by Cloud Strife
Midgar is the future. A city built by the ShinRa using the newest techniques, to bring a life a hope, prosperity, and wealth. Come build your dreams of tomorrow with ShinRa, today!
That's what the pamphlet said. Midgar is this. Midgar is that. Midgar was a toilet, plain and simple. Oh sure life on the other side of the plate was fine, probably better than fine. Rumor was that the people up there had trees. Can you imagine? The only green in the slums was the occasional misfiring Mako furnace. Most of the people there had never even seen real sunlight anywhere except on television.
People kept pouring in despite all this because of pamphlets and advertisements like this. They painted a farce of life in this city of "opportunity." The only real opportunity you had was the get a knife stuck in your back. There's a reason people go to Costa del Sol for a vacation. It was a small miracle in itself that you could walk around and not be murdered, be it night or day. Time has a way of losing significance when you can't see the sun.
Cloud Strife was new here but he'd picked up on all this very quickly. A few hard lessons were all it took to smarten him up. Only a few brief months of living in this city had completely shattered any hope of living the life envisioned for him in that ad that was like bait for the mind of a young kid who only wanted to be strong and famous.
His situation was better than most. He'd come here in hopes of joining SOLDIER, the elite unit of ShinRa's army. He knew before he came here that one did not become a great warrior in a day, but the constant routine of training that he'd endured and showed no sign of ending over the past months had begun to grate on his patience. At the very least, he was grateful that he was being paid. It allowed him to take up residence in Sector 6 at a dilapidated housing complex; Toledo Blade Apartments.
The owner/manager/handy man/slum lord was an elderly man quickly approaching his fifties. The day Cloud moved in, he could tell the old guy hated this place. His eyes were full of disappointment, like Toledo Blade was supposed to be something much more. A place that he could attain his wealth and get the hell out of Midgar perhaps. Whatever it might have been, it didn't matter now. The old man was stuck there…and he knew it. You could always find him just inside the entrance with a portable fan pointed on him, set on high, and a day old newspaper firmly grasped by his wrinkled fingers. That newspaper was one of the main reasons Cloud tried to stay away from the old man. Who reads Sunday's paper on Monday?
His keys dangled lifelessly from his right index finger as Cloud trudged up the stairs to his second floor apartment after a long day of motorcycle training for the SOLDIER program. His body ached and his footsteps fell heavily against the wooden stairs. His only thoughts were centered on stumbling through his door and falling on the mattress he kept on the floor about a foot away from his window.
Almost there, he thought as he finally dragged his foot off the stairs and had made it to the door of his apartment. It was painted dull brown and, like the rest of the building, was chipped and it dire need of repair. Even simple cosmetics might help. A fresh coat of paint on the place would do wonders.
Slipping his key into the lock and giving it a haphazard turn, Cloud fell into his home at long last. Upon entering, he immediately turned back around to close, but not lock, his door. Tossing shoes, shirt, and various other garments along the way, he fell face down onto his mattress. He lay there for a few moments with his eyes closed enjoying the quiet and the rest before letting out a sigh of relief.
It was about this time "it" started, like it does so many nights.
"Where the hell is my dinner!?"
"I-It's warming in the oven. You didn't call--to say you would be late--so I-I left it in the oven so it wouldn't get c-cold."
"I don't have to fucking call you when I'm gonna be late. I'm a man. I don't answer to anyone! If I'm gonna be late, then I'm gonna be late!"
"I'm--sorry--please keep your voice down. You don't have to yell."
There was a distinctive sound of flesh meeting fist and sharp outburst. Cloud's eyes flew open.
"I'll do whatever the hell I want in my own damn house. Now get me my dinner."
The blonde man raised himself from his low resting spot and walked slowly to the wall. He placed his right hand on it, expecting it to be warm from the blow one of its inhabitants had just felt. The voices were lower now, more subdued. Cloud placed his ear to the wall.
Cloud sat with his back against the wall. He bent his head a bit to allow the spoon simmering in the bowl of ramen he propped up on his right thigh to make its way to his mouth without dripping too much. After sucking in enough noodles to fill his mouth, his head fell back against the wall, resting there with his eyes closed as he chewed methodically.
The sounds of a woman screaming and pleading impacted the cold sheetrock and found their way to Cloud's mind. His spoon flinched as an especially potent blow echoes through the wall. He shook his head slightly and shoveled another tangle of noodles into his waiting mouth.
"Oh god, please no more! No more!"
He chewed the noodles slowly; seemingly thinking about each time his teeth would gnash against each other to crush his food into small enough portions to swallow.
"Shut up bitch! You ruined my life! How dare you get pregnant!"
Cloud sighed. The noodles were a little too hot but he had no time to let them cool.
She was crying now. It was almost constant. What was she feeling? The only break came when little gasps escaped her throat as another blow fell upon her.
Cloud looked down at his bowl and finished the rest of his food.
A door creaked open as a creature peeked through the crack. Seeing no one, she bolted out, carrying a large plastic bag full of garbage that had gathered up over the past few weeks. Almost catlike, she crept through the halls, hoping to go unnoticed and carry out her task as quickly as possible. Only a few seconds after leaving her domain, her goal was within site: the garbage chute that led down to the incinerator within the basement. She grabbed the bag at the bottom and heaved it into the chute, watching for a brief moment as the bag fell.
Without another look, she sped back to her apartment, hoping to remain as anonymous as she had on the trip here. Her eyes staying on the cracked and water tarnished wood of the floor, she slammed right into the chest of a spiky blonde man. She gasped, thinking she had been caught. She tumbled, and fell into a sitting position on the ground.
Cloud looked down to the woman that had slammed into him. She remained silent, choosing only to look up at him. She was on the verge of tears. He examined her quickly, methodically, taking note of each and every blemish on her skin. An eye, bruised and swollen over, struggling against itself to remain open; lips crusted over with dried blood; a cheek with a recently made slice across it. He wondered how much more there was under her clothes. Were her ribs as bruised as her collarbone? What else had he done to her?
The instant he looked into her eyes, Cloud knew who this woman was. The complete lack of hope and light in her gaze told him. He was staring at a woman who had lost herself. She was a shell, barely there. He wondered if she knew what was going on now.
She was still looking at him, pleading. To help her? To end her misery?
"Are you ok?" he asked, offering a gloved hand to her. She jumped back at the appearance of his hand. Her eyes shut, preparing for a slap or punch. She looked up at him curiously when no harm was done.
Another moment passed and she took his hand. Gently, he raised her up to her feet. She paused, not knowing what to do. She glanced into his eyes. There was no anger, no hostility, no hate.
She pushed Cloud aside and ran back to her apartment, audibly bolting the door behind her.
She might have been pretty.
The blade whizzed past Cloud's head. He countered, bringing his sword in from the left in a sideways arch. His opponent jumped back, the tip slicing a hole in the generic blue ShinRa uniform.
If she wasn't so--so--
He brought his sword up to block the blade from the flash above. Cloud's foot shot out and connected with his opponent's stomach. The other person rolled with the blow, jumping back and gaining much needed space between them.
Cloud began to run to close the gap the moment it opened. He couldn't leave his opponent with even a moment to relaunch an offense. His time to act was now. His opponent expected a strike from Cloud's blade and prepared to parry it. The blonde man nimbly tossed his sword from his right hand to his left. Inches away from his opponent, he faked left with the sword, throwing his rival off. Seeing the momentary lapse, Cloud buried his shoulder in the gut off the other person. Instantly he brought his blade to the throat of his fallen foe, holding it precariously close.
His enemy reached up and removed the helmet holding in her dark brown locks. "Great job, Strife! You'll make First Class yet!"
Cloud sheathed his sword and smiled, "Thanks Madeline. You weren't half bad yourself."
"You look a little distracted," she said, cocking her head to the side. Whenever she did that, it gave Cloud the impression of a parakeet curious about a new toy.
"It's nothing. Just a little tired."
She nodded, content with the answer. "You should go home. Get some rest. We're done for today anyway."
"Sure," he replied. "I'll seeya tomorrow. And next time I won't go easy on ya!"
The power was out. Cloud lay on his bed, holding his sword against his chest. With no electricity, the Sector would get crazy. Looters and thieves waited for times like this when they could hide their crimes under the complete cover of darkness. Under the plate, with not even the light of a firefly to guide the way, was the definition of infinite night.
The darkness had a way of warping the mind, especially those with weak minds who waited like famished predators for times when they could let loose, take out their frustration at life, love, themselves, on a world that only waited for the day they died. All they had to lose was their lives. Life was not a precious commodity in the bowels of the slums thrown into black, unending, darkness.
Cloud stroked the cold blade, thinking of what might have been. Rejected. Rejected from the SOLDIER program, ending his dream of being strong--of being someone. His eyes misty and mouth clenched, he looked over to his closet and the generic blue ShinRa uniform hanging there. Just a grunt. That's all he was now. No one important. He was someone to send to the front lines and die. That would be his destiny. It seemed like only a short while ago they were saying he had all the potential in the world to be a SOLDIER. Now they just looked at him with disdain and pity. He threw a fist to the wooden floor and held it there, eyes closed, thinking of a lost dream and feeling rage for being too weak to realize it.
"Bitch! I'm gonna kill you!"
Cloud sprang up. Not tonight, he thought, not tonight.
"P-please--honey. P-put the knife--d-down--" she managed to gurgle out.
"No. Not tonight. Tonight I'm cuttin' your child outta you before it can burden me. I won't have it, ya hear me? I won't have it! You bleed!" he said, disturbingly calm at first, degenerating into hysterical ranting.
He--he wouldn't really do it, would he? Cloud's body was tense, fear struck him.
He heard her scream and before he knew what he was doing, his muscles were throwing him out his door. He clenched the hilt of his sword, turning his knuckles white, and paused for a brief second in front of their door. In an instant, his right foot was rearing back and in the next, it was through the wooden frame of the door, tearing it from its hinges.
So much blood.
She was barely conscious, eyes praying for permission to roll back into her skull. She had slashes across both cheeks. The corners of her eyes were crusted over from tears. Her arms hung morbidly from her sides, looking like artificial stalks than pieces of her. She had a gash running on the inside of her right arm from her elbow to her wrist.
Cloud averted his eyes at the sight of her stomach. Her dress was torn open there, revealing the pale flesh within. The cascading slashes across her abdomen gushed blood and other fluids. Her stomach looked like he'd tried to carve her like Thanksgiving turkey.
Then the blonde youth noticed him, hovering over his fallen victim knife in hand, leering at the pain his hands caused. The two noticed each other at the same time. The man turned to Cloud with shock in his eyes.
"Get out of my house!" he yelled, clumsily swinging his knife, tossing blood in several directions.
In that moment a rage overcame Cloud, directing all his muscles, all his thoughts, his very being, into one precise act. His body shaking with anger, he held his sword above his head and charged at the monster, no longer a man in the eyes of Cloud Strife.
A delicate swing from the bottom cleaved of the hand holding the knife. It unceremoniously fell to the ground with a metal clang. The man glanced down at his arm, spewing crimson where a hand that hurt now lay at his feet. His eyes journeyed back up to Cloud in time to see a flash of silver. His vision split in two as his head and torso did the same. The last thing he saw was a fragmented image of the spiky blonde man holding his sword, rage in his eyes. His brain sent out a final message, a question to the body shutting down: why?
Cloud watched with no delight, no satisfaction as the monster's body fell to the ground with a final thud. A piercing scream was the next sound he heard. His head turned quickly to see the form of the woman, left hand attempting to hold in the blood of her disfigured stomach, crawling over to the side of her lover. An awkward hand nervously touched his hair. She shuddered and looked up at Cloud.
What did he expect to see in her eyes when this was over? Happiness, perhaps? Relief? Certainly not the pity that was etched in them now. He was confused. Why? His brow furrowed.
He offered his hand to her, hoping she would take it a sign of change. She grasped onto his other hand, the one holding his blade, and pulled it towards her with amazing strength. She let out a gasp of air as the blade sunk into her chest and beyond.
Cloud stumbled back, shocked and horrified. He watched as she slumped down, eyes closed and her hand reaching out to touch for one last time that man that had made her life hell and whose child she had carried. Finally that hand fell on him and her body went limp. He fell to his knees, not willing to comprehend what had just happened. For what seemed like an infinity, he looked at her. He stared at the hair that shaped her face, her lips that were now caked with dried blood, and his sword that was lodged in her chest.
She might have been pretty.
In that moment, Cloud whispered a silent prayer for her and realized he didn't even know her name--
Note: There's never a reason to not act. I hope you enjoyed the story.