The boy awoke to the sound of rain as it pelted the roof of the workshop. There was a howling in the air as winds battered the walls. The door to the building rattled back and forth on its weathered hinges and the boy prayed that it would hold for the night. He shivered and squirmed deeper into his nest of blankets and rags, scrounging for the remnants of warmth within them. He opened his eyes, though it served little purpose. It was still nighttime and the night was always darker than any shadows or voids he could possibly dream of. Opened or closed, he was blind to the world.
During the day, he had found dried, crusted cloths stained black with oil hidden inside one of the large metal cabinets. He used the cloths and twigs he had gathered from outside and built a tiny fire using one of his matches. He had watched the thin wisps of smoke rise and seep through the vents mounted high on the walls and eventually fell asleep to the sound of the crackling flames.
The fire had died some hours ago and now he sat in the cold and the quiet. It was so dark that he could barely see his hand when held inches from his face. The outlines of cabinets, shelves, tools and the husk of an old car could barely be seen, fuzzy and not quite there as if some glaucoma had dimmed what little of the world remained.
The sound of the rain and wind outside had grown violent with the booms of thunder claps as if God himself had come to rage upon the ashes and wash them all away.
With the fire gone, the cold clawed at his skin. The boy curled into a ball and pulled the rags tightly over him. His cheeks and hands were raw and the back of his throat burned with every breath. With no fire, he feared he might die.
He began to hum a tune to himself, although where he had heard it and what the lyrics were, he did not know. It always calmed him. It was the only song he knew and it reminded him of different days – better days. Ones he wished he could grab the memory of and relive.
An hour passed and still the boy lay wide awake, shivering in the cold. He could feel hunger rising within, biting him with the teeth of a starved beast. He had bottled water and cans of old soda, but no food left. He could go many hours without food these days, but it had now been a full day since he last ate. The taste of the canned broth still rested on his tongue and his stomach groaned in remembrance of it. The pain of hunger was something he had grown accustomed to, but it was often still enough to keep him awake at night and even when he slept through it the hunger visited him in dreams.
The rain continued to fall. Sometimes the sound of it would lull him to sleep, but on nights where the storms were especially bad, on nights like this, he’d lie huddled in a corner, frightened that it would slip under the door and drown him and everything else in the room. It could rain for days. The world would flood and overnight it would transform itself into an impassable bog of sludge and black ice. The boy couldn’t even drink from the puddles because it would burn his throat whenever he tried, as if the sky had cried acid.
When it last rained, the boy had been trapped inside an abandoned block of flats. The rain had fallen for only three days, but he remained stranded for an entire week as the water gradually dissipated enough for him to move on. He had survived on what little food and drink he had left, and on the rats that scurried up and down the halls.
The boy hoped the rain would stop soon. There weren't any rats here. Only strange tools and metal cabinets.
Again, he hummed the tune he didn’t know. The nameless song that so often replaced the grey of the world with colour. He hummed it to the dark of the night and to himself and hoped that one day it would hum back.
He closed his eyes and tried to think of the better days. He sang the tune in his head and tried to remember the words. He tried to ignore his hunger; he tried to ignore that he was cold and alone in a world of no one and he tried his best not to cry.
The earth shook with thunder once again and he felt an icy wetness seep into his blankets as the room began to flood.