Well, well, well Twitards, what can I say? I have some kind of an "issue" which only you will understand. The issue is I can't seem to stop writing Twilight fanfic. Or at least, not quite yet.
I began to write this story over the summer and many times willed myself to stop. I was going to make it an original fiction piece and got pretty far into that (and I still might go back to it), but then it was time for Fandom Gives Back, and I couldn't pull the original story together enough to include it in the big comp. Actually, it became apparent that that version was turning into a novel of its own, which is great and all, but it will take far longer to properly to write it than I'd originally thought.
Anyway, I couldn't NOT participate in FGB, because, well, you know. And those of you who don't know, just know that FGB has a lot of personal meaning for me that you can read about here if you'd like to know. So I picked this back up, dusted it off, and here we are.
You would not be reading this now if not for the kindness and generosity of a number of people who contributed to FGB and some who even contributed extra (you know who you are) to get this story to see the light of day. I'd publish their online names here, but I don't actually have their okay to do that (but I'll get it and post their names next time). So just know that the generosity of this community in supporting Alex's Lemonade Stand is the only reason this story has gotten another chance at being written. I really hope that you enjoy it.
So now that you know all that, let me explain what this actually is. This here is a novella-length fic in Edward's Point of View that is a prequel to Osa Bella. It's Edward's experiences in the year prior to the Cullens moving back to Forks. So that means Edward hasn't met Bella yet. That is all I will say, other than to let you know that this is my beloved OBward, not the canon Edward of Twilight. He is dark, he has a violent streak, and he is no virgin. If you haven't read Osa Bella you can still read this and it will make sense, and if you have read it, I'm hoping this gives you more insight into that story as well.
I'll be posting this weekly until it's done. When it's over, FGB contributors will get the entire story in PDF and ebook formats, so if you'd like access to that please email your FGB receipt to me at mygdala @ gmail.
But whatever happens, I hope you enjoy this half as much as I've enjoyed bringing it to you. Many thanks to Snarkier Than You and Hollelujahs (Holland of Substance Clad in Shadows fame) for beta services, and Mama Cougar, Latchkey Wife, Lovely Brutal and Texas Katherine for prereading various versions.
Much love (and it's good to be back),
The world breaks everyone and afterwards, many are stronger in the broken places.
-Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms
The first time you kill a man you understand that you will never be the same. It doesn’t matter the reason you take him out. It can be war, self-defense or in defense of someone you love. It can feel inevitable or justified and it still doesn’t matter—you’re going to give something of yourself up. That thing you lose is subtle, hard to name and difficult to describe but as essential to who you are as your preference for black coffee, whether you shower facing the shower head, whether you enjoy handling the car or prefer to have someone drive it for you.
The second time you kill a man is different. Not necessarily easier, but more familiar. You might give up more of whatever it was you lost the first time, but now you expected it.
If you keep killing, eventually you stop noticing that you’re losing anything. Instead you just ride the rush of adrenaline, feel the way his pleas for mercy make you angrier, the way his sin makes you feel more righteous. You recognize how utterly incapable you are of feeling anything akin to pity in that moment.
Then the day comes when the moment hunts you down and drops you.
“Look, if you can’t see where she is, a name, something besides that damned dance, then your vision is broken,” I said. “You’ve got to stop it.”
Alice dangled her feet like a little kid from her perch on the butcher block counter and then gave me a sheepish look.
“Stop reading my mind then,” she quipped.
“Stop thinking so loud.”
Her eyes wandered down to the black canvas duffle bag at my feet and then back up to my face, where I’m sure she saw the same thing she always saw—worn frustration. It was a near-permanent state of mine from all the years of failing at something that had become my all-consuming reason to exist.
“If you’re going out to look for her again, then I should at least try to get you more information,” she argued. “When you’re here, the vision is a lot clearer.”
“But it’s always the same.” I didn’t mean to raise my voice, but it was far from the first time we’d had this conversation and I was done having it. “It drives me crazy to see the same thing again and again. It’s like…”
“…a broken record?”
“I was thinking more like a flashback.”
“You can’t have a flashback to the future, Edward.”
Maybe she was right, but this vision was unlike any she’d ever had. It was rigid. Consistent. Persistent. Detailed. There weren’t any soft edges where probability or free will could come in and change the trajectory. This vision was stuck, like a video tape of something that had already happened, except that it hadn’t. I knew it hadn’t because it was a vision of me waltzing with a woman I had never met and if you judged by the way things were going, had no hope of ever meeting. I would have let it go a long time ago, but I couldn’t because I was in love with her, whoever she was.
“We can’t prove it’s the future,” I said. “That dress she’s wearing looks like one of my mother’s dresses, so maybe it really is the past.”
“I don’t have visions of other people’s pasts. That doesn’t even make any sense.”
“I don’t know then, maybe it’s a curse. Or a very, very bad joke. Whatever it is, you’ve got to stop showing it to me. I can see it clear enough on my own anyway.”
“Okay, okay, I’m sorry.”
I’d made her feel bad, which only made me angrier with myself. This was exactly the reason I’d been spending less and less time at home. It had been five decades by this point that Alice and I had been in deep deliberation of this topic, this woman she swore was my destined mate. Everyone else in the family was sick of hearing about it—wouldn’t even stay in the room with us when the topic came up. So I tried to never bring it up, even though it was a constant preoccupation of mine. Or a fruitless obsession, as Carlisle called it.
Alice hopped down and wrapped her arms tightly around my waist and rested her head on my shoulder. Please don’t give up, she thought. It’s just a matter of time.
But my problem wasn’t that I might give up—it was that I could not give up, no matter how insane the fruitless search was making me. That was the reason I had to leave again. This time I was determined I was either going to find her or just descend into madness, and I didn’t need the few people in the world who mattered most to be there to see that.
“Promise me,” I said, taking her by the shoulders and staring her down like a guilty teenager until she recoiled a little. “You’ve got to stop looking into my future,” I said.
“I’m just trying to help you,” she said sadly as she saw the immediate future of me setting sail for Boston.
“I know that. But if you don’t stop looking, you’re going to see something you’ll regret.”
Even now I can still see it as clearly as I saw it that very first time.
Perfectly hued pink and orange rays of a late sunset halo dark hair arranged carefully on top of her head. Loose curls frame her face, eager and restrained as she looks up at me with dark brown eyes and a look so deep I’m sure I can dive right into it. As I’m looking back at her, her face warms to a perfect shade of pink and then she looks shyly down to her feet.
That very night as I made passage to Boston, I stood out on Reckoner’s deck under the gale-force wind and I could still feel the light touch of her delicate hands, one on my shoulder, the other in my right hand and the heat of it warmed me to the bone.
She is always wearing the same champagne lace dress with tiny pink, lavender and peach silk roses adorning the waist, a vintage from my youth, contemporary for the year of my death. She is the most beautiful woman I have ever seen anywhere and in this beloved and cursed memory of some future I could not seem to claim, I am forever claimed by the scent of her, the look of her, the way she feels in my arms. And I will not rest until she is there.
“Where the fuck are you?!” I bellowed from Reckoner’s deck, out into the dark and ambivalent gulf where no one would answer.
“Can I buy you a drink?” The pretty redhead was young, though I couldn’t say what her exact age was. Probably mid twenties. She was tall and curvy in all the right ways with that gothic look I always found sexy. Dark-rimmed cat eyes and long painted nails. She was alone and she was trouble, that I instinctively knew.
“I don’t drink,” I said, expressionless, my eyes trained on the small stage across the room as the band played a loud, out of tune rock anthem to a thick crowd of swaying hipsters.
“That must be why you look so thirsty.”
Her smile was a subtle point. I didn’t smile back.
Come here often? The same voice abraded my thoughts and I snapped my head around to see her smile turn to a sneer. As I refocused I saw through several layers of enchantments to the withered old witch beneath. She was good—good enough that I couldn’t just blow her off without expecting a nasty repercussion. I tipped my head to the back door, the one leading the way out to the alley. She withdrew wordlessly through the crowd and exited through it.
Several minutes later I found myself in a dark and littered corridor behind the club, but there was no woman. Just a black cat perched on the lid of a dumpster, staring emphatically at me.
“I don’t want any trouble,” I said to it.
Liar, it said.
“What do you want?” I pulled out a pack of Camel unfiltereds and lit one, exhaling the smoke in the cat’s direction, but it didn’t move or flinch or even turn its head.
I wanted to meet Mercy Brown’s lover, she said, and then I realized what dark witch I encountered there.
“There are plenty who fit that description.”
Yes, I know, but you are Edward Cullen, the Reckoner. Not one of her many lovers, but the one she actually loves.
“She doesn’t love anyone,” I said very quietly, noticing a small group of young people wandering in the street just yards from where I stood talking to a magic cat. “Your spell hasn’t worked. You of all people should know that.”
Oh, is that what she tells you?
“Is there something you want?”
There is something you want. Very badly. Perhaps I can help you.
“I don’t think so,” I said, clawing my way back from the desperate hope she dangled in front of me.
I know how long you’ve been searching for her.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
You know, for a vampire you’re not much of a liar. I know you’re here in Boston looking for a woman, a very special woman, but I can tell you she isn’t here.
I grabbed the cat by its neck and held it high in the air, squeezing its throat. It swung its legs wildly, trying to swipe me with its claws.
“What the hell do you know about it? Start talking. Now.”
I’ll tell you nothing unless you agree to my price.
“You’re lying to me just like you lied to Mercy. I don’t want any deals with a hedge witch.”
Listen to the vampire calling out the witch. You know, your own mother was a great sorceress in her time.
“You lie. You never knew my mother.”
How did she avail your sire to turn you, then? What human could do that?
“How do you…” I stopped talking. The more I said, the more I thought and the more I felt, the more she’d use her psychic tricks to fool me. I released my grip on the cat and it turned into a fading old woman, wiry dreads of thick, black and gray hair blowing in the brittle December wind. She fell to her knees and clutched a tattered shawl to herself against the cold. In a moment of pity I reached my hand down to her, which she took and then steadied herself against the concrete wall.
“What do you want from me?” I asked.
“Justice,” she hissed, her face shadowing over with rage.
I never should have come back to Boston. Never. Carlisle warned me it was a mistake, that I couldn’t tempt the future by flirting with the past. Again I hadn’t listened to him, and again I regretted it deeply.
“No, I don’t think I will forget it,” the old witch spat. “If I could forget it, I would have by now.”
“You’re a powerful enough witch to track me. I think you can handle your own vengeance.”
“Yes, well, I have a little problem, you see,” she said, lowering her voice and raising her eyes under heavy lids to meet mine. Her breath was stale and her skin was flaky, graying scales when you looked closely. I turned away. “If I do it myself, I’ll forfeit my last hope of redemption. I am old, Reckoner. I’m ready but I can’t let go until I know justice has been done.”
“And if I don’t agree?”
“You think my magic can’t find you in Portland, sweetheart?”
Fucking witches. For decades I’d watched Mercy suffer under the remnants of a spell the Boston witch had cast at the turn of the last century. But I also knew that this old haggard bitch had already discovered my greatest weakness.
“Who is he?” I asked.
“Come with me,” she said. “And I’ll tell you all you need to know.”
It was snowing that night. Large wet clumps of flakes fell more than floated down and covered the cobblestones, shining wet, reflecting street lamps and headlights from the busy road. I waited at the bottom of the stairs, outside by the basement entrance, where I could hear my victim’s sick mind as it went through its final preparations for a fresh kill.
She will be in a short skirt. She will be a blonde. It’s too bad no one taught her how to treat a man. It’s too bad it was left to me, but I am here and I will show her. One last time.
He was going to make it so easy for me to kill him.
I didn’t know his name, didn’t want or need to know it. The witch had given me only his address and the worst of his intentions, the prediction that he would strike soon, and the promise that in exchange for the hit, she would give me a vital piece of information about the woman I’d been searching for.
And so there I was, in a darkened corner listening to some of the final addled thoughts of the young rapist-murderer as he culled the potential pool of unwitting victims down from the entire female matriculation of Boston University. It doesn’t matter because they are all the same anyway, he’d told himself as he put on his black down jacket and black ski mask, the face rolled up onto his heavy brow. All women are the same when it comes down to it.
I didn’t know exactly what he’d done to anger the old witch, and I didn’t want to know. Better you don’t, she’d said, and it was the one thing she said that I believed.
My victim paused as he passed where I waited invisible in a shadow, his intuition picking up that his death had found him and would be closing in. I followed him silently down the busy street, many paces back, still trained on his thoughts. As we headed out under the black sky, I almost wished I could stop hearing the desperation, the quiet frenzy of his desire as it began to escalate. Vile, vulgar language spun tangled threads in the web of his cortex, sicker with every female he passed on the street.
Inside the bar he eyed every woman and I blanched considering how many women in the world had ever been surveyed and summed up by vile scum just like this, the lucky ones never the wiser that they’d been psychically raped as they stood innocently in a public space. I stayed quietly in the back of the room, listening to my victim seethe, plot, plan and then finally choose, a young girl with a shy smile and crooked eye teeth. She had pixie-short, light blonde hair with pink streaks and a striped wool scarf that he fingered inappropriately behind her back as she ordered a Sam Adams. She was there alone. How did they always know?
He was ordering the same drink as she was, paying the bartender, making inappropriately intense eye contact. She was instantly suspicious, that tiny voice deep in her brain signaling to her that something wasn’t right. She left her full beer at the bar and escaped to the bathroom alone. Bad move.
So perfect, he thought as he got up from his stool, but he never made it through the crowd.
“How many others?” I yelled as I dangled him by his ankles from the Charles River bridge.
“Who are you?” he cried. “What the fuck are you talking about?”
“How many!” I squeezed his ankles until I felt the bones crack. A twisted smile spread across his lips as the pain fueled some final fucked up ecstasy.
Four… Five… Six…
Then I began to see faces, the faces of missing girls, all of them young and beautiful, as they flashed in his mind.
“You sick fucking bastard,” I whispered.
I was going to drop him into the water, dive in after him and kill him in the river. But just as I was about to let go, I saw the last face and it was her.
I still can’t recall all of the details of what happened next, but by the end of it he was missing his eyelids, his ears, every one of his teeth, his fingers and feet. He was finally dead after I plunged my hand directly into his chest and squeezed his heart until it burst. His blood stained me everywhere. I drank voraciously of what was left and then gathered his corpse, swam it to the bottom of the river and buried it deep in the riverbed where it would never be found.
Do you want to know how you came by the name Reckoner? The witch asked me just hours before the most brutal kill of my career.
“No, I don’t,” I’d said, wanting to relieve myself of her foul company as soon as possible.
It was Julie Parker’s mother, Anna, she said, a dark glint in her eye. She was one of us. You remember the girl, yes?
Like I could forget her. She once worked at the coffee shop where I studied during my first year at Harvard back in the 1950s. She always emptied my ashtray and never said a thing when my cup of black coffee was untouched. Polite, quiet and otherwise unmemorable, her thoughts were always kind and too generous toward even the most rude undergrads. One evening while I studied I heard the twisted but drunken inner-rambling of a stranger up at the counter. I never took his vile fantasy about getting the girl naked seriously, though. Half an hour later when I went to pay I noticed she was gone from the register. Then I saw the full cup of coffee and half a piece of apple pie left at his table. When I found them in his car behind the shop, I was too late. Her wide, dead eyes, frozen in horror, still haunt me to this day.
Geoffrey Fullerton was the killer’s name. He was my first decree kill.
You left a note for Anna, the witch said. You said you were sorry and assured her the killer had been disposed of. She tried to find you to repay you, but even with the lot of us working our best tracking spells, we never did. It was her who first called you the Reckoner. She said it to the paper, and then everyone in Boston started to follow your career: Boston’s own vigilante serial killer. The police tore themselves apart looking for you, though you know in secret they were grateful for what you did for crime statistics. But then you disappeared. Why?
“I retired,” I said.
“To hunt moose?” She laughed in my face until she coughed up bits of dark phlegm into an old kerchief. “Really? What did they ever do to you?”
She was lucky I didn’t use her as an appetizer, though the minute I had the thought, her eyes narrowed maliciously, and then she sneered again.
You alone have the insight to know who in this world truly deserves death, and the strength and desire to see justice done. I implore you to rid the world of just one more devil.
The devil now gone, I lay still on the riverbank, empty and blank, staring up at the falling snow until it disappeared into the dawn.
“You have a great gift, Edward, but this is not how you were intended to use it.”
Dirty winter sun poured through the tall window of my Boston apartment, a small, sparse sublet on the top floor of an old brownstone in Cambridge. That morning I’d called him to tell him I killed again and that I wasn’t coming back to Maine. I wanted to tell Esme myself, but he insisted on seeing me in person before I spoke to anyone else in the family. He and his crushing disappointment were in my apartment by noon.
I took a drag from my cigarette and tipped the ash into the ashtray.
“It doesn’t matter now,” I said.
“I didn’t bring you into this life to become an executioner,” Carlisle said. “You were—are—meant for something better than that. Your mother…”
“Was my mother a witch?” I asked.
“Why would you ask something like that?” he said, impatiently.
“Why would you keep it from me all these years?” I raised my voice as I stood from my chair.
“Your mother was not a witch.” Carlisle glared at me as though he thought I’d lost my mind. “Where would you even get that idea?”
Not in the mood for long and embarrassing explanations, I turned and walked over to the window, staring out over the Charles River, watching its dull surface peak under the biting wind.
“It’s that woman again,” he said. “Your frustration over this unrequited love fantasy is ruining you.”
“She’s dead.” The words sounded ridiculous and cold and so unreal I half wondered if I’d actually said them. But Carlisle’s horrified expression was proof enough. “So I suppose we won’t be able to blame my offenses on her anymore.”
“What do you mean, she’s dead? You don’t know who—where she is—you don’t even know her name. How would you know that she’s dead?”
“I saw her in my last victim’s mind.”
Carlisle collected himself and his face softened from admonishing to sympathetic and then compassionate, ever the father to me. I had to look away but felt him clasp both hands firmly on my shoulders.
Edward, he thought and then looked at me with a fierce determination.
“You’ll come home,” he said. “You’ll come home and we’ll try again.”
Until next week... stay groovy!