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The mist returned to reclaim its rightful territory, setting the blades of grass alight with dewdrops; their spines curved in an ironic, forced bow. Blowing the green aside, it sped along the tarmac, tendrils outstretched-
And a crinkled plastic bag flew straight at it.
Far ahead, where the erratic white stripes along the road began to grow old and frayed, a single car sped against the gray. Even though there was only one person inside, all four windows were rolled down. Occasionally, something would exit the front window and vanish into the omnipresent sunset dancing off the car.
The plastic bag clung to the window frame for a second, like a parachute several sizes too small for its user. The metallic flash of aluminum foil rent the air, and the group was sent twirling in a macabre dance of death onto the road.
They weren't alone. Next came an old music cassette. The scratched case hit the road with a bang, spilling out lengths of iridescent tape that caught onto gravel, strangling it with ropes that broke almost instantly.
And the flood was only gaining momentum.
Joining the bizarre line of objects clattering at the side of the road were several leaflets that wiggled through the air before descending to the gravel, as if weighed down with a sudden burden. And across the horizon, an embryo of gray punched through the sky, sending spidery cotton balls arcing through the horizon and towards the tarmac.
Two hours previously...
Shadows fought eternal battles with the walls, lit with the aged glow from a single bulb dangling from the ceiling. The decor was appropriate- after all, nobody really used the place.
The only thing there was a single bundle of rags that occupied a solitary corner of the subway station; the bundle hung as far away from the open stairwell as possible.
But today, something was different. Footsteps began to echo down the stairwell.
The frame of a tall, thin man who was rendered angular by neat trousers and a suit glided into the subway. He glanced at his wrist through horn-rimmed spectacles; the rhythmic “tick-tock” from his Rolex was surprisingly loud in the pronounced silence. He rested his briefcase against the wall, and stood at attention.
The bundle of rags tightened by an infinitesimally small fraction. A rustle of movement ensued, and a single layer of patchwork slipped off the lump and drifted onto the grimy floor.
Now exposed were a set of hardened silver eyes; the whites were almost invisible, leaving only the misshapen black masses within. The thin bridge of a nose could just be seen above the remaining layers of clothing. Encrusted with blood, the figure wasn't in particularly good shape. However, the dark black masses silently followed the movement of the figure at the entrance.
Suddenly, a harsh siren cut through the silence. The new arrival leaped backwards at the noise, tripping over his own feet and swearing under his breath as his spine collided with the slimy wall of the station. The bundle stayed stiff; this was nothing new.
As the siren grew louder, a sharp intake of breath echoed throughout the cavern of a station. The man was using an embroidered handkerchief to wipe away stains from the back of his suit. Meanwhile, the bundle had shed its cocoon of rags, leaving only a barely concealed ghost of a figure sitting in the shadows. The figure's eyes followed the man, but not the man himself. The eyes hovered over the golden watch, the embroidered handkerchief, and the sleek black suit donned by the outsider.
The siren was getting louder now, and two great white jets of light lit up the rusty tracks as the streamlined vehicle sped along the ground. Its sleek, polished exterior rushed against the faded walls and dead light bulbs. A sigh of appreciation emanated from the man in the suit; he steadied himself and began to walk towards the approaching beast of iron.
At the same time, the figure in the corner stood up; his bare feet hugged the floor, silencing it. In the depths of the over-sized leather jacket he wore, something reflected the approaching beam of light onto the wall, sending the tendrils of black scurrying for cover.
The movement drew the other man's attention. He spun towards the wall, blinked briefly and squinted once at the now peaceful, murky surface.
If he had turned directly to his left, he would have seen a silent figure standing completely still, one of his hands seemingly absorbed in strangling itself.
But neither man moved. Then one, blissfully unaware, took a step forward.
Removing his spectacles to wipe their foggy lenses, he realized the roar was getting louder; it had to be here any second.
A rusty shard of metal tasted the stuffy air and the figure in the corner began to move.
The lights drew closer, covering the edge of the platform in a blinding glare-
A blur of movement. Something shot out of the blackness, arms outstretched.
As the automatic doors opened, a pair of horn-rimmed spectacles crashed to the ground, their lenses obscured by a shimmering cloak of dripping red.
The red spread across the grimy grooves in the ground, enclosing squares within cordons of blood.
The car continued to speed along the endless stretch of gray. The wavering trail of smoke coughed out of its exhaust pipe marked its path, winding even though the road was straight, and nearly careening into a bush in several places. The bloodstained black suit he wore wasn't enough to protect him from the cold; yet the empirical sunlight blazed down upon him.
So he cast aside the watch. It clung to the side of the window before clattering to the ground, leaving a scratch along the side of the car as it did so.
It was no good; the cold was inside his head now. It was burning, searing the fringes of his mind and ripping open new avenues. Only one hand on the steering wheel, he slammed his head somewhere on the panel where the radio was. Instead of turning the music off, it turned on. Fresh bursts of static rent the air, and for an instant, both of his hands surged to his hears, covering them as he let out a piteous yell for help.
He spasmed, his limbs surging out in all directions. Registering the renewed pressure on the accelerator, the car sped forward in a tunnel of fumes-
-and promptly erupted into the side of a tree off the side of the road. Branches clattering onto the windshield, the whole tree swayed backwards and forwards in a macabre dance of death, as the car let out a last, petulant hiss.
The man in the front seat struggled with the seatbelt; why was it so tight, anyway?
The tree slowly came downwards, twigs snapping off and building up to a crescendo-
A figure corkscrewed out the side of the car-
The colossal tree trunk slammed onto the car, sending up a column of flame as the remaining gasoline ignited in a burst of smoke.
Picking himself bitterly off the tarmac, the man silently examined the card in his hand. "Room Number 516" were the letters previously displayed on it, but the card had been rendered unreadable by the hungry flames.
Maybe the flames hadn't been the only thing that had been hungry that evening. Sending the card flickering in the air with a sharp twist of his wrist, the man began to walk. He was slow at first, as if relearning the slow, rocking movement- -but it wasn't long before he vanished into the wild tendrils of the undergrowth.