The world had changed. It was the same, but it was different. It pulsed with mechanical whirring. The sky had long since stopped being blue. It now showed its stains of orange and red and purple, signs of the deadly gases. Garbage crowded the streets and sewers overflowed. Rodents ran about afraid of nothing. Roaches, bedbugs, and lice plagued everything. Skeletal cars flipped on their roofs or sides, some with mangled decaying corpses. Sirens blared somewhere. In a dim-lit alley, somethingor someonemoved. Movement on a rooftop had feral cats hissing at the disturbance, and packs of wild dogs chasing after it. The figure stopped and frowned at the destroyed city. It felt the constant pounding of engines under its feet. "I want out."
The more things had changed, the more they stayed the same. Perfect manicured lawns presented perfect blue houses with white picket fences. Little flower beds bordered brick walkways and hybrid cars slept in their driveways. White doors with crystal-cut glass windows led to spotless homes hiding perfect families. Dogs barked at any passing car. No pest survived long nor did trash. Above the vaulting blue sky stretched. White, voluminous clouds drifted on a thermal wind. A figure sat on the porch railing of one house. It stayed unmoving as it read the book in its grasp. It observed the perfect utopia and silently scoffed at its absurdity. It focused on the book, but didn't read the words. It felt the stifling society and rules. It felt suffocated. "I need out."
Across rooftops the figure ran, evading the artificial intelligence chasing it. It spun around a crumbling chimney. Using its momentum, it grabbed a piece of pipe lying on the roof and smashed it into the camera "eye" of its pursuer. Free of the chase, the figure vaults across a space between roofs. It tucks into a roll and continues running. The wrecked metropolis never ends. Where does it stop? A growl escaped scarf-hidden lips. One eye scouts the area for a way out. The other eye is useless, scarred and blind as it is. The figure keeps it hidden under a dirty silk eye patch it found. It feels for the knife resting in the studded belt it scavenged. The hilt rested securely in its place, and the figure let out a grunt of approval. There, in the distance, was that the highway out?
"Something's coming." The figure reading its book glances up at the elderly woman now on the porch swing. "Something dangerous." The figure ignored the woman, passing off her ramblings as age. It turned a page, and resumed its motionless routine of absorbing the words before it. It knew it would be stiff after finishing the five-hundred-eighty-six page book. It didn't care what was coming in, it needed out. The figured felt trapped without a way to escape. The page turned again. The woman rocked in the swing. "Something is coming, dearie. Something dangerous and strange. Something that comes from a ruined place. It shouldn't come here. It isn't welcome here, it doesn't belong among us." The figure glanced at the old lady swinging and knitting. The needles clicked, and it heard machines.