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Ossis

I woke early and left the dormitory under the cover of dark blue dawn.
As I walked along the edge of the towering boundary wall, fingers trailing along the cement, I counted words and sorted through pictures of Earth before the Cleansing.
When I reached the East Corner of the wall I paused to gaze down at the neat right angle formed by the two connecting ramparts. I kneeled and pressed my thumb into the soil at the corner, registering its softness, its rich darkness. I smiled, flicking through pictures of plants I had bookmarked months ago, all with bright leaves, vivid flowers, and precious seeds. I will see Earth restored, I thought happily. I was built for this.
At that moment I heard a sharp cry like the scrape of metallic fibers against one another. I rose fluidly, tilting my head to pinpoint the sound. After it came again I was sure that the noise had come from beyond the wall. At its third utterance an emotion overtook me that I had no word for. My lungs contracted forcefully and I clutched my head, which spun as though I been struck.
A shudder passed from the tips of my toes to my jaw. I could feel the first command kicking into gear, preparing to lock my muscles in place and send out an alarm. I bypassed the command with a clench of my jaw. It would take fifteen minutes for the second command to arrive, which I could not ignore. But nor could I ignore the plaintive whimpers arising from beyond the wall. Something inside of me ached.
In moments I had scaled the wall, leaving deep gouges in the cement where my fingers clutched at its surface. Vast stretches of nothing spread beyond the wall. I looked down. An animal lay dying at its foot. I smelled its death on the wind before I even dropped to the ground beside it.
The beast had curled its legs up around its head. Locks of unkempt black hair fell across its face. Its spine stuck out, curved and knobby, like knuckles pressed against cloth.
Cautiously I crouched by its side and reached forward to brush the hair away from its face. The face shocked me into complete stillness.
"Man is the only creature that consumes without producing", jabbered my brain, filling the impossible empty silence. "He does not give milk, he does not lay eggs, he is too weak to pull the plough, he cannot run fast enough to catch rabbits. Yet he is lord of all the animals."
The man opened his eyes, slowly, fixing them on me. They were very pale blue, like the color of the sky just as the sun is rising. I watched him blink, watched his gaunt cheeks suck in air and his cracked and bleeding lips bend and stretch as he tried to form words.
"All fine architectural values are human values, else not valuable," I recited manicly. I noted the way his thin fingers groped at my ankle and the way his ribcage rose and fell, drawing in shallow and ineffectual breaths.
"Please," wheezed the man, and I heaved a dry sob.
The first spasm claimed my pale hand. I stared at it, watching every bone in my fingers, in my palm, my wrist, begin to vibrate violenty.
"Dear, dear," I blathered, reaching out to stroke his face but drawing back as he cringed away from my shaking hands, a feral panic filling his gaze. "Dear, sweet dear. There now."
The spasms reached my neck, and soon my head. My eyesight wavered, darkened. Blossoms of color moved across my field of vision.
Soon they arrived with black eyes and delicate tools. While they climbed over the wall I leaned forward and gathered the skeleton into my arms, watching the man's too-large head wobble against my arm as I quivered.
"Too bad," murmured one, resting a cold hand on my head. "This one was bright."
"Now beyond question I could put a term to all my pain, and go with my poor brother into the darkness, his companion there. Never to die? Will any brook of mine without you, brother, still be sweet to me?" I asked of them, lifting my eyes from the hollow face of the man.
One of them met my gaze and smiled. He plunged a needle into the back of my neck. I clutched the dying human close as night fell over my eyes.



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