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New Moon: A "Darkward" Tale

By Irene Huhtala Hartman

Humor

Traveling Abroad With a Broad

The Catacombs of Paris are a network of tunnels and caves that run for more than 300 kilometers under the city. To build said city, you need materials. The Romans quarried the limestone in the area beginning about 60 B.C.E.; however, those quarries were the open-air kind -- the Romans just dug out the rock that was exposed. As the city grew and covered the landscape, tunneling would be required to get more building materials. In 1180 C.E., King Philippe-Auguste was a major proponent of tunneling to quarry in order to build ramparts to protect the city, and it was under his rule that this tunnel network would truly be born.

As quarries grew in size and complexity, problems began to arise. In the eighteenth century, the city of Paris (and the weight of its buildings) continued to grow as the ground became hollow underneath. At the same time, the graveyards were getting full... very full. Cemetery of the Innocent alone held more than thirty generations of human remains.

So, the people who manage such things saw a way to kill two proverbial birds with one proverbial stone: they stacked bodies as supports for the tunnels below the city. That's right; there are sections of the Catacombs that are literally held up by walls of bones. A fitting place for a vampire pad, no? And that's where I set up camp, for a couple days.

My apartment, as it were, was a little room just off the beaten tourist path. To get to this room, you actually had to travel several miles around the tunnels to get to the other side of the coolest wall ever created by man. The wall, floor to ceiling, was composed of bones. Arm bones, leg bones, probably hands and feet as well, packed so tightly that you couldn't see completely through to the other side. That wasn't even the coolest part. In the center of the wall, the builders (who I assume had a macabre sense of humor) had built a cross. Out of human skulls. As soon as I saw that, I decided it was the perfect place for me to lay low for a while.

I spent a long time just walking around the catacombs, away from the tourist tunnels, getting the lay of the land. They say the tunnels go on for miles, and if you're not careful, you could get lost and find no way out, and eventually die down here. That's what I was counting on. If I could get lost, chances were I could lose not only myself, but a certain somebody as well.

I was walking down one sewer-like tunnel, musing about my chances of keeping away from Carlisle for any significant amount of time, when I thought I heard something in the wall behind me. I stopped walking and listened intently. There was a soft whisper of sound, as of a rat

placing a foot on the ground or perhaps a moth taking flight. I set off again, and again heard the same sound, behind the wall to my right. I slowed and peered at the wall, attempting to determine what was making that sound.

Suddenly the wall exploded next to my head, and an arm snaked out and slid around my throat, anchoring my back to the wall. Carlisle! Dammit, not again! I struggled frantically against his hold, but with as little leverage as I had, all I did was ineffectually pound the rock behind me.

"When are you going to get the picture, Edward? You can't hide from me, and you can't run forever."

"How..." I gasped out.

"Jasper told me of course. He just needed the right...persuasion." He squeezed a bit harder. "Did you really think you could keep a secret from me, Edward?"

I didn't answer, partly because I was momentarily struck speechless, and partly because Carlisle was squeezing my windpipe. I couldn't suffocate of course, but I couldn't draw breath to speak, either.

"Just suck it up and accept your fate, Edward. You can't escape me, and the sooner you accept that, the easier this will be for both of us."

Angry and frustrated now, I lashed out mentally. Accept it? Yeah, sure, why not? Just like "Subject J" and "Subject V" accepted it? And what about Esme? Did she accept it too?

"What?" He sounded genuinely confused, and his hold loosened just enough to let me slip free.

"It will never happen, Carlisle!" I yelled as I pelted down the tunnel, praying that our two tunnels didn't intersect somewhere down the line. I turned a corner, and barely managed to avoid running down a teenage boy who was apparently filming something down here. I sort of skipped around him and wound up on the other side. He cried out when he saw my currently terrified and terrifying visage; I had fed on a tourist the night before so my eyes probably glowed red. I was already freaked from my confrontation with Carlisle, and when I instinctively put my hands up, the boy saw my claws and fangs out. His eyes widened, and he dropped his camera, screamed, and ran down the tunnel the way I'd come. Great. Now I was a story to tell other tourists.

I raced through several more miles of tunnels before I decided to climb up to the surface. The pothole I'd chosen wasn't actually in use, so I had to use...persuasion of my own. The city construction workers would have a hard time explaining the hole I punched through the manhole cover. It kind of hurt, too.

Now what was I supposed to do? That was my last ditch effort to stay hidden anywhere for any length of time, and it barely took Carlisle three days to find me there. I was still determined that I would not submit to Carlisle, I would not. What made that harder was that I was bound to him, and it would be virtually impossible for me not to submit to him if he got me in a situation with literally nothing between us. And now I was out in the open.

I could feel despair closing in around me. I didn't want that to happen. I'd rather die. What? Had I really thought that? Then I thought again. Would I really rather die? Cease to exist, whatever? When the only other option was being Carlisle's lab rat, the answer had to be yes.

Speaking of Carlisle, I could hear him somewhere behind me, and I dashed off into the Parisian twilight.

His laughter echoed in my head. Do you really think I would chase you around Paris aboveground in daylight? You ought to know I would never do anything so undignified, Edward...

My mind raced, trying to think of some solution out of this mess, any solution. Even if I decided to off myself, how would I go about doing it? We weren't exactly easy to kill, and all the tools I knew about were back at the island-wait! Carlisle's old gang, the Volturi, they might have some! I had a feeling that that group would keep tabs on any information that vital, and keep the necessary implements on hand, or at least somewhere nearby Volterra, their home base. Now it only remained to get there, get them, and use them.

I decided to get to Italy by way of the bullet train from France. Quite frankly, I was just tired of running everywhere. I was standing in the train ticket line, when someone jostled me as they brushed past. "Hey, watch it!" I snapped.

"Oh sorry, I didn't see you there," was the sarcastic reply. "I'll look where I'm going next time."

Her acerbic attitude irritated me. "Listen, you-" I started, turning to face her. I stopped when I got a good look. The young woman in front of me was of average height, athletic build, had long dark brown hair, carried a cane and wore dark glasses inside. I didn't think she was making a fashion statement and she definitely wasn't crippled; she was obviously blind. As soon as I realized, I felt a little foolish for snipping at her like I did. "Sorry," I muttered.

She sighed. "Don't be. It's not your fault I'm having a bad day. Or that, you know, I'm 'visually challenged.'" She made air quotes as she said it. "What does that even mean?" she continued. "I mean, it's not like I can work to overcome it, like someday, if I work hard enough, I'll be able to see."

I chuckled at her humor, and played along in my best Shakespeare voice, "Avast, ye curs-ed blindness! I smiteth thee."

She giggled at that. "You are such a dork."

"Oh, that's rich, a grump calling me a dork. Grump."

She gasped dramatically. "How dare you insult an invalid! Jerk!"

"I think that was uncalled for. Bitch!"

"Bastard!"

"Shrew!"

She chuckled when I said that. "Shrew? Really? What century are you from, hotshot?"

"I was born at the beginning of the twentieth century, actually."

She smiled tolerantly. "Oh, ok, well that explains everything then," she said, playing along with my "joke." Well, it was better that her thinking I was crazy, anyway. "And let me guess: your first name is Rip, and the rest is Van Winkle."

"Actually, it's Edward. Edward Cullen."

"Olivia. Olivia Norther." She put out her hand for a handshake, and I obligingly took it.

"Nice to meet you."

"Whoa! Cold hands alert! I thought mine tended to get cold."

"Yeah, it's a...family trait, kinda."

"Well, we all have our quirks. I for example, love ketchup on my scrambled eggs. So, where you off to?"

It turned out we were both bound on the same train, and we managed to sit together, I guess because we both wanted-and maybe needed-the company.

"So, clearly we're both not natives; what brings you to France?"

I sighed ruefully. "Would you believe I'm running away from my father?"

"Eh, I've heard stranger stories."

"Really? Like what?"

"Well, I met this guy once who swore up and down he was being stalked by a vampire. Crazy, huh?"

"Uh, yeah, that-that's pretty crazy."

"Me? I'm here to experience the sounds, smells, and feel of Europe. Sights are for pansies!"

What? "The...feel?"

"Sure! The feel of the terrain, the crowds around you. Did you know, I've developed a sort of empathy, being blind? I can sort of feel the stronger emotions of the people around me. It's almost like an energy field."

"Really? What have you felt so far?" I was partly intrigued by what she had to say, and partly I just wanted to get my mind off things for a while.

"Well, most of the folks in Paris tend to be polite, but they're arrogant as well..."

We talked non-stop the whole ride, and it was one of the most stimulating conversations I've ever had. We talked about everything, even the weather, and she could elicit the most outrageous reactions out of me. This is the person I want for my partner. The thought came unbidden from my head. Wait, what? Really? I thought about it for a second, and came to the conclusion that my initial thought was correct. Here was a girl who I could laugh and joke with, who teased and challenged me. Not like Bella. I could only think of Bella in the long term in the long-term as a sort of pet, but Olivia here? She could be my mate; by the old definition. Maybe if I had met her first, before Bella...but I didn't, and now I would have to deal. Thinking about Bella made me remember what I was doing here, and my mood soured.

"...and sometimes I think I would do anything to recover my sight, but then...Uh-oh. Your 'mood smell' just changed to grumpy. What made you into Grumpus Magoo?" Olivia asked.

"Nothing. Just...we're almost there. Any minute we'll slow down and pull up to the station."

"Oh. That trip went fast. Maybe because I had such a stimulating conversation partner," she said suggestively, smiling.

"Nah, it was just your dazzling personality making a time-warp."

"Pfff! Whatever, sparky. Hey, before I forget, here's my number," she handed me a business card, "look me up if you're ever in the area."

I took it from her and slid it into my pocket. "Thanks." I hesitated, and said, "Hey, what would you give to be able to see again?"

She stilled. "What?"

I shook my head. "Sorry, never mind, stupid question. Well, this is where our paths diverge." I paused, then gave her a quick kiss on the lips. "Good-bye." I stepped back and paused, feeling like an idiot, before I left her, surprised and pressing fingers to her suddenly-chilled lips.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

By the time I reached the castle at Volterra, I had a plan in mind. It was pretty simple; I would just do what I had had lots of practice doing these past few weeks: lie like a rug and hope my luck didn't run out.

It started with Aro. I found him in his office. He folded his hands on the desk in front of him and leaned forward, looking me in the eyes. "So...you say you want to join the Volturi?"

"Yes, sir," I said awkwardly. I was totally winging it here.

"Why?" he demanded.

I rubbed the back of my neck. "Well, mostly I'm sick of Carlisle's rules; I'm tired of subsisting on animal blood. It's like snacking on rice cakes when I could be having steak."

Aro chuckled. "Yes, I can see how you might feel stifled by such expectations as he has."

"Yeah, but I'm kind of afraid," I continued, not looking him in the eyes. "I think he might come after me; force me to come back with him."

"Ah yes, you're one of those bound to him, aren't you?" My apparent situation amused him.

"Yeah, so could you not call him for a while? That would kind of ruin everything."

He leaned back and folded his hands behind his head. "I'll...consider your request. In the meantime, stay close to the castle; don't wander off, but feel free to explore our home."

I bowed my head slightly. "Thank you, sir." I left the room, and smiled when I was clear. That was exactly the opening I was hoping for. I immediately went to explore the keep.

The Volturi's castle was old enough to be made mostly out of stone. Some effort had been made to soften the harsh feel with draperies and rugs or carpets, but they couldn't completely keep the oppressive atmosphere at bay. I thought it was nice.

I was in a fanciful mood, so I halfway expected the room I sought to be at the end of the hall, in the farthest room of the tallest tower of the castle, like the princess in a fairy tale. Well, I looked there, and it was a room of sunshine; an open window let in a sunbeam that filled the room with sunlight; not what I was looking for. The room I wanted was actually in the opposite place. I found it, an abandoned and probably all but forgotten room at the far end of a hallway in the one of the lowest levels of the structure. When I opened the door, I saw the eerily familiar scene of Carlisle's back room. Nearly everything in it shimmered with a silvery sheen created by the thin layer of vampire skin that coated each implement of vampiric destruction. I found replicas of every weapon I remembered seeing in Carlisle's collection, even down to the whips glinting in the weak light. When I saw that, one word blossomed in my mind:

Jackpot.

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