Word had it that the traveler was inside the city.
Whoever it was looked like a normal citizen; sounded like a normal citizen; acted like a normal citizen, but, according to the rumours, was far from a normal citizen.
No one knew how these rumours started. If anyone, say, a plucky journalist, tried to find out, they ended up in a loop of 'I heard it from him,' without actually getting anywhere.
The police force, such as it was these days, were out in more force than usual, just in case this traveler did to them what they had done to the Triple Cities.
Reports from the Triple Cities, further south along the coast, spoke of destruction of the city buildings first, followed by other public infrastructure and then, sometimes, the residential areas just for good measure. Each of these destructions took place over a few weeks, with maybe a month between each. It had been almost five weeks since the last city was razed, so many people had decided that it was about the right time to take a small vacation away from the city.
And now the traveler who was said to be responsible for all the devastation was inside the city, the shining beacon of the East. The one place the lawmakers and enforcers had declared safe from destruction.
Curfews were in place from sunset to sunrise. The police were not equipped to handle the level of panic just the news of the traveler caused. Even so, gangs of youths roamed the urban streets. These young people would always say they were protecting their neighbourhoods but some were out to cause trouble or just to spite the curfew.
Some neighbourhoods erupted into localised gang wars. Groups of these roaming young people faced off against each other to determine 'ownership' of a given neighbourhood, each claiming they could protect this neighbourhood better then the other when the traveler arrived.
Sometimes the police would intervene, but it was just as likely that they would get dragged into the fighting. Other times they would just ignore the gangs – it wasn’t worth it to a lot of them.
It had been a week since the traveler stories started to appear in the city. City Hall had barricaded itself off from the rest of the city. For two days now protesters had been lined up 20 deep to demand answers to what the mayor and other city leaders were planning to do about this terrorist in their midst. When the answers were either not forthcoming or were unsatisfying, the protests got violent. When five people, including a small child, were crushed during one of these protests, the council left through a series of tunnels that had been dug for just such an emergency. For now, the city was running on momentum alone.
City Hall had fallen to its foundations. In its place, a large fire stood, fed by protesters as a sort of monument to the lack of action on the part of the councilors. The curfew had been ineffective for days now. Gangs roamed the street all the time. Fights raged across several neighbourhoods. Fires sprung up as quickly as they could be extinguished. Bodies were found daily.
The traveler had not been found, but everyone saw his fingerprints all over the protests, the fires, the gangs and the lack of local government. Whoever this person was, whatever he was doing to cause all this, he wasn’t done yet.
The city, all of it, was gone. A global emergency response had already been active in the Triple Cities down on the coast in order to salvage whatever they could, however, most people considered them to be lost, and once the protests started in this city, they clamored for the emergency relief to be sent there.
The powers that be, however, decided that considering the mess this traveler had left in each of the cities, their response wouldn’t be sent in until after things had calmed down.
And now it was too late. The city and most of its people were gone. Destroyed in a series of city wide protests and riots which culminated in the destruction and impressive explosion of a large factory which, once upon a time, employed a good third of the population of the city.
Fires raged across almost 80% of the city, including the river that split it in two, which had been contaminated with fuels of all sorts when the riots hit the industrial complexes which used the river for both water consumption and waste dumping.
Emergency teams were pulling bodies out of the wreckage for weeks after the riots ended. Fires continued to burn for a lot longer. Eventually people started to return to rebuild. To fix what this traveler had done.
It didn’t last. Once the fires were put out, and the majority of the bodies had been recovered, the federal rescue teams left. Without the extra people and extra money, the city was left to its own devices which very quickly turned it into a ghost town.
The destruction of the four cities would go into the history books as being caused by, depending on which version you read, a group of domestic terrorists who had been active across the country on a smaller scale for years before and this was their opus of sorts or a series of cells of a larger, global terrorist group who had been woken for some reason.
There were some who remembered what actually happened but they were never taken seriously. It was just not possible for a single person to do all of this.
No one pointed out that no one person did do this. That it was all of them that did it, in fear of what that one person would do.
Years later, after all these stories had been forgotten or dismissed as flimsy excuses for the events the citizens had been involved in, rumours of a traveler reached my city.
It is my sworn duty to hunt him down before the same fate befalls my city and her people.