The rain kept falling..
Huge fat spheres of watery dirt that until recently had been streaking through the sky reached the climax of their journey with a muffled plop. Kevin yelped a little but his profanity was muffled by the thick material of his ski jacket.
He’d picked it up from a stall in the market, where the stallholder had informed him profusely that despite the price tag, these jackets were, in fact, every bit as good as the originals . He was right – they were virtually indistinguishable from the real thing. Kevin shivered as the raindrops continued their frigid path down the back of his collar. Except, he considered, I bet the real ones don’t leak like a bastard. It had been raining for a long time, although no-one who ever saw it called it that. Water didn’t seem like the right word to describe the black, oily liquid dropping from the iron sky. The spreading wetness and acid burning sensation along his spine indicated that the cheap nylon was becoming saturated.
The street here was a long, broad avenue of mud, shattered tarmac and churned droppings. Kevin had passed several houses outside of which stood a tether post, and clearly some had moved their livestock indoors to protect them from rainburn. There were also some old plaques standing half-buried in the muck, but Kevin could not read them easily. Some of the smaller ones had worn away to blank, battered panels but others were just about legible. He’d recently hurled the last of these plaques a considerable distance, giving vent to the motoric fury he felt rising within him at every step. He stamped his rage out and into the cracked asphalt. The plaque had taken him by surprise – a flash of white in the mud and he’d been down on his knees in the filth, smearing it away but not yet weeping.
The sky hung heavy and seemed low enough to touch, smothered in a blanket of grey-black cloud, extending a dim veil of rain all the way to the ground. Kevin stood quickly and resumed his ferocious march, slithering every few paces on the slippery film of grease the rain had deposited on every rock. He could see his destination, a large intact old-brick spire jutting some 30 feet into the sky. Doubly unusual, as new buildings were never made from old-brick, only recycled found-stone from some of the larger ruins, maybe with Polyethylene roofing if you could get your hands on it. Of course, you couldn’t just take what you liked, and the local fiefs cracked down hard on looting unofficial sites, but it didn’t stop some people. You were supposed to have a permit and tithe for owning a cow, too. Judging by the churned earth the road had seen a lot of travel, yet there didn’t seem to be a single person living nearby.
Where are they? The question circled like a caged bird inside Kevin’s head. Panic took control of his legs and redoubled their effort. The feeling of being watched was always strong when you went outside the city walls, and it seemed to get stronger the further out you went. Weatherbeaten faces hiding behind every window, hooded gangs poised to emerge snarling and ruthless from this alley or that.
The sign, badly eroded by the filth inside the rain, had read “CHGWEL: ¼ m”
The rain kept falling.