The employee stood there wiping a wet rag over the dirty countertop, looking up at the clock only for a second, which seemed to be counting down backwards again. There were two muffled, eccentric voices bantering back and forth in one of the back rooms, but not so quiet that he couldn't hear them.
Some woman who was upset with everything was on the edge of crying, “Now get the liquid for the fog machine!”
“But isn't it a cloud machine?” The younger voice asked.
Cars flew past the suspended buildings that branched out like square buds on a giant blueish, metal flower. The city outside was like a field, glowing with cool neon colors from the tops of buildings that matched the varied purples and blues of the buildings themselves, and gradually made way into warmer colors lengths down to a floor hidden by clouds of water vapor. Large creatures with antennas in place of eyes claimed that the ground floor was filled with strange generators invented by dead men that most everyone had forgotten, but who deserved to be remembered.
Oftentimes he could hear the sound of running water, but only in the night, like there were hidden waterfalls gently crashing down through the oversized pipes that sometimes, on rare occasion, accompanied the sound of teenagers.. as though their gangs had found a way in.
The floor of the store was recently washed, but the rest was filled with limitless dust, something other than dead skin cells, something slightly thicker, like globs of snowflakes that sprinkled from the vents in the ceiling and caught on fire as easily as newspaper. You could hold a bunch of the dust in your hand, dry as ash and weak as melting snow, and the humidity from outside never touched it, like it was coming out of creatures living up in the ceiling who everybody mistook for structural creaks, made worse by invisible or happenstance breezes.
An old man with messy white hair was outside the store on the balcony, under the stars; there was a basket full of bowling balls and plastic human skulls next to the shadow of his shoes.
“Its all mathematics.” The weathered, old man said, swinging his cane over the railing. “We chose piles of bones over love, and those in power kept our name underground, only to be whispered in synonyms among the poor and the dying. They only called us by that one name, desired us, but mocked us.”
The employee opened the door with the palm of his hand on the glass, a puff of dust from his mouth, from the entry way, flinging outside into the humid collection of towers.. “But where did the paint come from then? Where did we come from?”
The old man, ancient maybe, turned rather violently, sporadically towards the grey-eyed boy, “The air is drugged, I'm sure of it! Just think how you woke up, what can you remember from it?”
“There is no rain tonight, a good sign.” The boy said before collecting himself.. “I mean.. I'm sorry. My imagination, maybe the air.. maybe its gotten the best of me.”
“The question boy! Do you even know where you woke?” The old man dropped his cane and it fell hundreds of feet into the abysmal fog.
“Mine first, who are you? Do you know who painted these buildings?” The young employee brushed the dust off of his shirt as best he could but it clung like ticks, one-minded dust, hungry for cloth as though it was blood.
“I am a symbol of something. I am the grin of the skull. I am the falling pins. I don't know who painted these buildings boy, so who might you be?”
“I woke up in the dust. At first I thought it was a standard bedroom, at first I thought that the light was bright. But these were just tricks of the dark, tricks of the accumulating dust, and my memories flooded me with such strength that I could not recall or value them. The furniture itself was only dust, and the lights all seemed dim and hidden behind paper.”
The old man climbed over the railing, knocking over the basket of bowling balls and fake skulls, with some tumbling over into gravity's embrace. He spoke with a solemness, a calmness with his inevitable fate, but there was a break in his voice mid-sentence as though an undercurrent of great mourning, “Only one of us was ever allowed to live in this city, boy.”
The young employee ran towards the railing, and watched as the symbol fell to his death. And the beautiful lights changed to one uniform dismal yellow, and the paint all seemed to wash off of the buildings in some uniform fashion, before they all sunk into the ground. And the young man went and put on his heavy jacket, and headed out through landmarks and bridges that turned into sidewalks and roads.