The fires on the south side had been burning for years. That’s where the City had stored its fuel reserves, even after it had switched over to other power sources. The rigs offshore were still burning too, and daylight had taken on a dusky hue as a result. The occasional ray of sunshine would lance down between the dark, rolling clouds above the ruins, but ten years of twilight had convinced the scattered survivors in the Park District that they’d seen the last of a blue sky in their lifetime.

Things had been much worse when the City had been in its death throes, with widespread looting blurring into the block-by-block fight for the city center. By the end, no one had really know which side they were on; everyone had simply tried to take what they could and flee. Now that everything that could be easily stolen had been carted away, the gleaners were able to eke a living from the ground, digging up the remains of supplies that the Citizens had lain away for lean times.

By the time the odd drifter arrived, there were even some small children in the group, who would always know the City as a warren of ruins endless in all directions. The only electricity they’d ever experience would be the dim sparks that the survivors were able to coax from the shattered power grid. Still, they endured, even though the healthiest of them was lean with hunger.

One day, one of the oldest Park District survivors (they often called themselves Parkers now) struck out into the Financial District in search of more canned food. Kevin Vanderkum had been a mechanic before the collapse, which meant that the poorly-tooled rifle which had been shoved into his hands as a conscript in the last days of the battle still worked. When Kevin saw a shape bumbling through the rubble ahead of him, he leveled the weapon and called out a sharp warning.

The figure lifted his arms and came into view. An ordinary-looking man, middle-aged, but it was his clothing that struck Kevin as odd–the man was wearing a business suit that, aside from a few scuff m arks, looked brand-new. All the readily available clothing had been seized by looters or rounded up by the Parkers and other survivors; Kevin himself wore a motley assortment of rags with a necktie as a scarf.

“Who are you?” Kevin said.

“She isn’t here,” was the reply.