"I don't know how long I passed out for. When I came to, the whole
house was in shambles.
Mrs. Ruvi laid there. When I called out to her she opened her eyes a little and told me she was glad that I was all right. Then she asked me to let her hold my hand. I held out my hand to her. Ruvi held onto my hand but I couldn't feel any strength in it at all. She told she couldn't hold her son's hand anymore because it's grown so big. I was glad I was still a kid. She asked what was happening outside. I was a bit worried but I went outside. It was morning. Everywhere around us was also a complete mess just like the inside of her house."
Denzel continued talking with his head hanging down while Reeve closed his eyes and listened.
After heading outside, Denzel looked back at Ruvi's home. He could see that all the windows were broken. It was the same with all the other houses that lied within the area. There were also houses that lost their roofs and houses that had big gaping holes in the walls. Everything ends in the same way after all. I came to think that even if I don't break things, they still end up that way. But I was mad at myself for thinking such a thing.
Ruvi went through such a horrible ordeal just to protect me and here I am acting as if I had nothing to do with it.
When I went back into the house, Ruvi seemed to be sleeping. She had such a peaceful look on her. I was worried though so I gave her shoulders a little nudge.
It didn't seem like she was going to open her eyes.
"Mrs Ruvi!", he shouted nudging harder this time.
A stream of black fluid came out of Ruvi's mouth. Thinking it was a sign of death, I panicked and wiped it away. There was even some flowing out of her hair. I felt sick. Denzel burst out of the house, fear gripping onto him.
"Dad! Mum! Help me!", he shouted loudly. He continued shouting out until he ran out of names. Now he could only cry.
"Hey, don't cry", someone's loud voice boomed as Denzel got his hair ruffled. A giant man with a deep black moustache stood before him. Behind the man was a small truck with around 10 people sitting in the back.
"What are you doing here? I thought the announcement on TV made it clear that everyone was to take shelter in the Slums."
It felt as if he was going to give me a bad scolding if I didn't give him a good answer. Quivering, I told him, "I didn't watch TV."
"Man! Everyone either thinks it'll be all right here or they say something like they didn't know!"
Everyone on the truck just looked like they made the wrong decision.
"And where's your family?"
"Mrs Ruvi is inside."
"The person's name was Gaskin. He buried Mrs. Ruvi for me. The people on the truck also helped. They buried her together with her son's book and her sewing kit in the back garden. The earth there was so thick there that it had everyone mystified. Usually you would hit the Plate in no time."
"I wonder if she was planning to grow vegetables or something. Since she came from the countryside, she would do a lot of that sort of thing.
"...I think she wanted to grow flowers.", Denzel answered as he looked at the pattern of flowers on his hankerchief.
"There's lots of flower patterned covers in the house and lots of artificial flowers too. I think she really wanted real flowers.
Her son worked for Shinra so he lived in Midgar. I'm sure he wanted to nurture some flowers here where there's some earth... I'm sorry. I said too much."
Reeve nodded as he listened.
Soon, the truck that Denzel and the others were on arrived at the station were a train was parked.
Gaskin said, "The train's not running. There really is no hope of restoring this place. But fortunately, the track is still linked to the ground's surface. If we follow the track we should be able to descend our way there."
"Is Midgar dangerous?", someone asked.
"Who knows. For now, we'll be much more relieved if we head downwards right?"
He continued and said to Denzel, "Don't slip on your feet now. No one has the time to look after you. You'll just have to do it yourself somehow."
The truck done a U-turn and left. A large crowd was gathered at the station. That white light affected the whole of Midgar. Those who had their homes destroyed and those who thought the town would collapse soon all ran here. Even so, there was a lot of people who hesitated about following the track to the ground. Instead of hearing the voices of joy now that Meteo is gone, disatisfied shouts could be heard about the incomplete shelter advice they were given. Denzel thought himself that he was glad his father wasn't here. The crowds were dispersed and split into groups heading to the homes, blending in with the flow on the track. We didn't know what lied ahead but the only person leading was Gaskin. It was obvious that we had no other choice but to obey him.
On the track that was laid out on steel struts with wooden planks in between, I could see the ground's surface in the distance. We were so high up that no one could be saved if they fell done so everyone took the utmost care descending. The track was so long it was like it spiraled all the way round Midgar but we were concentrating so hard walking down, we couldn't really wonder about anything.
Suddenly, we stopped. The adults stood still. It seemed there was some kind of delay. Slipping through the crowd, I saw a boy that was about three years old sitting at a dangerous position in between the rails with his legs dangling.
If he was the cause of our delay then I thought we could have just gone round him. Just then, someone spoke to the boy.
"Where's your mama?"
The kid suddenly started crying, shouting out for his mother and peered the gap between the planks. It looked as if he was going to lose balance so Denzel rushed out and grabbed his arm. I could hear the adults chattering.
Someone said, "Hey, that kid's infected."
"Don't touch him, he's contagious."
Denzel had no idea what they were saying.
"Hey, make way!", someone shouted angrily. Denzel looked like he wanted to protest against the one who said that but he didn't know who it was. There was nothing he could do about it so he put his hands around the boy's waist and lifted him onto an iron plate where it was safer. I was wondering why no one helped but I soon realized the reason why. The boy's back was soaked in a black substance.
Now that the path was free again, people started to resume walking. The little boy continued to cry repeating the words "it hurts" and "mama". I remembered how someone said "he's contagious." I felt like I wanted to cry. As I helped the boy stand up, I remembered about Ruvi. I remembered how I felt sick when I saw that black liquid coming out of Ruvi even though she was so kind to me. The me who got scared and ran away.
That was why I planned to wipe that sin away by helping the boy. I wanted to Ruvi to forgive me. I squatted down and asked him, "Where does it hurt?"
"My back hurts."
"Your back hurts huh?"
I lightly touched the boy's back with my hand. When I had a sore stomach, mum would rub it for me and the pain would go away. She done the same if I bumped into things. I might be able to use some of mum's magic too.
Denzel started to rub the boy's back while trying to ignore the sticky black substance. Although it was painful at first, the boy soon fell asleep.
Three hours went by. He continued rubbing the little boy for a little longer taking a littl break in between. The people around Denzel continued descending while ignoring Denzel and the boy.
Looking up, he saw the tired face of a woman.
A baby was fastened around the woman's breast and a girl about the age of Denzel was holding her hand.
"That shirt looks like a girl's. It's so weird. Isn't it, mama? Lets hurry and go."
The woman the little girl called "mama" silently took off her daughter's blue jacket and handed it to Denzel.
The sweating little girl was relieved. It looked as though she was wearing three layers of clothes.
"You can have it. It belongs to my big sister. That's why it's so big.", said the little girl but it didn't seem so at all.
Denzel looked at the boy curled up asleep next to him. He couldn't hear his breathing.
Denzel was completely out of strength. The little girl quickly took the jacket from her mother and wrapped it around the little boy. His body was now hidden away from sight.
"He will be with my big sister.", the little girl said.
"Thank you", I said with all my heart. The mother started walking again and the little girl followed her. Hand in hand with her mother. Both their hands were dyed pitch black.
Gazing at the Chocobo on the bag the little girl was carrying, Denzel was thinking.
Were they all going to die crying in pain with that sticky black stuff flowing out? Was everyone going to die because they were ill?
"At the time, we knew nothing about Geostigma. Those who bathed their bodies in the Lifestream would go out to "sea" and die. People said that you would get infected if you touched them. In truth, it's really because the thoughts of Jenova were mixed in with the Lifestream and that's what... It doesn't matter now. Even if we knew about it then, the situation wouldn't have changed.
"You're right. Especially with children."
"When I was on the railway, I thought I wanted to become an adult soon. I want to decrease the number of things I can't understand even if I put my thoughts into them.
Denzel absentmindedly watched the people that fled to the station in the Slums. One after the other they were descending from the upper levels. There were people who thought it would all be over if they stopped. I had to do the same too but I couldn't abandon the hope that I would see a familiar face by staying. It was hard for Denzel to forget about his hunger with that half-hearted effort.
As he walked about the station looking for food, he found a place a little further away stacked with baggage. Nearby, a lot of men were working. It seemed they were digging a hole. With a gush of wind, the stench of rotting flesh came floating by. A man carrying a young woman on his shoulders came over and lightly put her in the hole. It was a temporary graveyard. Just as Denzel was about to run away panicking, he found a familiar bag amongst the baggage. It had a picture of a chocobo. Even I didn't know why I rushed over and opened the bag. Inside was some cookies and chocolate. Denzel thought about the little girl who the bag belonged to. She was no longer here.
"Eat", a voice said. It belonged to Gaskin.
He wasn't someone Denzel really wanted to see.
"You worried you'll catch the illness? It's just a rumour. It might be true but at the moment, they're only rumours. Besides, you'll die anyway if you don't eat anything. If you're going to die anyway, don't you want to die with a full stomach?", he said putting his hand in the bag and eating the cookies.
"Yum! They're still edible. If you're just going to leave them here they're just going to rot. That would be a waste. Here, have some."
Denzel ate some cookies too. He was glad at how good the sweetness of the cookies felt. He turned to the bag and said, "thanks".
Gaskin gave Denzel's head a good ruffle.
He was a different type of person compared to dad but the way he ruffled my hair was the same. About a year later, Denzel was living at that very spot. His first job was to find food amongst the baggage.
He also made friends quick. They were all children who had lost their parents. Gaskin's friends also increased in number. He called them good-for-nothings who weren't very good at thinking and who didn't feel right if they didn't exercise. They were the first group to start doing burials. Denzel sometimes noticed himself laughing. He felt he could be himself again. However, about two weeks later, the number of people coming from Midgar to take refuge was decreasing while there were no more people being forced to go to their area. Their role at the station was closing to an end. Denzel went through many sleepness nights worried about the future.
A man was walking alone and he seemed to be looking for something. He approached Denzel and his friends.
"I want a steel pipe. It would be great if I can get as many as I could."
Denzel and his friends went to look for steel pipes. They found lots of them in the ruins of the Seventh Sector.
The man said his thanks then left. Ever since then, he came back many times. After the third visit, he brought friends with him too to look for things.
It turned out a new town was being built in the east side of Midgar and so they were looking for materials. The children were offered food in return for any material they helped find.
Denzel and his friends soon went by the name of the Seventh Sector Search Team and received many requests. Everyday was fun for them. They were proud of themselves leading a life where they worked like adults. There were nights when they cried and thought about their parents but they always cheered each other up. The words "the group with a joint fate" was soon stuck amongst them. However, they never would have thought that the strong power of fate wasn't going to keep things together.
One morning, Gaskin gathered his friends along with the adults and children of the so called search team together. He told them that they were going to take part in building the new town and were going to move home. Just when it seemed everything was settled and no one had any objections, one of the children asked something. The kid had been rubbing his chest many times during Gaskin's speech.
"Mr. Gaskin, do you feel unwell?"
"Just a bit", said Gaskin as he took off his top. A black substance flowed out.
"A month later, Mr. Gaskin died. I buried everyone in a special place. All the good people die, don't they?"
Reeve nodded silently to Denzel's words. Denzel took a sip of coffee. It was bitter and it was the drink he hated the most. But, he wanted to be able to enjoy the taste one day like the adults did.