DISCLAIMER: Disclaimer: Since this is an original story (though I would not presume to claim originality ;) I have little to disclaim, thus I make this a claimer instead. My story, my characters, my idea... and hopefully no need to apologise to anyone. Oh, and it has homosexual content, naturally.
WARNING: This story rates a warning though, for having a few darker moments of violence, perhaps even a touch morbid as such, though I really don't think it's that bad. Either way, if you're sensitive, perhaps you should give this story a miss.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

In the Ruins of the World
By Carola "Ryûchan" Eriksson

It was the end of the world.

What caused it, how and why, are things I never knew. I was too young at the time to know these things, all I knew were the whispered rumours that I can't quite recall now.

I know this, however... mankind brought the disaster upon itself.

Fifteen years I lived before the great destruction, fifteen years that are vague in my mind like distant mist, of happy childhood days, faceless, nameless friends and family members, of school and shopping and playing... the memories may be vague to me, like a tale someone else once told me more than moments from my own life, but at least I still have them. Most were not so fortunate.

Now as my life nears its end, I try to recall the events one last time.

I remember fear, I was frightened then, as I stood on that mountaintop looking down upon the old world, perhaps seeing the devastating waves coming towards me in the distance.

Why were we at that mountaintop? I cannot remember, although I recall a sense of waiting for someone to return, so perhaps we were not meant to be there alone. We of course meant myself and my best friend. Yes, I recall that we had been best friends since childhood, laughing, playing, crying on one another's shoulder... and I recall standing on that mountain together, hand in hand, knowing the end was coming and we would not be saved.

It was a matter of time, ironically, but there was nowhere to run for us, nowhere to hide.

So we went inside the house, and in our fear drank something I faintly remember that we were not allowed to have, and tried not to cry. I honestly do not know which one of us brought up how unfair it was that we were going to die without even having experienced our first kiss with someone, or why this was a topic we ventured into, only that kissing one another was comforting, despite the tears still streaming down our cheeks.

I recall the sense of wrongness, of guilt, that I felt when throwing the last of my clothing off and joining her in the large bed. We were friends, best friends, always had been, and loved one another dearly, but it had never been _that_. Never that. We had giggled over boys together, and while we were both too particular to have had a real boyfriend yet, there had never been a question that it was boys we would eventually want as partners.

Then I felt guilt for not feeling more guilt, more shame, as her skin was so intoxicatingly soft to touch, so warm and alluring. I should not enjoy touching her that much, a part of my mind insisted... the other, larger part, barely paused in exploring her to defiantly say that if God disapproved then He could tell me so in person pretty soon, and then I could tell Him a thing or two about the unfairness of my short life.

Then she gasped and arched into me and I thought of nothing else for a good long while.

The great tidal wave of evolution that destroyed the old world hit us during this time, and so it was that the first clear memory I have as the creature I am now, is of looking into the eyes of the other half of my soul, submerged in her as we both rode the crest of a different kind of wave.

We were thrown into unconsciousness after that, I know not for how long... only that when we awoke, everything was different.

The building around us was no longer the same one, even my newborn eyes could tell that. But the first difference I noticed was her, as she was the first thing I saw when opening my eyes. No longer teenagers, either of us, but adults, that was in itself quite a change, but the rest... her hair, before a reddish blonde I adored almost as much as her bright green eyes, had turned the colour of fresh spring grass and billowed around us. My own, always before a moderately dark brown, was now black except for the one rebellious lock of hair in my bangs that was a blazing white, and it covered us both like a blanket.

It took some time before we noticed that her lips were green as well, or that my body had grown tall and muscular, and strong beyond reason. The other changes in both of us would remain a mystery to us for some time to come, but for that single moment we could both have grown wings and I would not have noticed. Looking into her eyes the urge that came upon me was too strong, too overwhelming to resist, and I buried myself in her again.

In years to come, it would become clear to us that this animal need merge with another is something all the survivors of the great wave share in some fashion, perhaps so that we will continue to bear children to populate the ravaged world, I do not know. But I have yet to encounter anyone who has shared the kind of unbreakable bond we do, to share all their needs, their urges, their very souls, with one specific other the way we do.

I do not know why we are so different, but I consider us fortunate that we are.

Hunger eventually drove us outside of our safe haven, into a world still quaking in growing pains.

Whatever the great wave truly was, it had shattered the world. The world became a jigsaw puzzle of zones where all life, all matter, had been tossed back and forth in its own potential evolutionary ladder, until nothing fit together anymore. Great beasts and monsters from children's stories roamed this world, making it a dangerous place to live in, and even the harmless animals no longer looked like they once had. Land and buildings were tossed around, one part regressing while another evolved until the buildings were shiny baubles no-one understood to use anymore.

But what was worse than these things were the people.

Those that survived the great wave were mostly either reduced to almost ape-like, unintelligent and violent creatures or turned into tall, spindly beings with large heads and pale grey skin, weak and largely unable to defend themselves against the former group. The remaining were like us, turned different from before, physically and mentally, with abilities they did not understand, but still largely able to reason. A few however, deformed by the change and driven mad by the abilities it gave them, became monsters just as dangerous as the large reptilian predators.

It was during our first encounter with one of the great reptiles that we discovered my strength and the fact that no tooth, fang nor stone-tipped spear can penetrate my skin... and the reptile that had intended to have us for a food source became our dinner instead.

It would become apparent to us that the mountains were the safest of our options to dwell in, especially since the house we awoke in was a fortress of a material stronger than stone, impenetrable by the few creatures that roamed that far up in the mountains. We made it our home.

The first others such as us arrived just as I had gotten the idea to build a wall of rock around our mountain home, in the hopes of keeping dangerous things out. I would come to thank the stars or whatever nameless entity or force out there that might have guided their steps, as one of their small number was a young woman with the ability to heal.

I would do this because in the moons that passed, it became clear to us that my love was pregnant with my child.

The young healer told us that no male had survived the great wave as far as she could tell, and as that was the case it was not surprising that nature would provide us with ways to create new life together. I had not noticed such a thing before, but kept my eyes open from that moment on, and to this day I have never seen a male of any kind that I am aware of.

More people arrived, and by the time my great wall and gate were finished, a village of our kind had grown up around our home. Stone and earth-shapers greatly eased the task, made our protective wall bigger, stronger, better, until the only thing that would pass our wall would either have to be let in through the gates by us, or fly in from above. The land inside the walls was large and bountiful, providing us with all we needed apart from perhaps game. As such the hunting parties went outside the walls to get the meat we needed to add to what was grown on small but flourishing fields inside.

Then my first-born daughter was brought into the world, the first child not only to my love and I, but to our village. She was a miracle to us all, a hope for a future for us and our village, and that is what we called her... Hope.

Hope was her mother's image, and grabbed onto my heart with her tiny infant hands just as surely as her mother had. Her hair grew in the colour of spring grass, matching her bright eyes perfectly, and her face would be very similar to that of my beloved when she grew up, indeed the only thing I could look at my first born and say 'this she gets from me' was that her skin was the same brown hue as my own.

My beloved and I were not the only coupling in our village, and soon after Hope's birth, another couple discovered they were pregnant. In time, several children would be added to our village, blessing us all and providing my daughter with all the willing aides needed for all the mischief she would be up to as she grew older. Life was hard occasionally, but happy.

When my daughter had seen five turns of the seasons, a monstrosity came into our safe world from above. It was not one of the flying predators that we occasionally had clashes with, and that had learned over time to avoid our home, no, this creature was far larger and misshapen like a dark dream, frothing at the mouth and making a frightening sound as it swooped down out of a sky turned dark with it's shadow.

Two of our number died the very moment the beast struck, tearing into flesh before anyone had the chance to use their abilities to counter this beast. Those that could began defending our home quickly after that, but it was too late to save those two lives lost... and it was also too late for something else.

As the beast decided to retreat from the pain and resistance offered it by the villagers, it casually swept out a misshapen talon and took my small daughter with it into the sky. I was too late to save my child, but in blind fury I was fast enough to climb the rockface a ways and throw myself upon the beast's back.

Mad with grief and pain, with my beautiful little girl's face before my inner eye, I clung to the monstrosity as it tried to shake me off, and pounded into its revolting flesh. I injured it, intending to end its life even if it took mine to do it, and did not realize that my daughter had in fact not been killed until I heard her sweet voice call for me from the beast's feet just as it released her.

I did not hesitate, or it would have been too late. I dived from its back towards my child, managing somehow to catch her and pull her into my chest so that I would protect her with my body. We were so high up in the sky and falling fast that even I might not survive that fall much less my little girl, but it was the only thing I could do. I sent a thought to my beloved to forgive me.

What I did not know and had not seen was that my love, by that time expecting our second child, had come running at the sound of the commotion, witnessed my mad assault of the beast and were watching with horrified eyes how our child and I were plunging towards certain death.

Before that day, my love had never displayed any unusual ability along the lines of what everyone else in the village held. Until then.

What I noticed first was that suddenly my child and I were no longer falling, but gliding carefully downwards. The second was the gurgling shriek of the monstrosity above us.

My daughter's delighted cry for her mother made me look down to the most amazing sight. It was my love, bathed in bright green light that looked like flames, with her arms outstretched and an expression of utter fury that was clear to me even from that distance. She appeared to open her mouth as if speaking, or perhaps she was just snarling in anger, and the shriek behind us increased in pitch so much that it tore my eyes off my lovely wife to look above.

The creature was bathed in the same light as my love, and it was slowly being torn apart. Another little delighted 'mama!' was the only warning I got before the creature was suddenly, violently torn in pieces right there in the sky, the blood showering us before the green flames increased in intensity and consumed the falling remains of this threat to my family.

Only a smouldering part of the beast's skull remained to fall to the ground by the time my child and I landed, to be held and kissed by my weeping and trembling wife, despite the blood that covered us both. I let the others mind the burning offal and instead carried my wife and child to the water to clean us all from this nightmare as best I could.

Our second child is a memory that brings with it equal parts joy and sadness. She was a precocious bundle that had my features but my love's colouring, and we all adored her. She was entering her third turn of the seasons, and I was being teased by our friends that I needed to let my wife rest as she was once again pregnant with my child. I never did find out why we were so particularly blessed with children, or why she was the one to carry them and not I, but my love told me she believed it was her strong longing to bear my children that caused it. Perhaps that is true, but regardless, it has been a blessing to us both.

My daughters were out playing with the other children, as we believed, safe and sound in our sheltered world. I had been hunting with the others and was bringing in fresh meat for storage when my wife staggered out from our home, pale as the snow-capped peaks above us, and fell to her knees screaming. The sound still haunts me whenever I think back, like I can still hear it, still feel it tear my heart in two.

I was by her side in a moment, and others joined me. Her eyes were wide with horror as she finally looked up at me and gasped the name of our youngest child, and I think that in my heart I knew, in that moment, that we had lost our little girl.

It didn't stop me from gathering the others to search for the children, and frightened parents alongside of families not yet blessed with children of their own scoured through the places where our little ones would play. What we found was horrifying.

We hadn't known that someone had managed to enter our sanctuary, someone who had powers that would let her in past locked gates, unseen. Someone whose powers had twisted her until she was a beast far more despicable and terrifying than any of the large reptiles that roamed the lands.

We found the first lost child at the site where the children were supposed to be playing that day, dead and pale but not defiled by this demon that had killed her. The second child was found further towards the edge of our surrounding wall, torn asunder.

The third was my little daughter, and we found her being devoured by the insane demon that was holding the other children captive. While the other children cowered in fear and horror, my eldest kneeled in shock in front of the creature, looking as broken as her mother had, witnessing the gruesome death of her beloved baby sister.

My world went dark at that moment, and I cannot truly say what happened next or what I did. The others that were with me never spoke of it and I never asked, that black pit of loss and grief still there in my soul for my lost child. I do know however that the beast that took my child from me, that took all three of those precious lives, never harmed another being again nor sullied the air by breathing. I recall the darkness lifting slightly, just enough to let me see my living daughter's unblinking gaze and lift her up, holding her tightly and feeling in all that grief a sense of gratitude that I had not lost both my children that day.

The moons that followed were difficult for us all, my daughter and my wife suffering and I struggling to help them while controlling a rage at destiny for this cruel crime. After that horror the village posted guards at the gates at all times, making sure nothing would enter without us knowing.

It was into this sombre world that my third daughter was born. Although I know she holds no such ability, it seemed that her smile had the power to heal the souls of those around her, as she caused her mother and older sister to begin smiling again. In time, laughter returned to us, and while we would of course never forget our lost child, my wife and I chose to live for the ones still left with us.

In the world created by the great wave, it seemed to be normal for a couple to be blessed with two children, a rare few so many as three. It was all the more surprising then that my wife and I had no less than four surviving children of five born before creation decided we had been blessed enough. Life was sometimes harsh, often demanding, but all in all our world was a good one, and the village flourished. We had gotten more leery of strangers by the horror, and the few wanderers that found their way to our village since then were received with a lot of scepticism that we previously did not have.

When my eldest child had seen her fourteenth turn of the seasons, the outside world brought war to our sanctuary.

Perhaps it had been foolish of us to think that only beasts and a few twisted monstrosities was what we had to fear, that the other tribes that moved in the world below would not bother us. Either way, we were wrong.

It was not, as one might have expected, the ape-like and violent barbarians that stormed our walls and scaled them in some unfathomable urge to kill us all. No, it was the grey-skinned ones, a more violent and sturdy breed than what they had originally been, fast, fanged and determined to wipe us out it seemed, and they hit our wall in large numbers.

My wife gathered the village children with her and hid in our home while I defended the walls alongside my friends. We had powers that slaughtered the attackers, but they were so many, so fast, and possessed some odd abilities of their own that confused us... I could tell of so many horrors of that day, but that is not what is important now.

What is important is that although we all fought hard, many of the attackers got past our defence and into the village. We lost a few of our number, though not nearly as many as one would have thought, but what I would speak of from that day are two separate events that I was not even aware of at the time.

The first centres on my wife and children. My wife's abilities are strong and she was well able to defend the village children from the creatures that found ways inside our home. However, our eldest child, once again faced with the threat of someone wanting to harm her family, her siblings and her mother... snapped. Clutching her head and screaming, Hope underwent what in times to come would be referred to as the 'manifestation', and, surprisingly, pulled her younger sister along with her.

While my abilities are physical, my wife's power is more of a mental kind, and our two eldest daughters inherited that from her. Only, their power is stronger, much stronger, and it erupted that night.

When I first saw them, I saw three burning green lights in the darkness, bright enough to sting my eyes and coming towards us, leaving blazing trails here and there where, unknown to me, the grey creatures had gotten inside. We had no way to stop my daughters, and although my wife tried, she was torn between following them and protecting the other children, which left my eldest to cut their burning paths to the walls.

While my eldest was fury, screaming and destructive, obliterating anything that moved that was not of the village, her younger sister was calm and wide-eyed, almost serene as she followed her sister but used her powers more defensively, destroying to protect rather than in vengeance. It did not take long before there was not a single one of the attackers still standing on our land, and the only thing left for us to fight was the green fires that threatened to spread and consume us from the corpses that littered the ground.

When the danger was over and no more of the creatures could be found, both my daughters collapsed from the strain. I carried them home, where my wife and I would spend many days doting on them worriedly, keeping them confined to bed until they both threatened to rebel if they were not allowed to get up and go outside.

The second thing I would mention that night is something that wasn't discovered until after the fires were put out.

The village healer had gone missing during the fighting, and no-one knew where she was, not even her partner who had thought she was with my wife and the children in my home. Frantic with worry my friend looked for her pregnant lover, and while I was not there when she was found, I have had the scene described to me in more detail than I would have wished.

It would appear that early on in the fighting a group of greys had captured our friend and dragged her off to a remote corner, and proceeded to... I believe that it would be rather accurate to say that they violated her mind, though not her body. No-one knows for how long, but finally our gentle healer snapped, and apparently hands that can mould flesh to heal can also, if driven far enough, twist and contort it into morbid agony.

They told me that the quivering mounds of grey flesh that surrounded the healer's unconscious form still lived somehow when they found her. It was an act of kindness to end them, a kindness none felt particularly compelled to offer after all that had happened, but in the end did anyway as no-one wanted anything to remain to remind us of this night. A few moons later when our healer gave birth to her daughter we would all be showed how wrong we were about that.

My wife assisted with the birth, and wept in my arms for a long time afterwards.

The little girl was born with features that much resembled her mother, and a build that would in time prove to resemble her father, but she was also born grey. Her skin was a pale grey, while her hair and eyes were a darker ash colour, not resembling them so much, but enough to remind all of that night. How it could be, or why, we never knew, only that it would not be the only time pregnant women were targeted by these beings in times to come.

The healer's daughter was mostly avoided by the others in the village for her first years, but my family and I would have none of that. The child was a gentle, shy soul that did no harm to anyone, and who were we to judge by the colour of her hair or skin, when between those in the village we ranged in all colours imaginable? She displayed mental powers since childhood that surprised everyone, but that too were not good enough a reason to avoid her. In time the girl was integrated into the village society, but she would always remain rather shy and introvert in her dealings with others, even though her own powers of healing made her a vital component of our world.

I have seen many things in my life. I have seen frightening things, horrible things, as well as things of great wonder. I have seen the death of a world, and the birth of another. I have seen the reason for existing in the eyes of my loved one, and heard all the secrets of creation in the cries of my newborn children. I have even done things that have become legends in my lifetime, created things that give me a sense of pride to think about.

Yet nothing could match the pride and the fear that I have felt as a parent.

The pride I felt, and the fear, the time I watched my youngest wrestle and kill a great longtooth predator all by herself, armed only with the strength that was my legacy to her. The pride I felt watching how my eldest children became leaders of the village as my generation grew older and weaker.

The horrified shock I felt when I walked in on my eldest child in the embrace of the young woman she would later marry, and who would in time bear her several of my precious grandchildren. The amusement I felt when my second eldest found herself in the awkward situation of being pursued by several young women, and not knowing how to handle herself.

The surprise and sad guilt I felt when it was revealed to me that my second youngest had been mated in secret for a long time, not daring to tell even her family about it until she had to because her wife was expecting their first child, both of the young women fearing that we would not accept a woman with grey skin into our family.

The wonder of each and every one of my many grandchildren, and the great-grandchild that saw the sun just a short turn of seasons ago.

My life has been long and full, and I have seen many things. As we entered this life together, my love and I are leaving it together as well, we have both felt it and know our end is coming now. It is well. We are old and tired now, have no regrets, and will walk to the other side together as always we were in life, joining the many friends that have crossed before us.

It is simply time.

I try to go through these events this one last time as I have realised it is the one thing I have left to do, the final thing to leave for my children and children's children, for the future. The truth of how the world began, that they might learn from it and chose a better path than those travelled in the past... that when one day this village is to small to hold them all, those that will venture into the world below will be prepared for what will face them.

Having done that and completed my task in life, I will hold the hand of my best friend, my wife, my love, the other part of my soul, upon this mountaintop, as death comes for me.

And this time I will have no complaints.

The End

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