This place was like Hell. Zidane and his comrades must have been stark raving mad to leave the Genome tribe in this wretched village and expect us to survive. Nothing can withstand a culture shock so immense... let alone creatures without souls. Of course, they were aware of the sudden changes of the setting, but being soulless, they could not be confused, angered, surprised, delighted, by any of it.
They had no souls. They knew this new village of mages was different.
But I knew it was wrong.
I quietly walked down the path of the village. The road wasn't even paved, and felt dusty and rough under my feet. The dust was all over Gaia, as far as I could tell. how vegetation could grow in such a bizarre, commonplace substance but not in the Terran ground perfected over the ages confused me. But it was a comfortable confusion, as it reminded me that I had a soul. Certainly, the soul was a burden, but it also felt like a privilege... in a society of identical pawns, I was a slightly different pawn.
I paused in my journey to look at the stream. It was disturbing. In the Terran rivers, the water stayed still and you could cut it with a knife. But here, it was always moving, and it distorted my reflection like a bent mirror. This water was wrong. That's all there was to it.
A Mage aimlessly wandered up to me. "You're looking at the water," he said, stating the blatantly obvious. "Do you like it, Miss Mikoto?"
"No," I replied. "I think it's horrible. It moves to fast and it's too thin and changes my reflection."
"But that's how water always is," he replied, confused.
"Not in Terra," I replied. It's a pity that a soul had to be wasted on a simpleton like this when it could have gone to a Genome who would understand the horrors of Gaia. "This Gaian water is just... wrong."
"I don't think so."
"Have you ever been to Terra and seen the water there?" I asked, exasperated.
The Mage nodded. "I said the water was pretty. The Genomes said it hurt them."
"It did. It caused us great pain to look at, touch, and drink. But it was normal. It was right. Garland told us so."
"Does this water hurt you too?" the Mage asked.
"No. And... that's what's wrong with it," I replied. I felt like I was slipping.
"Oh." A few moments of silence passed. I continued staring at my contorted reflection that resembled a molten face on the surface of the water. "My name's Vivi!" the Mage chirped. "I already know your name."
I couldn't take it any more. Watching the water flow was giving me a dizziness almost equal with the pain associated with Terra's lakes. I stood up and began to walk off.
"Where are you going?" asked the pesky Mage.
I didn't reply. Vivi followed me for a minute or two as I continued walking through town, but he suddenly started speaking again. "You're headed to the bathing lake, Miss Mikoto. Are you wanting to take a bath?"
"Does that require touching the water?"
"Well, yes, if you want to get clean," Vivi replied.
I shuddered. "Then I'll pass."
"But you said the water here doesn't hurt you," the confused mage protested. I ignored him, however, and was busy looking at the sky. It appeared to be near what they called 'sunset'. Why didn't the sun stay in one place all the time? Didn't that make more sense? Was this entire damned world made by a clumsy child with no sense or reason or foresight? Was this world made by someone without a soul?
"If you go to the baths, I can't follow you any more," Vivi explained suddenly. "It's only for girls."
"Good. Maybe you'll leave me alone then," I said to him as I walked forward to the lake. He didn't follow me, but rather turned around as if hurt. But I didn't care. He was a wrong being anyway. He was wrong.
I walked on the forest trail, wincing at the agonizing crunch of the dead leaves beneath my feet. Was there no such thing as silence in this wrong world? As I drew nearer to the pond, however, I heard some different noises, like squeals. I checked to see if I had stepped on something, but it was apparent that I hadn't. However, the squeals didn't cease. In fact, as I walked closer to the lake... they became to sound like more of a sound that I hadn't heard since Kuja had left Terra for the last time. It was... laughter. Only it was not frightening and crazy sounding, but more of an expression of... pleasure? Enjoyment? All the words known only to those with souls flew through my mind, and while they all seemed to apply, none of the were a perfect fit.
As I finally reached the lake at last, I saw what the source of the laughter was. Two female Genomes were both stripped naked, their clothes laid neatly out on the bank. But instead of bathing, they were loudly splashing each other with the water, this horrible cold liquid water, and laughing as they did so. I didn't understand it. The water was thin and disgusting, and they were nude. What was there to laugh about?
But that wasn't what disturbed me the most.
These women didn't have souls. They weren't supposed to laugh. They had no emotions! Why could they laugh when... when...
The two Genomes never saw me, although I never took me eyes off them. I opened my mouth and made a low gurgling noise in my throat, trying to emulate the sounds they were making, but to no avail. Why... why could these soulless vessels laugh.... when I could not...
The world spun. The ugly colorfully painted sky blended with the dead leaves under my feet and it all became one twisting vortex that eventually led to darkness.
"Who is that?"
"Kuja... is that you?"
Whoo. You win.
"Don't play with me, Kuja."
Aren't we grumpy?
"What is happening"
Oh, with them or you?
"And... what's happening to me?"
Nothing! Absolutely nothing! You see, dearest Mikoto, they have souls.
"But... how? You, Zidane, and I were the only ones Garland gave souls to..."
"Answer me, Kuja!"
"Please... answer me... why aren't I the only one with a soul any more?"
Who's to say who has a soul and who does not?
"But Garland GAVE me a soul!"
Souls aren't given. They're grown.
Yes, little sister?
"Why are you here to tell me this?"
I'm merely a memory... a memory telling you what you already know.
"Do I have a soul? A real soul, like you and Zidane and those girls over there?"
"How can... how can I grow a soul? Is it too late?'
"Will you not give me a decent answer?"
I told you. I am not really Kuja. I'm am only part of your own memory. I can only tell you what you already know... You have to find the answer... for... yo... u...r..se....l....f....
And as suddenly as the blackout came, I was aware once again. I opened my eyes to see a gaggle of Mages and Genomes gathered around me. I felt a new sense of envy for them.
"What... where am I?"
"Two girls bathing found you passed out on the trail," Vivi explained.
"They brought you back here."
"Oh..." I said lamely. "Why... why does everyone look so sad?" The voice of a child came out of my mouth with the question.
"Mr. 36 stopped while you were unconscious," a Genome explained, his face to the ground in either respect or mourning, I couldn't tell.
At that moment, three Mages and a Genome walked by, carrying what looked to be a litter above their heads. On the litter was a Mage, only it wasn't a Mage. There was no movement, no life, no soul.
They carried him down all the way through town as not a word was spoken. They had already reached the cemetery by the time I realized what they were doing. I suddenly broke free, without realizing what I was doing, from the Mages and Genomes gathered around me, and ran, ran, ran to the cemetery. When I got there, the litter was on the ground and they were digging a hole.
I flung myself onto the corpse, weeping bitter tears and laughing a crazy, deranged laughter. They tried to pull me off of Mr. 36, but I clung to him as if I were chains wrapped around his body. They would not get me off. In this bizarre world where water ran as thinly as blood, plants grew in the dust made of the flesh and bones of ages past, and the sun fell out of the sky regularly, death was the only comfort I had. But even as I cried and laughed like a raving lunatic, I couldn't help but look at the corpse and see it as nothing as a hollow shell, becoming nothing but an empty puppet after death, as soulless as I was. I looked at this empty former being that should have been lively and loving.
And I knew it was wrong.