9: Of Tundra and Obsidian

Two days later, Chyron resurfaced followed by the woman. There they stood holding each other. Bleeding and shivering. At their feet lay the Devourer’s body worn down to spine and ribs under which his lungs lay deflated and useless. Further away, the Woman in White wandered around the fields inspecting her crops of corpses for those not yet so. Chyron dragged the newborn woman with him over there. They stumbled after the Woman in White as she searched for the newest incarnation to die. Not before long, she found it.

Living? Chyron called out and hurried there.

Yes, The Woman in White answered.

I’m only doing what has to be done, Chyron said as he stood over the still unconscious man. It has to be done. It’s the only way. He stomped the head so the obsidian shattered beneath. The second stomp cracked the skull. The third collapsed it as the eyes popped out from their sockets. Unseeing, they stared at the pale sky as the body continued twitching for a while.

It may be worth it, The Woman in White sighed.

You drink him, Chyron told the confused woman. I’ll help you, He filled in, crouched and took a piece of obsidian in his shaking hand. He made an incision from the dead man’s belly bottom to his pelvis. Deeper with every slice. The blood overflowed the cavity and ran down onto the obsidian beneath. It colored Chyron’s arms red up to the elbows as he dug into the body. He lifted out the bladder and offered it to the woman. Drink, He said. She took it into her hands and moved it to her eager mouth. Trembling like a newborn trying to suckle its mother for the first time. Her lips could not find the urethra left dangling for a purpose. Let me help you, Chyron said and put it into her mouth. She drank.

Better now? Chyron asked the woman as he looked at what was left of their savior grave.

Yes, I think so, She stammered and handed him the bladder.

Do you want to survive? He asked her, still staring at the trench.

Yes.

Are you willing to do anything?

Yes. I think so.

Do you want to live or not? Are you willing or not?

Yes, She sniveled.

If we want to live, survive here, where thousands have perished before us, we’ve to be willing to do what they weren’t.

Then the Woman in White spoke, I can’t see what that would be, Chyron. It has all been done, I’m afraid. Murder, cannibalism, war and peace, altruism or egoism, they’ve tried it all. As desperate humans do.

Chyron took a deep gulp from the bladder and said, No.

I’m sorry, Chyron. I don’t want you to lose hope or discourage you from what you feel can bring you back that hope. But as I’ve told you before, I can’t lie, She said in pity.

No. They haven’t done it all. We’ll dig deep into the frozen ground, where the storms can’t get to us. We’ll work the newborn as animals and keep them in pens. Farm them as animals and build tools from their carcasses when they die. We’ll carve out a kingdom from tundra and obsidian, where I’ll be king. We’ll be a new humanity. One that will not repeat the mistakes of our ancestors. We’ll be the Adam and Eve of this world. We’ll make these fields our Eden of ice and glass.

Chyron motioned for the newborn woman to come with him back to the trench. The Woman in White followed them. There they began with dragging away the Devourer’s remains. We’ll salvage whatever we can later when we’ve dug the hole deeper, Chyron said between labored breaths.

You shouldn’t do that, The Woman in White said, walking behind them. It will kill you. Nevertheless, he’s more useful for you alive.

He looks quite fucking dead, Chyron said shaking the body by its arms. Making the remaining organs move in their cage of bone and cartilage.

He’ll come along eventually.

You can’t lie? Chyron sighed and let the Devourer’s arms fall onto the obsidian. When the Woman in White walked away, Chyron and his companion followed her over the field. You haven’t told me your name? He asked her.

She remained silent for a while longer, and then she answered, Eoz.

Eoz, Chyron repeated.

I sense another. There! The Woman in White said and pointed toward a spherical object levitating further away. When the fellowship came closer, they saw millions of thin threads hanging from it to the ground. Moving with high speed, they did their work while in a miracle of technology never entangling. On the ground beneath lay the head and torso of a naked woman, still unconscious. The tentacles constructed her shoulders and hips in haste.

Wonderful! The Woman in White exclaimed, You’re witnessing a birth. It’s very uncommon to catch a glimpse of one. They happen only once a day, and so fast you’ll never know where in the vastness to look for it.

Oh, my god, Eoz said, covering her mouth with a hand. Wide-eyed she and Chyron watched the machine finish its masterpiece and fly away, leaving behind a perfect human steaming in the cold. We’ve to care for her, Eoz said looking around for something to cover her with while not realizing her nakedness.

We’ll think about that later, Chyron said. For now, we’ve to get her to the shelter. She groaned as they together lifted her onto her feet. They dragged and carried her back to the trench where they put her down. She squirmed and moaned as they watched her in silence.

We need to cover her, Eoz said. Else she’ll freeze to death.

No. We’ve to dig deeper, Chyron said. If that storm comes back, that hole will have to fit all three of us. We survived those nights naked. The sun never fully sets here, and the glass holds the heat throughout the night. You do remember what happened to Nihil, don’t you? He said and pointed toward where they had left him. Eoz sat down to dig, but Chyron stopped her and said, Wait, you’ll cut yourself even worse. We need something with to shovel.

Like what? Eoz asked.

I’ve got an idea, Chyron said and went over to the Devourer’s body. He started ripping at the few flaps of skin and flesh left on it. We could use these, He said and pushed his fingers in behind one of the Devourer’s scapulae. His fingers and hands turned red from the coagulated blood as he pried it loose. That’s it! Chyron exclaimed and held the scapula toward the sun. He got up and went over to the trench where he kneeled again. One careful delve of the spade after another, he dug deeper into the ground.

Anything I can help you with? Eoz asked.

Yeah, you could drag bodies over here. Those that are old and freeze-dried. Then you could move Nihil further away.

How far?

As far as you can muster.

Shall be.

The Woman in White approached foreboded by her humming. They ignored her. Imaginative, She said when she saw them working.

Desperation is the mother of innovation, Chyron muttered.

Necessity is the mother of invention, The Woman in White said.

Eoz giggled, It’s the end of the world, and you two are arguing about semantics.

Sweet summer child, The Woman in White said, This is not the end of the world. It’s the beginning of a new one. A transitional stage as many before. And probably after.

The Woman in White watched as Chyron dug. The sweat on his back and brow glistened in the sunlight. It dripped onto the obsidian shards against which the Devourer’s scapula held up well. As the hole got deeper, the wall of stacked dead grew higher around it. Together they built a fortress of bodies and glass to hold against the storms of shards. The beginning of what would become the greatest kingdom to ever exist on the face of the earth. Or under.

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