Those of us who stayed, knew the cost. One day, the City would ask for our blood. The jungle was closing in, the lizards and other giant reptiles were growing bolder by the day. We were bolstered only by our delusions and the fugue of denial built up over generations. But, this place had an undeniable gravity, and it was convincing. We stayed and we stayed, and even when we left, we stayed.
I left when I was 17 to travel the world, sure that I would never return. I used to get these nightmares. I dreamed I was back in my hometown, unable to leave. I caught a taxi deep into the heart of town, blood ran in a river down the street, and I would soon drown. The City's flag flew high from a mast somewhere in the corner of my vision. I shifted to look at it, and it receded beyond view.
Soon, I started seeing the flag everywhere I went. From Bangkok to San Fran, a million bits of digital information, clothing, glimmers of faces, reflections in windows, all spliced together into that inevitable banner: three horizontal bands of red, black, and white. Floating away downriver on that bed of night, was a single red rose.
I awoke at 3am after one of those dreams in a shitty backpackers somewhere in Mongolia. I kissed my lover goodbye and I made my slow, devastating return to Johannesburg.
Now, nearly five years later, I was staring down at the body of a dead girl next to the Braamfontein Spruit. We found her shoes under the tree where I used to buy dagga from an old Rasta when I was a kid. It was bad weed, and I got a headache just thinking about it.