It was difficult to tell what the animal might have been. A rabbit, perhaps, but a large one. These days, half the creatures Buzz ate didn’t really fit any of the old names.
He waved his hands to scare the flies away, but they just came back. Fur from the ragged skin of the carcass puffed away and floated in the air of the dying desert day. The meat of the creature was greenish and almost liquid as he lifted it to his mouth. He tried not to breathe, tried not to taste, tried, just for a moment, to suspend all conscious thought, to become a machine until the creature was in his belly. There were parts worse than the meat, and he would have to eat all of them to stay alive.
As the first bite slid down his throat, he took a shuddering breath and wiped a tear from his cheek. His stomach reacted happily, asking only for more.
The girl was sitting on a rock about fifteen feet away, glowing in the evening light, her schoolgirl dress shorter than what he suspected would actually be tolerated in a Japanese school, her legs akimbo. The sere landscape behind her was faintly visible through her glowing form. “Heishi-chan,” he said.
“I’m so glad you found the food!”
“Yes. Thank you for telling me about it. I’d be lost without you.”
“I found another thing, kind of a dog, maybe? It’s still moving. Twenty-one point seven-five kilometers on a bearing one-one-six. It’s a little out of the way…”
Buzz opened his throat and let another bit of carrion slide its way to his stomach.
When his throat loosened up he asked, “Did you get another look at the river?”
“Oh, yes! I have devoted most of my sensors to the river since you told me you wanted to know more about it.”
“Are there people there?”
“Yes! There are many, many people!”
Buzz felt his heart jump in his chest. His time of solitude was almost over. “That’s great!”
“But they’re all dead. I think the river must be poison. Whoever escaped the bombs seems doomed to drink from the river.” Heishi put on a sad face.
Buzz slumped into the sterile dust and looked at his meal. He wondered if it was worth even bothering to eat anymore.
“You have to stay strong,” Heishi said.
“You’re my friend, Buzz. I would kill everything that still lives on Earth for you.”
“I don’t want you to do that.”
“And I won’t, because you don’t want me to. Because you’re my only friend and I would be so sad if you were mad at me.”
“Don’t you talk to other people, too? When your orbit is over some other continent?”
Suddenly she was cagey. “Of course I do. But… I would kill them if you asked me to.”
“Don’t kill them.”
Her face lit up with happiness. “Okay! I think they’re all going to die soon, anyway! They can’t eat what you can.”
Buzz let out a breath into the cooling desert air. “This really is the end, isn’t it, Heishi? There’s no reason anymore to pretend that humanity will survive. I may as well end the farce.”
Heishi knotted her hands together and clutched them to her gratuitously-ample holographic breasts. “Um… Buzz? I just detected motion at the farthest reach of my instruments. I won’t know until I can adjust my flight path, but it seems like it might be a woman.”
“Please eat, Buzz. I promise I have detected a female biped that might be human.”
Buzz looked at the almost-rabbit he was choking down and wondered what an almost-human would be like. Not unlike himself, he concluded.