Can I Come In? By Matthew Perrett www.mattperrett.com firstname.lastname@example.org Hearing a knock at the door of his rundown Sector 5 house, an old man opened it to reveal a wiry young man with spiky blonde hair, piercing blue eyes and a large canvass bag slung over his shoulder. "Hi, I’m Cloud Strife," said the youth with a broad grin, "member of AVALANCHE and champion of the oppressed and downtrodden. Can I come in?" The man paused, trying to find the appropriate response. "Uh—" "Thanks!" replied Cloud as he pushed past him. "That was a rhetorical question, by the way, because I CAN come in! Heh, I crack myself up." Marching into the building, the warrior wasted no time in rifling through the man’s possessions. Whenever he found something of interest, it went into the sack without a moment’s hesitation. The homeowner sputtered with rage, appalled by the youth’s audacity. "Who are you, and why are you ransacking my home?!" Cloud slapped his forehead and tsked with annoyance. "Geez, I knew I forgot something." Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a small rectangular card and handed it to the man. "Here’s my business card." He then returned to tossing the house enthusiastically. The old man looked the card over. "This is an elementary school hall pass," he said, confused. A few stray red spots caught his eye, and a chill ran down his spine when the realization hit him. "Is...is this blood?" "Oh yeah, some Shinra soldiers followed me into the last house I visited and shot the place up," stated Cloud matter-of-factly as he went through the elderly gentleman’s closet. "Real tragedy, too – they broke a nice piece of materia I had my eye on." Wandering into the bathroom, he opened up the medicine cabinet. "Hey, potions!" he exclaimed happily as he dropped them in the sack. "But I need those potions to live!" stammered the man impotently, struggling to keep up with the invader. "Yeah, well, Vinnie at the item shop gives me 25 gil a pop for them," said Cloud as he stomped into the kitchen and began searching the cupboards.
The homeowner stared at Cloud with shock. "Vinnie doesn’t run an item shop – he’s the local fence!" Cloud gestured dismissively. "Hey, if it walks like a duck and buys the worthless junk I find, then it must be a duck. Besides, I need the money." "To live?" the old man whimpered, lips quavering. "Haha, no!" laughed Cloud, striking a bodybuilder’s pose. "You see these guns? No, I’m saving up for a sweet vacation home in Costa Del Sol." He glanced inside the refrigerator, then pulled out a carton of milk and sniffed cautiously. "You know, I think this milk’s getting old." Shrugging, he tipped his head back and drained it. Tossing the empty container in the sink, he wiped his mouth on his arm and headed for the entrance. "Thanks for your hospitality, citizen," said Cloud as he shook the despondent man’s hand vigorously, "but I’m off to fight tyranny and injustice. If Shinra comes by, tell them Cloud Strife said to take a long walk off a short pier." With that, he dashed out the door, his bag of ill-gotten goods in tow. "Cloud, get back here!" yelled a huge black man with a gun for a hand as he ran up to the house. Looking down at the victimized homeowner, he rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly. "I’m, uh, really sorry about this – we’re trying him on some new medication," he said with some embarrassment. He pressed a small pile of gil into the elderly man’s hands. "I hope this covers everything." "You should be careful out here, miss," the two could hear Cloud say in the distance. "There are some real lunatics prowling these streets!" "I gotta go," the large man stated simply, then charged down the street. "Cloud!" Sighing, the defeated man closed the door gingerly. Silently walking through his ruined home, he got into bed and pulled the covers over his head. Finally alone, he wept quietly as he tried to rock himself to sleep.