I've received some acclaim for this story, but first, a trigger warning; this story is darker and more serious than most of the things that I like to write. Regardless, you may enjoy this story.
The buildings scratched the blood-red Willow sky and the sun danced on the concrete horizon. The ground beneath my feet was unfamiliar and the moss on the back alleys crumbled beneath my shoes. As I strode between cobblestone drives and overgrown gardens, I hugged my handbag tightly to my side. For the first time in three years I was forced to find my own way home. I spotted gloomy eyes and curious onlookers in my peripheral vision, but I ignored them as I moved through the dusk. I knew that they weren’t familiar with people like me. Cautious thoughts rattled through my head, as the peering eyes consumed me and the alleys constricted. I decided to divert my path towards the main road. Sure, the back streets would have taken me home faster, but there were more eyes and lights on the main road.
I turned into the street. Five lanes stretched down the city, bathed in a sickly tungsten glow and only four of them were filled. The last one was for emergencies. For some reason, people never drove in that lane unless it was important. Otherwise, the law would be on their tail. The cars barely seemed to move. Occasionally one would inch forwards but that was the end of it. For a second, I wondered why I even owned a car in the first place. Then, I quickly remembered, as a man burst through a pub door and stumbled out onto the path. The streets were nearly empty and the pub was already closing down; it wasn’t safe for any place to be open after six o’clock.
The cars provided a safe place from people like him. Willow was notorious for its aggressive traffic. Anyone who decided to cross the street at the wrong place was at risk of having their ears chewed off. The curb was the only wall between society and deviance.