He no longer remembered how long he had been there, in the box. The unending pain from in his body and soul erased all sense of time and space. There was only the box, and he had always been in the box.

Or, at least, he called it a box, although he had long ago figured out what he was really in. The feel of the red satin, a crucifix inches from his pale face, and the curious shape, narrow near his feet, but wide near his shoulders, told him where he was. Indeed, the thin layer of dust beneath him, scattered here and there with little bits of metal and what felt like scraps of cloth and shards of bone, made it certain.

So Hojo had put him in the crypt.

In a coffin in the crypt.

The scientist had not even bothered to dump out the remains of the coffin's last occupant, and had instead tossed his limp experiment in on top of the powdered bones.

Such a profound lack of respect for the dead.

He had long ago found what was left of his arm, and could in fact see it, faintly, limned in faint wisps of red light. The brazen claw, needle-tipped fingers, levers and pulleys and an assortment of mechanical miracles. So Hojo had toyed with prosthetics, as well as Mako therapy, cloning, and genetic engineering.

Genetic engineering.

He knew also what the rail-thin, sneering, perpetually hunched man had done to his body.

That he could see in what should be eternal darkness was one clue.

That there was a constant craving to rend and destroy those who opposed him was another.

Beast-like, feral, ravening, the section of his psyche he fought to control.

He was now clad in flowing garments of red and black, wild hair held back with a sanguine headband, red cape lined with black, and a mask behind which he could hide his sin.

His gun was still at his side, and that was a small consolation.

Perhaps he would have been able to end his suffering, with the gun, although that was a coward's way out. He did not think that it would be of any use, anyway. Hojo was not an idiot. If he had left the gun, then he would not have left a weakness that it could take advantage of. Hojo liked to keep his experiments around as long as possible.

How long was that?

He did not know.

His questing hand had found a string of beads, long, snakelike, looped and terminating in a small crucifix. It smelled of silver, and sandalwood, and rose petals, and because of that, he knew what it was, and used it eternally, whispering the prayers, begging his beloved for forgiveness.

The rosary clicked, clacked, and he counted off another decade, stopping to feel the large bead for a moment. There was something etched upon it, but even with his unnatural abilities, he could not make it out. A name, most likely, the name of whoever had once owned the strand of beads.

If he wanted to, he could have easily escaped his tiny prison. But that would have been cowardly. No, he should stay here, chanting requests for mercy, for forgiveness that he did not deserve, so great was his sin against the one he had loved so dearly. Besides, he knew what the people of the town, assuming they still existed, would do if they saw him. They would take flaming torches, stakes, cloves of garlic, for he knew what he resembled.

Nosferatu. Das Wampyr. The undead. Vampire.

These things he was not, and his small, pointed fangs, blood-red eyes, crimson garb, and the coffin in which he slept would lie to the villagers.

He did not wish to be burned alive, decapitated, staked, and the host of horrors that were the vampire-hunter's stock-in-trade. Even though the pain would be exquisite, unendurable, a long, slow suffering was preferable to one that was immense and quick and ended with a final darkness.

No, he lay there, saying his penance. He would suffer longer this way, as he deserved.

His powerful hearing suddenly picked up something. Far above him, someone opened the door to the mansion where the Shin-Ra had once lived.

He desperately hoped that the intruders would not find him. He could tell they were several. A heavy, sure step, a light one that was obviously a woman's, and a curious four-legged gait, wearing no shoes but treading carefully on paws that bore sharp claws that ticked and clicked on the wooden floors. The faint sound of flame. Evidently they had brought a torch with them.

A sigh. With luck, they would not disturb his tormented repose.

Quietly, he resumed his pleading to be cleansed of his sin.

~fin~