Judgment Day: Part 12

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This is the end of the first section of the book. If you’re still reading, I owe you a beer…


Those things in the Metro weren’t just freaks of nature or some weird accident. Somehow, people had been transformed. It was certainly linked to that sickness that had clutched Daryl so tightly in the moments before the fireball – but only a handful had been affected. Others just died, others were immune. So what was it? Some sort of biological weapon, perhaps? That would explain quite a bit. No damage to the buildings, no radiation sickness. Some bastard must have released a bug. But even sick people would burn. No Human, crazed or not, could stand up against the burns those monsters in the lead car had received. Then there was the grey-green ooze. No blood, super strength? What sort of bug could do that in the space of a couple of minutes?

He picked up the cell phone again and dialed 911. No connection. He looked up again at Molly, then took off his coat and draped it over her legs. His subway fantasy girl was right here, a few feet from him, looking about as bad as anyone could. Not that he looked any better, every inch of his skin was smudged with filth. She was showing lines under the soot and grime, little flaws he had never noticed from half a train car away, staring in a commuter haze and filling his mind with silly dreams. The world that had let her survive disaster tonight hadn’t been as kind to her in the past. So it was a bug, and if they were immune, what was the common element? What did he share with Molly and those poor strangers from the Metro?

He climbed into the front seat and rolled down the window, staying low and peering into the rain-swept night for any sign of movement. The cold air rushed in and he listened to the silent world. The noise of the rain seemed so much more overwhelming without the sounds of the world. The buzzing security lights were a violent intruder struggling against the sounds of nature. That car horn still sounded in the distance, a whimpering and faded siren call of civilization. Everything else was silent, the old world had stopped breathing. He’d been in the country before, camping under stars and tall trees, but this was different. This was far more powerful because there were no stars, no tall trees. Just the concrete jungle, and it wasn’t right without that goddamned wall of sound, that constant assault on all the senses. What would the morning bring? The faces of his fellow survivors, killed by that one monster, played in his mind. How many other survivors would die on this night? Would they make it? If they were like him, there wouldn’t be an ounce of strength left if they were discovered. Distantly, darkly, the vague thought traveled through his mind: Was it even worth surviving?

Then, in the distance, the car horn stopped. At first, Daryl didn’t notice it. It had become a thin and distant background noise, just like his commute and his life. But, eventually, the silence became invasive. Now it really was a dead city out there.

He rolled up the window and sat in the passenger seat for a bit. Those things had become the dominant creatures now. Just a handful of them could make short work of whatever was left. He realized that clearly, and that he had been blind lucky so far. Maybe too much TV was a bad influence. He felt like he was in a movie, a dream, and he wanted to feel grounded in reality. To really be Mad Max and not some scared guy hiding from the night. He wanted to get a grip on this whole thing before it spun crazily from beneath him.

Two gunshots, violent and powerful, shattered the silence of the night. They were close, down on the street by the Metro perhaps. Sinking lower into the seat, he listened, the adrenaline racing through him again, and he felt like a coward for not running out to help. His hands hovered over the van’s keys, though he wasn’t able to form a clear picture of how things would go if he were to start it up and track down the shots. The harder he listened, the more he doubted that they were gunshots. Maybe transformers blowing out or a car backfiring. It could have been anything. Just when he was prepared to pass it off as a dream, a rapid burst of gunfire echoed through the night, now from further down the road. The noise of thunder. Then there was nothing.

He glanced back at Molly, but she still slept, huddled under his jacket. Those final shots were fired in a panic. The shooter was defending his life, and two bullets hadn’t stopped whatever was coming at him. Nothing responding to the violence. That was the yardstick of civilization – authority. Firing a gun on a city street at 9pm should have rocked the world.

He closed the window and crawled back behind the passenger seat. “Civilization is only one Metro stop from extinction,” he muttered, laying his head back and closing his eyes. Nothing to be done, just rest until morning. He repeated that to himself like a mantra.

Sometime in the early morning hours, Molly moved over and snuggled against him. He looked down at her and she tilted her head towards him, her eyes glassy and flat in the darkness. She was still for a moment, then she carefully moved his arm so that it was lying on her shoulder. She pressed against him and covered herself as best she could with his coat. A few minutes later, she fell asleep with both arms wrapped around his chest.

Daryl closed his eyes again, wishing that he could leave this world of dreams.