Let's see what our vagabond is up to

The gnarled old man in the army coat knew an execution when he saw one.  That man last night wasn't simply murdered, there was an overt amount of pomp involved with his demise.

It was ceremonial.

Too ceremonial for the vagabond's taste, so the old man had moved on with as much haste as his old bones could muster, quickly delving deeper and deeper into the industrial ghetto, until he was so completely surrounded by concrete and steel that even the brightening sky above was unable to penetrate the darkness.

He wasn't happy about his self-imposed banishment; this part of the city was the deepest, most impenetrable quagmire of hopelessness in all of civilization.  Only criminals and runaways populated this area, so lost in their own desperation that they were oblivious to the fact that the city was swallowing them completely.  Nicknamed the "Black Hole" because of one's inability to escape once caught in it's iron grasp, and by and large, eighty percent of all the Black Hole's inhabitants were dead within six weeks.  Even the authorities stayed away from the Black Hole.

Angry eyes flashed at him as he stashed his cart of belongings behind a rusty old dumpster behind an abandoned factory, but he made no contact with them.  He decided it would be prudent to travel light during his time in the Black Hole, anything with the potential to slow him down might be enough to kill him.  He needed to be light on his feet if he were to survive the next few weeks.

At least, as light as a man his age could manage.

He left his articles behind but he knew they already being inventoried even as he now walked away.  He continued to wander through the darkness until all the buildings and alleys became indistinguishable from one another.  In the back of his head, the old man hoped he could find his way back.  He stopped to listen for signs of life, but he knew better.  People in here had learned to live and move in silence as a means of survival; they could move right next to him as quiet as death and he might never even know they were there.  He was unsurprised to find his current alley quite tomb-like.

Looking down, he found an old, rusted grate cut into the pavement at his feet.  Probably once used as drainage for rainwater when the factories were operational, it now most likely collected only bodily fluids.  The vagabond was loath to climb down in there, but he also was strongly averse to dying, so he reached down and tugged on the black metal handle, but it refused to budge.

The old man cursed under his breath.  Forty years ago he might have opened this rusty grate with one hand, but now his deteriorating body betrayed him.  With renewed vigor, he squatted and grasped the handle with both hands.  He threw his meager body weight back and pushed with his legs until he was rewarded with a loud pop in the hinges.  He held the grate about waist high, but hesitated before entering.  It was almost as if his feet were unwilling to step down into the darkness, but then an image of last night's woman shooting the man in the head slipped unbidden into his head, and suddenly his feet were light again.

He slipped beneath and closed the grate above him.

The End

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