The Devil

They say that when you die, your life flashes before your eyes. That might have been true for some people, but it didn't seem to apply to me. My memories were fading, becoming less clear, not more. Feeling that who I had been was being stripped away from me, I tried desperately to hold on to what little I could recall. The last thing I could be sure of was lying in the hospital, listening to Mom pray while she lay dying beside me. Dad was already dead. I thought I must have died, too, but if that were the case, wouldn't I be in heaven? What was I doing in hell?

More to the point, why was the Devil apologizing to me? I opened my mouth to ask him, but all that came out was another high pitched scream of pain.

sorry! "I'm sorry!" he repeated. "Ah, I hope that you will not hate me for this!" …oh, I'm sorry! …know if …was right… someone hears him! …much longer …this last?

The Devil's voice was so strange. His whispered words were musical and oddly beautiful. One moment I could hear him clearly, and he sounded like an angel. I supposed that made sense, considering he was a fallen angel, but the next moment it was like he was mumbling, or only saying partial sentences. Frankly, it was annoying.

"Shh, it will be alright, I promise! It will be over soon." …he even hear me? …lies we always tell our patients…

It was hard to believe, but the pain kept getting worse. I couldn't think of anything I could have done to deserve this! Grasping at fading images, I pushed past the hospital to the memories of my life. I was a patriotic American, ready and willing to serve God and country once I was old enough. If I could have lived, I'd have joined the army and done my part to protect my home and family. I'd tried to be a good son, done everything I could to make Mom's life easier, tried to please Dad – though I'd often failed to live up to his expectations. But those failures couldn't have been enough to land me in hell, could they?

The white hot fire had traveled through me from my neck and wrists. It felt like it was inside of me, though I didn't understand how that was possible. I guessed that, in hell, anything was possible. My fingertips were burning as well as the veins in my arms, my lungs felt like I was breathing fire, my mouth tasted like I had swallowed acid, and even my heart was on fire. Each and every beat pushed the flame farther into my body, searing my veins as it went.

If my heart was still beating, was I dead? If I wasn't, why wasn't the fire being put out?

"Put it out! Please! The fire!" I heard myself beg. "Make it stop!"

"It will stop. I promise," the Devil said. "I'm sorry; you're in pain, I know, but there is no fire. Your body is changing. That's what you're feeling."

"Lies!" I flailed my arm in the direction of his voice, and encountered a cold stone. The force I had put behind the blow shattered a bone in my hand, and I felt the fire rush into the break. I immediately regretted the action as the broken bone gave the spreading fire access to a new part of me. No longer contained in my veins, the white hot burning traveled into my bones and began to turn them into ashes inside of my skin.

The stone I had hit wrapped itself around me, seemed to be clasping my hand. Somehow, the cold only made the contrast of the fire under my skin seem worse. I tried to jerk my hand away, but the stone held me tight, and another stone was placed on my chest over my beating heart.

The Devil was speaking again, I was certain of it, but I couldn't hear him over the sound of my screams. I wasn't begging anymore, knowing it wouldn't do any good. They were just wordless cries of agony that brought no relief.

I wondered again, Why was I in hell? What had I done?

Straining harder to bring my life back into focus, and trying to distract myself from the pain, I concentrated on the patterns I could recall following. I'd gone to church with Mom every Sunday, had confessed my sins to Father Todd, and been absolved. A strain of melody flowed through my mind, and I seemed to see a pattern of white and black stripes. With a flash of insight, I remembered that when old Mrs. Foster had gotten arthritis in her fingers and been unable to play the church organ anymore, I had volunteered to take her place.

Mom had been so proud. My memories of her were becoming clearer as I concentrated on the image of her face. I could see her light green eyes shining at me from the pew while I played, and had felt a glow of pleasure from her approval. I knew pride was a sin, but Father Todd said there was no sin in taking pleasure from singing the Lord's praise, and the same held true for making music in His name. Could he have been wrong?

"I'm sorry," I sobbed. "Forgive me, please!" If the Devil was apologizing to me, maybe he wanted me to apologize to him. My heart was still beating; maybe it wasn't too late for my sins to be forgiven and then this torture would stop.

"You have done nothing wrong. There is nothing to forgive!"

"Then why am I in hell?!" I growled at him, flailing blindly with my unbroken hand to find something with which to fight him off. My hand encountered something that felt like wood – a chair leg, perhaps? – but I was too weak from my illness to lift it. The stone on my chest was holding me down, but I kicked out with my legs, still trying to find the Devil and fight him off.

"Edward," he moaned. "You're not in hell, I promise!"

"How do you know my name, then, if you aren't the Devil?" I said through gritted teeth.

"Your mother, she asked me to save you – "

My eyes flew open, looking around without seeing. "Mom?!" What was she doing in hell? She'd been good! "No! She's not here. No! You're lying!" I screamed at him.

He was speaking to me again, the annoying mumbling that would come and go, and seemed to make no sense.

There was a strange image in my mind of another man suffering as I was, but the perspective was all wrong. It was like I was seeing through the other man's eyes, but he was obviously not me. I didn't recognize his surroundings, and had the feeling that the man's pain had ended long ago. The man had been afraid, too, but not of any Devil. He'd been afraid of discovery, and had not screamed like I was doing again.

"Your mother is dead, Edward," he whispered.

"I know," I moaned. I remembered that.

"But you are not!" he insisted.

I shook my head, not believing the Devil's lies. I was dying. I could feel it! My heart was struggling, beating harder and faster, the fire making it hard for the muscle to do its job. My heart wasn't the only muscle on fire, either. Having turned my veins and bones into ash, I could feel my muscles burning, too. I curled into a ball, my stomach hurting like I was going to be sick. I wished I could vomit, to gain the relief that would come from expelling whatever it was that was burning within me.

How long was eternity? When there was no measure of time, did time even exist anymore? I had been burning for centuries already, surely. Still, the Devil refused to leave my side. Didn't he have other souls to torture? Or maybe… if I wasn't dead – as he insisted – then maybe what I was feeling was my soul being ripped from my body, bit by bit.

I moaned, hating that idea. If my body was still alive, and the Devil was stealing my soul, then this was just the beginning of eternity. Once he took my soul completely, he would have forever to torture me however he wished.

No. I couldn't abide that thought. My soul was mine! With renewed strength born of fear, I fought him, flailing my limbs once more in an effort to find the Devil and drive him away. I began to scream the prayers my mother had taught me, trying to drive him away with the Holy Words I knew as well as my own name. The stone that held my hand tightened and I recognized at last that the stone was him!

I curled around and began to beat at the stone, not caring that each blow I landed hurt me more than it seemed to hurt him. He was the Devil! I had to fight him, and that doing so hurt only seemed right. The path to heaven was one of work and sacrifice, a stair that one had to struggle to climb, where the path to hell was a slippery slope, and in order to find the way, all a person had to do was to sit idly by and wait.

Mom had told me, "Idle hands are the Devil's tools." And so she had set me to work - in the garden, growing food for our small family, in the house, helping her maintain the various mechanical servants, and at the piano, making music. I had always felt guilty when she had sat me at the piano, though, for it had felt far too much like fun to be considered work.

Well, I would not sit idly by while the Devil stole my soul from me! I kicked at him and hit him with my fist, brought my mouth to where our hands were clasped, and tried to bite him, though my teeth scraped across him like he was marble. My fist kept pounding at him wherever I could reach, until he grabbed my other hand in his stone grip. No longer held down by the stone on my chest, I heaved my legs around, using his own grip as leverage to kick him with both feet.

"Ow! Edward! Stop this! I'm trying to help you!"

"The hell you are!" I felt a thrill of victory. I'd made him say 'ow'! I redoubled my efforts until at last he let me go. The fire never stopped, but now I could get away from the Devil who was surely the source of my burning. Blindly, I squirmed and pushed, trying to make my uncooperative limbs work. Unable to stand, or even rise to my hands and knees, I clawed my way across the ground away from him. I encountered a wall of some sort and began to grope for an edge, but found myself in a corner.

"No," I moaned. He had me cornered. How could I get away? I lay there, trembling in pain and fear, waiting for him to come for me, but I only heard his compelling voice. My eyes flew open again when I recognized the words he was speaking.

"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me…"

He was praying. Would the Devil pray? Could he? He kept speaking, his voice low and compelling. I flipped over, my blurry eyes scanning the room, and I saw him at last. The Devil was kneeling in the center of the room, and hadn't moved from the place where I had lain. He was pale and golden, and though I couldn't really seem to focus on his features, I thought him the most beautiful creature I'd ever seen.

"…And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away…"

While he prayed, I felt the fire receding, slowly leaving my fingertips and toes. My heart was struggling and my brain was on fire, the burning seeming to focus on the inside of my head. It felt like my skull should explode from the heat of it. I lay on the floor, feeling my strength draining as the fires in the rest of me died.

As my hands and feet grew cold, a numbness overtook me, traveling up my legs and arms until the only things I could feel were my burning lungs as I gasped for breath, my brain, as the fire in my skull turned from white hot to a blinding purple inferno, and my heart. While the muscle stuttered and stumbled, the burning turned into a crushing heaviness, as though he had his fist clenched around it and was squeezing. My breath hitched and I began to sob, certain I was about to die, relieved that it was nearly over at last.

In my mind, my own body swam into view. I could see myself so clearly. I lay on the floor in a corner of a room, staring back into my own eyes. My skin was pale, no longer flushed with fever from my illness, nor cracked and blackened from the burning fire like I would have expected. My clothes were torn into shreds, and through the rips, I could see the same pale almost shimmery color all over me. My hair, which was wild and tangled - and long overdue for a trim - had gone from the dull red I expected to an almost metallic bronze. I saw myself blinking, but the eyes I was looking through never wavered.

A look of confusion crossed my face, and I wondered if my soul had finally left my body and I was watching myself die. How else could I explain that I could see me? I watched as I struggled for a final breath, and heard my heart as it raced. The fire left my lungs and brain and centered on my heart and eyes. I closed them, listening to the heavy, thick beating of my dying heart, until with a final throb, the muscle was still, and I was alive no longer.

Nor was I in any pain.

I didn't seem to be cold, either. The numbness was gone, and I felt an odd tingle, very much aware of my clothes, both where they touched my skin and where they didn't. I wasn't breathing, but I didn't seem to care. Of course not; why should I? I was dead.

Wasn't I?

Well, then, where was heaven? Of course, that was assuming that I had driven the Devil away. And if not, then where was hell? Where was I?

can't be dead… He's so still! Wake up. Come on, please, wake up. …can't have gone through all of that for nothing! Come on, Edward, wake up!

Wanting to groan, I realized the Devil was still there, but there was no air in my lungs with which to make a sound. I frowned, surprised that I could frown. But I was definitely frowning. I could feel it.

It worked! He moved!

"Edward?" His voice was amazing! I'd thought him musical before. Curious, I wondered what he looked like, and if my vision would be clear, or blurry still, the way it had been while I'd burned. Cautiously, I opened my eyes, and heard him gasp. I was staring up at a wooden ceiling, and I marveled at the intricacy of the wood grains. The swirls and whorls and lines were fascinating. Strangely, I could still see myself. I looked in the direction from which the image of me seemed to come and met his eyes for the first time.

I gasped, inhaling in surprise. His eyes were a gorgeous gold, just like the halo of hair that surrounded his head. He radiated goodness, and I felt my lips curving into a smile. How had I ever thought him a Devil? Then I realized that my eyes, which I could somehow see as though I were looking into a mirror, were a bright, vivid red. They had been a soft green, like Mom's. Shocked, I intended to stand, feeling far too vulnerable laying on my back in the corner on the floor. I could tell he wouldn't hurt me, but I still didn't like it. As soon as the thought crossed my mind, I was on my feet, with my back against the wall as I stared at him and he at me.

"Don't be afraid," he said, softly, standing at the same time that I did. His voice was barely a whisper, but I could still hear him so clearly! And I could hear an odd rustling, as of a million voices whispering without words. And a faint clicking. I looked in the direction of the clicking, confused, and saw an ant crawling along the ground outside of a wide window. The whispering continued, and I identified it as the leaves brushing against each other in the wind.

"Do you remember what I told you?"

My eyes found his again, and I saw that he was watching me curiously. I tried to remember, but all I could recall was being trapped inside of a fire. No, wait, I remembered my eyes, and my mother's eyes. Mom. I pressed my lips together, remembering that she was dead, too.

"My name is Carlisle," he said, slowly holding a hand out, not as if to shake mine, but as a gesture of invitation for me to speak.

I swallowed, and was aware as I did so that the fire within me seemed to have left its mark upon my throat. I swallowed again, feeling the dry ache, like I was still sick from the disease that had killed my mother.

"I won't hurt you," he said in that same soft voice.

"I know," I whispered back to him.

Author's note

Please read before continuing!

I need to warn you: Edward's history isn't pretty. This story revolves around him, Carlisle, and Esme. Esme's human past included some pretty terrible things, and I have done my best to write about them with all the gravity which they deserve. While not graphic, or described in detail, there will be domestic violence, spousal and child abuse discussed throughout the story.

This was originally supposed to be the beginning of Breaking Dawn. Don't worry, I'm still writing that book, too! But I was stuck, trying to figure out how to begin, what scene to use, where to start. I was hit with inspiration in the form of Isle Esme. Specifically, why would the Cullens buy an island?! So I wrote that chapter. I didn't think it made a strong enough beginning on its own, though, so I decided, since I was looking for a beginning, why not go back to the beginning!? So I did.

But, of course, Edward had to have his say, and the story grew out of hand. It was just supposed to be a lead in! A chapter or two, three at most! A kind of prologue for the main story, not one on its own. I had no intentions of writing his history, but when the muse speaks, I have to listen. By the time it was done, and I was ready to move on to Bella, I realized that I needed to make this story stand on its own.

So here you have it: my interpretation of Edward's early years. 1918, 21, 27, and 31. The Island, the Rebellion, and the Monster. If you haven't yet, please check out my other stories. I have written New Moon and Eclipse from Edward's pov, and am in the process of writing and posting Dawn.

Like all writers, I love feedback. Please take a moment to let me know what you think. Criticism is welcome. Unlike Edward, I won't bite! ;)

The standard disclaimer. Alas, I am not Stephenie Meyer, but I am grateful to be allowed to play in the world which she has created.

I hope you enjoy!