March 17, 2009
Highway 101 / 20 Junction, Discovery Bay, Washington State
An expensive charcoal-gray sports coupe careened around the bend at ninety miles per hour, veering no more than a hair's width from the centerline. Windows down, despite the winter chill, the driver's bronze hair whipped wildly in the wind as he deftly maneuvered the vehicle through the turns. To any observer along the route, the speeding car would be nothing more than a reckless, streaking blur.
The driver wore a broad grin as he rapidly accelerated through a particularly tight curve, singing along to the melody of the loud, wailing blues guitar projecting from the high-end stereo. The driver lived for these moments, for the feel of the icy wind against his face, for unadulterated speed. As far as the driver was concerned, there were few experiences that could equal this.
Never bothering with mirrors, the driver weaved through the other slower vehicles on the road with small flicks of his wrist, earning more than a few honks and extended hand signals. He laughed at the notion that he was out of control, or dangerous to the other vehicles sharing the road. No one could match his prowess behind the wheel, no one possessed his heightened senses or awareness, and with his unusual ability to pick out the thoughts from the minds of those around him, no one could surprise him.
A subtle vibration in his pocket seized his attention. Reluctantly lowering the volume of the driving guitar riffs, he pulled the phone to his ear. Without formal greeting, he asked in an irritated tone, "Yes?"
"Really, Edward, how can you listen to that?" a sprightly soprano queried.
Rolling his golden eyes in annoyance, he demanded, "Alice. What is it that you need? Surely, you didn't call me just to insult my taste in music." Phone in one hand, the driver nimbly changed gears through yet another sharp bend with the other, leaving the wheel unattended but for a fraction of a second. With his inhuman quickness and the superior engineering of the automobile, the wheels never moved from their path.
"When will you be home?" the soprano asked.
"Why do you even bother asking people these questions? I told you this morning when I would be home. What do you really want?" he pressed. Clearly, she did not call for small talk.
"Ok, fine, Edward. Be rude. We're planning a hunting trip up into British Columbia, near Tweedsmuir. Carlisle hears that they are having bear problems."
"And this discussion couldn't wait until I returned?" the driver inquired. His earlier frustration, however, had dissipated at the mention of bears. The family had not hunted larger game in several weeks; the driver was bored with the taste of the gentler mammals near their home. While bears were no contest, and certainly no danger, the blood of the large carnivore was a vast improvement over their typical diet of local deer. Additionally, he was often amused by the games his brothers played with their food. It would be pleasant to get away from civilization for a few days.
"Fine, Edward. I'm bored. Rose is in one of her moods. Emmett and Jasper are out somewhere, probably making mischief. And, of course, Carlisle is still at the hospital; he is pulling a double shift so that Dr. Gerandy could take the day off."
The driver shook his head warily, and sighed, "Alice, you are such a child. Can you not entertain yourself for more than a few hours? I'll be home in no more than an hour and a half. But then, you knew that already. I'll talk to you when I get there." As he hung up the phone, the driver cranked the stereo volume up well past a comfortable level for human ears, and returned to his speed-induced reverie.
March 18, 2009
Just outside of Tweedsmuir Provincial Park, British Columbia
The family had left their all-terrain vehicles, large SUVs with oversized, knobby tires and specialized suspension packages, thirty miles to the south. The area in the park where they intended to hunt was far too rugged, and had no inroads, rendering the vehicles useless. It was a safe place for them to lose themselves, to give themselves over to the hunt; there would be no humans there to tempt them as they fed.
They left their expensive camping and hiking gear behind with the vehicles. It was just as well since they were nothing more than props in the case that the family was questioned crossing the border. As one of few families such as theirs, they commonly maintained semi-permanent residences, and props were often necessary in order to maintain their charade. Much in the way of Esme's biweekly excursions to the markets for human food, their camping gear had become a family joke. Their purchases alone generated a month's worth of business for the local sporting goods shop. It was a shame and a waste that the equipment they acquired was never used. The food, at least, was donated to a homeless shelter in a neighboring county.
They ran through the thick, coniferous forest, allowing their primal needs to take over completely. Within moments, the largest brother, Emmett, caught the semi-sweet scent of a large grizzly, just waking from hibernation. With animalistic rage, he growled ferociously, and then threw himself at the hulking beast. The animal was more than three times his mass, and stood nearly eight feet in height.
Edward paused, watched, and was vaguely entertained by the delight his brother experienced when the animal roared and swatted its angry paw at him. He had never understood his brothers' enjoyment in taunting their food, and he thought to himself, Why bother? Just let the animal die in peace. But, he had to admit that watching his brothers snarl and pounce, and then come away from the skirmish covered in blood and leaves, was certainly a humorous distraction.
This hunt was unnecessary; the family had hunted in the woods near their home only last weekend, and each member's eyes remained honeyed amber. By satiating their thirst now, however, they could avoid settling for lesser food in the following weeks. For Edward, the trip had an added benefit. While his unique gift of hearing minds was infinitely valuable, it often tormented him. In crowded spaces, the cacophony of voices could be overwhelming. In the wilderness, his mind was silent, with the exceptions of his own family members. It was refreshing and relaxing to hear so little for albeit a temporary span. Edward suspected that this, coupled with his ever-brooding moods, had something to do with the family's decision to make this trip.
Are you not thirsty, Edward? Carlisle, his creator and his fatherly figure, called silently.
"No, not really. I'm just thinking," he returned.
Carlisle's brows raised in question, Anything to be concerned over?
Despite their years of living together harmoniously as a family, none ever forgot the few periods where Edward had vanished without explanation. The last time had been almost twenty years ago, but the family still often struggled with the memories of Edward's physical and mental condition when he had returned to them several weeks after he had departed.
Edward chuckled mirthlessly, "No, nothing at all." He'd heard where Carlisle's questions were headed, and smiled at his creator's kindness and concern. No man could best Carlisle in his compassion, he thought. Never had Carlisle pried; instead, he'd only concentrated on helping Edward heal.
"Shall we?" Carlisle asked, motioning towards the southern line of the forest.
In response, Edward settled into a low hunting crouch, and pushed his more humanly thoughts away. Within moments, his keen sense of smell led him to a rough outcropping of weather beaten boulders. Ah, mountain lion, he thought as he tracked his prey. He quickly located the animal, a long, lean female, guarding her newborn cubs. Her scent was raw and tangy, the finest local alternative to human blood. While it never completely satiated him, nor did it ever fully quench the clawing in his throat, it was a better choice than the bear. The fat of the bear diluted the blood's potency.
His brothers willingly sacrificed taste for the size and strength of the bear. Edward, however, viewed the lion's agility and stealth as added benefits to the superior flavor. He had once noted that their dining preferences seemed indicative. Where his brothers were examples in brute force, he was lithe and quick. Where they came away bloodied and disheveled, Edward remained spotless and neat. His tidiness was such that he never thought twice of the starched, white oxfords he often wore.
Edward leaped to the nearest ledge, one just opposite of the lioness. The strength in his muscles effortlessly propelled him the twenty-five feet to the rock shelf. As he landed, the cat started, and shrieked her warnings.
The cat's tawny, black-tipped coat bristled as she took wide swipes with her large paw, attempting to knock her attacker to the ground and away from her cubs. Edward skillfully dodged her efforts. Wasting no time, he launched himself gracefully across the gap. His sharp teeth unerringly found purchase at the animal's throat, slicing easily through the thick flesh and sinew. Her strong heart muscle pulsed the piquant fluid across his lips as she snarled and clawed futilely in Edward's iron grip.
Within seconds, he had drained the animal. He looked over to the small, dark opening in the rock face, and felt a moment of guilt. The lioness' cubs would inevitably die before summer in the absence of their mother. But such is the way of the world, Edward thought. Kill or be killed. Predator or prey.
After taking down another cat, a large and vicious male, thirst sated, Edward followed the scents of his family members to their designated meeting location. As usual, he was the first to arrive as he was the most efficient and deadly predator in the family. Edward had always been the fastest, the most lethal.
Emmett was the largest, a beast of a man when he had been human. His strength as a vampire was unparalleled, but he was juvenile in his motions, despite his three-quarters of a century of immortality. He always went for the straightforward kill, the easy kill. Besting him in their mock fights was always a quick affair.
Jasper was second to Edward in speed. He also carried experience with him; over a century and a half ago, Jasper had been the equivalent of a battle general in his vampire coven. His mind was agile and cunning. He lacked, however, Edward's ability to read the thoughts of his opponents, and despite his extensive training, on occasion he still succumbed to the lure of the fast kill. Their play matches were always interesting to say the least.
Edward's sisters, Alice and Rosalie, were not trained as fighters. Alice, Jasper's mate, a vampire with unique gifts of her own, possessed the grace of a dancer. Her flitting movements and diminutive stature were misleading. Her special gift, the ability to see events in the immediate future, allowed her to see an attacker's intentions moments before the strike. Yet, her mind was not that of an aggressor. Rosalie had been a kept woman in her human life; luscious and beautiful, she had never lifted a finger or wanted for anything as her suitors pampered and showered her with their gifts and affections. When she was changed, she saw no need to alter her status. With Emmett as her mate, she had no need to be educated in such things.
Carlisle, Edward's creator, created nearly four hundred years ago, was peace loving, a startling deviation in vampire consciousness, and he hesitated in killing even their carnivorous animal prey. Carlisle's mate, Esme, was nearly as strict in her views on the taking of life.
Edward had tried numerous times to understand Carlisle's and Esme's way of thinking. He could, to a point. Edward understood the abhorrence of taking human life. Edward, himself, at one point in his existence, had killed many humans, both innocent and evil. For several decades after his creation, Edward had lived apart from Carlisle and Esme, rebelling against their passive lifestyle, instead, living with other traditional vampires. His eyes had glowed red, and he had felt the addictive strength that only human blood could provide.
He'd eventually returned to his family after tiring of a life solely focused on blood and murder. As time passed, he slowly began to appreciate, and even to share many of his creator's views. He came to accept animal blood as the poor substitute it was. Since his return, he'd been away from his family for only necessary, brief periods.
Human blood. It had been many years since Edward had tasted its nectarous savor, the only fluid that promised to extinguish the flames that perpetually burned in his throat. He could recall the tingling sensations of it sliding along his tongue, boiling and thick. He could smell its perfect scent, that human essence, different for each individual, but still commonly defined by otherworldly velvety sweetness. He recalled flawlessly the distinct scents and flavors of each human he'd taken. Turning away from it had been virtually impossible, a true testament to Edward's will. But he had made the choice, he had left that existence; he sacrificed perfection of the drink for his conscience.
March 21, 2009
The Cullen family home, eight miles north of Forks, Washington State
The three days long hunt had given Edward much-needed reprieve from the tortures of their counterfeit existence as well as the constant clattering of voices inside his head. He had returned to their home place recharged and relaxed.
Sitting in the large, overstuffed leather armchair by the crackling fire, yet another pleasant but unnecessary prop, he studied a large volume of the oddly feminist verses of Syrian poet, Nizar Qabbani. So engrossed in the progressive lines, he didn't notice the anxious, silent voice outside the front door. When the tentative knock came, his head shot up, and he chuckled to himself at his own surprise.
He could hear the internal ramblings of the man standing on their darkened porch. He was nervous, and rightly so. While his family was little danger to their human neighbors, humans, instinctively, were leery of them. They were beautiful to their prey, the vampire features perfected by the venom elixir that changed them, their voices seductive and alluring. Their scent was enticing and inviting. Like a moth to a flame, humans were drawn to their physical wares. Yet, their human unconscious told them to be wary, told them of the hidden danger. The man on the porch was hesitant, eager to deliver his message and be gone. Edward opened the door to find the man wringing his hands in stress, eyes darting to and fro.
"May I help you?" he asked softly, trying to ease the man's tension.
"Um, is a Mister Edward Cullen here?" the man stammered.
"Yes, I am he."
He rushed, "Mr. Cullen, I have a delivery for you. If you could sign here, showing that you received the package."
Edward took the electronic pad, and quickly signed. "Thank you. Have a good evening," he said, charitably dismissing the messenger, and taking the small, cardboard envelope.
Intrigued, he returned to his chair with the parcel. Strange, he thought. While deliveries were not uncommon at their home, a small package directed to him, and delivered late on a Saturday evening was indeed out of the norm.
The envelope had no outer markings, no stamp, no bar code. Edward briefly wondered what the purpose of him signing the delivery pad had been; with no tagging, tracking the package would impossible. There were no discernable scents on the package other than the faint remnants of the delivery truck's heavy diesel exhaust and the sweaty saltiness of the delivery man's essence. His sharpened eyes noted no visual clues as to the origin of the package.
With a light touch. his knife-like nail sliced the thin paper board along the seam. Inside, he found only a two-inch by two-inch vacuum sealed, opaque plastic bag. Edward furrowed his brow, puzzled by the oddity. He held no fear of the contents of the bag for nothing in the human world could harm him. No, Edward was perplexed by this late night delivery, and by the mysterious plastic container.
Again, his nail sliced into the plastic. With the first opening in the polymer film, his senses were violently assaulted. His nostrils flared, and his eyes flashed from golden amber to coal-black. It was the most exquisite perfume he had ever smelled. The slight discomfort in his throat became a raging fire, climbing from the pit of his stomach to the tip of his tongue. He salivated like a rabid canine, venom dripping from his teeth. In that instant, all his attempts at humanity were lost; he was a vampire, a fearsome predator, and he smelled his prey, the most delicious prey he had ever encountered.
The lock of mahogany hair fell out of the plastic into his hand. His tongue darted out, and lightly touched the delicate strands. If it were possible, the taste was finer than the scent. His mind, reeling in the overpowering sensations, imagined the taste of this creature's blood. His mind screamed, Mine.
A/N: Deviation from canon. In this fic, Alice retains her abilities to see the future, but they are diminished from canon intensity. There is a key term, 'immediate' that is used to describe her abilities in the text. She cannot see weeks or months into the future. She can, however, see hours, and even days if the vision is strong/firm. Also, note: her abilities are strengthened by affinity. As in, she sees her family more clearly and easily than strangers.