Disclaimer: The characters of Fiona, Riccardo, Lorenzo, Debilitas and Hewie were not created by me. They are the intellectual property of Capcom. This, I can live with.
I did not create the character of Daniella, either. She is the intellectual property of Capcom, also. Because of this, I cry myself to sleep every single night. It's taken quite a toll on my health.
No copyright infringement intended.
Daniella retched into the toilet bowl, but her stomach was empty, and nothing came.
She shook with each violent heave, crouched naked on a filthy bathroom floor. The nausea eased, and she opened her eyes, blinking several times to see through tears. A single strand of saliva extended from her open mouth to the water resting at the bowl. She gazed at it with a queer fascination, this thread of phlegm stretching out before her like a strange tether, glistening, quivering with each breath.
She pulled her head away from the toilet, but the thread did not break. She turned her head from side to side, but it remained fastened to her lip, stretching as she moved. She blew at it, and it whipped about, but remained intact. She spat several times, but that only served to feed it with more saliva.
Daniella had escaped her life of servitude, fleeing Lorenzo's castle and hiding herself away where she thought he could never find her. Now she was doomed to be bound to a disgustingly dirty toilet bowl in a decrepit apartment for the rest of eternity, held here by her own mucus.
Daniella burst out laughing. She knelt there on the mildewed tiles, rocking as she laughed her breathless, hysterical laugh. It came often to her, these days.
She snatched away the thread of spit with her hand, and, her stomach settling, she climbed to her feet. She pissed and showered, then returned to the bedroom, got dressed, and began to think about what she would make of this day.
This was the third morning in a row that she was sick.
Daniella was free, now. She was beyond the reach of the household that had imprisoned her. She was free of her bonds, free of her duties. But duty brought order, and structure, and in its absence, her thoughts wandered where they pleased.
Daniella would sit for hours in her chair while the light faded and the shadows glided across the room. She would emerge from whichever reverie she had wandered into, to find that night had fallen and that her musings had cheated her of another day.
Daniella often forgot to bathe. She slept in bedsheets that had not been cleaned for months, and never washed or ironed her clothes. She could seldom muster the inclination to run a comb through her hair.
Her home was a putrid hovel. It didn't bother her that the cockroaches helped themselves to the bags of refuse that were accumulating in a corner. She sat in her chair and watched them scuttling along the walls and behind her furniture. She heard them moving behind the desks and cupboards, picking their way through debris. At night, as she lay in bed, she could hear them scurrying about in the dark, but she wasn't troubled. Sometimes Daniella slept for twelve or thirteen hours a day.
When she had the humour to go outside, Daniella spent much of the day wandering through the city in which she now lived. Her flight from Lorenzo's house had brought her to this college town. She found that her appearance attracted little attention, here. The streets were crawling day and night with student types, after all. Goths and dandies and punks and hipsters who wore headbands and rastahats and black lipstick and shemagh scarves and spikes in their hair and barbed wire around their wrists; no one would think strangely of a girl with lavender hair. People just assumed she dyed it.
Thousands of people lived in this town, and she did not know a single soul.
Daniella felt it gnawing at her all day. The sense that something had been missed, that something had gone unobserved.
She shambled through the streets, rambling wherever her whims took her. Daniella was a creature of habit, and usually kept to the same routes. Everyday she passed by the same bakeries and restaurants, the same bookstores and cafes, the same pubs and supermarkets. She passed by the same musicians, stood on the pavement with the same hats at their feet, waiting to receive spare change. She passed by the same homeless people, lying sprawled at the same places at the sides of the road.
They had all become familiar to her eyes. She wondered if she had become familiar to their eyes, also. She wondered if any of them had fallen in love with strange woman that passed by everyday. She was a pretty creature, after all. She imagined one of them sidling up to her, and preparing to ask her if she'd like to have a drink with them. Then they'd get a whiff of the awful odour that followed her wherever she went, and they'd sidle off away again.
She laughed suddenly, her high-pitched, fitful laugh, and she startled a middle-aged woman that had been walking alongside her.
Daniella found that she was talking to herself more and more these days. She trudged through the sea of humanity, muttering inaudibly.
She sat on the boardwalk, trying to work out what it was that was bothering her. It was a nameless unease, a sense that something was amiss, a suspicion that something had escaped her attention.
The university rowing team passed by, down the river.
Had she locked the door to her apartment? She slipped her hand into her jacket pocket; her keys were there, and she ran her fingers over their jagged edges. Was it possible that she left her door unlocked? She was thinking of something else as she was leaving. She could have forgotten to lock it.
The rowing team passed by again, in the opposite direction.
She returned home, frustrated. She hadn't forgotten to lock the door, after all. What was it that was worrying her? Something was out of place.
Nothing missed her attention when she was in Lorenzo's employ.
The next morning found Daniella bent, again, over the toilet. She stared at the scum growing along the sides of the bowl. She stared at the remnants of last night's pork cutlet floating in the water.
She pushed herself to her feet. She gazed at the figure in the mirror. She drew a finger across the scaly, dried skin on her forehead and cheeks. She fingered a pimple that had sprung up overnight on the side of her nose. She stared at the filth clinging to the glass; dust and mould and dried blood and pus.
She crossed into her bedroom, and began to slowly dress. In the past, when Daniella was Castle Belli's diligent caretaker, no detail passed beneath her nose. These days, her thoughts were fragmented, her mind a jumbled mess. She tried to remember how long it had been since the blood last came.
When she was a mere homunculus, not quite a person, Daniella did not menstruate; her master had not created her that way. What use had a servant of the ability to reproduce?
But the night that Fiona Belli died, Daniella became a woman. Some time after Miss Belli met her end, Daniella was undressing when she found her underclothes befouled with blood. She dealt with it with her customary efficiency, washing herself down and stemming the flow of blood with twisted bandages.
Every problem that confronted her in her master's castle met with a solution.
She could never predict when the bleeding would begin; it could never be relied upon to at a precise time. This used to frustrate Daniella, whose obsession with detail had sustained Lorenzo's house; Daniella, who craved order and control in every aspect of her existence. The blood seemed to spite her, surprising her when she did not expect it, and keeping her waiting while she waited for it.
But Daniella no longer possessed the meticulous mind that she once had. Riccardo could have come barging through the door that very minute. Riccardo could have dragged her all the way home, but it wouldn't have made any difference. They would find little use for her; she would only be good for beating and raping. Daniella could no longer bring her mind to bear on the upkeep of a fortress. Details seeped through cracks from her head. Her thoughts were led easily astray.
Daniella idly wondered what type of house she would have kept if she returned to Castle Belli. It would probably begin to resemble her wretched apartment. She thought of Debilitas, and the clutter he would leave that would never be tidied up. She thought of the Castles great hallways and courtyards, filth and rubbish strewn throughout. She thought of Lorenzo, the feeble, incontinent bastard, sitting in his own piss.
Daniella was seized by another of her laughing fits, and then she realized that she had drifted away again from what was occupying her.
When had the blood last flowed? She remembered: in a particularly negligent bout of absent-mindedness, she had not changed her clothes for a week, and by the time she had discovered the stains in her clothes, the bleeding had already ended. That was a couple of months ago.
Nausea gravidarum, absence of menstruation…could she be pregnant? Daniella had never been with a man throughout her entire existence; just because she was content to live in her own filth, didn't mean she was willing to have a man rub his filth all over her. What could be happening to her?
Fiona had thrashed and screamed, her pitiful cries rising to the ceiling. They would go unanswered. Her eyes bulging, tears streaking down her cheeks, snot trickling from her nose, she bucked and kicked underneath Daniella as the maid sank the glass into her abdomen. Her screams rose, and from behind the door, that contemptible mongrel howled louder and louder, but there was nothing he could do.
Daniella had taken the Azoth into herself. Fiona's essence, the reason for her existence, was now within her. Lorenzo had formed his servant from muck and filth, but with the murder of this young girl, with the attainment of that precious treasure that she carried, Daniella was now whole. Daniella was now a woman; all the emotions and sensations to which human beings are privy were now hers to experience, and all it cost was the life of an eighteen year-old child.
There was a commotion from beyond the door. Daniella heard the hateful dog whining and scrambling about, and then came a heavy thumping sound. The dog yelped and cried frantically, and as she listened, Daniella realized that the little pest was getting kicked to death.
The door was flung open. Riccardo burst into the room, and gaped wordlessly at the spectacle that confronted him. Ms. Belli lay on the ground, unmoving, half-naked, drenched in blood, a gaping hole in her stomach. Above her stood the castle's maid, equally motionless, equally silent, smeared with gore, a long, bloody wound across her midriff.
Riccardo's astonished gaze was returned by the girl's lifeless eyes. He looked at Daniella; she quietly regarded him, the child's body crumpled at her feet.
Riccardo flew into an insane rage. His fist impacted with Daniella's nose, and she was sent tumbling to the ground. She tried to regain her feet, but Riccardo's boot smashed into the back of her head, sending her downwards again.
"Whore!" he spat, incensed. She felt his boot ram into her ribs. "Lunatic! Years of work, years of waiting, and all for nothing!" He seized her by the hair, and dragged her upwards, pulling her face close to his. "What in God's name possessed you? What's wrong with you?"
A great rush of air was expelled through Daniella's nose, and Riccardo did not flinch when the flecks of blood were sprayed over his face. "Azoth," she intoned. "I am now complete."
His eyes fell to the ugly slash across Daniella's belly. He saw that both sides of the wound had been drawn together by crude stitching, as if to keep something inside. Realization came to him, and he released his grasp on her hair, allowing her to sink to the ground.
"I see," he said, straightening himself. "Well, this is unexpected, but I suppose there is nothing that can be done but to wait and see what transpires."
He turned around, and went to leave the room. "Head to your quarters and clean yourself up. I don't want that body to go to waste. Separate her into the usual components, flesh, bone, and grey matter, and store them in the laboratory. They'll make useful raw materials. Have Debilitas chuck the dog in a ditch or something."
He came to a stop at the door, and looked back at Daniella. His previous fury had vanished; there was now a glint in his eye. "Two exquisite maidens fighting over the privilege of bearing my young. My rancour was misplaced."
And with that, he was gone.
Riccardo paid especial attention to Daniella in the days and weeks after the girl's killing. Every morning she answered his summons to the laboratory, and lay silently as he examined her.
"The Azoth is adapting to your body quite well," he had said, once, as he held a vial of her blood to the light. "It shouldn't be long before it becomes viable."
Daniella knew well what Riccardo intended to do once he was certain that Fiona's essence would not reject its new bearer. He would rape her, impregnating her with his tainted seed, and be reborn through the Azoth. She would cease to be the Castle's maid and instead become Riccardo's personal broodmare, furnishing him with endless duplicates of himself.
Time went by. Daniella swallowed countless handfuls of capsules, of every colour she knew. She sat uncomplaining as Riccardo plunged needle after needle into her flesh. He told her that the drugs were to prevent her body from turning on the Azoth – and the Azoth from tearing her body apart.
But as the weeks passed, Daniella began to feel changes within her. Though once her duties as Castle Belli's maid had consumed her every waking moment, they now left her frustrated and unfulfilled. Though she had never before paid them the slightest heed, the mountains and valleys that surrounded the castle began to exert a strange draw on her.
The Azoth had awoken within Daniella all the desires and cravings that abide within every human being. Daniella desired to be free; it burned within her, and she wished to leave this place as dearly as Fiona had when she was alive.
Daniella vividly remembered the night that she had left. She remembered passing by the door of Debilitas' room, and hearing his steady rumble of his breathing. She remembered the light shining in the laboratory window; Riccardo was still up and about, and she would have to be careful. If her treachery was discovered, her torture would never end.
Daniella stole as many of her master's treasures as she could carry. She wandered through the lightless halls and corridors of the castle, mechanically feeding objects into a large sack. Jewels, watches, antiques, scrolls and parchments, jostling about together in a burlap bag. When the sun rose the following morning, it shone upon the open gate of Castle Belli. Daniella was gone, fled across Europe.
She funded her journey by selling Lorenzo's precious belongings. The world outside was a demanding one, after all; even though she had led a hugely sheltered life, Daniella knew that when she was beyond the walls, she would need money for everything from food to a roof over her head. In depriving Lorenzo of the Azoth, she had taken from him something that was priceless. What did it matter if she sold a few of his trinkets and baubles as well?
He would think her a traitor. Were she to fall back into his hands, he would chain her to a stone and have her scourged until all the skin was torn from her body. From his laboratory, he would bring forth unspeakable abominations; they would force themselves upon her, and she would bear their twisted young.
She sought to be as far from Lorenzo's reach as she possibly could. She traveled relentlessly, spending days and nights on trains and buses. Every mile that she could put between herself and her master, another worry could detach itself from the wall of her mind and float away into darkness.
Daniella gorged herself on the sensations of the world.
She liked to visit the movie theatres. Her preference was for comedies, and if the audience stirred uneasily every time her broken laughter rang out, she did not notice.
She visited pet shops wherever she could find them. She cut little incisions in mice and hamsters and trapped them in buckets filled with vinegar. She stuffed little birds into the freezer in her kitchen, to see how long it took for them to die.
She took photographs of the sights that she saw on her journeys. She used a camera that she had stolen from the castle. She spent hours in her apartment, poring over the pictures that she had accumulated.
Having had little choice but to make do with the tasteless bread and vegetables of the castle, Daniella now delighted in the variety of food offered by her new surroundings. She loved ice cream, especially; given to habit as she was, she obsessed over mint, and did not experiment with other flavours.
Daniella indulged her newfound emotions, lavishing her senses with every delight that she could conceive of. But there was one pleasure from which she abstained.
No man would ever claim her. She would never allow one of those revolting, sloven beasts to touch her. The mere thought of it filled her throat with bile; a depraved animal trailing hungry fingers over her immaculate flesh, smearing his fluids all over her, tainting her with his filthy seed.
She would never submit to the desire of those degenerates. But how, then, to explain what was happening to her now? She could not ignore the signs. Her mind was diseased and took great pleasure in misleading and deceiving her, but the changes that were taking place in her body were real.
Daniella sat in her apartment, the light dimming and the shadows swelling around her. In the corner of her eye she caught a flash of black; another cockroach, possibly, but she didn't care. She mumbled to herself, her forehead creasing.
There was a stranger in her home.
The concluding part is coming soon. If I do not eventually finish this fiction, I AM A TERRIBLE PERSON AND I DESERVE TO FAIL IN EVERY ENDEAVOUR THAT I MAKE FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE.