My View From the Window Chapter 5
By Prism Angel
I have never felt a silence so dense as the seconds that followed.
My eyes never left the fortune teller's face, who was still staring down with an amused, trace-like delirium at the Tarot card in her hand. My surroundings had turned chillingly still, like a dark arctic tundra, and for a moment I found myself forgetting about everything but my confused thoughts.
I took it upon myself to speak first.
"................................Wh...............what.....?" I stammered quietly, gazing over towards the woman across from me. ".................What........what did you say...........?"
A loud shuffling came from the entrance behind me, and all at once I heard Tifa exclaim softly, ".....Oh, no, Vincent, come back....! Where are you going...? Vincent....!"
I turned in time to see his dark form shove aside the tent flap and storm quickly outside, and Tifa and Cloud immediately directed their eyes to the ground. I stared after Vincent for several seconds, then slowly turned to face the woman once again. Several more seconds of silence ensued, and then gradually I felt a smile creeping up onto my face, followed by a fit of hysterical laughter that grew louder as it progressed. ".....Are....are you insane??!" I choked breathlessly through my giggling. "...Re...reincarnation??! That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard!! Imagine....me, a reincarnation of some dead woman...! Hahahaha!! Lady, you've completely flipped!!" I got to my feet, shoving aside a hanging dream catcher, and dusted myself off. "I'm outta here, I'm not going to listen to this crap for one more--"
"Do you accuse the spirits of lying?" the fortuneteller questioned nastily, glaring up towards my face.
"...Yeah, yeah, the 'spirits', lady. They always were the dishonest sort." I let out another amused laugh, then turned and headed towards the entranceway. ".......Reincarnation.....that's the stupidest thing I've ever--"
"Deny the truth and those you love will perish." The woman casually shifted the cards before her into a neat pile, then slowly glanced up towards me. "You believe that simply by ignoring it that it will all simply disappear...?"
"You're out of your mind, you hear me??!" I snapped, whirling back around to face her once again. "Who could ever believe any of that rebirth crap??"
"One that knows the truth..." The fortuneteller gently placed the deck back into the treasure chest beside her, gazing towards the ground. "However, I should have expected that you would not believe. But when Rael finds you, all will come clear..."
"You are the--" I stopped suddenly, gazing down towards her. "........R....Rael....? Who's--"
I was silenced as suddenly her head snapped up towards me, and all at once she raised her arms above her. "Do you hear??" she shrieked loudly, closing her eyes. "The spirits....they despise the infidel!! They are demanding just punishment!! They screech for your blood!!"
I emitted a terrified scream and whipped my hands in front of my face as a powerful blast of wind lashed around my body and I could hear the piercing noise of a choir of unearthly voices howling in my ear. I could feel the presence of numerous invisible beings swirling about me, bellowing shrilly in my ears, clawing at my clothes.
I forced my eyes open, and all at once the windstorm stopped.
Panting, I slowly lowered my arms from before my eyes and gazed around me. The tent was unusually silent and dark, with the exception of several wind chimes and dream catchers swaying lightly in the murkiness, and as my eyes fell to the pillow across from me I could tell that the woman was no longer there.
He had not moved.
Vincent and I sat alone in the mechanical trolley as it moved silently down the wire, and behind me I could see the elaborate form of the Gold Saucer gradually disappearing from sight. Tifa and Cloud had stayed behind to assist in the cleanup, but they had insisted that both Vincent and I return back to his apartment. Vincent had remained silent since we had met up with him after departing from the tent, and now he even refused to make eye contact with me at all.
I had been staring over at him for quite some time from across the trolley, but now I slowly directed my vision towards my feet. What's he so uptight about...? I thought, rather depressed. It was only some stupid fortune teller....it's not like.....
"Y'know, it's not the truth!" I suddenly piped up, then internally slapped myself for talking amongst my thoughts.
Vincent didn't reply, but after a moment's hesitation slowly shifted his gaze over onto my face.
".......Um....what...what I mean is, the fortune teller was wrong," I told him quietly, rubbing the back of my neck. "I'm....I'm not the reincarnation of anyone, I'm really not. She just made all that up, I know she did..."
There was a second or two of silence, and then he brushed aside a strand of black hair that had fallen across his face. "............Oh, really.........?"
".....Well, you don't believe any of that reincarnation crap, do you??" I asked him. "You know, being reborn as something else depending on your actions in a past life......You really don't think any of that's true, do you??"
He stared over at me for several seconds, then shifted his gaze back out the window beside him. "......I guess not...."
Once again an eerie silence filled the trolley, and suddenly found myself growing rather impatient. "....Then why the hell do you keep actin' so weird for??!" I snapped nastily, standing up. "It's bad enough you won't even let me know who this damn woman is, but now you think that I actually am her?! Why do you always act like there's a stick up your ass??!"
He didn't even look towards me, simply continued staring out towards the ground below, then slowly shut his eyes and exhaled a weary sigh. "...........No, I guess you wouldn't be Lucrecia, would you...?"
".........................H.....huh??" I blinked several times, gaping over at him, then slowly lowered myself back into a sitting position. Neither of us spoke a word until the trolley reached the station.
I tugged lightly on the needle in my hands, yanking the thread through the clothing I held, then slipped it back through again with a rather clumsy twist of my wrist. After Vincent and I had returned to the apartment, he had literally hung up his coat, taken off his boots, and walked straight forward into his labyrinth of a library next to his bedroom without a word and had not emerged since. I had been left alone in the shadowy living room, and after several minutes of shocked stillness I had slowly returned to sewing my lacerated street clothes. The room had remained silent the entire while, and occasionally my eyes would shift over to the large window to my right, now stained with numerous bullet holes scattered about the glass, out towards the city. The sun was now setting, coating the heavens with blurred streaks of varying pastels, and faintly in the decreasing light I could see flakes of snow gradually beginning to drop to the streets once again. Other than that and my scarce, awkward mending of my clothing, the world remained immobile, painted against a canvas of smeared colors.
"Goddammit!!" I hissed quietly to myself as there was a sharp spark in my left index finger and I could see small droplets of blood spattering to the carpet. "Why is sewing so damn hard?? No wonder I decided against that job offer of a seamstress...." I lifted the garment in my hands up to my face, eyeing the remaining incisions and grumbling at the clumsy stitching. "Oh well. So it looks like a horse's ass. At least I should be able to wear it..."
A rustling noise came from the hallway, and as a glanced upwards I met a pair of scarlet eyes staring down at my position on the floor. Vincent glanced over at me expressionlessly, holding an open book in one hand and resting the other in his pocket. My body stirred internally from some sort of unwanted tension at being watched so intensely beneath his stoic gaze, and slowly I shifted my eyes away from him towards the floor.
He didn't react for a second, then slowly reached up and removed the pair of reading glasses from his face. "............I thought maybe I should come out and see if you needed anything. Forgive me for being so isolated, but I've had a lot on my mind recently..."
"...........It's all right," I replied monotonously, casually attempting to go back to my embroidery but realizing my hands had begun to quiver. "I'm ok, you don't need to worry. I'm just finishing up the stitching in my dress and then I think I'm going to bed. I've been doing a lot of thinking, and I feel really guilty about intruding on you like this. I....I think I'll head back out to the streets tomorrow."
Once again he remained motionless for a second, then all of a sudden spontaneously slammed the book in his hand closed, and turned slightly to the side, heading back towards the library. "......For the record...." he began composedly, casting a glance back over his shoulder down at me, ".......I'd prefer if you stayed."
I blinked several times, and then he took advantage of my silence and turned completely, walking back in the direction of the athenaeum. I stared after him for several seconds, then raised a hand to my cheek and felt how hot it had grown. ".........What.....what's the matter with you, Allie...?" I scolded myself softly, gazing down at the needlework in my hands. "What are you getting so worked up about...? So he's some lonely guy that wants someone to keep company with........Why the hell is that making you blush....?"
"....Ugghh..." My body twitched involuntarily at the remaining bitter taste of a nightmare in my mind, then shifted over onto its opposite hip. I clung to the blankets draped over my shoulders in an unsteady, shivering embrace and pulled them further up to my face, attempting to muffle the vague shadows of unsettling dreams that still flickered behind my closed eyes. Faintly outside my subconscious I could hear the clock toll three times, echoing in the silent hallway, and the sound of sleet ricocheting lightly on the window. "...Brrrrr...." A knifelike seism shot down my spine, stirring my icy body awake and causing my eyelids to slowly flutter open. "...Nnn...?" I blinked incoherently several times, facing the back of the scarlet couch directly before my eyes, then shifted up onto one elbow and gazed around. ".......Vincent's apartment...." I whispered hoarsely, pushing back several strands of hair that had tumbled across my face. ".....It was a dream.....all a dream...."
I was silenced as my aroused ears suddenly picked up a soft noise streaming quietly in arcs above my head, and as I forced myself to listen more intently I could recognize the flapping of leathery wings. All at once I emitted a smothered scream and threw the covers over my head, ducking protectively beneath the custody of the quilts around me. "Oh shit!!!" I cried, most likely much louder than I meant to. "Oh, shit!! Oh, God, kill me now!! Oh, my God, don't do this to me--!!"
I choked out another cry as suddenly someone seized the blankets above me and roughly tore them away, and I leapt up into a defensive sitting position and covered my head with my arms. "..........Vi.....Vincent!!" I exclaimed loudly, distinguishing his pale complexion in the darkness. "What...the...hell....!!"
"...I heard you scream," he interrupted, pushing aside the covers. "You scared me half to death, I thought you were in trouble. What's the matter??"
"What's the matter??!" I echoed in disbelief, staring at his face. "What's the matter??! Can't you hear what's the matter??! Are you deaf??!!!"
"...What...?" He glanced up at the ceiling, then noticed a small, dark shape circling around above him. "What in the--"
"It's a bat!!" I shouted loudly, throwing my arms over my head once again. "Can't you tell??! It's a goddam ba-at!!!! Get it away from me, please!!! Just get rid of it, Vincent--!!"
"....A......?" He stared up towards the airborne silhouette above his head, then slowly reached to the side, slipped the pillowcase off the cushion beside me, and with one swift thrust upwards he managed to capture the bat and clench the top fringe of the bed linen to trap it inside. He held it up by his face, watching the enclosed animal struggle around in a panic. "....This?" he asked doubtfully, holding the pillowcase over towards me. "This is what you've been screaming about...?"
"Aaahhhh!! I said to get it away!!" I shrieked in alarm, covering my face with my hands. "I hate bats!!! I can't stand them!! They must be the goddam ugliest things on the entire planet!! All hairy and bloodsucking....brrr!! Will you just get rid of it, for Christ's sake??! Oh, God, please, Vincent--!!"
".....All right, all right," he interrupted, gradually turning and heading out towards his bedroom. "Calm down, you're ok. I'll just go set it free out the window. I don't know how it got inside in the first place, but....." His voice insinuatingly grew fainter as he left the room, and I stared after him for several seconds through my fingers before finally lowering my hands from my face and exhaling a breathless sigh.
".................I hate them........" I whispered throatily, clenching my quivering fingers into tight fists. "......Absolutely despise them......"
I sat alone in the living room for probably close to a minute and a half, and then I slowly shifted up to my feet and took several trembling steps over towards the window. The city was hardly visible in the darkness, but I could see the small specks of various colored light speckled all over the black mural of the surrounding backdrop. The street below was forsaken and dismal, still varnished with a thin coat of white snow. I stared blankly out towards the desolate landscape, then breathed out a quiet sigh. ........It's so beautiful... I thought, resting my forehead against the cold glass. ....Why is this the viewpoint of the city I never get to see from the street...? And why is it that every time I feel depressed or confused, this is the place I come to...?
I continued to gaze out towards the slumbering city for several more seconds, then slowly shifted my vision towards my reflection on the glass before me. "This is all so stupid," I announced aloud, staring towards the murky image of myself projected back at me. "I don't know why, but it is. I want it all to stop. I want everyone to leave me alone. And first thing tomorrow, I'm going to head straight out that--"
I stopped as my vision slowly crept from my reflection to over my shoulder, and I felt a jolt as I noticed the form of a pale woman standing only a foot or two from behind me. Her reflected icy blue eyes glared angrily over towards me, and after several seconds she gradually turned and walked away from my back until she eventually dissipated into the air.
All at once I whirled about, facing the spot where the woman had been standing, but all that came into view was the engulfing blanket of darkness around me. I stood, staring down at the carpet before me, for several
A loud noise came from above me.
Immediately I froze in place, then slowly lifted my eyes to the ceiling. Nothing happened for a second, but then I heard it again--a conspicuous creaking sound coming from the floor over my head, finally succeeded by another, further across the ceiling, like a gradual chain of soft footsteps. I drew in a sharp gasp that got caught in my throat and clasped my hands across my chest, gaping incoherently the woodwork above me. The noise came again, soft but deafening in the coarse silence, gradually moving its way across the story over my head. Another--a tumultuous creaking of aged floorboards, echoing mercilessly in the darkness about me. "........U...ughh....." I choked quietly, slowly slinking back towards the couch. ".......Some.....someone's here.......Someone's in the house.....!!"
I glanced down at my hands, which were quivering noticeably in the absence of light, then gripped them tightly against my bosom and snapped my head over towards the hallway. "......Oh...oh my God.....I....I can't even think...! Ok, ok, chill out, Allie, you have to get out of here--"
I was silenced as a hand whipped out of the darkness, clamping across my mouth and whipping me firmly against the wall. I emitted a muffled shriek, then, panting, glanced up towards the face of my assaulter. Instantly I recognized Vincent's ashen countenance, only an inch or two from mine, and I could feel his ragged, warm breaths brushing against my face. I exhaled a series of frightened whimpers, and immediately he exerted some extra pressure or his hand over my mouth. "......Shhh..." he whispered softly through his staggering breaths, gazing straight into my eyes. "......Ok, Allie, listen to me.....You've got to be quiet, all right...? There's someone here, do you understand me...? And I think I know who it is........So you've got to get the hell out of here as quickly as possible, ok? I'm going to take my hand away.....Don't scream, understand?? Stay quiet." After receiving a series of panicked nods, he gradually removed his palm from across my lips. I clenched my eyes shut, stifling a terrified, suppressed cry, then slowly gazed up at his face. He watched me to see my reaction, then bent closer in order for me to hear him. ".......Ok, listen closely, Allie...." he instructed me quietly, hesitating briefly as another creaking footstep came from the ceiling above his head. "........................I..........I want you to go into the library, ok?....Turn left at the door and go up to the large clapboard bookcase in the corner. Pull it away from the wall. It'll lead into a hidden staircase that will bring you outside. I want you to go down the stairs and get out of here, do you understand??"
I stared at him for several seconds in silence, then slowly nodded. "..........Y.....Yes..........."
"Don't turn back for anything, do you understand me?" he told me, brushing away a sweaty lock of blond hair that had sprawled across my face. "Don't stop. Just keep going until you reach safety, ok?..."
"..................But..............but what about---"
"Shhh!!" he hissed quietly, casting a glance above him as another footfall came from the ceiling. "You just go. I'll be fine. Don't you dare turn around and come back for me, do you understand? Don't stop running until you have no idea where you are, all right?....................Are you ready....?"
I forced myself to swallow, then nodded shakily.
".....All right..." Vincent stood up straight and looked upwards towards the ceiling. ".......Go."
I felt a powerful jolt, and all at once I whirled about and dashed down the hallway towards the library. My hammering heartbeat and huffing breaths clogged my ears, blurring my sight, prowling viciously over my skin. The corridor seemed so long to me now, and it seemed like I had been running forever before I finally reached the library. It was much darker in this room than the surrounding ones, due to the lack of a window, and I had to hesitate for several seconds in order for my eyes to adjust to the change in light. The chamber was rather large but appeared smaller, since every wall was lined with a series of massive bookcases stuffed full with various works of literature. I could faintly see cobwebs hanging from the corners and from the elegant, dark candelabras bolted to the walls.
My vision fell to the bookcase to my left.
It was significantly larger than the others, filled with an innumerable amount of diversified books. It loomed like a dark, ominous shadow against the indistinct wall, standing a good foot or so higher above my head. I stared at it in silence for a good thirty seconds, then forced myself to swallow and made a dash towards it, blinded to my surroundings due to the intense blackness engulfing the room. I hurriedly slipped my fingers around the shelf closest to my height, feeling the sticky cobwebs hanging from the above ledge cling to my fingers, and with a strained moan I only managed to drag the bookcase maybe two or three inches away from the wall. It was surprisingly heavy, and I watched in horror as several publications plummeted from the mantels and plunged to the dusty rug beneath my feet with a deafening thump. I froze for a minute, panting and staring down at the open binders on the floor (which seemed to be volumes of hand-written scientific observations and graphs), then turned my head back towards the doorway. Everything remained silent.
I watched the postern for several more seconds, then turned back towards the bookcase and gave another strained tug. It shifted several inches further away from the wall, causing several more notebooks to fall to the floor. "......uuuughhh..." I gave one final forced yank on the cumbrous wooden shelf in my hands, then drew back to observe my progress. I had succeeded in dragging the left side of the bookcase about a foot or so away from the wall, partially revealing a hidden doorway leading into a darkened passageway. I stared at the gateway for a minute or two, then gave one final glance back towards the hallway before I hesitated, inhaled a sharp breath, and took several steps into the darkness beyond.
Past the hatchway was a long flight of cold stone stairs.
The narrow passageway surrounding me was completely black, with the exception of some dim light emanating from the library above me. On either side of me I could sense the presence of two icy brick walls stretching up to the low ceiling above my head, and the air clawing predatorily at my skin reeked heavily of dust, wet stone, and carrion. I covered my mouth and choked in disgust, forcing myself to continue further down the stairwell. "...........You can do this, Allie......" I assured myself quietly, feeling shakily with my foot for the next step below me. ".......You're almost there.....just keep going, and you'll be--"
I was cut off as a series of gunshots spontaneously rang out from the apartment behind me, surprisingly overpowering in the compressed passageway around me. All at once I drew in a terrified gasp, whirled back around, and shot my vision back up towards the doorway at the top of the staircase, fastening my hands together in front of my heart. Deathly silence ensued.
I couldn't move; my legs had become cemented to the brick beneath me. I gaped for several more seconds up at the doorway, panting, then emitted a choked, ".................V..............Vincent.....??" I took one step up towards the hatch. ".......V....Vincent...!!!"
My breaths were heaving now. The sickening blanket of powerful silence combined with the concentrated darkness smothered my body, and for a second I thought I was going to faint. "...Vincent...!" I cried despondently. "...Vincent, are you there??" I took another panicked step up the staircase. "...Vincent, please answer me!!"
All was still for a moment, but then I could faintly perceive the sound of the same heavy footsteps I had heard above me only minutes before making their way across the living room behind me. I froze for a second, stumbling back down the two stairs I had ascended, then whirled about and made a dash down into the depths of the passageway.
The bottom of the staircase lead into a remarkably large brick chamber, entirely submerged in darkness. The powerful odors I had smelled before were much stronger now, so much so that I could feel my sinuses burn and my eyes begin to water. The room seemed to continue on in two directions: a wide supplement of the enclosure I now stood in to my right or a seemingly narrowing passage proceeding before me. I glanced back and forth between these two choices, then back up towards the staircase behind me. The scent of decaying flesh seemed to be originating from the blackened route to my right, and now I could also hear the sound of dripping water and a series of quiet squeaking noises, which I could only assume were rats.
I drew in a sharp breath, forcing myself to relax, and stood in silence with my eyes closed for probably about five minutes. When I finally reopened them, I cast one glance back over to my right before I continued forward to the passageway before me.
As I had guessed, the brick walls gradually began to close around me, and soon I found myself ascending yet another adamantine stairway. This one was significantly darker than the first, however, and I was forced to cling pathetically to the brick bastions to either side of me for support. "...........Ok, Allie......." I huffed quietly, straining my eyes against the intense murkiness. "...You're gonna be all right, ok?? And Vincent too. Vincent's fine. He's gonna be waiting for you when you finally get outside. And then you can just go home and everything will be just like it was before, ok....???"
I was stopped abruptly as my hands before me suddenly hit against cold stone, and faintly in the darkness I could see the outline of another wall blocking my path, bluntly ending the staircase. "..........Oh shit......" I whispered shakily to myself, pushing weakly against the barrier before me. ".......Oh shit......oh, c'mon, please..... Don't do this to me.....o God, please don't do this to me....!!"
I took a small step back from the wall, hurriedly sweeping over it with my eyes, and then I crouched down and ran my fingers over several bricks that seemed to be a darker color than the others. I shoved feebly against one, then let out a sigh of relief as it shifted backwards slightly from the force. "...Yes!!" I cried softly, placing both my hands against the weakened stones and pressing against them again. "Thank God! Oh thank you God!! I'm going to get out of here, I'm so out of here--!!"
I was silenced as my ears picked up a faint scurrying noise coming from the wall before me, and I immediately let out a terrified gasp as I spotted numerous black specks scampering up my arm. "Oh God!!!!!" I shrieked tumultuously, jerking backwards and clawing viciously at my sleeve. "Oh Jesus Christ!!" I could see more of them now--thousands of spiders flowing out from the wall before me, spilling to the floor, invading the walls. ".........They're.....they're everywhere!!" I choked shakily, staring around me in horror. "...Oh my God, there're billions of the goddam things......!!!!" I emitted another scream as I could feel them crawling up my arms, scratching at my legs. "They're all over me!!!! Oh my God oh my God oh my God--!!!!" I tore violently at my clothes and the back of my neck, then rammed the wall with my shoulder. "Come on!!!!!" I shrieked, drawing back and repeating the action. "What the hell is wrong with you?!!! Give way, dammit!!! Let....me...out...of...here...!!!!!!!" With one final attack several of the bricks finally slid through the wall and fell onto the ground beyond, allowing refreshing light to enter into the chamber. Immediately I bent down and forced my way through the small opening, then fell to my knees onto the ground and continued to slash at my body. "Get them off me, get them off me!!" Innumerable black spiders fell from my clothes and hair to the grass beneath me.
Panting, I finally ceased my hysterics and slowly glanced around me. I sat towards the back of the small graveyard between the buildings I had noticed the first day I had awakened in Vincent's apartment, facing the posteriors of all the gravestones and monuments. I gradually shifted to my feet and dusted myself off, gaping blankly at the cemetery before me, then slowly took several steps forward, out into the center of the graveyard.
I cast several glances about me towards the obelisks I passed, holding my arms against me as the atmosphere about me turned noticeably cooler. ".......It's so quiet...." I whispered to myself. ".....Like.....like death....I wonder if this is all the dead hear...?"
I stopped abruptly as my eyes fell to a certain gravestone, then turned and wiped the layer of dust away from the inscription. "...........'Lucrecia'........." I read quietly, lifting a hand to my mouth. ".........Oh.....oh my God........Is....is this her grave........?" All at once I was struck with an intense wave of nausea, and I turned away from the monument. "..U..ugh.....That's....that's so--" I halted a second time as I noticed the gravestone I was now facing, then removed the dirt caking the marble engraving. "..........W.........wait a second...." I choked hoarsely, drawing backwards. ".........This...this one too......Why.....why do they both say 'Lucrecia'....?"
I turned back around towards the rest of the cemetery behind me, then approached another random cenotaph. "...........'Lucrecia'......this one's for her too....?" My vision shifted up towards the remainder of the graveyard, and immediately I drew in a gasp and stumbled several feet backwards. ".........Oh my God....." I whispered in shock, surveying the entirety of the necropolis. ".....A.....all of them.....every single gravestone..... they're all for Lucrecia........every single one has her name on it.....!!"
Suddenly the cemetery seemed very cramped, as if it was choking the air out of my surroundings while it gradually engulfed my body, and as my blood began to freeze over and my skin began to grow cold I managed to squeeze my eyes shut and dash past the remaining monuments, out towards the road, leaving behind only a trail of footprints in the snow surrounding the silent, unmoving gravestones.
~ End of Chapter Five ~
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