stops breathing instantly, fearful. What was it the man Basset had heard? Was it his constrained, shallow breathing, or was it the patter of an inquisitive rat in the far corner?

"'Tis naught but a rat," sneers whiny Winslow. "Methinks y've had more gin than you can contain."

"Off with ye, or it's more coal-work for you, upon my name!" Stop yelling. The man is right next to you!

"Alright! You'd do yourself well if you joined me."

Join him. Join him! He bites hard into the potatoes to stop himself from shrieking once more.

He hears the man Winslow slouch back up the stairs, but Basset stays behind. A violent tremble courses through him. He cannot take it much longer. He must move. His aching, burning muscles are commanding him, almost at the point of overruling his mind's firm control.

He hears Basset shift his weight from one leg to another. A veritable flood of tears are pouring down his face now –pain, agony, anger, despair all coalescing into a giant ball of searing torture within his chest.

In the name of all that is good and holy upon this earth, LEAVE!

His teeth are crushing the tubers in his mouth so hard that a large chunk breaks off and rolls onto the grimy floor next him. No. Without the tubers there would be nothing to prevent his jaws from clacking together in loud distress or his tongue from letting loose every bit of his agony in sound.

But, lo! –as if he has heard the silent screams of his mind, Basset withdraws as well, closing the cellar door behind him as he does so.

He waits until he can hear Basset's footsteps meet wooden floor above him, before he springs up, and, faster than he could imagine, dives headfirst into the open sack of potatoes he had raided the previous night. He spits out the remaining masticated tubers from his mouth. Relief lasts for less than a moment; almost immediately his lips quiver and his tongue flexes, preparing for a scream he has every wish to prevent.

Like a crazed animal, he grabs several vegetables together and begins to stuff them down his mouth. His hands are shaking so hard that numerous potatoes slip from his grasp and roll away. Nevertheless he manages to successfully stuff four large tubers, the innermost of which is touching the back of his throat, perpetually making him gag. He does not care. His teeth will tear through the potatoes soon enough.

Whimpering and gagging all at once, he crawls back to his refuge behind the barrels, wishing the coolness of the smooth stones beneath him bated the fire raging through his body at least a little. He lifts his palms and feels momentary shock before that feeling too is engulfed by the fire.

He can see his hands. It is dark –the tallow candle left with Basset –and yet he can see his palms with a level of clarity that he has never thought his eyes capable of achieving.

What is happening to me? He is changing. He can feel more, smell more, hear more, taste more. He can move faster, his arms and jaws are stronger, his teeth sharper. Is he? –can he be… No. He cannot be turning into one of those vile creatures. He cannot. He must hope that he is not.

But he knows not to hope overmuch. For more than a day he has been suffering through the fires of hell, and he knows now, with some innate understanding, that he shall never be given respite, that he shall never know what it is to live. All he must do now, is to simply survive, to endure.

If there is one thing that Carlisle Cullen always did best, it is to endure. And endure he shall.


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