~ coda ~


War strolls up the street in the rain.

It isn't raining much. There's a fine, pale haze hanging mistily in the air, just heavy enough to dampen her hair and leather jacket and shining skin. The pavement's grey and the skies are grey and the old honey-yellow stone of the buildings is darkened to a grimy shade of mustard. It's autumn. The passersby grind dead leaf fragments beneath their winter boots.

A tangled rainbow spills into a puddle, its colours faded. War catches its tail and looks ahead and grins. The boy stands dreamily in the street outside the department, oil pooling at his feet. He comes sometimes to visit his predecessor, who isn't going anywhere. She's seen him drifting through the university administrative offices with reports and files and forms in triplicate flapping round him like falling leaves.

The shadow up there in Pestilence's window must be Famine. He comes more often. He says academics are hungrier right now than they've ever been.

And he should know, thinks War, and grins at the newest lecturer, who's just come bounding out of the department, all teeth and jovial charm and gleaming square glasses. It's autumn and everything's starting up again and the town's woken out of its summer sleep. The man who taught the course on War has gone, disgruntled and complaining and not much missed, but that's all right. There'll be other courses. There'll be other men.

"Hi," she says. "You look like just my sort of chap."