I sit in the backseat of a car, the deep red plush fabric of the seats are dim in the night. A young woman is in the driver’s seat, her hands gripping tightly on the wheel. Her pale skin, her long light brown hair, they are colors and shapes that dance on the edges of my vision as I lean forward, looking into the night that casts everything in its dark cloak.
I am leaning forward, my body pushing on the firm restraint of a seatbelt, its promise of safety meaningless in the scene before me. Within the car, the pungent smell of adrenaline mixes with the noxious fumes of exhaust, sulfur and fear.
We are alone on this road. Alone in the stillness of this night. I stare through the spotted windshield to a scene of wreckage. My breathing is shallow, and though both car windows are closed, the cold night air finds the skin of my cheeks.
A freeway ramp climbs before us. A gentle incline rises and rises, then curves slightly to the left, headed towards the city that lies beyond the black bay. The two-lane ramp is pock-marked with the craters of dropped bombs, and the raised rings around the small mounds of asphalt continue to crumble. Around each crater are small chunks of tar, tiny pebbles, and fine black dust. The craters dot both lanes liberally, the remains of tiny bombs that fell here some time ago.
Beyond the ramp, rising from the dark city below that casts not one light, is a nearly destroyed building. The intact side still smooth and angular, a remnant of a no-nonsense style of architecture that focused on function and efficiency in a space that was densely populated. But half of the building is gone, a monstrous bite into the hard flesh of its structure. Spikes of rebar and electrical wire spill from the chunks of crumbling gray concrete. What’s left of it is at least twenty stories high, though it seems close to collapsing.
Despite its devastation, there are signs of life in the building, little yellow signals that speak silently into the night. Half a dozen windows in the intact section glow, sending out the message that there are still those that breathe in the forgotten mess.