The rest of the day had flashed by in a blur. After my narrow escape from the subway, I had tried to put as much distance between myself and ‘them’ as possible. Sneaking through the alleyways and side-streets, I had paid little attention to which way I was heading. It wasn’t until the late afternoon that I gave my surroundings any real notice.
The buildings around me stood tall and imposing, casting long shadows in the fading sunlight. Subconsciously I had been sticking to the shadows as much as possible, which had inevitably led me further east towards downtown where the higher density of tall structures provided the best cover.
Now in retrospect, it was not the best idea I had ever had. Although I was a less obvious target amidst the skyscrapers, in my mind at least, downtown had also been the epicenter of the first attack, and the main battleground for the fighting which followed. If my intention had been to escape ‘their’ notice, heading straight into what may very well be their stronghold was less than ideal.
I ducked behind the burned-out husk of a car to reassess my situation. With night fast approaching, I had to find shelter, and soon. I spotted a convenience store further down the road, its glass doors smashed-in like so many others. That would do, and with any luck I might be able to resupply.
When I entered, I made a thorough sweep of the store for anything of use. There wasn’t much of note, but the place at least appeared reasonably secure. I moved an empty shelving unit in front of the entrance as an extra measure. I didn’t expect it to help much in the event ‘they’ found me again, but at least it was something.
I checked the bag still strapped around my shoulder for a quick supply-check. I still had enough food and water for another day or so, if I stretched it out, and one more thing… the radio. I had almost forgotten about the portable radio I had discovered on our supply-run the day before. At the time I had intended to test it to see if I could pick up a signal. Even if I could I didn’t know what help it would be; an emergency broadcast perhaps, but with my limited Chinese I wouldn’t even be able to understand what was being said.
All the same I took out the small contraption and turned it on, being sure to keep the volume low. The empty buzz of static confirmed that it worked at least. I started flipping through frequencies to see if I could pick anything up.
As I listened, my thoughts returned to Charlotte. What had happened to her? When we had escaped in the subway I had been sure she was with me. Had we simply become separated as we ran; had she fallen behind; had they captured her… the pain of not knowing was the worst part of it all.
Wherever she was, and Vivian before her, they were now both far beyond my help. All I could do was hope that whatever fate had befallen them, somehow they were still alive. What did ‘they’ do with the people they caught? I shuddered at the thought; nothing good, I imagined. The fact that they were so hellbent on hunting us down, and that they seemed to collect even the dead brought images of twisted experiments to mind. I hoped I would never have to find out first-hand.
A sudden burst of sound from the radio startled me into attention and I sat upright in shock. What was that? I fiddled with the dial in an attempt to strengthen the signal. It had almost sounded like language. At last I seemed to have hit the right frequency and the sound came through again, much clearer:
“H-hello…. can anyone hear me?”