Deep within the sewers not much can be heard, except for the occasional critter roaming about. Darkness rules over this underground reign. Though the odd wanderer dares to contest it with flashlights and torches, it often manages to ward them off, be it through fear.. or other methods.
The silence was continuously disturbed by a man, pacing across the web-coated tunnels of the sewers, allowing the flickering light of his torch to guide him. His face was wrinkly, aged, half of it covered by a long, gray beard; his eyes were narrow, colored in a rather pale brown. He wore a gray trench coat along with a pair of tattered trousers and leather boots - all dusted and stained by mud, with several straps stretching across his body, having multiple pouches and fanny packs attached to them. Hung by his belt, however, there was a human skull, dangling back and forth as he walked.
The man reached into one of the leather pouches, rummaging through it before withdrawing a small piece of what seemed to be cooked rat meat - something rare, a delicacy. "Yer' absolutely sure ye' don't want any, Dmitry? 'Tis good stuff right here and I don't want you starvin', y'know?", he said, taking a small bite, roughening his voice immediately afterwards - "I'm good, Vlad, no worries. Conserve your strength, we're almost outside, I know it. Been in this place long enough to feel each and every tunnel around.". He shrugged his shoulders, curving his lips into a weak smile as he held the piece of meat in between his teeth, gently stroking the skull with his free hand, proceeding to take another bite from his treat - "Very well then, friend, ye' called it.".
The stench inhabiting the sewers wasn't affecting him at all, as if he had been wandering them for days, maybe even weeks, but it did not even matter anymore - as Vladimir ambled through the darkness he eventually reached the area safeguarded by sunlight. He allowed the tremendous amount of happiness to take over his body, causing him to smile constantly, blowing out his torch - it was the first time in months he's seen natural light. "We're almost there, Dmitry! We're almost there!-.. It's been so long since I've last seen sunlight, comrade.. It's beautiful", he chuckled, interchanging voices. Vladimir stood underneath the opening, allowing the light to shine upon him. He looked up, being able to see only a thick layer of clouds covering up the sun.
Vladimir slowly gripped onto a gas mask, strapped on one of his belts, detaching it and slipping it over his head. He wrapped his fingers around the ladder, proceeding to clamber towards the top. Vladimir pushed the metallic bars covering the manhole to the side, crawling into the surface. Tears begun rolling down the valleys of his aged face as he craned his gaze across his surroundings, a wave of mixed emotions flooding his mind. Buildings - collapsed concrete giants, resting into a sea of rubble, lifeless, dissected. Air - poisoned, unbreathable for humans. The whole city was destroyed, crushed, burnt into the nuclear fire that mankind itself has lit through hatred and greed.
Upon recovering from his trance, Vladimir gripped onto the handle of a pistol, withdrawing it from its holster - a simple seven-shot revolver, fully loaded; his hands were bruised, cuts and scars scattered across their surface, blood forming a thick crust onto their fingertips. He released a quiet sigh, swallowing his sorrow before proceeding to plod towards an unknown direction. The wind was blowing harshly, forming a thin layer of dust on everything it touched. Vladimir continuously switched his gaze from one place to another, constantly distracted by critters that would stalk him, examine him, just like convicts would check upon newcomers every time the bus arrived. He grew nervous, unable to keep focus on the path he was walking on - he would hear chatter.. laughter of the phantoms inhabiting the wastelands.
"So-uh.. you got any idea where we're going, comrade?", he said, before sighing quietly - "Not yet.. friend.. but we'll find a place.. I'm sure of it.". He would get easily irritated, every movement around himself adding up to the stress. "Well, maybe if you hadn't fucked up so bad down in the station they would've let you stay and not kick you out.. would've been better than out here wouldn't it, eh?" - he stopped, shutting his eyes closed for a brief moment as he lowered his pistol, exhaling deeply through his nose. Vladimir reached for the side of his waist, gripping onto the skull and slowly lifting it in front of his face, frowning - "Why the fuck do you have to bring that up, Dmitry!? They're all just absolutely ungrateful dickheads who only care about themselves! «The hell is wrong with you, Vlad? Why in the world did you murder him, Vlad?». Well I don't fucking know! Maybe because he was stealing our fucking food?! But nooo! Let's fucking expel Vlad from the station and keep everything
for ourselves because Vlad is a fucking psychotic murderer!". In a burst of fury, Vladimir forcefully swung the skull towards one of the nearby buildings, releasing a scream infused in anger.
The skull flew rapidly through one of the windows of a massive structure. "D-.. Dmitry?", he said, realizing his doing. "Dmitry! Dmitry, where are you?!", he cried looking up towards the colossal, intimidating building - its outer walls were all still standing, bruised, with tall, wide windows symmetrically placed onto them. He snorted, breathing heavily as he rushed towards one end of the walls in attempt to reach the entrance.. and he did. He encountered towering pillars set at equal distance from one another, holding up the building's roof. Vladimir shuffled next to the wall, reaching the large, imposing doorway. He leaned forward slightly, peeking inside before slowly stepping in - a large hall was laid in front of him, having two set of stairs going upward on either sides of its edges. It was round, large.. empty. Several decorative structures were trashed, collapsed, destroyed. The floor was embroidered with human corpses - some of them already decomposed.. some.. fresh.
Shifting his gaze from one point to another, he eventually darted straight towards one of the stairways, finding himself walking down a long hallway. His skin had already gotten red, blistered due to the large amount of radiation lingering within the theater's walls. He was hearing a continuous clicking sound as his body was slowly getting infused with radiation. Keeping his eyes nailed to the floor, Vladimir noticed how the hallway he was walking on began to change - the walls slowly gained a red, immaculate wallpaper with functional lights and old paintings resting onto it; the windows, no longer broken, were partly covered by a set of matching red curtains tied to either sides; the floor, now clean, was shiny, covered by a long, red carpet. Vladimir cocked his eyebrows as he looked around himself for a few seconds, as the clicking sound swiftly turned into classical music. Darting his gaze upon the window, he widened his eyes at the sight of an intact city... just as it was before the bombs rained upon the world.
He gripped onto his gas mask, pulling it off his head and allowing it to drop onto the floor as he pressed his forehead against one of the windows, staring at the city he once knew. Tears begun rolling down his cheeks as he chuckled quietly, proceeding to push himself away from the window. But as he turned back to the hallway, he froze. Before his eyes stood a tall creature.. skinny.. completely bald, with unnaturally long arms and fingers, holding a flute made out of bones and teeth. It had no eyes - just a large mouth lacking lips and a pair of nostrils above it. The music gradually turned in nothing but a very high pitched noise. Vladimir stepped backwards slowly as the creature approached, causing him to breathe heavily, fear slowly taking over his body. He lost his balance, stumbling to the side, against one of the walls as they swiftly turned into bloody flesh, pulsating on the rhythm of his very own heart. Vladimir released a loud shriek, long, skinless arms bursting out of the walls and wrapping themselves around him and forcefully pressing him against it, burning his flesh. He passed out.
Awakening from his slumber, Vladimir opened his eyes slowly, groaning in pain as he gazed around himself - the hallway came back to normal, trashed. He soon came to realize his mind tricked him. Upon further examination of the area around him, Vladimir noticed his gas mask on the floor. Gasping in surprise, he quickly pushed himself away from the wall, crawling towards the mask, but stopping halfway - he could breathe without it. Squinting his eyes he slowly lowered his gaze towards his hands, arching his eyebrows: they were lacking their layer of skin, remaining nothing but bloody flesh, even rotten in places. Vladimir rose his hands in front of his eyes, unable to believe his sight before releasing a loud, terrified scream, dropping back onto the floor. Hyperventilating, he struggled out of his trench coat, immediately pulling off the sweater underneath it. He stared down at his stomach and arms, widening his eyes, baffled before darting his gaze upon his coat and sweater. The mix of fear, panic and surprise swiftly took a hold of his mind as he noticed the skin that once coated his body detached itself and remained stuck inside his sweater and coat. Vladimir dropped on his back, shutting his eyes tightly closed, remaining still, hoping his mind was still playing with him.
Several minutes afterwards, Vladimir brought his right hand up to his face, slowly pressing his fingertips onto it, dragging them across its surface. He could feel his bare flesh and muscles moving as he clenched his jaw. Vladimir opened his eyes, pressing either of his hands onto the floor before pushing himself up. He leaned forward, gripping onto his clothes, slipping them over his body once
again. He grunted, feeling his detached skin tickle his flesh. Vladimir laid his hand onto one of the walls, stumbling forwards, resuming his search for Dmitry. He reached a couple of small, wooden doors. Pushing them open, Vladimir found himself standing into a round balcony, a large, spacious room laid in front of his eyes. Beneath him, tens of chairs aligned, facing a large, wrecked stage, covered in rubble - the main hall of the theater. He narrowed his eyes slightly before widening them as the whole room changed - the walls became intact, the chairs clean and chatter filled the hall. Phantoms of the past appeared all over the room, sat on the chairs or standing in the balconies scattered across the walls. Frightened, confused, Vladimir slowly stepped backwards, eventually getting through the wooden doors separating the balcony from the corridor - everything came back to normal.
He cocked an eyebrow before pushing one of the small doors open, peeking inside - the massive hall was deserted, destroyed. "Am I.. going mad..?", he asked himself, turning to the side, slowly stumbling across the hallway. Keeping his gaze locked onto the floor, his eyes glimmered as he noticed a skull, resting near the wall. "Dmirtry!", he mumbled, chuckling happily, "Dear fucking God, I'm so sorry!". Vladimir dropped onto his knees, placing either of his hands onto the surface of the skull, caressing it lovingly with his thumbs. "Ye' gave me quite a scratch, comrade.. but what in the fuck happened to you?", he said, slightly changing his voice. He slided his fingertips across the cracks decorating the skull, releasing a quiet sigh - "I don't know either..". Vladimir snorted, pushing himself up slowly before hooking the skull back onto his belt.
Sunlight and gentle winds greeted him once he stepped outside, the clouds having parted, allowing the sun to reveal itself. Plodding across the streets, the critters were ignoring him. He would change continuously between two worlds - the past and the presents. The buildings rose anew, covering the sky, with the constant chatter and laughter of the people, walking across the street. He stopped in the middle of them, allowing them all to pass through him. Vladimir rose his gaze towards the sky, terror infused with sorrow injected in his body - big, shining warheads flew across the sky, cutting through the clouds and raining down upon the earth. He could hear the horrified screams of the people as they went from carelessly walking to running for their very lives. A tsunami of fire swallowed the land, turning it back to ruins.
Vladimir stood still, staring blankly into the distance. The wasteland has wrapped its fingers around Vladimir and made him a part of itself. A ghoul - feeding on radiation, ignored by the threats, damned to walk the the streets of a destroyed city, living its final hours again and again.