Dedicated to Pascale and Hans,
The streets were empty, all the windows were lightened. All the chimneys had the fire on. But no one was going to rescue her, to help her, even to pity her. The world had turned as cold as the weather that night. Even if she could, she wouldn't accept any help there. She knew what was going to happen any minute now. They were all doomed. Everyone. Even her, if she couldn't get out of the district on time. But even if she could, if one of those things followed her out... Well, she'll probably end up dead as well. She heard a horrified scream behind here and couldn't help but turning around. Even thou she knew from the moment she heard it what that sound meant. She saw them at the other end of the street. There were two of them. Black shadows as condense as smoke. They were distracted with their catch.
She didn't know from where that girl had appeared. Surely the woman didn't expect an encounter with her death. Ironically the poor victim was blond and as coming out of a horror movie, she was going to be the first one of them to die. She was also much younger than her. But then again everybody was. Nobody got old there. Only the rich people, that paid every cent to look younger. She wasn't rich. And there way, she wasn't supposed to be alive. Jet, against all expectations, she was alive.
For one moment she made eye contact with the other girl. It was as if she had entered into her soul. She felt the desperation, searching for an escape, for help; the understanding that no one could help her. And even when she run away, knowing, that she had to profit that moment of distraction, that every second was priceless, she felt the pain. The slowly disappearing of that women slow as the two shadows entered into her and ate her emotions, her past, her present, her future. Leaving nothing but a dead empty body. Of course, now these creatures could use that body for a while. Enter in it and act as a human being, gaining maybe some fools trust until they found another victim or the body turned to heavy for them. It was logic that all trust had disappeared beyond humans. No wife got near her husband, no brother next to his sister. So she knew that there was no way she could warn the neighbors of that district. It was too late for them. Any moment now the government would burn down the whole area. They had already closed every possible escape. All except one. At least she hoped so. She was lucky. Too lucky if you asked her. She knew that it couldn't last forever: First, she had found her way out of death hundred times. Of course that was also a fact of preparation. She was in shape, intelligent, organized, competent and the most important: she was a survivor. But luck was also part of the package.
She had overheard that message from the secret police announcing that the "infected" district, the closed one, had to be destroyed. She had been searching for moths in the system. Seeking for information about the shadows. Because there seemed to be no answers from all the questions she had made. The news had said they where some kind of alien’s arrived to earth in search for aliments. But she had her doubts about it. These shadows had appeared in very specific places. And they weren't much. In fact only three cases of "invasion" had been reported till now: two where found alternative living villages. Apparently the aliens had been attracted by the low security and infra armament. The help couldn't arrive on time to save any habitant but just to destroy the enemy.
The third time had been here. In the first district that had revolved against the government. This had happened three years ago. Politicians had decided to close the place completely, so that no shadow could escape. As there seemed to be no way to know if the persons inside where actually alive or dead body’s infected by their murderers, no one could exit. Of course, they sent provisions periodically. But what in fact had happened is that the government had locked them in a cage and waited for them to get extinguished. They hadn't count with two things: the shadows where multiplying, and there were survivors that where hard to kill. Now, their plan was delaying too much to come true and people outside were starting to ask too many questions. So, they had decided to go the short way. At least that was what she thought that had happened. No aliens, just creatures created to end every possible attack against the powerful. Well... She didn't have proves yet. But if she could get out of there... She tumbled and fell. But she got up as fast as she could. Her legs hurt so much; she didn't felt them as hers any more. Finally she arrived. She opened the metallic grating to the sewers and descended. She knew the floors of the underground as if she had lived there her whole life. Even there all possible ways out had been blocked, which would have turned the streets into a horrible, stinky place if it wasn't for the constant wind. Down here it wasn't so cold. Then again, any cold seemed preferable to that smell. But she stood strong and continued her way.
That had been another moment of luck, when she found out thru the webs of a rumor about a man who had made his way out of this prison.
The conversation had been really good codified. It seemed bulletproof. Still, she had been the best hacker and codifier of the serve for some reason. Yes, she had worked for the power years ago. So bad, that she had to fake her death to get out of their vision. Twice.
When she had been able to read the information she had searched for the plans of the sewers and looked for every possible place to make a tunnel for an escape without being noticed. It took her one moth to find three possible holes in the vigilance security and two more to delete two of her list. If someone made a tunnel to escape it had to be there. In theory. Until now, she had never descended. Therefore her heartbeats were escalating quickly. Only by the stink she could already tell about the problems of trying to escape thru here. Not to mention of the possible creatures to find under that liquid, that was supposed to be water. She was probably getting infected by all types of viruses only by breathing. But what angered her most was that she couldn't run as fast as she wanted. The possibility of missing the way was too high.
And then she arrived. The hall turned darker and she couldn't see a thing. She had to move slowly and she slipped. She hit something metallic and... The sound echoed thru the floors. Damn it. If someone was listening or had a camera installed near there... She'll be ruined. She felt some steps under her feed and descended till the stinky water reached over her belly bottom. At least it wasn't cold. Thou she wasn't sure if that was something good. Suddenly a wall appeared in front of her. She started to touch around looking for a hole to pass. There should be something. Yet she found nothing but metal and stone. She hiccupped. It always happened to her when something turned out wrong. Shit. She would die down there in the sewers, from an explosion. Ones again she wished to have a good reason to die, or at least someone to care about, someone with whom to die. Someone that would make death seem something unimportant, as a simple part of life. But at the moment she did care. She didn't want to die like this. All her work, everything she cared about unfinished and unknown. Every effort, every sweat had been useless. She boxed against the wall. Tears felled thru her face. She hurt her hands and still continued. Until she noticed: the sound of the stone was echoed from somewhere behind the wall. She could feel it. Behind the wall... There was freedom. But how could she get out? There was no hole in the wall. No hidden door or falls wall.
She lay still. She had to calm down. But she was good at that. She tried to introduce herself in the mind of a rumor. What if it was true? What if someone build himself a way to go out? How would he do it? Thru the wall? Wouldn't that be too dangerous? Too easy to find out? If she would escape she would make sure that the government couldn't find it out so easily. And anyway, there was another problem with using the wall: the shadows could pass thru it, too. That was too dangerous. She never would risk that. So... Which way out was left?
What the hell?! She felt a creature touching her leg. Oh, got! How she hated the sewers. But... Wait. What if? Well, the idea was disgusting. But then again, what other possibility did she have? Her life could come to an end any minute now. She heard a sound and decided: it was now or never.
She closed mouth an eyes and wished to be able to close nose and ears as well. Then she got under the water and tried to feel her way out. First she felt a rat, then something metallic. Then she found the wall. It got down and down until she thought there was no hole. But finally she felt it. She got thru and started to swim up hoping to get to the surface before her lounges got empty. When she arrived she couldn't help but smiling. She was going to life, for the moment. If she could get out of there on time. She looked around her. She was in an under earth tunnel. Some small lights still hang from the top. Most of them were already in the dark. But she could see the fine construction. It was hard to believe that only one man could build such a floor. Whoever did this did know a lot about architecture and engineering. And was worth her admiration. After the short overlook she started to run again. There was no time for entertainment. She had to go out of there.
The corridor separated several times, in traps, she figured. Yeah, it would be horrifying for everybody else. Not for her. She was an expert finder. She saw things that other people didn't realize. Like the difference between an older and a new footprint or a good and a fast construction. So it was that she identified the way out really fast. It took her some time to see the end of the tunnel that turned slowly into a smaller floor till it became only a hole. She had to crawl to come thru the last part. And when she came out her knees touched the snow.
She didn't know where she was... Or even if she had ended far enough of the district. She looked around and all she could see was the dark sky and the pale snow. She walked some steps, her wet clothes sticking to her skin. Maybe there were some problems she hadn't realized before. How many time did she actually had before dying of freezing? She saw an elevation end ascended the little hill.
It took her a while to recognize the tall walls that surrounded the district. Everything had changed so much that she felt lost at first. There where she stood had been once the buildings and houses of the outskirts of the city she knew. Now everything was covered with snow and nothing more. No one inside the district had known about this. Their city had been destroyed. Of course, compared about the bomb that was going to destroy what was left, everything else just seemed a trifle. It also seemed incredible how much she had walked. But she couldn’t stop to take a break.
She spun around and around looking for a refuge, a place to find warmth. Finally, she glimpsed in the distance a fire. A house? The wind got up enough snow to block the view, but she did not care. Either she reached a warm shelter soon or she would die of hypothermia. So she strove to gather strength again and began her trot after salvation. Her vision was clouded, her eyes, her whole body, exhausted. The light did not seem close at all. She hit a rock and fell on snow. Knee to her chest. Bleeding. As in the story of snow white the white snow contrasted perfectly with the bloodstains, even despite the darkness of night. She looked back. Why was there no fire? Why hadn’t the district been destroyed yet? Maybe it wasn’t going to happen. Although she was starting to desire it. With the explosion she would feel some warmth on the skin. That was all she wanted. But, there was no explosion. Instead she saw was a woman approaching towards her. A spectrum? An angel? She was still too far. But she could recognize the blond hair. No! She sat and watched the cold, expressionless face that stood just meters away from her. The lifeless body slumped on the floor. And there was only the black shadow left, ready to devour her.
The survival instinct awoke in her with the speed of lightning. It made her jump to her feed and run with all her strength. The injured leg was completely forgotten as a shot of adrenaline ran thru her blood.
When did it happen? She didn’t know. But all of a sudden the light became a stone hut with the lights on and a fire burning in the fireplace. She hadn’t looked back before and wasn’t going to start now. She reached the house with some final strides and pounced on the door shouting:
―Open up please! Please!
She screamed and screamed and pounded until her fists bled and her breath froze in her throat. She knew they wouldn’t open. Why would they? Whoever lived there didn’t know what to encounter outside the door. With tears rolling down her cheeks, she turned her face to the death. The creature had no face, no eyes. The black smoke surrounded her. It burned. She tried not to breath, not to think, as all her feelings came out at once. Every memory surrounded her. And everything beautiful she ever had, she ever saw, she ever dreamed about, started to disappear. She tried so hard to make it stay. To forget everything bad and horrible that suddenly seized her. She felt her soul getting absorbed by darkness and it felt more painful that everything that had happened to her before. It was as losing her inside. She tried to scream or cry, but nothing happened. And then it was over.
She saw a read fire that warmed her skin and she felt into somebody’s arms. Strong arms grabbed her and took her to a cozy place where there was no moisture, no ice, just heat. When she opened her eyes again she felt to warm as if here whole body burned from the inside.
―It burns―, she whispered with a raspy, husky voice.
―It will heal you.
She looked up to the owner of the voice. Her eyes shadowed by the fever. The only thing she could recognize was some grey hair.
―You're old― she said.
―You aren’t precisely young yourself― the voice answered. ―You should be more thankful. I saved your life.
She was on the verge of delirium. And she knew it. But she wanted to put up a little more.
―Did you make the tunnel?
―Did you let the shadow follow you out?
Well, she couldn't answer that. But she had done something. She was a survivor. He was one as well.
―I found the way out― she said proudly. She couldn’t speak much more.
―Yes you did.
He smiled or so it seemed to her. A smile that felt like home.