- Carlisle, Cullen
The stake had torn through my shirt, positioned uncomfortably against my skin: but if she truly wished to execute me that is how it must be; although the stake would do nothing but merely injure me, slow me down. The holy water would have little use besides soaking me, my skin drowning amongst true faith and the holy trinity. The cross however, did have an effect: an effect so profound it broke me down, deconstructing my enduring and hopefully ethical soul.
Those somewhat calm and small olive eyes I remembered were flooded with uncertainty and an insinuation of a veritable challenge. “Let me apologize,” I breathed.
“I will do it,” Mary-Lynette pressed the stake harder against my chest, her fingers trembling.
“I do not doubt you,” I sighed, taking a wisp of her corn-silk hair and pinning it behind her ear. It flickered back as soon as my fingers fled from the instant contact – an insolent curl amongst the rest of her perpendicular length of hair.
Mary-Lynette’s spin was iron-stiff. Her reflecting silence was beautiful; the way she scrutinized over the price of my immoral lifestyle and if it was worth salvaging, or abandoning, yet it was also ugly: the suffocating pressure of the moment was electrifying and I had to restrain myself from not groaning out loud in distress. “Do not touch me, you blood-sucking leach,” she retorted stiffly.
“Try it, Mary-Lynette. Do it,” I protested. I dug my fingers into the cement hidden between the bricks, feeling it crumble and scatter; a fine layer of white dust vanishing my palm.
She cringed at my words; her heart fluttering in a fluctuating pulse like it had curled in on itself into a painful fist. Her knuckles paled as she threw her strength into the stake; compressing it against my chest tightly as if it would slide through the skin and pierce the heart effortlessly. It was merely bruised. The wood splintered within her grasp, Mary-Lynette thrust against my chest at the abrupt impact.
The holy-water emptied against my shirt, it becoming a thin transparent layer between us. For a brief second, before she shuffled away with a horrified expression, that collision of a fevered temperature was exhilarating; as if the unexpected heat electrocuted my heart and stunned it back to life, like Mary-Lynette’s touch was my pacemaker, the machinery needed to restart my long-dead heart, as if she was a vital piece I had been missing.
I stared at her with longing, adoration like tears lining my butterscotch irises. “That should have worked,” Mary-Lynette said in a panicked voice, her knee’s shaking.
“Vampire lore was never correct, Mary-Lynette. We invented it,” I replied, stepping closer.
“Stay back,” she shouted, holding the cross on her necklace out as if it to create a protective barrier around her. Even though the cross had even a meaning to me, I wondered how humans could think that such a small item of materialistic faith could act as a shield – true belief was your only shelter, your only fortification against the twisting shadows of your nightmares, vampires.
I held up my hands in surrender. Mary-Lynette looked back and forth pointedly as if they were stained with another’s raw blood. “I won’t hurt you. Back in that hospital room, did I?”
She swallowed and I saw that lump that had once been stuck, drag down her throat until it vanished. “You didn’t, but I wasn’t notified of your condition then. I was in the dark,” she protested.
“You don’t have to trust me, if you would just let me explain,” I tried to reason.
“Honestly,” she looked up at me, her expression tightly drawn: lips in a straight line, cheeks sullen and eyebrows pulled together. “I don’t know if I can trust anymore; everything I have ever known is slipping away from me, including the faith I had in you.”
The icy chill of her words sunk into my skin, seeping into my bones. “Mary-Lynette, I–”
From the bushes emerged a dark sulking figure, its eyes piercingly bright. Logic told me it was one of the wolves patrolling the area; however the way my nerves became actively live told me otherwise. Gripping Mary-Lynette just above the elbows, my fingers rubbed raw from scratching against the cement, I pulled her towards the side of the building.
She tried to push me off, her clenched fists pounding against me, as I herded her against the brick wall, it stabbing her in the back. Her short painful gasp was all that I needed to retreat a step, to cancel out my inhuman strength and gather my wits.
“I apologize, Mary-Lynette. I-” I hesitated when I noticed that telling her of the wolves, or other super-natural creatures, would only alarm her further. Her mind was stretched enough for one night.
“Dr Cullen,” the use of my name, even if it was my professional name, slipping from her lips soothed me; reassuring me of her discipline in allowing me subsist, or even live, tonight. “I still don’t trust you.”
“Then let me explain everything,” I asked.
Shifting her foot across the ground unsure and fisting a corner of her T-shirt into the curling fist of her palm; I saw a flicker of hope cross her face, and then it evaporated back to awkwardness and agitation. Does she regret sparing me tonight? “Okay,” she finally gave in, staring at me. Her words were harsh and stern – I didn’t expect anything less. “One chance.”
“One chance,” I repeated, holding out my hand for her to take.
“For your sake, you better hope it’s a good story,” she mused, a slender suggestion of humor in the way her face possessed that impish grin.
I sighed deeply, reveling in the feeling of stabilization, to have her warmth compressing against my cold and insignificant skin filling me. Satiating the hunger and craving I felt to feel whole – to not have a partial life, but to be complete. “It’s a grisly tale.”
The vampire had pulled two armchairs in front of the fire, the leather already warm to the touch. It a falsehood compared to the heat of my skin; I could feel the blood boiling at the thought of agreeing with this leech, was it even a good idea to give him a chance, after all the lies and deception?
Sitting in one, I pulled my knees up to my chin. “What are you going to tell me?” I ask somewhat eagerly. It was an alien sensation to me to be so impatient and enthusiastic about someone’s back history; in fact, it terrified me, would it expose me to such malevolence and malice from his past?
He poked at the fire, sparks spitting as he tried to engage further flames. “What is it you wish to know about, Mary-Lynette?”
“Everything I know about you, what you’ve told me. Is it the truth?”
Sliding into the other armchair lucidly, he placed his hands in his lap. “Everything is the truth: the honest and genuine truth.”
I clicked my tongue three times. “Except that your part of the undead, not human,” I emphasized.
“I never said once that I was human, Mary-Lynette.”
“You never told me about your vampirism, either,” I retorted, biting my bottom lip as I was taken aback by the raw edge to his voice and mannerisms.
He inclined his head forwards, his mouth twitching at the corners. “I only met you the one time and it would be dangerous for you to know of our existence; but you already did, didn’t you?”
My voice was horse, nails biting into the palm of my hand until I thought I could draw blood without a second thought. “I see.”
“Do not think Mary-Lynette that I kept this secret for my own gain; I do it to protect the innocents and my family.” Leaning back, he rested his arms against the chair and caressed the leather.
“But you choose not to tell me, it was your choice, therefore your fault, Dr Cullen,” I boosted, feeling like pointing fingers.
A deep crease appeared on his brow. “There are others more powerful that have reinforced our secret. For your own protection, Mary-Lynette, I kept it. Humans are killed if they know our secret.”
“Who are you to decide my own protection? Did you decide it was yours to fix upon when you settled those eyes on my neck?” I replied sternly, pulling my legs to the ground and putting on a severe expression.
The vampire gulped, as if he was trying to swallow down the unbearable thirst for the delicate wine that swam through my veins. Yet it would always be there; nagging and plaguing his thoughts with corrupt images or snapping my neck, letting the blood drip between his lips, nourishing him. He was after all, a vampire.
I watched him carefully; his pale ice-cold skin glowing in the faint light of the fire embers. It was as if the flames reflected from his skin like a mirror. “For your own good, but not for the blood, Mary-Lynette. Never the blood,” he commented.
“I heard your vegetarians,” I snorted, rolling my eyes at such a humorous idea.
His golden irises flickered open and shut silently, like he was talking amongst his mind for a moment without my interrogative questions disrupting the hush. “We sustain ourselves on animals; we forbid ourselves to enter a diet of human blood. It makes us feel more human – humans with ethical morals at the least.”
“And your family, Dr Cullen?” I pressed.
“They are the same,” he replied, his shoulders stiff as I mentioned the groups of vampires he must linger with. “Mary-Lynette, my family are different from the others: we find when we were changed,” I cringed away from the use of the word; it sounded so ridiculous and yet coherent with the whole vampire fiasco I was now involved in. “We were disgusted with the lack of morality and ethics our kind held, and we changed to support our amended lifestyles,” he continued.
His words were soft and the way my skin tingled told me it was the truth, his story laced with the honesty of the terror in realisation of what he had become. There was integrity in his words, no spite or mischievousness in his gaze that was there to sway his story, to lead me to a false sense of security – a position in which I would be entirely at his will, like a puppet on his pulling strings.
“I understand perfectly from what you’ve told me already you wish to be good, Dr Cullen,” I replied with a sharp confidence I didn’t believe I possessed.
“You don’t understand half of it and for goddess sake please call me Carlisle; we have passed trivial formalities,” he slid a hand through his platinum blonde hair deliberately.
“Fair enough, Carlisle, now can you get me up to speed,” I pushed my head back against the armchair, pulling my legs up and crossing them, intentionally settling in for a long story.
His face soured, as if I was re-opening old scars to get him to explain to me, to dig deeper just to get me to understand how such an untimely immortal could try to be so compassionate. “It’s late, are you sure you don’t wa–”
“No excuses, I gave you one chance. I have all the time in the world it seems,” I mused.
Carlisle stood up sharply and paced towards the fireplace, his fingertips gripping the mantelpiece as he bent over the fire. Where the stake had torn his shirt, it revealed a large portion of his chest – his skin as white as marble and taut, as it was securely pulled over the muscle. I felt my cheeks blush and I looked away. “Oliver Cromwell was widely active across all of Britain during the 17th century, especially in London where he was at the height of his political power. During that time there was the Salem Witch Trials; it was religious upheaval.”
“I have heard of this,” I replied in the thinnest whisper. Carlisle’s voice was low and guttural.
“Raids were conducted and throughout the night you could hear the screams echoing through houses as children, fathers and mothers were pulled away from their families. People presumed to be witches and vampires were burnt alive at the stake, hung at the gallows, drowned in holy water or have a crucifix thrusted into their body like a sword. They were–”
I slipped from the chair and stood a few steps away from Carlisle. He nodded silently a few seconds afterward. “– Killed senselessly,” I finished.
He watched me carefully; his face set in a stony silence. “It was like a plague, spreading further and further across the land. Many innocents were killed at the hands of those mindless raiders – children having to watch their mother’s get burnt alive; father’s being impaled with religious artifacts and brothers and sisters drowning.”
For a brief moment there a powerful urge to wrap my arms around his neck to comfort Carlisle, to wipe away through gruesome images, but I forced it away. From his words, pictures of what he was describing were itched behind my eyelids – scratch marks clawed into the rotten wood flooring as a mother is bloodied and dragged away from her wailing child, her fingers rubbed raw from clawing at the floorboards; water closing over her head threateningly as she drowns, it filling her lungs until she blacks out; a rope tightening around a father’s neck as he swings aimlessly in the wind from the gallows and the last image the small child ever seeing: flames engulfing him and the wooden bonfire underneath his feet.
My eyes stung with tears and I wiped them away hastily. “That’s alot of research you have done,” I comment, my throat raw and full of choking sobs.
“It wasn’t research.”
I looked at Carlisle, raising an eyebrow in confusion.
He gave a deliberate sigh, exhaling a deep breath that left a lingering melancholy in the thinned air. “Not even the world’s largest collect of research on the topic can compare: they are my memories,” he admitted solemnly.
“Yo–I–They are your memories? You were alive then?” I stammered; an uncontrollable tremble in my fingers.
The idea of his living in London, the memories and the recollections of all that brutish murder all for the sake of suspicion was familiar: as if I had lived through all that trauma and the images were fuzzy, as if I couldn’t break through that thick layer of mist, a blocked memory I couldn’t access. All I knew was that it was related to the “Sister’s” and there persistent demands that I stay “silent and still” – as if I knew what they were talking about. I was never going back to there, to whatever it was that I couldn’t remember – that blocked memory.
“I was born in London in 1643, my father was an Anglican pastor, and my mother passed away during my birth. As he aged, I took charge of the ‘Hunts,’ and soon enough I found a real coven of vampires hiding in the sewers – only at night that they came out to hunt, to feed on our innocent women – we attacked and–”
“–You were changed?” I asked tenderly, reaching out a hand to rest it comfortingly on his wrist, but I snatched it back.
The idea of this undying immortal being such a mature age, yet still looking so endearingly young was fresh in my mind. It was a conflicting idea: to think of his changeless state for those centuries, but to still consider him youthful amongst his ancient knowledge and what he had observed.
“I was,” he replied softly, taking a spare glance once again at my neck.
“I heard some vampires have special powers, do you have one?”I asked in a small, far away voice, that wasn’t quite my own.
His head was bent forwards, his hair falling forwards and blocking his face was view. “I don’t believe I have one.”
“Then why do I feel awed and fascinated when I’ around you, like your filling a part of me that hasn’t been there for a long time – a missing piece.” Stretching out my fingertips I put them on his arm, just above the elbow, feeling the chill of his skin soothe the feverish heat of my own. “I have parts of my life that I’m missing, and somehow you’re bringing them back.”
Turning around, he cupped my hands and brought it to his chest, just above the heart – there was a small bruise faded into the skin where the stake had replaced my hand. His fingertips caressed my cheek. “That is a strange idea you pose.”
With my hand resting against his chest, his fingers drew towards my neck – stroking the skin around my collarbone tenderly, my heart felt like it was going to break through my rib cage. They tangled with my silver cross necklace, like it didn’t affect him, and had it fisted against his palm as he pushed me against the wall – me tightly against his chest, as if he was getting ready to feast on me. “Carlisle…!”
Carlisle immediately froze and pulled himself back before I could blink. “Forgive me,” he whispered in a low voice, resting his head against his hands. I stepped towards him again, gripping his arm and giving it a quick squeeze. “I didn’t mean to – I’m sorry.”
“It’s not like I never noticed you gazing at my neck with blank eyes before,” I smiled. “I notice these things.”
“Mary-Lynette, it has nothing to do with your blood,” he said in a neutral tone. “Nothing that would ever put you in danger of being hurt.”
I gave a sheepish grin – somewhere within my heart of hearts I believed him – as I slipped away from him to retrieve my coat. “You just seem so uncomfortable around me, avoiding my gaze and when you looked at me, it’s pained.”
He zoomed in front of me in barely enough time for me to catch my breath. He held up my coat and slipped it on me without ease. “I care for you, Mary-Lynette. I could never let anything hurt you.”
“You care for me?” I asked, as with shaky fingers I did up the buttons on my coat.
“I do, very much, indeed.”
My gaze slipped from his and I glanced back at the door to his office. “I–I should go.”
“Of course,” Carlisle smiled, understanding reflecting off his face. The grandfather clock I hadn’t noticed in the corner of the room chimed at midnight; I hadn’t noticed the time, as if it had flown by. Carlisle must possess a power to do that, make me feel as if time is going slower than it actually is. “Mary-Lynette, I understand if this is too much to process and you wish to forget it all–”
“No–” I held up my hands in determination, my voice firm and unwavering. I was sure of this. “You explained to me what I asked, and I’m determined to understand more – but only if anyone I care about does not get hurt.”
Carlisle looked at me with a deep-set admiration and wonderment – it was as if he was seeing me for the first time. “I promise, Mary-Lynette, that neither you, nor your loved ones, will be harmed. It will be the least I can do.”
“Thank you, Carlisle.” I held out my hand so he could shake it, instead he flipped it over and pulled it towards his lips, kissing the palm sweetly. All that warmth from the fire, the comfort of the chair and the awed feeling I gained from Carlisle all receded, his parting kiss making all of tonight’s comforts escape without warning. “I hope you explaining this to me does not cause you any trouble.”
He took a deep breath, wincing slightly as our hands parted. “I will be fine.”
I took leave from his office; parting with friendly goodbye’s and left the hospital, entering the car-park and finding my car parked underneath the leafless oak. The bitter wind nipped my skin and I hugged my coat closer, still amazed by what had just transpired.
The drive back to my apartment was quicker than I expected, not enough time to help process the information I had just gained. I took a few steps away from my car and then there a deep and resounding: thud. I looked back, my hair covering my face and I flicked it away hastily. “Who’s there?” I shouted, remembering Carlisle’s words: there are others more powerful that have reinforced our secret.
There was no answer. Quickly shuffling through my bag for my keys there was another: thud. This one was louder and coming closer, as if it was hitting off all the apartment blocks and ricocheting back to me, ringing in my ears.
My phone rang. I gave a surprised yelp, jumping. I pulled it out of my bag, pressed it to my ear; my eyes still scanning the perimeter of the car-park, searching for another presence. “Hello?”
There was nothing but a crackling fizz through the phone line. “Hello?” I repeated my growing irritation obvious.
“Still and silent,” the words echoed through the phone line in a lithe gravelly voice. It set my skin alight with electricity and knees became weak. I wanted to run; and fast. “Be silent and still, my little lamb,” the caller sang. “We are coming for you.”
I pulled the phone away from my ear, staring at it in disbelief. My heart was hammering against my chest painfully. I couldn’t breathe; my throat felt like it was closing up.
I ran, my legs knocking painfully together as I raced towards my apartment door; feeling the shadows close in around me, a manic laughing voice echoing in my ears and underneath my feet. Every noise was frightening; it would set the hair at the nape of my neck standing and my heart to pulse faster. I came to the door and with shaky fingers; I slotted the key in the door.
Something thudded against my head and everything went black. I fell to the ground: feeling my head hit the ground painfully, blood spreading from a laceration just above the back of my neck, dizziness spreading through me as black spots covered my vision. From next to me I could hear the voice over the phone as I sank into a dark pit.
“Little lambs coming home: be silent and still.”
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