Mykala stepped through a set of large hatch doors deep in a tunnel. He headed up out of the tunnel via a grated slope and breathed in the fresh air, but found it only partially satisfying. The air was dull and the smell of decay lingered. The sun was no longer a brilliant array of whites and yellows, but now a darker yellow tinted with orange. Mykala turned to find Alex and Gizmo had followed him out.
The tunnel lead out to a dead yard near the fence of Alex’s property. His house was ransacked, and beaten up. Windows were broken and from the outside, it was clear that furniture had been flipped about.
“How long has the sun looked like that?”
“A couple of months now I guess. It has been getting darker with each passing week.”
Alex gestured to a couple of lawn chairs and the two of them sunk into the seats. Mykala felt comfortable, but he was uneasy about so many things. He and Alex had not spoken since the playback. It seemed like something straight out of a horror movie. But now tension was building in Mykala. He wanted some resolution to his questions.
“What happened?” Mykala asked.
“Oh jeesh, um. . .I’m not sure I can aptly describe it for you.”
“Try,” Mykala pushed.
Alex nodded, “The sun never came up. Dawn broke, the stars and moons disappeared into the blackness, but it never lit up. I’m not sure how to properly describe it. The news went nuts as experts were trying to piece things together, but that only lasted an hour before. . . .”
“Before what, Alex?”
“Before things turned from mystery to nightmare. First, they thought it was panic, then you saw the report. After that they believed it was an attack. But it didn’t get much further than that. Civilization crumbled in the matter of a couple weeks. The thing is, the attacks started before the darkness.”
“Where was I?” Mykala asked fearfully.
“I dunno. But I can tell you that you was one of those things. It was odd. For about three months the crazies-“
“The crazies?” Mykala questioned.
“Yeah, that’s what I call them.”
“Hmm, thanks,” Mykala replied.
Alex ignored Mykala’s sarcasm and went on, “Anyways, they hunted down everybody that didn’t turn. They would drag them from their hiding places and kill them. I tried to save a few, but you guys weren’t just blind, blood-thirsty beasts. You were intelligent, knowing. When you didn’t go huntin, you acted like everyday normal people. Talking; but your voices were heavily distorted. It was almost, I dunno, demonic. You never rested, never ate, never stopped your assaults. Then one day you all fell asleep. Standing in place, eyes open, but sleeping. I tried so hard to wake people, but nothing ever worked.”
Mykala slumped down in his chair, unsure how to respond. It was a lot to take in, almost unbearable even. He knew he should not beat himself up over having been a part of it, but he could not help himself. He knew who had killed Iy’Rene, there was no hiding the fact.
Mykala stood up from his chair and took a deep breath. “I need to see her again. She needs to be given a burial.”
“I’m not sure that’s such a good idea.”
Mykala ignored his friend and started for his home. Alex sighed and followed and Gizmo skittered behind. It was a quiet walk to Mykala’s home.
Mykala’s lawn, much like everyone else’s, had long since died. The soil was dry and dusty. Even the tree was grey and lifeless. The bench swing attached to it had broken from one side and hung lopsided on the ground. It looked like life had been sucked right out of Dimeiron.
Approaching his house, Mykala placed a palm on the door. A digital noise played and gears grinded. But nothing moved.
“That isn’t a good sign,” Alex said, taking a step back.
The door rolled sideways, opening a couple feet then slammed shut. The gears continued to grind as the door cracked open again and slammed shut.
Mykala slowly turned to Alex and queried, “How did you get into my house?”
Alex pointed to the side of the house. As the door continued its noisy operation the three moved around to the side where part of the house had been cut away.
Mykala grimaced and Alex explained, “When everything went up in flame, I came to your house to find you and Iy’Rene. When the door did not respond to me, I tried to break a window. But apparently your windows are stronger than normal glass.”
Confused, Mykala responded, “Odd. The door should have opened just fine for you, unless it had been tampered with. But yeah, in my line of work and my ability, I figured it best to safe-proof my house from ‘standard’ intruders.”
Leading the way, Alex climbed through the hole in the wall. Mykala followed. Inside, Mykala’s mood swung back to remorse as he remembered why they were there.
The hole entered into the library. Mykala and Iy’Rene had spent much of their time here, reading books to one another. Mykala recalled the warmth of her head on his lap as he would read to her. Her eyes would be closed as she imagined the places being described in the books.
“You ok?” Alex put a hand on Mykala’s shoulder.
Mykala, lost in thought, stared blankly at Alex. He heard the sound of his voice but not the words. Glancing around the room, Mykala noticed a book. It was the last book they had been reading. It was the story of a man who had to save his fractured planet from a force of darkness. The planet was divided in half, half being the slums of a dying planet, the other half alive and beautiful. He had left off with the protagonist discovering a dark force behind the segregation. He had been seeking to bring down the barriers between the two halves.
Mykala stopped just short of the stairwell and turned down a hall. Along the walls were framed images of people that Mykala had said goodbye to years ago. Family members and friends alike all smiled brightly at him as he moved past. Now Iy’Rene’s picture belonged here as well. Opening the door at the end of the hall Mykala entered. Without turning on a light he was able to find what he needed. It was his tool shop, which he kept organized. He quickly found the ax he wanted. It was hanging on a couple hooks, more for decoration, a crude tool used by an ancestor a few centuries ago, passed on to generation to generation. Despite its age and decorative purposes the axe was as sharp as the day it was made.
As Mykala returned, Alex asked, “How do you plan to dig with that?”
“I don’t plan to dig with it at all. I know I said burial, but Iy’Rene wanted to be consumed by flame. At least, that was how she put it. She believed there was something mystical about the whole thing.”
Turned aside, Mykala headed into the library and out the hole. He walked over to the tree in the yard. He rubbed his hand down the bark, causing some of it to flake off. The bark was rough against his hands and he leaned in until his head touched the tree.
“I’m sorry. . .So many memories with you here, but I need you for one more thing.” Mykala felt remorse, not so much for the tree; but the memories the tree carried.
With that Mykala dropped the book and swung the axe bringing the wedge against the trunk of the tree producing a loud whack. Alex and Gizmo came around the house and watched Mykala, every swing chipping more of the tree away.
After awhile Alex tried to speak to Mykala; to persuade him to use an easier method, or let him get a couple swings in. Mykala ignored him, although his arms were numb and his hands throbbed and bled. His breathing became labored, and most of the afternoon fleeted away, but he kept on. He was not sure how much more he could do, but he would not stop until his body gave out. With each swing Mykala became more angry, until finally he screamed out as he swung the axe as hard as he could. The axe slipped out of Mykala’s wet hands and bounced into the dirt. Mykala stumbled and fell, landing on his hands and knees. The dirt stung the open sores on his hands, but Mykala was too numb too care. A loud cracking noise sounded from the tree as it slowly tipped toward Mykala. Charging in, Alex knocked Mykala out of the way, rolling free from the tree as well. As the tree came down its branches snapped apart under the weight.
Gizmo crawled over to Mykala and pulled back his shirt. As he touched the device in his chest, Mykala pushed him away.
“Mykala, I uh, I know you’re hurting. I wish I could do something for you. But let Gizmo help you. I get it. I lost all of my family, and Iy’Rene was a friend of mine too. I get it, k?” Mykala just stared off at nothing, “Let Gizmo help you. Let me help you. You don’t have to do this alone.”
Gizmo cautiously crawled back onto Mykala’s lap and touched the nanite assimilator. After a few minutes Mykala noticed his hands were feeling better and held them up to his eyes. He watched as the wounds slowly closed up and eventually disappeared. His arms likewise felt better and, although still winded, the aches of swinging the axe faded altogether. Mykala sighed and lowered his head as Gizmo walked away. Extending a hand, Alex helped him rise.
“Let me help you?” Alex asked.
Mykala shoved the hand to the side and burying his face in Alex’s shoulder, sobbed. Shocked, Alex patted Mykala on the back and assured him that they would get through this. Alex also teared up, remembering how tortured he had been. The difference now was that Alex had had time to grieve but for Mykala everything was happening for the first time.
Wiping his tears, Mykala pulled away from Alex. As he reached for the axe, Alex grabbed it. The two friends looked at each other with understanding. Mykala headed into the house and returned with a handsaw and they both worked at cutting up the fallen tree, stacking the pieces into a neat pile.
As the sun began cresting the horizon they returned to the house. Mykala grabbed a light and a sheet from a closet. He and Alex carefully worked the sheet under Iy’Rene’s body and lifted it with great care. Mykala could hardly look at his wife. She was so beautiful before. Now she lay dead, a shell of her former self, bearing no resemblance of her former beauty. Mykala did not want to remember her this way. Carrying her gently, they made their way to the woodpile. Once she was placed on the woodpile Mykala dashed back inside and grabbed a picture of her off the wall. Returning, he leaned the picture against Iy’Rene’s body. Alex held something out to Mykala and glancing down, he recognized the book he had dropped earlier. He took the book from Alex and wiped it clean of dust. Opening the book to where he had left off, he turned on the light and began reading to Iy’Rene.
Alex stood there next to Mykala as he read the story, occasionally asking a question, which Mykala happily answered. Once he finished the book Mykala placed it next to the picture of Iy’Rene. He grabbed the fire starter and aimed it at the bottom of the woodpile. Mykala walked around the pile, lighting the underside on fire. He then returned to stand next to Alex as they watched the fire rise up to Iy’Rene’s body. Soon the picture frame turned to ash and they watched as hot sparks of fire flittered upward into the sky. Mykala found it strange, but there was a sense of peace as he looked over his wife for the last time, as the flame blotted her out and took her. Mykala and Alex stayed the whole night, watching the fire in his yard until sleep overtook them.
The air crackled, startling Mykala and Alex awake. A strange sensation, a kind of energy, came over them. Gizmo began to run around in circles making a noise. Before either one could help the little droid, a multitude of voices in perfect unison began to speak. Their voice came from every direction, could be heard from within and without and caused the air to stir.
“Survivors of Dimeiron, there is grievous news indeed. You have overcame a great ordeal and for that we are impressed. Even so, the devastation has ripped us asunder and we can no longer sustain your world. In time your world will collapse. We truly regret this unfortunate circumstance that befalls you. My peace be unto you.”