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I also posted this on FF.net, but I've never tried posting fan fiction on a wiki before, so here goes..
Summary: After James is convicted of murder and sent to prison, his future doesn't look so bright. Then, a decade later and a year after his release, an old freind comes around to give him what he thought he'd never have again. James & Laura.
Warning(s): I'm a woman, so it might have some fluff in it; otherwise, it's actually a rather dark fic.
Chapter One: There She Goes
If nine years in prison had taught him anything, it's that the world loves to beat a man when he's down. Prison was no walk in the park, even though he was careful not to offend anyone and minded his own business. Even his lawyer said he'd be preyed upon. The most sinister of them whispered behind his back about how pretty he was, and someone even jokingly warned him not to drop the soap. But it wasn't that simple anymore. If they wanted you, they would have you.
He didn't fight them. He was sure he deserved it. In fact, he was ready to accept whatever they threw at him. He ended the life of the most precious person he ever knew. And it wasn't even a merciful death. A slow asphyxiation was no happy way to go. Nine years seemed a small price to pay compared to all the years he might have took off Mary's life.
He'd read in the books about cancer patients whose bodies miraculously eradicated the tumors that were killing them. That God would smile on Mary, he hadn't been too hopeful about, but at least the fact that it had happened to someone somewhere would calm a few overwrought nerves from time to time.
As if it mattered now.
Now, in a dilapidated apartment, with only expired junk food in the cabinets, a closet with three outfits, and no desire to see the following morning, James laid his head on the armrest of the couch and stared at the cracks in the ceiling. Mary's letters echoed in his mind still, especially all the years he slept in a cold cell. If Mary could see him now, she would have forgiven him a long time ago.
His lawyer liked to remind him that he was very, very lucky. He was originally sentenced to 12 years for the deaths of Mary and Eddie, and they almost pinned Angela on him too because he had her knife in his pocket. Hell, they wanted to argue that he might even have assisted Angela when she killed her father! Mary's remaining family were really pushing for life, and James didn't mind, but his lawyer cared far too much to let that happen.
They let him out a year ago on good behavior. His father picked him up. The car ride was silent and damaging, and James almost cried. His father always knew when someone didn't want to talk about it, and he respected that. He just wished he could have taken away the look of shame from his father's old, tired face.
He closed his eyes and his frown deepened. What did Joseph see in him? Why did he try so hard? Just so his client could lay on an old, dirty couch and contemplate the meaningless of his life?
And Laura. Why had she just sat there and said nothing when she was called to the stand? It only got him and Joseph in trouble, because the other lawyer accused Joseph of telling her not to testify. As the only remaining witness, the lack of her testimony would make the case fall apart.
But that sleazy lawyer, Stan, must have threatened her. The next day in court, she burst into tears and spilled everything. She told the court that, yes, James had confessed to her that he killed Mary.
“But he's not a bad person! Mary was sick! She was suffering! Honest!” she cried.
It boggled his mind.
Maybe she just didn't want to go back to the orphanage. Maybe she had thought they could still be together, and he could be the daddy she never knew. Some part of James wanted to tell her that could never be. Even if it were an another world where Mary died naturally, they would never grant him legal custody of her in court. He would still be a disturbed widower prone to alcoholism and perverted, unrealized sexual fantasies. He would still be a man that regularly visited the strip clubs and stalked the women who reminded him of Mary. He would still be a chain-smoker. And besides, he hated kids. Mary never knew this, and perhaps some part of him was actually happy that she died before they could start a family.
He was a sad old beast. He didn't deserve a lawyer like Joseph, and he didn't deserve Laura's sympathy.
James was too much of a coward to actually kill himself—but he did fantasize about it a lot. Sometimes he wondered if he could will his heart to stop in his sleep and go that way. He'd tried but it ended up being too painful. A sorry old man who witnessed the horror of Silent Hill and the horror of prison was still afraid of pain. It was a sad diagnosis.
Aside from his fear of pain, he couldn't oust Victoria. She checked up on him too often for him to be able to pull it off. She was like Joseph, except he suspected that Victoria was a feminist who was deeply offended by his crime against a woman, and wanted him to suffer as long as he lived. She said she didn't believe in hell, so people might as well get punished as much as they could for their sins while they were alive.
Knocks resounded from the door. Sounded like Victoria. She usually came around 6 or 7 every week or so to check up on him. He forced himself from the couch, walking to the door while his fingers wrestled with his groggy eyes. He was only seeing painful spheres of red, orange and yellow exploding in his vision from having his eyes closed too long. James fumbled with the doorknob and somehow got it open.
Victoria was an unusually involved probation officer. When she began visiting him in his apartment once a week to every other day, constantly reminding him to shave and tidy up the apartment after work, he began thinking she had too much time on her hands and needed to get a boyfriend. Either that, or she was just a sadist.
Victoria hadn't taken offense to such a remark; sarcasm had become a staple of his character. “You're getting better with the cleaning, I guess.”
“Yeah..” James finally got his sight back and sighed disinterestedly. “So what's the problem now?”
She turned from inspecting the kitchen, slanting her bright eyes. “I don't only come here when you're in trouble, you know. I just wanted to check up on you and make sure you're okay. It's not good for you to be alone all the time. It's not good for anybody.”
“Not good for anybody? Well, it's good for me.” James sat down on the couch and decided to rest his eyes more.
“I actually wanted to tell you something, though. You may or may not be interested.”
Another sigh. “What?”
“An officer in California arrested a middle-aged woman for threatening a bar owner, and when they bring her to the station it turns out her ID's a fake. So for a while they were having trouble finding out exactly who this woman is, until someone decided to take her prints, and they turned out to be those of a Cybil Bennett..”
James' eyes popped open. “Cybil Bennett? You mean the cop who disappeared in Silent Hill in the early 80's?”
“Yeah, boggles your mind, doesn't it?”
“Sure does.” James turned to her. “You never believed me, though. What I said about what happened there.”
Victoria sighed. “I just don't believe the part about the monsters. I know that place is a spook town and everyone thinks it's haunted, but I don't believe anything unless I see it. And you weren't in the sanest of states when you went there anyway.”
James tried to keep his mind on ordering the files, but they didn't require much thought. It was like sorting apples and oranges most of the time, and it had a bad habit of getting really monotonous. But sorting and thinking was what he did best. His father also said he had a gift of patience. The patience to sit and think about a problem before solving it, coming up with new strategies. Lord knows it saved him in Silent Hill. It took him hours on some of them. At several points, he had to walk around the desolate and depleted surroundings until the answer came to him. Walking usually helped him think.
His experiences there were like a mental trap even now. Thinking about one thing led to another. Monsters chasing him from corner to corner, Maria appearing and disappearing, dead one moment and alive the next—he still hadn't figured it all out. He had gone to a psychology professor at Ashfield University and handed him rough sketches of what he had seen. James thought it would be easier to make up a lie, and so he told him that these creatures had suddenly begun to appear in his dreams every night. And so, through the knowledge of James' painful past, the man offered his theories.
The Straight Jacket thing... it must have been a symbol of Mary. She was always tossing and turning like that thing did, and yelled at him like that thing spewed poison at him... It made sense.
The man was baffled at first with Red Pyramid. What could he mean? Then the man called him one evening after a lecture. He said the only possible explanation, given James' dreams of being pursued and tormented by this creature, was that he was an executioner whose role was to punish him for a terrible misdeed. The man kindly asked if James' had perhaps treated his wife harshly sometimes, but he ended up getting defensive. No, he could never do that! He loved Mary! He did!
“You alright, sugar?” A firm, manicured hand touched his shoulder.
James took his fingers off the bridge of his nose and opened his eyes. “Oh, yes. Sorry, Bettie. I think I'm getting a bit of a headache.”
Bettie shrugged her plump shoulders. “Don't worry. This job gives errybody a headache.”
It was a tad sad to admit, but Bettie was the only person he genuinely respected at work. Or even talked to, for that matter. She had a fiery temper and snapped at the customers sometimes, but underneath her tough exterior, she was a fiercely committed African American woman. She had the strange tendency to “adopt” those she approved of, and so James became to her a son of sorts. Funnily enough, in Bettie's mind, his name wasn't James but “Sugar”. He supposed at the end of the day he appreciated her babyish doting, as no one ever paid too much mind to him after he was released. Despite disliking most forms of social contact, he could make do with a friend or two.
They brought him back into reality.
Sometimes he had dreams he was running through Silent Hill, just running and running. Dozens of monsters at every corner, tearing at his sleeves, the lapels of his green jacket. Spraying that hot, black, sulfurous gas at him, and him falling to the ground and choking helplessly as three or four of them slowly closed in.
A young woman and her little girl were standing at the counter, wanting some information on the due dates for a certain package. He was at the coffee machine, and his cup was a second from overfilling.
“Does this have free economy shipping? It said on the website that if I sent it in, it'd be free..”
James would have loved to say something like Look, lady, if the damn website says it, then take their word for it! Of course, he was far too reserved for such a remark. “..Yes, it's free.”
Technically, he wasn't even supposed to be talking to her; he just went out to the coffee machine to get a quick drink and the lady immediately addressed him. Where was Marjorie?
The woman handed the package to him as if she was expecting this answer, and he placed it in the back room so he could label it properly. Marjorie was really the person who was supposed to be doing this for him. Victoria herself laid down the law: “Your job is in the back, so stay in the back.”
He always felt a little guilty when he inadvertently disobeyed her, but most of the time it was just an honest mistake. Every now and then someone mistook him for a front desk person and asked him questions.
He wished that people would stop treating him like he was too dangerous to be around others. He wasn't that crazy—who did they think they were dealing with? A reformed serial killer? A former Mafia hitman?
James closed the door behind him and sighed. Just 1 more hour and his shift would be over. Despite the occasional anxiety this job would bring, he did have to admit that he lucked out. Victoria was meticulous enough to get him an interview with USPS, despite everyone telling him he'd never be able to get a government job with his felony. And she miraculously landed him with 1st shift. James used to loathe jobs that didn't let you loose until it was late, but back then he actually had something to go home to.
The subway car ricketed from side to side every now and then, pushing people forward and back again. A few people bumped into him without an apology. He didn't mind as much anymore—it used to be that he would bump into someone in the lunch line in jail and get pummeled for it, even if he apologized. Any accidental act was seen as a blatant challenge to their manhood or something—it was insane. It was dangerous even to brush up against someone, because depending on who you crossed, they could either take it as a hostile gesture or a sexual invitation. James shivered. He was one of the lucky ones. He was only taken advantage of twice, with both times being practically unconscious so he didn't have to actually feel a foreign man's hands dragging over his skin.
The car stopped. He turned and waited for the pregnant woman in front of him to pass, and out of the corner of his eye, he spotted a girl who had been staring at him. Her blond hair stopped midway down her back. Two side sections of her hair were tied back with a girly butterfly clip. In the daze of the moment, people scoffed and jostled past him. One particularly rude old lady expressed the disapproval of the passengers when she cried “Move it!”
James unwillingly turned away from the girl as she exited the car. Alas, when he reached the platform and looked around, she was nowhere to be found.
His thoughts were suddenly whirring like a blender. That couldn't really be her, could it? He hadn't seen her since the day he was arrested. The last he heard about her was from Joseph, and he said she was living in Brahms—a day and a half away from Ashfield. He furrowed his brows and walked up the stairs. There's no way she could have found him again. Why would she want to walk around in a ditch like this?
Finally at home, James switched on the TV. He was hoping they would mention Cybil Bennett in the news—after all, Ashfield is close to Silent Hill, and quite a few people from this town vanished there, so she would be more than relevant for a news story. After a long 15 minutes, in which various reporters went on about upcoming events in the town and the new YMCA Center that would be here in the summer, they aired a short segment on the until-now missing police officer.
Cybil Bennett, a cop that went missing in Silent Hill in 1984, has reemerged into the public eye after nearly 20 years of absence that caused her case to run cold. Following an arrest at the Dalewood Bar for threatening the owner, authorities say she carried more than 5 fake ID's with her, along with various items...
She looked like a hag now. She had to be pushing 50, because her photos on the internet before the time she disappeared would put her at her late 20's, early 30's, tops. She had to have been at least as old as he was when he went to Silent Hill.
...Had ventured to Silent Hill all those years ago with a young writer named Harry Mason, who died in 2001, brutally murdered by an unknown assailant...
Harry Mason? He had a daughter who also went missing in Silent Hill, but she turned up a few days later...
Authorities have not yet confirmed if she will be investigated for his death, but our sources have confirmed she is currently in custody and is being questioned about the events that led to her disappearance...
...We will update you with any further information...
'They'll all laugh at her, James thought sadly. No one would ever believe her, just like Joseph and Victoria never believed him. He turned off the TV and stretched out his body on the couch. His eyes closed again. He began and ended his days this way, couch-ridden and drowned in his thoughts.
If Laura really was on the subway car, then wouldn't she have said something? Or maybe she was just a figment of his imagination, like Maria..
Maybe this whole thing was just a dream, and he would wake back up in his cold cell, wondering how long he had been out.
“James?” The graveyard was shrouded in fog and the headstones were indiscernible. He almost expected Angela to emerge from the mist, with that lost, watery look in her eyes. But no ghosts appeared. Only her distant voice, calling him every now and then to make sure he was following behind.'
A while passed without a word, and then the fragrant pine trees and thick fog gave way to the road. He still couldn't see her from here. Had he lost her somewhere?
“What are you going to do now?” she wrapped her small fingers around the back of his hand. He turned to her and smiled sadly.'
“I...don't know, Laura.” He turned his attention back to the road again. “..What are you going to do?”'
She squeezed his hand. “I dunno. I'll stay with you if that's ok. I don't want to go back to that smelly orphanage.” She looked at him. “You'll keep me, won't you?”