Dirt Angels

[09.23.99] » by Matthew Shuele



There are. Uhm. Maybe not. I ought to begin at. What. The beginning? Uhm. Not really, no, but anyway.

When we were just little kids there was this page in our science book. Was two kids in Icicle making snow angels... uhm. In the snow. Which was all over the ground there. The snow, I mean.

Sorry. I'm not really that healthy. People tell me I don't. Er. Don't talk correctly. I guess I don't. Sometimes know what word it is I'm looking for, but not what the word is. Well, you know what I mean. I think. I talk like I think, and I don't have trouble thinking.

There were these snow angels, and after school Lena said that let's make snow angels and I said that all right, we needed to find some snow though. We looked all afternoon for some snow, because we were kids and forgot the plate. All the snow was on the top of the plate. So we thought that what could we use instead, and what we thought of was nothing.

A block from our house was this pile of compost, which is dirt. And we said that wouldn't this be perfect? and started making angels in the dirt and we drew little halos over their heads.

And we had made these two angels when my mother came by and dragged us out of the dirt, and told us that don't you know that's compost? you shouldn't be rolling in the dirt and that sort of thing.

But they stopped bringing compost, and the dirt angels stayed there.

There are four ways people use materia. One is that they don't use it. Two is that it's jewelry. Three is for its magic. Seems there's magic in the things, the little marble-sized crystals. People have learned just to call out the name of the materia, and it'll. It'll do something. Fireballs or floods or lightning or things. Or summon monsters.

Yeah, well. I use the fourth way. Magic can do things to your brain. Can take you away to someplace totally different, can leave you but nearly unconscious and gibbering 'til it wears off. To get it to your brain, you get it in your blood. To get it there, you need it inside your body. And to get magic inside your body (interpret literally,) you need to swallow it. Materia.

Well I can feel each particle of air that touches my face. Chlorine in my hair feels like some kind of weight laid on me, and I feel dirty all over. Looking over now and no one else is in the bed, so that leaves I guess maybe five possibilities.

Underneath the bed's the weight of what I think's an Odin but might not be. Could wake me up, maybe, so I'll do that. Smooth and glassy on the outside, like a marble, and as it rolls off the back of my tongue I always think I'll choke. But I don't ever. Choke.

Suddenly I'm riding what appears to be convulsing muscle, which is disgusting, but then there's hair and fur on the moutside of the muscle and then a saddle and it's turned into a horse. The horse's rib cage is torn open and he has exactly the number of legs a horse doesn't have, but it's still that. That I'm connected with another living being, hammering across the open field. Comfortable weight of a sword's in my hand, and it must be Odin. I must.

Which is good as there's a monster, a sort of thing with a head and jaws that are. Ah. Gnashing. Right, and claws on its hands and three legs and a tail. Where I swing out the sword, not tense but fast and fluid, and it hits an... er. Vertebra. Resistance at first, and then the sword slips through and I don't even feel the muscle or skin it goes past after that. It's just the monster's head comes off.

Riding a horse. Killing a beast. A lungful of fresh morning air, bits of dew, smells like a monster. I could do this for just as long as I need to. But don't, cause I need more to wake up than to be Odin.

And do. Standing in the shower, turning the faucet, and that's when I remember the showerhead's been broken for a week. Wonder where and when I took my last shower, or even what happened last night would be nice.

Look down out of curiosity and see it looks like my stomach's partly caved in. Hmm.

Few minutes later I'm dressed and looking in the refrigerator, but what's left is some mutant pudding and a carton of milk cooking in its own juices. Actually, I don't think there's been food here for a while.


Don't really want to walk all the way downstairs and out the door to bum money off some folks and maybe a Fire could help but I'm not sure I wouldn't feel worse afterwards.

I woke up at nine. Three hours later, I'm ready to go. Something crashes as I leave. Ceiling fan fell out and split the kitchen table in two, it looks like, but I haven't got the time to deal with it anyway.

I want to be feeling. No. That's not it. I do have a phrase I use. It just doesn't start like that.

Been taking too many materia, I think. Swallowing too many. I can't remember the phrase. Happy, that was it. To be happy.

I want to be happy or dead. There. If life goes on after this I want it to be good. Or otherwise, I want annihilation. Think I'll probably get one of them.

Joe Midgar as has his wallet pretty loose in his back pocket is walking down the street and not noticing me, which is absolutely okay. Business suit look to him probably means he's from very familiar with the weight of the wallet. Would notice it missing? Probably. Notice a few notes gone? Not 'til I was far, far away.

So that was the trick. How I could get the notes out.

Getting toward a crowd and he still hasn't noticed me, so that's my best bet. The lines of people parted as he went in and I follow, and I manage to brush his wallet away casually.

Right. I had been right. So he starts looking for it and I got a few 200 notes. Cost 50 gil to get a potion with all the inflation going on, and Materia's nothing cheap either. Cumulative sixer would get me something to eat, at least.

That's as when the guy finds me. What he sees is a guy dressed in unfashionably ripped street attire, shoulder-length black hair, goatee, dark glasses, holding his wallet. Starts in yelling to the tone of that I was getting busted, but I hand him the wallet and ask:

"Is this yours?"

Flusters him, which was nice. He takes the wallet and stomps off.


Bones is a normal street person, name aside. When you look at him, you don't see his name is what I mean. Hadn't recognized the voice he would have scared me, because today he looked even more totally normal. Blonde hair's normal, brown eyes're normal, outfit's normal. This is where I am now, so. Uhm.

"Bones. Hey."

"Right. You got a job yet?"

"Uhm. No. Ten thou's left over from the last one, and I'm chipping away't that."

"And stealing for food."

"Well. Yeah. You look like you have a job, though."

"In a manner of speaking, I guess. I take donations for the FBFNY."

"I thought that was volunteer work. And what's the FB... well?"

Grins, which's a good sign. "In order, not in my case and the Fund to keep Bones in Food for the Next Year."

"Ah, man." I smile back. "Handouts."

"All in the way you look at it," says he.

"I've six hundred off the suit," I tell him. "We'll get Lena and head to lunch, all right?"

"Uh, sure. I can cover part of that."

I begin to agree, yeah, and suddenly I'm feeling it. As if my mind's sinking down into something. Something it's not usually in. It's usually high above. Or at has been, since I started taking magic.

And it hurts.

"Can you field all of it today?" A little sheepishly.

"Uh. You're getting it?"


"What've you got at the apartment?"

"Two Fires and a Bolt." Cheap tricks, little highs are those. Not less expensive for it.

"No good. Where's the Odin?"

"Got me out of bed."

"Agh, fer godsakes!" Looks about ready to grab me by my jacket and shake me. "I think there's another thing as'll do that. What is it... er... water, idiot!"

"Sorry." I'm looking vaguely at his shoes. "I. Uh. I can't remember last night. Was just feeing particularly low, is all. It's nothing. I just need something better's all."

"Fine. Lena, lunch, and the store. In that order."

"The store before lunch." Less a demand than a plea.

He concedes.

I met Bones in high school. We got ejected for drug use on the same day.

Protested that magic's not a drug, but no one wanted to listen. And in many way's it's not, but applicably. Uhm. Applicably, it is. Never went back after that, did either of us. Drifting from job to job, buying materia when we could.

People don't even think of it as a drug. It's like we're sniffing glue or some such. It's a weapon when it's not decorative.

Bones has a short fuse, but he's gotten me out of the gutter more than once. Appreciate that. Er. I do. Appreciate that. Taken magic for the higher consciousness aspects, the Mind of the Planet as it's called 'cause it gives you a glimpse into the sort of state of the energy of the planet, but he's into it pretty much but for the high and the trip.

Don't much appreciate that, myself. Student of Cosmo Canyon that I am. Well, I've never actually been there. But I've read all the books.

Lena lived with her aunt and uncle until the pain got to where she couldn't. Tired of being a punching bag for his frustrations. She damn as should have been.

She had brown hair most of the time I knew her, but now it's a sort of slick, wet black and it hangs in loose strands all over. She's always wearing some solid-color blouse (olive or other dark, usually,) a black skirt, dark leggings that have been pretty well torn up but that she wears anyway, and a pair of shoes she says she can feel the ground through. I don't doubt it.

We've always been friends and she came to me when she ran away because of it. Not 'cause I'm attracted to her, exactly, but just because we're friends. The best friends. She stole their car, too, which is convenient for all of us. Her aunt and uncle's car.

Thinking of it now I don't get attracted to anyone. Women or men. At 18 I should be, more than at any other time. I'm not. Can't, I don't think, I just want someone to be there for me and to be there for. Some people make me feel safer than others.

The three of us graffitied our names on the wall behind the Wire in Wall Market once. Mine's still there, Bones' is still there, only a few letters of Lena's can be seen. And you know, we did it just as to leave something meaningful behind. We tried to spraypaint an angel on there too, but the blue can ran out and we didn't think the other colors would be. Er. Appropriate.

Her car's in the apartment parking lot and that's where we are, too.

"Music?" Lena asks.

"Ex Machine, track 3," responds Bones robotically. Of course. Nothing else's quite right for us three. The sounds of electric guitars, organs, and bass, and the drums, fill the car. Singer starts in and it's perfect, and we've left the speed limit behind before we're out of the lot. She's an excellent driver, is Lena.

Sector 7's the home of the materia shop. Bones is opting out, says he's trying to cut down.

"Whatever. You'll go back." Lena echoes all our thoughts. Says also that she wants a Restore and puts the notes in my palm.

Shop looks like all of the sector inside, assmbled from sheets of metal and tin and wood and whatever else anyone can find and it's completely patchwork. That's all right, though.

"Get outta my shop, Averley. I know ya swallow the stuff."

Not what I expected. I pointed to my one materia earring. "This wasn't swallowed."

"Ya swallow the rest. You and yer other swallowers out there. The Bones kid and that chick with the greasy hair. Get outta my shop."

My experience that he had a shotgun under the counter. Flip him the bird and walk out. I tell them-- tell Bones, actually, 'cause Lena is playing with an emaciated little puppy, looks like it hasn't been ever taken care of, that could have rabies or some such. She's acting just like. Er. Like a little kid. She does that at times. Others she's utterly serious. I like it personally, not the mood swings as accompany it but the rest, yeah. T'look at her I realize that maybe she's forgotten all the rest of the world, but that's where all of her. All of our. Troubles are. The Rest Of The World. Lena's happy and I feel it too. She's happy and shining in the darkness of the slums.

Bones looks normal enough and he'll go in. Lena'd probably catch a load of buckshot, honestly-- doubt the storekeep'd say it if he didn't mean it. The meantime I knock open the paper machine with a rock. Shinra, Rufus especially, owns the papers and doesn't like anything getting out could harm their reputation. I still don't believe Sephiroth is dead. Sure, there have been sightings by some hillbilly's great-aunt or something, that kind of thing, but there have just been so many I can't believe he's dead. That he could die so easy as they said. Shot or something, I think.

Sephiroth, there's a guy I can admire. Intellectual, yeah, military totally aside, always seeking to better understand his knowledge of the Planet and the Universe. Through magic. Doubt he takes magic, though. As I said it's an obscure thing, no one outside the big cities's probably aware it can even be done.

Load of buckshot knocks the door open, and Bones, ducking and scrambling to his feet, is telling the shop owner where he can stick his "little prick of a gun." Tapping Lena on the shoulder, and she's actually so startled she jumps. Puppy runs off toward the bar nearby, disappearing under the door.

The car. We're there, now.

"I don't like Ex Machine," Lena tells us in a way we can be pretty sure is true. Puts in some sort of mood music CD instead.

"That guy's such a bonehead... er... idiot," Bones tells us. "Of course we're gonna get the stuff anyway. Just the priced-up junk from Doc."

Doc Piper sells materia, but his big thing's cooking them. Cooking's modifying materia artificially. Most of what he sell's cooked. Says he gets the real stuff from a guy named Doom Walters-Jacobson, who supposedly supplies everyone in Midgar. He sells only to trippers. No doctor at all, of course, but Piper's from that he sells from some kind of disused sewer pipe with a room on the other end. That's Sector 5, pretty quick drive away. Shinra MP don't like that too much, though. Taking magic, or buying from Doc.

"Hey." Thought the paper headline was about when Avalanche blew up the Sector 1 reactor. Shock to everyone, 'cause no one thought anyone could penetrate that. Uhm. The fortress. Barret Wallace, least of all. I talked to Barret a couple times... on the Net, never real... also studies the Planet, though he lived at Cosmo Canyon for a while. Didn't take magic, though.

Everyone's looking at me, I realize I've been lost in thought. "They got another one." Holding up the headline, and Bones and Lena study it. Sector 5 this time.

Definitely true, 'cause we're driving into that sector and can actually see where a space in the. Er. Where a space in the plate has been blown open. Piles of debris by the roadside; more evidence.

Had to walk from the nearest lot to Doc Piper, but we got some stuff worth having. Crawling into the grimy pipe-- moss or something in here, and then we meet the man in his lab. Bottles, vials, beakers, and materia are all over the many shelves and tables. Doc, a piggy little fat man in a biohazard jumpsuit as hasn't got the logo of the place he stole it from totally rubbed off the back.

"Averley, Bones, and Lena. My favorite customers," he greets us.

"What've you got today?" Bones. Weak resolution that last one was.

"A beauty." Holds up a green marble labeled "poison." "A Shinra cook, leaked from the lab. Doom's got a friend inside."

"Poison?" I'm not into masochism. "Like, porn?"

"Like a bullwhipping and porn at once," he says with a grin. "This's what they use to cast Bio, so you know it's some rough ride."

"Not interested." Lena makes it clear.

"Ah, come on. Free with three others."

"I've got a Restore coming." Lena exchanges the notes for the materia.

"Not for me, anyway," says Bones.

"What else's good?" Me again.

"Hmm. Revive. You're into spirituality, aren't you?"

"Yeah. Sure."

"Six thou."

"Like hell! They've got it for three at Junon. I've been there."

"You won't find it cheaper in Midgar."



"Three." No bartering for me today. Pounding in my head's getting worse and dipping that far into my ten thou freaks me out a little. He grudgingly accepts. Working up a debt with a street cook's no good idea; he gets the money right there.

"One more for a free Poison," he tells us.

"We're not into masochism." There's Lena says my thoughts aloud again.

"I'll take Destruct." Bones shoving a fistful of notes at him. Doc's face lights up, obviously getting more'n it's worth. Let him, says I.

Lena has a friend. Uhm. That's not me. Or Bones. Her only friend that's a girl besides her sister who was killed in a car with a drunk driver.

Her name's Charlotte and she's a prostitute. Not a streetwalker-- works at a brothel in Wall Market. Corneo's place, the Honeybee Inn. Treated well, lives well, makes money as I understand-- just once in a while, she gets. Well. Like one of the great poets of our time says, "paid to do the wild thing."

Like her job requires, Charlotte's slender and beautiful and hair-dyed (blonde) and immodest. She takes magic also. Don't say "swallows" 'cause that sounds like, well, sex, and because it's an insult, probably also because it sounds like sex.

Still a little freaked about dropping three thou at Doc's, so Lena paid for lunch. Johnny's, a pizza place. Decent, I guess. Never eat better personally. I guess I could go crawling back to my mother and whatever's left of the rest of the family... but not either sure that'd work. Saving my Revive for later. I did the Poison, though not particularly enjoying it. Just to keep the craving away.

Lena's doing the Restore in the backseat and letting Bones drive. I look like a vegetable when I'm under, Bones says, but she looks like a sleeping angel. Every bit like one. Look at her again and I think about the last time I was as happy as that. Took realizing I wouldn't be in debt for at least another two months, about a month ago. Took money, is what it took. That you can't buy happiness is untrue... I did.

But I look at Lena, and here in the slums she's been truly happy twice today. No money involved either time. I call myself a philosopher. Maybe less that and more a hypocrite. Probably.

Wall Market's next stop, though I made it clear that my wallet's mine alone here. Just looking around, probably stop in with Charlotte to talk, I don't know.

Being with Lena and Bones's a lot of fun. No two people on the Planet I'd rather be with. Thing is, now. Hmm. My life's divided into two parts mostly: having fun and feeling crappy. Blurring a little more now as I think about it actually. I need a job. I could wash cars or maybe... I dunno... I carry a Quicksilver. I can hit with it. Bodyguard, maybe? Or I could join Avalanche. Don't much like the Shinra myself either. I'd clean restrooms at the Saucer even, if I could make money out of it.

Probably spend it on materia, though.

Honeybee Inn's all flash and trash inside. Much's you'd expect, really. One of Charlotte's friends in the hall, Nikki or something. We caught her there. She's wearing a bathrobe and I doubt anything under it as she heads for the hot tub. President Shinra's in there, it sounds like. Heh. Married, last I understood. Maybe not for long. Charlotte's not busy, she's in the dressing room at the moment. We start for that.

Lena says of course Bones and I have to stay outside. Yeah, I guess so. She opens the door and we catch a glimpse of a large group of men in spandex. Red-faced, she tries another door and this time we get the dressing room. Door closes behind her and a few seconds later she comes running out in a panic, and yelling. We run in, as does everyone else within earshot.

Uhm. Lots of young ladies in various states of undress inside, including one in a short, near-skintight dress who's choking, gagging, and coughing up blood. Charlotte. Her face's splattered with it. The blood.

Suddenly get an idea and I get behind her and slam my fists into her stomach. Out comes a materia orb caked with bright, warm blood. Charlotte tips over, holding her side. The other girls have backed to the corners of the room.

Getting medical attention now. Charlotte is, I mean. Decided that might not be a good place to be.

Wall Market provided dinner too, graciously out of Bones' wallet. "No one'll say I didn't help my friends." Some sort of imported meats and fruits. Normally'd be way out of our price range but they're. Uhm. Older than they should probably be selling them so we got them cheap. Only been a little queasy since, luckily, though Lena disappeared to the ladies' room once.

Admiring our handiwork at the Wall now, and what do we find but the red paint of my name has been covered with a much larger layer. The "A" is taller than me now.

Above that's "No Mercy," painted in dull green, the "O" a skull.

"Mercy Boys?" asks Bones disgustedly.

No Mercy gang, or to their detractors, the Mercy Boys. Bunch of street punks as think it's fun to knock people around a little. Especially we philosophers. Lena's as philosophical as I am. I don't think I said that already.

"Looks like," begins Lena, "but what's their feud with you, Averley?"

"Hmm." Suddenly I remembered what had happened last night. "Scared a bunch of them off with a bottle rocket and my Quicksilver."

"I wouldn't mess with them were I you," she tells me, and looks genuinely concerned. "Maybe we should all go to your apartment tonight."

Bones looks like he likes the idea. Likes it a lot. I know Lena better'n he does, and thus too that she's pretty innocent. Imagine she knows what a threesome is, but that she'd do it or even imply it like that's unlikely.

Right, though. Sector 5's Mercy Boy turf, not a good place to be when they're angry with you. Being with Lena would be nice. As I said, some people make me feel safer than others.

Bones's looking in kinda semi-awe at the attack of the ceiling fan. Lena's on the couch, reading one of my tattered philosophy volumes, Seto's Twining Life Forces. All about the Lifestream and Mako and such. I call it magic, they can call it Mako if they want. Magic no less. I ask Bones why he wanted the Destruct... can kill you if you do it unfiltered, after all. He won't answer.

Lena. I'm looking over at her. She looks excited, looks hopeful. Hope's left me. Scares me... And she has hope. She sees hope in everything. Hope one day things'll be perfect. Because she's ever. She's ever striving for the beauty in things, for love. I want to but I just can't see that sometimes, can't see where love is part of some things. At all. Bones doesn't really care... wants to live and enjoy life for himself. But Lena never gives up.

It's getting late and we're all tired. Mattress on the floor'll be enough for Bones, who drops off easy. I offer Lena the bed, and I'll take the couch.

I'm beginning to fall asleep, feeling the comfortable weight of the Revive in my pocket when I hear the door open. Grab for the pistol, the Quicksilver, but my jacket's hung up somewhere else. Then I realize it's the bedroom door.

Lena looks silhouetted at first, but my eyes adjust. Moving, she's doing something.

Actually she's opening her blouse.

Following that, just standing in the doorway, skin and bones for lack of a decent meal in a long time, naked to the waist. Looking at me expectantly, trying to force a smile. I don't know what to do.

And as it turns out, I don't have to. She looks into my eyes for the longest time, and then clasps her hands over her chest, starts crying, and runs back into the bedroom. Again like a kid, and it wakes Bones. Lights go on.

Suddenly I'm at her side, trying to comfort her, and she regains composure pretty fast. I hand her her shirt, and she's buttoning it so quickly she makes a mistake, then another trying to fix it, and then just turns her back, opens it again, and begins to manage that a little more carefully.

"Why'd you do it?"

"I thought you wanted me to." Hints of a sob in her voice, but otherwise normal.

"I want you to..." I started. Gave it some thought actually, as I wasn't quite sure. "I want you to be happy."

"Yeah?" She turns toward me, having closed her blouse completely.

"If you want to do that... do. If you don't want to, don't."

"Well." Smiles, a little sadly. "I do kind of like you. I mean besides being my friend. Can't think of anyone I'd be safer with, actually. Or rather be with."

"Really. As I kind of like you, too." I thought about that.

"Love, though?"

"Maybe." Gave that some thought, too. "Maybe in a completely different way. Maybe we are in love, but in a completely different way." Bones had stepped outside. Smart move.

"I hadn't thought of that," Lena says. "Well... hmm." Another long pause, and then. "Well... thanks. Anyway." She's not sobbing at all anymore. "For being a friend."

We embrace briefly, and it's a better feeling than any I could've gotten from letting her go through with her. Eh. Her course of action earlier.

"The night's yet young," says Bones from the doorway. "Let's go." Agreeable sentiment it is, and we're off.

Some people think Lena cries a lot. I notice she's happy a lot. Most people down here just cry.

She's emotional. Very. More than usual. Would say that. Er. Adheres to gender stereotype but I should tell you something. Down here there are no gender stereotypes. Any purposes other than reproductive, there're no genders.

It's just she's emotional. Is all. But she never once's cried over lost money or a lost thing. Unless it was given to her by someone. When she cries it's a lost person, maybe a lost emotion. Always. Such as anyone's got a right to cry over. That maybe more people should.

Didn't particularly find a party anywhere worth going to, at least not one we could get to without going through. Through Sector 5. Mercy Boys'd be jumped-up, past midnight as t'was.

Break came when Charlotte called up and said she had a membership with this club, the. Something. Anyway, and could get us in as guests for nominal charge. That's where we're headed now.

"Hey." Both look at me. Well, I'll talk. "Either of you ever thought of what we'll be doing in five years?"

Pause for a while. Says Bones then, "Still living on the street... I guess."

"Yeah? I dunno, but I sort of. I sort of doubt it."

"Agree," agrees Lena. "We're going to have to do something... be someone."

"I dunno about that." Bones. "Lots of guys on the street."

"Not looking so good, though," I remind him. "We're still young, still healthy compared to most of them. We still have a chance to be something."

"Philosophers?" Lena laughs. "No one's paid to philosophize."

"For my. For my part," and this is from me, "I'm enjoying. What it is I'm doing. It's just that... magic addict, pickpocket, street person. You know. Think I can have a future maybe, but this can't be it. Stop the car." Bones stops it.

"Guys." Holding out my hand, and I've got their attention. "Promise me. We're going to save some money, job or stealing or handouts or whatever. Then leave Midgar, or get plane tickets to Cosmo Canyon. Go there and we begin again, we start all over. Be something. Do something. Not steal and hurt and go to sleep every night hoping you wake up in the morning. We'll do that?"

"I will." Lena smiles and puts her hand on mine.

"Hhh. I still don't know." Bones. Lena has the right retort:

"Then you need to get out of the car."

Long silence.

Bones says nothing but puts his hand in.

Brick punches a hole in the back windshield, landing between Lena and me. Windshield sags, shattered glass litters the seat and floor. Turn around and sure enough there's the Mercy Boys, eight of them tonight, punk as ever. In Sector 7. One mouths at us that "get out the car." Realizing we've driven right into a dead end. Sure, Mercy. Roll my Revive under the backseat... better for it not to be on me.

"You dropped your brick," says Bones, and shoves it into the lead punk's stomach, hard. Guy doubles over and staggers back, another one goes for his crowbar and knocks Bones onto the truck of the car. Waved off, but he's angry. The guy as waved him off takes it upon himself to. To get revenge. Seizing Lena's collar and pulling her face even with his:

"Hey, swaller girl." Truly inept just say 'swaller.' "Spit or swaller?"

Mercy Boys find this really funny which's why I pull the Quicksilver and wave it over them. Near half of them, fresh off the streets, nearly piss their pants. Other four get their crowbars and pipes ready. One has a gun.

"Bad idea, Averley," one of them says, and then there's a crowbar snapping my sunglasses in half over the bridge of my nose. Pretty sure I'm bleeding as I fall and I apologize silently to Lena for whatever they're about to do to her car. I go unconscious before I hit the ground.

Nose is broken. I can feel that. Hhh.

On my back is something, like the fur on Odin's horse. Dirtier, though. Things stuck in it too. I'm soaking wet. My mind gets to explaining these things. Second is the car's roof is gone, car's been dragged to the outskirts the plate doesn't quite cover, and it's raining. Lightly now, but must have been harder earlier. Sky's a uniform grey above me, like one huge cloud. Sometimes the sky does. Seem like one huge cloud.

First is I'm lying shirtless on the floor of the car's backseat. Less my jacket's less my Quicksilver... Mercy Boys don't need another gun... and less my. Ugh. My wallet. Had 7400 gil left, 4400 of which was in there.

Three thou total. It doesn't sound good.

Getting up, I see the stereo's been ripped out, too, and the steering wheel is gone. Bones is in the front seat, still unconscious. Can't wake him up, but the glove compartment is open and...

Inside is a mass of long, stringy black hair.

One thousand possibilities race through my mind before I see the trunk barely open. Open it more and there's Lena, stuffed into the trunk, her head shaved erratically.

Got a razor with me. Figuring it's the most humane thing to do, I remove the. Uhm. The few patches of hair they left on. She doesn't look too bad now. Not too bad.

Wakes up in my arms, now on the dirt ground outside the car. I'm kneeling, holding her head in my hands.

"I'm sorry," I tell her. "I'm sorry." She can see my eyes now, and not sure if I'm comfortable with her seeing my eyes. "I don't know how to. To say this, but..." and I don't. I just run a hand across her head. She understands immediately, closes her eyes, and I can see she's choking back tears. Almost crying over a lost thing but she won't let herself. With hair she was very pretty. And knew it, she knew it but didn't flaunt it or anything like that. Just knew it. In some ways she still is.

Puts a hand up to my chest, does Lena, bare skin on bare skin. We both feel better almost immediately. Moves her head up and we're embracing, sort of, at least I've one arm around her and her head is resting on my chest. Groan from the front seat and Bones is climbing groggily out.

"Damn," he says. Couldn't agree more. Myself.

Don't need to say much to explain. Our shared conclusion is. Is that we need to head back home. Still in Sector 7, so we're walking that way but before we get to the main street I remember and get the Revive.

"Mind if I take it? Only be a minute."

OK with them, as it seems, and I pop it down my throat.

I see the Planet. Mako's roiling around within it.

I see the Shinra building. Mako's being sucked out of the planet, into the building. It's draining the planet.

Then I see something entirely new. Doc's above the Shinra building. Mako's going on into his hands. Straight through the Building, into his hands.

Then we. Lena and Bones and me. We appear above Doc, and the Mako's going from his hands into our mouths. Then the vision scares me worse than ever before:

'cause Doc and Shinra vanish. And the three of us are drinking the planet's energy. The vision fades and--

--on my knees, looking up to the sky (we're under the edge of the plate now, though, so no sky to speak of,) and the others are asking what's wrong. I explain.

Right then and there we decide. We decide that we're not going to take any more magic. If we can still have decided that when the. When the sinking starts, we can really start again.

Starting again soon, we're starting again. All over this time, we're beginning anew. Wonderful feeling and we're walking happily down the street. Seems beyond people why a half-naked man and a woman with her head shaved should be jaunting merrily along a street in the slums but you know, let them wonder. We're happy. We walk past the dirt angels, and ten years after we made them they're there. Faded and filled in in places but the outlines are there anyway.

Two things happen in an instant. One is everybody turns, as one, to look at the plate. First is, we're assailed with a wall of pure noise. That's what it is. Pure noise.

Greatest and most ridiculous fear at once satisfied. Huge fiery blossom's blooming from above, where the pillar meets the plate. And then everything's coming down, the roof's descending, room's shrinking like a funhouse chamber.

A helicoptor's flying away from the explosion. Unmistakable symbol, it has.

"Shinra," I whisper. Last words I hear before the buildings start coming down is Bones cursing them. I felt like it too but could only stare at the plate.

Building debris started to hit us, and I went unconscious for the second time that day.

Blood covers one eye. Left eye. There's a cut above it. Head's throbbing but I'm not thinking about it so much.

Above me girders twisted into a canopy somehow, a shell twenty feet in diameter, rubble all above it, faint trickle of dust from the openings. Toward one side're the dirt angels, and lying near them's Bones, who looks terrible. Bruised and beat up.

"Alive?" he asks.


Panic. I look for Lena and find her... her shirt's been pulled up over her belly button, and a few inches below her waist she disappears under the rubble. It's on top of her. Get closer and I realize that some of it's through her. She's bleeding too.

Wipe the blood off my face and cradle her head in my hands again. "Averley?" she whispers.

"It's me," I say. Her eyes open. Alive.

"This is just fine," Bones hisses. "Buried alive. There's no way out." A long pause. "Except, of course." Two materia come rolling across the floor at us. Destructs, as labeled.

"I planned to spend all my money and go out with a bang last night," he explains shamefacedly. "And brought extras in case you wanted to go with me."

"Hmm." Lena smiles. Blood trickles from the corner of her mouth. "Suppose we took enough from the Lifestream. Now's time to give something back."

"Suppose," I agree.

A long, long silent time. There's sobbing, can hear that, but not from Lena. From Bones. Leaving behind everything. My eyes are stinging and I can feel the tears weling up and decide I don't need to hide it anymore. Tears splatter the ground but I'm quiet, not making a sound. Lena's eyes are closed, her tears running down her cheeks. Eventually. Eventually we. We all regain our composure.

In that time, I'm seeing things in a new light. Going to Cosmo Canyon, to remake our lives. Didn't get there I guess, but suddenly we had all our ideals right. I'm happy for the first time the material wasn't involved. The feeling's like I've suddenly been liberated-- rising, rising like taking magic gave me, but this isn't artificial. It's permanent-- so much it lives on after me, I think it will 'cause it was there and isn't going to die with me. What I've left to wish's just I could have spread the message.

In that time Bones's been remade. Utterly. Suddenly it's not all about him anymore. Remade. In that time, Lena's fully realized, shining like an angel in the pit. Pit's death, Destruct or not she's going to die. It won't be long. And yet she's happy and... beautiful. And doesn't seem to love the world a bit less for killing her.

"Never got to Cosmo Canyon, though." Bones walks over to us. "That sucks."

"Yeah. I guess not." Here's me again. Feeling awfully serene and even happy, 'cause we're going to die. And that's that. Stupid of me I realize, as when you die and I know that this is true, you never come back. The serenity's sort of. Well, it's sort of bitter in that way. Cause I had more to do, you know? But death isn't looking so bad, not death by Destruct anyway. Death by suffocation down here does. And anyway I'm glad maybe I don't quite really grasp it, because if I did I'm not sure I could take it. "Maybe though we didn't need to."

Lena chimes in, haltingly for. Uhm. Haltingly for her injuries. "Yeah. We can shine, wherever we are. Shine in Cosmo Canyon, or shine through all the trash of the city." Think about that for a moment. Uhm. I, though about that, for a moment, is what I'm trying to say.

"And we did shine," I assure them. "We shone."

"We shone," agrees Bones, and each of us takes a Destruct and clinks it like a glass. Toasts. Right. Kissing Lena lightly on the forehead, because it seems like the right last gesture to make.

And all at once, I lift the Destruct and in a minute I'm not going to be doing so much more thinking. But for a while, in the middle of the devastation, all that was left was us dirt angels. And we shone.


Others by this author
Others about this game