Chapter 1 – An introduction and a clue
As I stepped outside today, I noticed that a chill rain was falling. Why hadn’t I noticed it before? I considered stepping back inside and grabbing a jacket, or maybe just a hoodie, but as I had gone out already, I should stay on course. Who knew when I could go out again?
As I reached the first corner down the street, the rain had stopped. A strong, cool breeze still blew, but the clouds were breaking apart, revealing patches of a blue sky above.
Nothing special happened, and I was walking more inside my own head than I was on the pavement underfoot, until I had come almost halfway through the usual route. A whim caught me, and instead of going right and turning back home as was the plan, as was always the plan, I turned left.
This set me on a course on the perimiter of the Western Cemetery. I had been in there in the past, but not on this specific trail. The unfamiliar place excited me, and I felt like an explorer treading new ground.
I had entered a park of sorts, and behind some branches, I could just barely make out what looked like a playground. I let my fancy guide me, and after crouching down to get through the branches, I did indeed gaze upon a rather sizable playground of latter day design. It was empty now, of course, and I could see a few bi- and tricycles strewn across the combined asphalt football and basketball court, or parked just outside. A lone, orange leather football lay to the side of the court, a little worn but fully inflated, ready to be kicked or thrown about by little hands and feet that would never again touch it.
While the sun was leaving beautiful patterns on the ground through the dense foliage above, the place rendered in me a somber feeling of desolation. The slide, the swings, the climbing obstacles, they had all been built to last. And last they did, but for what purpose now?
I knew I shouldn’t stop, even slowing my pace could prove devastating, but I couldn’t help being struck by the extraordinary sight before me. The calm beauty of the place had me caught in a dream of days gone by. After a few deep breaths, taking the scenery in by both the stunning sight the light and surroundings offered, and that special, fresh smell of early summer nature just after rain, I knew it was time to move on, and I walked across the playground into the thicket beyond.
A narrow path soon connected to one of the larger, paved walks, and I turned right to walk across the bridge I could see just at the top of the incline. In the past, the bridge had made me nervous, not because of anything in the construction, but simply because of my fear of heights, something I had inherited from my parents long ago.
Today however, emboldened by my sense of adventure, it did not scare me, and I walked briskly on.
When halfway across, I stopped and looked at the road below. Standing there, the familiar hum and buzz of traffic came back to me. From this point, cars would seem like brick-sized toys, rushing back and forth below me in a relentless chase of something they’d never catch up to. Now the street was empty.
The gentle rustling of leaves in the wind made its way back into my consciousness, and drove out the memories. It was warmer now, and I could feel the unevenness of the planks pressing lightly against the bottom of my feet. Constant exposure to the elements had made even this plain and artificial construction remember its roots, and slowly but surely the unpredictable texture of nature was making its way back even here.
Coming off the bridge, I entered a second park on the other side, one that I had never known existed before now. Blood-red leaves adorned the bushes encapsulating it, and inside it felt like twilight had come as the sun could not easily penetrate the branches overhead.
No sooner had I stepped inside, than a piercing shriek filled the air. The sirens, oh God! The sirens were going off!
The folly of stepping off the familiar route now hit me, and I knew I had to hurry back as fast as I could. When the sirens blew, it was a sign they were coming out. They were the reason I had seen no one else on my walk today, or the day before.
How long had it been? A few days? Years? The old time was irrelevant now, there was only the moment. And the moment was a movement. Moving across these gravel paths towards the relative safety of the apartment. So far, I had been successfully hiding in one place, but how long would that last? I needed food and drink. And at any moment, they could find me.
Was that a rustle in the bushes? Did something disturb them? Just the wind, or something more sinister? Maybe it was nothing. I didn’t know, and I wasn’t about to stop and find out.
Hurrying along, I came out at the old college district. The familiar sight calmed me slightly, and even though I should still hurry, I could feel my pace slighten ever so lightly, as my feet walked the stones they had walked so many times before.
They said it was here it began, but no one knew exactly when or what had happened. Well, almost no one. I didn’t have anything to do with it, I swear, but…