The Recorder finally clicks off and Zack looks down at the small nest of birds. Silly little things. What is their naivety to the world now? The laws are coming undone. What meaningless toys he can snatch from the hands of evil are pointless in the long scheme of things.
But he can remember a world where it wasn’t pointless, and every fiber of his training speaks out and says it doesn’t have to be pointless. Not forever. There’s a world out there that is still placid and perfect, and there are people singing who don’t know the end approaches, who think the world is still solid.
And there’s his daughter who is too young to understand why her father isn’t home all the time, whose face lights up when he enters in, and she jabbers about the innocent things of childhood. He wishes he was there instead.
A final note then. He doesn’t know if she’s dead yet, after all, and he can hardly pass, can hardly give into the burning of radiation across his skin, and the flicker of his heart that says this is the end. His supplies are gone, back up isn’t coming, and his Omoi node is counting off the clicks of radiation increasing. It tries to play music but he can’t hear it over his own death.
He flicks the com back on.
“And to my daughter, lovely Morgan, I love you the most. I’m sorry I couldn’t save you. But one day, the world will be beautiful again.” he stares out at the world outside. The Sky is a bloody red; the wounds of heaven are seeping out. If he squints, he thinks he can see the Watcher atop his throne of ashes, the other gods already leaving the doomed world behind. Does he smile?
Does he smile looking at the beauty of the world, and sees it all turn to ash?
“One day the world will be beautiful again, lovely Morgan. I swear. There is good in the heart of this world. I can’t give up hope that the world will crawl out of this alive. I can’t. I’ve seen too many beautiful things. Killed many of them. My hands are stained with blood, but all I want to do is hold yours again.”
A breath, wracked with a sob. “I wanted to see you grow up. I wanted to see you dance, and sing, again and again, until the day I died. I’m sorry the world wasn’t good enough for you. But someone will make it good again. I just can’t give up hope that it won’t get better.”
A laugh. “I’m repeating myself.”
“But it will get better one day. I love you. The world loves you. You are everything I wanted for the future.”
Radiation sickness spirals in, and nausea wracks his stomach. Does he take the pill and end it now, or keep staring at the sunset?
Nobody has seen the colors of death this clearly. It’s cowardice to take death quickly.
But he’s scared of the end more than anything else. He’s scared of all the things he didn’t get to do. The years he passed saving the world stopped him from experiencing it. Every hand that he snuffed out was another moment he could’ve spent hand in hand with his wife, his brother, his family.
He’s dead by the end of the day. The crows around him burrow into his clothes looking for more food, and only find the last of the old world artifacts.
They’ll live to regret it.
The end of the world isn’t an easy affair. When the world dies, it breaks in half like an egg. The laws scramble in on themselves in a torrid of hot fire and hell storms, and the surface crawls on many legs. By the time Morrigan is born, the world outside is placid glass and hell, and long shriveling cracks run lengthwise across the boiling soup of humanity. Radiation lances wildly, running through air thick as honey, with only a few bastions of contemporaneous reality giving her fits of air to breath. The crows are scared. The Crow is not. She sits curled up in the room, quiet, sleeping, dangerous, beautiful.
The man has died staring at the heavens, but she won’t die the same way. She is his daughter now. The Lovely Morrigan. The world will get better one day. He loved her. She is everything he wants for the future.
She is terrified, and scared, and there’s nobody else around her for miles except the crawling wreckages and the dead and the dying. The radio is filled with screams, her memories are filled with holes from the damned who died creating Lord Inquiry’s work.
But she is Morrigan, and will make the world a better place. The world has no masters.
She’ll have to do.
Three days north she finds humans scurrying in the wreckage, entombed in heavy suits. They move sluggishly and half wittedly, scrambled from the end of time. She approaches gingerly, and is nearly sawed in half by a blast from a machine gun, but the past is past and they take her in. They claim there are great things in the ashes of man, and perhaps there will be something that will save them. She listens intently to these scholars.
the next day another is dead from radiation. She’s scared it will happen to herself. She is an old world anomaly, one claims. From before the gods left. The domineering forces are entombed within her weave.
She’ll be safe, if she’s careful.
They teach her words and languages and she absorbs it like a sponge. They die like wheat in the meantime.
Man was not build for such a world. She’d make the world a better place for them, too.
The sun bleeds as it drifts through the sky, a long line of radiation. There’s no need to pretend normalcy now. The world has no suspension of disbelief; the gods are gone, the laws are off, and the predators and criminals hunt for all that is good in the world to devour it before the final snuffing of the sun.
By the end of the year, the USEC wardens are dead, she understands the language, and she understands the final messages left behind by Agent Zack.
She’ll make the world a better place for them all. She digs graves. She can taste the crackle of radiation upon their bodies.
One day that will stop. She’ll make it stop.
Morrigan swears upon the name of her father that she will fix everything. She’s terrified to find that she means it. In the honor of the man, and then men, and the women, she takes on their form and pretends she needs clothes and their fineries. She pretends it means something, and soon enough it means something. She takes their regalia, their flags, their faith, and she remembers it for them. Their minds may no longer hold anything, but she’ll
She’s dying actually. She won’t be doing much of anything. Only a few years have passed, and the crows of her form are starting to die. Radiation. Age. Starvation. Food is hard to find. The other crows are faring well enough. High in the spires of the old world they’re protected from some of the radiation. Those that die fall to the cover of corpses below, standing on the rotting meat of old man kind. Those that don’t die reproduce to fill their niche. It’s a scavenger’s world now, pecking at the filth and rot and lawlessness, great worms curled up in the corpse of the gods.
The scavengers come for her next, as she lays there, thoughts spiraling out of her head and into the air, weak, agonizing pain.
And she tells them the story of what she is, and what she will do. At first they peck and pull meat from her bones.
Soon they are her meat and her bones. She arises from her tomb. She’ll make the world hers. The world is azure, pristine, perfect, cleansed of thoughts and hoped and dreams. She’ll fill it up again.
She is the man’s daughter now. She’ll fix the world.
She makes her first kill. A great beast with many eyes stalked the streets, seeking out stray thoughts and devouring them into a maw ringed with fingers. Many knuckle joints screamed to be broken. It took a bit of doing, but it couldn’t move out of the way of the desk she’d pushed out of a tall window, not when her flock harassed it. She lost a few birds, but there area always more crows to replace them. They breed well without predators. The wings protect them.
She buries the corpse outside of the city and marks it with a computer monitor. She carves what she thinks it might’ve been named into the side with a talon.
The stars are beautiful, great sheens and streaks of light streaming screaming through the obliterated atmosphere. Where it isn’t choked with ash. It gets cold. She hides her flock, her beautiful birds, and ventures out to save them with food. It’s hard. She eats meat. She eats whatever she can find. She is a devouring wind. She’ll reclaim the city first, and then she’ll move on.
What are you doing, silly bird? The world’s over. We lost. There’s nothing left.
Says you, the bird replies. I will bear down the mountain of heaven and free the giants trapped beneath of it. The world may not know my name, but I will carve it free from ash and destruction. The spires may pierce the heavens now, but my task reaches high.
We have yet to win, the bird corrects because her heart is filled with voices and memories and hopes and dreams of a world that is beautiful today, and the vines that whisper doubts have no place among them. And we will win, in the end. I will make sure we win.
The world waits for a hero. She won’t wait for a hero. She’ll make them herself.
The Crows stare at her with wide eyes, and she tells them that they are loved, and that they are dear, and that the horrors of the old world do not need to last much longer.
It may take
years decades centuries Millennia but she’ll fix it they’ll fix it we’ll fix it and we will be loved and the world will be pristine again and we will be loved and the world will be pristine again and we will hope and we will dream and that is what we will do, we are heroes, we will continue their work, our dreams are there dreams
we are the children of humanity, whether they know it or not.
and though the heavens boiled and the works of man stood strong, so too did the Morrigan, daughter of humanity and the stars, and her campaign to return the world to normalcy.