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The Way Down

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The truth is Midgar.

I'm descending in the glass elevator, and I'm watching her. Many are afraid to - they'll take the stairs, claim they're scared of heights. (Palmer never took the stairs, but he closed his eyes tight the whole ride down.) I think that's a lie. They're scared of Midgar, scared of the clanking iron rose they built and only ever wanted to see half of - the polished, gilded half. Every chink in the plate terrifies them.

I'm looking down at both sides, staring through the maw of Sector 7.

The elevator drops, and I think she's rushing up to meet me - swishing concrete skirts and running close until she fills my whole horizon. There's people pressed around me in the lift, an elite dropping to earth (or as close to it as they ever deign to get); they do their best to look only at each other, to remain indifferent to her even as they create her, even as they grind her down. I might as well be alone with her. I'm walking to the door, just one of dozens of suited Shinra troopers all stepping out into the evening together; there's this light lingering above us, a red sun trying to shine through green-grey Mako smog, nothing they care for enough to even name. It's called Midgar.

She's wearing the same perfume as always; dew dried in the air by iron-dust and hot reactor fumes. The ten people in the lift have become a hundred in the streets, a flock drifting from building to station, resembling nothing in nature, hers alone, not that they know it. We belong to Midgar. I carry on past the station, I'm walking home tonight, because I need to tread her stones and breathe her smoke and think, and if they think I want to be by myself, they'd be wrong. I'm with Midgar.

There's nothing I need to say to her. No hellos, no goodbyes. We're always together. On the other side of the Planet there's a ragtag rebel band asleep in the Ghost Hotel, a couple of electric toys deactivated in a corner, and even when they get up and walk and talk and dance and fight, I'm still with Midgar.

My heart holds every detail. Every stone of her streets, every spire of her horizon, every railway sleeper, every speck of grit. I reach a hand to the wall beside me, fingertips brushing lightly over glass, brick, plaster as I walk, and it's like she's taking my hand in hers. I'm taking a detour, heading clockwise and outwards and then anticlockwise again, circling her in rightangles. We're dancing together, moon rising through the smoke above us.

Almost there.

I give a reassuring nod to the guards on the corner. They've been told not to let anyone pass, but I'm not anyone, I'm Shinra. They see me and think that I am Shinra. They're not looking, so I duck under the black-and-yellow tape, slip out of sight behind a huge sign that says 'DANGER', and walk towards the wound.

She's creaking underneath my steps, her iron-lattice skin warped and weakened at the edge. It's alright. She won't let me fall. I walk one gentle step at a time until my feet run out of plate to tread, and then I sink to my knees and look down into the wreck of Sector 7.

This is why I am not Shinra.

There's dim light illuminating the rubble, diffused by dust and fumes. There's a breeze carrying Wall Market up through the rift, faint cooking-smells and fainter noises, the lace under Midgar's skirt. There's a great grey nothing between Sector 8 and Sector 6, and far away in the desert, there's a girl who used to live there and who told me all about it, the grime and the unclassy clientèle, the trash and the fight for every bent gil and how much she misses the damn place.

They ripped this piece out of the the plate and Midgar's soul is shining through it. There's a whole world spinning around her and I've been sitting here holding her hand - staying the same while Shinra betrayed her. I can't undo this, can't pull the crack closed and sew a patch over the wreckage. I can't unsee what I have seen.

I can promise that I will give my all to protect her from here on. I am nothing, two tiny wires crossed over the Planet's surface. If I fell from this place, I'd be a tiny red stain atop a tragedy that already happened. I'm worth no more than one pigeon, one steel column, one paving stone; but my little life is lived for the love of her.

Should I be asked whose side I'm on, I lie. One lie yesterday, told by a cat to a ragged band of renegades; another lie tomorrow, told by a staid and smartly-dressed executive to his fellow board members. The truth is right here. It's Midgar. I'm always on her side.