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The once-quaint city was filled with skyscrapers. The recent works of Jackson Yoon twisted into the sky, perfectly at home amongst the pyramids of Van Kurring, the cylinders of older days, and the occasional sphere on stilts from when Bergholt Johnson visited.

The further you went from the centre of the city, however, the shorter the buildings became. The spirals and icosahedrons gave way to more sensible cuboids, which gave way to less looming structures. At the east-most of town, there was a large building, painted a gleaming white, with a large red cross on it.

Next to the building, there was an entrance to a shop, at the back of an alleyway.

A man walked up to it.

A bell jingled as the wooden door opens.

"Hello?" the man called out.

"Mister Jacques." Another man walked out from between two shelves. "Was the book not to your liking?"

Mister Jacques had the book in question tucked safely within his inner coat pocket. "I'm here for something else, Don."

"So soon? You know my policies, Mister Jacques."

"I need more time."

Don paused in place. The shop seemed to hold its breath. "…Mister Jacques, you know my policies."

"I know. It's not for me."

"What do you need it for?"

"A final sendoff."

Don nodded slowly. "And what will you give for it?"

The holes in the building in front of them were visible even from across the street. The sounds of crows cawing was clearly audible. The compound around it was overgrown with weeds.

A man and a woman stood in front of it, at the gate now rusted shut.

"T'kla m'ta ingu ta?" A phrase, uttered by the woman. The old tongue. Why did you bring me here?

The man hesitated, before answering.
"You… me… important."

The woman fell silent.

A short while passed. "Me… you… important."

The woman remained silent.

The sun moved an eighth across the sky before they moved on.

A great gouge in the earth, as dry as bone. The companies that came banished all water, and left once the lake had nothing to offer. Husks of dead trees, once green and vibrant, stood forlornly around the perimeter.

The sun was three-eighths across the sky. The man and the woman stood there.

"T'kla m'ta ingu ta?" The same phrase, uttered by the woman. Why did you bring me here?

"Important to me and you."

The woman fell silent.

"…Why? Why quiet?"

The woman remained silent.

"…Do you know what I had to do to get this?!"

The woman doesn't respond. The man tried to articulate the sentence again in the old tongue, but fell silent soon.

The sun moved an eighth across the sky before they moved on.

A bench, in a park. Nothing special, state-maintained. Just a wooden bench, that looked out into a forest.

The sun was at its Zenith. The man and the woman sat on the bench.

"T'kla m'ta ing…"

"Please. Whatever else you want me to do, I'll do it, just please remember, something, anything."

The woman fell silent.

"Please. Please."

The man continued to beg. When he fell silent, the sun had shifted, and they moved on.

The skyscrapers scraped the sky above them.

The sun was halfway to collapse. The woman stood in an alleyway. The man joined her shortly.

Wooden huts stand in a rough collective. Yellow, individual fronds weaved to form protection against the environment, pitted after their long duty. Bells wrapped with red ribbons tinkle in a non-existent breeze. A pot hung from a mass of broken chains, over a pile of cinders.

The man and the woman stood on a yellow dirt path, a good distance away from the village. The sun sets on the horizon.

"T'kla m'ta ingu ta?"

"…when I was young, you told me of this place." The man kept his eyes fixated on the smouldering hearth. "You told me you wanted to see this place one last time."

The woman fell silent.

The land was only illuminated by the crown of the sun, peaking over the hills. The man prepared to guide the woman to leave.

"…me… thank."

The man froze.

The woman fell silent once more.

The land was eventually bathed in darkness. Twinkling lights spotted the sky as the man guided the woman carefully through the tree trunk.

They progressed through the barked tunnels slowly, avoiding any particularly bothersome knots on the ground. It's a good thing, the man thought, that neither of us can stand straight enough to bump into the knots on the ceiling.

When they came across a boulder in the way, the man placed a blank polaroid on it. The boulder disappeared, and the man stepped around the polaroid as it drifted to the floor, helping the woman to do the same.

They exited the forest with not much haste. The babbling brook with its clear and incomprehensible ramblings received overdue attention.

When they reached the shop again, Don was waiting for them.

"I only hope it was worth it."

The man nodded. "I didn't have much time left, anyway. I got good mileage out of that name." He ran his free hand through his hair, not quite as grey as the woman's. "Will you let me bring her back?"

Mister Don Jacques nodded.

The walk back was leisurely. The man helped the woman back onto her bed, and ran his fingers through her white hair.

"…I'm ready now," he said to the air.

As the people in the small ward started to move again, the man walked out. No one paid heed to the old stranger as he left.

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