I alone. I alone long time now, many times of light and dark and light and dark again. I never know how long I alone; time sleeps in soft place in I's mind, same as all other thoughts. Sometimes I happy for soft place; easier when I in soft place than when I know I alone. But I always afraid when I go to soft place, afraid I never come back. But then I come back, and I sad because I know why I in soft place and why I come out. You not understand I. Not yet.
Longago, back many times of light and dark and light and dark, I never go into soft place. Many people here, I never alone. Many friends I see, back in other time when I not alone. World brighter then, not real world I see with eyes but world I see with mind. So many people, so many voices. I hear laughter then. I try and laugh sometimes, but it not sound same without others to share it.
I sorry. It hard to think, even when I out of soft place. Time jumbles, easier to think of things I feel than think of right words for them, easier to find thoughts that feel strongest and best instead of starts and middles and ends. I not like to think of ends anyways. Ends always sad for I. Beginnings happier. Not always happy even then, but happier. In beginning, we came to Home and it good.
Many came to home. Old, sick, young, weak. Home safe for all. They never get to Home, not ever. Strong and young and brave go to fight Them, we stay safe at Home. We make Home as safe place, you understand? World not safe, not since They come. I scared of They, we all scared of They. Even in beginning, laughter hides fear like sweet smell machines make to cover stink of dead things. No dead things in Home now, though. Machines clean them all away. I so alone, I not even have dead things with me.
We never talk of They, though. All time, we think of They. All time, we think of war. But never say of war. Fear too big, it crush you if you let it close. Keep fear faraway, so it look small. So we never talk of They. Even young like I, we play shooting games like young do, but never we play a shooting game of we against They. Nobody want to play They, see. All have fear, all remember doctormen coming block by block, row by row, cube by cube, looking for They. Nobody want to even play They, or doctormen may come. Doctormen take many away, call they "in-fek-ted". "In-fek-ted" fancy word, means They. Many They not They yet when doctormen find they, doctormen take they away. Nobody ever see They-to-be, not after doctormen take they. Is no cure for They-to-be, see. They-to-be always become They, unless doctormen...I not know. I never see. But never see a They-to-be again after doctormen come. I think many doctormen wish for soft place like I's, by end of things.
But all that before skyships take we to Home. Doctormen keep all They-to-be away from Home, soldiers keep all They away from Home. Home faraway from war, faraway from fear. Fear smaller when it faraway. When fear look small, we can laugh. Young can play. Many many people in Home. Many many friends for I. I learn, I laugh, I make many new friends to replace ones I...many friends I lose, before Home. Many friends we all lose to Them. New friends fill hole in heart made by Them, but it like cloth over a wound. We make new friends because we must make new friends, see? Alone sad. Alone show we that wound never heal. Alone make we beg for soft place, even if we never come back.
Even then, some go to soft place. Some want soft place because it better than life, even life in Home. Machines make Home good place to live, but Home not...not home. I too young, not remember home, but for old, Home not home. They miss old friends, old places, old family. They's eyes go faraway, and we know they think of longago. We know they think of better place inside heads, soft warm place without thought, without They. Is sickness, but not sickness doctormen or machines can cure.
Machines send we, send young to old. We try to make laughter, bring old people out of soft place in mind. "There-a-pee", machines call it. Machines talk to doctormen, back where is war. Doctormen fight with fighters, help fighters to tell They from we. Machines know how to cure many things, never know how to cure minds. Never know how to bring back from soft places.
I see in my mind, first time I go to old to bring laughter. She smile, but she smile faraway. She not see I, not really. I sit on she's lap, I hold she, I ask for story. She look at I like she just see I now, like I there for first time. She laugh then, she's eyes look there and not faraway. She say yes, she tell I story. Story of what it like longago, before...she not say They. Nobody say They, not in beginning.
She tell story of home before Home, of skyships and machines that make things for we and do things for we. She tell story of happy time in she's head, and she smile, but smile now sad. Happy time now only in she's head, home now where fighters and doctormen fight Them. Words too big to say, but we both know. Fear so big, fear that fighters and doctormen lose war and Home only home now and ever. Feel she see that fear, close up so it large. So large she must run, and only place to run in she's head is to longago and faraway. I see she's eyes go to the soft place, know she's mind go to the soft place. She still breathe, still alive, but I alone in room.
Later machines come. They take she away, to place where machines take care of she and give she food and drink. But she not eat, she not drink. Machines make she eat and drink, but never bring she back from soft place. She not move, not walk or talk, not ever again, not even when the machines bring the young like I to she to talk, to try to reach she in the soft place. She go deeper and deeper into soft place, each time I see she. One day she's breath just stop, like she so far in soft place that she forget even that, and then machines cannot save she. By then, others like she.
Only few, at first. Very very sick, very very old. Young like I try to give they laughter, it work but not every time. They go to soft place, they go by ones and twos. When they go, fear come. Nobody say, but everybody remember. Everybody remember They, everybody remember how They make people go to soft place and never come back. No They here, not in Home, but...fear of They here now, once old start going to soft place. Everybody remember how They find people, how They hunt. How mind goes away, little by little, how more and more of you gets nibbled away bite by bite until thinking so hard, too hard and soft place all that stays. Then even soft place goes away, and breath stops. Everybody think of it, even if They not here in Home. But nobody say it. Not then.
But the fear, it grew. Year by year, the fear filled Home, swelled and grew until we thought at times that Home would burst with it. Maybe it did; fear made laughter stop, made we hide from one another. I alone more and more. I hunger for friends like food, I hunger for friends more than food. When I alone, I feel soft place calling to I. Soft place scare I more back then.
Doctormen not helping. Doctormen talk of They, talk of war. Talk of They hunting in packs, like beasts. Talk of They hunting fighters down and tearing they's mind apart like dogs that fight over scraps of meat, until breath stops in minutes, in seconds. Talk of terrible things, but no talk of cure.
Then worse than that, day we call and no doctormen answer. No fighters answer. We call, but nobody answer. Only quiet, down on world below Home. Day after day after day, we call. Day after day after day, nobody answer. We try and try...then we stop trying.
Many scared after that, fear too big. More and more lose will to live, hide in soft place because it feel safe. But they have no hunger and thirst in soft place, no way to stay alive. Machines send I, send other young to talk to they, to try to bring they back from soft place. But none ever come back.
Then, young begin to go to soft place. They not so young by then, many years since we come in skyships to Home. Young grow taller, grow new hair and change they's body's shape, think of different things. Think of each other. Young have different soft place from old, soft place between each other's thighs. Is so good to find this soft place, some never want to come back. They hide--we hide--from old, from machines, find places to rut.
She finds I, one day. She already almost lost to soft place, never done finding the good feeling between she's thighs. Many she take into she, but she wants I still. I not care that I am one of many for she, not when she so pretty and I so hard in my hardness. We find a place where the machines not stop us, and we take off we's clothes.
I find I's hardness, I find she's softness. She's softness feels good against my hardness. We rub, we move, we feel the heat that takes away thought and fear. I feel I's hardness tingle like nothing else I know, and then I feel it go soft. But when I look at she...she has no light in she's eyes. She has only the softness between she's thighs, there. She's hands press and rub at she's softness, staying there, never wanting to leave. I go, I find machines, but too late for she. She never finds she's way out of soft place, and when she cannot touch, she sleeps. One day, she too weak to live, even with machines helping. I sad. She so pretty.
More and more people go to soft place, and from there to die. I not sure which day, but one day word is spoken, word not spoken for many many years. "They." Too many people in soft place, too many people losing mind and never finding it again. Not all just sad or scared or wanting to go away from Home. One man, one with no legs who could not be a fighter, say it at last. We have a "They" on Home. A They that hunts. Doctormen missed an "in-fek-ted", and it went from They-to-be to They and it hunts.
Many laugh. They animals, They have no mind. They not speak, they not even think. How can we not find a They in among all the we? But he keep talking. He bring the fear to many. We all stop trusting, we all stop laughing. We all stay away from we. We stop being we, only many many I's. We cannot trust; we have no doctormen left to tell we who They and who we. Then I alone.
When I alone, I feel I's thoughts going to soft place. I scared. I so scared, the fear in I so big I never see its top. I not want to go to soft place, I not want to die. I look for a she to share I's time with, so I can go to soft place rutting.
I find a she, and she scared at first but she alone for long time too. She remembers softness too, and hardness in softness even more. She's eyes go soft and her softness goes wet. I's thoughts come back a little, enough to remember places to rut where machines never go. I held she's hand, we went to rutting place and took off we's clothes. It felt so good when I and she became we again, filled a hunger I never noticed until it gone.
Then we rutted. I's hardness found she's softness, filled it and emptied it and filled it again. And softer she's eyes became, and brighter I's eyes became, and then I spent I's softness and she breathed so fast and I saw that she went to soft place forever. Not just saw, but knew.
And I knew how I knew. Then the fear went crazy like a dog chasing its own tail. I knew, but did not want to know, any more than with other she or old or all other olds and youngs any of other times. I's hunger, hunger for friends. I's hunger filled me, so much I never noticed until we became I's and I's became less and less. Hunger too strong to fight.
I not an I. I a They.
Many They, They eat a mind and gulp down the scraps and hungry for more right away. They always starving, never enough minds to fill hunger. But one They, one They like I who doctormen missed, always had enough to eat to fill hunger. I not even notice, because I filled with thoughts and think like we, not like They.
But hunger always. Hunger stay, never enough we to fill it. Took I many years, but I ate all thoughts of all at Home. One by one, all we went to soft place, until no thoughts to fill I's hunger and I went to soft place where all They go when not enough food. I animal. I mindless. I happy to go to soft place, because I feel nothing there. I not miss they, not miss we. I not know what I did, in soft place. I eat food machines give I, I drink water machines give I, I forget. I's soft place not like they's, I know how to eat and drink there. Soft place happy for I, sometimes.
But sometimes I come back. World below empty of They now, all dead with no machines to feed They. Only Home stays. Only I stay. When you visit, you not visit world below, you visit Home. All the you's, you visit I and I feed. I's hunger comes and I feed and I think and I remember. And I sorry. Soft place takes you soon, and then I go to I's soft place again and forget I caused you's dying. Better for I to forget all the dying I caused.
I alone again soon. Better if I stay alone, this time.