A good walk (2)

Chapter 2
A reveal and a conclusion

sigh

There’s no point in lying, is there? For all I know, this is just mumbling inside my own mind, and no one will know what goes on in here. Who should? For all I know, there’s no one left anyway. No one but them, and their interest in my mind isn’t for picking it. Well, not in that sense anyway.
A few friends of mine had gotten hold of me one day. They had booked time for the computer lab, running an experiment they said. They said it would be wonderful, unimaginable. Apparently they had stumbled upon a darkweb site, which purportedly held scans of old books of magic.
I say stumbled upon, but I’m pretty sure they’d deliberatly searched for it. I bet it was Jones, he was always into that sort of thing. “Not your run-of-the-mill New Agey stuff either”, he’d said, “this is the real deal.”
Sure, I’d thought. It didn’t interest me in particular, but I was easy to push over, and when they needed another set of hands, they knew they could always talk me into it. And they had made some spectacular finds in the past. Some spectacular failures as well.

Bridget, Jones’ girlfriend, was there of course. She came off as clumsy and nervous in public settings, but put her in front of a computer, and she would shine like the sun. No doubt she was the one who’d managed to book the computer lab. None of the others had the same wits about them, but our professors knew she was something special in this field, and made allowances for her that others would only dream about.
So, we were all there, gathered in the room. While Bridget turned on the computers, and began working on some form of code – weird stuff I couldn’t recognise at all – Jones instructed the rest of us in clearing a large space in the middle of the room. Aided by some print-outs, we then drew symbols on the bare floor, some of which I recognised from the code Bridget was working on.
Someone, I can’t remember who, asked how we’d get the stuff off the floor before class on Monday, but was told to pipe down. We then went about setting up some mirrors and lasers, that Whitfield must have borrowed from the science department. He was good at borrowing stuff.

I had to excuse myself, but after wandering the halls for a while, I noticed that all the bathrooms had been locked down for the weekend. Probably the janitor. What did he expect, that someone would break in and steal a bowl?
Stepping out for a bit was my only option, and while out there, I lit a smoke. Might as well enjoy the fresh air, right? That had been precisely in the spot I now stood, I noticed with little interest.
Apparently my friends hadn’t bothered to wait for my return before starting the experiment. After helping setting things up, I suppose my presence wasn’t necessary anymore. I’m glad it wasn’t though, for what I saw through the windows in that room…

I must have blacked out, because I found myself in my apartment, sweaty and heaving for breath, and no idea how I got there.
The change had not come all at once, that’s why they’d been able to set up the sirens as an alarm. They were an old remnant of some war or another, and could be automated in several ways to call out at specific times, or when some specific trigger was detected.
That had helped for a bit, but the folly of mankind is that it always thinks it knows better than the ones trying to keep it out of harms way. And so our numbers had lessened over time. I can’t recall the last time I saw, well, anyone at all. But that’s for the best. The more people that gathered together, the quicker they were attracted.

Wait, what was that? Was that something moving around that corner? Yes, there was something coming out of the shadow. It was one of them. What were they? It had never been determined, and even I who had witnessed the birth, as it were, couldn’t say for sure. Were they people, or perhaps demons? They certainly had all the parts of man, but they’d been… displaced, or rearranged, is the best way I can describe it. The only common trait was their decay. Parts of them open sores, oozing with puss, and other parts barely hanging on to the rest by a few tendons.

I stood frozen in my track. I knew standing perfectly still wouldn’t help me, but my body was unable to take orders from my brain. Some primal instinct had taken over, and all I could hope for was a quick and painless end.
Just then, the wind turned, and the stench of it hit me – the bitterness of sweat, foul long-dried filth, and something else, something undefinable yet more horrible than anything else. An involuntary gagging reflex almost made me topple over, but at least I regained control of my limbs. Slowly, I slid down behind one of the concrete benches. They were solid, and provided good shelter from being seen.
Some moments past, and I thought I could hear the God awful thing sniff the air. If it noticed me, I was done for. It began hobbling about, and I could hear it getting nearer, but just then, the soul-piercing shriek of the sirens tore the silence apart, and I could hear nothing else until it had passed.

I took several deep breaths, holding my mouth wide open so as to make as little noise as possible, but I couldn’t hear anything about anymore. After a few more moments like this, I cautiously peeked around the corner of the bench, but I could not see anything. I looked a little further, but the open plaza was deserted once more.
After a few tentative steps, where nothing reacted to my presence, I picked up the pace and ran. This increased the risk of being heard, but I only had one thought in my mind, and it was to get away from here as fast as possible.
Only when I came to the larger road at the other side of the college area, I slowed down just enough to look in both directions before crossing. It’s interesting how these habits stay with us, even long after our conscious mind knows they’re not necessary anymore. No cars had driven on this road for, what, years? There were still cars around, but they were standing where they’d last been parked. Like giant beetles, their rusted carcasses were a silent reminder of an age gone by in a flash, an age that thought it would last forever.
There was no time to reflect on that however, and I quickly made my way forward. Reaching the other side, I decelerated to a swift walking pace, not entirely unmotivated by the stabbing feeling my untrained physique left in my side.

In this manner, I made my way down the Southern Boulevard, keeping to the open green area between the lanes, as this kept me at a maximum distance from any corner and cellar entrance, anywhere they might be hiding. As I passed the old church, the door swung open, and it was as if a warmth emanated from inside. For an instant, I could hear music from inside, and see smiling faces of people all dressed up – maybe it was a baptism? Whatever it was, memory or imagination, it was gone in an instant as a third blast of the sirens brutally pulled me back to the present.
I hurried on, and while I could see no more activity in the streets, I could see the clouds swiftly gathering again overhead, darkening the day. Just before reaching my door, I could feel large pieces of hail battering down. Hail in June? Even nature had not gone unaffected by what had been set in motion.
I managed to get inside without further incident, and while I had found no new supplies, I still had one can of beans left.
Tomorrow, I would have to try a new direction, but I wouldn’t let that worry me now. This had, after all, been a good walk.

2 thoughts on “A good walk (2)”

  1. Lance Miller

    Solvitur ambulando – Excellent read and I look forward to reading more stories

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