Numbing. Short Story.

Happy Christmas!

I hope everyone is having/had a good day.

So far the day has been pretty relaxing and that trend seems like it will continue!

On with the show!

_____________________________________________________________________________

Jason stood in line with the others, waiting. It would take forever. Of course he had nothing to do so it would just seem so much longer. He had meant to bring a book with him, but that was currently sitting on his bedside locker. His phone had died on the way, so that was useless as a distraction. He looked around the walls, reading the posters, looking for something new, something interesting. The line shuffled forward slightly. The woman in front of Jason sneezed, those in front of her cringed forward. He had gotten his injections so he wasn’t worried about getting sick. Not from something like this. There was a general nervous energy in the air, people didn’t like congregating in large groups, made too good a target, but there was no other choice. The armed guards at the entrance held little reassurance, they could be helpful for the crazies or belligerent, but useless against bombs. There hadn’t been an attack in a few weeks and rather than relaxing everyone, it just made people more nervous. Obviously it was going to happen soon, possibly any second.

The line moved forward.

The people who were done scurried away from the hatches, heads down. They would pass through the sentries with ease and be out into the open. Most hurried off, a few stood at the bus stop. Jason was thankful that there were windows in the place. The last place he had to queue at had nothing but concrete walls. The glass was new,  would apparently stop bullets and bombs. Though he enjoyed the view, he still felt vaguely unnerved. It always weirded him out. After all, he had windows in his apartment, though they weren’t nearly as big. Something about windows that large, that exposed them all so much, seemed wrong. He reached up and scratched his cheek, then shifted slightly. He didn’t like standing still, but fidgeting could draw the wrong kind of attention and he didn’t need that today. He was already tired from work. It had been a long shift. He just wanted to get this all over with, head home and finally get some proper sleep.

A woman at the front was yelling. Great. The line stepped back, Jason strained to hear but the words echoed and bounced too much to be discernible. Two armed guards appeared from a doorway and moved towards the noise. Soon, they were dragging her from the building. Her nose was bleeding. Jason shook his head. She didn’t have much time left anyway. They were the dangerous ones. People in the line cowered from her, afraid they might get some blood on them, but the fear wasn’t enough to drive them from the line. God forbid they might lose their place and have to queue all over again. The woman wormed one hand free and punched a guard, he raised his gun and swiftly hit her across the face. The woman stumbled into the second guard, the first brought the butt of his gun down on the back of her head, together they dragged her limp body outside and dumped it on the pathway. Jason wondered if she had been killed. It was all idle speculation anyway, it didn’t matter, she’d be dead soon one way or another. The crowd shuffled forward, the crowds were restless.

When Jason next looked out the window, he couldn’t see the woman. Obviously she had wandered off. He shoved his hand in his pocket and placed his fingers on the card. It was reassuring. Every time he worried he forgot it. That was never a pleasant experience. He yawned, trying and failing to stifle it. It would be over soon.

He reached the top of the queue, when the light flashed he moved up to a hatch. Behind the thick glass was a pale young woman, she looked tired. “Please place your card in the tray.” Jason put his card into the tray and watched as it slid through. The woman waited for a second then picked it up, he knew that it had been sterilised on its trip through. She swiped the card, then looked at a computer screen. She glanced at his face, then back at the computer before nodding. She slid the card back through.
“Thank you Mr. Smith, you’re delivery will be on the 19th at twelve fifteen. It will be the usual shipment. Is this time and date acceptable?”

“Yes, it’s fine.”

“Have a good day.”

Jason moved from the hatch and past the guards. They didn’t stop him.

Once outside, he took a deep breath, then started to walk. He was thankful that he lived close by, it made everything so much easier. Cars occasionally drove past him as he walked, but the roads were mostly empty. He liked it that way. It made everything seem more relaxed.

He stopped into the small shop and bought a paper. On the cover was a picture of a building on fire, the headline screaming “More attacks!” Jason didn’t enjoy the depressing aspects of the papers, but it was good to keep up with everything. In work everyone would be talking about the most recent attack and he wanted to be sure there were no new developments.

As he was nearing his apartment building, he felt the ground shake slightly, a second later it was followed by a dull roar. Still clutching the paper, he ran towards his building. He needed to get inside before it went into lockdown.

He entered his code and the airlock opened, he stepped inside and waited impatiently for it to reseal. As it did, the entered the second code and stepped into the building, sighing in relief when he did. If there was a fire the locks would disengage so people could leave freely. He went to the stairs, ignoring the lift, and made his way up to the third floor.

He threw the paper onto the kitchen table and turned on the TV, trying to find a news station that was covering what had just happened, but there was nothing yet. He went to his window and peered out, but whatever happened was in the other direction. It was times like this that he regretted not getting to know the neighbours.

The alarm started in his apartment, low and steady, it stopped after thirty seconds. The building was in lockdown. At least they were safe for the moment. It should have come down faster though. He brought up the entrance logs for the building and saw that he had been the last one in. Good. If someone nefarious had gotten in the entire building might have been decommissioned.

He turned from the screen and went into his room, sleep was more pressing than whatever was happening. If there was any  danger the building would alert him and the news station would be replaying the information later. He’d be able to see what was up in a few hours. He collapsed into the bed, he didn’t bother putting his phone on charge, nor did he bother setting the alarm, he wouldn’t sleep more than a couple of hours anyway. He rolled over, not bothering to strip from his clothes and, after a moment he was fast asleep.

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About Alan James Keogh

I am a 24 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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