The Ground

First a distant rumble, then louder, building up to the sound of a marching army. Stud after stud hits concrete as boots clatter up the tunnel. A splash of colour spills out, as if an overturned paint tin. Merging with green, it is greeted by the roar of a lion.
Silent expectation falls around the ground. Broken almost instantly by the piercing shrill of the whistle. The thud of leather on leather and the lion roars again. A sea of faces – waves rising up and down with each touch of the ball.
Hearts beat faster; pulses race; hopes are raised, dashed, then raised again. A thousand sighs hang in the air. Dejected, the waves subside. The sea stands still.
Discontented mutterings and tribal chantings become a steady hum – a machine’s whurr, winding itself up and down.
Somewhere in between, the machine pauses awhile, fuel restocked. Steam swirls between cold hands, icicles clasping polystyrene. Amid mouthfuls, the post-mortem, every action dissected, every kick re-examined.
The lone figure in black emits forth his screaming siren and the hum of the machine is heard again.
With the crack of a marksman’s weapon the leather bound sphere connects with steel. A thousand shutters go down, afraid to look. Muscle and sinew lunge forward. An outstretched arm fails to connect and the mass rise to an explosion. Their reward complete, anxious moments follow, urging the end to come. The siren, sweet now when it sounds, is lost amid the carnival.
Ant-like, the swarm moves towards exits, down concrete steps – grains of sand slipping through an egg-timer – and with them, all utterance gone.
This great sprawling structure deserted now, row after row abandoned, yet not completely. A single form, a lone silhouette hunched over a broom, surveys the grand auditorium. Once a battleground, now captivating in its tranquility. The lion’s roar reduced to a whisper. The purr of passing traffic is heard once more.
The icy wind forces hand to collar; protective shoulders hunch against the cold. The figure moves deftly now, an enveloping chill its incentive. The broom, his vehicle, firmly driving out debris, relics left behind to mark the occasion. A tangled assortment of paper and tin, crumpled wrappers like gems, sparkling up at the lights.
Shadows cast bizarre shapes, silently creeping, sinister in their presence. Every inch of emptiness, a quarry to fill.
The silhouette pauses.
The rubble has gone. The debris is clear. Every trace of the explosion has passed. His toil here exhausted, there is no more to be done. His departure as silent as his entrance. His steps down the tunnel, no match for the army gone before.
With the click of a switch, desertion becomes total, the effervescent hiss of electricity as it is sucked out of the great beacons in the sky. Illuminated no more, darkness forms a blanket, wrapping itself around every inch of the arena.

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