Chapter 19: Edwin
It had begun to rain. With all the abnormal activity I had found myself expecting the weather to be static. As I watched the rain pelt the window that Derek had been on the other side of only two minutes ago I noticed that neither the sun nor the clouds could be seen. The smoke that had risen since the destruction of the town had never really disappeared, giving the whole city a ghostly feel with never-ending fog. Now it just looked like water was falling from an unknown source, drowning out any noise outside. The day had turned dark; the unseen clouds must've covered the unseen sun. I sighed forlornly and turned around to face my companions.
"Do any of you guys have a marker?" I asked. Rosalie, Violet, and Candy looked up at the sound of my voice and shook their heads.
"You might find one upstairs," Candy suggested, "I'm pretty sure this was an office building before it was abandoned last night,"
"And you think it's safe to leave this floor?" I asked, knowing that Candy was a little nervous about visiting the other floors. But now she just seemed preoccupied with other thoughts.
"Sure," she shrugged, not bothering to look at me. She was lying on a couch, looking up at the ceiling, her eyes focusing on something I couldn't see.
"Um, okay," I replied before going over to the elevator.
"Wait!" Before I could press the "up" button Candy suddenly got off the couch and stood up, "I wouldn't trust the elevators in a building that's been badly shaken up," she said, "Take the stairs. You're only going up one floor anyway," I nodded and opened the door to the back stairwell instead. The door shut behind me, making a heavy, echoing sound that carried up to the very top floor. The stairwell was dark and I didn't bother to try to find a light switch.
I quickly made it to the second floor landing and pushed open the door. Coming into the hallway I saw everything looked nice and neat, just the way people had left it. I walked into the nearest office, rummaged around for a little bit, and finally found a thick black sharpie. I slid it into my shirt pocket and made my way over to the door. I stopped a few feet away from the handle, my heart beginning to pound wildly in my head. I glanced around the shadows cast by furniture, suddenly getting the feeling of being watched. I became aware of the darkness and the whispers of memories of people's lives, now long gone. Looking back in the office I saw a crooked picture of a smiling man with two little girls hanging off of him. They were at a beach, seeming to have the time of their lives.
There was something off about the picture and I couldn't tell exactly what. I looked at it for a little bit longer and then turned my back on it, making a dive for the door handle, yanking the barrier open. I ran down the stairs, a cold sweat starting to form on my brow. The picture of the family flashed in front of my eyes again before I made it down to the lobby. I threw open the door and tried to compose myself as I steadily walked past my friends. When I reached the wall at the front of the lobby I wrote in capital letters 'WHAT WE KNOW'. As the squeak of the pen moved across the paint I could feel three pairs of eyes staring at me. I turned around to face them and tried to forget what I saw on the second floor, "Okay," I said, "Here's what we know,"
I wrote down 'Food'. "We need food, but we can't get any," I said, "Maybe there's some way we can convince Derek or Preston to give us some," Next, I wrote down 'Water', "As far as I know, the sinks and showers are still working, yes?" Rosalie nodded, "Okay, that leads us to our next issue," I wrote down 'Electricity', "We've still got it, thank God," I said, feeling a little more relieved. "And finally," I wrote down 'Weapons, Threats, & Death', "We're going to need some form of defensive. Except for you, Rosalie," I added, "You're a mutant with a power that can help you. But Candy, Violet," my gaze switched over to them, "We need to get something for ourselves. We can't rely on Rosalie all the time,"
A small smile formed at the corner of Violet's mouth but quickly vanished as I started talking again, "Threats include rakes, whether they're gone or not, possibly the undead, malevolent mutants, and most importantly, people," I continued, "Other threats are natural, like starvation, drowning, stuff like that. Basically just death," I paused for a second, "Death, and how to deal with it," the mood instantly dropped, "Even if one of us dies the rest of us shouldn't use that as an excuse to stop living. Are you guys with me?" I took a step forward and stretched my hand out in front of me.
Violet stood up and placed her hand on top of mine, "I'm with you," she said with a smile. Rosalie got up too and added her hand to the pile, mirroring Violet's reassuring smile. The three of us looked down at Candy, who made her way over to us and signaled her allegiance, but focused on the floor the whole time.
"To our survival," I said, trying to catch the eyes of the three girls.
"To our survival," Rosalie and Violet replied back with as much vigor as I did. Candy, on the other hand, could barely be heard. The four of us just stood there, our hands on top of each other in unity, for a few minutes. The rain continued to pour down around us and I let myself become submerged in its rhythmic pattering on the glass windows. A sudden crash from above made us all jump. The blood in my veins grew cold as my body tensed up. The four of us looked to where the sound had come from- the elevator. None of us dared to move.
I ran on tip-toe over to the elevator door, my fingers lingering over the "up" button. The others had silently come up behind me, "Go ahead," Rosalie whispered, "Do it,"
"No!" Candy's voice came out hoarse and strained, "Don't do it!" I could feel the cold sweat returning to my body and before I knew it I had jabbed my finger on the button. The elevator dinged and the doors slid open. Nobody seemed to be inside. The overhead light was flickering and as I took a step in and looked up I realized the huge dent in the car's ceiling.
"What the hell is that?" I asked, taking another step in.
"Look out!" Violet screamed and grabbed my shoulders, yanking me back, just as whatever was on the roof crashed through, bringing the flickering light down with it in a shower of sparks. We all just stared at the object in dark silence. "I think it's a safe," Violet said, still gripping onto my shoulders. She was right. The big metal box could've easily crushed any of us if we had been standing under it. Tentatively, I stuck my head in far enough so that I could look through the hole and up into the elevator shaft. It was completely dark.
"There must be something on one of the higher floors," I said, "I mean, look at how much momentum that safe must've needed to crash through a thick elevator ceiling like that,"
"Are you suggesting we go up there?" Candy asked incredulously.
"Into the shaft? No," I replied, "But up to the top floors, yes. There's four of us so we can each take the top four floors,"
"Why?" the color had begun to drain out of Candy's face.
"Because," I said, suddenly exasperated, "If there's something up there we should try to find out what it is and terminate it before it terminates us. Look what it tried to do!" I pointed at the safe.
"But we don't have any weapons," Candy said. She was right; if we were to come across anything we'd be helpless.
"Just grab what you can," I said as I ran over to the stair well door, "Rosalie, you take the top floor," Rosalie nodded, "I'll take the one below you, Violet will take the one below me, and Candy, you'll take the one below her,"
I didn't wait for anyone's response before I opened the stair well door and started to climb. "Edwin!" Rosalie's voice followed me up to the first landing, "Shouldn't we take one of the elevators instead of climbing all these stairs?"
"And risk having a safe fall on our heads?" I asked, looking at her as if she were crazy before continuing my trek up the many stairs. As soon as I reached what I discovered to be the 29th floor, I collapsed on the ground, trying to catch my breath. No one had bothered to turn the lights on in the stairwell so the only light was coming from outside through the small windows found on every other floor. Dragging myself over to the bars next to my last stair I looked down, trying to see if the others were actually coming or not. I held my breath and squinted into the darkness until I began to hear the faint footsteps of the three girls running up the stairs.
I stood up and released my breath, trying to fight off the dizziness that I feared would conquer my brain before I even got a chance to defend myself against whatever was up here. After I had steadied my breathing I gently placed my hand on the push bar of the door and stealthily slithered inside. As soon as my eyes had adjusted to the dark I was shocked at what I saw. The second floor I had been on earlier had been abandoned, yes, but otherwise it was the same as it had been before the apocalypse. This floor, on the other hand, was completely destroyed. Tables and desks were turned over, light bulbs were shattered, computer monitors broken, wires pulled out and torn apart. Paper practically covered the entire floor.
My footsteps were not silent, despite my efforts to remain undetected, because of the paper I was constantly stepping on. After a while I realized that the pages on the floor weren't blank. I picked one up and held it close to my face, trying to make out the words in the dark. But there were no words, not ones that I could understand, anyway. It was all written in some other language, some of it didn't even look like words at all, just a bunch of ink splotches. Most of the paper I picked up was like that too, until I came across one with no writing at all. I held it up and scanned my eyes over the blank paper, not sure what it was. I turned it over and over but couldn't find anything on it until my eyes focused in on the bottom left corner where two words were printed: Hello, Edwin.
Dropping the paper I quickly ran in the other direction and stopped dead when I heard running footsteps above me. I stood completely still and listened to the heavy clunking of someone on the 30th floor. I breathed a sigh of relief when I remembered that I had sent Rosalie up there to check it out. But I had been the first on in stairwell. Rosalie and the others had started climbing long after I had already gotten hear. Figuring they were on their respective floors by now, I quickly put the thoughts out of my head. Something out of the corner of my eye made me turn around and look through the small window of the stair well building: It was Rosalie, climbing up the stairs to the 30th floor. She had just gotten hear.
I stood there, frozen, not sure what to do. The air suddenly turned cold and I heard a scream that made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I quickly looked around for something to use as a weapon and my eyes finally settled on a broken chair leg. Grabbing it, I ran out the door and leapt up the stairs until I got to the landing in between the 29th and 30th floors. The second I had stepped on the landing my foot had splashed something up on the wall. Looking down, I realized I had stepped in some thick, dark, liquid. I swallowed hard and bolted up the stairs, shoving my body against the door, throwing it open.
Gripping the chair leg I slowly made my way around the disheveled office, looking for the source of the scream. My breathing was loud, too loud, loud enough for the whole building to hear me. I heard something crash in a hallway behind me and I dove into an office, pressing my back against the wall. I was freezing cold and it took all my energy to stop my teeth from chattering. I listened intently as the clunky footsteps came closer to my hiding place. Slowly, I looked around the corner just enough to see a glimpse of what was hunting me. A bloodied figure was limping toward me, their mouth open, their eyes twitching and looking in different directions. I brought my head back around and closed my eyes, praying that it wouldn't find me.
It was coming closer and closer. I could feel it's presence until finally a boney hand grabbed my shoulder, making me scream as I swung the chair leg around. Before I could hit anything I found myself suddenly doused with water. The floor shook as a huge chunk of the roof was lifted off the building, allowing wind and rain to come flooding in. I looked up and squinted against the rain, dropping the chair leg and forgetting about the zombie that was distracted as well.
A helicopter hovered above us and I jumped out of the way as a crane slowly came down with an open claw, grabbing hold of my attack. It- she- thrashed around and around, spitting and growling, clawing at her metal trap. She disappeared into the floor of the helicopter as it closed behind her and flew off into the storm. I brought my attention away from the sky and let the rain soak my hair. Suddenly exhausted, I sat down in a newly formed puddle and felt the faint wound in my shoulder. Pushing aside the cloth of my shirt to examine my shoulder I saw five small, round purple bruises, one or two of which were slightly bleeding.
I let go of my shirt and leaned back against the broken desk, looking up at the part of the office wall that was still intact. My eyes widened in fear as I recognized the same picture on the wall that I had seen 29 floors down.