Are you still there?
Are you still sleeping?
Still dreaming, breathing, underneath the burnt out stars?
Are you still alive?
Are you still there?
Somehow, I am pulled out of the oblivion which I have slept in for so long. There is darkness all around me, the darkness reflecting off my soul. And there is only darkness. Darkness is all that I have known, for so long…
Yet somewhere, there is a light calling me. A light pulling me up and out…
Are you still there?
I opened my eyes.
And all the memories, everything that had resided within me, came rushing back, filling me, flooding me, destroying me…
Just how long had it been?
Dust obscured the glass above me. I sat up too fast, bumping my head hard. No, let me out of here, let me out of this claustrophobic coffin…
The top of the sleeping chamber fell off, and I sat up, head spinning, eyes frantically searching the base for any signs of life…
Had this base…been abandoned?
Dusty sunlight filtered in through the windows, papers marked with red were pinned on the walls and scattered everywhere, other pods, sleeping chambers, like mine, were lined up against the wall.
I was alone.
I climbed out of the pod, movements stiff from lying down for so long… There was a sticky note on the ground. It must have fallen off when the cover fell off.
Rinthe, if you ever wake up, just know, just remember one thing: you have to kill [him].
And that was it. A girl's handwriting, by the looks of it. Must have stuck it on when they abandoned the place. It slipped through my fingers, fluttering to the ground like a delicate, dying butterfly. It disintegrated the moment it touched the ground.
She was the last person that I had seen. The one who had helped me into the pod, the one who smiled at me and brushed my hair back and said, "Good night."
Her face had been the only thing remaining in my mind, before I had sunk into that eternal sleep.
And I suppose that was why I found myself on my hands and knees in the sand and the dust, trying to grasp at the nonexistent remains of the note with my stiff hands. Nothing was left anymore, nothing was left anymore…
But…I remembered. I had a mission. The reason why I had been put to sleep in the first place.
As Lonnie had said, "When you wake up, we probably won't be here anymore. But you, Rinthe, you have to go on. Remember your mission. Forget about us."
But how could I ever forget about…?
No, my mission. I had to go on. And so I forced myself to get up, out of the dust, and wipe my eyes of some imaginary tears…
I went over to the monitor at the desk, also covered in sticky notes which were falling off. I cleared my throat, which was dry and unfamiliar from being long unused.
A screen popped up before me, glowing a blue-green, hard to see with the red sunlight outside. Identify yourself.
I managed to croak out an answer. I hoped it was accurate. I could barely remember myself anymore.
"Rinthe Akiya. Number 003 of the Sunaarashi unit. Went into hibernation year XX92."
A new screen popped up. My profile, with all the information listed.
NAME: Akiya, Rinthe
The profile picture was old as well. I looked into the mirror that had popped up to scan me. My black hair had not grown at all, only just barely touching my shoulders. My skin was pallid, and dark circles lined my eyes. But not too terrible altogether. But…was this the real me?
Identification complete. Access allowed.
"What time is it?"
New words appeared on the screen: It is currently year XX39, April the 4th, 4:43 PM.
XX39…I had been asleep for 47 whole years… A pit began to form in my stomach.
"Reason for waking?"
Unable to identify reason.
Scan complete. Subject is healthy.
Calm desert weather. Oxygen levels low. Please bring an oxygen tank with you if you wish to venture outside.
"Where is everyone?"
On August 18th, XX98, due to lack of supplies, the remaining team members, Lonnie Arai, Navi Tanaka, Chev Coda, KG Nakamura, Alix Fujikura, and Nol Hiraizumi evacuated. No signal has been heard from them since the year XX01.
My hand trembled a little, and the pit in my stomach grew heavier. "Show me their last message."
Now playing: XX01, March 26th, 2:00 AM. Duration: 2:34.
Lonnie's face appeared on-screen. I could see the others gathered around her. The camera was shaking slightly from the winter wind, and I could see the light of a small fire.
"H-hey, base," Lonnie said, her voice trembling a little. She glanced around her for a moment, then returned to the camera. "Um…we-we're running out of oxygen, and the androids are going to be here soon, so…I'll make this quick. We've been out of food for the past two weeks, and water just ran out yesterday. I-I'm really surprised that we all survived this long… Rinthe, you're probably going to be watching this. I really hope you are. Rinthe, I'll be addressing you directly now. After we put you three into hibernation, before we evacuated, both-both Nox and Seere stopped showing vital signs… Rinthe, you're the only one left. Out here, the cities are all slowly running out of oxygen…by the time…you wake up, if you ever do…Shuijing City's might be the only one left. Where [he] is. All the bases, the towns, have been abandoned, this world has turned to desert—" The microphone crackled, and the camera wobbled. "—only hope. Find Shuijing, Rinthe. Kill [him]. But…if you die, tha-that's okay. You'll see us again, that way—" "Lonnie!" Then gunfire.
The recording cut off.
I discovered that I was crying. I wiped my eyes on the back of my arm. There was nothing that I could do about it now.
That was 38 years ago.
They were dead. And here I was, not changed a bit. No matter how much I wanted to return to the past, back to before all this happened, it wouldn't happen. Not for me.
According to the information, I was probably the only left who could kill [him]…
Recording in…3…2…1… Beep.
"This-this is Rinthe Akiya." I avoided looking into my own eyes on the screen. "I have just woken up from a 47 year hibernation, and I am about to set off towards Shuijing City to kill [him]. Uh…no one's going to see this, I guess, but…whatever happens, I don't think I'll be returning here. I…just wanted the world to know I'm alive. Whatever's left of it, anyway. Okay. Thanks. Good luck to you too."
I hit stop recording. "Energy saving," I commanded. "Permanent shut-down. Hibernation. Restart only when disturbed."
"Remove all passcodes in ten years."
I patted the somewhat-warm monitor. "Thanks."
The screen dimmed, and I turned away, just as the screen flashed Goodbye and went black.
I could feel the aloneness now, the horrible feeling of…a deep-set pressure pushing down inside of me, trying to squeeze my internal organs tight. At least it felt like it. Something that made me want to cry, something that made me want to scream. Something that made me want to run to my mother. Something that made me feel like even if the only other person in the room was my worst enemy, I would be happy, too.
I had never felt so alone…
I went over to the closet to get the supplies I needed. The wooden door opened with a creak, and a haze of dust wafted out. There was still one set of essentials left, for me, assumedly. But if only the others had taken them… But no use in thinking about it now. These valuable supplies would do me good. A nice, hooded jacket made of sturdy material that would let me keep warm in the desert, a satchel filled with some water and compressed food and other supplies, and an oxygen tank. A radio, too, just in case…
And, of course, a pistol.
I slung the satchel over my shoulder, put on the jacket and pulled up the hood, and hung the oxygen tank over my other shoulder. I gave one last look around the empty base, then stepped outside, pressing the oxygen mask over my nose and mouth, letting the door swing behind me.
Outside, a lonely wind swept across the desert sands. A single dusty road wound and curved through the sand dunes, stretching from nowhere to nowhere. The setting sun was red, staining the sky and the clouds like blood. I winced as some of the sand blew into my eyes, and put up my hood. Where was Shuijing City?
My mind was blank, but some voice, perhaps the one that had woken me up, told me that following the road was probably the best way to go.
And so I began my journey.
Withered, long-dead trees, rocks and pebbles, the occasional android part or human bone… Everything was just the same as when I left it. Dead and dying and gone…
The sun dipped lower and lower, melting into the red that consumed the sky, and slowly faded to black. A few stars appeared here and there upon the black sheet above, dotting the velvet like rhinestones. I stopped to rest underneath a tree upon a rock, lighting a fire for myself with a special chemical that didn't require oxygen to burn. Androids probably wouldn't find me. By this day and age, there probably wasn't enough energy outside of the cities to keep them going.
As I broke off a little bit of a nutrient bar, the first thing I had eaten in ages, I examined the radio. The androids wouldn't pick it up, would they? Besides, I wanted to know if there were any other bases out there…
I turned on the radio and listened. Mere crackling cut off by periods of nothingness. An occasional dreg of music that swirled around and then got lost in the static and the silence. Listening to it… I picked it up and pressed a silver button.
"Testing, one two, testing…is there anybody out there? Anybody? Anybody at all? Hello, is anybody out there? Anybody?"
Fire crackling underneath the night sky. I, sitting here, calling into what seemed like the void…
"Is there anybody out there? Anybody? Anybody at all?"
Hello everyone! Welcome to my new work! This is going to be a short novel (around 25 chapters) so I hope that you'll stay!
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