Stay With Me Chapter 11
By Lucrecia Marionette
Tifa pressed her back up against the Mansion door as she struggled clumsily with the large grocery bag in her arms. She crushed it up against her chest and she fumbled for the door handle hidden in her blind sight. She gave curses of pure frustration as her nails scraped across nothing but peeling varnish and splinters bit at her fingertips. Eventually her digits closed around the cold metal knob and she twisted it violently, almost falling onto her back as the door swung open at an alarming speed.
Staggering back a few paces, she quickly regained her balance and turned around to nudge the door shut with her shoulder. Stopping in the large hallway, her eyes drifted uncertainly over the layout. It looked no different to how it had done the afternoon before; a little less overwhelming and impressive perhaps, but the same nonetheless.
And yet something had changed.
Her eyebrows knitted together in an almost accusing fashion as her gaze lingered over every corner which appeared as though it couldve hidden something, or every niche from which a monster could burst. No challengers appeared to rival her glare however, and after a few minutes of agitated surveying, she cautiously took a few steps towards the kitchen. As she neared the doorway, passing the base of the staircase she came to a gradual halt. Tifa tilted her head up a little cautiously and inhaled hesitantly.
A peculiar aroma filled the air; so distantly familiar and yet so unspeakably wrong.
It was weak though, like the vapour of a memory so accessible and yet so hard to grasp.
Frowning to herself, she pulled a puzzled expression and moved through to the kitchen in an effort to shrug off the apprehension which bit at her heels. Nudging open the door, she dropped the bag unceremoniously onto the worktop and began to pull out the numerous objects, stacking them along the length of the bench. There didnt seem to be much point in placing them in a specific order, after all it didnt appear as though the Mansions sole occupant had any kind of organisational system.
Crumpling up the large, brown paper bag as her eyes ran critically over the dusty room she gave a sigh and simply pushed it to one side of her temporary arrangement. It certainly seemed as though she could survive quite happily considering her lack of appetite as of late. The meagre supplies of food would last a week perhaps; especially considering the icy climate of house. The single bottle of milk sat quite happily in a frosty shade whilst she crammed the bread into an absurdly out-of-place bread-bin, being sure to pull out the furry green remnants of its previous inhabitant.
Her stomach twisted a little at the sight, and without any other choice, she leant across the sink and lifted the window. Swinging her arm back, she chucked the mouldy loaf of bread into the wild bushes outside and closed the pane behind it.
Turning around and dragging a chair from beneath the table with the intention of relaxing for a while, Tifas body instantly froze. A terrifying noise echoed through the corridors of the mansion; so close and yet so far.
She held her breath anxiously and trained her ears to the sounds of the surrounding, dilapidated building. Despite her efforts however, she was met with no reward and only the faint memory of the haunting sound. It was a moan; a pitiful, agonised moan which trembled through the feeble structure and hung ethereally in the air like a ghostly presence. And yet it quickly dissipated once more. Now she clutched the neck of her T-shirt worriedly as she pondered upon its source. Was it perhaps nothing more than a creaky door moving slowly in a faint breeze?
Biting down on her bottom lip armed only with an intense curiosity and trepidation, she moved quietly through the kitchen passage and out into the main hall once again. Although her ears were oblivious to the eerie sign which had caught her attention so firmly before, the unusually inexplicable aroma had become stronger since her first whisp of it upon her entry.
Last night the Mansion had contained only the crisp, mellow smells of darkness and age. Now the air hung with a sharp and somehow bitter stench so very faint to her nostrils.
Its still so wrong though
She knew that she should never have been able to pick up on something like that. Not unless it foretold of something terrible; she had smelt it before and it made her muscles tighten in a panic. Flashes of pain, of conflict and anger rushed through her brain at a startling speed. The ripping anguish of a direct strike and scrape of a rage fuelled flail.
Her hand reached very subtly to the almost invisible line which ran between her breasts; the scar which was now so faint and had once meant the destruction of her entire life. There was the glare of silver and then red.
It filled her nostrils with its pungent stench and it filled her eyes with its crimson hue. She could hear nothing then except the pounding of her own heart and it ran warmly between her fingers like tepid honey. It had tasted so salty, so unbearably saline then. And that had been the only thing that she could remember before those strong arms had enigmatically embraced her and everything went black. The Reactor.
Déjà vu flooded Tifas senses once more as she so fearfully sniffed the Mansion air.
There was only one thing that sharp, metallic odour could signify.
It was normally so weak, so indefinable to the human senses that it had to be close by, and there had to be a lot of it for it to be noticeable. Just like that time; just like all those years ago at the reactor when she had lay slain with her front sliced open so easily open to the bitter, chemical-laden ether.
As she took a fearful tread backwards, Tifa started in alarm to suddenly hear yet another soft moan emanating from above her. Her eyes darted up to the landing and her jaw tensed as dread surged through her veins with a horrific intensity. She trained her ears in the hope of catching another plaintive cry, and yet there was nothing.
Not even the wind drifted through the many holes in the outer walls; the branches of the trees which overshadowed the Mansion didnt play against the glass gently. The air was still and very, very silent.
She swallowed hard and held her breath to calm the racing beat of her heart as it pounded in her chest so strongly she felt as though it would burst out any second. She had to stay calm. She couldnt panic.
But it was so much harder to cease the horrific musings of a terrified brain washing over her vision. All that blood there had to be so much. And Vincent Vincent the vampire.
Was it possible ? Could it be ?
Was this Vincents doing?
Tifa gave an angry cry of self-rage and shook her head so violently that long tresses of hair wiped around her visage. "No!" she cried out. "Stop that!! "
But there was no answer. The cries stayed silent and even the bloody air seemed to sink at her outcry. She tensed her fists, furious at herself for such evil-implicating thoughts. He wouldnt. Hed never do something so terrible.
But then, she realised. That left only one other option.
"V-Vincent ?" she stuttered in a fearful whisper. "Can you hear me? Are you alright??"
Her brows knitted together in an expression that she wasnt certain represented the determination or worry in her soul as she started to walk quickly up the stairs and to the landing-balcony. Her hand slid along the banister as though she could somehow retain some sense of reality as she moved. Hastily pacing down the right branch of the junction and into the pre-dusk shadows which seemed to hang so artificially around the passage, Tifa swallowed hard.
They enveloped her gratefully but with none of the grimly triumphant elation as they had done the previous night. Were they worried?
"Vincent?" Tifa whispered out again but this time her cautious call was met with a muffled moan. It was closer and clearer this time.
Her heart leapt at the sound and she spun back to face one of the doors she had only just strolled past. It looked so insignificant; so ordinary and secreted in its averageness. Perhaps thats why Vincent found it so effective at hiding away the enigma behind it. For such a bizarre creature as himself, an equally unusual door would only be obvious.
It looked so ordinary and so uninteresting that it scared her.
But still, before she could even comprehend what she was doing, she stood before it. Lifting up her hand and taking an unnaturally deep breath, she pushed it hard and took an immediate step in.
The breath hung in her throat as her eyes lifted and focused on the layout before her. She wouldve stepped back if she couldve, but in truth she was so completely and utterly scared that Tifa Lockheart could do nothing more than stare in dumb, aghast silence.
She had never seen so much blood in her entire life.
It was smeared in lines of four across the once faded-white walls; across windowpanes and furniture. Glass lay shattered and bloody like twisted rubies across the wet, crimson carpet and it glistened back at her mockingly like demonic stars against a sanguine sky. Sheets which may have been a light shade of blue lay screwed up and torn viscously; smattered with blotches of blood as it slowly seeped up the liquid which had soaked into the carpet. Ripped material and paper littered the scene as neglected blossoms fall beneath some once beautiful tree over a carpet of red leaves.
It was almost poetic.
And in the centre of the hellish scene lay a shattered figure. Vincent lay face down, his raven hair pooling over and around his shoulders like glistening tar against the exposed sections of pale, pale skin. His normally golden claw was stained a reddy-bronze as congealed blood ran in minute rivers across its surface. He wore only his black shirt and trousers, but the shirt was horribly shredded at the back; strips of the material lay haphazardly across glimpses a white torso. He was so feeble and weak in his countenance that tears sprung to Tifas wide eyes.
Finding the means to move once more, her hand went to her mouth as she let out a shuddering sob of dismay. Shaking her head in some pitiable attempt to deny the glimpse of Hades her sight had fallen upon; she gave a wail, ran from the chamber and didnt collapse until she reached the landing.
Weeping copiously, she sank onto her knees, almost choking on the wracking sobs which tore through her frail frame. She looked down at her hands and started to scratch ferally at the skin. At some point she had brushed against one of the walls, perhaps in her feverish desire to leave as quickly as possible. As a result the back of one hand had been smeared with crimson which glittered scornfully at her; blemishing the appendages that had once been so clean. "Th-theres so much blood," she cried as she dragged her hands along the filthy carpet, tears of anguish streaming bitterly down her face. "I cant get it off!"
Tifa screamed out in frustration as she only served to spread the scarlet plague up to her elbows.
She was sure it was burning; she was sure that it was seeping into her pores even then, attempting to poison her with the guilt of what she had seen. But, it wasnt just then. This blood, it wasnt just his blood. It was the life substance of so many countless others and she felt her stomach lurch violently.
"So horrible," she sobbed. "So, so horrible."
She screwed up her eyes and planted her hands onto the carpet as she hung her head between her shoulders in an attempt to calm herself. She bit so hard onto her tongue to subdue her cries that the hideous salty taste flooded her mouth. She spat but it continued to fill her taste-buds with the metallic residue until she wretched and gagged on the taste.
"No," she wept bitterly as she fell into a choking fit. "I dont want this "
Her cries gradually softened until now her shoulders only heaved occasionally with a deep sadness. She held her hands across the vertical scar which had once bled just as profusely. It had stopped so long ago now, but in her mind it still hurt. It still stung just as savagely as it had done almost nine years ago.
As she huddled against herself, Tifa was oblivious to the sound of the virtually silent, shuffling steps of the injured man behind her. A soft groan escaped his lips as he propped himself up against a wall and held his head weakly. He squinted against a barely bright light outside and fought with every shred of his mind to retain consciousness. It was slipping quickly from his grasp though, lubricated by his own blood as it tumbled down into the black pit which opened invitingly beneath his feet.
His knees wavered as he attempted to find some purchase on the greying plaster wall he leant against. His claw merely dragged through the weak material, cutting through it easily with its razor-like tips and his wet hand slipped leaving four trails of red behind it.
"T-Tifa," he gasped weakly and the proprietress snapped back in alarm.
As her gaze fell upon the bloody figure who, through some sheer force of willpower alone stood erect against the wall, his knees finally buckled and he slumped to the carpet like a broken marionette whose strings had finally been snipped. Her gaze lingered over his shattered frame for quite some time before she slowly stood and twisted fully around.
Ignoring her bloodstained hands as her heart found a new cause, she carefully walked to him and knelt down by his side.
"Vincent?" she whispered gently. She reached out cautiously and draped back a few of the ebony strands of hair which hung possessively over his face. Flecks of scarlet decorated his skin and his eyes twitched at her touch but did not open. "Vincent " she murmured once more, but it felt more as though she was attempting to convince herself that it was him rather than rouse some consciousness.
The broken puppet made no more movements and with a heavy heart she hooked her hands under his arms and began to drag him gradually away from his bloody room.
Final Fantasy 7 Fanfic