A bloodied arm came out of the ground. Then another. Kiron emerged from the obsidian and lay on his back for a moment, breathing, watching the cloudless sky. He got onto his knees and dug until he found the woman and pulled her out, and held her in his arms. Together they bled, shivered, lived. Beside them lay Nihil’s body, worn down to spine and ribs. Further away, the Woman in White wandered the fields, inspecting her crop of corpses for those not yet so. She stopped and stood watching something on the ground. Kiron got up and took the newborn woman with him over there.
Living? Kiron asked.
Yes, The Woman in White answered.
I’m only doing what has to be done, Kiron said, standing over the still unconscious man. It has to be done. It’s the only way. He stomped the man’s head with the heel of his bare foot so hard the obsidian shattered beneath.
No! The newborn woman cried out and tried to push Kiron away from the man.
Kiron shoved her aside. The second stomp cracked the skull as the man groaned. The third collapsed it and pushed the eyes out from their sockets. Unseeing, one stared at the pale sky and the other the obsidian beneath. The man convulsed for a while as blood poured out his nose and mouth.
The newborn woman sobbed.
It may be worth it, The Woman in White said. What is the saying; to make an omelet, you have to crack some eggs?
Kiron crouched and took a piece of obsidian into his trembling hand. He made an incision from the dead man’s navel to his pelvis. Deeper with every slice. The blood overflowed the cavity and ran down onto the ground. It colored Kiron’s arms red up to the elbows as he dug into the body. He took out the bladder and offered it to the woman. She just stared at it, still sobbing.
Drink, He said.
What? She sniveled.
You have to drink. It has been almost three days since you were reincarnated. You’ll die from dehydration if you don’t drink soon. It seems disgusting, but it’s the closest to water we’ll come. Considering I’m still functioning after four days without drinking, it’s safe to say we’re well hydrated when reincarnated. I think the urine should be clean enough.
She took it into her hands and moved it to her mouth. Reluctant yet eager and clumsy like a newborn trying to suckle its mother for the first time. Her cracked lips could not find the urethra left dangling for a purpose.
Let me help you, Kiron said and guided it into her mouth. She drank, retched, and drank more.
Better now? Kiron said.
Yes, I think so, She said and handed him the bladder.
Do you want to survive? He said.
Are you willing to do anything? Whatever has to be done. No matter what.
Yes. I think so.
Are you willing or not?
If we want to live, survive here, where thousands have perished before us, we’ve to be willing to do what they weren’t.
I can not see what that would be, Kiron, The Woman in White said. It has all been done: murder, cannibalism, altruism. They have tried it all; as desperate humans do.
Kiron took a deep gulp from the bladder and said, No.
I am sorry, Kiron, The Woman in White continued. I do not want you to lose hope or discourage you. But I can not lie. Literally.
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 and craft tools from their carcasses when they die. We’ll carve out a kingdom from tundra and obsidian for the new humanity that will not repeat its ancestors’ mistakes. We’ll be the Adam and Eve of this world. We’ll make these fields our Eden of ice and glass.
Kiron motioned for the newborn woman to come with him back to the trench. The Woman in White followed. They began by dragging away Nihil’s remains.
We’ll bury him later when we’ve dug the hole deeper, Kiron said between labored breaths.
You should not do that, The Woman in White said, walking behind them. He is more useful to you alive.
He looks quite fucking dead, Kiron said, shaking the body by its arms. Making the remaining organs move in their cage of bone and cartilage. To them, he was dead. They could not see his heart beat in ever so faint bursts. His Lungs work in vain as ripped bellows hissing air. Or how his brain surged with short impulses of being between nothingness. They did not notice, did not see, not comprehend.
He will come along. Eventually, The Woman in White said.
You can’t lie? Kiron sighed and let Nihil’s arms fall onto the obsidian.
I have not lied.
You haven’t told me your name? Kiron said, looking at the newborn woman.
Ëoz, She said.
Ëoz, Kiron repeated.
Astonishing! The Woman in White said as she pointed. Far away, where the shadow of the Vessel had fallen earlier, there was a glint. They saw a thing, not human nor android. A spherical object levitated over a spot on the ground.
What’s that? Kiron said.
That is a replicator. You are witnessing a birth.
The fellowship headed toward the object. Soon they saw how millions of thin threads hung from it. Grazing the ground. Moving with great 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 threads constructed her shoulders and hips in haste.
Oh, my god, Ëoz said, covering her mouth with her hand.
Can’t you control it? Kiron said.
No. Unfortunately not. It belongs to a different branch of infrastructure, The Woman in White said.
They stayed there until night came and watched the machine finish its masterpiece and fly away, leaving behind a perfect human steaming in the cold.
We’ve to care for her, Ëoz said, looking around for something to cover her with. Not realizing her own nakedness.
We’ll think about that later, Kiron said. For now, we’ve to get her to the shelter. The newborn woman 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 murmured as they watched her in silence.
We need to cover her, Ëoz said. Else she’ll freeze to death.
No. We’ve to dig deeper, Kiron said. If that storm comes back, that hole will have to fit all three of us. We survived those nights naked. The glass holds the warmth from the sun throughout the night. You do remember what happened to Nihil, don’t you? He said and pointed toward where they had left him. Ëoz sat down to dig, but Kiron stopped her and said, Wait, you’ll cut yourself. We need something with to shovel.
Like what? Ëoz said.
I’ve got an idea, Kiron said and went over to Nihil’s body. He flipped it over and started ripping at the few flaps of skin and flesh left on it. We could use this, He said and pushed his fingers in behind one of Nihil’s scapulae. Between the ribs, he thought he saw the lung stir. As if it inflated and deflated, barely noticeable. An impossibility. He continued deconstructing the corpse. That’s it! Kiron exclaimed and held the scapula toward the sun. He got up and went over to the trench, where he kneeled. One careful delve of the spade after another, he dug deeper into the ground.
Anything I can do? Ëoz said.
Yeah, you could drag bodies over here. Those that are old and freeze-dried.
The Woman in White approached, foreboded by her buzzing. Imaginative, She said when she saw them working.
Desperation is the mother of innovation, Kiron muttered.
Necessity is the mother of invention, The Woman in White corrected him.
Ëoz giggled and said, 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 is the beginning of a new one. A transitional stage as many before. And probably after.
The Woman in White watched Kiron dig. The sweat on his back and brow glistened in the night’s sunlight. It dripped onto the obsidian shards against which Nihil’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 foundation of what would become the greatest kingdom to ever exist on the face of the earth. Or under.