SPOILERS for the character stories of Crow and PF.
The silhouette of the storehouse against the sky and the cold, light breeze sweep across him. He breaths in deep and watches, sees the red dawn behind the black figure of the building and the jutting, swaying grass all around him. The train tracks at his feet go on to the east, becoming a thin line the closer they get to the horizon. And even though he knows that is the path he must follow, he prefers to stay there, besides the brick storehouse and in the cold morning, letting himself be swept away by the beauty of the world.
No one will come bother him. No noise besides the wind on the grass and the crickets will sound and no train will ever come from the train station he just left behind. And while he's not completely alone in the world, sometimes just looking around reminds him that he might as well be. Which is strange; the dark buildings and the overgrown grass are the only things he's ever known. He knows the concept of people and crowds, but those things disappeared before he was born, and the things he does know are the shells of the lives they left behind- the houses, the buildings, the train tracks, the telescope's house, and all those little objects that occupied every little corner of those lives.
But he isn't entirely alone now; not anymore. She likes to talk, maybe because she had been made to answer everything a person asked her; it was just that there wasn't anyone around to ask her anything.
The box-machine strapped to his back does the best she can to describe what 'crowds' were when he asks, but he cannot picture it. Thousands of people? When he can only imagine a single one standing alone on a street; perhaps two if he makes an effort? Though the second person is always himself, and the first one is the either the old man he used to live with, or faceless.
She apologizes for not being able to help him, but it isn't a big deal. He is used to it, after all, and at least he can listen to her voice. He asks the machine how the steel railroad was when people were alive, and she explains that it was smoother, or at least a different kind of rough, and it didn't tint his hands red when he passed it over the steel. That wasn't really what he'd meant, but it would do.
In the end they leave that meadow behind, to head back underground and try to find what he is looking for. She is a comfortable weight on his back, and she whirrs and clicks when she's recollecting information from her database to tell him.
She faces the dawn as he walks towards the tunnel. Even though she is not human and therefore not what he is looking for, she feels like, because they saw the red sky mingled with the stars together, she could make him happy. And she hopes against hope that they get to see many more things together.
The last of the sunlight disappears as they enter the underground station, and the very last thing she sees are the silhouettes of the storehouse and the fallen posts around the train tracks against the red sky.
She is dead. Her battery didn't last long enough to let her see the outside world again. The stairs where right there.
He buries her like he did his grandfather, and all the while he's trying not to cry too hard. He didn't cry so much when he buried the old man, so why is this time different? He spent so little time together with her; a few hours at most. So why does it hurt this much?
Because there should have been more. They were supposed to stay together, and he'd been sure it was going to be that way, but it turned out that machines were as fragile as humans. Now he understands a little bit more about the world he lives in: he feels the pain of life being abruptly cut short, and the loss of the potential it held. Things could have been wonderful- or at least okay. It just ended too soon, and he -and whoever else was alive somewhere out there- would never know what that life truly held.
Things go from bad to worse because he doesn't like the person he meets next. Another boy, but taller, darker and bolder, who steals from him and mocks his every attempt at fair play. But he has to play along with this other boy if he wants to get his locket back; the other boy may call what's inside it useless trinkets -A letter? A screw? He laughs- but those are his memories, all that's left of the people he loved.
They're in an amusement park. He is aware it should have been a fun place, but tonight the peeled colors on the rides and stalls, and the looming structures of the Ferris wheel and rollercoaster are only eerie. The other boy cajoles and jumps away from his reach, calls him names and shoves him away when he manages to catch him. He calls him a 'typical human', and it confuses him; aren't they all humans? He's never met many people, but shouldn't everyone try to stick together?
What makes this other boy so different? Somewhere between all the hiding and seeking, he decides that no matter how this ends, he wants to understand.
The other boy was atop the Ferris Wheel's sign, still cart-wheeling around, though this time he has nowhere else to go and seems about to let him get his locket back. But no, he has to jump away, to the edge, just to mock him some more. His feet land wrong, and he slips.
They're too high up. His breath catches in his throat as he sees the other boy go from being set against the moon to falling far bellow. He cannot scream; he can only catch the locket that the boy throws at him, and watch as that all-too familiar fear grips his mind. The heavy sound the other boy makes as he crashes through the roof of the Merry-go-round resonates through the park, and all he can think is, Not again.
He gets down as quickly as he can and rushes to the boy's side, but he stops before him, gripping the railing of the Merry-go-round tightly; he doesn't get any closer- he doesn't dare. Trembling all over, he's foolish enough to ask the boy if he's not dead.
Not again, not again! He thinks; It's too soon- he just buried her, this isn't right!
He's crying, holding onto the railing so his knees don't give in. This is all he will ever know; he will always be the one left alive, and he will have to bury every single one of his friends. He can see it so clearly, his future laid out in front of him. He will have to bury them all until there's no one to bury him.
And he is about to break down when the other boy stirs.
He mocks him for all that racket -he himself has never cried a day of his life!- but he concedes defeat. You win, he says. And slowly, effortlessly, they begin to laugh.
The boy is looking for something too, so they cannot stay together. He is looking for answers rather than people and that's what's important to him. But no matter; they're friends now, and friends always see each other again. So the boy kisses him goodbye and they part ways.
The boy is dead. At the very least he got to know what he was, but as it turns out, machines are as fragile as humans.
Afterwards, when he can't cry anymore, he understands a little more about the world: it is a mirror to him, as he sees his life play out in every wall and upturned chair and broken window. All he's ever known is the rust of metal and the cold of the night, and those things will continue to decay as he stays the same. He knows that somewhere out there, there is someone else, and maybe they won't leave him if they meet. He can hope, but he will always have to live in an ended world.