The Depths of Demons Chapter 3
For a moment, she simply looked at him, even the thought of speaking startled from her. He, too, robbed of speech simply sat there, blinking in confusion, looking at her.
Then, he spoke, his voice hoarse. "Where am I?" he questioned, frowning. "Howhow did I get here? Who are you?"
Taken aback, Mylar opened her mouth, but shut it again, not knowing what to say. She'd never had to answer questions such as those before. Whenever she found a wounded animal, she simply brought it home and healed it. Although she had treated humans before, they were always people she knew. Looking at her patient, she didn't know how she was to explain what had happened, when she wasn't entirely certain herself.
"I was hoping you could tell me what had happened," she said softly, her tone somewhat worried. "I found you wounded near Midgar and brought you here. You've been unconscious for a long while. My name is Mylar. Who are you? What is your name?"
His frown deepened. For a long while, he did not speak, he simply sat there, a confused expression upon his face, puzzling over her question. When he did speak, he countered with a question of his own. "Why can't I remember anything?"
It was Mylar's turn to frown. "You mean, you don't remember what happened?" She took a step backward.
"No. No, I mean, I don't remember anything, at all. What the hell is happening? Howwhy?" A pained look crossed his face, and he covered his eyes with one hand, shaking his head. "Whycan'tIrememberanything?"
She found herself suddenly frightened by the man. Mylar wrapped her arms around herself, taking another step backward, wishing her father were there. He would know what to do, how to handle everything. He always had.
But he isn't here, is he? I guess you'll just have to figure something out by yourself for once in your life, her thoughts taunted her. You've been too dependant upon everyone. It's time you start learning how to deal with your own problems. Your father isn't here, dammit! He can't make everything right, so live with it!
Mylar took a deep breath. "Don't try to figure anything out just yet. You've been hurt badly, so it would be natural to be confused. It's just temporary, I'm sure. Everything will come back to you soon. You're still injured, and I'm certain you're hungry. Just stay there, try not to move much, and it'll come back to you. I'm going to go find some food."
Taking another long breath, Mylar turned and left, her hands clenched into fists.
He watched the girl with the long legs and brown hair leave the room. Although he could tell she was frightened of him, he couldn't discern why.
His head ached, and each breath he took brought a sudden, sharp pain to his chest. It hurt to think, mostly because, when he thought, he everything was blurred, unclear. Frustration boiled through him, agonizing him.
Why can't I remember? Why can't I remember? The girl said I'd remember soon. She said I'd know what's happening.
Trying not to think of anything at all, he looked about the room. It was lit only by a lamp, which sat upon a table some distance from him, but there was a strange green glow upon a glass jar from a source he could not identify. The room was extremely clean, with few furnishings, and a strange scent hung in the air, reminding him of summer.
He had visions of places, could faintly recall voices, but no names. That smell sent him to a land where grasses grew far past one's ankles with blades so green it was though they were shards of emeralds. Palm trees grew high, protruding through the sand, near a blue-green sea. That same smell sent a wave of fear through him, dizzying almost, in its power. And he had the vague impression of a smooth, white floor enclosed by dark silver walls. Feet wearing shiny black shoes fell down upon that floor, disturbing the silence. The feet led down the hallway, their silver buckles gleaming in dim light, abruptly reflecting a face. Distorted, the man's face was suddenly close, eyes wild, angry, mouth open, shouting. You will suffer as I did. Suffer. Sufur. You will suffer as I did, Sufur. And the shoes moved on, thumping heavily upon the floor, echoing. Sufur. Sufur. Everything was backwards. Suffer. Sufur. Then something pulled at one foot, a hand clasped one ankle sheathed in a white sock, and the foot kicked it away, stepped upon the fingers, hearing the crunch of bones breaking but not caring. You must not feel pity. You must not feel remorse.
"How are you feeling?"
The girl's voice sent him reeling back into the room. He opened his eyes, not having realized that he'd been somewhere on the edge of consciousness and sleep.
For a moment, his vision was blurry. Darkness swam momentarily across his sight, then left clarity in its wake. The girl was much closer, kneeling a short distance from him, holding a bowl of something. She looked at him with concern evident in her eyes.
When he didn't answer her, she spoke again. "You aren't ready to start eating solids, so you'll have to live with broth." Leaving the bowl on the ground, she moved toward him and placed the back of her hand against his forehead, then stepped back and stood giving him a scrutinizing look. "Lift your arm," she commanded, stepping backward and narrowly missing the broth.
Confused, he did as commanded.
"Make a fist. Good. Now unclench you hand, now turn your wrist." Giving her a quizzical look, he obeyed. Nodding, she watched a he carried out each of her instructions. "All right. Good. Do you think you can manage to eat by yourself, or should I help you?"
"I can do it," he grumbled, indignant.
She nodded, bent and slowly grasping the bowl, along with a spoon, and moving toward him. Kneeling once more, she gently held the bowl out toward him. "Careful now. You're still weak." As he used one hand to hold the bowl, she placed her own hand a short distance from his, as though not trusting his ability to hold it on his own. The girl kept her eyes focused on her hand, gazing intently at her knuckles.
You will suffer. Sufur.
"My name is Sufur," he said suddenly, then shook his head.
"Are you remembering something?"
He shook his head again. Frustration ran through his blood like fire at the fact that he could not remember something that should have been so simple.
"Oh, oh careful," she warned, steadying the bowl.
Angry that his hands shook, angry that he was being treated as an infant, he shoved her hand away, then grasped the bowl and threw it away from him, tossing it across the room. Weakened by his injuries, he was unable to throw it with much force, and the bowl landed upside down a short distance from them, spilling the broth all over.
With infinite patience, the girl--Mylar, he told himself--stood, walked toward the bowl, and grasped it with one hand. Turning her head, she called, "Heura! Kit-kit-kit-kit-kitty! Heura!" Then, when the strange-looking cat appeared, she took the bowl and left the room, saying to him, "I'll bring something else in later. You need rest."
Exhausted, ashamed of what he'd done, he lay his head back down and stared at the ceiling. Though he willed himself to stay awake, his eyes shut, and unconsciousness overtook him.
With a sigh, Mylar walked into the kitchen, placed the bowl in the sink, then grabbed a rag to clean up whatever Heura left of the mess. As she pulled another bowl from the cupboard, Mylar glanced out the window, then gasped, startled.
Outside, the strange green rivers had disappeared, as had Meteor. The night was clear, without clouds, without the hazy red of that had meant their doom. For a long, long while, she simply stood there, gazing out the window at the beautifully clear sky. Then her thoughts turned back to her patient.
She'd decided not to be afraid of him, and to treat him like any other wounded creature she'd had: with professionalism, and with patience. Like many of the wounded animals she'd treated, he'd lashed out as they had before they understood she wouldn't hurt them.
But he isn't a wounded animal. He's human. I want my father. He'd know what to do.
Sighing once more, Mylar placed some herbs in the bowl, added water, and stirred the mixture absently with one finger. Then she found another cloth, placed it in the bowl, and headed back into the main room of her house.
As she'd expected he would be, he was sleeping. Heura sat licking her lips nearby, looking at him curiously.
"Sufur?" asked Mylar aloud, placing her bowl on a table and bending to finish wiping up the mess. "Strange name. Heura, you're a pretty kitty. Come here, honey."
The cat continued to look at the strange young man, ignoring Mylar completely.
"I'd better clean those wounds again before he wakes," she mused, tossing the rag back into the kitchen, disregarding the fact that it had landed halfway on the table, hanging downward. Then, carefully, she took the bowl in one hand, and knelt again in front of the young man. Dipping her other hand in the mixture, she pulled the cloth out, and pressed it lightly against his forehead.
He didn't wake.
"What do you want to do with your life, Rufus, other than take your father's place?"
They sat on a ledge outside the Shinra building, high above the city of Midgar. Below, he could see tiny flickers of light from street-lamps while the distant roar of motorcycles and cars drifted to his ears, a heavy sound disturbing the silence. Though below, the city was filled with litter and the air was polluted, he was able to breathe freely. His knees drawn against him, Rufus leaned his head back against the cold metal wall behind him and gazed upward at the star-filled night. There was a strange sort of peace that hung in the air, only partly due to Darra, who sat near him, smiling.
Over the past few months, he and Darra had become close friends. It was something new to Rufus. The only friend he'd ever had was Hawson, who didn't really count, because he was also his teacher, and so much older. Hawson also worked for Rufus' father, and Rufus knew that it was due to that allegiance that Hawson had befriended him at all.
Sitting in the same fashion as Rufus, her blonde hair messed and hanging in her face, Darra took a deep breath, waiting for Rufus to answer. He didn't answer, though; he simply looked up at the sky, letting himself be empty of everything his father wanted him to be and instead filled with everything he wanted for himself.
"Well?" Darra asked again, a hint of irritation or impatience creeping into her tone.
"I don't know," he told her sincerely, hugging his knees to him. He wondered what it would be like to lean forward and let himself fall through the air, fall and fall, with the wind rushing up at him, and the night all around him. But he didn't want to die, and so kept his position. He simply wanted to know what it felt like to fall like that. "I want . . . I just want my father to leave me alone." Rufus turned his head and looked at her. "Why?"
Darra had a strange, lost look in her eyes. As he had, she tilted her head backwards and looked up at the sky. "So many," she murmured, her face looking pale in the moonlight, contrasting with the darkness all around them, so that it was as though her face had been chiseled in the sky, and would stay there forever, never changing. Her breathing turned the air into a gray mist. "What would it be like to be a star? Burning, made of such light. There are so many. I could be lost within them, and still important."
He wasn't certain whether or not she was speaking to him. And then, abruptly, she was. She turned her head, her eyes still lost in the stars, yet strangely illuminated, and said, "What I want, is I want to get out of Midgar. I've lived my whole life here. It's so dark, so unclean, so wasteful. I was born here; I've lived my whole life here. I don't want to die here, forgotten, like all the others below us, their lives only important to those who knew them, and then for only a brief time. Oh, how can I say what I want to? The words that come out seem so, awkward, not right. Midgar is so uncaring. Everyone is forgotten too quickly here, because people thinks only of themselves."
"You won't die here, Darra," he told her, shivering suddenly. Rufus no longer wanted to be up there, so high above everything else, perched like an eagle watching its prey. Her words haunted him, because he knew the truth in them. Midgar so easily forgot its dead.
As easily as he'd forgotten his mother, who hadn't loved him.
Cold despite the warmth of midsummer, she pulled the blanket tighter around her and curled herself into a ball. The quilt, which had been made by her grandmother a long time ago for the dead brother she'd never met, was old and patched, and she should have long ago tossed it out, but she could not bear to do such a thing. It was a comfort more than simply something to warm her; having it wrapped around her gave her a sense of security, and there'd been so little security, dependability, since her mother died.
Angry with her inability to fall into slumber, Mylar rolled onto her back and kicked her legs forward, throwing her arms backward across the headboard. Upset by her movement, Heura yawned, gave Mylar a dirty look, and leapt from the bed to the floor, twitching her tale as she exited the room. Mylar placed a pillow over her head, and kicked out her legs once more. Ever since she was a little girl, Mylar had had problems falling unconscious. Often, she would lie awake for hours, terribly tired and nearly crying in frustration, and would only sleep when the sun began to rise, shedding its light upon her.
Her head was too full of thoughts to allow her any rest.
So, after two hours of lying in bed and shivering, Mylar pulled herself out of bed, tossed her beloved quilt haphazardly upon the bed, doffed her nightclothes, and pulled on her bathing suit. Gritting her teeth against the harsh cold, Mylar ran barefoot through and out of the house, then across the cool, wet sands. With a deep breath, she flung herself into the salty seas embrace.
Using strong, sure strokes, Mylar swam as far as she dared, then kept her position, treading water, and gazed up the sky. The sky was filled with stars and free of Meteor; the water was warmer than it had been early that morning, far warmer than the land.
Mylar closed her eyes and breathed in the scent of the sea, feeling suddenly calm.
Her hair was damp and hung in curls upon her shoulders as she sat, wrapped in her quilt and once again wearing her nightgown, in front of her fire. For some reason, whenever hair became wet, it curled, making it nearly impossible to brush through.
No longer tired, she'd decided to stay up that night, and so had lit the fireplace and made herself a sandwich, which she'd only eaten half of before feeding to Heura. As the night wore on, though, her fatigue returned, and her eyelids began to droop.
"You have a wild streak in you, My-My girl," her father had told her once, chuckling at her. That had been years ago, when she was seven, and had woken in the middle of the night, then run barefoot through the streets of Junon, climbed atop Priscilla's roof, and raised her hands up toward glowing orb of the moon. Mylar remembered that night clearly. She'd been both hot and cold in the same instant, restless and needing something she couldn't define. So she'd let everything go, and had stood there, upon Priscilla's roof, breathing heavily the cool autumn air, filled with a strange, peaceful perfection she'd never attained again. It had always been like that; when things became to stressful, Mylar did something unpredictable, something to lose herself completely.
Go to sleep. You'll be able to, she told herself.
He came awake slowly, in stages, slowly fighting his way through layers of sleep. The first thing he sensed was that his right arm was cold, and the fingers of his right hand grazed slightly a cool wooden floor. There was a warmth upon his forward, wet, that slowly moved. He opened his eyes, and realized the girl was slowly wiping a warm, wet cloth across his brow.
"Hello," she said to him when she discovered his eyes were open, then continued to do as she'd been before he woke.
Jerking his head away, he pulled himself backwards and slowly sat, closing his eyes as dizziness swam over him momentarily. When he opened his eyes, she still stood there, her hand raised slightly, clutching the cloth tightly. Her lips were pulled into a thin line, her eyebrows raised slightly, and she was giving him an expression that brooked no disobedience.
Without moving, she asked him, "How are you feeling?" Her dark was a bit curly, and hung upon her shoulders carelessly. She wore a pale blue nightgown, and her feet were bare. There was a scratch across one cheek that hadn't been there day before; or, rather he hadn't noticed it previously.
He shrugged, causing sharp pain to bite into his shoulders. His head hurt, and he felt weak. But he didn't tell her that. "I'm fine."
The look on her face told him she saw through his words. But she replied simply, "All right. Hungry?"
Frowning, he remembered tossing the bowl across the room the night before. Ashamed of what he'd done, he said nothing, shaking his head.
"Don't worry about it," she told him, as though reading his mind. "You need to eat. And I can't let you get dehydrated. I'll find you something to eat."
Again, she left him alone with his thoughts.
Again, his thoughts left him bewildered.
He struggled to remember, while somewhere within him, he longed only to forget. Because in his mind he heard the harsh shouts of an angry man, heard the crash of a whip tearing into bare skin, heard the howling of a wind that brushed past them in a world where all things were forsaken, and all things like morals and emotions had been abandoned. The sound of a helicopter roaring through the sky, the shouts of angry, frightened people, begging for help, the sounds someone weeping from a long distance, floated into his ears, suffocating him with their outraged power.
Without knowing who he was, he knew that he was no good. He knew that the girl should not have saved him, should have left him for the darkness that had been born within his soul.
You will suffer as I did. You will suffer.
Those words echoed within him, though he could not put a name to the voice that struck a strange fear within him, the fear of a child, like cold, bony hands digging into his shoulders, tearing at him.
When the girl, Mylar, returned with the food, he told himself he would behave. He would keep his thoughts away from himself. If there was something to remember, something terrible, he did not want to remember it.
Surprisingly, he was not as hurt as she'd expected him to be, or he was simply much stronger. In either case, the man who said his name was Sufur was able to move, walk, by himself, though he was yet weakened by his injury.
Even if he were fully recuperated, she wouldn't be able to let him go anywhere; she didn't know where he would be able to go. Though he had given her a name to call him, she doubted it was his actual name. And he was unable to remember anything else. Until he remembered, she would not be able to contact any family he might have to inform them he was alright.
She supposed it was better that he did not remember. As long as he didn't remember who he was, he wouldn't be able to demand she return him to wherever it was he'd come from. That made her job considerably easier. Sufur didn't speak much to her; he likely had too much on his mind. She did not blame him, and simply went about her own business, helping him when he asked.
Night had fallen again, blanketing the sky in a darkness dirtied by countless stars. With exquisite slowness, she moved through the house, glancing at her sleeping patient, then back out to the sky. There'd been no word of her father or the others.
Tomorrow there will be word, she told herself, heading to her room. There will be word, or they will already have returned. When I wake, he'll be home, shouting about something that isn't right, eager to tell me what happened. Everything will be fine.
Mylar crept beneath the covers of her bed, making the soft cotton into a shell around her. She pulled the quilt over her eyes, letting it wash away everything. Sleep, somehow, found her easily that night, and dragged her into its depths with merciless fervor.
"You're hopeless," Darra told him, laughing, as she raced down the hall, glancing backward at him. "You are completely hopeless. Do you know that?"
Laughing also, and breathing hard, Rufus followed after her. "Hopeless? Why?" "Hawson--"
"Ha! You should hardly listen to what Hawson tells you. Why, he--" Rufus cut off, suddenly coming to a halt, just as Darra did. "Darra? What's wrong?"
"Rufus . . ."
She'd stopped in the middle of the hallway and slowly began toward him. Although she obscured his vision, Rufus could see that there was someone in front of her, wearing a blue uniform.
"Darra!" he shouted, breaking into a run. His intuition told him something was wrong, something was very wrong. There had been pure terror in her voice. He suddenly recalled all of Hawson's warnings. His father would find a way to hurt him. He would do it by hurting Darra. "Run! Darra, run!" The girl nodded quickly, spun around, and quickly ran toward him. Rufus, without his gun, ran toward her, planning to shove her behind him, if necessary.
But he wasn't quick enough. The person in the blue suit grasped Darra around the waist, plucked her easily from the ground, turned, and disappeared down the corridor.
Running as fast as he could after them, Rufus shouted, "Let her go! Darra! Darra!"
The person in the dark suit returned to the hall briefly, but without Darra. "Your father has requested an audience with this young lady," the man informed him. His eyes were dark and small, round like beads, staring out from beneath a heavy brow and protruding forehead. His nose was long, hooked like a beak almost, and a terrible smile teased at his pasty lips. "Don't worry. You'll see her again in no time."
"Darra!" he shouted as the man disappeared into the room once more. "Darra!" Pounding on the door with all his might, Rufus continued shouting. The door, made out of hard, cold metal, didn't open, not even slightly. He continued to shout until his voice grew too hoarse to speak, and continued to pound upon the door until, exhausted, he collapsed to the ground and someone pulled him from the hall, placing him in his own room.
When he woke, he demanded to speak with his father, but could not locate the man. No one would speak to him or tell him anything of where Darra was, or where his father was, not even Hawson, whose face was ashen, having attained a strange, gray hue. All that Hawson would tell him was that Darra's mother had been fired. She'd left immediately.
Without her daughter.
It was three days before he saw Darra again.
His father was glaring at him. Rufus wanted to speak, to demand of his father where Darra was, but there was a grim, yet pleased, look upon the man's face that frightened Rufus beyond words. Beside Rufus stood two well armed SOLDIERs, their eyes gleaming with Mako, but not with emotion. They were prepared to do whatever his father told them.
For a moment, his father simply stood there, a grin slowly creeping across his wrinkled face. "Rufus," he murmured in a low, whispery tone. "You have disobeyed me many times. A son should be loyal to his father. You must understand this. At last, I will be able to get through to you. At last, you will understand. I am sorry to have to do this, but this is the only way I can teach you the lesson you must know."
A cold fear gripped Rufus' heart. "No--" His father cut him off, waving a hand in front of him.
Without turning, the President of Shinra shouted, "Bring her out here!"
He knew what was going to happen. He knew it, and he couldn't prevent it. His breath left him even before they brought her out, bloody and bruised, her eyes unseeing.
"What did you do to her?" Rufus demanded, his blood cold and hot at the same time, his mind reeling as he looked at her. Her hair was cut strangely in places, unevenly, and some was missing. Like it had been pulled out. Her lips were cracked, split, her eyes watery, and she couldn't stand on her own. "WHAT DID YOU DO TO HER?" he shouted. He heard his voice carry through the room, bounce off the walls, loud and angry. "Darra!"
He tried to run to her, but, at a cue from his father, the two SOLDIERs grabbed his arms from behind him, forced him to his knees, and held him there. He struggled; he tried to kick at them, get his arms free, but he was unable to do so.
His father laughed, the sound hollow and dark. "This? She did this herself."
"Darra!" he shouted again.
She turned her head and looked at him, unseeing. "Rufus?" Darra asked in a soft, confused voice. Gingerly, she moved one hand upward, outward, as though trying to touch something that was not there.
He shouted once more, "What did you do to her? Tell me! DARRA!"
"As I said, I'm sorry I have to do this."
"Rufus?" she asked again.
Fear filled him, flooded through him, strangling him. He could no longer speak; his limbs felt heavy and cold. They were going to kill her. He knew it. They were going to kill Darra. And they were going to make him watch.
A sudden moment of clarity came to Darra. She looked at him, her eyes piercing. "Don't let them do it, Rufus." Her voice became softer, whispery, merely a thread of sound. "Don't let them."
"Father! I'll obey, I promise! I'll listen to what you say, I'll do whatever you want me to do. Just let her go. Just let her go!"
"I'm sorry Rufus. I can't do that. You know I can't. Otherwise the lesson would not properly be taught." He turned then, toward a door. "Bring it out."
And then a door opened, and it came out.
Everything happened in slow motion. The two holding Darra stepped away, pulled out shotguns, and kept them trained on a strange, ugly beast that walked slowly toward them, its eyes gleaming like the SOLDIERs'. Rufus could hear its footsteps upon the cold, hard floor, terribly loud. Darra's eyes widened as she stepped backward, stumbled, and fell to the ground. She screamed. Rufus screamed with her, screamed until he no longer had any voice, crying out for someone, anyone, to stop it, to save Darra. He tried to break free. His father's laughter was loud in his ears. Darra pushed her hands out in front of her, tried to scramble away.
He could hear her screaming. The sound echoed through him. But he couldn't watch. He closed his eyes and shut everything out, telling himself it was not Darra he was pushing away from himself, but what was happening. The sounds continued to come at him; her screams weakened, and were replaced by a harsh, tearing sound. Rufus squeezed his eyelids closed. He blocked everything away.
Somehow, he knew the moment she died. Because after she was gone, there was nothing left, nothing at all, within him. His father had taught him a lesson. He had learned well. He learned to forget what had happened.
Three months later, he left Midgar for Shinra's Tur-Ah Compound, a hidden facility on an island near Mideel.
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