Several nights ago I arrived in the small town of Auriac, my body weary and my nerves frayed after walking for 6 km along a pitch black country road. It was too late to knock on doors and ask for a place to sleep, so I walked down the main street, past old stone houses with faded painted shutters and tired windows, until I came to the small town square with a green in the center.
Above me, the stars blinked, cold and unmoving, and I sensed that it was going to rain by morning, so I set up my sleeping bag on the dusty tiles beneath the roof of a terrace on the green and settled in for the night. Sleep came in fits and starts; it was an indecisive sleep, the kind where you are conscious of perhaps being awake, or not. The ground was steadfast and made my ribs sore when I slept on my side for too long, and my shoulders went numb as well.
Finally, by daybreak I was too exhausted to mind the discomfort, and fell fully asleep. Two hours later, the cawing of birds nearby woke me. My eyes began to adjust to the gray morning light, and they looked toward the sky. Overnight, clouds had moved in, and they were saturated with a grim sense of purpose.
Just then, the bells of the parish church across the square began to ring. As the peal of the bells echoed around the narrow valley of Auriac, there was a massive clap of thunder overhead. For a moment, silence descended lightly in the aftermath of the bells and thunder. Then the rain began to fall.
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