Cold.

That was the first thing he felt.

The second was the sensation under his hands and the side of his face. Stone. Cold smooth stone, slightly gritty.

Dax opened his eyes and winced at the light. Then he tried to move, and winced at everything – every muscle ached. Blearily, he wondered if he had drunk more than he had thought at the club and just passed out on the street. Probably with people stepping over him, laughing at him. Great. Come one, come all, make fun of the dying man slumped on the pavement…

Then he remembered. He remembered falling into the Thames, water pouring into his mouth. And now -

He sat up, bright with the realisation he was safe. “I’m not dead!” he shouted, laughing. “I’m dry, I’m not dead, oh, thank you thank you th –“

But he stopped mid cheer. His voice sounded odd, echoing. Dax raised his head and saw, for the first time, where he was.

He was sitting in the centre of what looked like a small shrine, built of smooth grey stone with a domed roof supported by slender pillars. It was open to the winds, but he could catch a lingering smell of char coming from the many candles standing about, some in dishes, one or two in sconces built into the pillars. They were thickest around the base of a statue carved from white stone, rising seven feet high towards the canopy.

Dax got to his feet and took a closer look. The statue was of a man in his thirties or early forties, dressed in some kind of military gear with heavy boots and an armoured vest. His hair was pulled back in a thick ponytail, and the face was that of a stern noble, uncompromising and full of self assurance.

Moving a few of the candles aside, Dax read the inscription cut into the base of the statue:

We Dedicate This Memorial To
LORD JAYTON EMBER
First Father Of The Evinthei
And Tireless Warrior
“In The Sight Of The Fallen
In The Memory Of Those Destroyed But Not Defeated
We Swear To Uphold Our Duty.”

Dax read the words over again, getting more confused the second time. ‘The Evinthei’? What -

Slowly, everything started becoming clearer. Mist. The wrong Tube station. He had looked out over the Thames. There had been that terrible sound, something chasing him, and he had jumped into the river to get away…

Water had filled his mouth. He hadn’t been able to breathe. Everything had gone black and cold.

I was drowning…

Dax began to shiver. He had been in the water, he had felt the tightness in his chest becoming intolerable…and then…

All he could remember was feeling cold and wet, panicking.

He turned away from the statue, wanting to get out, away from those cool blank eyes. Behind him, a long row of steps ran down to paving stones below. The memorial stood at one end of a long avenue, stretching out before him. Stumbling down the marble steps, Dax stared at the landscape outside with a sickening feeling of recognition.

He was looking out over destroyed buildings almost as far as the eye could see. Rubble ran down in piles from the ruined structures that lined the avenue like broken teeth. In the distance Dax caught sight of faint towers that seemed intact, but here everything was in ruins. The flagstones underfoot were cracked and broken with age, and up ahead a girder had fallen across the avenue, smashing many of them to pieces. A wire link fence lay twisted and rusting, bent from its posts, ticking on the stone as the wind moved it. Overhead, the sky was cloudy but soft with late evening light, casting deep shadows that shifted like water.

Dax looked out at the city he had dreamed of a hundred times in the past few months, and could only think: My god, what in the world have you got yourself into?

 

 

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