(I do not own Neon Genesis Evangelion, End of Evangelion, or the audio commentaries of said media.)
Νηον Γενεσις Ευαγγηλιον:
As he rested his weak and trembling limbs, Shinji saw a woman on the beach with him. Asuka. Though maybe there was something a little different about her – he wasn't sure what. She had bandages – the same kind of bandages Rei had worn. Shinji thought he saw Rei in the sea of LCL, but in a flash she was gone.
Asuka. He and she were alone. Of all the people who could have – or would have – returned to life with him – why Asuka? Was she the one person he wanted to see again more than anyone else? Maybe, but probably not. Who knew why she was there with him, or why he was there, or why there was anyone left at all – he only knew that he was on this surreal, post-apocalyptic beach with Asuka. There were many things he would have liked to do to Asuka, and he wasn't sure which was at the top of his list.
He picked one.
Slowly and deliberately, Shinji moved over to Asuka and wrapped his hands around her neck. He was going to squeeze that bitch's life out. He was going to continue where they had left off, in the moments where all the souls in the world were being fused into one. Whether the Asuka Shinji had experienced then was really Asuka as she was to herself, or an Asuka from his own mind – or maybe an Asuka from someone else's mind? Or perhaps the Asuka he hated was an Asuka created by the collective minds of everyone as a step in the process of breaking the barrier of his soul so he could fuse with Lillith. Shinji didn't know, and was too exhausted to consider, much less care, which Asuka was which. Any Asuka would do.
A hand went to his cheek. Asuka was touching him, but not like a slap, or a return attempt to choke him. She was gentle. Why was Asuka showing him affection when he was trying to kill her? Or had Shinji only really wanted to hurt her a little? Scare her? He was choking Asuka, and he didn't know why anymore. Tears fell on Asuka's face.
Shinji fell off of her, sobbing.
"I feel sick," she said.
So that's how it was. Shinji disgusted Asuka, and now he wanted to hurt her again for thinking so. But what was he going to do? Crawl back on top of her and choke her again? All she would have to do was pout and Shinji would probably start babbling apologies and turn the choke into a hug. A lone thought drawled through his mind: I really am pathetic.
Then again, crawling on top of Asuka didn't sound entirely displeasing.
Asuka pulled her arm back, lifted her shoulder to tuck her elbow beneath her, and slowly pushed herself up. Shinji decided it would be better to sulk somewhere away from her, so he stood and looked around for somewhere to slink away. Asuka sat up, pulled her knees to her chest, and sighed at the surreal sea.
Νηον Γενεσις Ευαγγηλιον
"Asuka," Shinji said, "Your eye looks… brown."
She blinked and looked at her arm. "Who am I? Am I Asuka? These bandages –" She touched her eye-bandage. "They're Rei's bandages, but they're Asuka's wounds." Her hand dropped and she sighed in lament: "My sense of self has melted."
"Perhaps it will re-solidify."
"As though I were ice in a lake! Who knows if, when I'm done refreezing, all the water will be from the original chunk of ice?" She looked at Shinji. "I have memories. Memories of me outside myself. Other people's memories. I feel as though I'm not me." Her eyes narrowed and she leaned back on her good arm. The waves of the un-living sea wheezed as she sat, sifting through a confused and patchwork consciousness. Shinji worried for her quietly. After a moment she said, "Then again, I'm still a me. If I'm a me, then I must be somebody, even if I'm not – no, I am. I am Asuka." She sat up. "Asuka Langley Sohryu." She slouched. "…I think."
"Do you know whose memories you have?"
"I'm not completely certain. It's not like the memories are labeled, or anything. Sometimes I remember being alone in my room, but one that couldn't have been Asuka's room – it's a dumpy apartment, and all I have are a bunch of bloodied bandages, a beaker of water, broken glasses, and a drawer full of plain underwear."
"That sounds like a memory from Rei."
"And then I remember some other things," Asuka said. "I remember briefing myself on the angels, getting drunk with Ritsuko and Kaji – how disgusting to be part-Misato! Ekh! At least I have no memories of sex with Kaji. As fun as it would be to recollect, I'd rather I was still a virgin. Or at least, I'd prefer to be a virgin who has no memories of other people having sex, which would be fucked up." She rubbed her forehead. "Mein Gott, I hope I don't inherit somebody else's emotional issues."
Shinji wondered if she had any of his memories. He hoped not.
"I can't stand this place anymore," Asuka said. "Über-Rei is staring at me."
"Ja," she said, waving her knuckles at the divided corpse of Lillith.
Asuka stood up slowly into an erect and balanced position; she didn't appear to have any lower-body injuries. Shinji realized there was something mysterious about Asuka's bandaging. Shinji asked, "Do you think there is someone else here? Do you know where your bandages came from?"
"No," Asuka said.
Shinji didn't know if she was answering both questions or only one of them. He decided not to bother her for clarification. He said, "Maybe we should go see if anyone else survived."
Asuka didn't reply, but followed Shinji as he began to walk down the beach. He was glad she decided to come with him. There were too many reasons for her not to, but he still wanted her company. They could have been the only ones for hundreds or thousands of miles – or the only ones left in the world. To be lost with no one else, perhaps forever, was an unbearably frightening possibility he'd rather not risk.
They traveled for hours, and the scenery didn't seem to change. The landscape was a barren wasteland; except for the white sand, the land was coated red as though dyed in blood. The sea was nothing but lifeless LCL. There were no seaweed or jellyfish washed ashore – not even dead fish. There were no shells, no obvious signs that life had once existed. They had been reincarnated to a new world entirely.
They walked for hours without seeing anything new. For most of this time they were silent. Shinji was still surprised Asuka was willing to walk with him after what he'd done. Shinji asked her if she felt any better.
"Not really," Asuka said. "Looks like the whole world's dead."
They eventually found a small shed; the walls and roof seemed to be made from sheets of corrugated metal. This shed stood next to a short precipice, which must have shielded the building from the more violent activity of Third Impact. Opening the door, they saw that not everything organic had been assimilated – the structure supporting the shed was made of wood, and some of the equipment was also made of wood – the shafts of spades and rakes, fishing poles, and the shelves. They also found a pile of old, dirty blankets folded in a corner.
"I guess we have shelter," Asuka said. "But don't think I'm letting you sleep next to me after you tried to choke me."
"I'm sorry about that. I was a bit emotional, you know. I didn't know what I was doing."
"So you really did choke me?" Asuka shoved a holey, discolored sheet at Shinji, probably the most pathetic and least insulating of the three blankets. "You can stay outside," she huffed, and pushed him out the door of the shed.
The door slammed shut. Shinji didn't complain.
Νηον Γενεσις Ευαγγηλιον
Shinji used the sheet for a pillow and lay down without any covering. The night was warm enough it didn't matter. The greatest obstacle to sleep was the hardness of the dirt and the wind. Shinji could never remember so much wind without a storm. He sheltered his face with his sheet-pillow.
The sun rose and the wind calmed. Around noon he heard the shed door open. Shinji decided that, even though his sleep had been pitiful, he was not likely to get much sleep for a while.
"Verdamnt," Asuka said. "No shower, no breakfast, nothing to brush my teeth with – verdamnt!"
"We could probably try going inland."
"Is there any good reason why we'd find anyone there?" Asuka asked. "People settle near bodies of water."
"I suppose…." Shinji was glad she didn't question walking with him. She seemed to have already let go of what happened immediately after Third Impact. Maybe. It was also probable she was selectively forgetting it for the moment.
A few hours of walking later, they began to see what might have been the remains of buildings – flattened masses of splintered wood and crushed metal. It was a wonder that the shed had survived. And then they came in full view of a valley that might have been Tokyo-3 – a forest of large, hollow metal structures.
"We might be the only people left," he said.
"And so what if we are?"
"Well, then, we need to stick together," Shinji replied. "Humans need each other to survive. Don't you think it would get lonely? And I mean, if it's just the two of us left, then chances are, like, we're supposed to be together."
"Why?" Asuka asked.
"Well, you know… to repopulate the human race."
"Not suggesting you'd want to, but –"
"I don't wanna have kids. I've never wanted kids. Least of all with you."
"Well… if we're the only people left, that leaves us with a responsibility to the future of the human race, don't you think?"
"A responsibility? I wouldn't do it with you even if you were the last man alive, and since you are, it should be clear I'm not bluffing. Fuck responsibility to the human race – the human race is dead. There are no more people, Shinji. What does it matter if we have kids? Who will our kids have kids with? They'll have to resort to incest, and then what will the human race become? Don't try pulling that 'responsibility' crap on me. We have a responsibility to not have kids, so we don't force anyone else into a life of depravity and misery. If anything, we have a responsibility to give the human race the coup de gras. Heck, with just the two of us left, we'll probably go insane and kill each other, anyhow. In fact, the best thing we can do is kill each other now and save ourselves the pain of going stir crazy later."
"Realistic, Shinji. Just think – the biggest favor the last members of the human race could do for each other is kill each other. Must be some irony in that, don't you think?"
"But, that's not why I…."
"Why you what?"
"I would never have come back if I thought it would be like this."
"What? I sure as heck didn't choose this, and if you did, then you really are an idiot, Shinji. And a jerk, if you're the one responsible for bringing me here. The most idiotic, self-centered jerk that ever was. And the most sadistic, too."
"I – I didn't. I mean I didn't mean to –"
"Just go fuck yourself, Shinji," Asuka said, walking away from him. "Go masturbate, or something. I'm so hot you must be fricken horny – starting to suggest we make kids together. Yekhh!"
Shinji clenched and unclenched his hands. "Whatever." Shinji started walking away.
"Where are you going?" Asuka called. "You're not actually going to go masturbate, are you?"
"I'm going to find lunch," he said. "But you can go kill yourself, if that's what you want. That's the most rational thing to do now, isn't it?"
Shinji walked down the deserted streets. He kept listening for footsteps behind him, but apparently Asuka was fine letting Shinji walk away without her. Most buildings had no doors, only gaping openings with broken hinges. The concrete was cracked and uneven, all the windows were broken, and much of the furniture – especially chairs, and the desks with wheels – all seemed to have moved in a single direction – the direction away from NERV.
Shinji looked behind him, but did not see Asuka. Considering how long she had stayed with him, he was a little surprised Asuka hadn't decided to tag along behind him anyhow. Shinji began to worry about her. Maybe Asuka needed some distance right now. Shinji hoped they could find each other again – or that they might find somebody. He didn't want to be alone, and he didn't like the idea of Asuka being alone, though at the moment it would have been fine if they were not-alone with people other than each other. The only problem was that he couldn't be sure if anyone else existed.
Shinji trekked through the city, passing lines of abandoned cars that appeared to be wrecks. However, on some streets there were cars that seemed to have remained mostly intact but for shattered glass. He couldn't drive, and even though traffic laws obviously weren't being enforced at the moment, he wasn't sure if he had enough self-confidence to drive a vehicle that could possess any number of unknown defects. Also, he didn't like sitting on shattered glass.
Shinji decided to leave that as a possibility for another day. He found a convenience store, a treasure trove of uncontaminated, long-lasting food. Granted, Third Impact was rough, but apparently only rough enough to make a mess and cut off the power – most of the junk food was still where it had been, though jumbled around. Shinji decided that no one would hold it against him if he stole his meal from the shelves here.
The refrigerators had no power and he estimated that whatever was in there had most likely spoiled by now, if it was not on the verge of going bad. The obvious exceptions were the beer and the cola. He decided to test the orange juice, which was rather warm, but not bad yet. But without refrigeration, there was no way to preserve it after being subjected to the open air, so he drank the whole carton.
Walking outside, Shinji surveyed the street. He saw no one. Shinji walked to the corner and looked down at the sign. "New Ginza, 3-Chome." That couldn't be right – he was pretty sure that was the other side of town. Oh well – Shinji was sure he could find his way back to the convenience store. And there were probably other places with food, as well – at least, he hoped so, for Asuka's sake.
Shinji became more interested in looking for signs that something might be growing again, because if there was, then there was hope that he might find an indefinite food supply. But more than anything, he wanted a sign that an indefinite food supply was not going to be a concern. For the first few hours of walking, Shinji saw nothing to validate these hopes, but by the late afternoon, he sighted a splotch of green on the hillside.
Νηον Γενεσις Ευαγγηλιον
Shinji walked up the barren hillside. For a half-hour he walked, until he realized he couldn't be certain how he had gotten where he was, nor was he certain where he might be. The terrain looked different without vegetation and stained the color of blood. It was as though he were living on Mars.
Shinji tried to remember. He thought the splotch of green was on a hill between Tokyo-3 and the entrance to the Geo-front, on the slope facing the city. Shinji thought he saw a road not too far from it. Shinji couldn't remember. He would have thought it would be easy to find; the green should have stood out easily from the red. He wasn't colorblind.
Shinji wondered if Asuka would miss him. He felt that fear again, that he might lose her and be alone forever. He tried to move in the direction he had first come, but he wasn't certain which way that was. Shinji slipped on a ridge, and started falling into green.
He cowered over his scrapes, but was quickly distracted. Shinji had felt worse wounds before. More interesting was that he was surrounded by trees and grass. He was in the shade! He heard someone whistling. Shinji wondered if he was hallucinating. He wondered if everything he'd experienced until now was a hallucination. He stepped forward into a clearing, the sun heating him again.
Shinji saw an unshaven man in a ragged dark blue suit standing in the middle of a garden, sprinkling with a green garden pail bearing the cartoonish image of a sunflower. Overlooking the garden was the dead Tokyo-3.
"Kaji?" Shinji asked.
Kaji turned and smiled. "Looks like you're doing all right!"
"Boy, am I glad to see you!" Shinji rushed to Kaji's side. "And your melons are back, too, huh?"
"Yep," Kaji said. "I've always enjoyed large melons. The bigger they are, the better."
Shinji nodded as he stared at the garden. "Mm-hmm."
Kaji grinned at Shinji, whose expression was rather blank. Kaji shook his head in disappointment. "Apparently you didn't catch that double entendre."
"Oh." A small smile appeared on Shinji's face. "Yeah, I was just hoping that the melons were ripe, or would be soon. I mean…." Shinji still wasn't sure what was a hallucination and what wasn't.
"I understand," Kaji replied. "Don't worry. We won't let you starve."
"'We'?" Shinji asked.
"Everyone," Kaji said. "Everyone and no-one, really."
"Who else is here?"
"No-one," Kaji said. "Then again, it's not like the entire population of humanity just disappeared – or did we?"
"Don't play games, Kaji," Shinji said. "I'm wondering what you're doing here."
"Good question!" Kaji said, putting down the water jug. "I'd like to know that, myself. And I'm sure we'd both like to know what you're doing here, and what the difference is between us. But I can tell you that you're here morethan I am."
"More than you?"
"I don't get it."
"I don't either. And yet here I am. People often do things without understanding why."
Shinji rubbed his fists in his eyes. "How does that make sense?"
"It doesn't have to make sense to happen," Kaji said. "To happen, things just need to… happen. Sense-making is what humans do to gain control of the things that happen."
Shinji sat down in the grass. "I suppose I should believe that. After all, I was a part of the end of the world, and I have no idea how it happened or what's going on now. I wonder if I did the right thing in rejecting Instrumentality." Shinji looked up at Kaji. "That's what I did, right?"
Kaji took a deep breath and sat down next to Shinji. He stared at his feet and wrestled his thumbs, and when he was finished with that he looked up and said, "In a sense, it wasn't really Shinji Ikari who rejected Instrumentality – it was everyone. Instrumentality negated the individuality of every human being, including Shinji Ikari, so it wasn't just you that rejected Instrumentality so much as everyone at once. One might say it was inevitable that the 'perfect' being who would assimilate all souls into a unified, peaceful whole should eventually decay once again into individuals. But it was not inevitable – this path was chosen, not forced.
"Yet the choice itself is the same choice that was made in the past," Kaji continued, "and if the world is again unified into one mind, it is all too likely that same choice will be made again. This is because this apocalypse is actually a part of a greater life cycle. So long as living beings have the will to live, they will choose to continue their existence – and this choice has been made again and again by countless beings for untold millennia. But many have also chosen to die, or have been forced to die – and this also is an essential part of the process, for without death there would be no room for life."
Shinji asked, "Why? I mean – why is all this necessary? Why did everyone have to die?"
Kaji replied, "If humankind was really incapable of evolving further, then only this could open the path to a future evolution. Rebirth through death, creation through destruction – only by removing the old and decaying can there be room for the new. It's a hard truth that few in modern times have been willing to accept – that every birth must come with pain. I guess it's because of all the drugs in hospitals."
Kaji smiled but Shinji gave him a critical look. Kaji shrugged. "That last bit was a joke."
"But it had a serious point to it, too," Kaji said. "Technology has numbed us from pain, keeping us at a distance from what we destroy in our efforts to live and create. Because of this, some people deny that they have any part in the destruction and become hypocrites, demanding only painless creation."
Shinji eyed Kaji. "Did you rematerialize from nothing just so you could tell me weird, random, philosophical stuff?"
Kaji shrugged. "Pretty much."
"But this apocalypse didn't happen naturally, did it? It was something human beings decided."
"Humans are part of nature, aren't they?"
Kaji stated, "While the old men of SEELE may have planned this apocalypse, the processes involved in it were not unnatural, in and of themselves. Billions of years ago, this world was populated by Lillith. The ultimate origins of Lillith and the angels is a matter of speculation. Perhaps a god-like being seeded them in the universe – then one wonders where this god is, and how the god came about. Perhaps the universe itself spawned them – then one wonders when and where it happened, and why. The story of the angels is the story of life in this universe."
"Why?" Shinji asked.
"Because the angels themselves are manifestations of what human beings could have been. Instrumentality, while it technically failed, will now spur on the future development of humankind. Although SEELE had intended for all humanity to be united in a single super-being, apparently such beings simply lack the will to sustain themselves. Lillith spawned us once before and has spawned us again."
"This is… complicated." Shinji tried taking his eyes off the melons, but they were too tempting. He licked his lips. "So… people are going to start coming back, right?"
"Some will try," Kaji said. "You're here, after all, aren't you?"
"Even though I died before Third Impact, I find it easy to manifest in the world at this time," he said. "But I am still just a ghost. It's thanks to lucky circumstances that I can appear here with such a good awareness of my surroundings. Remember, Shinji – when you're dead, you're dead. So live well."
"Okay," Shinji said. "But that still doesn't give me a sure food-source."
"The blood of Lillith, LCL, now intermixed with the bodies and souls of all humanity, has become an admixturerather similar to the sea-water of primordial earth," Kaji said. "It contains all the building blocks of life. Although I don't know if you'd care to drink it."
"No thanks," Shinji said. "I've breathed the stuff – I know what it tastes like."
"On the other hand, if you want to survive, that could be your best bet."
"No thank you," Shinji said. "I'll take my chances. Maybe if I'm desperate."
"Cheer up, Shinji," Kaji said. "Things aren't nearly so grim for you as they might seem."
Shinji said, "I just hope I don't end up stuck with nobody but Asuka."
"You never know," Kaji said. "The two of you might have to pair off like in the garden of Eden to repopulate the planet."
"I think Asuka says 'no.'"
Νηον Γενεσις Ευαγγηλιον
"I say 'no!'"
Shinji shrugged. "Never know," he said. "We might find some more people soon. Maybe even enough to repopulate the planet."
It was dusk by the time Shinji came down from the hills. For a while, Shinji was worried that he might not find Asuka, but his worries were unjustified. During the daytime and in the middle of the city it would have been nigh impossible to locate her, but looking down from the high altitude into a city completely dark, after careful observation he was able to single out a solitary light. He headed directly in the direction of this light, and after half an hour of walking he was able to locate the apartment building – his apartment. Their apartment.
The most obvious place to look - if he had known it was still standing.
"Are you kidding?" Asuka yelled. "Humankind's dead. Don't get your hopes up; there aren't enough people left to bring humankind back. We'll be lucky enough to live more than a few years, given how the food is." Asuka seemed to be falling back into her depression, but her spirits were still high enough she could chew Shinji out.
"But what's the harm of hoping?" Shinji said as he sat on the couch, shoving aside random papers and bottles of beer. The apartment was a mess, just like everything else in post-apocalyptic Tokyo-3. Then again, the apartment was always a mess when Shinji was out for more than a day.
Asuka sneered. "If you raise your expectations beyond what you can possibly achieve, you'll just disappoint yourself. You have no right to hope for that much."
"I dunno. The return of humankind might not be that implausible."
"Well, it's possible that this is really just a phase in a larger cyclical life-process –"
"Bullshit! How did such New-Age sheisse enter your head?"
"Are you just stupid, or what? Oh, wait – of course you are. I had forgotten that we had established that a long time ago." Asuka went into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator.
"I suppose," he said. "But actually – I got the idea from Kaji."
"Kaji?" Asuka repeated. "How?" Shinji heard a familiar popping noise.
"I talked with him… earlier. Sort of."
Asuka walked into the room, sipping a can of beer. Shinji stared at her, aghast. Then again – maybe it would improve her mood? No one was around to scold her. Then again, it was just possible that Misato might show up and…. Asuka asked, "What did Kaji know about any of this?"
Shinji looked at his feet. "I must've been talking with his ghost, or something, because he's dead, apparently."
"You mean you talked with Kaji after you destroyed the world?"
"It was probably just a dream, or something." Come to think of it, Shinji couldn't remember the last time he'd slept.
"If it was a dream, don't blame your idiotic ideas on Kaji – it's all out of your own brain, pathetic as it is." Asuka sat down in a chair next to Shinji.
"You're probably right."
Asuka shook her head. "Verdamnt." Asuka sipped on her beer. Even if she didn't place anything Shinji said in high regard at the moment, Asuka made no indication that she was tired of his company – yet.
Shinji decided to change the subject. "You eat anything today?"
"Yes," she said. "Most of our food is instant, after all. It's not like it would spoil."
"Oh," he said. "That hadn't occurred to me."
"Why? Did you steal your breakfast from some broken-down convenience store, or something?"
Shinji tried not to betray any emotion as he changed the subject a second time. "How did you get the lights working?"
Asuka grinned. "Don't worry, if the ghost of the storekeeper comes back to haunt you, I'll find some holy water and conduct an exorcism."
"Okay…. so, um –"
"Our apartment building has its own generator," she said. "I got it working again." She sipped her beer.
"How long do you think it'll hold out?"
Asuka shrugged. "I figure we've got enough diesel for it to last a while, especially if we conserve it. We could scavenge some to keep up the supply."
Shinji had dinner, and the power was shut off. They slept in their own beds that night, accompanied by a sudden, strange sense of normality. A minute or so after settling into bed, Shinji was so fascinated by this sense he even got up to see if he might see Misato's ghost that night – but she wasn't there. And yet everything still felt normal – as though Misato wasn't dead, but simply out drinking or working an extra shift. The apartment was dark and messy, but familiar – only if he looked outside into the dark, sleeping city could he feel the strangeness of an empty, post-apocalyptic world creeping about – but it was not here. Not in this apartment.
He sighed as he tromped back to his bed. "I'm home."