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The Deaths of Ametrine Gauvreau

Chapter Text

Written Journal Entry

8th of Roses, 743 AB - Winter

helo my name is




im 8 yers old and im from ROENTAP ROWENTOP

and my berthday is 5 of roses in winter.

my mamas name is MELITA and my papas name is TUN TONNE.

i hav 2 baby sisters named ABIGAIL and ALLISON and ther twins.

i help my mama with sowing and washing and other chors at hom.

the nise nayber lade lady Jaynelle is teeching me to reed and rite.

and she gave me this jurnal for my berthday and told me to rite in it.

Jaynelle ses this is for riting down my thots and abowt about big things that

hapen in my life so i can reed about them agen later wen im older.

mama ses its a gud good thing for me to lern leters.

i howp hope i get beter at them fast.



Written Journal Entry

13th of Daisies, 744 AB - Spring

        Papa got in a big argument with a magest magistrate last night. I don't really understand what happened but Mama and Papa seem really upset and worried. So does Jaynelle and the other neyb neighbors. They told me and Abby and Ally to pack all of our belongings in bags because we're going to leave. I do not know where we are going or when we will be back. I am really worried.



Written Journal Entry

21st of Tulips, 744 AB - Autumn

        We have been traveling for 5 months now. I still do not understand why, but I guess whatever happened was so bad that we're not going back. Papa gets upset whenever anyone tries to ask where we're going. No one is very happy. But at least we are not alone. Jaynelle and her family came with us. They are very nice, and Jaynelle is still helping me with my reading and writing. I am getting a lot better at spelling things. She brought books with her so I have a lot to read, there are stories about the gods and about heroes and also some boring books about numbers. Papa thinks Jaynelle's teaching me is silly but Mama tells him to shush.

        Our other neighbor Pearle came with us with his family, and a lady named Kalli and her family. I guess Kalli is Jaynelle's friend, someone else who worked at the marketplace. Pearle has a dog named Ollie and he is really friendly. We only have one wagon and one mule with us so we take turns riding but there is a lot of walking. It's autumn right now and the weather is very wet and everything is muddy. I hope this ends soon.



Written Journal Entry

5th of Roses, 744 AB - Winter

        Today is my 9th birthday! Jaynelle gave me some candy she has been hiding with her. But the even bigger gift is that we can finally stop walking! There is no town here, but Papa and Pearle say we are going to build our own village. This sounds defic difficult but I trust them. Papa said he is naming the new village Prenton after his papa Prent. The men have started cutting trees for houses and the women are gathering fresh food. I am helping Mama with the food. Jaynelle says we need to take a break from studying to work hard on our new village but I am fine with that if it means we will have houses and roofs again soon!



Written Journal Entry

3rd of Lilies, 745 AB - Spring

        Building is going well, we have two houses and a barn and are plowing out a field to plant food. One house is ours and the other is Pearle's. We are building a third house for Jaynelle's family, they are staying in our house until it is done. A little ways south through the forest there is a river and that's where Kalli's family built their house, and they are building a dock there for fishing and travel.

        Last night we had a big bonfire to celebrate finishing the barn! Shal played the lute and everyone had a lot of fun dancing and singing. But there was no feast as we do not have a lot of food right now. I'm hungry but we have to be careful with how quickly we eat. Mama says it will be better in the autumn after we harvest our first crop.



Written Journal Entry

5th of Sunflowers, 745 AB - Summer

        Papa and Pearle got in a fight. Our crop isn't growing. Mama says we should have seen sprouts by now, and something must have gone wrong with our seeds. Pearle says it is because we offended Pramma, the god of the harvest, and blames Papa. I think it has something to do with why we left Rowentop but I am not sure, I still don't understand that. But Papa says we need to tighten our belts and work hard to get enough food from the forest and river to make it through the winter.



Written Journal Entry

2nd of Roses, 745 AB - Winter

        Jaynelle has passed away. It has been snowing really hard this winter and it was too heavy and the roof of their house couldn't hold it. It crashed down at night while they were asleep. She and her husband Kartell and her daughter Sasha and her son Sim are all gone. Pearle says they have been taken away by Hazydae to be judged. All of them were very kind so I am sure they will be taken into Heaven, but I miss Jaynelle a lot. I don't know if anyone else will help me learn now but I will study really hard and take good care of her books, even the numbers ones. It was really important to her that us children are well educated, more than for any of the other adults, so it is important to me. Journal writing too.

        Papa is working hard to make sure all the other house roofs are stronger so this won't happen again.

        It is hard to write because I am crying. Mama is crying a lot too. The village feels colder without them.



Written Journal Entry

5th of Roses, 745 AB - Winter

        I am ten years old today.

        What an awful birthday.



Written Journal Entry

20th of Sunflowers, 746 AB - Summer

        We failed to raise a crop again this year. Food is getting shorter and we are all very hungry. Pearle's dog Ollie went missing last week, Pearle said he ran into the forest and didn't come back. But he and his family seem less tired this week, so I am not so sure. Pearle must think I'm not very smart.

        But there is happier news for Prenton, the first child has been born! Kalli and her husband Shal had a baby girl, they named her Zetti. She's very cute but she cries a lot.

        Mama says we have no hope of farming normal seed crops, so we have started to prune and tailor the forest north of the village to encourage more food growth. The men have started building a camp to the north for that purpose, a short ways into the forest. They say when it's done it's going to have a watch tower that can see across the whole valley.



Written Journal Entry

22nd of Roses, 746 AB - Winter

        Zetti did not make it through the winter.



Written Journal Entry

6th of Asters, 747 AB - Winter

        Kalli's son Larryl and Pearle's daughter Lyne did not make it through the winter either.

        Kalli won't stop crying.

        We are starving. This was all a mistake. Prenton is doomed.



Written Journal Entry

12th of Marigolds, 747 AB - Spring

        I fear I may make things worse by saying this but maybe we are not doomed after all. This spring has been good to us and the forest is blooming, our management of it is paying off. Kalli's husband says the river has been fruitful too. Today is the first day in a long time that I am not hungrier than yesterday.

        Pearle and Papa started building a town lodge where everyone can gather and eat together indoors more comfortably, and a workshop for repairing our tools. I still miss the people we have lost, but things are looking brighter now!



Written Journal Entry

29th of Dahlias, 748 AB - Spring

        A second child has been born in Prenton! Pearle and his wife Ayle had a baby boy. They named him Myrone, I think that's a nice name. I think Myrone will make it, as we are not starving anymore this year. I am spending a lot of time now with Mama in the forest, learning about pruning the trees and gathering food and figuring out what is safe to eat. It is hard but a lot of fun, but I am also not spending as much time reading or writing lately and I feel bad for that. I wish Jaynelle were still here.



Written Journal Entry

5th of Roses, 748 AB - Winter

        Today is my thirteenth birthday! That means it has also been four years since we founded Prenton. The first couple years were really hard but everyone is more optimistic now. Pearle finished the workshop and has been hard at work trying to make new tools, but I do not think he is very good at it. Mama helped me talk Kalli into helping me learn in Jaynelle's place, since I'm still finding the maths books difficult. She is a lot less talkative, but still nice, and really smart too. It feels good to be doing this again! We are using the town lodge as a school house because it is quieter than studying at home in the evening.



Written Journal Entry

3rd of Azaleas, 749 AB - Summer

        Today is the summer solstice. We are going to have a celebration and feast later tonight! At midday Papa finally let me climb to the top of the watch tower in the forest, and it was scary and dizzying at first but the view is amazing! I can see Kalli's house and the river to the south from there. I can also see the lake past the forest to the north. The wind up there smells nice and feels good blowing through my hair.



Written Journal Entry

7th of Sunflowers, 750 AB - Summer

        I got in big trouble but I don't care, I'm so mad! Abby went to get her shears to work in the forest and when she opened the door to the tool shed a bucket of rotten muck fell off the top and dumped all over her! She ran crying to me, and Pearle's son Stacio was chasing her, laughing at her. That little monster is always playing pranks on people. I yelled at him for it but he just stuck his tongue out at me and said "what are you gonna do about it?" So I cracked him in the face with a tree branch and now he's missing three teeth. Pearle is mad but I refuse to apologize. YOU DON'T MESS WITH MY LITTLE SISTERS! Thankfully Mama is on my side here. She says I should not turn to violence, but I can tell she's secretly a little bit proud of me for it.



Written Journal Entry

5th of Roses, 750 AB - Winter

        Today is my fifteenth birthday, and the sixth anniversary of the founding of Prenton. We're having a big celebration tonight! But actually that's for finishing building a new storage barn.

        I think Shal is trying to set me up with their son Nathon lately but I am not even slightly interested in that boy. Or boys in general, I think.



Written Journal Entry

5th of Roses, 751 AB - Winter

        Today is my sixteenth birthday! I've now finished studying with Kalli, she says she has helped me as much as she can. I'm doing much better with maths now. Papa seems to still think it's silly for someone whose job is picking berries and mushrooms in the forest to know geometry, but it's important to me. I think Jaynelle would be so proud if she could see me now. Speaking of jobs however, now that we are much more secure in food and I'm an adult, I have been helping more with general labor around the village, cutting lumber and firewood. Shal has been teaching me to fish. Pearle won't let me help with the blacksmithing because he doesn't like me. But that's fine, I don't like him either.



Written Journal Entry

29th of Marigolds, 752 AB - Spring

        I AM A SCHOOL TEACHER NOW! I'm still helping in the forest during the day but in the evenings I have started teaching Nathon and Stacio and Kalli's daugher Tenise reading and writing and maths. Pearle was against the whole thing but he's a right prick so I don't care, Mama and Kalli talked everyone else into being for it, even Papa. There's no good reason for them to NOT be educated. I know Nelle would agree with me. Kalli helps with with the task for a few days each week. We are using the lodge as a school house still.

        Stacio has calmed down and is finally acting more mature, so I am willing to put up with teaching him. I am not sure if me taking him down a notch is what did that or if he just outgrew that behavior.



Written Journal Entry

1st of Orchids, 753 AB - Autumn

        Sorry I have not been writing in you as much lately, Journal! I am extremely busy working as both a forest keeper and a school teacher, and now I have FIVE students as the twins are studying now too! I am so proud of them. Pearle has softened up about the whole schooling thing lately, I'm thankful for that. He has lightened up in general I feel. He and Ayle had another child last month, a boy named Evante. That might have something to do with it, perhaps.



Written Journal Entry

4th of Daisies, 754 AB - Spring

        Teaching is going great! Kalli has handed off the task to me completely and I'm handling the students all on my own now. Papa built an extension off the side of the lodge so that I can live there full time, as that makes it easier to work. It's like I have my own house now!

        I have been feeling under the weather since the autumn, with a terrible cough. Some days are worse than others but fortunately it's not getting in the way of my work.



Written Journal Entry

9th of Sunflowers, 755 AB - Summer

        Stacio, Nathon, and Tenise have all completed their schooling! I'm so proud. Kalli is so proud. Jaynelle would be proud too. The twins are still doing well, Ally is really good at maths in particular. And I finally have more time to myself and can take things a bit easier. That cough never went away, so perhaps I have been working too hard. Giving my body more time to rest will be helpful I hope.

        Kalli thinks there might be something else wrong, but I'm trying to not worry about it too much because there's nothing I could do about it anyway.



Written Journal Entry

2nd of Orchids, 755 AB - Autumn

        The twins are at that age where they are starting to take an interest in boys. Allison seems to have taken a liking to Nathon. That's fine, and it seems to make Shal happy. Abigail on the other hand has been spending a lot of time with Stacio, which frankly I find disgusting considering how he treated her when they were children. I suppose there is no accounting for taste. I just hope this doesn't get in the way of their studies.

        Honestly I find it disconcerting that this never happened for me. I wonder if there's something wrong with me, that way.



Written Journal Entry

5th of Roses, 755 AB - Winter

        Today is my twentieth birthday, and the eleventh anniversary of the village.

        Mama and Papa had a child! This morning Mama gave birth to a daughter. In spite of people mocking her for giving all of her children names beginning with A, we have named her Ashe. I have a new baby sister, and we have the same birthday! It's a bit weird to have a newborn baby sibling as a fully grown adult, but we are blessed to have her nonetheless.

        The cough is still bothering me, but it doesn't seem as bad now that I have been resting more. Perhaps I am getting better.

        I am concerned about Kalli. She has become a good friend over these last years, much more talkative now than when she first started teaching me. But I can tell lately that something is wrong. Her mind seems to be slowing down, and her memory slipping. I have started praying every night to Aelysia, the goddess of memories, on her behalf, and on mine. My memories and the things I have learned are precious to me, and I think I fear nothing more than losing myself in that way.

        Aelysia, please never let me forget.



Written Journal Entry

1st of Daisies, 756 AB - Spring

        Abby and Ally have completed their schoolwork. I am so proud of them! The lodge feels cold and empty in the evenings now that I have no students, and I have gone back to working the forest full-time with my mother. I am unsure whether I will still be in condition to teach once the next generation reaches schooling age, but I am not worried as I think in that case Allison will take up the mantle, and she will make for a fine teacher.

        Abby and Stacio have married and they are building themselves a house where Jaynelle's once stood. Probably silly superstition, but I find it vaguely discomforting. Like a bad omen. As though that spot is bad luck. But it would be silly to leave it as an empty field as the village expands, so I don't protest.



Written Journal Entry

8th of Orchids, 756 AB - Fall

        Stacio finished the new house. Papa has been obsessively making sure it is more structurally sound than Nelle's was. I'm glad for that.

        Ally and Nathon have had their first child, a boy whom they have named Omaria. I suppose that makes me an aunt now! Abby is also pregnant with her first.

        This has me thinking again about my own disinterest in courting or motherhood. Fortunately Mama and Papa don't seem bothered by it, as the twins are providing them with grandchildren to dote on now instead.



Written Journal Entry

5th of Roses, 756 AB - Winter

        Today is my twenty-first birthday, and Ashe's first.

        I thought I had gotten better, but the cough has returned worse than before.

        At least Kalli's mind seems to have stopped deteriorating any further. Perhaps my prayers to Aelysia are working. Perhaps I should start praying to a different god for the sake of my throat and lungs.



Written Journal Entry

4th of Daisies, 757 AB - Spring

        My kind and smart and wonderful mother, Melita Amber Gauvreau, passed away this morning at the age of thirty-six. It happened very suddenly. She only started showing symptoms of illness yesterday morning. My father thinks it was the result of food poisoning. We will be holding a funeral for her tomorrow.

        Papa seems detached and is keeping his head up, but I can see his pain inside. The twins are taking it hard. Ashe will not grow to know her mother, and for that I feel great sorrow.

        Writing while crying has not gotten any easier.

        I am exhausted.



Written Journal Entry

19th of Dahlias, 757 AB - Autumn

        I suppose it is the inevitable cycle of life and death. Despite an unsteady start with great loss, including my dearest mentor, and now just as I have lost my mother, the village is nonetheless thriving. Four new children were born this year. Ally and Nathon have named their second son Ezra. Abby and Stacio have named their first daughter Beth. I am very happy for all of them, and hope these children grow up strong and health. And that they will receive good educations, as we did. I am confident they will, under Ally's watch.

        The cough continues to get worse, and I have become too weak to work most days. The twins take turns checking on me and caring for me as necessary. Ally urges me to stop going to the forest altogether but I refuse. As content as I am in the world of written text and candlelight, I will go stark raving mad if I do not get outside. I must keep my body active and get fresh air if I want to last any longer, and I do. I want to see Ashe grow up for as long as I can. But there is no longer any doubt in my mind that Hazydae is coming for me soon.

        Perhaps I can see Jaynelle and my mother again. That would be nice.



Written Journal Entry

5th of Roses, 758 AB - Winter

        Today is my twenty-third birthday, Ashe's third, and Prenton's fourteenth.

        I am too weak to leave the house anymore. I can barely speak three words without running out of breath. In fact it is difficult to even hold this quill. I think it is just a matter of weeks now, if not days. I feel bad for the twins having to care for me and having to see me like this. I tell them to go enjoy their own lives as much as they can, but I appreciate their kindness.

        And in spite of my present state, I am in good spirits! Hazydae is finally catching up with me, but I kept the bastard running behind for a good long while, haha! No one expected me to make it this long, not even death himself. I am so happy to see Ashe grow up healthy, and I am blessed to have stuck around long enough to watch. She is going to be a smart one I think, just like Ally.

        Papa is obviously sad to be losing a child, having to watch me waste away from this damnable cough, powerless to do anything about it. But I think he's taking it better than he could be, because he can see what a good mood I'm in.

        Pearle is getting too tired to work as well, but Nathon and Stacio are helping Shal build a trading dock on the river, as we've had river merchants show up from time to time the last couple years. We finally have viable seeds, and I got to see Prenton pull up its first harvest of cabbage this year. I believe they are going to build more housing off to the west and to try to get more people to migrate here permanently. In hindsight it feels silly to call Prenton a village given that there were only four families to start with, three after the first winter, but perhaps it is on its way to becoming one properly. That would be nice, a good accomplishment. Something Papa and Pearle can be proud of, that this wasn't a fool's errand after all. I only hope that as the village expands, that they don't impede on my dear forest.

        That is enough, too much writing. Too tired. Probably my last journal entry if we are being honest.

        Grow up well, Ashe.




Recorded Audio File
[Text Transcript]

2nd of July, 2159 CE
Monday - 08:43 PST

[beginning of audio file]

[low audible crying of a girl]

        I'm not crazy.

        I'm not crazy.

        I'm not crazy.

        I'm not crazy.

        I'm not crazy.

        I'm not crazy.

        I'm not crazy.

        I'm not cr-

[sound of metal door sliding open, followed by indistinct mechanical noises]

         NO! GET AWAY FROM ME!

[end of audio file]

Chapter Text

Written Journal Entry
7th of July, 2159 CE
Saturday - 14:43 PST

        My name is Ametrine Gauvreau.

        I don't even know what to write here.

        I have been trapped in this place for a week now. Everything here is iron and wax. The walls, the floor, the ceiling, the chairs, the tables, everything. The air smells dead and the cold light hurts my eyes. There are other people here, with strange, iron creatures with them. The creatures speak, and are treated like servants, or pets. They The people here do not seem to be alarmed by this situation. They seem to be alarmed by me. When I ask to be allowed outside they tell me I cannot go, they say we are deep underground and that everything outside is poisoned. They say I should already know this.

        I think Hazydae has sent me to Hell. I do not know why. When I ask about the gods, the people here say they do not understand. They look at me as though I have lost my mind. Perhaps I have.



Written Journal Entry
9th of July, 2159 CE
Monday - 05 : 02 PST

        I am going to start over.

        My name is Ametrine Gauvreau. I am told that I am fourteen years old. There is a man here who claims to be my father but I do not recognize him. I feel bad, because I can see that he is genuinely worried and heartbroken when he sees me. He seems nice. But he is not my father. His face is wrong and his name is wrong.

        There is another man here, named Doctor Grant. He is a caretaker for the sick. Other people show up here with coughs, or fevers, or cuts, and he takes care of them. All of the other visitors to his ward give me strange looks. I have been in this room under Doctor Grant's supervision for a week now. He says I had a "psychotic break". I don't know what that means. (I know how to spell it only because I saw him write it down.) He says I was sick with a fever, and that I had bad dreams and hallucinations, and that I am "back" now.

        This seems backwards to me.

        My name is Ametrine Gauvreau. My father's name is Tonne and my mother's name was Melita. I have three sisters - Abigail and Allison, who are twins, and Ashe. I am from a town called Rowentop. We were driven out when I was eight years old due to a political dispute. My family and a few others established a new town called Prenton. As an adult I was a forest keeper, and a school teacher. The last thing I remember is that I was twenty-three years old, and on my deathbed due to a wasting disease. I remember all of this, as sharp as daylight.

        But this place I am in now, this patchwork of cold iron tunnels, is the part that feels like a fever dream. There is a nagging sensation that I have been here before, that I have met these people before. But anyone I try to imagine, their face is blurry and unrecognizable in my mind, and their names on the tip of my tongue but unable to be spoken aloud. The doctor says that once I am well enough I can move back downstairs, to the rooms of the man I am told is my father. I can almost picture the room if I try, but I cannot remember how to get there. Everything about this place is like trying to remember a dream I just woke up from.

        And yet, the cold lanterns in the ceiling, the wash basin with an endless supply of water, the strange metal latrine that carries away waste in an instant, the mechanical writing quill which I am presently holding, somehow I know intuitively how to use these things without having to ask. I don't remember what a light switch is but I know how to operate one. It is deeply disorienting.

        I asked the doctor for something to journal with, but he told me to use these... they have contraptions that make words and illustrations appear on a plate of glass, and the words can be changed by the user somehow. I have seen the doctor use one. I think I know how to as well, in the same manner as knowing how to operate the lights and the latrine, but it is so alien that I do not want to. I stole this paper and quill from his supplies instead.

        As I wrote before, there are creatures here that assist the residents. They are made of metal. They speak, but they have no faces. Some of them float above the floor, wisping about like dandelion seeds. The doctor says they are not dangerous, and that they were made by people to assist us, but they carry sharp tools and I do not trust them. I do not want them near me.

        Something which makes this all the more confusing is that I still appear to be the same Ametrine Gauvreau that I have always been that I remember being. Everyone here calls me Ametrine, or Amy sometimes. That is the one thing I know about myself that the people here do not contest. I recall being twenty-three, not fourteen, but I plainly recognize myself in the mirror as looking just how I remember myself looking when I was fourteen in Prenton.

        I am who I remember being, but I am not WHERE I remember being. I am not who anyone else remembers me being, aside from my face and name. And everything about where I am now is unsettlingly foreign.

        The doctor sometimes puts things in my blood using a tool with a hollow metal needle, dispensing liquid through it like a gigantic stinging insect. At first I fought back because, why would I not fight back against someone trying to stick me with a metal needle? But to prove to me that it's safe he did it to himself, sticking one in his own arm and injecting what I am told was salt water. I do not protest now, but I can't watch. It stings and I cannot help but cry. Whatever he is putting in my blood is calming, makes me feel less stressed. Allowing these strangers to sedate me feels unwise but with the state I have been in, I welcome it. I can do no good for myself if I am stuck in a constant state of panic. I am screaming and crying less now.

        I do not like the clothing. It is too tight, especially around the neck. It feels like it is made of wax and it is very itchy. And the bright coloring is awful, it's sickening to look at. But they won't give me anything else to wear.

        The food is bland and feels fake. It is difficult to keep down.

        I am rambling now.



Written Journal Entry
13th of July, 2159 CE
Friday - 19:33 PST

        The doctor released me from his care this morning. I am glad to be done with the needles.

        The very concept of "morning" feels like it has been forcefully ripped away from me, living in a metal tunnel deep underground where I can only tell the time of day by whether the lights in the hallway are turned on or not.

        On the way back "home" with my "father", we passed through a small room with only a single door. We entered, stood inside for a short time, and exited to a different floor. I could feel the room moving as "father" operated a device on the wall. Yet another device I do not recognize, but know how to operate anyway. This is not at all a difficult concept to understand, but it is as alien in presentation as I think possible, and seems like a profound waste of resources to avoid using stairs.

        Somehow I knew which button to press on the panel to go to our "home" before "father" pressed it. Maybe this is a good sign.



Written Journal Entry
15th of July, 2159 CE
Sunday - 18:11 PST

        I tried broaching the topic of the outside world again. "Father" takes my confusion and ignorance in stride now. I can tell he sees this as the second time he has had to explain it to me, but he does it anyway. He seems to have come to terms with it, me being like this now.

        He says that there was a war, many decades ago, where nations across the world used weapons to destroy each other, incinerating villages, towns, and cities in mere hours, poisoning the sky and the earth and the water. He says these tunnels were built before the war, with the threat of such a thing looming, as a means to survive. He says the world is slowly healing, but that it is still unsafe to go outside because of the poison. He says that I have never seen the outside myself, and that neither has he. We were born in these tunnels and will probably die in them.

        Every day here I feel I am slowly becoming acclimated to my strange new reality and then someone tells me something that makes it feel completely unreal again.



Written Journal Entry
18th of July, 2159 CE
Wednesday - 09:09 PST

        I think I am starting to understand now.

        Well, no, not exactly. There are still too many things I don't understand. But I realize now that I AM the Ametrine they think I am. In a way. The memories are slowly coming back, places and faces I try to recall are becoming clearer. I know how to make it to the atrium on my own now. Someone named Lyle tried to talk to me, and I was able to put a name to his face before he spoke.

        I am Ametrine Rosealia Gauvreau. I am fourteen years old, born on January 12th, 2145. I was born in this underground shelter in a place called California. My father's name is Gabriel, he is responsible for maintaining some of the shelter's mechanical systems. My mother's name was Eileen, she worked in medical care with Dr. Grant. She succame to an illness when I was three years old.

        But this still doesn't feel like ME. My feelings, my memories, my personality as the Ametrine of Prenton are stronger and come more easily than those of the Ametrine of these tunnels. I look now at this man who I am told is my father, and I recognize him as my father, but that recognition still feels distant and hollow, like waking up from a dream. Whereas my memories of Tonne Gauvreau of Rowentop are still sharply real. When I think of "my" memories, I think of Prenton. When I recall thoughts of these tunnels, I think of them as "her" memories. As though she were a different person and I am an impostor who has replaced her.

        I wonder why this is. Perhaps it is because of the age difference, twenty-three years having the greater influence over who I am than fourteen. But then again, this younger Ametrine knows what a computer is and how to use one, while the older Ametrine grew up in a wood cabin lit by candles and with no glass in the windows, so who can say which of me actually had more acquired knowledge before the joinder.

        Perhaps I prayed too hard to Aelysia and have remembered too well, reincarnated with my memories of my past life intact but for some reason unable to reach them until now, finally regaining them with the same degree of all-consuming shock as accidentally falling into a river.

        Or perhaps the gods are mad about me breaking Stacio's face and really did send me to hell, and this is a retaliatory hallucination. That seems excessive.

        Or maybe the doctor is right and I had a psychotic break, becoming so sick that I vividly imagined being a twenty-three year old school teacher dying of consumption while my real memories are now trapped behind a thick mental fog.

        I wonder if this feeling will ever pass.

        In any case, everyone else can tell. No one says anything, but I see how they look at me now that I have been back out of the doctor's ward for a few days. They can tell that my behavior and manner of speaking have changed, that my memories are messed up. That I don't know things I should and do know things I shouldn't and say truly bizarre things due to misunderstanding context. They see me as a stranger now, as indeed an impostor Ametrine.

        I feel bad for this father of mine, I imagine now that he must feel like he has lost one child and is now trying to get to know a new one. I feel bad for Lyle, who I think was this Ametrine's best friend. Now we don't know how to interact with each other.

        The robots still creep me the hell out and I still do not want them near me.



Written Journal Entry
18th of July, 2159 CE
Wednesday - 20:01 PST

        The more I think about my memories of this shelter coming back the more worried I am about losing my memories of my other life. I have decided I am going to write down everything I can remember from that life, before it has a chance to slip away from me. I do not want to forget about Mama and Papa, my sisters, Jaynelle, Kalli. About the gods I pray to, that no one here knows - about Astraeyos of the sky, Galvyonae of the land, Lyonae of the sea, Semistrea of time, Pramma of the harvest, Aelysia of memories, Hazydae of death, and so on. Everything I remember about Prenton, and Rowentop, and the stories of all the other places in the Kingdom of Oppellia that I heard about from Papa but never actually saw. The varieties of plants in the forest I managed, all the skills I had acquired to live a life in that kind of place.

        This will be too long. I need to go find more paper.



Electronic Text File
21st of August, 2159 CE
Tuesday - 14:42 PST

I finally today worked up the nerve to try using a computer again. Knowing which keys to press is almost second nature, it is effortless, and yet the experience is still conceptually unsettling. The younger me took this for granted, and was competent in using these machines without knowing or particularly caring how they actually function. Yesterday I asked Father how they work, for once genuinely unsure about something rather than confused by my identity issues. He says that it is actually a simple machine that can feign complexity by doing a lot of mathematic calculations very quickly to make lights blink on and off. I'm sure he knows what he's talking about, and is correct. But to the older me, these devices still feel like distilled and condensed witchcraft.

(I am trying to be less cold to Father as he doesn't deserve to suffer so much from my own internal chaos, but I am calling him that to keep him distinct in my mind from Papa.)

I see the appeal of being able to write endless quantities of text without worrying for paper or ink, but I do not think I like journaling this way. Typing too much for too long hurts my shoulders. I prefer sticking to the old fashioned method, and I must say, my second favorite thing about this world after running water is the writing quills. No cutting nibs into feathers, no dipping them in ink bottles, no ink bottles to spill and make a mess. (Although people look at me weird when I slip and call them quills out loud instead of pens.)

That being said, I have discovered/remembered that there are entertainment applications on these machines. I quite like the one with the falling configurations of blocks that one must arrange into rows. It helps numb the brain on days where my existential crisis is flaring up again.



Written Journal Entry
2nd of September, 2159 CE
Sunday - 14:20 PST

        I saw Lyle in the hall this morning. He asked if I wanted to get lunch with him. He seems very nervous around me. He seems like a nervous person in general. I said yes. Like with Father, I feel I should do my best to maintain positive relationships with the people I was close to before all of this started.

        It was awkward. We didn't actually talk much. But he seems happy that I'm willing to spend time with him. I think the poor boy had a crush on me, on the younger Ametrine. All of this psychosis trouble seems to have scared him out of that, which is honestly just as well. Sorry friend, I am not interested in that kind of thing.



Written Journal Entry
21st of September, 2159 CE
Friday - 15:35 PST

        I had to return to school this week. Or rather, school has resumed session.

        Schooling was much less structured in the other world. Three to five years, on an as-needed basis for each student. There was also less to teach. Basic literacy, arithmetic, scripture, a small amount of history. And such schooling isn't in any way required, and some people (like Pearle) actively discourage it for people who are expected to simply work the streams and fields their whole lives. Prenton was an outlier in the sense of being a minuscule settlement that had to put up with Jaynelle, Kalli, Mama, and myself, who all strongly encouraged it on principle.

        Here, it is required for everyone. You can get into trouble if you refuse or avoid it. It lasts for TWELVE YEARS, with breaks in the summer. You aren't considered an adult or expected to handle jobs in the community, or to pair-bond, until after you graduate at age eighteen. That's startlingly old to me. Vocational training of any sort doesn't even begin until sixteen apparently.

        They cover literacy, mathematics, history, geography, and science (the study of how the world actually works, I guess?) As a proponent of education I can appreciate this, quite a lot actually, but at the same time the idea of being forced to do this for over a decade, living almost two decades before being considered a productive member of your community, seems preposterous and unpleasant. The large number of students relative to the number of teachers also strikes me as less than ideal, as each student gets less attention and is instead expected to rely on rigidly structured coursework. Some people are slower learners than others, and I can tell that this method is leaving some of the students behind. I asked father about this, and he said that the student to teacher ratio was allegedly even worse before the war, before everyone moved underground. As a former school teacher myself I am personally offended.

        As for how I'm managing as a confused outsider, thanks to Jaynelle and Kalli I have a greater head-start in literacy and mathematics than most other people from my world and social caste probably would. The grammar is fortunately the same and the reading and vocabulary aren't any more difficult than what I am already used to. The primary stumbling block is words that... it's hard to describe, but certain words stick out not only as unfamiliar to me, but also as feeling unique to this world. Things like 'psychology' and 'electronic' and 'photograph' and 'metatextuality'. The maths concepts are more advanced than anything I have done, but I feel well prepared for them and am not having too much trouble. The history and geography are obviously completely alien, but it is the science which is most intimidating and confusing. Apparently fire is a 'plasma'. I don't know what that is, and looking this closely at the underpinnings of reality feels like anathema. The concept of my blood containing 'platelets' frightens me. I do not WANT to know how robots work!

        They don't teach scripture here. It is available in the library, and some people here (nowhere near all of them) do pray to gods, or at least to a god, but honestly I do not want to ask and do not want to know. I can only handle so much of this alien world and my daily prayers to Galvyonae and Aelysia are one of the few things from my other life that I can cling to for comfort. (I have stopped praying to Astraeyos and Pramma lately because that seems hopeless and pointless when I am stuck living deep underground in a place devoid of flora.)

        My memory issues seem to have settled into a stable state. My memories of my life as this Ametrine, from before we crashed together (I am still unsure how best to describe or refer to this event, I have not settled on a good name for it) are much less fuzzy and are easier to recall now, but they still feel secondary. Colder and more distant. Many things don't come to me unless prompted, like I am missing a mental inventory of what things I know and only find them again when someone shoves them in my path for me to trip on.

        A good example I have thought of is this: We have a two day break from schooling every week, and class begins again on Monday. When I am told that class begins again on Monday, one third of my mind responds "ah yes, I know when that is" and the remaining two thirds respond with "what the hell is a Monday?"



Written Journal Entry
6th of November, 2159 CE
Tuesday - 15:32 PST

        Today I made a fool of myself in class by being the only person who didn't realize/remember that the earth is apparently a sphere.

        What the hell, Galvyonae?

        Was my other world this way too? Did anyone even know?



Written Journal Entry
12th of January, 2160 CE
Saturday - 22:58 PST

        Today is this Ametrine's fifteenth birthday. The community here is larger than Prenton was, but is still small and tight-knit enough that birthdays are often large celebrations, held in the atrium with many people bringing gifts. This did not happen for me, because I am the weird girl, the crazy one who talks funny and is confused by mundane things. I do not think they would describe me out loud as an outcast if challenged on it, out of obligate politeness, but I'm sure that's how I am seen. So as a result my birthday is a small, quiet affair at home with few people. I am perfectly fine with that, under the circumstances. I feel better this way.

        I invited Lyle. Dad baked us a small cake and brought it back to the room. The food here is still gross, but I do still enjoy sweets on occasion that I can get them. Lyle brought me a gift, which I didn't expect at all. This! A new blank book for journaling. As in an actual, bound, hard-cover codex, devoid of printed text. Just like Jaynelle got me for my eighth birthday, in the other life. No idea where he found such a thing in this gods-forsaken place, I already scoured the public areas for one. No more loose leaves or notepads pilfered from the medical ward! I pasted an envelope inside the front cover to collect the older pages I've already written.

        I think this might be the first time since waking up in this place that I have actually, genuinely smiled.



Written Journal Entry
6th of February, 2160 CE
Wednesday - 15: 2 0 PST

        I have started referring to my father here as Dad instead of as Father. This is the term that the Ametrine of this place used to refer to him as before I became us. (Before we became I?) I no longer feel the need to keep people quite so distant, and I can see his eyes light up when he hears it. It makes him happy when I treat him less formally. I think he is happy because he sees this as an indicator that I am getting better, which is debatable, but it's nice that he's happy for me.

        For once I am hearing rumors in the vault that are not about me. Allegedly two people have gone missing. How someone can go missing in a series of tubes not much larger than Prenton, buried a mile under a mountain and with no exits, is beyond me. They are not people I knew well or interacted with very much. The people who actually knew them and might know what happened are being tight-lipped about it. Apparently so is the overseer. And apparently neither of the missing individuals had especially positive reputations with the other residents.

        As someone who doesn't have an especially positive reputation with the other residents, I cannot help but be concerned by such rumors.



Written Journal Entry
1st of July, 2160 CE
Tuesday - 18:44 PST

        Today marks one year since I, Ametrine of Prenton, woke up as me, Ametrine of California. My mental state has not improved since the last time I wrote about my mental state not improving, but I am mostly acclimated to living in this place now. I mean I still hate the clothes, and the food, and the lights, and the captivity, and the general sterility of the environment, but it has become easier to live with. Merely annoying rather than panic inducing.

        Yesterday was the first time within that period that I've met the leader of this place in person, the 'overseer' of the facility, a man named Jacoren. He reminds me of Pearle, if Pearle had also been a weaselly coward in addition to a bullheaded tightass. And unfortunately, unlike in Prenton, few people here are willing to talk back to him. As I suspected, he seems to view me as a problem resident. I can hear it in how he speaks to me. The veneer of politeness does not adequately hide the disapproval.

        I realize now that this place is a time capsule, meant to preserve not only the lives of the people but also the ways and culture from which they descended, even when the ways of that culture conflict with trying to survive for decades in a sealed steel gopher den. Perhaps that is why they refer to it specifically as a "vault" rather than as a shelter, now that I think about it. But my strangeness disrupts the harmony of the precious model community which Jacoren has been charged with maintaining.

        This redoubles my concerns that I will be the next resident to go missing.



Written Journal Entry
22nd of May, 2161 CE
Friday - 15 : 59 PST

        My second year of school as the combined Ametrines concluded today. I am glad for the break. But as I am now sixteen, I am told it is time that I need to start thinking about a vocation. The answer for me is quite simple. I will be a teacher. A few people have expressed disapproval and have suggested I aim for some other job that will keep me out of their sight. While that feeling is mutual, most of the available jobs have to do with maintaining the systems of this shelter, and my opinions on science and robots and so forth have not changed. There are no forests here for me to maintain instead.

        It would feel nice to teach again. I get a small taste of that life back from helping Lyle with his math homework. While I am in no way prepared to teach the more advanced and world-specific subjects, I am adequately qualified to teach literacy and arithmetic to small children. Also, small children do not look at me with the same distrust that the adults do. They are not old enough to recognize the ways in which everyone else thinks I'm weird.



Written Journal Entry
4th of December, 2161 CE
Friday - 04:53 PST

        Overseer Jacoren asked to meet with me ordered me to meet with him in private early this morning, on the lower maintenance levels. He confided in me that the water purification system is failing, and that we have no means to fix it. He seems to want this all kept relatively quiet to prevent a revolt. He says that our only option is to retrieve spare parts from another shelter like this one. And that means someone needs to go outside. He spun me a tale of nonsense about me being the community's "only hope", apparently thinking I wouldn't put the pieces together with the rumors about the others who have disappeared. I think he thinks I'm an idiot. He certainly sees removing me from the social pool as a positive. Like I've said, he reminds me of Pearle.

        I challenged him on the question of survivablility, after everyone here has been telling me for years that the world outside is poisoned and inhospitable. He says the land has healed enough that it is safe to venture outside for such necessary errands, if still not for permanent relocation above ground. I decided not to bring up that if this were at all reasonably safe, the others he has likely sent out before me would have already made it back and solved the problem. I also challenged him on my age, and he made up some bullshit about my lack of vocational training meaning I might be more flexible than the other candidates, more able to think outside the box. Which is actually an impressive lie to make up on the spot like that.

        I'm so unqualified for this. He's so full of shit.

        But you know what? I'll take it. Dad will probably be uneasy about it, but I want to go. I NEED to go. The sterile atmosphere and cold light and barren metal tunnels of this place still make me sick. I long to once again feel the sun on my skin and the wind in my hair, and to see a FUCKING TREE again for once in this gods-damned life. So, he wants me to go out there? He doesn't have to twist my arm very hard.

        Anyway, the calendar systems between this life and my last one don't quite match up one-to-one, but the month of December is the end of the year, and I am told the height of winter. This Ametrine's birthday is January 12th, which is just after the new year, about a month from now, at which point I will turn seventeen from their point of view. But my birthday in the other life was the 5th of Roses, the last month of the year and the height of winter, so I figure that equates roughly to the 5th of December here in this world.

        Which is tomorrow.

        Happy twenty-sixth birthday, Ametrine. Tomorrow you finally get to see the sun. For the first time in two years, and for the first time in your life.



Electronic Text File
4th of December, 2161 CE
Friday - 21:07 PST

I should be getting rest before the big day but I'm having trouble sleeping, given the excitement, so of course I'm writing a journal entry instead. It also makes sense to spend some time getting more acclimated to using this machine.

After further consideration, perhaps I am actually the MOST qualified person for this job, seeing as how I am the only person in this place who has ever been outside (sort of, in a manner of speaking, maybe.) I do know how to live off the land, foraging and hunting and fishing. (I'm not that great at hunting though.)

Jacoren said I'm allowed to tell people close to me that I'm leaving the shelter for a mission to the outside world, but to ask them to not talk openly about it with the other residents, and I myself am to keep quiet about the actual mission goals and anything to do with the water supply problem. It's obnoxious, but I don't want to ruin my chance of finally getting out of here so I'm playing along.

Dad is taking the news in stride. Sometimes he does remind me very slightly of Papa. He's clearly anxious but he can also tell how badly I want this, so he isn't putting up a fight, and is agreeing to the secrecy order.

Security officer Alex called me downstairs in the afternoon, as Jacoren ordered him to issue me equipment for this mission. I decided to take Lyle along with me and tell him the situation while I was at it, since that saves time, and not saying anything to him before leaving would be cruel.

One of the things I was issued was the small portable computer on which I am writing this journal entry. I have seen many other residents here carrying these around and using them daily, but I have always refused to carry one myself, at least since my memory crisis began. I see the convenience, but it is a more awkward design, more frustrating to operate than the desktop models, and I have not felt the need for one. Also on almost every page of this system there is an illustration of a small man with an irritatingly smug smile and bad hair. I do not like him, his presence offends me.

The device's primary purpose for me on this mission is navigation, but I'm worried about running out of ink out there and being unable to resupply, so it looks like I'm going to be doing electronic journaling after all. I used the computer to take photographic copies of everything I have written so far to keep with me, and am leaving the bound paper journal here for safe keeping, for now.

I hid it in Dad's equipment locker so that he will find it after I am gone, with a letter saying he is allowed to read it (but not write in it.) We have never actually discussed my alleged hallucinations in detail. I stopped saying anything about my previous life very quickly after I left the medical ward, so that people would stop treating me as actively psychotic. And the journal does indeed read like the ramblings of a psychotic person. But he is a good father, and treats my apparent psychosis with kindness and understanding. So I want to tell him about my other life and how important it is to me, even if from his perspective it's just a fever dream. Just, after I'm gone so that I don't have to be in the same room as him when he reads it.

Anyway, the other significant piece of gear I was issued was a gun.

I saw a musket, once, when I was six, in my past life, in Rowentop, so I am not COMPLETELY unfamiliar with the concept, but these seem somewhat more sophisticated. Which I guess makes sense for a world that nearly drove itself to extinction through technologically advanced warfare. At first Alex wasn't clear on what he was talking about and said he was issuing me a Colt, and I about died on the spot from embarrassment after asking in my otherworldly naive confusion if he meant an actual horse. Once he stopped laughing and Lyle stopped cringing and I regained my normal skin color, he taught me the basics of how the thing works, how to operate it, the safety rules for not accidentally shooting yourself or your friends, and had me fire some practice shots on the range. Lyle looked at him like he had completely lost his mind for handing me of all people a weapon.

The first shot startled me so bad I dropped the gun. After a bit more practice I sort of got the hang of it, but I'm not very good at actually hitting the intended target. This thing scares the hell out of me and I would like to avoid using it if at all possible, but considering the gigantic sprawling question mark of danger I will be venturing into when morning comes, I get the reasoning for having it.

Lyle seems more scared for me than Dad. He's a sweet boy, I hope he'll be okay. I hope I'll make it back and see him again.



Electronic Text File
5th of December, 2161 CE
Saturday - 07:15 PST

I have finally made it outside, and am now standing under the sun and sky.

They told me that this place is called California, but I am certain now that it is actually Hell.

I should get moving. I'll write more later if I survive the day.

Chapter Text

Electronic Text File
5th of December, 2161 CE
Saturday - 17:19 PST

As I type this, it is the end of my first day outside the vault, ever in this life. It has been an emotionally chaotic day.

Crossing the threshold of the great steel door of the vault felt like stepping yet again into an entirely different world. The exterior tunnel is unfurnished and unimproved in almost any way and would be easy to mistake for a natural cave if not for the relatively smooth trail worn into the floor. The rough-hewn rock was a pleasant sight and sensation for these sore eyes and tired hands. As soon as the outside air hit my lungs I felt like I was finally alive again. It wasn't an especially pleasant smell, but compared to the stale, overly purified air of the vault, it may as well have been the scent of roses. There were rats about, scrambling quickly out of sight as we mutually startled each other. They are alarmingly large but it was nice to see wild animals again, for the first time in years.

My relief collapsed rapidly. I didn't recognize it until I was almost on top of it, trying to navigate by the dim light of the computer, but less than one hundred feet up the tunnel was a dead body. It had mostly been picked clean by the rats by now but it was obviously human, and obviously a vault resident based on the surviving scraps of clothing. That nauseatingly bright blue and gold can't be mistaken for anything else. Obviously one of the previous victims of Jacoren's scheme. I panicked and ran back, and this is when I finally realized that the moment I was clear of the vault door they had immediately closed and sealed it again, before I had a chance to get cold feet. I screamed for them to let me back in but they claimed to be having technical difficulties with the door, and quickly stopped responding on the intercom altogether.

I am all alone now, and no longer have any option of turning back.

After what felt like hours of sobbing, collapsed against the sealed door, but which the computer clock assures me was only a few minutes, I collected myself enough to venture up the tunnel again. I finally exited to the outside world just after sunrise, finding myself high up in the mountains. Seeing the sky and the sun for the first time with these eyes, and feeling the sun's warmth on my skin, momentarily put me back on top of the world. Only for me to come crashing down again once I finally comprehended the world I was now looking at.

There are no trees.

In fact there is very little vegetation here at all. It is dry, rocky, dusty, and the wind is biting and unpleasant. What few plants are present are small and sickly looking. Some of them look wrong - like, I'm unsure if it's from the poison (which I am told is known to cause mutations of living things) or if that's just how flora looks in this world, but they are almost unrecognizable to me as being plants at all. Foraging for food seems like it will be impossible. The normal looking plants have little in the way of edible roots or fruit. Some of the alien plants bear fruit, but they frighten me and I think trying to eat that will be an absolute last resort.

Had I been thinking, I would have caught some of the rats from the vault entrance cave and brought them with me for meat. I think I will have to devise some way to trap the small critters I see from time to time above ground. I haven't seen any animals larger than the rats, which is at once worrying and reassuring. There are snakes, some birds, and more rats. They seem to survive on insects. What the insects are surviving on I have no idea. However the extreme lack of woody vegetation, dead or alive, will make constructing a cooking fire difficult. The availability of potable water, or in fact any water at all, seems like it is also going to be a problem. This is compounded by how blisteringly hot it is during the day. That I did not have sufficient food and water for the long-term journey was obvious before leaving the vault, but I didn't anticipate it being this serious of a concern.

I feel I've strongly overestimated my ability to survive off the land here.

I made my way down the hill to the closest point of interest marked on the computer map, a town by the name of Lone Pine. What I found was what looked like the cold, months-old remains of a campfire, scaled up to cover the footprint of a village. Small scraps of charred wood here, the remnants of stone-paved roads there. Bits of scrap metal half buried in the rubble as evidence of the ancient presence of motorized carriages, automobiles, a concept I have only a cursory familiarity with from books and computer files in the vault. And there is no pine tree there.

There is such a thing as too much of a good thing, and twice now I have learned to be careful what I wish for. The sun has been far too enthusiastic about being felt on my skin. I eventually pulled out a change of clothes to wrap around my head to shield my skin from being burned, having to keep my hands in my pockets for the same reason. (The one good thing I have to say about the vault suits now is that despite the weight and texture of the fabric, they breathe well enough to protect the skin without letting you overheat and boil to death in your own sweat.) It is so bright at midday as to be blinding, difficult to keep my eyes open enough to even see where I'm going. I slipped and fell a few times trying to find my way down the hill because of it, and this makes having to keep my hands in my pockets a problem of its own.

I pressed on through the day, but I had to take it easy to not overheat or fall headlong down a slope and so haven't gotten very far. I have realized that the only way I'm going to survive this journey is to sleep during the day and travel at night, as I have read of people doing in stories set in the desert. (Does this count as a desert? I always think of deserts as being flat and sandy but it feels like an appropriate term here.) It is just after sunset now. I've sat down to have a rest and a snack, and to type out this journal entry. The air has cooled off but the rocks are still so hot that I feel like I'm sitting on a skillet, like the plastic fibers of this suit are going to melt and burn permanently into my ass cheeks. But despite how little sleep I got in the vault last night, I will be pressing on again through the cooler night, hoping to cover more ground. The question of where to sleep is a bridge I will cross when I get to it, in the morning twilight. Hopefully my exhaustion will counteract how difficult it is to sleep in such a bright environment.

As much as I have worried and complained herein, I think I do not regret undertaking this mission after all. Now that it has cooled off, the fresh air really does make me feel truly alive for the first time in years. The wide open sky and far off horizon feel so freeing. The magnitude of relief is hard to put into words. I can't help but smile. This version of nature is horrid compared to my beloved forest, but I will take whatever nature I can get. If I am going to die again, I would rather it be out here than in those accursed tunnels.

The sky is clear tonight and the stars are coming out just now. The moon is down past the horizon so it will be a dark night, but I saw it earlier in the day. It looks different than the one I remember, and I'm unsure if this is the waxing or waning crescent, but it is beautiful and I am glad it is there.

Even in Prenton, I do not think I ever appreciated until this moment just how beautiful the night sky is.

It's not a bad birthday after all.

I am going to make a prayer to Astraeyos, and then get underway again.



Electronic Text File
6th of December, 2161 CE
Sunday - 17:44 PST

I've just woken up from my first day of sleep outside the vault. Still alive. So far, so good.

Traveling at night is definitely better than at day, but I wasn't prepared for how extreme the temperature difference is between day and night. It gets COLD. The jumpsuit that protects my head and face from the sun during the day gets doubled up over the one I'm already wearing at night. Twenty-four hours ago I would have scoffed at the suggestion that I need a jacket in this place.

In the early twilight I searched for a place to sleep that would shelter me from the sun, but while looking for a suitable cave the image suddenly flashed through my mind of the dead body outside the vault, and of the enormous rats. The last thing I want is to accidentally contest some animal's den and get my face bitten off. In the end I elected to sleep out in the open. I found a berm to lay behind to shelter me from the wind, and fashioned a lean-to from my second jumpsuit and my backpack frame. During the trek to what eventually became Prenton we would make these from foliage to shield ourselves from the rain, large enough to completely cover two people. This one is just large enough to protect my head and hands, but it's a working solution. Sleeping in my clothes and boots is uncomfortable as hell, but it is far too hot to cover myself with the meager bedroll I was provided. As a cushion the bedroll is better than laying on the bare dirt and rock, but only barely.

I slept with my knife and pistol close at hand but I don't think it would have done me much good. If anything investigated or crawled on me during the day I have no idea because in spite of everything, I was indeed so worn out that I slept like I had become part of the earth itself. I didn't bother setting an alarm. The computer says I slept for eleven hours.

In any case that's one survival problem solved.



Electronic Text File
7th of December, 2161 CE
Monday - 02:02 PST

As I cannot put this problem off forever, I tried the fruit from one of the spiny alien plants tonight.

Something I learned from Mama in the forest is how to deal with food of unknown edibility. If you are secure enough in food, then compost it and don't worry about it. If you are not secure in food and are desperate for anything you can get, boil the mystery food, try a very tiny piece of it, and wait several hours to see if you get sick before trying a larger piece. As I don't have the luxury of being able to boil anything, I skipped that step and just tried a small piece of it raw.

I couldn't help myself from immediately finishing the rest and eating two more. They are pulpy and full of seeds that have to be picked out but they are very juicy and are the most amazing thing I have eaten in years.

If I die, let it be known that it was for some delicious fucking food.

It strikes me now that it's weird for a plant to be fruiting in the middle of winter but maybe that's just a consequence of how gods-damned hot it is here. I am terrified of what the summers must be like.



Electronic Text File
7th of December, 2161 CE
Monday - 03:55 PST

I can hear dogs howling in the distance. That is an encouraging sign! Also a little bit scary. I've triple-checked that my pistol is loaded correctly.



Electronic Text File
8th of December, 2161 CE
Tuesday - 00:10 PST

As I continue my journey eastward and downward, I have come across an area with thicker vegetation than what I've seen until now. There are small, dry, scrappy trees here that I am more inclined to describe as large bushes, but they have wood suitable for building a fire, which I have done. I've decided to stop here and spend most of the night resting my legs and improving my nutrition situation.

I am pleased to report that the small alien fruits (which fortunately have not made me sick) taste even more delicious when roasted. I have spent the night collecting far more of them than I can eat and crushing them to squeeze the water out and fill my canteens. The stalks as well. The leaves are sharp and painful to handle so I am avoiding those. It's a lot of work for not much liquid but it's better than nothing, and better than gorging myself on fruit to attempt to stay hydrated.

I am adding extra firewood to my pack, in case there isn't any wherever I find myself tomorrow night.

Every night I am feeling a little better and more hopeful than the last. Even if I do complete this errand and return with the spare parts, I don't think anyone will be able to convince me to move back into the vault.



Electronic Text File
10th of December, 2161 CE
Thursday - 05:12 PST


Given what I was told in the vault and what I've seen thus far on the journey, I've been worried that I may be the only living human above ground for a thousand miles. Imagine my surprise this morning at seeing lighted windows on the horizon!

This place is called Shady Sands. It's surrounded by a defensive wall, but the guards/greeters at the gate were friendly enough and allowed me in after I established that I wasn't hostile. The guards seem on edge. Apparently there are problems with gangs of bandits attacking the village to raid for food and supplies. That should concern me, a lone wanderer traveling through these lands on foot, but that feeling is outweighed by the relief of learning that there are other groups of people up here. Not only this village and the bandits, but I've also been informed of larger towns a ways to the south, and traveling caravans of merchants connecting them! Contrary to everything I have been led to believe in the vault, the breath of civilization still inhabits California.

I stand out like a black eye here because of the brightly colored vault suit and I can see it raising a lot of peoples' eyebrows, but one of the greeters, a woman named Katrina, instantly recognized it and said she's from a vault herself. (Perhaps this is why they didn't immediately take me for a bandit.) In fact she's from the one I have been sent to find, a couple more days to the east from here. The bad news is that after a series of infights, exoduses, and raids by bandits, she says the vault is no longer inhabited or operational and hasn't been for years. But it may still contain the equipment I've been sent to retrieve, so I'm still going. It's honestly a relief to meet someone who's been there and can verify that it actually exists.

I don't carry any currency for this land, but I traded one of my remaining vault rations for a locally cooked meal. Grilled rat, Yucca fruits (I have been informed this is what the spiny alien plants are called,) along with beans pods and some other vegetables I don't recognize, all grown here in the village. This is possibly the best meal I have ever had. After dining together and hearing the story of my journey, one of the guards offered to let me sleep in the guardhouse. No sleeping on solid rock today! Tonight I will trade for supplies to continue my journey, but tearing myself away from this place may be a challenge.

I want to run back to the vault and tell everyone, you don't need to live underground anymore! There are people up here with towns and villages and agriculture and trade networks! Screw your water system, Jacoren! But many of the inhabitants would probably be too scared to leave, finding the idea of living up here like this as uncomfortably alien as I find living in the vault. And as much of an unpopular outcast as I am with those people, I can't just leave them hanging and let them die. I know what it's like to struggle in a resource-starved community and I don't wish that on anyone. Perhaps I will bring Jacoren his ridiculous water system parts and then drag Dad and Lyle back out with me to settle here. That would be nice.



Electronic Text File
10th of December, 2161 CE
Thursday - 15:33 PST

I'm well rested and well fed and surrounded by friendly people above ground and I'm happier than a bee with a field of flowers.

Many of the villagers see me as weird - like I said, it's the suit - but it's a different kind of weird from how I'm seen in the vault. It's a refreshing change.

I've hit it off with one of the guards, a scrappy yet jovial fellow by the name of Ian, the same one I dined with last night. We traded stories over lunch, me talking about life in the vault and him talking about life as a caravan guard before settling here. (I kept my mouth shut about the Prenton stuff because no one needs to hear about that.) Apparently he's one of Shady Sand's more well-versed people in the field of long-distance travel and survival, and he still runs errands for the village, south to a town simply called the Hub. After explaining my mission to recover equipment from the depths of a derelict vault a few days away, he offered to travel there and back with me. He said it sounded like fun. He also seems to think I will die out there on my own sooner than later, and with what I've heard today about the bandits and the wildlife around here I can't say he's wrong. He seems relatively trustworthy based on observing his interactions with the other villagers, so I've taken him up on this offer. So now I have a traveling companion!

I also met the town mayor and his daughter. Mayor Aradesh insists on meeting everyone who visits the village, apparently. He seems nice, if slightly suspicious of others. His daughter Tandi is kind of excitable and rowdy. She reminds me a little bit of Tenise. She clearly thinks this place is super boring and would rather be out traveling like me. I don't think she'd appreciate being told how good she has it here so I bite my tongue.

Now that it's light out I've gotten a better look around the village. It took a lot of effort to not break down crying from joy when I saw the crops. I said a prayer to Pramma on their behalf. The livestock is somewhat more disconcerting. I'd seen cows in person in my last life, in Rowentop. I don't recall them having two heads. Maybe it's an example of the poison mutations I was warned about. But Ian says that's normal here, so I'm just going along with it.

Regarding the wildlife, I'm told the wild dogs here - called coyotes, I guess - aren't dangerous unless they significantly outnumber you. The larger problem is scorpions. I've heard of these before, spider-adjacent creatures with poisonous stingers on their tails. I was under the impression that they're normally quite small, but apparently the ones here are nearly the size of the cows. So THAT'S terrifying to hear. They're a chronic problem, attacking both the villagers and the cattle from time to time, with efforts to cull their population being hit and miss. One of the gate guards, a man named Seth, said his brother was killed by one just last week.

Quite pleased to have Ian traveling with me now, yes indeed.

I spent some time in what passes for a marketplace here, bartering away some of my more superfluous gear for a hat to keep the sun out of my eyes, and a light robe to cover the awful vault suit, at least while I'm in town, and keep me warmer at night. Also a length of rope. Papa once told me that one rule adventurers should adhere to is to always carry a knife and a bundle of rope, so now I've satisfied that requirement.

It's been a pleasant day. I feel well and truly revitalized. I like it here, and I hope this place continues to thrive. But as much as I'd like to spend another day in the guardhouse instead of sleeping on the hard ground, I've got a mission to accomplish. The sun is setting soon, and as soon as it does we're setting out again for Vault 15.



Electronic Text File
12th of December, 2161 CE
Saturday - 06:10 PST

A two-night journey, slightly back uphill from the village, and I've finally arrived at the destination. Unlike the other vault this one has a shed constructed over the cave entrance. One of those scorpions I was warned about apparently made its nest inside and it was GODS-DAMNED TERRIFYING. I drew my pistol but I was so startled that I didn't hit anything with it. Ian killed it. He laughed at my terrible marksmanship but assures me I'll get better at it eventually if I practice. I don't really WANT to practice though. Also when Alex was teaching me in the vault we wore hearing protectors and of course this time we weren't because why would you walk around with hearing protectors on all the time, and the ringing still hasn't quite gone away.

Ian's generally been pleasant company. He's far more crass than anyone in the vault, but that too is honestly a refreshing change. Generally really well humored too. He's been teaching me a bit more about the land here - plant and animal recognition, what's safe to eat and what isn't, and so on. He says I've got a good head on my shoulders for how much I already figured out on my own. I shrugged it off as book-learning, like frontiersmanship was a subject I was interested in and read a lot about while growing up in the vault, which is of course a big fat lie. Anyway, we've been taking overlapping shifts sleeping. It's a bit of a relief to have someone around to make sure critters aren't crawling all over me in my sleep for at least part of the day.

It's just about twilight now. We're camped out outside the shed for now because it's gross inside and probably gonna get hot as hell during the day. We both want to sleep off the journey before we descend so we'll go down in the afternoon. Ian caught us a rat and I built us a fire so we're eating pretty good this morning. He also gutted and cleaned the scorpion for food but I can't bring myself to eat it, just looking at the "meat" makes my stomach turn. I'm not THAT desperate for food anymore. He said the stinger is valuable for making medicines though, which does sound like something I heard about in the other world, so I carefully removed it and wrapped it up to take back when we return to town.



Electronic Text File
12th of December, 2161 CE
Saturday - 19:09 PST

Well that was a giant fucking waste of time.

I mean, I shouldn't say that. Traveling here, getting to experience the outdoors and find Shady Sands and meet Ian and even to delve into what's left of the vault and raid it for supplies wasn't a waste of time, experientially or materially. It's been a hell of an adventure so far.

But there's no fucking spare parts for the water system. In fact there's no water system at all. The entire service section is collapsed under a million tons of rubble. Seeing that makes me extremely nervous about the structural integrity of OUR vault. Like I'm worried about Dad working down there now, if that's something that can happen. Ian said it might have been sabotage but I'm not entirely clear on how that would even work.

Exploring what wasn't completely collapsed was exciting in a lot of the wrong ways. The torches we were using to light the way give off an eerie red light and a horrible smoke that makes my throat feel like I've got the consumption again. The place was full of rats too, much worse than the entrance cave at the other vault that I refuse to refer to as "back home". The smaller ones were scared off by the torchlight but the larger ones got angry about us invading their space. And by larger ones I mean some of them were THE SIZE OF BEARS? WHAT THE HELL. I do not like them. At a couple points Ian and I got cornered and chewed/clawed up pretty bad. It felt like Hazydae might be coming for me again for a minute there, but good shooting on his part and sloppy shooting on my part got us through - I did take a few down myself, saving Ian's ass at one point.

He, on the other hand, fucking shot me. Nicked me with a bullet when making a snap-shot, trying to protect me from a rat. He was SUPER apologetic about it.

All of my medical aid skills are pre-industrial and he's not exactly a doctor himself, but we did the best we could and seem to be alright. At least the supplies I have came with a little how-to-use booklet. But a mile underground in a collapsed, rat-infested bunker under the red chemical glow of a torch is not the best place to be trying to do first aid. At one point I had to use a couple of these 'Stim-Pak' things. I guess they help stop bleeding and get blood pressure back up and energize you and stuff, and the rush really is quite something, but I still don't like needles, and having to use them on myself while my hands are shaking from panic is about ten times worse. But I'm still standing.

So, no water system components, but the place wasn't picked completely clean before we got there. We raided the security station and found a few guns, including one that looks more like the muskets I remember in Rowentop. Like, the kind you put up against your shoulder. That seems like it might be easier to use. Good thing too, because my not-so-trusty gun-steed is now out of commission. Ian said it looks like it already had a cracked barrel and just now finally gave up. Bruised the shit out of my hand as it came apart and it still stings but I'm alright. We also found some weird metal egg-shaped things and what looked like an alarm clock tied to a bundle of red sticks sort of resembling the torches. I'm not sure what the deal there is but Ian looked really nervous about me handling them and said he'd hang onto them for me for now. Also some more medical supplies, a big metal pry bar that Ian said is for opening wooden boxes and stuck doors and stuff, and some other stuff like that. Also my ridiculous patchwork outfit of vault suit and desert villager robes now also includes some soft armor taken from a vault security uniform.

Oh and yeah, good thing I brought that rope, since most of the stairs and all the elevators were toast. Thanks for the advice, Papa.

Anyway we're gonna camp out here for the night, outside the shed again. Take some time to recover. We took some rats with us for dinner on the way out. We'll leave for Shady Sands again tomorrow afternoon.



Electronic Text File
16th of December, 2161 CE
Wednesday - 02:40 PST

We got back to the village early this morning. They're letting me stay in the guard house again. I've just been kicking back a bit before heading to sleep, reading some of the books they've got here about outdoorsmanship and stuff. It occurred to me on the way back that I've been neglecting and shying away from the curiosity I had as a child in Prenton, that Jaynelle worked so hard to foster in me. In the vault I hardly read anything at all other than what was required for schooling. I think because at first I found this world so offensive that I wanted to learn as little about it as I could get away with. But that kind of behavior, wrapping myself up in the comfort of ignorance, won't help me survive very long. And my desire to read every book I can get my hands on is coming back now that I'm not suffocating in the vault anymore. (It seems printed books in this world were much, MUCH more easily available and less expensive compared to in the other, at least before the war, which is cool.)

I've been chewing on the problem of what to do next. About the water system parts I mean. Presumably I won't find them any place other than another vault, but Jacoren didn't mark the location of any others on the map for me. I'm split over whether that's because he doesn't have them, or just because he's an asshole who doesn't want to give out any more information than he thinks is necessary. I could travel back and ask, like "hey Jacoren, Vault 15 is tits-up, no luck, got another lead for me oh great overseer?" But I'm not gonna give him the pleasure of keeping me on that short of a leash. I refuse to be so obedient.

I've been thinking about the other settlements Ian told me about to the south. The Hub sounds rather uncreatively like what the name implies, a sizable town with a large marketplace serving as major a focal point for regional trade. Kinda like Rowentop. If that's the case then I've gotta be able to find SOMETHING there about vaults, so that's where I'm heading next. Ian said the Vault 15 dive was so much fun (not how I would describe it but okay) that he wants to stay on with me for the rest of this mission. Apparently standing guard around Shady Sands hasn't been feeding his adventurous spirit enough. Fine by me, I'm glad to have him. (As long as he doesn't get any weird ideas about the nature of our relationship. Seems fine for now though.)

But before we head off for the Hub, there's another errand we've gotta run. Seth, the gate guard, was talking about needing to send some people to wipe out a scorpion den near the village. I volunteered Ian and myself for this. After the nightmare that was our delve into the derelict vault, I've changed my tune on wanting to work on my competence with firearms, and this sounds like a perfect opportunity to help out a village I like and get in some target practice at the same time. We'll be heading out there in the afternoon, after we've slept.



Electronic Text File
16th of December, 2161 CE
Wednesday - 17:22 PST

We just got back from the scorpion den. Mission successful! Except the part about me getting stung by one. It hurts a little bit to type with my left side right now.

Before we went out we hit the marketplace again and traded in some of the haul we brought back from the vault (mainly a bunch of ammo that doesn't fit any of our guns) for some tools and medical supplies. I also handed in the scorpion tail we brought back from Vault 15 to the local doctor, a guy by the name of Razlo. He was appreciative and traded us some antivenom for it. Then I made a comment about how well educated he seemed, I meant it as a compliment but he took it in a 'for someone from such a primitive backwater' kind of way and got kind of pissed. So, feeling like kind of a dumbass for that. I just apologized and left.

Seth gave us the directions to the den, Ian seemed to know the way though. Mostly it went alright. We cleared it out, taking down nine in all. The rifle (as I have been told it's called) is indeed much easier to aim and hit with than the pistol, much more stable. I also got in some practice with the other gun we scavenged, one like Ian's, a submachinegun. He fell on his ass laughing when I had it set to the wrong fire mode at first and scared the hell out of myself, putting two shots into a scorpion and the rest into the ceiling. I think of the three guns I've used I like it the least, but the automatic fire setting seems good for when things get up way too close. He helped me improve my marksmanship though, and spent the walk back teaching me other stuff about firearms, like about other kinds of guns and stuff.

We did get kind of cornered at one point and I did get stung, as mentioned. That was scary at first but I chugged the antivenom Razlo gave me and shot up another one of those gods-awful stim needles, and I seem to be alright other than some soreness and swelling. Ian hauled back as much scorpion meat as he could carry and I brought back the stingers for Razlo. I'm just resting now while Ian finishes his dinner, as soon as he's done we're gonna set out for the Hub. He says it'll take about a week to get there on foot, with another village to rest and trade at along the way. (I asked why they don't travel with horses here and he said none of them survive the war. I think he gets a kick out of my vaulty ignorance but at least he's not mean about it.)



Electronic Text File
20th of December, 2161 CE
Sunday - 04:01 PST

We've been walking south-southwest for four nights now and it's been mostly uneventful, other than last night when we almost got caught up in the middle of a big fight between a pack of cow-sized scorpions and a pack of bear-sized rats. Ian says it's only a few more hours walk to the next village but I'm too beat to walk further tonight, so we'll get there in the evening after we've slept. He says it's a place called Junktown, which doesn't sound very appealing.



Electronic Text File
20th of December, 2161 CE
Sunday - 18:37 PST

We arrived at Junktown half an hour ago. Everything about this place makes my skin crawl. It feels like there's too many guards and they're too well armed. We got a stern warning at the gate about keeping our weapons holstered. Other than that they try to act friendly but I don't like how they look at me. Them or the other residents. Sinister and vaguely threatening. This feels like a town holding itself at gunpoint with a grin.

We're at the general store right now. The guards said the proprietor (and evidently town mayor) is out using the latrine at the moment or something. Ian is browsing supplies while we wait, I see the guards watching him like hawks. I'm staying well clear so I don't get accused of theft. The computer gets me some quizzical looks but at least it's clear I'm minding my own business.

I wish this Killian guy would get back already. I don't wanna stay here one moment longer than we need to, I just wanna get the supplies we need and leave.



Recorded Audio File
[Text Transcription]
20th of December, 2161 CE
Sunday - 19:44 PST

[beginning of audio file]

[sound of fast-paced stamping in the dirt like someone is running]

[sound of a woman trying speak, gasping between breaths of air]

        Kill... ian... he... I didn't... it was...!

[gunshots audible in the background]

[sound of a man shouting in the distance, unintelligible]

[sound of running and hyperventilating continues]

[end of audio file]



Electronic Text File
21st of December, 2161 CE
Monday - 02:09 PST

i shot killian

ive nevr killed a person efore

heart ppunding out of my chesr

handd shking too bad to typ



Electronic Text File
21st of December, 2161 CE
Monday - 03:12 PST

My hands are still shaking but I've stopped crying and puking and I can type now.

I feel Hazydae's icy hand around my heart. He's angry perhaps that I somehow slipped through his fingers in Prenton.

Killian came back to the store. Ian traded with him for supplies. I browsed and chatted with him about the town and the surrounding area. Trying to make nice. Someone else came in and pulled a gun and shouted something about a gizmo. He looked like he was gonna shoot Killian. I instinctively threw whatever I was holding at the gunman but missed and hit one of the guards. Another guard shot the gunman and then they pointed their guns at me so Ian pointed his gun at them and they and Killian pointed their guns at him and my ears were ringing and everyone was shouting and panicking and I just

I couldn't let them hurt Ian.

I blasted Killian with the submachinegun.

Everything after that happened so fast, I can't remember anything clearly. I shot some of the other guards. Ian got the rest. He got hit but I didn't notice at the time. Once it stopped I was stunned and started puking. Ian was freaked out too but he started grabbing everything not nailed down and stacked himself to the gills with guns and ammo and all the supplies we needed. He shook me back to the present and gave me some armor and another gun and said we would have to fight our way out of town now. We managed to sneak around the perimeter in the dark and avoid everyone til we got to the gate. He threw a rock to distract the gate guards but right as we were passing through the little metal tunnel one of them noticed us. I blasted one in the face, and as soon as I was clear of the gate tunnel I just took off running. I didn't wait for Ian. I ran faster than I knew I was capable of running and I kept running until I collapsed from exhaustion. Ian caught up with me a few minutes later. He's alright, he patched himself up. I don't think the guards chased us very far out of town.

Ian seems a little freaked out by how freaked out I am. He keeps telling me it wasn't my fault. He keeps saying we were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. He keeps saying it's important we take care of ourselves first and foremost and that it's good we got out of a bad situation alive. He keeps thanking me for saving his life.

It was a big misunderstanding and now seven people are dead. At least three of them died by my hand.

I am going to have nightmares about this.

We can never go back to Junktown.



Electronic Text File
22nd of December, 2161 CE
Tuesday - 19:18 PST

I killed Killian so he couldn't kill Ian.

I hate how funny that is.