DISCLAIMER: I do not own any of these characters. No copyright infringement is intended or inferred.
SPOILERS: This fanfic is based solely on the movie Silent Hill from 2006, not the games. Also, thanks go out to my beta reader Matt. Since English is not my first language there might still be some errors. Comments and critique are both very welcome. Any questions? Just send an email.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
In the Eyes of a Child
"She's just a child! What the fuck is wrong with you people?!"
I struggled against the ropes tying me to the ladder, but there was no way to get loose, to save Sharon from the crazy cultists holding her. My head was still spinning from the beating they gave me at the hospital. I should never have let them grab me; never have entered the church in the first place. I should have gotten Rose out of here, climbed down the gorge, fought until I could fight no more. I failed.
Outside the arched windows, the monsters were waiting. Here, a wholly different kind of monsters were lighting a fire, chanting about witches. But surely, they wouldn't actually burn me? No one could do something like that, no matter how crazed. They were just going to scare me.
And then they tilted the ladder over the fire.
The child oh no, not the child. She was watching. I knew they were forcing her to watch, even as I grew blind from the smoke, even as I felt my skin crack from the heat. Suffocating. Burning. My throat barely worked as I tried to speak.
"You're on your own now."
Can't breathe. Can't think. Leave her alone God she's just a child
"The child!" Gasping, Cybil opened her eyes. An instant later her instincts brought her to her feet, and she staggered over the floor in a futile attempt to keep her balance. She barely avoided falling into a huge, round hole gaping in the stone floor, two tall ladders leaning against the balconies surrounding the still standing altar. White light sifted in through the windows of the church and illuminated dust that danced in the calm air. The interior of the church was familiar by now, from the giant painting of the witch burning behind the altar to the wooden rows of benches facing it, dim lamps set along the aisle. And everything was empty, not a human being in sight.
Where have they taken her? I have to find her before something happens to her. Something like oh fuck
"My child is gone..." The deep, raspy voice brought Cybil spinning on her heels, reaching for her gun, then her baton. Then her flashlight. Everything gone. Fuck! She ran her fingers through her short blond hair, squinting to try and make out the figure sitting in a dark corner near the big doors as she warily stepped closer. Clad in colorless rags and with wisps of tangled, dirty hair falling down to cover her face, Dahlia looked much like she had the last time Cybil saw her. Empty cans and bottles lay strewn around her, rags piled up against the wall. Dahlia stared back at her, sitting on her heels with her hands motionless in her lap.
"Where is the child? Where did they take her?" Slightly unsteady still, she navigated around the benches and stalked up the stairs to Dahlia, her biker boots loud against the stone floor. Dahlia shrank back against the wall, and as she tilted her head back in defiance the daylight illuminated her features. Young. Arched eyebrows and high cheekbones sat in a face untouched by age, if not dirt.
How could she be so young still? Cybil stopped, faltering for a second, but then she shook her head almost violently and closed the distance between them, one boot sending a can flying against the wall. Getting down on one knee, the cop grabbed Dahlia by the poor excuse for a collar she wore and yanked her up.
"Where did they go?!"
Gotta find them, gotta save them from those monsters.
Dahlia was breathing heavily, her eyes wide in her eerily beautiful face, but she only shook her head and replied in her deep voice. "They're gone, all of them. The demon killed them all."
Cybil found her hands shaking, and she swallowed hard, blinking to clear her vision. "Where's Rose? Where's Sharon?" When Dahlia didn't answer, Cybil shook her hard, causing the other woman to gasp and grip Cybil's wrist. She smelled of ashes and blood, just like the rest of this damned town. "Where?!"
"The woman went with the demon. They're gone as well. Why did she spare me?" When Dahlia's eyes suddenly grew blank with tears, Cybil released her as if burned and got up, but the woman's hand was still clasping her wrist. Her eyes were as mad and desperate as Cybil remembered them from when? How much time had passed?
Dahlia held on even as the cop tried to move further back, dragging slightly over the floor. "You came back. Why? I saw you. I saw you burn! I saw you dead!"
"No!" Yanking her arm loose with suddenly regained strength, Cybil backed away, stumbling down the steps behind her and barely managing to remain standing. She hugged herself, her throat closing up as dammed up emotions suddenly threatened to rush her, to tear down her last shreds of self-control. Somehow, she managed to support herself against the last row of benches, closing her eyes as she tried to breathe slowly, deeply. I can't break, not now. I must I must get to Rose. She's alive. I know she is. I must protect her and the child. A minute passed. Two. At last, it became easier to draw breath, to steer her thoughts away from that.
When the cop finally opened her eyes again, Dahlia was still watching warily, sitting on the floor poised like an animal. The impression was only strengthened by the tangled tresses of her hair and the dirty fur adorning her clothes. Shakily, Cybil straightened and once more ran her fingers through her hair, for the first time looking down at herself. Her uniform was dirty but whole, except for a few tears. How? Swallowing, she steered away from that thought as well and slowly walked up the stairs away and past Dahlia, placing her hands against the wood of the main doors. Barred. She could feel Dahlia's presence behind her as she shouldered the wooden bar and lifted it to the side. She was going to find them, whatever it took. As she pushed the doors open, she remembered the desperate expression in Rose's eyes as she went into the elevator.
Don't worry. I will find you. I will keep you safe. Both of you.
No wonder this place is called Silent Hill.
Ashes were falling from the sky like snow as Cybil stepped out of the gloomy church, pausing to let her eyes adjust to the light. A narrow path of footsteps led down the stairs ahead of her, disappearing in the ever present mist. Probably made by Dahlia, foraging for food. They really were gone, the rest of them. Everything was quiet.
Slowly, Cybil went down the stairs until she stood on the ground, her steps muted against the thin layer of ashes. What next?
"Be careful. The monsters are still out there." Dahlia was standing at the entrance of the church, watching from underneath ash-colored wisps of hair.
"You worry about yourself, Ma'am." Cybil straightened her shoulders and started to walk, concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other. Most likely an accomplice in all this. I'll take her in for questioning later. Later, when Rose and the child were safe. She shuddered when a faint breeze made the fog in front of her swirl.
I can do this.
She had let Rose walk into certain death, and Sharon what had happened to Sharon? Surely, the residents of Silent Hill must be out there somewhere. Most likely, they had pulled Cybil away from the fire well in time not to kill her and then left her there unconscious, taking off with Sharon and Rose as hostages. No more than a day could have passed, considering the fact that Cybil wasn't even hungry. She must have had some kind of memory lapse.
She passed rusty cars with flat tires parked in rows by the abandoned buildings of Silent Hill. There was not a living thing in sight as she tried to remember the route Christabella and the rest of those lunatics took to the hospital, moving cautiously on the sidewalk. She turned right into Katz St., then onto Rendell St., walking as quickly as she could rationally motivate herself to.
It had to be possible to make sense of it all. Most likely, poisonous gas from the burning coal mines underneath Silent Hill had caused the people in this town to slowly go mad and hide from the authorities over the years. She and Rose had obviously gotten their share of hallucinations as well, with visions of monsters and walls coming to life.
Pure imagination. Cybil rubbed at her face, and her hand became grimy with ashes. The hospital wasn't far, but the ever present fog made it somewhat hard to gauge distances. She turned another corner and the main building came into view. Jogging across the street to the main entrance, she quickly let herself inside. Carefully, she made her way up the stairs, trying to recall the path Christabella and the others had taken when they had led Rose to the elevator doors. She moved quietly, her ears straining for any noise, but the dimly lit corridors were deserted.
The wide space was much like Cybil remembered it, with white paint peeling off the walls and the dusty windows providing the only light source, but there was one difference. Now, the elevator doors Rose had entered through were open, the metal bent and twisted. Cybil felt hope flutter in her chest. She must be alive. Wetting her dry lips, the cop moved towards the doors, blinking as she spotted her baton in the dust, and then her emptied gun not two feet away. Putting both back at her belt where they belonged, her gaze focused on the blood splattered on the floor and walls, and the pile of rags in the corner that must be Oh fuck, I killed one of them. This was where she'd made the fateful decision to at last let herself get caught by Christabella's gang, distracting them as Rose went into the darkness alone. Some of that blood must be mine. I'm lucky they didn't kill me. She pushed away memories contradicting this statement and stared at the ruined doors.
That was when she noticed something had begun to move in the darkness beyond them.
They were shaped like women, wore white, stained dresses and little caps in clear mockery of nurse uniforms, but there was nothing human about the way they jerkily moved their limbs one at a time, and certainly not in the way they turned their disfigured, sightless faces towards the stunned Cybil. The four of them crowded the entrance of the elevator as Cybil backed towards the stairs, and she noticed with growing terror that two of them were wielding rusty knives.
There is no fighting against this.
With that part clear beyond any doubt, she turned and ran, boots sliding on the floor as she practically flew down the two sets of stairs. She slammed the door to the hospital behind her, and when she tried to run down the last steps outside she fell, rolling down the rest of the way onto the cracked pavement. With her ears straining to catch the sound of the surely approaching monsters, she managed to get up and once more break into a dead run. Past Heaven's Night and the gas station she ran, then right onto Nathan Avenue. Shadows moved among the dark trees to her left, causing her breath to catch in her throat and urging her to keep running. Surely, if she could just get reinforcements somehow, they would be able to find the cultists and save Rose and the child. Back on the road towards Brahams, past the bank, the church with its doors once again closed, the clinic. Her breathing was labored from panic more than exertion, her heart pounding like a sledgehammer in her chest, and she willed herself to run slower. At least they weren't very fast.
Regardless, Cybil didn't stop until she reached the junk yard where she'd lost her helmet and jacket what felt like years ago. She rested her hands on her knees as she surveyed the area, chest heaving. The car. It was gone, and so was the gorge once separating Silent Hill from the rest of the world. Not wasting any more time than necessary, Cybil straightened and jogged up to her crashed bike, and managed to get the battered thing started. Just sitting astride with the engine roaring steadily and drowning the sounds of Silent Hill, she felt a lot safer. She ran her fingers through her hopelessly dirty hair and scowled slightly, searching her scalp with her fingertips. The wound she'd gotten when she crashed the bike was gone.
I'm going crazy. I have to get back to Brahams before I go as mad as Dahlia.
She swallowed hard and turned the bike around.
Brahams wasn't far, but due to the mist the drive took longer than Cybil had expected. She didn't encounter any more creatures once she'd left Silent Hill, for which she was eternally grateful, but neither was there any traffic.
And Brahams was a ghost town.
Cybil parked her bike outside the small police station, just staring up at the abandoned building for several moments before slowly sinking down on the ground, burying her face in her hands. Rose had somehow managed to make sense of all this and go on anyway. Cybil couldn't. This was to be her safe haven, where she could get help and be rational again, but instead it turned out to be exactly the same as Silent Hill.
"Oh fuck what the fuck " She rocked back and forth, curling up around herself. They're all gone. There is nothing left.
Some time passed, the only sound coming from the flapping of a small flag hanging from the wall further down the street. Cybil eventually lay down on her side, shaking hard as she tried to drown out her surroundings.
At some point, she must have fallen asleep, because the hoarse calls from crows overhead slowly brought her back to awareness. She sat up, feeling less torn apart now but just as lonely and afraid. Fucked up. She wiped at her face, whimpering quietly as she stiffly got back up on her feet.
The car wasn't there. Rose must have taken it somewhere, or perhaps the lunatics took her somewhere in it.
She took a deep breath and squared her shoulders, impatiently wiping at her eyes again. Decisively, she started to walk down the street towards her small apartment. She wondered what it would look like in this cold world.
As it turned out, she would never find out. The road ended not far from the police station, cut off by a deep gorge that also went right through the surrounding buildings, mist creeping over the ragged edges. Cybil shuddered at the sight, just staring into the whiteness for a moment and feeling her fragile self control almost break again, but then she turned and ran back the way she came, turning down Marshall Street just to find a similar sight there.
Half an hour later, she was leaning against her parked bike, panting from running around like an idiot. Brahams only existed a few hundred yards off the main road. Her hometown, or what looked a lot like it, was cut short in all directions but one. Her mother's house had been severed in half. Cybil had strained to try and see the other side she knew had to be beyond the mist; perhaps a rock jutting out of the whiteness, or the contours of a road on the other side of the gorge, but it was simply gone.
She pushed herself away from the bike and went into the abandoned police station. The two computers she tried to boot worked still, but the screens flickered so much that she couldn't use them. Not knowing much about computers anyway, Cybil tried the phones, all of them. Static noise distorted the ring tone.
The academy never prepared us for this.
Not knowing what else to do, Cybil simply reloaded her gun, 'borrowed' some gear from a fellow police officer who'd left his locker open, and left the police station. By now she was hungry. There was no way to judge the time of day; she had acquired a digital watch, but it said 4 am. Nothing works.
At the gas station, Cybil filled the tank of her bike and got herself a tuna sandwich, leaving some money on the counter. Reinforcements or no reinforcements, she was going to find Rose's car.
In truth, it wasn't hard to find the right road; all roads but one would always end in nothing. The first time it happened, Cybil barely managed to brake in time, falling off her battered bike and sending it spinning towards the railing while she rolled on the ground, putting some fresh scratches on Johnson's helmet and on her leather pants. At some point, she stood on the edge of one such dead end among the ever falling ashes, looking down and remembering when this nightmare began and wishing she could find the courage to just jump - but no. She had sworn to protect and serve, and that was what she would do, as long as there was someone left out there to protect. She prayed that there was. If there ever was a right time to turn religious, now would be pretty high on the list, but she still couldn't quite manage it.
A day passed, or at least the dates on Cybil's digital watch changed from July the second to July the third. It had been June the 21th the night she followed Rose into Silent Hill. The date function was probably broken as well.
She refueled at a gas station along the road, looking for people, but all she saw was black crows, flying in great flocks or perching in the trees along the road. She soon started to regret that she hadn't taken the crazy lady with her, fearing she was growing just as crazy herself. Even Dahlia would have been a comfort in this grey world.
She slept on a couch at a roadside inn, plagued by nightmares. As she followed the road north into Pennsylvania, ashes once more stuck to her clothes and skin. No use washing it off anymore.
Rose. She was out there somewhere with her child.
Taking a break to eat another tuna sandwich, Cybil found herself staring at a big sign next to the road, painted to look like an open book.
"Do you not know that we will judge angels? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?" Cybil smiled crookedly as she read the words aloud, removing her helmet for a moment. When she walked back, she noted that she was limping slightly - probably from the fall the day before.
"I would have preferred a livelier hell, actually." She had meant to sound sarcastic, but her hoarse voice just sounded tired in her own ears and she straddled the bike again.
Steering away from another gorge several hours later, Cybil found herself on a much smaller road, and she slowed down. The people in this area must be pretty rich, judging by the flashy, cube-like architecture of the houses she passed.
And then there it was - Rose's car, parked neatly outside one of the last houses on the road.
I'd always wanted children. Looking back, it is now clear to me that I unconsciously sought out men who seemed the family type strong, steady and caring. I guess that's the main reason why I married Christopher, although I never realized until I came to Silent Hill. He was all these things, and kind of dull because of it. He was great even during my long plunge into depression, but when I found myself choosing between betraying his trust and saving Sharon from the nightmares, I ended up leaving him and his world behind. The love I feel, or felt, for Chris didn't have a chance in comparison to what I felt for my daughter, but sometimes I just wish that he could've stayed with me, held me through the nightmare.
I guess the reality of my situation didn't dawn on me until I sat down on my couch with Sharon in my arms. We were home and yet not, never again. The ashes still fell like snow outside the large windows, and somehow everything lacked colour. As time crawled by I adjusted to the strange light, to the fact that there was no day or night and that the electric equipment in the kitchen would start to scream whenever one of those creatures ventured near the house. I could have gotten used to anything as long as I had Sharon, as long as I kept my daughter safe.
The problem is, I thought as I hugged her close in my lap and looked out at the once familiar landscape, that she's not all Sharon anymore.
She looked back at me, as if she knew what I was thinking, and just gave me a little smile. I sighed and stroked my hand over her hair before resting my cheek against her thin shoulder.
I just wished I didn't feel so alone. There was only the two of us left now, since the massacre in the church. I spent time playing with Sharon, cooking for her and making sure she was properly dressed, but somehow it was not the same anymore. She behaved so differently, and although I tried I could not pretend that she was a child anymore.
Silent Hill showed me what monsters really are, and they are not the featureless abominations that shuffled past the window and woke me up with the sounds as they tore each other apart. They are people, and I was one of them. In the name of protecting my daughter, I had become a monster.
I gave Sharon a smile and gently set her down on the couch before heading up the stairs. Perhaps I could find a new book to read in the small library. Sometimes, new books just seemed to appear on the shelves, but I didn't think too hard it. I was good at not questioning things nowadays.
I couldn't have children of my own, and after a year we finally sought help to find the cause. The doctor had that look on her face when she came back with the test results. I'd never seen it before, but I saw it many times afterwards. The survival rate of ovarian cancer is not great, especially not when it has spread to the uterus. I was lucky, they said, that they'd discovered it as early as they did. I don't really recall much after that. Chris later told me the lucent version of those shattered two years, but even when I was well enough to listen I didn't really want to remember the surgery or the chemotherapy, nor the therapists or my pathetic suicide attempts.
I blinked, halting halfway up the stairs, and rested my hand against the cold iron of the railing. "Yes, sweetie?"
"Do you feel lonely?" Sharon peered up at me from the bottom of the stairs, and I felt my heart melting once again at the sight of my daughters eyes. I could never stop loving her, no matter what.
"No. No not at all. It's like a long vacation, right?" I smiled and brushed some imaginary dust from my shirt.
Sharon just looked at me for a moment, tilting her head eerily to the side. "You had a friend with you when you came here. She tried to save me. Would you like her here?"
I swallowed hard and gripped the railing tighter to keep steady. In the weeks past, Sharon had not once mentioned Cybil, and I shied away from the very thought of her. I shook my head and forced my jaw to relax. "She's gone, honey. Like all the others. Don't worry about it, okay? Go play with your pencils, pumpkin." I waited until she'd turned away before I went up the rest of the way, my hand shaking lightly as it gripped the railing.
I owed Christopher so much. Once we got Sharon, he never mentioned my illness again, and he never once looked at me as if I was crazy, like some of our friends did. I owed him so much, and yet I could never bring myself to love him again. It's as if something had shifted within me once I'd gotten my senses back, and Sharon was the only one I really cared about.
Perhaps I never really got out of that dark place at all, considering where I ended up. I looked out the window and lowered the book to my lap, giving up on pretending to read for the time being. The beauty of the falling ashes was long lost on me by now, and instead I focused my gaze on something moving through the woods. They often came close to the house but never entered; sometimes they lingered at the window, following our movements with eyeless faces. They always passed on eventually.
Alessa's monsters. I sighed as I rested my head back against the armchair and closed my eyes, trying to shut out my surroundings. It never worked for long.
Of course, when at last I took Sharon and left for Silent Hill Christopher's trust ended. I was furious when I realized that he'd blocked our credit cards, but not really surprised. It was a crazy thing to do, taking Sharon to Silent Hill because of her nightmares, but a crazy situation calls for crazy solutions, and I was quite familiar with crazy. He saw the drawings, and Sharon's ever worsening situation, but Chris was always very down to earth. In the face of something unknown, he just reverted to his own reality, much like
I opened my eyes, hoping to chase away the images of her smoking corpse still tied to the ladder above the bonfire. The cop was as dead as everyone else now, but thoughts of her death still caused a sharp pain in my chest. Despite her annoying cop façade and her stubborn refusal to grasp the situation at hand, she actually seemed to care. She ended up sacrificing herself for what I believed in, and it was very hard to forget her eyes the last time I saw her alive.
I blinked and got out of the armchair, the book on my lap sliding to the floor with a soft thud. "Yes, sweetie?"
Sharon stood in the doorway, holding a drawing out for me to see, and I walked closer. "What have you got there, honey?"
The childish drawing depicted two people, one big and one small, holding each others' hands. Judging by the colours, they were standing in a river of blood. In the background, the symbol of Silent Hill's twisted faith
Symbol of our faith. Symbol of our unity
stood out against the sky. I took a deep breath, feeling shaky. "Honey, didn't you have anything nicer to draw?"
Sharon smiled and closed the distance between us, wrapping her thin arms around my waist. I returned the hug, automatically stroking her dark hair. "It is nice, mommy! It's us, taking revenge together."
"That's nice, sweetie." I felt my brow tensing and tried to relax again, just standing still.
"Mommy? If Cybil wasn't dead, would you want her to come here?"
I winced and responded automatically, "Weren't, sweetie." I took a steadying breath, looking down at her. "Yes yes, of course I would." Sharon disengaged from the hug, and I let her go as I gazed out the window.
A couple of days passed. I was sitting on the grey couch downstairs, resting my head on my arms as I looked out at the armless creature taking an unsteady stroll in my garden. Another book, this time War and Peace, lay forgotten beside me. Sharon hadn't been around much today she'd gone out after breakfast, and I believed that she was now upstairs playing. I welcomed the small bit of privacy, and not even my staggering visitor provoked more than a wrinkled nose as it trampled some bleak Autumn flowers outside the floor to ceiling windows of my home.
I blinked as the creature suddenly stopped moving, its deformed head raised. Straightening where I sat, it took several seconds for me to hear the noise as well the unmistakable sound of an approaching engine. The sound was drowned out for a moment as my heart started thudding in my ears, and I shot up from the couch at the exact same moment as outside, my gruesome companion started to move towards the sound. I stood motionless as the sound grew louder, the numbness that had settled in my mind the previous weeks rapidly being washed out by pure panic.
The noise abruptly cut off when whoever it was turned off the engine, and I felt my eyes widening as I heard footsteps on the gravel outside the door. Then they silenced as well, and I was left trembling where I stood, the hairs on my bare arms standing straight up.
"Police! Nobody move!" If the alarm system had been working it would undoubtedly have been going off, since Cybil kicked the front door open rather than using the doorknob and in the process managed to tear a hole in the sturdy wooden frame. I felt my jaw drop as the cop pointed her gun at me, looking for all the world as stupid as when I'd first met her.
Our eyes met, and I let out a sigh, feeling the tension within me dissipate. She was just as loud and useless as ever. And she was here, alive. Regaining my composure, I stepped around the coffee table and down the few steps towards the front door. I rolled my eyes as I saw the hands holding the gun starting to shake.
Cybil swallowed visibly, and I watched her resolution waver. She looked a lot like the last time I'd seen her alive, with filthy blonde hair standing in spikes and her short-sleeved uniform top grimy with ashes.
"Yes. Can you stop pointing that thing at my head now?" I smiled internally as she lowered the gun and ran her fingers through her hair with a bewildered look on her face. Sharon must have done this. There was simply no other way that this woman could be standing in front of me. And if she could do this, what else could she do? Was she really what I feared?
Is she real?
I studied Cybil closely, but she looked just like the woman I remembered, her blue eyes wide and frightened as she stared back at me. She opened her mouth to speak, but I shook my head and turned around, heading back up into the living room.
"Come on, you need a shower."
I hoped she wasn't going to turn all cop mode on me again, but when I looked over my shoulder she was putting her gun back in its holster. She was a few steps behind me when I ascended the stairs to the second floor, feeling the very strong need to giggle hysterically.
Yes, that would go over well.
My eyes met Sharon's where she stood at the top of the stairs, and I gave her a smile. She returned it and was gone into one of the other rooms when I reached the last step. Cybil stared after her, and I had to fight down my relief at seeing her alive. Best not get my hopes up quite yet.
"It's that door over there." I nodded towards the bathroom, and Cybil docilely started towards it. She really looked quite shell shocked.
"I'll bring you some new clothes to put on." The cop just nodded, and I was left staring at the closed door.
I was sitting on the couch downstairs, pretending to read my admittedly devastatingly boring book as I waited for Cybil to return. Sharon had been waiting for me in my bedroom when I went in to fetch some clothes, looking very pleased with herself. As well she might.
Sitting down on the bed beside her, I pulled her into a tight hug, and several minutes passed before I dared ask,
"Is she real, sweetie?"
Sharon just nodded against my collarbone, and I let out a soft breath. "How?"
"She died in Silent Hill. This is my realm."
"But you needed help with the cult people, honey."
"You helped me spread the poison within their sacred refuge. I am the only mistress here now."
She smiled up at me, and I quickly looked away, nodding. Although I could feel the answers tearing at the edges of my mind, I couldn't quite make myself stop asking the questions. "Could you bring them back?"
"Would you really want me to, mommy?"
I could still sense Sharon smiling from the corner of my eye. She knew the answer already. I shuddered. "No, honey."
Stroking my hand over her hair, I went up to find clothes for Cybil.
I closed the book, keeping a finger on the right page, and turned towards the window just in time to see my armless visitor returning to its vigil in the garden outside. He looked as bewildered as I felt. Well, not quite, since he had no face.
Choosing clothes for Cybil to wear was surprisingly fun. Sharon dismissed my first choice as 'too girly', whatever that meant when coming from a 9 year old. The least girly things I found were a white tank top, a button-down shirt of Christopher's and a pair of my old jeans. We were the same height, so they might even fit. I'd always preferred skirts, myself.
Good thing she takes long showers.
Sharon plopped down on the seat beside me. "She'll be down soon, mommy."
I turned back to sit properly on the couch and nodded, shaking some hair out of my face and handing her my book. She took the heavy volume with some effort and then sighed, bending to drop it to the floor. "Not even Sharon would've liked this."
I tensed slightly. "You are Sharon, sweetie."
Leaning against me, she shrugged her thin shoulders. "In a sense. Are you gonna play with Cybil, mommy?"
I sighed and relaxed, wrapping my arm around her. "I'm not sure she wants to play, sweetie."
She looked like she was going to answer, but then she turned towards the stairs where Cybil had just appeared. The cop had left the front of Chris' shirt open, and her short hair looked as messy as usual, still damp from the shower. I frowned as I noticed the strain on her face, and I realized that she must have used the time to collect herself. Or the opposite.
"Rose?" When did we start calling each other by our first names? I couldn't recall. Sometimes, memories from the nightmare in Silent Hill mixed and merged with the discordant recallings of my past sickness. There hadn't been an annoying cop back then, though. The monsters were pretty much the same.
The way she said my name made me sit a bit straighter, and I used my hands to rearrange my brown skirt over my knees.
"Come. Sit." I patted the seat on the opposite side of Sharon, and then watched as Cybil descended the white stairs to stand before me. She'd kept her belt with all its pockets, gun still resting against one hip and dysfunctional radio unit against the other. In combination with her stance, it made her seem like an officer even with bare feet.
My eyes met hers, and I realized she was staring at me, squinting slightly as if in disbelief. I sighed. "Hungry?"
She cleared her throat, her jaws working. She glanced briefly at Sharon, who was watching her attentively, but her blue eyes soon returned to mine. "Where are the others? What happened? Are you alright? What the fuck is this place?"
Sharon could've just given me a plushie.
I glanced at my daughter, and she was smiling. Reaching a decision, I stood and headed for the kitchen. "Please stay here, sweetie. Mommy and Cybil are going to discuss important things."
I could feel Sharon's eyes in the back of my head until I was out of sight. This was going to be awkward.
When Cybil entered the spacious kitchen I handed her a pop tart and leaned against the white table behind me, admiring for a few moments the way the shadows fell across her face.
I took a deep breath. "We're safe here. There's nothing to worry about."
"There's a mutant in your garden." Cybil crossed her arms over her chest, making no sign of planning to eat the pop tart in her fist.
"He's just tending to the flowers." I rolled my eyes. Well, at least Chris' shirt fit her well. The tank top was perhaps a bit snug, though. This woman had to live at the gym.
"This is insane! You're insane!" Cybil looked as if she was going to have a nervous breakdown. I felt impatience rise in my throat.
"Yes! Of course it is! What is your point?"
"It can't be real!" She made a sweeping gesture with her arm, and for a moment I was distracted by the way the checkered shirt billowed with the movement. "It must be a a hallucination, or something."
The stupid idiot stared at me, and I stared back. Now it was my turn to cross my arms.
She should have definitely given me a plushie.
I sighed, forcing myself to calm down slightly. "It isn't. In a sense." I smiled slightly, turning my gaze to the falling ashes outside the large windows. It was a bit real, just like Sharon was a bit Sharon.
"This is Sharon's and Alessa's world, and just like they are both one and at the same time separate entities, this world is both different from the real world, and the very same. The monsters won't hurt us, and now that Christabella and the rest are gone "
I noticed her expression. "You don't remember." Well, of course she didn't. She was dead at the time. My voice was softer when I continued, "I'll tell you. Just relax. We're not in danger."
To my relief she unwrapped her pop tart and started chewing on it. Sharon liked those, but I'd never figured out why. It did seem to have the intended effect, though, and I felt my own shoulders relaxing as Cybil leaned back against the refrigerator, closing her eyes.
I shifted slightly, turning my gaze to my toes. The kitchen suddenly seemed too brightly lit. "How much do you remember?"
For a few blessed moments, I thought she wasn't going to reply, but then she murmured, "I lost the fight outside the elevator, and they dragged me off. I was sure " I looked up and watched her shake her head, eyes still shut. She once more looked strained, hands pressed against the undoubtedly cold surface of the fridge. "I don't think anything was real after that. They beat me up pretty good."
'After that' would be Cybil being tied to a ladder and burned alive for the sake of my daughter. It would be her corpse, barely recognizable, steeling my will as I let them all die in a nightmare of blood and barbed wire. It would be me, killing a man with my own hands and getting showered in blood as Alessa tore another limb from limb right in front of me.
It was my turn to pause, and when I raised my gaze again Cybil was looking back at me. She continued softly, "When I woke up, the church was empty, and there was a big hole in the floor. Where did all the people go?"
I looked into her clear eyes, and I could not tell her the whole truth. "They died, Cybil. Alessa killed them all. I I thought you were lost as well."
I was sitting in my usual spot on the couch, resting my arms against its backrest as I watched yet another of Alessa's creatures hit the dust on top of my flowers. The sharp sound of gunshots was getting quite tedious, truth to tell. Cybil was running around out there with a seemingly endless supply of bullets, not seeming to realize that all the shooting only drew more of them for her to shoot. Or perhaps she did. The woman looked like a complete fiend whenever she was in sight.
She hadn't taken the news of the carnage well it all. I never told her about her burning to death, letting her believe in her logical but hopelessly incorrect theories, but even so a deeper part of her seemed to know and remember.
I groaned and rested my forehead against my arms, only to lift it again upon feeling a hand on my shoulder. Sharon smiled at me and sat down, completely ignoring another burst of gunshots. "She's not playing nice, mommy. She might get hurt if the big ones show up."
I could see the annoyance in her dark eyes and nodded. The threat was obvious. "I'll go out and fetch her, honey. Just stay here."
Cybil was leaning against a tree, her gun lowered as she seemed to wait for the next unfortunate creature to cross her path. She must have been quite deafened, because she didn't notice my approach until I stepped into her line of sight. An instant look of alarm crossed her features, and she immediately straightened.
"You shouldn't be out here, Rose. It's dangerous."
A multitude of sharp answers ran through my mind, but then I just shook my head and stepped closer. "They won't become any less real because you shoot them." I brushed some ashes from her oversized leather jacket, feeling oddly protective of her. Well, she was technically my responsibility now.
Cybil lowered her head, slumping slightly, and I sighed. I seemed to be doing a lot of that lately. "Have you even slept?"
"No, I can't. This is " She shook her head, the muscles at her jaw tensing, and I felt an unexpected surge of compassion. Tugging at her jacket, I said, "Let's get you inside."
The monsters of Silent Hill, Sharon once explained to me, are the manifestations of Alessa's nightmare turned reality, but it's not as simple as that. They are the victims of her revenge, doomed to exist in their own private hell even as they enter ours, taking the shape of our anxiety and fear.
Silent Hill wasn't exactly hell, unless Sharon chose it to be. It wasn't for me, at least. Perhaps it was for Cybil.
I'd woken up to the sound of her crying out in her sleep, and now I was sitting at the edge of her bed, unsure as how to handle the present situation. Cybil, her hair messy as always, had practically thrown off the cushion, her head turning from side to side as she mumbled incoherently. For being a tough cop, she sure didn't look very tough right now.
"Don't she's just a child "
I winced and placed my palm lightly against her cheek, stilling her movements. "Shhh it's alright. She's safe. You're safe." I almost gave a start when she nuzzled into my hand, her skin soft against my fingers, and I carefully pulled back as soon as she seemed to calm down. Quietly, I tucked her in and left the room, my palms still sweating.
My therapist would have loved this.
The corpses outside lay where they had fallen, twisted bodies slowly dissolving from the acid within. Cybil had been asleep for almost twelve hours now, leaving me to play with Sharon and continue reading my book. Things were almost back to normal, except they weren't. Cybil's presence unnerved me, made me feel like I was the stranger one.
"Why are we here?"
I blinked and looked up to find Cybil standing behind me. I gave her a tentative smile. "Well, this is my home, and I think you used that big bike of yours, officer."
She gave me her best cop glare, and my smile widened as she sat down beside me, propping her feet up on the coffee table. "You know what I mean."
"I do." I paused, studying her. She wore the same clothes as yesterday, her white tank top slightly stained from ashes beneath the red checkered shirt, but her eyes held a new calmness. Wetting my lips, I hesitated, and was startled when she touched my shoulder with her fingertips. "I um..." She raised her eyebrows, and I let out a soft breath. "I am here because I wanted a child, and Sharon wanted a mother. We're bound together."
Cybil looked at me for a long moment until the compassion in her eyes made me swallow and look away. Her next words were hesitant. "Here?"
"Yes, here. In the twilight zone between heaven and hell, I chose the dark truth over Paradise. I chose my daughter over sanity and reality, and you're the unfortunate victim of that choice. You should never have followed us here." I could hear the flat tone of my own voice, and when I met Cybil's gaze I saw fear quickly being replaced by stubbornness?
Her reply was faster than I would have expected. "I chose to protect and serve, and that is what I did. I don't regret it." Cybil always talked as if there was a law backing up her every word. She actually seemed to mean what she said.
"Is there anything left to protect?"
"There is you."
I blinked. There was no way she could have actually just said that, but she looked straight into my eyes, her elbow resting lazily against the backrest of the couch. "I " I took a moment to collect myself. "Thank you."
She nodded briskly and then got up, probably off to polish her gun or something. I leaned back on the couch, watching her until she was out of sight.
Protect me, huh? I doubted that she could protect me from myself.
I'd always enjoyed the view from my balcony. Between large trees stretching past my vantage point towards the sky, I could see the empty road, and beyond it I knew that a waterfall was thundering down into the canyon I could hear the distant roar, and it made me feel less alone. My jogging route used to go along the edge of that canyon. It had been a long time since I'd followed it.
The house itself was oddly comforting in all its futuristic glory. I'd fallen in love immediately upon our first visit, and Christopher had bent to my wishes after some coercion. The house seemed to be haphazardly put together by several differently sized boxes, windows large and square and the different floor levels indoors unexpected and strange. White and grey dominated every piece of interior, strengthening the slightly eerie impression of this modernistic piece of architecture.
The colourless light made the golden ring on my finger glint dully as I turned my hand, studying it. For seven years I had been married to Chris, and for the majority of those years I had been happy. It was time to let him go. My destiny was here, with my daughter. Marriage had turned out to be a word just as pointless as "reality". Or "sin".
Carefully, I removed the ring, looking at the mark left on my finger for a moment before turning my gaze back to the view.
Sharon had been in a cheerful mood all day, and we had spent a lot of it drawing pictures in the kitchen. Cybil had gone out on her bike to get us more food, but I suspected that she mostly needed to be alone for a while. When she came back, her red eyes were haunted and her clothes were smeared with ashes. I stood from the table, but she just dumped the groceries on the kitchen island and disappeared up the stairs. There were dark stains on her jeans.
"She's not very fun to play with, is she?"
I looked over my shoulder at Sharon as I started to put everything away. "I think she's just upset."
Sharon turned her eyes back to the rather morbid drawing she was working on at the moment. "You should go talk to her."
"I'm not sure she'd like that, honey."
I turned to look at her fully, but her eyes never left her picture. "What else are you sure of, sweetie?"
"That you like her." Sharon's voice was as cheery and childish as always. I was getting used to the contrast.
I resolutely shut the refrigerator door behind me, pausing to study my daughter for a moment before heading up the stairs.
So I like her, huh?
"Can I come in?" When silence was the only response I opened the door to the guestroom and entered. Cybil had curled up against the headrest with her arms wrapped around one bent knee, staring straight ahead. I recalled the way she had looked the first time she was confronted with the monsters of Silent Hill, rage written over her face as she had tossed her smoldering helmet to the ground and fired shot after shot at the offending abomination. With those big eyes and that expressive mouth, she was so easy to read, like an open book. Right now, I read desolation.
With a soft "Hey," I sat down on the bed beside her, carefully placing a hand on her knee. The simple touch made my heart beat faster, and it surprised me. For a crazy person, I was normally very calm, but Cybil tended to make me nervous.
Nervous, or annoyed.
She finally met my gaze, attempting a smile before apparently giving it up and looking away again. "Where's your ring?"
I tilted my head to the side, taking in her dirty shirt, and the way her tank top clinged to her
"In a drawer." I shrugged and removed my hand from her knee, but at the same time felt myself lean in closer, my side coming to rest lightly against her leg.
Cybil was quiet for a long moment, but then she raised a trembling hand to my face, touching my cheek very lightly. I closed my eyes, feeling heat rush to my face. "What happened to your husband?"
"That's the wrong question."
"What is the right question?"
"What happened to me?" I opened my eyes, giving her a small smile, and suddenly I wondered who was comforting whom.
She shifted on the bed, moving just a little closer to me, and I felt warm.
"Is there no way to get back?"
"I haven't asked. I am not going back." Cybil's hand was resting lightly on my arm. She looked no less nervous now than before, but perhaps for another reason. I covered her hand with mine, squeezing it. "You should get to sleep. It's late."
"How do you know?" She frowned lightly, chewing on her lower lip.
"You start sensing it after a while." I got up, feeling the loss of her closeness instantly.
She looked up at me with a tensed expression, and I quickly left the room before she could follow that line of thought any further.
That night, when Sharon was asleep and Cybil started crying out in her sleep, I returned to her room to sit by her bedside once more, watching her toss and turn in the large bed. When at last I lay a cool hand against her burning cheek, whispering words of comfort, I felt her stirring slightly. Completely paralyzed, I watched her hand covering mine, and I believe I didn't move nor breathe until she fell back into deeper slumber again.
It was a curious thing, that something as trivial as sexuality should be puzzling me when I was stuck in a world with no sunlight, but it was. Sure, I'd been attracted to other women before, but this was very different. This one stirred something within me, made me feel like something was stretching.
I watched Cybil's face in the faint light falling through the curtains. Maybe it was the short hair, or the uniform. Perhaps it was pure loneliness; the joy of being close to another adult again after all these weeks. Perhaps it was the Change.
I let my thumb trace the line of one dark eyebrow, longing to run my fingers through that messy hair. Cybil was here because she wanted to protect me. I didn't deserve it.
Once more, I got back up on my feet, and again I felt the loss in my chest as I left the room.
Mornings were turning into the most normal part of the day, perhaps because both adult members of the household were too zombiefied to react to any other stimuli than the smell of coffee. I was sipping mine with both elbows firmly on the round table when I heard Cybil come down the stairs. She poured herself a cup before collapsing into an unoccupied chair opposite me, and we sat mostly in silence as Sharon explained the details of her new Lego project.
After breakfast, when Sharon burst towards the swings in the garden, I let my head fall to the tabletop with an audible groan. A low chuckle and a touch to my unruly hair made me blink and train my bleary-eyed gaze on Cybil. I found her smirking at me. I believe that's the first time I had heard her laugh. "What're you smiling about?"
She shrugged those broad shoulders of hers, the smirk not leaving her face. "You look like you've been unconscious for a week."
I sighed and propped my head up with my hand. "At least two weeks." I yawned, feeling a bit more alert as the coffee started to kick in, and pushed my bowl of cereal a couple of inches to the right. "Did you sleep alright?"
Cybil nodded and leaned back on her chair, a soft and uncertain look on her face. "I did " She hesitated. "Thank you."
I wet my dry lips with my tongue and opened my mouth to speak, but I could think of nothing to say.
The rest of the day passed in relative calmness. Cybil went with me on a walk to the canyon, and she didn't shoot anything the whole time. Sharon helped me bake pancakes for dinner, and afterwards I curled up on my couch with a book as Cybil settled in the kitchen to clean her gun. She seemed much calmer now, but it was easy to notice that it only lasted as long as she didn't think too hard on her surroundings. I closed my eyes and let my thoughts wander.
I awoke when the weight of my book was removed from my chest, blinking up at Cybil's form. She gave me a small smile as she took my hand, helping me to my feet. "You shouldn't sleep here. Upstairs is safer."
I shook my head, yawning, but I nonetheless followed her up the stairs, pulling my cardigan closer around my body. "Where's Sharon?"
"She's already asleep. It's late." She stopped between the doors to our respective rooms, and I stepped close, gently putting my hand on her neck as I touched my lips to her cheek.
I stayed close for just a few seconds longer before stepping back, smiling inwards at her dumbfounded expression as I entered my own room.
That night, there were no sounds coming from her room. I knew, because I spent most of it lying awake.
"Let me get that for you."
"I can carry it myself."
"Rose, it's tilting."
"You're tilting, you tilter."
I sighed and allowed Cybil to take the tray from my hands, following her up the rest of the steps to the second floor and the balcony. It was already lunch time, and since Sharon had shoved a peanut sandwich into her mouth and gone off in search for pineapples or was it pinecones? I had decided that lunch on the balcony would be nice.
Flopping down on a cushioned chair, I swept my gaze over the scenery. Cybil had finally agreed to drag all the corpses to the compost heap under the watchful... watchfulness of a creature consisting mostly of legs. The look on the cop's face had been priceless when Sharon had danced around it like a Christmas tree.
Right now, Sharon's blue dress only occasionally flashed between the dark trunks of the trees as she went on in her search, and I turned my gaze to Cybil just to find her studying me. I tucked some hair behind my ear and gave her a smile, which she returned. Was she blushing?
She was wearing her uniform top today, and it made her look very much like an off duty cop, especially since she had opted to wear her high boots and leather pants with it. I could feel my heart rate speeding up and quickly looked away, watching the ashes fall into the pale grass. "Do you have any family, Cybil?"
Cybil lowered the can of coke from her lips and took some time to answer, but at last she said in a low voice, "I had a mother, but I saw her house split in half when I drove past. The other half was just missing. I guess they're all gone."
Not able to stand the pain return to her eyes, I quickly shook my head. "No, Cybil they're still there." I reached across to squeeze her arm. "What you saw was just a manifestation of the place you used to call home. Your mother is still out there. You'll meet her again. All of them."
Her hand briefly held mine to her arm, for a few seconds showing her need for comfort before letting go almost as if she'd burned herself. I smiled a little and took my bowl of bean salad, curling up in my chair as I started to eat. It was a good thing that all the shops around town were still fully supplied with their electricity working, or we would have begun to starve a long time ago.
"Do you have any family, Rose?" The way she said my name made me shiver. God, I was a lost cause.
I slowly nodded. "Yes, but my parents live across the state. We haven't talked much since " I waved my spoon in the air and shrugged my shoulders, shivering lightly in the cool breeze. "Christopher's family was always very accommodating."
"Mommy! Look what I found!" Sharon's voice cut through the privacy of our conversation, and I got up on my feet, replacing my bowl on the trail. "We'll talk more later." I smiled at the curiosity in Cybil's expression and brushed my fingers over her shoulder as I left. "Coming, pumpkin!"
Come to think of it, there was always something other than love that I wanted from my relationships; comfort, social status, stability, children the list was long. We're all on the hunt until we find the perfect relationship, and when we do find it we get married, have children and become normal. I used to strive towards that normalcy, that feeling of completion, and in the end love had very little to do with it. Even though my love for Chris had faded, it never occurred to me that I could simply let him go. That is not the way it is done.
My love for Sharon overwhelmed everything else, and when her nightmares cracked the carefully built foundations of our life together, my choice to follow that love caused me to turn my back on not only my life but the world itself. I could still feel that choice altering me, changing me as I stretched beyond the borders that had once defined me. The very spirit of Silent Hill was slowly turning me as unfettered and dark as the black crows circling the church tower in the empty town we left behind.
I heard Cybil cry as I sleeplessly stared up into the white ceiling. At first I decided to let her have her privacy, but the soft sobs soon became unbearable to my ears, piercing through my trail of thoughts like a knife. Quietly, I left the warmth of my bed and exited the room.
Cybil was sitting on the edge of the bed with her elbows on her knees, head hanging. Her shoulders were shaking with her soft sobs, fists tensing and relaxing repeatedly as I watched from the doorway. The pained sounds coming from her were even more unbearable in here. I quickly crossed the room, feeling my own throat close up as I sat beside her, and pulled her into my arms.
Resting my cheek against the back of her neck, I whispered. "Shhh, it's alright don't cry, sweetie "
She hesitated only for a short moment before leaning against me, and I felt it like an electric surge when she wrapped her arms around my waist. I held her as she continued to cry, mumbling nonsense into her ear and pressing my lips to the top of her head.
When she was calmer, I climbed into the bed and guided her head to my lap, stroking her hair as I looked down at her curled-up form. Cybil's eyes were closed, and although the pained lines were still visible around her mouth she at least wasn't crying anymore. I closed my own eyes and leaned my head back against the wall, feeling the exhaustion in my neck. Cybil must feel so powerless here, so completely out of her environment. It was a miracle that she managed as well as she did with nothing to hold on to. Silent Hill was no place for her.
I fell asleep like that, one hand around Cybil's shoulders and the other hidden in her hair, and I only vaguely remember Cybil's features as she woke me up and pulled me down to lie comfortably on the bed.
The soft breath against my neck made me smile, barely conscious. "Mmmm?"
"I think it's morning." Cybil's voice was no louder than a whisper, but I could feel the vibration against my ear. I could feel her, pressed against my back.
Blinking my eyes open in slight confusion, I turned my head just to have it almost collide with Cybil's.
She pulled her head back a little, allowing me to study her face. Her blue eyes were still rimmed with red, but other than that she looked calm. I smiled at her, feeling relief wash through my veins, and then promptly closed my eyes again. Morning? No way. I felt no need whatsoever to move from my current position. With hazy satisfaction, I noted that her arm was wrapped snugly around my waist. Cybil was okay for the moment, and that was all that mattered.
"Hey! You're not supposed to fall asleep again!"
"Ugh, go away." My brain belatedly caught up with my words, and I gripped her wrist. "No wait. Stay, but be quiet."
"You're hopeless." She grabbed hold of my shoulder and turned me over onto my back in the bed.
I blinked up at her. "Um morning."
She grinned down at me, and I couldn't help but smile in return, reaching up to stroke her cheek. "Feelin' better?"
She nodded and brushed her lips over my palm. "Now get up before your daughter starts asking questions."
"Perhaps she wants to be a police officer?" I sighed as a still fully dressed Cybil followed her own advice and disentangled before disappearing into the bathroom, leaving me to drift off to sleep again.
I ruefully let my fingers play with the cross around my neck as I watched three monsters in nurse uniforms come into view in the garden below, hunting our newly acquired leg creature with scalpels raised high against the grey sky. Part of a foot already lay twitching in the listless grass behind them. It was obvious that the hunted one had no chance in hell, and I had to turn my head away when it spun around, legs flailing as it made one last stand. The nurses reminded me of when I went into the heart of Silent Hill to find Alessa in the darkness, but they also scared me for a wholly other reason. Memories of white walls, painful shots and leather straps around my wrists flashed before my eyes and I quickly got to my feet, leaving the balcony. Clenching my jaw, I managed to cut the memories off before they could begin replaying in earnest.
It was just as well that Cybil wasn't around at the moment - she wouldn't have been able to handle this very well.
The sounds of rusty scalpels parting dead flesh followed me inside the house.
Cybil, no matter how brave or amazing she was, didn't belong here with me. She didn't deserve to share my own and Sharon's twisted existence. She didn't deserve being bound to the growing darkness that was me.
Do I deserve staying here?
I rested my palm against the cold wall in the corridor, frowning as I noticed I was shaking, and stood absolutely still until it subsided. Yes, I actually did. I had chosen. I was a murderer, and on top of that I had been unfit for the real world even when I was actually in it. I knew that I would never be able to pretend if I went back, never again be someone that anyone could truly love. Could I really look Christopher in the eye and tell him that I had changed, that the need that had bound me to him was gone along with the last shreds of my sanity, and that our daughter was the very same? Crazy, that's how it sounded. And even if I could avoid Chris, I wouldn't be able to stand the look on Cybil's face once she realized what I had become, and how much I liked it.
Images from the night at the church invaded my mind following that thought - memories of me standing at the edge of hell like a vengeful demon as the screams of the dying filled my ears, the taste of blood in my mouth and the wounded Alessa's twisted body as she smiled at me through a mayhem of bodies ripped apart by barbed wire come alive.
And I liked it.
I leaned back against the cold wall and squeezed my eyes shut, gasping for breath as I tried to control the tears running down my cheeks.
I found my daughter in her room, building a Lego castle with the deep concentration only young girls and autists seem to master. Kneeling before her, I studied her dark hair, her long eyelashes and her pale cheeks. She was a beautiful child.
"Hey mommy, what is it?" She looked up at me, tilting her head to the side.
I smiled faintly at her, stroking my hand over her hair. "Nothing really I just wanted to ask you something, honey."
She looked curious now, putting a Lego piece down before shifting to mimic my kneeling position. "Ask what?"
I took a deep breath. "Could you let Cybil back out into the real world?
"Would you really want me to, mommy?"
I had a strong feeling of having had this conversation before, but I could tell that my answer this time surprised her. "Yes."
"You love her."
She studied me for a long moment, and I looked down, gripping the hem of my brown skirt.
"When do you want her to go back, mommy?"
I swallowed, my throat closing up. "T-tomorrow morning? When she sleeps?"
"It shall be done." She nodded once, solemnly, and then suddenly grinned. "Wanna help me with my castle? I need to build a bridge.
The day passed. When Cybil returned from the basement, sweaty from having used Christopher's equipment, she found me curled up on the couch, my clothes and my skin smeared with ashes. Seeing the look on my face, she came closer and knelt by my side, her black t-shirt clinging to her broad shoulders. She was stunning.
"Rose?" She looked at me with worried blue eyes, and I reached out for her, wrapping my arms tightly around her neck, pulling her close. I could smell the fresh sweat on her skin, and I knew she could smell the ashes on mine.
Cybil gently circled my waist with her arms and pulled me down from the couch onto her lap, stroking my sides soothingly. It was sweet. It was excruciating.
She was so close. All I had to do was tilt her face up towards mine, and then I was pressing my lips desperately against hers, feeling the familiar electric current pulse through my veins at the contact. When she shyly returned the kiss I let out an involuntary sound and buried my fingers in her short hair, closing my eyes against the unbearable tenderness I could see in hers. I could feel her arms tightening around my waist, and for just a moment I let myself forget the world around us. When she finally pulled back to look at me I hid my face against her neck, breathing hard, but trying as I might I couldn't keep my tears from wetting her skin.
"You're not happy here, Cybil." My voice was a hoarse whisper, lips brushing against her earlobe.
She stroked my hair, my neck, my shoulders. I pressed closer and trembled as she held my chin, forcing me to meet her gaze.
"And you are?"
We lie in bed, my arms wrapped tightly around your sleeping form, my nose in your messy blonde hair. Your breaths are heavy, warming my chest, and I stay completely still, filing away moment after broken moment into my memory to keep. Once again, I have chosen. I never told you, Cybil, but I'm sure you will be happier out there. You will meet your mother, return to work. You will settle down, forget all about Silent Hill and me. I will not forget you. In the end, it is all about fear. And love.
I feel tears burning in my eyes again and I hug you closer. You mumble something, nuzzling softly against me, and time grinds to another halt as I let myself drown in the sensation. When I look up again, Sharon is standing in the doorway.
"Ready?" she mouths, and I nod, squeezing my eyes shut as I press my lips against your forehead one last time.
I will let you go now, Cybil. Please, be happy.
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