The Midgar Ruins Part 1
They didn't talk about it much. When she'd first had the dream, she'd told her father about it, and he'd turned away, shrugging, saying that it was only a nightmare, like the ones she'd had when she was much younger. But Marlene knew better than that. She knew that the strange person in her dream was real, not a figment of her imagination, not something conjured up by her somewhat tumultuous childhood. No, what she saw in that dream, what she heard, nearly felt, was real, and it was relentless. She'd told her father, and he had ignored her. When she told him about it the second time, he'd become angry. The third time, he'd become nearly enraged. That was one of the reasons she knew the dream was real. After the fourth time, she never spoke about it again, though Marlene knew her father was aware she continued to have the nightmare.
At the age of seventeen, she of course knew that Barret was not her real father, but that was not something they talked about, either. It was stuffed away in their minds, locked there, and if there ever had been a key to those secrets her father still held, she'd never sought it. Marlene did not want to know of her real parents; she did not want to know that she was not her father's, that he was not hers. Yet, the nightmare made her wonder about them, what they had been like. It made her think about a lot of things, particularly Midgar. She was aware that she'd once lived there, but she could not recall those days. They were hidden away where she would not be tempted to reach them. The dream, though, was all about Midgar, and burning, fire; it was filled with darkness and a light that nearly blinded her. Strange voices called out to her, saying she owed them something, saying that she belonged to them. "Marlene belongs to the ashes," they whispered to her in silken tones, "Marlene belongs to the dead." The dream was so vivid, so real, yet it was only that line that stood out to her. She would wake with it in her head, hearing it over and over again until she wanted to scream. Marlene belongs to the ashes; Marlene belongs to the dead. To the ashes, to the ashes, to the ashes . . .
They'd lived in Kalm for a long while, and her father was in construction; he rebuilt houses that had been destroyed all those years ago, and helped to expand the town. There had been plans of going to the Midgar Ruins, and trying to rebuild the city Marlene had once lived in, but most thought it was an impossible feat. The place was beyond repair, and to full of death. No one dared go there.
That, however, was where the nightmare wanted her to go. To Midgar, to the city of death.
The dream changed abruptly. Instead of her nightmare, she had a dream about a girl who called herself Jessie. The girl beckoned her to Midgar. She was needed there. There was a job that needed to be done, and only she could do it.
Marlene tried to ignore the dream, and was successful for a while. But she began to have the dream every night, and it grew more vivid, etching itself in her mind so that, when she did awake, she could still see it, could still hear the girl's voice. Eventually, she knew that it was true. She had to go to the Midgar Ruins, and she had to do it soon.
She left while her father was sleeping, leaving a small note that told him she'd be back soon. She crept outside, just before the sun rose, taking deep breaths of the cool morning air, and walked out of the town, wishing she owned a chocobo. The wind was fierce, and she walked slowly, across the fields, as the sun slowly worked its way into the sky, shedding light upon her.
She should have planned better; she knew that almost as soon as she'd set out, but did not turn back to do so. Since she was already on her way, she decided to continue.
The way to the Midgar Ruins was not hard to follow, and one could not easily become lost. A person need only follow the path that hundreds had walked in earlier days, just after the town had been destroyed, when people fled the town into Kalm, and other areas nearby. It would take two days, travelling on foot, if she didn't stop to rest at any of the small clusters of houses that had sprung up along the route, and Marlene did not plan to stop, despite the fact that she'd brought little food with her and was not looking forward to sleeping in the fields.
The dream would not let her bide, though. Better to go and return, quickly, than to test her father's ire even more than she was already doing. Just thinking about how angry he would be made her knees shake, her heart pound wildly, and caused her to glance behind her constantly, certain he would be after her.
He doesn't understand, she thought, hugging her arms against her as the evening became cooler. He knows the dreams mean something, but he doesn't care. He just doesn't care. Shaking her head, Marlene took deep breaths, made each step quick and precise, and continued forward. Her feet ached; she was tired of walking, but she still was compelled forward.
Night hung around her. Darkness covered her, filled her, and she was so tired, tired of walking, tired of moving, tired of breathing, that all she wanted to do was lay down and sleep. Fear, though, kept her moving forward. Marlene had always been afraid of the dark, as long as she could remember, at least. Though walking through the darkness, with the stars providing little light, made her back feel tingly and vulnerable, lying down would certainly be worse. What she needed was something to keep her mind off her fear, but whenever she tried to think of something, her thoughts betrayed her, moving back toward the darkness. Silence, too, made it much worse. In silence, there are too many possibilities to fathom. So she sang; she sang songs her father had taught her that the coal miners had sung, and she sang lullabies that she could not remember ever having heard. The sound of her voice comforted her slightly, but only to the point that made her realize how alone she really was.
She wanted to be back at home, sleeping.
She wanted the dream to end.
Marlene could have one, but not the other.
Zerik walked slowly, carefully, keeping his eyes on the ground. It was not the best way to walk, but considering it was so dark anyway, he figured it couldn't hurt.
Everything was a blur in his mind. His memory was skewed; all time was faded together; past and future were both his present. He could not remember where he was from, or what he was doing; all he knew was that he had to go forward, to a city in ruins.
Something told him, in darkness, with words that were not spoken, but he heard anyway, that he had to go to the city. There was something there that awaited him.
She walked all night and into the morning. Though she walked slowly, dragging her feet, which were blistered, she was merely glad she'd been able to continue. Truthfully, Marlene did not know how she'd managed to continue walking at all. Just after the sun rose, though, the rest of her strength finally evaporated, and Marlene sat upon the ground, resting her head upon a rock. She took some food from her pack, which she'd been carrying over one shoulder, but was too tired to eat. Sleep came far too easily. She did not want it to happen, but it did.
Unconsciousness overcame her.
The dream returned the dream that called her.
It started as it always did, in darkness. Then a light slowly spread across her vision, turning red, completely filling her sight. Her vision swirled, changed, until the light was fire, and beyond the fire, a girl called out to her.
"Marlene, you must come to us."
"I don't understand," she told the girl, whose name she knew, instinctively, was Jessie.
"You are needed. Your parents need you."
"My real parents are dead. The Lifestream-"
"The Lifestream, yes, but we are trapped. They are trapped. We need you. Come to the ruins. To the place of death."
"My parents died in Corel."
"You will understand. Come."
The girl began to chant softly, her voice hypnotizing, her eyes wild and filled with something Marlene could not name. Terror spread across Marlene, though she did not know why. She could feel it overcome her, and it was so intense that a scream was torn from her throat. Images flooded past her, too quickly for her to make sense of them, but they were horrible images. They were of blood and fire and death, that much she knew. Ashes were in her eyes, blinding her.
Jessie said, "Marlene, come to the ruins."
She woke. Sunlight fell across her face, momentarily hindering her vision. When she could see, and saw a pair of green eyes staring down at her, Marlene yelped and jumped backwards, landing in an awkward position, sprawled sideways on the ground with her arms behind her, holding her.
"I'm sorry," the owner of the green eyes told her. "I didn't mean to startle you."
Her breath came in short, rapid in- and exhalations. She scrambled away, moving to her feet as she backed away, and didn't speak until she'd found her stance. "You didn't startle me."
His hair was dark, somewhere between brown and black, and his eyes were wide and clear. There was a bemused look upon his face, along with something she could not name. Marlene, who had always been shy and hesitant around strangers, found herself frightened, and not simply because she was alone.
The person gave her a wry look. "Pardon my saying so, but I think you're a liar."
Her pack of food lay at the young man's feet. Marlene's eyes dropped to it as she continued to back away, her thoughts going too fast for her to make any sense of them.
"I'm sorry I frightened you."
"I'm not frightened." She had a dagger. It wasn't much, and did not even hold materia, but her father had taught her well; she was very able to defend herself.
"Well, either way, I apologize," he smiled at her then, but there was something about that smile that it seemed alien to his face, as though somewhere beneath it, he was uncertain. Marlene had an odd feeling about him. It was not insincerity she saw, but a kind of not knowing, as though he'd simply been placed there, in front of her, and any emotions he had were not real. That was it; he did not seem real. The young man could be nothing more than an illusion, an extension of the dream that she'd continued to have, after waking.
He told her, "My name is Loften."
Much to her surprise, she found herself saying, "I'm Marlene." Her arms relaxed, and she eventually dropped them to her sides.
"And what were you doing sleeping all alone in the middle of a field, Marlene?"
"I suppose I could ask you what you were doing sneaking up on me sleeping all alone in the middle of a field, but I won't because I don't suppose it's any of my business."
"Point taken," Loften said, then turned to the side and looked up at the sky, shaking his head slightly. He stood there for a long moment, simply stood, looking, then shook himself, almost violently, and turned back to her. "I am going to the Midgar Ruins."
She tried not to let her surprise show, but was not certain whether or not she was successful. "Oh," was all she managed to say, and she did not look at him. Why is he going there? No one goes there. It I a horrible, horrible place. Did my father send him? No, Dad would just rush out here, tie me to a chocobo, and send me back to Kalm. Does he know that's where I'm headed?
"Where are you going?" he asked.
Suspicion crept over her. She felt as though he were somehow reading her thoughts, trying to make her trust him. Hesitant, she said, "I'm going to--"
"You're going there also," Loften finished for her.
All she did was nod.
"You've been having a dream also."
Her suspicion vanished, as did her fear. It was washed away easily, like the ocean washing over the shore, wiping everything away. "They call you," she told him, caught up in whatever it was that had also caught him.
"They say you have to go there."
"That you have something important to do."
"And then there is the burning-"
"And the blood," she said, cutting him off.
"And there are ashes in your eyes."
"There are ashes in our eyes."
He aid to her, "We have something important to do."
They continued toward the Midgar Ruins.
Zerik walked slowly, shivering. While a few months ago, the sun had been harsh and merciless, heating the land for more than was needed, it was autumn and it was cold. Of course, Zerik didn't remember much about the summer. He had vague images of people and places, but they were hazy, faded, and seemed as though they came from far away. It was difficult for him to even think about the past; it gave him a headache. So he didn't. He concentrated on moving forward, toward the ruins, toward the once mighty Midgar.
He would meet others there, he knew. Originally, there were to be four of them in all, but one had perished before reaching her destination. So there would be only three, himself included. Instinctively, he knew that the other two had already met. Though he did not know who those people were, or what they had to do with him, or why they were all headed to Midgar, but he knew they were together, and he knew that that gave him a disadvantage.
When he closed his eyes, he could see them walking, speaking as they moved forward, both entranced by the fact that they'd been having the same dreams, and glad that they were no longer alone with the burden placed upon them. He could hear their words, as if from a great distance. They were unaware of him, but they would soon know of him. Zerik would meet them just before they entered Midgar. He did not trust either of them, and they would not trust him; it was how it was meant to be.
He merely wished that he knew why it was meant to be that way. Whatever gave him his information kept that small knowledge from him.
There was a journey ahead of them.
Loften looked at the girl, then back toward the ruins, which had come into a view a short while ago and grew steadily larger in their sight. It was as though a large, dark gray mass hung over it, making it look even worse than it would have. The sky above it was not clear and blue, but a deep, dark purple: a scar from an old wound that had never completely healed. Something about the place made him shudder, the way its crumbling buildings and broken fence sat there, defiant, filled with a strange, raw, almost human anger. It was as though the place had emotions of it own, and power with those emotions, the ability to harm any who came close to it. People said it was haunted. People said it was filled with the bodies of those who had died while trying to flee, left behind by those who escaped. Loften did not want to go there, but he had no choice, and he knew that.
In Junon, his hometown, there were stories of Shinra, the company that had controlled Midgar, but he could remember little about the time himself. Marlene, he knew, had once lived in Midgar, but she did not remember it either; at least, that was what she'd told him. Other than that, he knew nothing of the town, except for the grisly stories that travelers told in the inns and taverns of the horrors that had occurred there. When he was younger, Loften would sneak into the taverns and hide under the tables, listening to those who visited.
A frown crossed his face as they moved closer to Midgar. He remembered the dream he'd had, the girl Jessie who told him that there was something he needed to do, something his father, who had died before he was born, needed him to do. So, when the dream would not stop, Loften had left. He'd left his mother a note, saying he would be back in a few weeks, and she shouldn't worry. Loften had never guessed that there was another with the dream. That made him wonder if there were more.
"I don't want to go in there," Marlene told Loften, stopping beside him and hugging her arm to her. Her hair, which was long and brown, blew behind her in the wind, and there was a vulnerability in her face that he'd never seen in anyone before. It was determination and anger, masking her fear.
"I don't want to go in there," he repeated, then shook his head. "We have to go in there."
Marlene echoed him. "We have to go in there."
"I don't want to go in there," Loften said once more.
And Marlene took a deep breath, saying, "We have to go in there."
"You have to go in there. We all must go in there." The two of them whirled, startled, to face the owner of the voice that had spoken.
They had been too intent upon their own musings, too filled with what would happen, to notice the young man who was suddenly upon them. Or, perhaps he had simply appeared from nowhere, formed out of the ground, out of the air, out of water. Looking at him, Loften believed it possible. There was something about him that was strange, as though his features were not meant to be as they were. He was taller than Loften, and his hair was a dark blond; his eyes were blue. When Loften looked at him, though, he felt like he'd seen the young man before, only wearing a different face. There was an emptiness, or cloudiness, behind his eyes. A small shiver passed over Loften, and he glanced at Marlene, who had taken a step backward and placed her hand on her little dagger.
"You also have been called," the young man said, at first not moving. "We have to go into the ruins. There is a-a journey ahead of us." He shook his head as though to clear it and took a deep breath. Almost unconsciously, the young man took a step toward Marlene, brushing his hand through his hair.
A sound not unlike a snarl came from the girl with the long brown hair. She stepped backward again, withdrew her dagger, then lunged forward in a movement so quick that Loften had little time to react. The other, though, did. Though Marlene had moved quickly, smoothly, like a wind over the plains, the young man was faster. In one fluid, almost effortless, movement, he'd removed Marlene's dagger from her grasp, then stepped away as she lost her balance and nearly fell.
"I will not hurt you," he told them. "There is a journey ahead of us."
"I--I." Shaking her head, Marlene said, in a flurry of confused whispers, "How is it that you know more than we do? Have you also had the dream, heard the girl? The nightmares? Do they call you in the night, and tell you to come here? How do you know more than we do? You are not one of us."
The young man turned away. "We must go in there. There is a journey ahead of us. At first, there was another, but she-died before she could reach us. We have to go into the ruins. I am not certain why I know more than you know, but I know that it was meant to be that way. The other, she also knew. We should go now."
"And what if we don't trust you?" Marlene demanded.
He replied in a clear, emotionless tone, "I don't believe you have a choice."
Her mouth opened, but she didn't say anything. A rough wind brushed across them, cold and harsh, and Marlene turned her gaze to the sky, where the sun was covered by gray clouds. Loften did as well, looking to the one place where the sky was cloudless, where the blue met the deep purple, joined in a jagged line, broken through in places, like two armies clashing in battle.
Much to his surprise, Loften found himself asking, "Once we're in, what then?"
"We will learn more then."
Marlene whirled around, her hair whipping behind her, and looked at the young man with the emptiness behind his eyes. "Who are you?"
"My name is Zerik," he said, and walked forward, leaving them to follow, knowing that they would.
They stopped just outside the Midgar Ruins, looking in a mixture of awe and fear at the great heap of devastation, the metal and wood tossed together, gnarled by some inhuman force. Looking at it, Marlene felt nauseous. She wondered if her father were worried.
"How do we get in?" she asked, looking at Loften, then at Zerik. "Do we just, just-climb, climb over everything?"
Loften shrugged, wearing a concerned expression, and Zerik had an intense look upon his face. Neither spoke. With a sigh, Marlene moved forward, gazing at the rubble.
A hand upon her arm stopped her.
"No," Zerik commanded, his voice low and steady. "We should not go in that way. Follow me, there should be an opening around here somewhere. Look for a number five."
She did not want to obey; Marlene did not trust the strange young man with the haunting eyes who knew too much and said too little. Because she had little alternative, however, she did as she was bade, moving around the edge of the city, stepping over broken materials, moving aside metal and wood, searching for what he asked.
It was Loften who found it. He'd been moving in the opposite direction, and was some distance from her when he found it. The first time he'd shouted, Marlene hadn't heard. After that, though, he screamed as loud as he possibly could, at least in Marlene's opinion, "I'VE FOUND IT!"
Startled, Marlene sprawled forward, landing on something hard, but luckily keeping herself up with her hands, though her head had come near to smashing into metal. Taking deep breaths, eyes closed, Marlene simply stayed there, trying to regain her composure. When she opened her eyes, she gasped and jumped backwards, landing on the grass. She scrambled quickly away, revolted. Near the metal was something white and curled, and looked suspiciously like the bones of a hand. Deciding not to examine it and discover if her guess were correct, Marlene pulled herself to her feet and ran toward where Loften stood. Zerik had already reached him and both looked at Marlene with questioning glances. Saying nothing, she turned her gaze toward the number five, which could barely be seen in a huge chunk of metal that was sticking out of the ground.
"Now what?" Loften asked, turning to Zerik.
Without saying anything, Zerik moved toward the metal, stooped into a crouch, and placed his hand on the number. Marlene moved forward, trying to get a better look at what he was doing. Zerik's eyes were closed, and a certain tension in his arms told her that he was pushing rather forcefully upon the metal. He made no noise, though; she could not even hear the sound of his breathing.
After what seemed an eternity to Marlene, Zerik's hands and arms moved suddenly forward as the metal gave way, revealing a hole only slightly large enough for a person to enter. Standing, Zerik turned toward the other two. Marlene looked at the hole suspiciously. No, I am not going in there. I don't care what Zerik or Loften do, or tell me to do, or what the dream says I must do. There is no way in hell I am going down there.
"We have to hurry," Zerik said, motioning toward the hole.
"Like hell we do," Marlene told him angrily. Just the thought of going into that hole, where there may or may not be a way out, where the air might be cut off, and she might be left alone, in the darkness, slowly suffocating. "No. You can do what you want to, Zerik, but I won't go in there."
Shaking his head, Zerik turned to Loften. The dark-haired one said nothing, simply gazed at the hole, his mouth slightly open, as though hypnotized by the darkness. Zerik turned back to Marlene. "I understand that you are afraid. If I was entirely certain of what would happen, I would try to reassure you, but I'm not. Therefore, you have a choice. Leave now and return to your father, return to your town, and let the dreams continue. They will have to stop, eventually. But something tells me, other than the dream, that there is something here that we must do, that we have been chosen to do, and until we find that out, I won't leave. You are free to do as you will."
Marlene found it difficult to trust him. At first, she had not trusted Loften either, and she still did not fully trust him; there was something about both of them that did not seem quite right, but she would be more inclined to believe something Loften said than something Zerik did. She'd known the two of them for only a very short time, but somehow that did not matter; it was as though they were meant to know each other, and the fact that they'd just met meant nothing at all.
From nowhere at all, two sentences popped into her head. Time was in motion long before this world. Some things were in motion long before time.
Taking a deep breath, Marlene shook her head once more for emphasis, and folded her arms stomach. Zerik sighed, and Loften remained silent.
"Well," the blue-eyed young man said after a long while, "you two do what you think is right. I'm going down there." He breathed in deeply, looked up at the sky, then slowly slid his gaze to the hole. Zerik took a step toward the hole, then another, then, with exquisite caution, he pushed himself into the hole, stopped to gaze at Marlene once, then was lost from sight as he let himself fall.
A concerned look crossed Marlene's face as she moved toward the hole and gazed into its dark depths. "Loften?" she questioned softly without turning, uncertainty filling her voice, overflowing into the air. He remained silent.
Saying nothing, Loften moved toward the hole, glanced momentarily at Marlene, then did as Zerik had, leaving Marlene abruptly alone. Somewhat startled, she looked for a moment into the hole, then shook her head and turned away.
The day was cold and she was hungry. Turning her eyes upward, Marlene looked for a moment at the bruised, bloody sky, then closed her eyes. She could recall Zerik telling her that they had a journey ahead of them, and she could almost hear Jessie say that there was something important she had to do. Alone, more frightened than she'd care to admit, Marlene looked once more at the hole. Closing her eyes again, she took in deep breaths of the cool air, letting it fill her, flood her. Blindly, she stepped into the hole, and let herself fall.
Go To Part 2
Return To FF7 Fanfic