Author's Note: So, this was written in response to a prompt and I'm absolutely desperate for opinions before I give it over to be critiqued by people in a class I'm in. The prompt is this:
Must take place in the middle of a crisis
Must have three characters
Must have description and dialogue
Must not start with dialogue
Title cannot be literal
Must be exactly two pages double spaced
Please read and review!
The Last Beautiful Thing
The moon was a brilliant white. Though there was no time for such foolishness, he couldn't help but stop to stare. The streets of Paris were caught up in the mania of revolution, stained red with the blood of men willing to die to make their country a better place and illuminated by the harsh light of gunfire. Yet the moon was still a pure, pristine white. It was a simple thing, something Charles had always taken for granted. But now he couldn't imagine not stopping to notice. It was the only escape from the carnage and probably the last beautiful thing he would see in this world. Seconds later he was thrown to the ground and the spell was broken.
"Damn it, Charles! Wherever your head went, get it back here!" snarled the man who'd shoved him out of the way of a bit of the barricade that had been dislodged and just barely missed falling on them both. Charles locked eyes with the man on top of him. Etienne's once handsome face was now covered in blood and dirt, his blonde hair matted, and his hazel eyes wild and desperate. What Charles found most disturbing was the frenzied thirst for blood apparent in his every feature. Etienne still wanted to kill… He would have preferred to die staring at the moon rather than live to see his childhood friend so terribly changed. This was not Etienne.
"Keep in mind, Etienne, that your next words may be your last," he chided bitterly, pushing the other man off of him. Etienne ignored his rebuke and snatched up a gun, peering at the ever advancing National Guard through a hole in the barricade. Charles had only just gotten to his feet when a rifle was shoved into his hand.
"Make them bleed while we still can," Jean insisted grimly. He was even further gone than Etienne. Of the three of them, he had always been the most gentle. How was it that the boy Charles had once mocked mercilessly for being unable to bring himself to kill a goose on a hunt was now the hate-filled man thrusting weapons at him and urging him to keep shooting as long as he had breath? Any last visions of glory Charles may have had vanished. Now, the reality of what was once a noble and righteous dream was reflected in Jean's fiery eyes and the clothes now dyed an awful, rusty shade of red by the blood of their friends who hadn't lasted through the day. Jean's jaw was set and his grip on the gun firm. Though he was still alive, Charles felt as though he'd already lost his dear friend.
He put his own gun down and took hold of Jean's. "Enough is enough. Surely you see there is no way for us to win!"
"But Felix! And… And Henri…!"
"Are dead Jean! And no amount of killing is going to bring them back!" Charles insisted. He turned to Etienne and tried to pry him away from the barricade, pleading, "Please! No more killing. Enough people have died already." Finally, he was overcome by all that had passed in the last two days. His voice began to tremble and tears welled up in his eyes as he continued, "We are going to die here. And I know you know it! Please… If I must… If I must die… I want it to be among the friends I knew."
His plea seemed to stir something in the other men. Etienne stepped away from the battered wood and Jean set aside the weapon. Their eyes met and they clasped hands for what would certainly be the last time. The comfort of human touch worked wonders—Etienne and Jean were back. Charles managed a smile and asked, "No regrets?" His voice was unsteady but the smile was genuine.
"Just another adventure, right?" Jean asked.
Absurdly, Etienne commented, "Only what my mother will say when she sees us so filthy."
Charles mused, "You know, I have actually begun to miss her scolding." For the first time in days, the three of them laughed. As they smiled, the white of their teeth stood out brilliantly against the dark backdrop.
The moon was not the last beautiful thing Charles lived to see.