Eternity Page

Eternity Page
alternatively, 999 Books and Schrodinger’s Cat (Girl)
broken sigils
weave point: terminal

0: “Coda”
I flew on wings of steel and fire through the stratosphere, racing to skies beyond. Only a whistle of thrust remained.

The nebulas of gray-blue clouds parted and revealed the heavens. Beyond, the enemies of the Weave; the ones who seek to cleanse metahumanity.

I twisted past the raining light spears and tumbled until gravity lost its hold. The others were falling back to the planet as white dust. The pod was damaged, the left-wing clipped. My shoulder blade broke. Couldn’t feel the pain. Didn’t matter. The controls were mental hands, an extension of my origin.

It was a civilian pod jury-rigged to accommodate one of the Broken. Maybe that’s why I lived a few moments longer; it was smaller, lighter, and exploded spectacularly. Every rattle and creak was my beating heart.

Brain fluid leaking. Can’t see out of left eye. The Weave spread out in all directions — fragments of broken planet barely held together. I turned, adjusted course, and flew straight up.

The sword was in my mind — a red needle of electricity. It was my other half, flowing out through my fingers and amplified into a lance.

There was only one of them. Couldn’t see them yet; they concealed themselves in stars. Needed to get past the final layer.

Pod has no air. Didn’t need air. Pod has no warmth — that was a problem. My body wouldn’t hold out much longer. But that’s fine. My mind was still here.

Living means loss. Loss of friends, loss of family, loss of self. I couldn’t remember how much I had lost. My memories, my joy, my sorrow, my other half, my soul — I wondered how much longer I could hold on.

I longed for the final swing where it would end. I held my soul in my hands.

I didn’t see it through the cracked windshields — I felt the presence. It was overwhelming. Suffocating, like a boulder.

I felt no hesitation. History wrote itself through my hands; Gungnir, the spear of the old world’s legends emerged. It was the only way.

I dove, barreled through space, and raced towards the starlight. Screaming, shouting, laughing, I saw a single glimpse of the enemies as my origin broke apart.

Between the stars and the void, I saw a broken girl holding a book.

1: “Page”
She was at the old ruins, flipping through my books. I cleared my throat to get her attention, but she just swished her tail like nothing was wrong. She only noticed me when I picked her up by the collar of her shirt.

“Nyaa,” she said, monotone. “If you want to kill me, just do it already. Let me have this.”

I shook her. “When a sign says ‘no trespassing’, what do you think it means?”

She looked up with her inquisitive feline eyes and frowned. “You’re an idiot if you think property laws are enforced outside of the cities, nyaa.”

She was a sickly looking girl; she had a few months left at most. The fissures of white light ran through her entire body, but she was still in control of herself. Somehow. The feline ears at the top of her head twitch.

“You’re a meathead, nyaa.”

I plopped her down on a bar stool, gave her a menacing look, and made sure nothing was stolen. Surely enough, the library still had all of its books. She found my old violin and left it on the table, right beside the remains of several survival meal packets.

I couldn’t understand this cat. “How did you find this place?”

She shrugged. “I walked, nyaa.”

The girl had jet black hair matted with dirt and sand, a mangled looking tail, and faded purple eyes cut in half by a vertical slit. She was wearing nothing more than sand-caked rags and a pair of dog tags around her neck, and to top it all off, she has a heavy tan — star-blasted skin.

I didn’t really know what to do with her. She lost interest in me and started reading again while I was still looking at her.

“Are you going to just sit there and read?” I asked.

“That sounds like a plan, nyaa.”

“Do you have to say ‘nyaa’ at the end of every sentence?”

She shrugged again. “No, but I’m going to do it anyway. Nyaa.”

There was a small stack of books from my collection that she already went through. The Lotus Sutra, a compilation of Norse and Old English legends, a dossier on world war V — it was all historical manuscripts. She was currently pawing through an old copy of the Orlando Furioso, an the old world epic about Charlemagne and his paladins.

I still didn’t know what to make of her. I picked this place specifically because another living being would never come out this far. It was a bunker at the edge of the Weave, where no sane soul would ever come. The bunker was my secondary base, located one cave system away from the surface. Somebody would really have to dig to find it.

I kept my spare guns, foods, and books here. I could live in the city, but sometimes I just wanted a little solitude. When the scares over the Broken come and go, I stay here. But now there’s this girl. I could’ve kicked her out, but she seemed inoffensive enough. I kept my mouth shut as I settled down.

She looked up as I was cleaning the sand from my gear and pouted. “You’re a bad man, nyaa.”

Hmm. “What makes you say that?”

The girl held up the copy of the Orlando Furioso, and shook it angrily. She pointed at the top of the page where there was a tiny crease. “Look at all these dog ear pages, nyaa. They’re everywhere! You shouldn’t treat books like this, nyaa.”

“That’s what you’re concerned about?” I scoffed. “Listen, you don’t just come into somebody’s base, eat their food, touch all their things, and then criticize them reading books wrong. You’re lucky that I’m not going to kick you out on the spot.”

She got up to her feet, and the next thing I knew, she was in my face. I could smell the sweat and unwashed grime. “Then I’ll make you a deal to read! Nyaa!”

I pushed her away by the cheek. “No.”

The girl closed the book, held it to her chest, and pointed at me. “You’re going to listen!” She reaches behind her and produces a faded white card. “I have the solution!”

I couldn’t make out what it said. “And what is that, exactly?”

“A bookmark! In exchange, you let me stay and read these books and eat your food, nyaa. Okay?” Her look of determination faltered. “…Please?”

I’ll be honest, it was a bit endearing. She looked like a small girl; she probably couldn’t eat that much. She didn’t have that much time, anyway. “Alright. Sure.”

A blissful look of relief came to the girl’s face.

“Only on one condition,” I added.

“Nyaa?”

“Take a fucking shower, girl.”

The girl looked at me and tilted her head. “What’s a shower, nyaa?”

2: “Spine”
I was a hunter, of sorts. I didn’t really have any other applicable skills, besides maybe knowing a few notes on the violin.

I was Broken. There was probably a better name for my condition, but “Broken” was something that really rolled off the tounge. Everybody used it. It was descriptive. It was good enough.

I hunted the other Broken. I didn’t cut them down in the street; I hunted the ones who went mad with their powers. Maybe they just were desperate. A job’s a job, though. It was what I had to do to survive.

I was assigned to take down a group of Broken that had turned to banditry. I couldn’t blame them; there weren’t many ways to survive outside of the city. I tried to talk them down. I told them that I could give them shipments to survive outside of the city; the factories were powerful enough to eliminate scarcity. They didn’t listen; said they’d been wronged one too many times.

Their incompleteness manifested different powers; one woman could manipulate heat. Another, momentum. Their leader could manifest the “past” of objects; He turned fragments of plastic and metal into guns and full weapons.

I made sure they felt no pain.

My ability is to manifest anything that I read about. I summoned the Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi, a legendary sword from the old world’s east, and swung. I buried them myself and prayed that they would reincarnate into a better world than this one. But that was my life; the same play rehashed over and over and over and over.

It only takes one moment to become a Broken soul; the condition stems from an “incompleteness” in one’s soul, and, given human nature, feeling incomplete is just a natural state of being. That’s why they created utopia. There was no sadness, no crime, no loss; they couldn’t afford to have any more Broken.

There is a hard limit of 500 “Broken” within a city’s boundaries. You had to work hard to keep your place. I wasn’t personally somebody who was affected; the city needed people to defend it from the stars. I only needed banned literature and I could basically take on anything. It was a solitary existence, but it could have always been worse. I was the guy who had all the books. I was the only guy who could read books that weren’t just feel good hogwash.

There’s a good reason for the hard limit; any more, and you risk a cataclysm. Nobody wants that.

In the worst-case scenario, an entity whose only goal was to eradicate all Broken would appear. The military code-named them after stars; people thought they were actually stars. It’s silly, but I went with it. You could never predict when they’d appear and force us into a fight for our lives.

I came back another day in my hover truck and found the girl wearing my old clothes. She cut a hole through one of my jeans for her tail and wore my “BRAIN PAIN” t-shirt. The outfit hid the fractures on her skin pretty well, but her forearms still looked like badly pieced together pottery. She was working through a copy of Mona Lisa Overdrive.

“Welcome back, nyaa.”

“Hurry up and help me carry things in,” I said.

After moving food and supplies for the month, we sat down at the metal table and treated ourselves to milk tea. She took hers with extra sugar.

She looked away from lapping at her cup and smirked. “I never actually learned your name, nyaa.”

“Coda. Nickname,” I said, browsing through my holo-pad. I still got a connection out here, thanks to all the signal relays. You never know when a calamity signal might appear. “My full name’s a bit long.”

“Coda,” she said. She looked away from her book and nods. “Coda. Coda! Good name, nyaa.”

“And what’s yours? You’ve been here for three weeks and you still haven’t said anything.”

“That’s because I don’t have a name, nyaa.” She smiled without a hint of bitterness. “I can’t remember it. The only thing that really sticks are these books.”

“…How much can you remember?”

“I can remember when I got here, nyaa. Not much else.”

“Huh.” I kept scrolling through my holo-pad, but I felt a little guilty. “Well, you can speak the tongue. I doubt you grew up in the wilds.”

“It doesn’t bother me, nyaa.” She finishes slurping at her tea and clasps her hands together. “I’ve made it my life goal to finish all these books here! You haven’t even read through all of them, so I’ll beat you to it!”

“All of them?” There were a lot of books on the old shelves; probably nearly a thousand. I had a local copy of each of them on my holo-pod. “It’s going to take a while, you know?”

“I was born to read,” she says, a single fang exposed. Her purple eye looked like the images of the moon posted online. “Just leave it to me, mwahaha!”

I sighed. She was a bothersome girl. “Just for that, I’m going to bring in a whole new supply for you the next time I’m here. Just you watch.”

She sat up on her knees on the chair, went back to reading her book, and smiled. The bookmark rested underneath her palm.

3: “Flip”
“You look happier than usual,” Amari said.

We were at a bar designated for the Broken, which also happens to be aptly named “Broken Beers.” Androids ran the place, and despite the name, a few of us frequented the place. I took a sip of whiskey and looked back at my co-worker.

“What makes you say that?”

Amari’s twin tails bristled behind her as she turned. She scrutinized me hard, making audible thinking noises every few seconds. “For one, you’re not all ‘woe is me’ and you’re not quoting depressing lines from old books.”

“I do not do that,” I said.

“Do too,” said Amari.

“Coda, you definitely do,” the android bartender said. He passed over a new round to us and huffed. “After the fourth drink, you sound like Edgar Allan Poe — I only know that because you kept screaming ‘NEVERMORE, NEVERMORE NEVERMORE’ followed by his name one night.”

I nearly choked on my drink. “I don’t remember doing anything like that. No way.”

I looked at the rest of the bar’s regulars, and they gave me the ‘you totally did’ look.

Shit.

“Okay, well, maybe I need to lay off.” I said.

Amari giggled and pat me on the shoulder. “Everybody’s allowed a slip up once in a while. I’m always willing to lend an ear, dear.”

“I think I’m good.”

Amari’s fox ears wiggled as she turned the pat into a playful shake. Her cobalt-blue eyes shone like street lamps. “C’mooooooooooon,” she said, “Let me knoooooow…”

I slammed down another drink and laughed. “Alright,” I said, “Fine. I met somebody who’s even more passionate about literature than I am. I talk to them between jobs.”

“Again?” Amari raised an eyebrow. “Flirty. Is it a girl? Is it a guy? Have you finally turned to the world of boy’s love?”

“None of your business, Tamamo.”

“That nickname again?” She faked looking offended and covered her mouth. “You bastard!”

We shared another laugh, and another round of drinks. The topic shifted after that; we talked about how our recent hunts went. As usual, Amari was assigned to the high-profile Broken and took them out with ease. Her ability to predict trajectories with supernatural ease makes her one of the best snipers in the city.

“You know what the thing that got me was? It was a god-damned calculus textbook,” Amari said, a few drinks later “That’s the thing that fractured my origin. Just some math.” She looks up at the bar’s concave ceiling, and sighs.

“You think that’s bad?” I was getting pretty drunk now; everything was starting to spin. Amari’s two tails multiplied into eight. “I know all the other hunters have tragic backstories, but you know what got me? I couldn’t fucking draw.” I stifled a choking laugh. “I spent three years trying to draw, and then my mind just broke. My family is still alive. My friends are still alive. I went and did myself in.”

“The lab tells me that I have five years left at best. Even though we have lifespans of a few hundred years, I’m not going to see my thirties.” Amari had a grim smile. She tugged the collar of her suit and exposed the white fractures of her skin; they were up to her shoulder. “Look at how much of an idiot I am.”

“I’ve got four,” I said. I looked up at the concave ceiling and watched the tressels blur into silver lines. “But you know what, I think trading it all for all those stories was worth it. It’s like being pulled into another world.”

They stared at the ceiling together in silence. Once upon a time in another era, the roof of bars like these used to open up to the night sky; they were dedicated to some drunken fox goddess. Now there’s a dome over the city. No reason to open the roofs, then.

“I could never really get into literature,” Amari admits, after a while. “I read a lot of the recommendations you gave me, and I really enjoyed them.”

I was confused. “Why can’t you get into them if you like the stories?”

She looked into her drink, and then looked past me with a sad smile. “Stories always come to an end.”

4: “Joint”
We were sky gazing one night, staring up at the endless clouds of gunmetal blue that cover the sky. It was supposed to be nighttime, according to the Holopad, but it was too bright for that. Arcs of red and purple electricity danced in balls across the cloud canvas; countless will-o-wisps pulling in every direction.

“Why is the world the way it is, nyaa?”

The girl looked better these days. There was meat on her bones; even if it didn’t really matter. She finally looked healthy.

“That’s kind of a heavy question,” I said, looking over to her.

We rested on the warm sands outside the bunker; had to get some fresh air once in a while.

“Nyaa.” She rolled onto her side and stared seriously at me. “The world in all of these books are so different,” she said. “Why is that, nyaa?”

“Those books are well over a thousand years old, you know. The world has changed since then.”

“How so? Tell me, nyaa.”

I closed my eyes and remembered what my teachers told me in university. “The original humans brought a devastating calamity on themselves through their greed and sins, shattered the planet, and mutated to keep living on.”

“Humans are jerks, nyaa.” The girl snickers. “No wonder all these stories have human villains.”

“You’re still part of metahumanity, you know? Those are your ancestors who you’re calling jerks.”

“Jerk, jerk, jerk.” She stuck out her tongue.

I couldn’t help but chuckle at how childish she was. She saw my reaction and her smile grew wider. “Well,” I continued, “We survived for a while. We thrived, even. That’s about when things started going bad.”

“What happened?”

“The stars that we thought were long gone came back to strike us down.” I pointed up in the vague direction of the long-gone stars. “Alcor, Mizar, Albireo, Algol, Castor, Rigel, Arcturus. They manifested and tried to wipe us out, for whatever reason. Seems like they only manifest when the Broken saturation levels reach a certain point. We differentiate them from the stars with a -lis addon. Alcorlis, Mizarlis, Algollis.”

“Stars? What do they look like?”

I shrugged. “Sometimes they look like angels. Sometimes they don’t even have forms. We’ve been fighting them for, what, a hundred years? We only managed to take down two.” I reached up and framed a lightning ball in my hand. “We really must’ve done something to piss off the universe, I reckon.”

“How scary, nyaa.”

“The only constant is that we really don’t know when they’ll pop up. The cities are always on watch.”

“Nyaa.” She rolled over again and flopped onto her belly beside me. I could smell the perfume I brought for her; it smelled like the long-lost sea mixed with oranges. “That sounds complicated. Nevermind, actually.”

“Yeah,” I said. “I guess it’s pretty complicated.”

We lay there for a while. Eventually, she got bored and got up to her knees. She loomed over me and crossed her arms.

“What is it?”

“Nyaa!”

She flopped on top of me. I didn’t know how to process it; she wasn’t heavy, but I didn’t want to hurt her. She got comfortable and stopped moving.

“Um.” I pat her on the shoulder, but she was already snoring away. I, too, fell asleep after a while.

I dreamed that night. I saw the girl looking at me as we walked through the old world — when there wasn’t any of the Weave. We were both humans; we met in front of a bookstore on a winter night. Her tanned skin was rosy pink, and I laughed when I realized she looked like a flower — a lone chaenomele in the snow.

5: “Gathering Pages”
“I’m almost finished all your books, Nyaa!” she said one morning as I arrived at the bunker. She crossed her arms and laughed triumphantly. She stopped when she saw what I was holding. “But, uh, what’s this?”

“Pineapple,” I answered, holding the spiked thing out. “Fresh augmented pineapple. Gift from a friend. I can’t eat this thing by myself.”

“Uwah,” she said, “It’s as big as my head! Is this what those pineapples actually look like?”

I looked up a guide on how to cut apart a pineapple on my holo-pad. I ended up hacking it apart with my combat knife into little cubes. There was a lot of waste, but we still ended up with little fresh tangy smelling cubes; just like the pictures.

I watched her curiously pick up a cube, give it a lick, and leap back in disgust. “Is prickly, nyaa.”

“Oh, crap. Right. The salt.”

“You’re an idiot, nyaa.”

We put the pineapple cubes in a vat of salt water and waited for a while. We both ended up staring at the vat, side by side, waiting for the one-hour timer to run up.

“So, what was your favorite book?” I asked, trying to pass the time. “Not that many people read that much and come out without a favorite.”

“Hmm.” She perked up and pointed to one of the books in the plastic crates; the books I didn’t think were worthy of putting on a bookshelf. “The Little Match Girl. It’s tied with the Lord of the Rings for me, but that one is shorter.”

I wracked my memory, but I couldn’t remember what The Little Match Girl was about. I probably didn’t actually read it. “What did you like about that book?”

“It was short and heart-touching, nyaa.” She put her head on my shoulder and makes a happy sound with her throat. “Even though the girl in the story died, there was a happy afterlife. It was short and sweet. I liked it, nyaa.”

I felt a lump forming in my chest. I wasn’t sure how much time she had left; these peaceful days couldn’t last. But for her sake, I kept my mouth shut. “That’s a good choice. Personally, I liked Catch-22; there was a lot of suffering, but also a happy ending in that one. They had to break their paradox to free themselves.”

“I’ll get to it next, nyaa. You’re really making me work with all these new books.”

We ate the pineapple, and it was delectable. Sweet, tart, and sour, all perfectly balanced.

“I love this, nyaa,” she said, beaming in the candlelight. “I love all of this. I think I might even love you. Maybe. Probably not, nyaa.”

“I probably don’t love you, either.” We looked at each other, stared for a while, then burst into conniptions. We looked away at about the same time when the belated embarrassment hit us both.

The dog tags she wore on the first day were hanging off a hook on the wall; a glint of candlelight exposed them. They caught my gaze, for some reason. When she went to sleep, I took a closer look.

My name was written on them.

6: “In the Rain”
“These are your dog tags,” General Pierce said, handing them back to me. “Your first pair.”

“First pair?” I asked.

“You had a new pair issued to you after the battle against the Castorlis Manifestation.” He lowered his bushy brows and frowned. “But that should be impossible. There’s no way a pair of dog tags survived reentry from space.”

I couldn’t remember what happened. I pulled the memory from that day; I threw the spear at the star manifest, and then, I was falling. There was the shadow of a girl, but I can’t remember what she looked like. It’s not possible that the book-worm girl was the feline; they didn’t have the same body type.

“You’re the only one who survived the battle of Castorlis,” Amari said.

We were out on a scouting mission together to discover if this portion of the Weave is shrinking. There was a small wave of motes floating about. HQ wanted us to take care of them.

She pulled the trigger of her anti-material rifle, and a distant mote of starlight exploded. “There were about fifteen of us sent up; a lot more normal soldiers.”

“Were there any felines with purple eyes among them?”

“Not to my memory. Shut up for a second.” Bang. Another explosion. “Imagine me a magic silver bullet, partner.”

I gave her the Sword of Damocles, condensed into a bullet form. It would break on impact — exactly our intent. She sniped another moving cloud of stardust at the end of the Weave, then sighed.

“These little buggers just don’t quit,” she said. “Is another star going to manifest? I swear we’re under our Broken quota.” Bang. “This is weird.”

“The only certain thing is uncertainty,” I said, quoting some book I didn’t really remember. “That’s why I like fiction — besides the fact that it’s my weapon. They’re a predictable beginning, middle, and end. A well-written story doesn’t just end abruptly.”

“If only the real world were like that.” Amari took another shot. I gave her another bullet. “Maybe there’d be a reason for all of this suffering.”

We checked the military databases when we got back. No casualties matched the bookwork’s description among the Broken, but we checked the total casualties for the mission. There was somebody who looked like the bookworm in the databases; A feline named “Page Hibari.”

“Who the hell is that?” Amari said.

According to the operation records, she died during the operation. Her body was recovered and buried next to her family in the city’s external cemetery.

“You went to the same musical school. Apparently, she said ‘nyaa’ a lot.”

She showed me an educational record on her holo-pad. We watched the recording of Page’s funeral; there was a burnt body in the casket. Her family buried her with a forbidden book; a copy of the Lotus Sutra.

“I don’t get it,” I said. “I saw this girl die, but… she’s still alive. She has my dog tags.”

“Are you hallucinating?” Amari’s expression shifted to near-sisterly concern. “Have you been getting enough sleep, Coda?”

I showed her both pairs of dog tags.

“Okay, that’s weird.”

“Yeah.”

We rode out to the bunker at the edge of the world. The girl was still there, writing on paper with a cup of tea. She looked in surprise at Amari, then smiled.

“Welcome back, nyaa. Welcome, foxy lady.”

She was near her breaking point; she had a few days at best. She looked like a stain-glass mosaic of a person, but she looked so happy.

“I finished all the books you gave me, nyaa. I have a bit more time than I expected, so I’m writing some things for you.” Once again, she smiled without a hint of bitterness. There were tears in her eyes. “I want to leave some things behind.”

“Coda.” Amari had no hint of her usual mischief; she was in hunt mode. “We’re getting a call from the military. They’re sensing a cataclysm signal.” She looked down at her feet and looked up. “From this location.” She looked at the girl and staggered a step back.

“Right here?” I asked. But I knew what that meant. Somehow, the Broken concentration spiked enough to cause a cataclysm. I had a good idea of where it came from — but it was already too late.

The girl looked down at her hands and smiled a guilty smile. “I actually remember a few things, nyaa.”

7: “Silence”
“She loved you, nyaa,” she said, still writing away. “But she wasn’t ever able to approach you after you became Broken, nyaa.”

“So you took her place,” I said.

“That’s right, nyaa.” She was openly crying, but she never stopped the movement of her pen; she wrote like her life depended on it. The faded card bookmark was on the bottom of the paper. “Please don’t hate me.”

I couldn’t. The girl never lied to me, and those moments we shared were real. I tried to work up a fuss, but I quickly realized that I didn’t care for arguing. I reached over and pat her on the head. “I don’t.”

“That’s great and all you two,” Amari said, “but we’re going to have to either cower in our homes as a cataclysm happens, or fight the manifestation of a star.”

“It will be the latter, nyaa. The other systems will sense my true death and come avenge two stars at once.”

And then her words hit me. “We will be literally fighting all the stars in the sky at once.”

“It happened because you missed, nyaa. You didn’t destroy Castorlis; just severely weakened it. It couldn’t sustain its consciousness…”

I put the pieces together. “Page sacrificed herself for me, and you rebuilt yourself using her memories and personality. You somehow saved me and took my dog tags mid fall.”

“I’m a fake manifestation, I think. Nyaa. I don’t know exactly what I am, but I know these feeling are real — they’re the only thing about me that are real.”

I didn’t know what to say. Neither did Amari. I ended up just bringing the fading girl into an embrace. Her skin, her tears, her warmth; they all felt real enough. On the other side of the room, Amari rubbed the bridge of her nose and stared at the ceiling.

After a while, the girl calmed down and wiped away her tears. For what it was worth, I sat with her and poured another pot of tea all of us.

“This world has been collapsing since humanity fractured the planet, nyaa. The sun, Sol, has long been dying. Humans did something to accelerate her death well ahead of its schedule. Reality shifted, nyaa. The natural laws and order collapsed; from then, all souls created from that point were already broken, nyaa. That’s why you’re able to fight against the stars, and why I can take this form. We’re the same. The other stars seek to correct this.”

Broken souls filled with stardust. A dying world. The end long passed.

“So basically, we’re screwed,’ I concluded.

“Basically, nyaa,” the girl said.

“This sucks,” Amari said.

I sat there in stunned silence. I wasn’t sure how to process any of this. The world could end at any minute — but I just found myself wishing for more time to spend with this girl. If only we could read one more book together.

“I loved these stories,” she said. She looked quietly over the library and sighed. “They all ended, though…”

“They were good stories. There were several lifetime’s worth, and you went through all of them.”

“I loved the time I spent with you.” She looked at me with once-again teary eyes and smiled. “I loved every single moment of it.”

It was only a few months, but it felt like an eternity of peace. Nothing happened of note; a contrary experience from the stories of old. But — those days calmed my heart. “I love you too. In another world, maybe—”

“Reincarnation is real, nyaa.” She pawed at my chest. ”Maybe in another life, we can meet again.”

She stole my line. I pat her on the head and rubbed in between the ears.

Amari clears her throat. “You two lovebirds realize that this isn’t over, right? We’re scrambling and connecting with the other cities for a final defense. Seems like there’s a big signal coming.” She groaned, then and brushed off her tail. “If I see you in another world, I’m going to kick you in the face.”

I picked up as many old legends as I could hold and nodded. “Let’s go, then. No sense wasting time.”

We gathered what we could and loaded into my truck. The girl was still with us — she was holding on for just a little longer. Light was pouring through the clouds; we would have to fight for survival.

I remembered where the bookmark was. It was resting at the bottom of the page of the first thing the girl wrote — the only thing she left behind.

I never got to read her story.

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