The sun was dimly lit on its low perch, giving off a rusty atmosphere. A day just like any other amongst these ancient abandoned cities. Buildings that punched holes in the clouds were scattered around the perimeter in wall-like fashion. Like in so many other places, the buildings here were old and faded.
Nyx had gotten back from one of the large forking roads and dropped her large backpack. Taking out a journal she jotted notes down. She gave the open space one more look. They have gone a few days without seeing civilization. She turned to leave as a crumbling sound reverberated to her left. She couldn’t see it and assumed that it was far into the thick clump of buildings; nothing to fear. A common occurrence. Too far to affect the open space for Severan to stay in. She made a note to block off the area … if they decide to come this way.
Nyx shoved her notebook into her half-diminished backpack. Food previously stretched out the bag, but her feminine products had free range now. Lifting the green pack over her shoulder she journeyed home. Tufts of wild grass, in various stages of life, spurted out randomly in splotchy groups. Plain symmetrical buildings formed a wide and never-ending hall. Vines crept up the sides of the buildings. She started walking to give herself a break before jogging again. Birds chirped as she hiked back.
Only two miles away from Severan, something else caught her attention. Turning, there was a plot of swaying vegetation. Something that she had missed before. Bushes lined the border of the area with a single oak tree in the center. For a moment, it reminded her of a time from years ago. When she and Will stole each other’s first kiss as kids; Under a willow tree, during one of their stays in one of the cities. A wood and glass gazebo encased the tree, top to bottom. Dripping branches enclosing it. Various vines of ivy and grapes crept around. That was a lifetime ago.
Nyx wasn’t the first one back when she made it to camp. Monica’s deep tan skin shone in the sunlight as she talked to Brandon in front of Severan. The mountainous metal city. Its six pairs of long legs bent in rest. They turned from Duran, their head scout, to her as she approached.
Monica, head shaking, said, “There’s nothing where I looked. What about you?”
“There’s a decent open space for us to stop by, that branches out into other directions,” huffed Nyx. She placed her hands on her head, elbows pointing upwards, stretching her lungs.
Duran extend his hand out for her reports. Nyx took deeper breaths before pulling out her notebook. All four of them headed to one of the entrances. From the rounded bottom edge, she could see the long-rusted patch on the belly of the moving city. A piece of its life that has been there before she was born. Attached to the side was a pair of long cylinders spanning from the floor to the top. Duran hit a button and a lift drifted down, doors gliding open. They got in one at a time before it went back up.
Severan’s big body zoomed past. The lift stopped and Nyx was the last one out as the doors closed leaving them on the outskirts of the city.
Having nothing else to do and tired from travel, she longed for bed. Her destination set; she came up to the creek that split the city. Stepping over a wooden bridge she came across the housing district. Duran could be seen passing each house. Towards the control tower and factory chimneys; Sitting higher than the rest. He was the one in charge of taking coordinates to the control tower for their next destination.
Houses stacked on top of each other, towering over Nyx. As much as she loves to be out and exploring there was nothing like going home. As she was about to open the door to her house, she saw Will walking in the other direction. Her attention to Roman, the new guy. What are the two talking about? Roman locked eyes with Nyx as she raised her hand to wave to Will. Despite how dog-tired Nyx was from two days of scouting she went to-
“Good to see you back from your scouting,” said Mr. Strout. Startled, she turned and waved to her long-time neighbors. The two older men sat on their bench outside their condo.
“Ah thank you.” Nyx smiled. She looked back to where Will was, but her friend was too far away now.
“We always pray for your safe return. There were so many disappearances when I was your age. I still hope to see Randy again. I just hope that he’s alright wherever he is, said the Mr. Strout on the right.
Plenty of people have stayed behind in a city. Those with loved that left without saying goodbye liked to come up with ludicrous reasons, from accusations of kidnapping to being spirited away by mystical beings. Nyx grew up on those tales.
“Randy was a bitch. Who needs Randy? I’m all you need,” rasped the ruder Mr. Strout with a flourish. The two were in that grandpa-reminiscing mood.
“Dearie don’t be jealous of someone you haven’t seen in decades. Besides, I’m allowed to fantasize,” informed the kinder Mr. Strout as he gently caressed his husband’s shoulder with a withered tanned hand.
Nyx shook her head and laughed. The two grandpas were who use to babysit her. With a yawn, she waved them off. It was the morning, but her bed was calling her.
As she went into her house for some good sleep, sirens sounded throughout the mobile city. A warning to its people that it was about to move. In between the door with her body braced, Nyx watched the newbies quickly hang on to the closet nailed-down object. After a solid minute of screeching sounds, the city lurched as the legs picked up the weight and moved forward.
The small plume of smoke that oozed out of the tops of the chimneys gave a big puff. Those who weren’t as steady lost their balance, falling on their behinds, as Severan tilted up. The newbies regained their legs slowly as they calibrated to the movement. The locals needed no readjusting and quickly went on with their day.
There was a thwack and Nyx fell forward, her door closing shut from the momentum. Mr. and Mr. Strout, who didn’t move an inch, gasped and asked if she was alright. Brushing herself off she reassured them and went straight for bed, feeling rather foolish.
The day after the next Nyx woke up to the motion of Severan moving. The announcement of their arrival through the outside speaker greeted her, yet that didn’t stop her from rolling over to get more sleep. After being woken up one more time by her alarm, she forced herself to get up.
People were milling about the tall buildings that cased them in. Severan sat on the edge of the plain, legs bent and smoke chimneys taking a break. A few sparse trees dotted the area. Down a small alleyway Nyx, Will, and the recruit, Roman, sat in front of a building. A wall with a painted engraving held their interest.
“The buildings are crumbling,” warned Nyx again. It was a section that was deemed dangerous. She looked up at the wall in front of them. Chipped paint depicted an angel.
“I know,” sighed Willow. She had coerced Nyx into letting her do this. It was a bad habit of hers to disregard danger to find artwork. But Nyx knew that she can be enabling.
The weather was perfect, the sun just hot enough to warm them. Shadows waved peacefully. The women’s shoulders brushed one another before Nyx casually leaned forward to glance at Roman. He was a newcomer from that mountain village a few months back, and she didn’t know how to feel about him. Regardless it was a fine work-free day. No need to stress over anything and Nyx let her shoulder gently lean on Will again. Both watched her draw.
“Are you sure that it’s not graffiti, Willow?” asked Roman with genuine curiosity.
Will gave a soft chuckle and said, “The picture is engraved. Meaning that whoever did this wanted to make sure that time couldn’t easily erase it.”
“Have either of you explored any of the old buildings?” asked Roman, looking around.
“When we were younger, but after a while it gets boring,” replied Nyx. He nodded in response.
She listened closely to the sounds of the building that surrounded them. The creaks and moans of times long past. Or for any wildlife that could spring at them. A few more scratches on the paper and Will packed up her belongings. All three of them walked carefully back to the main camp clearing. A woman was yelling at Duran. Complaining about the long lift lines and no proper organization. It made Nyx appreciate that she was not the head leader.
“There are repairs that I should get started on,” said Roman, breaking from the group.
“I should get this picture filed,” added Will. Roman seemed to have managed to squeeze himself into their lives.