A breeze stirred in the tall grass, causing the trees to shift restlessly. A handful of leaves rose briefly, reeling in a cyclone of vivid oranges, yellows and reds before settling back onto the moist earth. The entire playground stirred uneasily, faded and surreal in the wan afternoon light.

A single swing creaked uncertainly on corroded hinges, prey to the capriciousness of the wind. Its companion sagged beside it, the left chain rusted through. Ivy twined about the monkey-bars, obliterating them with noisome tendrils. An erratic structure dominated the playground's center, presiding over the dilapidated playthings like a palace among the vestiges of a once-proud city. It rose in bygone splendor amid the weed-choked wood shavings, a mass of ropes and tires and lichen-covered wood.

The breeze toyed with a faded pink ribbon, sending it into a dance at once stately and sad. The wind cast restively about, searching for hair to tousle or noses to redden; but the swings remained conspicuously empty and the silence echoed with the laughter of children long grown. A solitary pebble lay on the cracked pavement where the ghosts play hopscotch. The swing swayed like a pendulum, the scrape of its hinges sounding harshly. Back and forth, back and forth.

Then silence.