DISCLAIMER: Still don't own Evangelion or any of its characters, that's all still the property of…whoever owns it these days. Probably never will either, but I'm okay with that (too much legal hassle to potentially deal with). Original series timeline applies here, nothing Rebuild-centric. This story takes place quite a long time after End of Evangelion, so all standard spoilers for up to there apply. There are no thought/speech things this time, this one's all monologue and told from first-person perspective (not saying who just yet, you'll figure it out soon enough. I think that's enough fine print, let's get to it already, okay?
-Dead Flag Blues-
Test, test…one, two…
I think I may have everything working correctly for the time being. I will still hurry and record, nonetheless, I do not know how long the machinery will hold. Or if the solar panels will not catch fire like the last ones I tried. The fact that either were able to be repaired is a miracle in itself.
I do not know who will be listening to this, but the message within will remain the same: I am the only remaining human inhabitant of this world. I have been like this for ten-thousand days. I would know, I have counted every one of them. It has been…quiet, for the lack of a better word.
It may be better to start at the beginning of what I remember. I first awoke in the red sea, as though it were the first time using my eyes. I remember being able to breathe the liquid…but being repulsed by its taste. I still do not know why, perhaps it was something from before what happened. I felt the current roiling around me, holding me in its cold embrace.
For just a moment, I wished to stay there. But I felt sand beneath my hands soon after. I crawled ashore and took a breath of air, my first I have to assume. It must have been, because it left me voiding my stomach of its contents. Nothing but red water. I looked into the sea, seeing my reflection. I did not know the person staring back at me, not initially. I knew my name, however: it was Rei Ayanami. I could remember that much.
That first night was difficult, but I ended the day sleeping next to a fire. Building and keeping it lit were not simple tasks, but I needed the warmth. I found the remains of a home during the following days, trying to find whatever supplies and food I could. Water was not a problem, but there was very little food that had not spoiled or rotted. I could feel myself slowly wasting away.
I…I remember my first kill. A deer I found a week after waking. It had already been seriously injured by another animal, but it was still breathing.
There are times when I can recall that moment, the slowing pulse of its neck under my malnourished fingers as I strangled it. I did not even cook the meat, only tearing at it with my teeth like a wild beast. I cried after filling myself, then felt sick to my stomach. I suppose my body had not been used to eating meat, because this happened for quite some time even after that.
But I understand well how nature works: for something to survive, something else must die. Darwinian, but it holds just as true for this world as it did for the one that came before.
It was during these days that she began to speak to me. At first, I thought it might have been delirium. But it became clearer and clearer as time went on. She called herself Lilith, told me that she was the mother of all humanity. When I asked her why she was speaking to me, she said that we had once been one and the same. I had been a part of her. She told me much about the world before this, but she never said how it had come to this state I had found it in.
Lilith was instrumental in my continued survival afterwards. She would tell me of what could be eaten and what could not be, what would be necessary supplies and what should be left behind. I found my way into a city during this, heavily damaged but with many of its structures still standing. She told me that this was all that remained of Tokyo-3. She explained the Angel War, the Evangelions, the Second and Third Impacts. I had survived something catastrophic and was perhaps the only person alive.
At least, I was the only one alive now.
That was another day that I can recall in great detail. I had been living in whatever buildings were inhabitable within the city for six months, but I felt as though I should return to the shoreline. I cannot explain it completely, but…I could feel something calling me, something I needed to find. Lilith did not wish for me to, saying that it would simply be a waste of my effort and provisions. But that would not be true: with her knowledge, I had stockpiled enough to last for several seasons.
I ignored her and set off for that beach again. The closer I was to it, the stronger my instincts were that there was an important reason to go. As I stood before the sea again, I could not help but marvel at its unchanged state: all the time I had been trying to stay alive, and it remained as it had been when I had left it.
I chose to travel along the sand, Lilith was no longer trying to communicate further. At the time, I could not understand why…but I know all too well now.
I found them miles down from where I had crawled from the sea. Two skeletons in close proximity, half-buried in the sand and bleached white from the sun and the salt air. I asked Lilith what I was looking at, but she did not answer me. I studied the bones for a long time, trying to understand how I had missed that there had been other survivors. I almost felt as though I knew who they had been.
Lilith finally spoke to me again, telling me that I was correct: I had known them. I told her that I wanted the truth. All of it, leaving nothing out. She did not reply immediately, doing so only after a very long wait. She told me that these were the first two returnees, former pilots of the Evangelions. Asking why they were deceased, she told me that she was unsure of how it had happened exactly, but it seemed as though one of them had killed the other before taking their own life. I wished to know why this had happened, she told me in a very sad voice that the two of them could not let go of what they had seen in the red sea or what they had experienced before Third Impact.
I did not know what she meant, but she explained it to me. Third Impact had not just been a physical occurrence, it had also culminated in the merging of all of humanity's souls into one being…and that being had also included myself as well as her.
I pressed for more details, and she told me that I had been a pilot as well. I had known these people, I had been one of them. She said they were the closest I had ever had to friends. I became angry with Lilith, told her that she willingly left much of these details hidden from me. She tried to tell me that it was for my own best interests, but I screamed at her that it was not her place to decide what I should be told and what should be kept from me.
She went silent as I sat next to those bones on the beach, waiting for more. She spoke again, asking me if I were sure I wanted to know everything. I wanted to know what that meant, and she told me that I would not like everything I would be shown.
I never hesitated to agree, and I still would not to this moment.
Images and memories flooded my mind, so many voices and pictures that it left me physically unable to do anything but fall to the sand and tremble under their weight. Lilith told me that this was the accumulated knowledge she had experienced when humanity had been one…and I had been at the center of it.
I could clearly remember it all then. I saw myself standing before her body on a cross before we merged into one. I saw the Angels, the battles I had fought against them, experienced the pain I had felt again and again. Then I saw the same from several other perspectives, some I knew and others completely alien to me.
I could also remember two names: Shinji and Asuka. I had names and faces to go with what I had found on the beach. I stayed on the ground, asking how long it had been between their return and mine. I was told that it had been roughly ten years.
Ten years…and I was all that had come back. It is even sadder when I realize now how much longer it has been since then and having not seen another.
She said that it was humanity's choice to stay or leave the LCL sea, to stay in their false worlds or return to the real one. I could tell that her voice had been sad saying that. She did not wish for them to remain like this, that she would rather they return and repopulate this world. She only wanted what a mother would want from her progeny.
I asked how I had come back, given how we were merged. She told me that the human part of me wished to do so, that I had wanted to no longer be a nonexistent entity. I took my time to absorb all of this new information before rising to my feet. Lilith told me that she had a request of me: she did not wish for her children to be trapped any longer in their imaginary worlds, that she wanted me to help her with that. When I asked what she mean, she explained that I would need to return to the sea and merge with them once again. I was still the vessel for her soul, and she needed me to complete this.
I started to get angry with her again, asking what right did she have to make them obey her will. She had told me that they could return of their own accord, why would it be better if she chose that for them? She did not answer such, only repeating that she needed to help her children. I sat alone for the better part of an entire day, thinking over such a choice. For all I understood, either option would be salvation or condemnation.
I told her that I could not be part of such a thing.
She begged me to reconsider, telling me that we could even use her power to remake the world as it was before Third Impact. Humanity could return and they could flourish again. I asked her how sure was she that mankind would not simply do what they had done to themselves all over again. She did not answer that, and I pressed further, reminding her that both Second and Third Impacts had been the work of man…about what we had done to ourselves before those events, the tragedies and atrocities committed for any reason imaginable.
I told her that I wished to not speak with her again, to please leave my thoughts and never return. She has done so since then, but she is in my dreams regularly. She will not openly communicate with me any longer, but she continues to make herself known to me. I know what she wants, but I am not listening.
I have considered and reconsidered that choice again and again since that day. Even after all the years after, I would do nothing differently. This is their decision, not one to be forced upon them. If they wish to come back to the earth, I will meet them as a friend. But I will not shed a tear if they do not. I have seen the good and evil of humanity, and it would be fitting if this were to be the end.
I know mine will come someday, I understand that much. I have felt myself growing older by the day for the last few years. I have no regrets. I have lived a full live even without the presence of another human. I have traveled far from where I washed ashore that day, crossing the sea and making it as far as the Urals before settling down. I have seen a world no longer sullied by humankind's poisonous nature. I have all I need between the flora and fauna, and I use whatever shelter remains standing to stay out of the elements.
I might only be surviving, but…that may be the point. Perhaps my existence is meant to be a marker for this world, a sign that at least one still remains standing. I have considered letting myself die sometimes, when the ennui becomes to much too bear. But I remain all the same, humanity's drive to live on too deeply encoded in my cells to do otherwise.
Maybe what I am doing will leave a better world if others do ever return. Maybe this record will be enough to help them make better decisions. But, as I already said, I would not be saddened if this were man's last days. I think those remains I saw on the beach speak volumes about that thought: if those two returned but could not survive each other, what chance do the rest have?
But I will still hold onto the memories I have of those lost souls. Shinji…Asuka…those names still evoke many thoughts and emotions, though I still do not know how to process them all. I do not know what transpired before I awoke, but I wish it had not happened at all.
The power cells look as though they are nearly depleted, so I will have to end this recording here. It took quite some time after finding this equipment to get it into working order, but it was good to have a project such as this, it kept me focused for the last two years. Perhaps I will make more of these, perhaps this will be the only one…I cannot say either at this time.
For whoever finds this, if there is anyone to find it, I have only one last thing to say: I am truly sorry for those who came before and what they did, but I hope you will forgive us for our transgressions.
This is Rei Ayanami…former First Child and pilot of Evangelion Unit-00, current last survivor of the human race…signing out.
Author's Notes: Last one to die, turn out the light…
Quite the turnaround from The Trick is to Keep Breathing, isn't it? Figures my first true foray into post-EoE content (the first half of Nephilim chapter 1 doesn't really count) would be…shall we say, less than sunny? Believe me, the part of me that loves A/S is wanting to strangle myself for certain events above (but you can't deny that it is something that could have happened after EoE).
And before anyone asks me: no, even I don't know what happened between them…or which one murdered the other before committing suicide. I let that be ambiguous to both myself and the readers. Come up with your own theories, I've fanwanked enough about post-EoE stuff as-is.
If I had to explain myself on this one, it might just be the closest-to-home a fic ever really got for me personally. I have…conflicting views of humanity: we can do amazing things, be the absolute salt of the earth…but we can also commit horrible atrocities and just be generally shitty towards one another at any given time. I mean that as a whole: I love individuals and the interactions that come with many of them, they're a great source of comfort. But when mankind is taken as an entire group, well…
Simply put, when it comes to my species: I love you all and I hope you choke.
I also wanted to do this from Rei's perspective because I had finally done enough writing about her (see large portions of The Ikari Identity/Ikari Supremacy/Ikari Ultimatum/Ayanami Sanctions/Ikari Legacy) that it just felt right to do at least one from her actual PoV. I've already handled looking at things through Shinji and Asuka (I Won't Let You Fall Apart and Fly On Little Wing, respectively) so it was inevitably the First's turn.
…and it's also angst-y, like those two previously mentioned stories. Maybe Ash is right: even when I'm trying something different, I am becoming a creature of habit.
A big inspiration for this story was, of all things, the Survivalist's Logs from the Honest Hearts add-on for Fallout: New Vegas. It might just be some of the best pieces of world-building lore I've seen in a video game. And it makes for a good read, too. Go look them up, it should be pretty easy to find transcriptions online. And yeah, that last line is an overt nod to Alien, one of my favorite horror movies ever. Great stuff, very tense.
If you'd like something appropriate to listen to while reading this, go check out F-sharp A-sharp ∞ by Godspeed You! Black Emperor. It's simply one of the most atmospheric records I've ever heard. I've absolutely fallen in love with this album in the last two years, it's the perfect mix of apocalyptic and beautiful. Also, this story's title comes from the title of the album's first part (the others being East Hastings and Providence).
No Omake of any kind here, we're leaving out on a somber note this time.
As per usual, pre-read was done again by Ash. Thank you kindly, ma'am. Told you this one would be different. Maybe next time we'll try out one of your ideas?
As usual: good comments will be appreciated, bad ones will be ignored (or kept for firewood). But I do favor good/helpful criticism, so send it my way! And review! Even if it's not positive, review!
Until our paths next cross,