Eventually, there was quiet

AUTHOR'S NOTES: I wrote this epilogue a good while back, but I wasn't sure if this was what really should happen or merely what I wanted to happen in the aftermath of the story. I hadn't really decided in my mind what the logic behind the dreamscape was, and was reluctant to settle the thing too firmly. Er… I'm not saying I've got it all worked out now, but I guess I've made up my mind when it comes to the epilogue. If this isn't what 'really' happened, I guess you can take it was what Zoro thinks happened. Either way works.

An Extra: Epilogue, of sorts

Eventually, there was quiet.

Piles of rubble, torn-down rocks, gaping holes in the ground and far too many pieces of all kinds of material imaginable in a good-sized town filled the view from one end of the horizon to another. There wasn't a single house left standing, and very few patches of pavement were left intact. Judging from this part at least, this couldn't be called a town any longer. It was nothing but a collection of ruins.

From seemingly out of nowhere a tiny black flying thing appeared in the air above part of the rubble. At first sight you'd have taken it for a soot-flake, but then the vigorous flapping of its wings and its loud, frantic calls said otherwise.

"HEEEY!" the small black thing cried out, as it swerved to and fro over the rubble, looking this way and that. "U-BIRD!! N-BIRD!! GUUUUUYS!!" He swooped low, then flew high again, scooting over to another pile, close by. "ARE YOU THEEERE? HEY, GUYS!!"

There was a rustle of gravel, and then the tip of an orange-and-black-wing became visible under some broken rooftiles.

"Stop shouting…" a voice said weakly.

Another voice croaked, nearby, "Leave me alone, I don't even exist anymore… and anyway I've got a headache." A few black feathers flapped from the midst of a bundle of torn and dirty curtains, in a fairly lacklustre fashion.

"Me too," moaned the orange bird.

L-bird landed right next to them, on top of a broken ornamental china dog. "There you are!" he said, smiling sunnily. "You should have said so earlier!"

Moans, groans and grunts met him, as his two friends slowly hauled themselves upright and freed themselves from the rubble.

Then they were sitting in quiet for a few moments, looking at the scene around them. N-bird was attempting to clean her feathers.

"This is incredible," said U-bird, sounding almost though obviously not completely dumbstruck. "It's all broken. Everything."

"What a guy, huh?" remarked N-bird. "He strolls into town and a few hours later the whole damn place is completely smashed up."

"Well… it's no skin off my beak," said U-bird. "I'm not from around here…"

"But how come we're still alive?" said N-bird wonderingly. "If he really woke up…How come we're still here?"

U-bird shook his head, looking stumped. "I don't get it either," he said. "What do you think happened, L-bird? Did you see anything?"

"Yeah, at first I didn't know if I was alive or not," said L-bird brightly. "So I thought, 'Well then, I'd better imagine I'm alive', and then I was! And then I went looking for you guys, and I imagined you were alive too, and you were!" He grinned widely. "Hee hee hee! I'm getting really good at this!"

N-bird gave up trying to smooth her feathers down and flew up to perch on a huge block of marble. "Well," she said thoughtfully, "I think we're alive because Mr. Swordsman – Lolonoa Zoro – really doesn't want us to vanish into nothing. Even if we're only imaginary to him. Because he wants us to be strong enough to make it on our own. That's what I think."

"Either way… what do we do now?" said U-bird practically. "Where can we go?"

L-bird's eyes were shining, not in that hugely bright way they did when he saw something really cool but in a more low-key, yet still glittering manner. "We can go wherever we want," he said. "And we can do whatever we want, too!"

"And be whoever we want…?" wondered U-bird.

"Sure! But right now, I'm hungry! Let's go find S-bird!"

"S-bird?" said N-bird, frowning. "But… he isn't…"

"…Oh! I see!" U-bird exclaimed, his eyes widening. "So we'll just imagine S-bird and then he'll be here, right? All right, I can do this! Leave it to me!" He closed his eyes in concentration.

N-bird looked from one black bird to the other. "Do you two really think that's something we can do? That it's going to work?" Cautious scepticism mingled with growing hope and enthusiasm in her eyes.

"Uh-huh!" asserted L-bird, nodding happily.

U-bird opened his eyes. "Okay, got it! Let's go find a pond!"

"A pond? Okay!" said L-bird, flying up into the air.

"Wait a minute…" said N-bird, not following this.

U-bird left the ground as well. "I figure S-bird's got to be a duck of some kind," he explained, beating his wings impatiently as he looked down at N-bird.

"A DUCK?! How's that?"

"I dunno… it just seems to fit, y'know?"

"Right," said L-bird, nodding. "Come on, N-bird! Help us find the pond!"

"You two, I swear…" grumbled N-bird, taking to the air as well. "Well, let's at least make him into a wild duck, so he'll be able to fly…"

And the wind shifted, bringing with it the salty tang of the sea, just as Zoro's three little birds flew high up into the sunlight to leave the city of rubble behind. They made for the great unknown beyond it, on the quest for a duck pond they were certain they would find.

Within two weeks, the stonemasons and the carpenters, the bell-founders and the clockmakers all working together had the clocktower up and running again. And once the clocktower was back, the city could slowly begin to form itself anew around it. Waiting for the next errant dreamer to wander in and give their place some meaning.