The Walk Home

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Past oddly shaped buildings, through dark, dense alleyways, James walks alone in the eerily still night. His eyes search malformed steel walls, his reflection obscured by dust, rust and scratches, as he tries to eek out a meaning. But there was no meaning, that was the point, and James knew it. When the world dies, some people just want to hurry the damn thing along.

They're all gone, even the bouncer. He'll miss not seeing his face, miss Astira Lockhart and her croon. She helped him forget about the world. He could get lost in her voice and the way she made eye contact and blinked real slow.

James blinks away the memories. They're dead, like so many others, no use dwelling on it. Humanity is dwindling, everyone knows someone who died before their time. Rising still births and tumored lungs, both caused by the very air, claims many. Numbness, death of will, acceptance in the end of the species follows. And the counter point, violent nihilism to thin the few healthy and strong. Some said violence was on the decline, others the opposite. Hard to say when every death on earth, every murder and disease, is only a few miles from home.

James walks with quick, long strides. He doesn't feel fear or shame or hopelessness, he tells himself. His damn mask feels claustrophobic and he half considers ripping it off here in the open. People live without them, just not especially long.

A soft wind blows. As he nears his district, the breeze builds to occasional gusts. It feels good agains his sweat. James rounds a familiar corner and tentatively smiles behind the mask. This won't affect him, he resolves. Survival in the last days forced him to build a wall around himself, a tall and strong divide to separate all others from himself, and tonight another ring of brick is lain.

A block from home, a spec in the air catches James' eye. A subtle drifting puff dances in the wind. He pauses, watches it curiously. A gust blows from the east, and a couple more puffs appear whipping around in circles, falling, dancing. Realization. Spores. If one touches him it will be a neurological nightmare, a slow death of paralysis and suffocation. James runs. 

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