Sins of the Father
The morning fog rolled into Nibelheim making the air thick and misty. It was first light outside, the sun only having come up about an hour before. The small town was still completely silent except for the soft drops of dew on a few of the trees that lined the streets. All of the town's denizens were still curled up in bed with the exception of one. He lay next to the water tower shivering slightly and trying to keep himself warm by wrapping his arms around him. His breathing was heavy as his mouth lay open inhaling the morning fog. His eyes were shut tightly; his jaw locked firm as his small hands clutched his arms, trying to get some semblance of security.
His face was contorted in an amalgam of sadness and anger. Fresh tears streamed down his cheeks as he slept. His breathing became ragged as he sniffled and his nose began to run. He moaned softly, tightening the muscles in his face. The crisp morning air whipped around the center of town. The boy's hair was blown slightly but he didn't notice.
"Dad don't!" he called out suddenly, his voice cracking with pain. His eyes shot open, warm tears snaking down his face. He looked around quickly forcing back any intruding tears that threatened to come again.
The water tower? How'd I get here? The blonde boy carefully reached out to the wooden frame of the water tower, thinking if he touched the surface then maybe perhaps this would all turn out to be a dream.
I remember now. I came out here last night because--
He clenched his fists digging his fingernails into the soft skin of his palms. He closed his eyes in a similar fashion.
Why'd you leave dad?
I want nothing to do with you or that boy!
Despite the boy's efforts, his eyes now welled up. He wiped his nose harshly with a fist as a tear rolled down his cheek.
Did I do something wrong? Was I bad? Is that why you left?
Don't either of you try to find me--ever!
You and mom were yelling so much last night. It hurts dad. Why'd you go? I promise I'll be good.
Mom was crying so much she didn't notice when I left to find you. But you were gone all ready. I couldn't find you. I thought that maybe if I stood on top of the water tower I'd see you. And I could tell you I was sorry. And you'd come back and we'd be happy.
But I couldn't find you. You all ready left. I started crying I'm sorry. I couldn't help it.
Stay the hell away from me!
The young boy lay his head against the water tower, the memories of the night before too much for him. He whimpered softly and continued trying to hold back his tears. The sadness deep in him wanted to burst out. His mind kept telling him that his dad would be back, he just left for a little while, that's all. His heart however knew the truth. His dad wouldn't be coming back. He'd seen the last of him. He'd been abandoned--and it just filled his being with rage.
He let out a soft whimper and closed his eyes. Maybe he could find some peace in his sleep.
"Cloud, sweetie, wake up."
A soft gentle voice pulled Cloud from his restless sleep. He opened his blue eyes slowly, immediately recognizing the figure in front of him. "Hi mom."
"Hi sweetie." She said, caressing his face and hair. Cloud smiled. She always knew how to make him feel a little bit better no matter what was wrong. He realized then that he wasn't at the water tower anymore. He was back in his house, wrapped up in his favorite blanket. Something was on the stove; it smelt like chicken soup. "Cloudy--what were you doing outside? You had me worried sick. I told you not to run off without telling me where you're going. It's dangerous."
Cloud looked down, "I was looking for dad."
The look on his mom's face was pure shock. She felt as though her heart was pierced with a thousand needles. She turned away from her son, not willing to let him see her cry. She closed her eyes and tried to regain her composure. Last night had been extremely trying on her spirit and she knew Cloud must have been feeling some effects.
She still remembered every detail vividly. She remembered every harsh word spoken in anger. She distinctly recalled the closed fist making contact with her face, where a red welt now marked the spot. He wasn't even sorry. When she'd looked into his eyes after he hit her she had expected to see remorse, shock.
There was none of that; only cold hard anger. His words were said deliberately to hurt. "I'm leaving. Don't you or your boy ever try to find me. Stay the hell away from me."
That was it. With those few words he'd left. She couldn't remember how long she sat on the floor of their house crying. Her heart didn't even feel the same now. It was as if it were replaced with pure sadness. That same feeling permeated throughout her entire body.
She couldn't worry about her own feelings now. She had to be strong for Cloud. She was all he had and he was all she had. They'd have to be there for each other.
She took a deep breath and thought about what she would say. She had to measure each word carefully. It wouldn't help him to see her break down in front of his eyes.
"Cloudy--your dad--isn't coming back."
"But he will once I find him and tell him I'll be good!" the boy insisted. He was positive that it would work.
"Cloud, please. Your dad's gone--he doesn't want anything to do with us anymore."
The young Strife paused. He furrowed his brow in thought. That didn't seem to make any sense. He looked down at his blanket and squeezed a piece. He looked back into the eyes of his mother, "But--why mom? Why'd he go?"
She swallowed hard. Because he's scared of you? Scared to be a father? Because he's a selfish bastard that wants nothing to do with his beautiful son? She patted Cloud's head and looked into his blue eyes. Her eyes. She hated seeing them like this now. The look of hurt and anger was plainly written across her son's face. But his eyes only showed confusion. He didn't understand why. How could he? She knew deep down Cloud knew he would never see his father again--but she knew deeper still he held out hope that his father would come back and the three of them could be a family again.
She couldn't tell her precious boy about his father's whores. How every night he'd leave after Cloud went to sleep to go see them. How he'd rather go screw them than stay home and look after his own son.
Cloud idolized his father, as every boy does. So she simply looked her son straight in his eyes and said, "I don't know Cloudy. But it's OK. We have each other and that's all we need. We'll be OK."
"All right mom. I'm tired. Can I go to sleep?"
"Of course sweetie." She kissed his forehead and saw her son smile as he drifted of to dream of more pleasant things.
One year later--
Cloud's fist sprang out connecting solidly with its target. Blood trickled down from the nostrils of another boy's nose as a distinctive crack was heard. "Take it back!" Cloud yelled.
The other boy covered his now broken nose with his hand and grasped it trying to stop the river of blood flowing out of it. His hand was covered in his own blood, as was the entire front of his shirt. "No way! It's not my fault your dad left you because your mom's a whore!"
"Don't talk about my mom!" The blonde boy's anger erupted. He tackled the other boy and began punching him mercilessly, tears streaming out of his eyes. The only thought in Cloud's mind was that he wanted to hurt this kid as much as possible. He couldn't talk about his mom like, no one could!
"Stop that this instant!" a deep, booming voice called. Cloud felt himself being physically removed from his battle with the boy.
"I knew it had to be you Strife. You're a troublemaker and nothing else!" the imposing man yelled at Cloud.
"B-b-but Mr. Lockheart--I didn't do nothin'!"
The man stared down on the boy. Cloud looked directly into his eyes, didn't see Lockheart's hand stretch back, and was unprepared for the thunderous backhand he received. The blonde boy saw a white flash as his knees buckled and he fell to the ground. He placed his palms flat on the ground trying to keep his balanced. He opened his eyes wide. His mind seemed fuzzy, like he was going to black out. His whole body suddenly felt weak. There was a strange salty taste in his mouth. He instinctively placed a finger on his bottom lip. Blood.
"You're a loser Strife, just like your father. You'll never amount to anything. It's no wonder he walked out on you. Who'd want a son like you anyway."
Cloud just lay there for a while. The words hurt more than the slap. His elbows gave out and he fell to the ground. He didn't even blink. He just lay there staring out at the world. Mr. Lockheart was still yelling at him but he didn't hear any of the words anymore.
Eventually he left along with the other boy, leaving Cloud lying in the middle of the street. The young boy didn't want to move. Motionless he lay with head supported only by the dirt, his eyes stared off into space unblinking. His breathing became shallow and rapid, heaving his chest in a soothing methodical pattern. The warm blood flowed into the side of his mouth and streamed down his cheek, merging with a few painful tears.
In the distance thunder erupted over Mt. Nibel, the dark clouds lit up in bright lightning. A gentle trickle of cold rain fell upon the dirt around Cloud, muddying it and splashing a few choice drops onto his all ready soiled face. The ground became softer as the rain fell with a deepening intensity around the fallen boy and throughout Nibelheim. Cloud closed his eyes and listened intently to the beating pattern the droplets caused on the ground. It was rhythmic, almost musical, like an infinite drumbeat--like his heart.
The boy clenched his fists in the mud, letting the soft surface squish into his fingers. It felt cool against his skin and made him feel a little bit calmer. A crisp breeze blew by him but it bothered him not. He took solace in the falling of the rain. Here he was completely exposed to the outside world, the forces of nature, and to the people of Nibelheim--yet he was content at least for the moment lying with his eyes closed in a tomb of mud and rain. It was peaceful.
The wind picked up as the temperature dropped at an unprecedented speed. The intensity of the wind spread through Nibelheim howling as if possessed by an ancient beast. A silent shiver sprinted up Cloud's spine. He trembled violently and his bottom lip quivered. He'd better get inside before he caught something. Mom wouldn't like to know that he caught a cold lying in rain.
He picked himself up in a deliberate motion. He peered down at his chest and legs; his clothes were smeared with mud not to mention the rest of him was soaking wet. The boy tried to get as much of the soil as possible but it was little use. His long blonde hair flopped over onto his face, preventing his view and igniting his mood. He angrily shoved it back even as a tiny "achoo!" escaped from his mouth and nose.
He was really in for it now.
His fever was extremely high. He moaned softly as his face tightened, probably from some horrible fever dream. She carefully wiped his furrowed brow with a damp washcloth, moving his matted hair away from his tightly shut eyes. His entire body felt hot to touch even as he sweated profusely. She frowned, her motherly instincts at their peak. His temperature was very high and she wondered how long the fever would take to break. He kept tossing and turning in his sleep. "Please sweetie--be OK--"
Everything was blurry and out of focus. It was like looking into a camera whose lens was distorted. Suddenly visions of Nibelheim deluged his mind. Images of his house, his mother, and his father, flooded in. His heart soared at the precious memories. His dad holding him in his arms, smiling at him. His mom standing at his side, her eyes full of life and hope. Happy tears rolled down his cheek, his mouth open in a contented grin.
His heart dropped, however when his father's friendly smile turned into a scowl and pure malice blended into his eyes. "What's wrong dad?" Cloud said, his voice echoing throughout his memories and thoughts.
His father's teeth clenched and his rip on Cloud tightened until the boy let out a wince of pain. "Please--stop dad--you're--hurting me--"
His objections only seemed to fuel his father's abuse as a wide maniacal grin spread across his face. Cloud felt the muscles in his father's arms tighten as he threw his son into the opposite wall. The boy's skull hit with a deliberate thud. He slid down leaving a sickening red trail of blood from his head on the wall. As he lay slumped against the wall, he watched in shocked silence as his father backhanded his mother to the ground. Her eyes rolled back in her head even as she extended a hand out to her son.
He watched as his father casually wiped the blood from his hand then stepped on his mother's throat. His face was contorted in perverse pleasure at his wife's anguished screams and rapid gasps for breath. "No!" Cloud tried to call out but his voice seemed wholly insignificant. He couldn't move his body, it seemed like all his bones were broken and his muscles refused to respond. He could only watch helplessly as his mother made a final choking gasp for air only to slump to the floor, unmoving.
"No! Mom!" he cried out, his tears flowing freely. "Why did you do that?!" His emotions were at a boiling point. His heart raced, pumping blood to his muscles, yet they still refused to react. His eyes, filled with teary rage, watched his father stalk closer to him. Each footstep he took echoed in Cloud's mind even as he replayed his mother's final gasp of life. There was a bitter taste in the boy's mouth. He licked his lips trying to dilute the taste of bile. This was the man he wanted back. A man who would mercilessly slaughter his mother--and even as he though was poised ready to end his own son's life. The man was enjoying this whole horrific spectacle of his own creation and Cloud wanted him as father. No more.
The blonde boy's welled up seeing his father's bloody footsteps--his mother's blood, gruesome evidence of the fate his father had resigned her to. Cloud followed the trail back to his mother's body. Her face--her beautiful face was frozen forever in time in frightening shock. It was a grim reminder that she knew she would die. Her final moments were spent trying to reach out to her son, her hand still palm up in a pool of blood held out to him.
Cloud felt his father's presence; his shadow fell over him, his hot, ragged breath invading the boy's nostrils. He bent down and ran a rough, bloody hand across his son's face and hair, turning them crimson.
He leaned in close to Cloud and embraced him. He moved his lips inches away from his son's ear. Cloud listened in fearful silence to his father's quick breaths. He shivered from fright anticipating his father's next action.
Slowly the man began, "Cloud--son--I hate you. With every fiber of my being--I hate you. I wish you were never born. But it's OK. I know how to erase my mistakes." He stopped here to see what reaction his words had on his son. Cloud's eyes were closed but the look on his face was unmistakable: eyebrows arched downward, jaw tight and locked in a frown, and fists clenched. His son was enraged.
This amused the elder Strife as a cruel smirk played across his face. He continued speaking to his son, "--I'm gonna fucking kill you Cloud," he paused, "--just like your mother." Content with himself, he anxiously awaited Cloud's reaction.
"Then do it. At least I'll never have to see you again." The words were spoken in pure malice, bile dripping from each carefully spoken word.
His father's left hand shot out and grabbed him by the throat. He wasn't choking the boy however, only holding him in place. Cloud opened his eyes in time to see his father's right fist, clenched tight, connect with his own face, the resulting force ricocheting Cloud's skull back into the wall with tremendous force. His eyes rolled back into his head while he struggled with all his might to stay conscious. In what seemed like an eternity's eternity he regained his composure only to have his being and his tiny body rocked again by another blow from his father.
Cloud knew he was bleeding, a lot too from the amount of blood cascading off his father's fist, and he was pretty sure his jaw was broken. He couldn't feel some teeth he was sure he'd had before also. Again another punishing attack and his eye hurt at the attempt to open it. He was being beaten to death and there was absolutely nothing he could do to fight back. He was too weak.
Scream Cloud! I want to hear you scream!
He tried to block out the words as best he could. It was easier than he thought since most of his senses seemed to shut down because of the onslaught. His entire body was numb; the only way he knew he was still being hit was that his head kept moving and banging against the wall. He didn't think he could see anymore, not that he wanted to. All he tasted was warm blood. He was almost deaf, his father's hateful words only angry mumbles to him now. He could still smell, though he prayed that would go quickly so he wouldn't have to smell the hot, rancid breath of his father. Cloud swore he could smell the anger and evil emanating from it.
The feeling was almost euphoric now. The pattern of his father's fists reminded Cloud of the day he was lying in the rain. Like music, like drums.
I want nothing to do with you or that boy!
The pool of blood forming around his fingertips and smeared across his face could be the mud. Yeah it was just like that day. Everything seemed the same; even the hole in his heart was the same.
Don't either of you ever try to find me--ever!
I love you mom. I'm sorry I wasn't more understanding. I think I can guess what happened now. But this feeling in my heart just won't go away. It's an anger and I'm scared of it. I don't think I can control it mom--I'm too weak.
Stay the hell away from me!
You can bet on that. If I ever do see you I'll kill you myself for leaving mom and me. I'm gonna make sure I grow up strong and famous so you know what you coulda had. And I'll make sure and take care of mom. I'll never be like you.
Cloud was barely conscious now, his life quickly slipping away from his grasp. His father's fist prepared for one final finishing blow. It raced towards Cloud's skull and connected with a deafening crack within the boy's mind. A crimson smear decorated in blood the area around Cloud's head, as it could no longer stay up. It plummeted, along with the rest of his body and his hopes of having a father, to the ground.
Your blood flows through me father. But I'll never be like you. I'll die before.
-- That's that folks. Hope you enjoyed it. Any questions, comments, send ‘em over to AzStrife@hotmail.com. Later!