Entire Fiction (2004)
Disclaimer: I do not own Final Fantasy VII or any of its characters. They belong to Squaresoft.
Author's notes: Some explanation is in order. I originally wrote this as a creative writing assignment, in which there are two or more storylines happening simulaneousley. At random points in one storyline, the narrative suddenly switches to the other, no matter if it's in the middle of a sentence or the beginning of a new paragraph. So this story basically rotates between some different memories Aerith has. It makes much more sense after reading it the whole way through; each section is linked to the next. It should be fairly easy to tell where one memory merges into another. Any mistakes in dialogue are due to my laziness - didn't want to replay those scenes just to get the words... u.u
* * *
"There's nowhere to go," he told me, throwing himself down on the ground. He lay there for a while, staring up at the 'sky' and chewing on a blade of grass, which grew only in our garden.
"That's all right," I said, sitting down next to him. "Sometimes it's nice not to go anywhere."
"That's not what I meant." Zack raised his head and stared across the yard, at the gray buildings of Sector Five. "We're stuck in this slum. I'm a member of SOLDIER, first class, and I'm doomed to spend my life below Midgar."
I didn't answer. For me, the slums were the only home I'd ever known, but Zack was used to color and real sky and people who didn't carry knives and guns wherever they went. In the slums, weapons shops outnumbered houses almost two to one. I didn't mind. My house was clean and pleasant, with flowers and a waterfall flourishing outside, a haven from the dreariness of the slums. I pulled some bread out of my pocket and began to crumble it.
"What are you doing?" Zack asked.
"There are birds," I said. "Isn't that amazing? Even in the slums, there are birds."
"Only in here," he answered. It was true. Birds lived only around my house, and never flew beyond the fence line.
"Do you remember me?" I asked him, looking up from the flowers. He ran a hand through his hair, as yellow and spiky as the petals of a sunflower.
"Yeah," he said in Zack's voice. "You were selling flowers."
I smiled, pleased. "That's right. Thank you for buying one."
"Well, I've never seen flowers in Midgar before."
"They grow only here," I said half-truthfully. "It's from the holiness of this place...I love it here." I rose to my feet and walked to the other side of the flower bed.
"Excuse me. I'll be done in a second."
He didn't seem to mind, and took his time looking around the church, at the stained-glass windows and high rafters. "Name's Cloud. And you...?"
"Aerith," I said, smiling. "The flower girl."
"It's because of you," Zack continued. "You make the birds come and the flowers grow. The air even becomes cleaner when you're around, less polluted. It's like you're an angel or something."
"That's silly," I murmured, spreading the crumbs carefully in my hand and closing my eyes. "If I were an angel, I would be able to do something to ease the lives of those living in the slums, not just make flowers grow. I have a green thumb, that's all."
Through my closed eyes, I could feel Zack studying me.
"Sometimes," he said, "I don't think you're human."
I trembled in fear at his words, trying to hide myself behind my mother.
"Tell me the truth now," the Turk said. "Don't you dream of things that
haven't happened yet?
Don't you hear voices in your head when you're all alone?"
"No!" I cried. "I don't hear any voices and I never have!" I took a step back as he reached for me, then twisted out of my mother's arms and ran out the back door. Elmira's frantic cries and Tseng's curses faded as the peace of the church enveloped me. Sobbing, I stumbled inside and collapsed in front of the broken altar as the voices sang to me inside my head.
"You must be very careful," Mother said. "We are not like other people, you and I. But you must show that. You must be as human as possible."
"What are we then?" I asked, swinging my legs. It didn't much matter what I was. For me, it was enough to leave the lab behind. I stared out the train window at the slums rushing by.
"We are Ancients," Mother said, and I felt her wince in pain. The biotech lab had not been kind to her. "We were here before humans ever evolved into monkeys." And before I could speak, she pressed something into my hand.
"Take this, Aerith. It will be the greatest treasure you will ever own."
"Do you know how to use Materia?" I asked him.
He smiled, superior at last. "Sure I do. Why?"
"I have Materia, but it doesn't do anything." Reaching into my pocket, I pulled out the Materia that Mother had given me. After the briefest of touches, he handed it back with a wince.
"You're probably not using it right," he said finally, all smugness gone.
"No," I said. "I've been using Materia for years. This one just doesn't work with anything... it's good for nothing."
"Strange." Cloud looked at me with cornflower blue eyes that seemed too bright.
After a while, the voices started to sing again, telling me of life beyond Midgar.
"What are you doing?" Zack asked, shattering the song.
"Waiting for the birds." I smiled, feeling him shift into a more comfortable position beside me.
"Won't that take a long time?"
I laughed, knowing I looked ridiculous with my eyes closed. "Who cares? You said yourself we've nowhere to go, right?" I turned serious again. "That's one thing you've never learned in SOLDIER, Zack. You've never learned to be patient."
He shrugged. "I've never needed to feed the birds."
"It's nice to know that someone trusts you," I replied, "even if they are only birds."
I stopped him after a while. As I leaned against the pile of trash to catch my breath, he waited impatiently.
"I thought you were a SOLDIER elite," he teased. "Surely you're in better shape than this."
I shook my head. "You're terrible," I said, and we both laughed.
"You're in SOLDIER, aren't you," I said presently.
"Yeah," he said, surprised. "How could you tell?"
"Your eyes have a strange glow..."
He nodded. "The Mako infusion. Every SOLDIER elite is injected with it. I'm surprised you recognized it," he added. I shrugged.
"Someone I used to know was in SOLDIER. He was first class." I started walking again.
"So am I." Cloud caught up to me. "What's his name? Maybe I know him."
"He was nobody," I said flatly.
"That's right. Nobody."
Zack remained very still as the birds began to come, cautiously at first, then in greater and greater numbers. I could feel their excitement and life, small stars in the Lifestream. As I opened my eyes, the ever-swirling river of stars disappeared.
"Give me some crumbs," Zack said softly, holding out his hand. Without taking my eyes off the birds, I poured bread into his hands.
"Don't step on the flowers," I pleaded from the doorway. Rude ignored me and signaled to his men. I hesitated, torn, then ran through the door after Cloud. As I ascended the steps to the attic, I could feel the deaths of the flowers like little knife stabs as their stars winked out in the Lifestream. The pain made me stumble and only the urgent voices willing me on prevented me from turning back to save my flowers.
"My boyfriend and I used to come here a lot." I hugged my knees to my chest, staring out across the abandoned playground.
"The one in SOLDIER, right?" That stung, but I turned my face away so he wouldn't see.
"That's right. You look very much like him."
"Are you still together?"
"No. But I liked him for a while." Another half-truth. I hadn't seen Zack for ages, ever since he left on that assignment with Sephiroth.
"Why?" I teased, glancing sideways at him. "Are you jealous?"
"No," he said, too breezily. "Just wondering, that's all." Finally, all the crumbs were gone, and there was nothing to do except go inside.
"Mom will like having you over for dinner," I told him. "The food at the barracks doesn't sound very good."
He chuckled, brushing back a strand of my hair. "That's okay. Sephiroth wonders about us if we're not here."
"He sounds very demanding."
At that, he laughed out loud, although I couldn't see the joke. "You should meet him," he said, still grinning. "He's your type; very patient."
"Maybe." At the gate, he gave me a kiss, and was gone. The pain was incredible. I hadn't expected it to hurt this much, nor for there to be so much blood. Who knew there was so much blood inside a body? Still, I managed to finish my prayer before Sephiroth pulled his sword from my back. He said nothing, just looked at me with those silver eyes, angry and relieved that I wouldn't be there to haunt him anymore.
I wanted to tell him that I was sorry. My death wouldn't bring him peace, for Holy was already summoned and he had dared to kill in a place of creation. On this altar, the gods had created the world. It was impossible to kill here. But the words would not come. The blood was filling my mouth, and I had to cough it up to keep from choking. Did they promise that nothing could die here? If this pain, this burning throb of blood and disappointment wasn't dying, what was? I raised my head to find Cloud staring at both of us with something like horror and rage and anguish all mixed together.
I remembered then the Black Materia on Sephiroth's sword, the anti-thesis of White. No, I couldn't die, but I couldn't live, either.
I opened my hand and let the White Materia fall from the platform into the waters below. Then, regretfully and yet with a sense of relief, I gave myself up to the Planet. Aerith sat up in her bedroll, trying to find some order through the tears welling up in her eyes. Was it a true vision? Was she going to die at Sephiroth's sword? She had never thought about it before. She remembered other dreams that only warned her of danger. It was possible, after all, that this was all it was.
"No." She shook her head, smiling. It had to be all or nothing. She had dreamt of memories that only she possessed in full. To make those memories true, she had to obey the future.
With a sigh, she got to her feet, and with a last look at the golden, sleeping boy, started out across the plain towards the Forest of the Ancients. Soon, she was swallowed up by the night and the stars gleamed even brighter than before, as if to say that Aerith Gainsborough was already gone from the world.