As he looked at the white mountain, he saw a figure moving. It was a woman in white. He set off after her, jumping from body to body as fast as he could. His foot sank into one of them as it let out a deep sigh. He fell and caught himself with his hands. The shards cut his palms that overflowed with blood dripping onto the ground. He got up and clenched his fists in an attempt to stop the bleeding. It did not work. He saw the back of the woman as she continued walking toward the horizon. She was naught but a speck. He turned around and looked at the body he had stepped on. It breathed.
Are you alive? He asked but got no answer. He crouched down and put his hand on its back. The blood started trickling again, and he pushed together his palms. He rose and touched the body with his foot. When it didn’t respond, he kicked. It whimpered. Are you alive? He repeated.
Yes, Nihil answered.
The man looked toward the Woman in White and saw that she was disappearing behind the horizon. Get up! He said. Get up if you can, or I’ll leave you here. Nihil coughed and began to move. He rolled onto the side and revealed a bearded face covered in cuts. Some smaller shards were stuck to the skin. He struggled onto his hands and knees, where he paused.
Hurry, The man said, looking at the Woman in White again. Else I’ll leave you.
The man took hold of Nihil’s arm and helped him to his feet. He led him in the direction of the woman. When Nihil stumbled and fell over a body, the man helped him up and lifted him onto his shoulders. He began following the woman again. The bones of the dead under his feet cracked with every laborious step. The clouds from his breath grew larger and more numerous for every moment. He alternated his gaze between the white dot on the horizon and the ground in front of him.
Fuck! He shouted and put Nihil on the ground. I’m sorry, I’ll be back, He said. Stay awake so that you can answer when I call for you. Okay?
He ran for a while. Then he stopped, turned around, and walked back in the direction of Nihil. Hello! He called, going from body to body. Hello! I’m back to get you!
Here, Answered a weak voice.
He looked around. The sun was still visible in the sky despite it being hours since he woke. It had only circled him just above the horizon without ever disappearing behind it. He saw movement and went there. Nihil struggled onto his knees, and the man helped him to his feet again. He looked at Nihil’s bloody face and swept away some shards. Then he pulled out those that were stuck.
Try staying on your feet as you lean against me. I’m Kiron, by the way, He said. I’ll help you as much as I can.
Why do you want to go there? Why is it important? Nihil asked and coughed.
It may be relevant to the game.
This game. This simulation.
When they found her, she stood watching a woman on the ground whimper and squirm. Kiron went up to the Woman in White and let Nihil lean on her instead. Unaffected, she continued looking at the woman on the ground. Kiron kneeled beside her, grabbed her shoulder, and shook it. He let go and looked at his hand that now had stopped bleeding. Then he shook her again.
She is alive, but not fully awake yet, The Woman in White said, looking at Kiron. It usually takes a couple of hours. Often they freeze to death before they wake up.
Those words made Kiron notice the droplets of sweat covering his body, and he froze again. Kiron seized shaking the woman, and sat down on a body. He shivered more than ever before, and the droplets of sweat had started to freeze. Wait, this is stupid. What’s happening? He said, quivering.
I am afraid you will have to specify your question.
I need to know what’s happening, Kiron said.
I cannot answer that question, The Woman in White said. Could you try rephrasing your question?
Where am I? He continued.
You are in the fields of glass, Earth, the Northern Hemisphere; 74 degrees North, 56 degrees East.
Is this a simulation?
Then what is it?
This is reality, She said, smiling.
He looked around and then back at her and said, Very well. What do I have to do?
Excuse me, could you be more specific in your question?
What do I have to do to be let out?
You do not have to do anything, She said, confused. You are already out, Kiron.
If this isn’t a simulation, then why do you know my name?
I can see it in the Library.
What the fuck am I doing here? He said and crouched, burrowing his face in his hands. Why are you doing this to me?
The protocol said that you were number 824,995 to be reincarnated.
He rose to his feet and said, What fucking protocol? Where are the others?
The protocol for recreating humanity after an event of extinction. Regarding your question about where the other reincarnated are, the answer is: everywhere. It is not objectively correct but descriptive enough to justify its use in this case. Take a look around once more, Kiron, She said with a sweep of her hand.
He remained silent for a while, scratched his nose, then head, and asked, Are you an ark?
What are you then?
I am Vör II, a librarian but for all intents and purposes the same as my workplace; a library.
Yenok! He shouted at the sky. Let me out! You got me! I fell for it!
I do not have any definitive sources, but I suspect that this Yenok is dead, The Woman in White said pitifully.
Okay, He said. I’ll play the game. Now what?
Excuse me. Can you specify your question?
What, should, I, do, now?
After a quick analysis of your situation, an unofficial answer would be: survive.
Kiron shook the woman again.
There’s no use, Kiron. She’ll die, Nihil said. God knows I’ve tried.
Yes. The likelihood of her death is close to one hundred percent, The Woman in White said.
Yes, yes, it’s enough, Kiron interrupted her. It doesn’t matter. I guess we’ve no other choice than to try. I’m fucking tired of this shit already. Fuck you, Yenok, He said under his breath.
Correct, The Woman in White said and looked over her shoulder and then back at him and continued, Excuse me, number 824,996 has been reincarnated. I have to go and welcome her to the new world.
The first thousand shards flung by the winds against the Vessel shattered into millions of pieces. Nihil and Kiron turned around and saw the brewing storm. The Woman in White walked toward it unfazed.
Dig! Fucking dig! Nihil bellowed as he threw himself onto his knees and dug into the obsidian with both hands. Dig or die!
What? Why? Kiron said. What are you doing?
I’m fucking digging, as should you be if you don’t want to be shredded into an uncountable number of pieces. There will be more of those shards coming our way. Dig!
Kiron fell onto his knees beside Nihil and dug into the obsidian. He cut his hands and arms until they turned into a bloody mess. Yet he continued as more and more shards crashed into the Vessel. As the storm rumbled. As all became dark.
That’s it, that’s it. It’s deep enough. Now lay in it, Nihil shouted over the roaring winds.
As Kiron so did, Nihil dragged the newborn woman to the trench and pushed her into it beside Kiron. He began shoveling obsidian over them and shouted, Stay there until you’re sure the storm has passed, and then stay a bit longer.
What about you? Kiron yelled.
I’ll be okay. I can’t explain, but I’ll be okay, Nihil answered as his words were swallowed by the storm.