There are two sorts of people that exist in this world, the Selfish and the Selfless.
Of the selfish, each day they wake and say, "I need to do this for myself." To each his own….their motto. Those that put themselves before others generally control most every aspect of this world. Celebrities feast on those whom adore them. Greedy merchants on a daily basis, reap benefits off unsuspecting common men, ripping them off. Politicians control and dictate every aspect of government, manipulating, bending the rules, for personal gain.
This story is about a man who lived by that selfish creed "to each his own."His name was Barret Wallace. To each his own was applied to his thoughts on his place in life and his resolve to matters.
Very few could argue with Barret Wallace. He had a machine-gun for an arm.
The selfless often give their life to save another's without a second thought.
This story also involves a selfless person named Aeris Gainsborough. On this day, she was going to die in order to save many lives.
She knelt before a man with blonde hair named Cloud Strife. They were high atop a beautiful onyx alter in the City of the Ancients, illuminated under glimmering beams of pure white light, making their way through small cracks from above.
She was praying, not for herself, but rather for every living thing on this planet…selflessly…
The planet was in mortal danger…
Barret Wallace, the selfish man, watched from down below, as a scene between Aeris Gainsborough and Cloud Strife was about to occur. His one-tracked "selfish" mind couldn't wrap itself around a reason why Aeris felt the need to pray at such a time. Yet all he could do was sit idly by and watch.
There was a bright blinding flash of strong pure light, sudden, catching the machine-gun man off guard. The light was so powerful, so blinding, that Barret covered his face and closed his eyes to block it out.
Then all was black. The darkness caused him to sway and Barret bent down on one knee, panicking at the thought that he might actually have gone blind.
Then slowly, the onyx alter began to appear. And there again on this onyx alter faded in Aeris Gainsborough, still praying, still tranquil. There again fading in, was Cloud Strife standing little more than a yard in front of her, only this time he had unsheathed his long broad blade, and was aiming it right for Aeris's skull.
As Cloud swung, Barret could hear Vincent exclaim "CLOUD!!"
He heard Tifa shriek, "STOP!!"
Their voices echoed. Barret whirled around but saw neither that had spoken. Just an infinite black abyss.
Is this a dream?
He turned back to the only thing he could see, the shimmering onyx alter.
With what seemed to be extreme mental anguish, Cloud managed to cease his blade from dividing Aeris's skull in two, and slowly backed away, shaking, with an empty puzzled expression on his face.
Barret couldn't tear his eyes away, even if it weren't the only thing to occupy his eyes at that time. Why was everything else black? He looked down at his hand. It wasn't there. It was as though he were a ghost.
That's when Barret realized, that this place wasn't real. Then if it wasn't real then what was this place? He continued to watch the scene on the onyx stage unfold itself.
Aeris looked up at Cloud, giving him a look of reassurance, one that said Everything will be ok. Cloud nodded as though he believed her.
You idiot, thought Barret. Cloud was always a sap for this stuff. The scene continued to play itself out.
The lights from above vanished and a dark figure fell from the sky. The figure was Sephiroth, whom Barret had come to know as the mortal enemy of man. There too was another man who thought only for himself.
Sephiroth swooped down from above and with one final strike with his shimmering sword, he ended the life of Aeris Gainsborough.
There was another flash of light, and everything Barret had seen went black again.
Then slowly, just as it had before, the world faded back into view. There was Aeris on the onyx alter, praying like she had been, and there was Cloud Strife, watching her from no more than a few yards away.
None of what Barret had just seen had taken place.
Not yet anyway…
His non-mechanical hand rubbed his head, making sure it was all right, making sure it was still there. "What the hell was that?" he asked himself. He said it just loud enough for Cid to hear who had been watching as Barret knelt down onto his knee and had faded in and out of consciousness.
He clapped a hand onto Barret's shoulder, reassuring him that he was back in the real world. "You all right big guy?" The words of Cid were an afterthought in Barret's mind. He stood and started to walk towards the alter as though he hadn't heard a word.
Nevertheless persistent, Cid begged, "Barret! Are you ok?"
He wasn't ok. Not after what he had just seen, if all of this was true. Cloud was going to try to kill Aeris. Aeris wasn't going to try to stop him. And in the end Aeris was going to die selflessly giving away her life for a greater cause.
The flash that Barret had had was a premonition of to what was to come. He had heard of these before. They happened few and far between, but he figured that at some point in every man's life the divine powers above give us the chance to view what is to come and the choice to decide if that is truly what must be fated to happen.
In that moment, Barret put Aeris Gainsborough, and the rest of the world, before his own ambitions, transcending from selfish to selfless.
When he heard Vincent yell "CLOUD!!" and Tifa shriek "STOP!!" it signified to Barret Wallace that it was time to alter the course of destiny, and to save a life that could save all.
He sprinted up the stone platforms to the top of the shimmering onyx alter, leaving Cid and the rest of his friends behind, feeling confused, afraid, and helpless.
Aeris Gainsborough was kneeling on a beautiful shimmering onyx alter, praying. All her life she had been preparing for this: the Summoning of Holy, the final summon that would save the planet. She knew this would have to cost her her life, but it was necessary in order to save the world.
She was very devout but to whom she had no idea. She only knew that there was someone, or something above, looking out for each and every one of them. That being had a plan.
Aeris knew not what this plan was. All she knew was that today, the plan was that she had to die. She had come to grips with that fact, and ever since had been preparing for this very moment.
And so she prayed. Prayed for the salvation of the human race. Prayed for her friends and family whom she knew would not understand. She prayed for Cloud, that he would have the strength to go on with his life and save this world.
She prayed for the mother who raised her, in hopes that she would go on to live peacefully and in a free prosperous bountiful world someday.
She prayed for all her friends watching her down below. She knew her death would take toll on them all. They had grown so close over the times, after all they had been through. She prayed that the divine powers above would give them strength to move forward and save mankind by defeating Sephiroth.
Everything she could think of at that given time, she prayed for. She prayed for all of the people who bought the flowers she used to sell, for all of the people she had met along the way, for all of the people she wished she could have met but never had the chance... She prayed for them all.
She knew that Cloud was standing right in front of her, controlled by Sephiroth, aiming to slice her in half. She knew in her heart that Cloud would not succumb to being a puppet to Sephiroth anymore.
She knew this was the end…and so she prayed that whomever it was that was looking out for all of the people on the earth, the divine being above, that he would look after the people she loved. Especially Cloud…
She finished her prayer and opened her eyes…
But it wasn't Cloud standing just ahead like he should have been. The figure she saw was of a taller broader, darker complexion. It was a black man with a machine gun for an arm standing before her, not Cloud Strife.
She smiled, but it wasn't because she was glad. Moreover it was for the fact that this wasn't how this was supposed to work, and it was her nervous reaction to it. "What are you doing?" she asked, this time almost forcing her natural innocent charm.
"You're going to die," said Barret Wallace. "And I can't let that happen…So…I guess I'm savin' your ass…"
Before Aeris could protest "But-" Barret had snatched hold of her arm and proceeded to throw her across the shimmering onyx alter and into the arms of Cloud. "NO!!" she cried.
But it was too late. The dark shadow from above had appeared, aiming to destroy as it had so many times before.
"GO!!" Barret screamed never looking back. He aimed his mechanical arm towards the sky, and emptied the tank on the mortal enemy of man. "RUN!!"
With Barret's last words, Cloud briefly snapped back into reality. Mechanically he threw a tear-streamed Aeris over his shoulder and leapt from the onyx platform down where the others stood paralyzed in horror.
From there they honored the final wish of Barret Wallace, and Cloud, Aeris, and the rest of the motley crew ran, as far away as they could, as they heard the ricochet of bullets and the agonizing screams of their friend from behind all come to an abrupt end.
They didn't stop running until they had completely emptied the tank, just as Barret had.
No one could bear to watch the final moments of Barret's life. No one watched as the man with a machine-gun for an arm fired every last shell at the shadow with shimmering silver hair. No one saw the broad big black man expire every last bullet and kneel on both knees, with sweat trickling down his brow, with tears washing down his cheeks.
All that was known was that Barret screamed, at the top of his lungs, a triumphant bellow that could be heard long and deep throughout the City of the Ancients.
He screamed for Marlene, the girl he had always thought of as a daughter. He screamed for his friends who were leaving him behind, for their camaraderie, for everything they had gone through.
And he screamed loudest because he was triumphant. He had saved a life. For once he had thought not for himself, and in the end made the ultimate sacrifice. He had made the transcendence from selfish to selfless, giving him a fire that burned within, and the power to scream louder than any.
And for once, in a strange fleeting way, he was truly both happy and proud to be Barret Wallace, the man with a machine-gun for an arm, even if it would only last just a moment longer.
Sephiroth's long shimmering blade cut through Barret's flesh as though it was a sword of fire, and Barret were a mound of snow.
The screaming stopped….
The tears ceased to flow…
Barret Wallace was no more…
The mortal enemy of man, removed his blade now wet with blood and stood triumphantly above the slain black carcass, and with slight disappointment at eliminating the wrong target. He wiped his blade with his sleeve, perceiving what he had accomplished.
"One worthless soul for another I suppose," he said. "In the end, it won't matter…" He up towards the cracks of light that were breaking through from above, giving the onyx stage it's majestic appeal. "Will it mother?"
When they had reached a safe place, Cloud and the company set up camp and tried to dream off the grief.
No one could sleep…
So instead a fire was made, and everyone gathered round to keep warm under the bright starry night. Yuffie tried to keep comfort by humming an old tune her master had taught her for fallen warriors. Some wept, others merely bowed their heads through misery from what had happened. Cid was comforted by his cigarettes, which burned one by one through the night.
It was hard for them to look one another in the eye on that bright starry night. Through the tears, and the bows, and the cigarettes, and the hymns of comfort, Aeris had managed to drift away from the rest.
She was the last to see Barret alive…
She gazed into the stars and began once again to weep, as she had nearly the whole night. It wasn't supposed to end like this, she thought. No one was supposed to get hurt.
Cloud too had broken away from the rest and wandered over towards the last remaining Ancient. His hand wrapped itself around her shoulder. This didn't startle her. She merely melted into his arms, and Cloud let Aeris cry on his chest, holding her, in comfort.
It was hard to find the words for a moment so complex. Aeris continued to weep and Cloud held her and continued to stare into the bright night sky. It seemed every star in existence could be seen on that night. Even Barret would say it was a beautiful night.
Somehow Cloud managed to muster the words, "I'm glad to know that you're still safe…"
Aeris lifted her head from Cloud's moist shirt. "Why?" as in Why did this have to happen this way?
The words came to Cloud, but they didn't sound like his own. "There are two kinds of people in this world, Aeris. The first types, think only for themselves, they always put their needs before everyone else.
"You're the second kind, Aeris. You put everyone else before you. That's why you were on that alter. It wasn't because you needed to die, but because you couldn't put those that you loved most in that kind of danger.
"For all his life, Barret thought for none other than himself. But for some unexplained reason, he knew this was something he had to do, and for the first time, he transcended from selfish to selfless. So he could save your life, Aeris…"
"How did he know?" she asked.
Cloud opened his mouth to answer when Yuffie, chimed from afar. "Cloud, Aeris, will you join our prayer?"
Aeris left Cloud's arms and began to walk back to the campfire. "A prayer would sound lovely, Yuffie," she said.
Cloud wasn't a believer in prayer, but at this point, what better way was there to honor a deep profound friendship. He took one last look at the stars and realized that it was good that he didn't answer Aeris's question. There wasn't a reasonable explanation.
But as he looked deeply into the cloudless night, he felt somehow that Barret was watching above, giving him the right words to say.
He swore on that night, that he would avenge. Avenge all those that had been lost through Sephiroth's wrath, avenge those who would suffer as the consequence. He knew now how those people felt.
Selfless, he thought and he turned to join the others by the fire to honor the life of Barret Wallace.
In this world there are the Selfish and the Selfless. Today they had crossed paths, and one man made the complete transformation in order to save a life.
To each his own…