The rough surface of the concrete could be felt beneath the soles of Miranda’s soft shoes. Nothing but solace accompanied him on his slow pace through the forest trail, manifesting in the soft hum of the forest animals eking out their existence. The first disturbance on his peaceful outing occurred when he passed the sign marking the hiking route half over, at which point a pair of footsteps echoed behind the tree line.

Miranda paused at the end of the row of port-a-potties to take a drink from the hooded water fountain. A collection of dead and crumpled up leaves from the previous autumn had clumped up around its stem, wet and soaking and refusing to move when the gentle breeze stirred the bare branches and sent some twirling towards the ground.

As Miranda straightened himself and continued plodding up the gradual sloping hill, the footsteps pounded closer until they took the form of a shadow, stretching down the trail to past Miranda’s body. He peeked over his shoulder and tucked a loose strand of snowy hair behind his ear as the weary jogger caught up and slowed to a pace beside the androgyne.

“Hello there!” The jogger flashed a blinding smile, clearly bleached, and Miranda averted his gaze to the ground at his feet momentarily and stifled a demure smile with his hand. Her taut stomach, exposed between the trimmed training shirt and the shorts, shone with sweat soaking into the belt of her gray shorts. “How are you today?”

If only I had a physique like that. Miranda interlocked his fingers and focused his attention back on the turn in the trail ahead of them. As far as he could see, nobody else was on the path, allowing for a slightly greater freedom of conversation. “I’ve definitely been better.”

“Why is that?” A glint caught the jogger’s eyes, which slid over to the ring on Miranda’s right hand. Her face fell as she inquired, “Who are you married to? Is he giving you any trouble? Should I tip off the police?”

Miranda’s throat constricted before he thoughtlessly croaked out, “Death incarnate. He’s harmless now. He wanted to be an Oppenheimer, a destroyer of worlds in his own way, but only ended up destroying himself.”

Her face contracted as she sneered, “You’re crazy.” The jogger shuddered and withdrew to the other side of the trail before regaining her jogging pace. “Go find some other path to follow. This park reserve isn’t for loonies like you.”

We barely talked, and you’re already calling me insane. Miranda sighed as the woman dashed away with panic crossing all over her face. He touched a few fingers to the gemstone of the ring, which glittered with embedded galaxies of emerald and sapphire in the afternoon light. But can I blame her, really? We’ve both become ghosts of our former selves. Maybe everybody in this city is a ghost.

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