The Depths of Demons Chapter 8
"Its something unpredictable,
but in the end its right.
I hope you had the time of your life."
--"Good Riddance" by Green Day
She dreamed she swam with her eyes open through a lake without a bottom, clear and calm, untouched by wind, by waves, by sunlight. Her hands moved in front of her, quick and cutting through the cold water with ease, a knife cutting through butting, cleaving it in two, leaving the halves to dry out and disappear. She swam without breathing, without thinking, merely felt the incredible pull of the water upon her. It touched her skin with its liquid elegance, and wore away what was there, slowly sliding layers from her arms, her legs, leaving them to stream behind her, until she was merely a skeleton in a watery grave.
And then the water, the clear calm water, ran with blood.
She saw it before her, running across her eyes, across her skinless face, burning away at bone.
Light screamed through her, tearing her apart, until she was nothing in the water, nothing, and the clear water became clear once more, and calm.
She woke, sweating.
The darkness all about her touched her shoulder, bared where her blanket had slipped. Breathing heavily, she pulled the blanket tightly around herself, rolled over, and curled her legs to her, squeezing her eyes shut. Mylar willed herself to fall asleep once more.
But could not.
Dark Nation woke him.
She moved through the room without sound, but leapt upon the bed, upon his legs, startling him awake. Rufus bolted upright in the darkness, his heart pounding. Twin moons stared at him from a sea of night. Placing one hand upon her head, he pushed her gently away, then swung his legs over the side of the bed, feet touching floor, and stood in the quiet room.
Just beneath his skin, in a sort of way that most forget to sense, he heard the faint, distant sound of a scream, caught in the soft barrier between darkness and light, a fine tuned thing, like the string of a violin, pulled tight across a rough, unyielding surface.
Barefoot, Rufus left his room, followed quickly by Dark Nation, trotting down the empty hallway upon her midnight feet, sleek body tensed. He could hear the large animals breathing, echoing his own, as he broke into a run, some unknown fear crawling through him.
He had to get there before it was too late.
But he did not know where he was going.
With quick, powerful strides, Dark Nation moved ahead of him. He followed her, trusting her more than he trusted anything, even himself, heart quickening when he realized where she was taking him. He turned down the hallway, continued running, then stopped short, as she did, in front of a door.
The outer door was unlocked, a strange occurrence, but Rufus didnt question it. There was a terrible pinching fear within him, making it difficult to breathe. He entered, headed toward the bedroom.
He knew it would be locked; he did not even attempt to open it, but gave it one powerful kick, and someone from inside opened it. A scream, concealed by those walls, broke free and ripped through the night, breaking everything in its path.
Rufus pushed Scarlet aside, roughly, tossing her to the ground. His eyes widened. Sairs scream turned him cold, and he almost screamed, as well, looking at the bed.
There was so much blood.
There was so much blood.
"Jem! Jem!" Sair screamed, her voice finding sounds, forming them into words, one word, repeated over and over again as she squirmed, trying to unbind herself.
Rufus whirled around, faced Scarlet. "Get out of here. Now," he told her coldly. For a moment, she looked as though she would disobey, her eyes fierce and stubborn, glowing with an emotion Rufus could not fathom. Then she stood, dusted herself off, sheathed her wicked little knife, and left the room. Sairobi continued with her tortured screamssobsshouts.
"I screamed and I screamed and no one heard me and oh my god Jem help Jem oh please, please Rufus help him. Please help him. Oh my god. Oh my god."
In the stillness, slowness, that had overtaken him, Rufus turned toward the bed, seeing but not seeing, sensing the pain that Jem had felt. It hung in the air, a cloud around them.
He did not need to look at Jem to know he was dead. The stench of blood was so thick around them; the taste was something tangible, touchable. But he did look, because he could not stop himself. He felt his feet moving forward, pulling the floor away before him. He took a step, another, bringing himself closer and closer, until his eyes saw what he would give anything not to see, the truth in what hed felt.
Jem Buckley was dead.
And he was very dead.
His skin had been cut away, pulled away, ripped away by fingers that didnt feel the terror, the pain, that spilled into the air as his blood did. His arms, his face, the bottoms of his feet. Only his hair seemed to have been left untouched by blood, by the sting of Scarlets knife. But his face Rufus turned away quickly, looking at his face, his friends face, bloody. Lipless.
"Sair. You cant stay here."
Dark Nation, sitting at Sairobis feet, growled softly, in agreement.
"Jem. Oh my god." She began to rock softly, her fingers clutching tightly the arms of the chair to which she was bound. Her eyes closed, mouth opened; she chanted slowly her dead lovers name.
Rufus turned away from her. "You have to leave here." He strode to the closet, walking barefoot through the blood that painted the floor ghastly red. Pulling one of Jems coats from it, he then ran to the dresser, pulled things, anything his eyes caught, a gun, and money, from the drawers, placing them in a small bag he found upon it. "You have to leave here."
Sairobi continued to rock.
Taking what hed pulled from the dresser, he nudged Dark Nation aside and bent, taking Sairs hands in his. He looked into her eyes, trying to pull into focus those vacant, lost oceans of green. But she shook her head.
"I cant go anywhere without Jem." Her voice was rough, raw from screaming.
Not saying a word, he untied her, clamped his hands upon her shoulders and pulled her upwards. She had bled slightly from the a wound near her stomach, but it seemed to have dried, staining the white nightgown brown. Wrapping Jems blue Turks coat around her shoulders, he put one arm around her waist and dragged her from the room, though her eyes were caught, and moved back to the bed. Gasping, struggling, she tried to break free, to return to him.
"Let me go!"
Dark Nation followed slowly.
He led her from Jems quarters into the hallway, down the hall. When she kicked at him, Rufus said the words hed been dreading, words that cut through him just as much as they would cut through her.
"Sair, Jem is dead. And Scarlet will come to you to finish the job if I dont get you out of here."
He felt the scream build up in her, even before he heard it.
Where the hell WAS everyone? Locked inside their rooms, not hearing? Or not caring?
He continued dragging her forward, leaving bloody footprints where he stepped.
"No! No, hes not dead! You have to believe me! He isnt dead he cant be dead he isnt dead! Go back oh God go back. Dont leave him there. Please. Take me back to him!" Sairs voice was high, shrill almost, ready to break. It struck something within him, and he felt a measure of the same panic that she did, rushing through him, trying to scream its way out.
"I have to get you out of here!" he shouted back at her, using all the fury within him, but she was deaf. She heard only, again and again, that Jem was dead. He could see the words echoing within her. "Sair, are you listening to me?"
Her screams melted into sobs. "Please oh God, he cant be dead. He cant be dead. He isnt DEAD!"
He died within each word she spoke. "Im sorry, hes¾ "
"No, he isnt¾ "
Their voices blended together, so that it was impossible to tell where ones voice ended, and the others began. "Dead."
And suddenly, miraculously, the words, the denials, stopped falling from Sairobis lips. She closed her mouth, closed her eyes, and allowed herself to be led blindly into whatever future it was that was beginning.
He led her outside, to where the helicopters were, their pilots taking shifts, but always ready to leave at a moments notice. He led her there, to a helicopter, placed her gently inside, setting the bag beside her.
"Sair. Sair, I want you to listen to me. Try to focus for a moment. You have to leave here. This helicopter will take you anywhere you want to go. Tell the pilot where it is youll be headed. Then disappear. Promise me this."
She looked at him. She nodded slowly.
He turned to the pilot. "Do as I said. Take her anywhere she wants to. Then leave the helicopter in the middle of a field and walk away. If you come back, Ill shoot you."
Saying nothing, the helicopter pilot nodded. Rufus turned away, whispering a good bye he knew Sair could notor would nothear. With Dark Nation, he returned to Tur-Ah, not looking back, blocking out the sound of the helicopter slowly going into motion.
Chandra Bielksen was waiting inside for him, her arms folded across her blue coat. "What happened?" she asked him, not glancing at him.
Rufus felt his eyes slide to the floor. He saw the faded outline of his feet where he had previously trod, outlined in the barest hint of red. "Jem Buckley is dead. Rouse someone to take care of it." He walked past her, not glancing at the girl. He could feel the hatred coming off of her in waves.
For a moment, she let him go. Then she moved forward quickly. "Wait!" There was a terror in her voice, something akin to the emotions that had run through Sairs. Rufus turned, and saw not the hatred he thought he had felt, but eyes burning as they began to well up with tears. "What are you going to do?"
He blinked at her a moment, placing one hand upon Dark Nations neck. "Im going to go kill Scarlet," he told her, and walked away.
She knew she should be asleep.
But sleep eluded her.
And that was why she found herself, before dawn began to creep its way across the sky, in her kitchen, slowly twirling a spoon in a cup filled with tea.
The sky was slowly beginning to brighten, soft streaks of blue seeping through the darkness, and she felt so tired, so terribly tired, but she could not sleep, knew she would not be able to. Shadows of the nightmare, its last remnants, cold and dark, still clung to her, so that when she closed her eyes, she could feel it crawling back into her.
She left the spoon as it was, stood, wrapping her blanket around her, and crept out of the kitchen into the room where Rufus lay, sleeping soundlessly. Walking gingerly, so not to wake him, she sat in the darkness, drew her knees to her chin, and watched him sleep.
With a sigh, she pushed her arms behind her, letting them support her, resting her head upon her shoulders. And she continued to watch him. She planned on watching him until day finally came, its light climbing through her windows, lighting everything, so that when she closed his eyes, she would be able to see his outline upon eyelids.
He found her in her quarters. Without knocking, he entered the room, his gun feeling heavy in his hands. Dark Nation entered slowly behind him, her wary eyes watching him. Scarlet stood there, unafraid, clothed in almost nothing.
"Ive been waiting for you."
He knew he should just shoot. Not wonder why. Just shoot. Not have time to think. But his finger was too weak to pull the trigger. His eyes were watching her, frightened and sickened and something else.
"Were you? You know why I have come, then."
"If I didnt, I think your gun would tell me. So why dont you do it, Rufus? Shoot." She leaned forward, the last words rolling off her tongue, silky and soft, meant to pierce him. "I dare you."
And, unwillingly, he did what he knew she wanted him to do.
He uncooked his gun. He pointed it to the ground.
"All right. You have ten minutes to explain. Then youre dead."
She smirked at him. "Im ashamed I have to explain it to you at all. I would have thought it was perfectly obvious."
Blinking at her for a moment, he raised his gun slowly.
"Oh, you poor boy. You didnt actually think Jem was your friend, did you? Oh Im sorry. You did. I thought youd simply been playing along, trying to get information. Oh, how dreadful." She placed one hand upon her cheek, long fingernails indenting skin. "Rufus, I think youd better sit down. You arent going to like what I have to tell you. You thought Darra was your friend, too, didnt you?"
His stare turned cold. He cocked his gun.
"You did. How awful."
"Rufus, you can kill me if you want to, after Im done speaking, but I think its only right of me to tell you the truth of the matter. Jem Buckley was not your friend. He was only using you."
"I dont believe you."
"Suit yourself. But you should know that Jem was working in an organization of rebels against Shinra. Against your father. Against you. And something else. So. Was. Darra." The last word was a whisper, barely breaking through the room, but still touching all parts of Rufuss skin, making him shudder, shiver.
He said again, "I dont believe you."
"And something else." She walked forward, a step, then another, another, bringing her ever closer to him, and he knew that he should simply shoot, but he did not. She moved closer to him, placed one hand around his wrist, pushed down the arm that held the gun. And she wrapped her arms around his neck tenderly, cradling him, resting her head upon his shoulder. "Darra was Jems sister."
He jerked as though shot, kicked, killed. But she wouldnt release him. Her arms were tight around him, unrelenting; the fingers that had spilled the blood staining his feet caressed his neck.
"She was working for the same organization. I have documents to prove it. She was never your friend, Rufus, and neither was Jem. So you see, I did only what I was ordered to do. I did what a friend would do. I got rid of one of your enemies." She was whispering in his ear, softly, gently, in a way hed never heard her speak before. Her fingers were slowly moving lower on his neck.
Rufus closed his eyes, and he saw Jem before him, bloody, broken, merely a body, when only hours before he had been dancing with Sairobi.
And, strangely, he felt nothing.
Rufuss fingers unclenched, loosened, opened. He dropped the gun to the floor.
He felt her watching him from across the room. Raising his eyes slowly, he looked back, questioningly, wondering what she wanted. With slow, quiet movements, she raised herself from the chair, stood, walked toward him. Chandra kept her eyes steady upon his.
"So you believed her."
Rufus said nothing. He watched the girl, but refused to acknowledge what she said. A month had passed, and she had said nothing. Was she simply working up nerve?
"You went there to kill her, and let Jems death go unpunished."
Still, he kept his silence.
She laughed at him, the bitter noise echoing through the nearly empty room. "Men. So easy to manipulate. For her, at any rate. Except for Jem. Thats the reason she killed him, Rufus, not anything she told you. And I think you know that. But youre too afraid to face it. Or is it something else? Do you not care? Are you as they say you are, without feeling?"
"Get out of here," he told her at last, his voice cold, flat.
But she didnt do as he commanded. She took a seat across from him and continued looking at him, as though trying to decided something. She tilted her head, looking at him from different angles.
"You are really going to allow yourself to be manipulated by that woman?"
"Everyone is manipulated. Everyone manipulates. It is hardly your concern whether or not Scarlet is manipulating me."
"Fair enough. But you do know about her, dont you? Just how exactly she got her job?"
Rufus said nothing.
"All right. Play ignorant. But, no matter what Scarlet says, Jem was a friend to you. It was you who betrayed him. Sl"
Standing abruptly, he pushed his chair backwards, letting it skid across the floor, fall upon its side. "You know nothing. Dont pretend you do. You arent anything."
She stood as well, eyes dark upon him. "I know that Scarlet will never be anyones friend, and neither will you, as long as you continue as you are." Turning quickly, she strode from the room, anger floating from her and lingering in the air.
Rufus watched her go.
He wondered if there was any truth in what she said.
He was relieved when Scarlet was transferred back to Midgar. Having the woman constantly around was a bother, and Tur-Ah no longer needed her, if it ever had. That she was being promoted was of little concern of his, or where she would end up, or what she would do.
What was his concern was the man being transferred to Tur-Ah, a psychologist to look after the Turks well being. He had an idea his father had done it simply to torment him, but he didnt care. He looked forward to showing the man he was above such things. He felt only a detached coldness when he thought of Hawson, who once had been his teacher.
"He wants to see you," Rufus was told, and he nodded slightly, leaning back in his chair. He rubbed the thin material of his white coat between his fingers and waited for the man to be let in. With vacant eyes, he watched the white door slide open, watched with disdain as the tiny man entered the room. How pitiful he seemed, suddenly, a man who had once taught Rufus, who had once seemed so very important, and so very tall, no dwarfed in the office of the vice president of Shinra. His boars eyes blinked and adjusted to the light, and Rufus twisted his face into a smile. He leaned back farther, folding his hands behind his head.
"You wanted something, Hawson?"
"Rufus." It was a whisper. It was a plea, a dark, hollow thing filled with the overflow of memory, something to be ridiculed, the way it whistled through the air and hung there, almost as contemptible as Hawson himself, how he held himself, weak and pitiful. Rufus could kill him so easily, without even blinking.
Saying nothing, he waited. He stared.
Hawson shuffled his feet nervously. "I Yes, I wanted something, RufusI mean, I wanted to see how you are doing."
Rufus removed his hands from behind his head, gestured to the room, to the world, arms opened, spread, keeping his mouth closed.
"You are well, it would seem."
"It would seem."
"Rufus," he whispered again, and the young man hardened his face.
With a twist of his lips, he said, "Go away. I tire of this. Unless you have something useful to say well, I believe you know the way out. Or so it would seem."
He watched Hawsons face fall. It cracked and hit the floor, broke there, a million pieces he might cut himself upon if he moved. "You have changed much."
"And you not at all. Isnt this what you taught me?"
"Do you have a point, or not?"
Shaking his head, Hawson turned and took his leave. Rufus watched him, his eyes following each move the man made. He wondered how long it would be before he killed him.
Lying beneath the desk, Dark Nation growled softly.
Something had woken him, but he could not decide what. He opened his eyes slowly, then sat, turning slightly. Mylar lay asleep upon the floor, twisted into an awkward position, a bundle of blanket. Smiling softly, he swung his legs over the side, then stood, stretching his arms upward, being careful not to wake the young woman sleeping near his feet.
Then he heard again the soft noise that had woken him.
Someone knocking on the door.
Dr. Cleraunce. Coming to tell Mylar what she wants to know, and is dreading.
Bending to the ground, he placed one hand on her shoulder, near her neck, moving her slightly. He bent to his knees, whispering, "Wake up, Mylar."
The girl made a noise and rolled over. Rufus sighed, slipped his hand beneath her neck, and pulled her into a sitting position. Her eyes opened, blinked in confusion.
He smiled at her. "Awake?"
Jerking away, she stood, pulling her blanket with her, then moved toward the door as the knock came again. "I must have fallen asleep," she murmured, trudging across the floor, trailing her blanket behind her. She pulled open the door.
"You are ready, Mylar?" Dr. Cleraunce asked.
Saying nothing, she nodded. Then followed him out the door, clad in a nightgown and a blanket.
Scarlet came awake with a start. The world was bright all around her, in a strange, shimmering brilliance that dawn in Midgar had never had before.
She realized shed been sleeping far too long. She felt those ghosts around her once more, scrambled to her feet, and found herself running across the plate, trying to escape from it. Fear rose within her, choking her, snapping at her heels and trying to trip her. But she wouldnt let itcouldnt let it. Because if she let fear capture her, then she might as well die there, in the ghosts of Midgar, become one of them.
And she couldnt allow that to happen. She had a duty that she had to fulfill. So she continued running, faster, faster, until she was out of breath.
Her dreams, which had not been dreams, but memories coming back to haunt her, still clutched her vision; if she looked hard enough, she would see Jem Buckley before her, walking with that easy, taunting stride, those mocking eyes.
She ran again, at last escaping from Midgar, but she couldnt stop running. Not ever. She ran into the fields that surrounded the large metal phantom, then plunged headlong into the grass, falling, then tumbling, then at last lying still in the sea of green, keeping her eyes upon the sea of blue above her. Scarlet spread her arms out, fingers curling around blades of grass. She closed her eyes and listened to her heart beating rapidly.
Dont be such a coward, Scarlet. Dont shame yourself. There is nothing there in Midgar, nothing to be afraid of. There is no such thing as a ghost. The dead are dead. They return to the Lifestream. Nothing there can hurt you.
Even so, after reassuring herself, Scarlet felt the heavy edge of uncertainty weighing her down, and she lay there, unmoving in the grass, as the sun climbed upwards in the sky, slowly spreading its light upon her.
Mylar didnt return until the sun was high above, cascading through the windows of her house. He sat, waiting for her, boredom running through his veins like a fire, burning away. If he closed his eyes, hed see the pale outline of sleep, ready to claw its way toward him.
But when she opened the door, sunlight into shadow, he stood.
"Mylar, are you all right?"
She nodded. Her face was streaked with the residue of tears shed and wiped away in haste. Still wrapped around her, the blankets edges were touched with water and sand.
"What did he say?"
She turned and looked at him, something akin to anger in her eyes.
He took a step backwards. "Im sorry--"
Mylar stepped forward, slightly. "My father Is not my father."
"Tell me," he said, and she nodded.
Sairobi brushed a hand through her damp hair, sighing. The early afternoon light had faded through her window, through her soft yellow curtains, staining her floor gold, an intricate web of hues, all whispering and pointing and wanting. A soft breeze drifted in, blowing snow from outside onto the floor, where it quickly melted, a small sea upon her ground.
"I thought Id closed this," she murmured softly, moving slowly toward the window, cupping her fingers around the wood and pulling it down. Wood met with wood as she slid her fingers away and peered through the glass to the snow-covered world beyond. It was always winter there, even in the spring. Sair moved one arm upward, fingers resting slightly upon the glass, as her eyes saw herself in the window. She traced that finger across her closed lips, across her eyelids, wondering what the girl inside the glass felt.
Turning, Sairobi scooped her daughter into her arms, walking away from the window. "Werent you taking a nap?" she asked Millie, toying with the childs dark curls. Her daughters real name was Kristin, but she called her by her middle name, something even she was unable to explain.
Her young daughter shrugged. "Im not sleepy."
"Yes you are," she told her, sliding the door of Millies room open with her toe. She placed the child back upon her bed. "You were up way too early this morning. And youve been ill. Dont give me that face. Go to sleep." Tucking the blankets around her, Sair moved to her daughters window, pulling the curtains closed. Outside, it was beginning to snow once more.
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