On the Way to a Smile, Episode: Denzel [Revised]

“I don’t know how long I was lying there. When I came to, the whole house was in shambles.

Miss. Ruvie was lying on the floor. I called her name and she opened her eyes just a little… and said “Im glad you’re safe” in a soft voice. Then she asked me to hold her hand. So I held my hand out. She took it… but there was no strength in her at all”

“My son’s hand is too big. I can’t get mine around it anymore” she said. And I thought, “Good thing I’m a kid.” Then she asked me what it looked like outside. I was worried about her, but I went out to look. It was morning. The whole area was just like the inside of the house, in shambles.”

Denzel hung his head and continued his tale, while Reeve closed his eyes mournfully and listened.

* * *

After heading outside, Denzel turned around and looked at Ruvi’s house. He could see that all of the windows had been blown out. Looking around he saw that it was the same with all of the other houses in the area. There were houses without roofs, houses with big gaping holes in the walls. Denzel now knew that it would have turned out the same way, whether he broke the window or not, but he got mad at himself for thinking it.

Miss Ruvie went through such a horrible ordeal just to protect me and here I am acting as if I had nothing to do with it.

When he went back inside, it looked like Ruvie was sleeping. She had such a peaceful look on her face. Disconcerted, he gave her shoulders a little nudge.

“Miss Ruvi. Hey”

She showed no signs of waking.

“Miss Ruvie?”,

This time he tried shaking a little harder.

A stream of black fluid dribbled from the corner of Ruvie’s mouth. Seeing it was a sign of death, he hastily wiped it away. The black stuff was oozing from underneath her hair, too. Denzel felt sick. He bolted out of the house, gripped with fear.

“Dad, please. Mom, help me. Mr. Arkham. Anybody!”

There was nobody left, nobody to hold his hand and tell him that everything was going to be ok. All he could do was cry.

“Hey, don’t cry”,

Denzel felt a huge hand ruffling his hair. When he looked up, he saw a great big man with a jet black moustache standing there. Behind him was a small truck with around 10 people sitting in the back.

“What are you doing here? Didn’t you hear them say on the TV to take shelter in the slums?”

Denzel felt like he would get scolded if he didn’t give a satisfactory answer

“We didn’t watch TV.”

“No kidding you didn’t. “We didn’t know.” “We thought we’d be okay.” It’s the same story with the whole lot of you! ”

Everyone on the truck had sheepish looks on their faces.

“So, you got family?”

“Miss Ruvie’s in the house.”

* * *

“The Man’s name was Gaskin. He helped me bury Miss Ruvie in the backyard. The people in the truck helped too. We buried her with her son’s books and her sewing kit. Everyone was surprised how deep the soil in the backyard was. They said they usually hit the Plate right away.”

“Perhaps she’d meant to grow vegetables. A lot of elderly folk from the country do that, you know.

“…I think it was flowers.”,

Denzel looked at the floral pattern on his hankerchief.

“The house was full of flower paterns, and she had tons of fake flowers too. But I think what she wanted was some real ones.
She lived in Midgar because her son worked for Shinra. But she just wanted a nice place with soil, were she could plant some flowers and… eh, sorry. I’m rambling, huh?”

Reeve nodded as he listened.

sigh “no”

* * *

The truck carrying Denzel and the others eventually stopped at the train station.

“The train’s aren’t running. No prospects of them starting up again either. But lucky for us, the tracks still lead down to the city. We should be able to walk it.”

“Is Midgar dangerous?”

“Well, I dunno. But I’ll take my chances with good old solid ground”

He turned to Denzel,

“Careful you don’t slip.Everybody’s hit hard right now.You gotta look after yourself”

The truck did a U-turn and left. A large crowd had gathered at in the terminal. The white light affected the whole of Midgar. Those who had lost their homes retreated there, as well as those who thought the whole city might collapse around them. Even so, many of them were hesitant to walk down the tracks to the ground. There were no cheers to be heard that Meteor was gone, instead, people shouted their grievances with the botched and belated evacuation order. Denzel thought to himself that it was a good thing his father wasn’t here to listen to this. He waded through the crowd to the platform and fell in with the procession down the tracks. He didn’t know what was in store below, but seeing as Gaskin was the only one showing them the way, doing as he said seemed like the best course of action.

We didn’t know what lay ahead but the only person leading was Gaskin. It was obvious that we had no other choice but to follow him.

Between rails and cross-ties, laid atop iron struts, Denzel could see the ground far below. They were far enough up that falling meant certain death, so he made his descent cautiously. The railway spiraled down around Midgar’s perimeter and it was sickeningly long, but with his mind focused on keeping his footing, he never had to think about it

Suddenly they seemed to have come to a dead end. The adults had come to a halt. It was like being in a traffic jam. When he made his way to the front of the crowd. There was a boy of about three sitting precariously between the rails with his legs out in front of him.

If he was the cause of our delay, then I thought we could have just gone round him.

“Where’s your mama?”

Suddenly, the boy started crying and yelling


He tried to peer down below. He lost his balance and looked like he was about to fall, so Denzel darted forward and grabbed his arm.

Crowd noises
“Hey, that kid, he’s marked.”

“Don’t touch him, you’ll catch it!”

Denzel had no idea what they were saying.

“Hey, clear the road!”

Denzel looked up, like he wanted to object to whoever said that, but he didn’t see who it was. With no other choice, he put his hands around the boy’s waist and dragged him up onto an iron plate where it was safer.

I was wondering why no one helped, but I soon realized the reason why. The boy’s back was soaked in a black substance.

The path was now clear, so people started to walk again. The boy kept crying.

“Mommy, it hurts”

Denzel remembered someone saying “You’ll catch it.” He wanted to cry. He was furious with the boy, but he immediately remembered Ruvie. How he had felt ill when the same black fluid came out of her, even though she had been so kind to him. How he had gotten scared and ran off. His heart was filled with guilt.

That was why I planned to wipe that sin away by helping the boy. I wanted Ruvie to forgive me.

Denzel knelt down next to him

“Where’s it hurt?”

“Back there, ahh”

“Your back hurts?”


He carefully placed his hand on the boys back.

When I had a sore tummy, mom would rub it for me and the pain would go away. She did the same if I bumped into things. I might be able to use some of mom’s magic too.

Denzel did his best to ignore the sticky black substance, and started to rub. Although it was painful at first, the boy soon fell asleep.

For three hour – maybe even longer – he continued to rub, taking breaks now and then. People ignored Denzel and the boy as they descended the tracks.

“He’s dead you know.”

Looking up, he saw the tired face of a woman. She had a baby fastened around her chest, and a girl about Denzel’s age was holding her hand.

“That shirt looks like a girl’s. It’s so weird. Isn’t it, mommy?”

Without uttering a word, the woman helped her daughter out of her blue jacket, and held it out to Denzel.

“Put this over him.”

The little girl was relieved. She had been bundled up in three layers of clothes, and was soaked with sweat.

“You can have it. It belongs to my big sister. That’s why it’s so big.”

Denzel looked at the boy curled up asleep next to him. It didnt sound like he was breathing.

Denzel was completely out of strength. The little girl took the jacket from her mother and wrapped it around the boy. His body was now completely hidden from view.

“He’s with my big sister now.”

“Thank you”,

Just saying that all the energy he had. The mother started walking again and the little girl followed her. She slid he hand into her mother’s. Both their hands were dyed jet black.

Gazing at the Chocobo on the bag the little girl was carrying, Denzel thought to himself.

Were they all going to die crying in pain with that black stuff flowing out? Was everyone going to die because they were ill?

* * *

“Back then, we didn’t know a thing about the stigma. People exposed to the Lifestream oozed ichor from their bodies and died. Some said it spread through skin contact. Actually, it was remnants of Jenova mixed in the Lifestream… Well, even if people knew, it would have made no difference.

“Right, Especially to a kid”


“Up there on the tracks I thought “I wish I was grown up.” Even if it meant just one less time I spent thinking about something I could never understand.

* * *

Denzel absentmindedly watched the people who fled to the station in the Slums. One by one, they descended from the upper levels, and still they kept walking as if they believed stopping would be their end. While he knew he should do the same, hecouldn’t abandon the hope that he might run into a familiar face if he stayed put. All that drove Denzel while he was in that limbo was unbearable hunger.

Walking around the outside of the terminal looking for food, he saw a pile of goods stacked up a short distance away. Further on, he saw several men working away at something. It seemed they were digging a hole. The smell of decay hung in the air. A man came over carrying a young woman on his shoulders and gently lowered her into the hole. It was a makeshift grave. As Denzel made a hasty exit, he spotted a familiar backpack amongst the pile of goods. It had a picture of a chocobo on it. He was somehow compelled to pick up the bag and open it. Inside were some cookies and chocolate. Denzel thought about the little girl who owned it.

She’s gone now.

“Eat up”

It was Gaskin. Denzel had a vaque feeling he had been wanting to run into him all along.

“Worried you’ll catch the sickness? That’s nothing but a rumour. I suppose it could actually be true, but right now? Just hearsay. Besides, you don’t eat, you die. If you’re gonna die, wouldn’t you rather do it on a full stomach?”,

That said, he reached into the backpack, snagged a cookie, and ate it

“mmm! Still good. They’ll only rot if you leave them there. Eat up before they go to waste.”

Denzel ate a cookie. The sweetness was comforting. He looked down at the bag,


Gaskin gave Denzel’s hair a good ruffle.

He was a different type of person compared to dad, but the way he ruffled my hair was the same.

For the next year or so, Denzel was living at that very spot. His first job was to find food among the goods.

He made friends right away. They were all children who had lost their parents. Gaskin kept making friends too. “Shit-for-brains who arent happy unless they’re using their muscles”, as Gaskin put it. Of course, he was affectionately referring to the group that first started burrying the corpses. Sometimes Denzel caught himself smiling. He felt he could be his old self again. However, about two weeks in, the number of refugees from Midgar dwindled and no more people died at the terminal. Their role there was just about finished. Denzel spent many sleepness nights worried about the future.

A lone man was out walking, as though he were searching for something. Eventually he approached Denzel and his friends and spoke to them.

“I’d like some iron pipes. The more, the merrier.”

Denzel and his friends went to look for iron pipes. They managed to find lots of them in the debris of Sector Seven.

The man said his thanks and left. Since then, he came back many times. After the third visit, he brought friends with him who were also searching for things.

A new town had started to develop on the east side of Midgar. It turned out they were looking for materials to use there. The kids agreed to find what they were looking for in exchang for food.

Denzel and his friends soon took to calling themselves the Sector Seven Scavengers, or Triple S for short. There was plenty of work for them. They were proud of themselves for working and living like adults, and it was fun. There were nights when they cried and thought about their parents, but they always comforted each other. They were “all in the same boat”, but destiny had not tied Denzel and the others as tightly as they thought.

One morning, Gaskin gathered the adults and kids of the Triple S, and suggested they move to the new town and pitch in with the efforts there. Just when they all seemed to reach an agreement, one of the children noticed something. He had seen Gaskin rubbing his chest now and then during his speech.

“Mr. Gaskin, are you feeling sick?”

“Just a bit”

When he undid the buttons of his shirt, he saw that he was soaked in the black liquid.

* * *

“Gaskin died a month later. We made sure to bury him in a special place. The good people always die, huh?”

Reeve nodded silently to Denzel’s words. Denzel put the coffee to his lips. He really hated the bitter taste, but he wanted to be able to enjoy some day, like the adults did.

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