A/N: okay, I'm going to post these in the order they were written to the best of my ability. no, they're not a series or anything, so I guess that's just me being...strangely organized. And if you read my fanfiction "Elusive Dreams", no, you're not hallucinating, it IS the same setting. what can I say: I had a dream about the place and it's fun to write about. whatever. read, enjoy, and review!!

Autumn Sky

He tilted his head to the autumn sky, scanning the underbellies of the persisting clouds. He almost thought he had heard something, something akin to jet engines, but it might have only been his imagination playing tricks on him again. All he saw was the stagnant sea of gray clouds, blocking out the blue brilliance of the sky, blocking out his hope that was all too fleeting. He lowered his gaze, instead dully watching the concrete of the sidewalk passing beneath his slow feet, staring past the comfortless cement to another time, another place.

It was autumn again. So it was a year now, he mused pensively. Strange how it felt so much longer.

A cool breeze brushed past him, teasing his dark hair and causing him to huddle deeper into his faded jacket, his hands shoved deep in the pockets and the collar turned up against the chill. The breeze continued biting, regardless of his efforts to prevent that, and with a soft sigh he resigned himself to being cold. It wasn't as if he were unused to the weather that accompanied the grudging transition from summer to winter; the chill just cut deeper now.

He glanced up from the sidewalk, gathering his bearings. To one side was the dead forest, hunkered down and waiting patiently for the howling winds and muffling snow. The breeze moved through the brittle, empty branches, knocking them together quietly as it caressed each limb with an undeniable tenderness. To the other side was the high, chain-link fence, barricading the forest from the rutted, steep hill and the weary buildings that squatted on the crest. He walked a little farther before he reached the gate, which swung creakily towards him on rusty, unused hinges as he tugged it open. Passing through the fence, he let the gate fall shut again with a clang of metal on metal, nearly wincing as the sound echoed harshly in the silence.

Turning from the forest and the fence, he stomped heavily up the hill, each lift of his feet requiring more effort than normal—normal, that is, for anyone else. To him, this burdened walk was by now typical, trudging along as if he had some weight slung across his slumped shoulders. A year was time enough to acquire new habits, after all. This cadence was merely one of them. Shaking his head, as if that could truly free him of his wandering, desolate thoughts, he eyed his destination with a tired familiarity. The building was old and rundown, but it was home. The flat roof met the worn, red brick walls at a stark angle, the ancient gutters tottering precariously on the edge, looking as if one good gust of wind would send them clattering noisily to the sparse grass below. Ten windows dotted the back of the place, five on top and five on bottom, all looking like hollow, dead eyes staring out from a ruddy, aged face.

Footfalls sounding on the concrete stairs, he climbed to the second storey, fumbling in the pocket of his faded jeans for the key. He jammed the little metal piece into the keyhole, twisted it with the monotony of repetition, and withdrew it once he had pushed inside, closing and locking the door behind him. His cramped apartment was the picture of disrepair: the odds and ends of his life, if one could call it that, were strewn carelessly across the unfinished wooden floor; the couch was lumpy, torn, and stained with some drink; and the bed was shoved in the corner, the pillow half-slumped against the wall and looking dead.

He crossed to the small table beside the bed and lifted the mostly empty pack of cigarettes, digging in his pocket again, this time for his lighter. He pulled a slim stick from the carton and dropped the now-empty box back to the table, the cigarette placed in his mouth and hanging nonchalantly from his lower lip. Cupping his hand, he flicked the lighter and lit his cigarette as he shuffled to the open window. Slipping the sleek metal object back in his pocket, he leaned his forearms on the cold concrete sill, exhaling evanescent tendrils of white smoke. He had smoked in silence for some time before he heard it again—that high-pitched drone of jet engines.

He glanced up again, searching almost frantically for sight of the slicing contrails, but all he found was the overcast autumn sky impassively returning his gaze.

Fin