Lourdes cupped her hands tightly around the paper to-go cup that steamed beneath her nose, warming her face from the bitter cold. The city loomed tall and grey around her, the clouds closing the everyone in, like ants in a glass box.

Christmas was coming, but the city was bare of decorations. Corners that would regularly have sparkling lights wrapped around the poles and displays in the corner windows of shops, all prepared for the consumerist demand of the season, instead were draped in ash and sawdust. Chunks of concrete littered the ground, like a giant game of bocce played by Greek gods.

Lourdes remembered the splendor of her city last Christmas, standing on the same corner, sipping mulled wine from a paper cup instead of weak tea. She, and everyone around her, had been so happy, celebrating time with family and friends.

Today, the streets were barren, and the wind kicked up clouds of dust and ash, sweeping through the corridors between buildings.

She shouldn’t be out here. It wasn’t safe.

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