The city seems to stretch from horizon to horizon and the greater part of it lies in ruins from some ancient catastrophe. The once proud buildings are crumbling, leaving rubble strewn across the streets and avenues. In the distance, the skyscrapers that survived are sketched against the dark stormy sky, windows glinting. The air smells of rain, but smells more strongly of ozone.

Alone in the centre of the wide avenue stands a man. He is dressed only in drawstring trousers, his feet bare despite the broken glass and concrete strewn across the cracked and neglected street. His hair is dark brown with a white streak at the front, and his head hangs on his chest as if he is sleeping. He has had this dream before.

Overhead, lightning sears through the sky, casting brief black shadows. But there is no storm.

 

Dax opened his eyes just as the lightning struck. The brilliant flash made him fall back a step, bringing up an arm to cover his face, but the strike was gone as quickly as it came. Blinking to clear his eyes, he looked around.

It’s that dream again, he thought. The one about the city.

Feeling grit under his feet, he looked down but only got as far as his waist and laughed. “And I’m in my pj’s,” he said aloud. “Great. Headaches by day, deep seated psychological issues by night. You’re such a lucky boy, Dax.”

He ran his hands through his hair, smelling cool air, tasting a lingering touch of electricity. He knew this dream well. He had been having it for a while now. But he was on a cocktail of drugs for his migraines, and he had become used to having strange dreams. At least this was better than the one where he was falling through endless spirals of clouds, or enclosed by enormous steel ribs, so close he couldn’t move, caged in…

Lightning flashed again, bright as burning magnesium, this time striking somewhere close. Dax looked up and saw, with a jolt, that there was a change in the skyline. Amongst the shattered wrecks of the buildings, a new edifice stood pale as bone against the dark, surging clouds. It was a huge tower, built of powder grey stone, with ornate carvings running down amid hundreds of long windows. Several large pylons stood out on the top, and Dax caught a glimpse of metal glinting at the tips just before another streak of lightning arced down and struck one of them. Sparks flickered briefly and floated away.

“Looks as if those pylons are attracting the lightning,” Dax mused. “I wonder why…”He started walking towards it, then cast a wary eye up at the Tower. “Then again… I guess I left my lightning conductor back in the real wo-”

“Enough chatter, boy.”

Dax froze at the heavy, amused voice behind him.

“I’ve never liked humans at the best of times,” it continued. “Especially those who don’t accept their rightful place.”

 

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