For hope, we brave the wilds.

by Lewis

The avenue stretched onwards, endless and empty. Tall trees paraded down the centre, gold flecked leaves clinging tentatively with red fingertips. In the distance a figure’s stooped back is framed in the evening sun for a moment before sliding into the shadows.

A young man walks with light steps through the thigh high grass and knotted weeds. The man in the shadows waits for him, sat beneath a tumbled down shopfront. Tattered clothes, unwashed, unkempt hair covers a patchwork of scars criss-crossing his head and arms. Tired grafitti branches out around him blending into the wild cracks of the decaying walls.

“To walk the streets in the daylight is either brave or stupid”. He says quietly but with a voice that rolls down the broken streets.

“Maybe both? Besides you we’re hard to find in this city, and time is pressing.” The calmness in the young mans voice is thin and cracked.

There is a glint of regret in the old mans eyes. “No longer a city, my friend. The wilderness has reclaimed its foundations. It is only home to chaos now. Chaos and fear.”

“I’m not here for a lecture.” The young man says, determination and turmoil in delicate balance.

“I know why you have come. But let me ask you this? Why? Why bother? What good will it do. Look around you. There is nothing here for you. The city is dying. The earth is rotten. The skies weep bitter poison. Hate is king here. Division cuts anew each day and another part withers and dies. Better the sick be dead and the poor be buried, there is nothing here for them now.

What will change? Nothing. Tomorrow is today, is yesterday and so it will go always. You are but one here. What can you do?”

The old man is standing now, his eyes are narrow, his chest heaves in and out like an exhausted balloon hoping to pop. Suddenly he slumps down, dips his head into despair and asks, “What gives you the right to think you matter?”

The young man, walks closer. There is a wetness to his eyes that hints of the forgotten oceans. “I do not claim to matter. At least not alone. I come because I have to. Because there is just one day when I can stand up for something, despite all the horror, the pain, the abandonment. I have to believe. Some part of me has to dare to hope that maybe this time it’ll be different. And that maybe more will follow.”

The young man has reached the old man. He sees what the old man is sitting on. It is a safe. The door hangs loose, trying to escape, trapped by a single encrusted screw. The young man kneels in the dirt. The old man sighs and reaches into the safe. He raises his hand aloft. A thin black pencil cuts through the pale light.

“You have decided and it is not my place to say yes or no. So take it, go through the doorway, you will find the box.” His outstretched arm beckons to the doorway, the tip of the pencil, an arrow to the darkness.

The young man stands slowly. Silently he takes the pencil.

“Wait.” The old man says and reaching into his pocket brings out a slip of paper. As the young man takes the paper. The old man grips his arm tightly. “Remember you have only one chance. Make it count. X marks the spot.”