Oh, and for all who follow Girl Genius!, I am going to do Agatha.
Enjoy the next part of "The Darkest Hour".
The train rushed over the ground, whipping by the surrounding town as it hurtled towards the city. The passing buildings ran together into streaks of light, and Chicago sprang up from the eastern horizon, blazing like a rising sun.
But Edward barely noticed it. He’d hopped the stone fence back at the cemetery and started running along the train tracks, barely keeping his vampiric speed in check for the sake of disguise, such was his burning and desperate desire to get away from there, to get away from Oak Park altogether, to put it behind him and never return.
The rush and roar of an approaching train had alerted him before it rounded the bend behind him, and he ducked off of the tracks and waited, keeping to the shadows, away from the glaring white eye of the headlight. As it passed, he sprang, landing with a muffled thud atop a car near the end.
Despite the fact that the train was faster than he was, running as slowly as he had been, and carrying him out and away at much greater speeds, it afforded him no peace—because now he was free to think, free to dwell on the emptiness and death that now held the place of his memories, free to mourn the crushing disappointment that he’d found waiting for him at the end of his pilgrimage.
He wished he could run. To throw off this farcical yoke of feigned humanity, to run like the wind, to be what he was supposed to be now, to let his legs carry him over the ground like lightning, to run and never look back.
But he couldn’t. He had to behave himself, to keep a tight rein on his abilities and desires, to cater to the humans and their delusions of superiority even as they trampled over everything that he held dear.
He flattened himself atop the car as it slowed to a stop, the doors creaking open to release a flood of passengers, to take on new ones, and Edward rubbed his face against the cold metal of the roof, hoping in vain that the bitter iron scent of the car would mask the hot, coppery pulse of humanity that streamed in and out of the train every time the doors swung open.
The babble of minds beneath him shifted and flowed as one set of shallow thoughts departed and another took its place. He heard all of the complaints, bitterness, prejudices, insults, sneers, cruelties, and petty desires from below, each one different and yet all the same, the same endless repetition of the same trivial, pointless things that drove all humans.
The train lurched to life again, and he let himself breathe once more as the air moved around him. It was thicker here, not so clean as back h—back in Oak Park; here he could smell the soot, taste the exhaust of all the automobiles, and the fetid odor of the dirty rivers and canals. And the smell of the humans, always the smell of the humans, wherever he went, that maddening smell that clung to everything and invaded his nostrils no matter how hard he tried to ignore it.
He was deep in the heart of the city by now, the buildings high above him as they flashed by. But he wanted to be here—being alone back in Oak Park had afforded him no peace. He wanted to go back to the numb senselessness of immersing himself in the small minds of the city dwellers, to be awash in their pointless cares, rather than his own.
He leapt from the train into an alley on Michigan Avenue, dusting himself off before turning out onto the street and heading north, back into the surging core of the city.
Nothing compared to Chicago at nighttime. Even the glimpse he’d had early this morning was nothing compared to this, this wild, frenetic blaze of energy and activity. The streets were packed with roiling masses of humanity, seething and pulsing as if the lifeblood in a great network of veins. Signs flashed and cars rumbled by, and the city was alive with light and sound.
He stopped, looking all around him, at the wild hub of life, feeling his mouth curl upwards in a smile that felt vaguely out of place on his face. Chicago on a Friday night—it was—
He was jarred out of his thoughts by someone slamming into him from behind; he’d not heard whoever it was coming over the riot of voices all around him, but he heard his real voice well enough. “Why don’t you watch where you’re going, you stupid little bastard!”
Edward whirled, but his assailant was already gone, melting into the crowds around him, and it was with a scowl that he put his hands in his pockets and did the same, flitting in amongst the hordes of people and keeping himself moving, not stopping to admire the scenery.
The nightclubs were in full swing, despite Prohibition. Or maybe it was because of Prohibition—people went out to do their illegal drinking, rather than staying in. Oh, there was ostensibly no liquor in there, but Edward knew better. He didn’t even need to listen for the thoughts of the patrons—the wild partying and drunken laughter and the smell of them as they staggered out into the streets were enough to tell him exactly what was going on in there. Even more ridiculous were the sounds of jazz and the babble of voices and laughter coming out of the backs of less obvious places like flower shops or, in once instance, a funeral parlor.
Hmph. This is what the vaunted Temperance Movements have done to this city. Turned it into a degenerate hotbed of crime. Edward grimaced and turned away, heading towards the east. Chicago hadn’t been like this when he lived here—it had been a city of lights and laughter and music and art—not a cesspool of drunken carousing and tasteless racket and free love.
He glowered at the passers-by as he walked—and then his eyes widened, and he only narrowly avoided another collision as he forced his feet to keep moving, not to stop and stare like wanted to. Going in the opposite direction he saw Freddie Nelson. Edward remembered him as the bulky, sneering boy who used to smash bugs into his hair and steal his books and throw them into puddles. But here was a tall, distinguished-looking man, wearing a three-piece suit, and Edward knew that he had graduated and then gone on to get his degree from Cornell and had a promising position at the bank, and he already had his own house and was married with a son to carry on the name and a daughter and another child on the way, but that wasn’t stopping him from having fun out on the town, having drinks with Angie here by his side, which would turn into more at a motel before he went home to his wife—
Choking on the bitterness in his throat, Edward veered away, as much to get away from Nelson as to avoid being seen by him, going further and deeper into downtown. The crowds grew heavier as he descended right into the throbbing heart of the city.
Was no one sober here? he thought furiously as he was nearly bowled over by a pack of revelers—would have been bowled over if he had still been human—and the thick smell of their sweaty bodies nearly overwhelmed him even as his head swirled with sudden intoxication, theirs and his own. In his haste to get away, he himself nearly knocked over a woman wearing those long, vulgar strings of beads and one of those appalling dresses that nearly showed her knees—had women no shame these days?
“Why, hello there, darling!” she cooed, leaning in close, so close that he could hear her blood surging beneath her skin and feel the addiction to her drugs that sizzled in her veins. “Are you looking for someone to read you a bedtime story?”
With a snarl, he jerked his arm away from her, her warm fingers leaving a searing imprint on his cool flesh, and he stalked down the street, ducking into a wave of people crossing the street—and he barely made it, finding himself suddenly surrounded on all sides by pounding pulses and drumming hearts and rushing blood.
He scrambled out of the herd of them, and in his haste ran right into someone coming the opposite direction, and before he could move, he found himself picked up as if he weighed nothing and thrown out of the way, landing hard on the ground.
“Watch it, kid,” came the coarse voice from above him, and he stared at the wall of muscle as the enormous thug—no, the enormous gangster—laughed down at him around the cigarette in his mouth, and the narrow, rat-faced man next to him sniggered sycophantically in reply, and then they left, leaving him lying in the street like a piece of gutter trash, and they were on their way, and they had to hurry, because Capone had sent them, and Nicky was gonna pay tonight, else he’d be mopping his brains off the wall—
Edward picked himself up and fled. He ran, not caring where, just running away, ignoring the shouts and curses as he forced his way through the crowds—he had to get out, get away, get free of all this—get out now—
An el roared mercifully overhead, and he scrambled up the side of a nearby building and leapt atop the passing train, above the masses below, where he whipped by too fast to hear them, their minds and thoughts swirling together into a senseless cacophony that he could tamp down into the recesses of his skull so he could hear himself think.
It was a mistake coming here. There was nothing for him. He had to get out. This wasn’t his home—his home was gone, and it was never coming back. He had to get away from here, from this, from these—people, if that’s what they were, but surely people didn’t act like this—like animals.
And, above all, he had to feed. He felt like he was losing his mind—how could he have been so stupid to come here—this was the very reason he’d left Maine in the first place, forcing himself to live amongst what he most craved, to see but not touch, to smell but not taste, torturing himself endlessly by pretending to be what he was not.
He looked up from where he’d pressed his cheek against the metal of the car; he was eastbound, and in the distance he could see the long dark stripe of Lake Michigan on the horizon. Perfect—he could hop a barge, find a ship that would take him away, that would let him escape back the way he came, and he could retreat into the woods and forests where it was quiet and where he could be alone and where things made sense.
The train began to swing south again, and Edward jumped from the cars, aiming for the top of a nearby building. It was a little farther than he’d like, almost out of his range, but he made it, teetering only a little on the edge. He could have just jumped to the ground, but he didn’t trust himself right now—he needed to stay away from anything that might look like food.
It was darker here, and quieter, the nightscape not dominated by skyscrapers and jazz music, but rather by the throb of factories and the distant blare of a barge’s horn. The smell of humans was thinner here, masked by soot and the smell of the water.
He crossed the rooftop and hopped to the next, taking himself nearer and nearer to the docks, where he could hopefully find his passage to freedom. There was no ringing din of human voices here, just a low babble of the relatively few souls still at work beneath him in the darkness, of Elbert “Elby” McMannis waiting idly for his shift to end, he couldn’t wait to get home, he was dog tired, and of Frank Crean loading crates onto a truck for shipping down to the docks, and his back hurt, dammit, he didn’t want to have to go back to that quack again, of Foreman Wickersham writing up the nights reports, and he was good at it, too, reporting just a little less here and there and nobody would be the wiser, and Ratso waiting impatiently at the corner of the street, that numb bastard had better get back here, or he was going to cut him a new nostril, and Reggie slinking in the shadows of the alleyway, and oh, yeah, that’s right, bitch, you’re mine, just a little closer, gonna get a taste of that pussy, bet she’ll scream, yeah—
Edward skidded to a halt, bile welling up in his throat, and he raced to the far side of the building. There—crouched down in the darkness outside of the ring of light thrown by the lamp on the side of the warehouse, Edward could see him, see the glint of the knife in his hand, could feel the churning of arousal in his middle, his palms sweating and his breath quiet and quick as he watched the girl walk closer—she was a streetwalker anyway, no one would miss her, that’s right, so close…
Edward stood, frozen with indecision—he couldn’t…they were supposed to stay out of human affairs, lest they be found out by the Imperial governors, Carlisle had told him that much. But Carlisle was a doctor, had touched many human lives, and for the better—surely saving someone from an attack wasn’t grounds for them to—
His thoughts were cut off with a shriek, and without thinking he leapt.
Reggie didn’t see him, fighting as he was with the struggling girl, and Edward’s head reeled beneath the press of both her—Madeline’s—crushing terror and Reggie’s black lust, feeling both the press of the knife on his throat and the grind of his erection into her behind, and not now!
Edward’s own body leapt in response to the man’s filthy excitement, and he felt his fangs trying to lengthen against his lips. But the sound of Reggie’s sick panting, of tearing clothes and a strangled plea gave him focus, and he stood upright and walked towards them and said, “Let her go.”
Reggie jumped; Edward felt the sudden fear, followed swiftly by angry contempt, felt the surge of hope in Madeline’s chest as her wide eyes looked out from behind the arm that pinned her and the hand clamped over her mouth.
“Fuck you, you little prick—this don’t concern you—now get lost!” Reggie snarled.
“I think not,” said Edward, enunciating carefully around the teeth that were obstructing his speech. “The lady clearly doesn’t welcome your attentions—now let her go.”
Reggie snorted, and jerked his arm tighter around her. “Lady my ass—she wants it, and I want it, and if you don’t fuck off, I’ll give this—” he brandished his knife— “to you in the ribs!”
Edward felt a growl rising from his stomach, rumbling up through his chest, and he let it out, the sound echoing against the cold bricks of the surrounding buildings, and he saw and felt Reggie’s sudden alarm.
And then Edward moved, faster than the human eye could discern, moving in, moving to strike, and he wouldn’t escape, and he clamped down on Reggie’s wrist and yanked it away. He heard the strangled shout, felt the pound of the pulse beneath his fingers, and then he twisted Reggie’s arm behind him, freeing the girl, who fell to the ground, and then he tossed that animal away like the garbage he was, right into a stand of trashcans with a clattering racket that rang up and down the alley.
He clenched his fists, fighting the instinct to follow Reggie’s arc through the air, to finish the hunt, and then turned to where he could hear Madeline scrambling to her feet even as Reggie was cursing and flailing and trying to get to his. “Are you all—?” he started to ask, but before he could finish, she was up and running away without so much as a look back—without so much as a thank you.
He stared after her, so dumbfounded at her ingratitude that he barely heard it.
(That’s it, you sorry son of a bitch, you’re mine now—)
Edward whirled as Reggie drew back his arm, turning to face him, and then pain, white-hot, roaring pain, and he stared into Reggie’s laughing eyes and then looked down to where the knife was buried under his ribs to the hilt.
He stared at it, and then he looked up, looked into the face of the man who had stabbed him, saw his glee, felt his joy at the kill, giving this little smartass punk what he deserved—
And something broke inside him. This is what we want to save, Carlisle? This is what we keep safe from ourselves? This is what deserves to live?
With a roar of inhuman fury, he seized the hand than held the knife; the man barely had time to register his shock when the sound of snapping bones reached him as Edward crushed his fingers in his grip. Reggie’s excitement turned to anguish, his laughter to a wail of pain— “How do you like it, scum?” Edward hissed, looming over him as his knees gave out and he fell to the ground at Edward’s feet where he belonged, struggling fruitlessly in his grip.
Edward wrenched the knife from his side; a thick trickle of congealing fluid dribbled out after it, shining purply on his clothes, the harsh, horrible scent burning in his nose even as his flesh knitted rapidly back together, sealing the wound without a trace in mere seconds. He flung the knife away, and then lifted Reggie by his broken hand—he yowled in agony—and threw him again, this time with enough strength to send him the length of the alleyway and into the mound of garbage piled there.
He was scrabbling away just after he hit—oh no, you filth, you’ll not get away from me! You wanted to take me—here I am! Edward vaulted across the pavement, landing in front of him, and he heard the whimper when Reggie realized that Edward was blocking his path, and when he shrieked at him, “Leave me alone!” Edward couldn’t help but laugh.
“Leave you alone?” he brayed. “But Reggie—you wanted it, and now I want it!” And Edward leapt again, seizing him around the middle, and he felt his terror, saw the livid face and the burning eyes and the glinting fangs that floated moonlike in the darkness and he raised Reggie above his head and threw him again, and the ringing sound as his head smashed against the dumpster was music to his ears, and oh, my, but he was staggering to his feet still, this one was a fighter, yes, oh, but this was fun—did you think you were dealing with a kid, Reggie? With a boy? Come, now, I’ll show you what I am, oh, dear, did you hurt yourself, what a shame—
There it was, gleaming wetly on his head, and oh, the smell, yes, so rich and warm and wet and red YES and he could feel his pulse there it was yes oh yes come here let me taste so hungry let me drink you think you can outrun me you whining crawling thing and where is it it’s mine I want it and YES!
Flesh gave way like butter beneath his fangs, and he could feel the pulse of it on his teeth, in his mouth, in every part of him and then—yes, the sweetness, slick and hot and pumping and pulsing, filling his mouth, his throat, and his stomach, limning his veins with fire, roaring through his body, and his nerves were singing, this was what he wanted, what he needed, yes, yes, yes, and he felt the twitching and jerking against him and he held it tight, clenching with his thighs, and he felt the fluttering of muscles beneath him, oh, it was glorious.
It filled him up, so hot and wet and slick, and he ground himself against it, holding it tight to his body and his hips jerked, and the burning heat was filling him up, boiling through his limbs like bolts of lightning and he sucked and sucked and sucked, could never get enough, wanted more, more, never enough, and it welled up inside of him, coiling tighter and tighter and he drank and drank until he could drink no more and white heat and light suffused his vision and exploded inside him and OH GOD—
He dropped it on the ground; its struggles long since ceased, and it fell with a limp thud, and Edward threw his head back and howled. The night was alive, and his body sang, fire racing along his nerves, and had it ever been like this, had he ever felt this wonderful, roaring ecstasy in all his life—and he was alive, was full to the brim with heat and life and his skin was hot and flushed and he was alive, and a laugh tore its way out of him, and he laughed and laughed to the sky, yes, he was Edward Mason, and he was alive, and the night was his, the world was his, and he would have it, he would have them, have them all, their skin and necks and blood, hot racing blood in his mouth and he would fill them up and they would fill him up and they were waiting for him and he was ready and he wanted them and they were his because he was alive!
His mouth split into a wild grin, and he breathed deep of the air, the beautiful night air, and even it was magnificent, so cold and fresh and wonderful, and he could taste and hear and smell and see everything with perfect clarity as he’d never seen before, could hear the sounds of the horns of the ships and the rushing of the water and the scrabbling of rats on the ground, could smell the rain on the air and taste the soot of the factories, see the light of the stars and the roiling of the clouds and the sharp edges of the bricks and the cracks in the pavement and Reggie—
…Lying face-down, unmoving on the pavement at his feet.
He stared, blinking, and then his mouth dropped open in horror.
No—what—I didn’t—I just—NO!!!
Edward fell to his knees, rolling his limp form over on his back, desperate, pounding on his chest, shaking him, “Reggie—no—I didn’t—wake up—get up, Reggie, please—wake up, damn you!” no he wasn’t, he couldn’t be—
—he was dead—
—he had killed him—
—he had murdered him—
“No.” His voice had no strength in the face of the glassily empty eyes over the tattered throat from which no blood flowed.
His scream was high and thready as he scrambled backwards, his stomach knotting and writhing in his middle, and he could feel it full of blood, of human blood, and he doubled over and heaved—but nothing came up, no, his body held fast and refused to give up its meal, and he crammed his fist helplessly in his mouth and bit down, but then jerked away because his fangs were still out could still taste it inside of his skin—
Reggie’s cooling body stared accusingly up at him from where it lay, burning him with its sightless gaze, and Edward could only stare back at it in anguished revulsion—dear God, I ATE him!
He ran—he leapt to the top of the nearby building in a single bound and he ran across the rooftops, going so fast that his borrowed breath was stolen from him as he fled, zig-zagging across the top of the city, trying desperately to outrun the awful truth of what he had just done, helplessly fleeing those empty, staring eyes that were branded into his soul.
I killed him.
I murdered him.
I ate him.
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