A/N: Hey, and welcome readers, new and old. This was my first story on the site. (Chapter one edited on 1/5/08.) It's basically a long, twisted tale of horror and suspense, with intentional mystery, romance, and humour scattered here and there. I've touched it up and added a few things, fixed up spelling and grammatical errors and things like that. After editing, this chapter was much longer, somehow, but I promise there will be more happenings later on. And above all, please, please note this is rated T for good reason.
This story was originally finished October 7. I don't know why the hell it says January 5.
Disclaimer/Warning: I don't own Harvest Moon or Zeus, for the matter. Violence.
Her Name In Blood
The girl bowed her head down in the direction of the tombstone, the newest addition to Gates Cemetery, letting her stray curls slap her eyes which had dulled from a vibrant, fluorescent cerulean blue to a distant, metallic cobalt. She stared at the grave for so long that its greyness started to fog her vision, melding her surroundings into one big grey swirl. She remained in that position for a few moments before crouching down and sweeping back her brunette hair to read the block words engraved in the stone freshly.
IN LOVING MEMORY OF WALLACE
AN AMAZING CHEF, FRIEND, AND GRANDPA
HAD A LONG, FULL LIFE
WILL NOT BE FORGOTTEN
She stopped reading when her eyes descended to the date of his death. Unthinking, she picked up a stray mound of rocks from the ground and scratched it against the words until they faded, never to be read again. Her chest heaved, but not a single thought ran through her head.
Remorsefully, she laid a single Moondrop flower to the ragged dirt, but otherwise didn't move a muscle. A grave silence washed through her, still unfathomably watching—listening. She reached out and touched the curve of the tombstone, stroking it as if it would grant her some sort of spiritual connection to the deceased man.
She touched the dirt beneath her without warning. It felt empty…hollow. The dirt seemed thin enough to let her fingers sink through. But it wasn't. That very dirt contained a human—a coffin. A body—
She surveyed the grounds, still moving nothing but her heavy-lidded eyes as they flickered from grave to grave. Each looked older and greyer than the last. It was like she'd landed in the feudal era after a long, hard war, streaming with blood and sweat. The ground looked vast and it was infested with yellow weeds, which battled with the quaint and unfitting bright flowers to the side.
It was hard to believe this abandoned field was the home of many dead bodies of people who had lived great, forgotten lives, her grandpa among them. It was also quite angering—after a funeral cluttered with people, none but her who genuinely wept, all was back to normal again. Her life would never be the same, and there everyone else was, living casually and carefree. She was just another one of a million with a burden no one wanted to halve. She was alone with the heavy pain in her chest, alone with all the troubles her grandfather forced her to inherit.
Her empty eyes circled and stopped as they fell back upon the grave in front of her, the anger faltering and once again leaving nothing in its wake.
She realized, for the first time, how cold she was getting. Not her whole body—just her hand; the one resting on the tombstone. It was as if the ghost of her grandfather had sat down by her side, taking her hand in his intangible one. Yet it wasn't warm and nurturing like it used to be. It was icy and sharp and stung as if there was an open flesh wound at the back of her hand that was being peeled off by the scream of the wind.
She wondered, if the wind could scream, what would it say?
Probably something along the lines of how it felt: Dead, dead, dead.
A violent squeeze rose to the girl's abdomen, clenching it and not letting go. It felt dead. Her hand felt dead. Standing above her dead grandfather, she felt dead. Her lips parted, but it was only moments later that she spoke.
"Dead, dead, dead," she whispered, her chant growing louder with each passing "dead". She stood up and started screaming the words; it was the only way she could let out the sudden stress piling up in her chest. "DEAD, DEAD, DEAD! DEAD, DEAD, DEAD!"
Suddenly she slammed herself against the tombstone, sobbing tearlessly. "Murder…"
As if out of the thick mist the cemetery was surrounded by, a figure walked up beside her, his eyes hidden beneath the shroud and his lips stringing between a frown and a grin. There was something in his aura about him that proved he wasn't just another passerby or bystander.
The girl stared at him, her dead eyes collecting before her eyes and fitting the pieces like a puzzle scattered on the floor.
"You…" she stammered, and a thousand memories burst into her head. Her little voice blossomed into a bloodcurling shriek. "YOU KILLED H-HIM! YOU…YOU KILLED…!" A breathless moan made her breath hitch and she covered her face with her hands, delusional. "Stop, stop, stop, stop…not again…please, no…"
Her body, which was rigid and fuelled by fear, turned flaccid and frail. She was paralysed, unmoving; weak…and she could barely lift a finger before the man strode up to her and grabbed her by the chin, as if he would kiss her. "S-stop," the girl whispered, unable to find the preceding strength of her voice. "D-don't do…w-what you did…to him…" But she knew already it was just a plea that would not be fulfilled.
The man eyed her with full amusement, and finally his lips found guidance and curled into a derisive grin. He slid his gloved hand behind his back, bathing in the treasured horror on the girl's face as he pulled out a gleaming blade, unsheathed and hungry for flesh.
"STOP! You don't…why?" the girl hollered, feeling her mind tumble into an abyss, and her control over herself flee her. "Would…how…"
The man stood, ignoring her low wails. He took a steady step forward, his knuckles growing fierce with her screams.
With one swift, staccato movement, he gripped her by the throat and dug a knife into her stomach, letting it plunge all the way through and out at the back near her spinal cord. Little spurts of blood spilled down the backs of her thighs as her mouth hung open, secretive blood oozing out.
Wordlessly, he continued digging the knife back in and out only to launch it back in again, the girl enumerating each stab as her knees fell from beneath her. The man caught her and shoved her roughly into the tombstone so her bloodied back arched toward him, just to receive another painful slash to her flesh. Her skin now glowed red with a sick gleam of a rose.
When the man brought the blade fully back out for the sixteenth time, dipped in cherry red blood and acidic tears of her frail body—he stopped instead of plunging it back into her. He inclined the knife to the sky as if asking her if she opted for any last words. She did.
"Dead, dead, dead!" she cried meekly, her last breath slithering down her throat and spilling out of the open gaps of her body.
She didn't even scream as silver punctured her flesh for the last time.
""Early reports have found sightings of a girl, known as Katie by her family (who requested that their last name was not given), seventeen, dead in the middle of Gates Cemetery Sunday afternoon. She was covered in blood and it was obvious she had been stabbed a well dozen times. Thorough details are still being investigated.
""Seventeen holes, I counted," one reporter, nameless, says. "What a terrible way to die. It's unforgivable."
"Reports also say the killer made it quite obvious the girl was intentionally stabbed, considering he or she had left the knife by her corpse. To make matters worse, she died standing above the grave of her grandfather, who had too been stabbed, one hand clasped on his tombstone. Concerned that this is no coincidence, her family has been brought to a shelter for protection.
"More info on the knife, it is believed that"
Dia reacted once the shivers on her spine led all the way to her throat. "Stop reading that!" she shrieked, interrupting the opposing girl mid-sentence. She leaned over and tried to yank Monday's paper out of the other girl's hand, but to no avail. Her bobbed black hair swung as she made another attempt to snatch it.
"Dia! What's the matter?" her blue-haired caretaker and best friend, not much older than her, responded, pulling the papers out of reach and oblivious to her obvious discomfort.
"I don't want you reading that. It's…doesn't it unnerve you?" Dia protested, trying hard to make her point. She blinked, and for a moment a flashing image of a corpse spun through her.
She made another desperate act to grab the paper, but again it was pulled away.
"Relax, Dia. It's not like this happened to any of us," her caretaker tried to soothe her softly.
"So? Doesn't…doesn't the sight of blood make you queasy? Doesn't murder scare you at all?" Her breath caught. It wasn't often that she talked about things like this with anyone else—even her closest friend. She waited for a response.
The nurse reached out and touched her hand gently, pausing. "Dia…it's not like that. You shouldn't worry so much. I bet they even made up the story…"
"I don't care!" Dia interrupted harshly, letting her innocent disguise vanish. Her hand shot out, palm-up, six inches from the blue-haired girl's pale face. "Give me that, Gina…!"
Gina sighed before stuffing it into her hands in a slow, languid gesture. "I don't see why it matters…" she grumbled. But inside, she worried. Dia had been a patient since she had arrived in town, ordered to take care of her. Dia was a definite mystery—arriving at the doorstep of the sanatorium in the hands of a rich, upperclass woman, and sick since anyone could remember. She showed symptoms that no one else had had before, and constant thoughts of blood and murder. Not even her mother seemed to know what was wrong with her.
"It's disgusting," Dia suddenly said, her brows furrowed in clear distress. Gina couldn't tell if she was talking about the story or the blood—or both. "And I really don't want to hear it. I mean, how would you feel if—"
The two girls were interrupted by a blatant, sudden clasp of thunder followed by needle-like rain, so sudden that neither could have predicted it.
"Look at that…" Dia observed, relatively calm compared to Gina, whose face was twisted in horror. "What a downpour. I remember I read this myth once, about a god named Zeus. He was very powerful. I wonder if he's in up there right now, in a duel with the Harvest Goddess… like a war in the sky…"
Gina ignored her rambling and swept the blinds over the window with one vigorous movement.
"Hey! I was watching that!" Dia protested.
Gina eyed her cautiously yet warily. "Dia," she said at long length, "I want you to get some rest. Martha has to bring the clothes and everything in. In the meantime, I'm going downstairs to do some paperwork."
She picked herself up off the rocking chair strewn in the middle of the carpeted second floor, followed by Dia, who quickly scooted her chair out from under the tall, round table.
"I'm coming," she piped up, with no intention to change her mind.
Gina shot her a square look, one that sent a subliminal message to Dia that said, "Fine, be that way." Dia reached out to put the paper back into the bookcase's archive when they heard a loud crack.
"What was that!?" Gina jolted and hugged her arms, clearly shaken up.
"Relax, it's probably just the thunder," Dia assured her. "Thunder won't harm us."
"Maybe it's the murderer!" Gina blurted out.
Dia faltered for a moment, but then went completely still. Gina was about to ask her if she was okay when she demanded, "Did you hear that?" She looked in the direction of the winding staircase and made a beeline for it.
"Stop trying to scare me!" squealed Gina, shrinking back. "Dia! Where are you going? …Hey! Are you listening to me?"
But Dia said nothing. "Do you hear it?" she asked after a few moments, as if she were talking to herself.
Gina opened her mouth to berate her on how immature she could be when she heard knocking.
"Someone's at the door!" Dia confirmed. She looked worriedly at an exposed part of the window and then back down the stairs. "I'll go answer it!"
"Hey, wait!" Gina exclaimed as Dia rushed away. She thought up an excuse. "You're supposed to be in bed!"
Unheard, she lifted one knee to run after her but she quickly hightailed back to the table where Dia had previously sat instead. She grabbed Monday's paper, rolled it up and stuck it into the side of her long skirt, then hurried after Dia, who was calling her name.
"Who's there? What's wrong?" Gina exclaimed the instant her feet hit the bottom landing. She looked at Dia, who had been relentlessly shouting "Gina! Come quick!" until she had arrived.
"Doctor Alex is bleeding!" Dia stood almost cautiously by the corner of the room, pressed up against the wall. Her eyes trailed to the bloody wound and she squeezed her eyes shut, breathing hard.
Gina was torn between comforting her and Alex. However, she was twice as alarmed—partly because she had a major crush on Alex only she and Dia knew about, Dia sworn to secrecy. She and Alex had worked side-by-side ever since she had applied, and soon she found herself fond of more than just his partnership. But another –ship…
She spotted Alex by the closed doorway taking deep lungfuls of breath, his white trench coat soaked to the point where it had turned see-through. She decided this was no time to be daydreaming and approached him slowly. She took him by the arm, scanning the handsome features on his face, crestfallen. "Are you okay?" she asked when their gazes met.
"I'm fine," Alex replied, but his dark eyes told differently. They locked onto Dia as she stepped up, pointing ludicrously at his shoulder, which was gushing blood out of an open, searing gash, obviously planted in deeply.
"Does that look fine to you? " she hissed, jabbing him in the chest with her finger pointedly. "Stop trying to act like mister nice guy! Clearly you're bleeding! You're a doctor, aren't you? Shouldn't you of all people realize this?"
Alex looked taken aback at first, but then his features relaxed and he just sighed.
"Fine, fine, I'm hurt," he admitted, looking like he was suppressing an eye-roll.
"What happened?" Gina demanded shrilly, absolutely terrified as she spotted his shoulder for the first time. "What happened to your shoulder?" Panic rose to her throat; sank to her knees; throbbed in her chest. Panic exploded and gushed everywhere.
"Well, I was walking back from the Moonlight Cave when—arrgh…" He winced in emphasized pain when Gina's braid touched his wound.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry!" she cried. Before he could finish his story, she sped off. "Hang on, I'll get Martha!"
Now Alex and Dia were alone. Tensions were high, as Dia relented a death glare on him.
"Go on," she pressed when a heavy silence ensued, sounding very pissed off.
"Oh—er—yeah." He cleared his throat uncomfortably. "Well, I was coming back from the cave with Pontata Roots, right? And Jamie's dog came out of nowhere and started barking at me, outside the fence, no collar or anything. So I tried to calm it down but it didn't really work. And then…I dunno."
"And then he bit you," Dia finished bitterly.
Alex gave her a modest shrug. "Yeah. And then before I knew it, the sky was all dark, and it started raining and storming and everything right out of nowhere." He paused briefly. "I thought you were terrified of storms."
Dia looked offended. "Excuse me, Doctor, but this is thunder. Thunder won't harm me. What's there to be afraid of?" She felt superior speaking such strong words, and his response shocked her.
"Just because it won't harm you, it doesn't give you any reason not to be scared…"
It took her a while to snap back, absorbing in his words with a sting. "But I'm not scared of it. And that's that," Dia cut him off sharply, the finality in her voice signalling for him to shut up.
Luckily, the awkward moment had passed, and Gina had rushed back into the room, nearly bowling the two over. Alex looked up at her from under his dark eyebrows, but his eyes quickly directed to the elderly woman who had appeared at Gina's side, looking puzzled. Martha looked at Alex, then Dia, then Alex's shoulder, and nearly jolted.
"What in the world?!" she exclaimed, her beady eyes widening at the sight of the massive wound. "Alex!!"
He sighed. "Dog bite," he summarized shortly.
"Dog bite?" Gina seemed the most fazed of everyone, Martha in a close second. "What if it has rabies? Whose dog? We can sue!"
"It's okay, Gina," Alex assured her, but Martha stepped up quickly.
"It is not okay, Alex!" she snapped. "Now let me check it out before I need to lay you on a stretcher!" She took his arm and dragged him worriedly to the examination room, Alex stumbling at her heels. The door snapped shut behind her, leaving the room silent besides the chipping rain on the roof.
"I really hope Alex doesn't have rabies…" Gina prayed after a silence, her brown eyes filled with sorrow. "Well, not just rabies, but anything."
"He'll be okay," Dia told her, wondering what her excuse would be if he wasn't. A question rose to her throat, and then quickly burst out like a balloon with too much helium. "Gina, may I go to the Jamie Ranch for a little while?"
Gina looked bug-eyed at her, her glasses framing the size her eyes had stretched to. "In the rain? In the storm? Just after you saw what happened to Alex there?" she demanded. "Are you insane, Dia? Do you want to be killed? Especially in the condition you're in too!"
Dia sighed at her caretaker, who had now probably thought she'd gone loopy. "Um, never mind," she mumbled before she could continue, wondering why she even asked. It was a sudden question. I don't even know where it came from. But I've been feeling strange lately and…it feels like if I go there I'll find an answer to all my questions…
She stiffened when she felt eyes on her. "I'm going to bed now," she announced before Gina could ask her what in the world was going through her head. In many ways, she was a mirror image of Martha. "Um, goodnight."
She felt the young nurse's chestnut eyes on her back as she bustled back up the oak wood stairs hastily. When she got to the top, already in her pyjamas, she turned off the fluorescent lights and laid down on the white hospital bed, staring at the ceiling.
She tugged on the thin covers and shut her eyes, listening to the melodic rain as it washed the whole world away, right beneath their feet—right under the Goddess's tears.
It didn't take her long to realize she couldn't sleep. She rolled onto her side, sighing, when a torrent of images rushed through her head.
Blood. Touch it. Taste it. Feel it.
"What?" She sat up, panting, and looking around frantically. No one had said anything…but her own mind. She burrowed back into bed, her eyes wide open.
Jamie stabbed the blade of his hoe into the uneven dirt, cursing when the rain continued to pour down. He'd spent all morning and afternoon tilling the soil to prepare for his seasonal crops when rain had started to come down, condemning his efforts and pretty much putting all the work he'd done that day in vain. It was like Man versus World—and clearly a losing battle.
He took the hoe by its sturdy wooden handle and yanked at it until it shot out of the ground, nearly hitting him in the nose with impact. He brought it grudgingly to his side in his left hand before crouching down to collect his things that had scattered amongst the mud-tainted pools of water and got ready to head back inside.
At least the snake of sweat that had slithered its way down the nape of his neck, his back, and face had been washed away by the rainfall. But that was the only good thing the rain had done that he could think of. The end of the season was approaching, so it wasn't like the crops were benefiting or anything. All in all, he would be the loser, the one stuck empty-handedly in the rain.
"Cal!" Jamie called into the open mist. "Come, boy!"
Cal was his small but energetic Jack Russell Terrier. He had had him for a while, actually. It all started one afternoon when Jamie was walking down the dirt path by Sunny Lake, pissed off because Jack, his farming rival was, rumour had it, thriving financially. Jamie was thriving financially as well, but somehow he felt less proud when he discovered Jack shared the same fate. It was like he couldn't feel like he was winning unless he was better.
Just as he was about to exit Sunny Lake, a small dog appeared by a lone tree stump, whining and mewling to him wistfully like a lost kitten. Harnessing the kindness in his heart, he took the stray in—but, just to lash out his anger in the least violent way possible, he gave it a stupid name. Cal-something… what had he named it again? Calvertutrp. Oh yeah.
"Cal!!" Jamie hollered again, feeling irritated as a roar of thunder bellowed back at him in reply. "Hurry up! I'm soaking wet!"
He heard no barking. No sniffing. No nothing.
Cursing and muttering to himself, he stowed his things in the low roots of a tree, but kept the hoe with him. He set out of his farm, past the gates and past the house, in hopes of finding his dog.
From above, the storm raged on, appearing to grow even more ruthless with each passing minute, more thunder splattering the ravenous sky like bloodied veins.