A wince escaped me at the sound of the sharp crack echoing over the field. I turned to see the last support give out before the billboard came crashing down. Splinters of wood blossomed from the debris, spreading over the ground in a shower of devastation. The final image of my wife crumbled under its own weight until I could no longer recognize her.

I rested against the remnants of the volleyball court, the rusted poles that once held the nets my only standing companion. The rest of the area had been laid low, victims of the ravages of time. That which hadn’t been wrecked in the looting.

It still boggled my mind at how fast things had decayed in the short time I’d been away. How many of the buildings I remembered were even still standing? How far had the city grown away from had once been a successful, bustling area?

I trudged through the ruins, my eyes scanning for any scavengers, though the area had been long since picked clean. The beacons of the city shone brightly in the distance, beckoning me with its siren call. I had to learn what had happened here. What I had missed in my absence.

All too soon I was immersed in the sights of the city, the bright neon lights, the sterile buildings standing as pillars amidst the others that lay in squalor. I couldn’t recognize any of the sights. Nothing remained of the city I once knew.

Except for that. A single restaurant nestled among the new construction. The last time I had been there, I’d had a single slice of pie. I’d forgotten my wallet that day and told them I would return to pay. Now was my chance to do so.

Stepping into the restaurant was like stepping into a living memory. Even the waitresses looked familiar. I sat myself down at a table and picked up the paper menus. The prices had changes but the content was much the same. I ordered a slice of pie.

The waitress smiled as she took the order and soon returned with my food. It tasted every bit as good as I remembered. I reached for my wallet to pay and found it missing. With a sigh, I reached into my jacket for the small pouch. A collection of gems poured into my palm. I thanked the girl, calling her by name.

She corrected me. That was her Grandmother’s name. She also worked here as a girl.

I left the pouch on the table, my debt repaid, though it took me half a century to do so.

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