Not a lot at first, but as the sun starts to beat down on the waking city, more and more people start coming out of whatever hiding places they spent the night in.
At first, I’m alarmed. Will they attack me?
Nobody goes out of their way to notice me but I still give everyone a wide berth… particularly when I notice that they don’t even seem to be aware of my presence.
They’re also not moving like they should. A clear lack of caffeine, I suspect at first, but when the tenth person drags themselves out into the sunshine right in my walking path, even I have to admit that I’m seeing a pattern.
They all seem normal, except for that weird behavior. I don’t go up to anyone and stare in their faces but their eyes are clear, and there’s no vomiting of any bodily fluids.
They remind me a little of flowers, stretching for the sunlight after having been confined in the dark for too long.
None of them is acting aggressive, but that still freaks me out. In a sense, this is worse than last night. It feeds too closely into my “complacency” theory from before.
Did someone sign the entire city up for some weird obedience experiment?
Did I escape because I’m a shut-in and subsist on packaged food and drink for the most part?
I hate that my reasoning kind of makes sense to me.
I walk for what feels like forever but my phone tells me is closer to an hour. It’s still working but without any kind of reception it’s a useless brick. I’m still hoping for some kind of emergency bulletin to push through but that doesn’t happen.
The only remarkable thing except for the people walking into the sunshine is that the city remains quiet otherwise. I see three more choppers, but that’s it. No cars, no busses, not even the odd weird dog walker who didn’t get the memo.
Finally I’m close to where all the choppers kept hovering.
It’s an intersection with a lot of open space due to a gas station and a supermarket with a moderately sized parking lot on opposite sides. There are people milling around… a lot of them. I don’t see the entire crowd yet but there must be close to two hundred—and they are moving with scared yet deliberate movements. Some are armed. There are also cars in the street, effectively turned into road blocks.
Part of me wants to speed up and rejoin society as it is as quickly as possible, but I force myself to slow down and consider while I’m still two blocks down—far enough away that they haven’t necessarily seen me. I’m not even sure why I’m suspicious; this looks exactly like what I’ve been looking for since my neighbors started painting the hallway between our apartments with blood. It makes sense now that the choppers all came by to take a closer look. This must be even more visible from the air than here on the ground.
I’ve never considered myself a conspiracy nut, but this strikes me as one thing above all else: convenient. Not as a refuge but as a target.
I stop where I can duck into a house entrance and consider. From my vantage point, I have a good view of the closer part of the intersection. Just as I watch, three people come running up from the southern road, looking scared out of their wits.
They are being noticed.
Nobody shoots. Nobody tries to attack them. Nobody attempts to scare them away.
In fact, within moments, they get swallowed up by the gathered crowd, only to appear a little later farther away from the road block they just traversed, bundled up on blankets, munching on food.
As I look around, none of the few sungazers makes a move to head for the intersection.
It looks safe enough.
I know that there’s no rush, but suddenly, I feel incredibly tired and anxious all on my own.
There’s shelter and safety in numbers. And, just maybe, someone knows what is actually going on.
I’d be a fool not to head over to the camp, so that’s exactly what I do.