Call me naive, but until now I’ve never been subjected to such a level of auditory assault. Sure, noise can drive you crazy—ask anyone living in a city that never sleeps, with neighbors following all kinds of shift patterns—but I didn’t know it could literally bring you to your knees, with tears streaming down your face. Because that’s what’s happening to me now.
The alley I’m in is still deserted, which is why I’m still alive, I realize a little while later.
Up ahead, at the mouth of the alley where it merges into the much large street, I see several people running. No, not just running—chasing each other, or some unsuspecting victim, as piercing screams outside of my narrow field of vision let me guess.
All around, I can hear people screaming, shouting, wailing as they pound against windows and doors, trying to get out.
Wising up, I retreat to a stinking dumpster roughly opposite the fire escape, using it as cover as I try to make sense of my scrambled thoughts.
As I huddle there, no less than five people come hurtling down the stairs—and two more take the direct route, jumping straight down onto the ground. One women—from the second floor—picks herself up and runs right for the larger street, only limping slightly. But a man from much higher up remains motionless where he went “splat.”
Dimly I register that the utterly neutral feeling that grips me must be shock, because no, it’s not my normal, first reaction not to give a shit when someone commits suicide right in front of me.
My hiding spot might not be the worst for now but it’s far from ideal. I need to find a better one, and soon. Also, I really need to find out what the fuck is going on. When no further jumpers exit my building the wrong way, I inch toward the street, pressed against the wall in hopes that will minimize my profile. It seems to be working since three more highly agitated men follow but ignore me as they run by.
As the sirens wail on, more and more people appear outside, up and down the street.
Some of them seem pretty lucid. Actually, most. They gawk; they find someone familiar to chat with. They gesticulate with phones that don’t seem to be working, just like mine. A few even run for parked cars, but already, the roads all around us are too full to drive without running the risk of accidentally mowing down someone.
Those are the quiet, calm ones, although they are all agitated.
I’m much more concerned with those that are running up and down the streets, seemingly without much reason, until every so often, they congregate and pounce on someone.
It takes less than a minute before I hear the first gun shots, barely audible over the continuous wailing of the sirens.
That’s when people start to panic—the lucid ones at least.
The others, those who were already aggressively moving around? Some continue, but most of them pause, as if they try to make sense of where the new danger is coming from. The way they halt and look this way and that, swaying slightly, makes them look almost like confused flock animals.
More shots ring out, and I see four of the crazy ones go down where they’ve been busy tearing into a fifth.
I can’t decide what is worse—that random people have gone crazy and start tearing into each other, or that other random people are gunning them down.
The crazy ones are the first to recover—and react. Instead of going for each other, they go for the scared, silent onlookers.