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Doesn't Matter Where You Stand© 2013 Preston Palmer

Matthew looked out at the concrete landscape with awe; giant buildings stood like dead trees in a field of dirt and rock and steel. He tried to imagine what great meaning these monsterous towers must have had to his great grandfather. Now they stood as monuments to confusion and regret and short-sightedness.

He looked up and down, taking in the strength of the building. He figured he must be on something like the 30th floor, which was hardly the top, even though much of the exterior had been ripped away by the fierce winds filled with ice and sand.

He knew night would be coming soon, considering how long it had taken him to get to where he was standing. He would probably sleep there, too dangerous to try and get back to the village. Storm clouds could be heard in the distance and he could see them, but storms were so common now, neither the sound or the sight surprised him. An old man in the village had said a few years back, "It's like living in a world that's constantly falling apart." But this was so obvious to the people they laughed when they heard it. Even their steel roofs melted slowly under the regular acid rain.

He was suddenly aware of how long he had been staring, how much he enjoyed looking out over the world. His mother had spent so much time crying about all they had to give up, but Matthew never understood. What were all these things that had to be sacrificed? Food was scarce, but so were the people looking for it. If you were clever enough, you could find it. And emergency water-lines that had been built underground would supply them for at least the next few years. But there were these other things, societies, schools, companies, all these things that existed only as mysteries to be pondered, until they became folklore; like oxidized iron, history dissolving into mythology.

A cold, bitter breeze swept through the floor, and he knew it was about to rain. He took a few steps back from the ledge and turned to look through to the other side. Hardly anything remained, though Matthew had a hard time imagining what could have occupied this space. It was just a maze of steel, on top of more steel. The rain began harshly, but he didn't notice it, until he heard dripping from up ahead, near the staircase he had ascended.

He followed the noise slowly, careful not to make any wrong step and fall 30 stories to his death. The dripping was coming from a broken piece of tubing, still suspended from the ceiling. As the water fell, it made a soft patting noise before it collected in a pool on the floor. He quickly discovered that the water was hitting a small plant before it hit the concrete. The plant, a miniature version of what must have been a tree, had been grown in a small wooden box. Its branches stuck out awkwardly, and its roots were poking through cracks in the box. Medium sized leaves clung to the branches, but with vigor and pride, taunting Matthew in his infirmity.

He knelt down, trying to stay clear of the spatter, and he inspected it. The leaves were so green, and the trunk and branches were a rich brown. He hesitated, but then plunged his hands into the dripping water, lifting the small box. As he raised it slowly, the wet, rotten wood disintegrated in his fingers, leaving him with just a handful of dirt and the rich, vibrant tree in the center.

He knew instantly the importance of this discovery and he cursed aloud at himself for his impatience, his greed. The rain outside began to pick up in intensity, and the winds brought the smell of decay. It was becoming very difficult to see anything, so he set the plant back down in the puddle and began to look for a place to rest until the storm passed.