Copyright 2011 Douglas T. Vale

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Chris Anders trudged across the rocky, slick, mostly flat landscape, kicking aside pebbles that might trip him. Wind whistled through his long black hair and reddened his face, and the sun peeked fretfully through heavy clouds. Gray ambient light seemed to stain the ground and Chris's pale skin. He wore old pants woven from thick blue cloth, though his knees poked through ragged holes in the fabric.

Shirtless, he carried his white long-sleeved inner shirt and his jacket over his shoulder. He'd learned the hard way that some wild plants just weren't meant for eating. A tall dark green plant with waxy skin and a luscious red bloom had spit on his shirt and jacket, making his clothes smoke. Yelping and pawing, he'd barely got the shirt and jacket off before the acid burned through. Washing the clothes in a stream rid them of the acid, but couldn't repair the damage. Now Chris hoped he could find some use for the rags. Maybe as a tourniquet, or something to wrap his hands in. He refused to part with what little he had unless circumstance forced him to.

He noticed the tall square bleached buildings first, towards the middle of the plain. Scuffling noises behind him made him tense, but he didn't look back. He knew what stalked him, and looking wouldn't move him any farther away. Just keep walking. Walk, don't run, because running excites them. If you run, the damn things will pounce on you in an instant. Then, you die. He sighed heavily and forced his steps into an even, slow rhythm. Buildings waited ahead, so he could hope.

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