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Grey concrete and purple rust and worn black macadam are the colors that I wear. They flow from me; twisting, turning crazed in the harsh sodium glare, and I cringe from the wash of light and cower beneath an overturned semitrailer, shivering in the pain of exposure.

Fluted breath softly illuminating this private small ruined space.

Rust, steel, petroleum byproducts, rubber, lubricant, paint. All ring me. My outer Shell flickers quickly before settling on a decayed brownish green, the muddy colors of the bottom of the world. There is a dripping from somewhere far off from my ear as rainwater loses potential energy given it in evaporation and seeks the water table in a constant patient trickle. The sodium light, I notice, is not steady; the bright brown/magenta cone is strobing slowly and irregularly. I crawl beneath a rusted plate of metal flooring and watch the pavement cracks bounce light towards me in the darker place.

The street is empty.

Fourteen tires and seven trashcans, twenty-nine cars or hulks thereof before the altar of the smashed hauler watch me quietly, passing no judgement in their resting time. Their usefulness by design long gone, they have found other ways to help; quieter, more passive but perhaps more vital than before, they hide me from the eyes.

My nakedness recoils from the dirt and water and cold of the world. I flicker reddish momentarily and settle back to brown. Voices flow in sinuous tendrils around the corners of my hideaway, small vortices of fear promising pain. A shudder wracks the Shell covering me, which cycles slightly, uneasily, in response.


The voices again. Following. Always always always. Unable to restrain my feet, I slide from behind the truckster and ride the colorwaves towards the curb area, moving in my natural random rhythm as the Shell seeks mightily to shield me from sight. I feel the colors sliding, as usual, as the scenes of the street play themselves silently over me, washing in small waves of picture and pattern before the wall of the ruined edifice reaches out laughing to grasp my fingertips as my body folds itself into the natural depressions and curves of it to aid the Shell. I am suddenly brickface, and the feeling is - peculiar. I cannot place the sensation. An image of daffodils washes through my mind and I cannot tell where it comes from. Before I can question, it is gone and I am left with bare stalks waving in my head.

Chroman, where to find you
Where you gonna run to
Save the spirit save the soul
Chroman sliding downtown heading for his hole
Find him seek him
feel him kill him
hang him cure him
wear him eat him

All the old songs, the songs of the hunting days. An older group this, then. The wall creaks behind me in warning, the bones of the city stirring in recognition of my presence, warning, hiding, watching when able. I spin around the corner to a scene of manycolored violence; blands pacing watching feeling for me, cans flying from unfocussed kicks, ruins vibrating to hostile feet with chi shaking stones from their beds. I freeze, instinct ruling, as the Shell too stops changing and locks down. Unable to move and break the Mode, I stand and watch as the only change comes from the shifting pattern across my eyes. I have time to thank the net that the retinal changers still function in lockdown.

Sticks, bars, guns, flame, the old ones all seek me in their hands. I can see the proscription from where I stand, and it makes no change in my heart and stomach to recognize the esteem in which I am held. No change. I cannot offer what they expect, and they cannot offer what might save me. Frozen in Mode, my very being displaying its nature proudly for all to see, I watch the throng grow nearer still looking behind trashcans and ruins. I wonder, briefly, if they have an idea of what they will see when I am discovered. Will they see a shape they know, a pattern they don't, a sound they shouldn't? The mystery of the method of my demise heightens the morbid fascination as I watch the lead bland step cautiously from the curb onto the dead and barren street. The city strains, trying its level best, but cannot produce and sinks back with an apologetic sigh. I understand. I nod to myself to tell it so; that there are no vehicles to use is a truth long in place, although city's central at times steadfastedly refuses to acknowledge that its purpose is superfluous. It cannot help. It cannot die. It cannot heal.

Interest sparks within me as the leader rounds the hauler and spies my locked form. A wide smile on him, he advances, calling; there are answering hails from around the scene. Smoke drifts lazily across; I have time to notice he is sweating in the cold before Mode breaks. I break with it, pouring hard into conflict with his scream hanging only in the back of my mind; his eyes dulling over as his trachea hits the ground beside him with a terrible sound that cannot reach me now. I dance among them, the Shell dances with me, laughing in colors as a trashcan, a wreck, the flames pour over me. I feel City laughing, somewhere below the streets where it still lives and dimly feels. I cannot laugh. I cannot die. I cannot heal.


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