The Shadows Know Part 1, Prologue

By Brandon Schwartz

"Clyde, man. Wake up." a voice echoed inside the young boy's mind. Conscious, But eyes closed, Clyde tried to remember where he was. A cold mist sprinkled on his face, the wet grass beneath him soaking his clothes. Finally, he opened his eyes to see a kid his age standing over him. Squinting in the sudden rush of light, he attempted to stand up. A sudden aching pain in his stomach forced him back down to the ground.

"Braham... I can't stand up. Can you help?"

"Sure thing, man." replied the other kid as he outstretched a hand to Clyde's and helped him up. "You alright? ...You got beat pretty badly there." Clyde tried to recall his last conscious moments. His mind allowed him to view his last painful moments before blacking out, and he tuned into them. It was an ability he would regret during future experiences.

A large fist hooked to Clyde's jaw, and sent him sprawling backwards! The surrounding crowd of onlookers cheered in excitement. Clyde rushed toward his rival and threw a straight punch toward his opponent! It was blocked by his attacker's fist, then countered by an uppercut deftly grazing Clyde's nose, causing it to bleed suddenly.

Clyde ignored the blood, and tried one more punch to his attacker's stomach. It connected with a soft groan from his rival, but it did not appear to hurt him badly. Finally, his rival finished Clyde off with a crushing blow to the stomach. He could no longer breathe, and he knew he had no chance of counterattacking. Clyde crumpled to the ground, watching as the crowd started to swirl in circles, faster, and faster, and faster, until darkness finally overcame Clyde's eyes. He could still hear his rival's voice, "Clyde... You stupid little bastard!" as he felt his rivals foot smash into his stomach.

The scene disappeared, and Clyde was back in a world that seemed like reality. He wasn't quite sure, however. His head ached too much to notice.

"Yeah... I'm ok." he lied, still feeling the pain in his body.

"Duke is pretty dangerous. You should stay away from him, you know?" suggested Braham.

The familiar name triggered some memories in Clyde's brain. Duke... Yeah, I remember now... My enemy, Duke, I'll get him back someday... The rest of Clyde's memory fit into place. Glancing at Braham who was only a few months older than him, he envied the mature and developed physique he had. He was a good three inches taller than him at least, and his shoulders were broader and muscular. A compact powerhouse with street sense, yet tolerant and kind to those loyal to him; Clyde best fitted this requirement, which made him his closest friend and acquaintance.

"Maybe..." responded Clyde, looking up at the sky. A light rain was falling, accompanied by heavy wind. The sky was a deep gray. No doubt a larger storm was coming. Clyde and Braham were standing alone in a large field of grass, about a mile away from Tzen: their hometown.

"C'mon, Clyde. Let's go home. It looks like it's gonna rain soon."

"Awright..." responded Clyde, wiping some fresh blood from his nose. "I just don't get how Duke can hold a grudge for so long..." Clyde clenched his teeth as well as his fists muttering, "All these years... Every day since I've been eleven..."

Braham stopped in his tracks and looked at Clyde. "Hey, hey... Calm down. I know you got a lotta rage to take out on that kid... But just save it. You'll have your day sometime."

"Skinned knees..." Clyde continued, "A bloody nose... Occasionally a broken one... Its all damn routine now."

"But Duke is happy here, at least from what I see... All the younger kids look up to him, and the girls in the middle class section are hot for him." noted Braham. "He can't keep this up forever, Clyde. You gotta ignore him, man, and get on wit' your life. You know?"

Clyde nodded, and walked through the field, back toward Tzen. "You're always sayin' things like that..." he mentioned, jamming his hands in his ragged pockets and continuing his hike. Braham shot back a puzzled look, feeling somewhat offended. "Whaddya mean, 'like that?'" he retorted, his eyes narrowing on his friend.

"'Just get on wit' your life, it'll be better tomorrow...'" he said, mimicking Braham's street accent. "Shit like that... It's always goin' up with you, ain't it?" Braham's expression softened. Quietly he answered, "Lookit' our situation... We're poor, underclass kids without any protection, we live in a dangerous neighborhood, have a limited education, and what's more, we're targets."

"Yeah, I know that." he said skeptically, "What's that got to do with that little optimism streak of yours?" Braham picked his head up and regained his usual attitude. "It's simple man..." his voice was once again hinting of unshakable happiness, "You can't survive 'less you keep that mind open, 'hear? We ain't never gonna make it if we lookit' the ground all the damn time." Clyde decided to retreat from his verbal assault, since he knew it wouldn't shake Braham's spirit.

Lighting began to arc through the sky, lighting up the dark evening clouds. Hard rain followed, and Braham began to run toward town. He turned back to Clyde and yelled, "C'mon, man! You wanna catch a cold or something?" Clyde didn't answer, and kept walking. "Fine, man. Just get home before dark. You know your mom's gonna be pissed if you don't!"

Clyde watched as Braham ran out of sight. He stopped walking, pointed his face toward the sky, and let the rain wash the blood off his face.

Part 1, Chapter 1

Final Fantasy 6 Fanfic