Summary:: Death comes in many shades, this particular one in the shade of green. Auron finds himself being plagued by a doll. This is more than just a toy… Auron is a toy in its game, and it looks like he is on the losing side. Rated for language, suicide, murder and scenes of (graphic) intense violence.
Izzy:: 'kay. I got this idea from Dead Silence before you say anything. I already knew what some of you were thinking. Trust me though, there's no Mary Shaw Guado or something corny like that. Nope, it focuses on mainly one person. Yes, there will be death and some OOCness. This is my first shot at a fic like this, so please review it. Flames will be accepted too, unless it's just "this sucks" then you need to get a life.
Disclaimer:: Own the generic idea; don't own Final Fantasy or Squaresoft/Square Enix.
Death Comes in Shades
"Auron, lookit what I found!"
This kid was so loud when he was oveley excited. But, he rarely corrected the boy in public. He thought he got enough humiliation at his school anyway.
"Tidus…what… is that?"
The eight-year-old child, Tidus, chuckled and hugged the 'thing' that had some how found its way into the boy's arms.
"It's a toy."
"It's a toy resembling death. Where the… where did you get that?" Auron tried his best to keep his language under control. Being in the military for as long as he had been can loosen your tongue a bit.
"I found it in one of those bins. It was really hard to get to because it was really far down at the bottom. I had to climb in there and--"
"Yes yes that's very nice. Put it back, I don't want that thing near me."
"But… I want it."
"I want it." Tidus said just as plainly as before. He hugged the thing in his arms protectively. Auron grimaced then held out his hand.
"Lemme see that thing."
Tidus hesitated then handed over the bulky toy. Auron flipped it over a few times, examining it. Why would this thing be in a regular market place? He couldn't even imagine it beeing at a Halloween store. There were just certain lines you did not cross, and these were no acceptation.
The toy had a bulky and uneven build. It looked to be handmade and there was an unidentifiable stain on its chest. Its clothing, the colour of its skin, and even the shape and weight of its body was absolutely perfect to the real thing. Auron held the toy close to his own face and closely peered into its eyes.
They gave him a cold dead feeling and he immediately got the urge to set the thing on fire.
It baffled him how Tidus could want this thing. This Tonberry look alike.
"Where ever you found this thing, put it back. I don't want it near me or you." He handed the toy back to the child. Tidus gave him a look of scrutiny.
"…you're afraid of a toy?"
"Fine." Tidus began to pout. He drudged to the back of the department.
Auron sighed. A simple trip to get medication for his mother turned into that. He needed a cigarette.
He glanced back then made his way outside to indulge in his nicotine.
Tidus tossed the thing back into the bin, and for a moment, it seemed to be looking at him, almost glaring at him for tossing him back so rudely. Tidus moved away hesitantly, glancing back occasionally to the toy that seemed to be looking angrier, and yet more pathetic, every time he moved closer to the exit.
His leave, however, was interrupted by a man, who upon further inspection was the store's manager.
He looked sullen, worn down, like something was deeply troubling him.
"You don't want anything kid? I saw you clinging to that Tonberry like a life preserver; you can have it if you want. No charge."
The desperation in the man's voice would have made anyone wary. If Auron would have been there he would have suspected drugs were stashed in it or that that man was a bit too friendly with children.
Tidus, being who he is, thought nothing of it. The only thing he thought of was upsetting Auron.
He didn't need another lecture about stealing… but this wasn't really stealing, was it?
"Here. Please, take it. I'm so sick of seeing it…" The man gingerly lifted the toy and pushed it into Tidus's arms.
"Get it away from here… I'm sure it could use a loving owner." He added quickly.
Tidus nodded mutely and peered down at the over stuffed toy. It was heavier than last time he had held it.
The toy also seemed less soft now. He thought nothing of this and trotted out the automatic doors, without a thank you, holding that thing in his arms. The manager stared after him, still looking worn and suddenly apprehensive. He moved quickly to the back of the store to busy himself with something.
"You took your ti-- I told you to put that thing back." Auron growled and dropped his cigarette, stamping it out and grinding it into the wet concrete. He couldn't even enjoy a peaceful smoke. Auron had made several mental notes as to why he would never have children, this being one of those mental notes: they are a nuisance and do not follow orders.
"But the owner gave it to me. For free." Tidus put careful emphases on that word. He knew the man well enough to know he was a miser and never turned down anything free.
"…free as in he gave it to you in return for nothing?" Auron said with no readable emotion on his face. Tidus nodded.
"That's what free means."
"Sometimes people don't mean what they say… just keep that thing away from me. I hate Tonberries. Ugly little fuckers…" He mumbled that last part and popped open the black umbrella he had been carrying. It was pouring the rain today.
The wind was also having a good time. It was like a mini-hurricane; the wind chimes were going insane. At times, their jingling sounded like a dog whistle it was so high pitched and their bells blended together so perfectly.
They had had to walk to Zanarkand plaza, because A) Auron was such a cheap-ass he refused to spend the eighty gil each for a ride on the B-bahn (Bullet bahn. By Spira's technology, it is the currently second fastest mode of transportation, besides S-bahns, sphere-bahns. Those ran on teleportation).
B) It didn't aid they were financially strained at the moment, and C) They really didn't live that far from the main emporiums, so they normally did take the twenty minutes to walk to the plaza and the twenty minutes to walk back to their apartment near the water.
"…I hate that thing." Auron said about ten minutes into their walk.
"I know." Tidus said plainly. At least now he knew something bothered this man. Question that played upon his mind is 'why'/
"How come you hate them so much?"
"Those things are bad luck. They have no point but to kill. Sick little…" He trailed off to mutter several obscenities under his breath. If Tidus ever heard him say some of those words, and were to repeat them, in the presence of his mother… Auron shuddered at the thought. A pissed off Sara was the only thing that gave him anxiety.
"But this one won't kill you Auron, see?" Tidus made a bad move by sticking that thing against the grown man's chest. He had been aiming for his shoulder region, but his height only able him to reach his chest. Auron gave something of a yelp and ripped the Tonberry from the boy's hands. He glared down at it then tossed it with all his might into the gushing river. Tidus ran to the edge of the railing and peeked over it, trying to see if it was floating within reach. But it was too late, it was already gone.
"What was that for?!"
Auron took a breath to stabilize himself. Oh, how he could use one of those cigarettes that were weighing heavy in his jacket pocket.
"…I told you I don't like those things."
"But you didn't have to throw it into the river! Bastard!"
Auron groaned inwardly and thought,
Yevon please don't let him say that in front of his mother.
Tidus glared at the river. Auron knew that glare, it wasn't out of anger, it was one of those looks you get when you're trying not to start bawling.
"The stuffing was coming out and its arm was beginning to come unthreaded. It was beyond repair and I didn't want you to own a piece of junk."
Tidus glanced at him then looked back to the water.
"I didn't tell you that, since you liked it so much. I didn't want you to think bad of it."
All this, of course, was a lie. He hated that thing and he had wanted to put if though a wood chipper. However, when you are dealing with a child, you lie like a child. You lie to protect the one you are lying to, and also to protect yourself. Only one of the scant traits Auron did like about children, they learned to protect themselves mentally at an early age.
Tidus was now looking at him. Ah, such the gullibility of a child. He nodded slightly then moved from the railing to Auron, and then passed him. Auron sighed and closed his eyes. Those stupid wind chimes just would not stop. At least he was rid of that thing. He felt a sudden cold and glanced over his shoulder to be met with nothing. He shrugged. Must be lack of nicotine getting to him. He stepped inside the spacious apartment and placed his wet, red trench coat on the coat tree.
After he had given Sara the medication she had requested, more like been instructed to take by her doctor, Tidus broke down and told her what Auron had done. Auron growled to himself, that little brat just loved getting him into trouble. But Sara did not explode like the man or the child had thought she would. She kissed her son's forehead and told him to go to his room for a bit
Tidus looked incredibly unsatisfied, but thought it best to just go to his room for a while. With her new medication, he wasn't sure how she was supposed to act. It was supposed to help her deal with the loss of her husband, but so far none of the friends, doctor's prescriptions, and counselors had helped.
The boy left them and closed the door to his room, the catcher making a small 'click'.
Sara smiled tiredly and pushed some of her auburn hair out of her face. The messy bun had since long come undone and bow her hair splayed randomly, doing whatever it pleased.
"Thank you for getting rid of that thing… though it was a little harsh by the means of which you did it."
Auron smiled wryly,
"I never have been the most tactical person."
She laughed at this.
"You're right about that. Listen, I was wondering if you wouldn't mind staying the night and watching the place and Tidus. I have a business trip that I can't ignore. I know it's short notice, and that you have such a busy life…"
She trailed off and grinned sarcastically. Auron made a motion of clearing out his invisible, non-existent planner.
"Well, for you I can clear my schedule."
There was an awkward silence for a moment. There always was when he made a comment like that, and every time he instantly regretted it and wished he could slink behind the kitchen counter and die like their cat had done last week after eating some poison that had been intended for the large rat scurrying around the apartment.
"Erm… well thank you, it means a lot. One of these days I'll be able to repay you." She finished with a weak chuckle. She stood up and made her way to her bedroom, where a half-packed travel bad and suitcase was open on her bed.
Auron cocked an eyebrow in question,
"You're leaving so soon?"
"Yeah. I hate it. They gave me no advanced warning." She tossed a few shirts into her suitcase along with her toiletries.
"That's why I asked if you would stay tonight… I guess I should have said the rest of the afternoon and tonight."
She chuckled and pushed her hair back into a neat ponytail before zipping up her suitcase and travel bag.
Auron stepped aside for her to leave her own room and go to Tidus's for a moment, probably to tell him she was leaving for a bit.
Ah, mothers. Always thinking of their children before their career or important trips, even if they already were five minutes late.
She came bustling out of his room and Auron had taken the liberty of lugging her suitcases to the front door. He gave her an exasperated look,
"What the hell do you have in there? A full-grown fat chocobo? That decided to eat half ton boulders before you stuffed it in there?"
He wasn't playing, he was curious as to what was in there that made it so heavy. She pursed her lips in a smile and waved him away from her luggage.
"Just some feminine items, a woman always has to be prepared."
"For what? The end of the world? Oh wait, I think there's still a dresser in your room, want me to lug that out here so you can put it into 'suitcase oblivion'?" He hitched his thumb in the direction of her room and she smirked and shook her head. Auron gave a chuckle and opened the door for her. It was bitterly cold out there tonight.
"Thanks. Remember, he needs to be in bed by nine pm. Some of us still have to go to school. And no sugar." She rolled her eyes at the thought of last time she came home to a hyperactive Tidus with an broken-spirited Auron sitting in the middle of the living room floor getting can string sprayed on him by the hyperactive Tidus, of course.
Auron grimaced, for he remembered his own personal hell of can string.
"Yeah. I plan on it."
Her expression softened and she smiled lightly.
"You do so much for us. Even though you're a bit of a miser, it's a good thing because we always have a little bit of money. You always watch over us. You're our own personal guardian, Auron."
He grinned. He loved hearing his own name come from her lips. She rested her hand on his chest and peered up at him.
He was well aware that his heart rate had increased. Damn thing, it always betrayed him. He felt a little colour rising to his face, and for once was glad for the seemingly permanent stubble because it his most of it. He cleared his throat and patted her hand.
"You're going to be later."
"Oh!" She removed her hand as she remembered, yes, she did need to be somewhere. She grabbed her suitcase, the heavy one, and extended the handle so it would roll with ease. Auron scowled at the mobile suitcase, he really wished he would have know it was the rolly kind when he had lugged it into the living room.
"See you in a few days!" She called to him and hopped out into the rain, her red umbrella sticking out in the greyish landscape.
"A few… hey wait! That wasn't what we agreed on!" Auron yelled out desperately, but his voice was carried away with the wind.
"Dammit. There goes my non-existent weekend…" He mumbled.
Auron saw her off and watched as her taillights faded away. The only reason they didn't use the car often was because of traffic and gas prices. It was only used on emergencies, such as this one. There would be little or no traffic, so thank Yevon for that.
He looked at the clock: 5.46PM
It was going to be a long day for him. Oh, but wait, Tidus was still sulking over the loss of his new freakishly scary toy, so maybe the day wouldn't be as long as he thought it would be.
"Shit! Of course, oh of course!!" Sara hit the steering wheel hard out of anger. Her cell phone had been left on and in the car all week long, and the lack of charge and cold had caused the battery to completely die. She had left her car charger at home, since she never needed it. Right now she felt like kicking her self for being such an airhead these past few weeks.
It wasn't like she could help it, it was the new anti-depressants she had been prescribed. They messed with her train of thought and made it more into a "wagon of thought' rather than a 'train of thought'. At least she had a full tank of gas, that was nice. She just hoped that it wasn't a defect again. Last time she got her hopes up like that it turned out the needle hadn't been functioning properly. It read a half tank when she really was down past the "E".
The rain pelted against the car roof and windshield like tiny pebbles. It was almost as if it were hailing, and she wouldn't put it past the tiny droplets to freeze considering she felt like she was about to freeze herself.
"Well… a little radio wouldn't hurt." She flicked the knob on the obsolete radio and the car was filled with the low drone of some foreign band she had never heard of. By the sounds of it, they were Czechoslovakian or something of that nature. Their song consisted of a lot of jingling, like the wind chimes earlier. They didn't have a good sound to them, but it kept her focused.
Jingle jingle… A few jumbled sounding lyrics, and then some more jingling…
Auron flipped through the pages of one of the books he had left there, in case abandoned and placed voluntary prisoner here for a few days. He had no idea why he had picked this out; actually… if his memory served him right he hadn't picked it out. His friend, Braska, had. Why on any of the known earths would that man decide to get a book on the dark crafts?
He flipped open the crimson cover and ran his fingers along the heavy pages. He felt little grooves and indentations inside the words. It was a hand written book.
Well that must have taken forever. He flipped through a few of the staggered pages then went back to the table of contents. It was an anti-bad luck book, to him. He didn't understand half of this majick garb. Revitalizing the dead… Love spells… He raised his eyebrows at that one, but didn't consider it.
Necromancy… Illegal Majick: Artifacts of the dammed.
'Artifacts of the dammed'? That sounded more like a bad horror flick to him. He scoffed at it and sat it back down inside the desk drawer. So much for that book.
That boring garb made Tidus's mangas look appealing.
Auron tapped his fingers against the desk, looking for something to do. He hated television with a passion, so that was out of the question.
He glanced at the large, digital clock again- 5.56PM
"Only ten minutes have gone by…" He sighed and moseyed on into the kitchen. He was a bit hungry and Tidus was too. He didn't ever have to ask the kid, he was always hungry, even when full.
"I swear, at birth they switched his stomach with a black hole…"
He found something in the back of the fridge. It looked all right; then again, he hadn't opened the lid yet so he couldn't say for sure. He raised his eyebrows and made an appeased noise.
"Hmmph. Might as well see…"
Sara found that the road was getting darker.
"It shouldn't be getting dark yet though. It's not even six o' clock yet!"
She flicked her headlights on, only to find they didn't work.
"Oh, come on!" She said exasperatedly, "What else??"
On cue, her radio began to screw up and go in and out of stations. The voices from the various stations meant nothing to her. What was important to her was now she was out a set of headlights and a radio.
"Peachy. Fuzzy. King. Just great."
She was peering closely over the dashboard so she could see using the bare light from the hiding sun.
"I swear I-- oh shit!!!"
She slammed her breaks and turned the wheel at the same time, causing her car to almost do a complete 'donut'. Her head met the steering wheel and there was a fair trickle of blood ebbing from her scalp line. She was okay though. A little shook up and a head wound, but fine.
Sara dug in her purse to see if she had what she was looking for…
"Yes! Oh for once I have something I need!" She cackled triumphantly and flicked the small penlight on. The bluish light had a good range and lit things up even better than her now dead headlights could have ever hoped to light up. She popped the handle and opened her door, stepping out into darkness.
The rain had let up and it was now drizzling, but it was deathly cold. She could even see her breath.
It just didn't make sense, it was only autumn, if was never this cold in autumn!
Sara moved her penlight slowly, trying to get a good survey of the area. She didn't recognize this place… how long had she been driving?
There was a noise and she remembered why she got out of the car. There had been something in the road and she swerved to miss it, ending up with her wrecking. Her penlight's light landed on the spot where the figure had been, but now it was gone.
Had she just imagined it?
Suddenly her radio began to blast, at fluxuating volumes, random radio stations. It was some old song, she didn't know it. Her car was beginning to get on her nerves. To make matters worse it began to downpour again. It thundered loudly then a crack of lightening could be seen ripping though the heavy clouds and purple-blue sky.
She squeaked when she heard a scuffling behind her… or was it to the side? Now it seemed it was in front…
There was a small grunting in response. It was more of a snarl as it got louder.
She was imagining things. Her pills were making her hallucinogenic. They had to be.
Sara stepped closer to the noise. She thought she might have hit a dog. Her radio's volume got louder and there were two incoherent words said, and then it died, as did then engine of her car.
Now all that could be heard was the intense pelting of the rain and the cracking thunder.
"…hello?" She whispered and waited only a second for a response.
"Well, nothing here! Better-------"
There was a loud crack of thunder and she was drown out by its intense booming.
"Ohh, not that not that…" Auron shook his head and dumped the unidentifiable food source in the waste bin. He had been scouring the kitchen for several minutes. Out of habit, he looked at the clock.
He chuckled spitefully.
He stopped laughing and, with a serious tone, addressed the clock,
Auron glowered at the clock. Every ten minutes it seemed he was instructed to look at the clock.
He clattered though the jingling silverware and pans. He could make an egg, at least. The man was by no means a cook. If it were not for Sara or instant meals, he would probably starve. And then he had the egg, his best friend that could never be screwed up. It was the only food he wasn't afraid to work with. He was convinced that even it he tried to scoop ice cream it would burst into flames on him.
Tidus came out of his room and peeked around the corner of the kitchen doorframe. There was no door, just a wooden frame. There used to be a door, but having a violent when drunk father who is always pickled can change the layout of your house. The layout hadn't been changed in about a year now, though.
"Eggs are for breakfast."
"Eggs are for any meal." Auron corrected.
"Why do they have to be eggs?"
"…because they haven't hatched into baby chickens yet." Auron half-lied. The other truth was he didn't want to burn down their house.
"But I don't like eggs." Tidus whined. Auron felt his nicotine craving coming back around.
"You can either have these eggs, or you can have that." Auron gestured to a plastic container sitting on the kitchen table. There were mushrooms in it, but Tidus remembered that the original food source that was placed in there did not have mushrooms with it…
He ate the eggs and didn't complain.
It was a task, but Auron managed to get him to bed on time. Afterwards he went outside and savored a most earned dosage of nicotine, which relaxed him enough to get some sleep.
It was silent except for one thing.
…stupid wind chimes… He thought hazily as he drifted off to sleepy land. The rain did not let up and the television kept flickering on and off, occasionally flipping though random channels, distorting the broadcasted messages just as Sara's radio had earlier.
"Wake up, Auron!" Tidus called from his own bedroom. Auron stirred and grumbled. Tidus shouted for him to get up again, and this time the man reluctantly obeyed.
"Stupid spoiled little…" he was rubbing sleep out of his eyes, and then he yawned and ran a hand though his jet-black-with-one-small-grey-streak-in-it-hair. There was something fuzzy and heavy against his foot. He peered blearily in front of him and nearly had an aneurism… actually he felt that he had a small one.
"Tidus! Get in here!"
There was a creaking of a door and Tidus stepped into the living room and went over to the couch that Auron took residence on when going to sleepy time land.
"What is that doing here??" Auron pointed at 'that', which was more of a 'thing', and that thing was more of a Tonberry. Tidus's mouth hung open like one's would at a traveling freakshow.
"I-I-I don't know!" Tidus finally said. Auron watched him. The child was as obviously disturbed by this sudden Tonberry's appearance as he was.
"How… did it get in here, Tidus…?"
"I don't know. You threw it into the river! I didn't go and get it!" He felt like he was being falsely accused, because he really didn't go for a swim in that freezing water to get that stupid doll. To be honest, he was starting to get a little creeped-out by it as well.
"Well it's here. Someone brought it in here…" Auron trailed off and his attention was caught by the glaring television. He hadn't turned that on last night, unless he had some how rolled over onto the remote control that lay five feet away on the coffee table.
"The body of a woman in her early thirties was found today just a few miles from the Zanerkand plaza. She was reported multiple stab wounds and numbers carved into her face and chest. We now go live to--"
Auron flicked it off. That was the last thing he wanted to hear about this early in the morning: a murder case. He glanced up at Tidus and found him to be gone. Probably to the kitchen, the little bottomless pit…
Auron was thankful the child had to be off to his schooling today… shit.
"What time is it…? Oh come on." No, the clock was not broken, but he would have preferred that over this annoyance.
Everything appeared to be stuck with those two numbers, six and ten. Everything moved in an increment of ten and ended with the number six.
He considered testing it, counting out eleven minutes in his head then looking at the clock, but he knew what it would say and that would further add to his frustration, like that man he heard of about ten years ago that went crazy and killed himself over a number. Death by numbers, now that's just stupid. Death doesn't have a number.
That kid had to be off in about twenty minutes, and as soon as he left he was going to pour himself a scotch, grab a smoke, and relax because as soon as that boy were to get home he would have some complaint about his day. He could do himself much better if he would stop looking for things to complain about and try to focus more on the small positive in his day rather than the large percentage of his day that had been dominated by hardships.
Even though he was the son of the most famous Blitzball player of all time, he was one of the least popular children at his school.
"Auron, I'm hungry."
"You always are…" Auron muttered. He looked over at the Tonberry and grimaced. Little bugger looked almost smug. He threw a blanket over it and then stuffed the bundle under the couch, hoping it would succumb to the wrath of time and ravenous dust bunnies. He then proceeded to make Tidus something to eat, and ship him off to school. The faster the better.
"See you later, squirt." Auron said to the back of Tidus as he, accompanied by one of his little friends, scampered off to school.
"And now I can relax."
He grinned to himself and plopped down onto the couch. It felt oddly lumpy, it normally felt springy. He stood up and found the source of the problem, a raised seat cushion.
"Little brat…" He thought Tidus had been looking for something and forgotten to put the cushion back into its place. He also had a good feeling that the boy wasn't telling the truth about how that doll got back into the house… speaking of which…
Auron adjusted the seat cushion and bent down with a bit of strain. He wasn't as young as he used to be.
He couldn't see very well underneath the couch, so he fished around the papers on the coffee table until he found a medium sized flash light and turned the light on. It was dim, but it would suffice for this meager task. He would remember to replace the batteries in it later, since there was probably going to be an aftershock from the massive storm last night.
He resumed his position by the couch and probed around with the flashlight, finding darkness and some dust bunnies, one of which made its way to his mouth and sent him into a coughing fit. Something struck him odd.
That doll was gone.
Tidus was the only explanation, since he (Auron) hadn't messed with it and wanted it to stay under there until he could torch it himself.
As he rose to his full height, his knees crackling a bit, he noticed the seat cushion was in disarray again. Out of irritation he jerked the cushion away from the couch and nearly stumbled over the coffee table when he saw the sight that presented itself to him.
There was a humongous rip in the upholstery, and the couch itself has a huge hole in it. There was stuffing from the couch and shredded bits of fabric everywhere. In the middle of the mess sat that doll. Auron growled and used the same method of disposal he had used with the pillow, jerking it away from the couch and the tossing it across the room.
His hand felt different now and when he held it up to his face to examine it there was a faint smudge of something on the palm of his hand. He smelled it and it had a faint iron smell, as well as a sweet smell that he could not quite place, but he knew that he knew it from somewhere.
So much for his relaxation. He spent the rest of the morning wracking his brain to try and figure out where that sweet smell was from, and why it made him feel nostalgic like it did.
He also couldn't relax, because no matter what he did with the doll he felt it staring at him with its large yellow eyes. It watched him the same way a scientist might watch his prized lab rat experiment.
He had tried to put it in a hamper, a trash bag, outside even, but it never made that feeling go away.
Auron gave up on trying to figure out the smell. He had already washed it off his hands anyway, and he was not going to pick up that doll and smell it. He didn't want that Tonberry so close to his face.
He gave into attempted relaxation and stepped outside for a smoke. It was a nice day, a bit gloomy and overcast because of the impending storm, but nice none-the-less. He had never seen Zanarkand like this before. It was always dry, and it got a little snow or rain (normally rain) in the winters sometimes, but hardly ever were there puddles so big that they could be classified as a small lake.
One of the things he despised about this place was he could never seem to leave it. He had no idea what drew him here in the first place. Maybe he was out of it that night when he came here. All he knew is he has never been able to leave here since then. Something keeps drawing him here. Eventually he just gave up and settled down here, with a one room apartment that he used very seldom, since he was here seventy percent of the time anyway. He never quite developed the skills to become another faceless person in the crowd. Either his height or his clothing caused him to stick out, and he always had an air of life to him, something that most others in this city greatly lacked. There were walking corpses basically.
Also, there were no birds here. No birds could live in this city, not even those who ate aquatics. Every now and then you would see one soar over head, but it never stopped and landed, almost sensing the city's pull and suffocating grip on all who inhabited there. It kept on going towards freedom, and Auron envied those birds. He envied their freedom and resistance to the pull. But he digressed.
With his cigarette gone and it starting to get a bit too nippy out here for him, he took one final survey of the dying city and made his way inside.
He sniffed. It smelt odd in here. Either the fresh air had cleared out his nasal passages or something had changed.
His attention was drawn to Sara's room, where he heard a clinking of glass.
Auron assumed it was that rat that still resided in their apartment. He made his way to the kitchen and got a large plastic container and then dug around in one of the kitchen drawers and took out a medium chef's knife. If it was that rat he was going to catch it and kill it. Sara would be thrilled when she came home.
He exited the kitchen and when he entered the small bedroom he heard the tinkling noise again, and then abruptly stopped as soon as he neared the vanity, which was more like a dresser with a few perfume bottles, a small bag of make-up, and a rounded mirror perched atop it.
He fingered the bottles and accidentally knocked one off the dresser, sending it to the floor. He tensed for the sound of smashing glass, but only got a soft thud. Thank Yevon for carpeting.
As he picked up the bottle he got a whafe of its contents. He stiffened and slowly drew the bottle closer to his nose so as to get a better whiff of it.
That was the sweet smell. Sara's perfume, how could he have forgotten what that smell was? But… why was it on that doll?
Auron felt uneasy and shakily placed the glass bottle back with its sisters. He looked up in the mirror and let out a startled gasp when he saw that doll sitting on Sara's bed. It was still watching his little experiment. Auron slowly turned and kept his eyes locked on the doll, his mouth slightly agape as he was speechless.
He specifically remembered tossing the thing across the street right before he lit up his cigarette. He saw it disappear from view, how the hell was it back here? In Sara's room, the last place he wanted it to be!
Auron cautiously and slowly made his way over to the bed and picked up the doll gingerly. He turned it over and over again, examining every detail of it. It smelled. Bad.
The doll smelled like dirt and blood, and when mixed with the sweet and musty smell it absolutely reeked. The stain on its chest was darker than he had last remembered and he placed his finger against the stain, drug it down, then removed and examined it. Some of the black-brown substance had come off on his finger. He smelled it, and it smelled like blood.
He dropped the toy and it let out a small, hurt squeak. Auron stepped on its stomach with his foot and it left out another squeak. Great, so it was one of those squeaky toys. He was glad Tidus hadn't found that out, or he might have gone crazy. The child just did not know when enough was enough.
Auron left the room to wash his hands, and when he came back he was relived to see it was right where he had left it.
He had put on a pair of gloves and now he picked up the doll and carted it into the living room with him and tossed it onto the coffee table so he could keep an eye on it. Its back was to him, of course.
He then flicked on the television, and it was still on the same story. About that murdered woman.
"It has now been identified that the murder victim was a resident of Zanerkand. A very important business woman, authorities suspect she may have been speeding and wrecked, after which she was found by someone and then murdered. No signs of assault are visible, but it is clear she did not die peacefully, as there are signs of struggle in the surrounding area……. Authorities implore that you give us any information you can on this woman, so that her family may be notified immediately and you give us any information that may be useful in this tragic death."
Auron had to do a double take. He closed his eyes, hoping to Yevon it was just lack of sleep getting to him, but when he opened his eyes again the image had not changed.
It was Sara. The murder victim had been Sara.
His stomach sank and he sat there for a few minutes, allowing the pain and realization to fully sink in.
He brought his hand up to face and closed his eyes so tightly that they hurt to match his heart. Who would have killed her? It was… there was no one he could think of that would want her gone, a drunk perhaps?
And then something insane entered his mind. He lowered his hand from his face and with slow pace he moved his gaze towards the doll that lay upon the table. He reached out and flipped it over, so he could look at its face. It looked smugger than ever, almost as though it were congratulating him on figuring it out.
"That's ridiculous…" Auron whispered and shook his head mechanically, "You're just a toy, toys can't move, toys can't kill people… they wouldn't want to kill people…"
Then he remembered the shop keeper. He grabbed the doll and placed it in a black bag. He slipped into his red trench coat and carried the bag with the doll out of the house, and into the street.
Auron dashed down the street, not caring the curious and disapproving looks he got from passers by. A thought lingered in the back of his mind- what if they thought he was the one who did it? It would all fit perfectly; she had never seen him as more than a friend and had shot down his hopes before. Jealousy can be a powerful poison and can cause us to turn shades that we never thought, and then do the unthinkable. But he could never murderer anyone… but they didn't know that.
As he approached the shop he drew in a breath then jerked the door open, the bell tinkling loudly from the force it had been moved.
As if on cue the manager- the owner- stepped out from behind a shelf and smiled warmly, but upon seeing the bad with a large lump in it, Auron, and Auron's expression of confused terror, his smile faded and he took off to the back of the store. Although Auron was a bit out of breath, he still caught up with the man with ease and grabbed him by the scruff of the neck. He slammed him against a wall and wrapped his shaking fingers around the man's neck, pressing into the flesh and making it a chore to breath.
"What the fuck did you give to him?! What the fuck is this thing??" Auron shifted his arm that was occupied with the bag so that he could grab the doll without having to let go of the man's neck. He removed the doll from the bag and held it close to the manager's face.
"This look familiar??"
"I…I have no idea--"
"No, you have an idea. I want to know what the hell this thing is, and I want to know right now!"
"It… you can't get rid of it… you have to give it to someone else… but now…" The man's breathing quickened as he looked into the Tonberry's eyes.
"N-no! Why did you bring it back here?! Don't you know… what it will do!?"
Auron tightened his grip and earned a strangled cough from the manager.
"Why do you think I brought it here… You stupid fuck! Tell me what this thing is!"
"L…let me go and I'll tell you."
Auron hesitated, but he was desperate. Something had killed the woman he had fancied for a long time, and he knew this thing was linked to it.
The manger motioned for him to come with him to the back room, and Auron obliged, but never dropped his guard. The hand that was holding the doll was beginning to go numb, but he was not going to put this thing down until he got some answers.
The manager held the door open for him then settled himself upon a stool.
"It's evil. It… It's cursed; it was around during the war. You remember that? It wasn't much of a war… it was more like a slaughter."
Yes, Auron remembered that. He had had a hand in killing those creatures. There were just so many of them and they were killing thousands of humans. It wasn't until later Auron heard it was because the humans were moving into their territory and the creatures were terrified, so they did what all other terrified things do. They murder.
Auron had killed several Tonberries, and he was terrified of them now because they were perhaps one of the most lethal things on this earth. And the war had not been long over with, that is why he hated seeing that toy around.
"Like a fool I brought it back with me, but when I did that… horrible things started happening… my family… my whole family they're… gone now, all of them murdered. All of them with something carved into their faces…" The manager looked straight at Auron,
"It was so horrible… and and and I'm next. I was next, but that boy of yours wanted that thing so bad, and I don't want to die, I have so much to live for--"
"He is a child!!" Auron was outraged and it took everything he had not to slit this man's throat.
"…yes. But now that you've brought it back… it will come after me, it will obtain its revenge… It will kill me, don't you see what you've done? You have to get rid of it; you have to give it to someone!" His expression changed and he reached for something perched on a shadow covered shelf.
"But it's too late for me… it's gunna get me… I won't die because of it… no…"
The man had retrieved a revolver and, in one swift movement and not an ounce of hesitation, he placed the barrel in his mouth, cocked the hammer, and pulled the trigger. The perfectly white walls were now covered in chunks of the man's scalp and brains, their slick juices and the blood caused everything to slide down the wall at a fast rate. The man's body twitched for a few seconds then settled down and fell limp on the floor with a heavy flump and a cloud of dust settling around him.
Auron was awestruck. He was speechless, he was everything. He heard a gasp and was startled by it for a moment, then realized it was his own. He had not been breathing that whole time.
That man was his last source of information… and he had given him everything he needed to know.
It made sense, Jecht had been there with him in the war, killing Tonberries, but he enjoyed it. Auron had not enjoyed it, he made their death as painless as possible… but Jecht…
Sara had died because she was Jecht's wife… and that meant Tidus was also next in line. Everyone in this city was endanger…
He remembered what the man meant, you can't get rid of it.
When he tossed it into the river, it came back. He couldn't get rid of this thing… it wasn't gong to stop until it got what it wanted- revenge. The most powerful poison is that of vengeance.
Auron examined the doll. It made sense, why its arms and torso and head were crudely sewn back onto its lumpy body. It could not be destroyed. It had burn marks on it. Someone had attempted burning it, apparently.
What was Auron to do…?
As if to answer his question for him, the doll made a movement that resembled a convulsion.
Auron yelped like he was hurt and ran to the door, and of course it was locked.
"But… It was unlocked… it was unlocked!" Auron pounded on the door. It was made of steel. He couldn't break out of it even if he wanted to.
He changed a glance over his shoulder. His heart rate increased further when he saw the 'doll' moving in efforted, jerky movements. It turned it's head to Auron's direction, and when it did so it sounded like it broke its neck. In fact every movement sounded like that of breaking bones. Auron tried the door again, and this time it gave way.
He yanked it open with more force than necessary, and closed it with the same amount of force, followed by barricading the door in hopes it would give him a slight lead.
Auron ran though the empty store; the door seemed so far away. But at long last he reached it and ran out into the crisp air.
He had no idea where he was going, but somehow he ended up at the home he had just left not too long ago. Yevon, that book, if he could read that book… Inwardly in gasped. He wondered if Braska knew he was going to suffer the same fate, and bought that book… that would explain why he gave it to Auron and also that he had not heard from Braska in… over a year.
Auron reached the apartment and touched the door, and it opened creakily. He was sure he had locked it before he left...
"Hey Auron! …what's wrong, you're all sweaty.'
Auron froze, along with his blood and heart.
"Tidus… what are you doing home… so early?"
"Half day." The boy said warily.
"…nothing, we need to get out of here. How'd you like to go on a little vacation?" Auron asked calmly. Maybe he could run away from it. Death could not be escaped, only avoided.
"We have to stay here. Mom would get upset if she came home and we weren't here."
Auron felt a twinge of guilt. He couldn't tell this boy of the fate his mother had suffered… not yet… there was no time.
"She… gave me the okay, she's going to be a few days longer than she had planned so I ran it by her and it's okay with her. She loves you very much."
"…o-kaay…" Tidus eyed him.
There was a sudden rush of wind that roared by the apartment and shook the building. Auron felt that coldness return, and he knew that Tidus could feel it too. The television flicked on and off, as did the other appliances, and then they died. Auron hastily fumbled in the darkness for the flash light and tried to flick it on. It wouldn't come one. He shook it and tried again, but to no avail.
It was also very quiet in the room. The tapping of starting rain could be heard against the house, as could the shallow breathing of Tidus.
"Tidus…" Auron made his way over to the boy on the sofa, stepping on several things in his attempts. When he sat next to the boy the breathing quieted. Actually, it stopped. He placed a hand on the boys shoulder, but drew it back quickly.
His shirt was soaked with something.
"T…Tidus?" Auron reached for the boy's head and felt the soft brunette hair. It was dry. With a sudden surge of electricity all the lights in the room lit up and cast a blinding glare over everything. It was worse than being on a stage. He squinted and then jerked his hand away from Tidus and cradled his hand as though he had burnt it.
"Tidus…Goddammit!!" Auron shouted and bit his knuckles to keep back the stream of emotions that threatened to surface. The boy's chest was carved open with a crude 'Y' incision and his entrails were tangled into knots. He could see the boy's heart beating inside his opened chest. He was still alive, that is what made it so horrible.
He made disturbing noises as he strained to say something, anything. He reached a hand out for Auron, but the man cowered away. Auron turned his head from the sight. He felt like he was gong to vomit. And he did, right there on the couch and floor, he vomited everything he had ingested that day, until he was dry heaving and spitting out bile.
Tidus jerked and let out a strangled gurgle as some blood sprayed out of his open mouth as he coughed and struggled to scream. Auron heard a slicing and a tearing. He looked over to Tidus, and nearly fainted.
It was that doll, perched on the head of the couch right above Tidus… scalping him. In its jerky and shaky movements it dug its chef's knife further and deeper into the boy's scalp and violently ripped the fistfuls of skin off in uneven patches. In some areas, the white of the skull was visible; other patches were squirting blood from being cut deeper than the other areas.
Auron was absolutely paralyzed with fear. He could do nothing but sit there in a cowering ball and watch this boy be tortured to death. The doll took notice of Auron and drove his knife deep into the boy's skull. It then hopped down and landed in Tidus's lap. It never took its yellow eyes off of Auron as it's small, flesh and blood covered arm reached for the boy's chest and stroke his unevenly beating heart. It tilted its head at Auron and then drew back its arm and its small fist came in contact with the heart, piercing it and sending a spray of squirting blood all over the area. Tidus convulsed and then fell limp, his dead gaze still upon Auron.
Auron sobbed and looked back to where the Tonberry was, but now it was gone.
He felt a surge of panic, he was next! He was the next to suffer this fate!
Auron moved his eyes back to Tidus and his eyes fell upon his face.
Ungrateful was carved across his face.
Auron whimpered as the lights surged and buzzed and then went off again. It was so quiet. And it was so dark…
No… something could be seen across the room. Auron found he could move again and scuttled away from the lights. The two yellow lights, so perfectly round.
As soon as they were there, they were gone. Auron's chest heaved and his breathing was loud and staggered, his heart pounded so wildly in his ears it deafened him. There was no static, no noises with in the house, only the sound of those chilling wind chimes were audible. Auron, involuntarily relaxed--
"Ahhhrggh!! N-n-no sto-o-oOP!" Auron felt the dull rusty blade sink greedily into his chest and be twisted around at the speed that would rival a drill.
"I--I DIDN'T DO ANYTHING TO YOU!"
The twisting stopped and Auron panted and felt dizzy from the intense pain. He felt a weight on his leg and something pressing against his chest. He opened his eyes and was met with those of the Tonberry, glowing like a sun in the darkness. The Tonberry shook its head and scuttled up his chest to his shoulder, making sure to dig into the chest wound with its spade shaped foot.
The cold metal grazed his ear, moved down his cheek, and rested on his lips. The blade had not sunk into the skin yet, oh but it yearned to. The Tonberry pressed the knife against Auron's lips and drew a small amount of blood. Auron resisted the urge to spit, but it was no use. The blade pressed further and more blood was drawn, the majority going into his mouth. He couldn't swallow it, and at the sudden realization that Tidus, Sara, and all the other victim's blood was on that blade, he spit out all he could.
That was his mistake; once he did that the blade thrust its self into Auron's mouth and the curved side of the knife rested against his tongue. Auron did not dare to say anything, but made muffled noises that were obvious pleas. The Tonberry tilted his head thoughtfully and twisted the knife so it sliced off the 'skin' layer of Auron's tongue and left a deep cut in the roof of his mouth. Auron screamed, and when he did that the blade sunk itself deeper into his mouth and tongue. The more he screamed and move, the deeper the cuts, and the more he screamed.
Eventually the Tonberry removes the chef knife from the man's mouth and, without pausing, began to cut the corners of his mouth, moving the blade up and though the cheek, and coming to a stop at his ears. Auron screamed and pleaded as best he was able. His tormentor cut at his now exposed gums and through the teeth, till it again reached the man's tongue.
The creature shoved his hand inside Auron's mouth and took firm hold of his tongue, then with one jerking movement he pulled on the stub of mutilated flesh and ripped it out of his head. The Tonberry dropped it to the floor and watched with amusement as Auron thrashed and screamed, and torrents of blood spilled from his mouth.
Auron thought he heard something of a chuckle. The Tonberry drew something out of its robe sleeve, attached to it was a thick and rust covered needle. It was so dull and almost rounded at the end. But that mattered not. The creature grabbed the man's bleeding lips and pressed the rounded tip of the needle against them, pushing upward until he heard another muffled scream to show it had went through.
This continued, for Yevon knows how long. The Tonberry stitching along the man's lips and face with the heavy black thread and rounded needle being forced though the skin.
Auron died with the memory of the shade of death, and the memory of that Tonberry's eyes gazing at him and never once blinking. The last sound was that of screaming and ripping flesh.
(The next day) 4.46PM
"Yeah it's a real tragedy when a kid dies, and it's even more of a tragedy when a war hero dies." The police officer shook his head and tilted it to read what was carved into Auron's forehead.
The man grimaced at the work that had been done here. The kid had his intestines ripped out and was scalped, this man, whom everyone knew as Sir Auron, had his lips sewn shut to tightly they could not pry them open here. They would have to cut the sewn skin off to be able to pry the man's mouth open.
"Hey, look what I found." On of the other officers said.
"What is that?" The officer who had been looking over Auron and Tidus said in disgust.
"It's a toy. It's a witness. It saw the whole thing!" The man said with a laugh.
"Ha ha, very funny. It's just some toy. If it doesn't lead to anything, clean it up and give it to your kid for Christmas." The officer shrugged and resumed looking over the bodies.
"So who do you think did this?"
"The Butcher. It looks like their work. They stalk their victims, find out their sin or flaw, then kill them horribly and carve it into them somewhere. Others who the Butcher can't find a flaw in… they normally have money problems, so they carve numbers into their victims then. Really sick shit."
"Yeah. Gives me cold chills. I'm gunna take this down to the station and get it checked out. Ha-ha, I hope this thing doesn't test positive for evidence! My kid loves Tonberries!"
"How can you even think of having that thing in your house, though? I thought the war would make you against them…?"
"So I killed a few, no biggie. Forgive and forget."
Oh, but when you have that much poison in your system, so much hatred, you do not forgive and you do not forget.
So is the shade of death…