Neil woke up with a swimmy head. It took him a couple minutes of jerking his eyes around before the world finally snapped into focus, and even then, it was hard to concentrate on his surroundings.
Closing his eyes momentarily he took several deep breaths and began to wonder where he was. He smelled old rubber, maybe vinyl. The smell of mildew was hanging in the air, and the very air itself seemed as if it had been stagnant for years.
Trying to open his eyes again didn't help much. He still couldn't see anything, and his eyes just hurt. His legs were cold. They were clothed in something. He realized he was in a sitting position, but his entire body felt the needles and pins prick as he slowly began shuffling around.
Finally, he got a bearing on his dark surroundings and glanced around. He was in the passenger seat of a car. The black plastic dashboard was covered with dust, and the vinyl seat next to him was brittle looking and a spiderweb of cracks laced the sides.
He wasn't wearing his seatbelt, so he fumbled around the side of the door until his fingers touched the chrome of the door handle. It was bitterly cold and seemed nearly rusted shut. After yanking with his entire shoulder, it finally gave way and the door opened. Or, rather, it fell open.
Night rushed into the car. Dark, lonely night. Neil was disoriented. How long had he been sitting in that car? How did he get there? Where was the driver? He had the presence of mind to search his pockets but besides pocket lint the only thing he found was half of a generic ticket stub.
As he got out of the car, Neil realized how impressively dark it was outside. There were no stars in the sky to gaze up at. There was the moon, but its pale white light was diffused by a thick layer of clouds. What little moonlight did manage to hit the ground was reflected by a thick coating of snow.
The decrepit car Neil had just climbed out of was parked alone on the street. Neil was standing now on the sidewalk, snow at his feat, listening to the night. The night was completely silent. Neil couldn't even detect the sound of a distant freeway. Perhaps the sounds were muffled by the softly falling snow.
Neil watched the snow for awhile, pondering his next move. It floated down from the sky in a lazy fashion, spiraling and haphazardly drifting around until it either collided with the ground or Neil's head. Where were the people, Neil wondered. Seeing no other choice but to move, Neil decided to travel along the road. It ended to his east, and though it was dark, what he could make out of the snow-laden trees at the end of the road was enough to convince him to head in a westerly direction.
Walking was more difficult than he anticipated. His arms and legs felt weak, and he was having a hard time holding up his head. The snow on the road had been witness to many cars, and was as ridged and scratched as the surface of the moon. It was cold, and the snow was mostly frozen. He wandered, and wandered, for what seemed like hours, until the street rounded a bend.
Ahead he could see the moon reflecting off of broken and shattered pieces of glass. A shopping center, long since abandoned. But in its parking lot, which was totally devoid of cars, was a center of warmth; a beacon standing in the bleak snowstrewn world of concrete and broken glass and abandoned hunks of steel. A single street lamp, miraculously left on, was practically calling him to it like a moth to a burning candle.
He broke into a trot and then into a jog, and felt joyous for the first time since he had woken up. It was as if somebody had left the light on for him, he briefly wondered at the silliness of that thought. He broke into a chuckle, then a laugh, and began a run toward the light.
He stood there, in the yellowish circle of light, watching the snow float into the cone of warmth. The light highlighted the details of the tire tracks in the snow, highlighting the texture and relief in a smattering of gold. The light post itself was made of that beautiful blue wrought steel that seemed to change colors as you looked at it from different angles, and a light coating of undisturbed frost made him jolly again.
Standing there, completely alone in the world, staring up at a dim yellow light, exposed to the night and the snow, and laughing; the last thing Neil ever expected to feel was a rough leather glove reaching from behind and cruelly constricting around his neck. Another frigid hand reached from behind and gripped his shoulders. Neil felt the cold barrel of a gun pressed into the small of his back.
"Welcome traveler. You seem to have stumbled across my lamp post," a voice breathed into his ear. "And I'm willing to do whatever's necessary to ensure that it continues to be MY lamppost..."
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