I did not know where I wanted to go. Instead I wandered the streets, the white cloak of the Swarm trailing all around me. Would they ever leave, or diminish? Each corner I turned, I left a spreading wake of the machines behind, filling the streets like mist. I supposed Jerem Cozak was doing the same.
Now I knew that the city was not entirely abandoned. Twice in other districts I passed roaring bonfires in the street. In the rubble of an alley, someone had erected several large tents, though I still saw no one. When I neared a district that had once held mansions, I smelled cooking meat. From the third level of one long and charred tenement came the telltale glow of oil lamps. Thinking of how people might gather for safety in a ruined city, I urged the white Swarm toward that place.
And when I reached my own quarter, I heard an argument off to my left, behind a ruined shrine. But my own building had collapsed. The tenement that once held the apartment in which I’d lived had mostly gone to rubble. I had rented, of course, from the shriveled old man who lived beside the entry, and cursed him for rapacity. Now he was either dead or infected by the nightwind. Better, I would have thought, if his building had fallen in upon him. Still, I could not wish it.
I found my ground-level room still mostly intact, with only an inward corner having given way. A few charred rags of my bedroll still lay beneath the window, half-buried in dust and ash. My fireplace had long since been looted for its coals. My pot and kettle and half-table all were gone. I knelt beside the door and dug with my hands. A few fingers down I found an old metal box I had once stolen from the market. The lock gave way when I bashed it with a bit of rubble. Inside I found my journal.
Once, it would have cost the lives of dozens. Now, no part of my conspiracy matters. Those people, too, are either dead or infected, buried or sent to war on some other world. We failed. Our government, our religion, and all my resistance to them are equally gone, wiped out by an enemy stronger and more merciless than all of us combined. My lover was dead, my leader hanged, my trade destroyed. I laughed to think that I had once belonged to something as dull as the Sower’s Guild.