Darkness, Silent Light

By Princess Artemis

A Sequel to the twisted FFVII fic, The Ninth Silence

© S.D.Green 2000, Square stuff © Square


To whom it may concern

What a stupid way to start out a letter. But to who should I write this? The physical therapist and the psychiatrist both told me to do this. She said it would help my handsand he said it would help me to better deal with this terrible "event" in my lifemaybe it will, but all I know now is that it hurts to hold this pen and move it on this paper. They say it will stop hurting, someday.

Anyone who knew me would not have guessed me an introspective man. I wasn't, not really, though I did my share of thinking to myself about different things. Now, it's different. For so long I had nothing but my own thoughts to keep me companyI don't know when my thoughts took on a life of their own or took names for themselves, only that I was so hopelessly alone that it was a relief to be spoken to, for a while.

I suppose you can take that as a reason why I sound different than what you were used to hearing from me. I haven't spoken in so long. I have a voice but it's useless. The last time I tried to speak was about ten months agothen as before nothing would come out but incomprehensible noise. I can't speak. Forgive me if I rambleI have to, I can't avoid itI have thought for a very long time about what I would say if I could. This will be the first time in more than three years anyone will understand what I say. I never knewhow much it hurtto have a voice but to be unheard. It hurtsit's choking me.____________

I guessif I'm going to spin a tale, I should do it right. That means beginning at the beginning, right? I wonder if my hand will hold out. They've got me on morphine, but even that doesn't kill all the pain. I swear my hands are half-metal right nowbut I'm getting off the subject again.

It was about three years ago that Cloud sent us all out to "find our reason to fight." I went home to Rocket Town and Shera drugged me, about an hour after I arrived. If there was anything I would gladly forget it would be that and what followed. In my right mind I have never been so terrifiedI loved her, I really did, even though I didn't know how. I deserved what she did to me. Maybe it's poetic justice that I can never speak again.

After she drugged me, she and that man, I never even knew his namedid thingsto me. She said things that cut me like knives. I was paralyzed, so I couldn't move or feel anythingwhich is one thing I can be thankful for in that. But I could hear her and see her. The man cut my body in time to her wordsit was as if they had practiced it, like a gruesome dance. It'sto rememberI don't like thinking about it. Who wouldI still have nightmares. If they practiced it, it was to perfect its horror, and I think they succeeded.

He cut out my tongue and showed it to me, letting my own blood drip on my face. And so I wouldn't choke on the blood in my mouth, he turned my head and let it pour out, then stitched up the cut he made. I wanted to scream, to run, but I couldn'tI was helpless.

This continuedShera would spit venom and the man would cut me, my nose, my ears, he chipped and pulled my teeth. After this they both took one of my hands, and holding them where I could see them, they systematically crushed every bone they could find with pliers. Then they broke my feet.

As if this were not enough, finally they blinded me. The last thing I saw for a very long time was Shera's beautiful brown eyes looking down on me, full of hate.

I could not understand it. I was so blind, so stupid, so selfishand yet, no matter how long I thought about it, I could not grasp this evil that she had done. And I had time to think about it, more than I could handle. But then after they blinded me, the fear of it and the horrifying realness of what had happened rushed on me and I cried out in my own mind, letting go of the world for a while.

I never saw the true form of that Hell I awoke in. I never knew its dimensions, except that I could't lay flat, because by the time my hands had healed enough for me to explore that cell I was half mad from the pain and the thirst. I only discovered that it was metal, and very small; there was a small hollow, a basin of some sort that contained a tiny bit of water, which filled often enough to sustain me but not often enough to ever lessen my thirst. I think of all the tortures Shera inflicted on me that was the most unbearable.

The rest after that is hard to remember. I guess the phantasms of madness and the hallucinations my poisoned food induced are as hard to grasp as dreams. I remember the voices, those thoughts of mine that took on their own existence, which more often than not simply tormented me further. I remember Gaze.

And I remember the pain, in body and soul. My body healed but I was always hungry and always thirsty. I remember the metal cell was the outer bounds of my universe. I don't know when that happened, or whybut somehow I and the voices in my head had convinced me that there was nothing outside those cramped walls. Maybe it was my inability to understand what Shera did to meI couldn't accept that the one I had loved too late had committed this horrible act, so I guess I removed it from my reality. And for a long time that very event would come back to haunt me again and again, as if something inside me refused to be totally destroyedand then I would in terror flee back to my dark land. Gaze never mentioned it, I don't thinkbecause it was real and Gaze was notGaze only served to fill the blackness with something, anything. The black was too much to deal with alone.

I don't know how long that lasted. I don't know at all. It's all a jumble in my mind. Time doesn't mean much when there is nothing to mark it by. Somehow there was food to eat, not much, but somethere was no regularity for it though, and most of the time it was drugged, so I couldn't use that to tell how much time passed there in the dark.

I have been told I was there for about a year. It felt like forever.

To this day I can't recall just what happened when Vincent and Cloud found me. All I knew was absolute terror as my reality began to warp again.

In a twisted way I was comfortable and comforted by that tiny space I had lived in for so long. Then suddenly the one constant in my insanity, the metal walls and the corners, disappeared. And something touched me. A human handtouched me.

I was so scared I completely lost any semblance of control I had. I just wanted to get away from that touch, escape that wide unwalled world. If I was already out of my mind, this frightening thing had me beside myself, hysterical with terror. I think I may have hurt one of them, but I'm not sure and they won't tell me.

That was the first time the dark cell began to breakI wanted so much to believe I was still thereit may have been unendurable but it was familiar, and it was my world. Better the devil you know than the devil you don't, as they say. My hands are shaking. It's hard to write thishard to remember that once I would have rather lived in that tiny cell than to go back to a world I had forgotten. I don't like to think about it, about being so confused. Gaze could not long keep up the illusion, and the drugs were no longer in my food. It makes me sick just thinking about it.

I remember the first moment I actually wanted that outside world. Vincent and Cloud were dragging me up the mountain, I guess, and they had me tied downwhich I because it was confinedbut one time I was let upand it was raining. Something about the rain and the windfor a few minutes I was aware of myself again, as a person and not the cursed creature Shera had made me.

It only lasted for that little time. After that I found myself in the dark again, trapped again. This lasted for a long time; I have no idea how long. I know that I had been taken somewhere that was as much a cell as the metal Hell I had left, but larger and less confining. I hated it. I fought with the doctors, I bit them, and they restrained me. I would not eat eitherI wanted to die. I thought for a moment, for a speck of time, that I might escape. I guess that even after I lost the brief light, I still remembered it well enough to want it back, like chasing a pleasant dreambut it felt like a hopeless task.

So because I wouldn't eat, they had to put a feeding tube in what was left of my noseand I tried to pull it out, though my hands were useless. But the doctors wanted me alive, so they had me in a straight jacket to stop me from yanking out the tube. It was so hardso hardas difficult in a way as the black world. It had to be done, I guess.

Not long after, I began to hurt again, as the doctors cut me again, the way the first had, except in the end it was to restore me and not to destroy me. I know that nowbut then, all I knew was they were torturing me again. They returned my ears, my nose, and my teethat least I wasn't thirsty anymore.

The worst shock of all, however, was the day my sight was restored. When I awoke from the anesthesiaand actually saw something other than blackI screamed and howled and before the doctors could hold me down, I tried to scratch my eyes out.

I didn't open my eyes for several months after that.

It took quite some time before the doctors realized I needed to be outside to even begin to heal. Someone, who had known of me before, I don't know who, suggested to them that they should take me out. So one day they did, and that if nothing else I remember very distinctly. The doctors had me restrained, as usual, for their safety. Sight still frightened me so I kept my eyes shut, and I was much as I had been, locked away from the world. That's how they took me outside, in a wheelchair. I couldn't walk, because my feet were broken, and even if I could they wouldn't trust me to.

I remember going out and feeling the wind for the first time since that day on Mount Nibel. I know I had felt it before, but I never realized and didn't remember it. That small taste the first time was not repeated for many, many months. So now, I felt the wind, and after a very long time of fear, I dared to open my eyes. I had forgotten how exquisitely beautiful the sky was. I was overwhelmedI couldn't even breathe. That was my sky, my beautiful element, and I had forgotten it. But now I rememberedI remembered a lot of things I had not dares to believe and thus had thrust out of my reality. Now I saw, with my own eyes, the sky, and knowing this one good thing made possible so many horrific things I had intentionally forgotten. As I couldn't breathe for the beauty before, now I couldn't breathe for the evil I remembered, and I fainted.

The next thing I was aware of was being in that small room in which I had spent many months. But instead of the twisted comfort I took from my restraint, I felt nothing but pain and despair, worse perhaps than before because all the madness then was rooted in avoiding what I faced. The truth of what had happened to me, which I had begun just to suspect, had proof. I had two worlds in my already confused mind: both horrible, both unbearable, but one fading without its foundation, while the other became clearer. It was too much when it happened, and it was far too much for me now, so that I became, if possible, even more disturbed and violent.

I look back on it, that fear and even my hands now, and it seems so ironic to me. It's strange; Shera hurt me and I was in uttermost darknessthen I came out, and like seeing a bright light unexpectedly on a moonless night, the truth of the matter stung badly. But just like that light, I had no choice but to be stung and see it; no amount of denial would make the dark return.

As for my hands nowthey were broken when I was forced into the dark, and now in order to be whole, they were broken again. I wonder if that's just the way of things. Broken in the dark and destruction, then broken for light and healing. One way or another, it hurts like hellbut I guess it's worth it if I can write this to you, just to be able to communicate again.

Maybe I'll be able to walk again, too. Maybe even fly again. That would be nice.

As much as I would like to dwell on that thought, I guess I should get back to my story. The faster I write it, the sooner it gets said, and I want it said!

Anyway, like so many things, I don't remember how long thattwilight, I suppose, lasted. It was so confusing, just like real twilight. I never liked flying at dusk because everything blended together and nothing stood out distinctly. I felt the same then. The real world and the dark world were blending together, and I couldn't tell them apart for a long time.

Eventually, I tired of the confusion and the strange things I saw, tired of the loneliness and confinement which had yet to end. I felt old and worn out, and I didn't have the energy to hurt anymore. It was still there of coursejust like it is nowbut it was a dull ache instead of the sharp, overwhelming pain. The hallucinations didn't make me so violent; I didn't have the energy left to fight anymore, so the doctors let me stay in a more normal room, unconfined.

At that point I really couldn't have cared less about what happened to me. Days came and went, and I rarely moved more than was absolutely necessary. I still wouldn't eat on my own, though not because I wanted to die, but because it was too much work, and I didn't have the energy for it. I remember some of the old members of AVALANCHE came by and visited me. I remember when they did, that I would sometimes try to talk to them, very quietly, but they never understood. That was hard. Red XIII told me how AVALANCHE's quest had finally endedat the time I couldn't find it in Reeve, and Barretbut it sapped the rest of myself to mourn for Tifa, what little life I had left in me.

Sometime later, I suppose the time had just come that the dark world couldn't be maintained any longer, and a final exit to light had come. One day Vincent was visiting meit was fortunate he was there, and not one of the others, because I needed to communicate with someone very badly, and while there was nothing I could say or do to truly speak, at least Vincent can read silence better than anyone else. And all I had was silence. I looked over at him, willing that he understand my expressionIs this real? Did this really happen to me? I held up my broken, useless hands, looked at Vincent, and waited.

I remember he looked at me, his eyes narrowed. I think he was trying to figure out what I was trying to say'. Then he stood next to me, quiet for a while, and I knew he was putting words together. He always does that, and he always hopes someone will interrupt him or speak for him. I think it made him uncomfortable. He said he didn't understand.

I was so frustrated. I was trying not to cry while also trying again to ask himI needed, NEEDED, to hear someone say yes, it's true, you aren't imagining it. I guess I got a little frantic because Vincent told me to calm down.

It took a little bit, but I calmed down enough to try again. I remember pointing to the empty space in my mouth, and touching my closed eyes. Then I held up my hands again, begging him to tell me. I even tried to say something, but I only made noise.

He finally understood me, and he said yes.

It was true.

I was relievedand I remember crying, being overwhelmed by the release of grief. I never realized it, but there's a difference between grieving for yourself and wallowing in sorrow and self-pity. Right then, I really was relieved, like something was ending. I guess it was It's hard to finally realize, to finally really see, all the terrible things that had happenedall the pain, all the insanity, in a clear light. But it was goodand it was the first time I'd cried like that in my entire life.

I cried for a long time. Letting go of things, I guess. A lot of things. But it didn't hurtI was hurt, but I wasn't hurting. The light wasn't stinging my eyes anymoreand what the light exposed was things passed, not things that I had to fight with any more. Gaze evaporated like smoke, so did the dark worldand the real world wasn't a cage to keep me in anymore.

I remember when I was there, wailing into my hands, that Vincent sat down next to me, and I was very happy to have a friend.

Not long after that day, I started eating on my own, even though it wasn't really on my own. There wasn't much I could do with my hands the way they are, but I let them help me eat. It was hard, because I had to swallow what little pride I hadbut I was able to do it. I knew what had happened to me in full then, and I was finished running, so what could I do? It took three years of my lifetook three yearsI wasn't going to let ittake any more.

I learned that from her. I took years from herif I hadn't let the past keep me, she would still be here______ I know she would. It would have been different.

I couldn't let that happen againI still love herand even though she did this to me, I didn't want her slow death to be meaningless. She killed herself because of what she had doneand for.I wouldn't let it kill me too. I don't want my death on her hands.

Does that make any sense at all? But I was alive again, I was Cid Highwind again, and though it meant a lot of hurt still to go, I was not going to be stop being Cid Highwind.

That was about three months ago. After a while, the doctors came to fix my hands. The bones in my hands were so badly mangled that the doctors had to do to me almost the same thing Shera had before. Except this time I didn't have to watch them break my fingers.

It hurt the same, maybe worse, this time. But like I said beforethis time was to give me back my hands, not to take them away. They put in metal pins and wires to make the bones heal rightmy hands look like pincushions. And they HURT!

I don't know why they did both hands all at the same timeprobably just to get it all over with. It is very inconvenient. Later they'll do the same to my feet.

So the therapist wants me to write this, to help my hands heal right. Every day, she comes back and makes me move my fingers, and it hurts so much I cry. I don't want to hurt anymore.

But in some ways I hurt much lessI still have nightmares, as I said before, and though I have let go of a lot, the memory is still painfulbut it's not so unbearable anymore. And nowfinally, after so long, I can tell people about itand they'll understand me.

You'll understand me, and I won't be alone.

--Cid Highwind