AN - Hello! It has been a while. This last year has been all different kinds of crazy. My life has completely changed, flipped 180, all those clichés. Health issues got better then worse, life got crazy, then crazier, then off the scale. I don't know where the time went, let alone my motivation to write. But I want to address old ideas and writing was always therapeutic and fun and I can't imagine leaving it for good.
This is an idea I had a while ago, and I thought that it was a good one to come back to. I am not doing my usual fare of planning the whole story out beforehand. I know where I want it to go, and I am just going with the flow. The old technique wasn't working so let's hope that this helps with the motivation! Life is still crazy so I may not be able to update as frequently as I used to but considering that I would update weekly at times in the past, there should hopefully not be a long wait between chapters! I am hoping for once a month at least, depending on the length of the chapters. Initial chapters may be shorter than later chapters.
Rating M to be safe. Genre is Horror/Thriller/Drama/Adventure - I think! I am really no good with categorising.
April 7, 2009. 11:52pm. Saint Anne's Hospital, VA.
Her world was one of bone and ash. A life stripped to the bare foundations, nothing left to touch or taste. And there were monsters. Sometimes they spoke to her, sometimes they just watched. Sometimes they took on the form of memories, of people she once knew. They almost fooled her at times. The faces were the same, the voices too. But the eyes...the eyes pitied her.
They were alone in the reception area, save for the staff that attended to them. This did not seem to be the place for visitors. Decoration was kept to a bare minimum, the only pictures adorning the walls those typical of a medical centre; calming scenes, as clichéd as they were dull. And the rain beat down outside, as though it had not taken respite from the night before.
Name of Patient: Jill Valentine
Date of Admission: 4/7/2009
Period of Committal: Indeterminate - suggested review every three (3) months.
There was more; pages detailing suspected conditions, her medical history...the police report. It was not that it pained her to read it all, more that she could not find it in her to care. Chris did not care enough, so why should she? He barely looked at her as he inked his name at the bottom of the admission form, medical power of attorney she had granted him years ago abused to its full extent.
'Don't blame him,' a voice reminded her. She was no longer sure if it was that of her own thoughts or of another entity, be it sinister or benign. 'They'd have forced you here either way. At least he has control now, at least it was by his hand, not some corrupt judge.'
Even so, the casual flick of the pen carved welts into a tender part of her.
If only she cared enough to shed tears. Maybe then he would know.
"This is not a prison, Jill," said the doctor before her. Hendricks? Was that her name? "We are here to help you, not to punish you."
Jill looked to her former partner, meekly, as though he did not deserve her attention. Guilt threatened to swarm her, but she pushed it aside. She had so little control these days it was wise to grasp it while she could.
Chris turned to her in the end, eyes everywhere but hers. She could hear the words on the tip of his tongue, could feel them as they tore her to pieces. But he said nothing, not until he pulled her into him in a forced display of affection.
"I'm sorry," he whispered. But not for this, not for allowing her to taste freedom and then signing it away as though he had not fought so hard to secure it.
"You'll visit, right?" she asked, frightened.
He nodded, but he did not answer.
March 27, 2009.
It was a headache that painkillers could not tempt away. It seemed rooted into her cerebrum, tendrils nestling in every fold of her brain. The doctors had claimed that it was a symptom of withdrawal; a side-effect of spending so long dependent on a mind-controlling substance. Jill just wanted her life back, not to be curled in bed all day, wishing that the pain would simply fade into nothing.
She had begun to find it strange how it always subsided when he was around. His presence was medicinal, granting her clarity of mind that seemed almost impossible to attain in his absence. So he let her lie with him, let her share his bed and curl up against him on the sofa. She pretended that she despised the dependence, but she was sure that he had noticed how she never pulled away, how she moved in closer even as she complained.
The bed became hard and unwelcoming after her fourth hour of laying in it. The voices, wherever they stemmed from, had no consideration for her plight, but the pain began to ease as midday approached.
"How are you feeling?"
Chris asked the same question every day. The answer never changed, but her reply did.
"Better." For once, there was truth in her response. "No thanks to your guests."
He glanced around, spoon halfway to his mouth.
He was alone, as she surmised he had been since he woke. Pyjamas that were perhaps past their best were all that clothed him, and his feet curled beneath him on the sofa as they rarely did when entertaining guests.
"The TV," she muttered absently. "I could hear it in the bedroom."
An apology was offered, and he rearranged cushions to make a space for her at his side.
At times, she found his apartment too familiar. It intruded on her senses, instilled in her the belief that she did not belong here, not anymore. She missed her own apartment, missed her own bed. They were long gone now, belonged to some stranger. She had nothing but memories and the posessions her friends had pushed into storage following her 'death'. She had yet to find the energy to sort through them. First, there was the issue of finding a suitable place to rent.
"And taking care of yourself."
"I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself," she groaned. Not this argument again.
Chris coughed as he finished off his cereal.
"I never disputed that."
She cast a glare towards him; a warning more than anything else. Rarely did she find the energy to argue, and he seemed to prefer to avoid any direct talk of the lingering effects of her captivity, perhaps out of fear that he would provoke her into some state from which she could not be talked out of.
And they were both happy to leave it that way.
April 8, 2009. 12:40am.
The apartment was empty when he returned home. The hospital had turned him away, had assured him that all was well before reminding him of the designated visiting hours. It was in his nature to worry, and worry he did.
The wet footprints had dried, no evidence that they had ever been there. There was nothing out of the ordinary, nothing to suggest that his world had not collapsed in on itself that very day.
Chris dropped his jacket onto the arm of the sofa before lowering himself into his usual spot on the cushions. A familiar reflection stared back at him through the screen of the television.
This was all too familiar.
Things were supposed to be different. Hope had promised him as much. It had whispered that all would be well when she was back in his life. And it was, for a while.
Jill Valentine had been his friend for more years than he cared to remember. She was routine, was a fixture so permanent that he often wondered just what his life had been like before they met. She was his best friend, his partner, his soulmate. Part of him had perhaps even loved her.
Perhaps? There was no doubt about it. Loving her was the only thing he was sure of these days. He was not quite sure when it happened, or how, or even why. As the years passed, each of these questions became more and more irrelevant. Until she was taken from him. Then there were more whens, more hows, more whys. When would the pain fade? How was he supposed to fight without her? Why did she think his life was so much more valuable than hers?
And then he found her. He found her, and she was alive. He saved her, brought her home. She thanked him, turned to him for comfort as she battled demons that she refused to name.
Chris Redfield was stupid. Stupid to ever think that he could help her. Part of him did not want to believe that she had been compromised, that this was a weakness that she could not hide, could not compensate for.
Dizziness overcame him as he stood suddenly upright. His hands shook, chest tight. With purpose, he allowed weak legs to carry him to the kitchen, weaker arms to reach into the refrigerator for a chilled beer.
A crimson echo played upon the whites of the door as it closed. A heavy heart sank to a sick stomach, the moist bottle slipped from his grasp.
Blood remained against the floor tiles, untouched.
A trembling hand raised to parted lips. And for the first time in a year, Chris Redfield cried.
April 1, 2009.
She brushed her teeth for one hour that morning. At least, that was the time it took to bring the brush to her mouth and encourage any sort of movement. Every day, she became increasingly more lethargic. Sometimes, she would lay in bed for most of the day, sometimes crying, sometimes staring off into space. Sometimes, he could encourage her to join him in a shopping trip or a walk through the park, but quite often her behaviour would necessitate an early return home.
It was not often that her outbursts manifested. At least, they had decreased in frequency, if not severity. He still bore bruises of her last assault; an incident in which he had been forced to physically restrain her lest she leave his apartment and care. She had protested, vehemently. She had claimed that he was trying to hurt her, that he was 'working with him'. He rarely questioned her words. It was better not to. Eventually she would scream and cry it all out, and return to a state of near catatonia.
Acute Stress Disorder was what the doctor had called it, with the expectation of upgrading the diagnosis to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after the first month. He had experienced Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder himself, after the assignment that had taken her from him. He was sure that this was not how it had presented.
Two hours had passed since her last episode. A quiet conversation with herself that he politely ignored, an argument that he attempted to intervene in, and a violent outburst that left them both bruised.
She sat on the sofa after, knees pulled up to her chest. Her shoulders shook with every inhalation of breath, tears choking frightened words.
"I'm sorry," Jill said. Her eyes did not meet his, could barely remain open. "The pills aren't working. I'm not sleeping; I knew this would reach a crescendo eventually."
It reached a crescendo almost every day now.
"You're tired," Chris reasoned. "You are tired and your body and mind are recovering from massive trauma. This is only natural. Once the drug is out of your system, once the physical effects start to wind down...you'll see a difference."
They were the doctor's words, not his. He wasn't even sure if he truly believed them anymore, but he knew that he had to, for her sake and for his. Because when this was all over she would be better, and things would go back to the way they were. They would argue playfully the way they used to, she would drive him crazy and he her. And in the midst of arguments, he would catch her eye and they would both smile, would laugh and embrace in a manner that was perhaps a shade inappropriate for 'just friends'.
And he would spend that sleepless night wishing that she was beside him, that he could reach out and touch the warmth of her skin and know that she was here, and she was his.
Claire said that his emotions clouded his judgement where Jill was concerned. Rebecca agreed. Barry too. In fact, he did not think that he had found a single ally in his insistence to the contrary.
"You think I'm crazy."
It was not a question.
"You think you can read my mind," was his reply.
She sighed, sowing the seeds of another argument, another episode, and another struggle.
"Of course I think you're crazy," he said, jumping in before it could escalate. "You threw yourself out of a God damn window. To save my rotten ass."
Quiet laughter spilled from her lips, and it brought a smile to his. It was a sound he would never tire of hearing, and it sounded even sweeter in the midst of her troubles.
"And you told me to leave you, thinking I'd be okay with it."
"I didn't think for one minute that you'd be okay with it," she admitted. "But I knew you'd do the right thing. That's part of 'us'...doing things we don't want to, because we have to."
The momentary silence that fell upon her was deep enough to convey her understanding. She wasn't happy that he had turned her own words on herself - he saw it in the way she squirmed, and the way she tried to hide it - but she grudgingly accepted them. It was progress; perhaps not a lot, but a little was enough for now.
April 8, 2009. 12:42am.
They led her to a white room, to white sheets and less furniture than she had possessed during her early days in Raccoon City. Nothing sharp, nothing dangerous. Just the clinical feeling that she was back in chains.
"Someone will be along to see you in the morning," Dr. Hendricks said as she lingered in the doorway. "If there is anything you need, just press the call button. Breakfast is between seven and ten, so try and get some rest."
Rest. The thought seemed comical. She knew what lurked on the other side of consciousness. Even so, it was only marginally more frightening that what awaited her during the day.
"You will be glad to know that the police have closed the case," the doctor said. "Nobody is pressing charges, so there is nothing for you to worry about."
Jill understood that her words were meant to be comforting, but she could offer little more than a grunt in reply. Even as the door locked behind her, she remained on the spot, clutching the spare clothes she had been allowed to bring. They were all that she owned now, perhaps all that she ever would.
She begged tears to fall, begged voices to mock her, visions to torment. Nothing. Just white, just silence, and the darkness that encircled her.
Unsteady legs brought her to the bed, which proved to be a lot softer than she had anticipated. The sheets were warm and clean, the pillow fluffy, the light switch within easy reach. She barely registered changing out of her rain-soaked sweatpants and into fresh pyjamas.
The stillness that met her beneath the sheets was frightening. There was no warm bed for her to crawl into here, no comfort to curl into as he slept. She would never feel that again. How could she? She had seen the way he looked at her, remembered the expression in those eyes. After what she had done, how could she ever be forgiven?
And so, she waited for sleep to come, half knowing that it wouldn't, half wishing it would be the kind to never end.
April 7, 2009. 7:42pm.
The knife carved sluggishly through vegetable after vegetable. She tried to be careful, was sure that he noticed. Every now and then, he would check on her, as though he did not trust her to hold such a sharp instrument. But his vigilance ended when his sister arrived, and embraces were exchanged between all three.
Claire had always been a good friend to Jill. They bonded through the most beautiful of similarities: a mutual love of teasing Chris mercilessly. In the days following the Kijuju incident, the younger Redfield sibling had been a common visitor to the apartment Jill had learned to call at least a temporary home. Her concern was evident in a startling way at times, sometimes grating but always appreciated.
Even so, Jill had no time for her today. Her mind spun horrendously, flickers of light in her periphery threatening to distract her just enough to misplace her grip and perhaps lose the tip of a finger. The last thing that she wanted to do was to give Chris another reason not to trust her.
"Why should he trust you? You're a monster."
"Shut up," she muttered. She could feel the pressure building within her temples, willed it back with great effort.
"So Rebecca's birthday is coming up." Claire's voice cut through the taunting tone, distracted her. "I was thinking maybe we could throw her a party? It has been so long since we all got together."
"Sure," Chris agreed. "I'm sure the Burtons would love the excuse to visit."
The conversation was too normal. The voice laughed, sneered...it mocked.
"You think any of this is real?"
La la la.
"Oh, do you have those DVDS?" Claire's voice, breaking through again.
Chris left; light followed him into the bedroom.
"You're still there. In that cell. In those chains. You really think this is real? That's cute."
Jill's fingers curled into fists, the handle of the knife digging into her palm. But the pain barely registered, did not chase away the encroaching darkness. Tiles cracked, lights flickered. Laughter filled her ears.
"You do what I tell you." It was a different voice this time. His voice. "You do nothing without my permission. Do you understand?"
Her surroundings were familiar now. The way they moved was not.
Icy fingers played up her arm, breath close to her ear.
"Take this vial to the village. Find a lone villager, inject it and leave once you are sure infection has been successful. Irving will accompany you."
The room spun, though the colours were too dark to see. Everything whirled together, pressure threatening to crack bones beneath her skin.
"And Jill? Wear the mask, and the cloak. Don't let anyone see your face."
A cry ripped loose from her chest and she stumbled back, arms drawing close to her body. Tendrils of black ooze squirmed through every crevice, every gap in the kitchen's fittings. They covered every surface, reached out towards her.
The voice drew closer.
She could almost smell its breath.
She gripped the knife. She wouldn't be a victim this time, wouldn't cower before it. If it wanted her, it wasn't going to get her without a fight.
Hands grabbed her and she moved, thrusting the knife before her. It hit true, slicing cleanly through flesh.
Darkness faded, light returned. She stood in a kitchen once again, the mouth-watering scent of food around her. No ooze, no voice, no terror.
Save for that in the blue eyes that met hers.
Jill's eyes dropped, hand falling from the hilt of the blade. Claire did not move, did not even bleed. She just stood there, waited until the crimson droplets appeared, slowly spotting against her shirt.
There was a ringing in Jill's ears. Time seemed to stand still. She could not say a word, could barely even breathe. She did not move at all until Chris's voice hit her, until he caught his sister as she fell, silent still.
"Claire! Claire..." Then, darker eyes met hers. It was not fear that filled them. Not even anger. "What did you do? The hell did you do?"
She didn't think. She ran. And she did not stop running.
The way it had always been.
AN - Please review :)