The House of Strife
By General Quistis and Zhakeena
Chapter Seven: Aerith
"Cloud? What's wrong?"
"It's nothing, Aerith."
"Well… all right." She smiled at him as she continued eating her meal. Turning to Sora, she asked, "So, Sora, how was your day?"
"Eh… so-so." Sora replied, playing with the peas in his plate.
"Nothing neat happened. It was a boring day, actually…" Cloud didn't hear the rest of the conversation. All throughout dinnertime, he stared at empty space. If he wasn't, then he was glaring at Aerith accusingly.
"My mind is in turmoil. She's hiding something…" he thought.
Earlier that day…
"Foo's! Nice of ya'll to drop by!!!" Barret greeted as Cloud and Aerith stepped inside his house in Sector 7. Aerith placed a bag of fruits on top of the kitchen counter. "Well we just thought we'd drop by here before fetching Sora for school." She said happily.
"Really? Sora, your boy? How is he?" Barret asked as he offered them seats.
Cloud smiled proudly. "He's 14 now and he's really good in swords… although his weapon is a Keyblade. But he's well-known in his school for his skills that I taught him when he was younger." He explained.
"Oh dear… is this how you arrange things in here?" Aerith asked in horror as she opened the cupboard and saw that everything was cluttered and disarranged inside.
"Honestly Aerith, dad doesn't know how to maintain this kitchen ever since you moved out with Cloud to live in your own house!" Marlene said as she entered.
"Oh hello, Marlene!" Aerith greeted happily as Barret rushed to the cupboard. "Whatcha doin' openin' cupboards anyway?" he asked in shame.
"I'm looking for the fruits basket so that I can put the fruits there and put away the plastic bag." She replied. "And from what I can remember before Cloud and I moved out, I arranged everything in that cupboard but I don't see a fruits basket anymore!" she continued before turning to face him.
"Eheheh…" Barret laughed sheepishly.
Marlene just giggled. "It's over here, Aerith," she said before leading the way.
When the two women left the kitchen, Barret turned to Cloud. "Yer darn lucky foo' wit Aerith, y'know?" he asked with a proud smile on his face.
Cloud blushed slightly and nodded sheepishly. "Y…yeah…" he said.
"Jus' think what if ya didn't end up wit her? Say she married the wrong guy like Zack… and then you got hitched wit Tifa?! Man oh man…" Barret said.
Cloud felt his heart jump when he heard that. "D…don't say that!" he said, feeling so bad about himself. If that really happened, he would probably be the most miserable creature ever… and there would be no Sora, his other pride and joy aside from his wife, Aerith.
Barret laughed at him. "Har har har!!! What if there was a major switch?! Like y'know, the darn foo's supposed ta be dead, right? But then she got back to life, same with Zack 'n Rufus 'n Sephiroth plus all the other dead guys for a second chance. What if they're just zombies and you're just hallucinating like what would happen in horror and suspense flicks nowadays? And then you got hitched to Tifa pretendin' to be Aerith? Well y'know the girl once liked ya and stuff but…" he trailed off when Cloud just got up and yelled, "Aerith!"
Cloud frowned. Suddenly he appeared angry and uncomfortable. "Aerith!!!" he called out.
Aerith showed up again with a worried look on her face while carrying a fruits basket with Marlene trailing behind her with a curious look on her face. "Yes, Cloud? What's wrong? Why are you shouting like that?" Aerith asked him.
Cloud was quiet for a while, staring hard at his wife. His vision seemed to darken; Barret's words whirling around his head. Is that really Aerith standing in front of him and staring back at him?
Aerith began to put the fruits in the basket. "Are we going to Sora's school now? Isn't it early? It's only 2:30. His dismissal time today is at 3:30." She told him solemnly.
"Sora's in high school and you're still fetching him?" Barret asked in disbelief.
"Well… every Friday the family goes together to the mall or to the park to hang out and bond and eats dinner someplace else… like a restaurant?" she explained with a sweet smile on her face.
Cloud's eyes narrowed at Aerith. "Pretending to be Aerith…" Barret's words echoed through his mind. Cloud clenched his fists. "…Tifa smiles like that too…" he thought silently to himself as he continued to watch her. She saw Cloud looking at her and she smiled at him before turning away, proceeding to the dinner table and placed the fruits basket there.
"Okay, that's enough household chores for you, Aerith. I'll clean this place up once you guys leave." Barret teased.
She just laughed and playfully punched his arm. When Cloud saw that, his eyes widened. He just walked out of the house with a disturbed look on his face.
Aerith blinked. "Cloud?" she called out.
For the rest of the afternoon, he was just quiet and did not even bother to talk to her. He drove to Sora's school with a very nervous Aerith on the front seat beside him… and once Sora got inside the car and greeted his parents and asked where they would go for the afternoon, Cloud just snapped at them, "No. We're going home. I'm tired." And drove back to their house in Sector 2.
After dinner, Sora lay on his bed, thinking about anything bad he's done to upset his Dad. "Wonder if I did anything wrong. He's acting like a zombie today…"
And it was the first time he saw his father being so cold towards his mother. It made him feel so bad. "Are they fighting? What's going on? They've never had any arguments before? They used to be so happy… so perfect!" he turned to the other side and stared at the wall in shock. The perfect couple that everyone knew were at the next room… with violent voices echoing from it. It seemed so wrong…
Then he jerked and his blue eyes widened in shock when he heard a sound: THUD!!! Followed by his father's voice yelling angrily at someone… his mother! Sora instantly got up from his bed but he couldn't move from where he was standing, staring horridly at the door.
"YOU ARE NOT AERITH!!!" Sora heard his father yell
And he heard his mother answer in between sobs, "Cloud what is wrong with you?! I am Aerith! I'm your wife!!!"
Sora jerked and took a step backward. "They're fighting?!" he thought .
"CLOUD, NO!!!" he heard his mother scream.
"Shut up, Tifa! How dare you deceive me!!! I should've known!!! You whore!!!" Cloud yelled angrily. Sora's eyes widened. "Wh…what?" he thought, feeling confused.
Cloud Strife grabbed a handful of Aerith's hair, making her cry out in pain and then dragged her across the room. "I HATE YOU!!! I HATE YOU!!! YOU ARE NOT AERITH!!!" he was yelling hysterically before pushing her against a wall with an end-table before it and a mirror hanging on it, reflecting Cloud.
Aerith's head accidentally hit the edge of the table, injuring her. She bled as she writhed in pain. "Cloud… I…" she struggled to say, but he knelt down before her and shook her violently, "SHUT UP!!!!! You are not Aerith… the real Aerith is dead, remember? Sephiroth killed her… So stop imitating her voice, Tifa! Stop it!" he snarled angrily.
Aerith began to cry helplessly.
"You think I'll pity you by crying?" he hissed.
"Cloud let me go, you're hurting me!!!" she cried out as she tried to push him away from herself. What has gotten into him? She was suddenly afraid.
"Cloud let me go you're hurting meeeee…" he mimicked with a sarcastic tone. "…Let you go, huh? Not until you pay for what you have done to me!!!" he yelled in rage before he got up and grabbed a handful of her hair again with his other hand while his other hand grasped her wrist tightly, dragging her with him upstairs. She struggled to break free from him, but he was too strong… Her body struggled in pain as she hit the hard wooden steps of the stairs. "Cloud… please… stop it… Sora… our son… he's…" she struggled to say. She was worried about their son's sake.
"Sora? Our son? Is that really Sora? Is that really my son?! You whore! I hate you!!! I hate you Tifa! I hate you!!! That is not my son! That is your son with Rufus!!!" his facial expression softened. "Poor Rufus… poor, poor Rufus… he married a whore… and his whore is a two-timing bitch pretending to be my Aerith… why, Tifa? Is it too hard to accept the truth that I am in-love with Aerith and not with you? Huh???" he demanded with a solemn look on his face. He turned to look at Aerith again, dragging her to their bedroom. His facial expression changed again, from solemn to angry-deranged and she just gasped. She felt so afraid of him. He threw her against the wall, making a thudding noise as her body hit. She felt some of her bones break and she screamed in pain and agony.
He was panting hard, just staring angrily at her in disgust. "I hate you, Tifa…" he hissed.
Aerith struggled to crawl to him, crying in fear and agony. "Cloud, please… I'm Aerith… please …st…stop!!!" she begged helplessly. He stepped on her hand, his combat boot grinding it against the floor, making her scream in severe pain. "Yeah… ya like that, huh? So that you wouldn't be able to punch people again." he hissed sadistically with a sick smile on his face. Aerith still looked up at him despite the tears and the pain she was feeling. "Cloud, no…" she was thinking.
He kicked her face hard.
She was bleeding hard now and she was shaking violently and writhing in pain. "Cloud… please… stop it…" she struggled to say in between her sobs and tears.
He just stared mercilessly at her before grabbing his Ultima Weapon. Aerith felt her heart sinking. "No…" she sobbed as she felt so cold all over.
Without saying another word, Cloud just stabbed her through her lower abdomen, using the sword to pin her against the floor. She opened her mouth to scream… but all that came out was a long gasp that sounded like a croak. "Oua-a-a-a-a-a-a…"
He then got a cutter from one of the drawers and stood over her, gazing down at her mercilessly. She still kept her eyes at him, tears welling up. He knelt down before her with a deranged look on his face. "I hate it when you stare at me like that, Tifa…" he said hoarsely as he readied the cutter. Tears fell from Aerith's green eyes as she kept on staring at Cloud… but she could not feel anything anymore. She stopped moving and just lay down still, watching blankly as her beloved husband began to cut her lower eyelids…
Tifa was in Rufus's office, waiting for him to finish with his work so that they could have dinner together with the children. "Hurry it up, Rufus, it's 8 already and I'm hungry!" she said while shaking his shoulders from behind him. He just laughed. "Okay, okay… I'll just finish this tomorrow morning and then…" he stopped when the phone began to ring.
She frowned at him and moved over to his desk, sitting down stubbornly. "If that's another client, tell him that you're busy right now with your wife," she said with a teasing grin. He just smiled slyly at her before answering. "Good Evening, how may I help y…" he trailed off and his smile faded. "Sora?" he asked. Tifa's smile faded as she blinked. Rufus frowned and took a deep breath. "What? Speak clearly, I can't…" he pressed the speakerphone button and put down the receiver. "Uncle Rufus!!! My daddy is…" they heard Sora say.
"What?" Rufus asked.
Their eyes widened. "What the bloody hell?!" Tifa cried out in shock.
Rufus tried to dial the Strife's phone number but the computer-operated voice spoke up, "The number you have dialed does not exist."
"What?" he asked in confusion. Tifa got her mobile phone and decided to call Aerith, but she just heard a beeping sound, indicating that the number does not exist. The two began to feel nervous. Rufus got up from his seat. "Let's get going," he said before leading the way out of his office. Tifa followed after him. Once they were in the lobby, one of their daughters who just arrived home from practice in school for her martial arts team saw them. "Mommy, Daddy! Where are you going?" the 9 year-old blonde girl with crimson eyes asked.
"Just stay here, Lavinia. We'll be back in a while," Tifa told her reassuringly before going after Rufus who was already outside.
The little girl just blinked. The two Turks who fetched her, Vincent and Elena, turned to another Turk, Reno, who was standing by the receptionist. "Stay here, Elena. Reno, come on." Vincent commanded before running after the First Lady and the President. They just wouldn't let the two leave HQ without bodyguards.
Rufus was the one who drove to Sector 2 with his white convertible. Vincent and Reno were in the backseat. "Where are we going, sir?" Reno asked.
Rufus and Tifa did not answer. Finally, they arrived at the Strife residence in Sector 2. Rufus instantly hit the brakes and switched off the engine. They all stared at the house. It was awfully quiet and all the lights were switched on. Tifa swallowed hard and got down from the vehicle and rushed towards the house. "Tifa," Vincent called out as he followed after her.
Rufus slowly got down from the car, feeling that something was wrong inside. Vincent stopped in his tracks by the gate, not wanting to follow Tifa further into the house because he felt something bad about it.
Reno and Rufus went after Tifa who was already inside the house. They stopped in their tracks when they saw that the whole first floor looked all cluttered and messy. When they were already by the stairs, they saw blood on the floor, the wall and on the end table by the wall and the mirror. Rufus and Reno frowned, and Tifa gasped. "Aerith!!!" she called out before rushing upstairs. "Sora!!!" she called out.
"Cloud!!!" she shouted. She stopped in her tracks when she saw that the first door from the stairs was open. She slowly neared it… and when she did so, she saw Aerith's dead body on the floor being pinned onto it by the Ultima Weapon. She shrieked and backed away, leaning against the wall facing the doorway of the masters' bedroom. Rufus and Reno rushed upstairs to come to her aid. "Tifa, what's…" Rufus trailed off when he saw the scenario. "What the bloody hell…" he had managed to say in shock.
Reno felt disgusted. "Argh! That's… who did this?!" he had managed to say.
They all turned to the other room where Sora is supposed to be located, but they just saw Cloud standing by its doorway and staring blankly at them all bloodied and messed up.
"Cloud…" Rufus began.
Cloud just stared blankly at them as he slowly approached them. "What are you doing here?" he asked solemnly.
"Cloud what happened to you? Did you do this?" Tifa demanded angrily as she rushed to him.
"Tifa, no!" Rufus tried to stop her.
She shook Cloud violently, "Where is Sora!? What have you done to him and Aerith?!" she demanded angrily. He blinked. "…T…Tifa?" he asked softly.
"Stop acting innocent! You did this to Aerith!!! Where is Sora?! What have you done to him?!" she demanded. Cloud just shook his head, looking confused all of a sudden. "No… you're not Tifa… you're dead… I killed you…" he said before pushing her away. "You're supposed to be right…" he went over to the masters' bedroom but he stopped in his tracks by the doorway when he saw Aerith dead on the floor, the Ultima Weapon still pinning her against the floor through her lower abdomen. "…here…" he said softly.
He slowly turned back to Tifa, then to Aerith, then again to Tifa, and back to Aerith. Everything came back to him in a flash… and he screamed.
The next things his friends knew, he was rushing down the stairs and he even tripped and fell down the stairs, rolling down with consecutive thudding sounds on the wooden floor. "Cloud!" Reno called out.
Cloud was crying already and was badly hurt, but he got up and instantly rushed outside the house into the street, going past Vincent.
"Cloud!" Rufus, Tifa and Reno went after him, but they stopped when Cloud reached the middle of the street. He froze and sensed someone watching him from the house. He turned back to the house and looked up at the second floor. He saw Aerith standing there, her eyes bleeding and it seemed like she was crying blood. She pressed her bloody hand against the glass of the window, smearing it with her blood as she smiled lovingly at him. She mouthed some words, but her voice echoed through Cloud's ear, "I love you, Cloud…"
His blue eyes widened.
It all happened so fast. Vincent, Rufus, Tifa and Reno saw Cloud reach out a trembling hand towards the direction of the second floor window of the masters' bedroom… just when a truck came out from nowhere and then hit him. They just watched in silence, feeling so stunned and disturbed. Nobody else knew how to react…
"How the bloody hell are we going to explain this to everyone…" Rufus muttered.
The authorities had finished taking pictures of the body of Yuffie Kisaragi… the 12th person to be seen dead in the house. Her husband, Zack Knightblade, was nowhere to be found and reported to be missing. Their daughter Kairi is under the care of the ShinRas as of now.
More deaths occurred in the force. It is either by stabs in the abdomen or by an unknown force. Scientists at the ShinRa Labs would not disclose anymore information regarding the things they found in the autopsies.
They say that it is because they stepped foot in the old Strife house in Sector 2. The President was preparing for the house to be destroyed, but no one would take the job. The urban legend has been made, and now it has spread everywhere. It's most popular in the high school where Kairi used to study. As for her, she lives in the ShinRa Tower, has all the windows in her room boarded up and shut, so no light could enter her room unless she wanted it. She has private tutors so that she doesn't need to go to school and be harassed by students about the urban legends.
As for the house, it still stood there, unguarded and unoccupied, waiting for their next victims…
GQ's final note: There's going to be a sequel to this whether ya'll will like it or not. So brace yourselves for more insanity… XD Eheheh!