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Consolation Prize

By withany

Horror / Fantasy

Chapter 1


The building resembled a black slab, solid and squat in the forest, razor wire coiling round every side. Even the constantly falling snow did little to hide its ugly mass.

"They're disgusted with you, ya know," Emmett said, his voice muffled. From where he stood on the parapet, Edward couldn't see him but could hear him easily enough. "You've taken this too far, Edward. Give it up."

"I don't want to fight with you. Go away."

"Buddy, you know I can get in there, right? Your bunker and razor wire are a joke."

"None of you have a right to judge me. You all still have your mates, but thanks to Jazz, I don't. Go back to Rose." Edward turned away. "Tell him whatever you want, but I don't forgive him. Or Alice for insisting on a stupid birthday party. Goodbye, Emmett."

He went inside, and the thick steel door closed on the Siberian winter.

000

That September evening, two months previously, Jasper's shirt had torn as he pulled free from Edward and barrelled toward Bella. When she knocked into the side of the grand piano, she'd hit it with enough force to splinter the gleaming black wood. That left the steel frame. The edge of the angled metal had caught her across the nape of her neck, snapping it even as the wooden splinters drove through her shoulders and between her ribs. Carlisle had told him later he was sure she was dead by the time teeth ripped into her throat. Edward had held it together long enough to keep his family at bay. He didn't allow anyone touching her.

He was the one who tore into the tire and threw the truck, with Bella's body strapped inside, into the trees near the blind bend. He was the one who'd driven the jagged-edged branch into the gash on her throat before phoning Charlie to ask with a laugh whether Bella was hiding from her own birthday party and should he come and get her.

Then he'd allowed the police to find the car.

After the funeral, Edward stole her body.

000

The bunker was two hundred miles from any settlement. As much as he could relish anything, Edward enjoyed the quiet after so many years of constant mental chatter. Weeks and months merged. Outside, the long, silent winter gave way to a cool spring. Other than his occasional hunts, Edward stayed inside.

He assembled the vats, mixed the chemicals, and stocked up with DNA ligase enzyme. He bought batches of human eggs, frozen in liquid nitrogen, and one by one he replaced their nuclei with samples of Bella's DNA. A maddeningly few of those eggs divided normally, and he transferred them into protein matrix pouches filled with amino acids. Then he watched over them as carefully as any mother alligator over her clutch

In the leaden silence, Edward talked and sang to the embryos, creating more to join their sisters. When some turned out incompatible with the tiny mutations in the host egg, he mourned. He could smell the differences, their weak fragrances lacking one or another subtle note, so they weren't her. He destroyed them while whispering his apologies.

Edward saw little of the short summer or the deepening colors of autumn in the forest. When he wasn't playing symphonies on the grand piano in his living room or attending to the slowly growing embryos, he stood, unmoving, allowing his thoughts to drift and slow.

A year passed and the earliest clones were nearly full-grown. A row of bodies became a row of Bellas, tinged green by the thick membranes covering them. Their hair was short, but it looked thick and glossy. Sometimes they moved, bending their fingers or curling in on themselves. Edward talked and soothed and sang to them.

He spent thousands of dollars on designer outfits. Alice would have been proud. He bought jewels in finely crafted mounts and barrettes for her hair. He had movies downloaded, bought game tables and a sleigh and reindeer.

When The Day finally arrived, it was winter again, and snow blanketed the forest.

000

The first clone opened her eyes and peered up through the membrane. Edward talked softly to her when he tore open the sac, and the fluids poured into the drain below. The clone began to choke. Edward turned her onto her side until her coughing slowed before he covered her in a soft robe and carried her to a waiting bath.

She sat in the water, oblivious to her nakedness. She put up no resistance as Edward lifted each limb to wash her. Although he kept up his stream of encouraging talk, reassuring and explaining, she gave no sign of interest or understanding.

Edward dressed her in a sapphire silk evening gown. "I always wanted to buy you beautiful clothes but you'd never let me. You never understood how much I wanted to be everything for you. I miss you, but at least I can do this for you now."

He mixed baby rice, easy on her system for her first meal, and spoon-fed it to her. He snuggled with her on the sofa while he watched TV, and she lay, docile, next to him. He supported her while they circled the room in a slow waltz to the melodies of Tchaikovsky, and he held her while she slept.

As he stroked her hair, he told her about her birthday party. "So, Jasper was overwhelmed by thirst and threw it right at us. Then Alice foresaw him attacking you, and that was too much."

He kissed her neck, and ran his teeth across the soft skin covering her artery.

"I couldn't resist you, you see – your blood – not with all those images and feelings. I've never tasted anyone like you, and if I can't have the real you, at least I have something. I have an endless supply of you, on your eighteenth birthday, so I guess I can have my cake and eat it."

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