Two friends walk up to the wreckage.
“What a waste” one says.
The other agrees.
They survey the rubble, looking for anything and nothing all at once. They find burnt out books, busted memories, unknown keepsakes.
Nothing of obvious substance.
“Hey, look over here.”
The larger one has spied something, after some substantial time has passed.
A golden locket, in a perfect oval shape. It has several scratches, but only like it had just been through the tumble dryer. Not like what had actually happened. The chain attached to the small piece looks worn, tired and confused.
“Well, this will have to do. Still, what a waste.”
The other grunts.
They begin to walk away, as the larger one cracks open the locket with a snapping of his crooked fingers.
“Huh. Would you look at that?”
A distinct and womanly face looks back at him. Gaunt and sunken, yet endearingly tough and pretty. Her wrinkles suggested years of hardship, but there was a glint marginally brighter than the worn gold in her black and white eyes.
The friend only glances, whilst the other, looking over his shoulder, truly stares.
In a second, it’s over. The grubby fingers have closed the portal.
They keep trudging on.
“I think you took the last one” the larger one announces loudly, “Is that fair?”
The other bites his lip but nods in watered-down submission.
As they nearly go their separate ways, the larger one actually looks at the other. For the first time, he truly notices him. He almost feels emotion.
“Ah heck, you can take it. I know you’ve got a family to feed” he beams, his good deed done for the day.
The other catches the locket in his mouse hands and squeaks a muted noise of gratitude.
The two depart to their assigned agency centres.
The other walks until there’s nobody in sight. Nothing but repetitive front lawns and ambient destruction around him, he briefly feels the forgotten concept of privacy.
He takes a deep breath and opens up the locket, this gem into another’s life.
He sees the face of his worst fears, the realisation that she is now just a faded memory. Her only remains lie in the hands of the bottom-feeders of life. Her eyes pierce into his, but he knows he will never hear her sweet, hoarse whisper in his undeserving ear ever again.
He holds back a tear, as his face shapeshifts back into the mandated emotionless mould it is paid to be.
He closes the locket and places what was once his heart into the partially sewn shut pocket on the front of his overalls, the only place they will not search back at the agency.
He just lost the love of his life, and can never tell a soul in this petty world.
She was real, she chose to make a stand. That is what made her forbidden.
Now it's just grey.