Alone on the steps of the memorial, Dax sat on the cold stone, hugging himself. The wind was blowing his hair around, tugging at his clothes.

It would be warmer inside, where it was sheltered, but he didn’t want to go back in. That statue gave him the creeps, for a reason he couldn’t define. He preferred it out here, whether it was cold or not.

But the chill in his bones went beyond the reach of the wind. He felt shaky, disorientated, on the verge of slipping into shock. That memory kept returning, of falling into the water.

I was drowning…and then I was here…

He hugged himself closer, shivering.

I have to say, this isn’t what I expected from the afterlife. Not blanking out, and land in a dream…

But he could still feel his migraine, pain echoing down the bones of his skull. If he was dead, he wouldn’t be feeling pain, surely.

Overhead, the sky was sliding down towards dusk, gradually turning the buildings to faint pastels in the gloom. Already Dax could see the brighter stars fading in, like harbingers of how cold it would get when the last of the day was gone.

Arms wrapped around himself, Dax got up and walked down the steps, moving to try and keep himself warm. Slowly, he walked away from the memorial, glad to be away from it, picking his way over the broken stones of the avenue. Moving about kept him warmer.

On either side, the ruins rose, shattered and silent. Looking up at them, Dax saw, with interest, that there were marks on the stonework, what looked like dark sooty blast patterns spread across the crumbling walls. It looked as if a vast army had swept through this place, but whatever force had attacked was long gone. This place was empty and dead.

Up ahead he caught sight of a wide intersection and started wandering towards it, for no other reason than that he had to go somewhere. As he drew closer, he saw that it was littered with broken pieces of machinery half buried in the side of a collapsed wall, as if someone had crashed a car right into it. Curious, he crouched down and picked up what looked like part of an axle, a long iron bar pocked and rusted with age.

Suddenly he turned and looked behind him.

His eyes swept over the growing shadows. He had seen nothing…heard nothing…and yet he had a sudden prickly feeling between his shoulder blades.

He rose to his feet, listening. But there was nothing there.

It’s pretty much been the worst day of your life, Dax told himself. No wonder your imagination’s working overtime.

But he kept the iron bar in his hand as he walked slowly on, step by step, not sure which was better - to feel as if he was the only person alive in this place, or to sense that there was someone watching him.

 

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