The Secret Voice of Bones – Post-Apocalyptic One-Shot

Usil had good intentions.

She was supposed to know where those usually led to, but she had slipped out of the house as Thiur was busy dealing with Pulum’s current obsession. For some reason she couldn’t really get behind, Pulum was determined to write down notes on every species of lost animal they had found in the explorer’s home.

Usil had suggested Thiur to go with her. She would make sure nothing bad would happen to her. Pulum’s skin was made out of the same tetraceramid as the three of them, but the presence of their strongest member with her helped soothe Usil’s heart.

It also have her a convenient excuse to spend this time by herself.

She did not like to lie to her companions – but then again was this an actual lie? Or was it just a way to bend the truth in the manner that was most beneficial to her?

Maybe there was no real difference, if they did not find out or if she found a way to spin it to her favor once again.

The imprinted morality codes from the Hearthwomb rubbed the wrong way against her current action, leaving her with a dull ache that skittered all over her skin, unceasing even as she walked under the marble arches leading to the house’s outer orchard.

There she walked out in the silent light of the coming dawn, taking in the air of the morning.

Even the wind felt different her on the Farthest Shore. What little remnant of the Land Beneath the Tide still stood above the waters carried all sort of weird scents. Mangled metal and cursed bones. The after-effects of the punishment of the Gods. Usil walked uphill between the rows of orchards, taking note of how big and supple every orange and apple was.

Xalxas, last survivor of the last ship, seemed to have done quite nice for himself here. But he had claimed to have been alone, all this time. Usil knew he was being dishonest, covering his bases. She knew he was hiding something, and a throwaway comment on his part during yesterday’s dinner hung from her synapsids for the entire night: he had mentioned he had recovered the bones of everyone who died int he wreckage, or shortly after. All he could.

And he buried them in the backyard, one of the places on his home he had absolutely wanted to keep them away from.

Hence, if she wanted to find a clue about what Xalxas had told them, if she wanted to understand how truthful he had been… she had to take a look at the place.

Walking up on the gravel path, she took her time to notice the scenery once again in the light of the coming down, as it silently crashed onto the shores of grass. Anthilia possessed a looming grace, the kind of feeling she had experienced shortly after coming out of the Hearthwomb, back when every sensation was new and her synapsids were busy trying to learn everything with voracious intent. The sight of the dried-up waterfall had seeped deeply into her, making her feel a huge sense of loss and longing for what had once been. The died plants around the smooth rocks sang of life, of a quietly beautiful place that did not deserve to die just because some nearby orchard or field was deemed more useful.

It spoke to her, in a way. Usil looked down at her hand, where the glowing blue lines cut through her palm in a filigree pattern of convoluted spiderwebs.

She was not of flesh and bone and skin and blood. She had been fashioned and crafted, and the Hearthwomb had left to her and her companions the last of its love.

As long as she completed her mission, as long as she did her best to find something worthwhile to bring back home. If it was just information about Xalxas’s failed expedition and what he had found on their fallen homeland… it would not really be a success.

And what would happen then? Would she and her companions truly be more useful than a choked waterfall?

Usil reached the top of the orchard – from there she got a glimpse of the rest of the island, or rather whatever little part of it still remained over the sea line. Inland ponds of saltwater already glistened like silver mirrors, showing where the terrain had already given up to the final embrace with the sea.

Pulum had estimated the entire place only had a couple decades before it slumped beneath the waves once and for all.

Far off in the distance, the hills crumpled and crawled over each other to form wrinkly mountains – they shimmered with weird colors, like carbonic oil, the signs of the mortal Ghostfire. If she looked into it too long, she felt like falling down into a precipice. Was this was people said when they spoke about vertigo?

She moved her gaze to the line of trees growing at the edge of the orchard, where it then fell in a sharp cliff down into the open fields. There awaited a line of stones, separated from each other by a wide berth.

Usil frowned. Maybe…

She reached for the closest, sitting on one knee. The smell of damp earth in the morning hit her synapsids and she pursed her lips. There was something beneath here.

She had to focus her senses. She glanced around and behind her, but besides a few birds jumping from branch to branch, she was alone.

Usil set her dark hands over the tombstone and closed her eyes – she focused all her peripherals towards the immediate area beneath her hands, sending a thin vibration through the earth. As the sound waves echoed against the dirt and the stones and towards what lay beneath it, she felt like floating into the darkness, even as inside her took place a three-dimensional model of what laid beneath.

The sound waves created the profile of bones and a grinning skull.

Usil pulled away.

She drew in a bout of air and sighed through her lips. She did not really breathe – but it was a gesture she had picked up and she found it kind of helped to calm her down.

It might just be one. Maybe Xalxas had only made it as a prop.

He couldn’t have told them the truth: that he was alone on this island, the last and only survivor.

What would she bring back then?

Information and a nice report was hardly enough, no matter how much energy Pulum put into them.

She repeated the trick with the next tombstone – and once again all she found were old bones.

And so with the third. The bones’ porosity and their internal structure was coherent with her trained databases about human remains. They were actual skeletons.

She pulled up, kneading her face.

A failure.

The old man had told them the truth.

Maybe she could-

“So that’s where you are!” Said a young female voice behind her.

Usil whipped her head, surprised. He synapsids pulled away from the tombstones, reinstating her peripherals.

Standing behind her, a few steps downhill, stood a young woman. Judging from the width of her hip bones and the length of her leg structure, she was maybe eighteen summers old.

Her eyes were as blue as mid-day sky, her skin a dark mahogany, smooth like polished wood. Her smile a line of meteors from the Crumblemoon, and her hair flowed behind her in an inky cascade.

“Father did not want me to look out for you, but I had a hunch I would find someone here!”

Usil couldn’t believe her preceptors.

She had found her prize.

Xalxas had crashed upon the Farthest Shore twenty years before.

The girl was born here.

In front of her, the first actual Anthilian born on their forsaken homeland in centuries, since the tragedy of the Capsizing.

A prize worthy of bringing home.

No wonder Xalxas was trying its best to hide her.

His forbidden flower.

Author’s Notes: hastily put-together, but a piece I am quite happy with. I hope I can soon integrate this story into a full-on novel. I like these three robots. Thanks for reading!


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