Finishing Touches

Justin Bielawa

	"And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand
		They danced by the light of the moon,
						The moon,
						The moon,
		They danced by the light of the moon."
		- The Owl and the Pussycat

Aerith looked up to the heavens and cried.

Not so much screamed or yelled or cheered; she craned her thin neck skyward and knew what would happen. Not through the winds or the stars or some angelic/ demonic premonition. It was more base, running far, far more deep-seated than anything health would, could, allow.

Nothing was right. All was rage and torment for her.

Cloud loved Tifa.

Aerith crumpled to the ground, clothes folding over her and creasing. The tears bled into the cloth, soaking it like cheap wine. She didn't want to stop crying; she felt it was the only thing keeping her human. Despite the date with Cloud that had just finished on the Gondola...


That was the worst thing. The fact that Aerith couldn't bring herself to hate, or at the very least, disapprove of the woman. That was like Fate's mocking finger, taunting, striking her in the face with a backhand of morbid emotion. It was an utopian scorn; ironic, medieval, saddening, maddening.

She choked the tears in. No, if this was such a thing, Fate, as cruel as it was, would not allow her passion, whether it be anger, envy, love, sorrow, zeal or even joy.

She sniffled. She couldn't live with it. It was far too terrible. Cloud was taken by a woman, an incredibly voluptuous raven haired woman.

And what of her, what of the last of the Ancients?

She was the last so she could be the first to mark their extinction.

She bawled even heavier at that, her heart pouring through her eyes like liquid sunset. Her existence was marred with death just so she could die at the right time. She existed to die; so what was it to live? For her to continue, was not only futile but improvident, at best.

She folded like a cheap origami paper bird and spilled the blood of emotions on the stone floor. She cried for herself, for Cloud, for the planet.

And, strangely, Sephiroth.

She stopped her sobbing and lowered her breath to a murmur, whispering aimless words. The man trying to fill the shoes of God. Not a god or some deity he, and only he, believed in, not even trying to fill his mother's place as an even more superior being.

He was trying to replace God. Period.

And she wept for him. She saw how futile it was for him as well. His life, although less somber than her own, was also meaningless. They shared a common bond.

How can you challenge God? It is impossible.

But, adjusting Fate is just as insurmountable.

Please know I love you; in the end. And that I'm looking at the stars.

Sephiroth lowered his head from the points of the lights in the sky and squinted back the shining reflection of the loudly bright world ahead of him. His eyebrows arched, saddened.

"Please know I love you; in the end." He lipped the words without sound. "And that I'm looking at the stars."

He frowned and lowered his head, eyes filled with the knowledge of the sky and all it had seen. Despite this cognizance, he also understood, in a minimal way, his fruitlessness in his plan.

His life: equally pointless.

He flexed his fingers gingerly, hand next to hilt of sword.

No, he had a motive, a gesture, a single reason.

He unhooked the sword.

Aerith stopped sobbing.

It wasn't a conscious or bodily effort. It just happened. An outside effect, as if she was no longer going to be able to control her own body, her own mind. Much like Cloud at the Temple of the Ancients, she no longer was in self-control but not by the same means. Or for the same reasons.

I have climbed Vonteau like Patrick and I have seen the view. It is the reason I climbed the cliff. It is the reason the cliff existed. It is the reason I am Patrick.

She stood, straight like a rod.

I have found this in the view I see before me: the meaning to appreciate and possess life is so simple it is horrifying. Men live and die and races are committed to genocide without such a meaningful conclusion as this: There is the first and the last. There is no other. When you understand this, in your own vista, you have existed.

The wind whipped through her hair and ruffled her ankle-high skirt. She shrugged her shoulders backward, and let the red jacket float to the ground, wind riding it down.

She placed her hands on the balcony ledge, eyes holding only distance from the world around her. Absently, she kicked her shoes off and placed her bare feet on the cold stone ground.

The wind grew, whistling loudly, her ponytail cracking like a whip behind her head. The wind pulled the three lowest buttons on her skirt open and the fabric split up to her knees. She didn't know it happened. She, like her eyes, were absent.

Sephiroth rolled the sword in his hand and closed his eyes against the cold gale. It was as if a wall was forcing him to fall down, to push him through the soft, grainy earth.

He placed his free left hand on his elbow as he raised his right forearm, the blade pointing ahead.

Aerith wanted to cry. Not because of the previous sadness or a newfound happiness. But because her conviction, her perspective was as plain view as could be. The wind grew louder, stronger, concentrated.

She raised her left leg to the balcony banister, almost feeling the unpolished crevasses of stone. She pressed up with the middle of her foot and flexed her toes down, forcing her up to hip level. Her other leg followed instinctively to create balance. The slightly higher elevation split the last of the skirt's buttons wide open and skin was hinting from her high inner thigh. If she was conscious of such a fact, she did not show it.

Rolling her head back, she saw the sky. The points of light like nails in the night.

I've looked into the distance and...My God, it's full of stars!

She raised her arms straight out and let the wind attempt to lift her from her uneasy perch. The wind was no longer wind, but the heaving thrust of a blunt, cold palm. It smacked against her body.

The blade entered right under Sephiroth's rib cage, sliding through like a hot knife into snow. It slid straight through, and he only stopped when his mid-section hit the handguard of the handle.

Aerith kept her hands raised, the ponytail whipping like a ravenous snake, eating zephyr and spitting sound.

You are going to be asked, some time, to choose between left and a right, between a truth and a spurious, between a reality and a perspective, it will not matter as as long you make one choice. The choice is the one decision we all make, one form or another.

Cloud looked at Aerith's back and she looked like a mighty angel, descending to contribute God's wrath upon man. Her skirt snapped and cracked with her ponytail. With her jacket gone and her crinoline free to flap, her wings unfolded and made majestic; thrusts of wind that buffeted the spacious balcony.

Simultaneously, she was divine and despondency.

She rolled forward so slowly Cloud had no indication before her feet were inches off the ledge.

Sephiroth fell forward, falling on his scimitar-filled hand. He would be found, his great adventure of life ending in a final selfish act of pathetic depression. No blood flowed from his lips but as the sight of the Golden Saucer fluttered in his eyes he saw the pink dot fall from the side. He whispered final expressions.

Cloud wrapped an arm around her waist and groaned, pulling her back-up with his one arm. She wept as she came to her senses, as she felt the taste of the bitter wind in her mouth.

Choose Life.

She wrapped her arms around Cloud's neck and cried so freely, her eyes hurt. She wailed above the wind, proclaiming her love of life and everything existing but secretly mourning for her premeditated demise. She could love during what little life she had left.

Cloud said words that didn't touch her; they weren't hollow, just to distant, even as the winds died down. Between the wind and the tears and the skirt, Cloud couldn't control something desperate in him. Something so misplaced he didn't believe it existed as he acted upon it.

He looked at her and knew she was beautiful.

After a long measured moment of meaningless words, they snuck into the same room, slid the veranda door shut and let time, nature and instinct take it's course.

And that was the finishing touch of Love.

Sephiroth awoke the next morning. The sword was protruding from his back, the tip gleaming brightly. He lived.

Fate denied him death. He was to finish his miserable existence on course and on task. He wouldn't be allowed sleep as long as the work was to be finished.

He straightened onto his knees and slowly, carefully pulled the sword out. He felt no pain and no blood gushed out. Fate was evil indeed; more evil than himself.

He looked to the wound but found no cut, no split.

Choosing life is another thing. It, much like the possession of life is opinionated. It depends on your meaning of "life".

And that was the finishing touch of Madness.

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