It was hard to tell where the ruins began and ended. Along the plain, an occasional ruined structure would jut up, covered in dead ivy and undergrowth. It was as if the land was slowly starving to death, its bones exposed and held in only by a thin sheen of dead or dying greenery. Dark, low clouds cast a further pall over the descolate plain, and worked hard to sap what was left of Thomas Graham will.

Only the dusty footprints he left in his wake gave evidence of his passing, and soon the chill wind would whip up and scour even these small traces from the earth. The few stunted, bitter fuits torn from their twisted branches along the way would be regrown, or the trees themselves would succumb. Like old soldiers, and like Graham himself, they would just fade away.

He’d been able to worm through the dry ivy when the wind blew, taking refuge in the ancient buildings, whatever they were, but they had been picked clean and worn smooth by years of weathering, perhaps even looting. Smooth walls of concrete and steel gave no hint as to their function or origin, much as a man’s skeleton had little to say about his life. As he huddled in those ruins, the fingers of thirst closing ever tighter around his throat and the merciless gale howling outside, Graham would look up at the gray sky and wondered if he would find a broken tower high enough to fling himself from and end the long march. He knew not where he went, nor did he follow any signs, but Graham knew what he was searching for; even now, it lay within his grasp: a photograph, lined and worn from months in a decaying pocket. He would take out of and look at it when the urge to climb and fall returned, when it seemed that his tongue would swell up and block his throat.

There had been a few plastic bags in his pockets, intended for leftovers at the company picnic. Instead, Graham had filled them with rainwater from the misty rain that occasionally pelted the dusty plain and turned it into a quagmire. One by one, they had begun unravelling, and none had more than a few drops left. He kept them in his briefcase, which was also beginning to disintegrate, along with a few other odds and ends he had encountered, some of which he hardly even remembered picking up. A bent spoon. Half of a plastic plate, with faded butterflies on its surface. A few rounded rocks that might serve to scare off any intruders.

At least Graham had his suit coat, and a thick wool shirt. Whenever the cold breeze began to nip at his heels, it kept him warm enough to find shelter before the chill stole the life from between his lips. The islands of shelter were closer together now; though what that may have meant was lost on Graham. He was certainly nowhere near the City, and perhaps farther from his goal than he’d ever been.

At least his black dress shoes had been thoroughly broken in.