When I entered the marketplace, my lungs seemed to shrink in my chest as I was enveloped by nebulous, chalk-colored smog. I did not falter in my steps, but I walked slowly, peering about me as though I were in a dream.
The sun overhead looked like a molten chunk of white gold, turning over and over in the heated sky. It burned through the ghostly haze in such an overbearing manner that the townsfolk seemed loath to lift their eyes any higher than the brims of their hats.
The hard cobblestone pathways were laced with cracks, and plumes of dust rose out of them furiously whenever a wooden cart clattered and clacked over them. I saw a watermelon roll out the back of one of the carts, and as it collided with the stony ground, fleshy red chunks exploded wetly from the tough green hide and became a feast for the darkling crows. The demon birds pecked it apart, sharp beaks jabbing — glittering eyes opening and closing with mechanical precision — before they returned once more to h