Shards Chapter 12

The Fateful Night

By Frank Verderosa

Lately Tifa's life seemed to consist solely of waiting and worrying. She had already gathered her things together and stuffed them in a blue sports bag that Garren had dug out of a closet for her. It had only taken about fifteen minutes. That was hours ago. The rest of the time she had spent looking out the window, pacing, or, as she was now, lying on the bed, staring off into space.

It wasn't fair. It wasn't fair that Garren keep her from telling her friends that she was leaving. She understood his concern. There was no doubt it was dangerous out there on the street. But still, it wasn't right to just disappear, to just go off and leave town without even saying goodbye to them. That just wasn't what you did to your friends.

Still, there didn't seem to be much she could do about it.

She had been tempted to just walk out the door, to go see her friends in spite of Garren's protest. She wondered what he would do if she tried. He wasn't her father, they weren't related, he couldn't really tell her what to do.

She turned and looked at the door for a moment. She didn't hear any sound from the other room. Garren hadn't bothered her since she retreated in here.

She turned away. She knew she couldn't just walk out. She just couldn't defy him like that, no matter how wrong she thought he was.

She got up and walked over to the window. It was dark outside now. She had the light in her room extinguished, so she could see out quite clearly. Surprisingly the snow was still blowing out there. Occasionally a stray flake still struck the window. She imagined it must be snowing quite heavily for so much of it to reach beneath the plate.

The streets below seemed quiet, the traffic strangely muted. Perhaps the cold weather was keeping people inside. She leaned her elbows on the sill and felt the coldness reaching through the window with icy fingers.

The apartment was on the second floor of the building. She could see the streets below her clearly. She leaned forward a little more, until her forehead touched the glass, trying to peer down at the side of the building. She was tempted to open the window. She was tempted to try to climb down to the street below. If she couldn't confront Garren openly, maybe she could get around it another way. Maybe, if she was quick enough, he wouldn't even notice she was gone.

She sighed. It was tempting, but her hands remained where they were. What would Garren think if he came in and found her gone? He'd probably go rushing off to confront Dulane, and that was the last thing she wanted. Besides, it was dark out now, which made it doubly dangerous. No matter what she might think of Garren's demand that she stay inside, she had to grudgingly admit it was the responsible thing to do.

No, she decided, lifting her head once again, she had to be grown up about this. There was still time. They were leaving in the morning, but Garren hadn't said exactly when. Surely there would be time before they left. If worst came to worst, she could take Garren with her. She was sure the others wouldn't mind if she revealed their home to him now that they knew he was leaving. And even if they did, she knew Garren would never betray them.

Of course, Garren could still refuse, but if he did, she was determined to stand her ground. No matter what happened she wasn't leaving without saying goodbye.

She looked out the window again.

Leaving. She could hardly believe it. Was it really happening? Was she really going to get out of this place? She didn't want to leave her friends, and yet...

She didn't really know them that well. She had only met them less than a month ago. All this time she had been alone, she kept telling herself that she was better off, that she didn't need to make friends here, that she wasn't going to be around long enough. That turned out to be true, apparently, but she hadn't listened to her own advice. In any case, with what had happened with Dulane they didn't have any choice. They couldn't stay. They couldn't fight Dulane.

She turned away from the window, walking over to sit back down on her bed.

She wondered what Mideel would be like. She knew it was a small town far to the south. She had never been there, but she imagined it wouldn't be much different from Nibelheim. It would certainly be very different from Midgar. No matter what it was like, it couldn't be worse than here!

No, this was for the best. She was afraid to go, but she was more afraid to stay. Garren was right, they had to get out of here, she just hadn't expected him to realize that. Maybe all that had happened to him had finally woken him up.

Her head came up as she heard a knock on the apartment door.

She sat there in silence, listening for Garren, but heard nothing for a moment. She suspected he was as surprised as she was to hear someone there.

Then she heard his footsteps as he slowly walked over to the door. In spite of the apprehension she felt, she found herself getting up. She walked over to the door to her own room and opened it up.

Garren was standing right beside the apartment door. He turned to give her a reproachful look but said nothing to her. She saw him look through the peephole, then he reached forward and the door swung open.

Esella stood in the hallway, leaning against the door frame. When she saw Garren she smiled.

"Hello lover," she said, stepping in and planting a kiss on his cheek.

Garren just stood there for a moment without saying a word. Esella was dressed in a long black satin gown. Tiny sequins shimmered in the light as she moved, making the dress appear to sparkle. Sleeveless and low cut in the front, and obviously very expensive, it seemed to emphasize all of Esella's best features.

"Esella," Garen said, finally finding his voice. "You look...great. What's the occasion?"

"I got a raise," she replied. She was still standing right beside him, her body brushing up against his. "I thought we could go out and celebrate."

Garren opened his mouth to reply, then turned and saw the frown on Tifa's face.

"Umm, this might not be all that good a time," he hedged.

"Aww, c'mon," Esella said, looking up into his eyes and pushing herself up closer to him still. She slid one arm around his neck. "You know how much I love going out with you. And I've got something special planned for later on, if you know what I mean," she finished with a wink.

Even Tifa didn't need any explanation about that one, or at least, she thought she didn't.

Garren looked over at Tifa again, and she could see his resolve crumbling before her eyes. She felt anger stirring inside her. He had told her not to leave the place, about how dangerous it was for them to go running around town, and now here he was, about to forget all about that just because of a woman in a revealing gown.

"Garren..." she began.

"Don't worry about it," Garren interrupted. "I'll be fine."

Tifa just stood there with her mouth open. She couldn't believe this! After he had demanded that she stay inside, after she had kept herself from sneaking out because it was the responsible thing to do, here he was, ready to just take off on a whim. Just who was the adult here?

She wanted to yell at him. She wanted to tell him what an idiot he was. But she couldn't say anything, especially in front of Esella. She looked beseechingly at Garren, trying to get her point across without words.

But he seemed oblivious.

"I'm afraid I'm going to be a bit underdressed," he said to Esella. "I don't have anything to match that."

"That's alright," she replied. "You look fine just the way you are. No one's going to notice, and if they do, what do we care?"

Garren nodded, then walked over to the closet and pulled on his coat. Tifa looked at them both in frustration.

"At least..." she began, taking a step forward, but stopped when she saw Esella frown at her. She stood there for a moment, just looking at Garren helplessly.

"How long are you going to be?" she finally got out.

Garren shrugged.

"We won't be late," he said. "I promise."

Tifa took no comfort in that.

"Alright, let's go," Garren said, walking back to stand beside Esella. He looked at Tifa once more.

"Remember," he said, "keep the door locked and don't let anyone in."

Tifa almost laughed. Here he was taking off with no thought of the consequences, and he was still telling her to be careful!

The couple walked out the door. This was her last chance, but Tifa was at a loss as to what to do. She certainly couldn't force him to stay, and she knew he would just ignore anything she said. She wanted to scream at him, wanted to tell him just what a jerk he was being, wanted to grab hold of him and shake some sense into him. But all she did was stand there.

Only a moment, and then the moment was gone. The door closed behind them, and Tifa stood alone in the apartment.

She stood there for a long time, just looking at the door, her head slowly shaking. But finally she turned away, walking over to the couch and sinking down on it. She KNEW she was right. She knew it was stupid for Garren to go out tonight, of all nights. But she hadn't said a word. Why did she have to be so weak? Why didn't she say anything?

Because she didn't want to start a confrontation. Because she knew Garren wouldn't listen to a word she said. Because she was just fifteen years old and he was the adult, and adults always knew best.

What an asshole!

She looked over at the door. He was gone now, he couldn't stop her from leaving herself. She knew from experience that Garren's promise that he wouldn't be long was worthless. She could go visit her friends now and be back long before he returned. He'd never know she was gone. Besides it would serve him right. He was the adult, he was supposed to be the responsible one. If he could be a jerk about this, why couldn't she?

She tapped her fingers irritably on the arm of the couch. It would serve him right, but she couldn't do it. The bottom line was it was dangerous to go out there. She wasn't going to get much satisfaction if she went out to spite Garren and she was caught by Dulane. No, someone had to be responsible here, and it wasn't the adult, then it had to be her, no matter how unfair it might be.

She sighed with frustration, then got up and walked into her room. She changed into her nightshirt and flopped back down on the bed once again.

Waiting and worrying. Just more of the same. She couldn't stand it anymore. But it was just one more day. Tomorrow they would be out of here. Tomorrow they would be headed for Mideel and a new life.

The radio was off, there was no noise in the apartment. All she heard was the low rumble of traffic and the occasional sound of the wind whistling through the concrete canyons outside, rattling the window as it passed. She really should try to get some sleep. The sooner tomorrow came, the happier she'd be. But she didn't think she was going to be getting much rest tonight.

She was never really sure if she did. A lot of the night was foggy to her later on. If she thought about it, she might have be able to recall more. But she didn't. She didn't want to. Instead she spent the rest of her life trying to forget what she did recall of that night.

Whether she had been asleep, or just in that twilight zone between dreams and waking, her eyes opened immediately when she heard the door to the apartment swing open. A burst of laughter followed, the staccato contralto of Esella unmistakable. She heard Garren say something, but she couldn't quite make it out. For a moment she wondered what time it was. Late, of course, they never came back at any other time.

She heard them talking, as they slowly made their way to Garren's bedroom. Occasionally Esella's laughter came again. She certainly seemed to be in a good mood.

Tifa shifted in her bed, turning to her side to face the window. She could see the building across the street etched in the glow of a streetlight. She didn't see anymore snow on the pane, but she could still hear the wind.

She tried to get herself to relax. But she always felt uncomfortable when Garren came home with Esella, or any woman, for that matter. Garren had told her he would be quiet, but it never happened. The walls were so thin, it was almost like she was in the room with them sometimes. No matter how many times it happened, she didn't think she'd ever get used to it.

But at least he was home. He was back, safe. She took comfort in that fact. Let them have their fun. She didn't have to worry anymore.

Esella seemed to be in a very talkative mood. Usually she didn't say all that much once they went into Garren's room, just made a lot of noise without talking. But now Tifa could hear her going on and on about something. Occasionally she could hear a response from Garren. She couldn't make out what they were saying, and she really didn't want to. But she did hear Garren mention the words 'wild' and 'kinky' in a surprised voice.

Tifa wrapped her blanket more closely about her, partially covering her head. She wished she could go to sleep.

She heard the bed in the other room creak, and then the unmistakable sound of Garren's bedroom door opening.

"Hey, where you going?" she heard Garren say, quite clearly.

"Be back in a moment baby," was Esella's reply, much harder to hear. "Keep the bed warm for me."

Esella's high heels usually made an unmistakable clicking sound on the apartment floor as she walked, but now Tifa heard nothing. Not surprising, it didn't seem likely Esella was still wearing them at this point. It didn't seem likely, in fact, that she was wearing anything at all.

The building creaked as the wind blew outside.

And then there was another sound. Tifa froze in place, listening. Was that the front door opening?

She heard a click. The door again. Closing?

She sat up in bed. Had Esella left?

But then she heard footsteps walking across the floor outside. Tifa frowned. She hadn't heard Esella's footsteps a moment ago.

Suddenly the door to her room was pulled open, causing her whole body to jerk in surprise. Neither Garren nor Esella had ever come into her room without announcing themselves.

But it wasn't Garren or Esella.

Tifa's eyes widened as a cold shock of fear washed over her.

"Dulane," she hissed.

The bed wasn't far from the door. He stepped forward, then reached out and grabbed hold of her arm. He pulled savagely, so hard she thought he would tear her arm right out of it's socket. She didn't even have time to resist. He dragged her off the bed, and pulled her stumbling along beside him into the other room.

"Garren!" she screamed.

He wrenched her arm again, almost knocking her over. She could hear Garren shouting in the other room, but she couldn't make out what he was saying. She wasn't paying attention. All she knew was that she had to get away.

Finally coming to her senses she tried to pull her arm away, but Dulane had it in a viselike grip. He shook her again, twisting her arm and making her cry out in pain.

They were in the other room now. Tifa turned round to see Esella standing calmly by the doorway, leaning against the wall, a towel wrapped around her and a cigarette in her hand.

"Esella!" Tifa cried, not really sure why she was doing it. It was obvious Esella had let Dulane in. She couldn't expect help from that direction. But everything had happened so suddenly, she hadn't had a chance to even think.

"Shut up!" Dulane snapped. He grabbed hold of her hair, thrusting her head downward. It felt like he was tearing some out. She found herself bent over, looking down at the ground. Still holding onto her arm with his other hand, he pushed her forward in front of him.

The door to Garren's bedroom was open. In the position she was in, Tifa couldn't see her roommate, but she could hear him issue a string of curses as they entered the room, she thought everyone in the building could.

Dulane stopped and pulled her head up. She looked around, a wild look in her eyes. Garren was spread eagled on the bed, wearing nothing but his underwear, and with both wrists and ankles tied firmly to the bedposts.

Suddenly he went bananas.

Screaming and cursing, telling Dulane he was going to kill him, pulling as hard as he could on the ropes, making the whole bed shake. For a moment Tifa thought the bed would collapse, but somehow it remained intact. Dulane looked at him and frowned.

"Shut up!" he shouted.

Garren ignored him, yelling at the top of his lungs how he was going to tear Dulane apart with his bare hands.

"I said shut up!" Dulane shouted. His fist came down against the side of Tifa's head. She cried out and would have fallen if Dulane hadn't had a grip on her arm. The blow made her head spin. For a moment she thought she was going to pass out.

Dulane raised his hand again and looked at Garren.

Garren fell silent.

"That's better," Dulane said calmly, lowering his arm.

For a moment there was absolute silence in the room.

"Did you really think you could get away with crossing me?" Dulane asked.

He looked at Garren, waiting patiently for a reply. But Garren said nothing, just stared at Dulane with a look of pure hatred.

"I have to hand it to you, I didn't think you had the guts to do something like that," Dulane continued finally. "I underestimated you. Yes, I admit it. But in the end, it was probably for the best. We were going to have a confrontation eventually. It was inevitable. I didn't expect it to be so soon, but now it's just that much sooner that I get what I want. In a way, you did me a favor."

Tifa stood motionless beside Dulane, her mind working furiously. His hand still gripped her arm, his grip so tight she was starting to lose the circulation. She glanced at him out of the corner of her eye. He was looking at Garren, but he seemed wary of her as well. She hadn't felt him relax his grip, she didn't think she could pull away. She didn't think she could do anything. Her head hurt and she thought she was going to throw up.

"I should be thanking you," Dulane continued. "I thought this would all take a lot longer. Unfortunately for you, you went a little too far. You shouldn't have tried to burn down my place, Garren. A man is very protective about his business. If you had been a little more subtle I might not have had to resort to this. But such a public showing of defiance has to be answered swiftly and severely. If I let you get away with something like that they all might think I'm going soft. I'm afraid you've given me no choice but to make an example of you."

Tifa felt her heart pounding in her chest, beating so hard she thought it would burst out at any moment. What could they do now? How could they get out of this? Garren was helpless, and there was no one else here to help them. Someone surely must have heard all the shouting, but that was a common occurrence here in the slums. No one in the building would help them, they had all learned it was better to just mind their own business.

No, no one could help them. Garren was helpless. She was the only one who could do anything.

But what could she do? Fight Dulane? She had never fought a real battle before, much less against an adult. She had only fought in practice. Unless she counted that Shinra guard. But that had just been luck and desperation. It hadn't been a real fight. Besides, Dulane was nearly twice her size. He was obviously much stronger than her. He was already hurting her without even seeming to try. What would he do to her if she fought? She was just a kid. He would probably kill her.

"You could have been a formidable advesary," Dulane stated, still looking at Garren. "At one time you might have been. You let yourself go to pot, Garren. You wasted your life. It's a shame, really, that it had to come to this."

She saw Dulane suddenly turn his gaze toward her, staring at her with eyes as cold as ice.

"You could have made things easier too," he snarled. "I did everything I could to convince you to do the right thing. But you wouldn't. I know you're not stupid, so it has to be those morals of yours. Anywhere else they might be a credit to you, but I'm afraid that here they just get in the way."

He yanked her arm again, pulling her closer to him.

"I always get what I want," he proclaimed. "And I want you to work for me. But it appears this virginity thing is getting in the way. Perhaps if we get rid of that little problem, you'd be more willing."

He looked up at Garren suddenly and grinned.

"And you get a ring side seat!"

He grabbed hold of Tifa's nightshirt and yanked it. There was a ripping sound, and buttons flew across the room. Tifa screamed again as the nightshirt tore open, her hand's flailing, trying to cover herself up. Dulane grabbed hold of her hair again and yanked her head down once more, making her scream a second time, but this time in pain. She heard Garren yelling once again, but again she couldn't hear what he was saying. She found herself being forced slowly downward onto her knees, Dulane behind her. She could fell his body pressed up against her back, his hot breath on the back of her neck.

This can't be happening, she thought wildly. It had to be some kind of dream, some kind of nightmare.

Somebody save me!

As a child she had dreamed of a knight in shining armor coming to her rescue. She had even extracted a promise from Cloud to do just that.

But it had just been a childish dream. This wasn't a fantasy. No one was going to rescue her. There was no escape.

"Please, Dulane, no," she whimpered, not trying to hide the desperation in her voice.

But he ignored her pleas. He let go of her head, his hand coming around, groping at her breasts. She felt nauseous at his touch.

Oh god, why didn't you let me die! her mind cried out. Why did Zangan have to save me at Nibelheim? Is this what it was all for?

Someone will not always be there for you Tifa. You have great strength of your own. You must learn to believe in yourself.


She felt her knees being pushed painfully against the wooden floor. Dulane was forcing her farther down, curling up over her, bending her forward.

Oh god!

Size is important, yes, but it can be overcome. No matter how large your opponent, he is still a human. And all humans have weak points. The strongest man in the world can be felled by a single blow, if directed at the proper point.

Zangan, help me!

But Zangan wasn't there, wish as she might. This was reality, not fantasy. There was no knight coming to save her.

She felt Dulane's hand slip inside her panties.

Her whole body shuddered. Tears ran down her cheeks. She couldn't stop him. She couldn't fight him. He would kill her.

You must have courage, Tifa. Courage can be a hard thing. So hard, in fact, that it can sometimes lead to your death. But what is a life worth? What gives it meaning? No matter how you live your life, you are going to die. There's no avoiding that. Being cowardly may let you live longer, but in the end you will die. And in that time you will have lost everything that makes life worth living.


She had always thought of herself as a reasonably brave person. She had been tested before. At Nibelheim she had faced Sephiroth himself. At the time she had thought she was just out of her mind with grief for her father and town. But had that really been true? Deep down inside, she had to have known what she was doing, she had to have known that it would probably lead to he death. But she had done it anyway. And later on, here in Midgar, she had come to the aide of her friends not once, but twice. She had chased off that dog creature that had attacked them, and turned on the Shinra guard who had been chasing them. Neither time had their adversary been after her. Both times she could have run, she could have escaped, and no one would have blamed her. But she hadn't. She had fought. She had been brave.

All those years of training. Zangan had emphasized her skills and her technique, yes, but he had placed just as much emphasis on being brave and confident in her abilities. He had told her once that the most important thing he could teach her was to be able to face up to her fears. If she could do that, she could win against anyone.

At least, that's what he had told her. She didn't know whether she believed it. Deep down inside she wasn't sure if he was saying that because he thought it was true, or just because he wanted to instill confidence in her.

Yet here she was, afraid to defend herself, afraid to do anything at all, her body wracked with sobs, all the strength apparently drained out of it, completely helpless when it counted the most.

Is this was came of Zangan's training?

Five long years she had spent with him. Five long years, four hours a day, sometimes more, six days a week. And was this the result of it? To lie there helpless and let this man do what he will to her? Was that what it all came down to?

Had it all been for nothing?

If she didn't use it now, then when?

All this flashed through her mind in seconds. Suddenly her shoulders slumped, and she slid forward, all the fight seeming to go out of her. She turned her head slightly, looking back at Dulane with hopeless eyes.

And then she drove her elbow backwards with all the strength she could muster.

She was aiming for his neck, but she was a little off. It caught part of his chin, slightly defecting the blow. It still hit it's target but not with enough force to crush his windpipe.

Dulane let out a gagging cry and fell backwards, his hands automatically reaching for his neck. In that instant, Tifa lunged to her feet and ran for the door.

She heard Dulane find his voice and cry out behind her, but she wasn't listening.

Esella's cigarette fell forgotten from her lips when she saw Tifa burst from the room. The older woman was standing right beside the door, and for a moment she just looked at the younger girl, too shocked to move.

Dulane let out a bestial roar from the other room. This seemed to galvanize Esella into action. She made a grab for Tifa as the younger girl flung open the door, but it was half hearted, and Tifa easily avoided it. A moment later she was out in the corridor, running for the stairs as fast as her feet would carry her.

She heard Dulane shout again. She heard Esella's name, but couldn't tell what he was saying. Everything seemed to be a blur at this point, but even so, she could hear Dulane's footsteps thudding in the hallway as she pounded down the stairs. She leaped down the last few, hitting the ground hard and almost losing her balance. She pulled open the front door and darted out into the street.

It was icy cold out. Tifa was wearing practically nothing at all, but she didn't feel it. Adrenaline was coursing through her veins, making the cold seem like a minor inconvenience. She turned to the right, not thinking about what she was doing, not thinking about anything except getting away.

She heard the door slam open behind her, and Dulane shout. She didn't look back. Her heart racing, she dashed down the street, running as fast as she could. She could hear Dulane behind her, and she could tell he was catching up.

Desperately her eyes roved the sidewalk. There were few people on the streets. Most of them looked up as she ran by, a look of surprise on their faces to see a nearly naked girl running by. A few, so innured to the strange things one could see on the streets of Midgar, gave her no more than a passing glance.

She desperately cried out for help, knowing that no one would come to her aide. She saw one man take a step toward her, but then stopped when he saw the man pursuing her. She kept on running. She didn't have time to stop and beg for help. It seemed unlikely she would get any, and Dulane was right behind her.

She felt fear tightening her throat. The sound of Dulane's feet seemed to be coming from right behind her now. She could hear him breathing. She risked a glance behind her and saw that he was almost within arms reach. He was faster than she was. He would catch her at any moment. She couldn't get away.

Her heart pounding in her chest, she looked around wildly for some means to escape. They had traveled almost two blocks from the apartment. On their right side a line of apartment buildings loomed up, indistinguishable from any others that formed this area of the slums. There was no one in the street at all here. The dark doors of the apartments were shut. And on the other side of the street there was the river. She had no place to go. She was trapped.

The river.

Suddenly she turned and darted out into the street, barely looking. She heard the screech of tires and a car horn blare, but she didn't pay it any attention. She heard Dulane curse behind her.

She reached the other side of the street. A low stone wall ran along the sidewalk here, only a foot or two high, separating it from the river beyond. She could see the dark water past the wall. It must be bitterly cold, but she didn't think about that. And it wouldn't have stopped her if she had. All she knew was she had to get away, no matter what the consequences. The wall rushed toward her, then she was leaping over it. A moment later she was plunging down. The water hit her like a slap in the face. She really hadn't noticed the cold before, but now the feel of it took her breath away. For a moment she sank down, unable to think, to stunned by the cold to do anything at all. But then she kicked powerfully, propelling herself back to the surface.

Dulane skidded to a halt at the wall, looking down. For a moment he didn't see Tifa, but then her form broke through the dark water just a few feet away from shore. But she might as well have been a hundred miles away. The level of the river was almost ten feet below the street. He couldn't reach her without following her in.

Dulane balled his hands up into fist, raising them above his head, practically choking with rage.

"You're dead!" he screamed. "Do you hear me? You are FUCKING DEAD!"

Tifa had gotten her bearings now, and was swimming away from him as quickly as her cold numbed limbs could take her.

At that moment Esella ran up, coming to a halt beside Dulane. She looked at him for a moment, then at the water below and the figure swimming away.

"There she is!" she called out. "Why don't you go after her?"

Tifa still wasn't that far away. Esella thought Dulane could easily overtake her. Was he afraid of the cold?

Dulane suddenly turned and grabbed hold of her, pushing her savagely. She stumbled against the wall and nearly fell into the water below.

"Because I don't known how to swim, you ass!" he shouted.

Esella glared at Dulane, but said nothing, seeing the look on his face, which was almost purple with rage. He paced back and forth, looking out helplessly at Tifa, whom they could barely make out now. His arms were shaking, his veins bulging. His throat still hurt from the blow she had given him. That little witch! She could have killed him!

He spun around and began kicking the stone wall savagely, so hard Esella was sure he was going to break his foot. He looked so much like a little kid who was throwing a tantrum after not getting his way that she almost laughed.

"We can still catch her," Esella suggested. "There's a bridge only two blocks away. We can take my car."

Dulane looked out over the dark water again, then shook his head.

"No," he said, seeming to get a bit of a grip on himself. "I've still got Garren to take care of. Given enough time he might be able to get out of those ropes. She's only a kid, she's got no place to go. She can't escape."

He turned and started back down the street. Esella got to her feet and scrambled after him, her face turning serious.

"What are you going to do?" she questioned. "You told me you wouldn't hurt Garren. You promised!"

"Shut up, Esella," he snapped.

He kept right on walking. She ran forward and grabbed hold of his arm, but let go when he turned toward her, and he could hear the sharp intake of her breath when she saw the knife in his hand.

"This is your fault!" he snarled, reaching out to grab her arm. "You were standing by the door. You let her run right past you, you stupid bitch!"

Esella shrank back, the anger she had felt a moment ago replaced by terror at the look in Dulane's eyes.

"Dulane, no, please, I..."

She threw her hands up in desperation, but they didn't stop the knife from plunging into her chest.

The force of the blow drove it through her sternum, snapping the thin bone and driving it backwards into her chest cavity. That alone wouldn't have been enough to kill her. But he knife drove deeper, tearing through her pericardium and lodging in the left ventricle of her heart.

For a moment they both just stood there, a look of disbelief on Esella's face. Then Dulane tore the blade free, and Esella felt herself falling to the ground.

Even though the knife had pierced her heart, while the blade was still in place, the loss of blood was minimal. But when the knife was pulled out, it left a jagged hole behind, a hole that blood now gushed out of, quickly starting to fill up her chest cavity and pouring out through the tear in her skin onto the dress she had thrown back on before leaving Garren's apartment, and then the pavement beneath her. Within a minute the oxygen carrying capacity of her circulatory system had diminished enough that it could no longer support the demands of her body. As the cells began to starve for oxygen, they sent urgent demands to the central nervous system for more. The central nervous system responded in the only way it knew how. Adrenaline was released into her system. Her breathing and heartbeat both increased. But in this case the bodies defenses only excaberated the problem, making her lose blood at an even greater pace. By trying to save her, her body was killing her more quickly.

Esella tried to lift herself up, tried to cry out for help, but her limbs would no longer obey her. Cells that had been without precious oxygen began to shut down, their vital processes coming to a halt. They began to die. As the minutes passed more and more brain cells died off, and the pain diminished, her thought processes became more vague. Slowly her mind began to drift off into a sort of dreamland. She could no longer help herself as her lifeblood emptied onto the street around her.

She sank down to the ground, but she no longer aware. Her body was still doing what it could, constricting the arteries to the limbs, to all non-essential areas, trying to get as much blood as possible to the brain. But it was a losing battle. Her blood pressure slowly dropped toward zero. More than half her blood volume was no longer in her body. At this point even with dramatic intervention she could not be saved. Even if she was brought to a hospital and her wound miraculously healed, they couldn't infuse more blood quickly enough to save her.

Cells die in one's body all the time. Most of them quickly being replaced. Thousands of cells could die and a human body might not even notice the difference. But if enough die, if a certain critical mass is reached, then the organs made up by those cells can no longer function. As more and more cells died, Esella's major organs began to fail. By now Esella was no longer conscious. She wasn't aware of the final moments of the battle.

Slowly her heart ceased beating, her lungs became still, all function in her brain halted. Critical mass had been reached. Though some of her individual cells still continued to live for a few minutes longer, Esella has ceased to exist as a human being.

She was dead.

Chapter 13

Final Fantasy 7 Fanfic