Blink and You're Dead

Author Notes: This is a self-insert story for a writing challenge with what I like to consider a twist. Let's just say that I've swapped positives for negatives. Oh, and as a stipulation of the contest, there is death in this story. If that's not your cup of tea, turn back now. Credit goes to Swift Hunter for betaing this for me. And I don't own Final Fantasy VII nor anything affliated with it.

Otherwise, that's it. Enjoy.

Story word count: 999


I was told once that life goes fast; blink and you're dead.

It's true, you know, but I don't know why I'm telling you. Perhaps I'm hoping you can hear my thoughts. Can you hear me, angel? Can you?

Blink and you're dead… that saying's the reason why I've always been afraid of death. The notion that one day I'll simply cease to exist, that that'll be it. Gone. Finished. Over and done with.

Funny then that I chose to become a soldier, isn't it?

By the nature of the job, I've diced with death more often than I'd like. You put on a tough act though, when you're in the mess with your buddies. They think me stoic. When we play poker, I'm the reckless one, the one who puts all in on a pair of twos. Sometimes they raise the stakes, most of the time they fold. Then when they see my hand, they think me bold, fearless even, the perfect quality for a soldier.

But battle is a whole different card game. On the field, fighting for my life, I've always been terrified. And that fear doesn't get better with time, either.

I don't know why I joined up really. When I was younger, I was Mr. Indecisive about what I'd wanted to do with my life. I'd wanted to be a journalist, then a teacher and then a lawyer. Joining the army was the safety net option I ended up falling back on. It was that or the priesthood and I certainly ain't no holy man. Until today, I've never believed in angels.

Perhaps I did it because I wanted to make my parents proud. My parents love their country and they nationalized me from a young age. As an only child, there was an added pressure to meet their expectations of you. From a young age, you accept that and do your best. When I was four, I could recite the ShinRa anthem word for word, whereas the other kids could barely even talk. Maybe then, I joined up for the love of my country, to honour my own patriotism.

There's one advantage to being a grunt for ShinRa: the mask we wear. No-one can see your face, your naked terror in battle, and truth be told I'm an ugly bastard anyway.

I honestly don't know how I managed to get where I am, with the rank of sergeant. Maybe it's because I'm the one who used to come back unscathed. But that's not because I'm a good soldier. It's just when battle is joined, fear takes me by the throat. So I hide behind others. I'm small, so no-one even notices me in the confusion. And thus, I've survived and been promoted, essentially, for using others as shields.

Then this assignment fell into my lap. It was a little different from the others. I was to lead my group, not follow. Our objective: Track down the terrorist assassins of the late President ShinRa, god rest his soul. You'd be heading towards Kalm most likely. Our job was to find you, then shoot to kill.

Simple, no?

But it didn't quite turn out like we'd hoped. Because you found us first, caught us off guard.

And now I have nothing to show for my cowardice but blood; my own.

Tell me, how is it that an angel like you can travel with the devil? I saw his eyes, cold, blue and mirthless as the winter; the demonic eyes of Soldier First Class. How I'm still alive I don't know. He got me before I could move. He did for Wright and Robertson too. Smithers and Rogers got the shit kicked out of them by your other guardian, the girl with the fancy martial arts. They ain't movin'. Only Dean got away. Ironic really. He'd been the one hiding behind me.

Then there was you, an angel in a pink dress, taking it all in sadly. Seeing you, I wonder, could you have been a part of the assassination? Surely not… though my orders say otherwise.

And if you really are an assassin, why are you taking pity on me? Why are you here, holding my hand? Shouldn't you be sticking the knife in? …Is it possible… my orders were wrong? No. Why else would the devil attack us? I ought to arrest you.

But I can't. So I might as well enjoy your mercy before… before…

The other girl's beside you now. She isn't sympathetic like you. I can't see her face but I don't need to. It's all in the stance. She despises me, hates me for what I am. She's put her hand on your shoulder to support you. Or steer you away.

"Come on Aerith."

You ignore her.

I can hear the Demon walking around the spot where my friends lie, strewn like broken toys. I can hear him loot the bodies, that fucking bastard. He doesn't even care. I guess that's what makes a Soldier First Class; complete fucking apathy.

What do you see in him? You might show mercy, angel, but you don't show respect. You haven't even tried to stop him. So what are you? What are you really?

"Aerith, there's nothing you can do," the girl says.

You say nothing.

"Let's go." I loathe that Demon's voice. So cold and detached, just like everything else about him.

Then you look at him and the girl. You're going, aren't you? Even though I told you of my fears, you're still going to leave me here to die alone. Is it because I doubted you? I take it back. Just… just don't go.

"I'm so sorry," you whisper. Maybe you mean that. Maybe you don't.

You've let go and walked away.

My head… it feels so heavy. I'd watch you leave, take comfort from the last glimpse. …But it's so hard, so, so hard.

I was told once that life goes fast; blink and you're dead.