Her hair was black, and in it she wore the white flower of mourning. Its heady scent followed her everywhere, reminding her always of what had been lost and forgotten. Kaile, the last girl on Earth. The wild animals caused her no harm; they sensed intuitively the rarity of the delicate creature. After this, there would be no more. Extinct. Forgotten. The lions stayed away.
She had named herself. To her, Kaile was infinite sadness; grief unexpressed for the Before she had never known. She wore it with a quiet dignity, the way she wore her flower: in the hope that it was worthy of those who had come ahead of her, shaping metal and earth to their whim, subduing all before them without thought. Kaile lacked that authority. The animals caused her no harm, but nor did they love her, hate her, or fear her. Nor did the mountains, nor the waters, nor the forests. Living was not a difficult thing. She thought the ground soft but she had never known any other bed.
She spent her days in grief and her nights, dreamless. She tracked down the remnants of Before, marvelling alone. The roads, the art, the clever canals, the Parthenon, the desolate buildings clawing at the sky. The emptiness pronounced by what had once not been empty. The monuments proudly—but silently—proclaiming, “We were here, and we did not want to be forgotten.” It made the loneliness yawn open within her, to see photographs and sculptures, tools and instruments, doors waiting to be unlocked by keys in buried pockets. In time, after she was gone, they too would disappear, she and them and the concept of “artifact.” So she would give them what she could: she would not forget, even if she could not comprehend.
She was not entirely comfortless.
There were the Words. Mots. Woorden. Wörter. Lexeis. Parole, palavras, palabras. She knew them all, but she could not wield them. But the concept, she loved. It allowed her to keep pieces of Before with her even when she had left them far behind. The concept allowed her to become Kaile. She had tried to name the creatures around her: lion had nearly ceased to be honey fur glinting in the sun, an eye, the swish of a tail. lion had nearly become Lion. But then a whisper—you no longer have this authority. So Lion remained lion, and lion’s parts remained unamalgamated. And Kaile remembered.