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Crash.

 

Below, the tireless waves of the sea surge through the maze of drowned city streets, their hypnotic noise echoing across and through the massive towers that still stood.

 

The whine of engines engaging, a subsonic cry that forced me to cover my ears told me that I was now a prisoner left to my own devices. Exiled to the city of the sea. I glanced upwards as the manta-ray shaped gunship lifted away from the roof of the building, it's pilot going vertical and speeding away into the morning sky.

 

The vibrations shook the building beneath me and for a moment the fear took hold. What if I died before it began? A foolhardy error by a superstitious fool that sent the building crashing into the waves below? I drew as close to the center of the roof as I could, curling up into a ball until the fear released me from it's icy grip.

 

Days passed.

 

I had barely even explored the rest of the building when the storm came. I was taking detailed notes of my provisions, feeling proud of myself for putting together such an impressive stockpile in the short time I had been here. A massive thunderclap boomed in the darkening skies overhead as lightning flashed fiercely across through the clouds. Another thunderclap. Then I could feel the air sucking away from me, through the glasses windows and into the chasm-streets, twisting and turning, ripping and tearing before the world suddenly paused.

 

Then the cathedral-like building across from me crumpled into itself as the water spout ripped through it, shredding Terracrete like wet paper. The building's tiered face stared at me as it fell apart, as if blaming me for it's death. The noise was deafening as the water spout ripped past, but I thought I heard screams as the cathedral-thing sank into the hungry sea.

 

The fear grabbed hold of me, and I passed out.

 

My exile here was not a punishment for a crime. I was brought here to test myself against myself. I was brought here to survive.

 

Many others hadn't.

 

I found the corpse of the little girl floating in the lobby of my building, bloated and blue from the water filling her lungs. Her brown hair matted and soaked, spreading out around her wild-eyed, fear filled face in a macbre halo as she waited to sink into the black depths below. I realized, after staring into her cold, dead eyes, that the city had no carrion birds, that the water held no fish. She would be perfectly preserved until the sea pushed her corpse out into the ocean, where scavengers would feast on her body until nothing was left. Just like I was scavaging on the innards of this dead building.

 

I found myself wondering what her favorite color was.

 

A week passed, I think.

 

Another week of surviving in a place I had grown to suspect had a will of it's own. I had grown arrogant following the girl, I had found one of the arch-bridges that connected my building to another, and from there, discovered that I was not trapped within a small area. I had a highway above the hungry waters, a road paved in stone and metal and sculptures of magnificent beasts that stood a silent vigil.

 

I was resting against one of them when I noticed faces peering down upon me from the other buildings. Not faces of flesh and blood, of skin and bone mind you, but of stone and steel. The buildings themselves were staring, watching me, glowering in disapproval and hatred. Even the lion-bird I was perched across from seemed to gaze into me with a predatory interest.

 

And then I blinked, and the world shifted back into reality. Buildings were buildings again, the lion-bird just a lifeless statue. I didn't notice the waves congregating beneath me until later.

 

Later.

 

It was night when I stumbled across the other. I was creeping along one of my bridges when I heard a shout for help. I didn't think anything of it until the voice, a cracked, reedy voice ordered me to get off the bridge and to help. The owner of the voice was disappointed when I finally found her. I had crossed over two streets and up several flights of stairs to find a woman writhing in pain not far from the window she had called to me from.

 

She was younger to me, but not as young as the drowned girl. She was gasping her enlarged stomach and groaning as the life inside her squirmed and slid towards the only exit it could find. She thought I might have been a doctor. She thought wrong, and we both paid for the delays it caused.

 

When I think back, it was better it had ended that way.

 

I slipped into a state of despair for days. I wandered aimlessly while the angry faces of steel girdered gods glared down upon me. I barely noticed when another storm blew through, or when I tripped while trying to navigate a drowned stairwell and felt the tugging force coming from the black depth underneath the water.

 

I barely even registered the familiar shadow of the ship flittered across the face of a god-building, landing near enough that a sprint could carry me to freedom before the ragged looking man could board and depart. I remember thinking that the city wouldn't like that before I moved on.

 

I ended up trapped for days on the roof of a partially collapsed building.

 

The southern corner of the god-thing gave way right as I crossed the threshold of no return. I slid across painful tarmac and decorative rock until I hit the corner and almost tumbled into the sea. The water rose up anxiously, waves crashing upon the steel and terracrete as it scrambled at me. The spray of the water on my face jerked me from my reverie, and I realized the peril I was in, and had no escape.

 

I lived a half-life while the sea and the sun ate away at me.

 

I slipped in and out of sun-fever dreams, trading one torturous realm for another. Trapped in two worlds, one of heat and light, the other of gods and monsters, formless things that laughed at me and then struck me with amorphous tentacles that left great blisters upon my skin. I'd awake to the sea spray and the low groans as the creature-building died beneath me.

 

I felt the life leaving me.

 

It was faster than I had thought it would be. I awoke from a dream of excited whispers and comforting arms to find the sea placid and quiet. I could barely move, my vision tunneled. My breath slow and ponderous, as if my body was uncaring to it's plight. Everything seemed to fade, and I heard whispers in my ear.

 

The darkness fluttered down around me, and I wondered if this was how she had felt.

 

I drowned in airless darkness.

 

Unseen hands pulled at me, great vice-like grips clenched tight around my throat. I went limp as eye-things smiled at me. Then I felt the sharp pinpricks of light upon my cheek. Tasteless as it leaked through my cracked lips and trickled down my throat. The eye-things glared and roared and disappeared, the grip of death releasing me as I awoke slowly in the midst of a downpour. the rainwater was a godsend to a soul amongst demons.

 

I escaped that day.

 

Water and life surged back into my body. My skull pulsed and throbbed with pain after it's rude re-awakening, my bones creaked and my muscles made me a thousand promises of pain to come. My reddened skin burnt with ever movement as I pulled myself from my death-state.

 

All around me the demon-things gazed down upon me, faces contorted in rage and betrayal. The wind moaned and the sea swirled and the dead thing I had died upon begin to sink. It crumbled from below and above, trapping me between two different deaths. The hell-city and it's demon things would have me yet, it seemed.

 

I flung myself into the sea.

 

The pull was greater here. I barely managed to pull myself back to the surface when my lungs gasped out for air. The waves slammed into me, each stronger than the last as the sea tried to devour me as it had the girl. It sought to turn me into another lifeless, souless effigy upon it's surface.

 

I refused. I pulled myself forward, ignoring the waves, the sting, the tugging from below and swam until I was in one of the many eyes of a demon thing. The water sleuced around me, trying to pull me back out into the lightless whirlpool. I pushed forward, ignoring the pain as skin punctured upon jagged glass and salt buried itself in the wound.

 

I pushed forward until the great pulling of the sea was little more than a subconcious feeling, until I stood upright and made my way upwards. The demon thing creaked and groaned ominously, shaking and swaying as I rose upwards. I couldn't be bothered by the bloody desires of a greedy demon thing, each step I took, every grasp of the stairwell's rungs filled me with purpose.

 

But the adrenaline was fading. Suddenly my legs became heavier, my grips looser, each step a little larger. Something loomed in front of me, something large and dark. I pushed into it, feeling it slid apart and suddenly the feeling of fresh air and life giving rain slid across my face.

 

Before me sat a squat metal box.

 

It was a tactical transmitter, I later found out, but at the time I had no idea what it was. I stumbled to it, fell to my knees, and collapsed on it. Sleep took me then, covering me in warmth while I dreamed of angels lifting me up into a great white chariot while the demon-things below screamed in defeat. then the hell-city shriveled away until it was but a small dark strip against a shimmering blue ocean.

 

I had survived my exile.

 

I had won.

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