Concentrated nitric acid. The greatest defiler of all. Not water, not salt, not oil, not air. Just that, odorless, colorless. The only substance in the world that can corrode pure, 24 carat gold. That is the color of the Umbra in the deep city. Gold, with a thin red hue. Cracks on its surface, running deeper. A fist is raised up to the sky, artillery shells are fired in the distance, bomber planes fly overhead. Its all gold. It was gold.
The smell of metal and rust fills the air, of chemicals carving impurities out of huge truss rods, of well oiled gears, of fasteners and bolts, wedges and pulleys. It is all here. It was here. The voices of people. Their dreams. Their hopes, their fears. Their persistence, their ingenuity, their greed, their malice, their spite, their loss of hope, their core. The American Dream. It is here. It was here.
Skyscrapers tower over streets of copper, metal and gold. The steel frames shriek as the rust creeps slowly deeper inside them, moon by moon. They bend, they ll fall. The towers man built to reach god, being brought down by something as simple as rust. Something as simple as the loss of a memory, the fading of a dream, into reality.
The streets are booming with voices, but it is not people that speak. At least not all, the spirits are booming and restless. Agitated. Like they are fighting for an enemy they cannot even see. But there are also people. The echoes. Those that stayed behind. They chant of the glories of bygone eras, they curse the rust for doing this. You just have to listen. They are alive. They were alive.
There used to be a king here. Rex Mundi. The spirit of all spirits. Magnified to immense proportions, feeding off the very core of the city. The pursuit for -more-. The all mighty dollar. The king of the city. Ruling with an iron fist, over gaffling and incarna alike - draining power from every act and deed that aimed to profit. The king is dead, long live the king.
Then there was a queen, one who birthed eggs of fire. The mother of war. Because this city knew all about how to win wars. Of men, and spirits. Just attrition. Just produce even more firepower. Her dark wings cradled the city, and she rejoiced with every bullet produced, every shell, every plane wing and helmet. She asked for unwavering obedience, and for a time, she got it. The queen is dead, long live the queen.
Then, there was a man. He did not want to be king, but he deserved to be. For he knew the city more than anyone else. He had been here when the city was conceived from the earth, he helped man lay stone on stone, bend steel, and raise his fortresses to the sky. He did it, not for profit, not for dominance. But for her glory. The glory of his daughter. He did not want to rule, yet - when the king died, and the queen died, he had to. The man is not dead, but sometimes - he wishes he was.
Then, there was the chittering of many feet. The snapping of teeth in the dark, the clap of thunder overhead. As she crumbled, they rushed to her defence. New kings. New queens. Here to fight a war, for survival. The rust is pushing them back, hard. But still they breath, and as long as they do, as long as the father is still alive, there is hope.