The two of them were standing in a dark hallway, charred
from the fires several weeks ago.
“Stop worrying, just another moment.” He replied, fiddling
clumsily with the lock pick.
Precious seconds had passed, “It’s not going to work, you
don’t know what you’re doing.” She barked, taking the pick from him.
He quickly yielded to her and slouched against the wall.
Looking up he could see what remained of the wiring that used to bring light to
this part of the building.
“Got it!” She said, pulling the door open.
Light poured into the tall atrium at the front of the
Walking around the edge of the upper balcony, she could see
the litter and broken furniture strewn about the on the ground level, but no
“Hey, we’re good. Nothing out here.” She yelled, signaling
him to drag the crates out of the hallway and over to the balcony.
SHHHHHHHHHH! The crates slid across the tiled floor.
“It’s incredible how clean and open ninety percent of the
space in this room can be, yet we still need to climb over boxes and things.”
“People were animals.”
It must’ve been noon, the shadows were falling straight
down and onto the streets.
They slowly made their way through the cluttered
streets, pulling wagons full of crates in the midday sun. A slight breeze kept
them cool and the sound of rustling metal debris filled the air.
It had been sometime since the streets were full of
cars, the sky full of planes and the air full of exhaust.
“I guess that’s one of the perks.” He said, taking a
“Yea, it’s interesting, the streets are covered in
litter, but the sky is clear.” She replied, sarcastically.
“Can’t you fit these two on top over there?” he asked,
looking over at the shelf on the left.
“I don’t know, maybe we should slide this shelf over and put
them further back.”
They both pulled on the metal green shelf and it slid
backward on the tracks, revealing another aisle.
It was a small
storage room, with a low ceiling and a small space in front of several movable
shelves on tracks in the floor. The dim fluorescent lights hadn’t worked in
months, but they had enough flashlights to illuminate the space.
“Yea, we’ll just put them there.”
Darkness falls quietly on the deserted cityscape.
Although it’s been months since anyone was around to care,
some lights still shine and flicker into the night’s sky. Rooftop antennas
aptly warn aircraft that aren’t coming and exit signs speak to people who have
As they walk through the lonely cluttered streets each
evening, they move alone.
The new normal has been for them to find a place near a
steady glowing light each night. It’s someplace different each time, but with
the same idea in mind.
They are looking for reminders, of what was and what isn’t
Leaves crunching underfoot, he quickly walked down the
narrow tree-lined street.
“Where’d she go?” He asked himself, looking for any trace of
her in the area.
The coarse sand underneath her boots crunched as she turned.
Looking for him to emerge from one of the smaller side streets and into the
common area, she carefully scanned the area.
This was the furthest they had ventured from the city
He better get here soon, she thought.
Leaf by leaf, he crunched his way towards the common.
“Hey I’m over here!” She yelled, upon seeing him.
“Oh, thank God!” he sighed.
“How much do you think we’ll find up there?”
She looked around, pensively, prior to answering.
“Enough to be worth the trip, I hope.” She replied, knowing
that wasn’t quite the answer he was looking for.
The two of them continued up the twisting hilly road. It was
slow progress, but at least the view was a good consolation for the effort.
Taking a moment to turn and look back every block or so, they were measuring
their success in altitude gained rather than miles traversed.
“Hopefully this old map is accurate.” He said, as he glanced
up the road.
Perched high on the hillside, the various unassuming
buildings were glowing in the late afternoon sun when they finally reached the
The litter and clutter were not as prevalent that high above
the sprawling cities below. Although there were some oddly parked cars and a
few misplaced dumpsters, they were able to easily navigate through the main
roads and find an open door.
“I’m pretty sure that it’s my turn to be the runner,” she
said quickly opening the door.
“That’s fine, I’ll be out here, just yell when you find
He quietly watched as the sun set.
He had been sitting outside that unlocked door for untold
minutes, without so much as a sound from within. Normally, finding the crates
was a quick ordeal, done without time for contemplation.
A sound, much more than footsteps he expected rung in his
ears, what the hell was that?
A brief silence was followed by the several thumps, which
could have been mistaken for anything.His mind was racing; he hadn’t heard from her and couldn’t
be sure that he wasn’t hearing footsteps nearby. Trying to think of a reason,
“Hey!” he shouted.
The sun was shining, but it was hazy enough out to keep the
sky a muted yellow.
The light background noise was always there, as he walked to
his car each day. It was a pleasant sort of Pax Romana, everything safely
humming along for decades on end. The laboratory had it’s work and the world
had its peace.
It must’ve been May, that day when he walked out and knew
the tranquility had ended. The background noise was different the homeostasis
That day, he didn’t walk to his car.
He knew where to go, and he went.
"Aren't you going home today?" Asked a concerned co-worker
With all of his colleagues quickly departing the laboratory,
he knew that it was only a matter of time before he’d have the place to himself
and he could make some actual preparations.
The sun was sinking ever closer to the western horizon and
the odd haze that had smothered the area wasn’t going anywhere.
This is it, it has to
be it. I just know it, he thought as he sat on the rooftop patio looking
over the low-laying cities below.
His faithful backpack sitting next to him, he felt that he
was as ready as anyone could be.
Watching the last of his co-workers leave was sobering.
Till next time, he
thought as he watched the gates close one last time.
He was alone, truly alone at this point. The haze still
smothered the cities below, but the normal and constant hum of activity had
dissipated. There was an eerie stillness to the area, something he had never
seen or felt before.
“I’m pretty sure they’ll have some electrical tape in the
janitors closet.” He said aloud, talking to himself.
Walking through the corridors, he started taking note of the
vending machines he had avoided in the past.
The initial silence had transitioned into chaotic tones.
The chaotic tones had then slowly faded away into a renewed
During the past several months, there had been isolated
activity up on the labs hillside campus. This was something he had expected and
made sure to stay clear away from. At one point several of them had damaged on
of the rooftop structures on one of the lower buildings, the cafeteria.
In the silent months, since the height of activity, he took
to mending the roof.
“Oh, shit! What was that. . . Dammit!” He whispered to
“Where are you at?” She replied, realizing that the
sharp noise startled her partner.
“I’m still leaning by the door. Where you left me.” He
“I’ll be down in a few seconds, don’t worry.”
Sure thing, but
what the hell was that? He thought, as his mind tried to think up rational explanations.
THWAP. . . THWAP. . . THWAP
Her footsteps closed in on the door, just before it
quickly burst open.
“I don’t know what you heard, but it scared the hell
out of me too. Anyway, it was just some roofing material falling over.”
“Why were you on the roof to begin with?” he asked.
“Oh, I donno. I just thought may. . . “
“Maybe nothing, you know there wasn’t going to be anything
up there, at least not that we need.” He said, cutting her off.
They started walking towards the top of the laboratory campus,
where the entrance to the main road was. With several new crates in tow, they
easily carted around what little debris could be found on the nearly untouched grounds.
“I don’t think we’re going to make it back down there
“Probably not.” She replied, curtly.
He watched from the roof of the building as they walked
towards the gate of the campus.
Once they pass
the Keeler Building, I can cut across the lot and climb down the hill to where
the road passes, he thought.
From the rooftop he could easily see when the parking
lot would be out of their field of view, he had a pretty good idea as to what
he was doing.
“If we aren’t going to make it down, maybe we should
just plan to stay up here for the night?” he suggested.
“Nah, we’ll figure it out later.”
Steadily making their way down the road, towards the urban
sprawl, they started to encounter debris.
“It’s funny, how the closer we get to the city, the more
junk we have to walk around.” He stated, trying to make conversation.
“Um, I guess. Sorta makes sense though.” She replied, ending
The sun was getting low, and with no electricity to power
the lights, their walk was coming to an end. They’d have to find a place to sleep
for the evening.
“I think that would be a good place over there.” He said
pointing to a small restaurant.
Watching them enter the restaurant, he quickly walked around
the back of the building. He couldn’t be seen yet, that wasn’t the plan they’d agreed
Wow, this guy’s such a
joke, he thought, eavesdropping on their conversation.
Once they had settled into the back of the dry-storage room,
he found a quiet corner under the drive-thru window to sleep for the night. The
bright light from the moon enabled him to take an impromptu inventory of his backpack.
spare belt, gloves, baggies. All looks good so far, he thought, looking
through the contents of the outer pockets.
Sor loved people.
The first time I talked to him, which was during the first
day of the academy, we were supposed to find out something about each other and
report back to the rest of the class. I remember him telling me about his family
and how much he loved them. From that moment on, to me, this became his
defining characteristic, his love of people.
He was always concerned for other people, always looking for
ways to help out. He also always wanted to be around people, which remained
true, even during the last time I saw him.
The city was as it had been when they left not more than a
few days before. Rubbish in the streets and clean air above.
“How long do you suppose it’s going to take?” she asked.
“I’m not sure,” he said squinting as he looked into the sky.
The two of them quietly walked down the crowded streets,
dragging a small cart full of crates. Anxious to get back to what they
considered base, and drop off the new supplies, they didn’t say much to each
They didn’t need to say much; they’d been doing this for a
Dammit, this is taking
too long. He thought, growing impatient.
He had been following them for several days. Starting up in
the rural hills by the laboratory and continuing through the city center.
Forget it, I’m through
At that very moment, he saw a small strip of paper fall from
her hand. It couldn’t have been an accident, so he retrieved it.
His tension dissipated as he quickly glanced at the note,
which was carefully written on worn paper. Perhaps it had been used before, but
he didn’t notice.
Tomorrow makes perfect
sense, I’ll be ready by then.
When daylight broke, he was there.
“Who the hell are you?”
“I worked up at the laboratory on the hill.” Was the calm
The two stood silently for a moment, unsure of what to do
“How did you find us?”
Before he had a chance to reply, she walked into the dining
room. The sun was still sitting at a low angle and flooding the room with
mellow light. It was obvious that something needed to be said to resolve the
Whose side am I on, she thought.
“What’s going on here,” she said looking for direction.
She stood there, thoughts racing over the situation.
Without Jorge, I might
not be around today.
However, is he going
to be able to do anything more than simply sustain what we’ve got?
She had only seconds to process questions that required
The tension was high in the room, and it seemed that one of
them wasn’t going to survive the encounter. With three equally capable
individuals, and only two positions to take, she was the deciding factor.
I don’t like these
choices, Jorge or Eric. I want another option, she thought.
Just like that, she had an epiphany.
There was no time to hesitate.
“Eric, there’s a walk-in freezer in the back of the restaurant.
I need to you help drag him in there,” she said.
All eyes turned to her as she reached out and struck
Eric on the temple with the baton in her hands. He fell to the floor with a
hollow thud, still alive.
“Well, that takes care of that.” Said a relieved Jorge.
“No time to talk about it, he’s still alive, but we
need what he has in the backpack over by the drive-thru.” she replied.
“Let me go and get it.”
They had an unspoken understanding, or at least he thought
“You’ve got his shoulders?” Asked Jorge.
The tile floor was smooth and they didn’t have any trouble dragging
Eric into the freezer.
“I’m going to go get a lock, can you lay him up with one of
the blankets in the back corner Jorge?”
“I’m quite sure that he’ll wake up soon. We aren’t cruel are
Jorge had just made it back to drape the blanket over Eric
when he heard the loud thud of the freezer door.
“Hey, I’m still in here!” He yelled.
The yelling and banging from the freezer was muted from the
back of the restaurant.
That was easier than I
figured it would be, she thought as she walked out through the double glass
It was sunny and the day had just started, the world was
still in shambles, but for her it was a new beginning.
“What the hell!” yelled Jorge as he slumped against the
Additional yelling or
banging is obviously useless, she knows I’m in here, he thought.
The light was dim and the air stale, as he sat there in his
There was another restaurant down the road, it was a short
walk and she was confident that she could be back before sundown.
She grabbed her backpack and a few essential items from the
storage room before leaving on her quest. She needed a new place to call home,
someplace far from the likes of Jorge and Eric.
There will be other
people, more reasonable than those two. I’ve always wanted to
work with a Biologist, I wonder if there’s one out there, she mused as she carefully walked down the road.
She reached the restaurant just past two o’clock.
“What do you think?” asked Jorge, as he looked at what
turned out to be a pile of skeletons in the back of the freezer.
“That makes sense, presumably we’re supposed to be next.” He
continued, referring to Eric and himself.
Not today, he
thought, as he tried to work the door and then started with the fan supply. The
lighting was dim, but he was able to find the mounting hardware. Using a shelf
keeper for a pan-head screwdriver, he removed the screen and forced the rest
Desperation has a funny way of making people incredibly
Nearly out of the freezer, he could see his future.
I saved her life, how
could she do that? He thought, climbing down from the ceiling in the
Rushing through the hallway, he unlocked the freezer and
woke Eric. The two of them worked out a truce and made a plan for when she
Meanwhile, several blocks away, she realized how late it was
and decided to start moving back towards the restaurant.
The sun was lower than she would’ve liked for such a long
walk, but she was confident that she would make it back before night.
It was dark by the time she reached the restaurant and they
were laying in wait.
Jorge and Eric had formed a half-hearted truce over the
matter and decided to settle the score with her.
CLICK-CLACK, the side door opened.
THWAP-THWAP-THWAP, two sets of rushing footsteps.
Almost startled, she drew her handgun and fired two shots at
the approaching figures. The room was all commotion for a moment, before going
“What’d you think I was going to do, cry or something?” she
said, looking down at Jorge as he clung to life.
She coldly walked away.