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The sky was more often red than it was not. The perpetual fog grasped at the air, turning more gray and entrapping with every passing day. It mixed with cigarette smoke and the grey sewage water, drifting through laundry hung on used cables. She shivered. The clothes would never dry anyway; they hung like cold limp hands across peeling wires past the windowsills of crying children. The fog was a rabid dog’s hot wet breath, astringent and heavy.

The weather left little room for Li Dong Mei to ever wake up right.

She missed the days when she was younger, when the skies were tinged with bits of orange and yellows, like the color of apricots and lemon. But the constant scarlet haze coated her skin every time she dared to step drove her to miss school more often than ever before.

Her apartment was exactly 2 kilometers away from one of the few bilingual senior secondary schools of GuiLin. She was lucky, for most of her friends had to bike up to an hour to arrive on time, out of breath with their uniforms sticking to their backs.

This morning, Mei had decided to attend school. It was her second absence and third tardy of the week, and she believed that both her peers and teachers had given up on trying to rectify her behavior. Only if they could feel how she felt. They all seemed immune. Immune to the feeling of the foaming dog of GuiLin breathing down her neck.

As Mei walked down the street, she pulled the drawstrings of her hoodie tighter. Autumn was approaching and it was nowhere near cold enough to be wearing a thick hoodie, but Mei couldn’t bear to let any more of her skin touch the outside air. The polluted streets gave her an excuse to wear a mask, but she knew she would have to take off her jacket when she stepped into school.

The fog was much worse than usual. It was as wet as it was warm, dragging down each of Mei’s limbs like invisible weights, making her drag her feet through the sidewalk’s dust and crushed soda cans. She kicked a plastic bottle onto the thin street, where a car immediately crushed it, bouncing it right back onto another pile of garbage. It fell down a sewer drain with a dry crunch. She heard a delayed insult in mangled Mandarin from the car that flew by.

Mei cursed herself for coming out in the first place.

Author Notes: unfinished project

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11 Nov, 2021
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4.5 (2 reviews)

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