They swept through the air in his wake, along with numerous other dead organic substances that could be found on the ground this time of year. But it is not the sand, nor the dirt, nor the dust that catches the eye- it is the flurry of brown leaves, slowly spiraling down to the ground after being kicked up. For as they twirl downwards, they symbolize an entire world of conflict- though the soft impact against the ground is imminent, the leaves combat gravity, as humanity would combat an grave evil. As they near the end of their fall, they sigh, as a jaded officer might once he's given up on hope for his people. And as they hit the the hard-packed autumn dirt, they crumble, as the world most certainly will in the end.
But we put this aside, for that outlook is not in the spirit of the day.
For this man was not only accompanied by the swirling of the dead fallen leaves, but also by the cheers of his people.
Celebrations were everywhere, all around people lit bonfires and danced to the raucous music of drunken partiers. No one needed skill to play these tunes of joy, and no one required of any other man any quality in his playing. No man minded poor music on this day- no, every broken melody sounded like a powerful symphony to the ears of these poor people. These people, who had thought themselves lost for so long, now had a hope.
That hope ran along the broad dirt road, between the deciduous trees lining the path, his golden eyes, so long held in a grim, narrow gaze, now shining with joy as his mind tried to comprehend the newfound freedom he had in portraying his emotions.
Their little world had been on the precipice of destruction for years, and this man, who now ran while carrying the hope of this world's people, had defied all odds and saved his world, their world, our world, the world. No, everything was fine. The day was not a day of inevitable failure. It was not a day of pessimism. It was a day for people to be jolly, happy, and, most of all, hopeful. The man was running to the last city, the one city that would not have heard the news yet.
He was the fastest messenger there was, running headfirst, arms back, excess cloth flying back with the autumn leaves. His presence would also be the best way of confirming the news to the inhabitants of this city. Yes, it made sense for him to go, though it meant leaving the other cities vulnerable. Not like that mattered, anymore- the threat was gone. Everything was okay. Everything would work out.
The man topped a ridge, and then plummeted down the other side, coming even and turning horizontal to the ground as he reached level land. He was close now, very close. He could smell the grills of the people. Somehow, they already knew, he presumed. They knew, and were celebrating with a lavish feast. That was what that pleasant cooking smell was. He paused a moment, delighted in it. Ahh, good meat.
His eyes widened, and he shot off, towards the city again. He topped another ridge, and gasped as his worst suspicions were confirmed. The city was black. Simmering in invisible flames, the most cruel heat the man had ever felt captured him. He stepped back, tripped, and stumbled down the ridge, landing on his back amidst a pile of plant debris. The city… had been cooking. Blackened humans, devoid of their clothing (consumed by the flames, the man assumed) littered the streets.
It was not over. One city. This must have happened before the change occurred. Must have. One city. The rest is there. The change occurred. The man was sure of it. He'd seen the change occur. He'd seen it! Everything was fine, right? he asked himself. Yes, he answered immediately, it's fine.
He pushed himself up with his hands and arms, into a sitting position, clenched his fits, and then stood up.
Then he felt something crunchy in his hand.
He lifted his arm slowly, opened his fist, looked at his palm. Within it, completely crumbled, lay a crispy brown leaf.