A drainpipe drums with rain water upon the windshield of an abandoned vehicle. Filthy droplets slide across the rusty hood, and the red paint flakes like fall leaves. The tires sit in puddles that extend into the street where the muddy surface shivers and jumps with the onslaught of the storm.
A wet wind slaps the cracked windows of the apartment building and rattles the awnings of the darkened shops. The hinges of an iron gate creak amidst the grasping fingers of a naked hedge, and the sewer grate sucks the water from the street with a never-ending, deep-throated gurgle.
And then the rain shakes through the air with a withering wind and a passageway appears in the air. A man steps down onto the wet cobblestones with a hand on his hat and his collar up close around his neck. The opening is gone in another gust, and the man meets his surroundings, his grey jacket matching the clouds that hang low over the rooftops.
Through alleyways he walks, his boots treading with purpose and care, his grey eyes watching every movement. But the only movements are that of the wind and the rain and their connection with the city.
He nears the parkway where the dying trees wither and the ground shifts with the flow of mud. He pauses on the bridge where four lanes stretch over the roiling river and the dark lamps hang in solemn reverie. This bridge was once alive. This city was once alive.
He begins to walk where the stone spans the channel. The ghostly shadows of the park grow larger in the distance, and the road vanishes into the mist as it meets the far side of the river.
He pauses now as a wind whips around him, and he holds his hat upon his head. He lowers his eyes and continues into the storm.
The darkness of the dying trees rises up before him, willing to swallow him, and the road crumbles into mud. He places a single foot on the ground, and feels a cold tug on his boot. He pulls his foot back onto the stone of the bridge and watches as his footprint vanishes. Then he raises his eyes in anger to the wilted and wild woods that wait before him.
"Show yourself!" he cries.
There is a rumble as of distant thunder.
"I have trudged across the seven cities and through the abandoned streets of a thousand lost homes! I have crawled through the destruction and rubble of countless civilizations! And even now, as I stand at the foot of your wicked burrow, you cower!"
The wind roars, and flecks of mud sting the man's face as the trees throw their twisted limbs in arcs.
"You have watched me conquer your every guard. You have watched me ascend the stairway to your castle. You have even watched me in my tears, my despair! My despair at seeing the loss of life that you have caused."
He pauses and his breath shakes his entire form. "Even as we speak, my world has received another ten thousand refuges from your black streak."
He licks his lips. There is no response from the surrounding world. The wind continues to whip the trees. The rain continues to cover him in sheets.
Suddenly he grows fierce. "Have you no heart?" he cries. His voice cracks, and his throat stings, hoarse and bitter. Every muscle in his body tenses, and his eyes are wide and wild.
And then he reaches a mighty decision. He begins to walk.