The Lights Are On... Chapter 1
The slums were used to strange occurrences. Sometimes people in dark suits would fall from the metal pizza in the sky- usually with multiple gunshot wounds. Of course they died on impact if they werent dead already. Sometimes they screamed the whole way down. That was fun. Theyd scream and scream and scream, and then thered be a crunch and a splat as their guts went everywhere. Then theyd rot in the streets for weeks before Shinra would come along and clean up the mess.
And then there were the monsters. Every now and then one would jump the walls and terrorize Midgar for a while before the helicopters showed up and blew holes in them. Then theyd rot in the streets for weeks before Shinra would come along and clean up the mess.
And finally, there were the raving lunatics. Most were just drunks who created scenes to get sympathy and free booze. Others patrolled the slums for rats. Some particularly screwed-up people would try to scale the support wires to the pizza above and see if there was any pepperoni on top. Usually they were carted away, never to be seen again. The men in white suits that dragged them away screaming would say that theyre taking them to a good hospital far away. But youd find the lunatic a week later with a hole in his head rotting in a ditch in the outskirts of the slums. Sometimes Shinra came along to clean up the mess. Usually, they didnt.
So when the blonde started wandering around the slums with his strange hair and his dirty uniform muttering to himself, no one paid much attention to him. Nobody knew how he got in, but nobody cared enough to ask him about it. Sometimes people appeared out of thin air, it seemed. Nobody was stupid enough to climb the walls into Midgar, so they mustve just popped into existence. It was well known that he didnt arrive on the only train coming into Midgar- the people of the slums watched the new arrivals carefully, hoping that some rich fool would arrive so the slums would get free money from the poor sap. This one just appeared.
Nobody was quite sure why he was wearing a SOLDIER uniform, either. He had the mako eyes of a SOLDIER, but he carried himself like a cadet. He often roamed the streets, raving about the legendary Sephiroth and monsters, but there were times where hed be lying in the middle of the street curled up in a fetal position. Sometimes, if one listened closely enough, they could hear him whimper. And then thered be the times he passed out for no reason. One second, hed be ranting and raving about some bizarre topic, then hed fall face first in the mud.
After a few months, the residents went from apathy to worry. What if he had some crippling disease? What if he decided to go on some killing spree? What if he was contagious? Word began to spread about the blond newcomer. Nobody was quite sure how he survived, but the word on the street was that he was living on handouts and sewer rats. What kind of SOLDIER would have to stoop to that level? It boggled the mind. He carried that giant SOLDIER sword of his around on his back, but it was like it didnt exist to him. He never pawned it for cash, he never killed any of the larger sewer monsters for food, and he never even tried to pass himself off as a mercenary. He was a nutcase. Plain and simple.
In a matter of days, all of the sectors knew about him. They knew about his bizarre behavior, his uniform, the sword he never used, but nobody knew his name.
Nobody except for me! The sonofabitch told me his name when I pulled him out of a sewage ditch!
The other patrons of the Sector Seven bar ignored the conversation taking place at the counter. Everyone except the large man sitting at the very end, pretending not to listen as he took a sip of beer. Seventh Heaven was famous for being the most well-informed pub around, in terms of gossip. Nothing seemed to escape its clutches. Not even blonde raving lunatics in SOLDIER uniforms.
What was his name? the bartender asked, sliding another beer to the already drunk middle-aged man who was retelling the story of the mysterious SOLDIER. She was hanging on his every word, brushing long locks of dark brown hair behind her ears as she leaned forward to hear what the man was saying.
And then he started mumblin about some chick named Genevieve or something like that. Well, maybe it wasnt Genevieve. Maybe it was a Jehovahs Witness he was talking about. They all sound alike to me. Maybe he was talking about another girl. Sounded like Jen Hova or something like that. Maybe it was a Jehovahs Witness. Yeah, probably a Jehovahs Witness.
The bartender narrowed her eyes. His name. Tell me his name. Please.
Said his name was Zack.
The bartenders eyes widened and she took a step back. Zack? she asked in disbelief, her jaw dropping open.
Yeah. Zack. Why? You know him?
The bartenders face fell. No I dont. I thought maybe it was someone I knew. I Im glad I dont, though. Its horrible for someone to live that kind of life living off of rats and handouts. And to be so mentally ill. Its so sad. She turned toward the lone man at the end of the bar. Isnt it sad, Barrett?
The man glanced up. Yeah, Tifa. Real sad. Makes me wanna cry.
The bartender put her gloved hands on her hips and scowled. Youre heartless.
Youre tryin to be a saint while youre still alive. Just forget about the damn loony. If you dont know him, its probably for the better. Dont go out of your way to get involved with some crazy freak just because its sad. Youll end up in the same ditch as him. I guarantee it.
The drunk man at the bar took a sip of his beer and stared at the ceiling through blurry eyes. Obsessed with clouds, too.
But hes a person! Tifa nearly shouted. You cant just go around deciding that someone isnt your problem just because theyre ranting and raving about something! What if something caused his ins She trailed off and stared at the drunk at the bar. What did you just say? she whispered.
The drunk blinked. Wha?
What did you say? she asked in a hoarse whisper. Tell me! What did you just say?
I said he was obsessed with clouds. He was jabberin on about cloud this and cloud that, and clouds not bein here and clouds bein failures and whatnot. Real nutcase.
Tifa grabbed the man by the shoulders. Are you absolutely certain?
Yeah, Im damn sure of it.
Tifa glanced at her watch. Two thirty in the morning. The bar usually didnt close until four, but circumstances like these called for desperate measures.
Everyone, can I have your attention, please? she cried over the din of drunken patrons. A gradual hush fell over the crowd. Im sorry to do this to you guys, but Seventh Heaven is closing early tonight. Please gather your belongings and exit quietly. Thank you for coming.
A general protest arose.
Whaddya mean shes closing up? Im not drunk yet!
What the hell is going on here ?
Look, I said I was sorry to do this to you, but somethings come up. I have to close the bar tonight. Things will return to normal tomorrow unless something major comes up.
The outcries dimmed to grumbles, and the patrons slowly began to trickle out.
What the hell are you doing, Tifa? Barrett cried out, slamming one fist on the table. You cant go lookin for some cloud-crazy lunatic at two thirty in the morning! Youre gonna get hurt!
I dont want to deal with your crap, Barrett! Tifa shrieked wildly, spinning around. There was a dead silence as the last patron exited the bar and slammed the door behind him. Time froze. Barretts eyes slowly widened as his fist unclenched. The only sound in the bar was the steady ticking of the clock on the wall and Tifas heavy breathing.
Finally, the silence ended. Look, Barrett Im sorry for yelling, Tifa murmured, her voice shaky. But its just this man might know where Cloud is. Its a long shot, but I just have to know. I havent heard from him in six years. I have to know if hes okay.
Barrett sighed. Not this again. Look- I told you hes probably dead. You go followin leads that have no truth behind them whatsoever. I know you care a lot for this Cloud guy of yours, but hes gone. Face it.
Hes not gone. Hes around here somewhere. And Im going to find him, Tifa growled. She picked up a beer glass angrily and began swiping at the inside with a wet rag. And youre not stopping me.
All Im trying to say is that this is a waste of your time. We have to focus our efforts on bigger things, now. AVALANCHE is gaining new members. Its almost time for us to begin our attacks against those planet-killing bastards. We cant have our best fighter putting half her effort into this battle- well get ourselves killed that way. You just have to let things
Hey, you cant go in there! Its closed! A voice cried from outside. The doors to the bar slammed open, and Barrett leaped out of his barstool, ready to face the intruder. Tifas back was to the door- she was ignoring the events taking place. It was best to leave these things to Barrett.
Beer me. The intruder demanded in a hoarse voice.
Who the hell do you think you are, storming in here after the bars closed? Barrett demanded, raising an arm to the intruder. A giant metal gun gleamed at the end of the arm. How many times do I have to tell you filthy beggars to stay the hell outta here?
I said, beer me.
Im tellin you to get the hell out!
There was a long pause.
You cant tell me what to do! Im a SOLDIER, god damn it! Now beer me or or Ill You ah, the light. I hear the screams. Thats right, I hear every one of your screams! Stop the screaming! Damn you! Stop screaming!
God damn, this guy is fucked up, Barrett muttered.
Shut up! Just just shut up! I didnt ask you to start screaming, too! The voices, god, the voices! Theyre all screaming! Cant you hear their cries? Cant you HEAR them?
Look, buddy, well get you some help, Barrett said slowly, advancing toward the stranger. Youre the guy theyve been talking about, huh? Well, well get the nice men to make it all better. Stay right there and well help you, okay?
You lie! You said youd help me, but Ive got scars because of your little games. If the voices werent screaming, Id kill you. Yeah, Id rip you a new one, the stranger said in a shaky voice. He began to laugh- a hollow laugh that often masked true insanity.
What the hell are you talking about?
Wheres my sword, you fiend?
A glass shattered. Both sets of eyes were trained on Tifa, who was staring at the stranger with wide eyes.
Cloud she whispered. The beer glass she dropped had sent razor-sharp shards of glass into her legs, but she didnt feel the pain of the gouges, or the warmth of her own blood running freshly down her skin. All she could see was the dirty lunatic at the door with the strange blonde hair and the mako eyes. Cloud
The stranger seemed to lose his balance for an instant, and when he finally regained his senses, his jaw dropped slightly and he looked around the bar dazedly.
Where am I? he murmured. He focused on the statue-like girl behind the counter. Tifa? Tifa is that you?
Who the hell is this? Barrett demanded. Tifa shook her head numbly as she grabbed onto the counter for balance and walked out into the open. She took slow steps toward the stranger, blood trailing on the hard wood floor as she made her way towards him.
Cloud its you its really you
With that, the glow seemed to go out of Clouds eyes for an instant, and he teetered wildly. Tifa they did horrible horrible things
Who did? Barrett asked in a monotone. He couldnt help but stare at the robotic girl trying to make her way toward the unbalanced lunatic
Then, everything happened at once. The stranger lurched forward and crashed into Tifa, sending her flying backwards. A loud shriek pierced through the air as her head slammed into the front of the counter and her body sank to the floor with the weight of the now unconscious man against her legs. Blood seeped into his dirty hair and the shards of glass embedded in her legs scratched his face roughly, causing the puddle of blood around them to grow at an alarming rate.
Cloud Tifa whispered as she passed out.
Barrett rushed for the only phone in the bar and dialed the paramedics. As the operator on the line asked him in a soothing voice to describe what had happened, the strangers last words ran through his mind over and over again.
They did horrible horrible things
This Page © Copyright 1997, Brian Work. All rights reserved. Thanks to Sax for his help with the layout. Do not take anything from this page without my consent. If you wish to contact an author, artist, reviewer, or any other contributor to the site, their email address can be found on their index page. This site is link-free, meaning you don't need to ask me if you'd like to link to it. Best viewed in 1024x768.