Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined (Page 118)

“Oh, is that all?” Jessamine muttered behind me. I’d forgotten she was listening.

I waited.

“As predators,” Archie began, “we have a glut of weapons in our physical arsenal—much, much more than we need for hunting easy prey like humans. Strength, speed, acute senses, not to mention those of us like Edythe, Jessamine, and me who have extra senses as well. And then, like a carnivorous flower, we are physically attractive to our prey.”

I was seeing it all in my head again—how Edythe had illustrated the same concept for me in the meadow.

He smiled wide—his teeth glistened. “We have one more, fairly superfluous weapon. We’re also venomous. The venom doesn’t kill—it’s merely incapacitating. It works slowly, spreading through the bloodstream, so that, once bitten, our prey is in too much physical pain to escape us. Mostly superfluous, as I said. If we’re that close, our prey doesn’t escape. Of course, unless we want it to.”

“Carine,” I said quietly. The holes in the story Edythe had told me were filling themselves in. “So… if the venom is left to spread…?”

“It takes a few days for the transformation to be complete, depending on how much venom is in the bloodstream, how close the venom enters to the heart—Carine’s creator bit her on the hand on purpose to make it worse. As long as the heart keeps beating, the poison spreads, healing, changing the body as it moves through it. Eventually the heart stops, and the conversion is finished. But all that time, every minute of it, a victim would be wishing for death—screaming for it.”

I shuddered.

“It’s not pleasant, no.”

“Edythe said it was very hard to do… but that sounds simple enough.”

“We’re also like sharks in a way. Once we taste blood, or even smell it for that matter, it becomes very hard to keep from feeding. Impossible, even. So you see, to actually bite someone, to taste the blood, it would begin the frenzy. It’s difficult on both sides—the bloodlust on the one hand, the awful pain on the other.”

“It sounds like something you would remember,” I said.

“For everyone else, the pain of transformation is the sharpest memory they have of their human life. I don’t know why I’m different.”

Archie stared past me, motionless. I wondered what it would be like, not to know who you were. To look in the mirror and not recognize the person looking back.

It was hard for me to believe that Archie could have been a criminal, though; there was something intrinsically good about his face. Royal was the showy one, the one the girls at school stared at, but there was something better than perfection about Archie’s face. It was totally pure.

“There are positives to being different,” Archie said suddenly. “I don’t remember anyone I left behind. I got to skip that pain, too.” He looked at me, and his eyes narrowed a little bit. “Carine, Edythe, and Earnest all lost everyone who mattered to them before they left being human behind. So there was grief, but not regret. It was different for the others. The phys-ical pain is a quick thing, comparatively, Beau. There are slower ways to suffer.…”

“Royal had parents who loved him and depended on him—two little sisters he adored. He could never see them again after he was changed. And then he outlived them all. That kind of pain is very, very slow.”

I wondered if he was trying to make me feel bad for Royal—to cut the guy some slack even if he hated me. Well… it was working.

He shook his head, like he knew I wasn’t getting it.

“That’s part of the process, Beau. I haven’t experienced it. I can’t tell you what it feels like. But it’s a part of the process.”

And then I understood what he was telling me.

He was perfectly still again. I put my arm behind my head and stared up at the ceiling.

If… if ever, someday, Edythe wanted me that way… what would that mean for Mom? What would that mean for Charlie?

There were so many things to think about. Things I didn’t even know I didn’t know to think about.

But some things seemed obvious. For whatever reason, Edythe didn’t want me thinking about any of this. Why? It hurt my stomach when I tried to come up with an answer to that question.

Then Archie sprang to his feet.

I looked up at him, startled by the sudden movement, then alarmed again when I saw his face.

It was totally blank—empty, his mouth half open.

Then Jessamine was there, gently pushing him back into the chair.

“What do you see?” she asked in a low, soothing voice.

“Something’s changed,” Archie said, even more quietly.

I leaned closer.

“What is it?”

“A room. It’s long—there are mirrors everywhere. The floor is wood. The tracker is in the room, and she’s waiting. There’s a gold stripe across the mirrors.”

“Where is the room?”

“I don’t know. Something is missing—another decision hasn’t been made yet.”

“How much time?”

“It’s soon. She’ll be in the mirror room today, or maybe tomorrow. It all depends. She’s waiting for something.” His face went blank again. “And she’s in the dark now.”

Jessamine’s voice was calm, methodical. “What is she doing?”

“She’s watching TV… no, she’s running a VCR, in the dark, in another place.”

“Can you see where she is?”

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