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Across the Wooden River - Short Story


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Sern walked a secluded alleyway between the grimy buildings of central Tant, his footsteps falling heavily and resonating in nearby puddles on the concrete. The sky was tinged a dull grey, with tones of black overlaid where the storm was worst. The towering, patchwork skyscrapers of Tant were much the same, though largely darker, stained by a few centuries of smog. The route Sern trod was a dangerous one that he normally did his best to avoid. This time he did not care. This time the muggers and thieves, the junkies and madmen kept their distance, perhaps observing keenly for a moment of weakness, perhaps fearful. Lightning licked the charcoal city-scape, illuminating Sern's scowl and furrowed brow, his black hair matted damply to his forehead and his lips running slick with rain. He had just handed in his resignation slip at the air-purification factory in North Precinct and all was set. In the background the world whirred and burst into life, propagated by rainfall. Hundreds -- thousands of fabric covers unfurled from metallic arms like butterflies testing their wings, every one a myriad of different gaudy colours, quickly darkened by rain.

As Sern trudged home after his last day at work, the architecture around him began its familiar passage through time. Central Tant was by nature the oldest part of the city and its officials had never bothered with renovation. The buildings grew increasingly decrepit as he floated through them, barely aware of his legs and lost amid a sea of introversion. He did not even notice his arrival at home, that eighty-story apartment block in which he dwelt, its walls lined with cracks and crumbling brick; did not notice the elaborate elevator (the only modern thing about the Dickens building) as it accelerated massively on its upward journey in a flurry of flashing LED

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        Sern awoke to the vision of his bathroom floor, still slick in places with blood, but largely a dry, arterial red shade. He looked up a bit towards the door. It was closed, and that bluish tinge had vanished, along with the unreal feeling of drunkenness. Both wrists still wrapped in towel and treated, the tearing pain in his arms remaining, he got unsteadily to his feet.

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