Stay With Me Chapter 6

By Lucrecia Marionette

Tifa’s eyes opened laboriously as she fought back the fatigue which consumed her mind and muscles. Letting a groan of frustration pass through her lips, she raised her arms above her head and kicked out her legs in a languid stretch. Despite the fact her senses had been numbed by unconsciousness, above the sleep-instilled deafness which weighed upon her ears she heard the sickly satisfying pops of her joints as she extended her limbs. Inhaling deeply, she slowly relaxed and trained her eyes to the ceiling.

The darkness in the room which she had previously mistaken for her blurry eyes hung in the corners like a gravity defying liquid. It flowed down the decaying walls and seeped viscously onto the ragged carpet which covered the floor. To her left and right over the twin windows which bordered her bed, the lacy curtains drifted lethargically on some faint breeze which probably wafted through the poorly fitted windows. The ceiling paper above the bed swayed leisurely like daises in a summer wind; the twirling strips of material which were the only remains of the once elegant canopy moved almost hypnotically.

The inky shadow of twilight flowed like a smothering and comfortable blanket into the small room, filling it the delicious scents of the night. She inhaled deeply, the crisp and frosty air biting her lungs and serving to awaken her even further from her half-conscious state.

She tilted her head slightly upwards to face one of the windows. The twinkling illuminations of the numerous candles in Nibelheim flicked back at her like fairy lights on a Christmas tree. Her otherwise unblemished face crumpled a little.

"I didn’t have a Christmas tree this year…" she told the room in a soft murmur. "I’d put one up for the two other Christmases… but I refused to leave my room this time. I think that Cid and Shera might’ve bought one. But I never saw it."

A sigh caused her chest to rise and fall in sorrow as her long lashes fluttered over burgundy eyes. It was only then that the iciness of the derelict chamber touched her. It ran its impassionate fingers up and down her skin; goose pimples flushed through her body. Sitting up a little sheepishly, she lifted up the sheets that she had lain upon and drew then up around her shoulders. The ensuing cloud of dust blew away from her, urged on by the delicate draught from the windows. Her eyes still fixed upon the cracked glass pane, she stood precariously, sliding off the absorbing bed onto her feet. Having slept fully clothed, she wasn’t so aware of the frost-chill and the thin sheet served to provide her with a little extra warmth.

Taking a few steps forward, she stood before the nearest window and looked out. Nibelheim looked so cosy as it was; nestled amongst the rolling emerald foothills of Mt Nibel. Its lights twinkled merrily back at her; the well was framed in the light of an open door and the surface of the water it contain glittered back at her almost invitingly. Coupled with the light of the moon it seemed like molten bronze, gleaming back the light of the stars in a mirror-like mimicry. Her gaze drifted slowly upwards until it settled upon the source of the reflections upon the well-water. Stars glimmered like pinpricks of light in the black velvety canvas of night; they framed the pearly moon which hung central and divine like a secret goddess. It was full that night; a perfect circle of quicksilver suspended ethereally against the cold reaches of space beyond.

From such heavenly musings, her eyes returned to more earthly pleasures. Nibelheim looked so wonderfully appealing in such a memorable way. She had dreaded coming back here. From the very second she had made her decision she knew that it would be hard. And yet still she had come. Was it really the result of methodical and coldly logical thought? Or had something deeper down drawn her back to the place of her childhood?

The warm winter nights she had spent curled before an open fire with her father, a book resting open on her lap as she idly glanced down at the words and transported herself to worlds of fantasy; damsels in distress and their handsome princes to save them. The warm summer evenings spent playing tag with her friends as she ran giggling through the waist deep, golden corn meadows which ran like a halo around the village.

It was winter now though. In the place of the luscious crops there was thin, hard grass. If only it had snowed then perhaps the open fields would not seem so bleak and barren.

Tifa was dimly reminded of the view from her bedroom window in Kalm and the many layers of pure white snow which had passed her vision over the months she had resigned herself to that window seat. But then she had paid no attention to the wondrous event; her thoughts had been so much more pressing than anything nature had to offer. Pressing her palm against the frosty glass she was overwhelmed by the sense of déjà vu which planted images of her desire to reach out from her hollow shell to the outer world when secluded and alone she could only watch it pass her by.

Her fists clenched slightly as she inhaled sharply through her teeth. "Stop it, Tifa," she admonished herself sternly in a low tone. "You’ve come here to get away from that, not remember it. You’re stronger than that; it’s the present that matters, not the past. You’re here now and you knew that was going to be the hardest step. Even if you go back to Kalm now without doing what you wanted to, you know that you have the strength to break out of that house and try to help yourself."

Giving a single, firm nod she spun away from the window to face into the room.

It was then she realised for the first time that she was not alone.

At first it crept upon her like a slow moving fog, starting from her feet and travelling up her body; freezing her feet to the ground in terror and holding her muscles rigid. Now completely paralysed she could do nothing more than stare around the room with alarmingly wide eyes falling upon every surface and finding none of the previous tranquillity she had experienced only a second ago. The shadows told her nothing though and insisted on hugging the walls as religiously as ever, their demonic breaths held in anticipation as the naïve maiden stood fast in fear before them. Their black cloaks had previously held such safety and secrecy over her and now made her blind and isolated.

For the longest time, the only sound audible to her was the pounding of her own heart as it thumped in her chest and yet seemed to drain all the blood from her face. Her muscles gradually relaxed, but only in fatigue as her body was suddenly sapped of every shred of energy within it. She licked her lips.

"Wh… Who’s… there?" she whispered hoarsely but to no avail.

Her eyes pathetically sought a way to pierce the blockade of darkness but it only served to give her a greater sense of futility and sightlessness. This was not the house of peace and rest she had mistaken it for. It felt as though the monsters in the very depths of the basement laboratory had broken free of their daylight restraints and had taken the opportunity to gorge themselves upon the night. At that particular moment it felt as though they were running their despicable sight over every inch of her body.

Tifa wondered if she had ever been so terrified.

But then, just as she somehow forced her left foot to scrape back along the musty floorboards, something began to move. The shadow’s themselves seemed to congeal into a single, tall mass at the doorway to the room. It was so much darker than anything around it and appeared to be oblivion itself; as her eyes focused upon it they seemed to stare straight into the blackest depths of the universe. An involuntary shudder wracked through her frame and she tore her eyes away with a gasp, screwing them shut and jerking her face to one side.

Silence elapsed once more; her heartbeat had quietened to natural levels but the adrenaline still coursed through her veins with every push setting her nerves on fire. She swallowed hard and cautiously tilted her face back up to the doorway. The mass of shadow was still there.

But as she dared to scrutinise it with greater courage, from the blackness formed obscure details. The tall, almost column-like object appeared vaguely human, darkness hanging like a shroud from the figure’s shoulders, pouring down from the top of its head in long, raven ripples which gleamed in the faint moonlight. And from beneath the satin hair was a visage so pale and so ageless that it appeared as though the white marble statuette she had examined outside had come to visit her. But no; in the place of those countourless white orbs for eyes were two crimson irises which glowed faintly like smouldering coals on a barely extinguished flame. They bored straight through the hard shell she had put up around herself for three years now and glared directly at her soul in a stare so potent that she stumbled back in horror.

Finally sensing her fright or coming to some secret conclusion, the dark figure took a single step forward. All of a sudden he was bathed in the silver iridescence of the moonlight from outside which tumbled through his shroud of darkness and gave birth to the shimmering gold claw at his side and the blood-red hue of the his long, creaseless cape. His arms came up to his chest and folded in a posture of either defence or calm self-assurance and his eyes fixed upon the suddenly knowing burgundy gaze of the woman held in his complete and utter thrall.

She took a moment to catch her breath before gingerly straightening herself out and pulling the dusty sheet further around her shoulders self-consciously.

"V-Vincent?" Tifa Lockheart stuttered in complete awe.

Chapter 7

Final Fantasy 7 Fanfic