You know it’s there, but you ignore it. Because everyone does. And you are no fool. You know all about the Wall.

The Wall is the reason for West One, this dusty, stinking parasite of a city. And the Wall is hidden inside this hub of chaos and dust and ash. You find it odd that they would hide a Wall with another wall. But no one in West One sees the Wall. No one wants to. It is kept hidden behind a tall, wooden fence topped with curling barbed wire and guarded by soldiers and eyes and eyes and eyes…. You don’t even know what the Wall looks like, just that beyond the fence lies the Wall.

In the summer, in the south of the city, West One smells of vegetation. The crops, shipped in for inspection, await their turn to enter Windrose through the Wall. The hot, open, plain wind carries the scent of crops across the city. Corn. Dirt and gas. And animals waiting to enter through the Wall.

The animal flesh stinks. Most are already killed, slaughtered in distant and screaming places, cleaned and packaged and sanitized and wrapped up like birthday gifts. For the wealthy who desire only the freshest of meats, some are still alive as they pass through the Wall.

But if you were to leave West One, that stinking, dirty city, turn right out the metal and clanging gate, and walk, you would eventually come to a forest. It is a scrubby wood, left unkempt and wild. You must watch your step. Poison ivy, and brambles, and wild roses armored with thorns cover these woods. It is a silent wood with quiet, blinking animals. If you are very careful and do not get caught in the brambles and tangles of ivy, you will come to a great and open field and finally see the Wall.

The field stretches west to the horizon and the setting sun, a great emptiness. There are no trees to hide behind, no bushes or buildings, just long waving grass. In fall, the grass withers and dries and shivers in the wind. Red leaves from the wood scuttle across the openness. And then, to the east, you see it for the first time, and you understand fear. Running through this great and awful field is the Wall.

This low stone bulwark runs into the distance and out of sight. It circles the city, unbroken but for the West One gate—the only gap. It is smaller than you expected, but somehow that makes it all the more awful. If you ran and jumped, you could reach the top of the stone, haul yourself up, and be on the other side in a wink. But spiking this unimposing Wall, like thorns on a rose, are little towers of stone. And you shiver at their dark hollowness because you know something watches you from those towers of stone on the Wall.

You walk—the Wall on one side of you, the horizon on the other. And something watches you from the blockhouses on the Wall.

Eventually, you will notice that you are walking along a curve because the sun will shift overhead, and the shadows will tilt. The city will appear nearer, taller, grayer against the blue of the sky. You will see tall buildings in the distance come close, but not too close. The heart of the country, the Windrose itself, is forever guarded by the Wall.

You cross the river and find the sunset and the sunrise are backward, or maybe you are. There in the backward shadows, you find winter on the Wall.

Snow covers the stone and the towers, and whatever it is that is watching you from inside. The world goes quiet, muffled by falling snowflakes, those delicate little works of lace in ice. And you see the Ruins, bathed in light.

You imagine this is what the city looked like after it burned and lay buried in ash. The ruins lie quiet in the snow, and you wonder who lies forever asleep beneath the broken city and the snow behind the Wall.

But you keep walking, and the snow melts. The ice flows down the river. You skip across the little bergs before they disappear into warmth. The Ruins melt into the distance, and the sunrise pushes you forward. The field begins to bloom green and white and violet. The little flowers, like foam on waves, lap against the stone of the Wall.

When the sun has returned to its place, West One comes back into view, that city on a city, and the Wall disappears back behind its fence, shielded and hidden yet ever watching. You find that the spring has brought with it the scent of growing and grass and earth. The wind, not yet scorched and burned, is cool, and light rides the current through the city streets like a white and wild horse. And you remember that even in this Wall, this ever strong, ever watchful Wall, there is a gap in the Wall.

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