The journey in seemed normal, just the usual collections of odd people that populate the city: a woman in a park feeding a solitary bird; a man standing on the back of a trailer, big gloves, balding, tattoos, dejected; a boy in a school uniform walking backwards through a building site; a woman plucking her eyebrows at a bus stop.
The city was half dead when I arrived, and a quarter undead. The undead didn’t seem to know that they were not alive. The dead were stacked inside banks in the hope that somehow they would vanish.
It took time to traverse the streets, cautious, careful travelling, avoiding hotspots and deadspots. The temptation to rush was extreme; run, run away from the mess. I searched the places that I knew she had been the day before: offices, cafes, a cinema, a supermarket, the train station. Nothing but the debris of a crumbling society.
When the army arrived, and hope flare inside me, a renewed urgency pulled me through the concrete jungle. Then they began culling, efficiently, discretely, desperately. So I hid.
Hiding never found a hider.
Hiding never gave you hope.
Until they restored the façade of normality. The shadows did the dirty work. I can’t imagine when I will be safe again.
Finally I saw you. From a distance. But it wasn’t you, just a hollow replica with a fake smile. You didn’t see me. You probably think I’m dead. I know you’re not alive.
So, time to leave. Run away and start again. Somewhere.
© James Bloomer
James Bloomer writes Science Fiction and won the 2010 James White Award, see http://www.bigdumbobject.co.uk/jamesbloomer for details
about his published stories. He also runs the Science Fiction blog Big Dumb Object and you can find him on Twitter @bigdumbobject.
If you enjoyed this story, please consider making a small donation via the donations tab above. All money goes to maintaining the site and paying our authors. Or tell a friend about us. Thank you!