A City on Fire

Streets alive, decorated with ruin and burning with the desperate acts of a handful of survivors. Fallen trades, buildings, hope; this is what lines the city and fuels the fire.

The broken store windows and raided family homes do not seem to shock the town’s inhabitants anymore. They go about their daily routines as if they’re living in place of peace and order. A beggar man watches me watch the world. “We don’t belong here anymore.” He shakes, rambling and raising his voice, speaking desperately, spitting as he goes. Afraid and defeated, the old man has given up just like the town. “It’s their town now,” he laughs crazily. “Their town.”

I look across the pavement; two kids sit playing Rock, Paper, Scissors in the shade. I haven’t seen this game for years. I guess it must have disappeared along with the rest of us, packing up our traditions and minivans. The boy in the red and mud smeared t-shirt wins and leans across the other, reaching over he picks up a small slice of pie. The last piece of pie I realise as he shoves it hungrily into his mouth. The younger of the two kids is looking terribly sad and is desperately thin. They’re starving and no-one can do anything about it. The thought of food makes me feel quite queasy and sends a ripple through my stomach; I wonder when it was I last ate.

17:38pm. It’s unbearably hot. The sun is burning down on me, I’ve tried to stick to the shadows but the heat is too much even in the shelter of the shade. I think I’ve just woken up; I’m leaning against a sizzling rock wall. I must’ve fainted. The throbbing pain down my right hand side and the grazes on my knees and legs support this. I feel weak and sickly and can feel the skin blistering on my arms and face. I grab a bottle from my bag and throw the last of the water down my throat. The last of the liquid trickles down and soothes slightly, giving me a new stretch of life. I check my watch; I’ve left it too close. I’m still a mile or two away from home, I’m out of water and the sun is beginning its descent. Curfew is beginning. I hear the dull horn sound.

I begin to panic; I need to find some place to stay fast. But people do not just let anyone into their homes, they don’t take chances anymore. Compassion and charity left with the peoples trust in their survival. I think hard, rushed and nervously. Sam! My only hope is Sam. He lives on the outskirts of town if I remember correctly, well what’s left of it anyhow.We used to holiday as kids some twenty years ago, he used to pull my hair and we would hide his grandma’s shoes. I pick myself up and speedily start walking, then running. The outskirts have long since blurred with the boundaries of town. There is no safeland now, even the churches proved futile when the people fled to them for protection. I haven’t seen Sam since his wife died five years ago, the terrible circumstances that forced him to become a recluse and hide himself away. He wouldn’t leave this place no matter how much his family pleaded.

People move quickly into their homes with rushed movements and hurried steps, forcing children inside, bolting doors, click, then again, click, click. I press on as my heart beats frantically, fluttering like a moth. The streets begin to slip in darkness. I can’t outrun the sun. The shadows creep through the gaps between building and the branches through scarce trees; blurring details and plunging the city into an unnaturally still place. Deserted all except those that lurk in the shadows. Out of sight but ever present.

A prickling chill takes life in the perspiration droplets that trickle down my back. I am not in complete darkness. I can feel eyes on me, sense a heavy breathing that is not my own. I see the familiar entrance to the farm up ahead, its splintered gate hanging from its hinges, its animals long slaughtered. The farms purpose quite forgotten. I throw myself at the gate grabbing hold of thorny branches pulling myself up desperately and over.

 

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