His coat was a charcoal grey, faded black, from months of exposure in the noonday sun upon the saltflats. Now he knew, what is was like to be hunted, a fear potent with the tang of sweat and urine.
In the cataclysm, the great war between the United People of Corvelia and the rest of the known world, he was a janitor at the Camp of the Sunless, a place where prisoners of war were sent to go mad in sensory deprivation. Moping up feces and sick, he would hear their screams outside, encountering each other in the abject blackness.
He was once called to the recreation room, where bloated generals stroked what remained of their graying hair in the polish of aluminum. In an argument over cards, one of them had flipped the table, spilled some coffee and trays of boiled cabbage, served with salted potatoes. And as he cleaned, covertly, he would look into the void at those who had not yet died, shambling forward with spittle on their uniforms.
Sitting on the transit platform, waiting for a railcar to take him to the park, Lawrence closed his eyes, trying to forget.
Two hours later he was in a park, thrust into the center of the green that defiantly remained despite the breath and scope of New Halberad.
As he sat on the bench, feeding the rats that skittered around between his legs, another body approached. He could hear the tapping of a stick against the cobblestone streets, and in the periphery it sat beside him. Lawrence glanced sideways and saw an elderly woman perfectly still, with rummaging fingers diligently retrieving a leather sack of mouse feed. Etched into her arm was a black sun, with edges faded like spilt watercolor.
Stories of the Camp of the Sightless were varied. As to how the political prisoners and activists lost their sight is up to interpretation. Many simply entered and could no longer see, met by a blinding whiteness that burned out their retinas instantly.
She hummed the tune of a ballad, scattering the feed across the ground.
"Well? I'm here. Will we talk, or are you just content to sit there?"
Lawrence straightened up, sniffling.
"Good day to you," he said, attempting to smile.
"Is it? I can't tell..."
The words were like sinking barbs, tearing at his flesh. Nevertheless, she chuckled.
"I'm giving you a hard time, Lawrence... I can feel it. The sun is out. It must be beautiful outside."
Lawrence had met Cordelia at one of the amnesty dinners, five or six years previously. She was slightly older than him, having been twenty years old at the time she was taken from her college dormitory. He never asked why.
"I had the dream again," Lawrence said, leaning forward. His knee bounced up and down under the ball of his foot. "I'm sorry. Please forgive me."
Cordelia chuckled. "I don't know if I can. But you are here. That is, at least, something."
A rat crawled up his leg to Lawrence's hand. Open palmed, Lawrence pressed his eyes shut and let it feed.
"I could have done more. I was a janitor. I had keys..." he shivered, waiting anxiously for the rat to leave.
Cordelia snorted with a laugh that shook her whole body. "What could a boy do?"
"We are here, Lawrence," Cordelia interrupted. "That is enough."