Chapter 3A Chapter by Nicole
I came up with the idea for the Archangels while I was sitting in my cubicle at work. I thought, "What if there was a clone that could sit here for me so I could go home?"
The names of cities really didn’t matter anymore, so I never paid attention to where I was or any of the signage that was still standing. But the air smelled faintly of ash and smoke so I knew immediately that this had been one of those places where Archangels and SWAT teams had fought against riots. These conflicts always had evidence of the same kind of outcome: mutual destruction, carnage, and insane slaughter.
The smoldering embers had died out long ago but the smell of charred chaos in the air still lingered. The days were hot and made my hair stick to the sweat on my neck and face. I’d have to cut it soon; it was getting too long.
The sound of my tennis shoes crunching in rubble or broken glass was the only sound for miles. There’s no word for that kind of solitude.
I walked, backpack on my back and shotgun slung over one shoulder as I entered that city and took it all in.
Buildings were cracked and blackened, cars were smashed on each other, and the overgrowth of plants climbed the rubble as nature tried to reclaim the world. It wasn’t any different from the rest of the cities I’d seen and there wasn’t any sign of any other survivors anywhere. Just the way I liked it.
6 years of solitude and survival had taught me many things, but foremost to never turn a blind eye or let my guard down. Tragedy does horrible things to the minds of good people. I probably wasn’t an exception to that, but I had found my own way to cope.
The sky was beginning to turn smudged shades of intense orange and warm lavender as the sun ducked back behind the horizon. It’d be night soon so I made headway towards the nearest towering building whose remains at all resembled a hotel. Hotels were usually safest and even, in some rare cases, still had electricity. Running water was a LOT easier to find in cities, but only a few places still had electricity. This city didn’t really show much promise of it though, so I didn’t get my hopes up.
The world grew dim and the air started to get cold really fast. I untied my jacket from around my waist, glad to feel the warmth of fleece against my skin.
Even in the silence, in the darkness and choking solitude, I couldn’t shut off the part of my brain that was now forever programmed to be constantly watching. Always listening, always tense, always waiting for something to go wrong. Because the only thing more rare than electricity... was when things went the way I wanted them to.
I kept an eye on the shadows and a finger on the trigger, making for what appeared to be an only slightly charred Holiday Inn Express. Only the top right half of it was destroyed and I preferred the ground floor anyway. More exits on the ground floor and a girl couldn’t have too many available exits these days.
The streets were jammed tight with cars, most with smashed out windows or crumpled hoods and roofs. Made me nervous as hell to walk through them because you never knew what could be hiding out there. Your best bet was to keep your gun hand jumpy and get where you were going as fast as possible.
Nothing moved or made a sound as I wove through the gridlocked cars. Every now and then I’d happen by one and, even in the darkness, I knew there were corpses in it. You could smell them...hear the flies buzzing by the hundreds.
That was something I never got used to.
The Holiday Inn felt cavernous as I stood at the doorway, looking at my reflection in the hazy, splintered glass front doors. I couldn’t see inside through them, but it was dark in there. Very dark. I hesitated a minute before I could work up the nerve to go inside.
The lobby wasn’t so badly damaged, at least not that I could tell in the gloom, and I paused again just inside to pull my flashlight out of my bag. The air smelled faintly of smoke, but otherwise the place looked nearly untouched and I wound my way through the first floor hallways unhindered, selecting a corner room to be own for the night.
No signs of life. No signs of recent occupation. Nothing. I was satisfied and opened the door to room 124. The power being out made all the electronic locks to the doors not work, but all hotel rooms have those nifty deadbolts and chain locks. Nothing like a little security in this day and age. Not to mention hotel doors are pretty damn tough.
I scanned the room extensively; checked the bathroom, under both beds, and in the little closet. It was just me and the cheap upholstery so I locked myself inside, drawing the shades and curtains closed, and setting my bag on the little table under the windows. Too bad there wasn’t any power, the little coffee maker was still sitting there on the table with a few packets of sweet and low and creamer all ready to go.
The water still worked, albeit it wasn’t warm, so I took the time to shower with the free hotel soap that was still on the bathroom counter. I rinsed my clothes out and hung them over the shower curtain rod to dry, changing into my other set of clothes. A pair of old, saggy-butted jeans and a gray tank top that had been white once upon a time. As nice as it would have been to sleep in pajamas, I had to be ready to run at any moment. No time for mistakes.
It’d been a while since I saw my reflection and I narrowed my eyes at the wild-eyed young woman that stared back at me in the bathroom mirror. I stood there, brushing the tangles out of my wet, short blonde hair, looking at the way my cheeks were a little sunken and I had huge dark circles under my yes. Haunted was a good word for how I looked. My shoulders and chest was bony but muscled. A long silver chain hung around my neck, a battered old high school class ring hanging off of it.
I didn’t sleep much, even when I did get the chance. But the hotel bed was soft, if not a little musty from 6 years of dust, and I made myself at home under the blankets. With any luck my stay here would go unnoticed, but I still put my dad’s pistol under the pillow and kept my bag at the bedside. If I had to leave in a hurry, I’d be out a change of clothes at max and that was something I could live with. Clothes were easy to find.
The world had gotten so quiet. No car horns in the streets outside. No people in the hallways making a ruckus. Not even the drone of the air conditioner in the room could fill the silence. It was still deafening, even after all this time, and I laid awake like I did most nights, waiting to hear something until exhaustion finally took me under.
Sweet surrender, but it never lasted very long.
© 2010 Nicole
Added on September 29, 2010
Last Updated on September 29, 2010
Wichita Falls, TX
AboutA Numerical Overview: 1) I am physically incapable of keeping any plant alive. I have killed two bonsai trees and a cactus so far as well as the few potted plants I've bought from walmart over seve.. more..