Ok, so I’m starting something new. I’ll continue on with this as I write more. I’m not entirely sure where its headed, so hopefully I figure it out at some point. I also hope it doesn’t suck.
Erys stood on the corner of a busy city street, idly drawing upon a cigarette as the crowds hurried past, scurrying about in chaotic patterns before disappearing into the maw of the creeping grey smog. Blank, flat-effect faces pushed past him, scarves wrapped over their mouths in futile opposition to the oppressive smoke. He didn’t mind the smog, inescapable as it was. It pressed its back against the dirty panes of the giant downtown buildings and crept its way down your lungs with dusty fingers, but to him, it was the warm cloak of anonymity. In a world of industry gone mad, where the machine of the city constantly churned and devoured the identities of those who composed it, it was easy to hide. He liked that. It sprawled black and wide, steel and concrete fingers reaching deep into the sky, obliterating the sun with cold indifference. Plenty of shadows in which to remain unnoticed. This would soon be a valuable commodity. However, standing amongst it, he realised that one felt small, preyed upon. At street level, sections where the exterior of the buildings had begun to wear and drop away revealed the clockwork innards of gears and pistons, a reminder that the city was alive, watching. Hungry. He lit another cigarette. ‘Those things will kill you, Erys’ he remembered his wife used to say to him, scolding gently, her mouth suppressing the beginnings of a smile. He could smell her hair, hear her voice. The memory stung inside his head. She was gone now. He instinctively put his hand to his heart, and felt the clicking of machinery beneath. Taken from him. Agents of the city, the Gearmen, took anyone they deemed necessary and they had come for them one night, kicking the door to splinters and proclaiming in their icy monotone that this was for the greater good. Bound and stunned, a syringe had been jammed in his neck, full of an oozing cocktail that thickened his blood and stopped his heart. He had heard stories like this, of people vanishing in the deepest of night, before returning a few days later, always different. Their minds were altered, chemicals having dug their roots deep into their brain, and their bodies twisted into metal nightmares, limbs or organs replaced with a jumbled mess of cogs and camshafts. They never lived long. He had never believed it could be true. Erys had awoken, alone and disorientated, his wife now taken to a fate unknown, a burning spike of pain in his chest where his heart once resided. He dropped the cigarette, stomping it to embers beneath his feet. He was not a man prone to letting go of things easily, and too much had been taken to not demand retribution. And he knew just where to start. It all starts with the city. ‘A lot of things can kill you,’ he recalled he answered his wife one morning. ‘It just makes it easier to find the things worth living for.’
The shadows grew long, and Erys glanced at his watch. It would be night soon. With the sun mostly hidden it was hard to tell, such was life here, but the punctuality of the system was one thing that could be relied upon. He moved away from the corner, taking up position on the other side of the street. Erys knew he needed to watch carefully. If he missed the right building, he was unsure whether he would get another chance, as some took months to reappear, and others not at all. His heart clicked briefly, metal snagging inside his chest, before an aberrant rhythm began to labour, geartrains grinding and threatening to cease. ‘Please, not now’ he whispered to himself. Darkness began to dance around the corners of his vision, calling on him to succumb, to give in to the malfunction within. Staggering, he clawed desperately at his heart, begging it to continue. He had to go on. For her. Finally, his heart began to resume its normal rhythm. The shadows dissipated as he gasped for breath, willing the life back into his chest. Slowly, he stood upright. Crimson spots of blood lay scattered around his feet. Feeling at his nose, he hand came away smeared with red and oil. He was running out of time.
Crunching of gears signalled the beginning of the next cycle, as the buildings began moving to life. The crowds dispersed off the street, heading swiftly for their residential complexes, or the nearest entertainment centre, painted gaudily and spotted with lights to attract the attention of those passing by. They had never really been his scene, serving cheap spirits to assuage the heartless. Cogs began to move achingly, as steam poured from the outlet pipes above each floor. The interiors began to shift, reassembling itself to suit a new nightly purpose. Yellow light crept from within, spreading out upon the street in smears. One floor rotated inwards, guided along strained metal rails, throwing coppery rust like polluted snow, before it disappeared into the buildings entrails, and vanished from sight. Another began to work down into its place, a night cycle facility, waiting to accept its workers and maintainers. All over the city this was happening, the nightly re-purposing of itself, a monster shedding its skin. But, he was looking for one building in particular, and he had been given information that it would appear tonight, in this sector. This information had not been easy to attain, and had cost him more than he cared to remember, but it would be worth it by the end. It had to be worth it. Then, he saw it. A dark, metal-veined building came sliding out to the streetfront, revealing itself through coils of steam. It dripped oil, pooling upon the street in industrial lakes, as gears clicked through its metal plated skin. Possessing a solitary riveted door, it did not look inviting. A grime covered plate above the door read ‘INTERNAL’. This was it. He was sure of it. Erys clutched his heart, and approached the door.