The seasons are marked for them in subtle things: warmer sewers, the sonorous hum of heated pipes running through brick. Slower, less responsive bodies; a sensation of moving underwater if too much time is spent in the frigid night air, watching the puffs of mist rise from his mouth and scatter. And more trips to the junkyard for scavenging—things break and people can't be bothered to fix them.
And, he notes faintly, the passing of autumn is marked by changes in him, too.
He breathes. The air is achingly cold in his lungs, and when he releases, it stirs the wispy leaves of the tree. He presses a palm into the thin branches as he looks—mottled gold, specked with brown and curled stiffly at the edges. He pinches one and it crunches between his fingers like brittle glass.
He thinks of his brothers. Young and vibrant. Growing further, stirred by weather and unthinking hands, but always connected. One branch, leaves that span the sky and blot out the sun, innumerable. Refuge from the light. Formation of a shield. (partly, secretly, for want of the sun.)
But time passes and seasons turn. And then, inevitably, the withering away. One by one, fading, crackling, fragmented on the ground. A barren tree—the juncture itself, alone and naked. But still standing. Immovable for the world, a story, a promise of both past and future life hung in its gnarled limbs.
Perhaps that's all it is. An acknowledgment; a mourning. And the gentle sobriety of nature's passing held in his bones alone.
Goodbye, he thinks, blowing the crushed leaf from his hand with a spray of foggy breath.
A breeze stirs the rest, and his bandana tails with them.