A cool wind blew through the streets, the sky threatened rain. Most people were huddled indoors, away from the unnaturally cold weather. It was never a good sign when such weather shifts occurred. Outside people who needed to travel did so as fast as possible, scurrying from place to place, heads down and collars pulled up. Finally, the skies opened and rain began to fall, slow at first but building into a steady torrent. He stood in an alley, under a small overhang which helped keep most of the rain off him. He didn’t have an umbrella, or a coat. Occasionally he shivered and stamped his feet, trying to keep warm. There were downsides to everything and this was one of them. He glanced at his watch, checking when his shift was over. He sighed, it wasn’t over soon enough for his liking. For the first twenty minutes he had been on edge, jumping at sounds, heart hammering, but then it had faded, being replaced with boredom. He didn’t really want to be here, but the money was good and his family needed him to work. Not that he had much choice in that matter either, if he didn’t he wouldn’t be a part of the family for much longer. He didn’t want to be abandoned, hell, even Johnny had it better and he hadn’t even gone through the change yet. They pitied him more than anything. Kept him around out of a familiar sense of love, but someone to be looked down upon. He didn’t like that too much, but it wasn’t like he could say anything without getting into trouble himself. He took a quick look up and down the alley, then he reached into his pocket and took out a small bar of chocolate. He unwrapped it carefully, relying on the rain slamming into the metal dumpster nearby to hide the sounds. He ate it slowly, enjoying it and making it last. It was a welcome distraction. When he was done, he balled up the wrapped and threw it into the rain. It sat in a puddle, wilting. He yawned, then stretched. There were others like him, dotted around the place, watching, waiting.
His replacement showed up a few minutes late, he didn’t say anything to her as she tossed a backpack at him. He opened it and quickly threw on the heavy jacket inside. He shouldered the bag, then shoved his hands into his pockets and left without saying anything. The rain was cold and shocking. He had avoided the worst of it under his little shelter. He wished she had thought to give him an umbrella. He kept his head down and moved quickly, not even glancing at the few he passed in the street. No doubt they were just like him, wanting to get home and out of the cold rain. His long circuitous path eventually brought him to a small house, he opened the gate and went up to the door. It was the same house they lived in before the wall came down, it looked pretty much the same, but it felt different. It wasn’t the place it was before, everything had changed after the wall came down. He opened the door and stepped inside, disappointed to find the place cold. “Hello?” he waited a moment then he took off the jacket. Everyone else must be out working. Sighing, he moved into the sitting room and began to put wood into the fire place. He might as well make the place toasty for everyone else when they returned. When the fire was going, he stood and went into the kitchen, looking for something to eat. There never was much food in the house, but he could get lucky. He found some ham in the fridge and a few slices of stale bread, and he made himself dinner, eating it with a glass of water in the sitting room. The fire was starting to warm him up and he was feeling sleepy. Outside the rain continued to fall, creating a steady, comforting rhythm of the ceiling and windows. His head started to dip, he stood from the couch and shook himself, then added some wood to the fire. He didn’t want to fall asleep before everyone else got home. He looked at his watch, where was Johnny? He should have been here at the very least.
He looked at his watch again, had something happened? There was no note and the house looked the same. Maybe they were just working late, there had been a lot of over time lately. Maybe he should call the boss? He approached the phone, heart beating quickly, he had the number, but he’d never used it before, he wasn’t supposed to, but everyone was gone, and someone should be here by now. None of them had cell phones, but their shifts should have ended by now. He picked up the phone and started to dial, ignoring the silence on the other end.
“Hi, um, I’m from block 91, did something happen?”
“Well, no one’s here but me and there should be others home.”
He let out a small breath, it wasn’t the boss, just an underling.
“I have no reports of problems. They all left their posts at the allotted times. Maybe they’re just out.”
They hung up, so did he. He went back into the sitting room and looked out the window, trying to see if there was anything suspicious outside. He couldn’t see anything. He moved back and went to the door, opening it a small crack, outside there was nothing but darkness. He reached out, his hand hitting against it. Solid, sturdy, cold. He closed the door, he needed to remain calm. He’d call again, they’d know what to do.
He dialled the number and waited.
“There’s something wrong. There’s darkness outside.”
“We know. It’s a new thing. Security measure. Don’t worry. It’s fine.”
They hung up.
So did he.
He went back to the window, he could see the light from the streetlight inside, but he couldn’t see out. He opened it and found the same solid blackness. He shut the window again and moved closer to the fire. Someone would be home soon and they’d know what to do. They’d figure it out.
“Are they working?”
“Yes, we’ve so far eliminated twenty of them.”
“Good. How long does it last?”
“A few day at least, maybe a week. They’ll be safe. They’re in their houses, they’ll have food.”
Max nodded, “What about the others?”
“We’ll get them, don’t worry.”