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759 No. 759
“Aww… there, there, Aya, I’ll get you another! Just hold on!”

She dashed back into the dilapidated cottage, a lone structure amongst a clearing full of piles of ash and ruins. Its roof is two different colors, hastily repaired with irregular pieces of wood. The windows have long since been boarded over. The entire dwelling has a slight lean, having gone far too long without skilled hands to tend to it.

Inside, she rummages through carefully organized boxes and chests and storage containers of all types, all showing their age. The air inside holds heavy, long since deprived of anything new. Three beds adjourn the home. Two lay perfectly made, covered in a layer of dust. By the window, where the sun used to shine in on early mornings, sits a typewriter. Its mechanisms rusted with age, it still holds a sheet, as if it had been prepared for writing and simply abandoned, so long ago.

She finds what she is looking for: Packaged bread, long since past its usefulness as a foodstuff for people.

She tears into the package, halfway out the door as she does. She greets her dear friends, quickly dispensing it.

“There, there. Isn’t that what you wanted? Eat up.”

So she softly coos, gently placing the rest of the food down. Lavishing her friends with compliments.

“My, Aya. You’re eating so much today. You’ll run me out of house if you keep this up!”

“Ah, Hatate! Don’t fight.”

She softly pets the two, carrying on the conversation even as they look at her with ignorant eyes.

A glance at the sky gives the time. She excuses herself to perform her duties, chiding them not to fly off, now. But where would they fly to? There just isn’t anywhere else with food.

She re-emerges from the house with her sword and shield emblazoned with coats of arms of past dynasties. Dynasties that are no more.

She heads down the mountain, past still forests and a dozen manmade ravines, and many more graveyards. She passes trails where in ages past, she may greet her fellows and tarry for conversation before continuing on. Today, as many other, more recent, days, she passes without even a glance for others.

She arrives at the base of a waterfall that empties into a pond. In front of it, an inscrutable figure. With a sudden rush, she burst from the bushes, drawing her sword and swinging in one swift motion.


A head rolls across the ground.


“I apologize again, Mr. Dummy.”

She quickly moves to scoop up the head, putting it back on just so, the result of a practiced hand.

She stood there for a moment, awkwardly looking at the training dummy.

“I must perform my duties.”

She said to excuse herself, although unknown as if to apologize or to withdraw.

She seated herself on a boulder, the spot well worn from use. Her sword leaned against its side, her shield a backrest. There she sat as her routine. Long since accustomed to the silence of the forest, she needed only to listen. She closed her eyes and perked her ears as the waterfall bubbled and flowed.

The sun burned across the sky. Only a faint wind rustled the trees. Through closed eyes, a shadow moved across her view. She opened her skies, searching for the bird.


But there was nothing.




Her duty completed, she gathered her weapons and an armful of loose wood. She chased the sun up the mountain, but it outran her all the way. She hurried to fill her fireplace, stoking the fire as darkness surrounded the dwelling. In the black of night, it was the only light one could see.

The door was shut, and sealed. The wind whipped at the walls, and the boarded windows, and the chimney, but found no opening. It howled and whined, the only sound of the days. It had a companion these forsaken nights. If one were to listen intently, they could hear the sobs from inside the house.
>> No. 760
The sun rose and fell many times since yore.

Every night, a single band of smoke arose from the mountain. Nearly invisible in the dark of night, a second crept closer by the day.

Upon morning they both disappear, closer than they ever realize. Two beings on one mountain.

With companions fed, both set upon the mountain. One up, one down. One held sword and shield, the other reins and whip.

A wagon slowly clattered up and around the mountain. A girl slowly dragged herself down.

The wagon paused, just for the moment, so that the horses may be adjusted in their harnesses. It was at that moment that the girl emerged onto the road, finding herself face to face with another being, at just a few feet.

In that moment of meeting, both were bewildered. They stood, staring at each other, mouths slightly agape. So caught up were they that they hardly noticed the world, even as the horses balked and threw off their reins, stampeding away with wagon in tow. The man looked towards his horses for only a moment, appraising them less important than this discovery.

“Are you… real?”

“Are you?”

The man dropped his whip. The girl dropped her sword. They both took one or two steps towards the other, unsure what to make of it.

He shook his head.

“I thought everyone…”

“They were, it’s just me.”

“You’re not a Human.”

“Does it matter?”

So close were they now. Barely an arm’s length away.

“No… no it doesn’t.”

“Can I?”

She asked, arm outstretched. Barely believing him to be real, she sought to prove the impossible.

But he grabbed her hand, and they just stood there for a moment, gently touching each others hands.

“So you are… I can hardly believe it.”

There was a giggle. An exhausted laugh of relief between the two. Without a single conscious action they fell into each others arms.

“You’re real, you’re real and you exist… I can feel you. I can smell you!”

He rubbed her back as she kneaded his chest. Ignorant and indignant of history, they chose to embrace.

“That’s a stupid thing to say. Of course I exist. But you? I thought we had…”

Words left unsaid lingered through the air. Their troubled past. Their two peoples. What was once a happy meeting between two peoples became a tense moment as the cooing stopped, the embrace became hollow, and the shaking started.

“…Are you here for me?”

She asked, dreadfully afraid that the moment must come to an end as quick as it began.

“No… no.”

He murmured.

“There’s been quite enough of that.”

A sigh, then another. Regret from him, relief from her.

“I don’t even know anything about you. We never did.”

He pulled her tight, and slowly began to sob.

“Hey… hey now, I’m the one who’s supposed to be upset.”

Giggling. Hysterical laughter of relief.

“We must learn to co-exist.”

“Yes. We must.”
>> No. 761
Dawn broke over the mountain. Rays of sunshine flooded through the valleys, topped the trees, peeked in through un-boarded windows. One single band of smoke arose from a dainty cottage.

Two figures, arms around each other, stood overlooking the forest and flocks of bird and animal.

“Look. Everything is starting to come back.”

She gleefully announced, rubbing her head into her partner’s shoulder and chest.

“Yes… everything.”

He agreed, nodding. Then he put her hand onto her swollen belly, a knowing smile upon his lips.
>> No. 762
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762
The sun his risen and fallen many times, but one thing is always certain: It always rises.

Every night, a single band of smoke arose from the mountain. Nearly invisible in the dark of night, a second crept closer by the day. Ignorant of its occupant’s existence, perhaps, but wary of their being.

Upon morning they both disappear, closer than they ever realize. Two beings on one mountain.

With companions fed, both set upon the mountain. One up, one down. One blissfully unaware of her surroundings, the other giving a quick glance left or right at the slightest scuffle.

A horse and its rider slowly clattered up the mountain. A girl slowly dragged herself down.

The rider paused, keenly aware of some intangible danger. It was at that moment that the girl emerged onto the road, finding herself mere feet from the horseman.

Both froze, bewildered. They world stood still in this moment, this solitary meeting between the last two. The horses balked and neighed, throwing its feet into the air as both grab for their weapons. He shoulders long rifle, she her sword. The meager distance is closed in a moment, and again widened as the horse begins to stampede. Only through skill and careful horsemanship does the rider turn it around again, perhaps at twenty feet. It is now She that is at the disadvantage, standing upon open road.

But they pause there again, both waiting for the end. Through glassed, hidden eyes he appraises her. He again shoulders his rifle, and turns his horse.

“Hyah!”

They break into full gallop, easily gaining distance. She is bewildered for a moment, still seeped in her own instincts. Then, a pit grows in her stomach as she realizes the prize escaping her. She drops her weapons, her shield. She runs after him, futilely, calling out.

“Hey! Stop! Stop! I didn’t- Come on, stop!”

She runs herself ragged, miles after he’s out of sight. She pauses only when she can run no longer, nearly collapsed and gulping huge breaths. She looks, looks a while a longer, but there’s nothing. Sulken and downtrodden, she chooses not even to retrieve her arms nor perform her duties. She would return to her house, locking herself inside for the whole night.

Upon morning, she barely rouses herself. She chooses to sit on the side of the bed for an hour, thinking of what could have been. Fantasies play out in her head, and perhaps a few nightmares. But she knows she must continue, and so she goes to retrieve her arms and begin anew.

Upon her doorstep sits a small parcel of food, carefully wrapped to protect it from the elements.

She throws herself to her knees, carefully looking it over and tearing into. Then she looks up, around, everywhere. She mouths several words to herself.

“He’s still out there.”

Gleeful, ecstatic, absolutely stunned. She carefully takes it inside, treating it with the upmost care. She works quickly, repeating that phrase to herself.

“He’s still out there.”

She takes to her duty with new vigor. She carefully watches around the waterfall, she prepares herself to meet him again up that dusty trail. Every little brush of a bush is him, every whistle in the distance a neighing horse. He does not appear, but she sees him everywhere.

She sets herself to sleep easily that night, remembering that phrase.

“He’s still out there.”

It is not known who he is, nor does it particularly matter to her. He is someone, and someone is all she wants or needs.

When she wakes, there is again a parcel of food waiting. Again, she eagerly takes to it, then looks for him. He does not appear, but she sees him everywhere.

She takes to her duty with new vigor. She carefully watches around the waterfall, she prepares herself to meet him again up that dusty trail. Every little brush of a bush is him, every whistle in the distance a neighing horse.

She sets herself to sleep easily that night, remembering that phrase.

“He’s still out there.”

Day on and day on, the parcels continue, smaller each time. Eventually, they do not appear, but she takes this in stride. He is still out there, she knows. He must need them more than her, and were he to come back, she would immediately give him all she had for a few minutes’ time.

“He’s still out there.”

She confidently repeats to herself, days after the parcels stopped.







“Yeah… wouldn’t that be grand, Hidalgo?”

He asked, turning over and looking into his companion’s beady, dead and staring eyes. He nodded as if the horse had answered, not that it ever had, or ever could again.

“Yeah… yeah it would be grand. I bet she is, right now. Haha... I’d come back, right?”

No answer. It couldn’t answer. So he clutched his long rifle closer, deeper into his chest. Click. Click. Click. He presses the trigger again and again, despite the futility.

“Not even one left for me… bastard.”

He tries to spit at the third body laying amongst them, but falls short by a long while. He is too weak to get up and kick the mutant’s corpse, although he would like to. He simply lay there, sustaining himself on memories and fantasies. Five seconds of a sight can be stretched to five hours as he bleeds.

“One hundred… but one saved. Does the math really work out?”

He groaned and turned over, crawling with his hands and arms. Crawling over to the mutant’s body and looking it straight in what used to be its face.

“You bastard. I wanted to go back. Yesterday. Today and the day before yesterday, and the day before that. All those times. But I didn’t deserve it. She does, but not me. This was my atonement.”

Rambling on, for lack of a better listener. He divulges all his secrets, everything he could never tell anyone else. He talks for hours, the last hours. He falls onto his back, simply unable to continue. A glance into the sky, a single bird flying over it.

“Well… at least I did that.”





“He’s still out there.”
>> No. 763
You're not supposed to be able to see the later story posts from board view, so here's some filler.
>> No. 764
One more. I was going to post images, but they're rather a shift in mood. Next post is author's note.
>> No. 765
I got the idea for this short in a most peculiar and cliché way. I was headed across campus to the dining hall to get my dinner and heard a squawk. I looked up to see a single crow, seated upon the branches of a dead tree. Well, that became one thing that I won’t spoil for those reading this on the board view, and the image for part 4, which I stumbled upon, solidified the concept.

Props to >>/gensokyo/10414 who subconsciously set me towards doing this short. I had actually started writing that night on a different short, but my choice of music was pumping me up, and that was quite not the purpose of that particular short. Browsing THP, saw that, remembered this outline from a few months ago. Finally did it.

As a courtesy, I link my outline. I have removed three lines that I deemed extreme, unnecessary, and detracting.
http://pastebin.com/RWNnVjnS

Please enjoy.
>> No. 766
Ah. So that's why you were asking.

Neat story, Treia. Good job on that healing there at the end, if my heart wasn't a cracked lump of carbon it might have stirred.
>> No. 767
I really, really hate post-apocalypse stories. Especially if it's after the end of a world I especially like.
That said...this was all right. Expected more, but eh. Ending was nice, I guess.


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