The Twilight Saga

Altered REALITY

 

 

Prologue 

Bella turned restlessly in her sleep. The murmured words that escaped her lips were indistinct but I could tell that she was dreaming that I had left again. She groped across her pillow, searching for some reassurance, some anchor to provide security. Gently, I lifted her hand and caressed her palm with my lips. She shivered at my touch but then the tension in her body relaxed as she nestled closer to me.

 

Absentmindedly, I traced the design Great-Grandma Swan had lovingly stitched into the quilt that now protected Bella from my cold body. The familiar wedding-band pattern seemed fitting. The wedding, our wedding was only a few weeks away. My still heart was filled with anticipation. I wished that Bella could see that by marrying me while she was still human, she was giving herself to me in a way that my biting her would never provide. After I bit her, she would become bonded to me-as I was already irrevocably bonded to her. Over. Done deal. There would be no more choices to be made. At least for now, she was still choosing me of her own free will. I wished she could see there is worth and life in a relationship that you have to work together to keep alive and vibrant. I would be happy spending the span of Bella’s life to keep her love for me alive. The possibility that she could choose to leave made her staying with me so much sweeter.

 

But no, she wanted to be changed into the kind of being I am. She desired the absolute finality of that. She wanted eternity, and not just a lifetime.

 

I wondered if she really understood what going through the change would be like. Maybe I had not told her enough about what it had been like for me to struggle-not only through the change itself, but also adjusting to and continuing to live a life of secrecy, to live life in an altered reality.

 

The small, soft leather volume resting on my lap held whispers about what my life had been like during the months before I had met Carlisle. I did not need to read it to know what the pages held. The graceful writing within was my own-although I did not remember writing it. Still, it was my story and even though every word was memorized, holding the book and reading the words anchored me to the life I had lost and the future that might have been.

 

It was not that I had kept the journal a secret from Bella, well, maybe I had, but my existence for the last century had demanded secrecy. Perhaps it was time to share more of myself with her. As difficult as it was to talk about what I had endured in my early days as a vampire the time seemed to have come for me to tell her more. Not just the spotty titbits I had been sharing or that Carlisle had related to her but the realities of our world. I needed to reveal my deepest struggles and longings. A wife should know these things about her husband.

 

While Bella slept, I pondered how to tell her the story of my own change.

 

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Chapter one - Influenza:  

I could feel the warmth of the dawning sun caressing my cheek as I lay in the bed. I kept my eyes closed as I absorbed its gentle, soothing touch. It was a welcomed change from the searing conflagration that had finally finished burning through every cell of my body. Only my throat remained tender. I hoped that I could find something that would ease the burn soon.

I had a notion that I was at the home of Dr. Carlisle Cullen, the physician who had attended my father when he had been stricken with the Spanish Influenza, but that made no sense. I was reasonably sure I had gone to the hospital. Doctors did not take patients into their homes, did they? No, they did not, not with something as contagious as the influenza.

My now-fading memory told me that a few days before, I had returned to bed in the late morning with a sore throat and a general run-down feeling. By three o’clock that afternoon, I could barely breathe. I knew I had the same influenza that had robbed us of my father. Mama was frantic. She was sure that I would die, just as my father had. Desperate, she had called Mr. Rutherford, my father’s partner at the law firm, to drive us to the hospital. What I did not know at the time was that my mother was ill as well. She did not want me to worry about her. I learned later we were both admitted upon arrival.

The subsequent hours were filled with images of my mother’s face hovering over me, a damp cloth tenderly applied to my forehead or stroked over my face in an effort to cool the fever. I was so hot and everything ached. My throat was so constricted that I choked on the sips of water that Mama attempted to persuade me to swallow. 

Part of me wanted to give up just so the agony would be over but I had to hold on for Mama. There were people who had recovered. I was young, healthy and strong. There was no reason that I should succumb to this monster.

Nurses flitted by on their rounds, their weary faces hidden behind masks to shield them from the beast. Occasionally one would stop and make a brief assessment of me but nothing more was ever done. I could not understand why they were encouraging Mama to lie down. She was doing what she could to care for me. She was certainly doing more than they were.

Sometime later Dr. Cullen came in. Mama seemed to relax a little when he spoke to her. I knew she thought highly of him. She had seen him often when she volunteered at the hospital in the weeks following my father’s passing. I too had seen him; on the occasions I had accompanied my mother. He seemed decent enough.

Dr. Cullen’s hand on my forehead was the first truly cool thing I had felt since I had arrived at the hospital. It was such a soothing relief that I did not even consider how peculiar it was that his touch was so cold. All I cared about was that it felt good. I did not want him to leave. He had provided the only real bit of comfort I had felt since I arrived.

Dr. Cullen leaned over me and looked into my eyes before continuing his rounds. For some reason, I noted that his eyes were an unsettling amber color. How very strange. Maybe it was just the fever playing tricks with my vision. I only vaguely heard him speaking to me; I was so entranced by his eyes. He was saying something about sleeping. After that, there was nothing more for me to do but do as he said. Nurses had been telling me to do just that throughout the day, but no one had been able to compel me the way Dr. Cullen had.

The following day was a blur. Time did not matter. I only knew I was in aching pain. My throat burned. Nothing relieved the scorching fever and there was the sensation that a giant must have been sitting on my chest, because I could not breathe. I resigned myself to the fact that I was dying.

Mama’s face continued to hover in and out of focus over me. Why was her face so flushed? Shouldn’t she be wearing a mask like the other hospital workers? Why did the nurses and doctors keep telling her to lie down? Nothing made sense but I was too sick to try and understand.

The voices at the bed next to mine drew my attention. I could not open my eyes but I listened as best I could.

It was Mama’s voice. Throughout the day it had become increasingly raspy, as if someone had taken sandpaper to her throat. I thought it must have been from talking to me so much.

“Save him. You must do everything in your power. What others cannot do, that is what you must do for my Edward.” Her voice was weak, but there was an authority behind her words that could not be denied. I recognized it as the same authority she had used with me throughout my childhood. Mama could compel an alligator to obey if she had a mind to.

“Oh Mama, I am so sorry. You are asking the impossible. I know I am not long for this world. A few hours at best. I’ve tried to fight but the monster is too strong. Each breath is a battle I cannot win.” I thought the words silently; I no longer had the strength to do more.

Dr. Cullen’s words were intended to reassure Mama. “I’ll do everything in my power.”

How could Dr. Cullen be so cruel?! There was no more hope for me! How dare he give my mother false assurance for my recovery?! Even I didn’t need the doctor to tell me that the end would soon be here.

There was nothing more to hear after that. Dr. Cullen turned from Mama and laid his cool hand on my forehead again. I wanted to turn away from him; I was so angry-but my strength failed me. All I could do was lie there and accept what relief his cool touch had to offer. He quietly commanded me to sleep once more and I obeyed. There was no more fight left in me.



I became dimly aware that strong arms were carrying me through inky dark alleys and over moon-bathed roofs. How could this possibly be real? The rocking motion was gentle, as if I were a small child in the arms of a parent. There seemed to be a coolness to the night air as well that I had not felt since I had been admitted to the hospital. I hadn’t expected dying to be like this. Nevertheless, death had not taken me yet; my heart still beat and, though very shallow, I still breathed. The pain was still present. When would the pain end? When would I be able to rest in death’s arms? Perhaps I was in deaths arms now. No, the fever had to be playing tricks with my mind.

When the motion stopped, I could not say. The bed I was on now seemed different. The hospital had been so crowded with the infirmed that I had not been on a bed but a cot, I now realized. Now I was on a real bed. It was quiet, too. The hospital had been filled with the sounds of people coughing, moaning and crying along with the prayers of those who still had hope. This room was silent except for the sound of my own labored breathing and Dr. Cullen’s voice.

“Keep fighting, Edward. I’ll be back in a few minutes. You will have a new life,” Dr. Cullen promised.
Chapter Two: Consumed

The minutes drifted by. How many or how few were irrelevant. I was alone. Where was Mama? I knew that as much as she did not want me to die, she would not let me die alone. Please, just let me stop breathing. Let my heart stop beating. It hurts too much to hold onto this life.

Cool hands were touching me again. I felt the gown I was wearing being gently pulled from my shoulders. The cool air kissed my feverish body. If Dr. Cullen’s cold touch was the last thing I ever felt, if his soothing voice was the last one I heard, I would be grateful. It was time for the battle to be over.

PAIN! Searing pain sliced deep through my shoulder. I could feel the scream rip through my ravaged throat. More pain cut across my arm. What new brand of torture was this? I thought that I had known pain for the last two days, but that was nothing compared to this. This . . . this was pain in the purest sense of the word. Whole. Complete. Absolute.

The searing pain brought me back from the sweet oblivion of death to acute awareness of the moment. Dr. Cullen had been leaning over me. As he sat back I could see blood staining his lips. My blood!

Terror flashed across Dr. Cullen’s face. He ran from my side into the next room. I could hear water running then the sounds of gulping, gagging and spitting.

No, none of this could be right. It had to be more twisted hallucinations brought on by the fever. I should not even be conscious. This could not be real.

An eternity passed before Dr. Cullen came back into the room. By now the burn - because it was so much more than pain - was traveling from my arm and radiated into my chest. It seemed to be moving into my lungs first, the most compromised part of my body from the influenza. If I thought I had known agony before, it was nothing compared to this. Each breath blazed, but I found I could breathe where I had not been able to before.

Gradually, I became aware that Dr. Cullen was sitting on a chair next to me. He was saying something. The expression on his face was compassionate as his lips formed familiar shapes but I could not hear him. The pain demanded my full attention. Nothing could cut through it. I cried out in anguish.

The agony was so intense I was sure I should have lost consciousness. It was unfair that I should endure the full impact of this torture, that I should be cognizant of each part of my body as the blazing fire within consumed it. My mind was alert and failed to protect me from the torture. If my mind was able to protect me and give me rest at any time, I could not tell.

At times, Dr. Cullen would reach out and touch my arm or forehead. Although his touch was meant to be gentle, wherever he touched, the burning intensified - if that was even possible. My whole body was consumed with it. In the midst of this there were times isolated limbs or organs burned even hotter, as if they were being incinerated. I’d thought that I had known pain; I had not until now. Please, please, just let me die. Let me turn to ash and blow away with the wind.

I must have spoken that last thought. Dr. Cullen’s voice cut through some of the agony. “You’re not going to die Edward. You are being changed. Would that I could ease the pain . . . but it will end.”

Change? How? Why?

He continued to reassure me, but accompanying his words were strange images that were disturbing at best. Images dominated by vampires. A vision of Dr. Cullen in a cellar huddled in a heap of rotting potatoes and in the same kind of pain I was in now. It had to be a mad nightmare brought on by my fever, because when his pain stopped he had become a vampire; god-like in appearance with eyes that glowed a luminescent red.

I felt his desire for human blood as he tried to stave it off. I saw every attempt he made to destroy himself, rather than give in to the natural desires of a vampire. I felt his relief after feeding from a herd of deer. Feeding? What a strange word to use for eating. No, this was not real.

My very bones were consumed by the blaze that coursed through my body. Instinct told me to run from the fire - but where do you run to when the fire burns within you?

Other images came into my mind. These were not so strange as those that revolved around Dr. Cullen. There was the ordinary likeness of a mother fixing a meal, children playing, fathers returning home from work - and many, many more. These apparitions did not carry the despair of those that included the vampires - perhaps because they were so common. I could understand these images; I could understand the thoughts of the people in these visions.

Dr. Cullen’s quiet words were ever-present. They offered reassurance. He spoke of change, and that he would be present to help me - but I also heard uncertainty in his words. He wondered if we would be friends, or more like brothers. He was concerned that I would not want anything to do with him when I learned that he had made me into . . . a vampire.

I understood none of it. Dr. Cullen was my physician. There was no reason for me to be a friend or a brother. Amidst the burning physical pain was the pain of knowing I was not only losing my battle for life in the most painful way imaginable, but that my mind was lost as well. Vampires were not real but mythical. Dr. Cullen was not a vampire and I was not becoming one - but the dreams were as consuming as the fire that raged through me. The thought of blood, human blood, became all-absorbing.

More images of Dr. Cullen accompanied my suffering. He was with other vampires who appeared to be of some renown. These vampires, Aro, Marcus and Caius, enjoyed a sophisticated lifestyle. The only burden to him was that they believed his chosen diet to be peculiar. They wanted him to feed from humans instead of the wild game he preferred. They offered him what they considered to be the most succulent mortals as temptation. I felt his natural craving ignite and battled with-in him as he resisted after the vein of a terrified victim had been opened and her blood spilled in an effort to seduce him.

The nightmares were as heavy a burden as the physical pain. I was sure now that the pain and the dreams would never end. Salvation was not to be mine but rather, hell.

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