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By Noah Bayens
(Author's Comment: This is my first 'fanfic,' although not my first story. I would like to hear feedback from any of you. Critiques, flames, anything∑Thank you all!)
The young girl just sat there, playing with her blocks. Her red brilliant red hair hung onto her dress, a blood red assault on the eyes. From head to toe, the girl was covered in red. A crimson ribbon was tied in her rust colored hair, her face a cold, icy beauty, her lips, flaming red. Her simple dress had the look of a blood soaked rag from times of war. The color was uneven, showing where previous dyes have been applied. Her feet were clothed in ruby socks and plain slippers. Suddenly, her eyes looked up, straight into my eyes. The red irises held an eldritch element to them, making her appear to be a glassy eyed corpse.
Whimpering, I buried my head into my mother‚s nearby dress. "Mommy, she‚s looking at me," I sobbed. My mother‚s head instinctively snapped up, glancing around the small room.
"There‚s no one here," she snapped. "How many times do I have to tell you she‚s imaginary?"
I peaked up from the dress, expecting to still see her staring at me, but to my lack of surprise, őshe‚ was gone. őShe‚ never wants Mom to look at her. I shuddered. "But Mommy∑." There was no hope. Mom never believed me. She just thought that őshe‚ was just an imaginary friend.
őShe‚ had appeared nearly a year earlier. I became a friend with the little girl who my mother couldn‚t see. Back then, őshe‚ dressed in pure white and had skin and hair of snow white. őShe‚ was also friendly and warm, although őshe‚ never spoke. Slowly, almost invisibly, her clothes darkened to pink, but it had always seemed as if those were her natural colors. őShe‚ began to withdraw and grow distant, but became ever creepier and almost∑evil. Now, her clothes and hair had darkened even further. Red was predominant; the only other color present was pure white, the color of her skin. I could only wonder what would happen next.
For the rest of that day, őshe‚ never appeared, but I could feel her presence. Occasionally, I could catch a glimpse of her staring at me from the corner of my eye, but when I turned, őshe‚ was gone. Nightfall and bedtime soon came.
"Now Rachel, you‚re a big girl now. You can sleep by yourself, can‚t you?"
I could only nod silent agreement. There was no chance that sleep would come tonight. I would just have to take my chances and hope őshe‚ wouldn‚t do anything. I went into my bedroom in the back; so far, so good. Recently, I had been getting horrible nightmares about what would happen to our town. I wondered if őshe‚ could possibly be causing them. I shuddered.
Soon, I was ready for bed in my favorite nightgown with the little yellow flowers on it. Whenever I wore that one, I always felt safe, no matter what. I climbed into bed and pulled the covers up around my chin. I began to reach over and blow the lantern out when a cold gust blew the flame out. I paused, then quickly retreated under the down quilt.
őShe‚ was here. I could feel her presence at the foot of the bed. Her aura had an oily feel to it. I snuggled deeper under the quilt. Maybe őshe‚ doesn‚t know I‚m here, I thought, but another part of my mind shouted: Fat chance! Run! I froze in my bed, panicking. There is no escape, nowhere to hide. An evil glow penetrated the heavy quilt, but∑the color! It had no recognizable color; the best description would be the color of sickness. Bile rose in my throat. I knew I had to confront her now, otherwise, it would be too late.
I threw back the covers. Above me, the little girl hovered. Instead of her blood red clothes, the girl‚s clothing was jet black. Radiating around her was the sickness color, a bloated disfiguration of real life. I backed up against my pillows, but the girl simply hovered, black hair creating a halo around her face. The girl simply beckoned for me.
I screamed. Never before have I been more terrified of anything. A thud came from the other room. Mommy was coming for me. The girl looked irritated, then disappeared in a nauseous explosion of color.
Mom burst in the door, looking for me. "Mommy!" I sobbed, "she was after me! I was so afraid! She came and wanted to take me∑somewhere bad, so very bad∑bad," my pleas soon degraded into sobs of terror. Why wouldn‚t Mommy help me? She just stood there, holding me. I looked up at her face, but all I saw was a face concentrating hard on the far wall of my room.
"Mommy?" I turned and looked at the wall, but nothing remained of the little girl. Mom stepped forward, reaching out for the wall. She touched it, probed it, searching for something I couldn‚t see, wanting something from it. She absently traced symbols on it, but nothing came of it. Finally, her hand came to rest at a point about five feet from the floor, two feet from the window. She pressed hard, harder, wanting it to give, but the wall was just a wall, never yielding. "Mommy? Mommy, answer me. Why won‚t you answer me, why?"
I went to where she was standing, I looked at where she was pushing the wall. A red dot was under her finger, and as I watched it grew. "Mommy! Mommy, stop hurting yourself! Mommy, stop it! Stop it! Stop!" I pulled at my mother, but she still never budged. Stop it, I screamed in my mind. I reached up and did the unthinkable: I slapped Mom. Her eyes focused; she was back.
She looked down at me, with a loving and questioning look on her face. "What honey? Is anything wrong?"
I said nothing, but I looked at the spot on the wall, where her finger was still at rest. Her eyes followed mine, finally stopping when she reached the wall. Her brows furrowed when she examined it, then she tugged her finger back to herself. Hissing in pain, she drew her finger off a nail that was imbedded in the wall, impaling her finger, bleeding her slowly. Scrawled on the wall, unbeknownst to both of us was, was a message:
~~~I'm waiting for you, Rachel~~~
"What's that? Did I do this? Rachel, what happened?" She looked at me with a haunted look in her eyes: Did I do this? All I could do was nod my head. "Whoa, I feel dizzy. Sweetie, help Mommy to her bed, will you?" I did so, lying down next to her, glad that I would be safe tonight, my flowers protecting us both from the horrors of the night.
* * *
Today marked a one-year anniversary of the appearance of the girl, several days since her attack. Her bloodthirsty attacks were non-existent, but I could still feel her lurking somewhere in the town, waiting for me. Today, I knew her attack would soon be coming.
There was an air to the town; even other people could feel the charge in the atmosphere. "Bad weather would soon be a comin‚," my neighbor yelled to me that morning. "Better go home before it hits!" she continued. She looked at the sky, then mumbled to herself, "Don‚t know what‚s gonna hit, though."
I looked across the ravine that separated our house, indeed, the entire town, from the Mako reactor. It couldn‚t be making those vibrations, could it? I thought it was the girl, but∑it might actually be the reactor. I hurried home, scared at the prospect of what might happen.
"Mommy!" I cried as soon as I came home. "Where are you Mom? Something's going to happen, Mom. Something real bad." I traveled over the rough floor of the living room, forever slanted towards the ravine, and turned into the hallway leading to the bedrooms. I gasped.
My mother was on her knees in front of me, her face buried into her hands. Blood streamed from around her hands, leaking onto the rough homespun dress. Floating above her, in her resplendent evil glory, floated the girl. Black chintz clung to the girl like a magnet, never giving the appearance of clothing, but never revealing anything. It gave overall an impression of black armor, shielding her from reality and light.
I first grew scared. All I wanted to do was curl up with my mommy and sleep with her forever. Oh∑if only I could escape this reality, and just be safe forever. Then, I remembered all I had to lose. My mommy, my friends, my neighbors. What would their son say if I didn't defend them when he was gone? He was supposed to come back soon. I was to marry him; he promised. Besides, Zack gave me the honor of defending his parents while he was gone. I can remember when he did it, three years past.
He bent down to me, looked at me with those blackish-brown eyes of his, and said, "Now Sprout, protect my parents and my town for me while I'm gone. I won't be gone for long, it's just that, well, I gotta make a living in this world," he smiled sheepishly at me at his lame goodbye.
I started to cry, "But Zack, we were going to get married! You promised!" He looked uncomfortable.
"Okay, Rachel, we'll get married, just as soon as I return, okay? You see, Rachel, right now, you're a little young for me. We gotta wait until you're older. Fine with you?" I just nodded mute agreement, but my heart cried out to him. I love you!
I must protect his parents for him. I must!
My eyes cleared of the mists of time, then focused on the witch girl in front of me. Her irritating smirk grew on my nerves, her black covering irritating me to no end. "Leave us alone," I said, in a whisper. The words hit the girl with physical force, jerking her backwards. "Leave∑use∑alone!" I repeated, using more force. The girl hissed in surprise, but she knew she wouldn't lose. In a noxious cloud of ozone, she disappeared.
"Mom!" I cried. I drew my mother's hands away from her face, but no serious wounds were to be found, only a general battering. My mom just stared ahead in a dazed state. She slowly came to, looking at me with a desperate and scared face. "What was that, Rachel? What was that?" Her murmurs soon faded to a slight sobbing.
"It's okay Momma, it'll be alright. This won't ever happen again. I promise. I'll protect you and the town from her."
Understanding dawned on her eyes. "She's the girl, isn't she? I should have listened." I choked up; all I could do was nod. "Don't go against her! She'll kill you! She wants that. Don't! Let other people take care of that monster."
I was almost willing to give in, but this was my beast. I needed to put it down. Calmly, coldly, I spoke to my mother, "I'm going after it. Tonight is the time of reckoning. Other people don't know what it could do. Besides," warmth leaking into my voice, "I promised to protect you, and this town. I can't go back now. I'll take care of her, somehow."
My mother began to cry. "No∑promise me you'll come back. Promise me, just for me, will you?"
Tears came to my eyes. How could I tell her that was something I could never promise? "I promise∑I'll keep you safe. I∑I∑can't∑" My voice died. I couldn't go on.
"I∑understand," she said at last. Tears were pouring out of her eyes by now, but there was nothing I could do.
I stepped into the now brazen twilight. Did it really take that long? I took leaden footsteps towards the bridge leading to my destiny. I somehow knew that she would be waiting for me at the reactor.
I broke down on the bridge, crying over past memories. I remembered those times when my mother and I threw daisies over the edge and watch them drift into darkness. I remembered with tears in my eyes the joy of playing games with Zack when he was here. Hide-an-seek was the best. He never found me, although he would try his best. I couldn't escape the reality that even if I did succeed, none of those things would likely ever happen again. No simple joys. No time with Mom. Nothing. I almost ran home to my mother, who I knew would be there, and just hold her forever, but I promised.
I traveled on, over the slowly dying plain that separated me from the reactor. No one will stop me now. It's my destiny. I kicked through the tall grasses, struggled through the briars. No thing will stop me now. It's my destiny. Stumbling through the cracks, fighting against the bushes, I reached the reactor. Nothing will stop me now. It's my destiny. I have arrived.
Unusually, the guard post was deserted. I looked, and was sickened when I saw a trail of blood flowing from the entranceway to the guardhouse. I knew she was here. I traveled through the open gates, wondering where she'll be, but I already knew: the central core. Things leered at me from the dark corners of the Mako plant. I shuddered. What has she done here? Something snapped at my ankles, causing me to hurry on deeper into the gloom. It's a game to her, isn't it? All she wants to do is draw me to her lair, and then kill me, right? Unfortunately, I could only suspect the answers, and never know for certain her motives. But I had to push on. Nothing could keep me from destiny.
I was standing in a room filled with large, eggplant-shaped pods. All of them were filled with a brightly gleaming liquid. Lifestream, I was whispered to in my head. Alters and controls life, source of all life, destroyer of all life, the voice continued. I knew the voice wasn't the girl's; it was my own, spoken through the generations of Lifestream induced life. It was only then that I realized that one of the pods was different. I, being too short, couldn't look through the porthole that was placed, conveniently, might I add, seven feet off the ground. Instead, I noticed that there was no Lifestream contained within. No glow came from within, and the seal around it was broken. But, that's unusual. It looks like it was temporarily resealed. My mind flitted to the stories of monsters being made in Mako Reactors. Could they be true?
I resumed my journey to the center of the reactor. The hairs on my legs and neck tingled with static electricity. An old childhood song sung to me by my mother when I was little sprang into my head. Tears threatened to flow when I thought of my mom. To think, she's at home, praying for her daughter to survive the battle. I sniffed back my tears. I could almost here my mother saying to me: "It won't help to cry. Just be strong." I started to sing.
There's something scary down below,
There's something dangerous on ahead.
And to my surprise that what I've found
Was a bug living in my bed!
The encroaching darkness didn't seem so black or scary now. I rushed through the twilight of the reactor's core. Surely she's here somewhere. I stumbled through the dark corridors, coming ever closer to light that denoted the center of this hellish place. Peeking around the corner that led to the core, I could see the girl. It looked like she was just hovering there. No∑wait, the other guard was there, lying on the ground. I turned my head, disgusted. Blood was covering the poor man, his belly ritualistically slit. I looked at him closely. Ohmygod, I knew him! He lived two doors down from me. I shuddered again when I realized that the girl was doing something. She was feeding off of him.
I turned back to the darkness, vomit rising in my throat. I bent double, my stomach threatening to empty itself right there and then. But, I couldn't do it. I swallowed the vomit back down. Stay, I willed it, stay. I slowly stood back up, waiting for the nauseous feeling to leave. I peered around the corner again, curious about what the girl would be doing.
I froze when she looked straight at me. Her eyes burned with a black light, calling me there, summoning me to her presence. I was literally dragged, my feet moving against my will towards the girl. I looked over the sides of the catwalk leading to core. Blue explosions burst into life down there. Nothing could survive for long down there. I looked towards the girl. Her eyes were aflame with hunger, desperate, sweet hunger. I walked transfixed to those hungry eyes. The pain, I could feel the pain behind those eyes, she needed me, she needed all of us, our pain, our love, and our flesh and blood. I shuddered at images of what she would do to us if she wasn't stopped.
A graphic image of someone--I gasped. It was Mom! It showed the little girl slowly peeling the skin off, cutting the skin off from her, separating the fatty layer from the flesh. Her screams were unbearable. "NO! Mommy∑Mom," I couldn't stop the tears from coming. She had to be stopped at any cost! No one would ever hurt my Mommy! I won't let them!
I looked at the girl with fury and hatred. "I hate you!" I screamed, in the frantic, uncontrolled way only children could do. "I hate you, I hate you, I HATE YOU!" My voice dropped in volume. "I wish that you would die. No one, no one will ever hurt my mommy."
The girl had cut off her feeding of me when my screaming began, but she regained her haughty composure when I finished. She smiled at me. Images flashed into my mind. Of me slapping Mom, of me screaming at her, telling her to stop. You hurt Mommy, you hurt her, a voices whispered in my head, accusing me, wanting me dead. I screamed, clutching at my ears, wishing the voices would stop. "No! I∑did it to save∑her∑it wasn't my fault∑it's your fault, not mine! You made her hurt herself!" I fought of the attack as well as I could, but it kept on boring into my head, destroying my defenses like a wet tissue.
She started to drain me again, but a new image came to me. This one brought calmness to me, negating all my rage and anger. I saw my mom at home. She was kneeling down, praying to the planet that I would win. I moved closer. Tears glistened in her eyes, her mouth was mouthing words in the faintest of whispers. "Let∑overcome∑win∑Planet∑please∑I love∑" I couldn't help but to cry at her fervent prayer.
"Mother, I'll help you, I promise∑I∑I won't let you down∑" I whispered to her. She looked up at me, then smiled. She knew the Planet had heard her prayer. I smiled, then returned to the assault on me. She was using her images of hate and pain to open my mind; I could see that now. I used my love for Mommy, for Zack, for the town, to push back the attack. The girl made mute sounds of straining; little clicks and gasps of pain and surprise. A faint sheen of sweat formed on the girl. Her expression hardened; the force grew stronger. I stood my ground against the attack, pouring all my love and passion into the attack. She switched tactics, instead using all my disappointments, all my failures to attack me.
I could here my mother screaming at me, disappointment clearly heard, "Why did you do it? Why couldn't you have listened to me instead of doing what you wanted to do? Listen to me when I'm talking to you! I have half∑" she went on and on, but all I could do was hang my head in shame.
"I'm sorry, Mommy, I really am," I mumbled.
"Sorry? Sorry doesn't cut it in this world, Rachel. You'll have to do better than this!"
"But Momm--," my plea was cut off.
"Don't talk back to me, young lady! I'll hit you--,"
"You're not my Mommy!" I interrupted. The image of mom wavered, then dispersed like smoke. Behind the mirage was the girl, her eyes closed, savoring the pleasure of feeding. I struck then, using my love for Mom to destroy her attack while she was savoring my pains. The attack shattered, snapping the girl out of her trance-like state. She hissed at me in anger, preparing for another attack. But this time I was ready.
I launched myself at her, grabbing her and pinning her to the ground. I sat on her chest, holding her down, crying all the while. Through my blinding tears, I hit her. Repeatedly. "No∑one∑hurts...my∑Mom∑no∑one." Each pause was punctuated with a wet thud. I could feel the bones in her face give way. Her teeth began to fall out. Another hit. Her cheekbone shattered. Another hit. I gasped in pain when a finger bone splintered. Another. Her brow broke. Another, and another. Dark blood began to leak from her, as if she was sponge. Thud, thud. A wet, bubbling sound came from her throat as she slowly began to suffocate.
A sudden rumbling distracted me. Several large booms threw me off the girl. What was happening? An eerie glow grew from the sides of the catwalk, casting me in a ghostly light. I suddenly realized what's happening. The reactor was going to explode! I turned and looked at the girl. Underneath the horrible mutilations inflicted by me, she smiled. I shuddered. She was going to kill us all.
I slowly stood up, carefully balancing myself against the constant explosions from below. Starting slowly, I crossed the catwalk. I went faster as my equilibrium returned. Looking back, the girl was still lying there, awaiting her death∑and mine. I turned the corner on the path that led to the real world, away from this hellhole.
I ran through the twisting corridors. Although I should have been concentrating on getting out, all I could think was that who ever designed these places should be shot. I shot through the pod room, pausing only when I reached the door. All the pods were shaking. Whatever that was in them wanted out. They knew something was going to happen, and they didn't want to be there to find out.
I continued my running through the dark corridors, the ever-present rumbling growing ever stronger. Passed the guardhouse, passed the blood stained earth, passed the bushes, deep into the night. I turned there, ready to make my stand. I knew that if the reactor exploded, all of us--the town--would be killed. The town was positioned too close; no one would live through the blast, and that demon girl knew it.
I braced my legs, preparing for the blast. I promised Momma, I promised Zack∑I promised. I had to keep my word. It wasn't long before the rumbling of a Mako reactor collapsing reached me. It wouldn't be long before the big explosions start. I glanced behind me, to the lights of the town. My mother was waiting there. She was waiting for me. I sniffed. I would never see her again, but this is for the better, I thought. She would live, hopefully in peace. I turned back to the reactor, my throat choking up. The rumblings grew louder. Blue-green streamers of Lifestream lit the night sky.
"Planet, please protect this town. 'Specially my mommy, and Zack's parents, please? I guess I'll be with you soon, Planet. Thanks, though." With that small prayer, I stood ready for the battle. I only hoped I could last long enough.
* * *
My heartbeat became erratic, my mouth, dry. Drums sounded in my ears, and women's voices reached my ears. 'Tis the song of the Ancients, I remembered. I had only heard performed once in my life, when I was just a babe. Somehow, the ghost of the song was calling me. It was time.
The first streak of Lifestream flew high into the azure. I concentrated hard, drawing it towards me. It slowly arched through the air, then slammed into me. I gasped when the burning streak burrowed into me. Damn, that hurt. Two streaks hurled themselves at me from the ruined reactor. "Oh no you don't," I cried out when they tried to go past me. I exerted all my force and brought them to me. "Aaaahhhh!" I screamed in pain as the two bolts struck me in the side. Suddenly, the entire thing went to hell. The reactor blew out large fireballs of blue and green. "Oh Planet, Ancients, help me!" The drumming in my ears grew, deafening me. The song turned into fiery screams, overwhelming me, controlling me. The Ancients manipulated me, but that was what I wanted. I knew I couldn't have controlled the power by myself. My body became a vessel for the Ancients to work with, so that the Lifestream would be controlled.
The Ancients pulled the Lifestream to them, to me. I could feel its power pulsating, altering, destroying. The Ancients knew what to do: all the Lifestream in that area was sucked to me, doomed to destroy me, but I would save the town, now and forever. They stayed until the last few seconds. Then, it was just me there, left alone to absorb the Lifestream.
Upon contact, my skin instantly charred. The Lifestream was changing me, molding me. The pain played upon my nerves like knifes, the Lifestream molten in my veins. I screamed as my bones were violently broken, splintered into a thousand pieces, then reformed in a different shape. My skin burst into vivid lesions. My body, blood and Lifestream were mixed together in a viscous purple color. The Lifestream reabsorbed itself into my body, continuing the alteration, the destruction, while the blood caked itself on my clothing, blackening my simple shirt, until it gleamed like tar. Slowly, the Lifestream altered me to another being, but it didn‚t stop. The Lifestream just wouldn't quit! My body was slowly dissolved, compacted. I screamed in fear. Lifestream was replacing my body.
* * *
"∑Now, onto world news. Gongaga's Mako reactor blew up this time yesterday. Although miraculously the town went unscathed, two people, both from the town, were found dead. These two were both guards working there, but Shinra has yet to disclose any names. When interviewed, the President Shinra refused to comment, but one of his executives, who asked to remain unnamed, said that Shinra was looking into the possibility that the reactor was sabotaged. We'll inform you more on this story as more unfolds in this tragedy.
"In an unrelated incident in Gongaga, a young girl disappeared during the time of the explosion. Officials, thinking she might have been caught in the explosions at the reactor, have combed the field surrounding the reactor, but no other body has been found. When interviewing the girl's mother, Ester Stevens, psychologists found her to be clinically disturbed. Officials said that she rambled on about her daughter, and another girl who, as she says, tried to kill her and her daughter. She was transported to the Corel Prison today, as she is the only one that officials have labeled as a murder suspect in this case. Now∑"
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